Monday, July 21, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

July 19:

I rode Ben today.

I RODE BEN TODAY!

Yep. Overcoming the fear issues that sap my will to ride, even at the low levels Ben can offer these days, today I groomed, tacked up, and rode the mighty Benster. Getting on meant a small twinge of hip pain and a larger twinge of panic, especially as (a) he moved off before I was completely in the saddle, and (b) I discovered that the stirrup leathers were about three holes too short, from letting someone else ride him a while ago. Fortunately a bystander took care of the leathers so I didn't have to dismount and get back on, and off we went around the ring.

Walk, walk, walk. It took a bit to get my sulky lower body half settled into comfortable position, and I had to fight a constant urge to curl forward into fetal position, but walk we did. Other than bowing mildly away from damp patches in the ring dirt from water bucket dumpings, Ben was his normal placid self. Big spiderleg-gaited placid self.

I'm afraid we got in the way of a lesson going on once or twice, despite my best efforts to steer clear, but as time passed I got more relaxed and began to actively enjoy it. Towards the end of our ten minutes or so, I even asked for, and got, some easy trot steps in each direction -- notably more comfortable turning to the left, I might add. Not surprising when you consider it's his left hind that's much the worse.

Ben wasn't exactly blowing when we finished (nor was I, amazingly enough), but I'm sure that was plenty for now. He was also quietly pleased with himself, even without my showering him with kisses and praise. We'll have to do this again sometime.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

July 21:

Another day, another ride. Ten minutes aboard the Benster, after three or four leading him, tacked up, around the ring to get his back warmed up before mounting. The fear factor has diminished, which is great. The few jog steps in each direction I tried were as much as either one of us needed to do. It was a pleasure to feel how well Ben remembers his job, how easily he turned just off seat and a hint of leg.

No one else was in the ring when I dismounted, so I untacked Ben and turned him loose to putter about. He rolled, puttered, and of course chose the farthest corner from the muck bucket to dump in. I swear he did it just to see me trudge the diagonal length of the ring, to and from, with muck fork. But he did (after a lengthy pause to ponder it) come across the ring to me when I held out his halter, and stick his head into it, when it was time to put him back out in his paddock.

Best of all: Before mounting, my left hip and leg were bothering me. By the time I got off, and walking around afterwards, they felt much better. Could be this riding thing will be therapeutic -- for both of us.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

I Didn't See This Coming

Big shocker in the feline tribe this morning: Stanley offered Sally a headboop! And she didn't rip his face off!

Ever since he arrived as a four-month-old three years ago, Stanley and Sally have been enemies. She tormented him when he was a kitten; he tormented her when he grew big enough to turn the tables. It got bad enough that I had to keep Sally in a separate part of the condo for a while. I also sent Stanley's brother back to the shelter, since (a) he was even more aggressive toward her, and (b) when he couldn't go after Sally he started harassing Pumpkin. (Stan's brother did get adopted again, so it's all good.)

After a few months I tried letting Sally out into the general population again, and it worked. Mostly. There were still episodes of shrieking, chasing, furiously flailing paws, and so forth, but no blood, and the intensity diminished with time. Lately there's been little to no drama each day; the two can warily pass within feet -- then inches -- of each other without one or the other launching an attack; and in the morning, in that drifting stage between awakening and arising, when I turn on the bedside TV to catch the news and weather, I've had them sitting facing each other, perhaps the width of two hands between them, purring as I scratched each head. One sometimes will even tentatively sniff toward the other before pulling back out of pawstrike range.

And this morning? This morning there they were, sitting maybe three inches apart, purring as I scratched their necks, when Stanley cautiously stretched out toward Sally in a slow-motion version of his usual hard-swooping headboop. He paused almost within touching distance; she looked at him but didn't repulse him; he eased back; they both continued purring and contemplating each other for a moment more, then went on their ways.

I was shocked. And pleased. I still don't think they'll ever be friends, but this is a BFD!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

On Writing

Writing is not easy.

Writing well is damned hard. Harder than it looks to those who don’t do it, or who equate dashing off an email or a stock-form business letter to writing an essay, or a story, or a book.

Writing that flows well, that uses just the right words in just the right rhythm to capture the thoughts that urged its creation, is an art and a craft. It’s an inborn talent and a skill gained only through long practice and willingness to keep trying through failures and flops. It grows from a lifetime of experience; it blossoms from the inspiration of the moment; it needs both to work.

I just spent a quarter of an hour writing and rewriting the above, what took less than a minute to read. Did I make it look easy? It wasn’t. I’ve been mulling over this topic for a good part of the day, composing and recomposing this essay as I drove, as I tended my horse, as I went about various other mundane tasks. I’ll go back over every sentence in this thing before I hit “Post”, several times more, and still be dissatisfied with patches here and there where I fail to capture exactly what I wanted to express.

Sometimes the things I write burst forth like Athena from Zeus’s forehead – fully formed and alive. Sometimes slicing through my forehead, scooping out slugs of gray matter, and sluicing them onto the page would be easier than struggling through the labor of composition. (I’ve framed and reframed this particular paragraph several times over the course of my mullings; it may well see further tweaks before I’m done.)

The most stream-of-consciousness passage I ever wrote was about the death of my first horse, Nick. It flowed volcanic from me into the email telling our friends of his loss:

I don't know how to write this. We put Nick down today. I went up to be with him whle the vet took blood to test for EPM. The vet was there when I got there. Nick was under the bank barn with the mare Roxy. He was glad to see me and he gobbled the doughnut and horse cookies I'd brought him and he wanted his belly scratched but he was weaker, I could see that, since the Sunday before when I'd last seen him. He was tired, tired of fighting to go on, and so wobbly he almost fell just moving into position to get his belly scratched.

The vet was so kind. Donna told me she'd seen a much younger horse with the same injury who'd never recovered and that I was right to let him go. She showed me the place on his spine where she believed the injury was. We started to lead him -- just with a rope around his neck, Nick's always been such a good guy -- we were taking him up the slight slope to where I'd chosen to bury him if it came to that. He tried to follow me but halfway up he lost his balance backwards and sagged down. He folded rather than slamming down, lay on his side with his feet higher, picked up his head and tried, started to try to get up. I knelt by his head and comforted him and he laid his head back down and trusted me and I stroked his face while the vet gave him the needle and he went so softly so gently he never even drew the harsh agonal last breath. Just... gone.

Anne was at work, distraught because I think she knew what I would decide when I saw Nick. I called her when I made the decision and afterwards. Donna comforted me as best she could, stayed with me for quite a while afterwards talking and helping me deal with it. We covered his body with a dropcloth and I cut strands of his mane and tail and got his tack into the car and drove to Concord where Anne was working and we cried on each other for a bit. And then I drove home.


That was written in 2005, the day of Nick’s death, and it torrented out. I tidied it up a bit before sending, but that was all. In 2010 I wrote a blog entry about euthanasia and reused it – but edited:

A couple of days later I drove up to meet Anne's vet at her farm to discuss what next. I walked down to where Nick was hanging out under the bank barn with Anne's two horses, the vet by his side. And I knew.

He was glad to see me and he gobbled the doughnut and horse cookies I'd brought him and he wanted his belly scratched (oh, how he loved having his belly scratched! He'd follow you around the paddock slinging his flank at you, demanding more) but he was weaker, I could see that, since the Sunday before when I'd last seen him. He was tired, tired of fighting to go on, and so wobbly he almost fell just moving into position to get his belly scratched.

The vet was so kind. Donna told me she'd seen a much younger horse with the same injury who'd never recovered and that I was right to let him go. She showed me the place on his spine where she believed the injury was. We started to lead him -- just with a rope around his neck, Nick was always such a good guy -- we were taking him up the slight slope to where I'd chosen to bury him if it came to that. He tried to follow me but halfway up he lost his balance backwards and sagged down. He folded rather than slamming down, lay on his side with his feet higher, picked up his head and tried, started to try to get up. I knelt by his head and comforted him and told him he didn't have to try any more and told him I loved him and he laid his head back down and trusted me and I stroked his face while the vet gave him the needle and he went so softly so gently he never even drew the harsh agonal last breath. Just... gone.

Anne was at work, distraught because I think she knew what I would decide when I saw Nick. I called her when I made the decision and again afterwards. Donna comforted me as best she could, stayed with me for quite a while afterwards talking and helping me deal with it. We covered his body with a dropcloth and I cut off keepsake strands of his mane and tail. After Donna left I stood leaning on the fence for a while, staring at Nick's body, and cried. Finally I got his tack into the car and drove to Concord where Anne was working and we cried on each other for a bit. And then I drove home.


Which version is truer? The passage written in the moment’s passion, or the reconsidered version? I cried in the rewriting, in the reliving of remembered pain. It was as true for me then as in the original writing. And that moment’s passion? That flowed from 13 years of my life with Nick, from all that we’d been through together, all that we’d meant to each other, all that my life had been and had become because of him. That had to be written when it was first written; that remains the truth for me in a calmer, quieter time of my life.

That is what, for me, writing is, good writing should be – the distillation of one’s life in the medium of the moment’s passion, set down in words that march or leap, or sing or weep, that flow or crash or float or burrow deep into the reader’s soul. Words that take hold of the thought and pin it to paper, enlarge it, color it, find its essence and expand its scope, take it not for granted but for a stepping stone to further understanding. That’s what I strive for, anyway. Do I always succeed? Hell, no. Not even close, sometimes. But I keep trying.

I’ve spent a couple of hours on this so far (make that more like three, now), skipped lunch, dug back into old files and old emotions, rooted around for the right words, edited, added, deleted, rewritten, and now I’m going to post it. Even though I’m not quite satisfied, even though it’s not even mentioning some of what inspired me to begin writing it.

But so it goes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further thoughts on what it takes to write well, and the damned impudence of those who'd steal the creative work of others, essays so good I couldn't do them justice without quoting way too much of them to stay within Fair Use guidelines:

http://www.stonekettle.com/2014/06/thieving-bastards.html

http://nc-narrations.blogspot.com/2014/06/and-horse-you-rode-in-on.html?showComment=1403380057694#c7071173337794865534

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Getting Back On Again

Today I rode Ben. We both survived. Here’s how it went down without either of us going down.

I gave him his daily mash and let him snurfle happily away at it while I unloaded the car of all the gear I’d hauled out of storage for the Big Day and got it stowed in the barn or laid out in the tacking-up area. By the time he’d finished eating and I’d finished my various chores, we were alone except for another boarder who’d come in with a trailer to take her mare to another barn for a training session and had her on the cross-ties near us as I prepped Ben.

I got Ben groomed and tacked up without fuss. He appeared to remember the whole routine and didn’t object. I led him into the ring and walked him around for a bit to let his back get used to the feel of a girthed-on saddle again. Then it was time to snug the girth a hole or two tighter, run down the stirrups, lead him over to the mounting block, and get on.

Ulp. Don’t mind admitting I felt a few butterflies flapping in my stomach, even though Ben was quite blase about it all. But I swung aboard without difficulty and picked up my stirrups as if it hadn’t been more than a year since our last – well. To be exact, the last time I got on my fiery steed was October 8, 2012. And that had been my first and only ride since May 2011. Why? A number of reasons, but the bottom line: Fear. And now here I am a few years older, considerably less fit, and still working on recovering from my hip replacement.

But dammit, I want to do this. The vet says Ben will be fine; neither his sagging suspensories nor his arthritic hocks will suffer with some light walk riding. My head says Ben will be fine. It’s just my stupid gut that’s blubbering hysterically that We’re All Gonna Die! So shut up, gut, and please proceed, Ben.

Ben stepped off at a light squeeze into his normal GIANT SPIDER-LEGGED walk. The gut yowled. I throttled back the panic and let him motor on. Well, okay, so I let one hand drop to the grab strap across the front of my Aussie saddle at first. So sue me – or sue my gut, anyway. But we kept going, circling the ring, turning this way and that. I made myself unfurl from an instinctive curl toward the fetal position and sit up straight. Ben took the slightest hint from rein and leg as neatly as if he’d been in work all along. I kept off his mouth, even when he got a bit lookie at a dark patch where a bucketful of water had been tossed – all he needed was a light squeeze and off he went, unperturbed.

We’d been at it for two or three minutes, I think, when the other boarder told me she had to leave. So, not wanting to be aboard without anyone around to call an ambulance, I got off and told Ben what a Good Boy he was. He seemed mildly pleased. I was immensely delighted – even though my hip informed me, as soon as I slid to the ground, that it had had quite enough, thank you, of such unnatural use.

Hoo-eeee. I can see I’ll need to work up gradually to anything longer than a handful of minutes. But I’m going to do it. Even though it’s such a goddamned long way down to the ground from his back.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Ben Gets Blissful

It’s been a flat-out week, workwise; I’ve made it to the barn every day to give Ben his beet pulp mash, set up his overnight hay, and generally check on his welfare, but there’s been no time for anything more.

Today was different. Today I finished the last rush job by a little after 1:00, then headed over to spend some quality time with my old guy. He greeted me with his usual joyful bellow as I carried over the mash bucket. Then, while he gobbled the good stuff, I got to work on Ben, right there in his paddock.

First, a thorough currying, lifting mass quantities of fur-shed off his body. The wind blew a lot of it away for the birds to grab for nest-lining, but there was still plenty left for plastering on me. Then he got a thorough brushing, followed by a final going-over with the FURminator rake. The result was promising: still not wholly shed out, but suggestions of summer sleekness bloomed on his hide.

By that time the mash was gone, and Ben moved over to his lunch hay pile. I moved to his butt and began working on his tail: A tail that hadn’t seen a decent grooming since he went into winter blankets; long, dreadlocked, with a trail of dried crud on the underside left by his habit of not raising it high enough when there’s a blanket tail-flap over it. I picked out segment after segment and began teasing the knots and snarls and shavings out with a big wide-toothed plastic tail comb. It took a good half-hour of patient work – hand cramps towards the end, too – but at last it floated full and free and silky in the small breeze. Hilly told me she’d seen him step on his tail when backing up, so I banged off four or five inches.

Then it was time for the front end. I grabbed a wide-toothed plastic mane brush and began raking through his long forelock and even longer mane – it’s a good eight inches now, despite his last mane trim a month or so ago. I had to pick his head up off the hay to do it, but he didn’t resist – indeed, Ben by now was in a semi-trance, wallowing in the attention. We finished with me going over his face and ears slowly and gently with the soft brush, his nose tucked into my chest, his eyes at half-mast.

When I was done Ben didn’t go back to his hay till it was plain the lovefest was over; no, he stood and gazed mildly at me, willing me to come back and make much of him some more. He looked great (a state that will probably dissipate by the time I see him tomorrow), he was blissed out, and so was I.

I guess Ben likes me for more than the mash after all.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Pluses and Minuses.

Plus: Saw my surgeon on Tuesday, and he was well pleased with how I'm doing. The hip/groin pain are much ameliorated by changing my exercise routines; the knee has been doing really well; the x-rays were solid; everything looks good and I should continue listening to what my body tells me about how far, how fast I can increase activity.

Minus: I've found that trying to muck makes my hip ache. So what have I been doing this week? Why, working on the winter's accumulation of manure and waste hay in Ben's paddock, of course; for Monday through Thursday sticking to raking the dreck into neat little piles for someone else to collect and dispose of. Then today I took the smallest wheelbarrow at the barn -- a shallow thing holding maybe a third of a real grownup wheelbarrow -- and started removing muck piles. Took out maybe half a dozen loads before quitting (and might have gone for one or two more if I hadn't tipped over the last load just inside the disposal container).

Sigh. That was probably dumb. Especially since I've been mildly achey from the preceding days' efforts. But hey! My body didn't start yapping in protest when I got to mucking today, and I was careful not to lift too much, so it must be okay, right? Right?

This evening, my hip still doesn't have much to say, but my knee has informed me that that was GODDAMNED STUPID, YOU TWIT. Oh, well; that's what ibuprofen and the knee brace are for, amirite?

Getting up tomorrow morning should be ... interesting.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Progress Report

So, how am I doing? Much better than a month ago, actually.

This winter has been tough physically as far as rehab from the hip replacement last March 27th. Since basically December, I haven't been able to go out to walk; I ran out of insurance-paid physical therapy visits so had to do independent workouts when I could get to the facility. Was having continuing pain problems in my left knee, some new ones in the right, and occasional stabbing left hip/groin pain, to the point that sometimes I found myself walking, as my therapist described it, "like someone who needs a hip replacement". Was beginning to wonder if I'd ever really feel good again.

But in the last two weeks or so, things have turned around. I've been able to get out here and there to walk on safe bare ground and not freeze my butt off -- only a quarter mile at a time, far from the one-plus up to two miles I'd been doing regularly before the winter, but I accept that I'm deconditioned and have to work back up to where I'd been. Better yet, I figured out the cause of a lot of my pain -- certain stretches I'd been doing -- and cut them out. Mirabile dictu, within less than a week the hip/groin pain has dwindled to rare and almost nothing. Both knees are doing so much better that I was afraid to even acknowledge the change at first, for fear that the Gods of Hubris-Smiting would come after me.

I saw my therapist yesterday and his assessment was basically "Wow, fantastic!" Did the best I've done since we started working together on the stair climb/descend and other tests. I have certain strength-building exercises to continue doing. Best of all, he said that I still haven't reached an end point; that it's still possible to make further improvements before I arrive at what I have is what I'll have.

Oh, and I've also completely cut out junk food -- no more chips, no more chocolate, my two great weaknesses. If I want a crunchy salty snack, there's cashews. If I want something sweet, there's fresh blueberries in vanilla yogurt. I stick to satisfyingly yummy but healthy meals which don't overload the calories but leave me feeling full, not hungry. Results: I'm sleeping better and have shed a couple of pounds in the last two weeks.

This pleases me. It also makes it much easier to stick to what I'm doing. At a pound a week, it'll take a long time to get where I want to go (20 pounds lighter would be nice), but I'm much more likely to get there and stay there. And who knows? Once I can get back to daily (or nearly so) walks and up the distance, I might dwindle more quickly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning:

And the Hubris Gods apparently are keeping an eye on me.

This morning the hip is somewhat achy and I had one episode of sharper hip/groin pain -- nowhere near as bad as it had been getting, but a warning shot across the bow: Don't do too much too soon, and I had been doing more than usual over the last two days. It's a lot colder today, too, and I wonder whether that might have a role to play. So, dial it back, take the ibuprofen, and pray for spring.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ben and the Sliding Roof Monsters

Poor Ben. The last few days he hasn't been at the fence to greet me when I drive in; the last couple he hesitated to come get his bucket of mash; today when I finally coaxed him to come get it, he ate about two-thirds, then went back to the far end of the paddock, and wouldn't come to me till I carried his bucket a good two-thirds of the way to the back.

Why?

Because there's still bits of snow sliding off the barn roof, and the poor thing is spooked! Monsters are sliding down to eat him up! Aaaiiieeeeee!

There's hardly any snow or ice left on the roof now; should all be gone by tomorrow; but who knows when the Benster (not the sharpest pencil in the box) will figure out it's safe?

This is where he should be:

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Foiled! By Lake Speed Bump!

So this winter has been useless for walking, what with the snow and ice and bitter cold and all that fun stuff that makes a person with a gimpy leg think twice and thrice about trying to go for a walk. But today was different! Today was mild and the pavement was clear and by golly, it was time to get back into it, at least to the end of my little side street and back -- a quarter-mile walk if I go the full length.

So out I went, and it was glorious. I was marching right along, feeling wicked good, and had made it about two-thirds of the way to the far end of Kimball Avenue, when I confronted my "You shall not pass!" obstacle -- a mini-lake of meltwater accumulated on the far side of a large speed bump. Can't go around it on either side; the snowbanks are high and steep enough to block it, and there's no plowed sidewalk beyond them to get to via driveway. The water was deep enough to get up to mesh areas on my walking shoes and soak through. If my leg worked properly I could have taken a large long step and safely gotten to the shallow end. But it doesn't, so I couldn't.

So I was forced to turn back, thwarted. But it was nevertheless a pleasant, if abbreviated, walk, and I plan to do it again tomorrow. Still, spring can't come fast enough!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Defining Oneself

It is never easy, for any of us, to realize we can define ourselves, and then do it, because we all arrive at adulthood encased in layers of Other People's Expectations and we swim in a constant sea of OPEs. It's far easier to just go with the flow, no matter how miserable it makes us. It took me decades to claw my way out of all the OPEs I'd internalized and accept myself for what I was and always would be, what I wasn't and never would be, and what I could and couldn't do about it all. The end result might not appeal to other people, but it works for me, and that's what matters.

Defining oneself photo a8b25ec9-e393-468f-b32e-e115e5c6972c_zpseffd8c83.jpg Words by Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station; artwork by Rynko Brown.

Phew!

Watch the gimpy old lady dodge a bullet!

My furnace started making weird noises on Saturday, turning itself onnnn... thenoff... onnnnnnn... thenoff... onnnnnnn...but not blowing hot air up to the registers every onnnnnn time. Sunday it was more noticeable, and when I went to bed the onnnnnn sound took on a whiny overtone. "Oh no," I thought, "is the blower motor going?" So I turned the thermostat way way down to put minimal stress on the thing.

This morning as I woke up I heard it come onnnnnnn... thenoff... onnnnn.... a short pathetic attempt to blow air... onnnnnnnnn no air... and when I went downstairs and turned the thermostat up a few degrees it continued to try but got no air coming up at all. So I turned it off and called my furnace guy. Got his answering machine, called the emergency number it offered me, and left a message on that.

GOD BLESS DAVE WILE! He answered within an hour, came within minutes of hearing my woes, checked it out, and proclaimed the problem: condensation water buildup in some piping. He blew out all the pipes, checked it for further problems, and declared it done -- all for a mere service charge.

Dodged a bullet!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Yelling his fool head off

When I arrive at the barn and get out of my car, Ben bellows. He's so excited to see me! And the bucket of beet pulp mash I'm bringing him. Mostly the bucket of beet pulp mash he's about to get. Definitely the food. People inside the barn know when I've arrived by the bellow.

Yesterday, after giving him his lunch and doing other stuff, I was inside the barn chatting with Hilly. Apparently Ben had finished his mash, noticed my car was still there, put these two items together and come up with: "Bellow! You're still here, come feed me more!"

Hilly told me this Ben story: When she puts the horses out after their breakfast grain each morning, she takes them in a certain order. Ben stands quietly as horse after horse is led past his stall. Then it's his turn and suddenly it's BELLOW! as the excited TB hovers impatiently by his door.

Ben's not the sharpest crayon in the box, but he knows what he knows.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Go me! (But where?)

So: Today I turn 65. Whoopee me. My body decided arthritic knuckles, a bum knee and sometimes iffy hip weren't sufficient reminders of mortality on this happy occasion; nope, gotta twist that old knife some more. So I awoke for a bathroom run in the wee hours and discovered:

My inner ear vertigo is baaaaaaaack!

Crap. I lurched cautiously to the bathroom, took the Claritin-D my doctor's prescribed for it, and tottered cautiously back to bed. Woke up at the crack of 9:00, got up cautiously, and began my day with still stuffy ears and lingering vertigo. It's diminished to where I can function all right, so long as I make no sudden moves. Now I just have to wait till it decides to go away.

For a while.

But it will return, oh, yes, it will return. And if not that, it'll be something else. The body is crumbling and there's no escaping mortality.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

A Late-Night Run

Now, this is being an obsessive horse-mom, for sure.

I'm just back from driving over to the barn to change Ben out of his midweight into heavyweight blanket because it's supposed to turn colder overnight. Never mind that he likely would have been perfectly fine if I'd waited till tomorrow to do it; never mind that I might have woken up the barn owner coming down the driveway at 9:30 or so (sorry, Annette! But you know me.); never mind all that. Nope, I'd planned to change him out tonight, and would have gone much earlier if I hadn't been stuck at home working on a mega-rush job. So go I did.

The Benster was lying down when I got there, blinking in mild bewilderment when the light came on. The mare across the aisle whickered hopefully; she knows my off-hours arrival means she's going to get at least a handful of hay. Ben got up when it became clear that cookies would be involved, and wasn't too stiff behind when he first moved -- a good sign that his hocks aren't bothering him too much now that he's got the large good-footing paddock and big stall to move around in.

So the blanket got changed, the pitiful remnants of Ben's supper hay (the barn's regular two/three giant flakes plus my own two large additions) got covered with two more fat flakes of my hay (the special stuff from the farm that he really really likes), the mare got a couple of handfuls, Ben got his cookies, and I got to depart feeling a sense of accomplishment after a hectic day.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Clumsy Oaf! Now Look What You've Done!

Ow ow ow! Last night I was slicing up stuff for my supper salad.

Then suddenly I was slicing the top of my left thumb half off. OW! Blood is flying.

I ran the tap over it. It kept bleeding. I wadded a paper towel over it. It kept bleeding. I cursed at it. It kept bleeding.

I lurched upstairs, washed my hands, dabbed Bacitracin onto the wound, wiped the blood spatters out of the sink with a reddening wad of paper towel over the thumb, wrapped the biggest Band-Aid I could find over it, and watched more blood seep out still. Yup, it's not going to stop with home remedies. Time to go visit the friendly folks at the emergency room. And here I am, already in my nightgown and robe for a quiet evening of supper munching and TV watching.

More cursing my clumsy stupidity as I rip off the nightclothes, struggle one-and-a-half-handed into going-to-the-hospital clothes, and stomp back downstairs and into the car. I drive to Beverly Hospital with my paper-towel-wadded left thumb sticking up mournfully from the steering wheel. At the hospital, the Misfortune Gods decide to take pity on me -- there's an open spot on the first level of the parking garage!

Once inside the hospital, things aren't too bad. I get the intake done by the triage nurse reasonably quickly, have time for several pages of reading on my phone's Kindle app back out in the waiting room, then get led off to an exam room where in decently short order a cheerful doctor helps me peel off the layers of protection I'd applied and examines the damaged appendage. By now it's stopped actively bleeding and is contenting itself with the occasional ooze, so after he cleans it he decides not to stitch it. Instead, he applies several coatings of surgical glue. I'm departing, instruction sheet stuffed in my purse and thumb held carefully aside, in about two hours from arrival.

By now it's too late to stop anywhere for something hot to eat (hey, it's 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday out here in the sticks; the few sidewalks are already rolled up for the night) other than a lone McDonald's, so I content myself when I get home with salty snacks and chocolate. I manage to find a gigantic Band-Aid, 3x4-inch, and get it folded over the thumb so that the fold sits just above the top of the digit while the bottom adheres below the first joint. Thumb armor! This makes life marginally more awkward than trying to remember Don't Touch Anything With That Thing, but works better. After a few hours of quietly mindless enjoyment before the TV, it's off to bed.

This morning, the damn thing is still prone to slight oozing if I happen to bump it on something but otherwise seems to be doing well. Looks awful, but I think I'll live. I'm supposed to avoid getting the thumb wet, lest it undo the surgical glue, so for feeding the cats and then cleaning their litter boxes I pulled on a pair of examining gloves. Worked fine. I've currently got a little latex finger cot on over it -- and yes, it does look silly, like I'm wearing the world's smallest Trojan over it, but it's less clumsy than going back to the mega-Band-Aid.

And I'm still pissed at myself. Clumsy oaf!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ha! This morning I was schmoozing with Teddy in his cage through the side door by which I deposit his food dish on the second tier of the tower. Stanley got jealous, made his way onto the tower cage top, and squirmed on his belly toward Ted, trying to dibble his paws through the bars to smite his rival.

I dashed upstairs for the camera, sure that Stanley would have exited by the time I got back. But no! There he still was -- and here he is, with Ted oblivious to the menace above him -- or, more likely, unconcerned because Stanley can't get him, neener neener neener.

First photo I converted to black and white because it was taken without the flash, and upping the exposure enough to make things visible produced a messed-up color balance. Second shot is with the flash. There's no third shot because Stanley got down before I could go around to the side so I could shoot up through the side door to capture his belly fuzz sticking down through the bars.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Peeeee-Yooooo

Stopped by the farm where Ben used to board today, to do the away-all-day owners the favor of letting their dogs out for relief and feeding their horses, and I went into the barn, where the calves -- who have grown prodigiously in just a couple of months -- were spending the day inside what used to be Ben's stall.

The place reeked of bull crap. That stuff, it appears, is way more nastily redolent than horse manure.

If I'd had any thought of bringing Ben back for the summer there (which I've already decided isn't going to happen), that would have put the kibosh on it for damn sure. Yuck.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pluses and Minuses

It's a plus and minus day.

On the minus side, I spent a horrible night in the ravages of a blossoming head cold, unable to sleep as it grew in strength until finally, around 3:00 a.m., I gave up, slithered out of bed, and went downstairs to the reading recliner. With a blanket and Schooner to keep me warm, I started into Antonia Fraser's history of the Gunpowder Plot -- well written but not the kind of exciting read that keeps one eagerly turning pages -- hoping that it would help me drift off to sleep. I did doze a bit, after an hour or two; then around 5:00 a.m. I got up to try taking yet another remedy, said the hell with it, and lurched back upstairs into my bed again. Mirabile dictu! I slept till the alarm woke me at 10:00, and after only a few snooze button punches and multiple Schooner harassments, I got up to feed the cats and start my stuffed-up, sneezing, snivelling day.

Around noon I headed out to the barn to give Ben his mash, not looking forward to seeing what the overnight rain continuing into today had done to the thick fluffy snow cover deposited on us over the weekend. What do I see as I turn down the unpaved driveway? Bare dirt! The whole plowed part of the barnyard is bare dirt! Sure, there's still lots of big snowpiles that will freeze rock-hard tonight when the Arctic front comes through, but the walking surfaces are BARE DIRT. Even Ben's paddock should be safe for him tomorrow, given how much old manure has been surfaced by the snow-melting rain and warmth. So it's a big plus, this rain -- the harsh freeze headed our way won't turn everything at Seven Acres into a bone-breaking skating rink.

And another thing -- yesterday I checked under Ben's blanket and discovered the big lug has gained back pretty much all the weight he'd lost. Now I can taper him off the daily mashes. He won't call that a plus, but I do.

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Note from January 8:

Strange: That horrible no-good awful ack cold I started a couple of days ago? It's over already, or just about gone. I don't get colds very often (one benefit of being a semi-hermit), and in the last couple of years it seems that when I do get one, it runs its course in a day or two. I'm probably jinxing myself by saying this, but I can't recall the last time I had one of those drag-on-for-weeks colds. Maybe I've got a kickass immune system? Or I'm really really lucky.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to 2014

What's up this lovely morning in New England? An incipient blizzard, that's what! Well, maybe the blizzard itself will stay south of Boston, but right now it's 20-something degrees (I refuse to look at the outside thermometer, which isn't that reliable lately anyway, plus it's getting covered with wind-driven snow) here out on Cape Ann, where the slamming together of a gale-force Arctic blast and the storm rushing in from the southeast, sucking up even more power and moisture from the ocean as it (eventually) pulls out to sea, will give my little corner of the world well over a foot of snow before it's done toying with us sometime tomorrow.

We'll be headed into single digits tonight, and probably drop below zero by tomorrow morning.

But I don't have to go out for anything, the horse is safely tucked away in his big stall with lots of food and people to look after him onsite, and I intend to Get Stuff Done over the next couple of days.

Starting with making French toast! With gluten-free bread, Olivio fake butter, and The Amazing Egg egg-white fake batter. But at least the maple syrup will be real.

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Sigh. Made the fake French toast and it was just as crappy as I'd expected. But at least the maple syrup was good, and there was plenty. You can drown out a lot of cooking sins with enough maple syrup.

So what do I do now for fun? Why, go over all the Medicare supplement come-ons the insurance companies have been sending me lately and try to figure out what I should do come February when I turn 65. At least, no matter what I pick, it should cost me less than the health insurance I have now.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Rant

Wasting time watching one of those "Ancient Aliens" shows on the History H2 channel, and beyond all the other absurdities of such woowoo speculation lies one simple question: Why would beings scientifically advanced enough to defeat the speed of light limitation, with untold numbers of galaxies to explore, waste their time playing deity to backwards savages, building pyramids and mounds and all sorts of other mysterious structures beyond the capabilities of the savages they instructed, on an obscure planet circling a run-of-the-mill sun way out on an undistinguished arm of a commonplace galaxy?

It's particularly disheartening to me to see such garbage on a channel that supposedly seeks to enlighten its viewers about history when the preceding program on H2 was a two-hour exploration of the engineering marvels of ancient Egypt, with thoughtful explanations of precisely how those long-ago people -- supposedly unable (if you buy the ancient aliens theory of antiquity's achievements) to have constructed their massive monuments without starfolks' assistance -- went about doing just that despite their lack of modern machinery. Turns out that those ancient Egyptians were endowed with the necessary smarts and skills to do it all themselves.

And I guess that's what really pisses me off, when you get right down to it -- the underlying idea that human beings, especially those not blessed with all our modern apparatus, were simply too dumb and incompetent to figure out anything more complex than mud huts; that "primitive" peoples were -- and still are -- lesser beings than our smugly smart current selves. So Neolithic man wouldn't have a clue what to do with a computer? Big whoop -- your average modern man wouldn't have a clue how to survive, let alone thrive, in the Neolithic world. It's just different skill sets, not a quantum leap in intelligence.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ho Ho Ho

And a very merry winter solstice holiday to you too!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

I Surrender

Decided to switch from rough to full board today -- I just can't face doing horse chores through another winter! Ben will still get his daily visit (unless the weather sucks), and his daily beet pulp mash and extra night-time hay, but no more mucking for me till the ground is bare and the temps don't freeze my fingers off. Thank goodness at Seven Acres they spread traction thoroughly over the plowed areas, as any snow packed down from plowing or walking has turned to ice – and we have another storm due in tomorrow into Wednesday.

I bring buckets of pre-assembled mash home with me after every barn visit (beet pulp, bran, and a weight-builder supplement) so I can slosh in hot water the next day before setting out for Seven Acres. It makes for an enjoyably fragrant ride over, I must say. Today as I crept like an old lady (shut up!) from my car to Ben to deliver his lunch mash, I was grateful I didn’t have to push a laden wheelbarrow over the gelid surfaces between the shedrow and manure accumulator.

Ben can handle winter a lot better than I can.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How did this happen???

How did I get so old?!? Old hag, old crone, dumpy old lady????

I mean, I was never a raving beauty, even in my college years (too much of that Germanic Graf facial structure):

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But in my twenties I cleaned up reasonably good, as in my Metro Cite pass photo on a trip to Paris:

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Into my thirties and forties, I at least didn’t scare small children:

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Nor did I scare the horses (or other four-hooved critters) heading toward the half-century mark:

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In my fifties I was still reasonably non-haggish:

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But here I am, almost 65, and MY GOD LOOK AT ME!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big Change for Ben

Excellent change coming for Ben tomorrow -- another boarder is moving out, at least for several months, and Ben gets to move into her horse's big stall in the shedrow -- about as big as what he had at the farm -- and the good-size paddock, with firm, not muddy, footing, that Ben used to be in the last time he lived at Seven Acres. I know the footing is good because I personally laid down three nine-yard truckloads of stone dust in it, by wheelbarrow and shovel and rake, back when I was young(er) and strong(er).

Ben got his first turnout post-injury yesterday, for a couple of hours in a small paddock. He was quiet and totally noncavorty, so I'm hoping getting turned out into a larger paddock won't inspire him to get stupid and reinjure that suspensory.

In any case, having a larger stall, with more light and air, will be especially appreciated given we have a couple/three more or less stormy days coming up to start the week, when he'll have to stay in.

Ben in the paddock he’ll have, back about five years ago:

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Update, Sunday:

One-day delay on the new stall for Ben, as the boarder now in it won't be leaving today, but instead tomorrow. But! Because it was drizzly this a.m., most of the horses weren't turned out when I arrived in late morning, so I popped Ben into his old/new paddock, and did not remove him later when the owner of the soon-to-depart horse showed up. No way was I about to haul him out when he was enjoying it so much -- and he was. He didn't cavort or otherwise get silly, he just puttered around sniffing and looking, then dived into his hay. Having him in there for daily turnout is going to be very very good for him. And tomorrow he moves into his new big stall in the shedrow corner known as "the four-stall".

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ben update

Unwrapped Ben yesterday and the fetlock is looking better -- in fact, looking better than before I moved him to Seven Acres! It had been puffy but he was sound on it at the farm. Now it's almost clean. He's walking well; we did our first hand walk, in the indoor ring, and he behaved no worse than pulling hard -- no eruptions, no cavorts. He also got some grooming and general loving on by a couple of little girls beforehand, which he of course inhaled with delight. It's very cold and windy today, though, so I might ace him before trying another walk -- or might not try at all, other than moving him to an open stall while I drain his swamp.

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Yep, chickened out about trying to handwalk Ben today -- it's very cold and viciously blustery. He's still getting used to having to step up and down over thresholds to enter/exit stalls, is hesitant and nervous when asked to, and needs some persuasion, so when I took him out of his bog for mucking, I just led him a couple of doors down to another stall and parked him there so I could tidy up unobstructed while his lunch beet-pulp mash soaked.

When everything was ready for him, instead of taking Ben back home I led him out further down the aisle into the ring, walked him a few dozen paces in a circle, observed how snorty he was (though obedient), and said the hell with it, so took him back up the aisle to his stall. He was just as happy to get the LUNCH!!!! he expected; I was just as happy not to have to walk around the ring for the next ten minutes on alert for any nonsense while freezing my ample butt off; the beet pulp mash had nothing to say to either of us on the subject.

I'd be more willing to do the handwalking even on a day like this if my left leg were back to full strength and I could rely on it, but it's not and I can't.