Monday, May 24, 2010

All's Well That (Hopefully Will) End Well


Several weeks ago I had my annual mammogram and shortly after received a form letter that read something like this:

Dear Cynthia, the radiologist has reviewed the films from your recent mammogram. Please do not be alarmed but further studies of your right breast are required. Please call to make an appointment....yada, yada, yada. Actually it's kinda interesting that I got a similar letter following the previous mammogram about the left breast! I guess that is why all of this seemed rather routine.

I thought about the joke that had circulated on email a while back, and considered whether any of these measures would help me prepare for the upcoming tests:

Many women are afraid of their first mammogram, but there is no need to worry. By taking a few minutes each day for a week preceding the exam and doing the following practice exercises, you will be totally prepared for the test. And, best of all, you can do these simple practice exercises right in your home.

EXERCISE #1
Open your refrigerator door and insert one breast between the door and the main box. Have one of your strongest friends slam the door shut as hard as possible and lean on the door for good measure. Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat again in case the first time wasn’t effective enough.

EXERCISE #2
Visit your garage at 3 a.m. when the temperature of the cement floor is just perfect. Take off all your clothes and lie comfortably on the floor with one breast wedged under the rear tire of the car. Ask a friend to slowly back the car up until your breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Turn over and repeat for the other breast.

EXERCISE #3
Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room. Press the bookends against one of your breasts. Smash the bookends together as hard as you can. Set an appointment with the stranger to meet next year and do it again!!

CONGRATULATIONS! Now you are properly prepared for your mammogram. 

On the appointed date and hour I returned to the center. In case you are short of time and don't care to read further, all is well, sort of! What? Me worry? Come back for reevaluation in 6 months? No problem!

So the kind, caring, and considerate technician takes two additional pictures. My thoughts during this process were:
1) Just where does she think I'm going to go when she asks me to 'hold still'? Uh, lady, my slightly sweaty right breast is flattened and wedged between two plastic 'paddles'. It is stuck fast and will probably have to be peeled off the plastic plate as it is. I mean, if you look at it the right way, it does kinda resemble dough that has been rolled out....it could stick like that too - oops, not enough flour on the counter! Anyway, I think that if I were to faint, and uh, if you don't hurry, I just might, my breast would still be held immovable with me dangling below.
2) Hold my breath? You gotta be kidding? With my arm draped over the machine this way and my opposite shoulder held back to 'clear the path' for the x-ray and my chin held up at an awkward angle so that the paddle assembly can move and my breast squished to a thickness of a cheap steak, you are delusional if you think I could breathe even if I wanted to!

Then I'm off to the ultrasound department with an equally caring and kind technician. But this time my right breast is assaulted with warm gel. In comparison to the mammogram paddles, this stuff is HOT! At least I can see the ultrasound as they have a nifty large flatscreen monitor on the wall. It's bigger than my TV at home! Seeing my breast tissue enlarged to that degree is rather.....rather....boring. I have no clue what I'm looking at. It looks like ocean waves. I begin to fantasize that I am in a Coast Guard helicopter and that we are looking for little lost sailboats being tossed on the stormy sea. After consulting with the radiologist and several more blobs of gel, it is determined that I need more mammogram shots. They use a black Sharpie marker to identify the spot, because the marker BB that they will tape on often falls off, what with all of the goo. I head into the mammogram room and realize that the goo, most of which was wiped off, some of which was not, has stuck the modesty jacket they provided to my breast....and my side....and on the side of my neck. Yeeuuck! Furthermore, I thought having a mammogram with a sweaty breast was tough. It doesn't come close to the strange feeling of sandwiching a gooey, sticky breast in plastic.

As I am now writing this on my blog, it is obvious that I survived the ordeal. The outcome is that they think  the inconsistencies that were noted on both the mammogram and the ultrasound are the result of scar tissue from a previous biopsy. Being the eternal optimist, I trust they are correct in their assessment. I am to carefully conduct self-exams and have another screening in six months. Another outcome of this adventure? Well, since I am in town and there are lots of nifty shops between me and home.....

All joking aside, breast cancer screening is a serious matter. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54. Statistics suggest that 1 out of every 8 women will acquire breast cancer in her lifetime. So, look around when you are with a group of 7 other friends. Based on these statistics, one of you will get breast cancer. If you are at a party with 15 other women, two of the women in the room will be a victim of breast cancer.  Breast cancer often has no outward signs or symptoms that you can see or feel. Please check with your doctor and follow his or her recommendations.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Farewell Good Friend

Monty
December 22, 1998 - May 21, 2010




Good-bye sweet boy
No more suffering
No more pain
Romp and play
Be young again

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Twofer Today

What a fabulous day! I had the chance to ride both boys - no, not at once, although that would save considerably on time, maybe that should be a future goal....one foot on each! I mean, if Lorenzo can do it, why couldn't I? (You don't have to answer that question!)



Since we have had our third day of nice weather in a row, I decided I'd take Doc out for a ride on the roads and around our community's common property. We had gone just over a half mile when I saw some backdoor neighbors saddling up. I joined them and we rode for about 90 minutes. We did nothing more than a walk, but it was such a pleasure for Doc to have company along when cars went whizzing by, when dogs yipped from behind their fences, when the telephone man was noticed squatting next to a junction box, and then stood up, and when crossing some water - all of which he handled like a pro. He even took it in stride when some %&$-hole neighbor decided to speed up in his huge, noisy diesel truck while going past us. (Why do some people find perverse pleasure in trying to excite horses?)!
Then, after a break for some lunch and chores, I saddled Pippin. We did just a little round-pen work to make sure his head was in an 'OK' place, and then we set off with my son walking with us. My son had thought he might get a run in, but changed his mind, so we had a nice walk and talk. Pippin took a bit of exception to my son's gestures while talking, but finally relaxed enough to bring his head down and settle into a nice walk. The 'sitting on a powder keg' feeling finally left, or at least lurked below the surface and we all had a good time. We all relished in the arrival of spring....it's about time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Scoop on Poop

As you may have read, between snow storms I have managed to find some time to work in my yard and in my garden. I am so excited to have composted manure from my own horses to amend my lousy soil. I guess you'd have to say that either I'm very weird or I am a true gardener if I get excited about playing with horse sh*t! I got to thinking that others may not know the scoop on poop....so here's what I have learned:

  • Etiology of the word, sh*t: Before the advent of commercial fertilizer manure was transported by ship to help farmers enrich soil and produce better crops. It was shipped in dry bales to limit the weight the ship had to carry. But, if the manure became wet while at sea, it not only became heavier, but it would begin to ferment. A by-product of the fermentation of manure is methane gas. The gas would collect and if some hapless sole came below decks at night carrying a lantern....well, you can imagine the problem that would ensue. So, once it was determined why the explosions were occurring, bales of manure were marked, "Ship High in Transit" to remind sailors where to store the bails so that water would not begin the process of creating explosive methane gas. Thus the term S.H.I.T, a shortened form of the label, came to mean manure. (Source: Rocky Mountain Haflinger Association, Jan - March 2010 Newsletter, "Haffie Trails")
  •  Manure as Fertilizer: Manure can be used to add organic matter and nutrients to soil. The benefits to be derived from manure vary with the type of manure used and the way in which it is handled. The best manures for gardening come from ruminants. These are animals with several stomachs, such as cows, sheep and llamas. The food the ruminant eats is better digested and weed seeds are killed. The  digestive system of a horse does not kill as many weed seeds. Manure from chickens has a very high ammonia content so applying fresh poultry manure can burn your plants. Fertilizer has three main nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. When you buy commercially prepared fertilizer the container will often list three numbers, such as 21-4-8. These numbers refer to the relative amount of each of the key nutrients in the order listed. Remember the words UP, DOWN and PRETTY to remember just what the nutrients do for your plants. Nitrogen helps promote healthy, green top growth. The Phosphorus supports root growth and the Potassium helps make large, beautiful blooms. That being said, it's interesting to know that horse manure has a rating of .7-.2-.7, cow manure is 1-.7-1 and chicken manure is 1.7-2.4-1.7*. The nutrient value of fresh horse manure is pretty darn low and to get close to the nutritional rates of commercial fertilizer, you'd need to heap a ton of manure onto your lawn and garden. Not very practical and not at all pretty! In addition, I have read that using manure as fertilizer may actually deplete nitrogen in your soil, especially if you have wood shavings or sawdust mixed in with the manure. The organisms from the soil that break down the manure require extra nitrogen to break down the carbon found in the wood products. Thus, your soil may have less nitrogen than if you had not applied the manure at all. And, as mentioned above, it is the nitrogen that promotes nice, green growth, so your grass may suffer. Confusing, huh? In my opinion, the long term benefits to be gained from spreading manure outweigh the possible negative effects, if it is done correctly. The negative effects can be ameliorated by minimizing the amount of bedding that winds up in your manure, spreading no more than the recommended amount of manure and by adding additional nutrients. So, are you totally baffled yet? It gets even more complicated! Manure contains salts. Different manures contain different levels of salts. Some soils already have too much salt. Salt at certain levels is not beneficial. Therefore this may limit the amount of manure you can spread at a given time. To determine how much manure you should add to your field or garden, you need to know the current nutrient levels, including salt, of your soil.  Local extension agencies generally have a soil testing program. They also have all kinds of handy dandy charts that will explain how much manure to add, based on your test results.(* nutrient rates vary depending on whether bedding is or is not included. Source: Colorado Extension Service, "Using Manure in the Home Garden")
    • Composting Manure: If your head isn't already spinning, read on! Although composted manure loses some of its nutritional value because nutrients leach out in rain (unless compost bins are covered), it is an excellent source of organic material to add to your soil. Organic material helps hold moisture and nutrients in your soil. Ideally soil should be comprised of at least 5% organic material. I have sandy soil. The organic content is negligible so I try to add organic material when turning my garden or planting new shrubs, trees or flowers. This year some of that organic material is coming from my own compost pile. Composting manure requires that you have space where a fairly large mass of manure can sit over a period of time. Ideally it helps to have at least three manure bins or piles. One that you are currently using for your fresh manure and two others that are 'cooking'. The size of the pile depends on the number of horses you have and how much bedding is included in the manure, but anything less than 3'X3'X3' will not have enough mass to compost. Each pile should be able to hold 2-4 months worth of manure. That can be a lot of sh*t stuff! If conditions are right, organisms begin to break down the manure almost immediately. Organisms are at work in your pile if it begins to heat up. I purchased an inexpensive 'instant read' thermometer that I taped to the end of a painting pole. I can poke the thermometer into the pile and read the temperature. Within a day you should find that the inside temperatures rise and begin to approach 140 degrees. If the pile does not heat up it could mean that the manure is either too wet or too dry, or that it doesn't have enough air. The pile needs to be 'turned'. The contents need to be mixed up. The contents are too dry if when you form a ball and squeeze it together it falls apart. Add a little water. If the contents are too wet, allow the pile to dry out by turning it more frequently and/or by adding dryer material. If you live in a very wet or very dry climate you may find that you need to cover your compost pile with a tarp to maintain the optimum moisture level. If the pile begins to cool it is time to turn the manure again to expose all material to oxygen which allows the microorganisms to work. Some folks layer PVC pipe with small holes in their manure piles to introduce air without the need for turning. After several months the manure will have been  transformed into lovely organic matter and will stop 'cooking'. If temperatures surpassed 140 for a period of days in two different heat up cycles, weed seeds, parasites and insect eggs or larvae will have been killed and your composted manure will make an excellent soil amendment. 
    Our compost piles are dug into a small hillside, so they are protected from the drying wind to some degree. If you look closely at the pile just under the bucket, you can see steam coming from the compost as it is being turned.

    This is my thermometer....a slightly bent model...that I use to measure the temperature of the composting manure. 




          Saturday, May 15, 2010

          The Top Twelve Things That Only Haflinger Horses Can Do

          One day when I had nothing to do.....LOL
          Maybe that should read, 'One day when I had tons to do, but didn't want to do anything on my long and growing list of things that gotta get done', I found myself procrastinating and poking around on the computer, link chasing - going from one blog to another. I landed on the Nayborly Farms Horse Training blog and stumbled on the following entry, which was a winning article in a 2003 haflingerhorses.com essay contest. The list was created by Chesna Klimek of Nayborly Farms.

          I couldn't help but laugh at Chesna's list of Haffie feats and skills, many of which I have witnessed and blogged about in the past!

          Thank you, Chesna, for letting me share your list on my blog!

          The Top Twelve Things That Only Haflinger Horses 
          Can Do

          12.   Only a Haflinger can gain weight by breathing.

          11.   Only a Haflinger can keep their golden coats clean, while at the same time transforming their white manes and tails to black. 

          10.   Only a Haflinger will climb over, under, through or between any type of fencing simply to get to the other side.

          9.     Only a Haflinger can be measured in as a pony but wear horse-sized halters, blankets, shoes, and saddles.

          8.     Only a Haflinger will learn to perform a trick in a matter of seconds for a cookie, and then a month later ask for a treat by bowing.

          7.     Only a Haflinger can be dirty, fuzzy, and wet while also being completely adorable.

          6.     Only a Haflinger is smart enough to learn all the wrong things we accidentally teach them as well as all the right.

          5.     Only a Haflinger would believe that they are ten times bigger, faster, and better than a Belgian.

          4.     Only a Haflinger will come cantering over to see you after you have been gone for a week.

          3.     Only a Haflinger can get their riders to laugh so hard that they fall off from at the halt. 

          2.     Only a Haflinger can bring about their owner's need of another and another and just one more?

          And the number one thing that only Haflinger horses can do?

          1.     Only a Haflinger can be so cute, so smart, eat so well, perform so well, have so much personality, and be such a Haflinger that it makes their owners happy every time they see them.

          Do you know of other things that Haflingers are especially good at doing? How about your particular breed of horse?

          Thursday, May 13, 2010

          Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits, a Dollar (or a whole lot more)!

          I am at a crossroads and I'm not sure which way to turn! Maybe you, or someone you know, might have some advice for me. I sure would appreciate some input!

          Pippin is not comfortable in all of the bits I've tried so far. He constantly mouths the bit and often gets his tongue over it. When I bought him they had been using a half spoon snaffle. I had this bit already, but he mouthed it all of the time. So, I bought a Boucher snaffle, having heard that mouthy horses tend to quiet down with the bit. Not so. His driving bridle came with a fixed cheek Liverpool bit with a straight bar. I attached the reins on the large ring, thus having little or no curb action, and the bar was on the smooth side. He was very busy with the bit. One of my trainers suggested a Kimberwick. I bought one the right size (despite having 2 that were too small) and he continued to mouth the bit excessively. Another trainer has now suggested a Glory bit, which relieves tongue pressure. I tried a friend's Glory bit and the mouthing may have decreased a little, but he still got his tongue over the bit at least 4 times in a 60-minute lesson. I could try some sort of noseband to force him to keep his mouth closed. His driving bridle's cavesson is rather tight as Pippin's face is a bit larger than the average horse, so he may tend to be less busy in that than when I ride in a bridle that doesn't even have a noseband. It goes against my nature to 'quiet' Pippin's mouth by tying it shut!

          When I got Pippin he had an abscessed tooth. He has had that tooth removed. He had to have several fillings. He has no wolf teeth. His teeth have been floated and at some point in his life he had another molar removed. Obviously, his mouth has not always been in the best of health and probably has caused him a great deal of pain. Little wonder that he dislikes having a hunk of metal in there.

          Yesterday I noticed that he has a small sore at the corner of his mouth. We had an especially trying day on Sunday and evidently in some of our maneuvering, the bit pinched him. Another reason to consider bitless!


          So, it seems that going bitless is the obvious answer. And....I'm really, really close to picking up the phone to order either a Nurtural bitless driving bridle or the bitless bridle by Dr. Cook. Both of these bridles operate on the same principle, working by by putting pressure on the opposite cheek and poll when you pull on the rein, causing the horse to move away from the pressure. There may be slight differences in other functions of the bridles. (Maybe Sydney at Bitless horse: Science VS Tradition can further enlighten me! Hint...hint...hint!) Other bitless systems that I am aware of include sidepulls, hackamores and bosals. Are there others that I don't know about?

          So, why haven't I called to order the solution for my dear Pippin? When I start looking at bitless driving I find very few positive comments. Most people seem to think that more control is needed in driving and that control comes from the bit. What are your reactions? What are your thoughts? Help!

          Wednesday, May 12, 2010

          Vege Garden

          I have been working in my vegetable garden recently, despite the white 'rain' we've experienced. I actually prepared two raised beds on an especially nice day in early April. It was wonderful to augment our sandy soil with lovely, composted Haffie poop!

           Garden Preparation - My Method for Turning the Garden

          First Step: add 1-2" of compost evenly over the garden:

          Second Step: dig soil from one end of the garden and reserve for later:

          Third Step: dig the soil adjacent to the rench, turn it and use it to fill the trench, breaking up clumps and mixing compost and soil. Work down the garden or bed filling the new trench you create:

          Fourth Step: use soil held in reserve, mixed with compost, to fill in at the end of the bed:

          We constructed four raised beds a few years ago. We used 2" X 12" lumber with hardware cloth stapled across the bottom. This has helped keep the ground dwelling pests away from our vegetables. However, we want more! So, we are slowing expanding our garden beyond the raised beds. The lattice which is visible in the last picture was used to create a wind break as well as to support pole beans that I planted on the other side. Sadly, our weather was so cool last year that the beans didn't grow more than 12"! Maybe this year!

          I've already planted some cool weather veges, such as beets, spinach, onions and peas. Most of our planting won't happen until after Memorial Day, our traditional 'last frost' date - ha! Don't believe it! We have to be prepared to cover young vege's well into June.

          Sunday, May 9, 2010

          Happy Mother's Day


          There is a wonderful bond between mother and child.
          A tie that spans time and distance
          defying the laws of physics.


          Images: Sara Bales Lyda

          Friday, May 7, 2010

          Pippin's POV: Predator

          My Mrs. Owner took me out with the 'Amish tractor' yesterday. She was going to have me drag harrow my pasture, but it seems that the receiver hitch wasn't put back on and she didn't want to take the time to do it. Humans can be so lazy! Anyway, she had me do a few circuits of the pasture and then took me out into the wild world behind my pasture. That can be a scary place, ask Doc, he knows all about it! It's even scarier when you are the only horse out there! At least when you have another horse with you, one can relax every once in a while. You don't have to watch out for everything in every possible direction all of the time!  The humans, even my Mrs. Owner, can be so lackadaisical about it. They just don't realize what all is out there and what harm could come to me or to them. 

          Case in point, we start over the crest of a small hill and BAM! Watch out! It's a predator. I jumped up and down. I had to scare the predator away, ya know. It was a wimpy Wile E. Coyote. He jumped up and down. We both jumped up and down. Then he ran away. My Mrs. Owner said I was a good boy as I walked calmly on, albeit with a jaunty step to my stride because I was so proud to have been so brave in protecting her from that predator. If it weren't for me my Mrs. Owner could be coyote fodder right now! And then, who would feed me my hay?

          My Mrs. Owner apologized for not getting a picture. She was holding onto my reins with both hands and was afraid to let go cause that predator might have gotten her then.  Silly. She should have known that I'd take care of her! Anyway, the wimpy Wile E. Coyote looked like this:

           

          He had really big ears. The way he jumped, he looked like a jack rabbit!



          Saturday, May 1, 2010

          By The Numbers: The Kentucky Derby

          •  1,480,000: top earnings held by Lookin At Lucky.
          • 150,000: the number spectators at the Kentucky Derby.
          • 554: the number of roses (not including the 'Crown Rose') that make up the Derby blanket, according to one source. 
          • 136: the number of years the Kentucky Derby has been run.
          • 126: the weight assigned to the jockey and his equipment for the Kentucky Derby.(Yeah, right. In my dreams! Just how much does that saddle weigh? How much would I need to lose?!)
          • 60: the number of long stem roses, tied in 10 yards of ribbon, presented to the winning jockey.
          • 40: the cost for general admission to Churchill Downs on Derby Day.
          • 22: number of horses in the field (but scratches may occur).
          • 6 1/2: the number of lengths Barbaro won the derby by - greatest amount in 60 years!
          • 2: the number of minutes the horses run for the roses.
          • 1.25: the number of miles the horses race.
          • 0: the number of Haflingers who have entered the Kentucky Derby.
          Maybe next year we can get a Haflinger into the Derby field. It could look like this. Whadda ya think?!