Waiting to See the Other Side of the Wall: Thoughts on Quarantine

I have thirteen open tabs in Chrome. 

One is a YouTube video on body language that I want my students to watch before they start job interviews upon graduation.  We talk a lot about body language (or nonverbal communication) in the business communication course I teach at the local four year university.  But this isn’t about how your body language affects how others see you; it’s about how your own body language influences how you see yourself.  (It’s here if you’re interested.)  

My class site is up, as are emails, and, of course, this page.

The other tabs are mostly tutorials.  I’m trying to learn a new video classroom interface before teaching again on Thursday.  The one I used today was glitchy and silenced some of my students. That is the cardinal sin of teaching in my opinion, and I don’t want it to happen again.

<<<>>>

A month ago, if you had told me that by the end of March I would be teaching from home wearing a nice shirt and flannel pajama bottoms, that I would be officially laid off from my sales job until some uncertainty clarifies, that all of my social activities would be replaced by video conferencing, and that my relationship would suddenly be subject to travel restrictions and social distancing…well, I’m not quite sure what I would have thought.

Even writing it now, I’m not quite sure what to think.

<<<>>>

John and I were in San Diego when everything with COVID-19 went a little off the rails.  We were in California when they shut down the restaurants.  We were at the San Diego Zoo just a few days before it closed its doors for the first time in decades.  We walked through Balboa Park listening as every conversation we passed was about the virus.  I listened as a homeless woman tried to calm a homeless man who understood that he couldn’t get away from it, that they both would likely be exposed.  

We moved up our flight back home, and even so were rerouted in the air from Midway to St. Louis, Midway having been shut down to traffic after an air traffic controller was diagnosed with COVID-19, and they were forced to clear out the control room.  

John and I quarantined for two weeks due to possible exposure.  We thought we might be able to ride out the storm together; his job can be done on a remote desktop, but he was just called back into the office on Monday.  His company, for better or for worse (but probably for worse), has a pretty firm “ass at the desk” policy. 

Pandemic be damned.  

This means that he will be following Illinois’ Shelter in Place requirement in Champaign, while I shelter in place here at the ranch with my critters.  We’re figuring it will be at least 6 weeks, probably longer, until he gets to come back.

<<<>>>

I’ve been running full-blast, trying to improve myself and the farm now that I have nearly all the time in the world to do so.

My head has been telling me to write and exercise and eat healthy, but yesterday I ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s before going to bed.  I didn’t get the stalls cleaned, and that needs to be done, but I didn’t do them today either.  I didn’t work on cleaning out the feed room or the mudroom.  I didn’t work with the animals.  

I didn’t hustle.

Right now, I’m seeing so much content, in everything from my Facebook feed to my email inbox, that is encouraging the hustle.  “Learn Insert Exciting Skill Here“!  Perfect Insert Necessary Experience There”!   

Influencers (what does that even really mean) seem to be encouraging this as a period of self-growth.  They are promoting classes and tutorials and kits and all of the things.  We’re hearing accomplishment stories about all of the accomplishments that accomplishers accomplished during past quarantines.  (Did you know God once created an entire universe during a quarantine?  True story…)

Part of me thinks maybe I should learn Greek and pull out some watercolor paints and figure out how to play stairway to heaven on the guitar.  Probably all at the same time.

Some of you think you’re failing if you aren’t accomplishing something right now.

I get it.  Trust me, I get it.

Our culture determines value based on achievement.  And some of us, especially those of us who maybe understood our self worth based on report cards or sports stats or extracurriculars as children, struggle when we aren’t achieving.  

But our culture isn’t good at factoring in our humanity.  It’s actually super shitty at it.

The truth is, this is hard.  Staying home when you want to go out and see your people takes a toll.  Physically distancing, even inside deeply meaningful relationships, takes a toll.  Uncertainty takes a toll.  Worrying that loved ones might get the virus…worrying that you might, it’s all hard.

If no one has given you permission to just settle in and weather this storm without finding the time to learn to speak fluent French, I hereby bestow it.  (Also, you don’t need my permission, or anyone’s permission, but I know what it feels like to feel like you do.)

<<<>>>

Here’s my advice, if you want it.

Take some time to just be still.  Take some time to let yourself know.

I’ve been working really hard to let myself feel through all of this.  For me, that starts with the heartbeat.  I make a concerted effort to sit (or stand) still, sink into my chest, and hear and feel my heartbeat.  I’m getting pretty good at it.  It only takes me a moment or two now to sink and notice, as I catch that rhythm deep inside me,  that I’m here, right now, living in this body.  I do this in my bed or on my couch or when I’m checking on my horses.  Just pause and sink.  Notice my heart.  It’s our hearts that will get us through this.

I’ve been trying to take walks whenever possible.  It’s easier for me than for a lot of you, I know, with all the wild around me, but if you can, go outside.  Breathe air that isn’t stale.  Listen to the wind.  Deepen your breath.  Relax your shoulders.  Unclench your jaw.

Just let yourself be.

<<<>>>

I felt myself needing a reset the other day, so I wandered out in the field to my favorite pasture to watch the llamas and sit for a spell.  I knew I wanted to stay a while, so I tried to find a quiet place.  I settled in against a gorgeous, old pine tree.

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(How is it that I’ve spent more than half of my life in this place and only just noticed that my back fits perfectly against this curve in this tree?)  

I listened to the wind as it blew through the pines, moving through the top branches and turning them into dancers that perfumed the air like Christmas.  

And I wondered how many of these moments I had lost to the hustle.  

I sat longer, and eventually the llamas took notice.  I watched them as they watched me.  Then I sat as they investigated. 

They are so good at being present.  I have a lot to learn from them.

<<<>>>

If we do “work on ourselves” maybe we can work to stretch ourselves, just a little.  Sink into ourselves just a little.  Gently and without pressure.  Maybe that will make it easier to stand up on our tiptoes, so that we’re able to see over the wall of this thing, this virus, this time, and see that there’s something on the other side.  Or, maybe, if we can’t look over the wall, we can sit against it and breathe because we’ve been taking the time to do that, and because we know that a wall has never been created that doesn’t have something on the other side.

There are so many things I would like to get done right now, and maybe I will accomplish some of them, but I’m not going to confabulate work with worth.  And I hope you don’t either.

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On Depression, Being Kind (to yourself), and Doing Hard Things.

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I was cleaning my third to last stall of the night, the one where my mamas and babies live, when a text came through.  I paused to read it and took a moment to pause in my barn work as well.  

Huh…Dementors…that’s about right.  

My friend and I don’t always talk much.  She’s busy.  I’m busy.  We have three hours of backroads and interstate between us, but we have horses and mental illness in common, plus a long history together, so we do our best to show up.   Whatever that happens to mean on any given day.

Today, it meant talking about the dementors.

I checked my watch, glanced around the barn, and tried to guess how much longer chores would take me.

Cleaning stalls gives me a chance to think, and tonight was no exception.  While I worked through the last three, I thought about my friend and her dementors.  Then I thought about me and my dementors.  (For those of you who don’t know, dementors are monsters from Harry Potter who get inside your head and suck all the joy and happiness out of your world.  If that isn’t a metaphor for depression, I don’t know what is.)  

Maybe it’s something in the air…or maybe depression cycles and our minds are prejudiced towards patterns (think the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon), so I see a connection where there is merely coincidence.

Either way…

2020, so far, has been difficult for me.  Making myself go to the barn this evening took some real effort.  Getting up in the morning has been taking real effort, probably because my “early” sign of depression is almost always an effed up sleep cycle.  (Monday night it took me five hours to fall asleep, even though I went to bed early, completely exhausted.)  I’ve had a harder time focusing lately, been more easily irritated, and am reacting more strongly to things outside of my control.  (Also, my god, I’ve been trying to limit my access to the news, because what in the actual hell?)

These symptoms are my early warning system.  They tell me to start intervening in my own life.  For me, that means yoga, dietary changes, more time outside, more intentionality about my sleep schedule, and, if necessary, therapy and medication.  I guess, in short, it means self-care, of the hard work variety.   After the last week of working to be more intentional about all of that, I started feeling better today, but, as usual, it’s a climb.

<<<>>>

I gave my friend a call once I was back in from the barn.

We chatted.

She started off by telling me that nothing was wrong, persay—and depression can come on without an obvious trigger to be sure–but the longer we talked, the more I realized that she had a lot going on, everything from family issues to work issues to exhaustion, and that she wasn’t cutting herself any slack at all.

I told her about my own depression, and then chugged into my “it’s no big deal, but…” list.  You know, the one that almost always contains one or more items that are actually a big deal?   (Like, in my case, losing one of my very favorite llamas to a choke about a week ago…)

Looking back, I’ve had probably a half a dozen of these conversations in the last month or two, where someone talks to me about feeling overwhelmed or depressed “for no reason.”  Then, with a bit a time and talking, it usually turns out that there are a lot of reasons; we just don’t give everyday life enough credit for being hard.

Let me just put it out there: Life is hard.  Adulthood is hard.  (Also, so is childhood and adolescence and all of the other things, but I digress…)

It’s also good.  But sometimes it feels like the “good” dosing is all off, and we don’t get enough of the good when we need it, or we don’t see it consistently, or we get it in our head that we’re supposed to be happier, or more productive, or less tired, or whatever, and our brains spiral, and we feel off and don’t quite know why.

*Deep breath in…*

I don’t think these depressive episodes happen because something is wrong with my friend or with me.  (Though I do think both of us are prone to this and are deeply sensitive individuals.)

I think they happen because we forget that life, by it’s very nature, is hard.

Instead, we believe the lie that if it’s hard, we must be doing something wrong.  That there are things we aren’t taking “good enough” care of.   That there is fault to find, and it’s with us.

Culture tends to tell us that we should never feel this sort of discomfort, and that, if we do, we need to respond to our discomfort with something or other that can be purchased or consumed.  We spend instead of reaching out.  We suplant connection with consumerism.  We buy a new essential oil or pillow, or we numb with tv, or addiction, or whatever, when in reality we just need to make peace with the fact that things are hard because that’s how life is.

Just in case you need to hear it: Life is hard, not because something is wrong with you, but because life is hard.

Take a beat if you need it.

Reach out, whether you’re sure you need to or not.

Be kind to yourself.

You’re not overreacting.

You’re not alone.

As I reminded my friend tonight, and as she reminded me: Life is hard, but we can do hard things.

 

 

Connection, Moonlight, and Blurry Pictures: I did not want to go to the barn this evening.

I didn’t want to go to the barn this evening.

Not even a little bit.

Not even at all.

<<<>>>

It’s below freezing out here on the ranch.  I woke up to snowflakes meandering to the ground in that slow, spiraling, iconic, movie-snow kind of way.  The sort that wafted through the air, as though exploring a relationship with gravity rather than falling for it outright.

Chores this morning reflected the cold. I snapped two of my llamas into jackets, despite their protests.   I bundled myself more than usual and still felt the sting of the cold, damp air through my jeans.  When I went to fill the horse trough, I found that the hose had been not-quite-correctly drained and had frozen overnight.  I found this out when I turned on the spigot, and the water that couldn’t make it to the trough sprayed out all over my jeans.  I was reminded of this for the next 45 minutes as the water that had saturated my jeans chilled to almost freezing while I cleaned the stalls.  

All of this was followed by something of a hectic day at work, the sort where I find myself correcting my own mistakes with no one to blame but me.

By the time I got home, I didn’t even want to think about the barn.  I wanted to be one of those normal people with a condo and a television, maybe a dog to walk, but, like, a smallish dog, or just one cat who didn’t need to be walked at all.  I wanted to veg out.  Eat my own dinner.  Worry only about my own comfort.  Go to bed without having to venture back into the cold.  Without having to deal with a hopefully unfrozen hose and a 100 gallon trough.

Not to sound ungrateful, because I am well aware that I am literally living my childhood dream, but sometimes, I just want my life to be a little more normal.

<<<>>>

I did not want to go to the barn this evening, so when I did it was begrudgedly.  I pulled an hoodie over my hoodie and a down jacket over that.  I pulled on boots over the nicer pair of pants I had worn to the office, and I grabbed the good gloves.

I marched up the lane mentally calculating the best way to get everything done as quickly as possible.  Feed the ponies.  Feed Sky.  Mix grain for tomorrow.  Close in the moms and babies…and CeCe…and make sure the babies aren’t cold.  Close in and feed the cats.  Check the haynets.  And, of course, deal with the damn hose and trough.

The ponies nickered when I walked in.  I tossed hay for them over the stall.  They were preoccupied with it as I walked out,  a heavy rubber hose slung over my shoulder and dragging on the ground behind me.  I stopped to throw an extra flake to the littlest one who was standing outside looking sad while his friends chomped away at the hay I had thrown into the stall minutes before.   I walked down the lane, connected the hose, and hoped that I would be done with everything else and back to disconnect it before the trough overflowed.  

I bustled through the list, completing tasks by rote that I had committed to memory years ago.  Animals were fed.  Doors shut.  Grain mixed.  Check.  Check.  Check.

Nothing new.  Nothing different.  The same set of chores I do every night. All the while, I wished I was done.  Wished it were going faster.  Wished I didn’t have to do this tonight.

<<<>>>

The trough had filled slowly.  For a moment, I was afraid that it hadn’t been filling at all, that, like this morning, it had simply sat in the trough with back pressure in the line while I had been working, but small ripples in the water assured me that the water level was indeed rising.

I stood watching the water for a moment before realizing that you could hear the ripples as well, that the night was so quiet I could hear the water moving through water.  Maybe that’s when I first looked up.

The full moon shone through a break in the treeline in front of me, as though it had been placed there for the express purpose of illuminating the lane.

All of my outdoor lighting seemed dim against it’s shining.  The ground, dusted with those lazy, almost lyrical, snowflakes from this morning shone out in chorus, pinpricks of light radiating up in response to it’s great glow against the night sky.  The sky itself seemed to transition across it’s own expanse, showing off and shifting in color from azure to velvet black.

My breath caught in my throat for a moment, and I had to remind myself to exhale.

My trough still filling, I decided to walk out into the dark.

Except that the dark wasn’t all that dark.

I wandered down the lane, stopping every few moments to take in another slice of the world around me.  The otherworldly glow from the snow where no tracks had been made.  The silhouette of the pine trees against the sky.  One of my horses, Phoenix, followed me along the other side of the fence, reminding me in his own way that he considers me to be part of his herd.  His gray dappled coat glowed in the moonlight; I could make out his every feature.

I felt utterly and completely connected to the world around me.

I wondered, briefly, how long I could stay out there.  How long would it take for the snow to soak through my jeans if I just sat down in it and watched the night be night?  How long before the cold overcame the peace and silence and exchanged it for discomfort?  I wasn’t sure, but right then, in the barn lane, in the snow, I wish I could stay in the moment of connection and peace.  In the herd.

I can’t do justice to these moments of connection out here.  The moments when time seems to stop for a while and nature reminds me that I am part of a much bigger whole.

My camera can’t capture the light of the moon, and 1000 words won’t quite paint this picture.

<<<>>>

It was the water trough that pulled me back.  It would be full soon.  Water would spill over and make a slushy mess of things.

I walked back, turned off the spigot, and drained the hose.  It seemed like far less of a chore than it had an hour ago when I had to talk myself into heading outside.

I turned around for a moment after that and watched the snow sparkle the light of the moon back up to it, illuminating a path through the woods that is usually invisible during the night.

I didn’t want to go to the barn this evening.

But I went, because it was what I had to do.

Sometimes, doing what you have to do turns out to be exactly what you need.

Miracles and Paradise

Sunday:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

The tune lilts through my head as I look around the house, but while there is probably a tree in the grand hotel, and while friends have been sending me pictures of their trees and decorations, my house…well, so far it’s slightly less than festive.

I know.  I know.  My last post outlined my determination to really be ready for the holiday this year.  I was to have all my shopping and gift wrapping done by now…and all the decorating…and even have cookie dough mixed up and waiting in the freezer for cookie making, ready for my now highly efficient self to commence with the baking.  Instead, I have a tree up in the living room with no decorations (yet), about two-thirds of my gifts purchased and none of them wrapped, and a couple of packages of sugar cookie dough in the cupboard ready to mix up in the next few weeks because really the fun part is the decorating anyway…

And I’m sitting on my couch sipping coffee just now, with barn chores in my near future, realizing that today is the first day all week without anything specific on the calendar.  No work.  No grading.  No event that I signed up for while feeling extroverted that I begin to regret as soon as my introverted brain kicks in again.  I just know this, tonight, John and I will finally decorate the tree…very gingerly with our most durable ornaments that the kitten hopefully won’t be able to break.  

This life is chaos.  Sometimes it’s controlled, and often it isn’t, but, right now, it feels a little bit like Paradise.

<<<>>>

November was more chaotic than usual.

If you follow almostfarmgirl on Facebook or Instagram, you already know about our latest rescue and source of chaos, Miracle Max.

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Max had the dual misfortune of being orphaned at birth and being owned by idiots.  At two weeks old, having bottle fed him in the house since his birth, his breeders decided to put him up for sale… for $500.  

Let me be clear: a two-week old, bottle-fed llama cria is not worth a dollar, especially a two-week old, bottle-fed cria with questionable breeding and no papers, but I digress.

Anyway, the owners put him up for sale on Facebook, commenting that he “loves attention and hanging out with us.  He will follow us anywhere doesn’t matter if we are inside or outside,” and the post was immediately very popular and littered with two sorts of comments.  There were the less experienced people who thought raising a bottled cria (baby llama) would be all sorts of fun. “Oh look how cute he is!!!” over and over.  Then there were the experienced llama handlers who were generally horrified.  My friend, Elizabeth, was among the later group.

Most people don’t realize this, but bottle fed crias are notoriously difficult to raise: far more difficult than a goat or a calf or even a horse (and horses have their own challenges).  The reasons for this are many, including the fact that they need to be fed every 2-3 hours or so around the clock, but one of the big ones is that bottle fed cria are prone to developing Aberrant Behavior Syndrome (or ABS… otherwise known as Berserk Male Syndrome).  When they are inappropriately socialized with people, specifically when they are over socialized or coddled as babies to the point that they fail to recognize the difference between other llamas and people, they basically lose their minds.  The females are bad enough; the males are nightmares.  Bottle raising any cria, but especially a male, is not for the faint of heart, or the inexperienced, or for anyone who is inclined to ignore warnings and make a pet of the poor thing while it’s tiny and extra cute.  (Saying in the ad that he loved attention and followed them everywhere was a huge red flag for how things would go if left in his original owners’ care.)

Elizabeth messaged me the posting and asked if I had room for him.

Did I have space in the barn?  Sure.  But I knew the question was more about space in my life and my head than it was about space in the barn.

The answer, as usual, was no.  And yes.  And no.

I can’t save them all.

Even as I write that, it stings a little.  It reminds me that there’s an invisible line out the door of all the creatures and people whose pain I can’t alleviate.  The world is big, and people are cruel.  I am small.

And yet, I firmly believe that we are sent that which is supposed to be ours, and somehow I always know when I see the creatures who have been sent to me.

I knew when Jiminy’s photo showed up, from Pennsylvania, as he stood in a kill lot waiting to ship to Canada.  I knew when my friend posted Miss Rosie Posie after her daughter found her in a ditch in Texas.  And I knew when I saw this tiny cria.

There is a voice somewhere deep down inside that says, “This one, darling.  This one will hold a piece of your heart.”

So I said yes.

Therein began a two day long saga of getting the little guy home.  The owner refused to take a penny less than $500, telling us that there was a petting zoo that wanted him if we didn’t.  (I  cannot think of a worse situation for a bottle fed cria, or a more dangerous situation for the public, than placing him in a petting zoo.)  Truthfully, neither Elizabeth or I had ready access to $500 to throw at a rescue, not really, but, since I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try, I told her to commit to buying him.  I would figure the money out later.

Later that day, the owner reported that the baby had died.  Rescue off.  Later still, he realized that he had mistaken a stillborn baby on the ground for the bottle baby he had been feeding for two weeks.  Rescue back on.

Two days later, with $500 borrowed from various sources I usually don’t touch, including my hay fund, and an online appeal for help hopefully crowdfunding his ransom and the associated bills I knew would be coming, Elizabeth and her husband purchased the little guy.  They drove him home where I was waiting with a new dog coat, lots of goats milk, a shot of antibiotics, and my little herd of mamas and babies, who were shut in a stall and exceptionally confused.

I saw him and heard that little voice again.  “This one.”

Rescue, like life, never has guaranteed outcomes.  You never know what you’ll encounter. What will come up.  Health issues.  Behavioral issues.  You just do it, because it’s the right thing to do.  Because something in you tells you to jump even when you can’t see the net.

I wasn’t quite sure what to name him until I saw him.  Originally, I had thought “Little Orphan Andy” (for obvious reasons) or “King’s Ransom” (because the $500 we paid for him was basically ransom money), but neither of those names quite fit.  Honestly, it came down to this: I didn’t want his entire life to be defined by being an orphan if I could help it, and, as cute as he is, he is never quite going to look like a “King.”

I landed, instead, on “Miracle Max,” partly because I went in hoping for miracles with this guy (and so far, by the way, I’ve gotten them), partly because Elizabeth and I found ourselves referencing Miracle Max from The Princess Bride during the whole “is he dead or alive” debacle, and, honestly, partly because one of the best dogs I’ve ever known was named Max.  I thought naming the cria Max might invite my dearly departed, dog Max to look out for the little dude from heaven, and dog Max would make an exceptionally good guardian angel and namesake.

I put Max in a dog jacket, fed him straight away with a warmed up mixture of 2/3 goat’s milk and 1/3 water.   His wool felt like spun cotton under my fingers.  He was alert and curious.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.

<<<>>>

John and I alternated feedings that night.  I fed at 11:00 and 2:00.  He got up and fed him at 5:00.  The mama llamas and babies were intrigued, but not yet attached, and I felt bad every time I came out to see him sitting alone.  Bonding with a herd is a process…I thought, watching for signs of attachment.  Starry Knight, my oldest cria, seemed to take to him first.  I hoped the others would follow suit.

Over the next few days, donations began to pour in.  Some from social media followers who I had never met.  Some from dear friends.  Some came in locally.  Some from across oceans.  I found myself in tears more than once as paypal notified me of a donation with a message like “thanks for saving the baby llama.”  People were sharing his posts across Facebook and keeping tabs on his story.  Max, it would seem, had a whole host of fans out there rooting for him, dozens of good people cheering him on from all over the world.

The world is small, and people are kind.  We belong to eachother.

<<<>>>

Within three days, my mama llamas started allowing Max to occasionally nurse.  The babies counted him as one of their own, and I would see the three playing in their pen, the two older boys obviously being extra gentle with their new little friend.

That night, I had concerns that he seems lathargic.  I gave him his bottle before bed.  Gave him another in the middle of the night.  I convinced myself I was being hypervigillant.  Two friends, and fellow livestock people, reminded me that Max was likely to have a lot of catching up to do after the way he was handled for the first two weeks (in addition to everything else, he was also notably underfed).  I slept fitfully, even more fitfully than you get when you have to go to a barn every few hours.

The next morning, I found him in the corner of the stall, almost unable to stand up.

Something was very wrong.

I took his temperature.  94.4.

Very, very wrong.  Part of me wondered if my thermometer was malfunctioning.

My mama llamas looked on with obvious confusion as I ran back down to the house.  They were downright alarmed when I collected Max and put him in the car.

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I drove us straight to the vet, keeping him from standing on the seat with one hand while steering with the other.   (It only worked because he was pretty out of it at that point.) The vet techs ushered us straight into an exam room where we placed Max on a heating pad, covered him with extra blankets, and began running a space heater while we waited on the vet.  Everything we knew said hypothermia.

Max at Vet 1

(This, by the way, is what happens when you try to raise livestock in the house; their system doesn’t know how to handle actual weather.)

I waited until the vet came in.  He wanted to keep him for the day and work on the body temp.  I left Max in the capable care of the vet techs.  He was alert and his temp was steadily ticking up.

I went home and took a nap.  Four days of about five hours of heavily interrupted sleep was taking a toll.  I rested for several hours, checked in with the vet when I woke up, and was told that it looked like I could bring Max home that night.

<<<>>>

Max Riding Home

Max rode home on my lap in the backseat of my sister’s SUV.  He wore four blankets to sleep that first night, and  woke up not only to feed him every few hours, but also to take his temperature.  It dipped down a tiny bit in the middle of the night, but generally held steady.

Over the next few days, I watched as my mama llamas went from sort of adopting Max to fully adopting Max.  I moved them all into my front pasture, which is drier and can be seen from the house, and watched as he fully integrated into the little herd.  (Personally, I think maybe the mamas doubted my ability to keep him alive, given the whole putting him in the car debacle, and begrudgedly took over.)  His bottle feedings decreased the more llama milk he drank until he eventually refused them altogether.

<<<>>>

Last week, I pulled Max’s little coat off of him.  He had outgrown it, playing catch up with his weight after a very rough start.  I watch in the evenings as one of my mamas, Baby, nurses Max and Hardy Boy at the same time.  They both tuck against her at night to sleep.

This one, darling…

Max, for sure, has captured a bit of my heart, but he also reminded me of just how small and kind this world can be, even in the face of ugliness.  He reminded me that, even when one day at a time seems like too much, we always have it in us to do the next right thing.

His temp is holding steady.  He is adopted and healthy and on track to be a normal, non-abberent little llama.  He is a miracle for sure, in every sense of the word.

The world is small, and people are kind.  We belong to eachother.

Max Eyelashes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel cake

A piece I wrote for shelovesmagazine.

Schmida was an immigrant. Jewish. German. A Holocaust survivor. She spoke Yiddish and fed the neighborhood children alongside her own (the way mothers everywhere do.) When one of those children asked her to teach him, she willingly and enthusiastically handed down a recipe that he would later use to win the baking competition at the county fair. A recipe he would later hand down to me. —Cherity Cook

As Cherity makes a special birthday cake for her dad, she can’t help but remember how much immigration has been mixed into our stories.

http://shelovesmagazine.com/2018/angel-cake/

Trees and Sunsets

I am the sort of person who has favorite trees.  I’ve always found trees to be a little bit magical, a piece of the past that roots into the future.  When I was a little girl, one of my favorite trees was the willow tree in our backyard (the namesake of our lane). Now, though I have many trees that I love, one of my absolute favorites is my backyard western pine.

Very few types of evergreen trees are actually native to Illinois.  If you see them here, it’s usually because they were planted, or perhaps their parent tree was planted.  They grow tall and lovely, and can rival the height of the native oaks and maples, but they don’t reach their true potential they way they would if they had rooted in their native soil. Continue reading “Trees and Sunsets”

Writing the truth: on Divorce.

I have a bottle of wine chilling in my freezer.  I will need at least a glass of it to make it through this post.

Some of you have reached out to me since my post on depression, asking why I’m not writing much anymore, why I’ve dropped off of the WordPress radar.   I wonder the same thing sometimes.  Honestly?  I’ve wanted to write.  I’ve had words upon words ready.  Ready to talk about the two horses I’ve rescued since my 30th birthday.  Ready to tell you about the duckings that were hatched by a turkey hen then raised in the house, culminating in this little one wandering upstairs on her own in search of the bathtub.
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I’ve wanted to tell you about the creatures I’ve lost.  The ones I’ve found.  The everyday beauty of life in this little corner of the universe.  I’ve considered writing again about the depression that I’ve struggled with on and off for most of my adult life.  Sometimes the words have seemed almost ready to spill out.

But then I would start writing.

And I would stop writing. Continue reading “Writing the truth: on Divorce.”

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

As an Almost Farmgirl living in the heart of the Midwest, I spend a lot of time thinking about winter.  Planning for the next round of cold begins almost as soon as things warm up in the Spring.  How much hay did I use last year?  How much hay will I need this year?  How much space will it take up?  Should I put up a lean-to shed this year for the horses or can it wait until next year?  (Note: I decided to wait.  I shouldn’t have.)

When most people are watching fireworks in July, I’m stacking hay to last me through January.

…No. Seriously, my last two Independence Day Celebrations looked something like this:

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July 4, 2016

And when most of you are sighing in relief at the first break in the heat in early September, I’m beginning to wonder how long I have until the ice comes and the water spigot in the horse barn freezes.  Weirdly though?  I don’t hate winter, even with all of it’s extra work and required logistics.

Last week, I woke to our first snow of the season.   Continue reading “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”

Depression and Stitching Things Back Together

I spent the other morning holding the lead line of my largest horse, an off the track thoroughbred named Vinny, while our vet quietly sedated him and stitched a gaping dermal laceration on his neck.   It was ugly, probably four inches long, and bloody, a surprise when I went out to check the horses.  It’s his second emergency vet visit this month; a few weeks ago he tore open his shoulder open just about six inches below his current tear.  That, plus another “stitch” visit (for one of my ponies, Slash) has made our vet such a common sight for us this month that I’m beginning to feel like he lives here.

I’m still not entirely sure how he hurt himself. Sometimes with horses it’s like that. You just have to concentrate on fixing the issues even if you don’t understand why there was an issue in the first place.

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Vinny

I watched the vet stretch the broken skin back over the tissue on Vin’s neck.  Vin, whose sedation had him happily enjoying the sound of the color orange, barely seemed to notice the curved needle slowly, methodically, putting him back together where he had torn himself apart.

There’s been a lot of stitching around the farm lately: literal and metaphoric.   Continue reading “Depression and Stitching Things Back Together”

Falling

 

“Oh, I’ve never fallen off…”

She thinks she’s bragging, but the little girl, or teen, or grown-ass woman (or perhaps man) who utters those words in the horseback riding world has failed to read the room.  We are not impressed.  In fact, the polite among us are trying not to laugh in her face.  She looks with at the other riders with expectation, all of us with muck on our boots, sweat under our helmets and horsehair on our jeans.  We, she implies, have fallen, and she has not; therefore, obviously, her skills are greater.  We should accept the inevitable conclusion that she is the superior rider.

It’s almost cute, really…

But we know something she doesn’t.  We know there are only two types of horseback riders: Those who have fallen off, and those who will. Continue reading “Falling”