Thursday, January 19, 2017

in my mother's shoes

I never would have thought I could go.  I might not have thought I would have ever wanted to go.

But I did.  The horror of Trump and the opportunity of a bus ticket.

And I'm a catastrophizer you know.  So I plan.  I make lists.  I gather together.  I get back up ready.

There are more important things than signs, but I knew fairly early on what my signs would be.


Hopefully there will be a good one of me and that beet and I'll print it and send it to Tom Robbins!

Shoes (like food) are far more important than signs.  But I didn't have any obvious shoe choices.  I walk a lot, I'm on my feet a lot, but I have muck boots and riding boots and town boots and shoes I wear in the house, and I have alternatives to all of those, and probably not a day goes by that I don't change shoes two or three times.  I've got no boots suitable for walking and standing for hours that don't have holes.  What shoes would I wear?

I have an old pair of running shoes husband bought me shortly after we were married (25 years ago) that are still good.  I thought about those.  But I decided to look in one of the "shoe boxes".  Because when you are poor, when you buy shoes primarily at Salvation Army, you tend to hoard anything that might prove to be useful even if you don't need them right now.  And in that box full of shoes was a pair that had been my mother's.  Rockports.  With her name printed on them so they were almost assuredly her very last shoes.  She likely never actually walked in them.  I'd kept them because they were good shoes and they fit, but I'd never worn them.

So I wore them one whole and entire day to make sure, and yes, they were good.  My WMW shoes.

And it is so . . . comforting . . . so radical . . . so entirely and totally and awesomely appropriate that I walk in the Women's March on Washington, with my daughters, in my mother's shoes.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Why do without what everyone else has?

And so we come up against a bitter cold weekend.  Maybe the lowest of the lows will abate somewhat but we're looking at single digits, and highs in the 20s.

And when it is this cold, the house is somewhat cold, period.  But for us it isn't that our heat pump is out there running non-stop and can't keep up, it is that the bedroom stays below 60, often nearing 50, and in the mornings often below and sometimes well below.  It is 55 right now in the bedroom.  It hasn't been above 27 outside all day, but at least it is still. 

And I was thinking about why we don't have central heat.  One reason is that it is too easy to use, nearly impossible to resist.  Just a flick of that thermostat and, ease, even if you don't know where the money is going to come from to pay for it.  Worry about that when the bill comes; it'll be warmer then.  That sort of ease gets one out of touch with what it means to be warm.  Just like buying meat at the grocery store gets one out of touch with what it means to eat meat.  Just like buying veggies at the grocery store gets one out of touch with what it means to eat veggies.

Another is money, just the fact of needing less of it, and of the outgo coming before the consumption instead of after (one of the cruel tricks of credit).  Which then flows right directly into having a reduced impact on the earth.  There is essentially zero carbon footprint from us staying warm since there is no difference in the carbon emissions of our wood burned or left to rot on the forest floor.  The insouciance, the disdain, the downright disregard of fellow humans and the earth in staying warm and traveling all over creation continue to shock me.

Another is health although that can teeter, if you make a mistake.  Husband laid a tree down this afternoon, a standing dead oak.  Nothing to it.  Except it hung, just barely, there free of the stump, leaning, two scraggly limbs in the tops of two scraggly trees.  But as husband was looking for an oak 2-by to get the log off the stump (and hoping the shock and vibration from that would free the fall), when boom, it fell on its own.  We didn't make a mistake.  We all know what it is to cut a tree, we all know the power of a tree falling, we don't do enough of it that we tend to get complacent either.  So when we are cutting a tree, no one goes near it until we know it is down.  But it is health for the good too -- good hard work for the muscles and bones and mind, bucked, carried to the chopping block, split, carried in.

In the end, it is warm.  Our biggest advantage is being able to get near the stoves and get really, truly warm.  Anytime we want to.  Unless we forget to feed the stoves.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

water conservation fin

Perhaps the funniest thing about water conservation is that when the water comes back, it takes forever to get used to it.  To flush for goodness sakes.  I was talking to a man older than I am who said he grew up with a good well, but not the strongest well, and his dad was a worry wart anyway and so always worried about the water, and he grew up not flushing every time.  And still doesn't.

So yes, we can flush, and we can wash dishes, and we can use water out of the faucets.

Monday, December 12, 2016

not having, having

I've had my Muck boots (brand) nearly two years.  I've worn them, I swear, every.single.day.  I'm obviously harder on the right leg than the left leg as that boot is separating, the sole from the upper.  It is still amazingly watertight but if that kept up, it was going to come completely apart.

I meant to clean them out my last series of days off but somehow didn't.  For unknown reasons, I came home yesterday for the afternoon and started doing it.  An AMAZING amount of stuff came out of that little crack between the pieces.  I wore other boots yesterday for evening chores (and for rolling hay to our herd).  And last night they got glued back together.  We're trying E6000 instead of Shoe Goo.  We'll see.  They are tied with baling twine and clamped with bar clamps.

And it is raining.

Guess who is going to have wet feet today?

Isn't that just funny?

There is nothing like wet feet to make you appreciate your Muck boots.  And nothing like not having enough water to make you appreciate having water (rain).  And nothing like not having much hot water to make you appreciate having plenty of hot water.  There is nothing like not having to make you appreciate having.

Now, if you are keeping score, I had a pair of "northern" (or something) lace up insulated rubber boots that we got at the second hand store that were THE BEST and I wore them milking for years.  Then I had wet feet for awhile as I felt I couldn't afford new rubber boots and evidently no one with good ones died and donated them to the Haven.  Finally I got a pair of whatever brand my local feed store carried, knock offs of Mucks.  They were great, lasted good about a year and limped through another year I think.  Then the husband got me this pair of Mucks two Christmases ago.  LOVE.  So I have to say, I think the Mucks are worth it, particularly the heavy duty Mucks.  And dry feet are worth it too.  Hopefully we can limp these along until we get enough money because for right now wet feet come second to hay and tires for the truck.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

how to think

It is a long, complicated thought and I'm not sure I've got all of it but here goes.  It started with overhearing the sentence:  "That's the way to take care of his education."  And I wondered what they thought of as his "education".  Most likely, a couple years of college.  Do you know what you learn in the first two years of college?  Well, it can be a great deal, or it can be nothing at all, and the grades could still be the same.  It's English and hopefully Literature and Math and hopefully Biology and hopefully some Art History and maybe some History where you actually consider multiple perspectives but more likely than any of those "hopefullies" it is just high school with no curfew.  Do kids still have curfews? I don't actually know.

I remember talks when I was a kid about what a real Liberal Arts Education was all about, and why it was so valuable, even tho they weren't suggesting anyone actually go get one, not without planning on law school afterward anyway. Because jobs had become the real Messiah, to the real God named Money.  Not knowledge, not skills, not usefulness, not even wealth if measured by anything other than money.  And if you were gonna be a lawyer anyway, you were gonna turn out to be a miserable bastard and so even then a Liberal Arts education wouldn't really serve you.

People may lament "the kids these days" but I don't find a lot of people older or younger actually much able to think.  They are bright enough but there is no reality in which they live.  Fake news?  Real news?  How do you tell the difference?  Dang people, Jade Helm didn't SMELL to you?  You really bought that Obama was going to declare martial law and cancel the election?  You think you can put up a roof but don't know what a purlin is, or how to think about weight load?  You believe raw chocolate is a thing?

I have a college education and I got it when I wasn't 18 and so in a lot of ways I think I paid more attention to it.  I loved comp and lit.  I took way upper level electives, like Old Testament Criticism, because I was interested in it.  Just stuff.  After college, after job and marriage, husband and I decided to build our own house, and figuring that out (sometimes through years of delays because, well, because we hadn't figured it out yet) led us to thinking on an entirely different level.  Things within that too, like plumbing.  Plumbing is not difficult, and unlike electricity, it ain't gonna kill you.  We'd planned the house so all the water ran on the berm side of the basement, but actually putting it up, staring at it, thinking it through, was a whole different ballgame.  We actually put it all up once, and doing that allowed us to re-visualize it and come up with a much more simple plan so we took it down and did it again.

That's critical thinking and flexible thinking.  And those are skills.  And nothing taught in schools can actually teach skills.

But growing potatoes can.  Cooking (actual real cooking, not opening and reheating, and not delivered with instructions but what is in the house and what can I make from it cooking) can.

You put corn seed in the ground and when it sprouts, the crows come and eat it all.  The turkeys scratch it up.  The deer come and graze.  The wind comes and blows it down.  The crows come again for milk stage corn.  And the raccoons show up the day it is ripe.  That is, if the bears didn't come the night before.  And here is the kicker, if you don't solve every one of these problems in one way or another (like figuring an alternative food source), you are hungry.  Nobody is hungry anymore.  I mean, not really.  Thankfully.  But figuring all those puzzles and problems out, and anticipating what else and preventing, that's critical and flexible thinking.

What happens these days, without threat of real hunger, is anxiety.  It is like, when there is nothing real to be afraid of, you are afraid of everything in the nothingness.

So I was thinking of education, and how Voltaire really is important, how I love Shakespeare plays, how I love that my kids have studied languages.  But I was also thinking about how, without knowing how to grow potatoes or fix the brakes on the car, people don't actually know how to think.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

water conservation in stages

I suppose many might think of water conservation as saving the mussels.  That is important.  I'm onto people all the time about the importance of riparian borders.  But for us it just means using less water.

We lived through the drought, I forget now which years that was but it was bad with that second year just nobody having any hay and our spring completely stopped running at all by the end.  This one started during the normal dry time of September/October.  Boy the leaves really hung on this year, never bright but beautifully muted and still falling in todays rather harsh wind. I don't ever remember having this sort of wild fires before though, like California except not so many houses threatened, and smoke in the air to where you can't even see the mountains.  But so far the springs have not stopped running, just slowed down.

For a good while we were on what I'll call level one water conservation:  when it's yellow, let it mellow.  And when we can, bathe in the creek (and until it was cold, most of the time we "can").  But eventually with no rain two things happened:  it got too cold to bathe in the creek and the water level went down in the cistern.  Not that we were bathing, but we were still flushing when it was brown, and using it for animal water.  And washing clothes only after checking that the cistern was full. 

So at that point we started hauling water up from the creek.  The front creek.  The one that runs by people, and some questionable environmental hazards associated with those people, before it gets here.  So we didn't want to put it in the cistern and use it from there.  We'd done that in the last drought, but from a different creek that doesn't run by people.  But we don't have that pumped fixed up just now.  We could get it fixed up, but it isn't just now.  And the back creek is clean but no good way to get it up here.  The front creek, we can park the truck on the bridge and fill barrels in short order.  So there are four small barrels of water about half full on our porch.  That's maybe 70 gallons of water total out there, but we actually haul maybe about 50 about once a week.

That water is used to water rabbits and chickens and cats and dogs, and to wash dishes.  And dish rinse water (mostly) is caught in a pot to use for flush water, and also hand washing water is caught and saved for that.  It is still flushed on the basis of, when it's yellow, let it mellow.  I've been taking bulk clothes in about once a week and washing in town, bringing home to hang to dry.  One washer full (albeit one of the bigger ones).  We could use the creek water to wash clothes but seeing as how it would take me a couple hours to help with that here, or a half hour in town, and I'm using that time to ride horses, I'm good with that.  With just that much more conservation, the cistern has filled back up, and sometimes we can catch a quick shower, quickly wash the hair.  It is amazing how clean you can stay with spit baths except for hair.

Modern people bathe way too much, and we already didn't bathe that much.  I remember one time being on some crunchy woman's blog (wonder if she's still blogging?  Most homesteading books are about people who fail doing it, and most people who pretend to be concerned about the environment find that when they are inconvenienced, they aren't actually that concerned) and her doing a survey about how many times people showered -- a DAY.  How many times A DAY.  And she was all about recycle this and that, buy this green thing or that green thing.  My sensibilities were quite frankly shocked that people showered every single day even, much less multiple times per day.  When we have plenty of water, unless something stark happens to us, I'm sure we only bathe twice a week each.  So once a week doesn't seem like a big deal to us.  We just try to spread it out, and we check the cistern first, and we catch the water and use it to flush.


At the same time, I've laughed at the move to water saving toilets.  Using less water day to day when not in a drought means nothing here.  If we have plenty of water, we have plenty of water.  Our use of it simply slows its journey to the sea.  It isn't used up.  We aren't using an aquifer down.  It isn't being processed and purified and poisoned and pumped.  Not here.

The drought could certainly still get worse.  I sorely hope that it doesn't.  But you know in changing conditions, you change your behavior.  You deal.

It is supposed to rain a little tiny bit this morning, Thanksgiving.  I hope it is enough to put the fires out.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

literal bucket list

There are things that everyone should do in their lives.

Clean their own toilets is one.

Some would say travel, and that is not a bad idea IF, on the occasions you travel, you get outside of your own little bubble and actually experience the place.  Go to the post office, for instance.  Eat, alone, at a local dive without speaking the language.  Tourist traps and guided tours do not count as traveling.  Gawking at a convenience store taking photos of the locals to make fun of them doesn't either (that sort of behavior means all your "traveling" hasn't done a damn thing for ya).  Me wandering around downtown Manhattan at 16 probably does.  Try ordering a damn ham sandwich at some Jewish deli with a hillbilly accent.  I think I did get the orange juice.  Yankees don't know what "light bread" is.  They are, however, willing to introduce the underaged to Lambrusco at Mama Leone's.  Well, they were before they closed down.  In Mexico City, you eat where you order whatever it is you order because at least you recognize the word, "pollo", and you watch the locals stand around the tables of condiments and join in except avoid the hot sauce.  In Hawaii, you are the only girl who joins the group renting mopeds with which to "go" where ever the road leads.  But none of that will ever trump knowing how to be home.

I always say, grow food.  There is a lot more to it, but deep down I suppose I really think that if you grow a tomato this year, next year you will add basil and before you know it you've got potatoes and cabbage and a fruit tree.  But it is far more than that.  If you are old and infirm, a tomato might be enough.  But if you give a shit about the earth or your health, you have to grow food.  And you have to cook that food and eat that food and pass those skills on.

One of the things that, perhaps a body doesn't have to do but it is really a good, joyful, grounding, celebratory, mindful experience is a yearly creek bath.  We probably took a few when we first bought this place (nearing 30 years ago now) because we didn't have a water system yet.  We had the most of them during the years of drought (2004-2008) we had when we were on severe water restrictions and even hauled water routinely to our cistern just to keep the dishes washed.  But, oh, doing it . . . !   A once a year reminder of running water, of heated water, is a good reminder.

And doing it this late in the fall!  I do remember that the very last time we hauled water to the cistern was in December, but we were likely hauling enough by that time that we weren't much engaged in creek baths, just spit baths and shared baths and short baths.  But it is SO beautiful.  Creek is full of leaves.  Only in a few places were there small clear patches.  I decided to try the closest one instead of the bigger one or the deeper one.  Sun, golden leaves, warm.  I stepped over a log, placed my towel on it, took off my housecoat, stepped out of my shoes and onto the rocks.  They wobbled beneath my  weight, threatening my ankles.  The water was sharply cold.  Deep breath.  Walk on and decide where to stand.  Take the baby shampoo out of the empty ice cream bucket and fill the bucket with water.  I tilt my head way back and pour.  Just touching my hair and scalp, and feet, it isn't too bad.  Until I quit leaning back and the water from my head and hair touches my back.   Woohoo.  Alrighty.  Let's add some baby shampoo and do it again.  Woohoooer.  And again and again.  Eventually declaring my hair to be clean and doing a once over of my body and then laughing like a maniac looking around at the sun shining into the understory of the woods and carefully stepping on rocks back up to the log and the towel and the terry housecoat.

I brought socks, actually, in the pocket of that housecoat, and dried my feet and put them on then into my shoes.  I check on the horse's water barrel and the mushrooms (all amanitas I do believe) and make my way back up, past the bull making funny breathing noises, past the bones of horses past, past the chicken coop with a view, to our little mushroom rising up out of the forest house, today still filled with Halloween candy.

Now it is time for sleep.  I should comb my hair out and braid it so it tangles less.  Yet I like this wild, free, still slightly cool feeling down my back, I look forward to the splay of hair across the pillows, to it getting caught under the husband's arm and pulling in our sleep.  I will deal with the tangles tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2016

the HONEY chronicles

 full super

 first frame

 cutting the caps
 caps from 20 frames

 draining the honey from the caps

 filling the jars
nearly five gallons
it was a good year
we bought that extractor before we had kids
and it all makes me smile
good corn
good potatoes
good honey
a good productive fun fulfilling day

Thursday, October 13, 2016

baited breath, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis

A nearly full moon hung in the light blue evening sky.  I could not see the mountain in the background, just the trees of the riparian border of the big back creek beginning to turn, and the sky, and the gentle sway of the holler that runs on up to that hidden mountain, the mountain that feeds the creek, the creek that makes the holler, and me in it.

This is his last dose of medicine.  If you missed the beginning of this story, it is here. He'd gotten his teeth floated and had a somewhat abnormal response to the sedative.  The next day we found him down and unable to get up, his feet uphill.  After a long struggle and me being sure he was dead, he got up and seemed, actually, pretty darn normal.  But not quite.  Just a little off-ness.  It somewhat came and went but was there.

I was thinking EPM.  It was now one week after he went down.  I called the vet and we talked.  He was thinking EPM too.  If you don't know EPM, it is a protozoal thing that, it would seem, most horses are exposed to (or at least a LOT of horses are exposed to) and for most it is dispatched by their immune systems.  However, when it isn't, there are central nervous system symptoms.  Like his being off balance in his hind end.  I described his "not quite right" "just a little off-ness" as being "canted" -- he was canted to the right; standing with his right hind under him and his left hind out to the side a bit.  If he got badly off balance, his hind end circled to the right, where the weight was going.

We listed and discussed options.  There aren't really good, clear ones.  No definitive test (even a spinal tap isn't really a good test for this).  No obviously hugely effective treatment.  Expensive treatments, treatments with high rates of relapse.  We basically looked at ReBalance, the oldest and cheapest treatment (per month) but one that requires 4 to 8 months, really.  It's a sulfa and a pyrethric.  Marquis, most used now, VERY expensive, and often recommended that to be effective it be given at twice the dose and my horse is already twice the horse so you can figure that out pretty quickly.  BayCox, not approved in the US, drug used not approved for horses, and now, sadly, being used in the high end racing and dressage industry as "preventative"--which really means they are doing their damndest to create a drug resistant protozoa.  It's drug (toltrazuril) and the one in Marquis (ponazuril) are similar antibiotics (triazine group) (and if you look up triazines you will actually find them under herbicides).  And Oroquin 10, a 10 day treatment now in clinical trials that features a former cow wormer that seems to boost the equine immune system and a common anticoccicial.  Our vet, knowing we're poor humble hillbillies, recommended the ReBalance.  "We've been using it a long time.  Lots of horses respond in a month."  But from the research, lots of horses relapse if treatment isn't continued too.

So, admittedly without knowing relapse rates, after much research and soul searching, we decided to order the compounded form of Oraquin, levamisole and decoquinate, supplement vitamin E, bute for a bit for inflamation.  By the time this was started, it was two weeks from the initial episode.

And now, today, is his last dose of medicine.  He's on 5000 IU of vitamin E which I will continue until I decide to start cutting it down, and for now, still some bute that will likely quit after tomorrow or the next day.

After his down episode, he was canted, as I said; canted right.  As soon as we ordered the medicine, he was square.  And he stayed square until day 3 of the medicine, when he canted left.  Just a bit at first, and never as bad as the Friday he'd circled just standing, before I'd called the vet.  But he'd stayed canted left from day three through, well, today even, although lessening every day I think.  Almost square. 

And now we hold our breath.

UPDATE 10/20/16:  He continues to do well.  Bute discontinued, turmeric (1TBS BID) added (I should have researched that and added it earlier).  Also still on 5K IU vitamin E/day.  He's been in a separate flatter field with a couple goats and a donkey since the down episode -- away from the little mare who likes to move his feet.  Put her in with him today.

UPDATE 10/28/16  Inky was too much for him.  Last Saturday he was canted right and circling again.  He'll likely be in that pasture without her for the rest of the winter.  Will complicate hay some.  Having looked at everything again, I have so far decided against re-treatment.  We upped his tumeric and doubled his E.  He's improving.  Still canted but not circling, and cantered to his hay today.

UPDATE 11/22/16  Straight and has been most of the month.  Also, lively in demeanor.  He is still on 10,000 IU Vit E/day, and 4 TBS turmeric/day.  Will likely begin reducing Vit E in December.  Now adding beet pulp to rations to increase caloric content again as body condition isn't bad but I'd like it better.  Tomorrow plan to start hand walking hills for additional exercise.  Why did I decide against additional treatment?  There are FDA approved treatments that are all expensive and long but no double blind studies.  There seems to be about an 80% response rate to treatment, and about a 60% relapse rate.  Theories include that this is something that the immune system takes care of . . . or doesn't, and that "treatments" just hold it in check until that happens, or doesn't.  So turmeric to control/reduce inflammation (which is what seems to cause symptoms), and Vit. E to support the CNS, reduce stress (flat field, no pushy mare to deal with, water not in rocky creek), and time to heal.  Hopeful but also resigned.  My usual life stance I think.

Friday, September 30, 2016

these flowers



These flowers.  Every fall when they come I remember.  I remember the first time we stepped foot on this place.  1989.  This time of year.  The fields had not been mown for a year or two.  And these asters were every.where.

Oh we were so young.  Married only two months.  The creeks, I still remember how they flowed then, the twists, turns, pools, riffles.  The road before we changed it.  The dreams the hopes the plans.  Lawd we had balls with what all we thought we could do.  And we did a good bit of it too.

And changed some of it and failed at some of it and changed more of it.  Learned.  Grew.  Withered.  Forgot.  Changed.  What is that chant?  "She changes everything she touches and everything she touches changes."  Land, time, nature, life, relationships do that.

And yet there is a core.  A kernel.  The piece of sand at the center of the pearl.

And these flowers remind me of that.

Friday, September 23, 2016

when Clyde went down

I so thought he was dead.  And of course he still might be.  And of course one day he will be, as will I.

I so thought he was dead, even the very moment that the husband called me, working at the other barn, and said, "Clyde is down and can't get up."  I went from standing to kneeling in that barn's isle, trying to catch my breath.  I've been through this before.  Duke is down and can't get up:  But he'd been unwell, and unwilling to eat so it was not a surprise.  Bill is down and can't get up:  He went down suddenly, had broken his leg, but the ground was so slick then, and a slip and a torque did that.  Rose didn't go down but was thoroughly wet and shaking when we found her, her stomach burst.  And after all that, getting Clyde at all was an act of bravery, derring do.

And he just saw the vet yesterday?  Got his teeth floated and a few vaccinations?  And today he is down and can't get up? 

And there is nothing we know of wrong?

I so thought he was dead.  To see him struggle.  To see him give up.  To see him close his eyes against the glare of the sun though we were trying to shade him as best we could.  We got a tarp and stood, each one of us at a corner, holding it over him, burning in the sun ourselves, shading and sometimes fanning him.

His feet were uphill and there is no possibility of him standing from that.  So we first tried to slide him around.  Well, we couldn't budge that big horse, not an inch, not without a tractor or something.  Us trying to do that, however, made him try to get up again and in doing that he got to a more directly uphill position and from there I knew I could flip him.  We tied ropes on both bottom feet and Ro and I pulled.  When he was up a little, the other guys pushed from uphill.  He flipped.

He tried to stand a few times, once making it to a sitting position and staying there a little bit but being unable to get up.  I gave up.  After that I just tried to keep him still, tried to get him to NOT try to get up.  We offered water and he tried to drink a little and then seemed to give up on that too.  We'd dribble some in his mouth now and then.  When a breeze would blow, we'd try to make sure it got under the tarp to cool him off.  I became concerned about dehydration -- maybe that was the whole thing, the creek being low from this dry spell, but I couldn't make him drink.  We waited for the vet to get here and I wondered what in the heck she could possibly do when she did.

I reached down to uncrumple his bottom ear that had gotten into a bad position.  I rubbed his TMJ to try to relax him.  I imagined life without him; without him we have enough horse feed to last us a year, and that thought made me tear up.  I imagined just sitting down beside him and never getting up, but I know in truth I'd just go on about life as though nothing had happened and all the changes, all the heartache, would be inside, invisible.  His hide, his tail, his great broad blazed forehead, his unmatched eyes, his white spotted underbelly and all those interesting whirls.

My family stood there with that horse, holding that tarp, burning in the sun.  Eventually we brought a gallon of water for the humans to drink and passed it around.  And we just stood there, mostly in silence, waiting.  Two hours was like two years, or twenty.

And then, almost slowly, he decided to give it a try.  I had discouraged several of his attempts but there was something about this.  I looked at him and said, "You really want to do this?  Don't get yourself in a worse position."  And the family slid the tarp away, and I pulled on the halter to encourage, and people got behind him to push to help him get up on his keel. 

And then, miraculously, he stood.

And we all held our breath.  Please don't fall.  And I called for the bucket of water and he drank it.  And a boy took off for the creek to get another gallon in the now empty jug.  We had another gallon jug so we emptied it into the bucket and another boy took off to the creek to fill that one while the horse drank it down and looked for more.  We had a half gallon of human water left.  Into the horse's bucket that went, to hell with the humans, we could burn to a crisp and dry into toast.  He drank it.

Then he stood there, still in the sun.  Woozy.  Unwilling to move.  But then, again suddenly yet slowly, he decided he could move, and with a steadying from the halter, he took maybe 10 steps.  Toward the shade.  Then he pooped.  Well damn that is good.  I called the vet's office to tell them he was up.  She was on her way.  Husband asked if I still had her coming.  Damn right I do.  As much as I feel that we don't have the money to do this, he is more important than that.  And gradually, gradually, he and I moved toward the shade.

This whole time the Inky horse, the small in-your-pocket curious bully but sweet horse, has been participating in the process, coming, sniffing, nosing, sometimes running off and nickering for him.  And the honorary Belgian horse of our tribe, who is really an off color Guernsey billy goat, ambled around near us the whole time.  After Clyde got up, Inky had to be haltered so she wouldn't bother Clyde because she wanted to move him.   The cows and the other goats joined us shortly.  The ducks are nearby, the chickens all around us (and trying to scratch through his poop which I was trying to protect in case the vet wanted to see it), my whole clan standing there with our horse on the hillside.  He is standing up.  Sick but standing.  He's pooped twice now, and peed.  Periodically he wants to pick grass, between woozy spells.  All systems are working.  All are here, waiting.

only one we can get off a phone so far!
does this phone have a signal so I can call the vet?

Finally the vet gets here.  Clyde has a good bit of fever (103).  She didn't report any other findings, listening to his heart, lungs, guts.  She gives him some Banamine and an antibiotic and takes blood for a CBC just to try to see what that might indicate, if there is an infection or an underlying kidney or liver issue.  We offer him water every few minutes.  We take Inky and put her in a different field which doesn't make either of them happy but keeps her from pushing him down which is what I'm afraid of.  He moves enough to get near that field.  In a couple of hours, I offer him partial dinner.  He eats with gusto.

As Mack says, horses who are going down don't usually want to eat.  We checked him about every hour until we went to bed, and when I heard Rowan get up for work the next morning I knew the first thing she'd do would be to walk down and check on him.  When I went down his temp was normal.  I still gave him a gram of bute since I figure at the very least his muscles would be sore from the ordeal.  He'll get that for a few days.

His blood work came back completely normal.  He seems completely normal.

One thing I know is that courage is not really staying with the dying, even though walking that road is hard.  It is just duty: you cannot not do it; to not do it is cowardice or cruelty.  What is hard is walking that road and then choosing to walk it again, anyway, knowing the loss and the inevitability of that loss. I also know how easy it is when good things happen (like when that horse came to me) to think, "Oh, this is exactly what I need," and how hard it is, when hard things happen, to think "Oh, this is exactly what I need."  And yet it is exactly the same amount true both ways. If we are open. If we can see past the surface.  When stuff like this happens, if you are not a coward (or medicated), you just keep going, changed in ways you don't even know about:  You become crueler or kinder, more scared or more brave, more compassionate or more self-absorbed.

I am still awfully glad he's alive.

When I took his dinner down to him that first night, I laid myself down in the field as he ate and looked up at the darkening sky.  I watched as the trees bordering that sky turned from green to black and thought about not being separate and realized my arms were firmly crossed over my belly but he was lapping up his slobbery supper and the stars were coming out.

Friday, August 26, 2016

thoughts on interdependence

I was talking with a woman, a woman somewhere around my contemporary, who was talking about when she and her husband would buy 10 acres for her horse and, as she put it, "buy a tractor and do our own hay."  I opined as unobtrusively as I could, "There's a lot to hay."  She responded, "I know, but I don't like to be dependent on other people."

That sort of an argument, or at least an argument with dependence/independence as the dichotomy, is often used against homesteading.  In general, people homesteading like a good measure of "independence".  And in general, people too lazy to homestead (ok, there may be some other reason) love to give it the all or nothing treatment (bifurcation logical fallacy):  You can't be totally independent so why try at all.

It might look to you like I was doing that to her, but it is different.  "Look, you pay someone for hay (or to do your hay), or you pay someone to work on your tractor, and if your bailer tears up during hay season, no one has the time to fix it until after hay season anyway."  Do you see?  You are not "independent" no matter what.

People often want to be off the grid.  And it isn't that I wouldn't ever do that.  But if there is power available, and if you use as little as alternatives can supply, then there isn't a problem being on the grid.  If you do away with heat (and I don't even have to mention doing away with cool, right?) on the grid, and clothes dryers, well, that's a long way all by itself.  But it is a boon to be able to heat up a cool chick with a heating pad or a light bulb when it is a time of the year that the stove isn't burning.

Really, it is about skills.  And it is about having skills and about appreciating the skills in others.  Because that is another thing, someone told me the other day that there was little to no societal contribution to being a horseman (actually, they said shit shovel-er) or luthier (another word they didn't actually know).   And I had to laugh.  This is a person who has to hire someone to plunge her toilet.  Could this person grow a potato?  Can this person COOK a potato?  Can this person cook corn bread, much less grow then process the corn for that?

And it is also about community.  Tim helps us with cars; we help him with homeschooling.  Dowd helped us 25 years ago; we help him now.  I might think Bill is completely insane with his pyramids, but I'm going to try to help him breed his goats. Mike knows his insecurity lights irritate the fart out of me but he'll let me use his back pasture to isolate off goats to control breeding.

We are all dependent.  That doesn't mean we should wallow in dependence.  We should, it seems to me, seek to add value, to always hope the other person in the exchange feels like they got the best out of the deal, because when you have an exchange and both of you feel like you got the best out of the deal, that's what win-win is.

And in the downright end, like everything else, it comes down to values.  What is important -- status or service?  Appearing to be big and important?  Appearances?  Experiencing something out there?  Or actually being important to some one?  Reality?  Experiencing the here and now intimately?

There are lots of reasons to be independent.  It is nice to be able to skate by a hard spot when you have to on your own, certainly.  But truly, the more independent you are, the more skilled you are, the more useful you are, the more of service you can be.  And real leadership isn't bossing, it is being the most of service.