Procrastinating farm-girl style

Things I can do that aren’t studying for finals:

- Look up raccoon noises on the internet to compare to very creepy noises heard last night that had K out keeping the horses from having a total meltdown. (I somehow slept right through the chaos… and yes, most likely that was a freaky raccoon. I’ve decided I don’t like them much.)

- Look up owl sounds to figure out what kind of owl lives in our forest (Decision: Great Horned Owl… I’m quite please about this because I like those!)

- Look up locally grown, organic beef/chicken/pork producers that we could start buying meat from. I’m on a big healthy-local-food kick.

- Read the Yarn Harlot’s blog (She’s simply the funniest knitter!)

- Fix up my already sagging/stretched electric fencing that I only put up on the paddocks a couple weeks ago (darn wind!)

- Trim branches off the fence lines.

- Clean up the front jungle before it gets even worse. (Success! that was yesterday’s avoid-studying project… I have to say it was highly effective!)

- Make K drive me to the local feed store so we can order up the pasture seed we need, and so I can talk chickens and cows, and other farm stuff with the staff while K rolls his eyes at me. (I’m making new friends alright!? You gotta try harder to blend in when you’re in a farm store ;) hehe)

- Knit and watch Downtown Abby on Netflix (I’m hooked! Don’t tell me anything because I’m only on the beginning of Season 3, so let’s not spoil it!)

- Groom ponies because they’re shedding monsters right now.

- Have the vet out to do spring vaccinations, and float Lucy’s teeth. Then have the vet out again (because once a week doesn’t seem like enough) after Cricket (of course… who else gets themselves hurt on a regular basis!?) managed to puncture his knee in a paddock with nothing sharp in it… It’s a mystery that one. Nothing that the vet, some drugs, and some stitches couldn’t put back together. He’s our own little humpty-dumpty!

- Try to sort out what’s going on with Murphy the mule since he’s still at the boarding barn and communication has been a bit tough between the boarding barn, the donkey sanctuary, and myself. Still debating whether he’s coming home here, or to the donkey sanctuary but either way he can’t stay at the boarding facility forever.

- Play frisbee with the dogs (always a popular option!)

- Groom Bugs (because wrestling a rabbit is good cardio and he’s a fuzzy mess)

- Research chickens, chicken coops, egg recipes and dream of having a couple hens.

- Plot out a veggie garden space and mentally start planting it! (Once again, signs that a healthy-food kick is in full gear)

- Write a new blog post (ta-da!)

Murphy’s law

A lot can change in a week. Last Tuesday I started having pain behind my eye and sharp pain when I move my left eye. I knew exactly what was happening because I’ve been through this twice before in the last year and half or so. It’s recurrent orbital myositis back to haunt me! F*ck! Both previous times this has happened my life ground to a halt, I was off work for months on end, back and forth to docs and diagnostic appointments, fighting horrible medication side effects, and generally having a shitty time. Orbital myositis means that there is inflammation of the muscle behind my eye (most likely the medial rectus muscle that controls the side-to-side eye movement) which results in a pseudo tumor in the muscle. It is also extremely rare. Even in patients who have various types of myositis, orbital myositis is highly unusual. The first time I had this happen, the pseudo tumor was 9mm in size which might not sound huge but when it’s pressing on your eye and optic nerve, that’s pretty freak’n big! It results in a lot of pain, headache, double-vision and nausea from the double vision, and a whole lot of me whining and swearing about how it’s just my luck to be a freak of medicine… again…

Off I went to my GP who promptly said it was beyond his scope and sent me to emerg. A couple hours later I finally reached the eye clinic that I’d been seen at before and they agreed to see me there instead, so I left emerg and headed over. A few more hours of waiting around until the surgeon/ophthalmologist could see me and agreed that it is likely the orbital myositis back again, and to order up an MRI to confirm it, and then we’ll have to talk about whether to do a biopsy or not. A quick appointment to see my GP turned into 8 hours of running around.

The last time this happened I was referred to a neuro immunology clinic and the specialists there recommended a biopsy because basically no one knows what is causing the recurrent episodes, what exactly the pseudo tumor is, or whether this is related to my overall crappy track record of inflammatory conditions and perhaps another symptom of an underlying autoimmune disease. Without information from a biopsy, there’s no way to find answers to any of that. However, a biopsy of the pseudo tumor involves going through the eye to reach the muscle, and comes with it’s own set of risks like permanent double vision that then might also need further surgery to correct. I’ve spoken to my neuro ophthalmologist from Calgary (one of the best docs I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something!) and he said basically my options were to have the biopsy and risk the vision damage from it which may or may not give us more information (the biopsy could show nothing useful) or don’t have the biopsy but then we won’t know if all my weird issues are related (I’m paraphrasing… ) and either way they’d need to put me back on prednisone (I hate that stuff!! what a miserable drug that is!) to shrink the mass, and then consider whether to put me on a long-term immune suppressant to hopefully avoid this coming back continually.

So that’s the current predicament I find myself in. All the while, my classes at university are winding down, and exams start next week, and a mule on the way… plus it hasn’t helped that this entire last week has been nothing but storm after storm of wet shlup (rain + snow = shlup!) and the additional barn chores that goes along with all that. So yah, anything that can go wrong will…

The progress I’ve made on all this is to inform my instructors about what’s going on and they’ve been very accommodating which is great. I’ve talked to my doc in Calgary, like I said, for his feedback and feel like I’m on the right track with treatment. But mostly I’ve been fussing over trying to sort out what to do about the mule… Made myself a pros and cons sheet which I think just made me more conflicted, but I finally gave in and accepted that he should go to the donkey sanctuary (who have so graciously agreed to take him in) at least until things settle down around here. Plus I gave him a name… Murphy. :)

Update on the Mule Situation

Just wanted to let folks know that the mule made it safely to the boarding barn where he’s in quarantine until he’ll be transported to us later next week. Can’t believe it’s only a week away! K has been busily spreading gravel in the back paddock to make it liveable for him (So we don’t lose him in the mud!) and I spent some time this past weekend working on adding the electric fencing to the boards. He is still a stallion/jack, so with 4 mares across the yard, we need to make that pen very secure! He will be gelded as soon as we can arrange it but we don’t need him breaking out and causing chaos in the meantime!

For those who saw my plea about the older gelding who also needed to be bailed out from the feedlot, I have a bit of an update on him as well. With some determined work by the rescue organizers, myself, and other concerned folks, he did find a home and was spared. I don’t know any other details but feel such a sense of relief knowing that at least one sweet old boy is safe from the slaughterhouse.

Like the rest of the maritimes we are bracing ourselves for a much-hyped storm to hit tonight/tomorrow. If the reports are true, we’re expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 cm of snow, and wind gusts of around 110 km/h. Ponies will be weathering the storm from the safety and comfort of our barn. We have fuel for the generators as we’re anticipating the power going out with that much wet/heavy snow. I hope it’s not as bad as they’re predicting. This winter can end any time now!!!

Back to my studies now before K notices I’m slacking off ;) Classes wrap up next week already. I can hardly believe that my first term of university is almost over! But there’s a lot to do to finish it off so I’ll be rather quiet on here until I can get my head out of my textbooks.

Longears cometh

Sooo… I may have bought a mule.

A little back story on the newest addition to the farm is that I should not be allowed unrestricted internet access! nor should rescue sites on facebook be allowed to advertise adorable mules! I can only be partially to blame for this! ;)

The mule is a 2 or 3 yr old intact colt. No idea what his history is or how he ended up in a feedlot near Ottawa. What I do know is that the great group of people involved with Need You Now Equine rescue were looking to find him a home. They have access to the feedlot because the meat buyer who runs the feedlot has allowed them to try to find homes for equines that they believe to be useful, instead of simply shipping them to slaughter. Most of these horses/donkey/mules have gone through auction and the meat buyer was the only one who wanted them, often through no fault of their own. Or people, for a number of reasons, have to get rid of their horse and sell them directly to the meat man, which is apparently what happened in the case of this mule. I don’t agree with the slaughter industry, but it exists, and it is great that this particular buyer will give these horses a chance at a new home instead of simply shipping them so no disrespect towards him at all. It’s a business.

The mule was listed on their facebook page and I’m a sucker for longears. I’ve adored mules from afar for many years, and contemplated buying one more than once (pretty much every time I see one, I want one! haha) but I know they are much more challenging to train than a horse and I just hope that I have the skills now to do alright by this guy. It is going to be interesting and there will be photos and videos haha

After seeing the mule, panicking at the thought of what his fate might be if I didn’t do something/anything to get him out of there, I got to work calling rescues, and talking to people. I have a backup plan if this mule is more than I can cope with thanks to the lovely owner of PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary. He can go live with her and her collection of longears if I decide this is too much for whatever reason. That makes me feel so much better about giving him a try. I’ve arranged to bail him out of the feedlot and he’s already been moved to a nearby boarding facility where he can hang out and relax until the hauler will pick him up and deliver him to us. The hauling service folks are so kind to give a discount for a rescued animal and that’s helped tremendously! I was blown away by the kindness of Sheila (owner of PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary) and her offer to help pay his board until he’s shipped to me. Just amazing kindness!

mule 3

But I would like to also put a plug in for this older fellow because I really would like to see him rescued too. He only has this week. They’ll be shipped by Thursday (March 20) or so at the latest. If anyone reading can contribute a few bucks (even a small amount will help if enough people are willing/able!) this nice older gent will have a lovely home. A lady near the feedlot has offered to take him but can’t afford his bail of $900. He’s a gentle, well-trained guy 18-20 yrs old and would be a wonderful kids horse and companion for her 3 children. Please please please if you think you can help, email me: cubiclecowgirl@gmail.com and let’s get him out of there! It’s so tragic that kind old horses who have spent their lives taking care of people get shipped off to such a horrifying end. Breaks my heart!

old gelding

From the Need You Now Equine facebook page:

“This is one of the sweetest and best tempered geldings I have come across. VERY well broke to ride. Easy to catch, handle, doesn’t need to be tied to tack up, never moves to be mounted, drops his head for the bit, well neck reined. Way more whoa that go. He stands 15.1hh. Not spooky or grouchy, just a really nice older horse approx 18 yrs. $900 hst included”

VIDEO OF OLDER GELDING WHO NEEDS TO BE RESCUED

My name is Bugs

(K and I have been watching a lot of a show called “My Name Is Earl” on Netflix… maybe too much!)

Bugs is our house bunny. I included him in my post of “who’s who” but he’s pretty neat and unusual so I figured another post can’t hurt :) K wasn’t too sure about the house rabbit idea thinking that a rabbit makes kind of a boring pet. (Not so!) He has since changed his mind and gets a kick out of watching Bugs terrorize the cats, and chill’n out with the mutts.

Bugs is an angora rabbit who I ended up taking in when his previous owner’s daughter turned out to be severely allergic. They had only had him a month or two. Originally he was sold at a pet store to a family who was totally unprepared to look after him. Sure, he was cute as a wee baby, but he grew up and they lost interest and they were going to drop him off at a rescue center but luckily for Bugs, he was taken in by the folks who eventually gave him to me. He’s quite a character! Having a house bunny is pretty fun. He loves following the cats around, and napping with the dogs. We often have to track him down and herd him back towards his cage. (Rabbit herding… it’s a life skill!) His biggest thing lately is that he loves sitting in our back entrance and I’m sure he’s up to something back there, I just don’t know what yet!

To see more photos of the building of the bunny palace click here

Anyway, without further ado, this is the life of Bugs:

Rabbit hay feeder

Image

Rabbit hay feeder

I was searching the web for ideas on how to make a cheap hay feeder for my house rabbit, Bugs, and came across this! It’s a plastic bag holder from Ikea. Since we don’t have Ikea here (what kind of place doesn’t have an Ikea!? I still can’t quite believe it myself!) I talked my brother into picking up a couple and shipping them to me. Bugs appreciates the effort! :) The tubes were a bit too long for his bunny palace so I did have to cut it down a tad, but it’s working great!

Feb 28th – Rare Disease Day: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

A lot of people seem to have at least heard of Multiple Sclerosis, but very few people seem to know anything about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. In fact, quite a few doctors and other medical professionals don’t know what it is. In light of it being “Rare Disease Day” I thought I would post about this. For those who don’t know, I have a mild version of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It is a connective tissue disorder and there are 6 distinct types of EDS: Classical, Hypermobility, Vascular, Kyphoscoliosis, Arthrochalasia, and Dermatosparaxis. (I won’t try to explain all the types¬† but for the curious here’s a link: http://www.ednf.org/eds-types ) It is characterized by a defect in collagen which can result in all kinds of issues; everything from oral/dental issues, joint instability, cardiac complications, hyperelasticity of the skin, gastrointestinal issues, pregnancy complications, bruising, vision problems, wound healing problems, etc. The list goes on and on!
I have the hypermobility version. For me, this means that my joints tend to be “loose” and not real stable. The connective tissues that should be holding the joints in place are lax and therefore, the joints move more than they should. It doesn’t mean I’m a contortionist, but I tend to suffer from joint mobility problems like when I rolled my ankle taking the garbage out last year badly enough that I thought I may have broken something and had to go to ER. I have, in fact, fractured an ankle in 3 places stepping off a horse a few years back, and thought I might’ve done the same darn thing, but luckily it was just the world’s worst sprain! My shoulders are another prime example. When I was about 13 years old, I went to the wave pool with some friends. I came off of one of the slides into a fairly deep pool, and when I went to reach for the ladder, my left shoulder spontaneously dislocated. That was the first of now numerous dislocations and subluxations of my left shoulder. I have had 3 surgeries to try to correct and stabilize it. The first two surgeries were done before we knew I had this disorder, and were fairly standard; The surgeon went in arthroscopically and tightened the connective tissue around the shoulder joint to hold things together. The problem was that within a few years of each attempt, the connective tissue would stretch and my shoulder went right back to dislocating. It was so bad that in High School I could dislocate my shoulder putting on my backpack for school. Before the most recent surgery I would partially dislocate (subluxate) my shoulder 4-5 times a day and have to pop it back in myself. The third surgery involved rebuilding my shoulder socket by moving a piece of bone from my collarbone, screwing it to the front of my shoulder socket (which I had mostly worn out due to the constant subluxations) and then tightening the connective tissue. This was extremely painful to recover from, but it seems to have done the trick. My shoulder hasn’t dislocated in 4 years although it does feel less stable as time goes on and I suspect the only thing really stopping it is the build up of bone reinforcing the shoulder socket.

If you can think of a major joint, I’ve probably had a problem with it. There’s been so many joint-related issues that I’ve dealt with that I’m beginning to lose track. Everything from tendonitis in both wrists, a herniated disc in my lower back, knee problems, ankle instability, inflammation between my ribs, to a severe problem with my jaw that has left me with no cartilage in that joint (and the warning from the oral surgeon that I shouldn’t chew anything so as to reduce the stress on my TM joint), having a connective tissue disorder means being in a lot of pain. Pain management is a way of life for me and I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to this condition because as bad as I feel, my symptoms are still relatively mild. Things could be a whole lot worse! I do use splints and braces, but I don’t have to rely on them all the time. I can mostly go about my day-to-day with minimal problems. While I do have other non-joint related symptoms like leaky heart valves, stretch marks, livedo reticularis, and easy bruising, they’re not really limiting factors to my life. I mostly just need to be aware of my limitations and try not to injure myself. A lot of folks with EDS have severe complications from cardiac problems (some life-threatening), or such severe joint instability that simply getting dressed is a big effort.

Pain is one of the toughest things to manage with EDS. I am in chronic pain. Every day, all day, something hurts. In fact, most of my body aches most of the time, and some joints are worse than others. Lately I’ve been having a lot of knee and shoulder pain. Pain that keeps me up at night and means I do have to give in and take medication for it which I hate to do. The constant pain is something that the medical field has a hard time relating to and a hard time treating effectively. I have a really high pain tolerance as a result of dealing with pain daily. My physiotherapist used to remark that she couldn’t believe my pain tolerance with some of the acupuncture treatments she would put me through. Having a good support team is essential for someone with EDS. In order to try to avoid more joint problems, I have to almost constantly be in physiotherapy treatments, I often see a massage therapist, have a personal trainer and regular exercise, and I have gone through a battery of medical testing. I have seen more doctors and medical professionals than anyone my age should!

To look at me, you’d never know there was a problem. EDS is mostly an invisible illness. It doesn’t make it less real for those who suffer from it. Having multiple joint problems and chronic pain is very challenging. However, I still make the trek in to attend university, I still manage to look after myself, and our farm chores. I still enjoy riding and yes, being tossed off a horse is probably not the best for me, (and I do what I can to avoid it) but either is living in bubble-wrap! :) There may come a day when I have to give up some of the things I love, but until then I’m not going to let the “what-if’s” stop me from having fun.

Today is Rare Disease Day and if you’re interested in learning more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I would encourage you to check out some of these links:

http://www.ednf.org/

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/ehlers-danlos-syndrome

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002439/

https://www.ehlers-danlos.org/