Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?


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Thirty seconds

Spring lasted all of thirty seconds around here. Seriously, it was blowing snow on April 2, and it was 85 degrees today. I’m not going to complain… but I want to complain. Because it’s hot. I spent the weekend shearing llamas, and it was sweaty, dirty business. I only got 16 done, which means there are 48 still waiting on me. Oy.

I’m getting ready to do something this weekend that I haven’t done in four years. I’m going to compete at a llama show. Yes! Legit. I actually signed up, and I’m going. I’m totally unprepared and haven’t practiced AT ALL, but I wanted to do it, so I’m doing it. I had to sign up before I chickened out.

This show is actually the same one after which I stopped competing four years ago. At the end of that day, I drove home in tears. I was in agony. That was also the day I decided to get serious about the big surgery.

For the last two years, I’ve gone to shows and helped friends with their animals. I even went in the ring once or twice. But I never exhibited my own animal, and I certainly didn’t do the performance classes.

I’m pretty excited about this. I’m taking an animal that I trained years ago (but that I haven’t practiced with in about four years), and I enjoy him oh so much. His name is Zin. He’s big and fluffy and patient, and we’re going to go make fools of ourselves.

This is kind of a prove-to-myself-that-this-was-all-worth-it moment. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed!

 


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A llama

Llama.

He’s so cute, I just want to smoosh his cheeks.

This is Normandy.

He was born on D Day. Hence the name.

My schedule has been insane lately, and I haven’t had time to write a post this week. I thought instead I’d share a sweet pic of a sweet little llama. He was about six months old in this pic. Now, he’s four years old and thinks the world owes him–he’s quite full of himself. He was one of the last two babies I bred, and I unfortunately broke my leg shortly before he was born. He never got the training I did with my others, and I’ve never shown him. He did spend one year in 4-H, so he has been halter trained and had some performance training. But he pretty just hangs out in the pasture, beating up all the old guys.


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Gypsy portrait

This is Stryker. He’s a seven-year-old Gypsy Vanner stallion. We joke about changing his name to Ferdinand because he is extremely (sometimes infuriatingly) laid back. Just like Ferdinand from the children’s story–the bull that would rather smell flowers than engage in the bull fights.

Gypsy Vanner stallion.

Someone should have scrubbed the mud off his face before snapping his picture.

I spent some quality time with Ferdinand this past weekend. We’re working on his ground training. He’s a big baby about, oh, pretty much everything. He likes to pretend that he’s not bigger than anything else on the farm and gets scared when he sees inanimate objects. It’s not his fault. He hasn’t gotten all the proper training. He’s been professionally trained under saddle and in a cart, but he hasn’t really gone too many places off the farm to learn that the world is not a scary place. It’s the lack of experience that shows up from time to time, and we’re working on that.

I tied three pie pans together with some twine–makes an awesome racket. The neighbors were probably, like, what the hell?! The lesson was brief, but it was a good lesson. It ended when I could rattle the pans on either side without him moving his feet and when he’d walk with me while I was rattling the pans. He was still tense, but it was his first lesson with the pans, so I think it went very well. He has no idea what’s coming because this was just the first in a long line of lessons I have planned for him. He’ll be “bomb-proof” eventually whether he knows it or not.

This ground work gives me something to do while I build strength and confidence in my ability to ride again.


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Random camera pictures

I take way too many pictures with my phone. Half of them are just extra shots taken in quick succession so I can capture the action. You’d need a magnifying glass to pick out the differences in some. I then go back through and delete pictures like crazy because no one needs three shots of the same image, and let’s be honest, I don’t really need most of the pictures I’ve taken. They’re not anything that I’d print out and hang on the wall. But I thought I’d share a few here. For no reason.

Re-paved road in park.

Who knew new pavement was so awesome?

This picture is über exciting. That’s new pavement on the main road in my favorite park. It’s so smooth! And so fast!

Deer in the park.

Deer.

I always have my phone with me on my rides, and I managed to snap this as I breezed by some of the deer in my favorite park. You can’t stop completely to take the pic because then they get all suspicious and run away, so this is the best it gets when I’m on my bike.

Barn cat named Tarzan.

Tarzan. The (not so) wild man.

This little dude is Tarzan. He and his three siblings (Moxie, Batman and Tiny) were born early this spring in the horse barn. I was doing chores one weekend morning, and I heard what I thought was one of the barn swallows screeching. On further inspection, I figured out that a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens in the back of the hay stack on the floor of the barn. Tarzan was so named because he was absolutely wild when he first started venturing out into the world. We couldn’t get close to him, but we could pet and play with his siblings. That’s all changed, and he’s now the most ridiculous of the bunch. He comes to you immediately when you enter the barn, and you spend the entire time in the barn tripping over him. His purr is the loudest I’ve ever heard. As you can see, he likes to take selfies.

Llama in front of fence.

Studly.

The most important thing about this picture is not the gorgeous llama. It’s the equally gorgeous fence behind him. Look at how straight it is! I built that damn fence with my bare hands.

Nephew on the playground rock wall.

Little monkey.

This little monkey is my five-year-old ‘phew. If anyone asks, he’s not my favorite. I love my niece and all my ‘phews equally. For the most part. He’s the only kid on this planet that has made me pause longer than 10 seconds and think that maybe I need to have my own kids some day. He gives super ultra mega hugs of doom. What is a mega hug of doom you ask? Well, he runs to the other side of the room and then runs full speed right into you and tries to squeeze you to death. Depending in whether he catches you standing or sitting, he’s fairly successful in squeezing the breath out of you.

Girl on a horse.

The niece riding Pie.

I took the niece and the ‘phew to the farm a few weeks ago, and my niece rode Pie for the very first time. I think she might be hooked. The ‘phew wasn’t quite convinced he wanted to get on Pie, but he was really excited about taking pictures of his sister from the other side of the fence. This is one of the 57 masterpieces he took that day. What bothers me most about this picture is that my niece is only 7, and her feet almost fit into the stirrups that were set for me.

That’s it for now.


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Shearing Sheila

Sheila is the first llama I owned. I’d shown llamas owned by other people for 10 years, and it was fine. I don’t know exactly what made me think I needed to own a llama. Except it’s Sheila, and she was meant for me.

I typically enjoy shearing llamas. At least, I enjoy the idea of it. After I’ve had time to forget about the previous year’s shearing season. There is some satisfaction in how the wool rolls off the animal. I like finishing things, and this is something that’s pretty clear when it’s finished.

There are 87 llamas on the farm, and we sheared all but one (he’s old and light-wooled; he doesn’t need it). Most of them are retired and get a quick cut that helps them stay cool in the summer heat. Some of them are on the show string, and those get a more careful cut meant to show off their conformation in the halter ring.

Sheila officially retired several years ago. She just turned 15 last month, so she’s one of the “old girls” now. I wish I could share better pictures, but I was alone on this particular day, and I didn’t even have an actual camera with me. Phone pics will have to do.

Before. Sheila, since she’s retired, doesn’t have to keep up appearances. So she was pretty dirty. I’d decided to give her a cut that takes off more fiber than I normally would because of the heat. She also doesn’t particularly like being groomed (she’ll tolerate it), so I figured shearing the fiber off would make it easier for the both of us.

Llama prior to being sheared.

Dirty girl before her spring hair cut. The fiber around her middle (the barrel) was what had been sheared last year.

After. She looks like some kind of fancy poodle. My friend, Sheila’s number one fan, asked if I’d left leg warmers on her when I texted her this after shot. Yes. Leg warmers.

Shorn llama.

Sheila in all her regal presence. You can see that Auggie was a huge help… laying there on the driveway. The llama butt on the right belongs to Street.

Though many people do, we don’t really use the fiber for anything after we shear it off the animal. Llama fiber is softer than most sheep wool, but it’s not quite as fine as alpaca fiber. One year, we shipped a bunch of fiber to help with oil spills (they use it to soak the oil off the water). This year, we gave bags of fiber to a shear guild. Most years, the fiber gets buried. There’s just too much left from so many llamas.

Llama wool after shearing.

What was left of Sheila on the cutting room floor.

Shearing the llamas is a hot, dirty job. It’s also sometimes painful because some of the llamas take exception to the shearing and kick. A lot. I’m quite happy that we’re done for the year. Now, we can do other fun things. Like bale hay.


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The Pyrs

I was up at the farm this past weekend shearing sheep and llamas. Well, I don’t so much shear the sheep as I watch them get sheared. But the llamas? I shear those. We got 25 done this weekend, so that means we have only… 60 left to do. It’s going to be a long May.

I have a few pics and video of the sheep being sheared, but it’ll take me a while to put those together. In the meantime, I thought I might introduce you to two of the five farm dogs–the Great Pyrenees.

First up is August. He goes by “Auggie” though. He’s not called August unless he’s in big trouble. Which is roughly 27.5 times a day. He was born in Ohio, and he came to the farm in August. Hence, the very original name. I don’t honestly remember how old he is, but I think he’s somewhere around 4 or 5. Not terribly old, but approaching middle age for a large breed of dog. He’s very social, and he has an inherent need to be all up in your business until you pet him. And then when you’re done petting him, you might as well keep right on petting him because he’s not going anywhere.

Auggie has extremely selective hearing. So much so that we thought he was deaf. You can shout and shout as much as you want if he’s laying in the middle of the driveway, and he won’t even turn his head, much less move out of your way. But if you quietly say his name, and he thinks there might be something in it for him, he hears you loud and clear. Typical man.

Auggie. A Great Pyrenees Dog.

You can’t tell in this picture, but I got shear happy, and Auggie is now sporting a “summer cut.” He looks like a lion.

The other Great Pyrenees is Sheena. She’s the newest member of the pack; she just joined in the farm fun last week.

She’s a rescue. In her short 10 months, she was kept in a chicken coop and then adopted by people who kept her in a crate for more than eight hours a day. This is not the breed of dog for apartment living; they need room to run and play. They’re also livestock guardians, so they need a job. Sheena seems to think her job is to keep all the waterfowl in the water. She herds the wayward ducks down to the water and makes sure they dive right in. She’s learning quickly that this is not actually her job. She also appears to have selective hearing because she straight up ignores you until she has all the ducks in the water.

Sheena growled at me the first time we met. She’s kind of wary of strangers and motors and loud noises. But by the end of the weekend, I had her flipping over for belly rubs. I think we’ll be besties.

Sheena. A Great Pyrenees Dog.

She’s pretty proud of herself.

Physical Therapy Update

Not much to report here this week. I mentioned in the post last week that my PT and I have mutually agreed that it’s time to spread our sessions out a bit, so I haven’t been to physical therapy in more than a week now. It would seem weird, except it’s been a super busy week, and I didn’t miss it.

The first weekend I put 36.4 miles on the bike. This past weekend, I only put 20.5 miles on the bike because I ran out of time with so many other things to do. I think I’m done racking up the miles for a while now though. My PT had told me to keep the biking to a minimum until we figure out the IT band. I thought I’d just test myself a little bit to see what I could do because I wasn’t entirely convinced that the IT band was a problem. I mean, it has never been a problem before, so why would it start now?

Today changed my mind. I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, and he mentioned the IT band during his exam. When he pressed on one spot on my knee, I jerked away because it was so sore. That, he said, was the IT band. So… once again, my PT was right. Damn it. I’ll continue with the foam rolling and stretching that she’s prescribed, and I’ll mind my p’s and q’s on the bike. For now.

Speaking of my OS, he was totally impressed with my VMO. He asked me to flex my quad, and he started with my left (good) leg. “Ok, good. Now do your other one.” I flexed my leg for all I was worth and popped my heel up off the table. “Wow. I think that’s the first time in two years that you’ve had a hint of definition there.”

Um, excuse me. What do you mean by “a hint?” That sucker is freaking HUGE.

Ok, not really it isn’t. But I’m pretty damn proud of it.


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Spring is springing

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” — Margaret Atwood

You know that saying, “Spring has sprung?” It hasn’t. Not exactly. I suppose that, if you look hard enough between the raindrops, you can see the first tentative tendrils beginning to spring forth. But it’s taking too long! I want to smell like dirt. I know I’m not the only one. These two are pretty excited about the warmer weather, too.

Gypsy Vanner stallion.

He’s a racehorse. A Thoroughbred, if you ask him.

Gypsy Vanner mare.

She’ll not be left behind.

This past weekend provided a tiny hint of what’s to come, and I enjoyed every minute that I could get outside. I went out early on Sunday for a bike ride, but the sun wasn’t out, and it was freaking cold. I lasted only 5 miles before packing it in. My nose was running faster than I was biking.

After the sun came out that afternoon, a friend and I went for a walk on the Monon. It was sunny and warm, the company was fabulous, and we just kind of ambled our way north. I’d no idea how far we’d gone until we finally got to a cross street and looked at the app that was tracking our progress. Over two miles. Whoops! We had to get back to the car, so there was no choice but to trek back the same way. So I logged over 4 miles on the knee; that’s the longest walk I’ve taken since the big surgery in September 2012. I was worried that I’d done something that would cause some nasty repercussions because it was achy and tight by the end of the walk, but I was pleasantly surprised to wake up the next morning and find the knee to be in general working order. Progress! I don’t think it hurt that I’d iced my knee from the inside out with a full cup of Huddles fro yo.

Physical Therapy Update

I told my PT last week that I’m cured. “I don’t need to be able to walk, go up/down stairs, bike, ride… nothing. I’m going to be a couch potato the rest of my life.” Why? Because she was making me do a dumb exercise that I didn’t want to do (by “dumb,” I don’t mean hard exercises; I mean the ones that make me look dumb while doing them). I’m not about doing the dumb exercises in a room full of people. But, as per usual, PT won the battle of wills. I did the exercise.

We didn’t tape my knee last week because it was covered in slime so that my PT could do some soft tissue work. I didn’t think too much of it until the next day when my knee was feeling more swollen, stiff and generally uncomfortable. I did some quick research on the world wide internets and found a place close by that sells similar tape. I slapped it on and felt better inside of 24 hours. Before this experience, I wasn’t entirely sure that the tape really did anything. Now? I still don’t know if it’s the tape or if I just like having a security blanket. Doesn’t really matter because I feel a bit better with it, so I’ll use it.

We’re still working on the IT band. This week brought more stretches and exercises targeted specifically at the hip muscles. Glute medius. Hip flexors. Something like that. I just know where it’s supposed to hurt when I’m done. We added the leg press back in for the first time in a long time. I can do a single-leg press with 150 lbs using my “good” leg. Guess how much I’m allowed to do with my right leg? Twenty-five pounds. Yep. That’s it. And I’m not allowed to move through the whole range of motion; I have to do small presses on either side of my bad ROM. Not that I want to do the full ROM. I totally agree with that part. I bring it up just as a comparison. Because I feel like I should be able to do more at this point…

My PT told me that she was going to give me membership in the “Should Club.” It’s because I keep saying, “I SHOULD be able to do this. I SHOULD be able to do that.” Usually, it’s things that I just want to do. I should be able to bike more than 10 miles without having to suffer consequences. I should be able to stand on my feet for more than an hour. I should be able to sit at my desk for more than 20 minutes before the knee aches. Those sorts of things. My PT apparently doesn’t have much sympathy for my lamentation of self-pity. From now on, I’m going to change my tune… I MUST be able to bike more than 10 miles. I MUST be able to stand on my feet for more than an hour. I’ll let you know if she’s more sympathetic to my new tune.