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Writing Exercise

Here's a writing exercise I did tonight in my writers' group. The prompt was to describe a pleasurable memory (well, it was supposed to be 6 memories, but I came in late) in as much detail as we could, starting with the phrase, "I remember..."

I remember milking my goat. The air was sharp with early-morning cold, the milk steaming as it hit the bottom of the pail with metallic strokes. I buried my face in her flank, surrounding myself with the sweet, grassy smell of her. The world was quiet, the chickens only just rousing in their coop to squawk indignantly at the sun and flutter heavily onto the snow-patched ground. It was just me and Hazel, silent but for the sleepy, hungry bleats of the kids and the crunch of grain. I fell into the rhythm of milking, one hand after another, working through the cramps in my fingers and the droopiness of my eyelids. Hazel turned her head and belched contentedly into my hair. A full pail, frothy and whiter than the snow around it, a feast for the taste buds and the soul, more satisfying than a full belly. I massaged her udder, the warm leather soft now and empty, and took the last few drops of milk. I stroked the coarse nap of her fur, feeling the jut of hipbones and the swell of grain-stuffed rumen, and scratched the nubby part of her skull, where the hair swirled around nonexistent horns. She walked sedately back into her pen, butting heads gently with the kids: I'm still here, don't worry, good morning. A thunk of the axe on the ice of her water pail and then I scorched my hands on the cold pulling slabs of ice free. She buried her nose in it, sucking thirstily while I let the kids nuzzle my hands. Their chins were bristled and as soft as suede, their lips eagerly questing for milk. I picked up the pail, heavy with love, and carried it into the house.

Sneaky Update from the Hospital

I'm chuffed to discover that the hospital has free wi-fi. :D Hi, everyone! My hysterectomy was this morning and I'm feeling pretty good (though sore, of course) and am enjoying the 5-star service of being waited on hand and foot. I feel good enough to feel a bit guilty about that, though...

No complications with surgery and no lingering effects from the anaesthesia, but there was some unexpected news that we won't know the ramifications of until we get the results from pathology - probably on Monday. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude and not think about it until I know more, since odds are really good its nothing.

In the meantime, I'm napping and playing computer games and working on the plot outline for a story, and I get to go home tomorrow and hang out with my Mum and Matt and Kalona for a week. :)

My NaNo Plans

In the "brag to everyone you know" spirit of NaNo, I thought I'd share this year's plans with you all.

I've not been writing much for the past year and, as such, I'm horribly out of practice just putting words on the page. When I do sit down to write, I'm usually writing only about 200 - 300 words per hour. I will also (hopefully) be moving house during the month of November, and I'll be going into surgery a month later. I know already that there is no way I can try to write a serious novel at a NaNo pace. So I've decided to do my very first truly traditional NaNoWriMo.

Here are my plans:Collapse )


Medical Update

Some of you may have noticed my posts on FaceBook and Twitter about my getting complex news from the doctor. Here's the whole story, for those who want to know more - behind a cut, since it's very long and a bit TMI and not everyone may want the details. :)

Read more...Collapse )

Pain Scale

On my mum's advice, I've started to keep a pain journal - actually, I'm tracking the symptoms of all of my health problems, but a semi-objective record of my pain is a big part of this. When I was at a doctor's office last year I saw a great chart that had very clear descriptions and I wanted something like that to use. So I did some research on the internet and finally found a couple and put them together into my own chart. Here it is - Helga's Pain Scale, with thanks to Belle Browne and Andrea Mankoski:

Helga"s Pain ScaleCollapse )

My normal daily pain is a 4, sometimes a 5. When I'm having a flare-up, it can get up to a 7. Menstrual pain, when it gets bad, is an 8 with spikes of 9. (And that's when I'm already taking pain pills. I'm way too much of a wimp to try it without. O.o)
I've not been online much in recent months; I've not even been updating my Twitter or FaceBook, which I'm usually pretty good about.  For a long time I had nothing really positive to say and whinging on and on about how broke we were and how worried I was didn't seem like something I wanted to subject anyone else to.  :)  Things are better - we're not losing our house, we're starting to get caught up on bills, we're eating something other than ramen - but things aren't great yet, and I'm mostly focussed, still, on trying to get my life back under control.

The other bad news we got is that one of our goats, Ash, has developed abscesses along his jaw.  We don't know for sure, yet, but it looks a lot like Caseous Lymphadentis, a really nasty disease that's highly contageous - to other forms of livestock, too, and humans - incurable, potentially fatal and can live in the soil for months or years.  We've been waiting for the money to send blood samples off to a testing lab, which we should be able to do this Friday.  If they all come back positive we may have to cull our entire herd.

Good news has been coming in, though, and in larger doses that it has for months.  We were able to make it to the Ostara gathering (with a dog, three goats and five chickens in tow) and see our kindred and friends, which I was immensely grateful for.  R--- is a great housemate and found the perfect job for him.  We've gone off-roading in the desert in his Jeep, which was a blast.  Our dog has finally been neutered and is a thousand times easier to live with.  We get gaming weekends whenever M--- has a Saturday or Sunday off.  I upgraded my phone and now have the ability to take pictures and video with it, so as soon as I figure out how to edit and convert .3g2 files I'll have videos to share.  I just found out that one of my stories - my "fun" writing, nothing publishable - has been translated into Italian, which was a huge thrill.  I've been trying a new technique with my writing, when I've the energy to be creative, which seems to be working well.  We're not going to have to rent out the spare room, so I can - finally - get my office set back up again.  I had a great weekend - lunch with my friend Sh---- in Genoa and a party at the neighbour's, which was a lot of fun and where I got to meet some great people and get to know some others better.

At my mum's request, here are some pictures of my milking stool.  I bought the stool at Michael's shortly after we moved up here, in the hopes that eventually I'd have a milk goat to use it with.  It's sat in my dining room ever since, waiting for me to finish it, and with only a week before Hazel was due to have her kids I decided I'd better get it done.  :)

I drew the knotwork myself, with a little help from the computer and a book on how to construct knotwork.  The centre design is our farm's logo - a bindrune of Thurisaz, Hagalaz and Fehu, the initials of our farm name (Thrudsheim Farm).  On the outside edge of the stool I used runes to write out a quote from the Havamal - "Though but two goats thine, and a thatched hut, 'tis far better than beg."  Once I'd burned the design I oiled the top and then painted the bottom and sides with dark green paint to seal it against the damp ground.  M--- thinks I'm crazy to drag it out to the goat pen and get it dirty, but I'm glad to have something beautiful to use when I milk.

The milking stool.
A close-up of the woodburning.
A side view, showing the painted legs and the runic quote.

Hazel's Kids

Hazel had her kids this morning, February 18th, 2009, between 10 or 10:30.  I was able to be there while she gave birth, but thankfully only had to watch - she did just fine on her own.  :)  We have two, a boy and a girl, both black with white and tan accents - they look almost exactly like Hazel, in fact. We've named the buckling Walnut and the doeling Cypress (keeping with our theme of tree names). The buckling was first born. I've no way to weigh them (milk scale should be here within a few days, but that's of no use to me right now!) but a quick-and-dirty measurement of Walnut says 14 inches high at the shoulder and 17 inches long. Cypress might be a tad smaller. Both kids are standing and taking the bottle fine and Hazel stood still for me to milk her out, so I've a quart of colostrum in the fridge.  Best of all, everyone's healthy!

Some pictures:
Hazel and her babies right after the birth.
The kids try to stand up.
Walnut, the buckling, about an hour after birth.
A close-up of Walnut's face.
Cypress, the doeling, about an hour after birth.

Let's Play a Guessing Game!

Since I'm stuck here waiting impatiently for the kids to arrive, I figured I'd share the experience.  :)

First, the pertinent information:
This is Hazel's first pregnancy.  She was bred on the 22nd and the 23rd of September, 2008.  The gestation period is 146 to 156 days, with 150 days being "typical".  This Thursday, the 19th, will be 150 days from September 22nd.  Two kids is the most normal for goats, but an Anglo-Nubian (that's the breed all my goats are) is very likely to deliver a single kid her first pregnancy.  Three, four, five or even occasionally six kids aren't unheard of in goats.  A doe's udder tends to get full right before delivery, to be sure she has colustrum for the kids.  Goats typically give birth during the day.  Any solid or parti-colored coat is permitted in the Anglo-Nubian, but black, red or tan are the most common colors, any of which may be carried on combination with white.  This is how Hazel looks as of today, and this is what her udder looks like.  A good overall picture of her can be found here, and here's a picture of the kid or kids' sire, Cedar.

So, based on that, give your guesses as to the following questions:
When will Hazel give birth?
How many kids will she have?
Will they be male?  Female?  How many of each?
What colour(s) will they be?

Good luck!  After she kids I'll post the actual answers and we'll see who's closest!

Gearing Up for Spring (with Photos!)

It's been very busy lately here at Thrudsheim Farm.  Hazel's due to kid any day now and since we've never done this before we lacked just about everything we needed.  After two weeks of furious research and shopping, I think we finally have everything we need for kidding  on hand and everything we need for milking on order.  Gods know we couldn't really afford it and I'm already panicking about how we're going to meet our other financial responsibilities this month, but we had to get this stuff and birth doesn't wait for anybody's budget.  We got new chicks - 17, in fact - because we know enough people interested in buying farm eggs from us that we need to start producing a surplus.  I'm excited and terrified about the imminent kidding and already tired of waiting.  :)

Now, pictures!

Scenery!Collapse )

Goats!Collapse )

Chickens!Collapse )

More pictures once the kids are born, of course!