Dupuytren’s Contracture – Curse of the Vikings!

Dupuytren’s Contracture: The Curse of the Vikings! Usually, we blog about nature and yards at Winding Pathways, but once in a while, we digress. This one’s about Rich’s Dupuytren’s adventure. But it is related to nature, as putting on gloves and manipulating his hand was becoming more difficult as two of his fingers began to curl. Also, genetics is nature.

Dupuytren’s Contracture is fairly common. It runs in families. The fingers on Rich’s Dad, Henry Patterson, curled so severely that manipulating tools, knobs, buttons, and eating utensils became difficult despite two surgeries to correct the condition.

Curse of the Vikings

So, what is it? Dupuytren’s Contracture was named for a French surgeon who described it first. It’s most common in men with Northern European ancestry, especially from Scandinavia and Scotland. That fits. Rich’s ancestors were from Denmark and Germany.

Ring finger of right hand bent by Dupuytren Contracture.

It’s caused when a knot of fascia forms under the skin usually in the palms beneath the ring finger and pinky. Sometimes a hard cord of material grows up the finger, forcing it to curl downward. Eventually, the finger can curl to about 90 degrees from the palm.

Women can get the condition, but less frequently than men, and often it’s not as severe.




Rich first noticed a knot in his palm when he was 55 years old and gradually two of his fingers began to curl, making it impossible for them to lay flat on a table. There’s no way to predict whether Dupuytren’s will continue to grow or ever become a problem.

For many years Rich’s hand functioned normally with a slightly curved ring finger.

Doing Something About This

About two years ago he visited Dr. Clifford Novak, a hand surgeon at Cedar Rapids’ Physicians Clinic of Iowa.  He encouraged Rich to return if the condition worsened or interfered with everyday activities. It started to, so in mid-2023 he again visited Dr. Novak and learned of three possible treatments:  surgery to remove the material, needle aponeurotomy to cut the long cord causing the curl, and chemical treatment.

Because his condition was not profound and recovery sounded the easiest, he chose the needle method.


Man with bandaged hand after Dupuytren surgery.

The hand was bandaged for four days.

On February 23, 2023, Dr. Novak performed the surgery. Rich stayed in the outpatient Surgery Center for just four hours. He left with his hand heavily bandaged, making typing and any other form of manipulation difficult….but for only four days. On February 27th a physical therapist removed the bandages and gave Rich a series of exercises to help straighten the finger. Amazingly there were no sores or scars where the needles were inserted. For the first time in several years, he could lay all his fingers flat on a table. There was no pain. The result is amazing.



There’s no assurance the Dupuytren won’t grow back in the same finger or progress in other fingers, but the surgery was so successful it could be repeated if needed.

Dr. Novak’s advice was to treat the curled finger BEFORE it became difficult to use.

Rich did this with success as these after photos reveal.

House Sparrow Blues

House Sparrow Blues

One of our favorite Thanksgiving Day activities is enjoying a sumptuous meal while watching chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, and woodpeckers enjoy the seeds we put out for them just outside our window.

Thanksgiving 2023 brought mostly frustration. Crowds of House Sparrows swarmed our feeders with hardly a native bird in sight. Formerly known as English Sparrows, there seem to be more of these pesky immigrants every year.


We’re not alone.  A common phone call or email that comes to Winding Pathways seeks ways to feed native birds and discourage hordes of House Sparrows. Over the years we’ve tried these things to discourage the hardy and prolific Eurasian birds:

  • Putting only small amounts of feed out in the early morning and late afternoon when native birds visit and House Sparrows are mostly gone.
  • Cutting silo feeder perches short to make it harder for the somewhat clumsy sparrows to perch and eat.
  • Sprinkle some whole corn on the lawn. It’s too big for sparrows to eat but blue jays and woodpeckers devour it.
  • Sprinkle cracked corn way out in the backyard to entice sparrows away from our main feeders.
  • Eliminate sparrow nesting sites around our yard and pull out any nests that form under eaves or in tight spaces along the house.


None of these has worked particularly well.

Others More Fortunate

While we are frustrated, other people are fortunate. We recently enjoyed watching a procession of native birds visiting Jody Vrieze’s feeders in a rural area near Charles City, Iowa. It’s along the Cedar River and away from town. Perhaps her home and yard are a key to avoiding sparrow numbers.

What is a Synanthrope? How Do They Spread?

They are true synanthropes, meaning they need to live close to people. Backpack into a wilderness anywhere and House Sparrows are one bird that won’t be spotted. Jody’s home is in a wooded area away from town, which is probably why the pesky birds don’t visit her feeders often.

Although not liked by most birders, House Sparrows are amazing. A few were captured in Europe and released in Brooklyn, NY, in 1851. Within 50 years they had spread across the continent and are found in and near almost every town and farm. They may have peaked in numbers late in the 1800s when abundant urban horse manure provided plenty of food.

Although native to Europe and Asia, House Sparrows have spread, due to people importing them, to North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa. A surefire place to not see them is Antarctica.

Winding Pathways Asks for Help

Most people share their suburban and urban homes with plenty of House Sparrows, and moving to a wild area isn’t an option. So, what to do? Well, we listed what we do yet still have plenty of sparrows, so we’re asking for help from visitors to our Winding Pathways website. Please let us know if you’ve found a consistent and effective way to discourage this pesky bird.

Learn More

For much more information on this amazingly prolific bird go to allaboutbirds.org.  

Photos by Jody Vrieze.


Look Up! Look Down! Shhhh, Listen!

A Season of Variables

After a drab March “look up, look down, listen” season is here. It’s exciting and frustrating. Always something to see and hear and things we miss, too.

What is look up, look down, listen?  Well, when we walk in woods and prairies, we’re always attuned to nature’s beauty and curiosities. In the Northern Hemisphere April and May force challenges and delights, as the earth turns toward the sun. Its warmth stimulates new life while welcoming arrivals from down south.

Here in Iowa, like much of the United States, bird migration rises through April and peaks in early May. Woods, wetlands, and prairies are filled with bird species we haven’t seen since last year.

Look Up!

“Look up,” Marion remarked on one April walk last year. She spotted the first Rose Breasted Grosbeak of the season. He was perched on a thin branch high in a sycamore tree. As we walked along, we kept looking up to spot other new arrivals. They added color and song to those of cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers who are our neighbors all year.

Look Down!

After admiring the Grosbeak and moving on, I said, “look down.” We had been paying so much attention to birds up in the trees that we almost trampled a Dutchman’s Breeches, a delicate white wildflower with petals shaped like old-time Dutch pants. Looking down revealed spring beauties, Mayapples, hepatica, and anemones. Some were not quite in bloom and a few had gone by, but most were in their spring glory.

Shhhh! Listen

Passing a low wetland, we both paused to hear the songs of the chorus frogs and peepers that greet listeners each spring between the vernal equinox and Easter.

So, what do we do on a spring walk? Look up or down or listen? All of these. It is the best time of year to enjoy beauty clinging to the soil, singing from treetops, and chorusing from ephemeral pools.

Make Nature ID easier with Apps

Spotting birds hiding invisibly in tangles of branches and vines is challenging. What’s in that thicket singing? Thanks to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, we turn on our Merlin app, point the phone where the songs originate, and learn who’s singing. Merlin is easy to download from the app store. Sometimes we are lucky and watch migratory birds close at hand.  

Some people even lure birds in with treats that are eagerly consumed by arriving birds.

Wildflowers cannot hide but can be confusing. We sometimes use an app called SEEK to identify ones that are mysterious to us. SEEK is also easy to download from the app store and can also help identify trees, weeds, and other living things.

Look up, look down, listen! season may be the very best time to be outside. We love it.

Battery-Powered Chainsaws

Are battery-powered chainsaws worth the money?

We decided to find out. *

Gas chainsaws have been around for decades. Rich wondered if newer electric battery-powered chainsaws would be as functional and easier to use. So, he acquired a Milwaukee saw with a 16-inch bar and put it to the test alongside his trusty Stihl gas model.

Back in the mid-1970s Rich worked in Idaho felling Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees. He used a heavy noisy gas fueled chainsaw that was amazingly powerful as it chewed through thick trunks. Years later he bought a Stihl gas-powered saw used to cut the four or five cords of wood we burn each winter for heat. It’s a well-built powerful saw.

A few days after the new battery saw arrived, we heard a crack/boom as a huge oak crashed down across one of our backyard trails. Rich guided the new saw as it sliced through the log, and emerged smiling. “It’s amazing,” he said.

After further use he developed this chart of the pros and cons of the battery vs the gas saw:

Gas: Pro – Plenty of Power,  No need to recharge batteries, Longer bar

Gas: Con  Noisy and heavy, Must mix/carry/store gas, Must replace gas & air filters, Engine stalls, Pull cord start hard on the shoulder.

Battery: Pro – Plenty of Power, Relatively quiet, Less maintenance, Fairly lightweight, Trigger start, No need to idle,  Easy start

BatteryCon –  Need a nearby electric outlet to recharge the battery, Shorter bar than a gas saw

Bottom Line. Which One to Buy

Rich has both a gas and electric battery saw. Both are well-made by reliable companies.  So, if he didn’t own a saw and needed to cut up trees fallen in the yard which type would he buy?

“I’d buy a quality battery saw. They are easy to use, cut fast, and there’s no need to buy, mix, and store gas. They are also quiet, but I still use hearing protection when using one. There are major advantages of battery over gas. One is

eliminating the need to pull a cord to start it. You just pull the trigger. The second is especially helpful when cutting a fallen tree with branches. Often this requires cutting, then putting the saw aside to clear away the cut branches, then using the saw to cut more. Gas saws don’t idle well and often stall, requiring another pull on the starter cord. Also, when idling gas saws burn fuel and spew emissions.  Battery saws excel when there’s a need to cut and then move wood.”

 Battery-powered chainsaws use lots of electricity. He was able to cut 13 15-inch diameter black oak logs on one charge with a 12-amp hour battery. The saw will function well on batteries with lower amp hour ratings, but they will run down sooner. He suggests having two 12-amp hour batteries and notes that being close to a power source for recharging is useful. It is likely that the cost of recharging a battery is lower than the comparable amount of energy in gasoline but it’s difficult to make a comparison.


Operating any chainsaw must be done with safety in mind. Here is Rich’s list of safety precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Get saw training. In-person training is best but YouTube videos help.
  2. Always wear protective equipment that includes saw chaps, leather gloves, hearing, ear, head and eye protection, and sturdy leather boots.
  3. Saw with a partner nearby and carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
  4. Keep the chain sharp. YouTube videos show how to sharpen.
  5. Rest before you get tired.
  6. Be alert. Save the cold beer for after you are done.

Final Thoughts

Rich has years of experience using many power tools and shares these thoughts:

Quality pays.  “I buy quality tools, even if I have to wait until I save up enough money.  Most of my tools are Milwaukee brand. The same batteries that power my chainsaw also power my drills, fans, vacuum cleaner, lights, inflater, hedge trimmer and other saw types.  Many quality brands are on the market. They have their own specific type of battery that won’t work with other brands.  So, I consistently buy the same brand for convenience.

 Yard Tool’s Future

At Winding Pathways, we have replaced our gas lawn mower, snowblower, and now chainsaw with battery-powered equivalents. They are excellent and come with benefits over gas models. We see gas yard tools moving toward obsolescence and battery-powered ones becoming ever more versatile.


Rich has purchased, at retail cost, most of his power tools. Milwaukee has provided others for testing.


Reflecting on 2022

Several people have sourly said, “Good riddance to 2022.” This day, swaddled in dense fog that muffles sound and limits sight, I’m reflecting on 2022.  As we noted in the Gratitude jar on the shelf, the year before, “Good things DID happen (in 2021).” Below are some generalizations of Gratitudes gleaned from the scraps of notes stuffed in the pickle jar on the counter.

Any number of times I noted “sublime day.” Perhaps the air and sun were in perfect balance.  We completed errands smoothly. Or our energy simply flowed easily. Sitting on the deck with the bunny stretched out we were at ease.

Our few camping experiences gave respite to the “busyness” of the days. Quiet. No cell phones. Close to nature. Tall tulips in PA on our way to Falling Water. Weird geological formations in Nebraska’s Toadstool. The hoot of an owl in Iowa’s Yellow River.

Getaways and Friends

Other getaways offered contrasts. Floating the Niobrara River on a calm, mild spring day followed by driving through a blinding snowstorm the next day. The renovated, upscale Belvoir Winery & Inn in Missouri is surrounded by decrepit buildings of the long-abandoned Odd Fellows rest home. Reliving a dusty Kansas cattle drive in old Abilene at 109 degrees and stepping into the modern coolness of the Eisenhower and Truman Presidential Museums.

Interactions with friends and family. Reflecting on neighbor interactions, to book clubs, to yoga, to Firepit Friday gatherings, to coffee in the cabin and coffee shops, to the Veriditas and The Labyrinth Society colleagues. And, the bunny, Oreo, who was a wonderful Pandemic friend. She is still with us in memories and evidence of chewed cords and door frames. She was a character and a good friend.

Family connections over the miles on Facetime, ZOOM, in person, calls, photos, emails, and letters/cards. A way to be engaged with each other.

Engaging activities keep us active, healthy, and connected: Hoover Hatchery monthly blogs and Facebook Lives, writing for magazines and The Gazette, our Winding Pathways blogs, guiding labyrinth walks in person and virtually with Veriditas, walking and bicycling – on trails and (walking) inside as needed, playtime and projects with neighbor kids, monitoring students’ online course progress through Kirkwood Community College, watching Great Courses, helping with Faith Formation at church. And, appreciating the creative spirit and functionality of the Director of Faith Formation. The centering and balancing work with cancer patients and staff at the Nassif Community Cancer Center.


Reflecting on Deferred Gratification

Reflecting on the benefits of “deferred gratification” by having been careful with resources over the years and repairing/nurturing the land.  Thanking the derecho trees for providing heat in the winter’s woodstove. Planting, tending and harvesting garden produce. Appreciating the chickens and giving them treats and a warm, safe place to live.

Thinking ahead: checking the air conditioner in April before the hot weather.  Similarly, servicing the furnace and hot water heater in August. Maintaining the vehicles for optimal mileage and comfort – Rotate tires, change oil, fill windshield cleaner, change the blades, wash the outside, and detail the inside of the vehicles. Knowing steps to be prepared for outages, to stay home in inclement weather, and simply be at ease with what is.

Supporting educational to non-profit organizations locally and across the country.



Releasing memories to the ethers.

Although we can be sour about the downs of 2022, and there were a number of them, we can also appreciate the positives. That slight shift in reflecting helps ease the path for ourselves and others as we journey into 2023. Now, with gratitude for reflecting on 2022, I respectfully add these gratitudes to the woodstove that keeps us warm. The memory of these reflections keeps my heart warm.