“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

I swept the barn this morning – was before 8 when I went out to feed the animals. Ducks, Snoopie, the rooster, the chickens, and the horses. The bees have sugar left from last Friday. When it got cold Saturday they stopped feeding.

The animals don’t have the weather channel – they have to contend by instinct and not by the forecast. Snoops has a long, shaggy coat that puffs out to trap body heat in this cold. So do the horses. Their coats begin to grow out in early August and then continue to get thicker and longer until the spring equinox. The rooster was funny today– his feathers were frosted like the grass, but he didn’t seem to mind at all as he was crowing and strutting around as if it were any other day.

But I was cold. My fingers were growing numb by the minute as I swept the stable floor. And then that cold burn feeling began to creep into my knuckles. I kept moving and did my best to ignore it. I should have worn some gloves. Every few minutes I stopped and went over to Lou and stroked his shoulder, allowing my hands to steal some of the warmth from his coat. He didn’t seem to mind, but he was curious if there was going to be a ginger snap treat appearing anytime soon. That’s pretty much all that Lou seems to think about – treats. He tried to angle his head a bit sideways to adjust his sight with his good eye to see if there was anything in my hand ..“no Louie, I’m just pettin’ you”. Then he lowered his head into the tangled mound of hay at his feet. He couldn’t care less about my numbed hands, or that he was keeping me warm. Good ol Lou. As long as there is hay at his feet, he doesn't have a care in the world.

As I swept I relived and thought more about Saturday afternoon. With the northeast storm, cold air blew in and pushed aside the fall temperatures. We lost about 20 degrees in a few winds late in the day. We found Zip’s circling in his stall, kicking, biting at his stomach, heaving for breathes. Looked like colic, which is when the horse’s digestive system gets blocked and if not treated, can be fatal. It’s a horse owner’s nightmare. Trust me. It can be caused by a lot of things, and one of those things is a sudden change of weather. It’s hard to believe that an animal so big, fast and strong can be so sensitive.

Kath came in to make an emergency call to the vet, and I headed out to the stable. By then Zip was laying down…there was no rhythm to his breathing. His eyes were glassed over, and trending up and back towards his eyelids. He let me stroke him, and every so often lifted his head up to lick my fingers, just to fall back onto the floor, struggling to get enough breathe. I thought it was over. He was laying with his mouth slightly open, eyes rolled up searching for help. It was hard to bear. Hard to be so helpless. I just stroked him.

It seemed like hours, but was only minutes. Without describing it, the blockage loosened. Slowly. The vet called back. Dr. Beth thought that from our description and what was happening that it was gas colic and would be over in a half hour, but if not, she’d be coming by. Gas colic usually takes care of itself.  She was treating a colic’ed horse south of us, and had another to see after that. Zip’s was third in line, but was now on his feet. She’d call later to see if he was getting better.

Once Zip got up we haltered him and put him on a lead. Kath and I took turns walking him back and forth in the back field…walking helps to keep things inside him moving. In an hour he was back to being Zip, with eyes brightened, breathing regular, alert, and strong on his lead. Dr. Beth was happy to hear it, and gave us a minimalist feeding schedule for the next few days to get his digestive system back on track.

As I swept I kept looking over to Zip, who was sifting through his meager ration of hay. As cold as I was I just wanted to stay around and stay near him and the others. You just never know.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011

Stuttered starts are what I call the posts I‘ve started, but for some reason or other, veered off the thought path and never finished the journey, so to speak….here’s a sampling:

It seems that I have been so busy lately that I don’t know what to do first, and so I end up doing everything last…


I have always believed that some forms of mental illness, such as melancholy, can at times be a good thing. Lately, I have been witnessing a building current in the mi culture that understands and appreciates some forms of mi as “mental sk’illness”. Examples of this emerging thought is the TED talk given by Joshua Walters about the very fine line between being crazy and being creative, and Nassir Ghaemi’s book, “A First Rate Madness”,  that argues how mental illness was a trait and asset of great leaders such as Lincoln, King, and Churchill. Not all mi’s are the seeds of greatness. Some are seriously deliberating. However, due to the social stigmas surrounding mi’s, any silver lining will be tarnished.


“I don’t care if it rains or freezes….

 I think there is little difference between tv infomercial hosts and tv evangelicals.  Each is selling a prescription to make our lives happy, easier and more fulfilled. They tell us that there are things we need that we do not yet have. Each brings forth a parade of witnesses to verify the claims they make. There is always a before and after piece. Each asks us for money - vacuums and hair loss salves cost pretty much the same as salvation. And there is always a disclaimer somewhere at the bottom of the screen explaining that results may vary, some are not typical.

 … long as I got my  plastic Jesus”


I have never watched Oprah, or Dr. Phil for that matter. I did watch Glenn Beck once. But only once.  I turned off the TV for days after that.


Sometimes I really scare myself…I was thinking of what to do last Saturday night and the first thing that popped into my head  was to clean out the stalls a bit early  so I could go wander around Tractor Supply to see what’s new and then afterwards go to Applebee’s for dinner... Uh oh!


Peggy asked why most people are wholly and instinctively compassionate towards animals in preference to people…

Maybe it’s because what Louie has taught me. Louie doesn’t care how I dress, how much money I have, who my friends are, what my race is, if I am Quaker or Muslim, what kind of car I drive, about the books I read, if I have a job or not, if I am gay, who my favorite football team is, what my politics are…he just doesn’t care.

What he does care about – and it is the only thing – is if he can trust me. Trust is the core of our relationship and it goes both ways. For example, I trust him to take care of me when we ride, and he trusts me not to lead him into any trouble. The only thing in our relationship that is conditional is that trust – nothing else matters.

That to me is the difference. With people, there are too many conditions. And conditions block trust. I think that those few and rare persons who can get around this are the ones who are truly compassionate toward others. And the rest of us…?

The rest of us need to get on the back of a horse more often.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 8, 2011

Saturday afternoon I looked across the yard and saw a cluster of bees on one of my hives. In the summer this is usual – bees bearding on the outside of the hive because they are not needed inside to cool the hive, or there’s just too many bees to fit inside when all the forager bees return by evening. But in the fall this doesn’t happen. So I was curious. I thought that maybe the hive was being robbed by another hive for its honey reserves, and these were guard bees or some others forced out. So I walked over to see just what was going on.

The clusters were drones- male bees. In the fall, the drones are pushed out of the hive because they are no longer needed for survival. Drones don’t forage, don’t build comb, don’t feed larvae, don’t do much of anything except for one thing. Each day the drones fly out to wherever drones instinctively go, waiting to mate with a virgin queen. That is, of course, if a virgin queen comes by. If and when a drone mates, it dies. In the fall, when the mating season ends, the worker bees push the drones out of the hive – there is no reason to feed them if they have no purpose and no reason to waste honey on them that will be needed by the workers and the queen during the winter. Its the bee economics of survival.

I never saw drones pushed out and clustered before, though it probably is a normal late season occurrence. In the past I have witnessed just a few drones being wrestled out by worker bees and then not allowed back into the hive by the guard bees. But on this hive there were two full clusters of drones…pushed out to starve and die. The worker bees were massed, guarding the entrance.

Drones to the left and top , guard bees to the right.

Closer view of drones with two worker bees to the right.