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.

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.

Holding Pattern

Where do the days go?

I had a lot of goals for the week and somehow the week came and the week went and those goals did not happen. Well, some of them got worked on, but nothing got finished.

Goal One – Regenerative Farming Research

As I said in this post I have been unhappy with my job for a while and being on sabbatical and working on the Adult Education Certificate has really brough home the fact that I need a new career. Regenerative farming has sparked a lot of hope and excitement in me, and I wanted to do more digging to figure out how I can make this happen. I did find several books I want to read but haven’t gotten much farther than putting holds on them at the library.

Goal Two – Carpel Tunnel Surgery

I wasn’t going to have it done this week, obviously, but I had hoped to get it scheduled. I did meet with the surgeon and he agrees that surgery makes sense as our next step. Now I’m playing phone tag with his scheduler. The surgeon said I should only need 3-4 weeks of down time (in terms of not doing horse chores) but(!) that I can’t actually damage anything if I over do it, it will just hurt until it is done healing. This is great for many reasons, but the biggest is that it takes the pressure off of Nate to do EVERYTHING for the month. Nate and I are hoping that I can get the surgery scheduled for the very beginning of May (what a wonderful birthday gift that will be). I find that I can ignore the issues with my hand/wrist now that I know a solution is on the horizon.

Goal Three – Finish Hay Box Lids

I was so excited when we got our hay box lid solution figured out, as discussed in this post. However actually finishing the lids hasn’t happened yet because I messed up my measurements a bit. When I took the measurements to LeVahn Brothers to get the rest of the pipe for the lid frames I forgot to account for the corner pieces until I was standing at the register in the store. Instead of reasonably stepping out of the non-existent line to take my time to figure it out, I panicked and tried to calculate it quickly in my head. I did it correctly for one direction on all of the boxes but I was off by 2.75 inches in the other direction on all the boxes. Luckily they are too long and not too short so I can just cut them all down, I just haven’t gotten around to doing that. We are getting very sick of playing the fun game where Leeloo and Juniper shove all the hay out of the boxes and we put most the hay back in the boxes. Thankfully it isn’t muddy (yet) and they eat a lot of the hay back off the ground so they aren’t wasting that much but it will be muddy soon and mud or not it is very annoying so I really have to get these lids finished.

Goal Four – Make Progress on the Barn

One of the builders I had reached out to got back to me with some questions this week and we had a good conversation about the building but he still has more to do before he can give me a quote. I also started up another round of phone tag with another builder who I had been in contact with in fall but didn’t get final answers from – hoping I connect with him soon.

Then there were two new things that came up this week. Or rather two very old things that I had completely forgotten about that came back up.

First – Lawns to Legumes Grant

We received a Lawns to Legumes grant!! I had completely forgotten that I applied until the email showed up in my inbox saying we had been awarded one of the grants but I am super excited (and actually happy with past Sara for once)! Now I need to figure out what kind of project will satisfy the grant requirements, will make sense with our long-term goals, and will work with our current short-term setup (i.e. our front yard is now mostly horse paddock). There is a webinar for grantees that happens in two weeks and I am going to hold off on any planning until after that – but I will be staying super excited!

Second – Juniper’s Oral Medication Issues

When we brought Leeloo and Juniper home this fall we wormed them both before putting them in the trailer. I asked Juniper’s previous owner to do it since I didn’t know Juniper at all and some horses don’t like being wormed. It did not go well. In the end it took three people way too long, and with way too much rearing, to get it done. At the time I chalked it up to nerves; owner was sad about letting Juniper go but also had a time crunch that morning and Leeloo was having a meltdown in the trailer so I wasn’t exactly radiating calm. However the vet also had issues just trying to do a dental exam and I was unable to get oral banamine into Juniper using the tube. I knew then that this was something we would have to work on but at the time I was also giving her multiple eye medications 4-6 times a day and I could not afford to miss a dose because I had a pony unwilling to be caught or handled because she was feeling salty after trying to work on her oral issues. Then after weeks and weeks of eye meds followed by the onset of winter I forgot about it; until now. Leeloo is showing signs that she may be dealing with some parasites (coat condition isn’t great and she’s trying to itch her tail on everything – including the gate to the round pen which was NOT safe, thankfully I noticed her right away) and I want to worm her but it makes no sense to worm Leeloo and not Juniper at the same time. This has become priority number one and I am hoping that with some clicker training (positive reinforcement training) I can get Juniper over her oral issues this weekend, or at least over them enough that I can worm them both by Monday.

A mentor of mine once told me “Sometimes you have to be a glacier and wear the mountain down one inch at a time.” Inch by inch I am wearing these mountains down.

No Rest for the Wicked

or for those of us who chronically overcommit

This has been one crazy week. I did manage to get both my papers written and turned in on time for my classes, though that last one was submitted with less than two hours to spare. Of course, the class itself keeps on going so I still had more readings and assignments to do for Wednesday of this week.

In addition to taking these two classes, I am also the Get Out The Vote faculty coordinator for our campus this fall and I had two Get Out The Vote events to run this week – one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. The Tuesday event was on and off all day so I had to shift one of my two normal Fleet Farm days to Monday. I hope everyone reading this who is eligible to vote has already voted (you can still vote early through Monday if you live in Minnesota, not sure about other state’s early voting options) or will be voting on Tuesday.

Image is from this article about why every vote matters


Both events went relatively well though turnout was lower than hoped for; if nothing else I hope the invitations to them and reminders about them got people thinking about voting and when they will do it.

In addition to the Get Out The Vote events both Juniper and I had dentist appointments this week. They both went well though my teeth are in much better condition than Juniper’s. Juniper needed a lot of work done and some of what they vet found has probably been causing her a fair amount of pain for who knows how long. Though nothing was seriously wrong in terms of long-term dental health she does apparently have a few quirks that will require annual dental work (she’s lucky she’s cute).

We’re hoping that some of the issues with her teeth were the cause of (or at least part of) her hatred of receiving oral meds. The way she expressed those feelings was to rear which is not safe for anyone. I’m very glad I waited to work on that because we have hopefully eliminated some of our issues. We hadn’t started that process because I wanted to get through the eye meds before we dealt with anything else but we’re in the homestretch on the eye so hopefully we can turn our attention to that soon; being able to give oral meds is important and I can’t have a pony who rears the moment you put anything in her mouth. This of course is also a good reminder that horses/ponies are never naughty or unsafe just because, there is always something more going on that is the real cause of the issue.

I also had what will hopefully be my second to last physical therapy appointment for my neck issues from the slip down the stairs. Overall, my arms/hands/wrists have been doing much better but I still need to figure out a way to extend my handles on, well the vast majority of our yard tools, but the poop fork in particular. Any suggestions for how to extend my handle?

Lastly I had a meeting with a new group for a side job I did this past spring writing feedback for math homework questions for an online homework system. The first time around I felt like the amount of time I put in to writing the feedback was disproportionately high compared to the amount of pay I got. Thankfully those in charge took our feedback and this new group is putting together what will hopefully be a far more efficient and consistent process that will make the amount of work proportionate to the pay.

All of this coalesced this week to make me realize I really don’t have the time for two days a week at Fleet Farm. Ten hours a week doesn’t sound like much, but with this other side job starting back up for the sake of my mental health I need to cut back on something so I’m cutting back to just one day a week at Fleet Farm – though I did agree to be flexible and work on whatever day of the week they needed me most at whatever time they needed me – you just can’t beat that 20% discount!

Now I just need to get through the rest of the semester with these two classes, balance this new side gig with everything else, and actually put together the two presentations I will be giving at the AMATYC conference in Toronto – which have to be done and submitted by November 14.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

Maybe I can work on the presentations while I’m waiting in line to vote…

This image taken from this article on why voting matters for racial justice – GO VOTE!


the good, the bad, and the sleep deprived

As I mentioned in this post, they put my on steroids for my neck, they were a mixed bag. Absolutely helped with my neck and arm issues; there was an immediate improvement in symptoms, which was great. Now that they are done (Tuesday morning was the last dose) the issues in my neck are definitely making themselves known, but overall they are still better than they were and my left arm is significantly better. However, steroids also compromise your body’s ability to fight off infection and for me they made it impossible to sleep. For over a week now I haven’t gotten more than two consecutive hours at a time. Those two things combined to weaken my immune system and now I find myself with a cold on top of everything else; just when we have what may be our last string of nice weather for the year my body decides it doesn’t want to do anything but be in bed. For once I am trying to actually rest at the onset of a cold, instead of pushing through like nothing is wrong, which is my normal method. That method almost always leads to the cold turning into either a sinus infection, or an ear infection, or strep throat, or that really fun winter break when I got a double ear infection and strep throat – good times. I’m trying to be smarter this time around. I actually called in sick to work on Wednesday (!), have been napping (I never nap!) and going to bed early, and generally trying to let my body rest. It has been a struggle – I am not good at resting.

The other fun side affect of terrible sleep is the impact it has on my mental health. Even the most minor things feel like disasters and things that are genuinely not good are cause for a complete meltdown. The biggest of which was Leeloo deciding she didn’t want me to touch her anymore. On Monday a friend came over to drop something off and meet the horses and as we were by Leeloo I went to touch her side and she pinned her ears and made an aggressive head swing at me. She has never done that to anyone, much less me, in her life. My first thought was that something might be wrong physically, but we watched her, and she was eating, drinking, and pooping just fine. That doesn’t eliminate every medical cause, but I am not concerned about anything being immediately life threatening. It also means the cause may just be me, or more likely the fact that our relationship has changed drastically and neither of us is handling it well. I am now out in her space 6+ times a day, but never spending time with her. I’m always doing chores or dealing with Juniper’s **** eye, I’m never spending time with Leeloo, other than to occasionally yell at her when she takes two bites of the hay we just put out and then steps forward and is about to pee in it! (This is why we need to get those hay boxes done!) But Leeloo not wanting attention and being aggressive instead is like the sun rising in the west; it is absolutely unheard of.  I was very upset. I would have been upset no matter what, but that combined with extreme sleep deprivation meant I really, really did not take it well. I know that what we need to do is spend some quality time with just Leeloo and I, outside of the “horse space” and in a “human/horse space.”  The problem is I don’t have such a space, and I won’t for weeks yet. But I cannot just ignore this, so I have been intentionally making time to be with Leeloo every day; going up to her first every morning, instead of going directly to give Juniper her medicine, and spending the time waiting between eye meds with Leeloo when she wants to, which she doesn’t always want to (which is so abnormal – I just cannot explain how unusual it is for Leeloo to not want attention). We are starting to see some improvement, and Thursday she let me pet her neck and her back without pinning her ears and moving away, so I am hopeful that this fracture in our relationship can be repaired relatively quickly; but it has been heartbreaking.

Luckily (for my sleep, we’ll see about my neck/arm) the steroids are done which means I should start getting more than two consecutive hours of sleep at a time – which will be a huge boost for my mental health. Then we just need these eye meds to wrap up (3-5 more weeks) and the hay shed to get here (4ish weeks) – just need to survive until then!

Thank you to my friend Cara for taking this photo of Leeloo and I – realizing I have very few photos of the two of us since usually I’m the one taking the pictures. We’ll need to add a photo shoot to our endless to-do list.

Know When To Fold Them

Apparently, my body can read my posts, because after the last post where I mentioned that I had hurt myself but wasn’t going to be able to get to a doctor for at least a week I woke up in the middle of the night in a bad way. You know that feeling when you hit your funny bone on something? The radiating, buzzy, pain, like a terrible current. Now imagine that feeling radiating from your shoulder, down through your elbow, down through your wrist, and into your hand; and it won’t stop. That is what I woke up to at 1:30 AM and stayed awake to for over an hour. It was not fun. The next morning I canceled the Get Out The Vote Event I was supposed to run and made a doctors appointment instead.

The doctor is pretty sure I did something to my very upper back/neck when I slipped down those stairs so she prescribed a week of steroids, muscle relaxers as needed for a month, and some physical therapy. If that doesn’t take care of it we’ll do some imaging. Of course now I need to find a new physical therapist because my long term one retired. I went on Thursday to my first new PT appointment, and she was pretty good, I think I’ll stick with her, at least for now. She agrees it’s most likely something in my upper back/neck and assigned some very low key exercises to do for a few days and I will be going back next week. The PT also thought it would be worth going to acupuncture for the increased carpal tunnel issues in my right hand; which have been steadily getting worse all summer and that I have been meaning to do something about but never prioritized. We’ll see if I actually get that appointment made; I’m very good at addressing my horses’ medical needs, not so much my own.

Overall though, I am doing better. This is a combination of the drugs and the fact that Nate has stepped up in a HUGE way in helping with the horse chores. The horses and having a horse hobby farm has always been my dream; one that Nate has supported, but hasn’t shared. I also always said from the very beginning that I knew we both hated physical labor and being hot, cold, buggy, sweaty, and/or tired and that if we didn’t have the money to do this thing right, we wouldn’t do it. Something went sideways on that path and here we are, without the money to do anything even remotely right. Despite that, Nate has continued to be amazingly supportive and helpful getting this whole thing up and running and continues to be.

At some point Nate will have to take care of the horses while I am gone (either to conferences or to Wisconsin to visit family and friends) and he has agreed to do everything but dealing with the poop. He drew the line at horse poop. Which is totally fair because I long ago drew the line and cleaning the toilet. I will clean everything else in the house and do any of the yardwork, but I categorically refuse to clean a toilet. I never have and I never will. I will pay a cleaning service to come regularly to do that one single task for me. Therefore, I was totally understanding at Nate drawing the line at poop. Since the horses came home Nate has helped with all the chores (except for poop) once a week, because having help makes the job better, but also so he would feel more comfortable about taking care of them while I’m gone. As I said in the previous post my pain in my hands/arms was steadily getting worse all week, so Nate started helping more with the chores and did everything but Juniper’s eye meds and the poop on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But then the morning after that horrible nighttime arm pain of awfulness Nate came out to help as he has been but when I went to start picking up poop, he took the pitchfork away from me and did it himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful of anything ever. Because I’m tall and have had so many back issues, the pitchfork handles are just too short for me, so I have developed a poop picking method that saves my back but is really hard on my hands and wrists, and of all things I have to do that is the task that hurts the most – or rather that hurts the most that I have to do the most. Other things hurt as much but I only have to do them for a minute or two, not the twenty to forty minutes every day it takes to pick up poop.

Between the medications and Nate giving my body a chance to rest I am feeling much better. We did however sit down and have a long conversation about the f***ing hay shed and the fact that my body is just not currently up to the labor and Nate has a fulltime job and we just don’t have the resources here to get the job done in the time it needs to get done. Plus get done the million other things we really need to get done before winter is truly here. So, we are admitting defeat and purchasing another pre-made shelter. Of course the company we got the first shelters from are booked out until the end of December so we’re going with a different company and its not going to match. But as Nate pointed out, the one we would have made wouldn’t have matched either. Plus – PLUS! – this company does the anchoring for you!!! Which is a huge relief, because that process sucked! Of course the money for this hay shed needs to come from somewhere, not sure the Fleet Farm job is going to bring in enough, so something else will probably have to give. 

Now we will turn our attention back to the hay boxes! And the mats, and the mud control grids, and getting the gates up on the soon to be “barn” shelter, and getting the solar light hooked up in said “barn” shelter, and fixing the gate latches on the actual gates (which were cheap work-arounds that aren’t working around that much), and building another compost bay or three, and why did I think this was a good idea?!

At least I have one amazing spouse!

Left Hand Down

Why does my body forsake me?

This will be a relatively short post; though I have said that to Nate before I started writing the last four posts, we’ll see if this one is actually short. This time I think it will be because my hands/wrists/forearms have been really bothering me; steadily getting worse all week and today they’ve been pretty much non-stop pins and needles and achy/sore.

This may be because we running out of room for poop and I haven’t had a chance to go get more free pallets to make more compost bays because all my free time is taken up with trying to build this hay shed plus the working 10 hours a week at Fleet Farm (seemed like a great idea, but wow that eats up more of my actual time than I thought it would!). Anyway – we didn’t have any place to put any more poop so Friday I just had it and decided to unload the oldest poop from the first compost bay so we could line it with chicken wire and start using it again. We do not have any equipment yet for dealing with, well anything, so that meant I shoveled it all into the poop cart, then shoveled it all back out again to its new location.

Of course my hands/wrists/arms may also be bothering me because all these mats and mud-control grids arrived and I started unloading them and placing them in their various homes. We got a super great deal from Cashman’s and with the freight shipping it worked out better getting them all at once than getting some now and waiting and getting more later. I know I will use them all eventually, even if they don’t all have 100% certain homes yet. I am also nowhere close to being done with that project (shocker).

Or the issue may be because I sort of fell down the stairs a little bit on Monday. I mean, it was more of a slip and slide down three or four steps before catching myself on the railing, but it wrenched the heck out of my arm and shoulder.

Regardless everything I do hurts at this point: cooking, typing, playing on my phone, using the mouse on my computer, picking up poop, laying down in bed. I should probably go see a doctor, but I don’t have time this week because I have two shifts and Fleet Farm and I have two days of Get Out The Vote events to run at my regular job at North Hennepin Community College and I’m trying to build this F***ing hay shed.

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

Oh yeah – this is why:

Can’t beat breakfast in bed. Also this is why we need to get those hay boxes built! The hay is for eating Leeloo, not sleeping!

Copy Paste

Stuck in a Loop

First, an update on Leeloo from this post. Leeloo is doing much, much, better. The morning after our scare she was already looking 90% better. I found a giant welt on the left side of her stomach, which was the side where the swelling in her legs was worse, so I’m pretty confident all of her symptoms were a reaction to a bee or wasp sting. Since she was doing so much better, I decided to hold off on the next dose of banamine and wait a full 24 hours. She continued to improve, so we decided not to give any more banamine. I also called the vet and we opted not to send her blood to the lab because that would cost an extra $180 and she was doing fine. Even though it turned out to be unwarranted, calling the vet was the right decision. Her symptoms could easily have been a reaction to something she had eaten and some of the toxic plants or bugs that can work their way into hay can have fast-acting and deadly consequences. I’m happy it was nothing more serious and that she’s doing better, but very annoyed that she had to get stung on a Sunday – of course she had to get stung on the most expensive vet call day there is. 

Now on to our never-ending tasks.

Lately it feels like I am stuck in my own version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every day seems like a repeat of the day before: eye meds, hay shed work, panic about all the other things that aren’t getting done and how quickly winter will be here. It’s hard to see progress being made; I went to take a picture of where we are at now with the hay shed project and you can’t tell the difference from the previous pictures I took. That being said, we are slowly, soooooooo slowly, making progress on this building.

We have one 36-foot, 6” x 6” beam finished and two of the 11-foot 6” x 6” beams finished and all three are in position outside. We are also 2/3 finished with the second 36-foot 6” x 6” beam. Everything takes us longer than I think it should, and probably longer than it would take someone who knows what they are doing, had all the proper tools, and had dimensional lumber. We do not know what we are doing, we do not have all the proper tools, and we are working with rough cut lumber. I’m hoping once we get past this part, creating beams from smaller boards, it will start going a little faster. One of the choke points in the process is the insufficient number of clamps. We have enough to do two short beams or one long beam which means there is a lot of downtime while we wait for the wood glue to set. It is minor, but frustrating.

You know what else is minor, but frustrating? Having to give two different eye medications, four-to-six times a day, that have to be given at least five minutes apart from one another, that I also have to have clean hands to apply.

When you just hear it, or read it in the email from the vet, having to wait five minutes between the meds seems like no big deal. But because we’re dealing with an eye that already has an infection it is important that my hands are clean when I give the medications and it is almost impossible for me to just stand there for five minutes without doing something that invariably causes me to have to go back in the house and wash my hands again: filling up the water, getting more hay, petting Leeloo, who has come up to see if maybe this time one of those carrots in the bright blue fanny pack is for her – because sometimes I give in and give her a carrot because I’m feeling guilty that we haven’t spent any time together since she came home. I do always make her work for it. Our current game is the “go find it” game where I touch her nose with the carrot and then toss it and point at it and tell her to “go find it.” I can’t throw it very far or she gets distracted by grass and stops searching or just looks at me like, “Why you got a be a jerk? Why can’t you just give it to me?” It has however come in handy a few times when Juniper is being particularly possessive of me and cranky at Leeloo; I’ll walk some ways with the carrot, touch Leeloo on her nose and toss it just far enough that she can still find it, but in the opposite direction as Juniper. It usually buys me enough time to get the meds done.

Hopefully this weekend we’ll make some more substantial progress on the hay shed. In the meantime here is a picture of baby Leeloo, because who doesn’t love baby Leeloo?!

Taken at Horseplay Ranch in Corcoran MN when Leeloo was eleven days old.

Sugar is Evil!

Leeloo decided Juniper was getting too much attention

Sugar is evil, truly evil. No matter what type of health issue you are dealing with, mental health, physical health, chronic, acute, whatever, sugar makes it worse. I’m not talking carbs, I’m not talking fruit, I’m talking sugar. If you are dealing with any health anything, but particularly any mental health things, I would really encourage you to consider giving up sugar for two or three weeks and see if you notice a difference. Of course, you will need to be very careful to read EVERY label of EVERY food or drink you put in your mouth because they put sugar in EVERYTHING!

In 2011 Nate and I totally changed the way we eat and now follow the paleo diet, or at least we usually do, and one of the biggest things about that is cutting out sugar. Again, I’m not saying no carbs, we get plenty of carbs (probably too many), but we are pretty careful about actual sugar intake. Anytime we are not careful about our sugar intake many things go wrong. We’re both more physically tired, mentally tired, unfocused, cranky, short-tempered, and headachy. Even worse for me, is that sugar makes my depression and anxiety so much worse. SO MUCH WORSE. You would think knowing all that, we would be good about not eating sugar. But sugar is evil – EVIL! – and so tasty, so very, very tasty, and is so very, very, addicting. And the reality is “willpower” (which some argue isn’t even a thing the way many people define it) is severely hampered when you are stressed and tired and we’ve been working so hard on getting this hay shelter built and giving Juniper two different meds that both have to be given six times a day, but not at the same time, we are exhausted. All of that combined to work against us and we broke Saturday and got some desserts. That meant Sunday morning I was suffering from a major sugar hangover and my mental health, which has already been under pressure for the above-mentioned reasons, was just not up to what I found in the pasture.

Nate has been helping me with chores on Sunday mornings, mostly so that when I am gone and he has to do them himself he feels more comfortable, but also because things are always better with a buddy. I was dealing with Juniper and her five million different medications and not really paying attention to Leeloo, other than thinking it was odd she wasn’t coming over for her breakfast like normal. Nate asked if he should go get her and I said yes and went on to step one thousand of Juniper’s morning routine. It took them forever to get over to us and then I handed Nate Leeloo’s feed to give her. As she’s eating I finally LOOK at her and realize her back left leg is really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof. I palpate it, and it is very tender and warm, but there is no obvious injury. Then I realize her front left leg is also really swollen from about halfway down the cannon bone to her hoof and she also doesn’t want me touching that leg. And so is her front right leg, though to a lesser extent. Then I touch her chest and she is hot, which considering she was just standing in the shelter doing nothing and it was relatively cool outside made no sense (I didn’t take her actual temperature because I couldn’t find my horse specific thermometer and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice our human one yet; once a thermometer is used on a horse, it can never go back). She also had discharge from both nostrils and I remembered that I had found two coughed up mucus things in the pasture the last two days. Great.

I decide to give her some bute and call the vet on Monday (because of course it was Sunday so any vet call will be an emergency call which costs significantly more money – sometimes I think Leeloo has a calendar and specifically waits for the weekend to have health emergencies). Unfortunately, my bute was just a bit expired (2016) but I did have some powdered aspirin and decided to try that. She ate about two bites and stopped, so she didn’t get much aspirin. As I walked away with the uneaten aspirin, I actually saw Leeloo move for the first time that morning and I immediately got teary eyed and went to call the vet. For those of you new to Leeloo, Leeloo has been lame a lot. A LOT. It would fill a LOTR length book to talk about the many different ways Leeloo has been lame and the number of different vets and farriers and equine health specialists we have seen. I used to call the vet out pretty frequently, but at this point I’m pretty good at recognizing most things and I’ve also learned that many things just need to heal on their own (hoof abscesses – I know people have very different opinions than me on dealing with hoof abscesses, but after dealing with an untold number of them I have found that most of Leeloo’s didn’t heal any faster or better when we messed with them than when we didn’t mess with them, so unless the pain is unmanageable I let them work themselves out) or can’t be fixed, only managed (arthritis). This was none of those things, Leeloo looked like she was drunk and in pain, her limbs didn’t seem to be moving in a coordinated fashion and every step seemed to hurt. My brain instantly went into this super helpful train of thought “of f*ing course, you finally, FINALLY, get Leeloo home and you manage to kill her in less than a month – way to go!”

I call the vet and get the weekend emergency receptionist who says “How can I help you today?” at which point my teary-eyed went into full on crying and I’m trying to talk through the crying, which never goes well, and explain what is wrong with Leeloo. We agree the vet should come out and look at her and I go back outside to finish morning chores, which is 90% picking up poop.

As I’m picking up poop and trying not to cry, Nate is raking up the various hay piles from this past week so I can scoop them together to create Leeloo’s rolling pile of hay. Leeloo prefers rolling, and sleeping, in hay, which is annoying because I would like her to eat said hay. I’ve been trying to compromise by collecting the older hay into a suitable rolling/sleeping pile and hoping she’ll leave the new, for eating hay, alone (this is reason number one I need hay boxes). It is sort of working, sometimes. However, after a week as a rolling/sleeping pile I like to take that hay out to use as mulch for our trees. So, I’m picking up poop, and Nate is raking up hay and dumping out the two hay boxes to get all the little hay crumbs out and to move the boxes to a different position so we’re not making any one spot too muddy/dead. As he’s doing that, I see Leeloo very slowly follow behind, picking over every newly raked up hay pile and newly exposed tasty hay crumb from the hay boxes. I also watch her drink some water, and pee, and realize that maybe I overreacted just a tiny bit. She’s still not sound, she’s still very clearly in pain, and there is still the fact that three of her four limbs are stocked up and sore to the touch which is not normal, but she’s not dying. The call to the vet could maybe have waited until Monday but it wasn’t unreasonable to have called today, however the crying was unnecessary as was the super fun mental diatribe of “this is why we don’t ever try anything and just sit around and read books because you finally bring your horse home and manage to kill her” both of which were absolutely the fault of that sugar from the previous day. SUGAR IS EVIL!

The vet calls, we talk about what I’m seeing, and she agrees Leeloo should probably be looked at today. Of course by the time the vet gets to us Leeloo is doing better, still swollen in three of the four legs, still clearly uncomfortable and not as coordinated as normal when moving, but definitely better, and had I found Leeloo in the condition she was in when the vet arrived I would have waited to call said vet on Monday. We talk through possible causes: could be an allergic reaction to something she ate or experienced in her environment, could be an infectious disease, could be a tick-born illness (great). There is an in-the-field blood test they can do for infections, if the result is over 50 it means that there is some sort of infection present and antibiotics should be started. Leeloo scored a 48. We opted to do more blood work and give her some banamine for the day, and I’m going to continue to give her banamine for the next few days. Neither of us thought it was enough of an emergency to pay the through-the-nose cost of having the blood analyzed on a weekend so we’ll get the results late Monday or early Tuesday.

As we were doing that last blood draw and administering the banamine I noticed a bee flying around Leeloo’s chest. We have had a ton of bees and wasps around our house the last few weeks. I asked if it was possible that this could be a reaction from a bee or wasp sting and the vet said it could be, she could have gotten stung on her left side which is why that side is having more of a reaction, and had she just gotten stung that morning it would be why she was so bad then and why it was already getting better.

By the end of the day Leeloo was looking much better and moving more comfortably. I saw her trotting around a bit as well, mostly to herd Juniper to wherever Leeloo wanted them to be. We’ll get the results of the bloodwork soon but my current working theory is that Leeloo heard me tell Nate this morning that at least we didn’t have to pay board this month so that saved us some money and she decided to fix that for us.


Photo of Leeloo taken at Elysium Farm, in Maple Plain MN
I didn’t think of taking any photos of Leeloo this morning (sugar makes you mentally foggy too – nothing good comes from sugar!) so enjoy this photo of her taken at one of our previous boarding facilities. 

Mish Mash

What a Week

This week has been a lot. I started two new side jobs in an effort to earn that barn money (anyone sitting on a pile of cash they aren’t using?). One of those is cashiering at Fleet Farm. I’ve had three days of training so far and start my first day as an actual cashier next week. I decided to get a job at Fleet Farm because you get a twenty percent discount (on most stuff) and they sell almost everything I need; from toilet paper, to horse feed, to lumber, you name it, Fleet Farm probably sells it. I’m a little worried about how my back will handle standing for 5-hour shifts but we’ll see how it goes; worse case I’ll just ask for shorter shifts.

The hay shed project is going VERY slowly which has me worried we won’t get it done in time but we’re chipping away at it. One of the 11-foot 6×6 beams is done and one of the 36-foot 6×6 beams is mostly done. We have to fully assemble it at its final location because it would be too heavy for us to move. Nate has declared that we are never building anything ourselves ever again. I chose not to remind him that we still have at least four more hay boxes to make; and since Juniper, Leeloo, and I all agree we need one more horse it is actually six more hay boxes that we need. And we still need a lid for box number two. But at least that FF discount has already come in handy!

Glue and screwed cut-offs to make a big beam

Used bigger boards – went much faster!

On another front – we FINALLY got the last medication we needed to really attack Juniper’s eye abscess. We are treating this thing with three drugs: an oral antifungal, an antifungal eye ointment, and an antibiotic eye drop. The oral antifungal and the antibiotic eye drop came in two weeks ago and we’ve been giving them daily, but we didn’t get the antifungal eye ointment until Tuesday night so this past Wednesday was our official first day of the full treatment plan; which we’ll need to do for six-eight weeks.

The vet says progress is being made. The first picture (on the left or on the top depending on what size screen you are on) is from 9/15, the second picture (right or bottom) is from 9/29. The vet says the blood vessels you can see within the abscess in the second picture are a good thing because that means the body is able to get the things it needs to heal to the site that needs healing, and that overall the eye looks more comfortable than when she was here to see it. We’ll be doing a follow up appointment sometime in the next few weeks.

Taken on September 15

Taken September 29

Juniper remains a willing patient and I am getting better at the eye-drops. Partly because we dropped down to giving an anti-inflammatory just once a day and a tiny bit of swelling came back. This isn’t great, but it makes it MUCH easier to actually get her eyelid open enough to get the drops in and the swelling is very minor. For any horse owners reading this we are giving banamine because it apparently works more effectively on the muscles in and around the eye than bute does; but we’re giving injectable banamine orally with her food since that is a thing you can do. We went this route because the injectable stuff is much cheaper than the paste in the tube and Juniper rears when you try to give her an oral paste. We will be working on the rearing issue as soon as we’re done dealing with the eye. Rearing to avoid stuff is not an acceptable behavior.

Juniper remains a willing patient because we’ve been using the clicker training (treats – with a purpose); however an unintended consequence is that Juniper is getting VERY possessive of me. She is learning that the blue fanny pack that holds the medicine also holds the treats. Nate randomly got an obnoxiously blue fanny pack as a promotional thing, and I instantly stole it to use to hold the various eye ointments and drops and treats. I highly recommend one if you need to give these types of meds because you don’t have enough hands to hold everything and if you put the ointments in your pocket they get too warm and melt, making them very hard to apply. However, Juniper now recognizes the obnoxiously blue fanny pack and comes trotting up to me (which is great) and then immediately pins her ears and tries to bite at Leeloo (which is not great). This is ridiculous on two counts because first – Juniper is wearing a grazing muzzle so that threat is utterly meaningless, and second – if she actually did make contact with Leeloo, Leeloo would hand her a** to her so quickly her head would spin. Usually, Leeloo doesn’t take offense, but it is hard to give eye drops and ointments to a pony who is constantly trying to attack another horse. Which means we’re still having to separate them in the round pen to medicate, unless I happen to have a helper available who can distract Leeloo for a minute.

This will pretty much be my life for the next six to eight weeks. All the normal life stuff I have to do, plus working on the hay shed, working at Fleet Farm, and giving medicine to a jealous pony four to six times a day. Remind me again why I wanted to do this?