August 22, 2014
Posted by redgatefarm under Farm Life
, Honey Bees
A quick update on my first “Honey”….S finally got see the surgeon. Turns out he has torn tendons in BOTH arms! One is worse than the other. Neither tendon is completely torn from the bone, which is good. He has no clue how he did it, though. For now, the surgeon is going to try PT to strengthen the tissues and muscles around the torn tendons to see if that will compensate. They will re-evaluate in a few months, but it would be nice to avoid surgery. In the mean time, looks like S will remain on domestic duty for some time yet.
In other news, we actually processed our first honey! We sold our extractor when we moved, with plans of getting a better model. Our other plans didn’t work out, though, so we were left doing it the “simple” way, using equipment we got with our first purchase of a bunch of hives and equipment several years back.
First, I have to collect the frames.
Next, S used a hot capping knife to remove the wax caps from the honey comb. I didn’t get a pic of that.
I cut out the comb, leaving about a one inch strip at the top to guide the comb building next season.
All the cuttings fell into a straining box. I then used a potato masher to smoosh all the comb up and release all the honey.
We sat the box out in the heat of the sun for a bit to warm everything (after sealing it up tight to prevent bees from getting in!) Then, we let it sit overnight on the counter to allow the comb to dry out as much as possible.
The first box strains out the large chunks of honey, but lots of little stuff fall through. Next, we poured the honey into a series of mesh strainers, with each strainer having smaller holes than the one before. By the time the honey poured into the bucket below, all particles had been strained out. This process actually happened much faster than expected.
To ensure all honey flowed through the screens, I placed the bucket of honey strainers on top of my stove, which I had already heated up a bit. That area between the stove and hood was nice and warm, but not so warm as to melt my bucket. The warmth heated the honey enough, it flowed freely.
Finally, I poured the honey into jars. This wasn’t a big harvest, but it was a great first experience. It has the richest, most amazing flavor!! Clearly it is a mixed wildflower, grass, and forage honey.
There was actually no mess. We simply dumped the scrap comb into our wax collection box (for processing wax later), and all the strainers and buckets simply got placed out in the bee yard, where the bees do a far more thorough job cleaning it than we ever could! The result is a clean kitchen, with no sticky residue! Easy peasy! After the bees cleaned it up, we gave it a quick rinse, and put it away in the barn until next time. We give it a wash with soap and water to remove dust and such prior to processing, but after the bee cleaning, that is very simple too. Now, we have a little honey to sell (since I still have some leftover from previously), and plenty to get us through until next harvest.
August 16, 2014
Our poor boy, Nick, is in prison. Actually, it’s a very fancy, well-built, draft-horse-proof, extra sterile stall, complete with rubber mats, center drain, fan, auto-waterer…..and floor to ceiling welded wire gate, which makes it look like a prison cell.
Nick’s prison cell…I mean, specialized hospital stall.
After Nick’s severe leg injury early last week, he became our focus for the next 7 days. We arranged for him to be able to nuzzle with his buddy, Bud, over the stall wall at night. In the day, when we forced Bud outside to graze, we checked Nick’s swelling, felt his lower leg to make sure blood was flowing sufficiently through the bandages, walked him twice a day, medicated him twice a day, visited him multiple times a day to keep him from being lonely, turned on his fan when it was too warm in there (a 2000 lb horse can produce a LOT of body heat in a confined space!), cleaned his stall several times a day to reduce chance of infection, and pampered him as much as we possibly could. Every two days, we changed the bandage. Things seemed to be healing nicely. We took pictures of the injury with each bandage change, and we e-mailed photos to the vet mid-week so he could check things over. Nick ‘s swelling gradually subsided, his walking improved, and the injury seemed to be on the road to recovery.
WARNING: GRAPHIC and disgusting photos below!
Seriously….only scroll down if you desire to see the INSIDE of a live horse’s leg.
OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you…..
Day 2, post-injury
Day 4….lookin’ good; sutures holding up well, and swelling going down
Day 5….a little weepy and top suture ruptured, but nothing major. Walking improved significantly.
Day 6….bandage slipped, and top of drain disappeared. Not sure if it slipped inside or got bitten off. I see some yellow, but there is no sign of swelling, off smells, and amount of seepage about the same.
We made it through the first week fairly unscathed, and things were looking good. The sutured laceration seemed to be healing nicely. We had high hopes for an easy, if somewhat lengthy recovery. After the Sunday night check, we carefully re-bandaged the same way as usual–carefully wiping away excess moisture, coating the wound with antibiotic cream, then layering with sterile gauze, gauze rolls, cotton, more gauze, vet wrap, and some tape to hold it up–just as the vet had shown us. Everything seemed fine Monday, his daily walk was the first without me having to help him step properly with a foot rope. I made note that the turkeys in my barn (in a neighboring stall) were smelling a little funky, but didn’t have time to deal with it right then. Tuesday morning, the turkey stall smell really caught my attention when I entered the barn. The kids and I tended to the horses, then turned our attention to cleaning and rebedding the turkeys and baby chicks. I didn’t see anything unusual, but boy, did the barn smell ripe! That afternoon, we loaded Nick into the trailer to head to the vet and get his drain removed and sutures checked. When we arrived, I was surprised to find he smelled just like the turkeys that morning. I brushed it off. Never once did it occur to me that the smell was not turkey, but infected flesh!
After the last bandage change, you can imagine the shock S and I felt when the vet took off the wrap to expose the wound, and we saw something TOTALLY opposite what we expected! Infection had set in, and blown over half the sutures out. A vet told us this is a common thing that happens about a week into a severe injury like this. It didn’t really make us feel better. In fact, I think we were fighting back tears the whole time. I didn’t get a photo of that day, but suffice it to say, there was lots of goo, pus, bloody fluid, and stink! We discussed our options with the vet, and the decision was made to hit the infection intensively. Nick would stay at the clinic in a hospital stall, where the vet and techs could tend him multiple times per day. The plan involved complete stall rest, as the wound could not be re-wrapped and supported to allow him to walk. It had to be able to breathe and drain. The drain and remaining sutures would be left a few days longer, to attempt to hold any healed tissue together. Antibiotics would be injected directly into the wound every day. Because of his new-found fear of needles and the increased tenderness of the wound, this involved daily sedation to get the job done. The vet would clean the wound several times a day, while the techs kept his stall cleaned out. In addition to the direct antibiotics, they were also going to hit him with systemic antibiotics, both injected and oral to circulate through his system. We hoped 3-4 days of this intensive treatment would show improvement. The next day, AFTER the wound was cleaned up, this is what it looked like:
Day 10…the white squiggly line is the rubber drain tube.
Today, the news wasn’t much better, much to our dismay. The vet said he’s had a low-grade fever all week, and just can’t shake it. The antibiotics are keeping it under control, but it just won’t go away. This means there is definitely a festering infection going on. He wound up pulling the drain and remaining sutures on Day 11, as he felt they weren’t doing any good anyway, and may possibly contribute to irritation and infection. Otherwise, the heavy antibiotics and multiple-times a day treatments are the only thing that can be done. Since the wound can’t be sutured to heal from the outside, in, the vet is attempting to help the wound heal from the inside, out by treating the wound in such a way as to encourage granulation tissue to form. So, now Nick is imprisoned for at least another 4 days or so. The vet doesn’t want him to leave (nor do we) until the fever is gone and stays gone for several days. He also has to be finished with all injectables, as his new hypersensitivity to needles, combined with his massive size, means there is no possible way we can inject anything at home. Everything will have to be oral or topical. At that point, he will re-suture the wound, and we will start all over with bandages and home treatments. The good news is that the vet is very hopeful, and still feels Nick will make a good recovery. He told us today that the mystery infection/fever could possibly be internal–such as in the joint capsule, where it can’t be seen. That may mean arthritis will set in later, and only time will tell how severe. The other good news is that, since Nick seems to be walking almost normally again, we can be relatively assured that there is no permanent tendon, ligament, or nerve damage in the leg. That is a huge relief!
Yes, it’s ugly. It’s wide open, and opens deep into the abyss with each step he takes or movement he makes. The light pink color, however, is granulation tissue–a good sign.
So, that’s our life right now. Poor Nick is bored out of his mind, hardly eating what’s offered, and seems totally confused. Bud, here on the home front, is equally confused, and stands in Nick’s stall at the slightest opportunity, with his head hanging down, and almost seeming depressed. He seems to be accepting that Nick isn’t here, but definitely seems lost without him. He has stopped nickering for him, and his spunk is not quite what it was. I surely wish I could explain to them what’s going on, and that this is only temporary–Lord willing.
I do have to admit that real-to-life financial thoughts hit me on occasion. Since the horses were a substantial part of our farm income, and we have lost that for now, I confess, I am NOT looking forward to the upcoming vet bill. We have already paid for the first treatment, and that was painful enough. I fear it will be no comparison to the next one, though. As long as we have been involved in animals, S and I have always had a pre-agreed upon $$ amount we could spend on emergency vet care to heal an animal. We have always believed that we are called to be stewards of ALL our blessings–children, each other, animals, possessions, AND finances. This is the first time we have encountered a situation where an animal was more than just a pet, but a valuable asset, a way of life, power for our little farm, and an income source. We aren’t really sure how to put a cap on that.
We are praying, though, a LOT. We are praying that the finances can handle it, that Nick can heal quickly and get back home to Bud, that all our emotions hold through this ordeal, and that everything will just be OK soon. In fact, I have never really prayed over an animal the way we are praying for Nick. I feel so helpless, it’s really all we can do. Nick is an amazing horse, and we have committed to do what we can for him, as long as God gives us peace with continuing this direction. If you have a moment, perhaps you could say a little prayer for him as well? I hate seeing my big boys going through all this, and long to see them romping and rearing and galloping through our pasture once again! I won’t even yell at them next time I see them biting each other mane hairs off, or pawing at the stall wall!
August 7, 2014
Posted by redgatefarm under Animals
, Farm Life
Yesterday was a big day. It was time to unwrap Nick’s leg and do some tending to it. He was a good boy, considering. I think he was having flashbacks to everything the vet did, but he relaxed a bit after a while. It is clearly very sore, and he would prefer we not touch it.
So far, the incision is looking good. The swelling has started, but isn’t too bad, and there is no heat, which is a very good thing. After all of his recent stumbling on that hoof, I was very concerned we would find some busted sutures, but there were none and all looked good. We hosed, doctored, and re-wrapped it for another day or two.
Poor Nick has had enough of stall life. He lives in the stall, and during the night time hours, we allow his brother, Bud, to have access to the alleyway in front of the stall (the size of a stall itself) and the paddock directly behind the barn. Most of the time when we check on them, either Nick is hanging his head out of the stall window to see Bud, or, more often, Bud has his head hanging through INTO Nick’s stall. Other times, Bud is in the alley stall with his head hanging over the stall railing. The miss each other very much.
Nick is doing well on his daily walks to the back grazing paddock. He still stumbles, but it is becoming less frequent, leaving me hopeful that it is caused by soreness rather than nerve damage. I won’t know for a while yet, though.
Speaking of Nick, it’s time to go tend to him. I’ll keep you posted.
August 6, 2014
After much prayer and searching, God blessed us with an adorable 13 week old Australian Shepherd puppy for JR. If you recall, we were preparing to train a pup to be a Diabetes Alert Service Dog for JR, to help him with low blood sugars. Although JR isn’t fully insulin dependent at this point, he is having a lot of issues with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). We have no idea why, other than perhaps some genetics at play, since I have the same issues when I’m active, even if my insulin pump is turned off for hours. In any case, we were searching for a medium-sized dog with a very specific temperament for JR, and one that would be a good candidate for service dog training.
Meet “Hunter.” We have now had Hunter for 3 weeks, and he is AMAZING!! I have trained a lot of dogs over the years, and quite a few service dogs. This puppy is incredible. I have never had a pup catch on to new concepts so quickly. He is VERY tightly bonded to JR already, which is good, is learning his scent through games we play, can already hunt him down from hiding places through scent, and he is learning commands very quickly. We have been introducing him to public places and crowds over the last few weeks, but only in areas where dogs were allowed. He is very patient for such a young pup, though, and has slept through our 2 and 3 hour long activities several times. If his service dog equipment is delivered on time this week though, we are planning to make his big debut in indoor public places this coming Sunday. We have notified our pastor and the restaurant we frequent, and they are both OK and ready.
I have no doubt at this point that Hunter has the foundation of a great service dog. His training is coming nicely. We are beginning to introduce him to low blood sugars, but it will likely be 6-8 months before we know if he will actually alert of his own accord. In the mean time, we will keep training and working with him, to make him the best service dog he can be!
August 5, 2014
Shortly after my last post, I wrote the following, as I’d much rather have a cheery blog rather than a depressed one:
“We are absolutely, totally, and completely IN LOVE with our team of draft horses! Their primary job around the farm was skidding logs around the farm as we cleaned up our woodlands, but since S’s arm injury, their workload dropped. We were worried they wouldn’t be quite as good at driving with what we feared was too-light of a workload. God provided for us, though!
We were asked to be the “Wells Fargo Wagon” in a theater production of “The Music Man” at our local outdoor theater. This theater draws crowds from all over the country. Even though they couldn’t afford to pay us much, they offered to give us a full page ad in the theater flyer for the rest of the season. That was a HUGE deal for us, as we desperately needed the advertisement for our farm products and services. So, right after S’s injury, almost every evening was spent at the theater. We spent several nights at rehearsals, getting the horses used to the stage lights, crowd noises, applauding sounds, kids running around in the shadows, and the whole routine (we also had to carry the “professor” in the back of the wagon). By opening night, they had the routine down. They could not have been more perfect!! We were so proud of our boys, and they were such a huge hit, the show was a sell-out almost every evening, and the townsfolk are still talking about it! We had a great time, and made a few business contacts during the time we spent there. It was a very small part, but here is a link to our part of the performance. After this scene, we were set up in back for intermission, where the audience could come pet and ask questions about the horses while we just stood there for 30 minutes, then we were the opening scene for Act 2, as we trotted away. Enjoy: The Wells Fargo Wagon Performance
We are doing wagon rides in town every Saturday evening, which is another job to keep them going. One evening, a local camera-man showed up, asked to take a few shots, video, and interview us for a “small” deal he produces and an article for the paper. Again, interested in promoting our business, we gladly accepted. One thing led to another, and he asked to come do the same at the farm itself. Well, not only did he write a newspaper article, but he used the video footage to produce a mini-documentary that will soon be aired on the Fox station in 5 mid-west states! If I’d understood that part, I’d of at least worn a little make-up. After two hours of filming in the blazing sun and humidity, let’s just say that our appearance in the video is very authentic! I can’t show you that until the footage airs, but hopefully that will be soon. With the challenges we have faced recently, I have found myself watching that footage time and time again, to remind me why we love the life so much. It was very well done, I thought!
In between, I am able to find a job or two each week to keep the horses busy and stimulated. We are trying to wean ourselves off our 4-wheeler, so the horses can take over those jobs. We are in the process of purchasing a fore-cart so we can take over the last job done by the 4-wheeler–pulling our mower. Once we have it, though, I will be relieved to not eat so much dust while grading our driveway! Watch the horses grade the driveway here Despite the decreased workload, the horses are keeping their calm, easy-going dispositions. I still long to ride them (never have), but just never can find the time to do all the needed prep work to get on. They have never been ridden, and since I don’t have a saddle, I am hesitant to jump on bareback without a LOT of prep work. With backs 6 feet high, that would be a very LONG way to the ground if they disagreed with me! Nonetheless, I am enjoying everything about them, and greatly looking forward to what the future holds.”
About 18 hours after I wrote that post draft, the horses were turned out to graze in the orchard. While grazing, Nick made his way down to where some chicken tractors (with sharp tin roofing) were being stored. We don’t really know what happened next, but we heard a loud bang and ran out to find Nick’s front leg pouring blood everywhere! He had punctured his knee all the way to the joint capsule, slicing the tendon sheath, but narrowly missing the tendon itself. The entire front of his leg was laid open, with tissue hanging everywhere. Blood pumped from small arteries with each step, so we quickly tried to stop his movement.
I confess, I totally lost it. With everything from my last post, and now this, with all the fears for Nick and knowing what it meant for us, I absolutely lost it. I was sobbing so hard, I could hardly get Nick’s leg wrapped and compressed to stop the blood flow. My poor husband, with painful arms, was trying to hold Nick still and trying to comfort me at the same time. Eventually I got control and did what I needed to do.
Many hours and a huge vet bill later, Nick is on stall rest for an unspecified period of time. It is touch and go for the moment. He is using the leg, which is great news, but the opened joint capsule could get severely infected very easily, which would be very bad. His leg is wrapped, under fairly tight compression, and has a drain to try to reduce the swelling over the next few days. He is only allowed out of his stall twice a day for a short walk to graze a little, then back to the stall. He is on twice daily doses of Bute to help with the pain. He obviously is favoring the leg a lot, and has a tendency to drag and stumble on that hoof. We won’t know for a couple of weeks if the stumbling is due to soreness or nerve damage. We are praying it is not the latter.
As far as our business goes, we are finished with wagon rides for the season, which was possibly looking to be our greatest income source. I have lost the ability to do the work around the farm that the team was capable of as well. The horses have been together as a team since the beginning, so I am going to try to re-train Bud to work as a single horse. Today, I am just trying to teach him to graze alone, which is a feat in itself. He wants only to stand beside Nick’s stall. It will limit what I can move around the farm, but he’s still capable of pulling quite a bit of weight, so it’s better than nothing for sure.
Suffice it to say, this was a huge hit for us, financially, practically, and for me, emotionally. As S said, we can really do nothing but pray, seek direction, and take things one day at a time. I have faith this is a season, and all seasons will come to an end eventually. I do have to give mention to the fact that, in the midst of all the crises, God still provides. Yesterday evening, a group of church folks showed up with a huge meal, several chainsaws, and a tractor, and spent several hours working in our front field to help us get caught up on a big project. It was a tremendous blessing, and really helped lift our spirits! If you’d keep our situation in your prayers, though, I’d appreciate it. We are still blessed in many ways, and have no doubt there are many who have much worse struggles than we are dealing with. Sometimes–like when my horse is pouring blood, and I’m on the verge of another low blood sugar, we just have to remind ourselves of that. God never promised us an easily life. To the contrary, he warns in His word that the life of a believer is a hard road to travel. He asked us to follow Him and remain faithful, despite the obstacles that life throws at us, but He also promises that He will be there, He will provide, and we will become better because of it.
August 4, 2014
This morning, I had a tough time making it through the sermon and church service. The topic was having faith through trials, and I almost lost it when we sang “Showers of Blessings.” If you aren’t familiar with it, the first verse and chorus sing as follows:
“There shall be showers of blessing, this is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.
Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need;
Mercy-drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead!”
Oh, how I have come to understand how the writer of that song felt! Just two years ago, S and I were sitting in our family room in CO, discussing how truly blessed we were. Everything in life was going great, and try as we might, we just couldn’t think of any trials affecting us, nor could we remember any major trials for several years prior to that conversation. We thanked and praised God together, not wanting to take that blessing for granted, when so many around us were suffering all sorts of trials.
Then came 2014. According to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, there is a season and a time for everything. It has become apparent that 2014 has NOT been our season of happy, easy, peaceful times. This has been a very tough year for us so far.
It all started with the loss of our first calf in February. A few weeks later, our 9-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 5-year-old N was later diagnosed with asthma. We had some business struggles for the next few months, finding it nearly impossible to sell our goat kids for any price, let alone a profitable one, our pasture really took a hard hit after the long, hard winter, and many of our animals had nutritional struggles that we couldn’t correct even with supplementation and vet care. We made the decision to sell our brood cows, but there were no takers, so we agreed to a commission deal with the farmer I originally bought them from. That is still in the works. We also sold off or butchered all but 2 milking goats and 1 doeling, and sent one of our pigs to the processor. We suffered a fairly high mortality rate with both our batches of meat birds so far, and much more expense than we had expected. Hoping to see a little income from our beef steers, we took them to the processor at the end of June as scheduled, only to have their hanging weights (which our price is based on) surprisingly and disappointingly low. About half what we had expected. Just as we got over that shock, in early July, S began having some tendonitis-like pain in both arms. We switched roles, with him doing domestic duty to rest his arms, while I took over the farm work and projects as best I could. Next, I unexpectedly lost my jersey cow one night, which absolutely crushed me. I was way more attached than I realized. I really loved the cow. She was literally fine when I milked her, then a couple hours later her horrific screams from severe bloat brought me running. We managed to release the gas and got the vet out to double check things. When I finally went to bed around 4 am, she was standing and almost back to normal. When we checked on her at 7 the next morning, she was down and died within an hour. We still don’t know why exactly. Because S couldn’t use his arms, it was up to me to harness the horses and drag her lifeless body out of the barn, where a farmer we know from church came to pick her up to help dispose of her. Our chickens all but stopped laying one day, again for no obvious reason. That dropped our only consistent farm income by over half. We are still working on building our egg numbers back up. JR’s favorite rabbit buck, Pelham, died one day, which was hard on him, and one of his new replacement does he had raised wouldn’t conceive. Over the next few weeks, despite rest, support braces, and ice, S’s pain worsened severely. Especially in one arm, which got to the point he couldn’t do hardly anything without pain. He finally went to the doctor, and a cortisone injection right into the joint was recommended. He agreed to it, and something happened that caused the joint to become so inflamed and painful that he has now lost almost total ability to move or even touch his arm without severe, shooting pain. He was sent in for an MRI, where a cyst was discovered, though it is currently unknown if it is related. He now has an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, which could result in surgery that will keep him down for months. The extra workload has caused my sugar levels to run quite low, so I am almost surviving on juice, fruit, and junk food snacks to keep my levels up, while eating healthy meals in between. This week, the poor man was trying to make dinner while I worked outdoors and mistakenly sloshed boiling hot chicken broth over himself. He now has 2nd degree burns across his entire forehead, and 1st degree on his wrists and chest.
S’s forehead. I’ve told him that he looks he was disbudded.
Like I said…it’s been a rough year so far. I have shed a few tears of discouragement and frustration, which is something I don’t do easily. This morning’s service, however, was a good reminder that in all trials and tough seasons, there are always at least “drops” of mercy our Savior provides to keep us going.
We have seen a surprising demand for our draft horses, which I will discuss in future posts. Our remaining hog is going to be so huge by the time we harvest him that we may not need to raise a hog for our family for a very long time! God recently blessed us with a puppy for JR to train as his new alert dog–something we’ve been praying about for a little while now. Our children are otherwise healthy, and other than the low blood sugars, God is giving me the strength and stamina I need to keep going each day (albeit with a little help from ibuprofen for my back on occasion!). The garden supplied us with an abundant crop this summer, and although S feels almost helpless with his new role, it has given him the opportunity to spend a lot more relaxed time with the children–something they are very much enjoying.
Mercy-drops certainly keep us going and give hope that our hard work will one day pay off and our dreams will come to fruition. Nonetheless, I do find myself praying for showers of blessings once again. We are all tired. We work from the time we get up to the time we go to bed at night. We have absolutely no social life, and really haven’t been able to get to know anyone in this new town. Even the children have had to really step up to help since S is hurt, so everyone is pitching in. There is little time for leisure activities, though we do maintain our daily family devotion time. That is critical during a stressful time like this. S is praying and seeking God’s guidance and wisdom to ensure we are heading in the direction we felt He had called us to, and I am praying He will let my body hold out under these stressful conditions, so I can still be the wife and mom my family needs, in addition to the farm labor for now. I have caught the children praying that things will begin to smooth out and “be easier” on the farm. We have so much we had hoped to do to prepare for this winter, and we are already so far behind. Showers of blessing will come. I have faith, and Ecclesiastes promises that this season will one day end, and a season to laugh, dance, and have peace will replace it. Whether we are being “pruned” or perhaps just suffering “normal” life that results from the fall of man, we don’t yet know. All we can do is have faith, praise God for his mercy-drops, and keep going.