Post of Reassurance

The Body is Weird

Apparently the, don’t worry I don’t have MS, statement wasn’t as reassuring as I had intended since it leads naturally to the question, “Why do they think MS might even be an option?!”

I have mentioned some of the various health things I have been managing, or attempting to manage, in some of my earlier posts but this summer I started having more and more frequent headaches that didn’t seem to be caused by the usual culprits: sugar, dehydration, and/or neck and shoulder tension. I also have yet to get my Vitamin D levels up to the normal range despite fairly aggressive supplementation and I’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy weight and energy levels despite sticking to a healthy diet and exercise routine. I have been wondering for a while if some or all of these things might be connected and wanted to see an osteopath since they tend to be trained to view the body more holistically than most traditionally trained doctors. That is not to say there aren’t some amazing medical professionals out there with traditional backgrounds, I was just trying to find one who’s response to my various concerns wasn’t always “Well your almost 40 and that’s how it is.” and now “Well you are in your 40’s and that’s how it is.” It was quite a wait to see the osteopath and the headaches were starting to come with vertigo and nausea as well so I went to see a regular doctor this summer. We talked about two possible culprits sinus/nasal issues and muscle tension and she suggested I try Flonase for a few weeks to see if that made a difference, then stop for a few weeks before trying the muscle relaxers for a few weeks. Depending on what happened we could go from there. The Flonase helped with some of the headaches, particularly the vertigo/nausea symptoms, but the muscle relaxers didn’t do much at all and the overall amount of headaches was still higher than it used to be. While I was at that appointment this summer she mentioned that I had some earwax buildup in my left ear and asked if I wanted it removed but our appointment had already gone really long after a long wait in the first place and I was running late for something else so I said no and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early fall and I finally get to see the osteopath and we do an exam and some bloodwork. My vitamin D is still really low despite efforts to improve it and that along with something in the physical exam makes her want me to see a neurologist to rule out MS. Apparently chronically low vitamin D and MS can go together, though it is usually accompanied by other things. I schedule the appointment with the neurologist and of course it takes a few weeks before I can get in to see him. Meanwhile I managed to get sick with a cold, I went to Minute Clinic to rule out strep and during that exam the NP mentions that my left ear has a buildup of earwax and I should try an over the counter thing to get rid of it, but to not do it until I’m over the cold. I buy the stuff and then forget about it. Finally get in to see the neurologist and we do the whole exam and everything seems normal except my persistently low vitamin D, the headaches, fatigue, and some thing with how my eyes track, or rather don’t, when I look up and to the right. This eye thing is also a symptom of MS but like the low vitamin D and fatigue is usually a secondary symptom but he has had a patient in the past who was only showing these symptoms and did have MS and apparently it is very easy to diagnose MS with an MRI, either you have lesions in/on your brain and spinal column or you don’t, so he wants to do an MRI to rule it out. It is at this point that he says, “or it could be the earwax.” Apparently that build up of earwax in my one ear could be causing my eyes to not track right when I look up and to the left AND my headaches. WHAT?! Why has no one mentioned this yet?! Also how are the options MS or too much earwax in one ear?! It seems utterly ridiculous.

I get the MRI scheduled and then immediately start using the over the counter ear stuff and it does absolutely nothing. Or rather it somehow manages to make everything worse. I had my follow-up appointment with the osteopath already scheduled so I figured I’d just ask her about it then. We follow up on the vitamin D, it is still low but it’s improving, I went from 9 to 29! so I’m almost back to the very lowest end of “normal” which is 30-100, though I have read that 50-100 is probably a healthier range, I digress. She also removes the earwax and wow is there a lot. Apparently the body creates earwax as a lubricant and a defense mechanism, as in if a foreign body gets in your ear it creates the earwax to protect itself. Since my right ear has virtually nothing in it she assumes this was a reaction to a foreign body but instead of working itself out like it should have it just kept triggering the protective reaction and building up more and more until it was impossible for it to come out on its own. We are not going to think too long or too hard about what kind of foreign body it may have been because whatever it was it’s gone now.

The weird new headaches went away that day and have not returned. I hadn’t realized how bad they had gotten until they went away. Just gone, like that, it was amazing.

I also had the MRI and everything is fine. In fact the neurologist said my brain was, and this is a quote, “pristine.”

I recapped the results with Nate and after telling him the doctor said my brain was pristine, we both paused and looked at each other, and then it had to be said, “of course it’s pristine, it’s never been used!”

So in the end it wasn’t MS, not that either the osteopath or the neurologist ever really thought it was, it was too much earwax.

The human body is weird!

Of course that still doesn’t answer the question about the fatigue and weight issues but we’ll continue to chip away at those issues as soon as my life calms down a bit…. so maybe in a decade or two?


not to be confused with the movie


A little additional context to round out the picture. On top of everything happening with Juniper and the new horse I was also working out a bunch of details to get our first ever cover crop planted this fall (there will be a post about that eventually) which involved coordinating with the county, and then another county because the first situation fell through at the last minute, and a neighbor with a tractor, and finding seed (where do you buy enough winter rye seed for 15 acres?!) etc. and I also had a doctors appointment and an MRI scheduled because my doctor and the neurologist she referred me to wanted to rule out MS as a possible cause for some things I have going on. Both of them thought it was pretty unlikely I have MS but both of them also thought it was likely enough that it should be officially checked on. I will also have a post on that, but I will not leave you in suspense on this one, I do not have MS, but at the time this was all happening I did not know that, I only knew that two doctors thought it was unlikely but still possible.

Back to the horse saga. Tuesday morning is lots of frantic phone calls to my normal vet plus my friend Sarah’s vet who has been treating Juniper, my neighbor, and my friend Hilary who was our back-up ride, trying to figure out when and where Juniper can get a dental but still be home when the new horse gets here. Luckily Sarah’s vet is able to squeeze Juniper in Wednesday morning and Hilary, who helped me bring Leeloo and Juniper home the first time, has a flexible day that day so she can go with me to pick up Juniper from Sarah’s house, bring her to the vet for her dental, hang out with us there while Juniper comes to from being sedated, and then bring Juniper back to my house.

It is at this point that I realize we will have to find a way to separate Juniper and Highlight (I still don’t love that name but I haven’t come up with anything else so Highlight she is) since Juniper will need some careful observation so we know exactly how much she is eating and drinking and to make sure her digestive system is operating correctly (i.e. she’s pooping). I also don’t want to put Juniper through the stress of meeting a new horse when she is clearly not feeling well. However, we are not at all set up for separate pastures. We have one shelter in the fenced in area, it has three bays, but it is one structure. We also only have two gates into the entire fenced in area. After some frantic brainstorming we opt to put up a temporary strand of electric fence coming out from one side of the gate and attaching to the wall of one of the shelter bays which is wood and therefore will not conduct the charge to the entire shelter. We’ll also need to block the tiny passage behind the shelter. This way I can use the gate by the shelters to get to Juniper and then I can walk up and around and use the gate by the house to get to Highlight. Except at the last minute it occurs to me to check in with the seller to see if Highlight has been on grass this summer and of course she has not been, so I can’t just let her out on the grass which is finally doing well with all the rain we got this fall. So now I need to block her off from the grass which means blocking her off from the gate. Then Sarah, who has been taking care of Juniper this summer and through her two colics, asks if I’m worried about Highlight bringing any illnesses home with her. I wasn’t, because she is coming from a very small private location and she passed a wellness exam, and every other horse in the trailer will also have passed a wellness exam, but there is still a tiny chance she could catch something and bring it home. If Juniper were healthy I wouldn’t worry at all, but Juniper is far from healthy right now and it’s just not worth the risk. So, we set up a second temporary set of electric fence on the other side of the gate so that there is a ten-foot space between them and they can’t make contact. I have now effectively created two separate paddocks with their own shelters and a 10-foot space between them. Yay. Neither of them has a gate or access point of any kind. Boo.

Doesn’t matter because I have no other choice as it is now 9 pm on Tuesday night and everyone’s coming home tomorrow!

Wednesday morning – arrival day!

Hilary and I drive separately in case the shipper makes better time than expected and/or the vet runs late. For once things go as planned and the vet sees us right on time. Juniper receives one of the quickest floats I’ve ever seen a horse get and he extracts two molars (photos if you’re curious) but we still need to wait for her to wake-up so she can safely handle the trailer ride. Once we feel she’s coherent enough to hold herself up we head for home, Highlight is scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes!

We settle Juniper into her new arrangement and wait for Highlight’s arrival. It is a little delayed but she is there within an hour and a half. It is in getting the two girls into their respective areas that I realize how much of an issue our gateless set-up will be. We set up the fence so there were plastic “grips” on the ends of the hot lines so we could unhook them from the shelter wall to go in and out, the problem is there is no other support structure for the lines so the moment we pull them off the wall they go slack for the entire length of the run and touch the ground, plus there is no place to actually put them so I have to somehow hold the lines in one hand while trying to get myself and various things (water, feed, hay, medicine, pitch-fork) from one side to the other. And of course the moment the lines go slack both girls try to go through to meet each other. This is not a feasible option for doing daily chores. That means I get to very gingerly climb through the fence every time I need to get to the other side and despite my very careful climbing I manage to shock myself at least once every time I do chores. Let me tell you the hot lines hurt, particularly when it’s your inner thigh that makes contact as you attempt to step over it, but the ground line, which under normal circumstances has no charge running through it so you can grab it like normal to hold it out of your way, you know with your entire hand gripping it, that fucking HURTS when you are touching it and then accidently hit a hot line with whatever random other body part you aren’t paying enough attention to (I have been trying to keep the language pg-13 on this blog for reasons I am not clear on, but this situation is without question an F-word situation, but I digress…). So at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, I manage to shock myself while doing chores. “Why don’t you just unplug the fence?” you ask. Well Highlight is a very personable, very sweet, and very smart horse, and she watches you. She watches me climb through the fence every day to feed her and give her hay and pick up poop, and then she tries to do the same thing even with the fence hot. So turning it off seems like a recipe for disaster. And it turns out I’m right, because even with the lines hot Highlight managed to pull one of the hot lines (the one I gingerly step over) off the permanent fence and right across the entrance to her shelter on the night it’s pouring rain. And the way the line fell it is in contact with another hot line so it still has a charge running through it so when I get home from my 12 hour work day and go to give Juniper her PM meds I find a soaking wet, unhappy, and scared Highlight. So I’m standing in the rain on the soaking wet ground pulling a still electrified line of fence out of her paddock muttering expletives with every grab because everything is super conductive in that moment. Then I have to convince Highlight that the shelter will not in fact attack her and she can go in it, and please go in your shelter and get out of the rain. And then, I have to fix it so she doesn’t try that stunt again and get in a worse situation. Did I mention I worked a 12-hour day and it was pouring rain. Good times.

After that I stop going through Highlights fence to feed her and just throw hay over the fence, and push her feed under the bottom line and use a rake to grab it back out. No picking up poop on her side until we work out another option, which is definitely having them together sooner than planned, but this set-up is not sustainable.

And that was our first week.

Status Update


Finding the time, energy, and motivation to write blog updates has become more challenging recently. For years fall was my favorite season, and from a weather perspective it still is, but from a mental health perspective it is not. As the years have gone by, I find my mental health more and more impacted by the shortening days and that I start noticing the days getting shorter sooner and sooner in the season. I also find myself liking my job less and less and these two things are now fully coinciding. This begs the question, is it really seasonal depression or does my job just make me miserable? Before last year I always assumed it was just the lack of daylight but recently I’ve come to think my dissatisfaction with my work situation is a bigger part of my mental health issues than I had realized. It also doesn’t help that this is the first year in over ten years that I am teaching a full load. Since about 2010 I have taken on various non-teaching roles on campus for which I was “released” from one or more classes to fulfill and the last few years before my sabbatical I was often filling multiple non-teaching roles meaning I was teaching even fewer classes. Not only am I coming back this fall from a year long sabbatical of not teaching, but I’m coming back to a full load with full classes, and I am exhausted! Teaching, well good teaching, is a performance art. To capture and maintain your student’s attention requires a significant level of physical, mental, and emotional energy that I just don’t really have enough of any more. I am giving literally all my energy to my classes and they are leaving me utterly drained and unable to attend to other things, like writing blog posts. My hope is that my stamina for teaching will return, at least a little bit, as the semester wears on and I will have more energy for other endeavors and can get back to writing at least weekly updates if not twice weekly updates.

Piling on to all of this is a new round of grieving for Leeloo. Round one of the barn is almost done, the next blog post will be an update on that, but having it so close to done has totally stirred up all my grief over losing Leeloo. She should be here. She should be the first horse to use the barn with me, to explore it and run around like a crazy and kick up her heels and she’s not and that has just been way harder than I had been anticipating. The few times I’ve started drafting the next barn related update it in my head I immediately get sad and then I switch over to some other task to distract myself. But avoidance is not a healthy coping mechanism so eventually I need to deal with it. Writing those few blog posts this spring was really helpful with that first phase of grieving so I’m hoping setting aside some time to write the next barn update will help me work through this most recent round of grieving.

Just have to keep on keeping on.

The Mare Search Continues – Part 1


The search for my next mare, the one that will be the cornerstone of my breeding efforts, has been ongoing and frustrating. I have “known” for as long as I can remember that there are a lot of problems within the horse industry, particularly with starting horses too hard, too fast, and too young and breeding horses for the wrong reasons, usually for fancy names on a piece of paper or for fancy color. Sure that stud has terrible conformation and went lame at four and is utterly unrideable, “but he’s a blue roan!” That is literally what one lady said to me when I expressed concern about her choice of stallion.

At first, I thought that this utter dearth of sound horses with good conformation could work in my favor. Purposely and intentionally seeking out healthy, sane, sound, horses with good conformation to breed would inherently improve my odds of having foals that were healthy, sane, sound horses themselves and that would help me stand out in a very crowded market; it would make my horses something special and worth having. The longer I searched though, the more I realized that a large proportion of riders and horse people don’t have a clue what good conformation is and why it matters. They have simply accepted the current reality where horses are lame by twelve and need corrective shoeing, yearly injections, and all sorts of other maintenance just to stay rideable. This has become the new normal and very few people seem to be questioning it.

I put that word “known” in quotes in the first paragraph because in today’s current world lots of people “know” things that are in fact total bullshit and when I first started this search my “knowing” was based on very hazy remembrance of 4-H horse judging practice sessions, various presentations attended at horse expos and clinics, and my own personal experiences. But that knowledge wasn’t based on any source I could point to and as mare after mare fell short of my expectations I started to wonder if my “knowing” was in fact bullshit and if maybe I was the one out of touch with reality. I have thus spent much of the summer seeking out verifiable references and knowledgeable people with true study and experience behind them to ground my knowing in reality. These sources did confirm my knowledge and I am far more confident and comfortable in declaring that I do actually know what good conformation looks like and that it is in fact important! They also confirmed that  yes, the horse world today is filled with crappy conformation; and yes, horses are in fact started way too hard, way too fast, and way too young; and that yes, the combination of these two things is behind many of the lameness issues horses and their people have to contend with. Below is a list of the references I have been consulting.

Horse Conformation References

Where does that leave me, other than being frustrated and still horseless?

Upon completion of The Modern Racehorse, I returned the book to the library by actually walking into the library and handing it to an actual librarian, as a book that age is due. Once in the library I couldn’t just leave without taking a turn through the stacks and while perusing I found The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. Another truly amazing book which I will talk more about in a future post, but relevant here was a reference to The Livestock Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds. While checking out their website I noticed there was a horse category, and within the horse category were a number of breeds I had heard of but several I had not and then it hit me. Why waste my time, effort, energy, and money on trying to fix a breed that numbers literally in the millions and that has drifted so far from the breed standard and good conformation that any good I did in my breeding efforts would be but a single drop of rain in the ocean when there are really nice horse breeds out there whose populations are genuinely in jeopardy and for whom my efforts would make a tangible and lasting difference? Most of the horse breeds listed are not suitable for my personal goals being either too small (there are many pony and small horse breeds on the list) or draft horses who are meant to pull things and are not well suited to riding. That left three breeds that are riding horses capable of doing a variety of disciplines and that naturally get up to at least 16 hands tall or taller:


I found this photo on Wikipedia –


I found this photo on the Breyer Horse website as this was the horse they used as their model for the Canadian Breyer horse – 

Cleveland Bay 

I found this photo on the Livestock Conservancy website – 

Next step – a new mare search with a new focus, but which breed should we pursue?

Release the Nerves

Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

As I mentioned briefly in this post, I had carpal tunnel release surgery the week that we were treating Leeloo for what we thought was a fractured tooth issue. I first started having carpal tunnel symptoms in 2019 when we moved to our new house. At the time I had the torture procedure done where they shock you send small electrical impulses down your arm to determine if you are really dealing with carpal tunnel or if there is some other issue at play in your neck or shoulder. The test results indicated then that I had mild carpal tunnel. Surgery was an option then already, but I opted to try physical therapy and lifestyle changes first. The physical therapy included finger exercises and nerve glides. The lifestyle changes included a new ergonomic mouse that sits on its side, moving my keyboard to the edge of my desk so I can’t plant my wrists when I type, and wearing a brace while sleeping so I can’t curl my hands and wrists into tight little balls which is apparently my preferred sleeping position. Those things worked well and kept my symptoms at bay until last summer when all the work of getting our place ready for horses sent my carpal tunnel symptoms into overdrive. After doing another round of physical therapy this fall that didn’t offer much relief Nate and I decided I needed to move on to the next step and have the surgery. The surgeon told me I would only need a few days of rest to let the incision heal and then a few weeks to get my strength back. Nate thought I would need a few weeks of rest and months to get my strength back. We opted to give me a week and a half “off” from chores so we scheduled the surgery for a time when Nate could take off of work for that long, which ended up being the beginning of May.

The surgery itself went fine, they keep you awake for the whole thing and just numb your wrist and hand. I will go into more details below for people who are interested. So far healing has also gone well, despite not resting it nearly as long as planned due to the circumstances discussed in the last post. I had my full range of motion back within a day, strength is slowly returning, and at the follow-up appointment one week later they said the incision itself has healed up really well. My task now is to massage the incision area to help reduce the scar tissue, otherwise the scar tissue itself will end up putting the same kind of pressure on my nerves as the overly tight ligament was doing. I also need to continue to work on rebuilding my strength in that hand. At the end of the procedure the surgeon said that I had a really thick ligament and wasn’t surprised that I was having carpal tunnel symptoms but that those symptoms should clear up immediately and he was right. Though the incisions is still a little sore, as is the heel of my hand where the actual ligament that he messed with is located I have not had any tingling, numbness, or other nerve pain since the procedure. Every day my hand is getting stronger and the remaining soreness is lessening. Overall I am really happy I had the procedure done, and if you are dealing with carpal tunnel or other nerve pinching related pain I would highly recommend talking to your doctor about whether such a procedure might work for you. I would not, however, recommend driving five hours to Wisconsin with a manual transmission car until after you have enough strength to shift into fifth and sixth gear without having to take your left hand off the steering wheel to help.

Okay – now for the in-depth, possibly cringe-y, details of the surgery for those of you who are curious. 

They start by confirming that the surgeon is in fact looking at my right, and also correct, hand. And yes, that is my right hand, and yes the nurse confirms that it is my right hand. And yes, we all agree this is my right hand. Then they stab a needle into one of the nerves in my wrist. That first jab was the most acutely painful part of the whole thing because they have to get it in the right spot to work. Apparently if you can feel anything in your fingers it is in the wrong spot. Keep in mind they are jabbing me in my wrist and I’m feeling it all the way up into my fingers as the surgeon played hide and seek with the proper nerve. It was not fun. It took him three tries to get it in the right spot. After that there are five more pokes all along that nerve while they inject whatever it is that numbs everything. Then I had to sit for half an hour as my hand swells up like a balloon and my fingers turn into fat little sausages and my whole hand goes pins and needles.

Once my hand was suitably numb, they wheeled me into the surgery suite and got me ready for the actual procedure where again we all confirm that yes, this is my right hand, and yes this is the hand the procedure is supposed to happen to. And yes the nurse agrees, as does the other nurse, as does the technician, as does the surgeon. I understand that this is because there have been some very tragic accidents where the wrong limb was operated on and in some cases that operation was an amputation and that is truly terrible and I would not wish that fate on anyone, but that doesn’t stop the actual double-quadruple confirmation alternative from feeling a little absurd. Once we are all in agreement that we are all looking at and working on my right hand, and that is the hand that is supposed to be operated on, they held my arm up in the air and tried to squeeze out some of the fluid that has turned me into Sausage Hand. Once they have as much fluid squeezed out as they can they put a tourniquet on my arm to minimize the blood to the incision site. Supposedly the tourniquet is the part most patients think is the worst. I am not sure who those patients are, but they are wrong. At this point they draped me so I can’t actually see what is going on, but they just let your arm, hand, and fingers rest of their own volition on the special table. Nothing is strapped down or held in place and I spent most of the procedure afraid I’d twitch and move a finger that would move something inside my wrist at just the wrong moment and they’ll accidently cut something important. Though they keep saying your hand is numb, it still feels stuff, just not sharp pain. I definitely felt when they made the incisions to get in, and I felt when the scope and the tools went in, and I really, really, felt it when the tool goes under that ligament and pulls up on it like a rubber band and then scrapes back and forth and back and forth and back and forth like they are trying to scrape the paint off of something. I definitely feel that. That was the point where I had to close my eyes and do some deep breathing. The nurse asked if it hurt, I managed not to swear at her, but I did say “it sure doesn’t feel good” in my most acerbic tone.

After that they slip everything back out of my wrist and sew it up. The sewing up part isn’t fun either, you can’t actually feel the pain of it but your body knows that something is jabbing at it and pulling through it and I did not enjoy that either. They put on a special waterproof bandage that was supposed to last four days (it lasted two) and then sent me on my way. Nate and I went to get all you can east sushi as a reward, didn’t really think through the chopsticks with a useless hand though. Luckily no one was there to judge me as I used my fork or in many cases just gave up and used my fingers.

Water Woes

updates and setbacks

First some updates

  • Hand/wrist update: After a second round of steroids and occupational hand therapy we decided I need to have the carpel tunnel surgery. The question now is timing. I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for 3-4 months and with horse chores that is going to be a challenge. Particularly for someone like me who can’t seem to recognize my body’s limits (see this post for a prime example). This means Nate will have to do most (all?) the horse chores for 3-4 months, so it has to be a time that is compatible with both our jobs, which right now looks like late spring or early summer.
  • Barn update: Hansen Pole Buildings sells just the materials to build a pole barn and I have been getting quotes for them for the roughly the same building since 2019 which has been an interesting way to track how insane prices have been the last few years. In 2019 we got a quote for x dollars, in 2020 the cost was 3*x , in 2021 it was 5*x, and now, it’s only 1.5*x! We might actually be able to afford this barn! There are still lots of other things we need numbers for, like labor and foundation work, but before this the cost of  materials alone exceeded our budget and now the materials are at least within our budget so there is a small ray of hope.
  • Mental health update: Overall I am doing better, but this week demonstrated that I’m still not fully back to where I would like to be. I was slightly busier this week than the previous two weeks and those fairly minor tasks used way more mental and emotional energy than they would have in the past so I didn’t get nearly as much done this week as I had planned (and would have been able to do in the past). That being said, I am still doing better than I was at the end of December/early January and am heading in the right direction. I am also trying to get my sleep back to a solid uninterrupted eight hours every night, which will hopefully help with everything. I don’t have insomnia, but I wake up several times a night every night. I usually fall back to sleep quickly but if it happens too close to my normal wakeup time it takes me much longer to fall back asleep and then when my alarm does go off, I feel like I didn’t get any sleep at all. I’m trying to be better about wearing my blue-light blocking glasses at night and attempting to end all screen time by 9:00 PM. Hopefully this will help get me sleeping through the night again and sleeping better helps with everything else.

Now the water woes.

We placed the water tank where it is so we could use the spigot on the front of the house to fill it and plug the tank heater into the outlet on the porch. We know spigots and water and freezing temperatures don’t always mix well so we have an expandable hose that we hook up and unhook every time we have to fill the tank and we shut the water off to the spigot inside the house every time. When they built our house the siding people did not place the framed cutout around the spigot correctly and the spigot is too close to the frame making it extremely difficult to get a hose on or off in the best of weather. Nate and I thought it would be better if we put a quick-disconnect hose attachment on it to get the hose on and off more easily while wearing winter gear. It had been working relatively well, though once we had to use the hairdryer to thaw the quick-disconnect piece. The same thing seemed to have happened this week. I used the hairdryer to get it warm enough that the quick-disconnect moved again then attached the hose, turned the water on and…. water came out of all parts of the spigot. Water everywhere in negative everything degree weather is not good. We got that water all turned off and started trouble shooting. We could try the spigot on the back of the house, but we would need to use our two long hoses. The long hoses did not like negative everything degree weather and refused to uncoil. After what felt like hours wrestling with uncooperative hoses I finally got them all hooked up (or so I thought) and turned on the water. I had to go into the house to turn the water on to the spigot and saw water shooting out from everywhere as soon as I stepped outside so I immediately ran back in and tuned the water off to the spigot and assumed I simply hadn’t gotten the hose attached correctly in this stupid weather and decided I needed to get a hose that could handle the cold and another quick-disconnect attachment. After a trip to Fleet Farm for a new 150-foot super special winter proof hose (that discount comes in super handy!) and another quick-disconnect we hooked everything up again, ran the hose from the back of the house out to the water (the new hose is FAR more cooperative in this weather), turned the water on and…. water came out of all parts of the spigot. Insert your expletive of choice.

The girls of course need water, so we’ve been hauling buckets of water to the water tank every day. Though annoying, this option works fine for Leeloo, it doesn’t work for picky miss Juniper. Juniper demonstrated in that previous terrible cold snap that she doesn’t like the taste of the water from inside the house. We got her to drink that time by adding molasses to her water, but I’m not dumping molasses into all of their drinking water, also having PPID means added sugar isn’t good for her (added sugar isn’t good for any of us!). This time I tried some apple cider vinegar and that seems to be working, which is good, but I don’t want to pour that into our already rusty and not in great condition water tank either. The result is that we’ve been hauling individual buckets of water out to Juniper, which means we’re also hauling individual buckets of water out to Leeloo because if Juniper gets something Leeloo wants it too. Leeloo drinks at a normal rate of speed for a horse and usually downs her bucket very quickly.

Here is a video of Leeloo drinking (which also involves a certain amount of playing):

Juniper, of course, takes forever to drink. FOREVER. You would think we could just leave it there for her to finish in her own sweet time but Leeloo, having finished her water ages ago, gets bored and decides Juniper’s bucket looks like a great toy and will promptly dumps the water out everywhere and start playing with the bucket unless we stand there and guard it.

Remind me again why I wanted to have my horse at home with me?!

Here is a video of Juniper drinking and if you turn the sound on you can hear my conversation with Leeloo as I try to keep her distracted.

We have contacted a plumber who can come out next Tuesday and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that (a) we didn’t do any actual damage to the house and (b) he can figure out some sort of winter solution so we can stop with the buckets.

Hoping that next year we have a barn with winter safe water supplies!


I miss potatoes

The various efforts for improving my mental health have been starting to pay off, I think. Nothing transformational, but small improvements in overall mood and ability to motivate myself to do things that aren’t sitting + something to distract my brain.

I’ve been officially eating what I would call a Whole30 + AIP elements diet for a week now and realized several things:

  • I had let way more sugar back into my diet than I realized. The sugar cravings are hitting me hard. HARD. I haven’t struggled this much since we first started following the paleo diet back in 2011.
  • Combining elements of Whole30 + AIP is making this far more challenging than doing either one alone. Doing that PLUS trying to aim for more omega 3’s versus omega 6’s is not happening. I’ve decided to focus on the Whole30 + AIP thing for 30 days and then we’ll try reincorporating some of the eliminated foods and see how I do. Once that process is finished and I have a better handle on cravings, and a wider base of things to eat, I’ll refocus on the omega 3’s versus omega 6’s. 
  • I need to find some low-sugar carbs that I actually like that are easier to make. My favorite low-sugar carb is the potato and I’m currently avoiding nightshades so that means no potatoes for now; they will be the first (or maybe second) thing I reintroduce when my 30 days are up – dark chocolate  is the alternative option for first reintroduction. My other preferred non-sugar carbs are plantains and cassava (yucca) but they are not as easy or convenient (at least for me) as things like squash or pumpkin or sweet potatoes that you can find peeled, sliced, canned, frozen, etc.
  • I am having a hard time eating enough at meals to actually stay full until the next meal. Mostly because I get sick of veggies real fast and I limit my protein servings because protein things cost too much money. If I can get a handle on finding low-sugar carbs that should help with this one.

I have found a few preparations for those other low-sugar carbs that I have actually enjoyed, at least more than I have enjoyed previous efforts. They were inspired by a cran-apple slaw we made. The pre-cut bags of slaw veggies (regular coleslaw veggies, broccoli slaw, kale slaw, etc.) are super convenient and there is a pre-made slaw dressing (Sweet and Sassy dressing by Salad Girl) that both Nate and I really like and together they make for a very easy side-dish. That being said anything gets boring after a while, so in an effort to change things up I tried adding thawed frozen cranberries and sliced apples (it was very tasty and nice change of pace). I had some extra of each afterwards as well as leftover cooked diced sweet potato from breakfast and decided to try combining them all and heating them up and it was actually pretty tasty. I was then inspired to try that same cran-apple combo with frozen diced butternut squash and shallot. Again good, though I liked the sweet potato version better. Here is my not very well thought out “recipe”

Cran-Apple Sweet Potatoes

  • Cooked diced sweet potato (1/2 cup ish)
  • Chopped up apple (1/4 to 1/2 an apple depending on size of said apple)
  • An amount of fresh or frozen cranberries – I really should measure things – maybe 1/3 cup?
  • Dice up small shallot
  • Grass-fed ghee or butter (an amount – start with ½ tablespoon… maybe)
  • Salt (an amount)

Heat everything up in a pan until everything is the temperature and texture you want it to be.

I did warn you it wasn’t very well thought out.

If you want to try the version with the frozen butternut squash I would recommend heating the apples, cranberries, shallots, ghee, and some salt for a while first to let them caramelize and brown a bit before adding the squash.

One other thing I tried that I kind of liked was combining leftover canned pumpkin with no-sugar-added applesauce – it was… good is a stretch, let’s go with not bad.

Pumpkin Applesauce “Pie Filling” Treat

  • Equal parts canned pumpkin and no-sugar-added applesauce
  • Cinnamon (an amount – be a little careful, cinnamon is one of the few spices I have actually managed to add too much of so I tend to add some, taste it, add some more taste it, until I’m happy. You can always add more, you can’t take it out!)
  • Nutmeg or mace (an amount – again add some, taste, add some more)
  • Grass-fed ghee
  • Salt

Heat everything in a pan until you are happy with the temperature and then eat it and try to tell yourself this is like eating pumpkin pie.

Clearly this will never be a recipe blog – to really hammer that home, enjoy a video of Leeloo doing this weird thing with her tongue at breakfast.

She does this every few days but it doesn’t ever stop her from finishing her meal. I’ll be asking the vet about it the next time I have need to contact them, but everything else about her behavior is normal and we had her teeth checked this fall so I don’t feel compelled to pay a vet bill just yet. 

Here she is letting me know that if Juniper doesn’t want to finish her breakfast, she would be happy to finish it for her.

Physical Health 2023 – Phase 1

proactive not reactive

I went to the doctor last week about the increasing issues with my right hand/wrist/arm and got a referral to see a hand therapist again. At that appointment we determined that my carpal tunnel is definitely getting worse and that surgery is probably in the near future and that I also have symptoms of cubital tunnel which impacts the nerve running down the outside of your elbow and causes issues with the pinky and ring finger. Fun times.

I was also put back on steroids and they are definitely helping with the tingling/pins-and-needles issues, which is nice, but I can’t stay on steroids indefinitely. The biggest issue for me is they totally mess up my ability to sleep, and getting good sleep is so important for both my physical health as well as those pesky mental health things I’m trying to manage. Depending on how the physical therapy goes and the reaction to the steroids they may do some imaging but only if it will impact our next stage of possible treatment. I am trying to be proactive and find ways to get the benefits of the steroids without the actual steroids, and I am on them to reduce inflammation so that is my goal – reduce inflammation.

I have more searching to do about ways to reduce inflammation, but my goals for the immediate future are committing to an anti-inflammatory diet, getting a better handle on my sleep, getting serious about meditation, and being very purposeful with my exercise. You may notice that all of those overlap with my goals for getting a handle on my mental health, so I am not going to be adding anything new into my life, just being more focused. The biggest change will be dedicating myself to eating anti-inflammatory foods, and just as importantly (maybe more), eliminating pro-inflammatory foods.

I am not a nutritionist and a lot of people with far more knowledge on the topic than I have, have said a lot about healthy diets. Here is the link to my number one resource, The Paleo Mom, and here is what I am planning on eating for the next three months:

Nate and I have been following some variation of the “paleo” diet since 2011 so this isn’t that different from how we have been eating (most of the time). The biggest change is going to be cutting out the processed foods that are generally considered “paleo friendly” (depending on what paleo diet person you ask). Those include things like arrowroot, tapioca starch, coconut flour, almond flour, etc. As I write this, I am realizing this is pretty close to the Whole30 diet with the exception of the meat and fats. Because the goal is to minimize inflammation, I am trying to focus on getting more omega-3s and less omega-6s and in general grass-fed beef is a better choice than poultry and pork. Fish would be a great choice, but I have two issues with it. First – sourcing fish that is actually (a) the fish it claims to be (b) caught in an ethical manner both in terms of environmental impact and humane working conditions and (c) doesn’t have high levels of other bad things like mercury in it from our extremely polluted oceans is really hard to do and is made even harder when you live in a landlocked state. Second – I don’t like fish. We have been buying grass-fed beef halves from Stone Bridge Beef, a local farmer, for years now; so I feel good about it in terms of quality, environmental impact, and humane working conditions. Also I really like beef.

The other really big thing for my physical health (and mental health) is getting my vitamin D levels up. They are currently very low. 

Standard western medicine says vitamin D should be between 30-80 ng/mL, though some of the sources I look to say it should be more like 50-70 ng/mL. In 2015 I had my vitamin D levels tested and it was 23.5 ng/mL which is low, so I started occasionally taking a supplement. In January 2020 I got tested again and it was at 9 ng/mL. That is not a typo, it was a single digit, nine. That is bad. I have been actively supplementing since then and three years later it is now (there should be a way to do a dramatic pause but I can’t force things like pagination on you so this parenthetical will have to do) 14 ng/mL! Which is technically better, but still way too low; and this is with active supplementation. I’m stepping up the quantity of vitamin D that I am taking plus I am trying to get it from a variety of brands/sources in case there is a quality issue as well. I’m also trying to eat more vitamin D rich foods, the problem is mushrooms and egg yolks are the only ones I really like. Sunlight of course is also a great source but there are all the SKIN CANCER concerns out there, and my skin really hates the sun. I never tan; I turn red, then itchy, then pasty again – plus if my skin is exposed to sun it is also exposed to bugs and we all know how I feel about that. The light therapy bulb I am currently using is technically for reptiles and is supposed to be a full spectrum light that also provides the UVB needed to produce vitamin D so we’ll see if that helps.

I am starting to wonder if my extreme vitamin D deficiency might not be the root cause of many of my other mental and physical health issues. I’m hoping that being super aggressive with supplements and diet can get those vitamin D levels up and maybe make a difference in everything else, but I am also wondering if there might be something else underlying the vitamin D deficiency that is the real root cause. I’m hoping my doctor will be willing to retest in three months to see if my work has paid off.

In the meantime – mushroom omelet anyone?

Mental Health – 2023

getting my mental house in order

First things first – I am not a mental health expert, a medical professional, or any other anything that qualifies me to give advice regarding mental health. Everything I say here is in reference to myself. If something I say resonates with you and you want to try it too, that is great and I would love to talk about it in the comments, but this is not me advising anyone to do anything.

Second things second – Mental health issues, like everything lately, seems to make people take a hardline stance on one side or another of some imaginary line. In this case usually over the need to take medication. I often hear/see things like “You don’t need those pills, just [fill in whatever thing you think will magically make someone better].” or “You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin, why tell people with mental health issues they don’t need medication?” However if someone has diabetes, or high blood pressure, or some other physical ailment, they usually incorporate BOTH lifestyle changes AND medicine, often in the hopes of minimizing the amount of medication they need. Yet I don’t hear that middle-ground camp much when it comes to mental health issues, but that is where I fall.

I was diagnosed with depression my freshman year of college and put on medication. I took one medication or another for several years but also made changes in my life and eventually felt well enough to try living without medication and have been able to be okay (mostly) as long as I maintain those lifestyle changes. There have been a few times since then when my depression/anxiety started drifting away from managed, but each time I was able to get my mental health back under control when I got those lifestyle things back under control as well.

I however find myself once again at a point where my depression/anxiety are no longer well managed and are negatively impacting my quality of life. I’ve been struggling to get myself to do anything other than read books, click through imgur, or play endless games of spider solitaire. Though those things are perfectly fine on their own, doing nothing but them for hours on end, day after day, isn’t exactly the life I would like to be living. It is also clear that I have let many of the lifestyle choices that help me manage my mental health slide right off my plate and into the snow (along with a hoof pick and the padlock we started putting on the horse gate at night) but unlike the hoof pick and padlock I can’t wait around until spring and hope I find them again, I am going to need to be a little more proactive.

Here are the big things I will be reincorporating back into my life this January with the intention of being more diligent about keeping them around. Generally speaking, trying to establish good habits or changes in your life is easier if you do them one-at-a-time, but all of these things were established behaviors not that long ago and I have already started reincorporating them one-per-week starting the week before Christmas.

Now on to the list:

  • Meditate/Mindfulness Practice
    • Nate and I try to meditate together for five minutes every morning and we’ve managed to stay pretty good about that. In addition to that I am also trying to incorporate a mindfulness practice throughout my day. Of everything on this list, this is the one that never really went all the way away, but also the one I don’t think I’m that good at and need the most work with. Hopefully more practice will make this habit better and more effective.
  • Exercise Daily
    • I had been really good about doing 15-30 minutes of strength and cardio exercises every morning for years, but once we brought the horses home my morning routine went right out the window and I have been struggling to get it back. The various injuries to my back, neck, wrists, and hands have not helped the situation either. The week before Christmas I decided to actively reclaim a morning routine which also includes some form of exercise and have stuck with it on the days I’ve been home. This had been a pretty established habit prior to the horses coming home so I’m hopeful it will stick.
  • Light Therapy
    • I have had some version of a light box for a few years and try to sit under it every morning once we’ve passed the autumn equinox and until the spring equinox, but since my morning routine was obliterated when the horses came home I didn’t start it up again like I should have. Now that I am reestablishing a morning routine with my exercises I decided to squeeze fifteen minutes of sitting under my light in to it as well. I started sitting under the light again last week and so far I’ve managed to do it most mornings. It’s also another opportunity to practice mindfulness/meditation, which is good. Though watching Juniper and Leeloo stare at the house wondering what is taking breakfast so long is still making me feel guilty.


  • Cut Out Sugar
    • Sugar is evil (as discussed in this post) and it has got to go. I do however feel it is worth saying again that sugar is not the same as carbohydrates. When I say I need to cut sugar out of my life I am not saying I’m cutting out carbohydrates, which are a necessary part of a healthy diet, I’m cutting out sugars. Read your labels – see how much added sugar is in your food, if it isn’t something you’ve paid attention to before you’ll probably be shocked. Sugar does lots of terrible things to our bodies but in the case of my mental health it makes my depression, anxiety, energy levels, and overall mood so much worse. I know this and have successfully gotten sugar out of my life several different times but it always creeps back in because it is sooooooo tasty and soooooo addictive. SO addictive! I will once again be buckling down and cutting sugar back out of my diet. Here are two more links discussing the relationship between sugar and mood disorders: What to Know About Sugar and Depression and Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression.
  • Getting a Handle on the To-Do List Issues
    • Like many (most?) people I tend to suffer from having too much to do and not enough bandwidth to do it. I have tried any number of practices to gain a sense of control over what feels like an overwhelming life and they each worked to varying degrees, but nothing became a real habit. My current plan is to use the Pomodoro Technique more intentionally (work on a task for 25 min, then take a 5-min break; after 3-4 sets of 25 min work + 5-min breaks take a longer 20-30 min break; rinse and repeat). I have used this method in the past with success so I’m hoping it will work again. One thing I will be experimenting with is if it works better for me to work on a different thing for each 25-min work block, therefore chipping away at several different things each day, or if I should focus on specific things each day. This week I’ll be trying the different item for each 25-min work block, next week we’ll try to focus on just one or two things for the whole day and we’ll see what works better.
  • Get My Physical House in Order
    • This one is somewhat loaded because there are a lot of gender role and societal role issues involved with “keeping house;” who is responsible, who bares the blame when standards aren’t met, who determines those standards, etc. But the reality is, when my house is clean I feel better and there is research to indicate that it isn’t just societal pressure. I have experienced an actual physical reaction when I wake up the next morning and walk into my recently cleaned kitchen – I feel physically lighter and I can feel my mood lift. The problem is I hate cleaning my house! Nate and I had developed a method that was working pretty okay. We both agreed to do 30 minutes of “adulting” each workday and two hours each weekend day and we were doing a decent job of keeping the house and our lives in order. But this summer that all disappeared when every moment of “adulting” time got taken up doing stuff to get ready to bring the horses home and now that they are home we do horse chores every day and those use up more than our allotted 30-min a day plus 2 hours each weekend day which has resulted in us barely keeping up with the things that will not be ignored, like laundry and dishes. But the state of our house is not one I am okay with and I have got to figure out how to get it back to okay.

None of these ideas are new or my own and are all things I have done in the past, so it is a matter of reincorporating them back into my life and not necessarily creating new habits.  The suggestions themselves come from many sources but there were two books that were the biggest influences in helping me develop my own holistic approach to dealing with my mental health.

The Depression Cure by Stephen S Ilardi. This was the first time I had heard anything about managing depression with something other than drugs and/or therapy and it was really eye opening for me.

The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons. This book was recommended to me by my therapist, and it was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone, even if you don’t have diagnosed depression or anxiety. There is a lot of information in this book, and I feel like it would be worth re-reading. Maybe a to-do for February.

For now I’ll be shaking off the bad habits that have snuck back into my life and taking time to find beauty even when its negative everything degrees outside.



 At least there are no bugs!

2023 – Here We Come

a variety pack of goals and plans for the year

As I was writing this in my head it was quickly turning into a monstrously long and somewhat overwhelming post – so instead of detailing all of the goals and plans we have for the year I’m going to briefly outline them here and then write a few additional posts with more details about some of the bigger and/or more involved goals and plans.

Here are the things we will be focusing on for 2023:

  • Get that barn! As I said in one of the very first posts, I am an indoor cat with an outdoor hobby. This recent extreme cold snap has also convinced Nate that getting the barn built should indeed be priority number one. Luckily the cost of building materials is finally starting to come down so I am hopeful that 2023 will be the year of our barn!
  • Find that third horse. Leeloo and Juniper still make it clear every day that they would really, really, like a third horse. It is not that they spend all day fighting, they just clearly do not like each other and would rather be with pretty much anyone else. I also want a horse I can reliably ride; Leeloo’s lameness is better but it’s hard to know how much better without a decent place to work her. And then there are the future foals. I want to have at least one more foal, hopefully more than one, and I need a mare worth breeding for that to happen.
  • Get the hay field and pastures planted. I still very much want to be able to make our own hay. There is more to it then planting the appropriate grass, but that is step one and I’m hoping we can get that done this year. I also really would like to stop spraying toxins and poisons onto the land we live on and into the water we drink, which means we need to stop leasing it out for traditional agricultural use.
  • Continue the many projects around our current Plan B horse operation:
    • Finish and install the hay box lids for the existing hay boxes
    • Build another six hay boxes and lids
    • Clear out the second stall in the “barn” shelter and find something to block the wind
    • Get some cameras and lights set up around the horse areas
    • Is that it?! There must be more…
  • Get a handle on my mental health. I have been dealing with depression, anxiety, (and maybe ADHD?) since college and I have mostly been able to manage it with lifestyle choices, but this past year has been extra challenging for me and I need to get it back under control.
  • Get a handle on my physical health. My biggest fear in starting this adventure was that my body would not handle the extra physical strain and I was right to be concerned. My back, neck, shoulders, and wrists have not been doing well and I need to find some solution so this adventure can continue.
  • Figure out the purpose and goals of this website. Why did I create this site? Why am I writing these blog posts? What exactly am I hoping to achieve with these efforts?

I have been thinking about many of these things for a while. For some I already have clear steps in mind, others still need a lot more thought. I however am going to be keeping a new mantra in mind for this year. It came to me while cleaning out the shelters after that ridiculous cold snap and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the mess. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just better. 

No matter what happens I am hopeful that 2023 will be a good year – not perfect, but better!