Thursday, February 27, 2014

Footnote to Vet School Visits

Many thanks for the beef stroganoff recipe and all the barbecuing tips, but I won't be needing them any time soon.

Tommy at one week of age in his stall.

Mack at the breakfast bar.

I got both when they were only a few days old.  Bottle fed them.  Fawned over them. Stayed in a sleeping bag by Mack's side when he had pneumonia. 

Who found me in the pasture last year when I'd knocked myself out cold with that infernal trailer tote?

Tommy, that's who.

The boys are not malicious.  But, they are animals who can be dangerous when they emote!  I have to be the smarter one and respect their power.  I'm working on it.  To me, I still imagine them as  the 50 lb babies I cradled in my arms.  

Now, horses are a different matter.  A wise man once remarked that horses only ever have two thoughts running through their minds:  how to hurt you or how to hurt themselves.  So true.

Black Angus tried to separate my arm and head from my body during a botched trailer loading incident.  Torn shoulder muscles and double herniated discs in my neck, thanks buddy!

Axel has only thrown me twice, but one of those times, my husband watched me get planted head first.  That was fun.

Opal and Indie took off at a gallop with me on a sled behind them.  They took out four fence posts before stopping.  Broke fingers and lost two layers of dermis from the wreck.

Oh, there's more, but need I continue?  My point is that horses are inherently more dangerous than oxen.  My nutty friend in Oklahoma told me today of a hiatal hernia (diaphragm tear) she suffered due to a horse crushing her.  Thanks for helping prove my point, Gina. 

Members of the jury, is this the face of a killer?

Besides, I have the best team of guardian angels working for me.  They specialize in tough love.  They allow me to get hurt only enough to teach me a lesson, not permanently maim me. 

Due to the misaligning of cosmic forces over the past half year, my metabolism has been off, causing me to put on a layer of insulation suited for an Eskimo.  Attempts have been made to blame it on stress, menopause, lack of sleep, too much sleep, weird work hours...the true culprit is my gluttony in cahoots with pesto pasta.  A side effect of this has been the development of a part of my anatomy I'd never possessed before:  a bosom.

This superfluous mass therefore bore the brunt of Tommy's squish and drag, thereby saving important internal organs.  See what would have happened if I'd taken the advice to get implants?...

...I'd be sporting 1980s shoulder pads right now.  My vigilant guardian angels spared me that disaster.  Now, if they could do something about my appetite...last Summer, I felt like a rabbit darting through the fields.  This winter, it's a moose crashing through the woods.

Last week, a client paid me a compliment.  He said I was no longer 'all corners', that I looked cuddly now.  He meant well, but now I'm stuck with this hilarious mental image of myself:  a huge roll of Charmin toilet paper with my yoga pants clad legs sticking out the bottom.

Don't squeeze the Charmin this week, it's bruised!

On to serious matters...

I researched designs for cattle trailers. 

Two 8' gates with some sort of hook and pin system would create two separate box stalls within the trailer.  Voila!

Our Day at the Vet Schools

It was perfect in my day planner.  Wednesday morning take Cole for a quick recheck at Tuskegee University and in the afternoon, take the oxen to Auburn University Vet School.  Sprinkle through the day and evening pet sitting and cleaning jobs. A walk in the park.

Murphy decided to tag along with his stupid Law.

Tuesday evening, I ended going back at work, therefore, the horse trailer was not emptied of all the farm implements and sundries.  Instead, I chose to do it while it was raining cats and dogs early Wednesday morning.  The rain, of course, stopped after I was soaked from the three hours of fiddling with the trailer and feeding chores.

My trailer enclosure is on a slight downhill in the field.  My truck struggled to get it out of the muck.  Not fun to fishtail a 38' trailer in a tight space!

I do love that 14 year old truck.  Ford 7.3 Liter F-350's RULE!

No vehicle remains unscathed if left in the pasture.

Here I am trying to back it through the narrow gate to hide the trailer in my backyard until our afternoon appointment.  Tommy blocked my view of the gate posts, popped the screen out with his tongue and doodled on the paint with his horns.  Two minutes, people!  Mr. Mayhem. 

In spite of Murphy's interference, we arrived on time at Tuskegee's Small Animal Clinic.  During my two hour wait, I repeatedly asked the receptionist if I was next.  When my patience walked out the door, I followed, but not before a final plead. The truth came out:  Cole's orthopedic surgeon wasn't even in the building, he was conducting interviews all morning, this wasn't a last minute development.  She'd been trying to contact him to see if he could come over during a break...she was trying to cover for herself because she'd made a mistake giving me an bad appointment last week.  Murphy, you've surpassed yourself! 

The good doctor did call me later on and asked me to come by his house in the evening to evaluate Cole.  A free house call certainly makes up for wasted time.

Cole and I didn't get our leisurely lunch, we sped off for pet sitting and cleaning duties.  We careened into the yard with little time to load the oxen up for their vet school visit.

Murphy must have been on his break because the boys loaded with no problems.  But, that was the end of the good luck.  As soon as I clipped the chain to Mack's collar, he started to dance a jig.  The trailer is 8' wide, they're at least 9' long. To pivot on their slide bar, they have to compress themselves.  With my escape route blocked by 3000 lbs having a temper tantrum, I went to hide in the front of the trailer behind Tommy.  Mack's crashing around upset Tommy (my sensitive child) and he started to dance. 

I joined the hoedown to stay clear of them.  This was the first time the boys truly scared me.  I'd opened the front window behind Tommy, but the screen was jammed. My plan was to bail out head first!  I turned my back for a second to use both hands and that's when he got me.  He smeared me like peanut butter along the wall with his rump. It wasn't quick either.  Something was acting like a big speed bump:  my rib cage and my head.  With zero air in my lungs and my ribs compressed flat, I used my split second of clarity to contemplate how ignominious this death would be.  Dr. P wasn't home, so by the time anyone would find me, I'd be 2" thick under 4" of manure.  When Tommy finished his pivot, I saw the path out the back was clear and I took it. 

I went back to the house to change my underwear and get sweet feed to calm them while I cranked up the tail gate.  The crank is in the worst place:  in the middle of the trailer, by Mack's horns.  Moving it is now a priority.

We lumbered into the Auburn's Large Animal Clinic only 15 minutes late.  They didn't mind as they had other emergencies to tend.  We had to wait over an hour, but I absolutely didn't care at this point.

The oxen received their vaccinations and rabies shots while strapped down to the tilt table.  We only have 10-15 minutes to work on their feet before it becomes too dangerous for internal organ damage.
Dr. Edmundson found a piece of metal embedded in Tommy's sole.  It had to be dug out and it was a painful process.  Poor monkey.
Otherwise, their fecal samples showed no worms and their feet look great, so we won't need to repeat this exercise for another 6 months.
By the time I got home, Dr .P was back and he came to help me unload.  The boys' had slid the interior latch shut on the side door, so I had to once again climb over the tailgate.  I should take yoga classes.  As I was being hoisted and pushed up, the comment was made that I was getting too old for this.  I couldn't agree more.
Cole and I swung by the orthopedist's house on our way back to work.  Not so good news:  in spite of the knee joint being tight, the patella has gone lateral.  No idea what's to be done about it, but he was clear as to what shouldn't happen... no more one mile walks per day for the next few weeks.  Back to Square One.  And no talk of taking him trail running in May either.  Kick a girl when she's been pummeled and crapped on, will ya?
No Smith duo road trips for a while.
By 11 PM, I was finally having supper in bed.  My jobs were done, Murphy had given it his all and we'd told him where to shove it.
Now, I can enjoy the best vegetable gardening time in Alabama: May.  Cole and I will plan to leave instead during the worst vegetable gardening time:  August.  It all works out in the end! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nocturnal Activities

To help me train for my upcoming 100 mile race, I have been trail running at night.  Like in the wee hours of the morning.  Most people would prefer to run after work, but after a day of manual labor, I'm whooped.  Half a night's sleep and I'm rearing to go. 

Running paraphernalia:  GPS watch, MP3 player, head lantern, another light that fits around my waist, pepper spray, Newton running pack for water, Gerber quick-draw knife and, of course, 'my little friend'. 
The routine consists of getting up around 2 AM and running a minimum of 10 miles before returning home for a shower and a nap.  I try to be back up by 6:30 to tank up on caffeine and feed the animals.  I suppose if pressed, I could do my chores in an hour, but it always takes my at least 1-1/2 hours.  Why turn the best part of my day into work?
#1 throw a bit of hay to the horses, thereby distracting them
#2 run back to the house, sneak prepared alfalfa mash and grain over to the oxen
#3 act like nothing happened, rush back to finish dispensing hay to horses and donkeys
#4 give hay to goats
#5 try to sneak away with a full wheelbarrow of hay. Give to oxen.
#6 hand feed equine mineral mix hidden in alfalfa mash to horses
#7 pick salad for chickens. Feed and change their water, gather eggs. Move coop. Talk to Ruby (Rhode Island Red, quite the chatterbox).
#8 make breakfast for the dogs
#9 be late for work again!

Today might be a rough day.  Instead of stopping around 5 AM, I kept going around and around the farm.  The fog and mist created an ethereal feeling and a dang coyote kept watch over me from the same place 50 yards on the other side of the electric fence.  I surmise it was a female guarding her den because my lights caught those blue eyes on each of the 11 laps.  A little squirrel hunting with Cole added to the mix and I've missed my nap.  Phooey.

Nah, it's going to be a great day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cupid for Hire -- Cheap!

Cupid is outsourcing.

We need funds for our next trail running trip.

Introducing Smith and Associate, Cupiding Services.


Semi-professional and discreet.

The archer is in need of practice, but we did state we were cheap!

I've always despised these lyrics:  "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with".  That's terrible advice!  "The one you're with" should never be second best.  The one you're with is #1!


Numero Uno.

Love thy horse.

One hug can go a long way.

Number One and the other Number One.

My main squeeze.

Happy Valentine's Day from all my valentinos on the farm!

You bet we're celebrating tonight...

Heart shaped buffalo burgers for Cole, Teddy, Jinx and Jamie! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day...Again!

After the fiasco, in Birmingham, two weeks ago involving motorists stranded in their cars, overnighting in schools and malls, wrecks all over the roads -- the state of Alabama declared a state of emergency yesterday due to the forecasted snow.  Statewide.  Indeed, the northern section has been hard hit, again.

But, was it necessary to shut down Auburn University today?

Photo taken this morning in my backyard.  4 inches is what I wish were out there.  The squirrels would not have appreciated my version of the Olympic biathlon!  Disappointingly, the accumulation was more like 4 mm.

Forecast for the next few days calls for plenty of sunshine.  Much needed to dry things out after the deluge of the past two days. Pure muck out in the pastures.  Miserable conditions for the livestock, pouring rain yesterday with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark all day. 

The gang greeting me this past Monday after work.  No "How was your day?", only "Hurry up, put your Wellies on and get us fed".

All the rain has kept us from going on Cole's daily walks.

Cabin fever.

Last night, I returned home from work at 8 PM.  I was feeling smug that I had narrowly missed driving through the sleet.  Mother Nature had the last laugh: 500 lbs of feed in the car needed unloading.

My sympathetic duo chagrined to see me toiling in the sleet.  Never mind what you think they may really have been thinking, leave me my fantasies!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February is a Fickle Girl

Mother Nature has us on a roller coaster ride:  record shattering cold temperatures one week, above average now and another Arctic blast predicted for next week. 

Skiing last weekend to planting cabbages and lettuces this Sunday...

The Brassica harvest from 4 years ago, I'm trying the same varieties again.  This Fall's crop failed in spite of my valiant efforts to keep them covered on cold nights.

With the temperatures hovering above freezing for the past few nights, the windows stay open at night and the doors remain open during the day. Deliver upon me my fresh air.

No chance of getting cold at night with my bed warmers.

The biggest cuddler of them all is back with us for another week.  100 plus pounds of Pyrenees mix keeps the toes warm or cuts the circulation off at the knees, depending on how he stretches out.

Not far from the truth!

Apart from my sanity, a few things were lost on the farm over the weekend.

Bella lost her feathers!  She has a chronic skin condition that can only be kept under control by keeping the legs shorn, clean and salved with antibiotic cream.  I had let her hair grow for a few months hoping the infection wouldn't return.  Bad decision, a big flare-up was concealed under 5 inches of hair on her back leg. 
Bella is a registered Clydesdale from the Budweiser breeding program.  She came to me as a rescue, so I never knew why she had been culled.  She is smallish for their standards and she has black on her front leg that would have disqualified her as a brood mare.  All Budweiser horses have tall white socks. 

From now on, I'll have to be satisfied with watching the Budweiser commercials to see those beautiful flowing feathers.

We're also short 4 chickens from the laying flock.  Told you I'd get rid of them!

As suddenly as they'd begun eating their own eggs, they stopped.  I surmised that the stress from the cold, boredom and crowding may have contributed to the bad behavior.  Was it uncharacteristic leniency or the fact that the freezer is slap full, but they received amnesty.  A trip to a friend's farm was granted rather than a trip to the freezer. 

Safe and secure in a new home where all chickens become pets.  They'd better behave, or I'll dig out my recipe for chicken dumpling soup. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

News on Jordan Smith

This Tuesday morning, my brother reached out for help.  He has been found. 

Thank you to everyone who donated time, energy and compassion.  The bulk of the work was done by my sister (stranded in France) and all her friends in Toronto.  She is, without a doubt, the best sister in the world. 

At this moment, she and my Dad (driving from Florida) are travelling head long into a Winter storm to return to Toronto. 

Hang on Jordan, the cavalry is coming!

The road ahead will be challenging, but better than the one he's been walking.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

From Frostbite to Sunburn

Three days off from work last week due to the massive Winter storm in Auburn, total accumulation of 1".  I needed to get back to work on Friday to get some rest! 

Frustration is mounting as we are all spending so much time and energy searching for my missing brother, Jordan, and he remains AWOL.  To relieve stress, I like to vacuum.  Sick, I know.  After vacuuming under every stick of furniture in the house, under every appliance, in every cupboard, I turned my attention to the ceilings.  With an upholstery attachment, you can suck up all those bothersome little dust bunnies above ceiling fans.  Don't they annoy everyone? 

Still stressed, I washed windows, all the walls, organized closets, tools, tack and horse wares.  I kept the living room carpet covered in blankets to keep us from soiling the freshly steam cleaned carpets. Overkill.

I scared myself when I remembered my great-aunt, Marcelle, who bought a new baby blue velvet couch that no one got to see for over a decade.  The factory plastic cover had never been removed.  She covered that with a cover seen only on special occasions.  That cover was covered by an every day slip. 

I suppose nuts don't fall far from the tree!

Three days filled with angst, productivity and fun adventures in the snow.  A real melee.

I tried to enhance my calm by watching my elephant cam. is one of my newest favorite charities.  It's a pachyderm rescue farm in Tennessee.  They have 14 cameras to capture the animals grazing, sleeping, holding trunks... I am determined to make it up there one weekend to help shovel gargantuan piles of manure (it's something I know that I can do to help!).

Three days spent in my favorite clothes.  Be careful when giving me clothing that is only intended as a joke, because I have zippo sense of style and I'll fall in love with them.

Maxine slippers and my fleece camo PJs (Gina, where did you get these? I need 10 more pairs!). 

Dad bought me a camo hat.  Most hats fit my brain bucket like a thimble on a pumpkin, but this one fits right over my satellite dish ears.  Dad later commented that I looked like an old time football player.

I admit, there is a resemblance!

The hens must have gotten the memo that this weekend the gang of egg-eaters was headed for the freezer.  Aven has begun to fly into my arms when I open the coop door.  As my hands are usually full, she has to beat me about the face with her wings until she can comfortably perch (and poop) on my shoulder. 

A stay of execution has been granted due to cuteness.

Here's another adorable picture.

On Saturday, I had one of those truly satisfying days at work.  I helped a friend put in a vegetable garden at her new house.

Everyone pitched in to till, rake, collect rocks, install landscape fabric and mulch.

We even got four rows of Irish potatoes planted.  What a satisfying day!

Another man's junk is this woman's material for her rock wall!

Biding adieu to another beautiful weekend.

Reason # 437 Why I love to live on the farm:  sunsets are to die for.