Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hope springs eternal... or Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile

I guess I'm officially addicted to the internet. It was more of a bummer not to be able to get online than it was to have no power, a/c, refrigeration, tv. I did miss my vacuum almost as much as my darling apple though... I've been optimistically carrying the laptop around for days. In the car... in my bicycle basket when you couldn't drive yet, (frantically) trying every available plug or wifi spot. No luck until today. Weeeee - I'm giddy :)

While the storm was bad, it could have been much much worse. (Stay tuned for my official rant about The Weather Channel - all drama, all the time + pix and video) Val thinks it was pretty bad since he had to endure the experience alone. (I thought I heard Val singing a sad little song when I made it back up to the farm..."♬♪Where have all the cookies gone.... long time pa-assing...♪♬")

His buddy Cowboy evacuated - against better judgment - to a place off island , and much more vulnerable to tide than here. I still haven't gotten through to his people about how they fared.

As it stands now, we're cut off from the mainland by several (five) new inlets, which will have to be filled in and a new road built over.

In the meantime sole access to the island will be by a two hour ferry ride to the mainland - dependent on weather conditions - landing you in the middle of nowhere, another hour to civilization...

I don't even want to think about the repercussions. Minimum six hours to equine veterinary care and hay. A trip of any consequence will require staying overnight. Moving plans on hold until there's a road to deliver the 10 x 20 building I ordered (hay storage + studio space). Val's feet are atrocious- un-rideable condition - and the farrier canceled his two week overdue appointment last week. I doubt he'll be back until the road is sorted out. I guess I'll be borrowing tools and trimming Val myself. Anyone with advice (smazourek?!) please leave in comments. Bottom line - life is going to be even more (I really want to use curse words here) complicated than it already was.

Looking on the bright side:

My home wasn't flooded
Generators arrived to supply our power yesterday
The Shimmy Shack survived intact other than a minor leak
The truck only suffered a few high speed pine cone scars
I had just purchased feed + raised and tarped my hay supply- so no diet for Val ;)
My refrigerator is sparkling clean - "when in doubt - throw it out"

And finally, to all of our readers... I haven't said enough (ever?) how much it brightens my days to be connected to such a kind, knowledgeable and supportive group of horse(wo)men. Thank you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

At the Barn #50 - A few of my favorite things

Whoa - long time no post. It's been a whirlwind around here.

A synopsis:

❖ Just as the heat wave broke, Val's rh swelled up and got hot again. More icing, wrapping and buteing. He's a really good patient and I am getting the hang of wrapping his legs. It's all in the wrist ;) In the meantime we've done a ton of groundwork which has been really good for us. I can see the results, but I can't wait to get back to a regular riding schedule. Val thinks he's joined the AARE...

❖ The farrier can't make it until next week (over seven weeks) + it's been super hot and dry +  the flies have been ferocious, so Val's feet are horrible - chipping and cracking. I had to get the rasp out myself. Now sporting several new band-aids :)

❖ Dad and I installed the connection from the trailer to the septic tank. We did a very professional job if I do say so myself. Heck - we showed up. That's better than most contractors around here. We're thinking of a sideline business - B&C's Fake-ass Plumbing - "You need to poo, we know what to do!"

❖ My left hand is enormously swollen from a white-faced hornet sting x 3 in the barn Sunday morning. I had been maintaining a live and let live attitude about these guys. Frankly, I didn't even realize they were hornets til that little bugger attacked me, but let's just say he met his maker at the end of my broom last night. Extremely painful. I'm wondering if Val's mysterious swellings were from hornet stings?

❖ Earthquake. Too bizarre...

❖ Impending hurricane. I spent the day doing preparations, with more of the same on tap for tomorrow. The farmette is in pretty much the best location on the island as far as wind and tide go, so Val should be fine. There will likely be major sound-side flooding around my house. Bye bye garden. Bye bye flower beds. Bye bye nice lawn.  Living in the path of periodically destructive storms does help learn the "don't get too attached to stuff" lesson.

To end on a happy note:

Meet the newest addition to our household. I found him last Friday night, stunned on the edge of the road. I believe he was hit by a car as he had a wound on the top of his head like he had skidded on it. And he acted like he had a concussion. He perked up the next day, and has figured out grown up cat food, litter boxes and friendly humans. Oh, and upon closer inspection, several extra toes on each paw were discovered. We shall call him Seven :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recommended Reading

When you have a moment, please visit one of my favorite blogs - Equine Insanity - and check out this post. Thoughtful, insightful, wise, beautifully written...  As someone who struggles with most every training decision, and often feels a little stressed out regarding Val's and my (relatively) slow progress, this essay really resonated. Here's a teaser:

"I won’t lie: I was happy when a few days later my mare was comfortable with standing on the ramp with her front feet.  I was encouraged about her progress, immediately visioning the next step and then the next.  But then I stopped myself.  What was I doing - again?  I looked at my horse as she backed off the ramp on her own.  I didn’t interfere.  I’m sure this broke the basic rule of most trainers in the world, for I too had been drilled since childhood to “never let the horse have the last word.”  But I realized that perhaps this was exactly the way to go."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

At the Barn #49 - No good deed goes unpunished (II)

Recently during my many midday trips to the barn to administer cooling showers over the last month, I noticed that Cowboy was often out of hay. Out of hay in his boiling hot sand paddock with no grazing. Out of hay from noonish to sometimes after dark. When it happened five days in a row, I finally had to say something.

One evening everyone was at the barn at the same time, so I brought it up to Cowboy's owner L. She's young - fifteen - but a good rider and a pretty good listener too. I mentioned that the hay bag had been empty repeatedly, and asked how much hay she was feeding.

When she said three flakes. I proceeded to give the "hay lecture" :

Hay flakes are all different
Horses (with no grass) need 2% of their body weight in hay per day
For Cowboy that's 24lbs or so, which could be a third to a half bale of hay depending
Weighing the hay is more accurate - did she want to borrow my scale
Horses need to eat constantly for their digestion to function properly
Without enough hay, at best you have a restless bored horse, at worst a colicking horse

During the hay discussion L's mother M walked up and interrupted:

"Well - I've NEVER heard that before. That's not how we did it in Pa. When he lived in Pa he only ate so and so flakes. Besides he just drops it on the ground and then it's wasted."

This put me over the edge. I laid into her about how I didn't care how they did it in back in Pa - didn't he also have grass up there - yes. Was she the one feeding him there - no - it was full board. Didn't he show up to my barn from Pa about 150 lb underweight - yes. Eight hours is entirely too long for him to go without hay. A few bales of hay are waaay cheaper than colic surgery, and besides you have to be able to get your horse on a trailer before you can even get to the vet...

This was the interesting part.

The conversation took place over my paddock gate, me and Val on one side. L and her mother on the other. When things got intense, Val proceeded to stretch his neck out over the gate, turn his head sideways and gently lay it on M's shoulder. He snuggled up close to her neck and kept his head there for the entire exchange, about ten minutes. Val has given me a horse hug or two since I've known him, and he's more than happy to share grooming, but this was a very unusual display of affection. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that Val was trying to diffuse the tension, and that he felt for M while she was undergoing the wrath...

( Okay - my ability to tolerate foolishness patience was at zero. Hormonally challenged.)

Was I being cute - - - again?!


I saved this critter from being hammered by the sprinkler in the garden this evening...

I thought it was called a Hummingbird moth. Pretty hefty right? :). They hover while hunting nectar at night, and do sound just like a hummingbird when they buzz around your flowers.

Apparently it's also called a Sphinx or Hawk moth. Unfortunately (I didn't realize) the caterpillar version is  the tobacco / tomato hornworm - dreaded enemy in the garden. They are startlingly large as well. Pretty is as pretty does...

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the Arena # 85 - Now is the summer of our discontent...

At the Farmette # 6 - You say tomato, I say ka-ching!

Update on the suddenly swollen ankle - - - it's back to normal!! Several commentors had suggested a bug bite or sting might be the cause, and I did inspect closely looking for signs of that, or some kind of injury, and didn't find either. But I did find this post from almost exactly a year ago... go figure. Next year I'll probably know better :)


Still waiting for the weather to break... still having a cool shower + watermelon snack daily... still not much riding going on. We are doing groundwork, especially leading work to and from our grazing field. Val often wants to impatiently charge ahead of me on our way out to the green green grass. This provides plenty of opportunities to practice halts and backing up until we can get our mind on our work. On our way back to the paddock, when we're grass drunk, everything is nice and mellow. We can even walk in the super scary mini woods trail. Yesterday when  a death dealing stranger Pat, Cowboy's grandad, lurked around suspiciously walked past the manure pile pushing a wheelbarrow, the reaction was limited to a four footed stomp - aimed in the opposite direction of the handler. What a good boy :)


Even without getting to ride, and being hot as hades, Saturday was super productive. While my Dad took charge of installing the tie downs that will keep the Shimmy Shack from shaking too much or even tipping over in the big winds we often get, I weeded and harvested the garden. I also harvested some bamboo to make stakes for my pepper plants on steroids. The bamboo was here - I would never willingly put that kind of invasive plant in. Hopefully I can keep it in check by using it for projects around the farm.

Anyway - I took my harvest over to a fantastic local restaurant whose chef is contracting me to grow specialty produce for them next year. We're going to work out the details this fall, but in the meantime he purchased a beautiful basket of four kinds of heirloom tomatoes, red and yellow cherries and an assortment of hot peppers. And he pays waaayyy better than the farmers market. Yay - and once again - thanks Dad!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

At the Barn #48 - Take out wrenched ankle...

Yesterday afternoon during my visit to the barn for midday cool rinse + watermelon break, I noticed some pretty major swelling in Val's right hind lower leg. Bummer. It was all the way around his fetlock, down into the pastern and above the fetlock for a few inches. It was pretty warm, and the swelling was firm, even tight, feeling. I cold hosed, and got Val to stand in a bucket of nice cold well water for about fifteen minutes. He also got 2g of bute.

Early this morning, the swelling wasn't any better - in fact it was possibly a bit worse. More bute, and I rushed up to the barn as soon as I finished work. This time I took some of those flexible freezy bags, and polo wrapped them around his ankle. While he chilled out, I groomed, trimmed and clipped. Then I compression wrapped the affected leg, all the while wishing that I had practiced this skill prior to needing it, but I think I did an okay job.

We trotted out on level ground to check for lamenes, but I couldn't observe his movement very well while leading him. I need a helper. However, he didn't appear to be off. Also checked his pasterns to be sure they were still at the same angle - check. Big sigh of relief on that one.

Stomping flies (they are ungodly bad right now)? Torquing leg in the #^*$%*#@& deep sand? It certainly isn't a result of too much work. Let's hope the swelling has gone down tomorrow morning, otherwise we'll have to plan for a trek to the vet - an all day affair.

Besides, it's better for everyone involved (Val) if we limit the bute consumption. It results in such drama.* One could almost be convinced that poor Val will never again enjoy his most favoritest horse cookies. Or even the humblest bowl of horse chow for that matter.

After this mornings dose, Val took issue with my having loaded the hay bag with the same hands that touched the dreaded bute tube. He proceeded to deliberately sniff the freshly loaded nibblenet all over. Then he sniffed my hands, sniffed the bag, hands, bag... finally he delicately lipped out about three strands of the offending hay, spun them around in his lips a few times, dropped them on the floor and stepped on them. Another round of sniffing - hay, hands, hay, hands... big sigh.

I read you Valentino!

*(drama was significantly milder (disappeared) when delightful grazing was offered)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the Arena # 84 - What we did on our summer vacation

From the farmette #5 - Bumper crop and + channeling Mr. Clean

It has been (almost) unbearably hot and humid for two straight weeks... so I thought I'd give you a taste of our day to day routine. (can't wait for a different routine) Note that it (almost) includes no riding. Oh and I'm posting this today - written yesterday - because it literally took all night to upload / download these measly videos.

Unfortunately we're expected temps to get back up into the 90's with 90% humidity again all week long. Working outdoors is kicking my butt at the moment. Boy do I love swimming pools + the ocean + showers + air conditioning...


Vacation is officially over. It rained enough to firm up the arena temporarily, and cooled off a bit as well, so tonight last night, we finally rode! A nice bareback ride before dinner. Thank goodness... the longer I go without riding the squirrelier I feel about our first ride back. Happily, it was all good. I did lots of stretches in the saddle, focusing on staying balanced and even. Front to back as in on all three points of my seat, and side to side as in no collapsing my left side / shortening my right leg. Our steering and turns on the forehand reflected the evenness. This seems so much easier to me when I'm riding bareback.

There appears to be a tropical storm on the horizon, which I (almost) welcome. An extended period of rain would resolve my arena footing issues for a while, as well as our drought. Fingers crossed for a near miss that drops three or so days of rain and no wind to speak of...


Pie in the Sky produce is coming along. I have managed to keep my basil producing by cutting it back six nodes down each time I harvest. Last week I picked a big ol' basket of peppers - which are selling very well at the market.

I also have started eating tomatoes - a nice assortment of heirlooms. ♡BLT's + tomato sandwiches ♡!! I'm not even too sad about the diminished crop caused by rampant blossom end rot. I'd just be having to can them in this miserable heat - how's that for making lemonade!


Trailer update:

A while back I got a request for "grody" pictures of the trailer pre-cleaning...

Stains + outright filth

Rodent + water damage

Yep - there were definitely rodents... lovely

 I have cleaned out all the crap belongings of the former owner. Vacuumed thoroughly and steam cleaned - carpet and upholstery - twice. Hooked up the water, which entailed a hide and seek for the water lines, which entailed tons of exploratory digging on the hottest day anyone here can remember.

Now that I have water, I can begin the scrubbing. I've preliminarily doused the bathroom with strong cleansers. This weeks agenda includes hooking up the septic lines, bleaching the water tanks and connecting hurricane straps. As I spend more time in the Shimmy Shack, I can see myself living there. I think it's going to be good :)

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