Ironman Today

July 28, 2013

Today is the Ironman triathlon in town. My farm is on the main highway, which will be closed from 6:30 AM until 5 PM, so I leave soon for the day.

Most locals complain about the Ironman. Driving is certainly dangerous in the weeks leading up to the race, as our narrow, twisty mountain roads are clogged with bikers who veer out in front of cars without warning. It is frustrating and scary, but the roads are in such poor repair, especially on the skinny, cracked, and frost-heaved shoulders, that one can hardly blame them. (Still, somehow, as one jams on the brakes at 55 mph, heart banging, one does blame them.)

But I will be marooned peacefully at the farm, with no ability to go anywhere, solve anyone’s problems, or do any chores except my own. I always secretly enjoy it.

The day is looking thunderstorm-y (poor racers who paid $650 apiece for the privilege of thrashing themselves in bad weather). I’ll work at whatever tasks I can and this afternoon might even stretch out on the apartment bed and take a nap.

I’m already smiling!

Jon’s New Roommate

July 27, 2013


Yesterday Lucy and I drove downstate to do some school shopping and to see Jon. We also helped Jon find his new roommate at the SPCA.  (Double-click on mosaic to enlarge.)

Meet Max, a nine-week-old orange tabby kitten. Jon is very happy, and incidentally pleased that they are matching gingers.

Jon has always loved cats. His last kitten, Tam, is now seventeen years old and frail. Though she still adores him, it would be unkind to uproot her to an apartment.

I did barn chores at 6 AM and 8:30 PM.  A very long day, but worth it.


July 25, 2013

I am famous in my family for my absentmindedness. “Have we said grace?” I will inquire, moments after we finish saying grace before dinner. My kids know that if they want me to remember to accomplish any promised task, they have to write me a note. I will make a comment during a movie and will be informed I said exactly the same thing the last time we watched it (I won’t even recall having seen the film before). For any details of my childhood, I count on my sisters to remember.

I’ve learned to live with this weakness, and aside from having some concern how I will function as age makes its inroads, I generally shrug it off. But last night I was slightly taken aback.

I am rereading a terrific book of history that decades ago won the Pulitzer Prize. As is my habit, I looked it up on Amazon to find other readers’ opinions. (I love sharing books and films this way.)

All the reviews were full of praise — “Wonderful!” “Masterly,” “History comes alive!” “Awesome,” “A masterpiece” — except one, which was sneering and dismissive. What?!

To that review, there was one in response. It was cool, civil, and in a few short sentences demolished the sneerer’s argument.

Gosh, I agree with that, I thought to myself.

I went to click on the voting buttons to register my approval, only to find:

Why no voting buttons? We don’t let customers vote on their own reviews.

I myself had written the response in 2007.

Cheek Abscess Update

July 21, 2013


On Tuesday a vet stopped by to address Stewart’s cheek abscess disaster from five days before. This was not David but one of his junior assistants, passing the farm on her return from another call.

I have officially reached the age when most young professionals appear to me to be about sixteen years old. In this case the impression was heightened because the poor girl had been given no information about the case.

She walked into the barn carrying a bucket with Betadine (suspected to have caused all Stewart’s problems) and looked alarmed when I almost screeched, “No, he’s allergic, he can’t have Betadine!” The spooked look became even more pronounced when she saw the abscess, now reduced to the size of a baseball but just as hard as one.

“I thought I was re-opening a simple abscess.”

I couldn’t believe it.  The other assistant vet had told me they would be bringing a portable ultrasound machine to try to ascertain what was going on!

When I mentioned this, this new assistant seemed overwhelmed. “No one told me anything about any of this.”

With difficulty I controlled myself. I told the current assistant I wanted to have Stewart’s cheek anesthetized before any further work was done. She agreed to do it, but even with the stanchion it was hard to hold him still for the shots of lidocaine. I double-wrapped the lead around his nose and pushed him into the wall with my weight to try to hold him quiet (above).


It was not very successful. Stewart still jumped and struggled with every prick of the needle.

“We’d be fine if we had nose tongs,” she said finally. “There should be some in the truck.” She went out, rummaged for ten minutes, and then came back in empty-handed.

“I don’t really know my way around the truck very well,” she confessed.

At this point I knew we were in a mess. I was very angry but understood it was not the fault of this poor girl, or even maybe anyone. Maybe it was just the Bad Luck Fairy that has been following me around lately.

In the end, we persevered with the lidocaine and, using a scalpel, she cut the cheek open, a slice 2-3″ wide.


The walls of the abscess still did not collapse, nor did it drain.

Instead, the assistant removed lumps of hardened material she said was pus. Lucy took pictures.


Meanwhile it was over 100° in the barn, I was on heavy meds for a bad tooth, and though I’m never squeamish, I suddenly felt I was going to faint. I stumbled outside and sat down, my stomach heaving and a cold sweat breaking out across my face.

Recovering at home with a glass of water after the vet left, I was deeply upset for poor Stewart. I suspected this assistant should not have cut open the abscess. I knew I should never have decided to be a responsible cattle owner and address what turned out to be a benign abscess at all. However when David called me that night to apologize for the situation, I was able to get a grip. It isn’t David’s fault that Stewart is evidently allergic to Betadine, which David has used successfully to flush abscesses for thirty years.

Two days later I tricked Stewart back into the stanchion and inspected the wound. Still as big and hard as a baseball.  (I am becoming resigned to the idea that his face has probably been permanently scarred by this procedure.)


More chunks of hardened pus, looking like dirty tofu, were crowding the lips of the cut. [Double-click to enlarge.]


I flushed the wound with water mixed with a little hydrogen peroxide, to clear out the pus, and then smeared all around it with SWAT fly ointment. The one thing worse than dealing with this awful wound would be dealing with this awful wound crawling with maggots.

Clean again.


Stewart is certainly not eager to go into the stanchion these days, but so far, greed for sweet feed has always won out.

Dealing with this situation day by day has been the backdrop of the stressful, steamy, over-scheduled last two weeks. I pray it will heal soon, for Stewart’s sake and my own.

Party’s Over!

July 20, 2013

I hosted a party for 65 people last night. I host this party every year at this season for my husband’s work, but as I am not a natural hostess, even with the main food catered I find it a stressful experience. Combined with pressing issues at the farm and with the family, four times a day carpooling, plus a dental emergency that required driving to Vermont, I have been scheduled minute by minute for the past fortnight.

But this morning I wake up a free (almost) woman. Just the usual full-page list of chores. Hooray!

I will start catching up in these pages tomorrow.


July 17, 2013

Last night at 9:30 PM my husband and I were out gathering twenty-one terrified sheep scattered over acres of pasture in the dark. Apparently someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood thought it would be fun to set off fireworks nearby. My sheep panicked and tore through their netting.

I don’t often lose my temper but it’s a good thing that I didn’t meet Mr. Firework last night.

As my mother would have said: “KATIE, BAR THE DOOR.”

All Mowed

July 16, 2013


Allen finished the mowing yesterday. The entire seventeen open acres on the farm are mowed, save for the many ragged, rocky edges that I must clip with my lawn tractor, weedwhacker, and push mower.

I am very pleased. I am sure this marks the first time these acres have all been mowed since the 1920s or ’30s. Actually, judging from the litter of broken iron I turn up among the rocks, I’m not even convinced this land has ever all been mowed at one time.

Though I mowed almost all of it last year with my lawn tractor, this process is so slow that by the time I got any one field cleared the previous one would be overgrown with weeds and briars again.

Weeds are choking the fencelines and shorting my electric fences once more, but with the big mowing off my shoulders I should be able to clean these up in a week. I might even be able to start driving posts to fence in the back acres in the next fortnight.