every life lesson can be learned

Month: April 2015

That’s Not the End of the Story

A few days after the recent drama with our goat, I was driving our children to their piano lesson.  Our conversation was about the stories I write as we live life on the franch.  My daughter said, “If you ever write a book about all this, you will never be able to write ‘The End.’  Something just always keeps happening.  You’d have to end it with ‘Just The Beginning.'”  That made me smile.  I think we’d wake up each morning with a little more satisfaction about our lives if we started each day like we ‘re always just beginning.  Although, I can think of plenty of life circumstances where you’d want the story to be at its end.  For us, we’re living one of those right now – it’s the story of our hurt goat.  At first, she seemed to be miles down the road to recovery after that major laceration.  The story was supposed to be finished.  But, sadly, Hannah has started to show signs of a serious infection.  Her leg is swollen and she has quit bearing weight on it.  Food and water no longer interest her.  A high rectal temperature suggests possible sepsis.  My husband removed the sutures from the wound and now cleans it out twice a day.  We’re administering antibiotics.  To keep her from getting dehydrated, the kids have learned how to syringe feed her an electrolyte solution multiple times a day.  We are all taking turns collecting fresh leaves from her favorite trees for her to munch on.  And lastly, the children have added Hannah to our prayer list for our nightly family devotions.  She’s only a bit better as of today.  We’re praying Hannah’s story has a happy ending so that the kid growing inside her has a chance at a beginning.


Good news!  This is Hannah one week later.  Even our border collie is amazed!


A Knight in Shining Armor

The back door swings open.  “Maaaaaa – om!!!  Hannah’s leg is bleeding.  There is blood all over!” my son screams.  I cut short the telephone conversation with the asphalt driveway repair company.  And again, in yet another franch story to tell, I find myself running out to the barn to respond to a crisis.  I slow up the concrete ramp to the barn as I see small puddles of blood all over.  “Maaa – maaa,” moans Hannah as we make eye contact.  In her eyes, I see confusion and pain.  Her hind leg is completely covered in blood and it pools quickly beneath her hoof wherever she steps.  Hannah, our beloved goat, is seriously hurt.  The kids are quiet and watching me, knowing to stand ready for instructions having now been through so many franch dramas.  There’s so much blood, and I know immediately that this is too much for me.  I don’t have four years of education in veterinary science.  Nor am I a board certified emergency medicine physician.  Thankfully, I’m married to a doctor who can easily handle the circumstance I’m in.  But, of course, he’s on shift until midnight and can’t abandon people emergencies in the hospital for my goat emergency on the franch.  I know this and feel a bit of panic.  I take a deep breath, and it begins.  “Go get my phone please,” the first command is given.  “Yes, m’am,” my son responds, as he spins and races back to the house.  I halter the goat and my daughter leads it over to the hose at the barn’s edge.  The water rinses the blood away just enough to get a quick glimpse of the wound before fresh blood seeps out.  Sure enough, there’s a deep and wide gash on the rear hind pastern.  I sigh realizing that a layer of sprayed-on Blue-Kote Spray isn’t going to protect the wound and start its healing process.  It is just too deep.  My son hands me the retrieved phone and I ask Siri, “Call my lover.”  And Siri complies, “Calling my lover.”  (My husband, as a practical joke, changed his name in my contact list to “My Lover”  weeks ago.   I make another mental note to edit his contact information, especially since my children have said a few times in public when they see it’s him calling, “Mom, your lover is calling!”).  So, “My Lover” answers and doesn’t believe it’s as bad as it is until I text him a video.  Then, he treats me like his medical students and gives me a bunch of orders expecting that it’s as easy for me to do as it is for him to say.  I’m supposed to put gauze on the fresh wound, apply pressure, and wrap a bandage around it as tight as possible.  He encourages me that that’ll do until he can get home.  Sounds simple enough.  In fact, it’s obvious.  But, my assistants are young children and my patient is a live goat in pain that doesn’t stand still, and unlike his patients, kicks.  I decide I need to at least try.  My eldest daughter tries to hold the goat still while I try over and over again to grab Hannah’s kicking leg, hold on it to while she’s keeps kicking, keep a gauze pad in position, and wrap an ACE elastic bandage around it.  We could successfully do a few of those steps at a time, but not all of ‘em at once.  I start feeling like I’m making it worse because I keep messing with the wound but not successfully wrapping it.  The goat collapses down on her bleeding leg and I do the same beside her, feeling defeat.  My critical inner voice accuses as I wipe away a tear, Who do you think you are – trying to live this life and caring for so many animals – you can’t do this.  I watch the goat quiet in her new position realizing how she’s helping herself whether she realizes it or not.  With her leg beneath her, her body weight puts pressure on the wound slowing the bleeding.  In the meantime, my husband has called on a fellow emergency medicine physician and close friend who has always offered to help in an emergency or non-emergency, for anything; he’s basically on-call all the time for our family.  Thankfully, for his sake, we rarely need to call on him.  Tonight, he is to be my knight in shining armor.  Well, really, a skilled physician with a surgical kit, which I’d prefer over any knight for the sake of Hannah anyway.  It is his first goat patient, and you wouldn’t know it.  He came ready to give her the best care all of his years of medical school and residency could offer her.  His lovely wife, wearing a cute sundress in contrast to my dirty farm sweats, doesn’t hesitate to lie with me across a goat pinned down on the cement floor of a dusty barn.   It is quite the gory scene as our friend scrubs out the wound, numbs it, and puts in as many stitches as his basic medical kit provided.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It turns out to definitely be a battle as the goat tries multiple times to free herself from our hold.  There are plenty of supplies we realized are needed as we work to care for her.  So, our three children assist our physician friend while all his wife and I can do is to keep the goat in position.  My eldest daughter dreams of working in a career field helping animals some day – and so, as she holds a flashlight to give better lighting she remarks, “I can’t watch, I feel faint…but, I have to, because I want to do this someday.”  Finally, after a lot of blood and sweat and tears, literally, Hannah’s leg is wrapped and she is standing eating some grain and alfalfa in her pen.  My eldest runs to the house for some duct tape from her craft bin for one final way to secure the leg wrapping.  She arrives at the barn with a dress-up vet first-aid kit in hand, filled with fake supplies and the duct tape, wearing a scrubs jacket with a pin that says her name with the Dr. prefix.  It turns out our friend isn’t just a knight in shining armor for me tonight but an inspiration for our daughter as well.  And Hannah is now on the way to a full recovery thanks to our friends.

A Little Bit Like Heaven

All our animals are living in harmony right now, even ones that shouldn’t be.  It’s odd.  Dogs are supposed to chase cats, right?  Ours don’t.  You’d expect cats to stalk and pounce on a chick or duckling from time to time.  Not ours.  Have you ever met a horse that stands over a laboring cow and licks her belly as though trying to ease her labor pains?  Ours does.  There are moments on our franch that make me think about the way heaven will be.  There’s when our dogs and cats gather around during the chicks and ducklings “recess” time.  This is when our children take them from their brooder rings in the shed to let them freely roam the backyard.  Our dogs and cats settle down in the lush spring grass to watch as the chicks and ducklings explore the franch for the first time.  You’d be amazed to see our hyper border collie puppy stay perfectly still as our youngest child puts a duckling on its head.  Then, there’s the sweet relationship between our horse and our cows.  Our horse is a team roping horse that my husband trains to chase down cows so he can rope its back legs after his partner ropes the front legs.  Our horse does so at the slightest touch of my husband’s heel on his side, and at top speed.  But, on that very same day, don’t be surprised to find our horse calmly standing watch over our cows and their calves like he’s protecting them.  Our neighbor remarked one day that it looks like the horse is preaching a sermon standing over them and the prostrate cows are contemplating his words as they slowly chew their cud.  He’s like the wise old Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit with all the answers.  He’s the patriarch of the franch – the oldest and very first of all our franch animals.  We need Fern from Charlotte’s Web to listen in.  Maybe, she’d hear him reciting Romans 12:16 from memory, “Live in harmony with one another.”  Or perhaps he’s explaining to the cows the promised day of Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”  Because it’s a little bit like that on our franch.

The Grass is Sometimes Greener but it isn’t Home

You all know the idiom that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  It is where we live.  We have too many animals for our acreage and our pastures are definitely overgrazed.  So, our animals are spoiled with extra grain and flakes of alfalfa twice a day.  They certainly aren’t starving.  In fact, one of our rancher friends often comments how all of the animals on our place look pregnant, even the males.  Still, the lusher grass on the other side of our fence line tempts them to always be looking for an opportunity to find a way over or under or through.  Though, when they do, almost always, we find them looking back into our barer pastures at their friends they left behind.  Maybe its because they’re like soldiers who won’t leave a comrade behind.  But, as soon as we open a nearby gate, they’ll rush through the gate to be reunited with their pasture companions.  It’s like they learn that the grass on the other side of the fence may indeed be greener but there’s no place like home.

New Friends Not in a Row

It isn’t always easy to get your ducks in a row.  We found out yesterday that it’s also hard to get ducks to stay in an Easter basket.  It was Easter morning and we wanted to surprise our children after our church’s sunrise worship service.  One of my childhood dreams was waking up on Easter morning to find a real live chick or a bunny or a duckling in my basket.  It was one of those dreams that never came true.  I know, it’s sad.  But, I didn’t grow up on a farm.  So, I can’t really blame my parents for only putting edible chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps in the purple plastic straw.  All these years later, I decided to make my dream happen for our children!  We planned for our children to find a duckling in each of their baskets at the end of an Easter hunt.  But, by the time the baskets were located, all the ducklings had escaped across the hardwood floor waddling everywhere but going nowhere.  We had chosen one male for our son and two females for our daughters.  Of course, these adorable ducklings are always trying to stick together and, as my children played with their new ducklings, my young son seemed surprised, “My duck real–ly likes the la–dies…” The children played and cuddled with their ducklings all day inside and outside, on the hammock and on the trampoline and even on the swings.  Well, we may never get all our ducks in a row here on the franch, but our children certainly have some new farm friends to love.


Your Life is About to Change

“I think it came,” my husband says as he rips open the package left at the front gate.  I wonder what he ordered.  He unwraps “Herding Dogs: Progressive Training” by Vergil S. Holland.  As usual, Sassy, our now eight-month-old border collie puppy is at his feet.  He looks down at her as she obediently looks up at him to meet his eye.  Their gaze is intense for a moment and, he says, with the book in hand, “Sassy, your life is about to change.”  Someone needs to tell the sheep.

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