By Monday morning, Jack's condition was worsening and his team of vets decided his only hope for survival was surgery. Since admitting him to the hospital, I've kept my cell phone on me at all times and avoided doing any work that would drown out its ring. They call me during surgery: it is a strangulated intestine, a mass had a loop of it in a noose. Not poisonous ferns as I had suspected (I'm still putting up a fence around the dam spillway). Another call: 20' of intestines resected. He did well in recovery. Now all we can do is hope. I miss the days when we had enough time and staff to ride the horses back and forth to a grazing pasture a mile away. I've tinkered with the idea of taking them in pairs to the Boonies, but it would take me half a day to get them there, and half to get back.
I must come up with a plan. I'm currently mulling over installing electric fencing corridor from the barn to the Boonies so I can push the entire herd there in a swoop. Stay tuned. Seeing as I could finally set my phone down, I went back to my bush hogging detail... in the rain. Screw it, I'm sick of the bush hogging getting hijacked by everything else. So what if I looked like a prune after 5 hours in the rain.
Gettin' 'er done.
A little slick on the inclines, but that adds to the fun.
Cleaning off a wet cutter becomes a full contact sport.
All in a day's work.
Actually made it home with an hour of daylight to spare.
Time for some rejuvenation and weed pulling.
Stopping to smell the roses.
And snack, never forget to snack.
Final update comes in around 8 PM from the vet school: Jack is doing fair, no better, no worse. Hang in there, Little Buddy, I'm working on a project to make life a little more exciting when you get home.
Frustrated to no end that I can't get my work done for all the other work heaped in my bucket, Saturday I snapped. I hopped on the tractor after feeding the horses and told myself I wasn't getting off until I'd made a significant dent in my bush hogging to do list.
Feeling victorious, Sunday morning I'm ready to seize the day. Watch me finish my bush hogging list today.
How plans can change. Adjanie and Cristian tag team barn chores on Sunday mornings. I get some dire news on Jack.
This is not looking good for the home team. I'd checked on all of them at 10:30 PM Saturday night when I'd stopped bush hogging. They were all fine. Now this.
Cristian and I take turns taking vitals. He's in severe colic mode and debilitating pain. He won't rise. He gets stuck in the fence thrashing while we work on him.
Meanwhile, we're trying to find an available ambulatory vet, ours is finally taking a well earned vacay. It is a long weekend and it appears every equine DVM has gotten out of Dodge. Sure, I can take him to the vet school. But, we can't get there if he doesn't get up!
Cristian, Adjanie and I run the gamut of usual ways to prompt a horse to get up. He's down, with his eyes closed. I pull my .45 out and shoot. It works, he jumps up and we stagger into the awaiting horse trailer 3 feet away. Sometimes, it pays to think outside of the box. Adjanie lined the floor of the trailer with 4 bags of shavings if he collapses again. Cristian had pumped Banamine via IV a few minutes earlier. I credit this for the reason he didn't crumple to the floor during the 45 minute drive to the vet school. I am definitely not qualified to give intravenous shots, poor Jack would've looked like a pin cushion.
He's now in good hands. I literally hand him over to a tech and retire back to the truck. Due to covid-19, no one is allowed in the vet school. Two hours later, two tentative diagnoses emerge: a) ileal impaction or b) intestinal stragulation. Caveat: if it's b), he needs surgery or he dies, but if it's a), they generally don't respond well to surgical interventions. Waiting begins to see how he deteriorates, as to pinpoint marker symptoms and test results. I'm back on the farm by mid afternoon, trying in vain to recoup my day. I'm fantasizing about a few hours of bush hogging before dusk. Mother Nature has other plans. My weather app alerts me to lightning coming up on my Southern flank. I run the horses back to the safety of the barn. This little guy at the back of the barn sends half of them running in the opposite direction.
Seriously. He flunked Camouflaging in school for sure.
Finally the horses are in.
Axel loafs around loose in the aisle, quietly standing outside of his best friend's stall. The bond between these two is incredible. Axel is basically blind in one eye now and his other eye isn't faring well. All the other horses in the main herd dislike him, they would love for Angus to take his eye off him, just for a minute. He doesn't. Axel rarely has a scratch on him.
Usually, I have to point Axel in Angus' direction when I cut them loose after feeding, lately, I've seen a transformation in Angus. He now waits for him, lets Axel gently bump into him, then they go off together. The storms pass and the snake, patiently sitting in a pillowcase on my desk, gets relocated.
Garrett is the type who believes if you don't see a problem, it doesn't exist.
My barn swallows can breath a sigh of relief: their nests will be safe tonight. Hey, maybe I can bush hog for 2 hours?! Dream on, Sunshine. Vet school calls. Change in diagnoses. Still a possible strangulation, but a new diagnosis seems more likely: acute enteritis. Who knows why his intestinal tract is so inflammed that it's not letting anything pass. I cruise the pastures regularly looking for any toxic plant mentioned in my book:
Then I remember that a week ago, a friend came over to bush hog the slopes behind the dams for me. Flynn is the only one who cut the big dam slope for the past 3 years, but it had been 4 years since a previous employee had attempted to roll the tractor down the backside of the smaller and steeper dam. This professional backhoe and equipment operator was able to open up a space that had been choked by 10' trees... and in the process, expose an under canopy of plants... right along the horses path to their daytime Back Pasture. I check it out and find nothing toxic. I get home at 8 PM and decide to put my Wellies on and check it again. Jackpot:
Woodwardia areolata, netted chain fern. Growing in the spillway of the dam, previously shaded by dense shrubbery. And there's hoof prints in the middle of it all. It's not listed in my book on toxic plants, but I find one reference to its toxicity online.
I text the vet back. I think we're onto something. Whether he can be saved or not, I don't know. She's checking to see if his test results match the syndrome caused by these ferns. So, I wait. I plan to eat myself out of sadness with today's garden harvest. First up, fresh pesto pasta
Then two blackberry cobblers.
I'm sure in some cultures it's normal to have supper at 11 PM, not sure which, but they're out there.
Efficient use of time is my daily quest. How can I cram more into each and every day? Avoiding time sucking distractions like TV and talking on the phone is one of my favorite tricks. And if you ever want to see terrorize me, steal my day planner. Let me tell you what transpired from Tuesday night to Wednesday night. Back story first: for 3 weeks, the manager of the neighboring ranch has been chasing down 20 of his errant cows on our property. I've been his side kick. The rogue cows knocked on of my bee hives over and I'm eager for them to get back home too. We're down to 2 feral bovines.
He rides over with 2 cutting horses on Tuesday at 5:30. I get to ride with a genuine vaquero. We track the fresher hoof prints for over an hour. He has the lasso, I'm told my horse will know what to do when we encounter the cows. Glad one of us does. We zig zag everywhere, gallop my heart out, but see no cows. Then back to my evening project: roof replacement on the 1954 Kropf camper.
I have only 2 weeks left before Summer semester starts and all projects go on hiatus again.
66 year old screws and decades of roofing compound make removing each single screw a tedious task.
Plod on until dusk. Wednesday morning, I start early and combine doing chores at the houses and the barn with running the pointers. On our way to the Lakehouse, Dax takes an unscheduled detour to chase deer through the swamp.
If it weren't for the GPS collars, I'd have lost Captain Special long ago.
I lost a few minutes, otherwise, I'm cruising along, ticking tasks off my work list... Until:
Peter, realizing Dax, Micah and I had tip toed away from the barn without him, attempts to follow us. My overweight, 12 year old, hip dysplasia, crooked legged arthritic dog decides he isn't going to be abandoned.
I drag Peter off his beloved couch 3-4 times a day for mandatory walkies totaling 1 mile max. That's all his severely twisted left front leg can manage. The poor guy must have tracked us 4 miles. He was gone for 2 hours. I drove around in vain looking for him. He returns to the barn on his own in bad shape.
He can't get up. Barely walk. I'm glad I've been working out again. He's a hefty 80 lb package to carry around.
The heart of a lion. That's the definition of loyalty. I get him doped up on pain meds and tuck him in bed, returning to my day's work. Which included tracking down a grill in town. Out of stock everywhere, I find the right grill by 5:45 PM at the 3rd third hardware store I hit. Never give up. Back home, I feed the chickens an discover an egg thief.
Caught and relocated.
He's a mile away now, I'll probably see him again in a few days! And back to camper duty until dusk.
Almost to the end of the last side.
Perhaps a little overzealous. Just like Peter.
Ending the evening sharing my roasted chicken with root vegetables with my loyal four legged friends.
Business class was highest at 96%, but I'll take a 93% in all others.
Might have discovered the perfect study system for myself.
Long live note cards.
Considering this was a wickedly difficult Winter, I'm pretty stoked I pulled this off.
If you're negative, you see the world stacked against you with younger competitors, smarter adversaries, people with greater financial backing. If you're like me, you're twisted, but you know that you have the staying power to stay up until 1 AM and get up at 4 AM to study week after, that no one will outwork you. That's my ace in the hole. "A brook would lose its song if the rocks were removed."
The last final was at the beginning of the week. Anxiously awaiting final grades...
My precious index card note system.
Every chapter bagged for portability.
How I love notes.
And sticky tabs.
I must admit, I've loved learning this semester. Dax is over it though.
"All we do is work!"
"Mum, I demand fun."
Surgeon cleared me for light running on Monday. On Wednesday, I ran for the first time in a year. A wee little 5k. By Saturday, my boys and I had 7 miles under our belt. I am whole again. Adventures with my troop, it's all I crave. I have to give a huge shout out to someone who's been the one forging the way: Bernice Ende. A Montana woman who has spent the last 15 years crisscrossing the US and Canada on horseback. Over 30,000 solo miles. Even had a dedicated horse for her dog to ride. I idolize her!...
There's a new movie about her. I received my copy this week. I found some money last year to help fund the documentary. Anything to support a free spirit!