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Chris Wyatt's Patterdale Hall, as seen from above.

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Occupational hazards

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By Chris Wyatt

ED. Note: In Chris Wyatt’s Dec. 8 installment of “Patterdale Hall Diaries,” he mentioned slowing down on writing the column to the News, with the intention of focusing more closely on personal writing. This week, however, Wyatt amends that statement, writing:

I found out that by managing my time better I could write both a personal diary and the Patterdale Hall Diary. Why not both?

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Nov. 12, 2023

It has been 48 hours since Karen shattered her ankle in the woods.

She was out amongst the trees alone and lost her footing, twisted her ankle and fell, shattering the bone. It’s very bad. She managed to crawl out of the woods and onto the Patterdale lawn, where I found her 20 minutes later. I helped get her into the house before it got dark, lit a fire, got rid of the dogs and fetched Rick and Brent to help.

Unfortunately, by the time we returned it was clear from Karen’s pain level that this was not a sprain and it was not simply going to get better by favoring the other leg for a bit. I called 911, and a Xenia Township ambulance was with us 10 minutes later. Rick and Brent guided them in, as the Hall is not the easiest place to find in the light, never mind when it’s pitch black. With fentanyl on-board, the paramedics managed to get Karen in the back of the van and off we went to Greene Memorial, which was the closest place to get broken ankles fixed.

One $300 co-pay later, Karen had hydromorphone in her system and then etomidate. The ankle was dislocated and shattered, so they reduced (relocated) it, splinted it and bound it. We see the surgeon in another 48 hours, but Karen will need screws, pins and plates, because the X-ray of the ankle looked like someone had poured jigsaw pieces into a sock. The folks at Greene Memorial were wonderful, and it was quiet for a Friday night.

After an event like this, it seems odd to try and rationally catalog the events of the last six weeks, but I’ll give it a go.

Winter arrived for a while and there was a blizzard on Halloween, which was awesome. For me, the highlight of the last few weeks was seeing nature in action, in full force. For some time we have been bothered by “ground bees” or yellow jackets. We had three nests in the garden, right where our tomatoes were growing. They were aggressive little buggers and stung Karen multiple times as she was weeding. I could have waited til it froze and then trapped the queens the following spring, but they were being horrid little bastards, so I vowed to kill them.

Skunks got to the nests before I could.

I arrived one morning to find three big empty holes and brood comb scattered everywhere. Wonder of wonders, skunks had killed and eaten all three nests — what magnificent animals they are. Next time we get ground bees I’m leaving old chicken bones by the nest entrance to attract these fine black and white guardians of the vegetable patch.

In other news, as the weather cools, other less-than-welcome critters have begun to move into the house. Over the last four days I have killed seven field mice. We definitely have to keep on top of the mouse population — Patterdale Hall is clearly a very desirable place to weather the winter. All our food is mouse-proofed, but there is no denying that being inside the Hall is better than being outside it when the temperature gets below freezing.

Now that Karen has broken her ankle, we will be less able to stay out there, so I will need to make three trips out per week to empty the traps. My hope is that in a few weeks Karen may be able to bear weight on her leg and things may improve, but the break is severe, and this is probably wishful thinking. Still, we see the surgeon tomorrow, so fingers crossed.

Really, my feeling is that Karen should have surgery as soon as possible, and I am resisting reading the scientific literature on this because I know what I’ll find. The only reason we are waiting is because the surgeon’s office was closed over the weekend.

Nov. 13, 2023

I now have two weeks off work to look after Karen.

My in-class teaching is almost done for the semester, and I can manage the writing class remotely. I have a good rapport with my students and so will remain in e-mail contact with all 50 of them whilst I am home. We are rapidly approaching the end of the semester, so setting students clear objectives is very important to minimize stress and maximize their chances of success. I think I’m on top of that, but I also trust my students to let me know if I’m not, as these are upper level and graduate courses, and the students are old hands by this point.

Karen has worked carefully out at the Hall this year, which is why it is so frustrating that she is injured.

She has cut pathways through the woods that are delightful to wander through, and we can begin to think about planting new trees now that we have destroyed the majority of the honeysuckle. I would like to plant more honey locust as I love that tree, but I know Karen has a host of plans. It’s exciting.

The house my father grew up in was called Beam Cottage, and it was very rural. It was at the end of an avenue of beautiful old beech trees, and while we can’t replicate that at the Hall, some magnolias flanking Patterdale Avenue would be completely delightful in the spring.

There are many options we can choose, and everything can change in an instant, as evidenced by Karen’s ankle. It could have been her neck. This is why we bought Patterdale Hall, so we can exist in the now and enjoy every second of it.

Life is ephemeral, beautiful and hard.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 16 years, is married and has two children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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One Response to “The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Occupational hazards”

  1. Vanlehn Laura says:

    Lovely! Best wishes to Karen.

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