Monday, May 11, 2015

We've Just Begun

It was time for my three month post-op checkup. I put almost 40 eggs in the new incubator, poured in some and water. We made arrangements for someone to fill waters and watch over the milk cow, horse, sheep, chickens, ducks and dogs and packed for our 12 hr. drive down south. We pulled up just in time to see our son and a neighbor talking out front, while his youngest daughter, 3 yr old Kinley was playing with Evelyn, the neighbors 3 yr old daughter. I climbed out of the pickup with my arms open wide and said “Hey there Kinley!!!” Kinley waved and headed for the house, and Evelyn ran up to us and gave us both a hug. Evelyn doesn’t know us so it started us both laughing.

It was the day before Abby P’s 7th birthday and their other grandparents were also down so we could have a little celebration dinner. I picked up the packages we had wrapped and carried them into the house where Abby ran and gave me a hug, and with a big smile said “Are those for me?”
I told her “No, these are for Kinley.” Her smile disappeared, her arms dropped and she politely mumbled “Oh, ok”. 
Laughing, I told her that I must have misread the names, as it was actually HER name on the packages and she skipped over to the wall to place them where her other gifts were piled up. We had a fun evening, Abby was a charmer and we hit the sack early.

Monday was a day for recovery, as the 12 hour drive down is brutal on my auto-immune issues. I’d been running around like a champ the night before, but apparently some little gremlins had snuck in during the night and beaten me and I woke up sore all over.

TheMan’s mom was in the hospital so it was good that we were down and could go to visit her. We spent about 5 hours visiting with her then after hours of alternately standing and sitting, so I was pretty sore for a couple days. The Dr’s office called my daughter in law’s phone to confirm the appt. while she was at work (we gave her number while I was recovering at their home). She in turn called my son, Cody, who was home from work that day, and he told me. I said “Ha! Well, that’s nice. It would have been a real bummer to drive 12-15 hours and have the appt cancelled!’

Ten minutes later, they cancelled my appt.

Making the best of it, I said, “Well at least we got to be here for Abby’s birthday dinner and I get my hair cut tomorrow, because it REALLY needs it.”
Next morning, TheMan went back to the hospital to visit his mom without me, as I was still hurtin’ and promised to remember to get me to my hair appt by 11:00. He pulled up at 11:30. I look like “Cousin It” and have no idea when or where I will be able to get it cut.

We met a daughter and her family for lunch. Their two boys are wild typical boys, but they have it all under control. It was nice to see the bigger brother so affectionate with his little brother! 

We missed getting to see our oldest son and his family as well as our youngest daughter and hers. It's always so hard when we go down there, as it feels like we are constantly running and constantly driving after already driving 12 hr just to get there. It wears me out, but it's so good to see family.

The last night there, we went to dinner with my youngest son and his family, and our ‘honorary son/daughter’ and their kids, at Shogun’s, a Tappenyaki Restaurant. It was SO much FUN!!! Watching the reactions of the kids was priceless. The chef was awesome, TheMan was a terrible catch, allowing 5 shrimp to fall to the floor, Abby was amazed and Kinley was unimpressed. The other 3 kids had been there before, but still enjoyed it immensely. Ryan sat 1/2 on PapaRandy’s chair and 1/2 on mine, so I opted to stand. The kids scarfed up the food and so did I. It was excellent and a great memory.

 Looking unimpressed....

 But the big flames got everyone's attention, as did the flipping of knives like they were 6-guns and all the other fun stuff...

and everyone got a turn at catching food that was thrown at their mouths...this child with the flip top head did well...

TheMan dropped several shrimp before successfully capturing one, and I apparently spent the night looking either horrified, or looking as though I was melting, even though my face hurt from laughing...go figure. I caught all but one shrimp...except I couldn't close my mouth fast enough and they kept bouncing back out. I guess I have rubber teeth...

The eldest of the kids came back with us for 2 weeks. It has been a pleasure, helpful, and entertaining to have her here. She also has given me incentive to keep getting up and getting stronger, on the less painful days, so she's sort of like a physical therapist in a way...or maybe even an emotional therapist since she's much fun to have around and it's hard to be cranky or depressed with her here.

Having not milked SushiMoo since Sept, right after she calved, I wondered if she'd do ok.  Planning to wean her calf finally (at a ripe old 10 mo of age) I opened the back gate and looked at about 15 cows and leppie calves staring my direction. I lifted up a bucket and hollered "Sushiiiii!" At which point the Maremmas went DIRECTLY to her and followed her up and into the corral. I was astounded, both by the fact they knew her name and that she responded to my call. She was a dream to milk, except she wasn't providing much. Since it is a great deal of work and she had to be dried off by June anyway, we only milked a few times then let her dry off so she can go back out with the others and prepare for her next baby.

Meanwhile, the dogs have kept a close eye on our little guest everywhere she goes, within their realm. They stare while she works with the horse and follow her around the pasture to make sure nothing gets pushy with her.

One week down, only one left. We want to make the best of it. We've done lots and hope to do lots more, then she'll head back home to her family and I'll be home again, only not alone. Because next week, right after dropping her off, I will be picking up my new puppy!

It's been quite a year, and it has only just begun.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Little Sunshine

The weather is unstable, the barometer rises and falls. I slumber in the reclining chair because it’s too uncomfortable to lay down still. I hear the jingling of bells hung on the door, that will someday aid my new puppy in alerting me he needs to go outside, as TheMan comes in from feeding and caring for the animals, as I am still unable to do it myself. He throws hay and checks waterers for my old horse, Mister, the little band of hair sheep and their lambs, gives SushiMoo, my last milk cow her grain, feeds the chickens and ducks and takes care of the band of leppie calves in the corral beyond the high rock wall. I hear the cornflakes bounce off the sides of his bowl as he prepares himself some breakfast, then gives me a kiss goodbye and he and his faithful Scottie head off to work on whatever the ranch needs him to do today. He works 7 days a week because that is ranch life. There is always something that needs doing and cows don’t take weekends off. It’s hard work but it’s a good life. He’ll come back for lunch and then for dinner and if I am not able, he fixes that and does the dishes as well. It wasn’t always like this, I remember working 3 jobs and trying to take care of my family. A few hours a day as a bookkeeper, returning home to ride colts and give lessons, then do his paperwork at night for the small company we started making livestock panels and kennels. Housecleaning, laundry, dinner and dishes were always needing attention with four kids in the house. He always pitched in to help where he could. Now things are different. I have so much I want to do, but cannot. One of the hard things about this disease is not knowing from one day to the next if I will be able to function. I’m grateful for my new knee and contemplate the love my family showed me the many weeks I was in their care while recovering as they selflessly fit me into their schedules at doctors, hospitals, home while they all still had to work their full time  jobs and take care of their own children and homes. It is the flip-side of this disease, that I would never wish to be disabled or reliant on my kids, not be a burden, but because I often am, I’ve no doubt of their love. Through my travails they standby and lift me up and rather than bitter because of my pain, my heart is full. 

I marvel at the faithfulness of God and my family to one so unworthy...because I do feel unworthy, unable to do my part anymore, unable to help out, instead always needing. It’s not a comfortable place for me and I don’t do it with the grace of someone like Joni Tada or others whose struggles are greater and more insurmountable than my own. But I am grateful, that He has shown me I don’t have to be worthy to be loved. He promises that over and over, in His book to me, and His work on my behalf, and it is illustrated to me through my family and I am awed, all at once both humbled and grateful.

The sun is out this morning and with some difficulty, I step out on the back porch and hear the call of the mourning doves and the chirping of the smaller birds as they fill their little chests and hearts with the fresh spring air. The ducks watch me covertly (they think...but I can see them there on the lawn, still as statues). 

The warmth of morning shines down from the East and I can see the garden slowly coming back to life, with all His promise to me that “Weeping is for a night but joy comes in the morning” 
(Psalm 30:5). The green swordlike blades of the iris have pressed through the rocky soil and will soon bear flowers with falls of bright yellow, purple and one sky blue. The long canes of climbing rosebushes are already covered with small, shiny green leaves as they hide under the tumbleweeds and mustard that always ends up in our yard along the wall after the harsh winter winds. The lawn is greening up again, the fruit trees have flowered and promise sweet juicy apricots, apples and peaches later in the year. I notice a small nest in the big tree by the house,  probably from last year. Amazing how something as small and delicate as a bird can create a nest durable enough to get through one of our winters. Another small miracle. Blue and purple pansies have burst forth in the half barrel by the door from the seeds their parent plants dropped last year and the perennial plants and flowers peek their heads out of the soil, pregnant with promise. 

It's still chilly out so I step back inside and my eye is captured by the few houseplants that helped carry me through a long winter indoors. Even those have been a gift beyond measure, evidence that there is life all around me and it's not all about me.

I peruse the living room, plotting a plan of attack, should my body allow it. The dust lies thick on the furniture, both a result of neglect and living on a ranch in a 100 yr old house with windows and doors that, while still closed, will generously allow the wind in to blow my hair in my face. One of the perks of ranch life is that you never lack something to do. There is always housework, no matter how much of it you may have done the day before, and in the unlikely event it should stay done for a day, there are always the cabins and employee housing the boss’ wife needs help with, since people are in and out of here all the time. But I am tethered to our little old rock and concrete house, at least for the moment. I eye the new dog crate that stands by the sofa and simultaneously feel a stab of sorrow over the loss of my wonderful old friend Cider and a flush of hope over the new puppy that will be coming home with me this spring. I imagine him as he might be, looking forward to teaching him all that I taught Cider and then some, consider the laughter he will undoubtedly bring back into my life and the companionship that will come with it. Soon the hummingbirds will be back and the butterflies. 
Until then, I will rely on my short and infrequent visits from the Maremmas, who warmly give me nose bumps and tiny doggie kisses, moan to show their appreciation as I rub their ears then, quickly satisfied, lay by the door anxious for someone to let them back out with their sheep. 

I opt to fight some of the mats on Mr Potamus in lieu of cleaning house. He always manages to pick up the worst kind of burrs and stickers to wind up in his long fur and become impossibly tangled. It's difficult to attack them with just one hand, but I manage to get most of it done and he lays all nice and fluffy again on the floor which is now messier than before. Better done before the big cleaning than after.

There is much to look forward to, and while waiting, I dance, if only in my mind. Life is good. God is good.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March, March, Step in Time

Those clouds have been causing a little grief. The barometric changes have been brutal on my autoimmune disorders and I'm still not back on the medication needed to prevent damage, but I do go in next week and hopefully, all that will be taken care of. It's hard living on the ranch, or ANYwhere, when it hurts and you aren't very mobile. The great news is, my new knee is doing awesome. I walk as though I had done it all my life...which, of course, I have...but being in a wheelchair for so long, caused so much weakness, I can only stand up for a little while and only walk a short distance before having to sit or I will keel over. I'm not quite the epitome of an athlete that I once was, but oh well.

The Maremmas have been great. As Cowboy Roo is now top chicken, he has all but abandoned his flock of sheep to impress the hens. Because he always went out in the big pasture and grazed with the sheep, he feels quite comfortable taking his harem a long way from the henhouse, so Bru and Potamus have had to be extra vigilant making sure no predatory birds can swoop down to snatch one, as well as watch for coyotes, bobcats, cougars and other predators that commonly appear in the pastures...or used to, until the dogs came to work here.


This is Cowboy Roo following his first flock home, last summer.

and now he has his second flock, which is his harem

Roo watching over both of his flocks...

The lower pasture is quite large. The grass is just starting to green  up but the critters are happy to be out anyway. It is so big you cannot see the critters from here. Both big white dogs are by that large creep feeder, the chickens beyond that, the sheep a bit further and the cows at the far end. Yeah, it's a nice size.

I'm looking forward to getting stronger, making soap and baking again. The ducks are finally laying eggs for me and I am anxious to bake something using them as I keep hearing how much loft it brings using duck eggs. Maybe today I can push myself a bit more, although I'm feeling the aftermath of going out to the pasture and doing laundry, but I'll get over it. I've done more than my share of whining since last summer. It's time to put on my big girl pants and jump back into life again.

I'm very excited because at least one of our grandkids will be coming alone to visit for a couple of weeks. She's 11 and a big animal lover so I know she is going to be an enormous help to me. I can hardly wait to go get her. We will get to see at least a few of our other grandkids as well, as I am having my 3 month checkup on the leg when we go. I think the surgeon will be pleasantly surprised at how well I am doing, as there were so many problems and issues with the knee pre-surgery and he kept telling me how hard he had to work on it, but he did an amazing job and I couldn't be happier with it. It straightens, it bends and it holds my weight. It very nearly moves as fast as my other leg so I am beginning to walk like a pro. Pretty soon I hope to be riding as well. I've been unable to use my right hand since October so I cannot lift a saddle or halter Mister, quite yet...but soon, I hope. That is my plan anyway. I also hope to start milking SushiMoo very soon...just as soon as I am sure I can make it to the corral and back every single day, no matter the weather.

I've not  yet done my blog on Cider as it is still hard to think of him without grieving, but I am hoping to have a new puppy by June. I have an English Shepherd puppy reserved, that was just born last week so I am very excited. It will still be a couple of months, but at least I have that to look forward to and I am sure it will keep me busy and entertained, as it grows and learns what I hope to teach him and we hang out together. Until then, I will keep working at getting stronger every day I can and enjoying all the blessings that have been bestowed on me. Here's hoping you all have a fine, fine April!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

There's No Place Like Home!

I apologize for being very inconsistent in my blogging …but I have finally returned home and am nearly ready to pick life back up where it left off…almost.

After having my knee replaced, I spent the following six weeks living in a reclining chair in my son and daughter in law's home. I was lovingly cared for, my son Cody bringing me coffee each morning he was home and a plate of dinner each night, when he wasn't gone at work, at the picture above. He works about 80 hours a week, so it's a pretty big deal when he's home. My daughter-in-law (known as a DIL, or Krystal, or Laura for the sake of brevity and a swollen right hand) cared for me most of the time. She is responsible for finally finding a surgeon capable of replacing my big mess of a knee. Every day she gets up early, feeds the kids then races off to work at the hospital where she often has to combat someone crazy in order to do her job, but she comes home each evening to help her older little person, Abby, do homework (I was amazed to see her doing "would, could, know, knee, too, two, to and other trick words in first grade and properly applying them. Most adults aren't that literate these days. I was still a year away from "See Jane Run" when I was in first grade) fix dinner, run two girls to gymnastics, find cuddle time with the very little person, do the dishes, the laundry and get them both showered and into bed…then add me to the mix! My oldest son drove an hour and a half one evening to deliver a care package to help my very upset stomach as I could not eat or keep anything down for days. The care package was lovingly packed by my other DIL, Laura who had just had surgery herself.  Later, when I was a bit better, she drove an hour and a half EARLY in the morning through Tule Fog to take me to Dr appts…TWICE! I don't think I would have done so well without the love of my family. They are the absolute best.

Aside from the fact that they live in the city (in a really nice house) with a "drummer" next door, and I say that loosely as he apparently only knows 3 beats and plays them over, and over and over, day after day after day, a garbage truck that sounds like hurricane force winds and no critters, not cows, chickens or even dogs, it was a good time. The little people entertained me and my almost constant companion, (along with the sitter) 3 yr old Kinley, placed pillows under my leg, brought me ½ glasses of water (so it wouldn't spill) and shared her popcorn and, unfortunately her favorite cartoon with me…several times a day. (I believe I can probably recite every word of Garfield and Micky Mouse clubhouse in my sleep) She is quite taken with TheMan, otherwise known as Papa Randy. He just sits on the couch staring at the TV while she chatters at him and leans against him, and this has won him the highest esteem. Everyday I heard "I like Papa Randy, I LOVE Papa Randy" and so on and so forth. Once he returned to the ranch I assumed it would be MY turn to be popular. One day I told her "Kinley!" She answered "What?" I said "I love you!!" and with a sweet smile she looked at me and said "And 'I' love Papa Randy!"

Another day, Krystal took the girls and I for a pedicure. I was having difficulty getting into the chair and the lady asked "Are you all right??"
To which the older little person replied "She IS 59!" As if that was the root of all my problems. I couldn't stop laughing long enough to get up! I love the way these guys think. The first time I walked without a cane, the littlest little person screamed "LOOK AT GRAMMY KIM!!! SHE'S WALKING!"

I thought "oh, how sweet that she is happy for me!" Then she said "Now she will call Papa Randy and he will HAVE TO COME DOWN!!!"

It was a lot of laughs, a lot of love and finally the Dr told me I could come home, milk my cow, ride my horse when I felt ready and go see the surgeon in 6 more weeks. I missed TheMan and the Maremmas something awful. All the new lambs were born in my absence and the dogs took care of them.

The dogs are great about not only keeping the predators away, but if the ewe doesn't mind, they will often help dry the baby carefully and watch over it while she delivers a twin or triplet. The lambs often cuddle with the dogs or play on or around them and the dogs accept that with grace and patience. There were 7 lambs this year from 4 ewes. One ewe did die from unknown causes when her ewe lamb was only a couple of weeks old so she is on a bottle now. I look forward to going out and watching them play.

Sushimoo is back in and we will be weaning her very soon. The calf will go with the other young calves and I will be milking Sushi. It's been far too long since we have had good raw milk and buying milk products just bugs me no end. I  can't wait to make mozzarella and cream cheese, more ice cream and of course homemade butter!

The hens and ducks are laying eggs and I can't wait to start baking with the duck eggs. I keep hearing how wonderfully light and fluffy baked goods are with them! We'll be eating a lot of egg dishes, as we now have 66 eggs and this far from town I can't exactly gift or sell them.  The ranch cows will start calving in a month or so and that always means leppie calves, so I will be bottle feeding again as soon as my leg and back are stronger. I am looking forward to this spring and summer as I have high hopes for it!

I have a long road to go, but I am on the right road now, healing and getting stronger everyday and it is my hope that I can do all the things I am able to do, and can find a way to get around those things I can no longer do and have them done. Spring will be welcome here, as I am ready for flowers, and color and grass and butterflies. The drought has been just terrible here so we won't be putting the pasture in like we had hoped, or the new fruit trees yet. Maybe next year it will end and we will have a better year.

For now, I will be grateful for all He has done and know I can count on Him for all He will do.

The Ranch Rustics store on Etsy is open again. I will be making and curing soaps and adding them to the list as they are ready to sell. Whipped Tallow is available in Cool Water, Lavender and Bergamot Sandalwood fragrances. Custom fragrance can be made for a small additional cost. Soy wax tarts are available in a variety of fragrances until it gets too warm to ship them.

God bless all and thanks for stopping by!!


Thursday, February 5, 2015


For those of you who have been patient enough to follow along with me this past few months, thank you. For those who are new, I’ll fill in as briefly as I am able.

Living out here on this magnificent ranch, working for a fantastic family is a life dream come true for us. Unfortunately, there is also a side of nightmare thrown in, for variety I suppose. I was diagnosed with multiple auto-immune disorders shortly after moving here which quickly changed my life from daily riding and finally getting to have some fun chasing cows around to facing challenges and chasing my sanity. Thirty years of breaking and training horses and teaching horsemanship to kids and adults competing on the show string became a distant memory as strength and balance challenges took the place of quick reflexes and above average strength. It manifested itself in most inconvenient ways, with less than desirable outcomes. Having a large gelding I purchased to finish out and use on the ranch spook and run up behind me was one of the first incidents. He hit me like a freight train from behind as instead of nimbly stepping  aside as was my usual response, I froze. He launched me several feet and cracked my collar bone, so I had a great deal of pain and stiffness to deal with from that. Shortly after, unwilling to give up riding and doing stuff, I muscled my way up and rode out to move some cattle with the kids. There were some pretty nasty sloughs in the large field we were clearing and not knowing my way around yet (with 250,000 acres to ride, I still have no idea where I am half the time) I wasn’t sure how to get over where I wanted to be. One of the boys rode past me and without any problem, dashed across the slough just ahead of me, so I naturally assumed it was a safe place to cross. 

Pitch, my big, black gelding, and I, must have gone just inches short of the safe footing and found ourselves immediately sucked down into the mud, both my stirrups underwater. Pitch was a big strong gelding and was fighting violently to break free of the quicksand-like muck that was holding us captive. The worst case scenerio would be for me to fall off and have him push me under so I reached up with my right arm and grabbed ahold of some mane while maintaining hold of my reins in my left hand. He finally broke free and lunged up the very steep embankment on the other side, snapping my arm out of the socket. I cracked the bone, broke a piece of the cartilege surrounding the ball joint which went behind the bone making it impossible for my arm to go back in the socket and to add insult to injury, I also had 3 good tears in my rotator cuff. I found this out 3 weeks later after trying everything to reseat my arm in place, googling everything I could find about setting a dislocated shoulder and having TheMan push and pull around on it each night, per that days instructions, to no avail. So, one surgery and 9 months of truly painful recovery later, I finally found myself able to ride again. 

Pitch was never sound again after our event, so I was borrowing a horse from the current cowboss. I had a not-so-little greenbroke mare by this time, who was a pistol. I was riding Wimpy, the cowboss’ horse and ponying Breezy, my mare, the three miles of long trotting to the processing corrals where we were going to separate some calves. She had bucked me off a couple of times so I wanted to make sure she wasn’t ‘fresh’. I was told by the surgeon to be especially careful of my shoulder. It was foremost in my mind after I saddled up Breezy and stepped on and she broke in two, snorting and heaving like a rodeo bronc, doing her best to (successfully) unload my carcass on the frozen and rocky ground. This broke all my left ribs in the front and punctured my lung. After a long, uncomfortable drive down 50 miles of dirt before hitting the paved highway for the rest of the 2 hour drive to the nearest town and hospital, 3 weeks later found me being raced to emergency surgery in Boise to save my lung. All was well, but it was another year of healing before I could ride or do much again.

All this kept me from my normal pursuit of riding every waking hour so I was forced to branch out and learn some new skills. A great deal of research went on that year and as I became more ambulatory, I started doing and making some of the things I’d been researching. New recipes were downloaded, sewing patterns were purchased, crochet patterns were downloaded as I worked to recover that skill I had set aside 30+ yr earlier. I became more serious about trying out soap making.

Being 4 hours from the closest town with decent grocery shopping, I begged TheMan to buy me a Jersey cow for Mother’s Day...well, actually it kind of looked like this...
(That Mother’s Day)
Me:  “I need you to hook up the trailer and I have to charge the GPS and find out where Vale, Oregon is. I’m picking up a Jersey cow. Gosh honey, how is it you always know the perfect thing to get me?”

TheMan: “I’m not sure but its a heck of a lot easier since you got a laptop”

So, along with my new little Jersey cow (DollyMoo) I began milking, making butter, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, ghee, mozzarella, ricotta and other dairy products, thanks to the excellent sources on the internet and the ability to buy and ship online. This took up a bit of my free time when I wasn’t riding. We already had a couple of goats and chickens but because of predators it wasn’t safe to let them graze or out unsupervised so we got the Maremma Livestock Guardians, Bru and Potamus. They have been a very big part of my life, as have the little hair sheep we now raise, which they protect.

I began raising our own broiler chickens and that became a passion as the meat is so superior in quality and flavor we wound up becoming totally impassioned about eating REAL food. That kicked in my gardening desires into high gear bringing in fresh tomatoes, peppers, corn and squash. All of the available fresh carcasses and veggie leftovers brought me around to making and canning my own organic chicken and beef stock, which led to canning the surplus from the garden that wasn’t frozen, and canning soups, stews, chili and other meals for convenience because now my quest for filling in free time was becoming time consuming. Fruit trees and berries went in as well.

Once I ‘haired up and healed over’ from my wreck with Breezy, TheMan bought Wimpy for me, at a very high price, but since he was dependable and a mere percentage of what my hospital bills were costing we decided it was a deal..and it was. It was also timely, as my left knee had become so painful I could hardly walk and I wound up having a total knee replacement that October. That year, I was still riding enough and was active enough that in spite of early complications, I was riding Wimpy 6 weeks post surgery.

I began having more and more symptoms of auto-immune issues and losing more and more function so I continued looking for things to keep depression away on the days I could not ride. Soap making became a hobby and my success at it after designing my own formulas that became quickly popular among friends and family, it became a business. 

 These are all things that grew out of the ‘bad’ experience of my injuries and illnesses.

That brings me to the most recent.

The end of last August, I awoke one morning with my right knee terribly swollen and painful. I was neither surprised nor alarmed as I have RA and am prone to strange and violent flares like this from time to time. The rheumatologist ordered an MRI and sure enough we had 8 paragraphs of what was wrong with my knee and it needed replacing.
I was getting by with the help of my new walker, courtesy of an online friend who came from North Carolina to stay with us for a week on her vacation.

We had appt with recommended surgeon the following week. The PA for the surgeon went over all the same stuff and said “He can’t get you on the calendar until about March or April”.  This was September!!!! He then insisted on giving me an injection in the joint even though my rheumatologist had already injected it the week prior. Afterwards, throughout the day, I kept mentioning how much the injection site hurt and the knee hurt which was unusual. We walked all through the stores doing our errands and went home.

The following afternoon, my knee was more swollen than I ever thought possible, and was more painful than I can possibly describe. It took several attempts for Randy and help to get me into the truck for the long drive to the emergency hospital. All I can remember is that I could not stop screaming. The pain was off the charts. A day later, after trying to pull out what medication they were able with another needle in my joint, unsuccessfully, I was discharged in uncontrolled pain. Insurance changes (due to the new mandates put forth by the poorly named Affordable Care act) no longer covered me. I was sent home in pain and tears that truly were far more cruel than waterboarding...

I was never able to walk on the leg or bear weight on it after that. I spent 4 months in a wheelchair, going from surgeon to surgeon, dealing with outrageous problems that made and still make absolutely no sense whatsoever, while simply trying to expedite surgery. Due to all the dinging around, extra tests, time wasted n waiting and money wasted in multiple expensive trips to medical centers, my family finally stepped in and solved the issue.

An appt was made by my DIL with a surgeon she works with at a hospital in So Calif. While we were visiting over the holidays. I was then referred to the top knee surgeon of probably anywhere. He specializes in only seriously bad cases and botched surgeries.I was so lucky to get him. It was less than 2 weeks between the referral and surgery and now I am on the other side of healing. It is a long, long road, but I am finally heading in the right direction.

I was to spend a month at an in patient rehab, but none would take me. I wound up being relocated to my youngest son’s house to stay with him and his family and a physical therapist comes in 3x a week to evaluate and work with my leg. The one real downfall of living at the ranch is that I see so little of our family and Grandkids. Who would have imagined it would all work out this way? I had lost my sweet EmmaLouMoo who needed constant care and was left with only SushiMoo as  a milk cow, who can actually go live out on the range with the boss’ cows. My best friend and confidant, Cider, who could not be left home alone, passed away in Nov at the old age of 14. My favorite ewe, Madge, who needed me to pull every lamb she delivered, died last lambing and the remaining ewes all lamb without complications and the Maremmas are there to protect them. It is as if everything, good and bad, came together to allow me this opportunity, and it did.  The Lord often allows us to walk through great pain for reasons unknown, but ultimately He works all things together for our good. This has been another chapter of my life that illustrates that truth.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

B.B.B. (Blessed Beyond Belief)

We spent Christmas in California and got to see most of our family. The scenery between the ranch and Southern CA is incredibly varied.

Nevada sunrise

Nevada daytime

Northern California

 On the trip down, we stopped overnight and stayed with my brother and had dinner with my niece and her family. He told us a story of parking his car at a casino, then not being able to find it when he came back from a trip. After hours of looking, he realized he was at a different casino. I'm glad to know it's genetic and I'm not just weird all by myself.
In California, we attended a family party in honor of my 80 yr old mother in law who is young at heart, had lunch with a sister and Christmas with my oldest son, his family and TheMan's family. I got to make cookies with one of my grandaughters, and watch two of them make a gingerbred house. Kinley said she really likes the taste of the 'glue'.  Strangely enough, one afternoon, the house roof was missing all of its candy on the side Kinley could reach. Abby's painstaking work was all for naught. Each morning Abby would wake me up to tell me what "Chippy" their elf on a shelf had been up to the night before and read me notes from him. She was very sad to hear on Christmas Eve that he was leaving and would not be back until next year. She wrote him a letter and said "You are welcome to visit ANY time".  Not only is she extremely polite, but very hospitable for a 6 year old! It was a really good trip. 

My family who were so incredibly kind to me, while we were down there, have really put themselves out on my behalf.
A few weeks after my leg went so bad on me and I was unable to do much to care for myself, my wrist flared up. I was unable to brush or braid my very long hair and I felt uber-icky so one afternoon I begged TheMan to just cut it off. He obliged me, grabbed a scissor and whacked off close to 13 inches of hair. It left me with a much more comfortable, if not truly ugly, do.  One of my much appreciated gifts was a hair appt to have it repaired so I now am sporting a very short, very comfortable haircut that I can live with and it's no big deal if I can't brush it out much. What a relief! TheMan was somewhat insulted that I didn't fully appreciate his lopsided whack job, but I let him know I did appreciate the effort and there are truly other qualities he possesses that make him valuable.

Kinley, our 3 yr old granddaughter, has not seen us much, as we all live so far apart, so she has always been a bit standoffish. This trip, on her home turf and so soon after their visit here, helped break the ice. She is a puzzle wizard and while doing puzzles on my laptop with me, she continually told me "I like Papa Randy. Do you like Papa Randy? I really, really like Papa Randy…a LOT"   She spent as much time as possible either sitting next to him, or on his lap. I think she might be warming up to him.

 Our DIL  got me an appointment with a surgeon she knows from the hospital she works at. I was amazed as she spoke to him on Friday and we saw him first thing Monday morning. I’ve never gotten in to see any DR that fast, so clearly, he thinks as highly of her as we do. It looks like I will be having surgery, FINALLY, on this leg and will be spending 2 months in California recuperating. About a month will be in rehab at the hospital and the following month, I’ll be at their home. It’s a pretty big deal to open your home to someone, even a relative, (maybe even ESPECIALLY a relative) for such a long time and the fact that I am not able to be much help makes it an even bigger sacrifice on their part. I appreciate them so much and I look forward to having more time to see them and my other son and his family as well. It is a huge gift to me and one that is going to be life changing, considering the problems my leg has been causing and the damage that has resulted. It’s common these days to hear people talk about ‘in-law’ problems, but I find that to be way off the mark. I have both a wonderful mother in law and amazing daughter in laws that I am so very grateful for. Knowing these young women are my sons' treasures is like music to my heart. The boys done good.

This also means I won’t see much of our friend, Afif, this year when he comes to visit. It will be a quick “hi and goodbye”.  We got up early in the morning and 14 hours later were back at the ranch. I’m trying to soak in ‘home’ while I am here, getting in some dog hugs and watching ducks, while I am able, as it is going to be difficult being away for so long, even though I love the people I’ll be with. I’ve just always been a homebody. I’m gonna really miss TheMan as well, as we have never been separated like this before. He’s already missed a lot of work on my behalf so after the surgery, he’ll be headed home to Oregon without me for 2 months. There are a number of old friends, and new friends I've yet to meet in person who might visit and the good news is, I should be back on my feet by April and then I can start on my 2015 bucket list! By the way, thank you to ALL of you who have prayed for me, encouraged me and supported me through this very difficult year. I cannot thank you enough and if I failed to get thank you cards out, it is partially due to being so far from town and so immobile, but you have my deepest gratitude.

 I have a few concerns about the sheep, as no one will be here to lamb them, so if there are any problems, there won't be any help for them. I'll just have to hope and pray that these ewes do as well as last year and don't need any intervention. The dogs will at least be here to protect them all.

This coming year I hope to raise more guinea fowl and some heritage turkeys. I also hope to acquire an English Shepherd puppy that will try to fill the enormous gap in my heart and home left by Cider’s passing. I’ll be training it to do both service dog work for me as well as help me to bring in the sheep/chickens/milk cow when they aren’t being cooperative. Mostly, I will have a constant companion again so it won’t be so lonely here. With luck, Sushimoo might still be in milk or I will have to wait until August again, my ducks will be laying regularly and I can enjoy watching their antics while I garden. I have big plans for when this leg is better.

Even though they are outside working dogs, I missed the Maremmas terribly while I was gone, so that too, will be hard. TheMan brings them inside for a few minutes once every couple of weeks or so, to visit with me. Mr Potamus is very bossy and manages to nudge Bruno out of the way where I cannot reach him. He is offended when I try to pet them both at the same time. Bruno, being the easy going guy he is, goes and plants himself on his favorite corner of the couch and snoozes. Meanwhile, Mr Potamus eases his way across my lap, rubbing his head on my chest and making pitifully content little moaning noises while I rub his ears. He is amazingly light for a dog who weighs 120 lb. Both dogs are able to do this, to somehow slither across my lap, keeping most all their weight on their back legs, so I can get a huge hug in and enjoy burying my face and hands in their thick winter coats.

 After Potamus is satisfied with the attention, he lets TheMan know he is ready to go back to work and tend the sheep. As he heads out the back door, Bruno gets up, stops by my chair and patiently waits for me to put my face down so he can give me a nose touch and receive a hug before he too, heads out the door. He waits patiently, for however long it takes me to comply, which I find really endearing. These guys have a way of letting you know how much they love and are devoted to you, without ever being needy. Sometimes, I wish I was a sheep so I could hang out with them more. 

I am painfully low on soap and won't be able to ship any when I am down south for obvious reasons. I may be able to make the Whipped Tallow and Wax Tarts however, we'll just have to wait and see how things progress. Otherwise the store will be closed for awhile.

Here is hoping you all have a fabulous year coming and are BBB. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Handful of Blessing...

Although this past year has been one of unusual pain and loss, it is good to ponder the blessings that were received, as well.

To begin with, this spring we had an incredibly good lamb crop.

It was really satisfying to watch them play and grow and watch how well the Maremmas took care of them, even snuggling at night and sleeping with Captain Marbles, who had been rejected by his mother.
For awhile, he thought he was a Livestock Guardian Lamb…

My big brother came to visit for the first time ever (along with my awesome niece and her super son) and the wild horses surrounded us, making for a really memorable, and surreal experience.

Then, when spring FINALLY arrived, the flowers came back to  brighten up my life…

We raised a successful crop of meatie chickens and a half dozen replacement layers for the coop...

As well as some ducks, which are not only a lot of fun to watch, but will supply us with some great eggs as well.

My old horse, Mister, is still feeling his oats, which is a blessing. I didn't get to ride much, but I hope and pray next year that will be different and I can wear out both horses on a fairly regular basis...

SushiMoo had her first calf, a heifer, and turned out to be a really good mama as well as a surprisingly sweet milk cow. Another big blessing is that she does not require the copious amounts of feed her mother did, or to either be milked out twice a day or have nurse calves on her to prevent mastitis because of high production. She makes just enough to feed her calf and ourselves, if I was to milk her regularly, but this year, obvioiusly, I could not, so other than a handful of times we milked her for our own use, she has been just hanging out with her friends, being a mama cow. 

But, those couple of milkings did supply us with some delicious raw milk and homemade ice cream.

The Bosch mixer allows me to make a lot more bread at a time, and my new slicer makes slicing it up a breeze...

We had a bumper crop of fruit this year, which allowed me to put up a lot of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, apricot and peach preserves...

and enough peaches to can tons of fruit and peach pie filling...

My youngest son and his family came for their annual visit, in spite of my immobility, which went a long way towards helping me feel better.

Abby promptly came in the house and wrote this on the kitchen chalk board:

The girls picked bouquets for me daily, as I was, and still am, confined to the house. They brightened up every table in the place with these...

and this kind lady, my daughter in law's mom, came for the first, and we hope not the last, time this year. She was kind enough to help out doing all the things I SHOULD have been doing, like cooking and dishes, etc. She made it easier for the little one to get used to us, as she only see us 3 days a year, but knows this Grammy intimately. What a neat lady she is.

and grandbaby #14 has arrived safely...

In spite of the pain, there has been much to be thankful for. We were not promised an easy road in this life, only that it would be worth it…and indeed, it is.

*P.S. Ranch Rustics store will be closed from Dec16-30th, as we are going out of state for  Christmas this year, so if you need to order, please get your order in BEFORE that. Thanks and God bless you all and I pray you have a Merry Christmas!!!