Sunday, June 24, 2018

Failure of the Not Day

I did intend on having a quiet day. So I'm going to try again.

When I went out to do chores yesterday morning, I found that Little Richard had gotten loose and had decided to visit the garden and ate up a row of sweet corn plants before laying and rolling on the carrots.
Sigh.
Little Richard got put back in pony jail until I can fix his broken tie out rope.


After my town errands, I found that Hank would not cross the fence into the meadow. Hank was born the same day as Charlie, he is a 7 month old Dexter Steer.
My day yesterday just wasn't working out.

Frustrated, I sent the mules to the Meadow instead.

To work off the frustration, I chopped down groups of elderberry trees that were threatening to take over the Dexter Pasture. I stopped when I started to get blisters on my hands.

Enough about that.
So this morning I decided to take Charlie for a short drive in the old Jeep. Charlie seems to get car sick unless he is being held.


We parked on the ridge near where one of the neighbors has an entrance for trucks to bring in cattle to his pastures. I park there often and watch sunrises, sunsets, and sometimes the night sky.

Charlie stood on the road with me while I took photos.
The neighbor's pasture...
I love it here, it is a high point and you can look down on the ground fog as it grows and ebbs.
I thought about driving down to the bridge and taking a look, but decided against it.


I waited for the sun to peek over the trees and then...



we got back in the Jeep and headed slowly home. Charlie sat in the passenger seat and looked slightly uncomfortable. We made it home without incident.

All the farm critters are quiet this morning. Charlie pulled his blanket so he can sleep at my feet while I browse the internet.

The grass needs mowing. The grass needs mowing.
I am going to ignore the grass one more day.

I've got a hammock from my Kenosha Gang friends. I know exactly where I want to put it. I think a pillow, and a good book are in order ... I can lay under the hickory tree and listen to the birds.

Perhaps my "NOT" day will not fail me on this next effort.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Not Day

I think after I do the morning chores, and go to town for groceries, I will be coming home and I will NOT do any other physical labor.

Well, that is my good intentions, to take a day off and relax. The vegetable  garden needs a good hoeing and the flower gardens need weeding. I may get a the little squishy pad out and sit next to the flower garden and pick and poke at weeds and listen to music in the afternoon. That is relaxing.

Yesterday I walked to the meadow and fired up my Weed Eater and tore through a large patch of Canada Thistle. I know the cattle will eat the wilted thistle so last night I let them out into the meadow. My hope is that they eat it, if not that is okay. When I chopped down another patch by hand, the mules ate the chopped thistle and then stripped the remaining stalks.

My neighbor and her kids came for an afternoon jaunt down the new ridge road to the creek yesterday. We walked through the meadow and my neighbor noticed the Ox Eye daisy invasion and mentioned that her goats absolutely loved those pesky daisies.


Let's pause briefly for
Creek fun:





Back to the goats. Hmm. The Mules are natural browsers and so are the Dexters. I used to raise goats but never had them in the woods. It has been ages. I may have to see about 'borrowing' the neighbors' goats for some cleaning and gleaning. I know they eat multiflora rose bushes and those pesky berry briers along with burdock.

So last night my mind was whirring away, here I was trying to figure out a rotation to include a goat or two and wondering if I could pasture them with my Dexters. Mules are not generally happy with goats, however in the past two years the neighbor goats have been constant companions on the other side of the fence...and occasionally a wayward goat finds its way into the mule pasture.
I was sure that my red headed mules would hurt the goats.

So far that hasn't happened.

And then I wonder what I'd do with goats in the winter. Sigh. I do actually have the room to keep at least two.

Decisions, decisions.

However I've decided to NOT work on fences or thistles, or much of anything today. The yard needs mowing. Maybe I'll just trim a bit.
See? There I go again.
But I see rain in the forecast again starting tomorrow for the next two days.

Enough already!
And then I think.
Perhaps Sunday should be a NOT day.

And then there is that new fence line I thought I'd put up...and our pony who was wandering around this morning loose. He's broken his tie out...
and going to visit MIL...and...

Oh heck. Can I just have one day of doing nothing please???


Friday, June 22, 2018

Rainy Day

Sometimes things can be a bit overwhelming. So I take short time outs.

What the heck is a time out?
Well, I take Charlie for a walk in the rain for example. Charlie is also up for any sort of activities. Be it short or long.
While I am with Charlie, I don't think much about all of the overwhelming changes of the past year. I sort of just walk along and enjoy the smells and sounds of being outside.


Yesterday it was raining pretty hard most of the day, I decided to go ahead and try out the $4 umbrella I had purchased. It actually worked pretty nicely. Charlie and I took a walk up the driveway and out the dead end road. I dropped his little cord and let him go.
Charlie saw a squirrel down the road and took off as hard as his little legs could carry him.
The squirrel looked up and disappeared into the long grass.

Charlie didn't see where the squirrel went and was a bit perplexed. I caught him up and we continued the walk.
We checked the mail and the box was empty so I returned Charlie to the house where he protested.

I grabbed my camera and decided to see if I could get a photo of the coral fungi that I'd spotted in the morning when I checked the meadow fence.




I had a huge selection of fresh fungi to choose from. I took a few shots and then headed down to check on the creek. The neighbor kids and mom wanted to see the 'new' ridge road on Friday and have a 'creek' adventure.
That means laughing children and lots of splashing in the water.

Laughter from children always brightens my day.

The road didn't wash much and I tried to mentally calculate how I'd get the pasture grass seed down where I wanted to spread it. Hmmm. Kids + Wagon + plus bag of seed = extra helping hands. Besides, it is always more fun to have company when doing things. I could spread seed and the others could play.

I had told Rich that I wouldn't be gone long. Though I know he'd sleep for a couple of hours, I just felt I had to make it quick and get back.
I juggled the tripod and umbrella and climbed over a few rocks to find a pleasing scene.


I found a couple of spots and was happy that the heavy overcast sky allowed for exposures up to 1 second.


I probably could have spent hours wandering the length of the creek, and once I would have. I just didn't have it in me at the moment.
The umbrella worked out well for keeping the rain off the camera.
Yes, it was a pain, but now I could easily walk in the rain as long as I kept to wide open trails.

When I got home it was time to start to get ready for chores. I mentally counted who would have to leave before winter came on. I moved our pony, Little Richard to a new spot to graze.
I wanted the cattle to stay, at least those in the pasture. The bull had to go and it was up to me to make the arrangements.
It felt odd knowing that farm decisions were mine now.
The two donkey jacks had to leave too and possibly the young horse Rich calls 15. She has no purpose other than eating and I don't have the desire to retrain her.
Half of me wants to keep Sundance and the half wonders if I'll have the time to work with her.

I count the bales of hay and figure on when we'll need to get some more. I mentally try to calculate if I have enough time to send the truck in for a tune up.

I stop back in the house. Rich is sitting on the edge of the couch. I stood there for a moment and he looked at me with wide innocent eyes.

"Do you no longer want to help with chores?" I asked.
He seemed perplexed by the question.
"Do you even think about chores any more?"
He shrugged and answered, "No not really I just was staring at the screen and watching..." his hand pointed to the small flat screen where he was watching Netflix.

I realized that he just isn't aware of the chores anymore. He knows they have to be done. But his mind doesn't trigger a response to get up and go outside.
This is the new normal.

He isn't being mean, he isn't ignoring me, he just is in this new foggy place.

I reach down and hug him. He puts his arms around me and hugs tightly back.

This is okay. I like the hugs. His love is still true and he smiles.

Just another rainy day.



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bugs and Slugs

Sometimes it just takes some kids to put things in perspective.

Kid goats.

Kids with fungi.

Looking for bugs.

A jaunt through the woods with kid goats and kids.

Hunt for fungi.

And find some very cool slugs.


Laughter, slugs, and bugs with a bit of Fungi tossed in.

Thank you neighbors for an awesome day.


The Diagnosis

A month ago we went to the VA hospital in Madison for a Neuro-psychology exam. This is a brain function test of executive functions, thinking, making decisions, planning, understanding, language, perception, and ...well, you get the idea.

It was a two hour test that we did on the 14th of last month. I should say, a two hour test that Rich did last month.
I learned in Physical Therapy-Speech last year that issues a person has pre stroke generally become worse post stroke or as the PT gal said, the issues would be greater in general.

We sat down in the room and I mentally thought I was prepared for hearing the two doctors conclusions.
I wasn't.

Cognitive Disorder, specifically Vascular Dementia -- the doctors were quick to say that Dementia means Brain Changes-- the stigma of hearing "You have Dementia" is about as horrid as hearing the word "Cancer".  Perhaps even much worse. Dementia is like saying: You are going to lose your mind.

We have gone down the Cancer Road already so I didn't think anything would actually shock me.

Rich has not just had one stroke. Last year's stroke was just a big bang compared to all the others he has had over the years. In other words, he has had a lot of insidious brain damage over the years.

I had thought perhaps that Rich had Vascular Dementia, but until the words were clearly spoken to me in that room, there was a chance that it wouldn't be that.

I looked over at my husband and wondered how he was taking the news. Hard to tell as he was just listening and watching. The doctors were very good to look us both directly in the eye.

Then they asked a few direct questions. "Val, you are not working correct?" I smiled and said that was correct, I had to quit last year to stay home and take care of Rich.
"We have a treatment plan and some things we believe will be helpful but it is a big commitment."

The question behind the question. 'Will you go running from this room screaming your head off and ditch your husband? Or are you willing to put in time and extreme effort for his therapy and care?'

I replied to them that I was there for the long haul. After all, I'd driven to the UW 5 days a week for over 6 weeks to take Rich to radiation treatments and tried to work on the weekends.

They went over the details of getting appointments with PT, OT, and seeing a Medical Psychologist too. I inquired if that would be that same as the gent we saw during cancer treatments. He was quite helpful. They thought they'd try to schedule us back with him since we had a history already of seeing him during the cancer treatments.

Social workers, OT coming to the house for inspection, testing Rich for safety, OT doing driving tests with Rich...arranging Respite Care.

Discussions of driving, not driving.

And then the bombshell.

"Do you have your POA set up?" the one doctor asks of us.
"Yes," I answer, "we did that quite a while ago."
"Financial and Medical?"
I nodded.
Rich nodded.

They turned and looked at Rich. "We may ask your wife to be your Medical Agent as we are not sure you can make your own health decisions. We will consider Financial POA also."

I could see that Rich was a bit shocked. So I piped up.
"Honey, if they do that, nothing really changes. Right now we are doing all of this together anyway. We sit and do the bills together, we go to appointments together right?"
He nodded. "I could do the checkbook," he said, "but my tremors are so bad. I can't write so Val does it."

There it was, the same thing we went through with his mother. Losing your independence officially. It didn't matter that I've already been doing most of what a Guardian or an Agent for Health/Finances would be doing already. But the 'threat' of having that taken away was downright frightening for him.

The discussion went on to talk about how Speech Therapy would help, meeting with the Med/Psych doctor would help, PT, OT, Social Workers, setting things up.

The goal was to maintain Rich on a plateau provided there wasn't another brain incident or other health incidents.

In one year they would test him again to see if he was able to maintain or...
Well.
Let's just say it out loud. This sort of brain damage doesn't reverse itself.

I'm not asking for sympathy or writing this for shock value.
I may continue writing about this on my other blog called The Long Road.
The Long Road is where I addressed our travels through Cancer.

I hope that I am prepared to travel down this new fork in the road.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Fireflies and Fun

If you live where the fireflies come out in the summer, you need to stay up late to enjoy the Dance of the Fireflies.

Fireflies are beetles that fly and they blink and glow to attract their mate? I guess. All I know is that I don't have the opportunity to share this special show often to guests. Timing is everything. Temperature, humidity, time of year, it all depends on those neat little beetles.

This year I was able to share with my Kenosha friends, the Dance of the Fireflies. The first night we had some amazing views. Fireflies, Lightening, and stars all in the same sky.



The shot is blown out from the lightening, but look above the bright spot. There are stars! In the black area, there are streaks of fireflies. I doubt I may ever see something like that again.


The storm circled around us and headed east. We oohhed and awwed at the sky show and alternately turned to the west to watch the fireflies glow and fly.

I woke up at 5am which is my normal wake up time. The day was going to be super hot but it was Amanda's birthday and she wanted to go for a ride.
I took them out and we went riding just after daybreak.


And we rode. I took video of our ride Daryl got some great shots, but mostly I concentrated on making sure my guests were properly mounted and were ready for the obstacles we encountered. That is my backside taking them down the camp road.

Photo by Daryl Clausen

I took them out the ridge first and then down into the 'rough' stuff. Mule slides, ditches, climbs, brush whacking, and branch dodging. I was afraid they wouldn't like it so we stopped to give the mules a breather and I asked.
"So...are you guys okay with this?"
"YES! Awesome!"
As we put the mules away afterward I offered them a second ride on Sunday morning.
Yes. Yes!
Most of the time when they visit, we try to go somewhere cool to do a sunrise photo shoot together.
It was set, we'd ride again on Father's Day.

The rest of Saturday was fun. The adults took naps and I went with the girls to visit the neighbors and see the baby goats.

The girls and I set up a bean bag game that also served as 'ladder ball' and another toss game to be played later.

The Gang wanted to go to the creek and so we went and spent a couple of hours in the creek bottom.

Big Dog and Little Dog played themselves out chasing each other. Scout played so hard. He is not a quitter. Charlie on the other hand would walk over to me and try to crawl into my lap for a rest.
We stacked rocks, and Daryl went off to explore and get some 'quiet' time. It was amazing how nice and cool the creek was. I don't think anyone wanted to leave and go back up the ridge road to the farm.

But chores had to be done and we were getting hungry also.

Everyone was sleepy after we finally had birthday ice cream cake. I was stuffed. But it was time to try out the games. The competition was fierce.

Photo of me in the blue by Daryl Clausen

Photo by Amanda Clausen

Then the Fireflies started to put on their show again. This time I walked up the driveway and looked east towards the meadow.
I was astounded and called out to my friends. They in turn were amazed also and Daryl went and woke his girls up so they could come and watch.


And we were again transfixed by the incredible show of what my friends' called Nature's Christmas lights.

We went to bed, as we wanted to ride out again in the morning before it got too hot.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Outta here ...


I used to only ride and talk about mules. Mules were my entire life as was riding.

Here is a morning shot of the 'herd' sleeping and lounging.


Here they are in the afternoon. Fred is peeking out from behind the red headed sisters. He is 33-ish years old. Mica is the white-grey mule, aged also. If my calculations are correct, she should be 20ish. Sunshine is 19 which isn't old for a mule at all.
Siera is somewhere around 14 years old.

Holy Cow. Can these mules all be so old?
Sundance is only 9 and she was to be Rich's mule. I don't think it will be too difficult to make her into a saddle mule. She is always eager to please and seems to have a fantastic temperament.

I had Charlie yesterday when we came back from our adventure in the creek. I put Charlie on his little line and started to carry him through the mule pasture.

He wanted down. The red heads saw us and it happened again. Charlie glanced up at the huge creatures and ignored them.
Sundance, Sunshine, Mica, Siera, Fifteen, and then Fred all lined up single file behind Charlie and I as we walked the pasture.

Our mules have touched many lives over the years...

I won't bore you with all the pictures.

But this one was from last year.
And then there was this last August.

Well there you go. Mules and horses have always been such a big part of our lives.

I'm finally catching up on things around the farm...I think, and can concentrate on our equine.

This weekend I hope to take some friends on their first real all mule ride.
We will be celebrating two June birthdays and Father's Day also.

I will be stashing my laptop this evening and leaving it hopefully until Monday.

I will leave you with one of my favorite evening shots from a sunset ride with hubby and Fred... in 2009.


Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Just Mules...

So many times I have been asked why I ride mules.

Huh.
Well. I have 4 mules that I can ride and one that needs starting under saddle.

The real story is that a gazillion years ago I met a man who rode a small mule named Fred. I was riding Cheyanne an Arab-Quarter cross who I loved to death. She and I were a good team.
The man told me that Cheyanne would make a good 'mule momma'.

Anyway. That is how our Rich and my Romance began. A mule named Fred and a grade horse named Cheyanne.
I started commuting to his place and riding with him on his mules.

The rest is history. And Cheyanne produced Sunshine.

And later...
Sundance...

I fell in love with mules and their interesting ways.

I like my red headed half sisters.

I like riding. I've decided that riding is a way of reducing stress and improving mental health.

What can I say?
Here I was on Mica tonight...



So there it is. Mules... summer... evening. Hubby can watch TV and I can have an adventure.

It works.

Just mules. The 4 legged kind not those that need a gas engine.


What to live for

Yesterday was a busy day. We'd gone to the VA for appointments on Tuesday and it felt like we spent the whole day going from one place to another.
Actually we got in early and were seen early which is not the usual way things happen.

We have the Kenosha Gang coming this weekend. They aren't actually from Kenosha but I met them while living in that county.
So I was anxious to get the yard work started and at least do some picking up and preparing for their visit.
Rich's meds in the morning make him light headed and dizzy. Two inhalers plus a nebulizer treatment in the morning seems to make him wobbly. He feels constantly stuffed up and we asked the ENT folks Tuesday to check that out. They are following up on the Throat Cancer, fingers crossed...all looks good.

It seems one of the meds for prostrate enlargement is making his sinuses a bit swollen. It is a side effect. IF anyone can have an unusual side effect from medication, it will be my husband.

I looked up his meds and yes, they keep him going but sometimes I wonder if the meds are doing as much harm combined as they could be doing good? I think a major review of the medications are in order. So many of his meds have dizziness as a side effect.

The good news from the CT scan with contrast is that the aneurysm in his brain has not shown any change, nor are there any signs of new strokes.
The bad.
He feels lousy, he has no ambition or energy, he feels dizzy and out of breath often, he has tremors, and emotionally flat most of the time.
The grumpy Gus I used to be married to no longer oversees my fencing or corrects the way I do projects. He shrugs and watches Netflix or takes a nap.

Yesterday morning he sat with his coffee after eating breakfast and said, "I'm just slowly dying, fading away. I wish I could feel like doing something or just trying to do something."
I said nothing. What could I say? He was right. My husband was fading before my eyes.
The man who used to be the Take Charge Man, no longer shows interest in most things.

Hopefully our meeting next week with Neuro-Psychology will prove helpful. In a way Rich felt as if it would have been kinder if the doctors had not been able to remove the two clots in his brain and had just let him go.

So he went to bed for his morning nap and I told him that I was going to go outside and work. That is what I do when I am frustrated and feel helpless.

I started up the weed eater and attacked the long grasses next to the shed. Then I went after other messy places, those places that are so hard to mow.
After my hands began to hurt, I put the ''eater' down and started to trim with the little mower. I took breaks often, but got all the trimming done around the house.

After lunch Rich came out and mowed a portion of the yard and then went to lay down again. He said he'd finish the rest of the yard after a rest.

I proceeded to work on the new/old chair after I watered and rotated the Dexter cattle to a different section of the woods. I sat on the porch and took out my paints. I'd worked out my frustrations and now it was time to let my creative juices flow.

Remember that ugly chair?

Well I have been working on it a bit at a time.

I usually don't plan things out and just let it happen. I wanted bright cheery colors so I used brilliant yellow spray paint on the legs and added some aqua. I used silver on the back of the chair. I don't know why but just did.


I had some old white paint that needed to be used up so I painted the seat white. Boring old white.
While I was at it, I spruced up the wooden spool that we use as a porch table.

I finally got around to doing the edges....not shown here.

The plain white boring seat bothered me, so I did some touching up here and there and then started to experiment with some masking tape.

That was fun, so I began mixing the aqua, blue, green, and seafoam colors in a cap and creating my own colors and made more stripes.
Okay. Nice looking but not FUN!

The stripes aren't perfect, and the paints aren't perfect, but it had its charm. However it needed something else.

Now I am completely charmed by this old chair. If it lasts a season or two on the porch I will be happy. My butterfly happy colored chair.
It fits in so nicely with my spool table and funky table top...

Ready for company!

Charlie was exhausted.
All that supervising wore him out.

The day was still 'young' after supper was cleaned up.
Remember I said I had the Kenosha Gang visiting this weekend? They want to go riding. So I am saving some time and saddling each mule we will take with the saddle that will be used on them with each rider. Amanda will ride Sunsine in my Western saddle that I modified. So last night I saddled Sunshine and took her for a rather boring but peaceful ride on the gravel roads and hay fields.


Sunshine is out of my original horse, Cheyanne. She is half sister to my all time favorite mule Badger who is no longer with us.

And...
then...
my day
was complete...

Well in this life you must find something to live for
Cause when darkness comes a callin'
You'll go back to where you were before
Cause this life is as
Fragile as a dream, and
Nothing's ever really
As it seems...
~~Lily Kershaw
"As it seems"