Treading Lightly

Not feeling up to par last Monday morning, I decided to grab my camera and take the electric buggy for a leisurely drive around the pecan orchard property. I had been on the computer doing research all morning and needed to clear my mind. Unfortunately, I had to accept that I would not get much done in the days to follow, and maybe not for a few weeks, as taking down-time to heal is not an aspect of life’s journey that I do very well with.

A couple of months ago, I was busy at the burn pile when I slipped on a small twig that rolled under my right foot, and the next thing I knew I was tumbling alongside the burn pit to the base of the hill. Somehow, I had been lucky to avoid landing in any hot coals, but I still hit the rough rocks along the pit and heard some horrible cracking noises in my right ankle as I stumbled further down hill. Then again, maybe I just felt the cracking but thought I actually heard it, I do not know. The odd thing, was that I actually felt better once I got up on my feet and began walking back up the hill. Shaking it off, I continued my work that day of gathering and burning the pecan wood debris, and even made a second trip back out to the orchard to gather another load for the burn pile. But in the weeks to follow, there were few days in which I did not have pain in my right foot. Fortunately, supportive shoes and boots helped a great deal, along with maintaining a much slower pace as I went about my work. Basically, I spent the summer dealing with a stress fracture, and there were many days in which I worked only a few hours, having to get off my feet when the pain became too much to take. So, to lessen my time on my feet, I crawled on my hands and knees in the garden to weed. I took advantage of the electric buggy more than usual. I let FD do the push mowing. I practiced anything I could to lighten the load on my feet.  And my foot began healing, slowly.

Wild Trumpet Vine or Campsis radicans, can be found abundantly in the willow tree area of the pecan orchard.

So I was feeling fairly victorious and proud of myself on Sunday of last weekend when I finally managed to finish gathering and loading wood in an area of the orchard that I had laboriously worked on all summer, despite my injured foot. I felt such a sense of pride as I pulled my second trailer load of the day, stacked high with wood for the burn pile. As I worked, I could hear the hum of our tractor in the distance. FD had been mowing all day while I gathered and burned wood. It was a near 100-degree day, and the air was humid. But it had actually been pleasant working in the shade of the giant pecan trees.  FD and I had been good to take frequent breaks, drinking lots of iced water from our old, Coleman water jug. Mid-day I made an apple and cheese snack for us that we enjoyed along with some salted plantain chips.

The pecan orchard area west of the slough is almost completely clean of fallen limbs and debris, and has been mowed at least once this year. We had one-third of a tree go down early this spring and that will have to wait until fall to be cut for plank and fire wood.

I had only managed to unload half of the wood from my trailer when, suddenly, I did not feel good at all. It was hot at the burn pile, and I had developed a headache while I pitched wood into the fire. But I kept drinking water and I kept working. All I could think about was getting that last trailer load finished and then I would get in the pool and cool off. However, by the time I chunked the last of the wood into the burn pit, my headache was throbbing hard enough that I  knew I was in trouble. Quickly, I jumped in the buggy and headed to the pool. The water did help me cool my body down, but the headache still pounded. I was in so much pain I could not think and the hammering was deafening in my head. Was I having a stroke? The pain was so bad I thought I would black out… which got me to thinking, “What if I blacked out in the pool and drowned?” So I got out of the pool and went into the cool of the house. But the throbbing did not stop. I could not lie down flat or at an incline. No position I sat or laid in helped at all. The throbbing was intense. I finally contacted my sister Jules, who is a registered nurse, and I followed her instructions. Somehow I crawled to the freezer and got several iced gel packs – one for my forehead, one to place behind my neck, and another for the front of my neck. Within just a few minutes, the cool of the gel packs helped, and my sister’s words of comfort calmed me down. Eventually, the headache dulled in intensity, but lingered the rest of that day and into the night, and continued mildly for several days after.

Rudbeckia amplexicaulis or Clasping Coneflower, can be found throughout the pecan orchard.

So on Monday, I spent all day on the computer, doing research to understand why, despite being very hydrated, I still suffered from heat exhaustion.  In doing so, I ran across some interesting information in a post at, Wildfire Today .  These words, by Dr. Brent Ruby, made the most sense:

“The best approach [to prevent heat exhaustion and hyperthermia] is to know thyself and thy physical limits. Establishing a pace schedule that allows temperature to come back down in between periods of work that result in a rise in temperature. The factors of importance are pace, fitness level for the task at hand, hydration behaviors and simultaneously electrolyte concentrations in the blood.” 

I wrongly had the idea in my head that simply keeping hydrated would prevent heat exhaustion.  I also have a history of sodium (an electrolyte) imbalance and I did not properly replenish the sodium I was sweating out. And mostly, I knew that my sense of toughing out a job to the end was what got me. I had not paced myself at the burn pile. I just pushed myself because I wanted to get the job done.

The days that have followed have been quite frustrating. A mild headache does not hesitate to crank up if I do too much. So I move through the day slowly and carefully, like I have for the past two months with my foot. Now my right foot and my head are my guides to “know thyself and thy physical limits“. And I am learning to tread lightly…

This time of year we must tread lightly in the woodlands as many species of spiders have created homes in the trees and on the ground.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


47 thoughts on “Treading Lightly

  1. I too have had really bad problems in extreme heat and have to be careful. I’m so glad your sister was able to prescribe the ice packs and that they lessened the pain somewhat. Be the tortoise, not the hare…take care of yourself…there’s only one precious you.

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    1. Thank you, Kim, for your kind words. I have continued my work, but with many more “camera” and water breaks. I enjoy the butterflies and many doves migrating through the orchard… and of course Emma deer has been accompanying me a lot lately. She’s my favorite subject!

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    1. Hello Kat! Yes, we are finally getting some nice rain, and lots of welcome cloud cover. The temperatures are down about ten degrees. I am always amazed at how 90ºF is so much cooler after experiencing 100ºF plus for several days.

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  2. Phew! I’m glad you listened to your body … and to your sister! Hope you have a speedy recovery with your ankle too. I know how an ankle can keep giving you trouble once it goes out.

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    1. Those gel packs really helped. I never thought to put them around my neck, but that really seemed to bring the pulsing down. The ankle will probably always bother me. I have a wrist that is the same. Years ago I did a lot of weight lifting and injured my right wrist. From time to time I must give that a rest too as it flares up with pain.

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  3. So glad you are going to be OK. We ignore our body’s warnings at our own peril many times. Hope the ankle is on the mend too. Take care. Loved the photos of your plants in the pecan orchard.

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    1. We do tend to think we need to finish a project, and ignore the warnings our bodies give us. I can tell you ever since, I have been taking lots of water breaks and I’m sticking to the shade more. My camera gives me a reason to kill time too… there is always something to photograph in the woods. 🙂

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    1. I am sure I would acclimate to your inferno-like temperatures, Mandeep! And I can guarantee I would not be working nearly as hard as I do in that kind of heat. Hot here is anything over 100F. You must be very tough to live where you do!!! Do you have high humidity there?

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          1. This is a wonderful place to be – EXCEPT from June to September. The winters, particularly October to February, are lovely. Mild to moderately cold, no snowfall, of course, light rain sometimes and very green. Ideal time to visit. How wonderful if you guys could come then 😀😀

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  4. I’m so sorry for your injury and for the heat stress issue. Heat really knocks me around and I have learned I can’t push myself or I suffer later. This is mostly due to fibromyalgia. When I was diagnosed about 17 years ago the rheumatologist told me I would cope best if I just rested when I felt tired and on the days when I had more energy I could try to do more. I took him at his word and have coped very well with it. I think it comes down to being able to see things as they really are, instead of as we hope or want them to be. Recently read ‘When Things Fall Apart’ by Pema Chodron and it is a recurring theme. We think ‘hope’ is a great thing, but in fact it is us putting our desires on the future instead of allowing ourselves to experience things as they really are. It sounds like you have made that connection. Take care of your dear self Lori. The work will be there when ever you get to it. xx

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    1. Oh, Ardys, I have that book and I love it! I know part of my problem is that I grew up knowing hard work was a way of proving oneself. And the more I achieve, the better I feel about a project. The orchard has been a major undertaking for FD and me… but I look at it now and we have achieved more cleanup than I thought possible the first year. But, I have pushed way too hard at times, and you are right – that work will be there when I can manage better. I am thankful for my camera. I have been using it more lately to indulge in long breaks. I use my earbuds and iPhone to visit with family in Nebraska while I work at a slower pace. These diversions (along with Emma deer who is nearby most days) help me to move at a more gentle pace. 🙂

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  5. I’m so glad you are recovering and well. Heat is such a tricky beast, I often don’t know I’ve over done it until I’m sitting in the house and feel miserable. Ankle injuries are no fun and I’m glad that is healing well for you, also!

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    1. Thank you! I love your term, “tricky beast”! And you are right… many times we don’t realize we’ve pushed too hard until we’re inside in the cool and it hits us all of a sudden.

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  6. Oh, Lori, you so did not need this on top of the foot injury. Reading this story made me nervous. I am thankful you realized you were in trouble and are now taking time to rest and recover.

    I got the all clear from my ortho doctor yesterday that my broken shoulder is fully healed. I can progress back to lifting gradually. I’m still in therapy, focusing now on rebuilding strength. Best news: I can now use my camera because I have my range of motion back and I got the OK to lift 2.6 lbs.

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    1. I’m so glad to hear your good news — especially that you can use the camera again. Mine had to go in for some light repairs recently (pro tip: do not drip sweat into your camera when changing lenses!) and even a couple of weeks without it made me realize how much I enjoy using it. Isn’t it wonderful when we can begin re-establishing routines?

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    2. I can tell you, Audrey, that headache was very scary. I suffered from cluster headaches terribly in my 30’s and into my mid 40’s, and none of those were anything near what this headache was. I do not ever want to go through one like that again!

      I am SO excited you have improved and healed to the point where you can use your camera! I know you have missed that terribly! Slow but sure is the way to healing… you’ve been a model patient. For me, I am discovering gratitude in a different light. Not being able to do all that I used to, or limiting myself, makes me realize what an amazing capacity our bodies have to heal… if we just let them and we listen!

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  7. That headache sounded awful. Also the earlier tumble dangerously near the burn pit, and the stress fracture. I hope writing about it doesn’t bring back the pain and frustration. Maybe taking photographs of nature’s wonders offsets the bad memories. The pictures here are soothing, peaceful. I keep going back to look at the last one, and reread the words beneath it.

    One thing I learned recently from a contractor and his small crew who were pouring concrete in 100° weather: drinking lots of water while working might be too late. One of the young men told me he “hydrates” the night before. I had trouble picturing the exactly how that works. At first I thought he was joking– you know, maybe about drinking beer and partying– but then he started telling me about seeing his friends “fall out” on the job because their systems weren’t prepared. Now, once he notices that they aren’t sweating he warns them to go home. Not sweating seems to be a big sign, according to this person.

    I admire your commitment to taking care of that whole area behind your house. It sure takes a lot of effort. I have trouble just picking weeds from the little spaces in front and back where My Dear is nurturing plants and flowers.

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    1. Actually, Albert, writing about the experience helps me to move on from an experience. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about either the ankle or the headache, then realized if my blog is to be about real ranch life – what I experience here – the good, bad and ugly, then I should write about it.

      What the contractor said is very true. If one stops sweating it is dangerous. And hydrating should be done at all times. I learned from a nurse some years ago, that hydrating well the night before one has to give blood or have blood work done, helps in drawing the blood. For many years I was told I had “rolling or tiny” veins and getting blood from me was usually painful and often ended without a successful blood draw. Ever since I learned that drinking plenty of water the night before and again in the morning would help, I have not had any trouble giving blood! So I am a firm believer that we need to hydrate well all of the time! Our bodies need it!

      I never enjoyed weeding our huge garden growing up as a kid. But now, I actually enjoy it. I am pulling up cockleburs in the slough area of the orchard. Though it’s hard work and seems unending, so did picking up wood (there is plenty more of that to do), and I know it will feel amazing to one day have that whole orchard at more of a maintenance stage. It’s this early work that is difficult, but oh, so rewarding when we see progress.

      I just need to slow down… and let nature nurture me a little bit too! I have been taking regular water and camera breaks! 🙂

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  8. Hi Lori, Yes, there are some things we ignore at our peril. Luckily, I have never suffered from the drive to get things done no matter what. Downsizing to a small house and garden was a good decision for me as my energy levels and physical capacities can manage these smaller areas.
    I hope you will return to full physical health so you can continue your labours of love.

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    1. Hello Margaret. You have that right, despite the work we put into the orchard, it is a true labor of love. I am happiest out there in the orchard. I just need to slow it down a bit and enjoy the shade and use my camera to take longer breaks. Now is a lovely time in the orchard. The butterflies are moving through and doves and other birds are beginning their migration through. The weather has cooled down a bit too.

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  9. Oh deer. I mean Oh dear. I have been in similar straits. A couple of years ago I took a tumble and thought nothing of it, as I was able to pop back up and work normally. I had some hip pain that would not go away, so finally had an x-ray which confirmed I had a pelvic fracture. We must listen to our bodies. I was glad to read your sister’s advice for your heat exhaustion. I have had this happen to me a couple of times and did not know about putting the ice packs in the locations she told you. Next time you will recognize the signs, and you can act accordingly to avoid the trauma you went through. A speedy recovery to you!

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    1. Ellen, those ice packs did wonders! I can’t imagine a hip fracture! Our hips connect to… everything! Mercy. I suppose an injury like that affects us the rest of our lives and we learn to work differently. I’m probably in slow mode from now on after this… but at least I can still get out there where I love to be!

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  10. Well, as someone who works outside in the heat on a daily basis, there’s a lot here I can identify with. The electrolyte balance is important. Sports drinks are one solution, but ince I’m not eager to consume quarts of Gatorade, I’ve taken to adding a couple of bananas and some walnuts to my daily routine, for the potassium and magnesium.

    Something else to remember: too MUCH water can be a problem if you aren’t taking care of those electrolytes. It can throw things out of whack as surely as not enough water.

    One thing a doctor told me is to weigh your self in the morning, and then again when you’re done for the day. For every pound that’s lost, drink 16 ounces of water. As the old saying has it, “a pint’s a pound, the world around.” I’ve sometimes lost three pounds in a day, and that has to be made up. And don’t forget pre-hydrating. I drink water at night, and for every cup of coffee I have in the morning, I have an equal amount of water, since coffee and tea dehydrate.

    Pacing’s important, too. In the mornings, I can do three hours before taking a break, but in the afternoon I often will work only two hours, and then get in the air conditioning for a while, especially if the heat index is over a hundred. Sometimes I go home and put in a load of laundry, or I go to the grocery store or run other errands. And whenever possible, I work on the shady side of the boat!

    I’ve done pretty well this year, but I had a couple of days with one of “those” headaches, and they’re no fun. I really have to watch it when the season changes and it begins heating up so much that it never gets below 80 at night. When the world doesn’t get a chance to cool off, it’s harder for us, too! And of course, we have the darned humidity, which prevents natural cooling. I suspect you cope with that, too.

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    1. I hope everyone reads your comment, Linda. There is a lot of useful information there… I wish I had thought about before this happened. For me, I think it was the electrolyte imbalance that got things off kilter. I’ve had trouble with low sodium before, and had not even considered that by drinking more water probably just made that issue even worse.

      I also need to forget “pushing”. I remember my Granddad’s “pacing” themselves. They were up early to do field work, then in at lunch, took short naps, and then back out to the field in the late afternoon and evenings. There is a reason to get out of the mid-day heat. I have such a tough work ethic that I push… I always focus on finishing a job. I need to work smarter, and forget about pushing to finish. The work will always be there for another day. That trailer of wood could have waited to be unloaded.

      I think that humidity is a real factor too. I never thought about it preventing natural cooling. I just knew it made everything seem more suffocating… harder to do.

      Our weather is changing some. Just this past week we saw cooler temps by ten degrees which was very nice. I almost feel a tinge of autumn in the air, though that would be quite early this year.

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  11. Good grief, Lori! That was a scary report. Heat stress can be wicked and I appreciate your sharing about the ice packs. If I ever find myself in that predicament again I will know what to do for relief. Do take care and fell well soon!

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    1. Thank you, Lynda! The ice packs all around the neck really helped bring the throbbing down quickly. I’ve always just put one on my forehead. I also had one at the top at the back of my head (crown) and that felt good too.

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    2. Oh heavens. In ancient times wool workers would fell wool by stomping on the wet woven fabric with their feet. You can also refer to falling in the past tense by saying “she fell”. But I’m sorry, telling you to fell well soon just will never make sense or be a kind thing to tell anyone! How about feel well soon?! 😉

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  12. I’ve had heat exhaustion before – during a long weekend of competitive sailboat racing…you just don’t notice it until to late. Miserable is the word
    Glad you are better. (working at a slower pace is so annoying for many of us!)
    The oppressive summer’s heat/glare is getting harder and harder to take each year here – we are trying to decide whether to find a less tropical climate or be resigned to staying indoors…which we don’t do well with. More rain today – but you guys have had such storms – hope all are safe and sound
    (the orchard looks great – like a fabulous living room. Gorgeous trumpet vine photo – their color always so striking amid the green woods)

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    1. Those Oklahoma storms have skirted our area all year. We’ve been lucky. The nice weather all year long has allowed me to gather wood and burn when most years that would come to a standstill in June when things get dry and windy (good way to start a wildfire). Somehow we got just what we needed. I’m thankful!

      The humidity is tough on us. I cannot imagine living on the coast continually… how does one stay dry? At least here the dry heat that we usually get towards the end of summer (but not this year) helps give us something a bit different. I think I would miss the winter snow if we moved any further south. There is so much to consider in a move… what to do?

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  13. I hope you are doing better now. I learned early on that when it is hot and humid, I know I can’t be out in it. I am admittedly a bit on the lazy side anyway, but I am not willing to suffer what you did. I didn’t have things as bad as you, but feeling like I was going to throw up was enough to make me quit what I was doing. I also found out that my blood pressure medicine can make you kind of woozy if it is too high a dose. Good grief, if I had known that the year before, I would have said something a lot sooner to my doctor. She has lowered it the last couple of months and I am doing much better. But, I still stay in if it is anywhere near 90-100 and high humidity.Take care of yourself and take the Doctor’s advice and really know thyself! Good advice. 🙂

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    1. You make an interesting point about being in the know about the medications and supplements we might be taking and how they can be affected by being outdoors (sunlight), working hard, or sweating profusely. It could be I had some issues with supplements I take. I do know I sweat a lot and possibly need to replenish electrolytes more often than I do.

      It’s always best to utilize out body’s “signs” as indicators to slow down and seek refreshment (temperature or hydration). These amazing bodies of ours always give us reliable signals. 🙂

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      1. I have been away from my blog for awhile again. I hope you are feeling much better. We had a cool snap and now it is hot and humid again here in NE Kansas. I have been staying in as much as possible and going out only when I need to. I finally ordered some food grade Diatomaceous Earth for my chicken house. I need to get it cleaned out again for the winter, but am waiting for it to cool off again. We had to shoot another hen a few days ago. It could be she was just old. I have not had trouble with the chickens like this before. Maybe it is just the breed. The two that died were Buff Orpingtons. They got really messy rear ends and was having trouble walking. I have had them for several years. They are a little heavier breed than I usually have. I have one left of the Orpingtons. We’ll see.

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        1. I hope the diatomaceous earth works for you. I will be cleaning our coop one more time before winter. Many of our hens are old now, and I’m sure next spring we’ll be looking at getting some new chicks. So far we’ve had the best luck with production and egg size with the Danish Brown Leghorns, Barnevelders, and Rhode Island Reds. Our Buff Orpingtons were very broody.

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          1. Our Orpingtons didn’t seem to be very broody. My California White has been. Someone gave me six Bantam chickens awhile back. One was a rooster. They have been laying pretty regular. It is funny to see the small rooster try and breed the big hens. The big ones don’t exactly like him. I get eggs, but since they are free roaming during the day, I can’t always find them. Most of the time they will lay in the hen house, but get a wild hair now and then. I will have to post about them. 🙂

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