Friday, March 27, 2009

March Almost Gone!

Ah, the last Friday in March. I will not be sorry to see this month end; other than friends’ and family member birthdays and being teased with spring-like weather, it’s the lousiest month of the 12! The sun has reappeared today, but we’re back to below freezing overnight temps that have not only iced over outdoor water tanks and barn buckets, now the once softened mud is Grand Canyon hard and undoubtedly as treacherous! Believe me, I bear an inch-long scar on my right kneecap from a fall on the frozen December pasture when a granite-hard horse apple rolled one way and sent me crashing hard on all fours. Ouch! Recalling it now I rub my knee.

Last weekend, a young Charolais bull squeezed through the common south-facing fence line into our pasture. He didn’t show any bullish manners, in fact, within minutes of his great escape he realized the error of his ways and really wanted to rejoin his buddies, all of whom were lined up like birds on a wire watching him. Our horses often entertain themselves watching Chad and Cameo’s cattle – we call this cow TV – but this doesn’t mean they wanted one of the stars in their living room! As the horse herd leadership snorted, stamped and arched necks in the direction of the offender, Ian spotted the visitor. A quick call to our neighbors to the south informed us that Chad was away on business, but Cameo called for proper bull wrangler reinforcements. While we waited, Cameo unpocketed a neighborly jar of jam for our trouble. This jar was as pretty as I’ve seen, with its two layered fabric hat finished off with a satin ribbon. This dressed up neighborly kindness inspired my inner Martha Stewart and I vowed to tailor and bejewel my entire stock of jammin’ gifts-on-a-shelf.

The wrangler arrived, located the widened spot in the fence, noting the electric was not flowing, and as Cameo and I stood visiting in our assigned portion of the pasture with arms outstretched, ready to waggle, Ian and said wrangler guided the big boy home.

A nest watch update – the count is five eggs (up from the earlier reported two) underneath the goose, which is giving them lots of warm, feathered breast time. Goose egg gestation is 28-30 days, so our goslings should hatch sometime in mid-April.

As my Facebook friends know, earlier in the week our six Pilgrim geese went on walkabout and were gone overnight. The geese routinely spend the night in the barn, whether I shoo them in or they situate themselves around dusk. This independence concerned me, as they can fall prey to out-of-season hunters, coyotes, vehicles; a mother worries! I was more than miffed with Gracie Goose for leaving her eggs unattended. Neighbor Chad stopped by one his 4-wheeler to chat bull and when I mentioned the missing geese he suggested I take a gander at our neighbor’s farm to the east. Chad was sure he’d heard pond frolics uncharacteristically coming from that direction in the early morning hours.

I must have looked confused, as those neighbors have dogs that the geese would surely choose to avoid. Chad said ‘not so’, that the dogs and family had vacated their 10-acre farm for whereabouts unknown. I was so shocked -- not that they didn’t say good-bye, we were nodding acquaintances and their two horses tended to get out and “visit” for days at a time until Ian and I would catch them and walk them the quarter mile home -- it was more that this is the second neighbor on our little dead-end road that has been drastically affected by the economy (the first returned their home to the bank at the beginning of the winter months). Six homes share this mile-long dirt road – the father of the neighbors who just left once owned much of the surrounding acreage with our farmhouse as its homestead – and now two houses are vacant with two families paths changed. I'm hoping wherever each path leads, that it is to a less stressful and much happier destination.

Ian and I strode east to the neighbor’s to find the six happily swimming amongst trees in a snow-melt lake and when they saw us they swam away from its edge; not a guilty, ashamed beak in the gaggle! Ian outsmarted them – not just a handsome pretty boy, this Brit – and got them turned to home, where I sequestered them in the chicken coop. Now reacquainted with her nest, Gracie and group seem to have put aside their wanderlust.


Dave Barry's Colonoscopy Journal

The following is a really hilarious take on a procedure that everyone should have done at sometime in their lives depending on your risk factors – as nasty as it sounds.

A Colonoscopy Journal
By Dave Barry
Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.

I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven.

I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.

Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation.

In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons). Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.'

This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep.

The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep.

At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand.

There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me.

'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood.

Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Mudness

Minnesotans are usually happy to see winter’s end, but March Mudness can try one’s patience. Spring temperatures in the 50s and 60s have arrived and most of our property has turned into boot-sucking mud.

On Saturday, Tina came to haul a trailer load of hay that she stored in our barn and got stuck in the mushy driveway. Our neighbor Chad came with his skid loader and helped to pull her truck from the muck then lifted and turned her sunken trailer pointing it in the right direction for later hauling. The night temps still dip low enough to harden the ground making for easier navigating and Tina wisely chose to return early Sunday morning when the ground had firmed up to pull her trailer home. This morning, as he left for work, Ian sent mud splattering as he gunned his way to the road. In the coming weeks, I look forward to having a few dump truck loads of class 5 driveway mix dirt hauled in and spread on our U-shaped driveway, which should go a long way to lessening future mudness.

Our weekend was spent racking up plenty of horse-related mileage. On Saturday, we drove the 130 miles northward to Pequot Lakes to see Renoir and Pskye. Ian and I both worked with Pskye; jogging with him and setting him in a halter stance. He’s doing well. Erik introduced Pskye to the clippers, trimming his mane and muzzle whiskers. I can’t wait until he has his ear hair trimmed readying him for show grooming! Luckily, Erik’s very patient and Pskye trusts him.

During our Saturday visit to Lonesome Dove Training Center, we made a big decision regarding Renoir -- we’re not going to show him at all this show season. He is doing better and better under saddle and until he is solid in the performance arena, we don’t want anything to confuse the new skills he’s learning. As I said in the last post, we plan to debut him under saddle at the Scottsdale (Arizona) show in February 2010. This decision is both easy and difficult; easy because it makes sense to stay focused, difficult because he is such a stunning, champion halter stallion that is hard to beat! That said we have two yearling fillies sired by Renoir that we can show. In the end, having his get (foals) winning in the show ring makes Renoir a champion sire, not just a handsome ribbon-winning stallion. So, with that decision made, Ian will show Pskye in stallion classes this season. We’re still deciding when the Renoir daughters, Princess and Baby, and the Half Arabian yearling palomino filly, Tango, will make their show debuts.

On Sunday, we traveled 70 miles to New Richmond, Wisconsin to help load purebred Arabian mares Mara and Eve for trailering to our farm. Their owner, Kathy, has had a long hospital stay and will not be strong enough to foal them out at home. Both grey mares are in foal to Renoir and are due in May. Eve and Mara are inseparable and watching them in the pasture, it looks like it will be while until they integrate into our herd. They were here for two months last summer for breeding.

This morning on the way to do morning chores I watched as a noisy Sandhill Crane flew overhead. These 4-foot tall birds with 6-foot wing spans -- the largest species of bird in Minnesota -- are odd looking and even stranger sounding. Small groups of them migrate here to nest in surrounding pastures. Their offspring are called colts!

I also found two goose eggs laid by one of our two female geese. These are huge – maybe five inches from top to bottom. We’ll try not to disturb the nest and see if we get goslings.

Last Sunday, March 8, Marcia and Dan came over for lunch. Thanks for the tulips, Marcia! Dan has a new dog, 8-year-old Shepherd mix, neutered male, Buddy. Our groomer Becky called on Saturday asking if Ian and I could foster home a dog while she found him a home. When I saw this Buddy I knew he and Dan, whose Labrador Sid died last year, would be perfect for one another.

March can be a frustrating month. While I am truly hoping spring has sprung, it could also freeze and snow again before month’s end. Heck, it can even snow in April, but I’m keeping flower-filled thoughts!


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy March

In Minnesota, March has come in like a lamb, albeit a cold one. This morning it’s just below zero but without any wind, for which we are thankful. The skies are clear and blue. I have learned that winter days that look like a picture postcard means it is probably bitter cold. March 20 marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, although it almost never feels springlike at the end of March here. It can be Minnesota’s snowiest month and sometimes, if the jet stream allows the Artic Canadian cold to dip below the border, March temperatures plummet leaving even the most ardent winter fan truly disgusted. The thing about March is that no matter what weather is thrown our way, it eventually gives way to April.

Yesterday, Ian and I drove the 2+ hours to Pequot Lakes, Minnesota to see our two stallions, Legacys Renoir (2002) and VG Pskye (2007). Trainer Erik Haff is progressing well with Renoir under saddle. Since there is no rush to get Renoir in the performance ring, our timeline to debut him is February at the 2010 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show n Arizona. Ian will show Renoir this year in halter classes, which remains a good way to market a breeding stallion and keeping him “show ready.”

Pskye is beautiful and growing so tall. He must be close to 15hh (4 inches per hand measured to the withers) with 60 pounds of new muscle from his workouts. He remains a bit skittish, but he does not have a mean bone in his body. It’s important to remember that while Pskye looks grown, at two, he is still quite the baby horse. Once he gets it all going in the right direction, including agreeing to all the show grooming, and having 100% confidence in his handler, Pskye will be a force to be reckoned with in the show ring. The plan right now is to debut him at the Sahara Sands horse show at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the first weekend in May. Renoir will show then too and both will have classes on Sunday morning, May 3.

As I wrote in my last post, our three yearling fillies home from Erik’s on Valentine’s Day. Erik did a very good job starting them in show halter training. All three were born in May 2008, Tango, pictured here, is a Half Arabian and is the tallest of all three. We plan to show the fillies this season too, although we’re not sure when they will debut.

Ian’s birthday is March 9; he’ll finally catch up with me by turning 53.