Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crazy days... slip, sliding, away!

Winning 1st Prize
 in their division
Miss 4-H President
 making introductions
Now, I was going to go into a great deal of detail about the 4-H club and presentations we had last week or about the major snow fall we had last night, but ... really, who wants to hear about any more snow? AND... besides the parents, who really wants to hear all the detail about our 4-H kids, amazing as they are? I decided instead, to share a story of my and Len's Friday afternoon experience with the New Brunswick health care system. I know we are all still laughing and hope that you will get a chuckle or two too!

Len has a bad back and hip with 5 compressed arthritic discs and although he has suffered from it for a few years, lately he has been unable to sleep, walk and the pain has become almost unbearable at times. Since we live so far from town and only go once a week, the day our doctor's office is closed, we decided that since he needed x-rays we would go straight to the hospital and go through the non-emergency process at emergency. It sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Well, true to form, the next 4 hours were spent with many bizarre and hilarious moments... Since we were in Woodstock for the Farmer's Market we decided to head to the hospital in Waterville afterward which was about 15 minutes further down the highway. My friend had mentioned that there is a doctor in the hospital who had an office and would take patients on a drop in basis.

We entered the lobby and we were greeted by a hospital volunteer who is available to show you around, lead you to the area you are headed or help find you information. This elderly fellow was very friendly although looked at me confused when I said "We are here to see a doctor, who works downstairs, I think his name is Dr. Mactaquac?" He continued to smile, although puzzled now and said he didn't know the name. I admitted, I MIGHT have the name wrong, but it was something like Dr. Mac....? He told us he knew the name, but now that I had completely screwed it up he couldn't even think of what it was. It turns out it was a Dr. MacElwain and he only worked mornings... so back up to emergency for service. (It turns out I knew the word Mactaquac because it is a place in NB that we pass on the way to Fredericton.)

I decided that since we were at the hospital and I was due for some blood tests next week, maybe I could save a trip and get it all done at once. So I sent Len off to sign in at emerg by himself and I headed off to get my blood work done. Amazingly I was in and out of the lab in about 15 minutes and rejoined Len in emergency. When I arrived he was in triage with the staff.

When Len came to sit down we knew there would be a long wait ahead of us so I got him his puzzle book and I settled in for a nap. There were a few women with little children who were ahead of us as well as an elderly gentleman who was very sick and was triaged ahead of everyone else. One nice thing about the Waterville hospital is that it is out of the city, rural and quiet. So it was easy to settle down and relax.

After about an hour into my nap, I heard a loud, belligerent clearly disturbed fellow in the waiting area. He was attempting to communicate with the two year old near us but instead he seemed to be tormenting the poor kid, who in response curled up into his grandmothers arms and started to quiver. The lunatic (we quickly realized the man likely had a combination of drug, alcohol and mental health issues) was loudly and angrily telling the child that the Montreal Canadians hockey team sucked and forced his baseball cap on the kid. We knew the afternoon was taking an interesting twist.

I woke up and both women and children had been taken in to see the doctors and we now sat in the corner with the mental man (ok I have to call him SOMETHING!) verbally abusing his poor old mother and grandfather, disturbing other patients and generally being disruptive. I do have to say that it was rather amusing at times...  Clearly  we learned, via the discussion that the man was unemployed (surprise) and looking for employment. Apparently he was expecting offers from the hospitality industry, uh, ya, ok... We tried not to laugh, out loud anyway,  when he tried to explain to his mom why he had damaged his knee and attempted to avoid the discussion on why his shaved head was all banged up.

His mother kept pushing the issue about his head, saying that he must be "on something" since he couldn't tell her why his head was bruised and had a goose bump on it. He finally told her, (honestly, I am sure we could all relate to what happened) ... Last week, he was walking and he slipped... no, not on the ice, but on his chowder. Yes, you see, he was eating clam chowder for dinner, of course he had to have two cans and he slipped, well, it was the chunky kind you know? Yes, he slipped, in his chunky chowder, slid across his apartment floor and since he had a pot in his hand he hit himself in the head... I mean really, we have all been there, right?

At this point Len is shaking, turning red and trying to hold in his laughter. His eyes were welling up and the long wait began to get more fun. Mental man's voice continued to rise, sprinkled with obscenities and colourful commentary. After 2 hours in the waiting room we were now (thankfully) called into the ER room.

The nurse went through a list of questions while we waited for the doctor and Len decided to stand after sitting so long. Then... the doctor arrived. The tall Asian doctor (yes his culture is relevant to the story), entered the cubicle... he wasn't even through the screen when he looked at Len and asked his age. "Are you weally 70? I am wooking for a 70 year old man." Len confirmed, yes, he was Mr. Sherman, he was 70 and yes he looked good for his age. The doctor walked past Len and semi-layed on the bed as he continued to talk to us. He was very taken with Len's look, physique and general healthy appearance. Finally, accepting that Len was 70 but could be taken for late 50's... he turned to me and asked if I was Len's daughter... (followed by laughter) um, no, I am his wife.... He then smiled and said "OH! I know why you look young!" with a smirk at the end.

He asked Len several questions about his back and while Len was bent over, his back to the doctor, butt in the air, the doctor said "How is your peepee and poopoo?" I tried to contain my laugh, Len thought he heard wrong and said, "WHAT?" The doctor repeated, "Are your peepee and poopoo ok?" Now Len is smirking, "yes..."

The doctor saw Len's boots, chicken shit and all and then interrogated us about how organic our food is, what kind of chickens we have, the farm market, etc... As interesting as that was... we did want to get home today.... At Len's request x-rays were scheduled.

This of course led to the next fiasco... At the hospital, they have "guides" who lead you to and from x-ray. An elderly limping woman, walked up to Len and asked if he could walk or if she should get him a wheelchair... he walked. (The woman was in worse shape than he was.) At x-ray Len was instructed to change and then he went in for the imaging.

While the woman and I sat to wait, I learned in about ten minutes, the following: she fell 2 weeks ago, she was off work sick and just returned yesterday...(Me: oh you must have fell bad. Her: No, I was off for strepthroat...?) I learned she was a 3x cancer survivor (amazing!) , I learned that she had 5 sons, 2 had passed away, I learned... well, let's say by then end I wanted to get her address to mail her a sympathy card! Crazy!

Upon returning to the cubicle, we heard more from mental man, who by now had been assigned his own security guard since the nurses were not impressed with his behaviour and the doctor was refusing to treat him. Why you  may ask? Well, because he was in a week ago for the same thing. Yes, he hurt his knee a week ago, had x-rays and was treated... The doctors asked what happened this time. MM: "I don't know doctor... you see, I was drinking... next thing I knew..."

Ah! Life in the big woods! Never dull, never boring! We now know for certain the following: Don't waste time going to the doctor to take 3 appointments, 3 long trips and 6 weeks to accomplish what you can get done at emerg in one afternoon AND if we get really sick... We are headed for Fredericton!

Now, time to see if my invalid husband has shoveled the walk before the snow plow comes and if he would like some lunch. Poor little guy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mama's, milk and mad men!

When I was 13 and we lived on the farm, I hated it... every single minute of it! It was lonely, we lived to far from town, it smelled in the barn, I hated plucking and cleaning chickens, castration, yuck and who eats rabbit anyway? I would sit at the dinner table and look at the milk that had come steaming from our cow Bessie in the morning with bits of hay and straw floating on top, see the roast chicken and imagine how it had looked running around with its head cut off and wonder how the broccoli worm could possibly still be alive after the 30 minute full boil mom subjected the veggies to? My stomach churned and I barely touched my food.
Can you see the shot of milk?

Is it any wonder that my parents keep telling me they can't believe I have moved to rural New Brunswick, an hour to town, mucking through chicken shit to collect eggs and now even milking my goat? No, I understand, they think I have become a twisted version of the Stepford wife and instead of pearls and heels I have now embraced gum boots and sweat shirts and transformed into a "Fosterville Farm Wife". I think even my neighbours look at me dumbstruck - meaning they think I have been struck dumb by my current choices! (A quick aside from this weeks blog - at Christmas we attended the church concert that Jessica was in - no one recognized me - turns out they thought the woman who brought Jess was someone else - perhaps the better dressed relative? Yes, hair was straightened, great eye makeup happening that day and I even dressed appropriately to be wandering outside of a barn! News Flash: I haven't always been "Betty Crocker".)
Len's new project - because he doesn't have enough to do!

Yesterday I went off to my cleaning job and came home to find out that my dear spouse, Len felt we needed to expand the creatures on the farm and he purchased a 55 gallon fish tank, complete with all supplies, cabinet, fish and food and we were to go pick it up, ok? Oh, ya, that is exactly what I thought we were missing!I thought he was a bit mad, but fish should be fun. Now the challenge - an old house with limited power and infrequent plug ins... have fun my handsome! I know I certainly enjoyed laying on the couch relaxing, while he made 30 trips to and from the kitchen to get water for the tank. (Only to decide after maybe it was in the wrong spot... You have to  love them, right?)

I meanwhile had made a deal to get 3 ducks and a drake to move in later in the spring. OK we are both accumulating living things! After coming in to make dinner it was my turn to take my first run at milking Miss Freya , mama goat. Our friend Georg had milked her the day before to get her started and Len had built a great milk stand - now it was my turn! We have been letting baby Simba have full access to mom up until now and he is growing well, even taking a try at leaping. (Simba will soon be sold to a new owner who wants a future buck or to become meat ... I know, sounds awful doesn't it? Trust me when he gets all goaty, you wouldn't want him either!) 

Well, apparently this was not going to be a me/Len activity, the girls ran to get their coats and cameras to document mom's first milking session. It actually went quite well! We didn't get a lot of milk and didn't plan to keep it, for now it is cat food. We are just milking her off once a day to keep her milk strong and soon she will wean Simba and we will keep the milk. (I already have customers for goat feta!)

Freya happily jumped onto the milk stand and put her head through the gate to reach the food. Len kept the bucket steady while I, mother of milking, used the many years of breast feeding experience from my babies, to apply to the task at hand. It was easy! I was pretty excited and Freya was surprisingly cooperative! I did manage to squirt myself in the face as well as up my sleeve, but other than that, I did it! Rachel took pictures which I have attached to this blog. 

Later, when done, the girls couldn't understand why I was so pleased with myself. I explained, this is the first time I ever milked anything but you guys! They were shocked, they just figured I had milked animals before! I laughed, nope, I was like you, hated the farm, but here I am at 45 years and loving it! 

Time to bake cookies!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snow days, babies and jamborees... what a week!

For some reason the last week has felt rather overwhelming and therefore I am behind in some basic tasks that need to be done. Perhaps it was because Rachel had exams and her English Literacy Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) which is required in New Brunswick - I suppose because we are bilingual  they want to make sure that not only have the students grasped French, but GASP they have also managed to learn their own language - English! Most students write this in Grade 9 and if they don't pass it they get another opportunity in Grade 11. Of course we weren't here for Grade 9 and Rachel had to take the 3 part exam during the last week along with her other exams. Add two snow days and classes/exams being moved around and voila - chaos! Fortunately it is now done! Today high school students were to return to school and we had ANOTHER snow day!
Oh well, winter in New Brunswick.
Simba about 2 hours old
I watch the weather reports avidly each day. What's the temperature? How are my animals? Can we travel? Will school be open? Can I make it to the farm market? Well, last week there was a storm brewing for Friday and that impacted the farm market plus the school had pre-advised possible closures - so I spent Thursday morning making all my breads for market early and getting a list of tasks together to head to town. I decided if I couldn't get to town Friday then we could go on Thursday! (I am getting smarter at this whole rural thing!)

On top of all this, I had a mama goat who by my calculations was due on Saturday January 28th. I took pictures of her body and how she was progressing gestationally and sent them off to my goat whisperers, experts in the field of Canadian Goats. Of course the more experts that enter a conversation the more (and varying) advice you start to get! What seemed consistent is that my girl was not due to have her baby(s) for about another week or two. I definitely have leaned toward the advice of the Crazy Goat Lady - Bonnie and the Tiny Goat Lady - Karin - thank you both! So, I developed a baby goat  pool based on the suggestion of my reflexologist, Tracy (who I now learn just wanted to win the free bread and eggs being offered!) (Winner Carolyn!)

I went to bed Friday night, not expecting anything to happen Saturday other than attending the community jamboree that was planned for the afternoon. So, on January 28th I stayed in bed, cuddling under the covers since it was about -15c outside. Len went out around 8:30am to check on the livestock and feed the dog his daily meal - I was surprised when Len came quickly back inside with the news - we had babies in the barn! 

Mike's Hard Lemonade time!
Since these were Freya's first babies, she showed no pre-natal labour signs that I had been watching for and she did it all on her own. (Nature is truly a miracle!) The first baby, a doe was still born, eyes closed. The second baby, was mewling, moving around and looking for food. He was so tiny and had long jittery legs, he looked so weak, pushing up on his hind legs, forelegs folded beneath him. I had been advised that the colostrum in the milk was necessary and he should have at least 4 good feeds within his first 24 hours. Since we didn't know if mom would accept her babies, I prepared by purchaseing from the feed store - bovine colostrum for lambs and goats. I ran into the house, made a measuring cup with enough for the first day and tried to put the formula into a water bottle with a lambing nipple. Nope, no way that was going to fit and the bottle kept caving in. Now what? Yay! Mikes Hard Lemonade! (No just the bottle! I figure with the alcohol in the bottle and a good rinse it was sterile right?) 

While I made the formula, Len disposed of the afterbirth and the doe - into the forest, the circle of life, from the earth, back to the earth. I had an old towel to  rub down the little guy and make a bed for him. I cuddled him, mewling away and offered him the bottle. I remembered how the hospital nurses showed me to open a baby's mouth and force the bottle in but this guy was having none of it! He only wanted his mama and she was still a little freaked out about giving birth. (Seriously, we all have nine months to plan, talk to people, imagine a baby... and she wakes up with cramps one morning and has some live creatures fall out of her butt? I would be freaked out too!)  

We decided to leave them be for awhile and head into the house to make a few calls - to the experienced goat people I know. I called Freya's previous owners, MaryEllen and Keith, who offered me advice, a heat bulb and to come help put the baby on the teat if we had trouble. Len, Jessica and I headed back to the barn and we had to be a little rough - just to get things started. Len had to get Freya, hold her down on her side, I had to grab the baby, force his mouth open, push the teat in and make him drink. (Again, very reminiscent of one of my babies in the hospital, who needed some extra support to get going.) Fortunately we only had to do this for two feedings and then mama and baby both got on board! 

Saturday afternoon there was a Jamboree at the community centre. A good old country music, down home, honky tonk, a little gospel, sometimes hill billy and rock a billy musical day - overall a great way to spend a freezing afternoon with good company, fun music and some corn chowder, chili, beans and biscuits for dinner! Gib, the local president had suggested that Jess and her friend Jamie might want to sing since they do sometimes at church and the talent shows at school - but they said no. They said no, that is until the second band, got up and sang "Soul Sister" they were then motivated to sing their personal hit "Jar of Hearts" by Cristina Perry. They headed off to the bathroom, played part of their tune on the cell phone to get them started and with many giggles, nervous legs and anxiety they came back to wait their turn. Of course the band did NOT know the song so they sang A Capella and it was BEAUTIFUL! They received the loudest applause of the day and were invited by the band to practice with them to do a few numbers at Field Days this August! (I am a proud mama!)

The first 24 hours of little Simba's life (that is what we named our baby goat - soon to be a wether - castrated or sold off as a  buck. ) My main concern now that I could see he was feeding was to get those front legs up. So I spent a lot of time with him on Sunday, stretching his legs, massaging them, standing him up and nudging him to join his mama. I am happy to say he is now walking, getting the teat on his own, following mama around the barn and surviving in the -24C weather!
Simba - 3 days old - walking, strong and feeding!
I must say attending 4-H Sunday afternoon I was feeling like quite the farm girl! I even picked The Horse Whisperer as my Sunday night movie - Yup, it was an amazing week! (Oh and the cat, Mr. Finnegan, has VERY much enjoyed the colostrum formula!)

Another success - down home, on the farm!