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Preview: The 7MSN Ranch

The 7MSN Ranch

Photographs and adventures from 7 Miles South of Nowhere, New Mexico

Updated: 2017-12-16T05:51:43.680-07:00


The story I've been meaning to tell you for three months


Once upon a time, as in three months ago, I was deep in the throes of taking care of two sick donkeys. I was preoccupied and more than a little sleep-deprived. Friends were checking in regularly via email, and one of the chains went like this:Danni: Good morning. How's it going down there? Me: George is feeling better. Lucy's about the same. And I think Johnny ate 12. Danni: I'm happy for the good news about George, hoping so hard that Lucy is a lot better tomorrow, and wondering what Johnny ate "12" of. Me: I can't stop laughing. Johnny ate 12, as in 10 and 11.Danni: Omg, that wasn't the response I was expecting. I thought you were so exhausted that you just forgot to finish your sentence.Anyway, the previous evening, I was in the infirmary pen underneath Lucy, when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw JohnnyCashCat chasing something across the front yard. A second glance told me that "something" was actually a chicken, which made no sense at all because JCC is terrified of the chickens. By the time I was done treating Lucy it was almost dark, but I went on a search-and-rescue/recovery mission in the yard, looking for a probably-dead chicken and a seriously-in-trouble cat. I found the cat sitting on the porch. I did not find a chicken, a pile of feathers, or anything else that might otherwise serve as evidence of a henocide. I did find Peach, Minnie, Lady Mary, Mrs. Hughes, 10 and 11 in the chicken coop and deduced that it was 12 who went missing. Just call me Sherlock. Surely 12 must be hiding under a bush somewhere and would turn up by morning. She didn't. WTF? I didn't have the time or energy to investigate further or even be too upset. All my attention remained focused on Lucy and George.The next morning, it seemed a little quieter than normal in the yard when I went out to deliver medicine. "The chickens must be lying low, with one of their sisters missing," I thought, right up until the time I took attendance and couldn't find Minnie or Mrs. Hughes. In my attention-diverted state, I concluded they must be hiding under the same bush as 12 and would emerge momentarily.They didn't. WTF? Then the vet called with the worst news ever and I didn't give a thought to missing chickens or anything else until the next morning, when it was even quieter in the yard. Now Lady Mary and 11 were missing, too. It was time to confront the fact that something was picking off my chickens, two at a time at that, in the middle of the night. It had to have walked up the ladder to the coop, been small enough to fit through a 10" square opening, quiet enough so as not to cause a ruckus and wake up she-who-never-misses-anything Smooch, and clever enough to haul off five chickens without a stinkin' trace. I ruled out JCC as a suspect, since his m.o. is to eat the best parts of his kills and leave the remains under my office window as gifts. The incident where I thought I saw JCC chasing 12? Upon reflection, I now believe the real perpetrator was chasing them both. Plus, JCC was still afraid of the two survivors (Peach and 10) and they weren't afraid of him. All I could do was implement a new "latch the coop door every night" policy and hope that whatever was lurking in the dark didn't have opposable thumbs.Also, I bought a motion-activated trail camera and placed it where it might spot an intruder. The camera captured my deputies on the daytime shift.It even captured Peach peeking out the window on the night shift.Most of the time, it captured pictures like this, and after a few weeks, I finally turned it off.So here we are three months later, and the mystery of the five missing chickens remains.The coop gets latched every night. Peach and 10 have become BFFs. I have to buy eggs. Come spring, I'll get more chickens.  And all of us will remain forever vigilant.[...]

The feral beast goes hunting


Standing around, waiting for something exciting to happen


Smooch got tired of waiting and proceeded with her excavation project.

Random thoughts at 29 days


  1. I've written about a hundred posts in the last two months. None of them have made it onto your screen because who wants to read about other people’s problems? Not me. But I need to get back in the proverbial saddle because I don’t want to lose another constant in my life that’s irreplaceable, and that’s you and this little community we’ve become here over the past 10 years.
  2. I’d like to tell you that I’ve recovered from the loss of Lucy, but I’ve wiped tears off my face a half dozen times in writing this sentence, so that’s not the case. I suppose it’s going to be like this for a long while. Thank goodness for long sleeves.
  3. In 29 days, I will not sit down at my desk at 7:30 a.m. to do the same things I've been doing for the same company for 22.5 years. I don't know what I will be doing instead, but I don't care.
  4. A wise friend (Hi, Brigitte!) reminded me that "Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine.’’ I'm not going to declare this round of awful to be over because that would be just plain stupid, but I do think the amazing part will start again soon, if for no other reason than I'll have much better things to do besides work.

A return to the back 40, the 2017 edition


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In keeping with our annual tradition,
George and Alan return to the back 40
 to the music of David Tolk's "Autumn Gold."

While the cat is away



A few minutes in the corral with the boys


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George's best day ever


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While I've been gone


 My mind has been and remains a jumbled mess since Lucy's death, much like this picture, taken during the middle of one of those once-in-a-hundred year stormswhich happened here Friday night. I'll get to that in a minute.First let me say:1. Thank you, for every comment you've written and every email you've sent.I burst into tears just thinking about themand how you all are always here for me.2. Our vet concluded from Lucy's necropsy report that she died of kidney failure,which likely had been coming on for months. Nothing we could have donein her final weeks would have altered the outcome. 3. George is doing well. His foundered front feet were pain-free for a few weeks,then it rained and he became sore again, but now he's better again,and I expect this will be the pattern for awhile until he's fully recovered.He remains in his pen and is surprisingly calm and content.As for that hundred-year storm...It came after three days and 1.75" of rain, which is all but unheard of around here. In 30 minutes Friday evening, another inch of rain fell, plus an inch or so of marble-sized hail, which came down so hardI was convinced all the windows on the north and west sides of the house would break. The noise in the barn was too much for Alan to handle.He chose to stand butt to the storm in the corral for most of it.I don't know how hard the wind blew because the cup things broke and parted ways with the gauge. The rain and hail overwhelmed the drainage culverts, flooding the corral,the back porch, the front porch, and just about everything in between.The barn sits on higher ground, so George and eventually Alanhad a safe, dry place to be. The hail stripped the juniper trees of their berries and a lot of their foliage.I would love to see drone footage of the ranch about now - it would look likeevery tree was standing on a bright green carpet.   The really amazing thing about the hail, though (those pock marks above are the dents it made), is that it broke apart every bit of donkey poop in the pasture, then the rain dissolved what was left.I've got to think the pasture will be better for it in the long run, with all that fertilizer so nicely distributed.The fence is another story. See those two black straps holding the connector onto the t-post?  The storm broke almost every stinkin' one of them.The straps had been in place – in the relentless New Mexico sun – for 12 years,and I suspect they were all suffering from UV fatigue. The wind and hail accelerated their demise in one fell swoop.I had spare parts to fix a hundred or so and temporarily fixed the other 1,872 (not a typo) with baling wire until more parts arrive.So it was a busy weekend, and busy is good.Keeps my mind out of dark, sad places.  My morning coffee ritual gave me a sign that maybe it was time to try to smile again. And then who shows up Sunday morning but Steve(that's him in the puddle). He's survived here for 12 years that I know of. I'm certain he made his only appearance of 2017 to remind me thatall bad things, bad storms and obstacles in my path can be overcome. It just might take a little longer than expected.[...]

Remembering Lucy


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Lucy's walk-off song is "A Thousand Years" by The Piano Guys.

The story wasn't supposed to end this way


A vet came to the ranch Wednesday afternoon to examine Lucy. Since she wasn't eating
at that point, he thought it best that we haul her to town. We got her loaded in the trailer
and to the clinic, where she received liters of IV fluids that night and the next day, 
but she succumbed to whatever was ailing her and died late Thursday night.
A necropsy is being done, and I can only hope that a conclusive cause of death will be found.
Not knowing what took her away from us only adds to the heartbreak.

A moment's peace


When it's time for me to get some rest, Alan takes over as night watchman.

Scenes from the infirmary and dispensary


Patient conditions are about the same as our last report. Lucy is on a course of penicillin as of Wednesday, and I'm seeing tiny signsthat she might be feeling a slight bit better.The farrier came Friday, and I seriously doubted whether he'd be able to trim Lucy's hooves without her falling over,but he worked fast, made sure she wasn't uncomfortableand got her done. He believes George's hooves will heal quicklyand claims "medicine founder" is the easiest from which to recover.I want to believe him, but I think I'll run his theory by the vet first.Meanwhile, Alan is wandering around with nobody to play with except me.He reminds me at every opportunity that I have again forgotten to feed him.Then I remind him that he has three times as much pasture to grazebecause his herdmates are penned up, then he reminds me that life isn't fair and I say I couldn't agree more,and this goes on all day.Nostril shot.Here is Lucy eating. Look closely and you'll see the feral beast keeping her company.I haven't sourced any pill pockets for donkeys, so I'm improvising with carrot snouts. George loves carrot snouts. He hasn't caught on that I hide pills in the nostrils.Preparing the morning and evening medicine trays is becoming almost routinein that I don't have to consult my spreadsheet for who gets what.George gets the carrot snouts and Lucy gets everything else.Then everybody gets the best medicine of all.[...]

Saturday encore ~ It's all about the pie


This encore post is from September 12, 2016.The 2017 Pie Town Festival is today. I won't be attending because this year, it's all about George and Lucy, not the pie. Lucy showed some tiny signs of improvement yesterday.I'll try to post an update tomorrow.***This is the pie I baked to take to the Pie Town festival on Saturday. It was a peach/raspberry. I rarely bake pies, and for good reason.They're a lot of work! Perhaps it is my inexperience, but by the timeI researched a recipe, made the crust, peeled the peaches, wove the lattice,then baked the darned thing, cleared the smoke out of the houseand cleaned the oven, we're talking six hours that I would never get back. I thought about entering it in the contest, then I thought about all the work that went into it,then I thought about it being just another nameless, faceless pie that the judgmental judges wouldn't appreciatenearly as much as some other people I know,  so instead of competing with it, I took my pie to Pie Town and served it to my friends... ...some of whom I was meeting in person for the first time. Hi, Janet! Janet has been a regular reader and commenter on this blog since foreverand came to Pie Town all the way from Arizona. Hi, Aunt Jean! Another regular reader and commenter since forever, Jean and her husband drove all the way to Pie Town from Denver.Never underestimate the lengths people will go to for a piece of pie.Before we leave this picture, let us not overlook the bearded man in the cornerwho appears to making an offering to the pie gods. Hi, Tom and Kathy and their well-behaved dogs, at the finish line of the PiK.It was 3.14159 miles. Tom and Kathy were my neighbors before I moved to the 7MSN,and they introduced me to the whole Pie Town festival experience in 2010.Tom and Kathy both placed in their divisions in the PiK race. Their dogs, having pulled them up the last hill, felt they deserved their piece of the pie, but Tom wasn't buying it. I would not have been able to resist this face. Thorin is a Rhodesian Ridgeback with very large paws. I had as much fun taking dog pictures at the festivalas I did eating pie.[...]

Patient condition report


George's condition has been upgraded to stable and mischievous. He's moving almost normally, doesn't seem to be in much, if any, pain, and is trying to figure out how much stuff he can break and/or play with in the infirmary pen.

Lucy's condition remains guarded. I speak with the vet every day, and we continue to adjust her treatment plan. She is still very uncomfortable as the waiting game drags on. The vet suspects that there is an abcess caused by the dryland distemper bacteria buried high up in her flank area, which will eventually surface. I've asked him if there is anything more that could be done for her at the clinic. At this point, there is not, and he told me I'm doing more for her here than they could there since I can monitor and attend to her 24/7.

My condition is what it is. We'll get through this. It could be so much worse. I think about all the equine keepers in Texas. Somebody there was probably going through the same exact thing during the hurricane and flooding. And somebody in Florida or in proximity to one of the wildfires burning in the west is understandably freaking out right now because they've got a sick equine and their farm or ranch is in imminent danger. And surely there are DACA residents with sick equines thinking, "I've got enough to worry about damnit! Don't do this to me on top of everything else!"

So I'm doing my level best to keep things in perspective, stay calm, and not mix up George's meds with Lucy's. Thank you all for your support and friendship. It means everything to me.

The 7MSN I.C.U.


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Saturday encore ~ Johnny's turn at bat


This encore post is from August 29, 2016.  I was in the sunroom, watching Johnny watching Something. I knew not what. Given Something's proximity to a swallow's nest, I figured Something to be: a) a rodent going after swallow eggs or b) a snake going after the rodent going after the swallow eggs. Me: Get down, please, so that I might get a closer look take pictures. Eeewww. Eeewww. Eeewww. My batophobia kicked in, and I insisted that the feral beast leave the area immediately. Of course he did not obey. Cats never obey...  ...particularly cats who do not suffer from batophobia. So I just googled "fear of bats." It's called chiroptophobia, not batophobia,which is stupid because I'm not afraid of chiropractors. I'm afraid of bats.Anyway, I gave up and left the feral beast where he was, getting a stiff neck.Oh wait. Maybe that's why it's called chiroptophobia? Because if you stare at a bat long enough you need a chiropractor? The bat remained in place and I sort of forgot about him until I went out to the barn to removemasks and muzzles just before it got dark and sure enough, as I walked back onto the porch, the effing bat decided it was time to do what bats do, which is flap their leathery wingsand fly low and scare the hell out of people.Have I mentioned I have an irrational fear of bats? [...]

A prickly mess


When I gathered the herd for Thursday morning's check-in, Lucy was covered in chunks of cholla.
It's not unusual to find a piece or five stuck on her head, but this was different.
It was like she had slept with a cactus and they woke up and had a big fight,
which she lost so she rolled over on him a few times. 

Anyway, I removed the big pieces without too much trouble, but panicked
when I saw that her back legs resembled vertical porcupines from the knees down.
Lucky for both of us, our vet answers his phone before dawn
and I had a syringe of Dormosedan Gel on hand.
The sedative gave me a 90-minute window to sit underneath her,
pulling out the spines without her killing me kicking out in pain.
I think/hope/pray I got most of them.
She'll be on antibiotics for awhile in case I didn't, since the vet believes
abcesses might form around any I missed. 

Once all the drama had passed, I headed out to the small pasture
where the herd stays overnight, looking for evidence
that might help me understand how Lucy got herself
into such a prickly mess.

I'd bet the ranch that this is the scene of the crime. 
My theory is: she took a nap in the fluffy soft dirt, 
rolled onto the cactus as she got up,
scared herself silly, then jumped into or over it,
scattering pieces of it willy-nilly across the area.
In other words, she slept with a cactus, had a fight with it and lost.

p.s. Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees a cholla shaped like 
a donkey on her back, rolling with her legs in the air.

Catching up


I hadn't planned to abandon the blog this week, 
but Charlie, a friend who I hadn't seen in a very long time, came to visit. 
We had to catch up on 42 years in two days.

This is the only picture I took during Charlie's visit. 
This is Charlie's son Carl, who instantly befriended Smooch,
partly because Smooch is irresistable and also because
who in their right mind wants to listen to the oldish people
reminiscing about what they did in high school?

It was a wonderful visit that left Smooch watching and wondering
when her new friends will return.


Saturday encore ~ Hummingbird, don't fly away, fly away


This encore post is from September 2, 2016.***  The feral beast and I had just finished a photo shoot of the vine when who should cross our garden path but a female broad-tailed hummingbird...I think.I'm pretty bad at the whole bird identification thing.Whatever species... ...she sure was a beauty, and fearless, too –I was standing about a foot away. Hum along if you remember the Seals and Croft song from the seventies.The sweetness of your nectarHas drawn me like a flyI just love you, love you, love youI don't even know the reason whyMe: Don't even think about it.Hummingbird: Is he fast enough to grab me out of the air?Me: I hope not.Hummingbird: Just one more sip and I'm out of here. No point taking chances.[...]

A bird in a bush


I'll move back so you can see where I found the bird (a warbler? a finch?)
and the bush (Russian sage).

 See him?

In duct tape we trust


 ...because I learned my lesson after I did this:

p.s. A rattlesnake did not escape in the front seat, but a bullsnake did escape from the same can 
when it was in the garage awaiting relocation, despite the alleged locking lid.
Live and learn.

Low expectations met


 I went outside 15 minutes prior to the time yesterday's eclipse was supposed to reach its peak of 80% totality in this part of New Mexico.Drawing upon prior solar-eclipse experience, I knew it would probably be a bust I set my expectations very low.It's like the sky is too big here for eclipses to work.I know that makes no sense but most days nothing does. As expected, I could not take a decent picture of it. George: It's going to happen any second! George: Amazing! The shadow is blocking the whole sun! George: It's over already? The sunlight dimmed ever so slightly, but minds were not boggled, nor were spirits awakened.We hope you greater-than-95-percenters made great memories for us. Alan: Shouldn't I at least get a cookie for not looking at it?[...]

Saturday encore ~ What do supermoons and solar eclipses have in common?


This encore post is from May 21, 2012, the day after a solar eclipse in which the 7MSN was allegedly in the path of totality.It was a total bust, photography-wise, but a valuable lesson learned.Come Monday, I will have my camera ready, but only to photograph the light on my animals.***You won't find a decent photograph of either on this blog. I thought I was prepared for the solar eclipse yesterday. I had scouted locations days in advance, planning my shots, rehearsing the route I'd take in the Ranger so I could cover them all during the four-and-a-half-minute window when the moon's shadow would hide the sun, leaving a ring of fire around the edge. An hour before the big event, I gathered my camera bag with all my lenses, my assistant, and every pair of protective eyewear I could find.I had instructed everyone, including me, to not look directly at the sun.How I was going to take pictures of something I couldn't look at would be a challenge. I put the camera on manual focus set at infinity, then I stopped the lens down to the smallest aperture and shot at the highest shutter speed. Then I aimed the camera at the general direction of the western horizon.Whoo-hoo! Not only did I get the sun, I also captured pink UFOs landing in the pasture.Nobody told me one of Saturn's rings would be visible. What an unexpected surprise.Please don't burst my bubble and tell me that's really some sort of lens defect.I eventually figured out how to make the UFOs and Saturn's ring disappear by putting my thumb over the viewfinder to block the weird reflections, but I still wasn't seeing any sign of the eclipse.Don't let this one fool you. It was taken 15 minutes prior to the time the ring of fire was supposed to occur. I think I got lucky and a couple of dust spots on the lens aligned.7:33 came and went and I've got nothing to show you for it. I do know that the birds stopped singing, there wasn't a whisper of a wind, and the light was freakin' amazing. I gave up trying to capture it with my camera and just looked around and took it all in. Sometimes memories are better than pictures anyway.[...]