Monday, February 28, 2011


This weekend I was cruising around the blogasphere and found a recipe for bread dough that you keep in your refrigerator and then use for pizza, rolls, bread - whatever.  It looked easy and sounded perfect for those days when there isn't time for rising and waiting.  I decided to try it.  Yesterday I whipped up a batch of dough (a five minute endeavor) plus two hours rising, then into the refrigerator.  The recipe is here at Our Piece of Country Paradise

Tonight I decided to use the dough to make pizza for dinner.   It worked GREAT!!  I don't usually cook on work nights but this was on the table within an hour of me walking in the door.

This is what the dough looks like when you pull it from the fridge.  I store mine in a tupperware with the lid loose.  It was kind of flat when I put it away yesterday but by tonight it was puffy and full of bubbles.

I pulled out a handful and stretched it into a ball, covered it with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with Pam , and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I had the oven heating up with the pizza stone inside.

Then I pulled the dough into a sort of pizza shape (hey, its a free form rustic pizza, okay?) and put it on my cornmeal dusted pizza peel.

When I tried to put it in the oven, it wouldn't slide onto the pizza stone.  It stuck.  So I took it out and put it on a piece of parchment paper.  That slid into the oven beautifully. 

The pizza ended up looking VERY rustic after being smushed around to get it on the parchment paper.  But, OMG, it tasted great.  The crust was to die for.  It had nice big airy holes, chewy, and awesome taste.  I highly recommend this recipe!

We had some Italian red wine with dinner.  Brett was gone for four days visiting his daughter in the Seattle area and he just got home today.  This was his "welcome home" dinner so we HAD to have wine.  This past weekend, while he was gone and while I was waiting for the huge storm that never came, I made some gingerbread.  I had an awful craving for it.  Brett had a piece for dessert.
....with just a little whipped cream.  :)

Seriously, I'm very happy to have him home.  It's a lot of work taking care of critters in lousy weather by myself, bringing wood in, and not having anyone to warm up the sheets when I get in bed.  Honestly, that was the worst because we don't heat the bedroom and the sheets were freezing!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Walk About

Come join me and the dogs on a walk about of the property.  The official chore we are completing is dog poop pick up but I'll spare you pictures of that part.  Let's just say there was a lot and it was hither and yon so we covered the entire ranch.

Just outside the backdoor garden, daffodils are going crazy.  My favorite flower.  
The arena flooded at the far end with the rain Friday night.  It's still too wet to use.
Down at the barn, we have a large puddle.  It's half water, half ice.  Fascinating apparently.

Mud everywhere.  The walk out area behind the stalls gets it the worst.  Horrible boot sucking stuff.
Jackson was first to the gate to greet me.  As usual.  It looks like he had a nice roll in the mud!

It was cold today, barely inching above 40F but the sky was a brilliant blue.
Kalvin's owner, Katy, noticed a scrape below his eye.  It's a tad swollen.  We'll keep an eye on it.

Flash: What are you staring at??  Give me a kiss or go away.
I always check the horses' water trough.  The old filter was forever leaking.  This one is working great.  Yes!

Finessa: I know its muddy in here but I'm afraid to go out with the big horses.  They chase me sometimes.

Tuffy: Listen here you big ol' horses.  I'm not afraid of you!  I'm not!  I'm not!
Pilgrim: Shut the door!  Can't you see I'm trying to lay an egg??!

Two beautiful eggs on the other side.  Total of five eggs today.
We had to hack the peach tree back to a stump due to peach leaf curl that refused to be cured despite every treatment I tried.  Fortunately, it is sprouting.  Phew!  Love this tree.

Sedona: Listen here kid.  Would ya quit jumping on me?  I'm old.  It hurts.

Kersey: Is that better?  Sedona: Yeah, that's the spot.  Ahhhhhh.

Hope you had a great day too!  I'll finish off the Leadership series in the next day or two.

Sunday Stills, the Next Challenge: T.V. Shows or Movies

I don't watch TV so this is a movie.  A very old movie.  1986.  You can see the lovely green line on the screen - I really need to get this movie on DVD.  This is an old VHS tape, played many times.  I love this movie for the music, the setting (Tuscany), and the gentle romantic comedy.  It's based on an E.M. Forster novel and that doesn't hurt either. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ten Commandments of (Horse) Leadership: Part 3

#4: Create the involvement You Seek
  • Create opportunities for your horse to be a partner with you in pursuing goals.

    • Allow your horse to make work-related decisions whenever appropriate and practical.

    #5: Do Right by Those Who Do Right
    • Catch your horse doing things right and recognize him/her for it.  Recognition should be:
    • Timely
    • Specific
    • Sincere
    • Personal
    • Proportional

    Jackson didn't want to go over this little jump.  I let him study it and then he calmly stepped over.  He's very pleased with himself and he got lots of praise from me.

    #6: Provide What They Need to Succeed
    • Clear expectations

    • Ongoing feedback

    Jackson wasn't too sure about the beach at first.  He needed lots of reassurance that the waves washing up were not going to eat his feet.

    • Time

    Jackson has arthritis in his hocks so I need to give him time to rest between days of work.

    • Tools and Training

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Ten Commandments of (Horse) Leadership: Part 2

    Weather: 38-41F with intermittent rain and blowing mist
     Egg count: 9

    ...continuing on with the ten commandments of leadership and how they apply to our relationship with horses:

    #2: Practice What You Preach

    • Stand for something good and noble
    • Walk the talk (he's not the only one who needs to be fit, flexible and balanced.  I need to stick with yoga.)
    • Follow ALL the rules and regulations (would those be Brett's barn rules???)
    • Solve problems rather than "celebrate" them ( "celebrate" -does that mean encourage them?  Buy into them? For me, it's bridle wars.  When Jackson gets worried and throws his head up, I need to let him move freely forward and work out of the fear.  Me hanging on his face makes it worse.  It doesn't solve anything.)
    • To be dedicated to learning and continuous improvement (NO problem here.  I'm a lesson and clinic and book junkie.  I love to learn - its one of the coolest things about dressage.  You never get there - you are always learning).
    • Deal with disappointments and setbacks constructively (I think I do fine.  I pat Jackson, put him away, and get pissy, whiny and downright cranky with Brett. ...yeah, I could do better with this one.)

    #3: Communicate with Care and Conviction

    • Start with the end in mind (for me, keeping my goals present in my brain)
    • Focus on quality, not quantity (sometimes we stop after 20 minutes if Jackson does something really, really well and I want him to ponder on his brilliance)
    • Listen with care (like when he says his back hurts.  Hey!  Mom!  My back HURTS!  ...I can be so dense sometimes.)
    • Keep it honest and real (I guess I need to accept that we will never be FEI material)

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Ten Commandments of (Horse) Leadership: Part 1

    Today I was in a meeting at work listening to a presentation about leadership skills.  As the speaker went through the ten commandments of leadership, I couldn't help but think about our leadership role with horses.  I know, bad bad girl.  Thinking about her horse during a work meeting.

    #1: Make What Matters Really Matter
    There were a number of bullet points under this heading that all pointed to what I call "walk the walk" or "lead by example" or even "actions speak louder than words."  Think about these ten specific behaviors that employees watch for in their leaders to determine what really matters -- and think about how your horse would interpret them.
    • What you pay attention to.  (Jackson's feet, how he uses his body, forwardness, balance)
    • What you talk about and emphasize. (forward, try, balance)
    • What you do; the example you set (hmmmm, correct posture, relax, focus, consistency)
    • What you expect and demand from your horse (effort, manners, "try")
    • How you spend your time (grooming, washing tail, grooming, washing tail, riding)
    • What you budget for and allocate resources to (eek!  no self control here.  tack, treats, etc)
    • What you measure and evaluate (keep a log of short term goals - i.e., balance, no bridle wars)
    • What you brag about (Jackson's try, his forward, his goofy fun factor)
    • What you reward (try)
    • What you enforce (forward, manners)
    What really matters to all of you?

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Storm Watch

    There is a storm making its way down the coast of California from Canada (thanks guys!).  It is supposed to arrive Friday and bring with it the lowest temperatures on record - and lots of snow.  Today has been cold and overcast.  I think the front edge of the storm front is already nosing its way into the area.
    There was no sunshine all morning.  I decided to roast coffee.  I have a feeling I will be sitting inside, watching the snow, and drinking a lot of coffee this coming weekend.  
    I start with green beans.  I order them online and they cost about half of what you pay at the grocery store for roasted beans.  Plus, I can order varieties I like, try different beans, etc.  I like beans that are rich, smooth and almost chocolaty when roasted.  They tend to come from South America.  I'm not a big fan of bright acidic coffees.  It reminds of tea: do you like herbal or black?  Strong or weak? British or Asian?

    This is my roaster.  I have to roast the beans outside because, towards the end, they smoke something fierce.

    The clouds did break up a tad this afternoon with the sun peaking through for brief moments.  I figured if my blogger friends in Canada and England and Norway can ride in the snow, I can ride in 40 degree damp weather.  I told myself that all the way to the barn with my heavy jacket zipped up to my neck and my hands crammed deep in my pockets.  
    Jackson was happy to come out and didn't even protest when I took off his blanket.  He wanted to go.  I took off my jacket.  Fair's fair.  If he is clipped and has to work without a blanket, I could work without my jacket.  I groomed him as fast as I could which wasn't all that fast because he's shedding like crazy.  I ended up with white Jackson hair stuck to the chapstick on my lips, stuck to my fleecy sweater and stuck to my fleece lined breeches.  We only worked for 20 minutes and we pretty much skipped the walk work.  Brrrrrrrr.  We were ready to move!  Two laps at walk, he was loose, off we went.  I was amazed at how well he picked up from where we had left off on our last ride in the arena - which was over a week ago.  I especially noticed how well he was using his back.  I think the chiropractor and massage and rest between rides - and then riding in a saddle that fits - made a big difference.  He wasn't cinchy, he wasn't sore, he was just happy.  When we finished, I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around his neck.  I scratched and hugged and praised and sent Jackson all my feelings of love and happiness and pride in his work.  

    Date night tonight -- dinner and yoga after chores. 

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Kalvin's Great Escape

    Kalvin is a Swedish WB who is living here for a year while he heals from an injury in his foot.  I never remember all the details of the injury so I can't give specifics.  He was imported from Sweden and trained up to Prix St. George by his young owner.  He started showing some mystery signs of lameness.  It would come, it would go.  They finally diagnosed a fracture in the foot - or was it ankle -- a fracture at any rate.  His only hope for recovery to any level of soundness was a year of rest.  He won't ever be the dressage prince of his past career but he might become sound enough for light riding.  We agreed to take Kalvin in and let him board here for his year of rehab.  We were assured by our previous trainer, who we trust, that he was sweet and easy to work with and that the family was wonderful as well.  All that turned out to be true.  We love Kalvin.  He is confined to the paddock where he can be close to the other horses but not engage in any of their silly racing around.  On cold and windy days he has fits of feeling yee-haw and will buck and canter around a bit.  But he mostly walks around and socializes over the divider fence with Jackson.

    He loves attention, he loves to be kissed and scratched and to supervise mucking activities in his area.  He's not particularly brave.  He spooks at dogs barking or cars driving by and needs Flash nearby for security.  It amazes me that Katy, his owner, took him down center line in scary dressage courts like the one at the LA Equestrian Center.  Katy comes up to visit Kalvin a few times every week.  They do groundwork in the arena, but just at walk.  He isn't supposed to do more than walk.  Then he gets a bath if the weather is warm.  He adores Katy and she says he is her soul mate.

    Sooooo.  This morning I went down in the freezing cold to muck and feed.  It was 28F and my fingers were like ice inside my gloves.  After mucking Kalvin's area, I carefully pulled the muck cart through the mud, out the gate, and secured the chain before he could follow me.  He is always hoping to squeeze out.  Then I tossed everyone their hay, took off/changed blankets and headed to work.  The usual routine.

    As I was driving home from work, my cell phone rang.

    Brett: I just pulled up and Jackson is racing around the pasture with KALVIN.  Flash is standing in Kalvin's run-in shed watching.  
    Me: I'm sure I latched the gate.  I remember Kalvin trying to get past me and I had to whip it shut behind me. Weird.
    Brett: I'm parking.  I'll check it out and call you back.

    -- 20 minutes later my phone rings again --

    Brett: The latch must not have closed all the way in the cold.  It doesn't seem to be catching all the way.  When I got down to the pasture, Flash and Jackson were in Kalvin's paddock.  Kalvin was standing at the back of the turnouts into the barn.  Everyone looked very pleased with the situation.  

    Brett got everyone put away in their correct locations and  fed.  Kalvin isn't lame, and he doesn't have any bite marks or scratches.  Phew!  He's been here six months so all the hierarchy stuff had already been worked out over the fence.  That just left one option for the boys -- have fun!  ... and give us a heart attack.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Battling Bread

    Today it was too cold to ride.  The pipes in the barn were frozen this morning and the arena alternated between sloppy and frozen.  It never got warm enough for it to dry at all.  So, I stayed inside and waged war with bread.  Yesterday, you may remember, I tried to make sourdough bread and ended up with a brick.  Even the chickens refused to eat it.  I've successfully made sourdough bread before.   Here's the evidence:

    The problem was, I couldn't remember which recipe I had used for this loaf of bread. 

    I decided to use a different recipe from the same book I used yesterday.  In general, the book is excellent.  I thought I owed it another shot.  And I was DETERMINED not to fail.

    1) I mixed the dough.  It still seemed awfully wet and sticky.  

    2)  After (violently) kneading it forever, I still had a sticky slack dough.  It did develop some glutin and start talking back to me (resisting the pressure of kneading) but I still had my doubts.

    3) After an hour of rising, I gently deflated the dough and folded it up like a letter, both directions, and let it rise another hour.  It wasn't easy to fold.  ...getting worried...

    4) Then the dough was dumped and rested for 20 minutes before being shaped into a boule and put in the wood shaping bowl.  I know how to shape boules.  I pride myself on being good at getting the surface tension just right.  I couldn't get any tension.  The dough was too soft, sticky and slack.  I pulled it, I dragged it across the wood, I swore at it, I threw it, I made a mess.  I had to vacuum the kitchen after giving up and just plopping it in the form.

    5)  At least it rose nicely.

    When I dumped it out of the mold onto the parchment paper, it went flat.  AARGH!  I slashed the top and put it in the oven, filled the oven with steam, and crossed my fingers.

    6)  The finished product.  Definitely on the flat side but it made a nice hollow sound and smelled divine.

    Brett and I did the evening chores together.  I took the camera along.  Hyacinth are coming up in the garden and my tomato plants have sprouted in the greenhouse.

    We got all the horses fed, the pasture mucked, and blankets on as the sun was setting. 
    Finessa dove right into her hay

    Flash didn't even look up although he has an ear on me


    Jackson hoping for a cookie

    I'm happy to report that Sedona is doing well.  She ate all of her breakfast this morning and spent the day barking at squirrels and playing with the puppy.  When it was time for dinner I found her deep inside a squirrel hole.

    Tonight for dinner we had seared Ahi, potatoes, rhubarb compote, ....and sourdough bread.

    A successful day, n'est ce pas ?