Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

This is my first "real" winter in my place. I moved in last February, and while it was cold, and I got some snow, it's not like early winter this year!

Before Christmas, it snowed for several days, then melted, and then snowed, and then melted, never melting completely off, so when it snowed for 2 days straight over Christmas, I ended up with 8-10" of the white stuff.

Other than the previously mentioned bucket brigade to get water to the animals, it's ok. I like snow. I like under a foot of snow. In Reno, the year that I moved to Oregon, I had 3 feet of snow, with drifts over the top of the hood of my 4wd Dodge truck (and sub-zero nights...)! I did NOT like that...

Tang is unfazed by the white stuff - in fact, she eats a lot of it, lessening the water chores. I still take buckets down each morning, bust the ice out of her trough and fling the ice floes out on the ground, but while she drinks some, she's clearly getting enough elsewhere. She also frequently has "elf toes" - hooves full of packed snow, which falls out when she gets excited about her next meal.

Given that it's almost a full-time job to keep my house warm with the wood stove, I'm spending a lot of time inside.

This weather is perfect for knitting. Well, "Duh," you say!

I've been exploring some patterns in my head, and knitting more hats (see here for the latest), a hat for my sister.

With my free-lance work becoming increasingly unpredictable, I'm faced with trying to find a job in an area with roughly 20% unemployment. While I would like to be able to work from home (dyeing, knitting, traffic plans, etc.), none of those add up to enough to make sure that I can pay the bills and have enough left over for emergencies (as Tang's colic demonstrated very clearly). I'll keep working towards developing the alternative income sources, but in the meantime, I'll need to find something steady.

I'm hoping to get over to the valley soon - I'm almost out of coffee. We don't have a WinCo on this side of the Cascades, and they have a Kona blend that's $6/lb. It's quite good. When I get over the mountain, I always stop there and stock up (it's a very inexpensive place to shop), and try to have 2 lbs. of coffee in the freezer at any given time. Their bulk flour is Bob's Red Mill, and I'm looking forward to exploring their gluten-free options.

I'm going to work on eliminating wheat from my diet - it's going to be a bit like not having mushrooms (having to read every label), but I've proved to myself that I can still bake, making GF spritz cookies for Christmas. Everyone loved them, and most didn't even know they were made without "normal" flour. I found this great blog, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, and I'm using that as a starting point. Obviously, meat and veggies and salad are wheat free (not counting dressing), so I've got a good motivation to start using the copious amounts of meat in my freezer!! I love to cook, but it's hard to cook for one. Mostly, I make more, and freeze the left-overs (unless it's something really good, and I have it for breakfast and lunch the next day!). Finding this blog, with her success in substituting alternative flours in baking, removes the main reason that I've put off leaving wheat out of my diet - bread!! I'll have to experiment a bit, but I'm looking forward to it. Anything truly hideous will become bird food...

On that note, I wish for all a happy, peaceful and fulfilling New Year. May yours be filled with what delights and inspires you!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Welcoming the return of the light

On this, the first full day of winter, I'm looking forward to the increasing day lengths!

I was awakened by the sound of rain/snow on the window. I got up to do chores, and found it snowing with big fat flakes (no rain), and it was accumulating quickly.

There's nothing more delightful than snow dusting the trees. I like the way it just rests on the needles and branches. 

Snow falling on Junipers
The "Lonely Pine"
A small juniper looking rather seasonal

And Tang is also wearing a snow blanket:

She's not really cold - no shivering. Because she was dry when it started, it's clumping on the outer layer of her ample winter coat and not soaking in. This is her usual manner of eating her hay, spreading it out so she can pick out the barley heads first, and then eat the rest.

I'll be snuggling up by the fire today, for sure!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What a long, strange week it's been...

It actually started a week ago Thursday, when I got home from errands about 4 pm, and found Tang lying down in her favorite corner. She does not lie down at this time of day, as it's close to feeding time, and she's usually standing at her gate waiting for me to show up.

The kicker was her looking at her belly... Oh, this is so not good. I checked her gut sounds and there weren't any. I said many very bad words.

I called the vet, they said bring her in. She's doing so much better at loading - going right in, even if she wasn't feeling well. At the vet's, she has to go into the stocks - she doesn't think she'll fit, and wasn't having any part of it, so I got the lunge line that I use to get her in the trailer, and did the same thing with it (around a pole to her halter, the loose end around her butt and another pole, and pulling...). She finally went in. After that, there were some liberties taken with her person to check if there was an impaction (think gyn exam...) for which she stood calmly.

She got a big shot of Banamine (a pain-reliever), and we got sent home. Friday morning, she seemed a little more herself, and I thought we'd dodged it.

Saturday morning, she wasn't interested in hay at all (so not the great red hoover's modis operandi), so I gave her another dose of Banamine, and called the vet's emergency line. He called me back and said to bring her in again, which I did. Back into the stocks she went, more liberties were taken, and she got lubed and horse pepto bismol, and they took blood to check her cell counts. While we waited, I got coffee, since I hadn't gotten any yet. Turns out her white blood cell count was low, and there is another that was, too, but I forget what it was. He thought it might be a stomach virus, and that it would run it's course pretty quickly.

Sunday, she was depressed, but eating because I gave her a flake of hay every couple of hours, which she thought was cool, though unusual.

Monday morning, she was very gassy, and still off her feed, so I called the vet and hauled her down again. He listened to her (tied to the trailer), and took some blood to check her levels again, and, because of a conversation with a friend who's husband is a vet, I asked him to draw blood for a test for Potomac Horse Fever. A lot of her symptoms matched those of a horse that my friend's husband had seen that turned out to have a very mild case. So they did that, and I loaded her back in the trailer to eat while we waited for the blood count results.

When I got into the office, the vet was waiting for me, and was concerned, as her white cell count had gone down again. The other one that I can't remember had gone up slightly, but was still low. He had me unload her, put her in the stocks so that he could put an IV line in her neck. He thought (as did I) that treating her for PHF while waiting for the test results wouldn't hurt - waiting until we got them back (if it was) could be catastrophic. I had promised her that morning that she wouldn't have "invasive" procedures, and she didn't have to go through that, but did get a 6" square section of her neck shaved for the IV. She got the first dose, they sent me home with another, so that I would have one if I didn't get to the feed store in time. Fortunately, the antibiotic is over the counter, and inexpensive...

So for the next 4 days, I would give her her antibiotics in the morning while she was eating her hay. I knew she was fed up with being messed with, and tying her up to do it would just have pissed her off. She was eating better, but there was no radical difference in her demeanor. I called the vet Thursday to let them know that, and they said keep an eye on her and let them know if there were any changes.

During this time, I sent a cheek swab from Tang to a friend who's a alternative medicine healer. I don't know how it works, just that it does - she can tell from this what's wrong. She called me back and told me that Tang had a stuck ileal-cecal valve. Interestingly, my friend's husband speculated that her cecum wasn't working right.

She had some sand in her manure, so I had gotten some Metamucil at Costco to give to her. My healer friend said she needed peppermint, camomile or fenugreek for the stuck valve. I ended up getting peppermint tea, and ripping open 5 tea bags to add to Tang's "slop" in the evening. She had no issues eating orangey-pepperminty soaked timothy pellets... Because she was also having some diarrhea, I picked up some probiotic powder and added that to the mix on Thursday. Thursday morning, she was picking at her hay, so I hand grazed her for about 30 minutes. She thought that was great, and was eating well. Then I put her back in her paddock... She walked away, then tossed her head, and started trotting. Then she shifted into the most beautiful, floating extended trot, up to a canter, and then a flat-out gallop around her paddock. She was doing sliding stops in the corners, and misjudged the last one, and hit the fence enough to get zapped (not take it out). She jumped backwards, and stood there with her head up, mane askew blowing out her nostrils (it's a hard, short blow, and makes lots of noise). I figured that she was feeling better.

Friday, I had to go to Portland for a Holiday lunch with the folks that I work for (the food was awesome...), and when I got home, Tang walked along the driveway as I drove up (she hadn't done this in over a week), and nickered at me when I got out of the car.

Saturday, she finally started looking more like herself, a little brighter, and was trotting a bit and making slight guinea pig noises. I should say that, though this mare is 15.1, and weighs about 1450 lbs, she makes the funniest little squeaky noises when I'm feeding her. These had been absent for the duration of her issues so far. I was thrilled to hear them, limited though they were.

This morning, she had cleaned up all the "crumbs", and was very excited to see me - trotting, squeaking, and generally being herself.  I was beyond grateful. I took her IV out, and she's now waiting for me to come feed her...
The apparatus

Come on - Feed ME!!