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.