Monday, April 26, 2010

pale grey

They say (I don't know who, just they) that horses are colour blind. I imagine being completely colour blind means you see everything in shades of grey. Like watching my old TV. Except I could imagine colour and in my mind imagined what colours Casey and Finnegan really were. Horses, having never seen colour before wouldn't know it exists.

Patches was the horse I grew up with. A beautiful Canadian mix kind of mutt with a thick neck and round rump. He was smart and full of mischief. We went away for a week to a riding camp and when we left, the house bordering his pasture was pale yellow. To him perhaps pale grey. When we returned, the house had been painted a pale blue. To him, I imagined this would also look pale grey.

I let him loose in his pasture and laughed as he galloped from one end to the other, tail raised, snorting and huffing at this house, who was no longer pale grey, but instead, pale grey. Obviously what I imagined about the sight of a horse was a tad off. Regardless, it caused excitement in his day.

Today, I'm watching guys paint the store across the road from my office. It used to be pale grey. Now it's bright blue. If I were a horse, what a day I'd have.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring means farming

It's been a while since I updated the farm part of my life. I guess it's been since the whole fiasco when the cows were loose for two weeks. You're probably thinking not much goes on in the winter and that would be true I guess.

Last fall, well, last November my mom was coming to pick up Stella the cow, Fuzz Butt the bull and Bud the horse to bring them to her house for the winter. I don't have a barn yet (oh I dream and count my pennies nightly) so Stella and Bud needed a place to stay comfy cozy. Fuzz Butt was going straight to the butcher.

That was the plan anyway.

We tried to get these elusive cows into the trailer but they wouldn't have it. Everyone was uncooperative that morning (including the humans) and Fuzz Butt hid in the woods and the horse was being a dink and not listening. He is usually a great cattle horse, but not that day. Have you ever packed to go on a trip and watched the dog's reaction? Ours dances around like a fool, forgets how to listen along with her manners, as soon as she sees the first packed bag. She races back and forth from the house to the car, trying to hide away under the dash any time the car door opens. There is only one thing on her mind and that is making darn sure we do not leave her behind. Well, Bud was kind of acting like that. A dink. Except I was on his back and needed him to preform an important task. The only good thing was the animals were still in the pasture. A huge bonus from the drama that played out a few months earlier. Poor husband was left to build a corral in November, when the sun sets at 4:30. So I would cook supper and see him out the window, pounding away at fence posts by the headlights of our truck. That really was all he wanted to do after work for a week anyway I'm sure.

The following week the corral was ready and we arranged another trucker going to Yarmouth to come pick up the cattle. Fuzz Butt was butchered and yielded 630 lbs of the tastiest meat I've ever eaten. (That is a really good weight by the way, over 50% yield from live weight) Then it snowed and winter happened and here we are.

Stella calved this January and had a heifer (that would be a girl). Because the cattle we have are purebred Limousin, they are registered. When registering cattle, they need a tattoo. Our tattoo numbers are determined by order born in the year. The tattoo also has a letter and the letter is determined by the year. This year is X. Why? Because last year was W. So people can quickly know the year the calf was born by looking at the tattoo. We like to name the animals according to the letter year they were born too. So Stella has a baby girl named Xena. Xena the sirloin princess. I'd like to congratulate my brother in law for winning the name the calf contest.

Stella and Xena will be here soon. The grass is growing and the weather has been warm (ish). We are about 3 weeks ahead of where we were last year at this time. Bud will join them and I can't wait until he gets here. I want to going riding so bad it's darn near killing me. We may also have another little cow, who calved last summer joining us with her calf. Her calf will have the same fate as Fuzz Butt and possibly Xena this fall as well. We may trade Xena to our neighbours as payment for housing our animals at their farm next winter. Then she'll get to live to a ripe old age, having babies of her own just like her mama. It will be great having the animals next door. The horse will be here all winter! So I can ride all winter!

Fixing the fencing is in progress right now. We want to fence in the back pasture so we'll have 3 pastures to rotationally graze all summer long. Everyone will be happy and fat from the fresh grass. Our garden is tilled and ready for rows. We've added peat moss, compost (home made) sheep manure, cattle manure, rabbit manure (thanks Bunny Bunny, I'll never say you've never given us anything) I'm hoping to plant the onions and garlic (from started cloves) this weekend. But I say I, when I really mean Martin. I need him to handle the rig that is our tiller.

Martin made really good salsa last year, so I'm hoping to grow all the ingredients for it organically this year in our garden. I've never grown garlic or coriander before, so that should be interesting. I'd like to harvest broccoli this year rather than watch the green worms eat it all. If the potatoes are bigger than the size of a golf ball that would be a bonus too. Can you tell I'm better at raising animals than vegetables? Big bull, little potatoes.

I also want to raise a few turkeys plus there are a gazillion other things I'd like to do. At this Martin shakes his head and calls me a dreamer. But that's ok. That's what makes it fun.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It took a while to get my head around it. I think it would for any parent. I think we always knew something was off, but just hoped it would be OK. That, I don't know, he'd grow out of it. I can't tell you the exact time it became obvious to me, but grade primary really made it clear to everyone that our boy had a learning disability of some kind.

It scared me. I can't speak for Mart, but I think he'd agree in the early years. It felt like a life sentence and I wouldn't accept it. I defended him like an angry mother bear. We couldn't be the only ones to see the sweet, smart boy, could we? But if he was a normal little boy, why couldn't he read the alphabet? Why could he remember one day and not the next? Why could he not see the letters on a page? Why was he so lost?

School was beyond hard. He cried. Everyday he cried.

I've learned to find strength as a mother. Learned to be an advocate. Learned that letters after your name doesn't mean you know best. The only way I can describe his life in school from primary to grade 6 is a fight. I fought tooth and nail, and stood before principals, teachers, professionals and told them they were wrong. That I may not know what is wrong, but I know my boy is not stupid and I know my boy does not have ADHD.

The first educational assessment done was in grade 2. He was still in French Immersion (it took me 2 more years to convince the school board to take him out). Because he hadn't been taught English reading or spelling, they told me they could not properly evaluate that area. (Which is the area he struggles in) Therefor his assessment was inconclusive, but his behaviour in class fits the profile of ADHD and from there out he was labelled.

There have been 2 things I will not budge on when it comes to my boy. 1) he has at least average intelligence and belongs in a class with his piers. 2) he does not have ADHD. The hard part has been how to convince people who have framed papers hanging on the wall, making them the expert, facing a girl young enough to be their own daughter, that they are wrong and I'm not just a delusional mother who won't accept reality. I know kids with ADHD, they take medication and are wonderful. But this was not the case for my boy and it was not going to help. It would be like treating him for an ear infection when he had a broken toe.

In grade 4 we got the assessment done again privately. This time it was magic. It was like she cracked open his head, looked at all the pieces and figured out how he worked. The report came and I was washed over with relief. Finally someone agreed with us. Finally someone with letters after their name, papers framed on the wall, saw what we always had. She found that he has a severe learning disability in phonological processing-rapid naming. Not ADHD. The symptoms of those 4 little letters were brought on by insurmountable stress and frustration. Eliminate one and the other will take care of itself. He had been coping the only way he could, which wasn't well, by avoidance.

Up until then we were lost together in the woods. We knew there was a mountain to climb, but we didn't know which one, or where it was. We were so lost. And our boy was losing himself. He hated himself. He hated that he couldn't read. Hated that he felt stupid. That he was different from his friends. This little boy held his secret tight. He didn't want anyone to know. Up until the second assessment, we had no way to help. My heart breaks at the thought of how much he was hurting inside.

Since then, we've moved. Changed school districts and we are, I dare say nearing the top of the mountain. Our boy is happy and proud and doesn't have to carry around a dark secret anymore. We have worked so hard to get here.

Then the other day, his LD specialist emailed and said "He is quite tired lately and I see he has ADHD, has his medications changed?" I freaked out. Frantically typed an email. Erased it and tried not to panic. Suddenly we were back to square one. After 4 years of progress. I was scratching at the earth to get hold and keep us from sliding back down the mountain we'd just climbed. That it took us 4 years to climb. I sent an email explaining. I hope she couldn't hear my panic. I hope she believes me. I hope we don't end up screwing something up and lose his program. All for 4 nasty little misplaced letters.

Sometimes I wonder if I brought this on him. Having him so young. I didn't want to be pregnant. It just wasn't supposed to be like that. I screwed up and he was being punished for what I had done. I know it's not true, but sometimes it wanders into my mind. I know in my heart why, if there is fate or a great plan, he was given to me. I would be lost in many ways without him.

I don't wish for my life to be any different. I love my boy just the way he is with his unique mind. I have been a mother longer than I've been an adult, but I have no regrets. Our boy will struggle with his learning disability for his whole life. I just wish for him to live life easy. I think most parents want the same for their kids.