Friday night, I ran for the first time in over 2 months. Earlier in the week, I had taken Dax, Micah, Suki and Pippins to the Boonies all on a mush line.
With Dax as the front man, it was not the kind of experience I'd like to repeat.
After Dax's little ordeal with a funky infection on his legs that didn't resolve for months, I've been heeding the vet school dermatologist's stern admonishment to keep Dax out of the swamps. No small feat, when wetlands bisect the entire property and for some reason, he's not happy unless he returns from a run muddied like he's been tossed in a Shake'n'Bake bag.
Back to the drawing board. I set Suki up on a third GPS collar and decided to free run them, yet with the requirement they stay within 50 yards of me instead of our previous 300 yard zone.
Suki is probably the smartest dog I've ever had. Either that, or Dax is just dumb as a box of rocks and makes everyone else look stellar. Pippins' sight is too compromised to run off leash. Blind in one eye, I can't risk she runs into a branch and pop her surgery eye... I could've bought myself a new horse trailer with the money I put into that little gelatinous orb.
It was a 5 mile adventure that I do care to repeat, but my soggy, atrophied legs will need to slowly be reintroduced to it.
To help me out, Uncle Cristian has been taking Suki on adventures with him when he does his security rounds.
I think he's hooked.
Once you run with a dog, running solo pales in comparison.
3 preceding pics courtesy of Carattini Photography
The hummingbirds are back! They have a very distinctive squeak, I hear them more than I see them. Unfortunately, I saw my first one this season stuck up in the clerestory windows of the barn. Once they get up there, they never figure out how to fly down the 15 feet and escape out the big barn doors. I usually use a telescoping duster to gently knock them off the window to force them to see the open doors.
On Friday morning, this wee little male just flew higher into the peak and disappeared. I didn't see him again until he fell in the aisle just as I was finishing feeding the horses.
Ordinarily, if I catch them right away, I can prevent them from dying from metabolic collapse by administering emergency warm sugar syrup. I hold them in a dark box for an hour and pump them full of carbs, then release them.
This little man wasn't even sticking his tongue into the syringe, not a good sign. I figured some syrup was seeping into his mouth anyway because I could see him swallowing. He barely opened his eyes. Only plaintive little squeaks. Give up on him? No way. Back in my youth, when I thought I could save the world, one injured and stray animal at a time, I had read 'Behaving As If The God In All Life Mattered'.
The author put into prose how I felt about even the most 'insignificant' animals. In my mind, there are no insignificant animals, they all play an important part in the ecosystem. Most importantly, they all have the will to survive.
A friend once asked me why I was nursing a baby squirrel back to health, "It's so small, what does it matter?". It matters very much to the squirrel, this is his only life and I'm quite sure he's attached to it!
Same deal with the hummingbird. When most of us can't find our way around town without a navigation app telling us where to turn; this little guy, with a brain the size of an elderberry, manages to migrate thousands of miles twice a year, making it through all the storms we'd had the previous night... no way I was going to let him die an ignominious death in the barn. He is significant.
I decided to bring him in the house, propped him an on heating pad and went about creating him a little habitat in my bathroom.
Throughout the evening, even though his eyes wouldn't open, I kept administering the syrup. I turned the lights off and let him go into torpor overnight (to help him conserve what little energy I had built up in him). By morning, he was squeaking and he flickered his tongue into the syringe.
When he ventured off his branch and started flying laps in the bathroom.
I knew he was ready.
He's still around! The males also make a little honking noise, he beeped at me when I came home last night!
So, get your feeders out. They're back. But, please bring your feeders in on cold nights, you can kill them if they drink really cold syrup.
I was finding its remains in her poop for days. Naively, I believed all the pieces to have been taken out to a secret burial spots in the yard. Nope. Amazing how a 40 lb dog can pass a section of leather the size of a T-shirt. The couch was a freebie from 10 years ago and Peter's favorite perch. We lived with it put back together with a roll's worth of Duck tape for about a month until I was sure Miss Suki had begun to understand house rules.
Between the crack house couch, the Frankenstein loveseat and the shelf by my desk, I realized it was time to honor my larger brood with proper furniture.
Family had given me Christmas money with a request that I spent it on myself rather than the animals. So, finding a trio of furniture on Facebook for $500 sort of qualified.
I never did sit on my old couch, but maybe I can use the new armchair to study.
The couple who had this set for the past 30 years doted on it. They've promised to come by and visit, partly to sit on their beloved living room furniture again.
Update: St. Patty's storms dumped over 6" rain in my rain gauge overnight. The result this morning:
No large trees down, all buildings OK. Not bad considering what walloped the rest of Mississippi and Alabama.
I dropped the dogs off late evening in their new abode. I fenced them off in the great room; hung out with them for a while to make sure they weren't about to have a freak out.
Apart from sleeping one night in a tent, I haven't been anywhere in over 15 months. If it wasn't for the severe weather, this would be a mini vacation.
The dogs adjusted well, so I tiptoed out and went to the barn to bring the horses in their stalls before the lightning arrived. That's when my phone alerted me a tornado was on the ground 15 miles away and headed our way. F-u-d-g-e.
I bring them in during storms to keep them safe from lightning, but being in a barn when a tornado hits isn't the place to be. I've timed myself in the past, I can cut them all loose and lock the doors behind them in 5 minutes... running down to the guest house without falling flat on my face in the dark, maybe another 5 (this part has not been put under experiment).
I kept a vigil on the path of the tornado and made the call that it would glance us. I was right, it either lifted up and went over us, or we caught the outer wall of it. I stood in the barn aisle, wearing my life preserver over my raincoat, riding helmet on, listening to the approaching rumble, phone in hand. I paced up and down the aisle, the horses were standing like statues staring at me, "I know it's bad guys, I hear it too". There's a different sound to tornadoes, it's not a blowing sound like gale force winds, it's a sickening sucking sound. When I heard it move over us and off the East, I went out to look for the one horse who hadn't come in: Fletcher.
Of course he was in the bottom of the pasture. The rain managed to get in under my raincoat, so I was setting up the horses with fresh hay in my skivvies while my clothes were tumbling in the dryer. No pictures, ha, ha.
I stayed with the horses until 5 AM, scooping poop and handing out hay, when the worst had past and I released the horses.
I returned to my new crib and crashed for 2 hours. In 6 years here, I'd never slept in the guesthouse, it was like escapism! Me + 5 dogs in one pull out sofa = bliss. (Pippins prefers to sleep under my bed, or sofa in this case, she's a weirdo)
Workday started again at 8. I attempted to go home to rest a few hours, but the vat of coffee I'd quaffed at 8 prevented it. I think I'll just sleep when I'm dead. At the moment, I'm simply grateful we made it through unscathed. On the walk home, I saw where the rain had washed out part of the driveway.
Luck of the 3/4ths Irish!!!
Plus, drum roll please: the first of my barn swallows returned from South America this morning.
I hope the rest of the family didn't get off course or injured in the storm. I'd been waiting for them every day. Last year, first of 8 pairs arrived on March 14th. They provide us with natural fly control in the barn. It makes me cry my eyes out each year, when I come to the barn at the end of July to realize they've all left for their long migration south.
I'm outta here! When they start talking about overnight tornadoes, I don't mess around.
I spent my day off prepping around the farm and packing.
Like a dear friend said: I'm like an old guitar, I don't play.
The dogs knew something was up when I started putting all our comforters in bags and grabbing their toys.
My bug out bag used to be smaller, but as I age, it got bigger. I always pack a week's worth of my meds, passports, dog's meds.... Now there's all my textbooks and laptop. If the contents of my trailer get blown to the next county, I can still study.
Pete has been upset most of the day, I'm sure he can feel in his old bones that something is coming our way.
Wish us luck, our forwarding address is the guesthouse 1/4 mile down the driveway. I brought all our life preservers. Yes, me and the dogs sit around in life jackets when the tornado sirens go off. It's the only thing I know to do to protect their torsos from potential flying debris. Nothing freaks me out more than Mother Nature's wrath. Ten years ago, I was in my foyer at my farm trying to find a break in the storm to rush my dogs to my truck to get to my neighbor's storm shelter. I had waited too long. A tornado passed between our houses, peeling half the roof off my barn and rolling the roof of my house like a can of sardines... all while I was in the house, helpless. As the tornado passed, lightning struck my house and blew up the breaker panel in the foyer three feet from me and Cole. The noise and the blinding white light will never leave me. The silver lining to this is that if I hadn't been in the foyer, I wouldn't have known to go turn the main break off at the meter, saving my house from burning down. So, yeah, I hate storms.
Tuesday, Mother Nature threw cold rain at us all day. We kept the horses in their stalls all day and evening. Roughly 14 hours of horse manure and pee soaked shavings to constantly scoop. We all took turns.
I got last shift. After class, I ran back home to feed the horses their last hay of the evening, release them after the rains and clean stalls. The dogs were ready to disown me after I finally came home at 10 PM. I was serving them supper by 11 PM, not happy campers.
I tried to talk myself out of checking on the chickens, but I can't sleep well unless I know all of my creatures are fed and tucked in. By head lantern, I planned to give them a midnight snack while they roosted. What I found was a wet pile of chickens outside of the coop. I entered the cramped space of my coop to confront a possum, fast asleep on the hens' electric heating pad. I glared at him, passed out like a drunk with empties all around, eggshells everywhere. Apologies, no actions shots, as my cell phone was in the house, along with the leather gloves I wish I'd had.
EXHIBIT "A" the roost with heating block
I thought of going to get gloves, but the hens had already started to try to follow me in. I was stuck having to evict the possum with bare hands. Speaking of the freeloading marsupial, he'd wedged himself behind the laying box while I had my back turned to shoo the chickens back out. With only a little nub of his tail sticking out, I grabbed it and never let go during our 20 minute hostile negotiation. Not wanting to hurt him, or get bitten, I had to work him free inch by inch, pulling by the tail and untangling, toe by toe. Out of the coop, I then had to run the gauntlet through five overzealous hunting dogs. I held the possum as high as I could, ran and leapt into the bed of the truck to save both of us from the Hounds of Baskerville.
I dropped the possum in the truck tool box until I could find a better place for him to spend the night. I gave him a blankie to keep warm, when I realized this was the only safe place I had for him! Perfect coincidence.
The next day, I gave Luke a lesson in possum wrangling. The critter with his pudgy little belly was thanked for bringing it to my attention that I had a breach in my security, and he was released over 2 miles away.
I looked for faults in the chicken wire netting I have over the coop yard and buried into the ground. I thought it was Alcatraz, but eventually found a gap big enough for a possum or raccoon to slip through inside the laying house. A raccoon would've killed all the chickens and maybe eaten one.
All's well that ends well. None of the animals in this story were harmed.
Peter never knew what the commotion was all about. The old fart had not gotten off the couch.
His favorite game is Dead Dog. A 14 year old mutt with the most wicked sense of humor.
He'll pitch himself off the couch if he hears a Ziploc bag open though. Selective hearing...