Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where Have I Been?

Oh my, has it really been that long? Well, yeah, I suppose it has. So where the hell have I been?

Let's see....summer came which normally leads to all manner of gardening and animals things but this year was preempted by my husband getting cancer. Now don't fret. After being scared witless, 2 foot of colon later, he's just swell. And still ornery.

A nasty weasel came around and ate 37 baby hens. That certainly made me happy. Not. Not only did I have to get more pullets, but the fright put the chickens off laying for months. And then the damned weasel came back but it only got 4 hens that time and appears to have departed for points unknown. I'm happy to report that the hens are busy again making my breakfast. Anyone know where I can get a weasel fur coat?



Here's the question of the summer though: if you breed black cows to a black bull, how the hell do you get one dun calf and one red calf?






No, they aren't siblings but they are very fond of each other. It's tough to be male around here, you need all the friends you can get.
Most time consuming is the new online venture I began with a friend I met on Twitter. If you're interested, check it out: www.allthingsgoat.com
Winter's here which means I'm inside most of the time. You'll probably be hearing from me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stop, Drop & Roll

Fainting goats crack my husband up. Officially myotonic goats, this type of goat was bred to be, well, bait. When wolves and coyotes were still an ongoing and major threat to livestock, the continuation of this gene in the breeding pool resulted in a large percentage of offspring who would become immobile when startled. Farmers realized that they could run fainting goats with their sheep and the predators would snatch the goats giving the more valuable sheep time to escape.

They don’t really faint; that’s the creepy thing. In actuality, it’s a case of temporary paralysis which causes their limbs to stiffen; they fall down and slowly roll over to expose their bellies. Hysterical when it’s a barnyard pet. Creepy when considered in the context of their original purpose as predator bait. It’s one of those things that, while it makes you laugh, makes you cringe at the same time. I won’t get into the technical details, you can look those up on your own. I will, however, offer this video from Mark of the Soda Craze blog.

http://www.sodacraze.com/2009/06/01/and-now-some-fainting-goats/

On a related fainting note, I have my own story to share with the twisted of heart. If you’re politically correct or overly sensitive to the public embarrassment of caprines, you might not want to read this next bit.

About 4 years ago, I was once again in the market for goats. We happened across an ad in the local throw away newspaper, phoned up and spoke to a man who had several goats for sale. After hopping in the truck and getting lost (briefly), we trundled down the bumpy driveway of an off-the-beaten-path hobby farmer, attempting to avoid running over some rather mouthy geese in the process. In a makeshift pen we found a collection of fainter/pygmy mix goats. I’m not a fan of pygmy goats but I got a kick out of the concept of the fainting so we bought twin doelings, one who fainted, one who didn’t, and headed home.

Hubby, being a closet sadist, discovered why they’re called fainting goats when one of the dogs got into the barn yard and poor little Polly hit the turf with herd dog nipping her heels in frustration. Related and yet not, hubby was given an air horn as a Christmas gift from my uncle who had ridden with him enough to know that he really needed something in traffic and an air horn was infinitely safer than a firearm.

Fast forward to our wedding two years ago….picture this: a yard full of family and friends, all slightly inebriated and in fine humor. Out came the air horn. Had we been from the south it would have been accompanied by “Hey, y’all, watch this!” but being Yankees, it was more a gathering of boisterous and disbelieving Italians who milled around the barn yard fence until WWWAAAHHH! There went the horn followed by poor Polly who jumped in the air, tried to run away with feet dragging followed by the inevitable side plop, belly up roll, and hysterical laughter from the audience. As if once weren’t enough for the poor goat….the air horn ran out of air that day and Polly, poor thing, was very pleased to see everyone leave. It was horrifying and hilarious at the same time. Man, I wish I had video.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Have No Title

If you've read this blog before you know that I write about animals. Mostly my animals but on occasion, animals in general. However, I wrote something really personal a short time ago and it was posted on the net, an event that made me a bit less comfortable than my usual coccoon. It also got me thinking about why I write largely about animals.

There are a couple of reasons, the most obvious being that I spend an inordinate amount of time in the company of those with four legs or feathers and very little time in the company of humans. I believe that's also why I talk to myself although that could just be because I'm on the downhill slide to insanity.

The other reason is that people suck. No, that's not very nice. (I hear my mother's voice ringing in my head here.) Perhaps I do have a bad attitude. Oh well. Too bad. But, really, a lot of people suck and has anyone else noticed that the sucky people not only seem to have no sense of humor but are also overly fond of posting comments on blogs?

I write about critters because I really like them. I like that they rarely argue and when they do, it doesn't really matter because I'm the one with the food (the grain bitch as my sister might say) and if I get tired of listening to the complaining, I can go somewhere else without repercussions. I can say, "Oh shut the hell up," and go feed someone else. Animals are consistent in their behavior. Dogs act like dogs. Cows act like cows. Goats act like dogs with hooves and horns. Chickens act like little dinosaurs and it all makes sense. Animals are not terribly confusing and, frankly, they're pretty fascinating. They don't lie, they don't say mean things for no reason, they don't cheat or steal (well not in the definition I'm talking about), they don't keep secrets, and for the most part, they just like me for no other reason than because I'm here (and I'm the grain bitch).

If someone kicks me, it's because she's scared, not because she's mean. If someone pecks me it's because I'm doing something annoying and the pecker wants me to stop it. There's no malice intended; it's just a way to communicate and it's effective. If someone is sick, while initially not wanting me to be a pest, at some point the patient comes to grasp that I'm trying to help and seems genuinely appreciative of my efforts. There's no bitching about it later.

Yeah, I know I'm a little odd what with the talking to myself and the various creatures, walking around in funny clothes with mud and some kind of shit on my shoes or jeans but if you spent your days surrounded by creatures as I do, you might find yourself with less need to treat others harshly. You might find yourself calmer and more balanced and a little more understanding of how the world works and the awesomeness of nature. You might find yourself more respectful and kind. Or you might just be muddy and smell like shit but the point remains......think about it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Am Not A Dog Toy, Part I

I'm "a little serious", believe it or not. My very entertaining uncle said that a while back. "You've always been a little serious," he said. So it probably won't come as a big surprise that, as a general rule, I don't play. When I had cats, I had little furry mice, balls of tin foil and pipe cleaners shaped to look like little people. I'd throw the mice or balls and the cats would go get them and chew on them. Ove the years, one or two of them became fetching cats and would bring them back for another toss before they got bored, or decided such activity wasn't quite dignified enough for a cat, and took a nap instead.

Then I got dogs. Dog need to play, and yet, I don't really play. I'll pet your head. I'll rub a tummy or snuggle up on the sofa but play? Not so much. Perhaps I think it's not dignified. Maybe I was a cat in a former life. Actually, that wouldn't surprise me in the least as I'm not fond of getting my feet wet either.

But...I have dogs. High energy dogs that are easily bored and boredom causes them to "savage" one another as the herd dog lady calls it. We don't call it that. Thanks to my sister, who does play, we call it the pirahna game. Open, toothy mouths accompanied by growling, weird whiny yipping and the occasional snarl. Face biting, rolling around on the ground like gymnasts on crack, one's cheek in the other's mouth while the former hangs on to a neck or ear or snout; whatever's handy. The herd dog lady says they absolutely, unequivocally, are not to "savage" one another so I need to find something for them to do.

My husband is a walking dog toy. He'll roll around on the floor, allow himself to be double as a chew toy and act completely ridiculous with no concern whatsoever about looking or sounding silly. I, however, being one who generally doesn't play and is not remotely dog toy-like, am open to fetching. Fetching requires nothing of me beyond throwing something or other someplace other than where the dog is. It's a low energy job for the thrower that allows for computing at the same time. A good game as long as your dogs aren't quite as compulsive as my sister's Borders. One of them can wear out a human with the whole fetching thing.

Before we got the pup, Dinga (cute name, huh), we had one rescue cow dog. She didn't know how to play so we got along pretty well. However, I kept thinking about how dogs need to play so I again swiped an animal related sisterism "getcher butt". My version is necessarily altered from the original which involved a small and highly entertaining parrot named Olive.

I played this game with my big dog prior to getting Lirra, the cow dog, and with him it went something like this: He would be walking in front of me or standing around looking bored and I would grab his behind, one hand on each hip, flex my fingers and say, "Getcher butt!" He in turn would spin around and make silly noises and we'd continue like that for 5-10 minutes. Then we'd go lay down.

With Lirra, I got a little fancier. Of course she's a lot smaller (75 # smaller) so I have more options. One day while in a rare good mood, I straddled her, grabbed her butt and enthusiastically said, "Getcher butt!" She immediately lowered her head and looked at me with that what-did-I-do-wrong look so I have to convince her she wasn't naughty. Once convinced, I did the same thing while pushing her head first through my legs. Getcher butt doggie leap frog. A couple of times and she had it figured out. Mom's playing! Smart dog. All I can say is it's a good thing no one had a video camera cuz, trust me, this game doesn't come anywhere near being dignified. However, it is entertaining. She wiggles, makes funny noises and spins around in circles or rolls on her head in a spine bending somersault, however the mood takes her.


Now we have the pup and she's learning to fetch. It was actually kind of bizarre....one day I was bemoaning my dogs' lack of interest or understanding of fetching and the next day Dinga suddenly figured it out. Doggie light bulb moment. She's still a bit inconsistent about bringing it back to where I can actually reach it without getting up but at least she brings it back. Lirra on the other hand looks at it and then lays down somewhere. Or tries to climb on me. She tries that a lot.

When Dinga wants to play she barks the loudest, most high pitched bark on Earth right in my face. Allowed to continue, it can lead to a massive, brain pounding headache but if I grab the clue, it leds to fetching. I throw, she tries to catch in mid-air and then runs to beat hell in pursuit of whatever it is she's decided she wants thrown. At first, Lirra just looked at us like we were insane....and loud. Now, on occasion, she too will pursue the whatever it is, snatch it up with a cocky ha, ha, I got it and you didn't look, carry it to one rug or another....and eat it. Not a great fetcher that one but a truly excellent destroyer.

More on that later........





Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday

Although my parents grew up on farms, I didn't come into farming until my 30's and then I dragged a city boy husband and kids into it with me. My middle girl has a birthday rapidly approaching and as I was standing in a different barn, in a different life, earlier today, I was thinking about her and animals, farming type stuff and her birthday.

I was thinking about when she and I were first hauling stuff out to the provinces. We were toodling along in a pickup that had seen (many) better days when she said, "what's that smell?" All I could smell was decaying leafy matter and late spring standing water so I said it was mold. Apparently she heard "moles". It took a year or two before she actually told me that she thought we had been smelling moles that day. Lord, I hope not.....I'd like to think that you can't smell moles at 50 mph. Skunks are bad enough.

A year into our new country adventure, we decided to get a couple of steers. A fine idea if you want to raise your own beef but not such a great plan if you have really shitty fencing. We had the latter, in spades. However, that was not the deterrent it would have been for a rational person so two steers arrived and left, and arrived and left. You get the picture.

However, when they first arrived, the soon-to-be birthday girl asked if we would have to take the cows for walks. That one was lost on me until I finally figured out she was thinking walks in terms of walking dogs. I got a helluva laugh out of that we embarrassed her in front of her friends for several years with that tidbit. Or I would have had that laugh had we had good fences, but since we didn't have anything close to good fences, our steers went for many walks. Mostly they went to the dairy farmer up the road who would then call the Sheriff's office who would then call me - at the crack of dawn - and point out that my steers were at the neighbor's again. We'd haul our butts out of bed, go on down to the neighbor's place and haul the cows home. On chains. Behind the dilapidated truck. Guess she wasn't so far off after all, huh?

We were the people with the cows on leashes. Seriously.....if you were from that part of the county at that time, you'd know exactly who we were. Just as now people know my husband and I as the moose people, back then in that place, I was the lady with the cows on leashes. It wasn't a conscious decision mind you. We put up electric fence which held for about a year until a neighbor got a cow of their own. A cow which really liked my steers. A cow which was decidedly bigger than my steers and a lot stronger than my electric fence. So much for the fence.

Being resourceful, we pounded metal fence posts into the pasture and tied those steers to them with halters and chains. The steers would eat around their respective posts and then we'd move them to a new location for more eating. We looked like we had crop circles. I'd love to have an aerial photo of the pasture that year. My girl got really good at putting in and taking out posts. She also got really good at bringing steers home when they broke the chains.

Once her post pounding and pulling skills were fine tuned, she and I got to spend a most memorable day fixing fence in probably the second worst place possible. The first worst being a swamp. We, of course, chose the hottest, muggiest day of the summer. 98 degrees, 95% humidity, not a cloud in the Sahara Desert type sky. A stretch of overgrown, brushy, swampy, not easily accessible stretch of 400 year old barbed wire that crossed a creek in two places. We cut brush, hacked weeds, sweated, tried not to pass out, tried not to shred ourselves on old and new barbed wire and did it all the old fashioned way. Definition: without any useful tools. Armed with a knuckle-knocking weed trimmer, a bolt cutter, a pair or two of pliers and her brute strength, we cleared, we pulled posts, we pounded posts, we trudged through water, we became a mosquito and gnat buffet and finally, we pulled enough barbed wire to keep the damned steer in for a few months. She did most of it. She didn't complain either.

And yet, the joys of small farming didn't end there. I'm of the burning off pasture set. It's good for the soil, it's good for the grass, it kills off noxious weeds after a couple of years and it makes things look more tidy. So given a chance, I burn off pastures. We had a couple of brush piles on that place. Old brush piles...although "pile" doesn't quite describe it. Let's call them brush mountains. Prussian men who came before us piled brush so high we'd have needed a pretty good sized ladder to see over them. Anyway, my father, one of said Prussian men, came out one weekend to help burn off pastures. He chose the weekend based on a forecasted lack of rain. He was right, it didn't rain. What the weather guy neglected to mention was that we were going to have 200 mph winds. Okay, so I'm exaggerating...but not by much.

So the weekend of my girl's 16th birthday, we hopped out to the pasture to burn off last year's uneaten grass and the brush mountains and, well, it burned. Man, did it burn. It burned FAST. Toward the illegally built structure next door. FAST. Armed with a leaf rake and a couple of stout branches, birthday girl and I ran to the neighbor's to try to keep her illegally built, piece of crap home from burning into the ground (where it belonged). We saved the trailer. Birthday girl got a soot covered face, singed hair and several large, painful and not so attractive blisters for her trouble. Happy Sweet 16.

Now it's 10 years later and her birthday is upon us again. I'm sure this one will be less stressful and will be enjoyed while in the company of fun people, doing fun things, instead of putting out a runaway field fire but some of my fondest memories of her, and her birthday, are events we shared that weren't fun if you look at them from the outside. They weren't really happy times but they were times when we were together and we tried to make fun out of a situation that otherwise wouldn't have been. We did what we needed to do. We did it together, and so while I was standing in the barn a while ago thinking about her and her birthday, I was thinking about the years we spent together, good and bad, how much I love her, respect her, am proud of her and the life she's built, and how much I hope this birthday, and all those that follow, will be happy memories for her to carry, regardless of how they're spent.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Freedom Tower - What Makes A Hero

Against my better judgement, I'm reading the news today. I don't watch the news because I don't believe it's necessary for anyone to explain to me what it means and, frankly, I find it really annoying when they attempt to do so. However, there was an AOL front page blurb about a woman who might possibly 130 years old so I clicked on that and found myself reading through today's posted news.

I came across an article about the Freedom Tower, or at least the architecture that was supposed to carry that name. Apparently, some guy wants to change the name back to One World Trade Center. People are pretty pissed off about that hence the need for an article.

I agree with the being pissed off. I think the proposed name reflects the horrific nature of an unthinkable, unprovoked, reprehensible attack within our borders and I think to build a structure on that infamous site without giving voice to the events that made construction necessary is yet one more way to lessen the public's outrage at the events that occurred. I believe a commemoration of some type is needed. I think people need to have a physical reminder that we can be attacked, that we can't continue to be complacent in a dangerous world, and that the attacks of September 11th profoundly changed the way we, as Americans, live and think about ourselves. I think it's important.

What I don't agree with is one phrase in this article and that is: "Where One and Two World Trade Center once stood, there will be a memorial with two voids to honor the heroes we lost." I'm sure this won't make me popular but the unfortunate people who died when the planes crashed into the towers weren't heroes. They were regular folks going about their regular business. They were chatting it up around water coolers. They were on the phone or in meetings conducting the day's business. They were running errands, delivering packages, surreptitiously playing solitaire or reading the online news, checking email or posting the occasional tweet on a newborn Twitter. They were going about their day. How does that make them heroes? If someone is run over by a bus driven by some crazed, terrorist lunatic does that person then gain hero status? For merely crossing the street to get the mail?

A plane crashed into a hotel in Indianapolis while I lived there. No, it wasn't flown by terrorists but it still killed people and that hotel just happened to be across the interstate from where I worked. Those people weren't touted as heroes. They were victims and they were mourned. That event wasn't as spectacular as Sept 11th, and justifiably not, but perhaps you can see a parallel, albeit fuzzy.

Do you know who the real heroes are? The fireman, police and civilians who risked their lives to get people out and to clean up afterward. The people who selflessly saw the mayhem, and without regard for personal safety, or expecting a government payout, walked into the dark clouds of life threatening dust and the treacherous debris and did what they could to help. Those are heroes. The people on Flight 93 who tried to take control back from terrorists - those people are truly heroes.

The soldiers who followed orders and went into unknown lands in an attempt to flush out the crazy people who attacked us are heroes....and they're still there. They are trying to bring stability to places worse the the deadliest slums to be found in this country. They make nothing for pay, leave their families for months or years at a time, exist in poor conditions under constant threat of death. Their families do not get millions of dollars when one of their loved ones dies. Agree with the policies or not, those men and women are heroes.

One of many dictionaries defines a hero as "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life". I believe those I've named above earned that title.

I'm not minimizing the loss of those who were in the towers. I'm not spitting on their suffering or that of their families. I would never do so. What I am saying is, in our attempt to find closure, let's acknowledge the loss of the people in the towers that day. Let's acknowledge the loss of our sense of safety within our borders, but let's remember what a hero really is and not toss that term around loosely lest it lose all meaning and become yet another catch-phrase that used to mean something remarkable. That's all I'm saying.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Husband Is A Mutant

It's been medically interesting around here lately. My husband has a bad back and periodically he makes it worse. This is the kind of thing that happens when you allow your children to jump rooves in Chicago. Ultimately something painful happens and if they don't want to get their asses chewed for doing the jumping, they don't tell you. Fast forward a few years and that little childhood incident becomes a chronic medical problem, hence my husband.

His mother told him not to do that; being the ornery child (and now adult) that he was, he did it anyway. He and his buddies had a fine old time jumping block upon block of row houses. Climb onto the roof of a garage, jump across the breezeway to the next one, then the next, then the next. Fine times until hubs fell through one. Oops. He hurt his hip pretty badly but of course he couldn't go home and tell his mom or he'd have a sore ass in addition to the sore hip. Fast forward to the Navy where for three years he was an aircraft specialist and jumped off of planes most of the day.


Years of construction work, up and down ladders, in attics, basements and crawl spaces, on his knees half the day at times, hubby's back ain't what it used to be, and his hip never was. Combining the two results in buying stock in chiropractic clinics. Hubby, being cheap in the medical care arena (yes, I know, don't even start the lecture, he won't listen), only goes to chiros who don't require x-rays because why pay for x-rays when you can have someone jump on your back without them. Cheaper and still effective. He had a really great chiro when he lived in The City (that's Chicago for those of you who don't speak the language) but "Dr. Evelyn" has retired due to her own joint problems brought on by years of jumping on people's backs.

Living in the provinces, finding a good health care practitioner can be, um, challenging to say the least. A few examples: swollen lymph nodes diagnosed as "muscle lumps", whatever the hell that is. Gall bladder disease declared to be a urinary tract infection even though the UTI test was negative and the patient informed intake, nurse and doctor that it was gall bladder disease. Ectopic pregnancy proclaimed psychosomatic hypochondria with patient referred to a therapist rather than a gynecologist. Ah, yes, it's an adventure if you get sick around here without a good referral to someone who isn't an idiot concerned only about his golf game.

So hubby couldn't get into his regular chiro who has irregular hours but seeing that he was bent in half and unable to walk without looking and sounding like Quasimodo, we asked around and found one with a decent reputation (among the few people we know). Sadly, he required x-rays. In taking x-rays, he found something interesting so when hubby came home he said, "You can divorce me now, I'm officially a freak of nature." Now I found that so anti-climatic that I didn't even break stride but he continued to tell me that the chiro had not only discovered one leg was 3/4" shorter than the other but that he has an extra vertebra. It's official: my husband is a mutant. I already knew this but was keeping it a secret to protect him from the comments of outsiders.

Oh...and he has a pinched sciatic nerve. I'm sure more on that topic will be forthcoming.

Friday Night in the Garage

"What're you looking for?"

"A wrench"

"Oh, I haven't seen a wrench but there's a screwdriver up there" (points to the inoperable Franklin stove)

He picks it up and shows the end which looks like a socket for small bolts.

"Ah, we call that a scrench", she says in a decidedly Pythonesque voice.

LATER

"Do you like that one better?"

"Better than what?"

"The other one, the fold up one"

"I can't reach that one. This one's fine with two cushions and one on the back and it has arms. I like chairs with arms. You probably didn't know that about me."

"Yes, I did know that but it's hard to screw in a chair with arms."
----------------------------------------------------

Doesn't have a deep meaning.....It's just Twitter only in real life.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Goatlets

We had baby goats today. This makes me happy - and I needed a bit of happy. I've been waiting and waiting and so looking forward to having babies and was devastated when the first batch died before I even made it to the barn. This time I swore to whoever would listen that I wasn't going to let anything happen.

I've been in the barn for at least half the day for the past two weeks. I've spent all night out there when it looked like Anya, mama goat, was getting close. She wasn't....and it makes for a rather long night. My intermittently charming spouse has been very patient with my being outside all the time. He's awakened me in the middle of the night to go down and check. He's made me sandwiches to take and hot rags to carry just in case. He forced me to go to bed twice because I'd been up for over 24 hours and had planned to go back yet again "just to check on her". He's been remarkably and uncharacteristically patient about it. He knew how much it hurt to have the other babies die.

So last night I was in the barn until about 11.30. I was tired and I didn't want to spend the night dozing while kneeling with my head laying on the goat's side. It was chilly and I was exhausted. So I went to bed and asked him to wake me at 2. He woke me at 2.30 instead. And again at 3 because I really didn't want to get up and crawl back into my winter outside gear and slog through the 3" mud mixed with cow shit and walk in the rain down the hill to the barn. I just really didn't want to. I got up at 3.30, I put on the gear and slogged and put a ball cap over my knit hat and nothing was happening beyond some stretching and yawning - something they do for no known reason when they're getting close to kidding.

I came back up at 6 and went back to bed. For some reason, I lose track of time in the barn. I always think it's been about 20 minutes when it's actually been a couple of hours. I woke up late. Really late. Then I felt guilty because I woke up late and wasn't already in the barn checking on things. Everyone needed to be fed because I didn't want to feed them at 3 am in the cold rain. They wouldn't starve overnight.

I got to the barn around 2 this afternoon. There was a bit of stretching and begging for treats which I hadn't brung with me. And then....contractions started. So I hauled the other doe into a different section of the barn. She was being a pill and trying to push her way into the grain bin we converted into a kidding pen. She was chewing on my hair and licking my coat and getting on my nerves, slightly, in a goat kind of way.I watched the contractions. I timed them - 3 minutes apart. I waited. I texted my sister and faux-step-dau to tell them babies were finally coming. I called hubby on the walkie talkies we use when I'm in the barn or he's in one of the other buildings. It's quicker than using the phone. I watched a while longer and the contractions didn't come any closer together so I made a run to the house to get hot molasses water, wet towels, another cup of tea and the sandwich that hubby thrust on me. Back to the barn. more waiting, more watching, shared part of the sandwich with the goat.

About an hour later, her amniotic sac broke. Now things would get interesting. It took 15 minutes or so and the first baby started coming. That was some slow going. Push, push, push, squalling all the time. Then take a break. More pushing, more squalling, another break. When the front feet had been out for a while, I decided to help a bit so I held the feet firmly while she pushed and the little nose started to show. Finally she got the baby out. It took about an hour. Poor mama. I dried the baby off as best I could while she pushed the second one out. We cleaned their little faces, she and I and I made sure they knew where the food was. Not as easy as you might think but it's important to get colostrum in them as quickly as possible. Anya, mama, kept licking and licking to stimulate them and clean them off. They finally seemed to get annoyed with all this licking but what could they do? They're babies and what mama says goes.


Two bouncing baby bucklings (as far as I can tell at the moment). One looks just like mama only darker. The other gives credit to his papa with a white stripe on his side and his pushy personality - already. We're deciding on names. So far Arnie, Artie and Fredo are topping the list. Fredo's pretty much a gimme; it's a choice between the other two now.



I love babies.....I'm out of cigarettes and I'm going to bed

Monday, March 2, 2009

Starlings


It's 19 degrees outside as March blows in. I'm tired. I'm tired of being cold, of living in the darkness of the outdated, man-made time change that accompanies winter. I'm tired of the cold wind that blows almost constantly across the valley, chapping my face, cutting through my mittens and whistling around my double paned windows. Ice and road salt, long johns, flannel lined jeans, hats, mittens, Carhartt's, thinsulate lined, knee high, rubber boots. I feel weighted down and after four months, it's exhausting and I'm tired.

But March has arrived and today I'm hopeful. It's still cold. There are still two or three patches of snow and ice on the north side of the house where, shaded by a large tree, the sun shines only two hours a day, but the dogs are rolling in the short, brown grass. The cows are in the pasture and the goats are bawling to be let out of the barn into the sunshine.

The chickens are cluck-clucking around the barn yard instead of huddling in the two car garage that serves as their house. The geese and ducks are looking for grass. Perhaps they see something that my human eye can't, but regardless, the geese are honking happily and no one is sitting huddled beyond a fat, yellow hen who doesn't want me to take her egg. And this morning there are starlings.

Most people dislike starlings but I am not one of those people. I have to smile as I look out my window at the flock of starlings poking at the ground in my yard. So many that they're difficult to count, if one was inclined to do so. So many that as the puppy runs excitedly toward them, they call out and fly up to fill the branches of the 100 year old tree that reaches into the blue sky outside my front door. The starlings, along with a handful of smaller birds, make their cheerful morning noises as they hop in and out of holes in the majestic tree, scouting for promising sites in which to build their nests and raise their babies.

In a few minutes, I will again weight myself down in my winter garb, put on my hat and mittens, and go out to feed the birds and milk the goats but today I will walk the yard looking for crocus poking their heads up out of the soil to brave the crispness of the air and tell me that, finally, spring is truly coming.

On the cusp of winter and spring, I finally feel hopeful. There are eggs in my bird house ready to be sat upon. There is new life waiting to be born in my barn. There is the sound of geese honking, chickens clucking and Muscovies quietly hissing. There are cows grazing on last year's grass, dogs barking in a way that sounds like laughing. And there are starlings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lichens: The Ongoing Adventures of Tree Fungus


For the past couple of weeks I've been pondering what I know of skin diseases. To be perfectly honest about my ignorance, I don't think I knew that there are "skin diseases". Conditions we called them; Ailments, or in a pinch, a skin thing.

No one in my immediate family had acne. My high school boyfriend did but that was in the 80's when acne docs usually said to lay off dairy products, chocolate and pop (here in the north, it's pop, not soda - charmingly pronounced "sodie" by my southern steps). One of my step-daus from my 2nd marriage had acne in the 90's and was given an Rx of antibiotics, but acne was the least of her problems so we didn't really pursue it. She didn't care and preventing her from sniffing trash and eating rotten food were higher on the priority list. Acne was just acne. Teenagers got it and around 19-20, it went away. I only ever met one adult with it, a co-worker friend of mine. She went to a derm for some kind of treatment but we never really discussed it and I never thought of it as a disease. It was just a skin thing.

My mother had eczema. It was really bad when she was a kid but improved with age and some alternative treatments she devised through trial and error. Myself, I'm leery of putting Prep H on my face but hey, whatever works. However, I didn't think of it as a "disease", it was just an annoying condition.

I also had a boyfriend in college with psoriasis. He was so self-conscious that he wore jeans and long sleeved shirts even in 90 degree heat. In fact, I'm not sure I ever saw it and you'd think I would have given the circumstances. I do remember that he got "light treatments" for it when he was back home in Detroit and he once explained to me how that was done. Rather like a vertical tanning bed without the bed. I didn't know that was a disease either, an auto-immune disease no less, just like eczema is an auto-immune disease. Until two weeks ago, I didn't know that about either of them. They were just "skin conditions".

Now I have the tree fungus and it's official. The biopsy came back positive which is no surprise to me given the number of websites I've read in the period of time between the leather punch incident and the letter from the derm. While I appreciate all of the helpful advice from others, useful things like "Would it help if you boosted your immune system?" (um, autoimmune disease, here's yer sign). "Try Stridex, it should help" (not pimples but thanks for playing). "You must have some emotional trauma buried deep in your subconsious. Figure out what that is and I'm sure it will go away"; "You eat too much chocolate", "You've always been too thin, that will cause this type of thing, you know" (I can't even think of a response for those, sarcastic or otherwise). The thoughtful advice is sweet but.....I doubt drinking borax is going to be very helpful.

I've discovered strange little quirks that were never really ascribed to a common cause but which now fall into place under as symptoms of the tree fungus skin. Things like intermittent weird fingernails. They'll be fine for months when suddenly they develop these ridges that run from the cuticle to the nail end. Not really ugly, but strange. The nail on my ring finger will even split up the center along one of these ridges. It's annoying when that happens because I've always really liked my hands, especially my nails, and when one splits or breaks, I have to trim them all down and wait for them to grow back out again. I know, it sounds very girlie of me, but when you have largely unkempt hair, don't wear makeup, dress like a farmer, have some kind of shit on every pair of footwear but one and don't have a shopping fetish, having a fondness for your nails isn't much. Now I know the nail thing is the tree fungus. 'Twould never have occurred to me to correlate the two.

Even stranger, from the time I was 19 or so, I've chewed the inside of my mouth. My first ex used to tease me about it, telling me that I was going to chew a hole through my cheek. I was really compulsive about it but always assumed it was a nervous thing like people who twist their hair. Nope, it's the tree fungus. In my mouth. That explains the derm looking in my mouth which I thought was bizarre given the nasty little bumps were on my feet, legs and arms. I asked hub's nephew, the dentist, if he'd noticed that I have this thing in my mouth and he said it's really common, both the the fact of it being there and the subsequent chewing. Common enough that he didn't think to mention it to me until I asked about it. What's odd to me is that having chewed the inside of my mouth for years, I suddenly stopped sometime in my 30's. I didn't even notice I'd quit until ex hub #1, in a fit of nostalgia, asked if I still did it. I realized that I didn't and hadn't for quite some time. But lo and behold, I started again 6 or 8 months ago. Weird, huh?

The latest development is the fungus seems to be screwing with my teeth, hence the chat with the dentist nephew. In the past two weeks, I've had to have pretty extensive dental work done on a couple of teeth. Not fun since I'd rather have an eye removed with a fork than undergo a dentist's drill. Shots? Annoying but no biggie. The low pitched, slow drill? Rather like a blowfly trapped in a nasal cavity but not overly distressing. That nasty, high pitched, make you want to rip your hair (or the dentist's) out and run away screaming drill; that one's a problem. So drill, drill, pick, pick, x-ray, drill, pick, x-ray, drill....I've had enough of that. The appearance of the tree fungus shortly before the oral problems, and having conferred with my handy family medical people, would lead me to believe that this synchronicity is not coincidental (ugh, there's that dental again). It's the tree fungus. My, my, isn't this fun?
However, I've done yet more reading of sites offered by my step-dau and it would seem that my case isn't nearly as bad as that of others. So I'm not going to bitch about it (much) and will be thankful that it doesn't hurt, isn't eroding the inside of my mouth, isn't causing oral yeast infections and, hopefully, won't require any more root canals. I'll be thankful that I don't have lupus or Crohn's or RA. I'll wear shorts and tank tops as always and ignore any surreptitious looks from strangers. I'll pretend they're admiring my legs instead. There are worse things and luckily, I don't have any of them.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lucky Me, It's Not A Fatal Rash

I have a list of blog topics that I keep on my desk. Occasionally I look at them and start composing sarcastic repartee in my head which, sadly, I promptly forget as soon as I go to bed. I've been meaning to write about my little dinosaurs, about my husband's rather odd, and continually finding himself on the wrong side of the law, son. I have cow stories, goat stories, dog stories and the occasional weird friend story but all of those humorous little things have fallen by the wayside, superseded by tree fungus skin.

You'll recall that I have had issues with toe bumps and the potentially fatal rash. My husband's adamant demand that I make a trip with him to Farm & Fleet in search of appropriate footwear has resolved the toe bump problem. Men's cow shit brown, size 12 farm boots with thinsulate type liners (rated to -30 deg) aren't terribly sexy and make me look like Bozo the Clown while walking but they've kept my perpetually cold feet warm even when it was -27 here at the old ranch. That's the good news.

The fatal rash which turned out to be neither fatal, nor a rash, was diagnosed by the somewhat disbelieving Nurse Practitioner as contact dermatitis. Hubby had changed the laundry soap, a major offense here in my environment where any introduction of perfume or even mild chemicals produce truly unpleasant effects to my skin and internal organs. If it smells nice, it's not getting through the door. If it makes your laundry really soft and has little teddie bears jumping onto the piles, keep that shit away from me or I'm liable to wake up with boils the size of kittens in places I don't even want to hint at.

I was relieved and not terribly surprised when the NP made her proclamation. She offered 3 tubes of innocuous cream to slather on the offending bumps and I made my relatively merry and relieved way home believing relief was in sight. Silly me; I really should know better by now. It seems very few things are easy when it comes to medical, dental or psych care and my body, teeth and brain (such that it is). I, being the true sister of an excellent nurse and a paranoid as well as distrusting patient, covered all the pertinent questions, understood fully what the NP told me and asked what I should do if the not so fatal rash didn't go away with use of the creamy stuff. She looked at me like I'm stupid, medical professionals often look at me like that, and said I should see a dermatologist. Fine. Lovely. I went home fully expecting to have my skin back within a matter of days. Didn't happen.

What did happen is the red, itchy bumps on the soles of my feet turned into scaly, itchy, welt looking things which spread to my ankles. A few days later, I had red, itchy bumps on the front of my calves, the leg kind, not the bovine kind. Then on my forearms, then in select places on my thighs, then on the base of my spine where my jean's tag tends to rub. I was beginning to look like I had mange and it wasn't a pretty picture.

I waited until all but a tiny bit of the creamy stuff was gone and called the only dermatologist out here in the provinces. The nearly incomprehensible receptionist finally figured out I needed an appointment, scheduled one - for two weeks later of course - and I waited apprehensively while worrying about what could possibly be causing this bizarre epithelial outrage.

Finally the appointment day arrived. I had a shrink appointment beforehand, because I like to double up on irritating events, so I toodled off, became annoyed yet again with the shrink and arrived at the derm's office 45 minutes early. Joy. If you know me, you know I don't wait well. And I'm understating just how much I don't wait well....I waited. I went into the office 3 minutes before my appointment, filled out the obligatory 500 page questionnaire and waited some more. And some more after that. In a completely full waiting room; one so full the receptionist, this one a fluent speaker of English, brought out a couple office chairs for people to sit on.

Finally I was called back, my name mispronounced as usual. Into the exam room I went with the very pleasant nursey person who asked me more questions, wrote them down, nodded cheerfully and said the doctor would be right in. I waited. I scratched a bit; I read several pages in my ubiquitous book and eventually the doctor came in, smirking. I wasn't sure if that meant he had a sense of humor (my preference in medical folks) or was an arrogant ass (the more common affliction of medical folks). He asked me the same questions as the nurse type person - doesn't anyone read the damned chart? He asked how long I'd had it. I told him 3 months to which he replied, "Well you rushed right in didn't you?" That annoyed me so in a slightly curt tone I told him I'd have been in sooner except I had to decide it wasn't going away on its own, it took a week to see the NP, three weeks of using the creamy stuff and another 2 weeks to get an appointment with him at which point he shut up and asked to see the rash type thing.

I showed him one of my arms, he nodded knowingly. Then I showed him my alligator/alien feet, told him the NP said contact dermatitis and he looked at me like I had three heads and said, "No, it's likeanplarlnafst" to which I responded, "What?" He repeated it. I repeated it back. The three heads popped out of my neck again. "Lichen planus", he said. I thought to myself, what the hell is that? Having thought it, I of course said it aloud. He raised an eyebrow and then chuckled. AHA! Sense of humor. Thank goodness because if I'm going to have some weird skin thing, the doctor had better have a sense of humor. He said because of its appearance, it's named for the stuff that grows on trees. You know, tree fungus. I asked how I got it. He asked if I was an IV drug user. Ut oh, this isn't good. He then asked if I associated with IV drug users. "Associated" must be code for did I sleep with junkies. Again, not my cup of tea. Had I had a blood transfusion? Nope. Did I donate blood? Nope. Did I have Hepatitis C? Um, not that I'm aware of, especially since I don't even know how a person contracts Hepatitis C. Did I have a tattoo? That one I have but the time period and place in which I got it precluded my having been exposed to aforementioned junkies, transfused persons, or persons with hepatitis C. At this point, I reached the point of sweating, my ears were ringing, hands were shaking and nausea settled in which normally precedes completely losing control of myself in an embarrassing way in a public place.

Offering no additional information, said doctor informed me that I needed a biopsy and left the room. Hmmm. Didn't sound promising, especially since I still didn't know what the hell it was, what caused it or what to do about it. The nurse came back in, started pulling swabs and needles and odd looking torture devices out of miscellaneous drawers and smiling at me in a "gee, I feel really sorry for you" way. Reenter the doctor who drew a circle around one of the red, bumpy, scaly things on my arm, shot a big bubble of anesthetic into said arm, and, I kid you not, took a tool that looked like a leather punch, smirked at me and jabbed the thing about 1/2 an inch into my forearm. Yikes! It didn't hurt of course due to the pint of stuff he'd already shot into my arm but it was still rather alarming to have a flesh cork pulled out of an extremity. He put a couple stitches in and rolled his little roly chair back to the counter, smirking the whole time. I said the name of the mange type thing again and the three heads reappeared but he agreed that I had it right. I told him my goats were getting ready to kid and asked if they could catch it. He burst out with a snork and said, "You'd think you'd be more concerned about whether your husband could catch it, but no, it's not contagious". I replied that if my husband was going to catch it, he'd have it by now and the doc agreed. I asked how to get rid of it. He was vague. I asked how long it would take. He said, "about 2 years." TWO YEARS?? Not contagious but apparently having some correlation with junkies, transfusions, blood donation and hepatitis C. Not much to go on.

I headed for home, weeping along the way, called my step-daughter and asked her to look it up in her nursing school books. She instead immediately looked it up online and read what she found to me while I was driving. Autoimmune disease of the skin. No known cause. No known cure. Upon reaching home with a sinking and nauseous feeling in my gut, I logged into twitter and found my sister who immediately starting sending me helpful links all of which said the same thing and had lovely accompanying photos.

So the not so fatal rash has morphed into tree fungus skin. As of a few days ago, I can't use a razor to shave my legs so I'm beginning to resemble a yeti. I'm waiting for the biopsy results to come back so the doc can decide on a "treatment program". I don't even like the sound of that. I'm finding novel ways to avoid exposing skin, not terribly difficult given the weather, but spring is looming as is what I'm sure will prove to be a series of embarrassing public displays of human tree fungus. Stay tuned. More to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sucking Off The Sofa

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I hate to vacuum. It's not that I jump for joy over any type of housecleaning but I particularly hate to vacuum. No, I don't know why. It may be because I have always had animals so I have always had animal hair, which I find annoying so I choose to ignore it as best I can. It may also stem from Saturday morning housecleaning when I was a kid. One week I vacuumed and dusted, the next I alternated with my sister and cleaned bathrooms and washed floors. I really hated cleaning my mother's house because no matter what I did, no matter how long I spent, it rarely if ever suited her. I imagine that somehow contributed to my dislike for domestic duties. Or it may just be because my vacuum sucks. Or rather doesn't suck.

I used to have a big, black dog (see previous post with photos of said big, black dog). At the time of coexistence with big, black dog, I had a plush, bluish-grey sofa. Yes, I call it a sofa. Not a couch. Not a divan. A sofa. Just accept it and move on. This particular sofa was a hide-a-bed. Handy for those drunken relatives who don't want, or need, to drive home. I bought it with money I earned writing greeting cards. Yep, they pay you to write insipid crap. I loved that sofa. When I divorced the first time I took my computer (of course), my books (what are ya stupid? Got to have those) and my sofa. I moved that sofa all over Indiana and into Illinois where I moved it three more times. At this point you're wondering why I previously mentioned big, black dog. Because when the dog was being a pill, I'd tell him "go lay down" and he'd go lay on the sofa - his end of the sofa. The other end was mine.

Now this dog did his twice daily patrols of the farm his entire life, checking on cows, goats and chickens and keeping an eye out for trespassing critters which he would then chase off or shake....really hard, depending on the type of critter and his mood at the time. After 4 years or so of the slightly less than clean dog laying on the sofa, it wasn't really bluish-grey anymore. I discovered this when I flipped the cushions over and found that the underside was a different color than the upperside. Imagine that. Having kids in the house didn't help the situation but I have to place the majority of the dye job at the dog's feet or, to be accurate, belly.

When I moved from Illinois to Iowa (briefly), I auctioned off the not-so-bluish-grey-anymore sofa and bought recliners. I inherited a really ugly hide-a-bed from my grandmother so the chairs and ugly sofa settled into the new house with little fanfare. As did the dog. This time around, there was a sheet on the sofa which was removed in the rare event of visitors.

When I got divorced again, I took my computer (of course), my books (like I'd leave them behind) and the ugly sofa and moved into the smallest house on the planet. There really wasn't room for anything more than the ugly sofa. Two people, two dogs (one a really big, black dog) and two cats in a three room house doesn't really allow for a Better Homes and Gardens full page layout. We still kept a cover on the sofa though as I didn't want to be wallowing in miscellaneous animal hair any more than was absolutely necessary given the circumstances.

After living in the smallest house on Earth for a couple of years, we bought this place. Nice, isn't it? We brought the ugly sofa with us and I started looking around for a love seat or a couple of chairs that would match - sort of. Four furniture stores, with a bunch of ugly furniture none of which matched my ugly sofa, later we ran into (not literally) a beautiful, black living room set in the display window at a ridiculously overpriced furniture store. I looked and then I moved on to look at ugly stuff that might match the ugly sofa. Nothing. As we were leaving, I again looked at the living room set and sighed because it was way too expensive and wouldn't match the ugly sofa anyway; plus the set wouldn't fit in my new living room with the ugly sofa. My new husband looked at me like I was an alien and informed me that we didn't have to match the ugly sofa we could, heaven forbid, get something else and get rid of it. I'm cheap or more politely put, I'm frugal, so the thought of tossing out a perfectly good sofa, albeit ugly, didn't come easily to me and since I don't live in Kentucky, I couldn't just put it on the porch or the lawn.

Nice huh?

I him-hawed around until he talked me into it and we brought the gorgeous set home and gave away the ugly sofa. What could better? Black furniture, big, black dog. A wonderful match that. All of which leads me back to vacuuming. When the big, black dog went where big, black dogs go, we got small, light colored dogs. If you'll recall, the new living room furniture is black. Black sofa, black love seat, light colored dogs. Not good. One of the interesting things about cattle dogs is they look like normal dogs with normal dog hair when in reality, they have 400 pounds of static filled hair which is constantly flying off of their bodies at the speed of light right onto my black sofa. And black love seat. And green dining room rugs. And blue blanket on my bed. This requires a great deal of vacuuming if one doesn't want to look like a yeti in jeans or suffocate while sitting, walking or trying to sleep. Did I mention that I hate vacuuming?

So today we were half expecting company which means someone has to vacuum. I had the choice of cleaning out the garage and reinstalling the downstairs shower enclosure (unfortunate plumbing incident) or vacuuming. Sadly, I was delegated the vacuuming. Normally the Sicilian does housecleaning but today I had to and I was not pleased. I hate my vacuum. I hate that it won't suck up dog hair from the green rugs and that, rather than sucking things up, it blows things around on the hardwood floors. Two hours later I had vacuumed two rooms and there was still dog hair. Hubby emptied the filter for the second time and I took a break to smoke and tweet for a bit giving my blood pressure a chance to come down before resuming vacuuming duties.
The final job in my vacuuming regimen is to suck off the sofa and love seat. I have three vacuums in the house. An upright Dirt Devil, a Dirt Devil Broom Vac and a Dirt Devil Power Reach that was a gift to the Sicilian who likes to be tidy. I just realized those are all Dirt Devils. I hadn't known than until I typed it so how bizarre. Anyway, the upright has a flexible tube thingy and a high speed brush thingy that I normally use to suck off the sofa, but yesterday the high speed brush thingy got stuck and wouldn't high power brush. I tried the power reach which made quite a bit of noise and got the dog alarmed enough to start barking like a lunatic but didn't suck the hair off of the sofa with any degree of accuracy so I moved on to the old standby: the broom vac. I've had a broom vac since I was about 22 and got my first decent furniture, while living with three cats. I love this thing. It's been the only vacuum I've ever found that will actually make the hair go somewhere besides the sofa and surrounding airspace. This particular broom vac is old and tired but after a while, it did the trick. No more hair. I had to go over the sofa several times because hair migrates, you know, and the broom vac, being old and tired, wasn't up to its normal standard. But hooray, no dog hair. For about 15 minutes. Finally, being relatively hairless, I stood back all pleased and proud of myself and 10 minutes later got a call that company wasn't coming after all. Such is my life.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adoption, Without The Platitudes

A friend was talking of another loss to adoption last week. She was enlisting the help of those who might be able to keep yet another young woman from losing her child. A 20 year old couple found themselves in "the family way" and succumbed to the pressure of self-serving adoption professionals and a couple hungry for a child they can pretend is their own. I say loss because although one couple will have a baby and adoption workers will have an income, a young mother will lose part of her soul and that's a permanent loss. She will struggle and suffer for the rest of her life, just as her child will.

This adoption is coined as "an open adoption" which means the adoptive parents agree to ongoing contact with the birthmother. Nice in theory, wonderful if it actually happens as that is the only way by which adopted children will feel a connection to both families, understand who they are and where they come from. However, open adoption is not legally enforceable so if and or when the adoptive parents decide they want the birthfamily out of the picture, they don't have to fulfill their obligations and promises and no one cares. The biggest problem with closed adoption is because so many things are genetic, growing up in a family not of your blood can be disconcerting and cause a child to feel apart from those called family. The continuing contact between adoptee and birthfamily also helps to lessen the intense emotional pain of the birthmother although that pain is never fully healed and will never really go away. It's the gift that keeps on ripping your heart out.

The vast majority of people see adoption through the rose colored window of outsiders not privy to the feelings of the parties involved. Some wayward girl gets herself into trouble, does the "right thing" by placing her child for adoption, provides a "gift" to the adoptive parents and life goes on merrily for all involved. Is that the storyline you believe? If it is, you're wrong. Dead wrong. That's the Juno storyline and it's the biggest line of bullshit still being spouted by the media while adoption professionals chuckle behind their hands while putting more money into their bank accounts by misleading pregnant women and couples wishing to raise a child and having to resort to adoption in order to do so. Here are some facts you may not be aware of. The vast majority of birthmothers do not have access to unbiased counsel. They are encouraged to sign adoption papers while still in the hospital and under the influence of medication. While different states have different time periods, the period during which an adoption can be revoked is between 1 day and 30 days so in the case that prompted this blog, the limit was 3 days. 3 days to make a permanent, life altering decision that will affect more people than the birthmother, child and adoptive parents. This birthmother was not made aware of that, as law requires she be, and because it is now 4 days past her signing of the papers the day following her child's birth, she can not rescind her consent. 3 days to make a decision of such import. Think about it...the lemon law when buying a car gives you 12-24 months to return it if you find you made a bad decision but when relinquishing parental rights in some states, you get 3 days to change your mind.

The adopted child loses the person closest to them without knowing or understanding why, during a time when that person is most needed. After 9 months of the mother being the baby's sole experience and the entirety of his universe, suddenly she's no longer there. The baby is left in a state of panic and loss so deep that it leaves a wound that the child often isn't even aware he has: The Primal Wound (http://www.nancyverrier.com/).

Adoptive parents who have desperately wished for a child of their own finally have the opportunity to parent believing that a baby is a blank slate upon which they can write their own story, their own image. Babies are not clay to be molded. They come into the world with their personalities largely intact. Personalities that are based on genetics. Interests, skills, needs that are embedded into their DNA and can't be altered to any noticeable degree no matter how much molding is attempted. Environment exposes them to things outside their inner self, it teaches them how to speak, how to read, how to function in society but genetics play such a large role that even handwriting is hereditary. Skills, interests, hobbies, all of these things are inherited, not taught. They can be influenced by environment, whether negatively or positively, but they won't disappear because the genes don't just die off if the adoptive family doesn't encourage the child to pursue those interests.

Adoptive parents also suffer a loss by not being able to produce a child of their own blood. I would never minimize that loss having had long, intimate conversations with a mother who still carried the pain of infertility, even after she was finally able to conceive, after she adopted my child. The pain of adoptive parents is splashed all over the media but why is it that the pain of birthmothers and adopted children is not? Just to make a point here, there are few couples who choose adopting a child over producing one of their own. Adoption is the last resort for them and I believe that says something. You decide what it means. The joy of adoptive parents is effected by the pain of another mother who will never be the child's mother again. A mother who will be ashamed, guilt ridden and profoundly depressed due to the loss of her child. The pain of the child who has forever lost his mother; the one whose heartbeat was his universe for 9 months. The one whose voice was heard, who nourished him, who gave him life and then left him alone and afraid in the arms of strangers.

Infant adoption is unrealistic and it's damaging. The fact that women are still being coerced into handing off their flesh and blood says something about our society, and it's not something good. While children languish in foster care, babies are becoming more and more a limited commodity. Now prospective parents go to China, Africa and the former Soviet Union to secure babies. By doing that, they don't have to worry about US adoption laws or those pesky birthmothers coming into the picture later on. They don't have to be concerned about the child finding himself through contact with his bloodline. Beyond the obvious differences in appearance, they can pretend it's "their" child.

I'm a staunch supporter of foster care adoption. I believe that if a baby or child is in jeopardy, that child should not stay in the possession of the mother but I also believe that infant adoption for the sake of appearances and closed records are is just one more thing that shows the seedy underbelly of American culture. I am a birthmother. My son is an adoptee. His adoptive parents struggled with infertility for 20 years before adopting him, having a child of their own and realizing that what they were told, the clay molding lie, wasn't the truth. Reunion has helped us all to heal wounds.

Talk to a birthmother. Talk to an adoptee who has found himself through reunion with his family of origin. Talk to either once they've reunited and discover the truth of the bond that can't be broken, and then see if you're still praising adoption and looking through those glasses.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Goat Tails

In anticipation of the birth of baby goats here on the ranch, correctly termed as kidding for you accuracy junkies, I'll share with you the complicated art of determining if a goat is "with kid".

I have great respect for vets. The kind that fix animals as well as the military. However, lest there be any confusion, I'm referring to the animal kind. So having great respect, it never ceases to amaze me that vets can fix damned near anything wrong with a critter. In most cases it doesn't take innumerable tests or specialists which says a lot about veterinary medicine as well as human medicine, doesn't it?

I have a great relationship with one of my local vets. Not so much with the other one cuz he seems to have no sense of humor and looks at me like I'm stupid when I ask him a question that I genuinely want an answer to. He's better than the former vet who kicked one of my cows in the head and mysteriously left the vet office a couple weeks later, but still, he's not my fav.

Anyway, said not-so-fav-vet came out the other day to see if the little black cowses were pregnant. For inquiring minds, 2 out of 3 are. While here I asked him how to see if a goat is pregnant. He looked at me like that was the dumbest question he'd heard all week.

Not so brief backstory: I'm on a goat list. Yes, there are people who actually sign up on an email list that talks about goats. Why the hell not, I say. So the very same topic came up on the goat list a while back and the responses were slightly less than scientific. It would seem there are two options: bumping, also known in some circles as bouncing, and the squooshy tail method. Why can't you just do a pelvic? I asked the vet that very thing resulting in the "what are you stupid?" look.

So, bumping. Bumping is a seriously hands on practice which consists of standing behind and straddling the goat in question, grabbing her around the middle and thumping her behind her rumen. Rumen = big fat stomach. Supposedly, if something hard is felt while basically punching your goat in the stomach, the goat is pregnant. Warning: goats don't particularly like this procedure and may kick the crap out of you when you attempt it.

The second method, and by far my favorite for comic relief, is the squooshy tail method. This is even less scientific, if that's possible. It's said that a goat is firm under the tail. Okay, tail: hairy on top, no hair beneath and not something one would be fondling under normal circumstances which makes this method a bit more complicated. So, in order to determine if said goat is pregnant, one is to grab hold of the tail and feel the underside for "squooshiness". Yeah, that'll happen. If you've never attempted to grab a goat's tail and smoosh it while trying to ascertain if it's squooshy, I'd recommend you pass. It's not one of those procedures that goats stand idly by while you, um, proceed. Baahing, head flinging and kicking seem to be the standard reaction. That and running away while goat tender tries desperately to keep tail in hand. Great for comic video, not terribly useful as a means of determining pregancy. What ever happened to the rabbits?

Back to our regularly scheduled program. Vet checked cows, looked at me like I'm an idiot and mounted Daisy the goat. She didn't seem to enjoy this; you could tell by the head flinging and squalling that insued. Vet was not deterred and proceeded to bump, bump, bump on her side, finally announcing that he believed her to be pregnant. I also believed her to be, without the thumping, due to her intimate relationship with formerly discussed buckling. On to goat number 2, Anya. Anya isn't really thrilled with anyone touching her but me so this process went even less quickly than that with Daisy. However, having not seen horny buckling having carnal knowledge of her, I wasn't confident that she was in the family way. Again with the bumping and vet concludes that she too is pregnant. I'm pleased but really would prefer confirmation through a somewhat more rational means.

So now we're hanging around the frigid ranch awaiting the birth of kids and hoping to hell they wait until the temperature is on the positive side of the thermometer. Keep your fingers crossed and stay away from those squooshy tails.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Apparently You Can Be A Predator As Long As You're Gay

(This story is from 2007 but blog is reposted for gimpygirls benefit: http://www.twitter.com/thegimpygirls)

This morning I received an email from an activist group I belong to. Normally I agree with about 90% of what they stand for: environment, human rights, etc, but this one just set me off. Here's a quote from care2petitionsite - the emphasis is theirs:

"During a discussion Tuesday night on MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams about Sen. Larry Craig's (R-ID) arrest for "lewd conduct" and eventual guilty plea, Tucker Carlson described to fellow MSNBC hosts Dan Abrams and Joe Scarborough his assault on a man who he said "bothered" him in a Washington D.C. public restroom.

MSNBC has replayed some of the segment, but cropped out Carlson's comments that he "…went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the -- you know, and grabbed him, and ... [h]it him against the stall with his head." Carlson's comments, coupled with laughter from Abrams and Scarborough, suggested to viewers that physical violence is an appropriate response to an unwelcome overture. This is dangerous and wrong.

MSNBC has yet to acknowledge Carlson's comments.

Tucker Carlson should apologize immediately and condemn acts of violence against gays and lesbians. Sign and add your comments now telling Carlson and MSNBC why they must state publicly that they don't find humor in or condone the physical violence Carlson described. "

So here's what frosted me.....I believe that gay people have just as many rights as straight people or perhaps I need to say, SHOULD have as many rights as straight people. Noone can control whether they are gay or straight so why penalize a person for a fact of birth? But here's what pisses me off about this situation, because you knew there had to be something.....

The article and accompanying material say that the gay man in question accosted Carlson in a bathroom. What the hell is that about? If it had been a straight man accosting a woman and she knocked the shit out of him, people would have cheered for her. The guy would have been charged with attempted rape or, at the very least, sexual assault. Who decided it was okay for gays to be predators? Noone should have to worry about being assaulted in the john, or anywhere else for that matter and if they are, they absolutely should fight back and then press charges.

It's beyond reproach that Carlson took a friend back with him to smack the guy in question and that the friend thought it was funny but I don't fault him for taking action. If we don't make a stand against predatory people, they will continue to prey on others. How many people would like to injure a pedophile? Or a rapist? What makes this scenario any different? Oh, let's see....because the predator in question was a gay man and a large segment of the press/political arena are catering to gay people to the point of stupidity.

I'm not bashing gays in any way. Gay and lesbian people have been denied rights and have been abused for ages and that has to stop. Sexual orientation should not be a determining factor in housing, insurance, employment or anything else for that matter. But on the other hand, a gay or lesbian person has no fucking right to attack someone or even to make advances upon them. Straight guys have no business grabbing at me and gay men have no business grabbing at people in the toilet. What happened to seeing if someone was interested in you before you launch into overt sexual overtures?

What the hell is going on? Why should he apologize to all gays and lesbians? ALL of them didn't accost him in a bathroom. What he should do is tell the guy who did, "Man....you're an asshole and I hope to hell you don't do that to anyone else or you're likely to get the shit kicked out of you". It's a fine lesson for that guy to learn.

If I had a friend who had a man do this to her and she did the same thing: grabbed a friend and bashed his head into a wall, I'd be cheering her and hoping the guy wound up in the hospital. The other tv guys should have been more dignified than to think it was funny - someone should have said, "Wow....that must have been creepy but at least you handled it so it wouldn't happen to someone else anytime soon". Not laugh like hormonal 15 year olds....but still, the point I come back to is, since when is it okay to be a sexual predator just because you're gay? It's not okay. It's never going to be okay. The meaning of equal rights means you are equal to everyone else....not MORE equal, not SPECIAL rights, EQUAL.....the same as me, the same as the chick down the road, the same as my bi-sexual son. You aren't special. You deserve to be equal - you don't deserve to do whatever the hell you want to do without repercussions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's Not Fair

Sometimes life is difficult. Not mine so much, I suppose; I'm used to mine. I just muddle through it trying to keep a grip on myself and telling everyone that I'm fine. Most of them believe me.

What's really hard is watching the lives of others and being unable to do anything but listen and offer a hug and wipe the tears away. My good friend has a history that would make a psychologist cry and probably has. She bears her scars with dignity and continues to discard the baggage one bag at a time. She's a wonderful woman who deserves so much more than she's been given and I hope one day she'll not only get it but believe that she's deserving of it as well.

One of the people I love most in the world has spent the last year in the clutches of incompetent doctors in an attempt to discover why her health is failing and why she's in pain all the time. A year of this....constant pain, swelling that moves from one lymph node to another and back again, unable to sleep, to eat, exhausted all the time even while struggling to finish college and care for her two little girls. It's so hard and it's so frustrating for everyone, her in particular. She's spent the past year wondering if she has an illness that can be treated or not treated or if she's suffering from something that will take her away from everyone and everything she loves. Why should someone so young have to face that? Where is the logic in that? She has no bad karma to atone for. She hasn't cursed the gods and isn't deserving of their revenge. All she's done is live a good life and care for those around her. She's a joy and now she's suffering and it's dreadful.

There are so many people who face trials and difficulties in their lives and I wish I could pick them up and put them in my pocket where they would be safe and secure and not have to suffer anymore but my pockets aren't deep enough, so instead I stand in the wings and watch the suffering and cry. I want to do something. Anything! Anything that could help take it away or at least lessen the burdens. It's so incredibly frustrating that frustrating just doesn't come close to expressing it. It actually hurts inside to not be able to help when I so desperately don't want those I love to be in pain.

I want life to be fair and it's not. Horrible people go through their lives never giving a second thought to the pain and chaos they create while kind, caring people struggle and suffer. They plod along doing the best they can and are continually knocked down only to struggle back to their feet and plod along some more. It's not fair and it should be and I will never understand why the cosmos doesn't pay attention but I will continue to hope that at some point soon, it will.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Don't Blow Sunshine Up My Butt

(This is one I've copied from my other blog site so you may have read it before)

I recently read a blog wherein it says that envy is the root of all unhappiness. This is supposed to be a Qabbalistic theory. I haven't spent a lot of time reading Qabbala because, frankly, I have other more interesting things to read right now. I like a little mysticism now and then and I'll even do some airy fairy New Age crap from time to time but having owned an occult store in the past, I'm in no rush to flush my mind down yet another toilet of empty platitudes that negate the need for me to take control of my own life by placing the blame or responsibility on my past lives, some invisible omnipotent being or the bad psychic fumes in my environment.

So....envy is the root, is it? I believe I can state several examples that misprove that theory. Um, let's see....no, it's not tough to think of one, it's tough to decide where to begin in this little game I've created for myself today.

Chronic pain causes unhappiness and not because the person is envious that other people don't have chronic pain. At that point, a person doesn't much give two shits if you have pain or not - they just don't want to have it anymore. They aren't sitting around thinking, "ya know, if Mary had chronic pain too, I wouldn't be so unhappy."

Poverty causes unhappiness too and that's usually not due to envy either. If you can't afford groceries and don't know where you'll be living when the rent comes due, you don't have an awful lot of time to be worrying about what the Jones' are doing. You're more worried about starving to death in the snow under an overpass. You aren't ruining your good mood by wishing you had a big tv like the neighbors, instead you're wishing you had a Ritz cracker and some indoor plumbing that works.

And my personal favorite, being a nutbag causes unhappiness. Or should I try political correctness since I'm paying $400, yep that's right, $400 an hour to take a class in it.....How bout this then, suffering from a mental illness often leads to unhappiness. Let's see...if you're a sobbing ball of depressed flesh laying in bed wishing you were dead, you aren't giving much thought to what others have or do or think or any other damned thing. You're thinking about where the nearest overpass is so you can drive off that bad boy and, hopefully, not smash into the poor guy underneath who just wants a cracker and a semi-clean toilet. So where does envy enter into this picture?

How's about we stop oversimplifying everything as an opiate for the masses? Maybe, just maybe, let's try looking a little bit deeper and discovering what each individual person needs in order to help themselves be happier? That's right, folks, help themselves. Cuz you don't make me unhappy - I make me unhappy and vice versa. My illness makes me unhappy and you not only can't change that, you can't do a damned thing about it either. Your individual struggles make you unhappy and I don't have a thing to do with that either.

If your life is miserable, figure out what you're doing that is contributing to it and knock it the hell off. If you're broke and out buying shit on your credit cards, STOP IT. Take some personal responsibility and stop blaming shit on other people. If your wife is a shrewish bitch, divorce her and move on. Seeing my point here?

I'm really tired of hearing and reading about how one group of people is causing so much discomfort for another. How about the unhappy people change their lives and stop looking for someone else to do it for them? How bout some other people stop saying "god/goddess/welfare/Barney the Dinosaur will provide" and go provide for their own damned selves. I taught my step-kids to take responsibility for their own actions, failures, successes and futures and they're doing fine. They don't place blame on others unless the others are actually to blame. I have respect for them. For those who place blame, I don't.

The theory of karma says that we create our own lives based upon what we do and have done in the past. All things are open to revision. So, beyond illness (and to a small degree, illness as well - go to the doctor, moron), you can change anything you wish and make your life a happier place.

So why the hell are you sitting around reading this? Go do something to improve your life and have a lovely day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Steer Clear

(This is graphic so if you're squeamish, don't read it.)

I was awakened at the crack of dawn by my cell phone ringing accompanied by the voice of my charming spouse requiring directions and screaming at some guy in a fit of road rage. Maybe rage is too severe but road annoyance doesn't quite cover the resulting headache. The yelling following all night dreaming of developing thrush did not make for an auspicious day. However, directions duly provided, teeth brushed, tea steeped, computer on. Morning on the farm. Moo, Baa, Bwauk.

It's Thursday, an uninspiring day of the week, middelish (no, that is not a word) with no redeeming qualities but existing just the same there between Hump Day and the weekend. I don't really mind Thursdays since, in most cases, it's a day very like other days. Get up, engage in the (usually) uneventful morning routine: grumbling, tooth brushing, feeding of dogs, letting out of dogs so they can do their morning business, computer booting, email and tweet reading, blog checking in the event that there were comments made since the last blog check. This morning there was even more excitement than usual, aside from the telephonic road rage. This morning there was texting about cookies.

I love cookies. Almost any kind of cookie, particularly those that contain chocolate and to my elation, a friend will be bringing me cookies on Saturday. I love it when that happens.

So while basking in the glow of potential, future cooking snarfing, the day unfolds before me in all its glory.....I have to clean up cow remains. Joy. So much for glow basking.

"Cow remains?" you squawk. "Yep" I reply to your dismay, "cow remains". We decided it was time to butcher one of 2006's steers. Meat for the freezer which has a resoundingly hollow sound due to spouse's intense love of beef products.

New butcher guy came out at which time I discovered he does the killing and preliminary butchering on-site. That's right...in my barn lot. Yippee. So he shot the steer, slit his throat and proceeded to cape him. For those of you who don't have intimate knowledge of butchering things, that means taking the skin off. Those things I didn't mind. I do my own caping and butchering of deer and goats. I don't do the killing; the accompanying twitching alarms me so spouse does that part.

So the guy gets half the caping done and strings aforementioned steer up in the air to complete the process. Again, no biggie on my end although I could have done without the blood on the ground as I didn't know if it would adversely effect the sedate nature of the rest of the cattle who had by now gathered at the fence to find out what was going on.

What got me was when he said he was going to gut it. Right there in my barn lot. Ick. I asked what he planned to do with the innards and he said he planned to leave them right there, again, in my barn lot. Where my animals mill about doing animal type stuff. Where I have to walk during forays of animal husbandry. I don't think so. I don't want steer guts laying about in my barn lot. I wasn't so concerned at this point that it might disturb my other livestock but rather that it WOULD disturb me. And draw predators. And attract rats. And, um, no. I'll pass.

So I rushed out and got a trashcan for him to put said innards into. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind, obviously not considering that many people don't want steer innards laying around on their property especially about 100 yards from their house. Ick. Again.

At this juncture I decided I would go into the house. I'm normally not squeamish but the combination of meds and steer gutting wasn't going to agree with me and puking in the barn lot just didn't seem to be appropriate. In the house I went.

Butcher guy came to the door a short time later for a check. Killing, caping, quartering fee: $60. Fee to keep the hide: $25. What? WTF? I have to pay for my own hide? It's MY steer, MY barn lot, apparently MY steer innards and yet I have to pay to keep the hide? What the hell is that about? It would seem the butcher guy sells the hides so I had to pay him to keep it. Oh, well, he did give me a discount. Since he gets $35 to sell them to a rendering plant, I got it for the bargain basement price of $25. Man, that sucks. Even butcher guys are ripping us off. Damn!

So now that I've had such a glowing morning, I get to go pry a hide and head off of the frozen tundra and somehow carry a trashcan full of steer innards up to the chicken yard for the little dinosaurs to dispose of. Don't you wish you were me? So much for Thursdays.