Saturday, March 20, 2010

In which Fiddle and I meet some friends for a jaunt through the watershed

Jennifer and Laser offered to give Fiddle and me a guided tour of the Redmond Watershed. The weather even cooperated--bright sunshine, not too warm, not too cool. It was just right!
And look: spring has arrived! We were barely 30 feet away from the trailhead when Jennifer spotted this:

the first trillium of the season!

About another mile further, and we saw:
Can you see it?

Here's another picture of it:

That's not the only hard-to-spot cool thing. Check this out:

(Fiddle and I are really there...but there's something else, can you see it?)

Here's another one:
Still can't see it, huh? One more time:

There it is! About 4 pixels tall.

After exploring some of the most beautifully-built trails I've ever seen (wide, lovely tread, excellent sightlines, and no pokey branches or nasty roots to trip over!), we wandered into some posh neighborhoods strung together by trails.
Across from the bighouseneighborhood, then there was this:
I wish I'd gotten photos of the two signs at the edge of the lake:
Apparently in Megamilliondollarneighborhoodland, irony is affordable, even to outlanders like myself.
Once we returned to the park, I had to take a break of a personal nature...
You know how girls always have to go to the restroom together?

Fiddle doesn't understand why some people don't understand why girls have to stick together at times like these.

It makes perfect sense to her.

We met a couple of kids on the trail. They were about 40 feet from the houses, and yet they carried walkie-talkies to stay in constant contact with their mom. Weird much?
(I blurred their faces in the photo on purpose, they weren't that blurry in real life)
Jennifer asked if they wanted to feed some carrots to our horses. They clearly did! But when they asked the maternal if they could feed carrots to the horses, she hollered "H*ll NO! Get off the trail and stay away from them!" Jennifer talked to the mum via radio and secured approval. The kids were thrilled. Fee even did her foot-waving trick for them.

What a great day.
Fiddle's first Limited Distance ride is next Saturday!
You know, I think we might be ready for it.

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : a garden story

Local author/storyteller/librarian/gardener George Shannon told me this story. He said it happened to him. I believe him. --A

Getting Directions

A newcomer to Seattle visited the Pike Place Market, wandering among the stalls and talking to the merchants there.

After several pleasant hours, he asked one of the flower merchants for directions to the University, for he was scheduled to speak at a certain lecture hall there in the late afternoon.

The flower merchant gave him elaborate directions and drew a map as well.

“Go up this street," she told him, "and at the third corner turn right and follow the narrow street to a little house with a beautiful garden. Walk slowly past the garden, then continue uphill for another 6 blocks….”

Another merchant in a nearby market stall listened with amazement to these directions.

“That’s the craziest way to get to the University that I’ve ever heard. Listen, mister: go to the top of this street, and wait for the #201 bus. It will take you straight to where you want to go, and a lot quicker than walking that crazy route.”

The flower merchant listened to her neighbor’s outburst, and nodded her head.

“It’s true, there are faster and more direct ways to get to your destination.

"But if you follow my directions and go past the garden, sometimes you might meet the gardener. And some days, she gives away seeds.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In which a chronicle of mild colic has a happy ending

You don't have to skip to the bottom. I'll tell you the most important part right now:
She's fine.

But even a mild colic episode like this is scary--and unusual--enough that I wanted to write down the details and share what I learned.

4pm: Horses are napping in the pasture. Nothing unusual.

6pm: Feeding time. Bring the horses into the paddocks, hand out beetpulp and hay. Hana and Fiddle dive into dinner as usual.

6:30pm: On the phone with my mom. Glance out the window and see Fiddle lying down. Um, lying down? Not eating? That's not right. "Mom, I need to check my horse--I'll call you back."

6:45pm: I have never been so glad to be an endurance rider, with all the useful geekazoidal skills that go with that. Fiddle's heartrate is 36 beats per minute--normal and steady. Her skin tenting is normal. Her gums are normal, capillary refill is normal. Temp is 99.8 degrees F, well within normal parameters. But she was lying down instead of eating dinner. That is totally not right. Gut sounds are normal in the front quarters but the rear quarters are quiet, especially the lower left.

6:55pm: The vet returns my phone call. I give him Fee's stats, and tell him the punchline: something is wrong. He agrees that it is probably a gas colic, which is not necessarily cause for alarm but certainly cause for concern. His instructions were to keep her quiet, and to walk her around for 10 minutes every hour or two. Since she was interested in eating the fresh grass on the lawn (which is longer, greener and less nibbled than the pasture grass) he said to let her graze a little during while I was handwalking her. He also said to remove the hay and beetpulp from her paddock so that she didn't cause or complicate an intestinal impaction while she was feeling bad. He also recommended that I give her a gram of bute.

7:30pm: Walking my horse. She is striding out normally, and has a normal heartrate, normal temperature. Gut sounds still quiet in the rear quarters. She is happy to eat grass. Take her back to the paddock, walking by the hay and beetpulp...she isn't even slightly interested in that stuff.

8:30pm: Walking my horse. There was a small, new pile of normal-looking manure in her paddock when I went to get her. Striding out normally. Normal heartrate, normal temperature. Enthusiastic about the grass. Gut sounds are getting louder in the rear quarters, but more bubbly and cauldron-like than normal... Indifferent to the hay.

8:45pm: Back on the phone with my mom. Fiddle is better, Mom. Not all the way fixed, but better.

I'm still not going to get much sleep tonight, though.

9:30pm: Walking my horse. No new manure.

10:30pm: Walking my horse. No new manure.

11:30pm: Walking my horse. Another small, new pile of manure. Hey, she's interested in the beetpulp! Not allowed to have it, though.

2:00am: Walking my horse. TWO new piles of manure (I keep moving the stuff I've counted into a corner so I don't accidently count it twice) She is much more interested in beetpulp! I decide that 15 minutes of backyard grass is appropriate.

4:00am: Walking my horse. A new pile of manure. She drags me to the lawn. She also wants beetpulp! And hay! Hooray!

6:00am: Walking my horse. The sun is not up, but the sky is getting lighter. I can see a new small pile of manure without the flashlight. Time for breakfast, honey. Today's menu: beetpulp and hay. She wants it!

What I knew that was useful: all the vital statistic stuff. Her normal heartrate was an indicator that she was uncomfortable but not unduly worried. I know what her normal gut sounds are like, and I could tell when they were returning to normal. That was reassuring to me--and helpful to the vet.

I've had experience with a few colics in the past. The Toad had a gas colic after a ride once...he was soooooo hungry that he gobbled a bunch of air with the food he ate after the ride. When we noticed he was uncomfortable, we started walking him over to the vet's rig and on the way he farted a gigantic fart. And then he felt better. Another time there was a gas-colicky horse at a ride, and the owner loaded him into the trailer and drove slowly around camp, careful to hit every bump and pothole. After 20 minutes, the gas bubbles were gone and the horse felt fine. So I knew what a gas colic was, and how easily it could be resolved.

I also knew that it might not be a gas colic--hence the worry, and the phone call to the vet.

This incident was so mild that I'm not sure that it would even have been noticed if she had been at the old boarding barn. The routine there was to feed horses and then return 2-3 hours later to turn them out to pasture. If she had been uncomfortable right after feeding time, it might have been hours before somebody looked at her...and at that point, lying down in her stall would not have been unusual behavior. And she might have been fine without the painkiller and all the handwalking.

But maybe not.

It's that thought that gets horse people out of bed at 4 in the morning to walk a horse, isn't it?

What I learned: With my old mare Story, eating for ten minutes and then resting--even napping--was normal behavior. For Fiddle and Hana, eating steadily until all the food is gone is normal. Familiarity with "normal" for each horse is important.

I wouldn't necessarily have taken away Fiddle's feed without that advice from the vet. It is counterintuitive to endurance riders to remove feed--we tend to assume that food (and an appetite for food) is good. However, if the bellyache is caused by impaction, adding more food will only make things worse.

I knew that continual walking of a colicky horse is old-fashioned medicine and not recommended anymore. The vet encouraged me to walk her ten minutes every hour or two to help gas bubbles move in the intestinal tract, and also to allow her to eat fresh grass, which encourages gut motility to move along the food she had already eaten.


Fiddle is happy, comfortable, and hungry for second-breakfast.


Monday, March 15, 2010

In which some things are pretty and some things are cute...and then, there are goats

The local newspaper says that allergy season has kicked up extra-early this year. Here's why:
Cherry trees are budding.

The plum tree too.

Blueberry bushes. And in the flower garden...

Such pretty chickens.

Speaking of prettiness: Fiddle.
Hana is always pretty. It's almost impossible to take a bad photo of her.
So, we have plenty of prettiness. But who needs prettiness when you can have GOATS?
You know what I always say: once there are pictures of goats, nobody wants to see pictures of anything else.
So: here ya go!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In which the radio pledge drive is even more fun than we had hoped

Remember in kindergarten, the teacher would hand out little gold stars to students who were especially wonderful?

Well, you readers have earned a bunch of those little gold stars today for supporting our little radio station!
For our storytelling radio pledge party, we had a terrific turnout of storytellers from the Seattle Storytellers Guild...
Petite Chef Anne brought over some amazing quiches to feed everyone...We told stories and sang songs...
Maggie sang some traditional Irish tunes. "Cockles and Mussels, Alive Alive-O" is still stuck in my head.
Eva told an African folktale.
Fern usually tells Icelandic sagas and Norse myths, but he told a great Irish hero tale for us today...and then went out into Pledge Central to answer the phones.

Avery and Rob told family stories. Kathy told some folktales, including the screamingly funny "Bellybutton Monster." By special request from a listener in Idaho (!) we had two tellers tell two different versions of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

We did some "pledge pitching" and took a bunch of pledge calls from story lovers.
Working the studio sound board.

Out in the Pledge Central's "green room", the storytellers were passing the time between else? by telling stories! Jim was running around crazily, answering phones, moving microphones and chairs, and just generally being incredibly useful.

In the coming weeks I will try to post some of the recorded stories from the program today--no promises, since technology on the farm is often at odds with available spare time--but I will try.
Pledge Week isn't over yet, and we haven't yet reached our pledge goals. If you want to participate, you can! Visit and click the DONATE NOW button.

Tell 'em the storytellers sent you!