Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turn your butt around and I'll smack it for you

I swear my horse can understand human speech. Of course he chooses when he wants to understand you, but when it benefits him, he is quite willing to do what you say.

The other day...(Actually it was over a month ago, but I just now thought to write a post about it. I wanted to write something more upbeat than just going on and on about the flood.) Anyway, I was in the backyard feeding the chickens and I noticed Shadowfax, who was in the pasture just the other side of the fence, behaving a little strangely. He kept twisting his neck around and biting at his butt. I looked closer and there was this beetle (not a fly, a beetle, weird) that kept landing on his butt just where he couldn't reach it. Shadowfax is actually very flexible and there aren't many parts of his body that he can't reach, but the area just above the base of his tail is one of them. I walked up to the fence and said,"Turn your butt around and I'll smack it for you." I really didn't expect him to do what I said, but he did. He turned so that his butt was facing the fence.

I tried to reach over the fence to smack the bug, but it was just out of reach. So I said,"I can't reach it from here, I'm going to have to go out the gate" and turned to walk to the west garden gate. He turned and trotted over to gate, getting there before I could. (Of course, he probably saw me turn and walk toward the gate, so it's not too surprising that he knew to go to the gate, but still...) I opened the gate and stepped out into the pasture. The flying beetle was still hovering around Shadowfax's butt. I said,"Hold still, I'll get it". And even when the beetle landed and started crawling around on his butt, he didn't move. I smacked the bug, and he still didn't move even though I had just smacked his butt. I flicked the remains of the bug off of his butt, stepped back, and said,"All done. It's dead." He turned his head and whiffled at me. I rubbed his face and said,"You're welcome." then went back into the backyard since I was wearing my gardening clogs and don't hang around with the horses unless I'm wearing boots. He whiffled at me again, then wandered off to graze.

I love my horse.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flood Aftermath Part 2: Tangles of Debris, Downed Trees and Broken Bridges

The flood left frightening tangles of debris along the southern edge of our property. It knocked over several trees and ripped a bunch of branches off of others. It also washed away part of the bridge that's at the southwest corner of our property, and left pieces of asphalt spread over our land. And as I was wandering around taking pictures of the damage, I noticed one piece of debris upstream from the bridge that I am very glad didn't make it down to our property.

A bunch of broken branches and a few whole trees washed downstream onto our land.

Part of someone else's welded wire fence and some fence posts got swept off of their property and onto ours.

Part of our fence, I think, that ended up further downstream on our property.

The flood waters were powerful enough to knock over several of the trees along the creek. Some trees weren't completely knocked down, but seem to be permanently bent over.

A small tree on the other side of the creek that was knocked down.

A couple of larger trees on our side of the creek that were knocked down. It looks like the flood just washed the land right out from under them. So... not only did the flood wash away our fence, it also washed away part of our "property".

These trees seem to still be alive, but even days later, they have not straightened up. I don't know if they ever will.

The flood also damaged the bridge at the southwest corner of our property. It is the only way into and out of the the back half of the neighborhood we live in. We're on the side that can still get in and out, but many of our neighbors were stranded for the duration of the flood.

You can see how many layers of black top were washed off of the the surface of the bridge on the upstream side.

Several large pieces of asphalt that the county so kindly left on our property even after they came out and "fixed" the bridge.

More pieces of asphalt spread along the corner of our property that we don't use because of the frequent flooding of that area.

The bridge was really badly designed. It's basically a solid dam of concrete with one large hole and three small holes for the water to go through. As long as there is not a heavy rain, it works well enough. But every time it rains heavily, the holes are simply not big enough to let all that water through. And then of course the holes get clogged with the debris that the flood is carrying and there is no where for the water to go except up over the bridge. AND onto our property. (The bank on the other side of the creek is much higher on the upstream side of the bridge, so all the water and debris comes onto our side of the creek.) If the bridge had been built properly and not like a glorified low water crossing, that corner of our property (which is NOT part of our pasture for obvious reasons) would not flood so often.

Admittedly this particular flood was not caused by the badly designed bridge. (Though I'm sure it exacerbated the problem.) This flood was caused by a combination of getting 12" of rain in 24 hours and the fact that the city and county have not been planning for drainage with all the new construction that they've been putting up all around us.

There is one positive note. At least this piece of flood debris did not make it downstream far enough to affect us.

Look closesly. See that large green cylinder. That's a forty foot(or so) silo that the flood knocked over. (BTW, that little trickle of water in the foreground is not the main creek. It's usually just a dry wash (natural ditch) leading to the creek.

I don't know where the silo originally came from, and who knows what will happen to it with the next flood, but hopefully, it will never make it past the bridge. Or maybe it will take out the bridge (without damaging our property) and then the county will finally have to build a proper bridge.

Any way, that's all for now. I know that I am about a week and a half behind on posting about the aftermath of the flood, but Foxfire and I have been spending almost every waking moment working to clear the debris and damaged fencing and then to re-build everything that was damaged or destroyed. My next post will probably begin describing the clean up and debris removal.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Adventures in Dehydration

Even before the flood on Tuesday night, I'd been feeling run down and sick. I kept putting off going to the doctor in the hope that it would just go away on its own. But I kept feeling worse and worse. Finally, Friday morning Foxfire flat out told me to call and make an appointment with Dr. M. It's a good thing he did. When I got to the Dr's office that afternoon, he took one look at me and said that I looked dehydrated, he did a quick evaluation and determined that I probably had an upper respiratory infection, one of the ones that dehydrate you as your body tries to fight it. And the fact that I'd been working outside in the heat to try and clear away storm damage had just exacerbated the problem. He had the nurse try to take some blood to determine exactly what the infection was, but I was so dehydrated that she couldn't get the needle into my vein. Apparently, when you are severely dehydrated, your blood vessels contract or something. At that point, Dr. M told me that they needed to get fluids in me NOW! They had already given me a bottle of water which I had been drinking, but my poor body apparently required more drastic measures. He had me lay down on the examining table and hooked me up to an IV. They pumped two whole bags of IV fluids into me.

As they pumped the fluids into me, I started shaking and shivering so badly that my teeth were chattering and I could barely talk. The office temp was set at 69 degrees (they told me when I said that I was cold) and the fluids were also 69 degrees (since they were kept at room temperature), so as they went into my bloodstream they chilled me internally as well. It was absolutely miserable. After only about 15 minutes, my poor muscles were so tired from the violent shivering, they started cramping. And every time my arm twitched, the IV needle hurt a little more. They piled three blankets on me, turned off the AC and opened the window to let hot Texas air in, but I kept shivering and shaking until there were no more cold fluids going in me. It took about 45 more minutes.

Even after the IV was done, they had me stay in the room for a while so they could keep an eye on me and make sure I was well enough to drive home. Dr. M told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to do any strenuous work for the next several days. That I could go outside and supervise the clean up and repair, but that I would have to come inside every hour for about 15 minutes and drink a glass of water. If I didn't take proper care of myself as my body fought off this infection, I might end up having to go to the hospital. I HATE hospitals. So, as frustrating as it will be to watch everyone else work and not be able to help. I will obey my Dr. and be a lazy bum. Foxfire will be keeping an eye on me to make sure I follow instructions.

It's not that I particularly liked doing all the work to try and clean up the flood damage. The work that I've done so far has my muscles aching and I'm covered in bruises. It's just that since I can't hold down a job, and there are so many normal things that I can't do because of my anxiety/depression/sleep disorder, that when there is something that I can do, I get a real sense of accomplishment out of doing it. Friday morning, before going to the Dr. I had been working to clear the flood wrack and several very large, very heavy pieces of fencing off of two of my rose bushes that had been buried underneath debris during the flood. It was hard work, especially trying to move the large panels of fencing without damaging the poor roses any more than they had already been damaged. When I finally got the rose bushes clear and saw some of their branches beginning to straighten up and look like they were going to survive, it was a very gratifying feeling.

Later today as friends and family come help us fix things up, it's going to be hard watching everyone else work and feeling, yet again, that I'm not a contributing member of the human race.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flood Aftermath Part 1: Fences and Pump House

The morning after the flood, Foxfire and I looked at how badly our fence was damaged and decided that it was going to take far more than a day to fix it. Since we couldn't leave the horses in their stalls, and the donkeys and goats in the very small goat pen for that long, the first thing we needed to do was create a larger paddock for everyone. Because of the way our barn, backyard and pasture are laid out, the quickest easiest thing to do was to build a fence between the corner of our backyard and the corner of the barn closing off the corner of the pasture that was the least flooded. In order to get it done in one day, we knew we would need help. I called our trusty hay guy and Foxfire called his sister, Auddie. Our hay guy couldn't come himself, but he sent one of his assistants JT to help us. And Auddie showed up as well.

Since this was the third time in four years that our pasture had flooded and part of our fence went down, we decided that having a permanent paddock in the least likely to flood area was a good idea. It would also make it easier to keep the equines and goats that weren't being worked with out of the way when we were using the rest of the pasture to ride and/or train in. So while Foxfire and JT salvaged some of the least damaged panels and t-posts from the wreckage, Auddie and I ran to a local feed store and bought a 12' gate to put in the new fence. With all of us helping we managed to get the fence up and working by about 1pm. It wasn't truly finished. The gate wasn't properly mounted, just wired into place between two t-posts. But it functioned well enough to safely contain all our critters while we rebuilt the rest of the pasture fence.

The quick and dirty fence closing off the paddock area by the barn. The silver post on the far left is the corner post for our backyard area.

A muddy horse and donkeys walking the new fence line.

Ziggy looking over the new gate, wondering why we won't let him get to the round bale.

Shadowfax looking over the new fence at the remains of the flood.

With the critters taken care of, I ran around taking pictures of the damage the flooding caused. As I mentioned before most of our fences were either knocked flat or completely washed away.

The remains of the fence on the East side of our property.

The complete absence of a fence on the West side of our property.

From where our gate used to be looking North.

From where our gate used to be looking South.

Our gate ended up buried under a bunch of fence panels and t-posts about 2/3 of the way down the Southern side of our property.

The fence panels that we use are made of thick stiff wire about the diameter of a pencil. They are not designed to bend, much less to wrap around a tree.

T-posts are even less bendable.

I also took some pictures of the high water marks on and in our pump house.

You can see a piece of broken t-post as well as the high water mark on the wall.

If the water had gotten much higher it would have flooded our pump house breaker box and we would have been without water until we could get it fixed.

I'll continue describing the aftermath of the flood in my next post. Meanwhile if you want to see more pictures, check out my photobucket album "Flood Sept 2010".

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (Sept 7/8) our backyard/pasture flooded badly due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine dumping almost 12 inches of rain in our area. The flood waters actually came within about 10 feet of our back porch, but fortunately, didn't actually make it to the house. Unfortunately, it did completely destroy 3/4 of our pasture fence and damaged our pump house (we have a well for water) and part of our barn. Due to my erratic sleep schedule, I was awake during the night. I'd been checking on things every couple of hours because we have had the far back corner of our pasture flood before. (Mainly due to a very poorly designed "bridge" that crosses the creek near the corner of our property.) I'd gone out to check on things about 11pm and the water in the creek was still several feet below the top of the bridge. About 2am, I went out to check again, and the water was up past our pump house and flooding about a third of our barn.

I ran back inside and woke Foxfire up and we ran out to try and do what we could to make sure our animals were safe. The horses were running up to the edge of the water, acting nervous and running back away. The donkeys were sensibly standing at the highest point of the pasture underneath the stand of oak trees that cover that area. The goats were hiding terrified in the part of the barn that wasn't flooded, and the chickens were obliviously roosted on their perches above the flood waters that covered the bottom of the chicken coop area of the barn. As I was checking on the goats, Shadowfax came up to me seeking reassurance. I stroked his face and calmly told him that I knew he was nervous, but that really the best thing for him to do was to go stay in the oak mot since that was currently the safest place in the pasture. He turned and calmly walked over to the oak mot and stayed there. I swear that horse can understand human speech. I'm not sure if Foxfire had a similar talk with Ziggy, or if Ziggy just followed Shadowfax's lead (which would be odd since Ziggy is dominant), but both horses stayed in the oak mot with the donkeys until after the water finally receded. I wasn't too worried about the back porch cats, but I did check on them. Xiao Mao and Freya were plainly visible and only moderately disturbed by everything. I couldn't see Shadowcat, but I figured she was probably okay. Cats are pretty capable critters and there were plenty of areas that she could get to that were safe.

However, I was very concerned about the safety of my hens because chickens don't do well in water. But the bottom of the chicken coop was already flooded, and I was worried about going into the water to move the hens to safety. I grew up in south Louisiana and I am very aware of the danger of going into flood waters. But the water was only about six inches deep, and the coop was sturdily built and had lots of things for me hold onto if the waters got turbulent. Plus, I really didn't want my chickens to drown if they woke up and jumped down into the water or if the water continued to rise to the level of their perches. So Foxfire and I quickly grabbed as many chickens as we could and moved them to our back porch. The fact that chickens just "turn off" after dark made it easier for us to move them. Though they were definitely not happy since the most efficient way to move them was to carry them by their legs with their bodies hanging upside down. That way, we could each carry four at a time as opposed to just two at a time right side up. It took a number of trips, but we got all the chickens moved.

The goats seemed to be okay at that time and even if the water came up enough to get them wet, they wouldn't automatically drown the way the chickens would, so I left Foxfire outside keeping an eye on things while I ran inside to try and call our friend DA to see if she was willing to come and get our horses and donkeys with her trailer if the water got high enough to flood our entire pasture. (Our trailer was in the area of the pasture that was already flooded.) I was unable to get in touch with her and went back outside to check on things and discuss options with Foxfire. Fortunately, about that time, we noticed that the water seemed to be receding. It was still raining, but the longer we watched, the more the water went down. I was still worried that it might come up again, but at least for a while, I decided to just wait and see what happened before trying to do anything else.

Since we were no longer freaking out about saving our animals, we took a few moments to try and see what the damage to our property was. Using our powerful Magnum flashlight to shine over the water, we could see that at least most of the fence along the back of our property was completely down. The fence along the east side of property was about half down. We cautiously left the critters in the non-flooded area of the pasture and went to check out the other areas. The bottom of our pump house was covered with water. and the fence along the west side of our property was just gone. I mean GONE. There were no posts sticking up, no remains of the fence, just nothing. It was still dark (it was about 3:30am by this point), so we really couldn't see very well, but things looked bad.

As we were looking at the west side of our property which runs beside a road since we live on a corner, we noticed a truck parked on the road, apparently trapped on our side of the bridge. He had his lights on so we could see exactly how far up the road the flood waters had come. We spoke with him for a bit, offering that he could come inside our house if he wanted to. He chose to stay with his truck and keep an eye on the road and stop anyone who might try to cross the bridge. He also offered to help us with our animals if we needed him to. We thanked him and went back to check on our critters.

The water was definitely much lower than it had been. Our pump house was almost completely clear of water. The chicken coop and run-in areas of the barn were no longer flooded, though the mud was still terrible. We kept watching and gradually more and more of our land became clear of water. Since I was going to be awake anyway, I sent Foxfire back to bed to get what sleep he could. After watching for a while longer and seeing the water continue to recede, I decided to run inside and change out of my soaking wet clothes. I was wet, cold, tired and still rather scared about the flooding. I needed a short break. I got dry and warm and for the next couple of hours, I stayed mostly inside, just running outside every fifteen minutes or so to check on things.

Around 5:30am, when I went outside to check on the critters, the water had receded enough that the horses and donkeys had come out from the oak mot and were munching on their round bale which had been partially submerged by the flood waters. I wasn't too worried about them eating the wet hay, not enough time had passed for it to mold or anything. But now that they were willing to leave the oak mot, there was the chance that since the fences were down, they would wander off or get spooked into running out of the pasture. I hadn't wanted to put them in their stalls earlier because I didn't want them to be trapped there if the water continued to rise, but now that the water was pretty much gone, they needed to be contained and the only place to put them was their stalls which were somewhat wet, but had not truly flooded. I ran inside and got their feed buckets with their morning ration of feed and called them into their stalls. I also got some of the donkeys' feed and called the donkeys and the goats that were willing to come out of the barn into the small goat pen beside the house which had been covered in a couple of inches of running water earlier, but was now just muddy. Three of the goats WOULD NOT leave the barn no matter how much I called and shook the feed bucket so I just left them there. I figured they wouldn't wander too far from the rest of the herd. I finally saw Shadowcat, the third back porch kitty, and I as suspected, she was fine. I also checked on the front porch kitty, Bastet, and she seemed oblivious to the excitement that was going on in the back yard.

I kept checking on things every half an hour until it got light. I woke Foxfire up and we went outside to see exactly how bad things were. All of the critters were safe, if not happy to be shut up in such small quarters, but the pasture (and part of my orchard) was devastated. Unlike the time previously when just a small corner of our pasture flooded, there is no way that just Foxfire and I will be able to fix things by ourselves.

That's all for now. I will post more later.