Monday, August 17, 2015

Heat Changes Everything

The increase in the August heat changed everything for me.  We had been up around 115 degrees F during several days and rarely dropped below 80 at night, so there was no relief from the heat.  For a while there, I changed my routine of cleaning up manure once in the morning and once at night to cleaning it up in smaller increments throughout the day in order to conserve energy.  However, recently it has been so hot that I couldn't even tolerate stepping outside for one minute during the day, because I immediately begin pouring sweat, felt like I was going to pass out, and my skin felt like it was on fire.  So, I conserved energy and kept my sanity by not picking up any manure for a few days, and then woke up at the crack of dawn one day to clean up several days of manure before the sun rose.

The horses hated it because keeping all that manure around increased the fly population, but that was the lesser of two evils.  Every year the hottest part of summer becomes all about just surviving.  I'm pretty sure I got sun poisoning last week and was out of commission for several days.  Each morning I woke up with a whole new set of symptoms and was generally out of it.

I've been super busy simply because it takes ten times longer to do mundane things.  For instance, my Easy-Up saddle rack arrived one morning, and even though it only took a grand total of ten minutes to assemble, it took me all day to do it because of the heat.  First I opened the box, but just getting the scissors and putting them back wiped me out.  Then when I got my energy back, I pulled everything out of the box, and had to take another break.  The coating on the metal pieces stunk, so I had to move all of them out onto the porch and air out the house, then take another break.  Then I had to move them all off the porch down to the new tack room, and take another break.  I had to wait until after the sun set to assemble it in the tack room, because it's too hot in there without a fan or air conditioning in the summer months.

I should open the windows to the tack room at night to let cooler air in, and close them during the day, but the weather has been so unpredictable.  Thunderstorms move in with little warning, and I don't want the nice, new floor to get warped from water damage.

Our Rubbermaid shed is still in shambles, because we don't have the energy to clean it up in this heat.  It might just sit there until fall.  Last time the wind blew it apart, we were able to re-assemble it with an extra hand to help, but we don't want to bother anymore.  The plastic has been permanently weakened by the heat and by it bending after being blown down, so we will probably just take the pieces to a recycling center or give it to someone who is willing to deal with it.  It cost us over $400 and only lasted eight months.  Don't bother getting a Rubbermaid shed unless you are planning on keeping it indoors.

The extreme heat also meant having to remember to wear gloves, because everything I touched burned my hands.  And when I filled up water troughs or sprayed down the horses to cool them off, I had to run the water until I could touch it without being burned.  We don't have a water heater for the barn -- just the water coming out of the ground and the hose, and it somehow gets hot enough to almost reach a boiling point.

Since I've been spending so much time outdoors at dusk and dawn, the owl and I are becoming better acquainted.  He flew next to me one morning and landed at the corner of the hay barn to visit with me and watch me do my barn chores.

When I finally made it through that last of my major plans for the week and was looking forward to getting a full night's sleep, my husband woke me up.  Though I'm fairly kind and pleasant when fully awake with a full tummy and in bearable temperatures, I turn into a monster when woken from a deep sleep.  He needed my help getting a baby rattlesnake out of the garage and the dog's yard.  I was cursing like the dickens.  Damn snakes keep taking my sleep away from me with their sneaky ways.  I used to enjoy seeing snakes, but we've had so many around our place this summer that they are becoming serious pests, and there seems to be this pattern of them always showing up when I am in desperate need of some rest.

In fact, they always seem to show up when our daughter comes to visit.  My husband pointed that out a few years ago, and started calling her "The Snake Whisperer".  I figured it was a coincidence, but considering that we hadn't seen our daughter or a snake in several weeks, and then one appeared in our garage right after our daughter visited, has convinced me that something weird is going on there.  Some kids create poltergeists.  My kid attracts snakes.  I thought that maybe it was just that we leave the garage open for her to get in the house when she visits, but she often stumbles upon snakes when we go hiking too.

That was the first baby rattlesnake I've seen, and now I am super paranoid about everyone's safety.  You can barely see them.  It would be so easy to step on one or for the dogs or horses to sniff one out and get bit.  And, of course, if there was one baby rattlesnake in our garage, could there be more?  Did someone lay eggs in there when we weren't looking?  I really don't need this hassle right now... or ever.

Of course, the simple solution is to just always keep our garage bays closed, but we need to keep them open when doing work outdoors.  We need access to tools, and we take the dogs out through the garage a dozen times a day and night.  We don't like walking out the front door, because the snakes hide in the hedge and it's hard to clean dog poop off the decorative rocks.  We don't like walking out the back door because snakes always camp out at the base of the staircase, and Scrappy can't easily make it down and up the stairs in his decrepit state.  It's a stone staircase, and the poor dog fell down it once.  The garage is kind of our only option, but the rattlesnakes are holding us hostage in our own home.  It's just hard to find peace in the summer here since the animals are busy trying to survive too.

My daughter transferred to teach at a school that is even further out in the desert, and she said that teachers were experiencing having rattlesnakes drop from the ceilings of their classrooms.  I guess they get into the vents and crawl spaces to keep cool and just drop from ceiling to floor when they want out.  The school also went into lock down its first week.  My daughter was thinking it might be someone with a gun on campus, but it was a bobcat on campus.  How weird is that?  Could you imagine going to school in Africa and the kind of lock downs they might have there?

Scrappy keeps peeing on the dog clothes I put on him to keep him from chewing on his tumor, which is tiny now thanks to the medications he's been on, so I've been doing laundry almost every day.  I'm thinking he may need a permanent diaper, because he just doesn't even try to hold it anymore.  The vet warned me that the medication he was on would make him pee more.  I was like, "More?  How is that physically possible?"

But apparently, it is.  The vet's office called last week and wanted me to bring him in for a follow up this week.  I said I'd have to call them when I have a sliver of time open up.  The vet tech seemed annoyed, but I refuse to be at the beck and call of a vet.  I really dislike it when these vets think they own me and my dog once I see them about a health problem.  All the vet wants to do is to see if the tumor shrunk, and I already told them over the phone that it did.  Apparently, they don't trust me and have to see for themselves.

So, while this new vet seemed to be promising, she's turning out to be one of those time-suckers.  After I took Midge in, the vet called and left a message about her test results and said to call the office if I had any questions.  I didn't have any questions, so I didn't return the call.  Two days later her tech called me to ask why I didn't call back.  I thought that was odd.  She wanted to know how Midge was doing on her new insulin, and I had to inform her that we have to finish out the old insulin before I will know, and she made me promise to call the office with an update once that happened.

This time when the tech called to see how Scrappy was doing and if the tumor was shrinking, she did say to call back, but I was sick and busy and overwhelmed with other things that were going on in my life.  I'm sorry to say that my life does not revolve around returning phone calls.  The very next day, the tech called again.  It was a bad time, but I knew if I didn't pick up, she'd keep calling me and probably wake me up when I finally got a chance to take a nap.  One would think they'd be too busy to be babysitting, but I get the impression that they don't get a whole lot of business.

I had a dental appointment recently, and that office takes up more of my time confirming and re-confirming my appointment than they do to actually clean my teeth.  First, they have a live person call, then they send a couple of emails, then they have a computer call -- on and on it goes, even if you already confirmed the appointment with the first call.  I think I had a word with them about it six months ago, so this time they cut it down to just one phone call and one email.

We are down to one bale of hay today.  We cleaned out the wooden pallets and raked all the dregs out of the hay barn to make room for a new block.  So, I get to spend the day calling around to see who has hay and who can deliver.  That's always time consuming.  I'm amazed how something as simple as that can turn into twenty phone calls.  The name of the game for me next year is to time things so that we don't have to clean out the hay barn and pallets during the hottest part of the year.  I am praying that the place that has the awesome truck driver who can back his squeeze truck right into my hay barn is available.  If we have to re-stack hay, we're screwed.  In that case, I'd rather drive to the feed store every few days and just buy a few bales that I can roll off the bed of my truck into the barn.

Lostine had some bad flares on her hooves that I was planning on trimming off before all this heat set in and I got sick, and she has managed to break most of them off herself in my absence.  The farrier is coming this week, and I'll have to get on his case about trimming their hooves shorter and smoothing down the soles to prevent cracks.  He doesn't like the heat any more than I do, so he's been taking shortcuts and doing a half-assed job.

It was unfortunate that everything unwanted came to a head this week:  The heat, the hay, the farrier appointment, the vet appointment, the sick dog, the lame horse, the dental appointment, and me being sick.  It sure would be nice if things could spread themselves out.

But I also got to do some things I wanted to do, like celebrate my daughter's birthday and visit with P.S. and her horses.  P.S. and I had been talking about trail riding from the stable where she boards her horses, but I opted out of riding on this day in part because of the heat, because I was feeling weak and doubted that I could even manage to mount a horse, and in part because I didn't know either of her horses very well.  It's always stressful for me to cross streets on horseback, and there is a super busy street where people drive 45 mph or faster between the stables and the bridle trails.  I opted to lead one horse out while she rode.

Gotta love a buckskin...

It's kind of tough, because her choices are to ride in the extreme heat of summer, but get her space and peace and quiet, or ride in more comfortable temperatures with dozens of snowbirds in campers competing for the same space.  But the horses do seem to get desensitized to all the activity over time.  The barn employees run errands around the stable in golf carts, so the horses get used to those whizzing around.

P.S. was showing me how she gets her Missouri Fox Trotter to do a couple of gaits while a trash truck was dumping the contents of one of those huge dumpsters into its compactor.  That was pretty noisy, but her horse paid no attention.  There was also a tractor driver loitering around and people in carts racing past, and this is the slow season.  Imagine what its like over winter when people live at the stables out of their RVs and they get around on bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs and golf carts as well as horses.

When we were standing on the side of the road waiting for a break in traffic to cross, a loud motorcycle raced past, and neither horse reacted, despite it being just a few feet in front of their faces.  I think about how long it would take me to get my Arabs to accept all of the activity.  Right now they are used to peace and quiet, and just the occasional wild animal passing through.  If I took them to this stable, it would be a whole different world.  I realize that taking them to a place like that is the best thing I could do for them, but finding the time and energy is easier said than done.  I think I'd rather just pay to board them there for a month than to keep trailering them there, but from past experience I know that any desensitization I do doesn't stick unless it is constant.  Once I brought them home, they'd get used to the peace and quiet, and then start spooking left and right at anything unusual.

Horses are always playing a game of "What doesn't belong?" and whatever they feel doesn't belong is what frightens them the most.

P.S. said that despite all the activity at the stable, her horses will still spook if something unusual happens like a van pulling up next to the arena where she is riding, and lowering a man in a wheelchair out of it with hydraulic arms.  There's always going to be something happening that is out of your control that your horse recognizes as being new and different, and therefore threatening.

The buckskin is new to P.S.'s family.  She showed me how she wanted me to lead him and correct him, so that I could be consistent in the way she's been training him.  She said he sometimes barges ahead and sometimes falls behind and balks.  I only had problems with him getting a little in front of me.  The first time I had to correct him three times with increasing intensity before he paid mind to me, the second time only two times, and the third time only once, so it seems like he should be easy to train as long as you mean business and are consistent.

Since I stopped a few times to correct him, and since he walked slower than the gaited horse, P.S. kept circling back to stay with us so we could chat.  At one point I looked up and my heart skipped a beat, because the horse she was riding fell to its knees in front and then starting going down in the back too.  She stayed well balanced, but I freaked because I was scared that the horse would fall on her.  She helped him back up, then dismounted to make sure he wasn't injured.  The horse was fine, but its just one of those things that happens with horses.  That's why I'm such an advocate for wearing helmets.  It doesn't matter if your horse is well polished, dead broke, spook-free, and totally worships the ground you walk on.  Accidents happen, even to the best of us.  Fortunately, my attitude about helmets has rubbed off on P.S., so she rides with one too.

When it cools down and my energy returns, and I get back into the swing of riding horses, we'll try again with the trail riding out of the stables, and I'll see if I can get the MFT to do some gaits for me.  It is supposed to start cooling off sometime soon, only in the desert "cooling off" means dropping down to around 105 degrees F.  It will also help things when we get out of monsoon season, because I'm kind of tethered to home by a dog with severe storm phobia.  I always thought I wanted to live on a ranch filled with animals, but I wasn't considering how hard it would be to take care of all those animals in extreme weather conditions, which is pretty much the norm here this time of year.

The other day I was watching the documentary film "Winnebago Man" about a man who was trying to make a commercial for Winnebago RVs, but he was having a hard time focusing, remembering his lines, and filtering his thoughts.  Someone made a video of his outtakes and it went viral.  He was labeled "the angriest man in the world."

I was watching these videos thinking, "That could be me in this heat."

It's really hard to think straight and be patient when your brains are cooking.  At the end of the documentary the man said that it was difficult to shoot the commercial because it was ridiculously hot, humid, and the flies were driving him nuts.  I thought, "Yup.  That explains everything."

Of course, people who lived in more pleasant climates found his behavior to be hilarious or baffling, but I could relate to his endless frustration.  The other day I attempted to just go down to the barn really quick to take care of a couple of tasks, and I kept getting bit on the foot by a fire ant with each step.  I squashed the ant, but it seemed that another one was still in my shoe.  I kept trying to kill it, but somehow failed, and it kept biting me each time I put my shoe on.  I finally lost patience, screamed out some curses, and chucked the shoe out into the horse paddock and walked around with one barefoot, which was now getting burned by the ground with each step I took.  I'm sure that my actions would appear to be humorous to someone not going through my living hell, but believe me, they are anything but funny.

I feel like I'm living the television show "Naked and Afraid" every freakin' day.


Linda said...

That kind of heat zaps energy from ALL of us. It's amazing you get out at all to do so much. It's cool that you got out with P.S. and had some horse time. She probably appreciated your sensitivity to leading him the way she's trying to train him.

ellie k said...

Heat and humidy can zap all energy and really make everything a chore.We have had rain for about four weeks now, about 22 inches in all, the ground is soaked. Sometimes getting dressed seems to be too much. We were at the hospital today and my bra was eating me up, I told Ron if I did not have a thin t shirt on I would pull the thing off. He did pre op today for a liver biopsy on Wed. It was an all after noon deal, we are both worn out tonight. Thankful a friend brought a stew for dinner.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ellie - 22 inches! That's outrageous. So you are dealing with the heat and medical care hell. You've got a good friend.

achieve1dream said...

I can't even imagine that heat!! It gets over 100F and very humid here, but not for weeks on end thankfully. The heat and humidity really do sap your energy and make it hard to think. My boss is stingy with the air conditioner so it's always between 85F and 90F INSIDE!! So I sit and sweat in that all day and she wonders why I have no motivation to keep the store spotless.... I'd be a lot more productive if I weren't using all my energy just to stay cool and calm.... so although it's not as extreme as what you're dealing with I do get where you're coming from. I hope you get a break from the heat soon!