Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A few glimpses into the week on November Hill

Not the best photo, but through the windshield as I was driving in. I got winter gate decor a month ago to change from the holiday/Christmas horse head wreaths. The young woman who makes these is on Etsy and she will customize if you want something she doesn’t have listed. I love the hanging stirrups and the wintry foliage. Hoping I can make the change to spring wreaths sooner rather than later, though!

It’s my birthday week and I have treated myself to three gifts, one of which is below. A new embroidery project, a rainbow of floss, and the time each day to do it. (Can you guess which element of that combo is the hardest?)

This is me.

The second of my gifts to self: the Dualit toaster I have wanted for 30+ years. I had such a hard time picking the color. Decided on the bronze, and I love it. I’m creating a coffee/tea/toast area on the countertop which involves (of course) changing all the kitchen cabinets around which is going to confuse me for the next year or so, but maybe it also creates new neural pathways. :)

We had five equine dentals yesterday but thankfully the first of three warm, sunny days to dry things out. The night before the dentals it rained like cats and dogs and the ground is so saturated it is a muddy mess AGAIN. But the dental work went very well, it’s over for the year, and the herd is out today enjoying the sun on their backs. 

If your birthday is coming up, do something special for yourself. If not, do something for yourself for MY birthday. It’s been a rough year. You deserve it. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Happy Birthday to our youngest herd member, Redford!

Who is now a teenager! From here on out, it’s probably going to be my standard first line in birthday posts to say:

I cannot believe...

Redford is 13 years old!

Aside from all the wonderful things Redford is, this year he became Keil Bay’s constant companion through the EPM ordeal, and I am so very grateful to little Redbug for taking that on, and doing such an amazing job. When Keil has vet appointments, Redford insists on staying with him to offer support, which is not an easy thing since Redford is not all that fond of vets himself. 

And I should probably add that Keil Bay loves vet appointments and loves every bit of attention he gets, so Redford is offering support to the king of being the center of attention. 

But Redford is always willing and even eager to stay with Keil no matter where he is or what is going on. 

All this to say that Redford is a super special donkey and we love him dearly.

Here’s a photo from this week:

When Redford was very young, the only white on his face was his star, and if you think of that star as representing his superstar power, as you can see, it has grown exponentially to the point of being a blazing galaxy of goodness. I am always drawn to the whorl that he has front and center. It makes me think of the third eye and how much this little but powerful donkey knows about the world around him.

Love you, Redford! You will always be our superstar here on November Hill! 

A few thoughts on EPM, and an update on the Big Handsome Bay

 As regular readers know, Keil Bay, 31 years old, was diagnosed with EPM in October, and had:

90 days of treatment with Marquis + corn oil for better absorption

30 days of Rebalance

acupuncture weekly, now monthly

continued careful chiropractic adjustment

monthly Legend injection

specific to EPM homeopathic remedies

a supplemental regime including increased vitamin E, a specific research-based immune system supplement, duralactin, and his other senior horse supplements

bloodwork to monitor vitamin E levels and kidney/liver function

Equioxx and bute depending on symptoms

rehab work

All of this was put into place with a collaborative effort between 4 different vets and my own research. As of today, he is 100% most of the time, but seems to have mild relapses happening a few days a month. Most importantly, he seems to be happy and content all the time. 

On Wednesday, the second of two sunny and dry days we had this week, I went out to give some apple slices to the herd. Keil was all the way down the hill in the front pasture, and I walked to the upper flat area where I began to give out the apples to Cody, Little Man, and the donka boys. In a moment’s wonder, Keil Bay looked up, saw me, and galloped perfectly up the hill, taking the narrow path between the outer fence line and a number of trees along that area, the trickiest place to gallop through. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to go into my “oh my god what if he falls” mode. I saw him launch into a gallop from a standstill, watched his path, and then suddenly he was stopped on a dime two feet away, sticking his muzzle into my hands while keeping his 1250 pounds carefully away from me.

To say I was happy in that moment is an understatement. In the early days of the diagnosis I feared for the worst outcome, and at 31, we will of course reach the worst outcome at some point, but for now, as he moves toward his 32nd birthday, the Big Handsome Bay could be the same age he was when he came to live with me, and for that I am so grateful.

I took a one-hour CE course designed for veterinarians on EPM a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the info presented was so basic I already knew more than what was offered, and the treatment part of the class was woefully short. I could have added so much more info to the mix, including a list of research studies that guided my own plan for Keil Bay. By throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his treatment, I certainly muddied the waters of what aided in his recovery, but with this disease, which can be so debilitating, and expensive, it seems like doing it all is the most efficient way to address it, since lag time, and the damage to neurons that happens while you stretch things out, is not a place you want to go. 

This was never stated in the class. Nor was it said that nerves can regenerate with rehab and horses can regain function if given time. I feel badly for the horses and their owners who aren’t told this quickly so they know it from the beginning and can make treatment plans accordingly.

I’m grateful for knowledgeable, open-minded vets who did extra research, listened to my findings, and supported me and Keil in our journey with this disease. And to my husband, who took on the rehab and made it his own personal mission to get Keil’s neurons back in good working order. And of course, grateful to his herd who support him psychologically every single hour of the day, and Cody, who has stood beside him and allowed Keil to lean on him quite literally when needed. Keil has a great team, and all of us, including his vets, love him and are so happy with how he’s doing.

This week Keil had a full hoof trim with zero difficulty. That and the perfect gallop up a hill to a perfect stop for apples, this is the best part of my week. My month. And certainly among the top five of my year so far. Can’t wait for the birthday bash we’ll have in April. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 120

 After many days of rain I’m happy to say that I see blue skies out the window and some sunshine. And our temps today are going up into the high 50s, a welcome relief from the upper 30s/low 40s. I do know that our “ugh” temps sound like a dream to those of you dealing with single digits, and that days of rain is possibly preferable to feet of snow. We’re all used to what we’re used to though, and I think for all of us, it’s hard when weather pushes us beyond what we’re set up to manage, so hopefully all of us get a break very soon from our relative extremes!

Unfortunately we had a Saturday night visit to the vet school hospital ER with Baloo, who suddenly seemed to lose use of his hind legs. It turned out he was able to walk, but just didn’t want to, as it was painful, and after a neuro exam and x-rays plus sedation with pain medication, he was discharged with more meds and a diagnosis of IVDD, a condition/disease of the discs in the spine that is apparently relatively common in Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

He came home very groggy but ate some dinner, used the bathroom, and went to bed gated in our master bedroom, where he continues to be on restricted activity. He woke up Sunday morning looking 100% like his usual self, which is a little puzzling, but he’s getting acupuncture on Thursday here on the farm, and will soon have an appointment with the vet school specialty clinic in neurology. Hopefully an MRI will reveal more and we can develop a comprehensive treatment plan. He’s only 4 years old, so we want to do everything we can to insure he heals, and that we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

Keil Bay has, in spite of too many days hanging out in the barn due to rain, been doing very well. His acupuncture scan last week was “the best he’s ever had” per the vet, and he had a normal full hoof trim done this morning. Aside from being generally annoyed at the weather, or is that me projecting my own feelings onto HIM, he seems happy and healthy right now.

With all this rain, the farm is mostly mush. Combined with mud. I’m constantly making efforts to manage the dogs tracking the mud in - in spite of layers of microfiber mats and a couple of towels on top of the permanent laundry room rug, some amount manages to make it in to the living room. I’m doing laundry nonstop.

We have more rain due on Thursday, then by the weekend it looks like full sunshine again. I’m so ready for spring I could burst! Or even winter without all the rain.

In other news, the arborist kept his appointment in spite of the rain, and pronounced all but one of the trees healthy. The one he wants to take down is a small oak near the arena - he’s going to take the top off but leave the base, which has a perfect owl or feral honey bee hole in it - I’d like to see if either will take up there. Otherwise, he’ll do pruning on the ones that need it. I’m very happy to hear this - the one very large oak closest to our house has seemed like it needed something or was perhaps declining, but he doesn’t think that’s the case. A few branches removed and he thinks it will be fine.

Still pondering what to do with the deck, and continuing the stone work in the front pasture. 

What felt overwhelming yesterday suddenly feels fine today - it’s amazing what sunshine and blue skies will do to one’s mood!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thoughts on the creative process, and something beautiful.

 Back in the fall I found someone whose work reminded me, in a loose way, of the kind of farm sign I’ve been wanting for 15 years. The first couple of years we lived here, my husband took photos from the front and one November he captured what is for me the essence of our farm and why we named it November Hill. I’ve tried to explain what I wanted to various artists and sign makers since then, but no one seemed to get what I was imagining, and so I just waited.

Based on the portfolio of this artist, who specializes in home paintings and does some signs, I felt like she could do what I wanted, if only I could explain it properly to her.

I sent her the photo and a few images harvested from Pinterest of various farm signs, showing her the way I want to hang it, the style (such a nebulous concept) of the overall effect I was seeking, and she and I went back and forth for a few weeks about colors and fonts and sizes and when we had a basic sense of what she would do, I paid her half and she promised to get to work. 

Thanksgiving came and went. I sent her an email promising I wasn’t rushing her but just checking in. She said she was working on it but was behind due to a large number of orders. 

Christmas came and went. She said she was still struggling to get caught up with orders and assured me she would get the sign done by the end of the year. I need to say that I had no concern at all about her actually doing the work and getting it to me. She has many good reviews from happy customers. But I was getting a sense, mostly just a faint feeling, that she was struggling not with having too many projects, but with my project in particular.

I had built up the idea when I described it to her. Explained how much I wanted this specific look, that I had been searching for the right artist for years. I think I transmitted my own vision so perfectly it locked her into something that became a huge constraint. She so clearly wanted to give me what I was asking for. 

When the new year came and we were well into January, I checked in again. She apologized profusely and I told her there was no rush, no pressure, that I simply couldn’t wait to see it and that I would be happy to wait because I felt like she was the person to do it, and if it took months more, that was okay. 

I promised myself I would leave her alone and not check in again. 

Today, I got a message from her saying it was finally done. She sent a photo. And I can’t explain how, but I could feel her tentative fear - what if I didn’t like it. What if I hated it. What if I had waited this long and hated it. Possibly the worst scenario - what if I said something mediocre, like, okay, thanks, that looks fine.

I know she wanted me to love it and I know I wanted to love it. I opened the attached photo and thankfully, it blew me away. I cried. I’m so happy with the result - it’s exactly as I had imagined it, and I wrote back more than I’ve written here in this post telling her just how much I love it.

She confessed that she was terrified to start the project. That she got my vision from the start, but wasn’t sure she could bring it out of her paint brush onto the wood. Isn’t this how we all feel with writing, painting, creating? We have that idea, it’s so clear in our minds. But to bring it to fruition in whatever artistic medium we work in is always the tricky part. The hard part. Sometimes not even possible. 

I’m so happy she did it. I think I’d have appreciated her efforts even if they had not quite matched what I hoped for, but sometimes these things work out perfectly and she’s sending it tomorrow. I just cannot WAIT to hang it up and see it every time I drive through our farm gates. 

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Look for what you want, go with your gut, be patient, and when you get what you hoped for, savor the heck out of it. I’m sharing her photo and will of course share it in its new location soon.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 119

 Well, another week, several more days of rainfall. I am grateful we’re not in drought but now we’re in tropical rainforest territory, though cold. The horses have to have their sheets on as I do not want Keil Bay getting chilled, and they are all weary of mushy ground. Thankfully the sun came out this afternoon and it looks like sun tomorrow, then I see rain on the forecast several more days this week.

I’m seriously thinking we need to cover our arena - not enclose it, but have a nice cover that lets us see through it from the house to the back. The idea of huge equipment back there totally freaks me out though.

Meanwhile, we’re making some progress getting stone put in to the stormwater creek bed in the front field. We’ll leave large gap areas in the flat spaces for the horses go to through, but the sections that are deep/steep are getting stone, and then in the fenced off bird habitat area we’ll do more extensive stonework, as that’s an area where water tends to pool out. If I can get some research done I’d love to put in a small water feature for birds and frogs. 

The barn roof repair was completed nicely and now we’re awaiting shingles that are on order so the house can get its new roof. The deck in back is next, though I keep shifting my plans for what we’ll do with it.

I’m worried about the two bee hives, Hegemone and Artemis. I peeked at them on admittedly a colder than they like day and the upper boxes were super empty looking from above. I hope they were in cluster below. One hopeful sign - Hegemone girls have propolised their bottom entrance hole (about the size of a half dollar) so that it’s now a bee-sized hole only. As I noticed this and leaned down to check it out, amazed, one of the girls came to the hole and peeked back at me! 

Keeping my fingers crossed they make it through the winter. They have sugar patties available to them and have been taking that thus far.

I’m about halfway through my Taxonomy and Winter Flora native plant studies classes and am enjoying being active in that program again. Mostly on Zoom, though we have met for winter garden walks with everyone masked and distanced. 

This weekend past was both a friend’s book launch party via Crowdcast and my monthly writing retreat via Zoom, so it’s been busy here!

This week we have an arborist coming to assess the large oaks around the barn and house, as well as the two hickory trees in our back yard. All of them are beginning to grow toward house or barn and need to be pruned, and I’d like someone to do it with an eye toward the health of the trees at the same time. I’m very interested to see this work done once we get it scheduled.

Keil has had a number of slightly off days but looked really good today, so I hope we’re back to some normal weeks again. He had chiro here last week and had a minor pelvic adjustment but was mostly clear, which is terrific. And although he is done with his 5 p.m. medication buckets, he now gets 5 p.m. extra pellet buckets because I knew he’d be upset if we just stopped. He’s 31. He can use the calories. He can use the pampering. And he loves it. 

That’s about it! Hope all are hanging in there through this wintry month (for some of us much more so than others, and I’m not complaining about anything but the rain here!).