Wednesday, March 30, 2016

listening to what they say

Today when I fed Keil Bay his mid-day tub I put hay out for the herd and came back to his stall to see if he was finished. He was, but instead of going to his back door to be turned out with his pals he came and stood with me, curving his neck to my hands, standing quietly while I rubbed his neck.

When I stepped toward the back door he walked to his front stall door and touched it with his nose. He was asking for some time to himself in the barnyard, and some time with me as well.

I opened the front stall door and out he went. We made a pile of hay for him in the shade and I got the shedding blade and a brush and watched as c-shaped packets of Keil Bay fur floated off the blade and into the breeze with every pass.

The first tick of 2016 made its appearance, which required me to empty last year's tick jar and prepare it for this new year. A little Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and water and in went the brown dog tick.

I checked Keil all over but there were no more to be found. Checked his ears and face and then sprayed him with the mix of fly spray I made up a few weeks ago. He was happy to have his time in the barnyard and chose to remain there when I came inside. 

The donkeys are not happy about that and are braying off and on to let me know one of their herd members is "missing."

In a little while I'll go serve the next round of hay and see if Keil is ready to rejoin his buddies. 

It's a sweet day on November Hill. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Moominvalley and Flame Trees of Thika

A couple of old favorites this week.

Moominvalley in November is one of my favorite Tove Jannson Moomintroll novels. When my children were young we discovered the Moomintrolls and I still enjoy reading them. In this one Fillyjonk (one of my favorite characters in these books) hears something in a wardrobe and thinks there are bugs, freaks out, and goes into a frenzy of cleaning. I definitely relate!

Another old favorite: The British TV series The Flame Trees of Thika, based on Elspeth Huxley's books about living as a young girl in Africa. We had the series on videocassette and I foolishly donated it to the thrift store years back, then realized it wasn't to be found online. Fortunately it came out on DVD in the past year or so and I ordered it. There's nothing like it and we're enjoying it again this week.

The books are wonderful too!

Otherwise, the weekend has been productive. The vegetable garden is about 1/3 in, I have a good number of saplings cut to prep and begin my fencing project (something akin to a wattle fence), and I've seeded some bare areas in the barnyard and front field.

That's 3 out of about 267 things but I celebrate their doing nonetheless!

Happy Easter! Spring is definitely here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

crazy first week of spring

One of those weeks that feels a little bit like a roller coaster. The death of an old friend brought sadness and many good memories over the weekend, then Monday morning Keil Bay had his beloved chiro as did Redford (not his favorite thing but he was brave).

More than the usual number of medical/dental appointments this week (usual = zero) and another old friend's retirement party.

Waiting on the final university decision (out of 3 she applied to, 2 acceptances thus far) with my daughter and helping son plan travel for his summer REU in physics at UCLA. (still reeling over both these things - how did 18 and 21 years pass so quickly?)

Four cats with spring fever and the cat haven front porch enclosure plus tunnel from porch up and around the side of the house to connect to the back yard cannot come soon enough. (construction scheduled in about 10 days)

Busy with writing projects even as I wait for several others to bloom where they've been planted.

It's that time of year.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tilikum is dying, Sea World finally announces end to breeding of orcas

This morning I received an email from the Humane Society with the above image. After years of keeping and breeding orcas in captivity for its own profit, Sea World has announced it will cease their breeding program and will house no orcas in new facilities.

It's interesting that this announcement comes on the tail of one a week ago in which Sea World announced that Tilikum, their most prolific breeding orca, is dying of a treatment-resistant lung infection.

Tilikum was captured and taken from his mother's side at the age of 2. He is now 35. All of his years in captivity have been spent in small cement tanks. In early years at Sea Land in British Columbia he was brutalized by two female orcas and spent most of his time in a tiny tank in fear. When Sea World purchased him for their breeding program (knowing at that time that he had been involved in the deaths of two people) he was moved to Florida. Since then his sperm has been manually collected many times and he has fathered many orcas for Sea World's profit.

You can read the entire tragic story of his life here:

Since he killed his trainer in 2010 he has been kept in isolation with very little interaction with other whales or with people. Visitors over these six years report that he is depressed and has little interest in food during feeding times. They say there are no toys in his tank. He hangs vertically in the water of his small pool, staring at the gate that leads to the other areas of the park.

I send Tilikum light and hope that his death is not painful. For at least six years petitions and groups have asked that he be moved into a sea tank to live out his life, or released. This has never been done. His plight has inspired books and a movie, Blackfish. And hopefully, the end of an era at Sea World. 

If you'd like to sign the Humane Society's pledge of support for ending orcas in captivity, go here:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Michael Pollan's "Cooked" series on Netflix Originals

It's a rare thing for me to recommend a TV series here but this 4-episode delight produced and narrated by Michael Pollan popped up in my Netflix recommended list recently and last night we watched the first and second episodes: Fire and Water.

Imagine my surprise when the Fire episode featured eastern NC barbecue, a local pit master, Left Bank Butchery, (we shop there especially at holidays!) and Cane Creek Farm, one of our favorite local farms. There was also a cameo with James Taylor.

The water episode was equally good.

It's all about cooking - not so much recipes but the act of cooking and what it means to humans, the only species who does it.

It's beautifully filmed and fascinating. 

I highly recommend. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Big Bay and his Ghost Rider, plus a bit on diets and weight loss

Yesterday I got myself organized, fed midday tubs, groomed the Big Bay, and tacked him up for the first ride we've had in awhile. I groomed him in the barnyard and when I was done I walked to the barn and called him in. He walked to the barn aisle and put his head in the halter. I had to wipe down the bridle and my helmet to clear the dust! 

It was warm, there was a breeze blowing, and the neighbors had been in and out of the woods behind their house, so Keil was very alert and a little "up." I decided prior to even approaching the mounting block that I was going to step up and get right on, leaving out my usual fidgeting and testing of stirrup, etc. One two three and not one hitch and we were off at a nice walk.

We had a good ride with no surprises. Keil's the same as he always is. I'm happy to report that I'm a little bit different.

With the throat stuff I've struggled with since January and a few weeks at that time of eating only soups and puréed vegetables, I lost 10 pounds. Then did a lot of research about my symptoms and the ENT's thoughts on what was going on (LPR, or silent reflux), and decided it was time to get serious about the healthy diet I tend to eat but manage to deviate from as the year progresses. I figured at best, the throat thing set off a perfect storm that ended up in LPR (somewhat common if you read peoples' accounts of it) and at worst, my body was telling me it was time to make a stronger commitment to healthy eating and a need for rebooting my weight.

I first went on a low acid diet to give the tissue in my throat and esophagus time to heal, then combined that with a low fermentation diet to address a different theory of what happens with LPR in the digestive tract. Both these diets recommend healthy meals and reasonable portions, and one is close to the Paleo diet which I'm very familiar with already. 

I've been eating good food and healthy portions. I've cut out all alcohol for now and also sugar. On my birthday I went out and had dinner and a piece of tres leches cake. And I'll continue to celebrate special occasions with some leniency but I'm committed to keeping my daily diet a healthy one. 

The great news is that as of today I've lost 32 pounds. I really felt that loss as I mounted yesterday and I'm sure Keil Bay felt the difference too. I'm looking forward to more rides and hopefully the loss of a few more pounds. 

Note on the photo: Keil was not terribly impressed with my idea to insert a selfie between the end of our ride and his post-ride Chaffhaye serving but he went along with it anyway. After untacking he walked off with his usual self-satisfied demeanor. He's back to work and his job was done. Time to find the greenery in the barnyard and celebrate spring! 

Friday, March 04, 2016

day off

We fed Keil Bay's midday meal early today and headed to the zoo. It was the perfect zoo day - cool but not cold, cloudy (good for the photographers among us) with a few sunshiny spells to brighten the day, and although somewhat crowded earlier on, by the end we felt like the only people in the place.

Two of the seals were playing and having a blast, Gus the baby chimp was as cute as a pie, and the bobcat was up close and seeking attention for the first time ever. 

The giraffes were particularly alert and very focused on a small enclave in the tall rock formations in their field. We enjoyed watching them move - they are in some ways horse-like and one actually arched its neck and did a little canter.

The lions posed.

Artie the elephant was separated from the other elephants (not the norm) and was weaving and vocalizing. I called the zoo operator and asked if a keeper could check on him. 

Our zoo does a good job with habitats for the most part. I didn't take a single photo but I enjoyed the outing and observing.

Tomorrow it's back to horses and donkeys. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The first day of March on November Hill

It's a gorgeous day out there. Warm, a bit of a breeze, and no bugs yet. Cody is barely visible because he's stuck to the other side of Keil Bay like glue. 

I tried to take a couple of selfie photos of me with Redford and me with Keil Bay but Redford ran and Keil turned away. They are intent on what's growing and in the new load of very green and very soft hay we brought in over the weekend. Never mind those peppermints I doled out a few minutes before attempting photos!

Spring is not quite here yet but it's definitely edging closer.