Monday, April 27, 2015

My Cooking is NOT That Bad!

 We had a houseguest over the weekend.
As always, I vacuum right before the guest arrives so as to have as little dog hair floating around as possible.

As I was vacuuming my entry, I noticed a VERY large bird, right off my front porch!
Two turkeys!
I ran to get my glasses and my camera.
Well, they weren't turkeys but Turkey Vultures.

But wait, why were there vultures 5 feet from my front door?
More to the question, what were they eating?
I had just been out there not 10 minutes earlier, putting out leftover spaghetti and a piece of moldy bread for the chickens.

They were eating the spaghetti!

I have no idea what would have drawn the vulture to the spaghetti.  According to Cornell University's bird folk, vultures are drawn to their food sources by smell.  Dead stuff.  The deader (is that a word?) the better.
I am certain that my spaghetti did not smell like anything dead!

More exploration on the question led me to the fact that Turkey vultures will eat many things, including leftovers.  However, they do not care for dead carnivores.  Dogs, cats, coyotes and cougars go left untouched by most vultures.

Anyway, I only got a few shots of these birds and not very good ones at that.
They are very skittish around humans.
As soon as they saw me gawking at them and taking pictures through the front door glass, they were off.

I may have to rethink my spaghetti recipe though.
Or not wait a week to give the uneaten leftovers to the chickens?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Well, This Can't Be Good!

For the last 3 days, I have been watching an area of grass that has become unusually wet.
I chalked it up to the glorious rain we've been having, but kept my eye on it.


Because it is directly above my septic tank.
If you don't know what a septic tank is, consider yourself lucky.

Here's a quick drawing to give you the Reader's Digest version of what a septic system does.
It's the sewer treatment plant of those that live in rural areas.

One thing that is not in this picture is a Septic Pump, or a Float or a Septic Alarm.
There is a float in the septic tank that is supposed to set off an alarm if the level of wastewater gets too high.

The pump's job is to pump the waste water out of the septic tank into the septic field.
The septic tank is full of bacteria that just love to take care of everything that goes into the tank.
Breaks it down.
I'll just leave that to your imagination.

The point is, this system needs to work perfectly.
Otherwise, the 'stuff' that you want to stay in the septic tank takes a little vacation and comes BACK into your house.

Those that properly care for their own personal sewage treatment plant, the aforementioned Septic System, have the tank pumped out every 3-5 years. (((Waves at my BFF,  Deb!!!))

It's just a good idea.
Not a job I want, but there are lovely folks that do it for a living.

I met one of those lovely folks yesterday because we believed the guy who installed our septic system 15 years ago,
"You don't ever need to have your septic tank pumped if you don't put these things
 (long list of no-nos) down your drains."

So there, I've admitted to the whole world that our septic tank has never been pumped.
In 15 years.
(Here I hang my head in both gratitude for never having problem before now, and shame for having never listened to anyone but the septic installer)

Which brings us to the present once more.
Yesterday, I noticed a slightly "off" smell when I passed that damp area.
I went to check the plugs for the septic pump and float. 
The picture you see above is what I got.
The cord came completely off in my hand!
"Well, This can't be good!" was my first thought.

I quickly took care of my animals and headed back in to my hometown Facebook page.
Despite petty bickering that often takes place on the page, it is also a wealth of information about local companies to use and not use.

I called the first company's name that I was given.
Glory Hallelujah, they sent someone right out!!!
Gotta love my small town companies!!

Nicest guy you'd ever want to meet.
We talked about this and that, but mostly I got a lesson in septic systems.
In the picture above, he did a quick test from the severed half of the cord in the first picture.
"I'm checking to see if your pump still works.  That's what this cord is for."

Another Glory Hallelujah!
It still worked!

He spliced a new plug onto the existing cord as a quick fix.
He will come out next week and replace all the wiring.  He'll also set us up with a more durable mounting area, and check the float to see why it didn't set off the alarm when the "water" rose in the septic tank.
He will also pump and drain the septic tank.
Something that we should have done, at the very least, 3 times by now.

He also suggests we keep the weed eater far, far away from the entire set up.
That's what caused the problem to begin with.
The line must have snagged the electrical cord and torn away the protective plastic covering.
The wire corroded through.
Yesterday it broke off in my hand.
The End.

Until next week when I take pictures of the pumping process.
I know you are as horrified and curious as I am.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When to Say Uncle

Today, my equine vet comes out again.
Today will mark 5 visits with her and my local vet, all for Bill.
Five visits that have ruled things out regarding his lameness.
Five visits that have yet to pin down the source of his pain.
Five visits that yet to relieve his pain.
It's play like this that aggravates whatever it is in that right, front leg.
However, he often initiates this play.

A trained, horsey person eye will notice that Bill is leaning on his left front leg here---and in every other picture I have of him.
Eventually, that leaning will cause problems in the left leg as well as whatever is going on the right leg.

I think today will be the end of the vet visits regarding this lameness. 
We will do more x-rays, lots of palpitations, odd movements of the joints,  and probably a nerve block or two.
Luckily, my vet is being driven mad by the lack of answers.  
She's also very down to earth about "at what cost?"
She knows that spending thousands of dollars is crazy.

It may be that Bill is forever lame in that leg.
I hate to think of him in pain all the time, but even pain killers/anti-inflammatories have done little to relieve whatever is causing his limp.

I have one last trick up my sleeve and that is to ask his former owner if he and Ted can come stay at her place for a month of extreme stall rest.  She has a barn with stalls where the donkeys can see one another.  In my stalls, they'd go crazy not being able to see one another.  It would be as though they were miles apart instead of just on the other side of a wall.
It may be that he has an injury that cannot heal because he is constantly in motion and constantly playing with Ted.

The Great Lameness Conundrum continues.
However, when do I say Uncle?  When is enough, enough?  When do I accept that Bill will be forever in some sort of pain?   More importantly, is that the right thing to accept?


Update: The Vet was here.
She did everything she said she would.
We found nothing.
No changes in any bones and no reaction to the final nerve blocks that were done.
More importantly, we had a long talk about what else could be done if money was no object.
At the end of the day, I could spend at the very least, $2,000 more for diagnostics at the big veterinarian university here in Texas.
She does not believe they would find anything that would be "fixable", or if they did it would be experimental at best.
If there were something wrong in the soft tissue, they would have begun to see a change in the bony areas that support (or don't support) that tissue---some breakdown of bone or cartilage. 
All his bones are beautiful and where they belong.

I am thinking about stall rest.
She said that stall rest is hard on donkeys.
They have a different mindset than horses and suffer more mentally.
"No more than a month and a couple hand walkings a day" was her advice.

She's not convinced it will matter.

We will keep him on long-term anti-inflammatories for now and reevaluate in 6 months.
As long as he is on 4 legs and doing happy donkey things, I will have to leave it at that.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This Ain't My First Rodeo

Cliche' warning.
This Ain't My First Rodeo simply means this isn't the first time I've done this.
I can't find its origin, but I suspect it came about quickly after rodeos became a thing.

Moving on.

My hens have moved their "outside the coop" nest yet again.
They do it every couple weeks, whether I like it or not.
In case you're wondering--I do NOT like it.

I found this little hiding place deep, deep in an evil Pampas grass.
Pampas grass loves nothing better than to slice your bare arms and hands wide open.
Not so much the chickens, I guess.

This nest of eggs all went to the trash.  
Again, no telling how long they'd been there.
A couple were broken and the whole mess was covered in fire ants.

Do you see this naughty hen? 
Hidden in the shadows,
Deep in one of my garden planters?
Believe it or not, I would be thrilled if the girls laid here.
It's right on the back porch!
Until then, the hunt is on for the newest nesting area.
They've moved it again.
Crossing my fingers I don't run into any sleeping rattlesnakes in the hunt.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Office Assistant and the Bullies

My office assistant has put in a request to have a split shift.
He would like to work from 6am until about 8am, nap all day and then go back to work in the evening.
He's been having trouble with bullies in the daytime.
One specific pair of bullies, Mr. and Mrs. Mockingbird.  
He is President in charge of Security. 
She is President of the Nest Builders Union.
They cannot abide Hobbes being in their workspace. 
They have lately been consumed with chasing Hobbes.
I have a suspicion that Hobbes has it coming to him.  He can be a bully himself.
Maybe he has met his match?

Until then, it is obvious from this picture that Hobbes will not be doing any outdoor work for any stretch at a time until Mr. and Mrs. Mockingbird have added another job to their list---feeding babies.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bastard Cabbage

I'm allowed to use that word because it is truly the common name for this plant.
I am not making it up.

Also, I must point out that it is only (very) distantly related to the cabbage.
Like 4th cousins, once removed.

They are both part of the Brassicaceae family.

 This little plant is on the list of invasive species by the USDA.  It belongs in a list that has been labeled Federal Noxious Weeds.  If you are curious to see what plants are invasive in your neck of the woods, you can click on the link in purple.

No one knows when this plant first arrived. 
I guess it doesn't really matter.
What matters is that it is very good at what it does.
It germinates and grows far earlier than just about any other wildflower.
It gets up to 5 feet tall.
It loves, loves, loves roadsides and disturbed, poor soil.

It chokes out all competitor plants for food, sunlight and water.
Since it is related to the mustard family more closely than the cabbage family, it makes many tiny seeds.
It has become resistant to just about every kind of herbicide.

So, what's the big deal though.
I don't live on a roadside.
However, this pretty little yellow flowering plant was found in my pasture.
I am now on a daily walk on my 4 acres to keep an eye out for more of it.
Thankfully, its yellow flower give it away.

I was able to knock out Buffalo Bur by this same method.
Luckily this new invader isn't covered in awful spines like the bur.

Do you have weeds that simply cannot be left to the "live and let live" category in your life?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Depending on your age, your brain might have finished my post title with, 
"keep them doggies rollin', RAWHIDE!"

Not what this post is about, but it is about livestock.
Does that count?

Pardon my manicure.
This time of year, there isn't one.
I cut all my nails off and nibble on that pinkie--when it's clean.

My donkeys love to roll in the dirt.
My guess is that it helps scratch the itches that they can't reach.
It probably helps with bugs and maybe even feels good to just stretch.

Donkeys also love a good scratching.  
Especially where their tails meet their backs.  
Donkey folks call that a 'butt scritchin'"  
Donkey will back up to you and present their tail end.  
You can almost hear the "beep, beep, beep" like trucks do when they are backing up.

I, however, do not get the normally dirty fingers of those in the donkey scritchers club.
My donkeys have chosen a spot that is the king of all dirt patches----a former burn pile.
I moved all the branches and brush from the burn pile that were waiting to be burned because it was in the way.
What it left was a perfect circle of lovely, soft, sooty dirt.  
14 years of lovely, soft, sooty dirt!
My chickens also love this spot.

My fingers, after grooming and especially after a scritching session are black.
Black as coal.
For obvious reasons.
My donkeys (and chickens) are covered in charcoal dust.

If you come to visit the donkeys, don't wear white.
In fact, don't wear anything that you hope will stay clean.

I have nail brushes by the sink if you happen to find yourself with the same extremely dirty nails as mine.  
I think it's worth it, though.  
So do the donkeys.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Let There Be No Doubt, Ever

This blog is specifically for my family.
However, if you'd like to take an idea from me and make it your own, please do.
In fact, I suggest that you do it as soon as possible.
Lives change in an instant.  
People die in an instant.
Do not ever leave anything to chance.  
Especially your feelings of love.

Nora, Eric, Preston, Katie, Evie, Jenna, Quinn, Sarah, Ryan, Bella, Grayson, Luca, JT, Mom and Dad Cox, Joel, Jody, Brian, Nathan, Jen, and a bunch more that aren't immediate family.

I Love You.

We may disagree on many things, on most things.
I love you.

I like Brussels sprouts, you don't.
I love you.

I disappointed you.  You disappointed me.
I love you.

I hate your guts. You hate my guts.
I love you, still.

I voted for her. You voted for him.
I love you.

I believe that they are three separate entities. You believe that the three are one.  
I love you.

I believe that God loves all people.  You believe that God does not.
I love you.

I don't believe in Hell.  You do.
I love you.

I give a dollar to the man on the corner.  You do not.
I love you.

I want to watch Downton Abbey reruns. You do not.
I love you.

I want to take a cab.  You want to walk.
I love you.

I want to vacuum before guests come.  You want to wash windows instead.
I love you.

I don't drink. You do.
I love you.

I made you sad. You made me sad.
I love you.

I don't like you very much.  You don't like me very much either.
I love you, still. 

I spoke my mind.  You spoke yours.
I love you.

I think you can tell by now that I love you.
I love you in spite of our different views on many, many things that humanity finds important.
There have been times in our lives together when it would have been easier to just write you off.
To say, "If I weren't related to you, we wouldn't even be friends."

There have been times when our relationship is so painful and strained that I wanted to send you to military school or girl's school. "Let them sort you out!"

There have been times when you make me so angry and sad that I've cried that ugly cry.  
The kind of sobbing that worries the dogs.

There have been times when I didn't answer the phone when you called.

There have been times when I wanted to get in my car and drive away and never come back.

There have been times, OH SO MANY, that I have held my tongue.

There have been times when I really, really wanted to say things that can't be unsaid.

There have been times when I have walked to the very brink of asking that we never talk again.

There have been times when I wondered if we were even related.
How can people who have lived under the same roof or been raised by people who have lived under the same roof believe so differently about so many things?

Here's the thing.  For me, that cliche' that "blood is thicker than water" holds true. 
My love for you is deeper than I can ever properly express.

My mom died in 2008 without saying her goodbyes.  Without one last "I love you".
She had time to write a note that said, 
"I'm sad that I'm dying, but I really want you to know...." 
She didn't.
We weren't exactly feuding when she died, but had her husband not been sent to the hospital in last days of her life, I would not have been there when she died.  I would not have been encouraged to come say goodbye.  I would have gotten a phone call that it was over.  
She lived 15 miles from my house.

Family feuding is most often over trivial matters.
God and Politics and Money and Belongings are often at the root of most feuds.
Do they really matter?
Really, do they?
When you die, does it matter who you voted for?
I lost 3 sisters after my Dad died. Over a coffee table. 
A coffee table!
They no longer speak to me.

Say I love you.
If you have a chance, write a note, write a letter, write volumes.
Never, ever leave this earth making those closest to you wonder if you loved them.
It's a cruel thing to do.  Even more cruel if it was unintentional.

I long ago gave up chasing my mother's ghost, asking the question of whether she loved me, was she proud of me, was there anything about me that she even liked.
I believe she did.

I just wish she'd have said it.  

Say, "I Love You."

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why I've Been Absent from Blogging

Be forewarned----I will be whining about VERY first-world problems.
It's embarrassing to even put them 'on paper', but I feel it must be documented.
If even for my own sake.
Shouldn't I be thrilled that my barn is (mostly) done?
You'd think so, right?
Here's the rub, we put the barn in the only place on the property that it could go.
We spent months trying to figure out the exact spot, I kid you not.
Our property is very hilly with a large drainage area that runs right through the middle of it.

The backside of the barn base is impossibly high off the surrounding property.
More than 3 feet! (see below)

The property runs off pretty steeply behind it.

There will be no more fill brought in because:
1. It's terribly expensive.
2. It would then make the back of the barn area about 6 feet off the ground!
3. It would put the area in a drainage area.  It would all just wash away.

Ultimately, what that means is that there will be no paddocks behind the stalls.
photo credit:
Example of what a paddock is for the non-horsey folks
No place for animals to be put up in stalls and have a small place to stretch their legs or be outdoors.
These are necessary, should an animal become injured and need stall rest.

Bill could use some stall rest.

That brings us to the next first-world problem and it piggy backs right on the first, first-world problem.

Bill is still lame.
I have come to the conclusion that he will always be lame.
We have done everything short of a $5,000 MRI at our state's AG college.
That's just for the MRI, not everything else that goes along with it.

The local equine vet has done every test she can.  
We cannot isolate the source of his pain.
Her thought is this, as is mine----we can spend $5K to "maybe" find out the source of his pain.
Then what?
Another $5,000-$10,000 for surgery that "might" work?
We simply cannot go there.
My sweet, sweet Bill does not have insurance.  
We cannot afford to, at the end of this, to have spent $15K+ searching for a needle in a haystack----and still not be assured that he is sound (horsey word for 'not lame').

I know he is in pain, but I see him blasting around the pasture at a full run, chasing Ted.
They play.
They play hard.

I know he is in pain, but how much?
Would he be running after Ted and instigating play if he were in a lot of pain?

Either way, I feel badly every single moment that I am with him.
Have I failed him?

The base of my not blogging is this:
I feel guilty.
Guilt hits my muse with stun guns every single day.
Every time I think about blogging about sunshine and rainbows, my brain shuts it down.
I have spent thousands of dollars on a barn and a lame donkey.
Money that I did not personally make.
My dear hubby is the one that brings home the bacon.

My want for a couple pet donkeys turned into a money pit.
Eric was, and continues to be, onboard with all this.
However, more money has to be put into the barn to bring water and electricity to it.
We will have to do something about the base being SO steep on the back side of the barn.
Donkeys are smart and will not accidentally fall off.
Horses (next owners??) are not so smart.

So, a first-world problem at its finest. 
The very definition of first-world problem.
Me feeling guilty about spending a boat load of money that I did not earn AND having a lame donkey that I can't justify spending another boat load of money on.

I'm not looking for platitudes.  
I'm simply putting 'on paper' why I haven't felt like blogging at all.