Saturday, May 30, 2009

There is probably something I'm supposed to be getting out of this besides stressed out

O'un, a.k.a. The Resurrection Queen, has just had her third trip to hell. Her third near-death experience. Her third Vision Quest. The rest of us have had one rough last couple of days.

Just after we sold O'un's half-sister Venus and Venus's two kids, Oun became listless. She had no appetite that night for her grain. The next morning I saw that she hadn't touched the fodder in her manger. She was lying down staring into near space with an "I've lost the will to live" look on her face. Was she that attached the Venus? I wondered. Her belly was swollen and no sounds were coming from her guts.

Matt and I pumped some molasses and yogurt down her and got her out of the sun (where she had chosen to go lie down) and back in her stall. Soon after she was drooling. The vet said he couldn't come until five o'clock. Five o-clock! It was a long hot day. O'un went from being able to stand and walk to lying and staring. To drooling. To sprawled over on her side with her open mouth propped on the pallet wall of her stall, saliva draining away. When the vet got here, her temperature had gone from normal to over 106 degrees. She was super-dehydrated and in nearly complete metabolic failure. Matt and I had to drag her (she was still to heavy to lift) out of the stall area and into a shady part of the pasture with her head and chest aimed uphill.

After his initial assessment and a shot of banamine and because O'un was mouth-breathing and didn't respond to her eyes being touched, I asked the vet what he would do if she were his goat. He said he'd put her down. I was just about to say do it when Matt said, she's been like this before (when she was owned by other people). All the way like this? I wondered. This bad? I couldn't remember her mouth-breathing, only the stargazing and how terminal she had seemed before making her amazing recoveries. Matt insisted on the herculean measures. I wondered if we were torturing her.

The vet's first attempt to tube her failed. He couldn't get the tube down into her stomach. He went for IV rehydration, but he exhaused his chances on the right jugular before he could get it and the left jugular thrombosed soon after the drip started, she was that far gone. The vet and his intern put the rest of the fluid in subcutaneously. We got her into a better position and the vet was able to get the tube down her for more fluids and propylene glycol. he warned us, "they usually die right after I take the tube out. Something about it just tips them over."

O'un didn't die. But the vet was sure that her cranial nerves were already deteriorated and that she was essentially brain dead. Flies could walk across her open staring eyes.

The vet told me to get her into a frog position buttressed with hay bales for the night. He said he thought she had maybe 10% chance of making it until morning (and I was pretty sure he felt he was exaggerating by at least nine). Ronan and I got the hay bales in place and then set up four more to make a bed for me out in the field next to O'un. As I brought all my gear out: the sleeping bag, the quilt, the pillows, I kept thinking that each time I approached her she wouldn't be breathing anymore. And it often looked that way until I was right on top of her; her breathing was very shallow.

Shallow, but the breaths kept coming. At 10:00, Ronan walked out with me to "tuck me in". I woke up several times during the night to reposition O'un because she had scooted herself out from between the bales. Around one a.m. she bleated and her head was up instead of flat on the ground. Despite the fear and stress, I couldn't help but enjoy as I always have a night under the stars. I listened to the frogs and looked at the Milky Way, petted Charm (one of the outdoor cats who was so happy I was sleeping outside and was defending her position against all other cats). I saw two shooting stars with long tails in the low Southeast. The tops of my pillows and the sleeping bag got sopped with dew. It was a lovely night. Later, in the dead of night (about 3:30 a.m., when even the frogs are too tired to croak), the partying down at the lake cranked up (pun intended), but I the rest of the night had been so lovely that I didn't begrudge the idjits their noise as much as I used to.

A beautiful Saturday dawn came with sun rising far to the north of Mount Fujiko, and from 4:30 on I couldn't wait until 8:00 when I could call the vet and ask what to do next. Things still didn't look good. I'd only gotten O'un to eat two mustard leaves. It was a loooooong time until 8:00, but I kept busy with the usual chores plus the preparations for getting Ronan and Matt ready for the Row River Cleanup canoe trip. We didn't all have to stay home, and it's a rare thing for Ronan to spend a whole day with her dad. Despite all the hubbub, Peach, the scrub jay, still got some quality shoulder time in. (Peach is sitting on my shoulder now as I type. She loves shoulder perching.)

Finally I called the vet at 7:59 and he answered. He sounded very reserved when I told him my name and then amazed and frankly puzzled when I said O'un was still alive, now what? He said I could drive up to his office in Pleasant Hill and he would leave some medication in a drop box for me. I asked if we had somehow pushed O'un over the edge by cutting fresh fodder for the goats that had contained rather a lot of hop clover. He said that could have done it because it was rather rich food, but he couldn't say, even Venus's departure couldn't be ruled out as a cause of the whole cascade. He thought, though, that O'un was just a weak goat who had been ruined and compromised in the past and that anything could have triggered the ketosis or bloat into acidosis into enterotoxemia that was his guess for what was wrong with her. His advice was that he had brought more goats back from the brink with just blackberry leaves than with anything else. So that's what I did. All day long: cut a bucket of blackberry leaves. Feed O'un. Feed Peach. Do something else for about thirty minutes. Then cut more blackberry leaves. Check on O'un. Hold the water bucket for her drink out of. Feed Peach. Drive up to Pleasant Hill for the goat meds. Feed. Feed. Feed. And occasionally thing: wouldn't it be great if everyone had a "magic pill" that grew as a weed all over the place. Every prickly leaf seemed to make O'un stronger.

By evening we let her kids see her and she tried to stand but still couldn't quite manage it. Today (Sunday) her eyes are bright and engaged. We can't say if she's going to ever again be the same pushy, butt-headed alpha goat she was last week, but I think she might be standing up some time today. We'll see if her milk returns, too, although her kids seem to be doing okay without her at nine weeks. Matt's pretty sure she's going to dry down permanently.

What am I thinking I am supposed to get out of this? Besides the realization that we nearly killed O'un this time ourselves. Besides the realization that O'un apparently NEVER loses her will to live. Besides that I should not have mistaken her strange strength and ability to come back from devastating conditions (in which her organs have failed and her intestinal walls have all but dissolved) for overall good health: O'un, we now know, is as tough as she is delicate. I shouldn't have bred O'un this one last time ... although I am sure glad that we have a girl from O'un. No, none of those things so much.

What I am trying to get myself to learn is that again and again - and in just the last twelve months I've seen it happen three times - critical situations that I thought could not possibly turn out well, did. I watch myself making reasonably intelligent, logical deductions from the information at hand ... and coming to pessimistic conclusions that were wrong. While I don't want to take this too far into mindless hope and become someone who causes needless pain and suffering for others by not letting them go when they need to go, I really want to learn to adjust my heart and mind to allow for and encourage intelligent hope.

I have an uneasy relationship with hope. I have often joked (with serious intent) that hope was the last creature out of Pandora's Box because it was the worst and most climactically terminal disease. I think that humans have used hope - in something better always coming around the corner and then in something better coming in a life after this one - to destroy the only Paradise we know for a fact exists (when we're not busy transforming it into hell). For quite some time now I have lost hope that humanity can evolve into a species that does not destroy the world. My main source of hope has been that we do not have any means of escaping this world and going off to destroy another one. I still don't think I can address that ultimate problem with hope that I have, but I can try to use the lessons of Webster, O'un and even Peach here, to help me with the smaller daily hopes that can sustain me as a happier more highly functional person.

Today I can say, as I did when I woke up next to O'un and looking over the valley at my beautiful mountain: "Thank you for another day in Paradise."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

water and 24 hours of cuddling

That's my t-shirt slogan: "Water and 24 hours of cuddling will fix almost anything." It's been proved right for the second time. With Peach here, pictured on her second day with us. (No, I have not made it into a t-shirt yet and probably never will get around to it.)

The first time this axiom bore out was when Sophie, back when she was our new dog, mistook an escaped gosling for a chew toy. I thought Webster was a goner and was trying to ratch up the courage and stomp on her when Ronan woke up, found out what was going on and - of course - disag
reed with my intended course of action. I was feeling weak and willing to let her try to save her despite that I thought Ronan's efforts were most likely going to prolong her suffering. We forced water down Webster at regular intervals and wrapped her up on old shirt so that she could be strapped to Ronan's chest for warmth. For most of the day she looked terminal. We had a Cottage Grove fashion show to go to at Centro del Sol and Gosling-in-a-Sling went with us. She was a sideshow sensation at the event and was starting to look a little better. By the next day I figured that if she'd made it 24 hours without snuffing, then that was a very good sign. Soon after she was eating and drinking and making the usual waterfowl mess. Later she rejoined her brother pestering people on the porch by gnawing on the edges of their book or begging from their plates and supervising any job that involved power tools. Those two geese would come running whenever a chainsaw, drill, or even a jackhammer fired up. Our only guess about this behavior is that a migrating flock of geese must make a LOT of noise if your up their amonst them with the wind in your feathers.

Then on Thursday morning one of the kid's next door dropped off a baby bird hoping that Ronan could save it. He'd found it inside the house, so a cat must have carried it in - an action that usually involves some crunching down on the body. Ronan was having a sleepover with her friends in a tent and before they came to take over I looked at the baby bird, saw it was a scrub jay, and thought that at least it was a good species although it didn't look much better than Webster had. Ronan and her friends worked on rehydrating the bird and naming it Peach (this last was a longer process than it sounds). And that was about it. But after a day of being fussed over by Ronan, Vesta, and Hazel, I was taking the bird around with me on errands in Cott
age Grove while Ronan was at gymnastics class and the little thing ate some soggy cat food and then shoved its butt up to the top of the knitted purse she was sitting and started wagging it fast and hard over the side. I was mentally prepared for the little green sack of poo that ma and pa scrub jay are supposed to be able to grab in their bills and fly off to drop somewhere away from the nest, but ... I fumbled the toilet paper. Now I can tell you that the little mucusy parcel comes pretty well wrapped and can be picked off a hand towel folded in the bottom of basket without breaking and squishing shit all around. But the main point to telling you all that was that we had achieved poop! Yay! Stuff was going in Peach and it was coming out! Her chances of surviving just went way up. When Ronan got out of gym, I made the announcement "We've got poop!" and she grinned and clapped her hands.

We're now on our sixth day with Peach and she is starting her practice flights. Mostly from shoulder to finger. She has her knit purse (knitted by Vesta) for short trips, but most of the time her kn
itted nest is in a larger basket that contains her diaper kit and food bowl. Jays are hardy things and not picky eaters, thank goodness. Peach has been dining on worms; soaked cat food; hard-boiled eggs; defrosted berried; homemade bread with toasted pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seads soaked in goatsmilk; and a little bit of buffalo - supplemented now and then with a sprinkle of powdered nettles, kelp, and nutritional yeast. She sleeps a fair bit, which is great. We've learned that bird parents have more spare time that we might have thought (she eats every half hour), but we're still kept hopping. I am really glad she is a slacker species. Barn swallows get up at 4:00 a.m. and are the last birds to go to bed at night around here; you can hardly tell them from bats sometimes. I've heard its pretty hard to hand raise barn swallows. Whereas our jay will sleep in until six or so and is ready to snuggle up for the night at eight.

Peach has been a fledgling on the go. She been to town couple of times, been to the pub, and gone on a hike on the Martin Flume Trail out past Bryce Creek. If we can keep any cats from eating her as she continues her practice flights and moves outside to a halfway house (an "aviary" made out of a tent with newspapers spread in the bottom and some bushes dragged in) and them from there back to the great outdoors and the open sky, she may stick around to be a garden pest (so Matt thinks) for years to come.

(Sorry it's been so long since the last post. It's been very busy here. I have so many posts in my head I could fence a good-sized pasture: Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery and the Hazerot Angel, shampooing goats, making pasta, the rest of the kidding season, picking my spot on the hill for a four-day vision quest in July that I've been preparing for sinc elast year, and all the posts about writing (rather than rural living) I've been meaning to write. This is not the best time of year for writing - a thing which can sometimes make me rather frustrated and blue. And now I need to go see what needs watering...)

Friday, May 8, 2009

smacked up against the fence again

This time I didn't even need google scholar to get the doors of knowledge slammed in my face. I was just looking for a name for a female Russian cosmonaut (I like that word rahter better than astronaut). I found lots of Russian names, but then I got to thinking that since she is really from some global-warmed part of Siberia, I should look for some Siberian names. Pages of siberian husky names popped up. And a curious string from 2003 in which someone named Caprice was looking for authentic Inuit and Siberian names, but the string contained only a helpful lead for Inuit names. Then, at the bottom of the second or third page of links, I found this blurb: "NAMES OF. SIBERIAN PEOPLES. In recent years the names of nearly all the native Siberian peoples have been changed. The reasons for this were that the former..."

Arrgh! Aren't you dying to know too? Well, okay, maybe not. I think we all know what followed that ellipsis. Another great swath of humanity's cultural history was annihilated while we slept. But if you did want to know just how bad culture-cide was in the former Soviet Union and you clicked on the link you would wind up at the American Journal of Physical Anthropology's website, where you wouldn't be able to read the article (without paying for it) or read the abstract (because there wasn't one).

Again I must console myself that reading that article wouldn't have been an efficient use of my scant free time; I was simply working on getting myself happily distracted. Really, I found out what I wanted to know, which was that a Russian name would do just fine for a future Russian/Siberian cosmonaut and now I should stop lollygagging around and get back to work on the story. Except that ...

next I have to find a website that will tell me how to pronounce "Lyuha" (first name). Not necessarily because the story is about someone with a voice in her head (that isn't hers) but because I always have voices in my head - in particular when I'm reading - and I want whatever voice is talking to me when I writing and reading this story to know how to say "Lyuha Kuzmina" properly.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

the gated communities of the internet & google scholar

Today I am giving a shout out to my cousin Brenda for telling me about google scholar. Last night I said that I might be asking for her knowledge in library science to help with coming up with search terms that work. I gave the example of wanting to know what research and history there is on diagnosing health problems by smelling a patient's breath (human or animal). She mentioned "google scholar" and also cautioned that I might need a library to assist me or be a college student in order to access the results.

I don't have my L-number from Lane Community College with me here in Cleveland, so I couldn't see if they had forgotten to delete me from the system when the last class I took ended. I figured I'd just try google scholar and see what happened. And ... it worked. To an extent. Yes, almost everywhere I went there was the internet version of gates, concertina wire, and night watchmen, but on each page of links there was one or two houses that were left unlocked; the ones - of course - without much in the way of possessions. Still, it was something. I was also able to pick bits of info up from abstracts, and other sites would allow peeps at the first page. While I wanted more, I had to admit that I could get pretty close to enough information for fiction work. More would most likely have been an edifying and enjoyable waste of time. For now, though, I know that it possible for a person with knowledge and a good nose to discover ailments far beyond periodonal disease, things like lung, breast, and bladder cancer; renal problems (especially problems associated with diabetes); some forms of poisoning (salicylate, for one); and both kinds of skin cancer (from smelling the skin, not the breath). Not surprisingly, some papers hint at lots of cool history of breath-smelling through the ages. Ah well. Can't go there just yet, or maybe ever. Among the groundlings, the internet is a still an ever-growing free-for-all of great information that may save your life or the life of some creature near you (cayenne pepper powder, lots of it, will stop even arterial bleeding - I have that from several sources) or teach you how to do so very many things without having to pay for lessons somewhere (Ronan and I enjoyed the video on how to pick locks), but the upper levels have always been battened down and we groundlings hear tales that more gated communities may come horning in to our turf. Some times we might need to find ways to get around the gates, but other times it's okay to just be a gleaner. Gleaning can get you a lot stuff, and depending on what you're making, the input materials don't always have to be top notch.

So for other writers out there looking to bolster an idea or a hunch or seeking small doses of verisimilitude to add to a story, google scholar is one more tool we can add to our collection. Thanks again, Brenda.

Friday, May 1, 2009

word of the week: recursion

Besides the other things I am "currently reading", I am also reading Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel Everett. The book is about his years living with and studying the Piraha Indians ( that last "a" has a tilde over it - not an option on blogspot that I know of - and the whole thing, which is Portuguese, is pronounced "pee-da-HAN"). The Piraha, though, call themselves the "Hiaitiihi" - with stress accents on the first, second, and fourth "i's" (also not a text option I can find). As if that isn't bad enough, it seems each vowel is pronounced separately and not combined into any dipthongs like the "ea" in "great."

I found out about the book while spelunking through the internet helping my sister find audio books to order that she could listen to while at work. From there we looked for a book group she could join in Cleveland. From there we looked down the schedule of books for the book group we discovered and found Don't Sleep.

Lynn put the book on reserve with her library but I was jonesing for something to read at night and found getting it for both of us (and Matt, eventually) a good enough reason to rush around to bookstores until I found it. I am really enjoying it, especially since the Hiaitiihi are so strange, linguistically and otherwise, that they point out some good things to consider should one ever need to write about aliens, human or extra-terrestrial.

But on to the word-of-the-week. Recursion is something the Hiaitiihi don't have in their language. Something that was previously assumed to be an inherent part of all human language (and therefore thinking). Recursion means, roughly, "going back to itself". We've all been annoyed by recursion when looking up a word in the dictionary and findng something like this: "incontrovertible: that which cannot be controverted". That's recursion in it's most basic form. There is mathematical recursion, of which a well-known example is the Fibonacci series. As for recursion in linguistics, I think it is when a sentence folds clauses into it that refer back to it, as in "There's that guy I told you about last week." But for the real deal (without useful examples) try this:

Skip down to the section on recursion in language and in a fine example of some kind of recursion, you will find ... Daniel Everett, author of Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes.

Your assignment, now, should you chose to accept it, is to use "recursion" in a sentence before the week is out. Which reminds me to remind everyone that if you find receiving this blog tedious or burdensome, let me know, and I will delete your address from the list. Whereas if you found this spot by accident or know someone else who might want to get this blog, also let me know and I will put you on the fujikofarm googlegroup list.