Monday, January 30, 2012

The Jawbone of an Ass

"That's definitely an abscessed tooth. You've got to get him to the vet and have it removed," Wonder Woman told me, having appeared unasked at my side as I looked at Dink, who had been brought in from his pasture to a little paddock.

"He's got food stuck in his cheek," I said. "This has happened before."

The ranch manager had called me again on Friday, her voice sounding panicky. Dink's face has a big swelling on his jaw, get out here as soon as you can.  We'd just got back from the movies, but I swung my purse over my shoulder again and headed out, fairly confident that I knew what it was. About a year ago, I'd found Dink in the pasture with a big ugly bulge on his face. Palpating it had caused him no discomfort, so I'd saddled him up and ridden out through the orchard roads. Even if he did have a problem with a tooth, he needed exercised. By the time we got back to the ranch, the swelling had ... disappeared. He'd had a wad of grass stuck in there.

Back to Friday. Wonder Woman, who is a "trainer" shook her head at me. "It's not food. I stuck my hand in there and it's his gums. There's no food in there."

The ranch manager showed up, and Wonder Woman went on again about abscesses and how she had stuck her thumb into Dink's mouth, and knew that he had a bad tooth, and an infection going on. The ranch manager was freaked out, ready to load Dink into the trailer and cart him back to the vet's again. Her apt reading of Dink's demeanor on Wednesday had probably saved his life, but she really didn't want to save him just to lose him a day or so later. Wonder Woman continued to hold forth on why Dink should be taken to a vet right away, her yammering making my innards churn. There was something familiar in the way she was presenting her argument.

Yeah, that was it. I'd heard the method before. She wanted to induce a panic, make her listeners rely on her "expertise."

He won't eat his food because he's in too much pain. He won't drink water because the cold water will hit the rotten tooth and cause too much pain. He'll just colic again and die.

Fact is, horses' teeth don't have the same kind of nerve system that humans do. That's why, when a vet does a procedure known as "floating," he'll give the horse a dose of drugs to make him dopey and relaxed, and then, with the horse's mouth ratcheted open with a miniature car jack, uses saws and sanders to even out the horse's teeth. The horse's ears might flicker at the noise, but trust me, they don't wince or flinch when their teeth are sawed, sanded, or even yanked out.

And another fact is that you can't stick a thumb all the way back into a horse's cheek unless they're sedated and the mouth jacked open. A horse's teeth, front or back, can cut your fingers off, so that would be a stupid thing to do. Wonder Woman's thumb could not possibly reach the area of swelling.

The ranch manager took Dink's temperature and he was well within normal range. I put a halter on him and walked down the road with him, as much to give the two of us a break from Wonder Woman's hair-on-fire rhetoric as to exercise his roany hide.

We stopped to watch some irrigation system workers installing some kind of solar panel down the road; I let Dink snatch some long green grass recently sprung up from the rain last week. We walked back to the ranch to hear Wonder Woman continuing her "professional" dissertation. "Look at his cheek," I said to the ranch manager.

"There's hardly any swelling there!" she said.

"Same as before," I mentioned. "It's food. It works out."

"No, it's the pressure of the halter on his cheekbone," Wonder Woman stated stridently. "It's pushing the pus out."

"I haven't been hauling on his head," I told her gently. "I don't have to."

"It's the halter right over that spot, breaking the abscess. He has to be on antibiotics and get that tooth removed."

At that point, I pulled out the big guns. She could not accept my assessment of the horse's condition, but there was one thing she could not refute. "Here's the thing," I said to her. "I have NO MONEY LEFT. I could cover this last visit to the vet, but now, I HAVE NO MONEY LEFT. NONE. I can't pay a vet to look at his teeth today."

It was an unheard of argument, I guess. Wonder Woman wandered off to talk to another boarder about why she should or should not exercise her horse in the arena. I told the ranch manager I'd be back on Saturday to check on Dink.


I went back on Saturday with a can of Senior Equine food to tempt Dink's appetite. The ranch manager met me there, still worried, even though Dink had no swelling evident in his face. She'd brought Dink in to feed him in the morning, and dose him with antibiotics, and found that he refused the grassy hay, and the sweet feed with the antibiotics. I groomed the old fuzzy up and rode him out for a ride around the nearest orchard bloc. When we got back, I gave him a bite of an apple, and offered him some feed. He was hungry.

The ranch manager brought the bucket she'd put the antibiotics and feed into. I could tell right away the feed smelled sour -- no wonder Dink didn't want it. Nevertheless, once she went on to deal with other clients -- and no doubt listen to Wonder Woman, who was again on that day holding forth with her wisdom, Dink not only ate all the antibiotics/feed mix as well as my offering of Senior Feed, and in doing so, packed both of his cheeks full like a squirrel.

"Come look at his face," I called to the ranch manager when she passed by.

"Oh my God, what the hell is going on?" she cried, looking at his lumpy face.

"Now look at the other side," I said, pushing his head around. "It's all food."

Wonder Woman, who doesn't share a tack room with the lesser equestrians, just happened to come over to snort in on someone else's horse.

"Look!" the ranch manager cried. "It's all food!"

Wonder Woman had no comment to offer, not a single word.

Today I was out again, and Dink had no swelling of the face at all, and I only offer one comment on Wonder Woman's expertise: the big dappled warmblood horse she trains ... "trains?" ... She can't take him out on the orchard roads because he "doesn't know when to stop."

Long story, this entry. Sorry.

Dink is good.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Look Out, Here He Comes!

At one this afternoon, the ranch manager and I went to pick Dink up at the vet, after a successful treatment for colic. The ranch manager's first tipoff that Dink was sick yesterday was that he was docile, subdued and polite.

And thus it was wonderful to see him today, head up, ears pricked, looking like he was ready to kick the ass of all and sundry.

"Now that's Dink," the ranch manager said fondly.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Long Afternoon

I was doing some cooking for Alex's dinner when the phone rang. Not expecting a call, since my hands were gooey from chopping up the remnants of a leg of lamb for Lamb-and-Bean, I let the answering machine pick up -- only to hear the ranch manager's voice saying that Dink was not right. I grabbed a towel and mopped my hands, answered the phone.

Dink was sick, and so I headed out to the ranch. His breathing was too fast, and he was not his usual feisty self. While the ranch manager called a vet, I walked the horse down the road and back, down and back, stopping to listen to his side.

A horse's belly should be a chorus of gurgles and squeaks; Dink's left side was completely silent.

The ranch manager thought we should pack him off to the vet, and so she brought her trailer around. Dink was definitely not himself, but he was thrilled with the sight of the trailer, and clambered in with no prompting at all. Off we went in the sundown. The vet stayed after his usual hours to examine the horse, who was in the first stages of colic -- a shutdown of the intestines, possibly brought on by the radically changing weather.

Dink is still there, in a clean stall, where the vet will check on him again tonight. He should be okay, but the vet said he would call if our old horse (22) took a turn for the worse.

Tonight I'm listening for the phone, hoping that it doesn't ring.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lemons: Crappy Poetry

No swimmings

So stellar

Go, seeds sown

Bring Spring
Bring rain
O, sweet rain

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weird Experiences

Unusual in January
My sasanqua camellia is blooming beautifully. The weird thing is that every other year since I brought it home and planted it, it began blooming at Halloween, and was all done by Thanksgiving. This year, it didn't begin blooming until Christmas, and is still going to town with buds to spare, unbothered by the freezing temperatures at night, thanks to the canopy provided by my neighbor's redwoods.

For years, my default salad dressing when eating out has been ranch dressing on the side of my salad. Our son-in-law loves ranch dressing on lasagna, meatloaf, cabbage rolls, tacos ... okay, he loves it on everything. So we buy a goodly amount of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing on a regular basis.

HOWEVER. Trying to track down what in my diet was causing me health problems, I wanted to eliminate monosodium glutamate as a possible culprit, so ranch dip  (alas, so yummy on football nosh veggies) and  ranch dressing were right out.

After watching a Food Channel program in which Anne Burrell made a low fat ranch dipping sauce, I thought I might experiment with making my own ranch dressing. I was apprehensive about it, because of the numerous brands of ranch dressing at the store, only Hidden Valley was palatable. I didn't want to make something that would waste our now-meagre funds.

I found this one at, but I really didn't want to run to the store and buy a quart of buttermilk to use 3/4 cup of it. Then I noticed a link for making your own buttermilk.

Weird, I just happened to have a container of heavy cream out in the garage, one I needed to use up. Maybe I bought it for making homemade mac and cheese downright dangerous, or maybe I was going to make a white wine cream sauce. No matter. It was about to become a learning experience.

We had no idea that throwing that heavy cream into a jar and shaking it for 10 minutes would thicken it up so much, or be so tiring. Bernie and I threw it into the food processor, turned that machine on, and watched the thick cream turn into whipped cream, and then, rather suddenly, into butter, which separated from the liquid now known as buttermilk.

Who knew? Not us!

And wow, that butter, once rinsed and lightly salted, superb!

And the ranch dressing, with no chemicals added?

Soooo good. Give me a salad!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Day Without Wikipedia

Three things have been nagging at the back of my mind lately.

Yes, I'm active on the internet today, a veritable scab, since so many are boycotting the internet and/or blacking out some or all of their websites. I read some rhetoric today that said that SOPA and PIPA laws, if passed, would "kill" the internet.

"Kill" the internet.

A boycott was called to raise awareness of the issue.

While the acts in question are supposed to combat piracy of copyrighted works, the word "censorship" has been thrown about, for we all know, as freedom-loving Americans, that censorship is A BAD WORD.

Censorship, killing the internet, has been on my mind.

A comic strip, "Between Friends," (which I read in the Houston Chronicle daily) recently has one of the main characters singing the old Helen Reddy song, "I Am Woman" -- with modified lyrics, of course, for the entertainment value. But having the blasted song stick in my head made me remember the line"

"But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go"

That song has been on my mind.

And the third thing is the censorship of human beings. If the woman's movement really was an embryo, then the male chauvinist pigs would have had her aborted without a second thought, without any memory of her importance.

The internet doesn't have a heartbeat. An embryo does. Why not let the internet be killed, if a human being, whose only crime is "inconvenience" deserves a death sentence?

Ah, as a freedom-loving American, I should not suggest that if abortion is an okay thing, then every sexually active man and woman ought to watch a film of an actual abortion, to see that the "okay thing" is actually brutal and horrific.


My daughter is being encouraged to have a blood test done to determine whether or not the embryo she carries will have Down Syndrome. Why should she have to know that ahead of time?

Why, silly, so that she can abort the child, already named Jo, and never have to tenderly care for a person with special needs. Not quite perfect? Censor it. Forget it. It wasn't important, anyway.

Right to life is on my mind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ice on the Pool Again

Crispy swimming pool!

I find it interesting that although we all could see the ice on the pool from the windows, we all went outside to peer at it close up. Maybe the windows are lying to us! Maybe it really isn't that cold out and the crystals are an optical illusion!

I also note that not one of us put on a jacket to go out and look at the ice, in spite of it being only 24 degrees.

Maybe we're a little short on sense in the winter!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Day

Yet ANOTHER day in the 60+ degree range! We went to the hardware store today, and found that they were out of onion sets already -- this crazy warm weather has everyone jumping the gun.

I did have to go up to Manteca for a couple things, so we stopped in The Home Depot and picked up onion sets (they had plenty) and seed potatoes as well. In about two weeks, I'll be ready to plant, I think.

Coffee cans are sitting in the garage, waiting for me to plant Marglobe tomato seeds in them; I'll buy Bernie's Romas and maybe an Early Girl at the hardware. I've got a month and a half before I need to worry about tomatoes, though obviously, I've got them on my mind.

It's nearly time to close up the garage and chase the granddaughter indoors. I smell some fool's fireplace burning even though it's a "No Burn" day. With the warm afternoon, even with the sun going down, the neighborhood boys are playing football across various front yards, and Lil and a couple girls are playing their incomprehensible princess or wizard games. Howie is ready to go indoors where he has a slim chance of someone giving him a tidbit as supper is cooked in the kitchen.

Like the kids, I'm reluctant to admit that a winter evening is calling an end to activities in the open air.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ah, another beautiful, warm sunny January day!

Remember last January when I was complaining about fog and damp and cold? Go back in time and tell me to shut the hell up, would you? We are in such desperate need of rain it isn't at all funny.

This is chard in the front planter box, big and tough. I want to do something with it so it has an excuse to put out some sweet tender leaves -- these fiends are thick and tough. I stuck one in the vegetable drawer in the fridge, and it appears to have dehydrated, and looks like it's longing to be made into some kind of fake sushi. But never having eaten sushi, I don't know what flavors one might savor. I do have some frozen catfish nuggets left ...

But today's sweet triumph was (once again) reclaiming my studio. Several sanding projects done in there coated everything in a layer of brownish wood dust. Everything. Yuck. And then this past week, all the recycle stuff got set down out there, too. 'Twas a dump. A good two hours of cleaning, sorting, and putting away left me once again with an inviting haven, and I did some art work on my table-top project (not unveiled yet, except to Lillian) and some scribble-art, which can be seen over at the Resolution Blog. It was fun, and deliciously, just that little bit of mind-->hand work made me itch for the smell of oil paints.

And oh, Lord, help me, Bernie and I took a whack at a Pilates "Beginning Mat Work" video this morning. I was appalled at how flabby, stiff, and weak I've become. It was so difficult for me that I wanted to go back to bed afterwards. It was so humiliating that I know I must persevere and limber and strengthen up.

Humiliation, dirt, art, dreadful warm and balmy weather. Now that's the way to spend a day in January!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Twelve Drummers Drumming

 On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me -- Fine Picnic Weather!

No really, it was. 68 degrees and sunshine, folding sling chairs out on the front yard, soaking in the Vitamin D while dining, for Bernie, on a beef tri-tip and provolone sandwich on fresh French bread, and for me, thin slices of tri-tip seasoned with salt and cumin, and French bread slathered with cream cheese.

Simply bliss.

The geraniums are blooming a moderate number of blossoms, the breeze was light and balmy, and Howie lay in the grass at our feet, watching people walk by, keeping an eye on cats prowling in the neighbor's driveway, nose noting every stray scent to be found.

And of course, instead of drummers, just as loud was the traffic as cars roared up and down the street, not at all at or under the 25 mph limit. Hey! Twelve Speeders Speeding ...!

There. Tomorrow is Epiphany. You can take down your Christmas season tree and lights now. Or, if you have things to do tomorrow, and don't want to miss any of the NFL games over the weekend, Monday is all right, too -- Baptism of the Lord, you know, and the Catholic Church's official end of the Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas, every one. May 2012 bring us all peace in our lands, and happiness in our hearts.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Eleven Pipers Piping

Pipers makes me think of bagpipes, and bagpipes make me think of kilts. Unfortunately, my eyeballs were once seared by a series of photos sent to me in email of a line of men in uniforms which included kilts, but not always underwear. I deleted the email immediately, but the damage was done. Therefore I will not dwell on pipers, bagpipes, or kilts in this post.

In fact, I'll change the words. On the eleventh day of Christmas, my sweet Howie gave to me:

Eleven Pounds of Dog Hair!

Now why Howie is shedding out his undercoat at this time of year is beyond me. He started letting loose lumps and chunks of fur two weeks ago or more. He's not ill, and now that all that loose stuff is off him, his striped coat is soft and shiny again. It has been abnormally warm -- in the 60's during the day ... but only for a few days.

I'd hazard that it means an early spring, but the horse still looks like a wooly mammoth with no sign of getting rid of extra hair.

This, by the way, is not all the loose hair I could have combed out of his undercoat. I quit because my arms were tired, and static electricity was attracting more hair to my face and nose than I cared to deal with. 

We had just finished a short and gentle walk (about 30 minutes) around neighborhood streets and two small blocs of almond orchards, and the brushing was the perfect finale for How. He became a limp dog, and relaxed into a nap.

Maybe my faithful beast just knew I needed something special to take my mind off ... well, never mind.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ten Lords A-Leaping

Chessboard Toads
Ever since I was a child, I wondered why you might have ten lords in one spot, and what would cause them to leap. Today, the tenth day of Christmas, I am no wiser.

Were they playing checkers? A lordly tournament? Was there a joust invaded by vermin, which caused them to dance about, hopping high into the air?

Were they at a conference, and disagreements escalated into fierce arguments, with lords leaping out of their chairs to throw pieces of mutton and chicken bones at each other?

Or were they like political candidates I read about, who cannot wait to leap into bed with the latest "politically correct" trend?

Wait! Maybe they weren't really lords at all, but only local tinpot dictators lording their power over people paid less than they, who, upon the visit of the district manager, had to leap to get disgruntled employees scheduled off so as not to appear the fat toads that they really were?

Or none of the above. I don't know. It was a nice day, and a productive tenth day of Christmas.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Nine Ladies Dancing

More or less. The bee doesn't count, she's working, not dancing.

The ninth day of Christmas was okay, after the Piker Press was up and I was able to stop swearing at my laptop and its penchant for wacking out on me when I'm trying to edit articles.

It starts like this: Grumpy because I've left working on the Press until Monday morning (when I've vowed every Monday afternoon for years that I'm going to get everything ready to roll the Thursday prior to Monday's publishing), I immediately tackle the "difficult" articles first -- the ones that need close attention and editing. An article that has misspellings and punctuation gaffes can take an hour to edit and format, depending on how rough a draft I've been handed, and how many interruptions in the process.

Every link has to be checked, every book that's reviewed has to be available on Amazon (since those links are our only income, piss poor though it is). Every Peek of the Week has to be mined from galleries, examined closely to make sure there is no blur, and on Monday mornings I can barely remember how to button my shirt correctly let alone who all has given me permission to look through their galleries for potential photos.

Halfway through the process, I'm already stiff and itchy, and then the laptop mousepad gets over-sensitive and buggers up lines I've typed. I should know better, yes, it's true. The only thing to do is get up, walk away, and go watch the birds for a while, drink a glass of ice water, run a load of laundry. The madder I get, the more mistakes slow me up. Bleah.

But once the Press was done, the ninth day was fine. Laundry was a-cookin' in the machines, there were plenty of leftovers for lunch; I took a walk around the block, read an uplifting article about liturgical norms, tackled three small sewing projects, and with Bernie's help, sanded off the old finish on the paper towel holder from the kitchen.

I got to thinking about a picture of 'nine ladies dancing' -- and thought of photos of cherry blossoms. So beautiful, and on a day that dawned with thick gray Tule fog, cold and damp, I found myself longing for Spring already.

As I looked through the photos, I spotted something I had missed last Spring: a bug staggering through the photo shoot.

Merry Christmas Season, Bug! You're a star!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Eight Maids A-Milking

New Year's Day, we woke to a thick sky, full of fog.

We still have no rain since October, when a downpour surprised everyone. Now we're starting to worry. Rain should start in November, or at least December, and so far, we've had none.

Yes, I sang today. And wrote today. And paced back and forth in front of the TV, enough to count as exercise. Come on, New Year's Day is all about the football for me, since we're headed on to losing cable in weeks, as a financial austerity measure. Next season I may have no football at all, except after the fact.

This first day of the new year, I was struck again and again how much I love my husband, and how fortunate I have been in my life, having met him, and having spent 36 New Years with him.

I have no Eights, nor maids, and not one drop of milk in the house, as Lillian, Alex, and I are fair to middlin' allergic to cow juice. We've recently switched to almond milk, which is produced locally, tastes great, has no cholesterol, and is fairly low in carbs.

You're out of work, Maids.