Wednesday, September 29, 2010
A walk in the pastures...
7:15 pm | link
It has been a long time since I have taken a walk through my pastures. When I was first
hospitalized, on the better days, I would ask Rick for an update on what was going on in the pastures. I was inevitably
disappointed in the report I would get - it was usually something like "all the sheep are fine, but I have to refill
salt tomorrow...." For someone who lives and breathes sheep, that was just not enough! I soon stopped asking,
but not because I didn't want to know - I just came to realize that others don't look for the same things that I do when I
walk the pastures - the only way I would get the information I wanted would be to walk them myself!
And so it was that when I had my surgical staples removed at my neurosurgeon's this morning and they gave me permission
to "walk in the yard," I saw my opportunity! I don't think they had any idea at the time what they were giving
back to me! I came home, took a quick rest, and then went to find my "work shoes" for the trek. I was
on my way!
Now, don't think for a minute that things are entirely back to normal.... I
couldn't go alone, so Rick came to accompany me in case I got into trouble. I also had to take along a walking stick,
since my left foot is still numb from the surgery and balance can be an issue. I decided to take along a bag of apple
slices for my girls - it had been a long time since they had gotten any kind of treat! It was armed with all of this
that I made my way to the pastures.
This time of year, all of our rams wear marking harnesses.
The harness holds a wide "crayon" that marks the rump of the ewe as the ram breeds her, allowing us to check the
breeding dates of each of our ewes. We change the crayon each week, usually beginning with the palest color (yellow)
and working our way through the rainbow to end up with the darkest colors (orange, red, green blue, black). I was unable
to help put the groups together last weekend - other than listing them on paper for those who did the hard work - so the rams
went into their groups sporting red crayons instead of the usual yellow. This was a very small oops in a very big job....
We are thinking that we may use yellow this coming weekend, but we're still debating!
first stop was in the temporary pasture in front of the house where little Jebb (Romney), who is not so little anymore, has
his group of five Romney ewes. I look out at them multiple times each day, but I wanted to see them up-close for a good
look. Jebb's harness has been dangling around his head and shoulders for the past few days, so if there was any crayon
marking at all on any of the ewes, I considered them marked - I couldn't imagine how it could possibly work in its current
configuration, but there was Juliet with three stripes of red! That was good enough for me! Four to go for Jebb!
And I moved on to the East Pasture, north of the house and barn.
The entire area north
of the barn had been designated for the Romeldale/CVM breeding groups. The East Pasture is where Fagin has his breeding
group of five ewes. I've divided my Romeldales among four rams this year for a variety of reasons, so none of them has
a big group of ewes. Fagin has the ewes he has because I want to determine whether his color is dominant or recessive.
He was quick to get started this year - both Gabby and Heidi are already marked on the rump with bright splotches of
Anyhow, I shared a few apples with Fagin's group and moved on to the Upper Paddock where Hodgins
(Romeldale) had his small group of four ewes. Like Fagin, Hodgins has already been at work, having marked two of his
girls: Hartley and Gabby. This small group has been pulled off of pasture and are being fed hay in the lean-to. I
shared lots of apple slices and moved on to the West Pasture where Josiah, this year's promising CVM ram lamb has his group.
I was a little worried about Josiah's (Romeldale/CVM) group.... Josiah had been known over
the summer for his uncanny ability to get through our fences. In fact, we purchased more electronic mesh fencing this
week to make sure that we had enough to keep him in! His usual trick was to get out of whichever field we hoped would
hold him, find a few ram-lamb friends, and then return to his field, friends and all. Now, during breeding season, this
could be bad - I did not want any of his Romney friends ending up in the field with him and breeding his Romeldale/CVM ewes!
Yet, when I entered the West Pasture, that is exactly what I found - Josiah and his six ewes,
plus two Romney ram lambs who didn't belong! Rick and I quickly removed one of them, but the other was a bit more determined
to stay. Rick insists that they were not there yesterday, and also insists that by the time our neighbors (who have
volunteered to 'help with the sheep' this evening) leave tonight, the pasture will be Romeldale/CVM only!
The West Pasture is also where I found January... After a nice welcome, and a bit of face scratching (yes,
January still loves for me to scratch her face and chin), I had to leave for the Fire Circle Pasture where Goliath (Romney)
has his group - at least, so I thought! As it turned out, I came back for a little more scratching three times before
she would let me go - each time I got a good distance towards Goliath's group, January's plaintive cry would pull me back
for just a little more attention....
I finally did get to Goliath's group....
He has the largest group of all, with ten ewes to breed this year. As I stood there,
feeding apple slices to his ewes, I could count three ewes marked with bright red splotches: Fern, Geode, and Honesty. I
don't know why, but Goliath was the only ram interested in apple slices. The others don't know what they are missing!
Once I finished with Goliath's group, I had only one left to go: Jotham's (Romney) group in the
South Pasture. Jotham and Jebb are sharing half of the Romney flock this year, with Goliath taking the other half. Both
Jotham and Jeb are untried ram lambs who are impressive now, but are not yet fully grown. I decided to give each of
them their own small group to see what they would do and what their lambs would look like. Jotham has gotten a good
start with three bred ewes to date: Etude, Grace, and Zoe. It is interesting to me that this little ram lamb (OK, not
so little, but still....) has bred the three biggest ewes in his group first! The remaining ewes are all smaller than
those he has already bred! Now, I know that he doesn't have a lot of choice in the matter - he breeds them when they
are in heat - but it just strikes me as funny, and a bit over-achieving.
And so the tour
ended - seven rams have so far bred twelve ewes. I've visited my sheep-friends again, and watched the swallows group
together and dive for their dinners in the setting sun. I watched for anemic noses (none) and gopher holes (lots). And,
in the end, I came away with so much more than a walk in my pastures.... Once again, I found my place in the world,
and it was right. It can only get better as I heal and take over more and more of my role as shepherdess of Peeper Hollow
Monday, September 27, 2010
I'm back home!!!
1:03 pm | link
I can't believe it, but after three-plus weeks in the hospital, I am back home where I belong!
I am incredibly thankful to all who who helped us out while I was in the hospital - from those who helped Rick with our flock
to those who cooked meals to keep him going; from Karen, who kept the blog going for me over all that time, to all of those
people who sent prayers and good wishes for a speedy recovery.... These past few weeks have brought out so many people
who have been so incredibly generous in keeping us going, even during those darker moments when things seemed pretty bleak.
There is no way that I could ever thank or acknowledge them all - it has been truly amazing!
I am now back home, complete with a nice row of staples in my lower back and a nice brace that makes me look ever so trim
(very similar to the corsets of old - you just pull on the strings and you become suddenly oh-so-trim!), I don't have a lot
of mobility. I am trying to get around the house a bit, but I can already see that this is going to take a bit of practice!
I have to regretfully inform all of you that there probably won't be many photos in the blog for the next few weeks
unless someone else volunteers to take them! I have a hard enough time just getting to the kitchen to get something
to eat, much less getting outside and up to the barn or out to one of our pastures!
all of our ewes and their intended rams were put into breeding groups this past weekend - right on schedule! I came
home from the hospital early yesterday morning, and once I was quickly settled on the daybed (now moved into the parlor for
my recovery), Rick went out to finish separating the sheep - a job that he, Deb, and some of our younger helpers had begun
on Saturday. I was so happy to be here on the daybed - I could see four different groups from my vantage point, and
could also watch some of the sorting still going on in the barn! Oh, how I had missed my sheep!
We are still trying to figure out when to bring the dogs home. They have been kenneled since Sept. 3rd to simplify
Rick's life - after all, while I was in the hospital, he still had to work his "day job," then would visit me in
the evening at the hospital, and would eventually come home to work my job by answering e-mails, caring for sheep, etc. Even
without the dogs at home, he worked very long days trying to keep things together and running relatively smoothly.
I have to admit that I'm still amazed that I am finally home! There were times that I really wondered if this
would ever happen.... But here I am - home! Yes, there is still pain, but now it's a good pain. This is
a pain that comes with healing, and that makes all the difference. Besides that, things are never so bad when I can
at least see my sheep! Things will only get better from here!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Surgery good news
9:54 pm | link
I just got an email from Rick. Instead of paraphrasing his news, I think I'll do a cut and paste:
"Surgery went very well. Right after the surgery the right leg - the one with the pain - was basically
pain free. The left leg - the one that was numb - was showing some signs of spot feeling so there is hope that the nerves
"Right now she is feeling the healing effects of the surgery. The back pain is
different and focused on the surgery site. Tonight when I visited on my way back into town she was sitting up eating
dinner and was able to get up and use the restroom with a walker and get back into bed. From where she was a week ago
I would declare it a miracle!!!
"She is very tired - but that is to be expected with only 3-4 hours
of real sleep. She usually needs between 8-9 hours a night and enjoys one day a week with maybe sleeping in and getting
10 hours. She is looking forward to getting home but she now has a bit of a fever and we will have to see if they release
her tomorrow - that is the current plan."
My fingers are crossed that we'll be seeing a post
from Dee sometime soon! : )
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
9:17 pm | link
Hi, all. I hoped to have specific news about Dee's surgery - scheduled for yesterday
- but I haven't heard from anyone 'in the know'. Rick had to leave on Monday for travel (his job requires
a fair amount of it and he could postpone no longer), so Dee's mom was to be with
her for the surgery, post-op recovery, and initial physical therapy. Rick plans to return sometime tomorrow. He will be home
with her next week, and their son Justin is visiting late the following week and plans to stay for 8 days.
Rick kindly uploaded some photos of Coda's visit to the hospital last Friday. The visit was
originally scheduled for Thursday, but Dee had a very bad day, so it was postponed until the next day. He said it was "a
real emotional time for Dee, Coda, and everyone who watched." Rick also said it was clear who the real caregiver
Although Rick hasn't had time to look at the comments posted to the blog, I do check periodically.
If you have some well-wishes for Dee, please consider leaving them as a comment. I'll cut and paste
all into an email for Rick (along with the names of the commenters), which he can then print out and
take into the hospital to read to Dee. I'm hoping she'll be home this weekend - or next week at the very latest.
Friday, September 17, 2010
3:45 pm | link
I have a renewed respect for Dee. Doing a three-times-a-week blog is not easy! How she juggles sheep and
a household and a blog -- I'll never know. (A pause here while we all picture Dee juggling sheep....)
all you regular readers are familiar with the animals of Peeper Hollow Farm, I thought you'd appreciate this news from Rick:
"On Monday evening Dee had a visit from the therapy dogs and she went crazy. As you can imagine, the therapy
dog coordinator is now scheduling an 'in-service' here at the farm to see our dogs work the sheep! You just can't keep
Dee down for a minute! So based on that, I am taking Coda to see her for a few minutes. It will do her a world
of good and will probably help her "baby" as well. He hasn't seen Dee for over two weeks now. Of course
the word is out and there will probably be 1000 nurses in her room to see Coda!"
back on the farm: Rick has had to quarantine a sheep who developed an abcess, and she's not happy. Although she's in her own
trailer with a friend and is eating a half-bale of hay daily, she misses being with everyone else. He concluded: "Sounds
a lot like Dee!"
I haven't heard an update on whether Dee will be home this weekend, and
as far as I know, her back surgery is still scheduled for Tuesday. Please continue to keep her in your thoughts.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Surgery on the horizon
7:24 am | link
Yup, Karen again. Dee has always been so meticulous about posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Now,
she's in the hospital for a bit and the whole thing falls apart! Or perhaps that's an over-reaction to being a day late. Still....
I heard from Rick late last night, and it looks like Dee's back surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday (the 21st)
- if all goes according to plan. She remains in the hospital and is working through all the pre-surgery difficulties.
Rick pushed relentlessly at the insurance people to review Dee's case, and as a result Dee's surgery will be happening
a bit earlier than originally planned. For that, we're thankful -- but to paraphrase Rick, the disappointing part is that
it could have (perhaps should have) been sooner.
This is a time of year with noticeable changes
in the natural world: the corn plants are turning dry and golden-brown, dusk is arriving early. I'm sure Dee will feel a bit
like Rip Van Winkle when she returns to Peeper Hollow and sees the changes that have happened in her absence!
Friday, September 10, 2010
Escapees at the wall
9:39 am | link
Karen again, but at least today we have a photo and a corresponding sheep story! First of all, Dee is still hospitalized. She's having a bit of a set-back this morning since her muscles seized up overnight. Back
surgery is very tentatively planned for the 28th, but everything hinges on insurance approval -- a very slow process that
neither Rick nor doctors have been able to expedite, despite their best efforts.
An update on
Indira and Fiona/Sophie (whose stories have appeared in the blog periodically between August 20th and 30th): You might remember
that they were sequestered in the barn, in quarantine while awaiting test results. The results arrived yesterday and the two
are officially in good health. Rick opened the barn doors and the two newest members of the flock finally got to meet the
other ewe lambs. I'm sure Indira and Fiona are enjoying our recent cool breezes and the autumn sunshine!
And speaking of the ewe lambs, we come to today's photo and story. The ewe lambs are currently grazing near the barn,
and one area of fencing divides the pasture from the farmhouse's lush, green lawn. (I bet you can already see where this is
going!) It's almost time to move the ewe lambs to a fresh pasture, which means that the current one is fairly
grazed down. The grass is, very literally, greener on the other side of the fence. And on the other side are also raspberry
bushes, the leaves of which are evidently a delicacy. So the lambs have been making occasional forays under the fence to enjoy
the lawn and berry bushes.
Dee's mother phoned her in a panic to say, "Half of your flock
has escaped!" To which Dee calmly replied, "Are they running?" Her mom admitted that, no, they were staying
put but were all over the lawn. Dee knew that when the lambs were startled - by the dogs, a human, or a vehicle backfire -
they'd scoot back under the fence. So she told mom, "Clap your hands." In the blink of an eye the lawn was cleared!
Dee notes that the ewe lambs have almost grown to the point where slipping under the fence will no longer be an option.
Poor lambs when they realize the tender grass and the delicious raspberry leaves are permanently out of reach!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
10:08 am | link
Sorry -- Karen again. (Won't we all be happy to see Dee back on these pages?!) Rick has done a wonderful
job of keeping me apprised of Dee's condition so that I can share the info with all of you. The most recent update is that
although Dee remains in the hospital, she is in good spirits and is looking forward to returning to the farm. Unfortunately,
the current reality is that the docs are having trouble finding meds that will adequately manage the pain at home.
I know we're all hoping for a speedy and pain-free resolution to this Life Experience that Dee is having. And many
thanks to Rick for keeping us updated!
Monday, September 6, 2010
7:07 pm | link
This is Karen again. Although Dee hoped to be home by today, that has not come to pass. Rick tells me that
the medical folks are still trying to get the oral medications balanced. Since Dee is still having back pain, she's getting
some narcotic meds -- and the hospital has a policy of a patient being narcotic-free for 24 hours before release. I'm sure
we all hope that Dee is home in time for the Wednesday blog posting!
Friday, September 3, 2010
8:36 am | link
Hi all -- this is Dee's friend, Karen, writing today's post. If you've already read Wednesday's entry, you
know that Dee has been struggling with increased back pain since her spinal testing a week or two ago. I just heard from Dee's
husband, Rick, that she became unable to even lie comfortably in bed. She was admitted to the hospital early this morning.
They're hoping to find a pain management approach to the problem, since medications don't seem to be making much of a dent.
Dee, ever forward-thinking, plans to be posting her own entry on Monday. I'm hoping the hospital stay
will be short but effective, and I know she will appreciate all healing wishes sent her way.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
A frustrating situation and a possible solution
4:48 pm | link
I am flat on my back. For nearly five years, I have been plagued with back and leg pain
and numbness resulting from the day in December 2005 when I rolled my pickup truck on icy roads. The truck rolled twice
and came to a stop upside-down on the side of the road. The truck was totaled, and I was lucky to be alive, but have
struggled with pain ever since.
The funny thing is that it didn't seem to affect how much
I could lift or what I could do, other than the fact that I only had about six hours each day to do it. After about
six hours of being "up," my back was finished and I was done for the day - I spent the rest of the day flat on my
back, trying to reduce the pain enough that I would be able to sleep that night. This has been my life for almost five
years now: a window of productivity six hours a day. I've gotten used to it, and have worked my life around that schedule.
Of course, I dream of a time when my days were longer and I had no pain, but after all this time I had pretty much given
up on the idea that that day would ever come. My life is what it is.
A few weeks
ago, my doctor at the pain clinic sent me back to my neurosurgeon for further evaluation - he felt that perhaps there was
more that could be done than just trying to limit the pain. My neurosurgeon eventually sent me for further testing.
Last week, I went to the hospital for a diagnostic procedure to determine whether we could identify the disc that was
causing the problem. The procedure was a success, and we now know the source of the numbness and pain that has become
an integral part of my life - and I am scheduled for back surgery during the last week of September to fuse that disc - Hooray!
Although the idea of fixing my back is nearly mind-boggling after all this time, it does raise
some issues.... I have sheep, llamas, chickens, cats, and three border collies under my care. Taking six to eight
weeks off to fix my back leaves me with a whole lot of work that will need to be covered somehow. The animals can't
just take care of themselves!
In addition, this procedure has left me flat on my back -
and I don't know for how long! Testing the suspicious discs has irritated the nerves enough that I can no longer sit
or stand - I am stuck here on the sofa or in bed, lying flat on my back for the entire day. Thank goodness I have a
The good thing is that fall is breeding season, which is not nearly as intense
or as work-filled as late gestation and lambing season which begins in January. By that time, I should be returning
to some semblance of normal. The sheep will hopefully be grazing for another month or two yet, so handling hay isn't
yet an issue. I guess that if I had to choose a time for back surgery , summer or fall would be the best time.
So as we work our way through September, I hope that I regain some of the mobility that I have
had over the past few years so that I can continue to work with my sheep for those six hours each day, putting them into breeding
groups and watching for ewes who are bred. That may or may not happen, but either way, by the end of the month, I am
scheduled for back surgery to get me back on my feet and return me to a large part of my life that I'll be missing while on
the sofa. And what a thought: I might have a full fourteen hours a day to get things done! It's almost hard to remember
what that would be like. Yes, what a thought....