Monday, May 19, 2008

Daytona's story

It's been a while since my last post because I've been planting or preparing for planting and otherwise occupied with spring chores.

Traditionally the May long weekend (Victoria Day) is the acknowledged doorway to spring, because it's almost always the day that guarantees no frost up here in the north country. So gardeners here all do most of their planting on this long weekend.I've learned over the years to scale back my planting. When I first came here, I was ambitious and planted everything -- annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees.
But the weeds are very robust, and I found I was losing the battle, so I adopted a different tactic -- plant only a few perennials each year, and scale back the annuals to simple potted varieties. It reduces weeding and thus provides more time for everything else.

I went out tonight to get some photos of the two boys who live here, Rustler (Rusty) and Daytona, also known as The Prince of Darkness. They are Dan's horses.

Rusty is the oldest at 17, and he's a jovial, social bozo. He's quite tall, was ridden as a jumper. He's a quarter horse. (Quarter horses are a breed created for working with cattle. They are named that because they can sprint a quarter of a mile, and their speed and ability to spin quickly on their powerful hindquarters, makes them invaluable at roundup time.)

I asked Rusty to pose but he scratched his ear and fidgeted, and this was the picture I got.

Daytona is also a quarter horse. He has had a rough life until recently. First he was "broke" by a "trainer" whose idea of discipline was to punch and hit Daytona in the face. This has made Day headshy and distrustful, especially of men. Then he was put to stud for 5 years, after which time he was castrated. Daytona still has a stud mentality, by which I mean that he considers himself the leader of the herd, which causes him to need to be number One in a group. If you take him riding with another horse, for example, he will race to be ahead. This requires some remedial riding, and you have to be a very good rider to work with him.

The next unfortunate thing that happened to Daytona was that he had a problem with his mouth. Dan took him to several vets, all of whom found nothing wrong. Then he took him to an equine dentist to have his teeth "floated". (Horses wear their teeth unevenly, and periodically need to have the sharp side ground down so that they can chew properly, this is called "floating"). The dentist found a huge splinter of wood in Day's gum, and also a tooth that was growing sideways into his cheek. The dentist fixed Day's mouth. Without his diagnosis and care, Day might still be living in the constant pain he no doubt endured for many months.

The Canadian Veterinary Association has now imposed restrictions on equine dentistry. Dentists used to administer anaethestic (local, not general) to horses. The Association has made this illegal, and requires a veterinarian to be present at dentistry sessions-- which has made it very difficult for dentists to practice, since they must double their fees to pay for the vet, plus schedule and provide a veterinarian everywhere they go. I might add that vets do not study dentistry per se, whereas equine dentists study it exclusively, and know far more about dental equine health than general vets. Daytona's experience, and the shameful way he was misdiagnosed by 4 different vets is an indication to me that we need equine dentists to be able to practice without interference -- perhaps the Association should simply certify them to administer anaesthetic and stop imposing protectionist measures against other professionals.

Daytona is here learning to enjoy life again. All the anger and tension that he has absorbed from humans made him an unhappy and unwilling horse -- we are trying to show him through gentleness and consistent behavior that life can be enjoyed and that human companionship can be worthwhile. We make progress, though it is slow, and patience is required, since we are undoing years of abuse and ill treatment. Our latest breakthrough was when Day learned that he could communicate with me, or rather that I would listen to him. It helps create a bond since too often animals exist for humans as targets of communication -- that is, all communication is one way, from the human to the animal. Do this, do that, sit here, go there. They are expected only to listen to us, not to express themselves. It makes a difference to them if they can tell us things in their own way, and we comprehend and act on it -- even if it's just "scratch my ears" or "please may I have some of my favorite food". They become less like prisoners and more like friends.

And last but not least -- here is Miss Miranda in a contemplative mood while out on our walk. There is a 20 acre stand of aspen and poplar on our place, and in that area is a singular black spruce tree. We call it the "coyote tree" because coyotes like to lunch and gather under it. We find lots of evidence of their meals there, and sometimes antlers of deer who go there to shed.

Miranda is here just walking toward the coyote tree. See how her brindle coat is camoflaged against the willows and dogwood.

And finally, here is a grain augur that was abandoned in my middle pasture. The label says "SPEED KING", Dodge City, Kansas.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Darling Buds of May

Here's an update on Flame, the little llama boy that was born last December in minus 30 C.

You may recall that I had gone into the barn one night for no apparent reason (I think I was checking to see whether or not the night light was on), when I found a shivering little boy still covered by his caul, sitting upright on the barn floor.

His mom, Rosebud, is the oldest female I have, and although I suspected she was expecting, I had no idea of the actual date, because her pregnancy was quite unplanned. At least by me. You can't leave even a woolly llama out in -30 temperatures, so I picked up the infant and carried him into the heated shopfront of the barn, lay down some straw for him, and turned up the furnace so that it was about 5 degrees C. His mom joined him and they stayed there for a few days.

I worried that he may have been frostbitten. It was hard to tell how long he had been there -- he was sitting upright rather than lying down (they are born lying down, and gain the upright position after about an hour), and he had the by then crispy membrane still on him. So possibly he was there for a few hours. In any case, frostbite shows up in calves as bites to the ears and frequently the feet. Calves who are frostbitten often lose their feet entirely, hence my concern.

I examined little Flame, and his feet looked OK. But as you can see, his ears suffered a little, and he lost the tips. But he nursed well on Rosie, which was a big plus for her because she lost her last cria because it was unable to nurse, even with my assistance of standing it up underneath her.

This is Flame's little cousin, Panda. Panda was born last September, to his mom Tanya, and dad Brown Sugar. Tanya is notable for being the llama that wedged herself between a corral fence and a 1700 lb hay bale in January, also in very cold weather. We had to disassemble the fence in order to get her out, and even after that she would not stand up for over a week. During that time, I covered her with a Turkish carpet which froze into a shell around her, and her little boy Panda stood with her. I was afraid that her milk would dry up, which would not have been a disaster, since Panda was already on hay by then.

But when she finally decided to stand, she was OK, and Panda was nursing within a day. They are both doing well, and Tanya shows no sign at all of her downtime.

Here's one of the projects I'm working on at the moment. It's a summer top that was started in Elann's Esprit, a cotton/elastic mix. This sample will soon be ripped out because it's far too small, since the elastic of the yarn is incredibly springy. I've restarted this yarn in another pattern, I include these photos merely for the edification of those of you who may be trying to work with Esprit.

It's actually a light shade of turquoise, not blue. The pattern was from "Knitting Lingerie Style" which I intend to remake in a different, non-springy cotton.

Although I swatched a sample, it wasn't until I got a substantial piece of garment made that I realized that the elasticity would not work to my advantage -- it was just shrinking back too much. It could be stretched out to the correct size, but it wouldn't hold its shape that way, instead it would sproing back to its smallest size. It also has a slightly crepey (yes, crepe, as in wool) quality which means the stitches do not lie flat, but are slightly bumpy, and therefore the lace has lost definition.

I intend to make a tank top, something that the stretchiness will assist, and I'm making it up instead of following a pattern.
I like the yarn though. It would be great for bathing suits and kids' sweaters. It is very elastic and firm, not like Rowan's Calmer for example. It's far more robust than that. Great for clinging garments, at a gauge of approx 26 stitches/4 inches.