Friday, April 29, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 3

One aspect of the machine world which has not had sufficient attention is the relation of the machine age to the mystery of human joy. If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make everything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture.

Part of the confused violence of our time represents, I think, the unconscious search of man for his own natural happiness. He cannot live by bread alone and particularly not by sawdust bread. To speak in paradox, a sense of some joy in living is one of the most serious things in all the world.
-Henry Beston, Northern Farm

What Henry Beston is getting at here, written in the 1930s, is I think as applicable today. Substitute technology for factory and device for machine and we as a species are increasingly distanced from nature, the cycles of the seasons, and direct experience.

I am typing this on an iPad and posting it on the Internet and I immerse myself in that world many times each day. But being out and about on November Hill is what grounds me and brings me the purest sense of joy. I feel a keen sense of need for balance, more so than ever before. The time I spend doing chores and caring for animals and being outside tips the scale and keeps me sane and happy. 

This week we've had good rain, huge wind, and some very warm temperatures. An unwelcome bloom of flies, lots of horse manure in the barn on the rainy days, and tree branches large, medium, and small littering the ground. As I walk the farm doing chores I find myself breaking things down into sections. Scooping manure, raking sticks, moving larger branches. Resisting the urge to pull buttercups up by their roots because I did that one year and wrecked my wrist and arm. I've learned we can mow and whack them and we can also let them run their course. They die out by June no matter what we do. Making my way from one area of the farm to another, I take time to stop and sit in my colorful Adirondack chairs, which invite me to pause and just sit. Those moments in the chairs refuel me the fastest. The only thing faster is riding.

Rain and sun in the right amounts means everything is growing fast right now: the grass, weeds, the gardens.

Our fig tree and a young volunteer tulip poplar both lost all their new leaves to a hard frost a few weeks back but they're now shooting out more, catching up, coping. It occurs to me we can all take a lesson from these trees.

Two neighbors had cats go missing in the span of a few weeks and this reminded me of Dickens and how much we miss him. I'm grateful for the cat enclosures we've added on. It's tempting to dwell on what used to be and all the years the cats had the larger territory of our farm to roam, but now, with coyotes and tick-borne diseases that are rapidly fatal we have to cope the same way the fig and tulip poplar did. We grow new ways of doing things. Adaptation.

It seems early to have peak produce happening but the combination of planting times and weather and care have been good to our lettuce and greens beds this year. We are eating big salads and cooking fresh greens every day right now. I consider all these greens a tonic, coming out of winter and early spring into the edges of bounty. 

I may have spotted the first squash blossom this morning and that too makes me happy.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sandplay therapy and my sacred space

I'm treasuring my sandplay therapy office this month. I've been here fully in this space for a year now and have come to love the space a lot. The sun comes through the skylights and illuminates the trays in the late afternoons and the flowering bush outside the back side of the office right now is spectacular. I'm surrounded by huge old oaks and it truly does feel like a place where the numinous happens.

Part of why I'm appreciating it so much is the fact that we will all be moving in June to a new house turned office space just up the hill. It's a nice space but my sandplay area will not have the open feel this one does. I'm a little sad right now imagining how the new space will be. But I often have difficulty parting with space - living space, work space, even certain configurations of furniture and objects within a space. I know that I have a knack for moving into new space and making it my own, so that part will be fun once the time arrives and I am up the hill settling in.

For now I'm spending every moment at work sitting in here and enjoying it. And honoring the work that has been done here by clients.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

birthdays and grazing muzzles

Keil Bay is now 27 years old and the pony, aka Little Man, aka Apache Moon and Patch Pony, is 16.

It is so hard for me to believe either of them are this many years old! Keil and I had a birthday ride on Monday and so enjoyed the time together. He remains the dream horse in my life. 

The pony seems to be mellowing a little since Salina died - or since he hit the mid-teen years - not sure which - but he's gotten a tiny bit less spunky and seems to enjoy my attention more than he used to. The big surprise to me is that he and Rafer Johnson have become best buddies since Salina passed away. Last night during the Little Man's hoof trim Rafer came and stood as close as he could get. It was very sweet.

Speaking of Rafer Johnson, this little donkey (ahem) is possibly the biggest he has ever been this spring. He has had to start wearing the grazing muzzle and I am having to reinstitute the closing of pasture gates during the daytime hours. We will finally secure the dirt paddock fence line that is shared with the back field and arena so that the donkeys can't climb through. 

This also means I won't have to race donkeys to the mounting block while riding Keil Bay - they come in and knock the mounting block down so I can't dismount. (Though I probably need the practice dismounting to the ground anyway!)

We've been celebrating these two birthdays all week long. I wish I had taken birthday portraits but the older ones will have to suffice for now:

Monday, April 25, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 2

I do not feel so bewildered when I return to my own fields.
-Henry Beston, Northern Farm

The mower blade that prevented our mowing of late was replaced over the weekend and the entire day on Saturday was spent on the cutting of grass and buttercups growing inches every day. I had chores in the house to do while my husband mowed but I opened the doors so the sound of the mower could keep me company. 

I'm not sure what it is about mowing. I used to do a fair bit of it and I delighted in the monotonous orbiting path I made, around and around and around until at some point my rebellious, or possibly creative, side took over and I would change directions, make a pattern, anything to go against the grain of that circuit of cutting.

My husband is not as cautious as I am about closing gates and putting horses and pony and donkeys away from the mower, and this precipitated some running of the herd and then me out on the porch or the back deck waving my arms to get his attention. 

After the mowing was done there was weed-eating, a thankless chore since it's near to impossible to do the entire property in one weekend, so for the most part it never gets "done" - is always there to do once we slide into spring and then summer. The only way to manage this kind of chore - similar to mucking - is to turn it into something that gives pleasure in some other way than by completion.

The thing about doing this kind of work, for me, is that it brings me closer to the actual earth of November Hill. I walk the property as much as the horses do, and I have learned the nooks and crannies, the lay of the land, how rainfall flows, where the natural spring bubbles up, what is blooming or leafing out or dropping leaves. I find the holes that seem to appear out of nowhere and I know where the rocks are to fill them. I religiously put rocks in small piles beside fence posts and the bottoms of trees so I'll have them when needed. I know when a fire ant mound rises up overnight and needs treating, and I know where the bare patches are that need some compost and grass seed to repair.

This week as the grass was tamed back my eyes lifted to the trees, now thick with leaves, creating huge swaths of shade all over the farm. It's so visually different when the leaves come in. 

And it's true - I walk to the barn and out onto the land itself and I am calmed, brought to earth, grounded. The more I do with my hands, directly, the calmer I become. 

The garden is nearly done for this year. Cucumbers and peppers, basil and dill and parsley and anise. Yellow squash and acorn squash and butternut squash and pumpkins. Tomatoes and okra and garlic. A lettuce bed and bok choy, chard, broccoli, cabbage. We'll put in a few more things - melons and more herbs, maybe sweet potatoes again.

A new blueberry bush. 

The fig tree was shocked by the hard frost after it had started leafing out - I don't think it's dead but it looks odd, brown and dormant as everything around it has burst toward lushness.

Even the stone screening and sand arena is growing grass. Harrowing was the last chore of the weekend and it knocked it back some. I forget this time of year how my efforts to keep the grass out, and the moment of panic I have at some point mid-summer fade when we have the first frost of autumn and suddenly, for months and months, that worry simply disappears. 

Years here have shown me the things I can let go of. A good lesson for more than just the farm.

November Hill cat haven - part 3 (the tunnel!!)

The back yard and front porch enclosures were both very exciting and made life easier and happier for all of us, but I think the cat tunnel that connects the two was the most exciting thing we did in this grouping of cat haven constructions. 

It has become extremely popular with all the cats. I think of it as the first of the cat haven highways.

Here's the entry from the front porch:

The cats often don't even use the handy table - they just sail from porch floor into the opening. It occurred to me after the fact that it would be handy to have a little tunnel door we could use when needed to block the opening. I'm going to have the carpenter make one for each end next time he's here.

Next you can see how the tunnel extends around the corner of the house:

The ramp even has little "steps" for footholds if needed!

And here is Pixie showing off how it works:

And on she goes to the back yard:

And on and on and on. They seem to enjoy stopping along the way too!

The final leg of the cat haven highway, exit back yard:

And the "off" ramp:

I can't tell you how much they love this entire tunnel feature. 

I have more projects in mind that we'll add on when we can. For now, they're having a blast.

We do still need to get everything painted and/or stained to blend in with the porch and house. We debated when the carpenter was here how best to do this - he doesn't paint so we would have had to do it ourselves ahead of time or hire someone to coordinate with him while he worked.

If I had known exactly what I was going to do ahead of time I might have gone ahead and stained and sealed the wood before he started - which would have required him to drop it off and label it for us in advance so it would have time to dry. 

It seemed like a lot of work up front and so we went forward with the construction. It will require a bit more finesse to paint it now, but at least we can see what it looks like against the house and color it accordingly for best blending in.

I'll post after photos once we get that done!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Front porch cat haven heaven, a bit of feline congestive heart failure hell

First, the heaven. Osage, aka Muffine Eloise, enjoys the front porch this lovely Sunday morning. This is why we did it. 

Second, the congestive heart failure hell. 

On Thursday Mystic started throwing up. It initially seemed in response to his food, so we got different food only to learn that he was throwing up other times too. Then his cardiology vet had us stop the meds thinking something was causing nausea. He continued to vomit.

I found two hair balls, and at one point two of our other cats vomited one time each. 

We took Mystic in to have bloodwork done and his numbers all look even better than last Friday, so that was a relief. 

Suddenly the vomiting stopped but he now flatly refuses to eat the premium grain-free canned cat food he's been eating for the past year.

I purchased some high end frozen raw food yesterday and he ate two meals of that and now doesn't want that either.

The one thing he is reliably eating in the past 48 hours is human grade meat and fish. So I spent the morning mixing up a couple of batches of cat food using Dr. Pitcairn's recipes from my well-worn volume Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs and Cats.

Meanwhile Mystic is back on the two most important heart meds per his vet. I'm feeding those using pill pockets and doing it in between the meals so he doesn't associate meds with food any longer.

Apparently this is a common issue for cats with congestive heart disease. He's alert and happy, playful and purring, but the food thing has been difficult for several days. I hope the home-made cat food continues to work.

He goes back to the cardiology clinic for a follow up in a week.

I'll be scheduling an appointment with our homeopathic vet too so that we can come at this from both ends of the medical spectrum. Will keep you posted. 

Meanwhile, Pixie shows off HER version of front porch cat haven heaven:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 1

I'm reading a wonderful book right now, Henry Beston's Northern Farm: A Chronicle of Maine. Beston follows the seasons on his Chimney Farm in the 1930s and also offers thoughts on farm life versus urban life. His words ring true today and I'm finding myself wanting to share many of his passages as I read.

At the end of the first chapter he writes:

In a world so convenient and artificial that there is scarcely day or night, and one is bulwarked against the seasons and the year, time, so to speak, having no natural landmarks, tends to stand still. The consequence is that life and time and history become unnaturally a part of some endless and unnatural present, and violence becomes for some the only remedy. Here in the country, it all moves ahead again. Spring is not only a landmark, but it looks ahead to autumn, and winter forever looks forward to the spring.

Beston keeps a farm diary and after reading the first few chapters I'm going to do the same for November Hill. Many of the blog posts I've written over the years have been entries in an unofficial farm journal, but now I'm going to name them as such. Living on a patch of land and watching what happens as the days pass and months, and then seasons and years, is a gift. I feel it here every day and I'm happy to have Beston's book as a model to follow.

November Hill farm journal, 1:

It's the season of greening and growing things and what I'm watching this week is the grass grow. The back yard is a sea of knee-high grass that we let go because the cats so love hiding in it, and then the mower blade broke while mowing the way-back part of the farm, so we waited even longer for the new blade to be ordered and collected. We'll get to mowing this weekend but for now it's tall and lush and cats disappear completely in certain areas.

In years past I've let horses in to graze it down but this year we have the cat haven set up and until we change the gates to open inward, the wire is something one has to duck under to go in and out. Not an option for the horses, though if I opened the gate they'd try their best to come in.

I'm even more impressed by the overseeding I did of the bare area outside the barn doors. I spread stall waste in a fairly thick layer and let it compost for several weeks and then overseeded. Suddenly there is grass there again. Every day another bit fills in, all the more remarkable because it gets walked on every day by humans and horses. What was horse manure and fine pine shavings is now breaking down to earth. 

The parts of the paddock and fields that get muddy during rainy spells in the winter are the most miraculous of all. Every year I walk the mud and think, this is it, no grass will ever grow in this mess again, and every spring I marvel that suddenly those mud patches are green and beautiful. I don't know how it happens that earth so well-churned by hooves can turn to grass.

I alternate between focusing on the ground beneath my feet and the sky above - mainly the leafing out of the trees on the farm, oaks and tulip poplar, hickory and sweet gum. This week the wind blew soft, not the staccato sound of wind through dry brown leaves hanging on tight to otherwise bare branches, but the softness of air through new green leaves. I felt myself soften as I listened, the shift toward spring.

The water troughs take up time now. Pollen, now the oak tassels, shedding horse hair - these seem to collect on the water in the troughs and I spend more time cleaning and refilling than is ever needed in the winter months.

Tick count on horses is still under 10, which is a number I can live with. April is usually our worst tick month so I hope that holds true as we move toward May.

The vegetable garden is mostly in now and I'm harvesting all kinds of greens every day. The indoor plants are moving to the porch yesterday and today. I'm having to fit watering the garden into the routine. Thankfully the days are longer and there's more time in daylight to do these extra chores.

I've lost control of the flower beds yet again, though the work I did last year digging out the invasives has made a difference. The honeysuckle has become its own entity over the holly bushes in front of the porch. A project for next winter. For now I'm waiting for blossoms and the sweet perfume they offer.

One thing I know from years on November Hill - what I miss doing isn't much reason to fret. Another chance to take it on will come around again. Thank goodness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

November Hill cat haven - part 2

We've been happy with the back yard project and how much it positively impacted the cats to be able to go in and out into a safe place that also has interesting things to do. In the first few weeks we had the back yard open to them again they managed to catch a snake, a bird, and a squirrel. Now what they catch are mostly insects. 

They have trees to climb and dirt to dig in. They enjoy the deck and the umbrella that shades it during the summer heat.

The overseeding I did has paid off and the grass is growing fast back there. We've let the grass get really tall and they're hunting through it like lions on a savannah. Our vegetable garden is in our back yard so they enjoy spending time gardening with us too. It's a nice space for cats and Corgis and their people.

I knew we would eventually want to do something with the front porch so we could use it with the cats without worrying about them escaping into the larger farm again.

The porch has been a favorite space for them for years:

I spent several weeks poring through photos on Pinterest and elsewhere online trying to find ideas to enclose the front porch in an effective, yet aesthetically pleasing, way.

It didn't take me long to formulate a plan. I knew what I wanted to do, but I felt sure we weren't capable of doing this ourselves so I contacted a local carpenter, Kendrick Harvey, and he came by to look at the porch and help me think through the options.

I had three criteria: 

aesthetically pleasing and fitting with the existing ambiance of the house
able to be dismantled easily if we ever wanted to open the porch up again

Kendrick took my ideas, looked at the photos I showed him, and made it happen in an even more beautiful way than I expected.

Three weeks later he and his crew arrived and started work. This is what it looked like when they finished:

The bottom part of the porch railing is secured by plain chicken wire. You can't really even see it in this photo - it makes it absolutely secure for our adult cats and would also be safe for kittens. 

The upper areas are now fitted with portable, removable screens. They are stable and secure but very easy to remove if we want to open up the porch again, or for cleaning.

The beam that now goes from house to porch in the above photo is permanent. The triangular screen above that beam comes out like the others do. The other end looks the same way.

As you can see, we opted to do the painting ourselves. Once we get the wood painted to match the existing white of the front porch I think the final effect will be even better.

We have a wide front entrance which was somewhat tricky to figure out. Obviously we wanted something that could be used as the entrance to the front door - but it had to be cat-safe and it needed to integrate with the look of our house.

I found photos of a screen porch that had sliding "barn doors" - and that gave me the idea for what Kendrick did so perfectly:

He got a barn door track from the local feed store and made the sliding chicken wire screen doors to fit. They slide open so that the entrance is fully usable but when closed secure the entry way so that cats and Corgis are safe inside. 

I absolutely love it. Once painted I will install some artsy barn door style handles, a latch, and even a little hand pulled bell on the outside so visitors can ring upon arrival. 

It's been a pleasure to have the front door open again this spring. The cats have loved being able to lounge in the front porch chairs and watch the birds in the dogwood tree feeders. And we enjoy sitting close to the horses and donkeys as they graze right outside. 

The sunsets on November Hill are often spectacular - and now we can watch them again with the entire family around us!

Stay tuned for the part 3 - the cat tunnel - on Friday. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A little plug for my novel claire-obscure, with a link to a DigitalBook Today interview

I haven't plugged my books in a long while here, as I've been focusing almost entirely on writing and editing and not marketing.

Recently I decided to enter claire-obscure in a first novel contest and that has me thinking about it again. I know many regular readers were early supporters and I thank you for that!

If you're a newer reader or first-time visitor you might enjoy checking it out:

For everyone, I may not have linked to this interview I did for Digital Book Today about writing claire-obscure:

If you do read the novel and enjoy it, I hope you'll leave reviews on GoodReads and Amazon or the venue of your choice. Reviews help so much!

Thanks and I'll be back to part 2 of the cat haven construction tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2016

November Hill cat haven - part 1

When we moved to our little horse farm we named November Hill, our cats were allowed to live a somewhat idyllic lifestyle: they had 24/7 access to our entire farm through a cat/dog door that feeds into our fenced back yard.

They lived happily for years that way, spending time outside but for the most part coming inside during the night to sleep (with us, of course).

Two years ago 3 of our 6 cats developed cytauxzoonosis. It's an awful tick-borne disease (ticks feed on bobcats who host the Protozoa, then carry it to domestic cats, who have little immunity). Our county happens to be one of the few "hot spots" in the US for this disease. Domestic cats get very sick very quickly. Early diagnosis and proper treatment give about 65% chance for cure. There are huge risks even during the treatment phase for fatal blood clots. After many thousands of dollars and very intense medical treatment, two cats lived and one sadly did not make it.

A year ago big development moved close to our rural property and clear-cut thousands of pristine forest nearby. Suddenly we started hearing and seeing coyotes in our neighborhood. Our most savvy cat, Dickens, disappeared one Saturday last fall and we fear he may have been killed by coyotes.

We decided we couldn't allow the 4 cats remaining to continue living their indoor/outdoor lifestyle. In one weekend's time we closed the cat door and determined that we had to figure out a way to secure the fenced in back yard so they would at least be able to continue going in and out to that area. It was a huge limitation to impose on their usual routines, but we felt we needed to do it to ensure their safety.

If they hadn't ever had total freedom it would have been easier to make this change! Overall they have accepted it far better than I anticipated. 

That first weekend we knew we had to secure the back yard to make this plan work. I spent hours online researching cat-proofing products, most of which cost a small fortune and would have to be ordered. We then took what I'd found and determined to make our own quick and inexpensive version - at least for the time being.

Here's what we did:

We bought a roll of chicken wire at the local feed store. We bought wood dowels from the local home-improvement store. We bought a staple gun.

My husband drilled holes for the dowels in each fence post at an inward angle. He wove the dowels through the chicken wire and then used wood glue to secure the dowels into the holes. Once he had that done, he stapled the bottom edge of the chicken wire to the horizontal wood strip that goes across the "pickets" of the fence. He left the chicken wire somewhat floppy - we read that this was essential as you want the cat to feel the sense of instability as they climb up the fence to the chicken wire. 

When he was done we let the four cats out and waited to see what would happen. 

They tested this for most of that day and some of the next. They went around the fence and tested every inch of the wire. They basically ran up the fence, got to the chicken wire, and then turned and jumped to the ground. The angle and the instability work together to deter them. 

Both our gates open out and this is the only thing we need to do to make this set-up perfect. If we change the gates to open inward, we can secure the wire so that it opens WITH the gate. That task is on our list, but for now we simply duck under the wire as we go in and out. 

We are on month 3 of this set-up and no cat has escaped. They gave up testing it after the first couple of days.

I was worried this would be a huge eyesore and that I would hate looking out the windows but as you can see it blends in to the degree that it's almost invisible when you glance out at it:

The only thing I miss is my horses being able to hang their heads over the fence to say hello! But it's worth losing that to know our cats are safe and still happy.

Having the back yard secure for the cats has made this transition so much better. They can go in and out, climb the hickory trees, play in the grass, dig, and lounge on the back deck. 

BUT - we also have a wonderful front porch that they loved hanging out on, as did we - and this month we decided it was time to tackle that project. Stay tuned for part 2 of the ongoing November Hill cat haven construction. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Busy busy busy - stay tuned for cat haven photos

Today got away from me. Mystic had a follow-up appointment with his cardiologist and it took much longer than I thought it would. He's actually doing great and his doctor is very happy with his progress. However, now that he's home and clear of all the meds that were being used to stabilize him after the heart failure last week, it's clear that he will need to be on the full set of medications to maintain his progress.

Since he's been taking his meds in food there's not been any stress involved so I hope we can manage with these new pills the same way. He's gained a full pound since coming home and they're thrilled with that. We're going to keep rolling with 3 meals a day.

I also had a deadline for a submission that snuck up on me and when we got home I went to the barn, hung out with the herd for awhile, gave some hay, and then dashed back in to get to work.

Just hit submit on that and now the light isn't good for cat haven photos.

So - hope to get that series of posts rolling on Monday.

On with April and the long string of birthdays we celebrate this month! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

the goddess would have turned 33

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about Salina, our black goddess mare, turning 30 years old.

That turned out to be her final year but her spirit lives on here on November Hill.

This is what I wrote about her in March 2013:

Tomorrow Salina turns 30 years old. She was born in Germany to two Hannoverians, Kurtisane and Salut, and was branded as well as entered into the Main Mare Book as she got older and went to inspections.

She was imported as a brood mare to the U.S. Somewhere along the way she was trained to at least fourth level dressage, lost an eye, and developed arthritis in both knees.

When she was 23 she came to live with us on November Hill. I have said before: I saw her photograph and fell in love with her spirit and personality, and although originally I thought she would be a therapy horse for my clients, in the end she has turned out to be a therapy horse for me.

She can be high-strung, is very opinionated, and has been high maintenance from the beginning. She gave me some of the most advanced rides of my life, taught me about hoof abscesses, senior feeds, arthritic joints, helping horses get up when they can't do it on their own, and is teaching me now about Cushing's disease.

She became, early on, my sister in spirit at the barn. If anything goes on here and I don't know about it, she tells me. She has come to my bedroom window in the night and woken me with her insistent, urgent, whinny. On many occasions I have felt pain in my own body at the site of her aches and pains.

The most important thing and the first thing she taught me was to center myself when asking for anything from a horse.

She is wise and beautiful and we love her.
Happy birthday, Salina! I'll add a birthday portrait tomorrow, but wanted to get this up today.

Everything she taught me still holds true. I miss her physical body. She loved being pampered and groomed and fussed over. Now and then I glance out and see her standing in the barnyard or the front field, and then when I do a double-take she's gone again. I talk to her at least a few times a week when I pass her burial mound. I sometimes say her name out loud to the horses and donkeys and tell them how much I miss her.

As I type this I am no longer moved to tears thinking of her. I think that means she's part of me now, the grief has transformed to something sweeter - the memories that live inside. 

Happy birthday that would have been, sweet Salina-bina. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Proud mom, physics, and nanowires!

I'm so proud of my son's passion for physics and his ability to take complex material and make it accessible. Check out this video of his presentation on the research he's involved in right now at UNCA. It's compelling in terms of the content and I also love the fact that his professors have become mentors for him in his undergraduate career. Dr. Perkins is a terrific professor - I've sat in on one of his classes and enjoyed his teaching style, his expertise, and his engagement with students. 

Dylan Cromer's presentation of undergraduate research at UNCA on Apr 7, 2016

Computational Modeling of Surface Enhancement in Ferroelectric Lithographic Nanowires

OR, watch right here:

Monday, April 11, 2016

I missed some November Hill birthdays!! First let's celebrate Cody!

This is one of my favorite photos of Cody, our newly-13-year-old QH. It is out of season for us living on November Hill but for many of you it may be exactly what you're seeing out your windows this spring.

Cody came to us when he was coming 3 years old. He's been a wonderful addition to the herd here. My son rode him lightly the first couple of years and as he matured he had regular training rides with our trainer at the time, with me, and with my daughter as she started growing. He's done some Pony Club stuff with my daughter and mostly combined training work. Once we assured him we didn't expect the contracted, pinched Western Pleasure way of going that he'd originally been taught (at age 2!) he opened up and now uses his body in a beautiful way.

Cody is calm and steady for the most part, but in other ways he is my "problem horse." Only in the sense that he has PSSM and I have had to scramble to learn a lot about diet and nutrition and the way muscles work inside the equine body. Because of Cody I learned how to balance the equine diets individually and I've learned a lot more than I ever knew about bringing a horse into work and creating a routine that facilitates soundness under saddle and over time.

Cody was the horse chosen to babysit Rafer Johnson's first night here - Salina was over the top with mama love so she needed a day to settle down!

Cody is Keil Bay's best friend, Redford's most eager playmate, and the one equine who will play with the pony without getting too annoyed at his antics.

Years back when the neighbors shot off fireworks and the rest of this herd (including me) were running around like crazy it was Cody who walked to the middle of the arena and stood enjoying the show.

He's a wonderful horse. Responsive and sensitive under saddle, always eager to please. And now he's a teenager! Happy Birthday Cody!! We look forward to many years to come. 

Friday, April 08, 2016

the mystical-kit, congestive heart failure, update

This week has been a bit crazy here on November Hill. We've been visiting Mystic daily, supervising the construction of the fabulous front porch cat haven, and I've had two days of ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) training this week so it's been a challenge to keep up with everything.

Thankfully Mystic has improved every single day since Monday. He was on a ventilator for two days and although he responded well and fast in terms of blood oxygen saturation, respiration rate, etc., obviously being on a respirator is a tenuous place to be for a cat. We were cautiously optimistic but also trying to keep ourselves prepared should things take a downward turn.

We got news today that he improved so much between our visit last night and today they are going to send him home tomorrow unless something comes up tonight for him. Since last night he's eating an drinking on his own and able to stand and walk, is alert, and the residual grogginess after the ventilator was removed has faded.

They also did a new ultrasound of his heart today and said there appears to be much less damage there than they originally thought. So overall, the prognosis is even better than it was a few days ago.

He'll come home with a couple of oral meds to a quiet recuperation space (we are well prepared for this upstairs in his domain) and lots of love and grateful hearts that he made it through this.

Once I get through the weekend I'm going to take photos of the cat haven - the tunnel from front porch to back yard is about halfway done - it will be completed on Monday. It is absolutely fabulous. The carpenter and his assistants took my ideas and made them happen in an even better way than I expected. I can't wait to see cats figuring out they can go from front to back through their own private highway. :)

Thanks to everyone for the good thoughts, prayers, light, and love. I have absolutely no doubt that all of that played a huge part in his recovery. Big hugs from me to you. 

And a couple of favorite Mystic photos - finally had a moment to go into files and pull them out!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Mystic needs your good thoughts

Since Friday Mystic kit-meow has been suddenly not feeling well, slightly off his food, then on Sunday night a weird coughing episode. Monday morning he seemed better but rapid breathing started up and I took him to the vet. Many tests later they felt it likely he had asthma and sent him home with Prednisone.

This morning he was worse and seemed suddenly to be going downhill so my husband took him to the vet school hospital where he had to be immediately intubated and was quickly diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

He's only 8 years old and we have decided given his good health right up until this weekend to move forward with treatment. He's on a respirator, sedated, and getting medication to drain the fluid from his heart and lungs. Prognosis is that if he makes it through this part of the treatment he'll be able to come home on medication that will allow him another few good years. We hope for that and more.

Construction of our front porch cat haven started this morning and I am hoping he comes home just in time to help break it in. 

We are grateful for all good thoughts.

Wednesday a.m. update:

His oxygen saturation is much better today on lower oxygen which is a very good sign. His red blood cell count has dropped but they think it's a measurement artifact and are retesting. They are removing several of his medications in preparation for the ventilation withdrawal at mid-day. Overall they are more than pleased with how things are progressing and are very hopeful. 

Thank you all for helping surround him with love and light! It means so much to me and my entire family. 

Wednesday p.m. update:

Mystic is breathing on his own now. The tube is still in as he hasn't woken up yet - sedation drugs still in his system. They will pull the tube out soon. His blood oxygen looks good. He has signs of infection probably due to stress on his system during this but are already treating with antibiotics. They expect him to wake up in the next hour or so. 

Saturday, April 02, 2016

spring greening

took this a few days ago, before the two rains we've since had. The amount of greening that has happened just since the rain is mind-boggling! The herd is keeping busy and I'm doing daily scraping of horse hair off bodies, checking for ticks (Keil Bay sported the first one of the season and I've pulled another one off him plus one off Cody), and trying my best to keep water troughs clean of pollen.

The front porch construction of the cat-proof screens and cat tunnel to the back yard begins on Tuesday and is projected to take two days to complete. I can't wait to see them explore this new area and regain the use of our front porch. Hopefully the pollen will have wrapped up by then.

I've harrowed the arena once and need to do it again tomorrow to get the footing back in shape. Garden is in process, I'm working on using saplings we thinned out to make a wooden fence around the garden and hopefully learn how to do it so I can tackle some larger projects with larger saplings. 

As usual I have a few too many projects underway. I seem to have launched into springtime projects instead of spring cleaning this year!

Tell me what's going on in your backyard right now.