Monday, December 29, 2008

Six Degrees of Penguination

Funder wants me to post six "random" things about myself that FFF readers don't already know. She correctly points out that this would require creating a list of ALL the things FFF readers don't know about me and then choosing six at random. Instead I offer these factoids:

1. I dislike most dried fruit, but I cannot eat raisins. Or anything that has been in contact with raisins. Or anything that tastes similar to things that may once have been in contact with raisins. It has ever been thus.

2. I am the tomboy daughter of a girly girl mother. When I was in grade school she forced me to wear a dress at least two times a week, and I slept in a canopy bed until I left for university. I still sleep in a canopy bed when I go home to visit.

3. I had my nose pierced for a couple of years. On my final scuba dive before leaving for an internship in Guyana the stud got blown out when I was clearing my mask. For the past 9 years I have been tempted to get it redone every time I walk past a (reputable-looking) piercing joint.

4. I used to drink at least a liter of milk daily, and I still would if my metabolism could keep up. A cold glass of milk is like heaven for me, and I could happily survive on nothing but cereal (which I often do when David is out of town). I have never had a cavity.

5. I have traveled to many places, and I hope to visit many many more. My father was a commercial pilot and my mother was a stewardess. They met on an airplane, they both loved to travel, and we all share the desire to see as much of the world as possible in the short time allotted.

6. I hate Big Bird. When I was a little kid just seeing him on TV made me ball up inside, and he still pisses me off. Some friends recently told me that Big Bird is meant to represent the slow kid in the class, so now I am forced to hate him under the shadow of elitist guilt.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but I would be delighted to learn six interesting tidbits about any of the authors on my simply syndicated list (look right).

Needs Must

A phrase often used by my grandmother. Over the past week it applied to my use of a large Rubbermaid container, a nylon tie-down and brute force to move manure from the paddock down to the compost pile. The snow is simply too deep to push a wheelbarrow, and I am simply too conscientious to allow the manure to pile up. This is the result:

Considering how many animals we work hard to feed and house you would think that one or two of them would be helpful for this kind of thing, but there were no volunteers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pester and Ye Shall Receive

I should preface this post by saying (1) it has nothing to do with the blog in general and (2) I completely suck at Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). Furthermore, I did not practice at all today because I was too sore after yesterday. It is interesting and kind of pathetic that they use this as a way to motivate kids to exercise.

First, here is my Mii. I got far enough that I unlocked the option to use my Mii instead of one of the pre-programmed characters, but I did not get to choose an outfit for her. It was either jeans and a hoodie (not unusual for me, but that outfit was meant for boys and it gave my Mii or this getup. Please know that I have never worn pink a day in my life.

And here's the much-less-flattering real thing in my new penguin pajama pants. I had to ditch the matching shirt because I was getting too hot. For some reason (other than actual pregnancy) I appear pregnant, but I think it is a combination of the slightly blurred action and the turkey dinner. Hazel, as usual, appears deeply disinterested.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

White Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating. I hope your day was a pleasant and joyful as ours.

Our cherry tree on Christmas morning. It was lovely to see the sun.

We had this cedar topped and limbed-up in the spring of 2007. That's the wrong time of year for doing drastic things to trees, but I hated how it obstructed the view of everything. It is my favourite tree at Farcical Farm, especially in winter.

Looking north from the end of the driveway, just past the cedar tree.

Country road, looking west.

Country road, looking east.

Horse paddock from the road, looking south. Nice to take the blankets off for a day.

We call the house the Ruddy Beast because our address ends in 666 (one sign is decorative, the other is reflective). According to municipal records our address should be 10670 so someone must have willfully adopted the mark of the beast at some point. You have to admit that Timbit and Titan are quite beastly.

Goat van in the snow. Quite a lot of snow.

Don't expect me to prick my ears and pose for you when I am eating alfalfa.

Is that thing in your hand alfalfa?

Tonka looks so sweet in that picture, and I want to comment quickly on troubles. All swelling is gone and his body is back to normal. Furthermore is personality is back to normal. He had been a bit rank over the past weeks -- unusually grumpy and uncooperative (yet still quite sweet). I had assumed that it was the crappy weather, but I now assume that the lump stuck in his sheath had been bothering him for some time. Yet another good lesson in listening closely to your horse.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Little Goats vs. Big Snow

More snow last night, it has been snowing all day, and they are calling for another storm tonight. I couldn't see a single pile of manure in the paddock today, so I didn't even bother. We have lots of propane and lots of food, so we are assured a pleasant holiday tomorrow as long as we don't lose power (we lost power for about three hours just after I typed that).

The Farcical Farm residents most affected by the snow are Timbit, Morsel and Roland McNugget. They only measure about 16" to the shoulder, so maneuvering through deep accumulation is challenging for them. Thick winter coats and a well-bedded home keep them warm, but I fear that they are very bored. On the other hand, David and I got each other a Wii for Christmas so we won't be bored at all. Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Treasure Hunt

With poo as the payoff. Fresh manure on old snow is easy to find, but fresh snow on old manure makes for a fun game. I have been trying hard to pick the paddock clean every day, but I keep coming across long-buried piles. Who knows how things will look when everything melts? I certainly won't miss pushing wheelbarrows through the snow. The forecast now suggests that may be sometime after boxing day...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Willy Willy Itchy

A few days ago I saw Tonka kicking at his belly through the bedroom window and my heart sank. Cold weather colic is a worrisome reality under these conditions, as dear EvenSong knows all too well. His blanket straps seemed a bit snug when I investigated, so I loosened them and didn't observe any further discomfort until yesterday when I found him kicking more fitfully and swishing his tail as if he had a fly on his belly.

His sheath appeared slightly swollen and when I gave it a scratch he was instantly in heaven, lifting his rear legs like a dog to give me better access. Other than the swelling and itchiness there was nothing unusual -- he wasn't particularly dirty and there was no bean (rude of me to check without lube, but he didn't mind in the least). I scratched for a good 10 minutes and wondered how to proceed.

This morning he was kicking with even more agitation so I decided to call Kerstin. She figures it is a bug bite some minor infection, and she was able to drop off some topical "Special Formula" this morning, which is indicated for treatment of mastitis in lactating cows. Tonka doesn't mind -- he is feeling much better already. David and I made the best of Tonka's misery while we were waiting for Kerstin by getting some funny pictures.

While I was applying the "Special Formula" Raven wandered up to see what was happening and Tonka squealed with fury before trying to bite her. I have NEVER seen him show any aggression towards her (despite her frequent and vicious attacks on him), so I take that as some indication of how uncomfortable he was. Afterwards I went about my chores and Tonka followed me around begging for more willy scratching. He was so persistent that I finally had to chase him off with the manure fork.

And one of the rebuffed Raven in her new blanket. It is up around -1C here today, so she might be back into her shell soon. The propane truck did make it up The Hill, so we will be warm for Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Otherwise known as propane, which is at the forefront of my mind today. The Ruddy Beast originally had a HUGE oil furnace that was manufactured in 1945. It saw us through the first winter (failing often and requiring $400 fill ups even more often), and it was the first thing to go when summer rolled around. We replaced it with a hybrid heat pump/furnace system. The pump cools the house in summer and heats the house in winter, but it only works down to about 2C. After that we rely on the 96% efficient propane furnace. Last winter our 150 gallon tank got filled about once a month, but over the past week we have using 5% or more of its capacity daily. As of yesterday morning we were down to 15%. The truck is scheduled to come tomorrow if it can make it up The Hill* safely.

The topographical reliefs show how Farcical Farm sits on a plateau in the Fraser River valley, and the picture shows the location from below. Although it appears puny compared to its surrounding, I assure you that The Hill is steep. Some of the big 4X4 trucks can fight their way up when it is covered in snow, but a sheer drop to the west makes it treacherous for vehicles like the Red Menace and the propane truck. The Hill did get plowed, sanded and salted after last night's heavy snow, but we have the heat in the house down to 15C just in case it snows again tonight. Thank goodness for the electric mattress pad! I think we'll be investing in a larger tank next summer.

*Any time that residents of the Deroche plateau gather The Hill is guaranteed to come up in conversation. People hate it because it was poorly built on an unsuitable grade and it's falling apart. But people love it because its poor condition guarantees that the two 20+ acre properties for sale on the plateau cannot be developed (it simply would not support sustained movement of heavy equipment). It is currently scheduled to be rebuilt during the summer of 2010, but we all know that's subject to change.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Pants

When I was a kid I remember being mortified by unfashionable winter clothing like hats, mittens and snow pants. For some reason it was much cooler to freeze your ass off (punny, I know).

It is still unusually cold around here, and today in Vancouver I noticed several adults wearing snow pants. My 12-year-old self was mortified for them, but my 32-year-old self thought it was a damned fine idea. I pulled a pair of David's ski pants out when I got home, and they made the evening chores much more comfortable. I didn't even need my bomber hat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Apple Each Day

Until this cold spell passes I am giving Raven 1 gram of bute per day to keep her hock comfortable. Raven will not touch any food that has come in contact with powdered bute, and she tightens her lips like a clam when she sees a tube of the paste alternative. Early on I was transfering paste to my fingers and smearing it on her tongue, but (1) it was not healthy for our relationship and (2) it seemed unfair to ask Melissa to continue with the practice in our absence. Before leaving for Hawaii I found a new way:

  1. Drill a hole into an apple with a 3/8" bit
  2. Inject paste bute into the hole
  3. Place apple into morning feed with the hole facing down

She catches on if the hole is facing upwards, but otherwise this method has worked like a charm for two weeks now. I hope it will come in handy for some other FFF readers.

Honesty is the Bestish Policy

A few weeks ago a reader suggested that I use Ship Happens in Sumas to avoid international shipping charges and exorbitant brokerage fees on items purchased in the US. Yesterday I headed over the border (a 40 minute drive) to pick up a new blanket for Raven, several CordPro reels, and some other Christmas presents for a total value of $400 USD.

Of course Canadians are required to pay duty on anything we bring across the border unless we have been gone for long enough to earn an exemption (half an hour isn't long enough). I am convinced that most border guards can tell when people are lying, so I put the blanket on the front seat of the Miata and stashed everything else in the trunk.

Guard: How long have you been outside of Canada?
Me: 20 minutes (true)
Guard: What was the purpose of your trip?
Me: To pick up this horse blanket (true)
Guard: Value?
Me: About $125 (true)
Guard: Anything else?
Me: A bottle of fabric softener... (true)
Guard: I'll let you go.
Me: Aw thanks! You're awesome.
Guard: I know.

And that was that. Perfect timing too, as we got some serious snow last night and today. Raven is toasty warm and Tonka is wondering where *his* puffy blanket is. I keep telling him that he's wearing it, but he is obviously skeptical, especially considering that his 1200D sheet is totally covered in icicles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sleepy Heads

The wild winds subsided sometime last night and today broke clear, cold and calm. Whereas Tonka and Raven ate nonstop yesterday, they both spent most of today napping in the sun -- all that wind over the past few days must have kept them watchful and wakeful.

I had to take this picture from the house to avoid waking them -- can you see Tonka behind what's left of our greenhouse? Note the degree to which Raven is resting her right hind. The hock joint is obviously still troubling her (as evidenced by its high, awkward action after she has been standing for any length of time), but her attitude is great and her weight has stayed consistent. At this point I am just happy that she is comfortable -- we'll do what we can about soundness over the coming weeks and months.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rock Solid

That describes the manure piles waiting for me this morning. The Fraser Valley is experiencing an arctic outflow, so it is unprecedentedly cold and very windy at Farcical Farm. Almost surreal after a week in Hawaii.

Melissa did a great job of keeping everyone comfortable in our absence, and none of the sporadic power outages lasted long enough to freeze the heated water buckets/troughs. I did take some time to insulate the pipe stand in the horse paddock before we left, but it obviously needs a better spigot cozy because the handle is frozen solid. Fortunately it's only 150 feet from our downstairs bathroom to the water trough, so I was able to service the horses with four big buckets from the shower. A time-consuming process because the water pressure in the Ruddy Beast is awful, but much easier than what other Fraser Valley horse owners are probably being forced to do.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Waimea, Big Island

Cattle country in the most unlikely of places. Grassy plains, rolling hills, perfect climate, yuppy township. Not surprising that it is sadly lacking in cheap real estate, I guess. Does dangerouspaniolo have a nice ring to it?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coon Foot and Fancy Free

Three posts back I mentioned that Raven is moderately affected by DSLD (degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis). This anecdotal diagnoses was independently made by both Christina and Kerstin not long after Raven arrived. To be absolutely sure we would need to have a tissue test done to assess the degree to which collagen has been replaced with cartilage in her ligaments. The results of a veterinary flex test and ultrasound have been inconclusive.

From my perspective Raven has three symptoms of DSLD -- she (1) is coon-footed on the hinds, (2) is uncomfortable holding them up to be picked/trimmed, and (3) will sometimes dig holes so that she can stand with her toes pointed into them. Raven does not:

  • have a particularly post-legged conformation
  • trip or stumble with any regularity
  • spend an unusual amount of time lying down
  • have lumpy wind-puffy "sweet potato" fetlock joints
  • lean on fences or rock when standing
  • drop weight quickly or have unusually loose skin
  • refuse to canter (this is her preferred gait)
  • come up lame after riding or refuse any gait under saddle

It's possible that Raven merely suffers from poor conformation -- coon-footed thoroughbreds are not uncommon. I believe that she probably does have DSLD (because of the hole-digging) but I do not believe that it is serious or degenerative at this time. So far we have seen nothing but improvement in symptoms (2) and (3), and it was almost a non-issue until the hock injury. Assuming that she recovers to her pre-injury condition it will continue to be a non-issue until I see further evidence of symptoms or a real deterioration in the quality of her joints.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hardworking Honu

At Turtle Beach we saw several Hawaiian green sea turtles (known as honu) bouncing in the waves and basking on the shore. They are lovely to watch, especially because the revival of this species has been such a big success story in environmental conservation. As we were watching the turtles in the water I wondered aloud whether they simply allowed themselves to wash up on the beach now and then, or whether they plan their rest periods. My answer came moments later when a youngster made its first very deliberate attempt at coming ashore. It missed, tried again, missed again, tried again and finally succeeded. Between attempts it would stick it's head out of the water to reorient itself, and it started each attempt from slightly south of the previous one. Fascinating stuff!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Horses of Hawaii

Today was all about touring around the Oahu beaches with our friends. We passed two or three riding facilities en route and I was amazed and amused to note that a box stall in Hawaii can consist of 8 posts, 21 2X6X8 boards and a gate (does Klein live in such housing, I wonder?). Just one of the many many things there is to love about this place.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good News and Better News

Good news: David and I are off to Hawaii tomorrow for a week. We'll spend four days in Honolulu with some friends and three days in Hilo to do some volcano watching. It will be more expensive than we originally expected (the Canadian dollar was at par with the US dollar when we booked the tickets) but it won't be any less fun.

Better news: Kerstin can't see any smoking guns on Raven's x-rays. After walking and trotting her up and down the driveway Kerstin feels that Raven's moderate suspensory desmitis (a post for another day) is responsible for her unexpectedly slow recovery. Because Raven has always been sound on the hind fetlocks/pasterns I never worry much about those dropped tendons, but it makes sense that they would be bothering her now. Melissa will give her a gram of bute each day while we're gone, and we'll see where things stand in a week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Leave Without a Trace

We were out all day, but Kerstin was obviously here to do Raven's x-rays because she left her extension cord in our garage. I'm glad it got left behind because it is contained by a completely ingenious invention and I now know what to get my brother-in-law for Christmas. No news on Raven so far...hopefully that means good news.

La Cuenta

Before tomorrow's x-rays Raven's vet bill comes to $1300 and change. (Only our cat Spike holds the dubious distinction of incurring an even larger bill against a more mysterious affliction.) I'm not telling you this to garner your sympathy, merely to satisfy any curiosity you may have about largish equine expenses. A couple of months of juggled finances will see this paid off, for which I consider myself truly lucky. In honour of yesterday's news I finished the last manure bin with recycled nails instead of going out to buy new ones.*

*Actually, I am just lazy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hardworking Henry

With the ambient temperature at 5 degrees Celcius and the relative humidity at 80% it is hard to get turnout sheets dry without bringing them into the house (which I try to avoid -- we don't need the smell of wet horse layered over the smell of wet dog). This morning I washed Tonka's 1200D sheet and draped it over the conveniently-horse-shaped Henry to dry with the assistance of two oscillating fans.

Meanwhile Tonka looks like a private school girl flirting with skirt length rules in his new sheet, which is considerably shorter than his other two.

Raven was feeling better today, moving well and eating like she had never eaten before. Kerstin spoke with best leg vet in the Fraser Valley and he agrees that her symptoms are consistent with bone and/or cartilage damage. He recommended that we put her back on one gram of bute per day and Kerstin will come do the x-rays later this week. We recently got a newsletter from her practice saying that they had purchased a digital machine, so I should have news for you in near-real-time.