Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 1, Me 0

First Ally got sick. Then Steve got sick. I threw my back out. Then I got sick. Then I threw my back out again.

My lower back this time, but at least the muscles aren't spastic and agonizing. No, this is a kinder, gentler back injury that merely makes me walk around hunched over like an old man. I'm hoping that a day of rest (but not *too* much rest, as that causes the muscles to stiffen up) will suffice and let me stand up straight again.

January, I've had enough of you. You can go now. And somebody please tell me that 2012 isn't The Year of the Chiropractor.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Buzzards Have Come to Roost

This is not a bluebird.


Turkey buzzards, also known as turkey vultures, and black vultures are not anything new where we live in southwestern Virginia. We often see a solitary bird or a group of several of them soaring up high overhead like prehistoric pterodactyls. Sometimes the vultures will land on the corner posts of the garden out back to sun themselves.

Normally we see fewer than 5 or 6 birds, but lately they've been more numerous. They often spread their wings to maximize the sun exposure on their backs.


Just down the road from us, the city of Radford has been home to a colony of vultures for several decades now and even hosts an annual Vulture Fest in early spring. But I'm beginning to think that some of those birds have decided to move into Plum Creek based on what we've seen out back over the past month.

These trees full of buzzards are located on the ridge behind us. I'd estimate there were about 50-70 birds in this flock.


Turkey vultures have few natural predators and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. According to the Wikipedia entry on the turkey vulture, "Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest." And it that was attractive enough, "Like storks, the Turkey Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis.

Boy howdy, I'd certainly leave them alone.

Turkey vultures are scavengers of dead animals. Black vultures are scavengers as well, but they will also kill an unprotected newborn calf given the opportunity. Normally the vultures around our house don't gang up and harass the neighbor's cattle, but lately they've been making a nuisance of themselves.


One morning a gang of vultures flew in and sidled up to the cows, who didn't appreciate the company one bit.


In response, the cows bunched up together and faced the birds. The vultures edged in closer with their wings outstretched, then ran or hopped as close as possible. Sometimes the birds rattle their wings as they move towards the cows. Vulture feathers must be awfully stiff to make as much noise as they do. It's a rustling, rattling noise and far more unnerving to hear than you might think. 

After lots of distressed mooing, this one momma and her calf decided to take matters into their own hands (hooves?) and charge the vultures.


The vultures scattered and flew off. The cows went back to grazing.

One of the cows has a young calf but the others are much older animals, far too old to be ambushed by a flock of vultures, so I don't know why the vultures do this. Are the birds really trying to attack the calves or are they just bored? And we've observed this behavior on several occasions now, so it doesn't seem to be just a random event.

In closing, Wikipedia states that "The Black Vulture appears in a variety of Maya hieroglyphics in Mayan codices. It is normally connected with either death or as a bird of prey." I'll refrain from making any comments about that Mayan Doomsday Prophecy again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year Resolutions, Back Pain, and the 2012 Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

I noticed last week than many of the people I know on Facebook were posting "Good riddance to 2011!" type messages. 2011 was hard on a lot of people for many different reasons. There's a whole other population out there that firmly believes that the world is going to come to an end in 2012, but I'm not friends with them so I have no idea what their Facebook posts might have been around December 31.

2011 wasn't a bad year for me, but four days into the new year I managed to throw my back out. While putting on a shirt, no less. This doesn't bode well for 2012.

My new year's resolution for 2012 was simply to get my act together again and I was ready to do it. We had just gotten Ally back into her school routine after suffering two weeks of holiday craziness and a end of the year head cold. I was coming out of my post-holiday blahs and was actually looking forward to spending the first two weeks of the year cleaning up the house and clearing out some clutter. I finally had an idea of how I wanted to finish a quilt that's been languishing on my quilt wall since April. I wanted to clean out the refrigerator and a few neglected closets. Honestly, I was even going to start exercising regularly again.

But clearly the universe had other intentions for me yesterday. I felt an unusual muscle pain while getting dressed, but it went away after a twinge or two so I didn't give it much thought. It came back with a vengeance, however, and now there's a small area in my mid-back where a muscle has been in more or less continuous spasm since yesterday afternoon. It's tolerable if I take some Tylenol and sit still with a heating pad on my back. However, when I stand up, I've got to have my hand on my back to give the muscle some counter pressure or it will not shut up. And last night, while trying to sleep....words cannot really express that particular agony and the ridiculously bleak thoughts it brought me. At one point I promised the universe that I would gladly throw away all those leftover cookies on the counter first thing tomorrow if I could just get some sleep. Any sleep.

So much for a fresh start in 2012, but there's hope as I was able to get an appointment with our chiropractor this afternoon. I'm taking heart in that the Mayan doomsday prophecy doesn't actually mention anything about back pain in 2012, as far as I know. And I'm fairly certain that my back pain isn't related to timewave zero, Planet X, geomagnetic reversal, or any other New Age, mystical apocalyptical hogwash. Except I'm curious about that predicted galactic alignment, especially if if meant my back would also get realigned as well. I think I could use a little of that right now.