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Local resident and occasional Patterdale Hall occupant Karen Russell struck a pose with her two Patterdale terriers, the bald Betty and hyperactive Archie. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Hunkering down in the Hall

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By Chris Wyatt

Dec. 28, 2023

We are about six weeks out from Karen’s ankle injury. Her surgery went OK, and she now has 18 screws and two plates in her right ankle. It’s a lot. The scars from the surgery have healed well, but inside is a different story. She can bear no weight on the ankle, and the pain level if she does is the same as it was when she broke it, which doesn’t bode well. All she can do is lie in a bed downstairs and watch crap television or crochet; she cannot focus well enough to read a book. In about three weeks, we have another appointment with the surgeon, and Karen may begin physiotherapy, although I can’t see that happening, to be honest, not with her current pain levels. Recovery will be a very long road.

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In the meantime, I head out to Patterdale Hall each day to empty and reset mousetraps. We are killing roughly one mouse per day at the moment, which isn’t too bad given that the property is essentially unoccupied. The temperature for December has been extremely mild and so we are getting by with the radiator set on frost setting; a fire is not required. This means that we will almost certainly now have enough wood to get through the winter, which is a relief. However, we do light a fire out there maybe once a week to help drive out the damp. While the temperatures are mild, we are getting frequent rain and fog — such memories of England — and so an occasional fire helps dry things out a little. It is impossible for me to stay out there for any length of time as Karen needs me with her.

One new development is that I have begun to play Dungeons and Dragons out at Patterdale Hall. We have a small group and have only convened twice, but it has been fun, and I hope it continues. Playing every two weeks on Sundays suits my schedule well, and we should be able to continue all through spring semester. The Hall with a roaring fire is the perfect setting for a game of D&D, especially if it does ever actually snow properly.

Jan. 1, 2024

New Year’s Day. A smattering of snow but mostly dismal and grey. Time for resolutions: I think I shall stop putting sugar in my coffee, as I don’t really enjoy it anymore, and it’s doing me no good. I’m also going to cut my trips to the brewery to twice per week. I need to cut down the alcohol, and I need to lose about 10 pounds in weight, as I am now 176 pounds. I feel much better when I’m 166 pounds, and not being out at the Hall cutting wood has made me fat.

Still, the seed catalog is out, and plans are afoot. I fancy growing sweet garden peas this year and possibly some outdoor marijuana, as it’s now legal in Ohio. I have my medical marijuana card as I have diverticulitis in combination with arthritis; this means I can’t tolerate NSAIDS but need them for pain. I found cannabis creams and gummies help me sleep through the night and I like the idea of making my own full spectrum products to help with my painful fingers/wrists/ankles.

Patterdale Plantation beckons. In addition to peas and pot, friends and students have gifted us Italian pole beans, birdhouse squash and two other types of squash, so planting all those should be fun. It will be nice to have dirt under my nails again.

However, before all the planting I will need to get my teaching under control. I teach three classes this semester: physiology and neuroscience, experimental design and, finally, intercellular communication. These are all graduate level or senior capstone classes, and the students are engaged and bright. The experimental design class is easily my favorite.

Last semester, the students wrote 20-page review papers on chosen topics in physiology and neuroscience; now they have to come up with novel, testable hypotheses, then design experiments to test their hypotheses. Finally, they need to predict what the data would look like if their hypotheses are correct, write it all up and give a presentation. The breadth of topics is a challenge for me, but it is also incredibly rewarding, and I always learn a lot. Often the students are writing about topics that are important in my life as well as their own and so guiding the students can be fascinating. In this first week of January, I will build and update the syllabi for the courses and then have them online and viewable by the students on Friday. We start with intercellular communication on Monday, which is exciting.

Jan. 6, 2024

The cold is here, and it is wonderful. After an incredibly warm December, where I burned virtually no wood, winter has finally arrived. It was 20 degrees yesterday, and today we have snow. We are predicted to just get about three inches, which is perfect — temperatures are steady around freezing and there is no wind at all. I will head out to the Hall and get a fire going, then will travel back and forth to keep an eye on both Karen and the fire.

I don’t mind the busy nature of bouncing between two places; I love both places. It’s fun. Archie will be walked, which is always high comedy in snow. Betty will hide inside. The little old dog is losing all her fur and intensely dislikes cold weather. She has always hated wet weather, but now that she is bald, the cold is also no longer fun.

*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 17 years, is married and has two children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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One Response to “The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Hunkering down in the Hall”

  1. Beasley Whistleworke says:

    I hope Karen’s recovery is progressing towards more personal comfort and renewed joy in being able to do things she loves to do. ((hug))

    Let readers know if we can or where to send cards of encouragement if at all possible.

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