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:

 photo Nickme_zps0e93c39b.jpg

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:

 photo benpaddockview_zps68657b8e.jpg

 photo benstartsnow_zpsea33c879.jpg ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The big wuss does much better today, thank you.

This morning Ben came out of his stall walking firmly on that bum leg. He stood quietly for having the bandages unwrapped, for icing, and for rewrapping afterwards – all done by the barn manager, Hilly, far more swiftly, efficiently, and effectively than I could have! The fetlock is still puffy but some of the swelling has gone down. So I don’t believe he did any major damage to himself. As I’d hoped, a lot of his distress from yesterday was from his being a sensitive soul, freaked out at the whole situation, rather than actual disastrous damage. Let’s hope the rest of his recuperation goes as well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crap

It was funny, at first....

Then it all went to hell. More detail later; gist now: Ben got turned out in new herd; was chased, things settled down; then chased more, and torqued left hind suspensory. Suspensory was already compromised before this, but had been sound on it. Iced while waiting for vet; seen by vet, Banamined, wrapped, back to stall for recuperation. Stall rest, icing/cold hosing, bute, Surpass till recovered.

I did not need this.

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Just back from checking on the Benster. He was pointing his toe on that leg when I got there, but I also saw him put it down flat, and when I was in the stall with him he was able to sidestep behind pretty much a full circle in order to keep his nose close to my cookie pocket as I moved around the stall perimeter. He gobbled down a two-cup serving of his senior feed, oblivious to the gram of bute in it. He’d eaten about half of his supper hay – all Seven Acres flakes – so I gave him a mega-flake more of that to nibble on overnight.

Ben has an amiable companion, a little gray mare in her midteens, in the stall next to him, and they are able to sniff noses. They appear to like each other. Ben in general was reasonably relaxed and calm. I’m thinking the smallness of his stall may actually help speed his recovery since he’s supposed to be kept as still as possible and he sure can’t do marathon stall walking in there the way he could in his gigantic stall at Alprilla Farm.

I took a lot of photos today of Ben’s turnout adventures, also of the barn layout for those not familiar with it, intending to do one of my photo essays on the blog to share with you all. Then this happened. Somehow I just don’t have the heart for it – at least not for now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Benster has landed!

And it's all good. More later.

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Ben's safe and sound at Seven Acres, and is settling in well.

I went over to the farm a little past 11:00 this morning, hiked out to the far field where Ben stood on watch against any threats from the Dread Calves of Doom, slipped his halter on, and then slipped an oral dose of acepromazine into Ben. Wonder of wonders, he didn’t have a grass quid in his mouth to spit it out with, so got it all – then got a cookie for his troubles. I unsnapped the lead rope and let him follow the Cookie Human as far as he felt comfortable back toward the barn.

I left him partway into his first field and resumed removing the last of his stuff from the barn while waiting for Lael to arrive – his masseuse when he had to work for a living, and a calm, smart horse handler. When she arrived we went back out to collect Ben, and she led while I walked between him and the DCoD. The ace had had about a half-hour to work on Ben; Lael wasn’t emotionally invested in the whole situation and thus was relaxed about it all; and I discovered that a cane can substitute quite nicely as a longe whip for flicking toward the hindquarters of a horse who’s thinking about stopping. I only needed to poke his butt with it a couple of times. With very little trouble, we got Ben out the gate and up into his stall.

We left him there and departed – I to Seven Acres, to deposit the last stuff, get last-minute details set up, and await Ben’s arrival; Lael to help Brenda hitch up her trailer, then direct her to the farm and load up the traveler. Lael phoned me when they’d finished at the farm to tell me Ben blew once or twice, then loaded as if he’d been doing it every day.

Ben unloaded equally well at Seven Acres and looked around in some bewilderment. The goat pen up near the house caught his attention and he freaked a little bit, but Lael had his lead rope and dealt easily with it. We led him to the back barn and into his stall, with only a couple of hesitations to check things out. Inside his stall I pulled off his blanket, made sure (via cookie toss) he knew where his food bucket was, and left him to settle in, with a flake each of Alprilla Farm and Seven Acres hay. I took along a few more flakes of Alprilla hay to feed while he adjusts to the new diet.

I’m just back from checking on him this evening. He’d cleaned up all the Alprilla hay and shoved the Seven Acres hay around; didn’t look like he’d eaten much. I daresay he’ll change his mind when there’s nothing else on his plate. Other than wanting to see a new menu, he looked fine and relaxed. He’ll be in tomorrow since it’s going to be bucketing rain; then Tuesday he gets to meet his new daily turnout friends: two aged geldings and a couple of gelding ponies.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tomorrow's the day! (Unless it isn't.)

Moving day Sunday, looks like. Got almost everything moved to Seven Acres* except the horse -- and the Smartcart for mucking his stall. And his little containers of supplements, all measured out into daily portions. And.... Well, it's just amazing, all the horse gear one accumulates over the years. Once we're settled in I'm going to put a box on top of my trunk (now sitting in the main tacking-up area) with various things in it and a sign: "Free Stuff! Take whatever you need."

But I'll never give away Nick's old bridles. Or my two favorites of Commander's. Or Ben's two best. Even though I'll never use them again. Heck, I've still got Nick's old grooming box in my basement, with all his tools in it still grubby from the last time they got used on him, and locks of his mane and tail from the day we put him down. Couldn't even bear to look at that box for a year or two afterwards; will never chuck it out or reuse anything in it.

Damn sentimental old fool, I am.

Oh, yeh -- both photos in upper right on the blog front page are from previous sojourns at Seven Acres. It's the Hotel California of barns!

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*Warning: LOUD music plays when you click in there; button to kill it at very bottom of each long page.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The morning report: Looks like I'll live

Aching but better, in sum.

I stayed abed till 10:00 despite starving cats taking turns reminding me that breakfast was late. When I got up I didn’t feel too bad. The right knee seems to have gotten over it; the right ankle is puffy and still sore to touch in spots but is fully weight-bearing and surprisingly not terribly achy. I have yet to unwrap the Ace bandage to see what Technicolor delights lurk beneath it; that will come later today. The first joint of the middle finger on my right hand somehow collected a bruise in all the excitement and is unhappy but fully functional.

The sorest part of me, in fact, is my left hip – yes, the replacement part. But that seems to be muscle strain, not anything more serious. If a day of icing and ibuprofen doesn’t settle it down, I’ll call my orthopedist and get checked out.

I intend to stay home today, stay off the stairs as much as possible – the air cast makes taking them difficult – and in general pamper myself.

Oh, and I was informed last night that the calves will be moved away from Ben within the next day or two.

Update, next day: I've been asked to take Ben elsewhere. We'll be leaving as soon as this weekend.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It could have been much worse

As it is, I’ve escaped anything more serious than an evening in the emergency room, a scraped, bruised and painful ankle, and a mildly wrenched knee. But I would not care to have a large, frightened horse stomp my ankle into the ground again.

This evening I arrived at the farm at about sunset, planning to bring Ben into the barn for the night. While he has come down somewhat from his original stark terror at having to pass by the calves, I knew that he would still be apprehensive, especially since his two herdmates/security blankets were staying way out in their field rather than coming along with him.

What I didn’t know till I got there was that the calves hadn’t been brought into their stalls for the night yet, and were boinking around in hungry frustration. Ben’s bad enough at going by them when they’re quiet, let alone when they’re running, bucking and calling. This was not going to be easy. But given the weather forecast and the gathering dark, I had no choice but to do it then and there.

Leaving my cane in the barn, I walked out to the gateway to the far field and called Ben. He came to me, keeping a wary eye on the distant bovine antics. I haltered him and began leading him in fits and starts across the first field, and it was immediately apparent that, despite a dose a few hours before of an equine trank, he was still tense and apprehensive.

Eventually we got through the paddock past the calves and approached the gate, but having them behind him seemed to spook Ben even more; he began slewing in abrupt jerks. I was perhaps two steps from reaching for the gate when Ben lurched forward and plunged into me.

I fell sideways, clutching the lead rope in my left hand, just too far from the fence to catch myself, and landed on my right side. Ben pulled back. I held on. He plunged again.

His forefoot slammed down on my right ankle, grinding it into the hardpacked stonedust.

I screamed.

And held onto the lead rope.

After an eternity, Ben got off my ankle. I sat up enough to find the muck shoe yanked off me in the fall and get it back on; then somehow I got hold of the fence, pulled myself upright, and tried to put weight on that foot; all while still resisting Ben’s efforts to break loose and flee back to the far field.

It held me. It hurt, oh did it hurt, but it held me. So I did what had to be done: I got Ben through the gate, up the driveway, into the barn, and into his stall – already set up, thank heavens, with hay and water enough for the night.

Then I hobbled to where my cane was and with it hobbled to the house, where Maria sat my shocky, shaky self down, wrapped an icepack onto the ankle, left a message for her husband at work, and drove me to the emergency room. (Turns out she’d been in the front of the house, practicing her violin, and hadn’t heard me scream.)

I was lucky: the ER wasn’t busy, and I was x-rayed, seen, treated, and released in under three hours. Lucky that the x-rays showed no break, chip, or separation, perhaps because my ankle was already flat on the ground when Ben crashed down on it, and so did not suffer any bending stresses that could break leg bones and rip ligaments. Lucky that Ben didn’t manage to break away and bolt back into the night with the lead rope flailing at his forelegs. Lucky that, as freaked out as he was, he managed to stay just this side of controllable while I got him to his stall.

So here I sit, an icepack on the ankle, which is Ace-bandage-wrapped and in a small air cast to protect it, with antibiotic aboard to beat off any infection that might try to set into the abrasions left by the stonedust and Ben’s shoe, or perhaps shoe nails; I didn’t happen to note exactly what was digging into me at the time. I’ve taken an oxycodone, which is helping the ankle, the mildly wrenched knee, and the left hip and knee, which began registering their own complaints at such rough treatment once the shock wore off. I’m to keep the ankle elevated as much as possible, stay off it as much as possible, for the next couple of days, and otherwise follow the voluminous instruction sheets I was released with.

It was an awful experience, for sure. But it could have been much worse.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is our Benster learning?

Learning not to be quite so ASKEERED of the Dread Calves of Doom? It certainly looked like it today.

For the last couple of days I’ve been bringing a few cups’ worth of grain in a bucket out to Ben in his fields at midday/early afternoon, partly to add to his caloric intake beyond his breakfast meal (also only a few cups), since he’s fretted himself thinner than I like, and partly to lure him closer to the DCoD in an effort to desensitize him. After all, how bad can things be with a mouthful of sweet feed?

So out I’d go, gimping my way across the first field to the gateway into the second with bucket plainly visible. The first day I had to go some few yards into Ben’s safe place to get him moving toward me. When he’d walked up and gobbled a couple of mouthfuls, I backed up to just inside the first field. He checked out the DCoD, came on, got another mouthful; I backed up another few yards; he hesitated, worried, came on; and so forth till Ben was midway across the first field. Then the grain and his tolerance for THEM both gave out and he trotted back to safety.

Yesterday I waited within the gateway and he walked right up to me. Again it was mouthful or two, back up, Ben advance, mouthful, repeat. This time I got him, with some wary pauses to look for THEM, all the way through the paddock/first field gateway and a few yards farther on. He was nervous going that far and finally chickened out, turned, and trotted back to the first field; dithered; walked back to safety.

Today was even better. Ben was less tense the whole time and made it several yards into his paddock before I ran out of grain and he decided to leave – but at a walk, and he stopped in the first field, perhaps to chat with the white boys, who were both in the lane during all this, gazing hopefully at the bucket. I hurried back to the barn, got a couple more cups of sweet feed, and went back to the first field gateway. After one look to locate the DCoD, Ben came strolling over readily and allowed himself to be lured more than halfway across the paddock – and this with the calves up nibbling grass and moving about! When the grain and his tolerance gave out, he walked back out calmly a short distance into the first field and settled down there to investigate whether there was any edible grass to be found.

We still haven’t reached the WhaddayaGonnaDo? state yet, but Ben’s gotten past “I’mGonnaDIE!!!” and I have hope now that he’ll adapt to living with monsters.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ben books it

So there we are, Ben and I, yesterday afternoon, emerging from the barn at midday so that the mighty Thoroughbred, having sheltered from the storm overnight, can rejoin his white buddies in the freedom of the fields. As we march down the drive toward the gate to his run-in, Ben is up-headed but otherwise relaxed and happy to be going out. Cholla is way out in his field grazing intently; Counterpoint is watching Ben’s return from the lane.

Then as we near the gate he sees them. THEM. The Dread Calves of Doom. Not merely lying in their shed next to the paddock he must traverse to freedom, oh, no. Now they are outside and standing! Even moving around, nibbling grass! Aaaiieeeee!

(As seen earlier this week, the Straits of Doom:)  photo 102713014_zpsd5b308dd.jpg

Ben snorts. He blows. He gets up on tippy-hooves. He sidles, dithers, lurches forward by inches as I one-handedly open the gate. A quick dash gets him through and he slews sideways to the DCoD just long enough for me to undo the throatlatch and tug the halter off his sky-high head. SNORT.

Okay, Ben, you’re loose. Freedom lies through the gateway to the paddock, through the paddock to the first field. Will you dare the danger of passage past the DCoD?

Dither sidle slew tippy-hooves to the gateway. As he passes into the paddock he surges into a nervous trot. By the time he gets to the field he’s running for his life.

The DCoD, after a curious glance, have ignored him.

Ben runs about in the first field for a bit, pausing now and then to stare and exchange bitter comments with Counterpoint. He flings his right foreleg up and out as he half-rears. After a bit he settles down to staring, striding tautly about, snatching mouthfuls of grass here and there. Eventually he says the hell with being so near THEM and trots out to his far field. A good wallow in the still-wet grass – down on his left side, roll roll roll (but never all the way over; no, he never does that), up, shake, down on his right, roll roll roll, up, shake – and Life returns to Good.

Until the next time Ben must make his fearful way past the DCoD.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ben is bending! A bit.

Today I brought Ben in at midday, ahead of another storm forecast to sweep over us this afternoon/evening and run through tomorrow. Imagine my surprise to find him grazing (between bouts of STARING) in his first field! I daresay it didn’t hurt that Herd King Counterpoint was lying down for a nap in the lane near where Ben was.

The Benster was still very nervous about being brought in past the Dread Calves of Doom (quietly lying half-inside their shed), despite multiple carrot pieces finding their way to his tense mouth. Still plenty of high-headed stares, some snorts, and enough muscle-tensing for a thorough isometric workout. But indeed he did come along with fewer and shorter stops, and overall I thought he was not as close to freaking out as he’d been yesterday. You might say Ben’s terror level started when they moved in next to him at DOOM!!!!, went through Doom!!! yesterday, and today reached Doom!! Let’s hope he gets down to WhaddayaGonnaDo? soon.

For those following his health issues: On being put back out yesterday late afternoon, Ben got up from rolling without difficulty and after shaking himself walked off with a relaxed stride, so the hock injections this summer seem to be holding up well. His hind pasterns/fetlocks do sink, especially the right where he had the two suspensory pulls a year or so ago, and the left fetlock is enlarged and puffy-looking, but he trots out evenly without any sign of a limp, so his failing suspensories are still pasture-sound functional.

The DCoD had their first lesson at being yoked together yesterday! Alas, I missed it, but did see a short phone-video of it today. The little guys did very well, and looked immensely cute in their wee yoke. Hopefully I can get some photos this weekend of them harnessed together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

...and we all survived.

Today I led Ben past the Dread Calves of Doom and we all survived, an outcome I wasn’t sure of till the very end.

It started with a nasty cold rain, not pouring but not quitting either, as I drove over to the farm. I worried that Ben would take a chill, since he certainly wouldn’t be sheltering in the run-in, not with the DCoD looming beside the paddock he’d have to cross to get there. I wanted to get him out of the rain and into his stall in the barn, but would either of us survive the attempt? I’d tried luring him in from the far field yesterday, and had some greater success than before; he’d come halfway into his first field. But there he’d stuck, dithering about between bouts of snorting and rigid staring, before it was All Too Much and he trotted hastily back through the gateway to the far field.

Sure enough, he was way out in his far field in the rain, looking hunched and miserable as I drove past toward the driveway. No help for it; gotta rescue the boy despite himself. I took halter and lead rope and gimped out past the run-in, through the paddock, through the first field, and called to him from the gateway. He came, licking his chops in anticipation of treats. Instead he got a halter onto his upheld head – a halter on which I did not snap the throatlatch. Better to let him slide out of it if he flung himself suddenly into plunging away than for me to be yanked off my feet and for him to bolt with the lead rope flapping between his front legs.

We started in – Ben looking looking LOOKING toward the little hut where the DCoD lurked placidly cud-chewing, stopping every few steps to LOOK even harder and tremble; me quietly, patiently encouraging him, giving him time to collect himself, then gently tugging him into motion again. I kept as much of a wary distance from him as I could, unhappily aware that, since Ben was between me on his left and the calves to his right, if he plunged sideways away from them I’d be right in his panicked path. I took him at a sharp angle from the gateway across the first field, away from the DCD toward the paddock gateway.

Getting through that gateway was an inching progress of tiny step tiny step HALT STARE persuasion QUIVER STARE coaxing tiny step HALT etc. etc., punctuated with Ben’s running commentary of snorts and blows, but we made it through and began creeping across the paddock toward the run-in and its exit, only yards away now from the focus of DOOM. I’d moved to Ben’s right side by now, just in case. Ben was wide-eyed, shaking, stiff with fear, but it looked like we’d make it! The gimpy-legged old woman would get her terrified Thoroughbred to safety!

Then it got worse.

Oh, no, not Ben; no, I happened to step over a yard-long, Y-shaped piece of vine lying on the ground. It leapt up and snagged the left ankle of my sweatpants with its tiny thorns and wouldn’t shake off. So there I am, a gimpy-legged old woman leading a terrified Thoroughbred with a yard-long piece of thorny vine flopping from her ankle.

I tried stepping on it with the other foot to wrench it off while also sidling sideways and watching Ben for an explosion. It snagged the other pantleg without giving up its first hold. Great. Now I’m a gimpy-legged old woman leading a terrified Thoroughbred with a yard-long piece of thorny vine clinging to BOTH legs and flopping about between them.

Somehow I made it to the run-in gate without falling. Ben was teetering on the edge of losing it completely, sidling and lurching as much as walking, but he never quite went over the edge. At the gate I snatched a moment when he was in rigid stare mode to reach down and rip the vine away. Then I got the gate open and Ben through it. He scurried out, looked back at DOOM, then dived for a hurried mouthful of grass – and I knew then we’d make it. Oh, he was still fired up the rest of the way into the barn, he still stopped at the entrance and needed coaxing to go in, but that grass-dive told me enough brain cells were still functional that we’d be all right.

He was shivering in his stall so I went to the tackroom to get his polar fleece sheet. Drat! I’d brought it home. So I drove home to fetch it, drove back, put it on the less shivery but still wet horse, and departed -- into departing clouds and emerging sunshine. Yup, I went through all that for a rainstorm that ended an hour later. Still, I don’t regret it. Ben will get some drying-off and warming time. His fields are eaten down and the grass has died, so it won’t hurt to give him a big hay feed, more than he’d stay to eat in his run-in thanks to the DCoD. I’ll go back and put him out in a few hours, knowing that if I do need to get him in again, I can do it.

And we will all survive.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday: No Surcease from The Horror!

Sunday at the farm was much like Saturday: placid calves, horrified horses. Ben still wouldn’t come with me beyond the gate between his fields, not for carrots, not for cookies, not for nuthin. I guess it’s understandable he’d be more distraught than the white boys, since the Dread Monsters of Doom live right next to him and menace his path to the run-in (though he did manage to overcome his terror long enough to come in for his breakfast grain):

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Cholla and Counterpoint at least have Ben’s territory to absorb the first charge of the savage cattle before they surge into the white boys’ bastion:

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As you can see, Ben is on alert at a safe distance (he hopes); Cholla has weighed gazing versus grazing and gone for the sensible course, and Counterpoint keeps watch from the lane. It’s a nervous business, being so close, and he grows increasingly fidgety. Is this really such a good idea? Perhaps his forward observation post should be somewhat less forward?

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Or maybe this is a Very Bad Idea and he should get the hell outta Dodge while he can!

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Run away! Back behind the lines!

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And so I left them yesterday, doing what comes naturally in the midst of unnatural HORROR:

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ben: The Horror! Part Two -- It Gets WORSE

When last we saw our mighty Thoroughbred, he was warily watching the newest members of the Alprilla Farm family – two barely-month-old bull calves, destined to be oxen laboring (but not too hard) in the fields and woodlots of the farm. Their pen was what humans would regard as a safe distance away, but to Ben’s troubled mind, not far enough; no; a few dozen miles would be much more reasonable.

Alas! Rather than their departure, what the horrified horse witnessed on Saturday morning was just the opposite.

They moved in next door to him.

Yup, Cedar and Clay have acquired more elaborate digs, a much larger pen and the shed formerly home to the pigs raised at the farm this summer – and it’s all right beside Ben’s run-in! To wit (scaring the hapless giant witless):

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You can just see Clay lying down, below the distant greenhouse, waiting for Noah and Cedar to get back from a training session. The foreground here is Ben’s first field, and from the angle below you can see just how far Ben thinks it safe to stay away from Monsterland.

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Even at that distance you can see how on guard Ben is. The white boys aren’t as upset, although they’re not too happy about it either. Periodically the three of them will gather to stare at the Brown Menace.

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Cholla (far right) isn’t as gobsmacked as the other two, and at times will wander off to gobble what’s left of the grass, while Ben and Counterpoint keep watch.

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Ben tries to stay as close as possible to the white boys – safety in numbers and all that – but sometimes it just gets to be too much and he has to leave them to their fate and retreat.

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Noah has been working on the calves’ basic training, mostly halter leading, obeying simple commands, and so forth. On Saturday he took Cedar out for a long field walk/training session. Clay wasn’t too thrilled at being separated from his best buddy, and softly lowed now and then, no doubt adding to the horror for the horses.

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But then... What was that? Yes! There in the distance, across the little pond, there came Noah and the Lost One returning!

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Clay rejoiced!

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And so it was that Noah brought Cedar back, having hashed out who was boss at some length during their expedition. The two calves rejoiced at being reunited – and yes, I tried to photograph their antics but they were too busy cavorting to pose for me. After a few minutes and several failed attempts to capture the wily Clay, Noah managed to get the halter on the frisky Beast of Burden In Training number two, and they set off for his lesson.

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Clay got over his silliness and settled down to lead politely.

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Noah fetched some grain from the barn for his tired first student.

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And then he and Clay set out for the fields.

And how did the horses react to all this? What did they think of all this to-ing and fro-ing by the Dread Monster Calves of Doom?

Nothing good, you can be sure! Cholla and Counterpoint watched with dismay.

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Counterpoint, mindful of his duties as Herd King, rushed in closer to monitor the developing crisis.

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Ben stayed back. No way was he going to come any farther in than the gate between his fields!

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I couldn’t lure him any closer, not even with cookies, and this is a horse who’ll do almost anything for a cookie.

Noah and Clay disappeared into the far hayfields. Cedar settled down for a lonely nap. Ben and the white boys watched... watched... finally relaxed enough to drift back into their fields and go back to grazing.

Though now and again, Herd King Counterpoint would take up his watchman duties and check Monsterland for stirrings of Doom.

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The End – for now....

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ben: The horror! The horror!

Well, Ben’s alert level may have dropped from DEFCON 1 (“It’s the end of the world as we know it!”) to 3, maybe 4, over the last couple of days, but he’s still wary of the latest inhabitants at the farm where he lives.

Disturbing, they are, to any self-respecting horse. Unsettling. Not to be trusted. Gotta keep a sharp eye on them whenever they’re visible, make very very sure they don’t try something, even (shudder) get loose! Who knows what they’re capable of? It could be anything!

What new inhabitants? you ask. What could be so perturbing to a normally calm and easygoing fellow, who’s been around the block more than a few times?

Why, none other than these fearsome beasts:

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Yeppers, great big Ben is askeered of two month-old bull calves who don’t even come to midthigh on me. They’re Dairy Shorthorn calves, rescued from the usual fate of such critters and destined to become a yoke of oxen working on the farm. Very friendly little guys, love to have their ears and tiny horn buds scratched. Names are Cedar and Clay. They’re still figuring out this whole halter-leading thing and getting used to life outside a dairy barn’s veal-calf cages.

Their wee outside pen is visible from Ben’s run-in paddock, about 30 yards away, and the big goofball has been gobsmacked by them since their first appearance. He seems to have given up spooking backwards into panicked flight at any movement from them, but he still watches tensely whenever he comes in from his fields, even when they’re lying down and only the tip of a red-brown ear is visible. Heck, today he was staring over there and they weren’t even outside; they were staying in the barn because it was chilly and misty, and Cedar had the runs.

I do hope Ben gets used to them soon, since he’s going to have to live with them being around, and even the sturdiest gelding’s ears can get tired of being constantly pricked in alarm. Not to mention the fact that his stall in the barn is across the aisle from theirs. He’s out 24/7 for now, but winter is coming....

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cats: The Good Life

Some photos of the resident felines enjoying life, just because.

First up, Pumpkin (foisted on me by my vet's office) and Peanut (adopted from the local shelter), hanging out on my bed, now that summer's over and the annoyingly slick sheet is covered with a snuggly comfy blanket:

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Next, Squash, brother of Pumpkin, and Schooner (shelter kitty) bask after breakfast by the slider to the deck:

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And finally Stanley, youngest shelter graduate in the household, contemplating (a) life, the universe, and everything, or (b) his next meal:

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Or perhaps he's pondering what a handsome fellow he is:

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Monday, September 9, 2013

So, about that cranky knee....

The knee has continued to bug me, be weak and ouchy and uncooperative on stairs, so I decided to see what a physical therapy session could tell me.

Turns out the knee is bothering me because my ankles pronate and throw the whole leg out of alignment. Both legs. I was turned loose with a recommendation for arch supports (over the counter recommended brand; if they don’t do the trick we’ll go the cu$tom route) and some exercises to do to strengthen the hip, thigh and around-knee muscles. My hip is doing well for where I am post-surgery, the therapist said, so at least there's that -- not to mention, I can stop worrying about having to have a knee replacement. I’ll continue seeing the therapist twice a week for a while, and we’ll see how things go.

So I’ve been walking with supports, and doing the exercises, and boy do I ache! More than when I went in for the PT visit, but I expect that’s from the muscles, tendons, ligaments being asked to work differently than they have been. As they get adjusted and strengthened, the pain should go away. Meanwhile, there's always ice and ibuprofen.

I did a mile-plus hayfields walk yesterday and today at the farm, finishing tired and a little achy, but well satisfied. And yes, I did have my cellphone along – also the cane. Not to mention, on today's walk, Tedder the German shorthair pointer who lives at the farm, and who ran joyously several more miles than I walked.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hip Update

Four and a half months out from surgery, the hip is doing great. There’s still an occasional bit of discomfort, and it doesn’t feel quite the same as a normal hip (maybe it never will?), but it works just fine and the relief from pain and debility is wonderful.

Now, if the cranky knee on that side would just quit bothering me….

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stepping up, rung by rung

Yesterday, during evening barn chores, I achieved a considerable step up in the path of my recovery:

I climbed the ladder to the hayloft, wrestled two hay bales from the stack to the ladder opening, dropped them, climbed safely down, and moved them to the opposite end of the barn.

This was not easy. I still lack strength enough in that left leg to climb the ladder normally, so had to do the gimpy hitch-step: while grimly clutching the ladder, lift good foot up one rung, raise bum-side foot to join it, repeat. Coming down it was lower bum-side first, etc.

As for moving the hay, well, no way was I going to try lifting 40 to 50 pound bales. So they got to where they had to go through a judicious mix of sliding, end-over-end flipping, and held-vertical corner-walking. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

This is for me a big deal, another thing I no longer need to rely on others to get done. About the only barn chore left to accomplish now is getting a 50-pound grain sack from where the feed store delivers it (lower level at rear of bank barn) into a cart, up the drive to the main level of the barn, and out of the cart into the grain bin. Which will need doing in a couple of days. Which I’m not ready for yet, so will gratefully accept help – this time around. I expect to be able to manage it myself next time, in a couple of months.

Now, if I could just stop needing the cane to walk down stairs….

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Midsummer Update

Greenheads and a heat wave. Whadda revoltin' development. At least Ben is placidly enjoying his daily cold hosing instead of going through his usual shrinking shying "Stop stop I don't like it!" dance. He even likes having his face misted. Then he wants to go right back inside the barn to wait for the evening's blessed banishment of the bugs, when it's finally safe to emerge for overnight turnout. I've whacked off several inches from his unkempt shaggy mane, just rough-combed out most of the snarls and then hacked away with the scissors, never mind the long, fussy, arduous mane-pulling process, which Ben hates anyway. It actually came out looking good.

I continue to improve, slowly; can't go for the long walks I'd been building strength with while it's so brutal, but am managing Ben's mucking, feeding, watering as well as the usual ruck of daily chores without trouble. I can now walk a lot without the cane at home and when doing barn chores but need it on stairs, especially going down, and feel safer having it with me in the outside world. I expect there'll continue to be improvement over the coming months, but if I never got beyond where I am now, the hip replacement would still be worth it, oh yes, so very much worth it all.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

The results are in

And it appears that taking on the mucking of Ben’s daily output hasn’t harmed my recovery; indeed, one might consider it a new phase of physical therapy, advancing me beyond mere walking. I haven’t felt much discomfort while doing it, nor subsequently, nor stiffened up afterwards when immobile for long stretches; if anything, I’m doing better post-mucking today than the first day, Saturday. It’s still impossible for me to climb the ladder to the hayloft or haul hay bales about, but I’m getting help with that till it’s back within my power. I’ve been taking the cane along on the mucking runs, to help on the uphill push of the loaded (not TOO loaded, mind you) cart, but leaving it hanging on the fence during the manure-forking process. Today I didn’t even need the cane for the uphill.

Ah, the cane. I’d like to ditch it entirely, but it’s not quite time yet. I hardly use it at all at home, indeed have reached the “Now, where did I leave that thing?” point in our relationship, but it still feels safer to use it to steady me when I get up after sitting for a while, at least for the first couple of steps; to help haul my carcass up the stairs; to offer support on my daily walks. I’ve tried parking it on my shoulder when I’m out walking, yesterday and today, and seeing how far I could get before needing it. The answer has varied but, well, let’s just say I’m not going to be putting in any canefree miles just yet.

Still and all, things are progressing nicely, and it’s good to be back to taking care of Ben again. He seems happy to have my attention and is diligent about leaving lots of material for my physical therapy sessions at the farm.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Moving onward and upward

Big plans for the weekend: I'm going to see if I can take over Ben's care. Two days ago I mucked out the run-in AND scrubbed and refilled the bathtub that waters Ben and his two buddies, hauling the hose there and reeling it back, and doing all this after having walked a mile and a quarter before driving over there; then I went grocery shopping and hauled home several bags of cat litter and canned food, among other things. No pain or stiffness as the day went on, and I woke up the next day feeling fine.

So I'll be taking over from Renee, who's done the Benster-care for the last few months, over the weekend and on Monday, and if three days of barn chores doesn't lay me low, I'll take over for good -- no doubt needing someone else at first to throw down hay from the loft for me, for however long it takes to build back up to being able to climb/descend ladders and pick up hay bales. But that, too, will come.

I’ll be careful, I’ll listen to my body, and if it says “That’s not a good idea, ya know,” I’ll back off. But I do feel it’s time to at least try.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whadda revoltin development

So we finally get perfect walking weather after that ambition-sapping stretch of heat wave, and I can finally get back to strength-building, walking walking walking, pushing past the personal best (two miles!) I’d achieved just a couple of days before the hot humid horrors descended.

Not so fast, there, podner.

I’m sick – started a sore throat last night, woke up every hour or two to be reminded of it, and awoke this morning to confirm that, yes, indeed, I do have a sore throat, the soreness now creeping into the ears; my head is getting stuffy, and overall I feel crappy – mild enough that I can still sit quietly and proofread but crappy enough that going out for a two-mile, or even a one-mile, or even the half-mile end-of-my-street-and-back walk is probably not going to happen. Well, I’ll try the end-of-street walk after I’ve had my coffee.

And I’d been doing so well! Not only the walking, but getting around the house without needing the cane most of the time, even on the stairs; finding my range of motion in that leg increasing; being able to lift more, with greater ease – heck, yesterday I even mucked Ben’s run-in. Granted, there were probably no more than a half-dozen dump piles (a minuscule output for the big bay doofus), I was using a Smart Cart, easier to maneuver than a wheelbarrow (especially with one hand while the other pegs along with a cane), and by the time I’d dumped it and put the cart back in the barn I was done for the day on exerting myself – but still! I’d planned to muck again today, but unless I start feeling better (maybe the coffee will help) that’s not going to happen.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I must be feeling better

At least, one would assume so given that:

This morning I walked a mile and a scootch loop, with one crutch, and that used as a cane for more than half of the distance;

This afternoon I walked a half mile with the cane only, and not too many rest stops along the way;

At home I hardly need the cane at all, other than on the stairs;

And now I’m comfortable enough sitting at my office computer to go back into my raw photo files and spend a pleasant half hour or so editing the following images from a ramble around the farm in Essex where Ben lives, back in October:

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Triumph!

Yes! I did it! I did it! YES!

Today I cleaned the catboxes! All of them!

From Sally’s two on the third floor….

To Ted’s first-floor cage-enclosed covered-top oversize and the open box by the half-bath off the living room (relic of paranoid Squash’s immutable refusal to go to the basement where the departed Smedley used to ambush him)….

To the paired lineup of eight, count ‘em, eight big boxes in the basement.

Did them all. Did them all standing, leaning over on the cane with the bad leg stretched out behind me, except for Ted’s. Ted’s needed kneeling and bending forward, a maneuver I’ve been practicing for a week, getting the various body parts slowly accustomed to the required range of motion, and by golly, it went perfectly. Even getting back up on my feet was no problem.

I DID IT! and I feel fine, not stressed by the extra efforts at all. The hip is as comfortable as it began the day, arising from a good night’s sleep in the lift chair – which is where I plan to continue sleeping for at least another week or two before I try the bed again. It really is making a huge difference.

I feel like singing! Well, I did but it scared the cats, so I stopped. And dancing is right out for now, even with my trusty cane. So I shall settle for spamming friends with my good news and sitting about smirking in triumph.

Sure doesn’t hurt to save the ten bucks a day I was paying for the service, either.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mostly Forward; One Step Back

The hip recovery moves on apace, with much progress and one small setback.

I’ve had the okay to drive for a week-plus and have been enjoying it: going over to visit the horse, running errands, just getting out and about on my own, and relishing the liberation. I wouldn’t be comfortable driving any more than local distances yet, but in time my leash should lengthen and eventually begone.

My physical limitations on movement are likewise easing; I can safely and comfortably bend forward farther than 90 degrees now, and continue to add increments of flexibility within the confines of what my body’s reactions tell me is appropriate. My stamina is still small but I try to push its bounds gently on my daily walks – still taken with one crutch for now, rather than the cane that serves me indoors, for safety’s sake and because I tire more rapidly when caning rather than crutching on an outdoor expedition.

I plan tomorrow morning to try, for the first time since shortly before the surgery, to clean the cats’ litter boxes myself, a task requiring kneeling and bending as well as stair-climbing. Easing into the motions and positions necessary for this have been part of my PT routines for the last week and now it’s time to see if I’m ready. If it’s too soon, I’ll call the woman who’s been doing it for me and let her know she needs to keep on, but I’m hoping to win back that further bit of independence.

My physical therapy at home has ended, as my therapist and I agree that I can take my rehab from here without her further guidance. I’ll miss Kristin’s wonderful help and direction; this recovery wouldn’t have gone nearly as well without her assistance, and I made sure to tell her so.

So, all in all, it’s a happy story, except for one thing: I must retreat from sleeping in my bed. For the last few days I’ve awakened with discomfort in my hip, and yesterday it was edging into outright pain territory; indeed, the hip ached all morning, enough that I forbore the usual round of exercises and eventually gave in and took an oxycodone, something I hadn’t needed to do for quite a long time. I have tried to find a comfortable way to sleep on my right side, my usual presurgical position, but no arrangement of legs and pillows has produced a workable solution. I suspect I’m rolling over to side from back during sleep and stressing a joint not yet ready for that.

So last night I went to bed in the lift chair where I’d spent the first nights sleeping at home, and was decently comfortable, enough so to sleep well till my first bathroom-run wakeup. Then I moved to the living room, to the narrow confines of the couch, with no room to lie other than flat and straight on my back, and slept well there. I got up this morning with a much more comfortable hip. Eureka!

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and kittens; now my left knee is grumbly, perhaps from being stretched out straight all night instead of slightly bent over a pillow. So I’ll try a knee pillow for it tonight and see if that’s what it wants.

I daresay setbacks are only to be expected, but they still annoy me.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Final (I Hope) Wrap-Up Report

How well is my recovery going?

So well that yesterday, in three separate ventures, I walked with just one crutch a total of almost a mile. I can take several steps independent of any aid. My pain level has dropped to occasional minor discomfort, needing only Tylenol once in a while; my flexibility is increasing daily; my strength ditto.

I’ll be seeing the surgeon on Tuesday for follow-up; I hope and expect to be given the green light to drive – freedom at last! I’m ready to get back to work full time. Getting back to doing horse chores no doubt will take another month or more of further strengthening, but it too will come soon, I’m sure.

I am forever grateful to all the people who’ve helped me through this process: the medical professionals, the friends who’ve been doing so much for the housebound invalid, the folks who’ve cared for my animals when I couldn’t, and all who’ve offered moral support. I could never have gotten through this without you all! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stepping Out

Major advances today during physical therapy. I’ve felt a significant surge in my ability to ambulate over the last few days, a marked lessening of the need for even one crutch’s support. When my PT arrived I demonstrated this for her: I walked entirely unassisted for four steps, right-left-right-left; turned with the crutch, and walked four unassisted steps back. Now, mind you, they were shorter than my normal stride, but neither were they hobbling gimps; they were real steps. A day shy of three weeks post-op, I walked without aid.

Kristin was gobsmacked. She’s been surprised and delighted all along at how well I’ve progressed, but this just amazed her. I then tried ambulating with my cane rather than the crutch. It’s not as reliably steady a feel, but no problem; let me get a few days farther along and I’ll be caning merrily around the house; for now, I prefer the greater security of the crutch.

We went downstairs to the garage so I could practice getting in and out of my car under her supervision, both passenger and driver side. Piece of cake. We went for a walk outside, me back on both crutches for safety’s sake though I needed very little of their support, down the driveway as far as the mailbox, then instead of turning back we kept going onward down the exit drive all the way to the street, a doubling of distance. I stuck my toe over the property line in triumph, then we marched back up-slope to my condo, moving right along. Well, yes, yes, I was a bit winded by the time we got back, but oh! What an invigorating expedition it was!

To be fully back to myself, able to do everything as I had before the hip went to hell – able to muck a stall, push a loaded wheelbarrow, haul hay and shavings and grain – I know is still some months away. But by golly, I’m going to get there, and do it faster than your average bear.

A confession: I did take one oxycodone today, a couple of hours before PT, because the exercises and house chores I did in the morning got me to hurting. But this doesn’t depress me; it’s not a defeat; it’s merely being sensible, not trying to be a hero. I doubt I’ll need another today; I’ll go on tomorrow and thereafter without taking any unless I push myself too far and need the relief; and I have no doubt that I’m very nearly done with that drug.

The ravelled sleeve knit up

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was another day of no oxycodone, any modest discomfort eased with ice and Tylenol, of following faithfully the prescribed exercises and even expanding upon them, of walking outside despite the chill in the air, of resting when tired and enjoying quiet amusements.

Last night’s sleep, taken in the lift-recliner? The best so far; just one wakeup after the first hour and a half, then back to five deep and restful hours. I drifted up to wakefulness, arose eventually and fed the cats, then crawled into my bed upstairs and drifted back down for another hour-plus slumber.

Today when my physical therapist comes I’ll ask her to assess whether I’m ready to move up from one crutch to a cane, at least indoors. I see my surgeon next Tuesday and hopefully will be given permission to drive. Recovery marches on!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care

It was another night of broken sleep last night, one of the worst since I came home from the hospital, and yet its very brokenness encourages me.

I have, in fact, slept remarkably well since the first night or two at home. Oh, I’ve had to get up two or three times for a bathroom run each night, but that was my pattern before the surgery, and I’ve fallen swiftly back to sleep most times and slept deeply. I credit a good part of my rapid recovery to such restful nights’ restorative powers.

Over the last few days, as I’ve tried with indifferent success off and on to move from the lift-chair recliner to my own bed, I’ve also been weaning myself off the oxycodone. Yesterday, for the first time since the operation, I took none at all, just a couple of Tylenol for the minor discomfort that bothers me at times. I do wonder whether it’s the opioid withdrawal, however modest its effects given my low dosage and limited time on the things, that’s playing havoc with my sleeping, rather than the place where I lay myself down, since last night said place didn’t seem to make much difference.

If I’m right and withdrawal rather than positional discomfort is what’s keeping me awake, then in a few days, when the body’s readjusted to its drugfree state, I should do just fine wherever I settle for the night.

In the meantime, I can and do nap when I feel like it, and it’s amazing how much reading you can get done in the wee hours with no competing distractions.

Oh, and I feel stronger when I walk now, which is entirely with one crutch; the crutch takes very little of the left leg’s burden at each step. The thought did flit through my mind this morning: “Time to downshift to a cane?” but that may be too much too soon; I’ll discuss it with my physical therapist this week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ups and Downs

Ups and downs, ups and downs, there’s been a fair passel of ‘em over the last 24 hours.

I hit the recliner*-sack early (for me) last night but couldn’t quite drift off; the left leg was twitchy. Finally I gave in and took half an Ativan (my fallback prescription for restless leg on the rare occasions nothing else will work) and decided, what the heck, let’s try the bed again. So up the stairs I hitched, got settled, and drifted off to a good four hours of deep sleep. Who’dathunkit, huh? When I woke for the inevitable bathroom run around 5:00 a.m. I decided to finish the night in the recliner. So down the stairs I hobbled, got settled – and discovered that, after hours of unaccustomed stretching out of the leg, the hip was now achy. Sigh…. Up to the drug stash; one 5 mg oxycodone down the hatch; back into the recliner, and down into Morpheus’s welcoming arms….

At 8:00 a.m. the rumbling of the basement garage door opening sent the cats clumped asleep on me fleeing wildly and I woke up in time to greet the friend delivering groceries. We chatted, she departed, and I decided to feed the frightened felines, most of whom emerged from their hiding places by the time I’d finished dishing out the morning meal. I carried Sally’s up to her second-floor realm, eyed the abandoned bed across the hall, and decided what the heck, I’m up here anyway, so heaved myself back in and dozed off.

The arrival an hour later of the woman who’s cleaning the catboxes for me woke me up and I stumped back downstairs for breakfast and some reading for pleasure, then proofread a job. That done, I assembled a batch of paperwork and lurched up to the second-floor office and its computers to take care of various banking, bill-paying and bookkeeping that needed doing. Given how uncomfortable the office chair is for me, even padded with a pillow, I’d been dreading the duty, but it had to be done.

Well, at least Sally was happy about the hour I spent in there; I sure wasn’t. I had to get up and stand or crutch-walk about now and then to get through what all had to be completed, but completed it was at last and I could lumber back downstairs, suck down another oxycodone, fix myself a much-belated lunch, and collapse into the living room recliner, icepack at hip, rest and repast restoring me to comfort and good humor.

It’s a damned good thing I set up the mini-office downstairs before the operation; there’s no way I could do extended work in the upstairs office, not for almost a month before the operation, in fact; not now; and not, I suspect, for some time to come.

So it’s been a time of ups and downs, stairwise, physically, and emotionally as I contemplate what I can accomplish now on one crutch (got the plants watered, even upstairs where I have to fill the can at the bathtub faucet, an awkward process even with two good legs), what the accomplishment takes out of me, how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*I may have been unclear in previous missives: I have two recliners at present. The sleeper is on loan from a friend and lives in the front room downstairs; my own recliner, less comfortable for sleeping but just fine for lolling about, lives in my living room, flanked by side tables for laptop and printer/scanner and facing the television.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Small Setback

Last night I tried sleeping in my own bed, having prepared it with the occupational therapist’s help with the necessary hip precautions designed to keep one from putting certain torsional pressures on the healing joint.

It did not go well.

Oh, it seemed comfortable at first, though a bit odd to have my upper body only slightly raised on my own slim wedge pillow, instead of the larger angle the recliner provides. But I soon discovered that, even when I put a pillow under my left knee, that whole limb, from hip on down to ankle, was not enjoying lying flat. I started getting the occasional spasm of restless leg, and no amount or variation of repositioning within what was feasible could relieve my left leg’s discontent. The hip itself began to ache.

So finally, after an hour and a half of trying to get beyond uneasy intermittent dozing to real sleep, I gave up and hobbled down to the trusty recliner, where I spent the rest of a blissfully comfortable, soundly sleeping night.

I’m going to try taking a nap on the bed this afternoon, see if I can retrain myself to sleep there, and hope that it won’t take until the hip precautions are finally lifted and I can again sleep as I prefer, curled on my right side, to be at ease.

Or maybe I’ll just invest in my own sleeper-recliner so I can give back my friend Annette’s generous loan of my present salvation and still get a good night’s sleep.

My recovery has been going so swiftly and so well, it’s no doubt salutary to be reminded now and then that I am, in fact, getting over a major insult to the old body.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Today's Update

Doing well, is what it is. Yesterday was a down day, tired and achy; not surprising given how strenuously I’d overdone things Tuesday, and the discomfort was exacerbated by attempting to wean myself entirely off the oxycodone. After a discussion with my surgeon’s office I did take a couple of minimal doses to help rest and icing work their magic.

So this morning I find my energy restored, my comfort re-established, and so far no need to take any analgesic despite having done the usual morning chores and the first set of PT exercises. I won’t try to be a hero if I get significantly achy, but hope to go opioid-free today; we’ll see. Today will be a good day to work on the one job I have, do some light reading, and otherwise continue convalescing.

And tonight, a next step, hopefully: sleep in my own bed rather than the recliner!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Progress Report

And it’s a good one.

At the moment I’m sitting quietly, resting and icing an achy hip. But fear not – the ache, and it’s a mild one, is from what I’ve already done this morning:

Got up, washed, dressed.

Fed the cats, the first time I’ve been able to do that myself – yes, including taking one bowl upstairs to Sally’s realm.

Tossed a bag of laundry down to the basement, then followed it down and started the wash going.

Gone up to the second floor again to fetch down some clothing.

Had an extensive physical therapy session, including another trip to the basement to flip the laundry from washer to dryer. I now have approval to walk with one crutch whenever I wish. My PT is amazed at how well I’m doing – after all, at this time two weeks ago I was having the surgery.

So, yes, all in all, things are going very well indeed. If it turns nice this afternoon I will go outside for a bit of a walk; yesterday was gorgeous and I went out three times, walking short distances each venture but the total was probably a good city block’s length, if not more.

Right, right – don’t get cocky. But I daresay optimistic is okay.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Well, that was instructive

I hitched upstairs to my office this morning, to get something and say hello to the cat who lives in that part of the townhouse. While there I succumbed to temptation and turned on my main computer, if only to download and dispose of all the email that’s accumulated since I shut it down late on March 26th. Of course I couldn’t leave it at that; I wound up sitting down to pay some bills online as well as sort and dispose of the mail backlog.

Hoo boy. My hip is NOT ready to spend time in an office chair, not even with a plump pillow intervening. It was a relief to finish the tasks and get back to the relative comfort of the recliner, where I plan to spend the rest of the day. Here I’m much more at ease, and here I’ll be working on my first proofreading job since the surgery. It’s promised to be not too long, not too difficult, and not urgent, so it should be a good test run to see how resuming work will go.

Dunno if I’ll try to repeat yesterday’s walk outside; the day isn’t quite as pleasant. But I’m tempted to give it a go. Perhaps it would make a good mid-read break from the proofing.

Baby steps, O impatient patient; baby steps.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Get Cocky

As I keep reminding myself, that’s good advice, and its truth is evident this evening. After today’s triumphant walk, I spent the rest of the afternoon resting in my faithful recliner, quietly reading, and felt good enough at suppertime to heat up one of those meals-in-a-bag on the stove and hand-wash the dishes after I’d finished eating. Now I’m tired and a little achey and not inclined to do anything more strenuous this evening than sit here and read.

So much for giant leaps forward. But I’ll take what I can get and be grateful.

Getting Out and About

Another great step forward today – I walked outside this afternoon. My physical therapist asked me if I wanted to try, and by golly I was ready. So she slid rubber-soled slippers onto my feet and out the front door we went, me in my nightgown and robe, she at my side, ready to catch me.

But no fear of falling! I peg-legged it down the stairs and crutched merrily down the driveway, employing an alternating-crutch-swing technique that let me power up to a respectable speed with a substantial stride. We went all the way to the mailbox stand so I could send out an envelope, then headed right back before I could overdo it. I had no trouble getting back up the front stairs; wasn’t even all that tired or sore at the end of today’s grand adventure.

It was wonderful. Fresh air and sunshine! Being able to walk straight and free without constantly having to maneuver around stuff! Out!

We decided not to bother with the usual round of exercises, since I’d already done one set that morning and the walk was enough for the afternoon; if I feel up to it I’ll do another set this evening.

I have the therapist’s okay to try this again tomorrow, solo, with the promise not to overdo it. Huzzah!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shampoo!

Tonight I washed my hair.

Let me step back and try that again.

Tonight I washed my hair!!!!!!

It’s been a week since I could say that, and it’s just been AWFUL to feel how dirty it’s become, how grubby I’ve felt. Just a week? It feels like forever!

So a little while ago I grabbed a bath towel from the half-bath, stripped down at the kitchen sink (crutches propped nearby), leaned over, and let that hot clean water run over my tacky head. Lather. Scrub. Rinse. REPEAT, luxuriating in the sensation of layer after layer of accumulated dreck washing away.

I quit after two rounds, though I daresay my graying mane could have done with a third, if not a fourth; didn’t want to overdo it. Instead I toweled, rerobed into my night clothes, and crutched back to the half-bath to hang up the towel and brush my CLEAN(er) hair.

It was necessary to resist trying to dance with crutches. Singing was on the program, though, along with a giant smile.

We’ll see if I’ll be up to doing that every day – although I must say, now that I’m settled into my recliner, I feel fine. But even if it’s only every other day, still the psychological boost from accomplishing this is marvelous.

A Good Night's Sleep

It really does make a difference.

Until last night, my post-surgical nights have been a jumble of fitful broken sleep, never more than a couple of hours at a time of true slumber. No surprise, that, in the hospital; at home, though, it didn’t get much better. The living room recliner, where I’d planned to sleep, turned out to be neck-crimpingly uncomfortable for very long. I transferred myself, the first night, around 2:00 a.m., to the couch.

The transfer process itself was slow, clumsy, curse-riddled, but ultimately successful enough that I decided to continue there. In daylight the setup got rearranged to something usefully better. It still wasn’t all that comfortable; I still slept fitfully; but it would do till I felt strong enough to go upstairs to my own bed.

Trouble is, that couch is low enough to make getting up for the bathroom runs difficult. Last night, having awakened a couple of hours after settling in, I almost fell back in mid-rise. My stiff body ached. That was it. I pulled the blanket off and crutched out to the dining/front area where my last hope sat: another recliner, kindly lent to me by the good friend who’d hauled me to and from the hospital.

This recliner is all upholstered (no hard wooden arms), and motorized to lift one up or gently settle one back at whatever preferred angle. Into this I settled, and proceeded to sleep deeply and well for a good three hours, then after the inevitable bathroom run for another blissful four. I awoke refreshed and minus most of the usual stiffness. Even the two cats lying on my lap didn’t make anything hurt.

Okay, all right, I hear you saying “What took you so long, you looney?” -- a legitimate question, to which I reply that the first time I tried sleeping in it I got a neck crick; the position of the head roll at the top was just wrong enough not to work for me. So while I’ve been enjoying lounging in it as a change of pace from my own recliner, and found it perfect for dining from at Sunday’s feast, it didn’t register as a bed for the night till all other options were exhausted.

What made it work this time was hitting upon just the right pillow – a thin, near-worn-out, floppy but still serviceable dogbone neck pillow that had been my mother’s for many years. With that in place, sleep came to stay.

And the ultimate goal: my own bed? I want to get stronger and steadier first, but the physical therapist took me upstairs yesterday and I have the go-ahead, with suitable precautions, to get back into it when I feel ready. Hopefully a few more good nights’ sleep in my wonderful friend’s wonderful recliner will do the trick.

Monday, April 1, 2013

post-Niagara report

Been updating status on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laura.graf.395

Bottom line: Worth the trip.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Barreling Toward Niagara

So this is (almost) it. 24 hours till I, as they say, go under the knife. How am I doing?

Surprisingly well, actually. Between so many people telling me of friends and acquaintances who’ve done wonderfully with a hip replacement, my own excellent prior experiences with this hospital and its personnel, and the frank and full explanations of my surgeon and his staff, I’m confident this will go well. I anticipate my own stubborn determination coupled with the help of others will see me through a swift and thorough recovery.

No doubt, as the time for departure gets closer, I’ll be having some eeps, some shivers of apprehension; but mostly I’m just feeling “Hell, yeh, let’s get it done!”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Pain Has Won Two Battles

I’ve been trying to keep up with as much of my life’s routines as possible, despite my debility’s steady narrowing of their scope, giving ground only grudgingly. But yesterday and today, the pain has won two battles.

Battle the First: Cavalry Maneuvers

It’s been over a month now that I surrendered the stall mucking and other heavy lifting to hired help. Renee’s done a wonderful job of it at a remarkably reasonable price, and I’m fortunate to have her tending to Ben’s swamp. But still I clung to feeding lunch to Ben and his two white buddies, and to bringing the big brown doofus into his stall at night. Yesterday that ended.

Tuesday’s nasty storm left the farm awash in heavy snow with half-concealed stretches of ice. I arrived already in pain, heaved myself from the car into the barn, collected the lunch grain, hobbled out to the top of the short driveway sloping down to the run-in….

And stood there, staring at the impossible terrain I’d have to negotiate without falling. Stood there, leaning on my cane, and began to sob with pain and frustration and fear of falling: “I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this….” The horses gazed eagerly up at me. Food human! Lunch is coming! I looked down at them, frozen in place: “I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this….”

But of course I did do it, I found a way, swinging wide across the bordering lawn, clinging to the fence when, after agonizing inching, I reached it, my feet and cane sinking erratically into the crusty snow with every cautious tiny step. I did what had to be done, I made it back up the slope to safety, and I faced reality: I cannot do this anymore. So I’ve made the necessary arrangements, put into operation now the plan I’d devised for post-op. The pain has won this round.

Battle the Second: Operation Cleanup

Cleaning litterboxes daily is one downside of maintaining a feline tribe in residence, but one I’ve never minded, even though it requires trudging from top to bottom of my four-level townhouse. It’s been awkward and uncomfortable having to do the necessary bending and kneeling with a bum hip and, lately, equally grumpy knee, but quite manageable. Until today.

Today was different. Today, I awoke to life without ibuprofen. I’ve been taken off it for the remainder of the run-up to the surgery, and while I do have hydrocodone to tide me over the difference in pain control is hideously apparent. The knee especially stabs me with every step, to the point that I fear falling at any moment I’m moving and not holding on to something solid.

As you may imagine, cleaning litterboxes and descending stairs with bucket of gleanings in hand was flat-out awful this morning. I did it, because it had to be done. I won’t do it again, though, until I’m healed enough from the surgery to manage it. Once again, my post-op planning has a solution in place, and the person I’d lined up to hire for long-term litter mucking, taking over from my friend’s short-term kind help, will start doing it tomorrow.

I hate hate hate having to be dependent. I’m not thrilled about the extra expense, either. But reality doesn’t give a damn about that. Let me rather be grateful that I do have solutions to hand, and focus on reaching the point that I no longer need them.

The pain has won some battles, but I will win this war.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What's worse...

…than discovering that the new pain relief prescription (Relafen) you’ve just started this morning is not merely less effective than the old one (ibuprofen); that it is, in fact, damn near useless and that your bum hip savages you every time you move it?

What’s worse is checking with your pharmacist and learning that, because the new stuff is taken in a 24-hour dose, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning to go back on the old stuff.

Why, yes. Yes, I am feeling rather sorry for myself at the moment. Although, to be scrupulously honest, I must confess that in desperation I dug out my in-case-of-emergency-only supply of OxyContin (kept on hand for those times when yet another dental crisis erupts on a weekend or holiday) and took one. Hopefully that will settle things down enough for me to get through what otherwise promises to be a most unpleasant day and night.

Hip replacement surgery is looking a whole lot more attractive now.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I did not need to hear this

Saw an orthopedist today for persistent hip pain and got the verdict I was afraid I’d hear:

I need a total hip replacement.

Oh, it doesn’t have to be right away; I can put it off till I just can’t live with the discomfort and restrictions any more. But, having looked at the x-ray and seen the wear-and-tear damage to the joint for myself, it’s a matter of when, not if.

Crap. I did not need to hear that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Commander: Reminiscences

Commander came to me in November 2009. His then owner, Rick, had fought him through his first battle with founder, had won the gallant Morgan back to soundness, but wanted to ride more aggressively than he felt would be fair to Commander. So when our paths chanced to cross and I learned the Mighty Morgan needed a new home; when Rick saw the home I could offer, and the large amiable Thoroughbred Commander could be buddies with, we struck a simple deal: Commander became my horse "for one dollar in hand and other valuable consideration." That consideration was a loving lifelong home where Rick was welcome to come visit whenever he wished.

It was a good deal for all concerned, and for a year and a half, till the founder struck again, it was unalloyed fun. Even during the roller coaster ride of the disease there were long stretches of good times. The bad times expanded; the good times dwindled; but Commander never lost his inner fire, nor the love of those who knew him.

I kept Rick informed about Commander's health, of course, and Rick visited as often as he could, always offering me moral support and trust in my judgment for Commander's care. On Sunday, when it became apparent that this was likely to be the end, Rick came to see his old friend for the last time and say goodbye. He chose not to be present for the euthanasia, a decision I respected and concurred with.

When it was over I called Rick, as he'd requested, got his voicemail, and said what had to be said; later that day sent him the death notice email, the text of which is this blog's preceding post; and in the evening received the reply below, published here with his consent.

Truly, Commander was well loved.

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

Laura:

I was thinking about Commander, as I often do, today a little after 10:00am. Somehow I knew he was gone. The phone never rang, but about 11:20am I noticed a voicemail on my phone. I listened with some trepidation, and when I heard your sad voice it was confirmed. It's sad to say goodbye to an old friend. For me, he will always be that one great horse! He was not for everyone, but he was perfect for me. I always felt I could ride that horse safely through anything, and I did, although, many would question my judgement at times :o)! But he would always go willingly. I have had him in water up to his back, and one time I turned him into a submarine when I misjudged how deep the river was. We stepped in and his head disappeared under the water. I suppose that is why I would let him get away with ground shenanigans that most horse owners frown on. Frankly, I liked it and he knew it because we had a relationship and an understanding. Although he could be a handful for some adults, he carried on his back evryone from inexperienced riders to young children. He would be gentle as a kitten with those who were most delicate. He was so kind and gentle to a little boy with down syndrome that lived next door, and I saw him with his muzzle gently move a baby kitten back and to the side when it wandered into his hay pile. Then there was the day Carol tried to take his mare, and he chased her onto a manure pile and kept her there! He knew the difference. Part of what I loved about him was also what frustrated me about him...he was so smart. He needed to be busy with something. Even my last visit with him, he was so "Commander" as I entered the barn he was gazing out the window. Not one other horse was interested in the wild weather out side, but Commander always enjoyed a view.

Commander had a few owners, and bounced around a bit in his youth, but he found two people that would love and understand him. I was the right person for many years, but Commander hit the jackpot when he found you. I have to tell you that my heart always felt good about Commander going to you. You gave him the best care, love and respect. Like I said, he was not a horse for just anyone, but you were without a doubt, the right person for him. Like I said, Commander is probably the smartest horse we will ever know, and he was a good judge of character. You are a wonderful person and you gave him a wonderful life. Being there when he needed you most and making a very tough decision are just recent examples of your great care. He will be missed. Every time we open our hearts to great love, we also open our hearts to great sadness....but it is always worth it. It is sad to say goodbye to an old friend, but we are blessed to have had such a friend to say good bye to. I hope he is on green pastures running like the wind reborn to his healthy youthful self. And someday I hope to see him again...I told him as much. Thank you for loving him. He knew it and appreciated it!

Rick

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Beyond Command (Commander): February 13, 1990 - February 18, 2013

Commander went to his rest this morning at a little past 10:00, ending his drawn-out, roller-coaster, ultimately unwinnable battle with founder. He walked slowly but resolutely out of the barn, into the sunlight, and stood foursquare with his head high as we gave him our last gift.

Commander slipped swiftly, peacefully into surcease from pain. He died with dignity, with his pride and spirit intact, and with a cookie in his mouth.

He will be missed.

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