Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ranch Revival

We went out to Scott Valley Ranch yesterday to check on the prairie dogs, but we saw so much more.

When we turned off the highway onto the dirt road that winds around a bit before getting to our ranch, we hadn't gone very far (for those of you who have been out there with us, we hadn't even gotten to the T intersection) when we saw a large animal up ahead. We soon realized it was an elk! Ron stopped the Jeep; the elk was about 30 yards away from us. He had his head down, nibbling on some grass. Then he heard us, raised his head and stared at us for about three seconds before running off into the brush. He was a big elk with antlers. Naturally we didn't have our cameras ready; we'd just gotten off the highway and never expected to see something so camera-worthy so soon.

We proceeded to the T intersection and turned left. We hadn't driven very far when a red-tailed hawk swooped down low and flew right over us, its red tail prominent in the midday sun.

That's when we both turned our cameras on!

We drove around to our little piece of heaven out there, marveling at how green everything was compared to our last (somewhat sad) visit.

We saw prairie dogs! Big, fat, healthy prairie dogs.

This one was especially "well fed" and has apparently been getting ready for winter dormancy (I wonder if that means it will be an extra harsh winter). Ron named him Pork Chop!

We saw other prairie dogs, but none as large as Pork Chop. We walked all over the property, examining the burrows for evidence of activity, and were happy to see that most of the burrows show signs of recent activity.

The grasses and bushes look green and healthy, too. It was such a big change from last time we were there, during the severe drought. I feel much more optimistic about the survival of "our" prairie dogs.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall At Last, Fall At Last

Friday morning is the official start of fall, and I'm so ready for it.

After a long and brutally cold winter, we had a VERY brief spring before rushing into a hot, dry summer. It was one of the driest summers on record in New Mexico (and elsewhere, especially Texas), and while we didn't have the 100-plus temperatures that Texas did, we got over 90 more than usual. Actually, it's unusual to reach 90 at all and our highest temperature was only 93.8.

But for the past couple of weeks it's mostly been highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. Perfect! Occasionally it dipped down into the upper 30s, but we haven't turned on the furnace yet. It's that great time of year when we don't need the swamp cooler or the furnace.

Last weekend our wood guy delivered a load of wood (Ron had called him a few days before; we've been getting wood from him every year for a few years now). He said it was a cord, but it was a very generous cord, more like a cord and a half. It's a mixture of cedar and pinon. The cedar is deep red in color, almost too beautiful to burn. Almost. It puts out a sweet cedar scent as it burns; think of cedar closets. The pinon puts out a scent that reminds me of church incense. I think burning all pinon would be too much, so the combination of cedar and pinon is just right. We burned fires on Saturday and Sunday, just to make sure the wood was OK. It was! Then the weather warmed up enough that we didn't need to have a fire.

Before we got the wood, we had several days in a row of cool, rainy weather and the high temps stayed in the 60s. The house felt a little chilly, so I made oven foods for dinner like Salmon Loaf and Baked Potatoes. And we brought out the extra blanket to put on the bed, a super warm fleecy blanket with the image of a wolf head on it (and smaller wolves on the bottom, so we know which way the blanket goes when we make the bed).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Medical Mystery Solved (Maybe)

My dog and I are on the same medication!

Last February, King, our German Shepherd mix, had a seizure. I called the vet and was able to take him in (drop him off) for an exam and bloodwork. The bloodwork didn't show anything wrong, except he was slightly dehydrated. The vet explained it could be a one-time event or it could be the start of epilepsy. He wouldn't need medication unless he started having frequent seizures.

So we started keeping track. He didn't have another one for two months (April) and then he didn't have another one until August 20. Then last Wednesday, he had two seizures within two hours. And it had only been two and a half weeks since his previous one. Clearly this called for another trip to the vet, so we took him in on Thursday morning.

Dr. Kim examined him and said he looked good. We showed her the list of the seizures he'd had. She explained that the anti-seizure medication, phenobarbital, has a lot of side effects, and she doesn't want to prescribe that unless absolutely necessary.

Although German Shepherds are more prone to epilepsy than other breeds, there are other causes of seizures. Such as thyroid problems. When they did the bloodwork last February, they did a basic workup and didn't include thyroid testing. So we asked her to do the bloodwork again, including the thyroid testing; apparently it's a separate test, because this time they took a separate vial of blood to do the thyroid test.

A few hours later, she called us at home with the results. He had VERY low thyroid. The thyroid level for dogs should be between 1 and 4; King's level was less than 0.5. (Also his liver was slightly elevated, but that wasn't a cause for concern as far as the seizures.) So she prescribed thyroid medication and when I went to pick it up, I found out it's the same thyroid medication I take - levothyroxine.

He takes one every 12 hours (I only take one a day) and we'll retest in four to six weeks.

If it's just low thyroid that's causing the seizures, that's easily treatable, with medication that has fewer side effects. That will be such a relief! And Dr. Kim was so reassuring during the exam; when he had two seizures in two hours, we were kind of freaking out, wondering what the future looked like for him. The future looks much brighter now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jury Duty

Last Monday, I visited the anscestral home of our prairie dogs. Yes, I went to the new Taos County Administrative and Judicial Complex to do my civic duty - Jury Duty.

In typical Taos fashion, it was a case of hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait.

In typical Beth fashion, I arrived five or ten minutes early. I hate being late for things. There was a small cluster of people waiting outside the still-locked doors of the courthouse building. The cluster grew as more people arrived. We were told to be there at 8:00 and it was about 8:15 or 8:20 before they finally let us in.

Of course we had to go to the security screening. I had taken forbidden items such as nail scissors and hair spray out of my purse before I left home. One guy wasn't thinking ahead, apparently. Not only did he have a lighter in his pocket, he also had a pocketknife! And he seemed surprised when the screener told him he couldn't take them into the courtroom, he would have to go put them in his car. This is the kind of doofus who will sit on a jury and decide someone's fate?

We trudged up the stairs and into the courtroom. Going to jury duty in previous years in the old courthouse was literally torture. The seats we had to sit in during hours of waiting and jury selection were the most uncomfortable seats I've ever been in. Hard plastic seats that curved in the back in the wrong place. And not just the wrong place for me; everyone I've talked to agreed they were uncomfortable. I finally learned to take some ibuprofen before going to jury duty, just to prevent some of the back pain.

The new courtroom has pews instead of individual seats, and even though they're just bare wood with no cushioning, they were comfortable.

This may have been the first jury duty in the new courtroom, judging by the trouble the clerks and bailiffs had getting the audio visual system to work. There are two flat screen TVs hanging up high to show the jury orientation video, but the clerks and bailiffs couldn't figure out how to get everything connected and working. It took them almost an hour, but they finally got it working so we could watch a ten-minute video explaining the history of jury trials and how the process works. The video also included testimonials from people who "learned a lot" by serving on a jury and who really enjoyed the experience.

More waiting.

At 9:15 the bailiff told us that they were waiting for the defendant to appear and we could take a ten-minute break.

Of course it was half an hour before the judge came into the courtroom, swore us all in as jurors, and then explained that the day's trial had been cancelled, but we didn't need to worry about why. "It happens all the time," she told us.

So we were released for the day, and in fact for the week. We have to call the jury line on Friday after 5:00 p.m. to find out if we need to come in next week.

At least my two-month term of service is half over. It started August 1, but there were no trials in August until the one on the 26th that ended up being cancelled.

We'll see what happens next week.