Friday, October 31, 2008

Tricks or Treats

This morning I found myself applying make-up at 6:30 to look like a vampire. I was going to be going to the local Canadian Blood Services clinic(where they collect blood from donors) to hand out a few prizes to folks who showed up to donate and to do a cut in with the morning show to publicize the current depletion of blood reserves in the country. So I got myself a Dracula cape and made up my face to look a little dark and evil. Dark purple eyeshadow, which I also brushed on my cheeks to make me look a little gaunt, dark purple eyeliner, and dark lipstick. Walking in the door at work, I was told I looked "hot". Several people noticed I was wearing make-up and told me how "nice" I looked. Not a one of them was being sarcastic. So much for looking evil, I guess.

Not too many people getting dressed up for work today. We only managed to trick one new gal into putting on a get-up, telling her all week that "Oh, yes, everybody gets dressed up for Hallowe'en here", and she had on pussy cat ears that were easily removed.

My boss gets into the spirit though. I took a picture of him at work as he was preparing to go out and do some "gorilla" marketing. His biggest costume desire, though, is to dress up as one of the Yip Yip monsters from Sesame Street. Here's hoping he can fulfill that desire one day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Hike, Pumpkins, and a Kiss

I managed to go for a hike after work today. The wind has been blowing for a couple of days and all day today it was from the southwest and therefore quite warm and pleasant. It shifted around 2 this afternoon and got cold so I was bundled up for the walk. There's a system of trails in a neighbouring community that I'd only been on once before on the bike so was eager to see it a little more "close up" on foot. I came across what I think was coyote scat (that's poop, Braincheese, just for you) but no sign of deer. The trail system is closed to dogs, as it is part of a game sanctuary, and the scat was in the middle of the trail, not on the sides where dogs usually go. That's why I say I think it was coyote. Anyway, I came across skunk tracks:

And a lovely petticoat of fungus on a tree:

I was quite happy to get back to the parking lot as it was getting dark and I had been out longer than I thought I would be. Home to a toasted peanut butter sandwich and my jammies.
I was going to save this last picture for Friday but here it is now:

My carving skills aren't the best, but I had fun doing it (though not cleaning up all the pumpkin guts in the kitchen). The pumpkins are sitting in the lobby of the building where I live for all to chuckle over. The neighbours are probably questioning my sanity as well.

On an unrelated, rather amusing note (to me, anyway), I exchanged a few e-mails with a listener this afternoon who has a herd of unidentified bugs in her home. She was asking me for advice on how to rid her home of the little creatures. I invite them in! Why would I want to get rid of them? I think I have identified them for her, assured her that neither she nor her family and pets are in any danger from them, and that she should shoo them out of the house.

Oh, and thanks to all who commented on my last post. I always want cake, too.

And on one other unrelated note, anybody watch House last night? *Sigh* I liked that kiss. Very romantic. Okay, Wookie, hurry home from work, eh?


I Want Cake

Of late, I've noticed a number of MS bloggers writing about what they are no longer able to do because of the effects of MS. I'm not criticizing the writers, merely observing. I've never been one for major discussions of philosophy, but from time to time I come across a quote that strikes a chord.

"One is not rich by what one owns, but more by what one is able to do without with dignity." Immanuel Kant

With MS, we are prone to focus on the things we lose since they can be so life altering. But that is also the key . If your life has been altered, consider altering your response to it as well. I may not be able to stay to the end of the party, but I'm still going to go to it for a little while.

I have adjusted my life to a degree because of MS. I now do more typing of notes for work than relying on hand writing. I now HAVE to write notes for work as I can't rely on my memory. My weekends sometimes seem to be spent catching up on sleep. I know for a fact that before MS, I never napped unless I was on vacation at Mom and Dad's and in a sunbeam on the floor of the family room (really, that was the only way I could actually nap). Now, Saturday and Sunday afternoons find me under the covers at home for a couple of hours. In the beginning I hated how I missed four hours of the weekend to sleep - but those four hours allow me to cycle or hike for 2-4 hours.

In a way, having MS is like dieting. By eating well most of the time, we can allow ourselves a slice of double fudge chocolate cake from time to time. By living by our "MS rules" most of the time, we can allow ourselves to push the envelope a little bit from time to time.

As MSers, we don't own good health. But we can still live well with dignity (and a lot of humour) by remembering that we can still do many things - just differently.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Does a Bear...You Know....?

We hiked about 2k north of the Old Annapolis Hiking Trail on Saturday, following the logging roads to a turnoff to the Big Indian Lake. It was a gorgeous fall day, but cool, and on the road were several dragonflies trying to warm up in the sunshine. This is the time of year that you can catch these insect helicopters without a net as evidenced by the first picture.

We came out close to the upper dam, climbed over the makeshift ladders and were at the lake. The water was really low for this time of year and had we had rubber boots on would probably have been able to make it across to the side with the building on it. Next time we'll hike the east side of the lake.

We did come across some bear tracks:

And skunk tracks:

As all the guides say, it's better to come across the tracks rather than the animal itself. We walked along the western side of the lake checking out all the tracks and signs of animals, human and otherwise. As we were heading back, still along the beach, we came across this:

Turns out that bears poop in the woods AND on the beach.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finally, Real Deer Poop

Last Sunday the Wookie and I went for a hike on what is called the Old Annapolis Valley Trail. Actually, it was just a segment of the trail, that dates back to the time before Europeans even landed on the shores of what is now Canada. The native Canadians, mostly Mig Maw and Maliseet (forgive my incorrect spelling as I'm spelling phonetically), camped on the shores of the Bay of Fundy during the winter and in summer would travel to the south shore of the province, outside of what is now Halifax. Better fishing prospects here during the summer. The trail they used runs through what is now owned by a pulp and paper company that is managing the woodlands. The company, Bowater-Mersey, also keeps up the hiking trail for the benefit of the community. There are a few interpretive panels along the trail describing the type of forest, silviculture techniques, and even an old logging camp.
Our first rest stop was in the middle of moss green shag carpeting as far as the eye could see. I love walking on moss.

The next pic is a close-up of one type of moss that looks like tree tops in a tropical forest.

On Tuesday I went for a short hike to Jack's Lake but I took a different path to it. along the way I discovered a tree that reminded of the kids' show H.R.Puffinstuff.

And I finally found seem real, honest to goodness deer poop. Not a gall masquerading as deer poop. I found it on the ground and moved it to a rock to better take a picture. If you only could have heard me laughing when I came across it.

I dissected it with a couple of sticks to make sure it was deer poop and not an insect abode, and again, dear readers, I saved you from the pictures of that operation.
There's no telling what we'll find this weekend as I'm planning a hike on some new (to us) roads and trails. Maybe some bear prints?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


"When you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body." Marshall McLuhan

A funny thing happens to me when I'm in public but not as a member of the media. At a checkout a sales person might say, "You seem really familiar to me. Do I know you?" Or at a party someone might say, "You remind me of someone I know. Do you have a sister?"

Of course, when I'm making a personal appearance on behalf of the radio station I work for or while wearing logo-ed clothing, when I speak people will recognize me as a voice on the radio.

A couple of days ago the Wookie and I were out for a hike, miles from home and miles into the woods. We were just starting on a new trail when a mom, dad, two kids, and their dog came towards us. We stopped to chat for a moment and the mom looked at me and said, "You're Shauna MacKinnon, aren't you?" I wasn't wearing any identifying clothing so I knew she recognized the voice. "Yes," I said laughing. She was quite excited about meeting me (I mean, who wouldn't be, right?) and said they listen at work all the time. I asked where she worked, she told me, and we went our separate ways.

Years ago I met a woman who was just beginning her career in radio. She told me that before we met she listened to me and imagined diamonds and pearls. The day we met, I was in my sweatsuit. I destroyed that illusion. Some folks imagine me as an Amazon blonde. And most have said they thought I was younger than I am. I am neither.

In this day and age of the internet you can find any body and find out what they look like. It's a little frightening at times when I read about stalkers and those obsessed with on air personalities, but it can happen to anyone, not just those in the public eye. I've had a few people call and ask me out despite not knowing what I look like or how old I am or if I'm attached or not. I politely decline. (When one guy asked me out for a beer, my dad told me I should have said "Yes, my dad and I would love to go for a beer with you" )

Relatives asked me about TV a lot over the years, if I'd like to do that instead of radio. Like we say in the industry, I've got a face for radio. Actually, I'm not the most photogenic person on the earth, though I am cute (and attractive to the Wookie, I might add). The cuteness just doesn't translate to TV however. I have a few friends in TV, one on a nationally broadcast show, and they all contend with constant recognition. If you're on TV, you can't have a bad day in public. You can't make an anonymous complaint at the service desk of Home Depot. You have to smile and be happy with everyone all the time or you're branded as a b###ch or b#####d.

People will criticize everything about you when you're on TV. "OMG, that haircut!" "I can't believe she's wearing that!" "That really makes him look fat!" All this, despite the fact that the talking heads are quite often told what to wear or how to wear their hair. The general public will focus on what they see rather than the message that is broadcast. Our bodies can get in the way of the message. I like not having a body.

"The medium is the message." Marshall McLuhan

Sometimes we want our bodies to be the message. I have been asked to appear in news reports about MS over the years. Most reporters are surprised to see that I don't have a cane or walker or wheelchair - because that's what the general public's perception of MS is.( How many times have we MSers been told we "look great" after disclosing our illness?) I want people to see that I am an active participant in my community, that I cycle and hike and sometimes dance, that I work and play. I show my activity to emphasize that I can lose that any time. This is my reality. And if I can lose my functioning body, so can the audience. If I should lose any functioning I will show that as well because that will be my reality. And I'll probably still be cute.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Gratitude with Attitude

Thanks to Denver Refashionista for this award.

* Put the logo on your blog or post.
* Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
* Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
* Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
* Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

This award has been floating around for a bit so I'm not going to nominate anyone else at this time, but I reserve the right to nominate folks at a later date. Besides, it's Monday morning, I haven't had my coffee yet, and I'm operating (barely) on 4 hours sleep right now.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Things in Cape Breton

Even while visiting one of the most incredible places on Earth, one with breath taking views from the sky and mountains of riotous colour, I still spend time looking for the "little" or seemingly insignificant things. And I find 'em.

Like a compass from geometry class, grass has left perfect semi-circles:

Raindrops, though gone, have left their mark:

(By the way, if, for some apocalyptic reason, a layer of dirt or sediment fell on these drops, then hardened, a million years from now, some amateur rock hunter might find fossilized rain drops. OK, not the drops themselves, but the effect of their fall on the sand. I'll post another picture sometime soon of a fossil of raindrops found at another beach.)

Footprints of a gull. For some reason, I found the prints to be very funny and was laughing out loud when I came across them. Not that I've never seen gull prints before, but these struck me as comical.

One lone ladybug at the beach.

And finally, a magnificent piece of driftwood I would have loved to have taken home with me. However, it's illegal to remove rocks, plants, trees, fossils, anything from a national park and I'm such a law and order kind of gal, I just snapped this pic.

It made me think of moon craters.

Cape Breton is known for its Highlands, a man named "Giant" MacAskill, huge tuna off the coast, and enormous hospitality. I was surrounded by obvious and large beauty last weekend, but my favourite pictures are of the "little" things.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Cape Breton

The Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of the most spectacular places on earth. You can do the Cabot Trail through the park in an afternoon or you can take your time camping, hiking, and swimming. There are also B and Bs along the trail, hotels, and a couple of higher end resorts. And this time of year sees such an influx of tourists for the fall colours, I sometimes wonder why the island doesn't sink under the added weight.

By the way, R2D2 is the guy on the far left of the picture.

A few miles past the Western entrance to the park is the Skyline Trail. It's about 9 1/2 k long. It's not a difficult hike and the last portion is on a boardwalk. It starts at the top of a mountain in woods and ends on the ridge of the mountain with a view to die for. The Wookie and his brother, R2D2, did the hike on Sunday afternoon. A bunch of us were supposed to meet at another hiking spot later that afternoon so I didn't stop at the trail (and I was driving my own car, too) so I missed out on that one. to be honest, I might not have had the stomach to do the boardwalk portion of the trail as I do have a slight touch of vertigo at heights. I fear I might have had to crawl on all fours to get back. And I was annoyed to no end when I discovered they came across a mama moose and her baby. The pair were eating quietly just off the trail and despite the crowd of people hanging around watching them, they didn't move away. Click on the first picture to find the pair of them.

You have to know this is not normal behaviour for a moose. The mama obviously felt comfortable enough in the presence of humans and no one was threatening her baby, but they are not a friendly or cooperative animal by nature. Anyway, the Wookie is paying penance for going on a spectacular hike without me. He got pictures at least. Not great ones, mind you, but as I mentioned, moose aren't a cooperative animal.

I could spend days telling you about the land, the sights, and the people who make this island their home. The best thing to do, though, is come visit for yourself.

This is the land of my ancestors who arrived in the early 1800s from Scotland. No wonder they stayed.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Cape Breton Island has a varied geography. It is dominated by rocks and trees, waterways and lakes, but dotted with farmland. There are a few well known (at least in Nova Scotia) sandy beaches but I discovered a couple more on the weekend. Having lived in Port Hawkesbury right after university (when God was a teenager), I used to go to Port Hood Beach, about a half hour to the west. It faces Port Hood Island.

The beach runs to the left and right of the breakwater.

Moving on to Mabou, I discovered a Wildlife Reserve I had not previously known. The picture shows the beach on the edge of the land and in the distance is the entrance to the Mabou harbour. There are endangered plovers that nest on the beach.

I also discovered the beach at Inverness. I picked up several pieces of beach glass for a co-worker who collects it and saw my first gannet (sadly not alive) with a beautiful baby blue beak (picture not taken out of respect for my readers). Mabou and Inverness are both mining towns, though no longer is mining viable.

And the last pic is of one of the many beaches in Ingonish, a resort town on the northeast part of the Cabot Trail. You have to literally crawl over the beach stones to make it to the sand, but it's worth the sprained ankles.

I love going to the beach, especially in the off season. With fall winds and winter storms, all kinds of interesting things wash ashore and I can spend hours looking through batches of seaweed and driftwood for victims of the weather. My best find was at the entrance to the Halifax Harbour several years ago in a spot called Eastern Passage. A whale had washed ashore, though what kind, I'm not really sure. It wasn't a toothed whale so possibly a finback. I was able to tear a 3 foot long piece of baleen from the creature's jaw bone. When I got it home I put it in the tub with some bleach to clean it and it now sits on top of my bookshelf. Baleen is a hard material, made from the same stuff as our nails and hair, that whales use to filter seawater in order to trap krill, shrimp, and fish for food. They take big mouthfuls of water, then push it out with the aid of their tongue, food becoming trapped by the baleen.

Weird. I know. But cool.

Next up: odds and sods from the trip including a mama and baby moose.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Animals Galore

On Saturday, while the majority of the group I was traveling with went salmon fishing, I set out to find the Rocking Horse Ranch. A few miles before the ranch I found the Crown Jewel Resort Ranch.

This is a very high end resort I'd not heard of, but I stopped in to take a look around anyway. I met the owner and he kindly gave me a tour of the place. They are an eco-friendly resort with their own air strip. They are situated on over 800 acres of land that includes almost all of the eco-systems on the island except for shore line. They are part of the slow food movement, using only food they grow themselves, harvest from the land and forest, or can purchase locally (they don't buy food that is out of season). There is a biologist at the resort who is a mushroom specialist, so they are able to forage mushroom for consumption. They raise their own (higland) cattle and (black-faced) sheep and they use Norweigan horses for clearing land, sleigh rides, and other heavy labour. They raise Canadian Eskimo dogs, a native animal of Canada (and endangered) for sledding. All animals are kept outside year round. The owner was on his way to spend the day working on the trails on the property (25 kilometres of them!). The land is cleared by hand, no machines on the property like tractors (for the gardens) or graders for the trail. I was invited along for the day which normally I would have jumped at. A little physical labour is good for the soul and out in the woods, too - oh, I was sorely tempted, but I was meeting up with other folks in the afternoon and didn't really have the time. The guests at the lodge sometimes help out with any chores going on, from harvesting to looking after the animals though it's not required to stay there.

They have used reclaimed lumber to build the chalets and while they are wired for internet and conference calling etc., the individual rooms haven't got the technology yet. I mentioned it is a high end resort, so a little on the expensive side for the average vacationer, but definitely do-able if you save up for it.

I moved on to the Rocking Horse Ranch, a horse and small animal rescue ranch. The trail rides were booked up for the day but I was able to look around and meet the horses, dogs, cat, duck, and other animals that had all been rescued from a trip to the glue factory or incinerator. This is Breagh who offers kisses when asked. She kissed me, then nuzzled her head against my neck for a little lovin'. I left my heart there.

By the time I left the ranch it was only 11 in the morning so I had a chance to explore some more. Sandy beaches up next!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Intro to Cape Breton

Cape Breton Island is an island on the most eastern part of nova Scotia about 4,000 square miles in size. A large part of the island is made up of mountainous regions that are an extension of the Appalachian mountain range. They do not rival the Rockies in size, but they are far older than them.

The island was inhabited by Native peoples long before Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) arrived from Europe in 1497 to begin exploring the land. The Portuguese soon followed to take advantage of the rich fishing resource, then the rest of Europe followed. The French arrived and settled the land, then ceded the island to the British in 1763. The Irish arrived in waves, as did the Scots soon afterwards. In the 1800s industry was a big draw for a number of Europeans with the coal industry being the largest draw. Workers came from all over Europe. With the expulsion of the Higland Scots from Scotland around the same time, the Scots population of the island increased dramatically. Their Gaelic language is still spoken today; in fact it was my grandparents' mother tongue. They didn't learn English until they started school.

Alexander Graham Bell and Gugliermo Marconi, though not Nova Scotians, contributed to their fields greatly while in the province, specifically Cape Breton.

The ecosystems of the island vary greatly from craggy rocky shores to sand dunes; from old growth forests to rocky islands with nary a tree in sight. Bogs, marshes, salt marshes, a salt water inland sea, fresh water lakes, and world reknown Atlantic salmon spawning grounds are all found on the island. Moose, black bear and lynx are the larger animals found here, plus more deer than you can shake a stick at. Finback and other whales are frequent visitors to the ocean areas surrounding the island; bald eagles are a guaranteed sighting on Cape Breton; even caribou and walrus were once native to the province (and the island) though no longer.

This island was my parents' home until they married. I visited almost every year while growing up and even lived there for a short while after university. I don't get back there often enough for my liking, but did get there this weekend. It wasn't long enough to see all I wanted to see or do so I guess the Wookie and I have to return. It will take several blog posts to display the pics we took so bear with me for the next little while, but the island is too beautiful to cover in one post. And I'm proud of its natural history.

Of course, I had no hand in the island's natural history but I still think it's cool.

Click on the pics to get a better look.

Results of My Rant

Thank you all for your comments on my recent rant. I have to admit, I find it difficult to rant in any way against a single group of people, but especially against MSers. I know that everyone's MS is their own and everyone's make-up is different, so not everyone will go through the same things. I just know that I get frustrated with inaction and that's really what I was railing against. I just couldn't quite verbalize it at the time.

On that note, I was speaking with two young med students on the weekend, encouraging them to consider neurology. It's what I do. With every med student I meet. They asked me a lot of questions about MS, which was great, but they also asked why I was so insistent about my attempt to get them into the field of neurology. I thought that was obvious: I need to know Why MS develops and How it develops. And then, How do we fix it.

I told them that the brain is the final frontier of the human body. I don't think I've convinced them. Yet. But I can work on it. I know where they live. Heh.


Pic credit: from Wikipedia, brain coral in the ocean, the earth's final frontier.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hikes and a Rant

Last Sunday, the Wookie and I went for a 3 hour hike. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for it. We set out about 1k from where I live and followed the power lines in the Jack's Lake area. Lots of deer tracks on the road:

We also came across the dessicated remains of a frog. When I flipped it over, there were a pile of maggots underneath, but I didn't take any pics as I really didn't think my 3 readers wanted to see that. I did snap one of an osprey's nest:

Just before the nest we could see a body of water in the distance. It's kind of a small lake that is part of the Sackville River system, so we managed to make our way towards it, along a fairly well worn path. My reward for all that hiking? See for yourself:

Monday and Tuesday evenings found us walking after supper but in Hemlock Ravine Park. This park is another jewel in our city. It starts at the heart shaped pond and continues winding and twisting up and down little ravines. We saw a doe and her baby just off the path, quite happily munching on leaves and while watching us carefully, they stayed put. Of course I didn't have the camera with me. We were about 10 feet from the pair.
I went back to the park yesterday after work for another walk, bringing my camera, and while there were no deer to be seen I did find a cool looking fungus:

I realized the tree was on its side and that's why the fungus looks like an ear or other listening device. If the tree were upright I wouldn't have noticed. And finally, for DR's hubby, a gall, this time with a tiny exit hole visible. I call this one "Nobody's Home":

On the weight loss front, the Wookie and I continue to shrink. Sadly we haven't been biking for almost two weeks as work and weather (especially the wind) have interfered. It also gets darker so much earlier there is a small window of opportunity to bike safely so that's why we've been walking and hiking.

Last week I found myself napping every day after work, which is unusual for me. My routine is to relax a little bit after work before getting my chores done and supper started, but I was simply exhausted every day. I had reduced my coffee intake to one in the morning and one with supper, but have had to add one around 1PM to help me get through the rest of the day. That has helped me this week. I'm fortunate at this point in my MS that aside from the Avonex I haven't had to add any meds for fatigue. The little spasticity I do have is usually relieved by massage and a heating pad. And the few cognitive changes I've noticed can usually be dealt with by writing things down. I have said this before, but it bears repeating. I am one of the luckiest people I know. More than 10 years in and I'm in the best shape I've been since a teenager. I'm smarter than I was in university and I am able to surround myself with people I like and love. My brain cells are benefiting from continued learning and the few symptoms I can feel and see are fairly easily dealt with.

However, I continue to be amazed at some MSer's lack of interest in their disease or lack of self involvement in their care. Some of those people I want to grab by the scruff of the neck and shake and say "Wake up! Do something! Call somebody! Look something up!" That's what I find most frustrating about this illness: the MSers who blindly go through life not knowing about what is affecting them the most. I have been thinking about writing a post to specifically address the issue of willful ignorance in the MS community. But there would be no point really, as I'd be preaching to the choir. After all, if you're reading this blog, chances are good that you read other MS blogs, do your own research on MS, and are probably more of an expert on MS than most MDs. You ask questions or search for the answers on your own. You, like me, have a curious mind. Rant over.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Deer Poop or Something More Interesting?

The Wookie grew up in southern California and his father, being a geologist, spent a lot of time in the field, examining rocks and the like. Most summers found the family camping with Dad in the field. The field being the desert, mostly. With poisonous snakes and spiders and scorpions. The Wookie and his brothers learned very quickly to not automatically reach for or pick up things. The Wookie and I had a conversation the other day about my instinct to touch things and pick them up. I rarely think about it, I just do it. Or I poke them with a twig first. I don't think I would have survived past my fourth birthday had I been a member of that family.

I attended Seoul Foreign School for my final year of high school. Located in Seoul (of course), it is an international school for kids of foreigners in that city. It's also the alma mater of Jeopardy superstar Ken Jennings (who began attending the school the year I graduated).

Every year, during the first week of May the school had what was called "Korea Week". The students would participate in one particular group activity geared to getting a better understanding of the country. One group spent the week touring all the cultural spots of Seoul. One group went to Cheju Island, home of the famous pearl divers. One group hit all the art galleries. I joined up a camping group to visit the southern area of the country. It was led by my biology teacher, Jack Moon, originally from Kentucky, I believe.

We spent six hours on a train getting to the town, then had a 3 hour hike up a mountain to our camping location. There were about 20 of us in the group and about 5 very old men carried our gear to the camp site. They had these special frames they wore on their backs that could accommodate the packs and food. After we reached the top, the men unloaded then went back down the mountain. The site was two large chalets owned by a church group and used as retreats and vacation spots for church members. It wasn't true camping, but it was pretty basic. Girls in one chalet, boys in the other. It was a wonderful experience.

On the first day at the camping site, Mr. Moon and several of us went on a little exploratory walk. There was a round beige ball of something on the ground that Mr. Moon picked up to examine. After a few minutes, he told us that it was an egg casing for an insect. I was impressed (as you knew I would be). 5 days after we arrived, the little old men came back to carry our gear down. As we were going down the mountain, Mr. Moon asked one of the men about the egg casing he had been carrying around for the week. "Deer poop", was the answer. He threw it away.

We had a grand laugh over that one, as did the little old men, and I will never forget it as long as I live. Nor can I forget it, as I am always coming across things on my travels that I pick up to examine or put in my pocket to take home for later perusal. One of those things are galls and they kind of look like balls of deer poop. About 4 years ago, I found a gall on a leaf on a tree. Knowing that deer poop wouldn't be on a leaf, 5 feet from the ground, I took the leaf and gall and put them in a jar. A week later a tiny little gall wasp emerged, less than a quarter of an inch long. Cool!

In the past month I have come across 3 more galls. One of which was on a leaf on a tree, the other two just loose on the ground. Of course I took them home. They will be put in the fridge for the winter and in the spring I will attempt to see what emerges from them.

Gall wasps, perfectly harmless creatures, lay eggs on a leaf. When the egg hatches, the larva becomes encased in a gall, which is the leaf's chemical reaction to having a visitor. The larva eats away at the inside of the gall and transforms into an adult. When it's ready it makes a tiny hole in the gall to escape.

There are about 800 species of gall wasp in North America and the great majority of them use oak leaves on which to house their young. The next time you're out for a walk, take a closer look at those leaves. There is also a species that use rose leaves and stems. Those galls are quite pretty with little fuzzies coming out of them.

Before I pick up a gall from the ground, I take a really good look at it to make sure it's not deer poop. That's what Mr. Moon taught me.

One of the most difficult things about MS is figuring out what is deer poop and what isn't. Is this sensation a new symptom or did I just sleep on my arm funny? Is my optic nerve affected or did I just put on someone else's glasses? Is my fatigue related to the MS or did I just push myself too much this week? Like Mr. Moon, we have to carry around the deer poop for a few days before we make that determination. As much as I like discovery, here's hoping for more deer poop that we can just toss.