Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unexpected Details of Farm Life

Good morning everyone.  I'm sorry I missed you yesterday.  I had an unexpectedly full day.  As I told you, I went to see my accountant.  Doing business with friends often leads to much longer appointments.  So, that was my morning.

No sooner than I walked out of my accountant's office, Rose called to tell me Tar was "acting weird."  Ok, define that please.  He was lying down.  Oh, you remember my rant about this one, don't you?

Horses lie down.  It doesn't mean they're dying.  He was making a bit of a grunting noise.  Well, sometimes they make noises.  He wasn't exhibiting any symptoms of colic, other than lying down.

Without thrashing around on the ground, lying down isn't significant, remember? I ran through the colic symptoms with her.  There's a page on colic symptoms in my procedure manual in the barn, but sometimes, I gotta talk it through with them.

Yes, there's a procedures manual in the barn.  It's a business, remember.  I have to give them something specific to refer to as a guide.  I learned that the hard way.  People don't remember what to do even when the job is fundamentally the same every day.  They don't built 'em like they used to!

Ok. Ok. So much for that call I'd just made to Bart to see if he wanted to go to lunch. A potential colic trumps lunch.  I was dressed-up for my appointment in some of my old fancy work clothes from my former life as a professional with a desk job.  Bart hasn't seen much of my wardrobe from that life.  It's a lovely wardrobe.

This outfit included a very high end jacket, long jersey skirt, and lovely high heeled ankle boots.  There was an avaunt guard pin.  There were chunky jade earrings.  I wore make-up.  I wore a ring besides my left hand ring from Bart, albeit on my right hand.  I wore a bracelet.  I was decked out!  It was a rare sight. I thought I'd share with my man.  He gets to see me dressed up so seldom, it's a good thing he doesn't care.

Alas, plans change. I went on to the farm.  I changed out of my lovely outfit and back into my farmer's ware.  I ate a microwaved cup of mac and cheese standing up.  It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind.  But, when Tar gets sick, he goes from looking a little under the weather to deathly quickly.

I had Rose take Tar out of his paddock and put him in the hospital stall with fresh water and no hay, immediately upon her call.  After my "delightful" lunch, I asked her to walk him out.  Now, why the hospital stall? And, what the heck is a hospital stall?

A hospital stall is a much larger stall than the industry standard of a 12' x 12' stall.  It has a very large door.  A hospital stall is larger in case the horse needs a space for a long illness or recuperation or for birthing.  A hospital stall is larger to allow for the vet and others to be in there to attend to a horse who is having difficulty getting out of the stall.  Sadly, but very true, a hospital stall with all of it's space and big door allows you to more easily drag a dead horse out of there.  Yes.  I'm serious.  It's one of the details you have to plan for in farm life.

As my vet, Mack, said to me, "Animals will give you their all to the very end.  But, unless you're getting close to the end of your life, they will die before you."  It's a truism that any farmer or person who spends a lifetime with animals will tell you.  You will likely outlive your animals.  So, if this is something we know, you may as well make it easier on yourself to help your dearly departed horse out of that stall and on to his burial.

Ok, dry your eyes.  Tar didn't die.  In Tar's case, he occupies the hospital stall frequently because he's a huge specimen of horse flesh!  Tar is simply more comfortable with the extra room in there.  He weighs 1600 pounds for goodness sakes!  His head is the size of my torso, and I don't look like Kate Moss!  His back is over five feet off the ground.  At his head, he's pretty close to standing seven feet with his head up.  He measures at 16 1/2 hands at the withers.  That's for all of you horse folks.  Now, for a Percheron, he's small. He's only 16 1/2 because he basically doesn't have much in the way of withers.

Back to the story...Rose brings Tar out.  I try my "ultimate Tar colic test" with him.  I gave him a piece of peppermint candy.  Peppermints are Tar's favorite food in the entire world.  I knew Tar was really sick six years ago when he spit one out.

That day, Tar looked normal.  He wasn't exhibiting symptoms of colic.  But, he didn't have his normal spark.  He was off.  When he spit out the peppermint, I knew not to go home.  It didn't take long before he was in a severe colic.  He ended-up having big time surgery at a big time university a few weeks later.  Colic is the number one killer of horses.  It kills 20% of all horses.

Yesterday, Tar didn't look bad.  He didn't look pained to walk.  His eyes didn't look glassy.  He was interested in food and me and what was going on around him.  He did look bloated though.  Ok, let's take him off his hay for 24 hours and see what happens.

Rose and Dod set up some panels for him between paddocks.  There he could graze a little on some dead grass.  Stay beside his regular paddock.  Stay with his regular buddies nearby.  Too much change is not a good thing for a horse.

This morning, Tar's belly bloat is gone.  He looks half the size he was yesterday.  He may have had a little gas.  Pulling him off his hay probably saved us a lot of trouble and him a colic.

I thanked Rose this morning for that good judgment call.  Rose grunted.  Maybe I should pull her off her hay?  Maybe she's gassy?  Maybe she's about to colic?

Rose, like Tar, goes from fine to sullen quickly.  I don't do well with sullen when I'm paying you.  It's not what a boss looks for in an employee.  It's especially not what I look for when I am the only one who is a revenue producer here verses a cost center.

I bring in money, the farm hands suck it up every Friday when I pay them.  If you're sucking up the money I earned this week, be nice.  Say "Good morning" back when I say it to you.  Don't go around slamming doors.  Don't grunt at me when I compliment you.  Be an adult.

Rose's sullen attitude this morning is after she asked me yesterday-- while I was teaching a lesson, poor timing--if she could start coming in at nine on Thursdays and Fridays because, "I'm not getting enough sleep."

You're not getting enough sleep? How is that my problem? I thought it. I didn't say it.  I simply made a tick mark by her name in my mind.  I'm learning.  You can't reason with immaturity--even if it's 23 years old.

I don't think Rose is going to make it here on the farm.  It's a tougher job than she'd imagined. If you're vaguely physically fit and follow directions, it's not that hard of a job. It can be physically tiring for them, but it's not a hard job. There's very little higher brain function involved in scooping poop and grooming horses.

I told her she needed to discuss it with me at a better time, like when I wasn't teaching. I heard her out in my office at the end of the day.  I said, "Ok" to her request.  Tick mark in my mind.

Then, Dod came in.  We discussed the weather for today because of the potential for snow.  Dod doesn't work on Thursdays.  He announced if it snowed, he was going snowboarding.

Rose whinned, "I was invited to go snowboarding this weekend but I have to work."  I suggested she get happy real fast about working on Saturday. I did not say anything but that sentence.  I thought the rest of it: I'm not suffering through another of her moods on a busy Saturday.  She hasn't worked a Saturday in three weeks.  Snap out of it.  Be an adult.

Dod quickly added, "Why don't you think of it as an opportunity to make money instead of spend money this weekend, Rose?"  He said it very nicely.  You see why I enjoy having Dod work here?  Oh, Dod, you're an adult!  Good for you!  Life will be easier for you!

These are the unexpected details of farm life--a horse with gas and an employee who doesn't know that 23 qualifies you as an adult.  I'm so glad I have my animals.  They aren't layered in neuroses.

This is your flatulent sullen attitude laced postcard from the farm.  It's not all fun and games here, but I'd still rather be here than in an office!  How about you?  Thanks for reading and have a great Thursday!

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