Wednesday, April 18, 2012
From Jim: The white Ford pickup is loaded with trash and recycling stuff. We recycyle what we can and it's fun to see if the stuff gets enough money to pay the landfill fee for the stuff we can't. The solid waste stream that's produced by our economy is down right scary and a real shame. Our "land fill" is called Mt. Trashmore because it long ago stopped filling and started climbing. It's plainly visible from Hwy 99 as it shines in it's black plastic tarp and tire splendor. Scientists say the contents will take about 100 thousand years to break down. Let's see, we've been a nation for a couple of hundred years and our trash grows by leaps and bounds every year. Hmmm, maybe we can have a whole mountain range. Over packaging, toss-away diapers, plastics of all kinds, and so on and so on. I worry about it some. It's not just the land issue, of course. It's the almost certainty that the by-products of our waste will find their way into the water. Ultimately the chemical compounds that we've created that resist biodegradation will go to the sea. We have no right to despoil this place for all of the other living things. They have as much right to be here as we do. We are the only species that knowingly poisons itself. I sure hope there will be a strong enough wakeup call soon enough to not really crash this ecosystem we require along with the other critters. We can do better and it's about time we got on with doing just that. That'll do for this rant.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
From Jim: The content of our lives is measured out in brief moments-fleeting and fragile and leaving us with memories that compete with the flurry of everything else that's going on. We, our kind, has a way of letting the moments get by without much notice or fanfare. Sometimes, we even try to hurry through them. We want to move on and leave stuff behind as quickly as possible. We lean way out and stretch ourselves into a future moment at the cost of the one we're in. I'm going to suggest that we give each moment it's due. That we make it a habit of our mind to slow down enough to appreciate the moment we're in and enjoy living-simply being alive. The herd offers us this lesson every day and in many ways. Now I understand, we're not what they are and shouldn't try to be, but they do seem willing to share this planet and this life with us. They prefer peace and quiet, with an occasional rumpus, to angst and fretting. They find a good nap or time with a friend to be just fine. They savor each meal and are very content to celebrate feeding time as a highlight of the day. A pat on the nose or scratch on the neck, or maybe even a carrot or horse cookie-Well, that's really nice! That moment is focused and shared and connected. I've watched them hunt up just the right spot, with just the right splash of sun and the right guard horse and luxuriate in good old doze. You know, hind foot cocked, nose drooped, an occasional nose twitch or ear flick, but really just soaking in the warmth and quiet. The guard horse taking that moment to be a herdmate and try not to sleep on duty. Sometimes, when we're filling water tanks, someone comes for drink of the cold clear water. It's a "thank you" that's hard to miss. Some will even want to play with the hose and frolic a little. That common chore becomes a special and fun and gratifying moment. The point I guess I'm working towards is this, The time we have will be what we make it to be. We can rush through it, worried and stressed, or we can appreciate the unfolding of the events that make up our days. How we choose to go at life is up to us and the frame of mind we opt for when the day starts. Is everything in life pleasant and fun? Of course not, but all of it can be seen as part of our life and appreciated for that. The other side of the lawn isn't all that far away for any of us. Throwing moments away is high-cost practice. Oh, and go love on your critters, Good moments there!
Sunday, April 15, 2012
From Jim: Since forever, I've marked the change of the seasons by which hat I put on. In the Fall and on through Winter, I wear a felt hat. My old Resistol has completed it's fourth year and it shows it. At one time it was black, but it's had enough rain on it to be bleached sort of reddish, brownish black. The creases are really more memories now and the pinch crown is sure enough pinched. Trouble with felt hats is that they develop a kind of personality, maybe even a cult of personality and get hard to replace. I'll stop every now and again and try on hats, but the idea of starting over with a new hat is more than I'm up for right now. Besides, the weather has turned and it's straw hat time. I won't need to think about felt hats for quite a few months and, by then, I wouldn't want to take a new hat out in the rain anyway. Today, I wore my newer straw hat for chores. My old straw hat needs to get tossed in the bailer. The poor thing is just falling apart. I think I'll pull the brim wire out and feed it to the goats. Generally a straw hat'll last about 1 1/2 seasons. It never fails but that you'll have to get a new straw hat around mid-summer, when it's 100 and hot, and the dust wants to stick to everything, but especially that nice ring just outside the sweat band. I've noticed some of the cowboy boutiques offer hats that already have that well used look. They're stained and crimped and frazzled. You have to pay more for that as it's considered stylish. I've not convinced those folks to offer me much for the real thing, thus the goat snack. I like a 4" brim, tall crown with a ranch crease and not too much bend in the front of the brim. It's seems so futile to get a broad brim and then fold it up so the sun leaks in. There's some pretty good straw hats around these days and they're pretty spendy. Makes for future gourmet goaty treats I guess. I've worn Resistol hats since I was a kid. I've a Stetson or two and liked them fine also. The main thing about a good hat is that you come to feel like you need it on in order to leave the house. If you don't, you probably need to hunt for a new one. When you find the right one, don't expect that it will get all the respect an old timer deserves. I cringe when I hear,"You're not wearing that out to dinner tonight". That's why you have to have a "dress hat". But that's for another blog. Hope you loved on your critters today! It's a good thing to do.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
From Jim: Chad is a buckskin Quarterhorse around 30 years old. Before he came to us, he was a therapy horse. He has worn his teeth to the gums and keeping his weight up is a real issue. He was retired because his back got too sore to continue working. A couple of days ago, he pulled up lame on the left rear-really tender. There was swelling from the hock down to the fetlock. The hoof and leg showed no external wounds. He had apparently wrenched his hock, maybe a slip in the mud or ? He has some arthritis in his legs as any 30 year old does. A twist would hurt a lot. The swelling, a pitting edema, was sinuvial fluid building up in the capsule of the hock joint. We loaded him up and took off to the vet's clinic. Dr. Darling was booked up and, due to a schedule that would have been really difficult to change, it made sense to take Chad in. An examination confirmed the injury. What to do with a 30 year old with worn out teeth and arthritic joints that's torqued a hock? We try to let the animal make the call. If they're done, weary of the battle to go on, off their feed, suffering moment to moment, we offer a final gift of kindness. If the critter makes it clear they're in the fight and not ready to pack it in, we go for treatment and the chance to recover. Chad was all in! He was not about to concede and give up. The good Doc drained the joint, injected steroids and antibiotics, and wrapped the leg for support. We made sure Chad got some pain meds. We're keeping him in the stock trailer. It's clean, dry, and warm. It restricts his movement. He hates it and lets us know what rotten people we are. He'll be there until tomorrow when the wrapping comes off and exercise will help more than hurt. In the meantime, Chad thinks that we're mean this time. Chad may not make another winter. He might not have even without this injury. So why go to all the trouble and effort? Because it's what a sanctuary is all about. Chad's days are precious to him and to us. He wants to live and feel the warm sun and enjoy his feed buckets full of senior sack chow. He wants to be petted and groomed and share time with Juan, his friend. We needed to give the chance to have those things. His days of work are over. These days are his. We want him to have as many of them as he can get. We would never ask him to suffer needlessly. He'll let us know when we're there. Dr. Darling often says, "Short term pain for long term gain". If, for Chad, that long term is just one more summer, well, that's OK. For him, that's all of his time and we value it.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
From Donna: Now that the rainy season is almost over (I think), there are some words of wisdom I have to share with you about feeding in the mud. First, however, we have to talk about the different types of mud.
There is, of course, the semi-wet, mostly dry stuff that may drop off on the floor, but is easily swept up. You can wear just about any shoe or boot and you can be assured that nothing dire will happen.
There is the mud that gooshes and requires a more substantail type of foot ware. It's kind of fun, because it is so squishy.
Then there is the serious stuff. It comes in two types. There is watery ooze that when you step in it it's OK if your boot is high enough. You can step sink, step sink. No problem unless you want to move quickly or hope to keep your pants dry.
The BAD stuff is gooey, sticky, deep, and devious. One step is OK and then whooosh you are sucked in to your kneecaps and there is no moving forward, unless, of course, you strain too hard and land on your face. Occassionally, the backside hits first, but usually it's a face splat.
Now, here is the advice.
Go out to feed in a good mood. Be ready to laugh at stuff, especially yourself.
Expect to have fun. Do not expect to stay clean.
Expect that every piece of clothing from pants and shirts to socks and underwear will be stained with mud.
Expect that your socks will come off inside your boots, just before you become bogged down and have to step out of your boot and into the mud to get it pulled free.
Expect that when you step off the tractor you will sink to your knees and at that moment the calves will come bouncing up to give you sandpaper kisses.
Expect that when you go to put your knife back in your pocket it will fly from your hand, land under the tractor, and sink into the mud. You think about leaving it but can't remember if it is closed, so you must goosh around, while standing on your head.
Expect that sometimes the tractor will quit and not restart when you are at the farthest point from any turn out and you will have to hand carry all 34 flakes up the muddy hill to the critters.
Expect to slip and slide and get fairly good at navigating slippery rocks. No one gets really good because when one gets too cocky the rock moves and the slipping and sliding becomes a wild arm waving balancing act- usually resulting in a person-mud interaction.
I have found it is best to remember to close your mouth as you head for the mud. I'm not sure of all the nutirents in the mud-manure mixture, but I can tell you it doesn't taste good.
Expect that when you go out after a cloudy day the heavens will open, soaking you to the bone. It will continue to pour until you pull in the drive after feeding everyone. The sun will then peek through.
Expect that the horses, donkeys and mules will expect you to be there rain or shine, mud or dry. Their expectations and trust make all the mud and goo worthwhile.
From Jim: There are several recurring comments we hear pretty often. The most frequent is "We really like or appreciate what you do". Thanks for that. It's a nice affirmation that we're not viewed as totally demented by everyone. Actually, it's humbling to have our work acknowledged by other caring folks and it does mean a lot to us. We also hear, "I didn't realize there was such a big problem with unwanted horses". That doesn't surprise us. The plight of horses in our modern society is not very well known. Part of our mission is to make this issue more generally understood and to work toward lasting solutions. We share our beliefs about responsible ownership, breeding, and good practices regarding care and training. We have tried to be a resource to the horse community and we've certainly received a warm welcome from many folks. We hear, "How do you afford it? Isn't it really expensive?" We work very hard to raise the necessary money. We are so grateful that folks make donations and support the thrift store. We hear, "I wish I was wealthy and could give more!" All of our gifts are deeply appreciated. When someone donates, no matter what the amount, we know they have made a choice to help the horses and that they've sacrificed something to do that. Wow, that's pretty incredible! We hear, "I hope you're getting help. How do you two do all the work?" Donna and I love what we do. We're getting older, but we're used to physical farm/ranch work. Our days have a structure and pattern we find purposeful and comforting. And, yeh, it gets cold and wet, and hot and sweaty, and dusty and muddy. That's part of the deal. We hear, "Why do you do this?" We say, "Come meet the herd and see if you think they don't deserve to live and be cared for". We hear, "Aren't you angry at the people who have abused these animals?" We want abusers held to answer and restricted from having animals. We prefer to use our energy, our life forces, to care for and love our critters. We think it does them more good to be loved, than to have us spend our efforts being angry. There's a lot we hear. Most of it is music to our ears. We hear from really wonderful people that really "get it". We like that! Take some time to love on your critters. It'll be good for all of you!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
From Jim: I know I've told you a number of times that I am constantly learning about the equines that surround us. Sometimes the lessons are small and subtle. Other times, the insights are profound. Quincy was one of the latter. When we got him, he had been through a number of failed adoptions. He had been seized by another county's animal control and placed at another sanctuary. He was the most abused animal we've had. He had been beaten with ropes, chains, boards, wire-you name it. He was covered with scars and sweenies. His hock had been broken from being tripped by a rope and pulled off his feet. As horrible as his physical injuries were, his psychological wounds were far worse. He would shudder and shake when touched. He was in fear ALL OF THE TIME. Quincy is a Quarab-cross of Arabian and Quarterhorse. He inherited a mind that was naturally trusting and quiet. The abuse he was given was a complete betrayal of the careful breeding that gave him a desire to be with our kind. He was shattered. Everyone that had tried to adopt him, gave up because he was unreachable. They had followed the conventional wisdom-round pen, lots of attention, efforts to desensitize him from his fears. Quincy couldn't get across the abyss that had been caused from his horrible abuse. When we took him, we went at it very differently. We put him a herd and let him relearn how to just be a horse. We figured he wouldn't do too well with our kind until he was OK with his own kind. One year, two years, three years passed. I asked only that he put his nose on my outstretched hand. This was always done when he was at liberty. It was his choice alone. No pens, no restraints, no ropes-just Quincy and me. Slowly, he began to stretch his neck toward my hand and eventually made very brief, tentative contact. He would recoil back-eyes wide, head up, ready to wheel and run. We caught him up only for vet care. Put him a stall, sometimes took an hour to quietly get a halter on him. Funny thing was, one haltered, he was a perfect gentleman, even in his state of near panic. That quiet peaceful mind was in there still. Well, the years have passed and Quincy now gets petted regularly, expects it. He catches you and wants attention. He has defeated his demons. He still carries scars, but not as many. His hock is huge and always will be, but it works fine. He can get spooked, but not much more that any other horse. His eyes are soft and gentle. He has a place in the lower herd and many friends. His days are good. He's at peace and in good health. His resilience, and will to get well, his capacity to move on and make a good life, his unwillingness to feel sorry for himself, his loving peaceful ways-There's some lessons! Quincy will live out his life with us. He's home, at last. He has helped make this Home At Last. His lessons to us have helped us deal with other critters. He has enriched our lives. He's a good boy.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
From Jim: I was down in the lower turnout, day before yesterday, to cut some firewood. It really is strange to be cutting firewood in April, but we have a big storm on the way and it's supposed to get colder for a few days. Well, anyway, while I getting the chainsaw and all of the other "wood-cutting" junk ready to go, Navaho (AKA Navvie), Smoke, and Stoney showed up. These boys are Quarterhorses. They are all around 14-2, 1050 lbs, and stout. They've got big round rumps, massive shoulders, and nice thick necks. They are gentle, quiet minded, and kind. Smoke was being trained up as a reining horse. The trainer pushed him too hard, too far, and he was too young. Bowed a tendon, and learned to dislike and mistrust people. He was scared to death. It took about a year of careful, gentle work to get him settled. The bow healed, but left a cosmetic lump on his foreleg. He's sound and peaceful now, but sure needed to get out from under the situation he'd been in. His papers are overwhelmingly good. Three Bars line. It's nice to be able to pet Smoke on the neck and have him doze off. He's a good boy. Stoney came to us really lamed up. His front feet were so sore it was thought he might have some really serious injuries or disease. Turned out he had been run really hard, day after day, on a gravel driveway. The small stones had been driven into the soles of his feet and were completely buried in the tissues. Brian dug seven rocks out of his front hooves with a screw driver and a lot of patience. Some antibiotics and bute carried him along till he could heal. He quickly returned to soundness and hasn't had another problem. Can you figure out how Stoney got his name? Navaho was rescued from a dirt lot. There had been three horses there. Two had starved to death. They were laying there, dead. Only Navvie was left alive. He was a yearling, stunted and poor as a snake. He had no love of people and had never been taught a thing. With a lot of extra care, lots of good food and some supplements, and a patient hand, he overcame his rough start in life. He's a big ole boy now. Got his size and his gentle mind back. He expects that he'll get petted whenever you're around him. So, there's the story of three young, nice horses that were given some pretty bad cards and overcame all of it to be the wonderful Quarterhorses they always knew they were. I guess it would be easy to spend awhile being angry with the ignorant fools that messed them up, but I'd really rather use the time to love on the boys. And, yeh, I got some firewood cut. Not as much as I would have, if the boys had left me alone. I'm sure glad they didn't. It was a nice afternoon.
Monday, April 9, 2012
From Jim: Home At Last is an expensive proposition. The upkeep of any large animal is costly and we have a bunch of 'em. Thanks to Home At Last Thrift and Gift, it's not as hard as it might be. Folks that shop there are significantly benefiting the the herd. The change that gets dropped in the donation jar adds up too. The items that are donated to be sold play a real part. Altogether, shoppers, donors, contributors, and volunteers are making a difference. At the sanctuary, we're pretty focused on what we do. It's easy for us to forget all of the efforts that are going on. The day-in and day-out energy that is given to keep this special place going is amazing. Everytime we visit the store, we're so impressed with the enterprise that bears the sanctuary's name. If you haven't stopped by, even for a look, I hope you will. The folks that work and volunteer there are wonderful and really nice. If you have some "stuff" to donate, take a few minutes to drop it by. And, you never know when you'll find a real treasure as you review the offerings. It's been pretty overwhelming to have such a significant commitment from so many great people for the support of the critters. I hope you know how much we appreciate it. Without the efforts of so many, our herd wouldn't have a home at all. Now, they are home, at last! Thanks!
Sunday, April 8, 2012
From Jim: Easter! Spring! Renewal! The Spring is my favorite season. I love the soft colors and the new life that's all around. It's the time to cut hay and put it up. It's when the chickens get serious about hatching some new peeps. It's the tail end of the cold, but not blazing hot. There's a promise of another year in the air. Here, we often lose a number of our seniors in the Spring. They hang on through the winter and come to their end when the weather is better. We've come to expect it and I will never like that reality. The Spring is when our last gift of kindness gets asked for the most. We're blessed to be able to be here for our great residents when their time comes. The cycles come full circle. It's also what Spring means for us. The beginnings and endings touch edges as they should. We are a part of that. There's a very spiritual aspect to these Spring moments. Many feel that there's not much to support a spiritual part of the living experience. All of us living things are simply biological computers, supported in biological body. And that's it. I'm not able to agree. Without something more, much more, life would be a painting without color. The sharing of time and connections with living things are so much more than simple computations and stimulus/response behaviors. There is a part of us and all critters that transcends that. The Spring seems to make me especially aware of this, and that's another reason I love this season. We bumble along, getting through the days, and taking so very much for granted. The times when we appreciate the wonderful gift of life and a life well lived are truly special and profound. Why we are so blessed, I'll never know. It bends my knees in humility and gratefulness. I wish a wonderful Spring for all of you. Happy Easter!
Saturday, April 7, 2012
From Jim: This morning found Toby in the front yard, selectively destroying all of the emerging plants. His sense of landscaping is pretty much limited to eating it. He's been asking to be let our in the front with Juan and Chad for the past few days and finally took matters into his own hooves. We love our Toby boy. He's a Kiger mule and strikingly beautiful. His primitive markings are truly outstanding. He's also full of personality. When he arrived he was a wildy mule-never had been taught anything. He came with Tango and Tawney. They're curly mules. All three had been rescued after being abandoned and left to fend on their own. Because of their lack of training, they were deemed unadoptable. Toby decided, in his best mule-like way, that if no one would train him, he'd do it himself. He found a way through the fence and in with the Backyard Bunch. He let it be known that the mule was open for business and in need of lots of pets and attention. His level of trust was a real surprise! He's a young guy and still has a lot to learn, but there's no doubt that he's willing and gentle of mind and spirit. I think that's from the Kiger side of the equation. One of the joys of the sanctuary is the opportunities that critters like Toby offer. This little mule has fulfilled his need to be a pet by his own determination and through his own efforts. Where that need to be with our kind comes from I'll never know or understand, but I sure enjoy it. Toby may wreak havoc with the yard and show no respect for the fences, but he lets us know that he loves us and that he's home. That's more than enough. We really do love our Toby boy.
Friday, April 6, 2012
From Jim: That old saying of not looking a gift horse in the mouth has to do with aging a horse by it's dental development. It's pretty accurate if you know what you're looking for up to about 20 or so. After that, the markers you look for are pretty much gone or amorphous and the guessing game gets sort of vague. That's not what this blog is about. This is about making sure your horse's teeth are able to do their very important work so that the animal can stay healthy and flourish. Used to be that the grit that was part of the grazing/eating process ground the chewing surfaces down and usually kept sharpies and points from developing. Also, horses didn't have the kind of care they get now and didn't live as long. They were usually still erupting teeth when their time came. We now see horses that have worn their teeth to gum and can only get by on sack feed. These guys are late 20's or older-sometimes a lot older. Genetics plays a role here. Some horses get really good teeth. Breeds like Arabians and Barbs will generally have good teeth. Same with some of the older Quarterhorse lines. Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods, not so much. There are, of course, individuals of all breeds that win the tooth lottery or get the booby prize. That's why you have to look at their teeth-often. They will fall off their weight pretty quickly if their arcades are sharp and causing cheek abscesses. Sometimes their occlusion is just out of shape and they can't grind roughage properly. A good float by a vet will always cost a lot less than the wasted food and health issues that bad teeth will create. Points and hooks and waves and the occasional abscessed or fractured tooth all need to be addressed by a Pro. This is not a good do-it-yourself project. Way back in the day, when I was an apprentice farrier, we did the floats, rasped by hand, used a rubber jaw block and a lip twitch to get the advantage over the critter, rasped away till the hooks were flat and called it good. Wolf teeth were clipped off with the hoof nippers. That's how it was back then. It was hard on horses, hard on us, and, though it helped, it was nothing compared to what a trained vet can do now. I guess knowing the difference makes me especially sensitive to why it's so important to get it right. Forty some odd years has seen some real improvements in the care of equines. I'm sure glad for that. I suppose the critters are too.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
From Jim: Today Rico and General got their wings. They were good horses. Rico was a Thoroughbred, tall and graceful. He had a wonderful personality, a great sense of humor, a true charmer. He had been placed at Home At Last by a loving owner that wanted him to have a safe and secure retirement. His performance days had ended and he needed to just be a horse. He was in the upper herd. His best friend was Pedro, another T-bred. They were quite a pair. Rico was fairly young, early teens. About two months ago, he began to lose weight and started looking poor. We had the vet check him out. His teeth were OK and his blood showed only one abnormality-one generally associated with starvation. Rico was eating regularly, but we stalled him and poured the feed to him. His appetite was good, he ate well, and he continued to fail. He had a lump on his forehead, not a traumatic injury. It was a tumor. Rico had a very aggressive sarcomic cancer(Dr. Darling says it very rare). There was no treatment or hope of a cure. The mass doubled in size in a week. Rico lost more weight in that week than full starvation would have caused. We gave him the last kindness we could. It's really hard to see these great beasts suffer and fade. Better to provide them a peaceful and pain free end. General was a rodeo horse. He was too old to work and was in a pasture with his friend, Harley. A dear friend of Home At Last had the two boys moved here for their retirement. Harley is younger and he'll have some more time with us. General had reached that stage in the equine life cycle where he could no longer absorb nutrition. He was eating well and starving to death. We've seen this so many times with our very senior critters. It was time for General to rest and no longer grow weaker each day. We are so grateful that he had the time with us. He was a good boy. I often say that these animals are the very best they know how to be each and every day. If they could be better, they'd do it. I believe that. We face hard decisions about our friends so often here. We have a sad place in our hearts when the time comes to see them off. It's such a privilege to get to know them and have them be a part of our lives. Fair winds Rico and General! See you in a better place.
From Jim: The sanctuary has had a month and a half of really nice support. Since our local paper wrote an article about Home At Last, donations have just about covered the feed bill. The thrift store has been contributing toward the vet bills. We're still having to dig into our our declining retirement account, but not as much as in the past. That means the herd is able to be sustained. That means they have a lifeline. We sure have appreciated it. There's a constant and unending need for support. The animals' needs don't go away or diminish or "get paid off". They are linked to their lives. We're not a rescue/rehab/rehome operation. Our critters, for one reason or another, are not adoptable. They're also not ready to die. They just need a place to live and be cared for. Around here, everyday of life is a good day. The future needs to be accounted for in our thinking, but can be a little much if pondered all of the time. I suppose you could say faith has a lot to do with our outlook. We trust that our supporters will hang in there with us and their numbers will grow to meet the needs of the sanctuary. The scale of our efforts is pretty much fixed by what Donna and I can do in a day. Seventy to eighty critters seems to be the limit. There's certainly many more unwanted horses, but we have to focus on the herd we have before us. We have to sustain them with your help. We are getting on towards 70 now. The years have slipped on by. We still enjoy everyday and the work that fills them. We also recognize that we won't go on forever. We have and will plan for the security of our critters. Their future mustn't be dependent on us alone. Home At Last is a small partial solution to a huge problem. The need to provide for unwanted animals of all sizes is nothing new, but it sure is hard on the critters when we, as a society, don't pay attention to it. We hope others will be inspired to adopt and foster rescue animals. We are humbled by the great folks we've met that are working so hard and making sacrifices to help our fellow creatures. We share this world with them and they share it with us. We sustain them and they sustain us. What kind of world would it be without them? What claim to humanity would we have if we ignore the life around us? Thanks for your sustaining effort. Thanks for your humanity.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
From Jim: Every so often someone asks us why we do what we do. Why have you "dedicated" your life to taking care of horses? The answer to that is not some grand and noble calling that will earn us a place in the "goodie-two-shoes" hall of fame. It's because of times like the few minutes I had with Cal this morning. Cal came to us by way of Butte County Animal Control. He had been darn near starved to death. When he arrived at the sanctuary, we were cautioned that he was a wild boy, hard to catch and pretty high strung. He had been at the AC facility long enough to have most of his weight back on, but was sure in need of some kind hands-on attention. That was a while back. Cal is a big love now. Comes when called and expects a pet on his ears. He has a lot of friends in the Backyard Bunch, mostly hangs with the other Arabians. He was sunbathing by the fence this morning after feeding time. I went and stood across the fence from him. When he stirred awake, he leaned in for a pet. I advised him he would have to "come close" and, like always, he stepped forward. A gentle nose bump on my extended hand completed the greeting and it was on to some serious ear scratching and T-touches on his neck. Often, Cal will close his eyes and soak up the attention. Today, he needed good solid eye contact. He needed me to softly praise him and let him know what a really good boy he is. He needed to share his peace and happiness with me. So, why do we do what we do? I guess you could ask Cal. He knows. Life gets by pretty quickly. Time passes, no matter what you're up to. The sanctuary is a place where time is filled with precious irreplaceable moments with great souls, like Cal's. I'm pretty sure he, or one of his herd mates, would share with you too. It'll clear up any questions about Why.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
From Jim: We feed 14 bales of hay a day. Each bale runs about 135 lbs. We feed twice a day, morning and late afternoon. There is always hay laying on the ground when we go out to feed. That's good. Means we're giving everyone enough. There's all manner of formulae and ratios for the correct amount of feed. Experience tells us, feed till they won't/can't clean it all up. After awhile, there's surprisingly little waste. The other big issue we pay real attention to at feeding time is how's everyone doing. Some of our older guys need to be in a pretty non-aggressive bunch or they get driven off the feed. It's a cruel reality that occurs with herd animals. In a natural setting, it helps to insure the survival of the herd. At our place, and for domesticated critters, it's not at all necessary. We are responsible for the survival of the herd, not Darwinian nature. The behavior is hard wired into the DNA of equines, and it has to be managed. Feeding time is also a time to check on our "watch-list" critters. We always have some that are at or nearing the end of their life cycle and we want to insure that their passing is peaceful and kind. There's also time to pet an old friend and share a quiet moment or two with our animals. Sometimes we have a few minutes to work on trust building and overcoming an abused animial's fear. It's really important to see these guys frequently and regularly. The work is constant and not subject to being called 0ff on account of weather. The logistics of having sufficient quantities of good quality food never end. We need to have backup plans for the times when a machine won't start or there's a flat tire or.... The point is, feeding time regulates our days. We plan everything around those hours when the herd will get fed. We have a few trained volunteers who have taken the time to learn the feeding routine. We try to not take advantage of these good folks unless we really have to. Illness? Sore Back? Conflict in Schedule? Well, those things and any others just don't get to be in the way. It's the way of it. Our critters know we'll be there when feeding time comes around. So do we.
Monday, April 2, 2012
From Jim: Boy Howdy! Two days of sunSHINE! It may not have dried up all the mud, but it brightened me up a bunch. There are critters taking naps all over the place. They are basking in the warm sun and dozing the day away. The cleanup work will start around the end of the week, when the tractor has half a chance. Probably ask Larry for a day or two of operator time. Our neighbor Don, will limber up his big backhoe and dig a SIGNIFICANT drainage around the upper barn. The dirt will be used to fill in pads for a few new horse shelters to be built this spring. We're also looking to re-route the driveway for a lot less slope and flatter ground for the gate. Don will do in a day what I would need a month for. Steve will be around when the weather gets better. He had some knee surgery and the wet ground was not what he needed while he healed up. His tracklayer will make pretty quick work of cutting the roads back to grade. We have a nice concrete pad near the front turnout. I finally have the materials to build Dr. Darling the clinic I've promised him. I'll round up Jim H. and Jess to help frame that up. Linda wants her wedding to be there, so we'll leave the siding off and she can have a covered, but open venue for her vows. Brian will be here this weekend to celebrate his and Donna's birthdays. I think they're having Brian's Samoan BBQ chicken on that day. It's a real treat with a super sacred double secret recipe only known to Samoans and those they trust. Brian's one of the latter. Since Donna and I are vegetarians, the recipe will not be sought by us. We will, of course, apologize to the resident chickens, who are also not Samoan. I expect they'll get the bones though. They are not vegetarians either. Margaret will join us. She's anxious to meet Linda's son-in-law, who is also a Brit. Margaret is a vegetarian and not Samoan. She is a Brit, however. We always send a few of our horses to Margaret's for the summer. At 85, her daughters don't want her feeding during the winter anymore. On the other hand, she can't stand to look at her empty pastures. I think she'll have Stuart and Skittles for summer camp this year. So, it's a time for some sunshine and for the friends and neighbors that have blessed the sanctuary with their kindnesses and good hearts. Man! I really needed a few days to enjoy the bright skies and warm days. Too soon, It'll be hotter than a cheap pistol and I can whine about that. But, today, well, today is just a whole lot better than OK.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
From Jim: We've had some pretty nasty weather here lately. Winds over 50 mph and rain in heavy sheets-real downpours. After awhile, it takes a toll. The upper barn, including the tack room and feed room, is completely flooded. Water runs in the back door and out the front. There's about 4 or 5 inches of standing water in the inside stalls. It will take some work to get that straightened out. The T-posts have sagged and tipped on some of the fencing. The ground is saturated to more than 18 inches deep. The roads have started looking like drainage ditches. We live in the Feather River canyon, near Lake Oroville. The canyon funnels and concentrates the storm clouds and highway 70 drains 10's of thousands of gallons of water down our driveway. It makes for flood potential, and we got it this March. We needed the rain and the summer and next fall will be better for having had it, but right now it's a mess. I'll need to apologize to the tractor for what's coming as the clean-up gets underway. I'm pretty sure the sanctuary will be closed to visitors for the next few months while we get repairs taken care of. Some of our young volunteers will have a very limited experience until I can make certain that they will be safe during their visits. This is not the first time we've had flood damage, but it might the worst we've had. One of the frustrating things about it is that you really can't get to work until the rains slow down and the ground firms up a little. The tractor can't do much with liquid dirt. Eating soup with a fork comes to mind. Anyway, give us a thought as spring develops. We'll be digging out and fixing stuff.