“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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26, 2011

For a while now I have been shedding the plastic bag habit, replacing it with a strongly growing preference for reusable bags. It just doesn’t make much sense to use a thin plastic bag to carry something once and then let it sit in a landfill for eternity, tying up forever the natural resources used to make and distribute them. Besides that, they litter roads, landscapes, and forests. Many times these plastic bags hurt and/or kill animals and sea life that get tangled in them. None of this is good.

Although I have to admit that I am not perfect, I am really trying to make an honest, personal effort not to use them.

In keeping with my goal, this year I ordered reusable bags for the CSA. The last two years we used plastic bags, or better said, we re-used plastic bags. Members would give me plastic bags that they had and I would use them and re-use them a number of times to distribute shares. At least these bags where worn out before most hit the landfill, but I realize that it is still wasteful. But other reasons appeared too…

What really changed me was a day not long ago when I was cleaning the stalls and the chickens began cackling in fear, running in confused directions. I hurriedly ran out of the stable expecting to see a hawk or fox with a chicken, but what I saw completely took me by surprise. Somehow one of the chickens got its foot tangled in a plastic bag that had blown off the street. The chicken was panicked, which in turn panicked the whole flock. We caught the chicken, and took the bag from its foot…the thing was exhausted from fear…

Looking around the farm, I see more that bothers me. Along the perimeters, plastic bags are tangled in the branches of the privet and scrub windbreaks …it’s just plastic litter everywhere. Paper litter is bad enough, but at least it decomposes – plastic stays.

With all that said, I’ll let a few pictures conclude this post:

Enough said!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19, 2011

Early last week Dr. Beth (Hirsch) came out and took a look at Patrick. She gave him a shot of sleepy juice and ratcheted open his great maw with a speculum, grabbed his tongue with her left hand and pulled it to the side, and then with her head lamp on, she followed its shaft of light with her other hand to the empty slots where his teeth had been. She worked loose the plaster and gauze packing that had served to protect the sockets, and pulled them out. She felt these areas to gauge the healing and searched for signs of infection…

Dr. Beth found everything to be normal – healed! Patrick is ready to go again, and according to all four vets who have worked with him, without the pain of these shifting teeth and the chronic low grade gum infection, he has to be feeling a lot better. We think he is – his eyes are brighter and he holds his head higher now.

One of the more interesting things that I learned about horse behavior from all this is a horses ability to hide pain. Dr. Orsini told us that if a horse, or any other animal for that matter, shows pain or injury, it advertises itself as an easy prey. So an animal will instinctively hide its injuries as a survival tactic…makes sense, as even we as humans do the same in our social situations….

It’s been a long year with horses – starting off with Louie’s cornea scrape last spring, then Zipp’s founder late last summer, and finally Patrick’s teeth. They say bad things come in threes…I am looking forward to it all being over!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 12, 2011

Its 8 and I’m listening to Alexi Murdoch …“All My Days”, and some other of his work. The guy is pretty good. Fingered guitar backing lyrics that are down to earth and describe a life being lived. It’s music that he never intended writing to make him millions of dollars. It’s pure. It’s the stuff that makes me think…his music brings pushed back emotions up to the surface to be explored once again…

I wish I could write like that. I wish I could write poetry like Rilke, or books like Dos Passos or Steinbeck…maybe some day something half decent will spill out of me. Not necessarily a book, but just something. I’d be happy with just a few lines…

I’ve been thinking…
What would take you to the streets? My friend Chris asked me this question in the context of the events in Egypt. What would move you to risk all you have, may it be even so very little, to throw yourself at an uncertain change? I have taken part in simple demonstrations before – the last was called “Eyes Wide Open” where I helped to place shoes on the lawn at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Each pair of shoes represented a civilian life ended during the Iraq invasion. In the news these deaths were dehumanized by calling these beings “collateral damage”. There were thousands of pairs of shoes. We also placed a pair of combat boots for every US soldier killed. Back then, only 361 had died. The number is now 4436 dead (and 32973 persons wounded). Who knows how many Iraqi civilians are dead by now…how many children? Collateral damage isn’t counted.

Yet, this is not really what Chris meant. He didn’t mean a passive means of expression. He meant “What would make you become disobedient?” For myself, I really don’t know. Guess I am lucky that so far I haven’t had to make that decision – but there are so many others who have had to. It takes a lot of guts to risk your life, and to do it without any certainty.

I can’t Google any news these days without having a story about Lady Gaga, Lindsey Lohan, or about some kid named Justin Beiber pop up. Am I only one of a few who doesn’t care about pop culture? It rather bores me with its seen it all before predictability powered on with sideshow like marketing campaigns. I was having a conversation with another friend and we decided we felt the same way, but neither of us was sure if it is because we are older and grumpy or because we are aged enough to recognize that what is cycling back “new” is just the “old” repackaged…shock doesn’t shock us any longer, or at least not how it did before. And in the end, a lot of it is just wind – never here to stay. They will have left nothing that mattered much.

Just some advice for everyone – people who do not have good hand-eye coordination should not use hammers….I’m still bleeding from where I struck myself on the wing of skin between my thumb and forefinger this morning….that was dumb.

Guess I am ready for spring and some warmer sun. I’m sitting inside thinking of too many things and thinking too much of those things…and I am sure its beginning to show…but I am not really thinking of dumb things or things that you would send me to therapy for. Yet.

One last thing. Did you know that Oreo cookies are vegan?


I didn’t say they were healthy….

Now I‘m ready for therapy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011

Yesterday was a long day, but a good day, that ended well. It was not just the end of one day, but it was the end of three months of worrying, debating, and wondering about what to do for Patrick who had a few different diagnoses and treatment ideas regarding two broken molars that were causing mouth infections and problems chewing his hay, grass and grain. The poor horse had no idea,,,

A while ago, maybe 9 months ago, Patrick had some trouble chewing his hay. This is usually nothing to be alarmed about – it usually means that a horse’s teeth need “floating”. A horses back teeth, or molars, are for grinding food, and to do this both the upper and lower sets need to be flat to meet together. Overtime, the molars wear unevenly and no longer match up, so the food doesn’t get ground up enough for it to be swallowed. Floating is done to correct this- a long handled rasp /file is used to file the teeth flat again. We have the horses floated on a regular basis, so this was a bit odd that Patrick was having trouble chewing, but not necessarily uncommon or alarming.

Our vet came out and when she floated his teeth that really weren’t bad at all, she found two gaps in his back jaw where molars should be. These gaps were packed with hay, and packed high enough that his teeth could no longer touch – it caused a space between his lowers and uppers. The vet removed all this packed up hay. She had no idea why these gaps were there – had teeth fallen out, were they broken, and why – whatever it was it isn’t normal. Our vet wasn’t real comfortable with those gaps, but together we decided that we’d see how it went from there before getting too excited. Sorta a wait and see.

Things went really well – Patrick contentedly chewed away every day…until about three months ago when just like that! he began spitting out wads of unchewed hay again. This time it wasn’t a wad now and then, but he spit out almost every mouthful. This time the vet brought the x-ray machine to the stable to get a better look to see what was happening. She suspected that those questionable molars were the problem and she was going right after them.

After about a three hour examination, a whole bunch of x-rays, and all the other stuff a vet does, she diagnosed that two of his molars, directly opposite on his uppers, had broken, reason unknown, causing infection and hay to pack so high he could not chew. A really powerful anti-biotic was prescribed for his infection, but the jury was out on what needed to be done with the teeth. Did he have a disease that caused this, should they simply be pulled, or would they need to be surgically removed, and what to do if the infection reached his sinus cavity where it was an awful procedure of drilling a hole through his cheek to drip in antibiotics to suppress it. There was also a concern of cancer. Our vet decided she’d share her concerns and preliminary diagnosis with colleagues before making any recommendations.

After over a week’s time, she shared her research with us – that Patrick most likely did not have cancer, but would need those teeth to come out to fix his chewing and stop infections. The question was if those teeth could be pulled in our barn, or if surgery would be required. The vet recommended we take Patrick to New Bolton to get better x-rays and to have an equine dental expert look at him…maybe it’d mean a bit of sedation to pull those teeth, or that Patrick would need to be knocked out, put on a table, and have oral surgery. And oh, the difference would be somewhere between $800 and $5-6000, not including getting him there or the follow up examinations…

To make a long story short, over the next few months we had re examinations with the vet and a local equine dentist of sorts, and discussions with the people at New Bolton and our horse owner friends to explore surgery alternatives and any forthcoming sliver of hope that things could be left alone. After weighing it all out, we decided we’d take Patrick to New Bolton and hope for the best in diagnosis and treatment. We just wanted to do right by Patrick, and we’d just have to grit our teeth and charge into “no mans land”.

And it wasn’t just that easy – first we would need a trailer and to teach Patrick to load. So we borrowed a trailer and spent two weeks practicing with Patrick, tempting him in with apples and carrots until he more or less would sometimes go in! We also had to rewire the truck so we could hook up the trailer lights…taking a horse somewhere is not like having your dog jump in the backseat of the car, or stuffing “Fluffy” in a cat carrier! We don’t take our horses anywhere so it was a whole new experience for all of us. We also got some “horsie xanex” from the vet to calm Patrick for the ride…unfortunately the vet had none for Kath or I.

When we arrived at New Bolton, Patrick was admitted and Kath and I went to the waiting room to wait out the diagnosis. New Bolton is run by the Penn University School of Veterinary, and is the same place that treated the racehorse Barbaro after he broke his leg. It’s a huge place that can treat large and small size animals of every kind. And they do it well. I was just amazed at the place- and I only saw the large animal hospital, which is hardly the whole of it.

After two hours, Drs. Foster and Orsini, along with another vet and three vet students came out to tell us their diagnosis and treatment alternatives…the teeth are broken, weakened due to poor nutrition when Patrick was a colt and his teeth were forming. They had to come out or we could risk losing Patrick to a sinus infection. The good news is that the teeth were essentially dead, and could be pulled without the surgery…they could do thepulling under drip sedation later in the day if we wanted. We decided to go for it…

At 4:30 in the afternoon, the Drs came out after they had finished the procedure…each had blood splattered on their scrubs, and Dr. Foster had some dotted on his face…but it all went well. Patrick was fine, still in happy land, and could go home. Each of the three vets took turns in the extraction, as horse teeth aren’t easy to pull. They were tired…it’s a lot of physical work. But they were happy. I realized that they had helped our mutt-like backyard horse with just as much care and concern as they had treated Barbaro. I could tell why these people are great – these people just care.

Now all we had to do was to get Patrick home, driving through the rush hour traffic.

Kath and I are glad this is all over – Patrick is fine and we don’t have to worry every day anymore. We know we have a great vet, and that there are some unbelievable people at New Bolton that can fix almost anything…

It was easy to sleep last night. Its one thing less to worry about.