Saturday, January 20, 2018

How it Really Goes

Be warned, this post contains LOTS of bad words.

Do you ever watch a DIY how-to video and say, "oh, that looks easy"?

Well, fixing a hot water heater is like that.  They are really very simple contraptions and when they quit working, they can usually be repaired with a few easy steps and less than $40.  I have light bulbs that are harder to change, mostly because I need a step ladder tall enough to reach them and I am too cheap to buy one.

The steps to fixing a water heater go like this:
  1. Turn off power to water heater
  2. Turn off water supply to heater
  3. Attach garden hose to drain at bottom of heater and open valve
  4. Open the hot water tap on the faucets so air can get into tank and allow it to drain.
  5. Remove the cover panel on the front of the tank (two little screws)
  6. Remove the two wires attached to the heating element located under the cover panel 
  7. Unscrew heating element with the special wrench made for the job ($4.99) and replace with a new heating element ($14.99)
  8. Reattach the wires to the element  (most tanks have an upper and lower heating element.  Since you've gone this far, you might as well replace both at the same time so repeat steps 6&7 for the lower element)
  9. Turn the water supply back on - make sure to leave the taps open so the air can get pushed back out.
  10. Once all the faucets are running clear, turn them off and turn the power to the heater back on.
Hot water restored in ten easy steps for less than $35.


How it goes in real life:
  1. Turn off power to water heater
  2. Turn off water supply to heater
  3. The hose is not where it is supposed to be.  Where the f*** did I leave the damned hose?
  4. Oh yeah, it's buried in the snow under the tree because it snowed before I remembered to put it away  
  5. Dig out hose and drag the frozen, snow covered thing inside to thaw out and drip all over floor.  
  6. Go out and finish cleaning the barn
  7. Come in and wiggle hose, it feels empty so start to attach it to the hot water heater
  8. Remember at that moment that I cranked a plug onto the end of the water heater valve 4-5 years ago because it was leaking.
  9. Go out to barn to get big wrench to get stupid plug off valve
  10. Wrestle with corroded, stripped piece-of-shit plug for 15 minutes
  11. Step back and grab piece of newspaper to stop the bleeding 
  12. Finally get piece-of-shit plug off 
  13. Attach hose to even worse piece-of-shit plastic valve
  14. Take deep breath and put other end of hose outside to drain
  15. Open valve and check to see that the water is flowing out of other end of hose
  16. There is no water flowing out of the hose
  17. Remember to go open all the hot water taps on the faucets
  18. Go check to see that water is flowing out of hose
  19. There is NO F****** water flowing out of the F****** hose
  20. Unattach hose from hot water heater and attach to pressure tank to make sure hose is not clogged with ice
  21. Stop the bleeding 
  22. Hose is not clogged and water is running fine
  23. Unattach hose from pressure tank and reattach to hot water drain
  24. Open valve and go check water flow
  25. There is no GODDAMNED water draining out of the tank
  27. Unattach hose and fiddle with miserable f*****, piece-of-shit valve
  28. A tiny trickle of water begins flowing out of valve
  29. Take a deep breath and reattach hose.  It will just take a while for the water to drain
  30. Take the long suffering Border Collie for a walk
  31. Come back and check water flow
  32. There is NO F****** WATER DRAINING OUT OF F****** TANK
  33. Unattach hose
  34. Find a plastic zip strip and shove it up the piece-of-shit valve to unclog it
  35. A cloudy, white trickle of sludge dribbles out of valve and then stops altogether
  37. Repeat step 33 until cloudy water resumes trickling out of valve
  38. Reattach hose and leave for 3 hours
  39. Return to find that some water has drained
  40. Tentatively remove upper elememt
  41. Happily screw in new element and sigh in relief that the water finally drained and I can have this job done in another two minutes
  42. Unscrew lower heating element
  43. Gallons of water gushes out, soaking everything in its path
  44. Desperately screw element back in and stop the flood
  48. Unattach hose
  49. Notice that the Border Collie has just tiptoed out his dog-door
  50. Gather up all the towels I can find and begin sopping up water
  52. Toss bucket of grungy water out the door and and see Border Collie sneak in to rescue the frisbee and sneak back out to safety
  53. Keep cleaning and wait for more water to drain
  54. Tentatively reach for heating element
  55. Element partially breaks off and more water comes gushing out
  56. Try to stop water then give up and let it drain onto floor
  57. Examine miserable, stinking, piece-of-shit heater tank and find that the bottom ten inches of tank is filled with mineral deposits
  58. Call Farm Buddy and tell her we need to take her old, decrepit, brakeless truck to Lowes and buy a new water heater
  59. She hems, haws, mutters and reluctantly agrees, but she has to milk her cow first
  60. Hastily remove everything possible from the path of the flood
  61. Kick stupid, horrible water tank and bruise my toe
  62. Clean 30 gallons of water off of floor
  63. Spend 40 minutes removing bent, broken heating element
  64. Stop the bleeding
  65. Ponder whether or not it is worth spending $400 for a new water heater so that I can start growing a whole new geological formation or if I should invest in a water filtration system first
  66. Shove new heating element into the layer of calcite in the bottom of the tank and screw it into place
  67. Answer phone when FB calls and call off emergency trip to Lowes.  They are closed by now anayway
  68. Use paper towels to dry off all the wiring 
  69. Ponder the likelihood of electrocution if I ever turn the power back on
  70. Ponder the likelihood of dying from calcium toxicity from drinking my water
  71. Fuck it, I'm not dead yet
  72. Turn the water supply back on and fill tank
  73. Once all the faucets are running clear, turn them off  
  74. Did I hook hook up the wires?
  75. Yes
  76. Are they dry?  
  77. Mostly
  78. Will I start an electrical fire if I turn the power on?
  79. Probably not
  80. Fuck it.  
  81. Fuck all of it.  
  82. If I can't have hot water, I may as well burn the house down
  83. Turn the power to the heater back on
Hot water restored in 80+ steps, massive swearing, blood loss, fits of rage and less than $35.

Thank God I get to take a hot shower.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Me, Myself and I

Yesterday morning:

Stumble out of bed, peer nearsightedly out the window to make sure that there are three donkey-shaped blobs somewhere in sight and head to the kitchen to get my desperately needed morning cup of tea started.

Notice right away that the water is not getting anywhere near as hot as it should and grumbel in annoyed irritation.

Stumble to shower hoping that I imagined the lack of hot water or that the water heater would miraculously fix itself in the time it takes me to walk the 10 feet from kitchen to bathroom.

Me: The water was really pretty warm wasn't it? There is nothing wrong.  There is nothing wrong....

Myself:  Get real dummy, you know the water heater is dying.  It's down there right now whining out its last gasp as we speak.

Me: It wasn't THAT cold.

Myself: Yeah, NOT today it's not, but you know what this means.

Me: It will hold out a bit longer, we just need to get through today because the vet is coming and we need to go see Rosie and then go to work.  The water heater is FINE.

Myself: You are such a poor, pitiful fool, but go ahead - cling to your denial.

I:  Hey look, both of you, shut-up.  The water is mostly warm, we can still have our shower and the world can go on.  We can handle this.  We'll just get a new heating element and fix the water heater tomorrow and all will be right with the world.  

This moring:

Stumble out of bed, peer nearsightedly out the window to make sure that there are three donkey-shaped blobs somewhere in sight and head to the kitchen to get my desperately needed morning cup of tea started.

Notice right away that the water does not get warm AT ALL. 

Me, Myself and I: no,on,no,no,on,no,no,on,no

Pitiful whimper at the idea of getting through the day without a hot shower.  Stumble towards the bathroom. 

Me: There could be hot water in the bathroom right?  Just because it is all the same water and the same pipe, the same heater....there could be hot water in the shower.  Miracles happen right?

Myself: Wrong.

Me: It was just a bad dream. There is hot water, there IS hot water.

Myself: This is bad.  I don't even have the heart to tell you how stupidly delusional you're being.  

Turn shower on.  Stare in numb horror at cascade of icy water.

Me: It really is cold.

Myself: Of course it's cold.  Did you think little elves would come over and fix it while you weren't looking?

Me: It was still warm yesterday.  Why can't it still be warm today?  It's just one day, it shouldn't have died that quick. One measly day!

Myself:  *sigh* How can we be so foolish?

I: We could try taking a cold shower.  It's supposed to be good for you.  Invigorating.  Brisk.  Healthy. 


Me and Myself:  Are you out of you F******* MIND????

I:  Yeah, I am.  That's what happens when the world ends.  


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The BIG Anouncement

From Farm Buddy:

Okay, okay, I guess I will have to spill the news……Bessie is most likely going to have puppies around March tenth!!!!!!!!!

I found a very handsome mate for her named Enzo who is three-quarters Maremma and one-quarter Great Pyrenees. He is a sweet boy, and he and Bessie really got along well. I am happy that he has a little Great Pyrenees in him, as I like the idea of hybrid vigor and all that. Enzo’s mom was a purebred Maremma, and his dad was half Maremma and half Great Pyrenees. So what is the math here; will Bess’ pups be seven-eighths Maremma?

I tried to breed Bess to this same male last July, but things didn’t work out. They were both bothered by the hot weather, and neither had any experience with breeding, which probably didn’t help. Both were still inexperienced this time around, but both were a little more mature (Bess will be three on February 25th) and I think the cold weather was much more to their liking.

Usually Bess sleeps outside at night, although she always has access to my mudroom which has a huge Orvis dog bed in it. In cold weather, she usually sleeps on the Orvis bed in the mudroom, and in milder weather, she sleeps part of the night with the cattle out on pasture and part of the night on the front porch Orvis bed. Since she was bred (they actually bred four times), I have kept her in the house at night, mostly because I don’t want to worry about her getting bred by a coyote, as it is also their breeding season now. Also, and I know many livestock guardian dog owners will cringe at this, but I don’t really like having her sleep outside when it is way below zero, which is pretty much what it has been since Christmas.

 At first, I had thought I would fix my entire mudroom to be a puppy room, but now I am thinking that I would rather the pups be born inside and stay in the house for the first two weeks. After all, we could still be getting sub-zero temperatures in mid-March. I figure when the pups are starting to eat food at about three weeks or so, I can move the family to the mudroom, where they will have plenty of room and have a chance to learn about life on the farm. I plan to expose them to the cattle, sheep, and chickens as soon as possible, and I have plenty of raw wool that I can put in their nest from the time they are born, so they will be used to sheep and livestock smells. I can let them sleep on my dirty barn clothes too!

Of course you are all probably thinking that I plan to keep a pup, but actually I don’t. My plan is that Bess will have this litter, and then in three or four years, she will have one more litter, hopefully with the same mate, and THEN I will keep a pup. Bess will be six or seven then and probably could use a hand with farm predator patrol. Riding Buddy is also thinking that she would like a pup from the second litter too. Right now, I have Bess and two Border collies; Kelsey, who is almost nine, and Scout, who is fifteen plus. When I am down to one Border collie, I will be getting another, as I really need the help of a good stock dog, especially with my cattle.

Bess is enjoying the pregnant life. She spends a lot of time sleeping on my bed or the couch, and I find it interesting that she is the only one of my dogs that enjoys sleeping in front of the woodstove. My dogs always get gourmet meals, but now I am really going overboard! The dogs and I are basically sharing our meals, and I am making lots of roast chicken, chuck roasts, bone broths, short ribs; all of which I simmer on the woodstove in a Dutch oven filled with organic vegetables, like carrots, potatoes, squash, and the like. I make Bess poached and scrambled eggs, and I give her fresh raw milk from my cow, Jane. She gets some yogurt too. I have not increased the amount I feed her yet, but when she is four weeks from her due date, I have been told to switch her to puppy kibble instead of adult kibble. I have lots of organic organ meat from my grassfed cattle, which I plan to feed her when she is nursing the pups.
My guess is that there are going to be five pups; three girls and two males. Want to make a guess? Remember, Bess came from a litter of eleven (isn’t that a scary thought!).

Well I personally can’t think of anything more exciting than this, so let’s hope all the nut cases in power can refrain from blowing up the world, so the pups can be born in a peaceful and happy world!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Assorted Updates

Ben is doing very well now that he has gotten used to his Cushing's medication.  The dragon still occasionally peeks out, but it is rare and he is feeling very good.  Feeling good enough to lead a minor escape this morning when he found a bit of fence knocked down by deer.  They only made it out into the back pasture, which has been closed for months, but they certainly thought they were getting away with something.  I left them all to their little bit of larceny because they couldn't get in real trouble and we all need a little fun now and then.

The vet is scheduled to come out on Thursday to draw Ben's blood for a new ACTH test so we will see if his meds need any adjustment.  He is currently on 1/2 a tablet of Prascend per day and I am hoping that he will not need a higher dose.

Emma has completely healed up from her Caslick's procedure and it seems to be helping.  She has stopped trying to rub on the gate all the time and she just seems happier.  This used to be a daily occurance...

I can't blame her, having hay chaff in unmentionable places would make me grumpy as hell too.

Emma barley spoke to me for several weeks after the procedure, but after three weeks I removed all the stitches and she finally relented and grudgingly forgave me.  She has kindly allowed me to provide neck scratches and ear rubs once again.  

Tessa is doing great down at Riding Buddy's.  She and Hawkeye are fast friends and RB is happy to have her around.  Tessa had managed to lose a few pounds when she first went down to RB's, but now that she is more relaxed and not so worried that Hawkeye will get too far away from her, she has gained it all back.  She managed that on a limited amount of low-sugar, late-cut grass hay fed out of slow feed nets.  She is still an honorary donkey in that regard - all she has to do to gain weight is daydream about food.  

Not that I can cast any stones in that direction.  

Hawkeye is also doing well on his Cushing's medication.  His latest blood test showed levels in the normal range and it is clear that he feels better than he has in a long time.  His feet are also doing better, which is the clearest indication that the medicine is helping him.  He is barefoot this winter for the first time in several years.  He has not been able to stay sound without shoes for quite some time so I am very pleased that he can do without for a while.

I haven't posted anything about Ramsey's foot for quite some time because (knock wood) there hasn't been anything to post.  

(Please send up whatever prayer you'd like that I did not just jinx myself by typing that out loud!!!)

I trimmed everybody's feet this afternoon and they all look good.  Ramsey has finally accepted that Ben is a part of the herd and I actually saw them tentatively playing together a while ago.  I would not go so far as to call them great buddies, but maybe it will happen.  Someday.  If we all live long enough.

Rosie is the one horse I am working on right now that I am truly worried about. I haven't written much about her, but she belongs to a friend and she foundered a few months ago.  She had been doing really well and I thought we were on the way to a full recovery when she foundered again last week.  

The real trouble with Rosie is that neither the vet nor I can figure out WHY she has foundered.  She is not overweight, she is on a diet of late-cut, grass hay.  She did not break into the feed room or get into anything she shouldn't.  There is no sign of infection, fever or illness.  She lives with another horse and a donkey, who are both in great shape.  

Rosie is a puzzle.

We had her tested for Cushing's and the vet and I were both very surprised when it, and all her other blood work came back normal.  Rosie is also going to be seeing the vet this week and maybe we will know more afterward.  In the meantime, she can use any good vibes you can send her way.  

Farm Buddy may have some big, exciting news to share, but I told her she had to write the blog post.  I suggest you all nag her unmercifully.  

For now, all I can give you is a little hint....

Solar Powered Donkey Warmer

As seen on BlogTV:  A Solar Powered Donkey Toaster!  Available for a very limited amount of time so act fast.

For those rare cold, but sunny days, the dark brown wall and the black mats, all facing south, create an excellent donkey roaster. 

It requires frequent turning to get all sides of a donkey properly toasted, but built in automation takes care of that job with no need for additional assistance.

The toaster also comes standard with an automatic timer that will deliver a perfectly toasted donkey.  Once the nicely browned, the donkey will be ejected from the toaster and another will slide right into place.   

The wonders of robotic technology available here for a select few who act fast.  Hurry while supplies last!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Nude Beach

30 degrees and sunny....

Just like a day at the beach. 

A stroll along the sand...

A picnic lunch...

Staking out a good spot to lay the towels...

Some surreptitious people watching...

 ...because everybody is completely naked!

Nothing like a day at the beach. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Keeping Warm

Well, this has been a distinctly un-fun few days.  With a high temp of -5 and 40-50 mph winds, even the psycho puppy has been feeling the chill.  His Frisbee got caught in the wind and is likely somewhere in the next county by now and poor Connor got blown right over chasing it.  He is opting to stay warm and we have a new frisbee on the shopping list.

I took this picture of Ramsey two days ago and I am fairly sure it was the last time he so much as poked his nose out of the barn.  Given the way the Hell-Wind has been blowing up here, I don't blame him. 

He made a half-hearted attempt to organize his toys... 

Then gave it up for a lost cause and headed back in. 

For anyone worried about the poor, poor kitty-kat....she has a hay fort in the shed and I gave her one of my old bee hive boxes and filled it with an entire sheep fleece. 

We all know how cats feel about boxes, fluffy wool and hay.  Kipper is perfectly warm and happy.

She is far happier than Farm Buddy who's pipes have all frozen in her house.  Fortunately, the barn has a seperate well and, with much work, worry and effort, those pipes are now working.  Hauling water for all those cows, sheep, chickens, pigs and a llama is not a fun job.  I guess we need to put a box around FB's house and fill it with wool. 

Or we should all move to a warmer climate.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Great Debate

Everytime it gets cold, the Great Blanket Debate begins anew.  There are those who passionately believe that blankets are unnatural, and no horse or donkey ever needs one.  There are those who just as passionately believe that all donkeys and horses do need them.  Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the quiet middle.

Does your donkey really, truly need a blanket?

  • If he is younger than 4 years old or older than 20, he will likely benefit from a blanket when the weather is extreme.
  • If he is younger than 1 or older than 25 and facing an unusual cold spell, he needs a blanket.
  • If he has other health issues.  Ramsey and Ben are good examples.  Ramsey had a nearly fatal hoof infection when he was 4 months old.  He had surgery at Cornell followed by 6 months of intense follow-up care.  He has arthritis issues stemming from that time.  He had Lyme disease two years ago that exacerbated the arthritis.  He had another tick borne disease last year.  In cold weather, he gets sore and unhappy.  Keeping him warm drastically improves his quality of life.  Ben also had a bad tick borne illness last year that caused major muscle/joint pain and triggered laminitis.  He has also just been diagnosed with Cushing's, which causes immune system depression and interferes with the body's ability to regulate temperature.  Animals like this need all the help they can get.  They will survive without a blanket, but there is difference between surviving and thriving.
  • If your critter is shivering he needs a blanket.
All of that should be fairly obvious, but what about healthy, adult donkeys with good shelter and feed?  Do they NEED blankets when we have a horrible cold snap like this?

If they are in good condition and are well acclimated to bad winters, than no they do not NEED blankets.  They will survive and the chubby ones may even shiver some extra weight off and be healthier for it in the long run. 

Do those healthy, adult donkeys WANT blankets in this horrible weather?    

The answer to that mostly depends on the donkey, where he is and how good his shelter is, but many donkeys will be happier with a blanket during prolonged cold. 

Physically, horses are much better able to adapt to sudden changes in temperature than donkeys are.  Donkeys can handle a wide variety of temps, but it takes them longer to adjust.  Horses have extensive vasculature directly under their skin that allows them to either dispel or conserve body heat.  Donkeys do not have this same vasculature.  Their bodies are more adapted to getting rid of excess heat than in conserving it.  They grow very thick coats, but it is a coarser coat that does not hold heat as well as a horse's short, dense coat.  

Will a healthy donkey survive some bad weather?  Yes.  Do they like being cold?  No. 

Some signs or reasons that your donkey may want a blanket:
  • Not wanting to be touched in cold weather.
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Exercise: This is critical to the health of all equines.  If your donkey will go out with a blanket and brave the elements instead of hiding in the barn, this is a good enough reason to blanket.
Even if they only make it a couple hundred feet before they wimp out and head back to the barn.  Even that little bit of exercise can help keep the bowels moving in the right direction and anyone who owns equines will know how important this is.

  • Sleep deprivation.  People tend to look at me funny when I say this, but it is very true.  Equines can doze standing up and it is true that they require less sleep than many other animals.  However, they DO need to be able to lie and go into a deep sleep every day. If horses or donkeys don't feel comfortable lying down, they will become increasingly sleep deprived and will eventually fall down.  The extreme version of sleep deprivation is pretty obvious, but the more subtle signs include irritability and an unbalanced stance when dozing.  

I saw Emma doing this last week.  She was standing in the barn door, hind leg cocked, head down, dozing, but she also had one front leg cocked and she wobbled a bit when her head drooped.  The reason that she was not lying down was because she was cold.  Not long after putting her blanket on, she laid down and slept hard for over an hour.  

Random video of sleep deprived horse from YouTube, this is what Emma was doing: 

So, does Emma, my healthy, adult, fat donkey NEED a blanket? 

No.  I know she will survive without one and may even lose a few pounds doing it.

Does Emma like her blanket?

YES!  She is far more relaxed and happy wearing it.  She does not sweat under it so I know she is not too warm.  

I am well aware that wild horses and donkeys survive just fine (mostly, until they don't) without our help.  However, these are not wild donkeys.  They are not living in a climate that they are suited for.  And, the average lifespan of a wild horse is 12-14 years.  I want mine to live 2-3 times that.  

Blankets are an unquestionable hazard, especially if they don’t fit well.  They require daily monitoring and attention.  They need to be taken off and put back on as the weather changes.  They increase the maintenance required for daily donkey care.  If you are OK with all of that and you feel better knowing your beloved friends are warm and toasty, than go ahead and blanket your fat, healthy, adult donkeys.  All of you will enjoy the company and attention blankets require.  As long as a blanket won't cause harm than peace of mind for the owner is a valid reason to blanket.  

Most of us own donkeys because we love them.  We worry about them, we lie awake at night wondering if they are OK.  If putting a blanket on your fat, healthy donkey will make you feel good and make her happy, then do it.  If it helps both of you sleep at night, what is wrong with that?  

Which is why Emma is wearing a brand new blankie tonight even though I should be making her shiver off some of her extra pounds.