Sunday, May 18, 2014

But Why Did She Cut Off Their Tails with a Carving Knife?

So, it turns out that I'm going to be one of those farmer's wives who are always complaining about their arthritis flare ups.

What do you mean, there are no farmer's wives like that?

...Are you sure?...

Dang.  Okay.  So this is the transition I'm making.  I am one of those people who was been brought up to think of money as the currency for everything.  For whom "hard work" meant three solid hours of focused concentration in a chair.  For whom the word "agriculture" was roughly equivalent to the words, "Jupiter" and "The Sudan."  For whom coffee isn't drinkable if it came out of a can.  Etcetera, etcetera.

But it really isn't fair, because Phillip is one year older than me and isn't showing any signs at all of wear and tear that aren't entirely cosmetic.

Let me back up.  You need more context on Phillip.  Did you see the movie "Unbreakable"?  It was pretty good.  Anyway, Phil is that guy.   With a little practice, he can bench 250 no problem whatsoever.  He's like my dad, that way.  My dad, like Phil, was abnormally strong.  It wasn't obvious with my dad, and it isn't obvious with Phil.  But both of them, believe me: strongest guy in the room.  I can get testimonials if you need them.

Picture Phil transporting an 8"-diameter, eight-foot-long solid corner post log to somewhere half an acre away.  You're probably not picturing him picking it up, and pushing it over; picking it up, and pushing it over, end over end, for half an acre.  But that's what he did.  If it was a line post, a mere 5" diameter and eight feet long, he'd just chuck it, like a javelin.  And it went quite a distance.

The above example is probably too fence-focused, but picture Hercules.

And then there's me.  I just ended occupational therapy for my right elbow, which I wrenched and smashed in the course of painting the kitchen.  I've recently started physical therapy for my arthritic feet; particularly, the left one.  Pain radiates across the bridge from the joint of my big toe--which doesn't bend backwards much at all, nowadays.  And then Hank plowed into my right calf and it was and continued to be excruciating in various ways, including but not limited to concern about deep vein thrombosis that landed me in the emergency room twice, for inspection of possible blood clots leading to stroke.  I had all the symptoms.  My right calf was just one centimeter shy of being a perfect candidate for blood clot.

I take two naproxin, morning and night.  (That's Alleve, for those of you who only have to buy packs of twelve at a time.  I guy generic because I buy in bulk.)  The good thing is that it's also a blood thinner, so you don't get blood clots and you postpone your first cardiac event.

I was going to write a whole post on the subject of pain, but it would have been just me waxing academic on a subject I haven't researched, I won't do that.

But I will say this.  What amazes me is how many people live with pain.  I'm talking about active athletes who run until their knees and hip joints need to be replaced.  Think about it.  They're in their thirties, and they've already pounded their knees into dust.  And they look fantastic, but they walk kind of stiff.  And then your own toe starts hurting, so of course you bring it up in conversation all the time--the topic of pain, and eventually, your toe pain--and in so doing discover that all of these people live with chronic pain.  And yet, it doesn't stop them from being really active.  They are stoic, truly stoic.

Or are they?  Couldn't there be some more cynical explanation for this so-called stoicism?  Maybe they're so addicted to their sport--it's like heroin.  They'll run their knees into powder for it.  Sick!  They're in agony right up until the moment when at last the endorphin kicks in and, aaaaahhh.  They can't live without it.  It's a disease.

And there are people like my buddy Chris, who would rather have a broken body than a broken spirit, and who has constructed the events of his life around that central theme.  I make it a point not to dish about anybody except my closest family in my posts, so I won't give you any details.  Suffice to say, there has been only a brief window of time in which Chris was able to participate in doubles ping pong with us in the basement.   And yet, his spirit is not broken.

I am not stoic.  I am not an athlete who is compensated for my pain by the rush of endorphin.  I am not a thrill-seeker.  In fact, it's amazing that I've traveled and all of that.  I think I went to Ecuador just to prove to myself that I could go somewhere far away all by myself.  And did I enjoy it?  It was terrifying.  My Spanish was completely inadequate.  I signed up as soon as I could for an organized tour.  The tour company then picked me up from my hotel and took over all of my autonomy as an independent entity for the next four days.  By the time it was over, by God, I almost could speak Spanish.  Let's just say, I did not have to rely on a campus, and I did not have to navigate by the stars.

It's a wonder that I've had an interesting life, really.   I'm not particularly curious--at least, I didn't used to be.  I'm kinda lazy.  I can be self-disciplined, but only if you hold a really big carrot out in front of me--like, money; or, renewed good looks.  (I don't know why I volunteer at the Food Pantry.  Total anomaly.)

We were talking about the farm.  Other than Josh, this the first big thing that Phil and I both really care about that we are doing together.  Even where Josh is concerned, I have a lot of autonomy.   Phil doesn't care much about home decor or what he eats or whether I bring home a lot of cats.  But, we actually have to make decisions together, where the farm is concerned, and have conversations about it before we can reach those decisions.

I bring my interest in the safety of horses and riders to the discussion.  Phil brings his knowledge of how everything works, and an ability to get it done, to the conversation.  We're pretty well balanced.  There's a lot of moral authority in safety.

The subject of one such conversation: Why a horse but not a cow would challenge the saloon-like swing gait that Phil proposed to restore to the barn.  Answer: I don't know why cows are too dumb to do it, but it was a cow barn, and that was the old swing gait.  I do know that horses are curious and smart and weigh about 1,000 pounds; so if they want to know what is over there beyond yonder gate, they are going to find out, eventually.

Sometimes, Phil thinks I'm making this stuff up.  To prove that I'm right,  I have to go back and find the doctrine, (on-line, or I would ask our friends who have a horse barn).  Usually, I'm pretty right.  Sometimes, kind of wrong.

It's difficult, in any case, to find consensus, among horse people.  There's huge areas of dispute:  What shape the hay? Whether to feed grain, or supplements?  Whether to blanket or not, shave or not?  Whether to use a dry lot or not?  The best kind of fencing material?

ALL OF THAT is up for grabs.  As well as:

Grass can cause laminits, but the alternative, sand, can cause colic...

Definitely use lightning rods that are well grounded and attached by cables... OR...Cut the cables, because it will attract lightening and the lightening will heat up the entire barn to the extent of igniting the hay.

It's confounding.  And it forces me to think independently about something with which I've had no experience.  Which leads me to conclude that only farmers know how to farm.  I hesitate to say it, but it seems like you really can't just research the hell out of it.  It's Piscean.  It's elusive.  It's not one thing or another, it's where you happen to be and what your horses are like.

It also depends very much on what your priorities are.  If your priority is to keep the horse in the enclosure no matter what, that's one thing.  It's very different from saying that the horses' safety is your top priority.  If the horses' safety is your top priority, then you want a more yielding kind of fence.  Those two different priorities suggest opposing alternatives.  A horse can sustain massive damage by blasting through a strong fence, be it wire, webbing, wood, or whatever.  They can impale themselves on un-capped T-posts.  They can put a leg through wire webbing.  They can become hopelessly tangled in barbed wire...

Here's another conundrum:  The black walnut trees that line the perimeter of our front pasture.  Two horse-people sources said, cut them down.    But a friend who knows wood like most of us know our mother tongue, assured us and insists that black walnut has only been implicated in laminitis, specifically, and specifically, in horses that have been standing in saturated stall bedding derived from black walnut wood.  In fact, the leaves, according to one authoritative source, may be a natural anti-parasitic for horses.  In any case, nothing about the tree that the horse could eat would harm it (that is, the horse), said authority said.

I called the vet with the black walnut question, but she hasn't called me back, I suspect she doesn't know what position to take, and doesn't want to commit to the wrong black walnut doctrine.

Deep sigh.

My feet hurt.

It's okay, though.  I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow. He'll either scrape off the bone spur, or replace the left toe with a prosthesis and a hinge.  Or, maybe he'll do none of that.  Maybe, I'll just hobble along and call it a sports injury; ice it; take four naproxin; and shovel horse manure for the endorphin high.  

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