Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feeling Tired

I've been down in the dumps the past few days.  I'm not in full pity party mode and I really have no reason to be so worn out  -- I don't live in Joplin, I didn't lose my horse in a barn fire, EHV hasn't hit Riverside County.  But still. 

It rained last weekend.  The forecast said fog and when we went to bed it was, indeed, foggy.  When we woke up it was raining.  Normally, that would just be a topic of conversation "Rain?  Memorial Day weekend?  Really!" but the horses were out in the pasture -- including Jackson.  He had rolled and splattered himself into a nice brown Paint.  And he was sore on his feet.  Yesterday, he wouldn't bear weight on his right hind and he had a full on hissy fit when I picked his feet.  This morning he wasn't much better; still standing with that hoof cocked and avoiding unnecessary movement (such as peeing in his turnout, straw is so much more convenient when your feet hurt).

In addition, the power keeps going out every time we turn the pool filter on.  It started when I flipped the solar heating switch to "on" so the pool could start warming up.  Water gushed from the pipes taking the water up through the solar panels on the roof, cascading down into the rain gutters and splattering everything.  So, there is a crack or split or raccoon nibbled hole in the pipes.  All the water caused a short that threw the circuit breaker and killed power in the house.  We turned the solar off, but the pool pump still won't run without shorting out the house.  Brett's been playing phone tag with the solar company. 

Tonight, when I got home from work I went down to the barn to check on Jackson.  It had been a long day full of meetings and phone calls and other activities that drain an introvert like me.  Barn time is the best way to recharge my batteries.   Jackson was actually walking around in a normal sort of way.  I took him out and picked up his feet to slather them with hoof hardening stuff and he didn't complain (too much).  I let him roll in the arena -- which he did with great gusto. 

I've got bread in the oven (dough was already rising in the refrigerator) and the left over chicken from my chicken-in-a-pot recipe.  I'm going to make a salad, top it with chicken, dunk bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and guzzle sip wine.

Things are looking up!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Meeting Whiskey and Cowboy

Yesterday we woke to rain.  In May!  And not only was it May, it was the last weekend in May.  Bizarre.  We NEVER get rain in May. 

The horses were wet and muddy when they came into the barn for their buckets.  Jackson especially -- and, of course, I had just bathed him the day before.

By the afternoon, the rain had stopped but it was still cold and blustery.  We went over to visit the two baby African Pygmy goats we have been waiting for.  They were only a few days old and so cute.  The breeder registers her goats with song names.  Because we pre-ordered these guys, we got to pick the names: Whiskey (Whiskey For My Men) and Cowboy (Cowboy Take Me Away).  The goats look identical other than one being slightly larger (he was an only child so no sharing womb space for him) so I can't differentiate them in the pictures. 

We celebrated Camille's birthday last night.  I scored big time on her gift -- concert tickets to see Taylor Swift in August.  She has the lyrics to almost every song memorized and has every album on her iPod.  She is crazy about Taylor Swift the way I was crazy about John Denver when I was her age.  She was thrilled.  I baked her birthday cake (chocolate with chocolate whipped cream frosting and strawberries between the layers) but I didn't have any candles.  Oops.  We improvised...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Beautiful Breezy Day

Today was breezy with a bit of warmth, coming and going.  Temperatures were in the low 60s but the sun was out and the breeze was just enough to make the cottonwood leaves dance.  I rode Jackson in the arena on the fresh sand.  Yesterday we went for a short trail ride, turning around where the trail gets rocky, and he did great.  Today we did some refresher work primarily at walk.  He is out of shape from his long lay up and I don't want to make his hocks sore by rushing the work.  So, we worked on staying in a good frame while relaxed and forward.  We also did some work in the corners.  Afterwards, I gave him a quick bath and let him graze on what remains of the grass and spindly dandelions. 

Tuffy and Finessa were occupied with their morning nap.  Yesterday, I caught Jackson sprawled out in the straw in his stall.  It took a cookie to get him up and at 'em so we could go on our trail ride.  Finessa has been sore on her fronts again this week.  I'm worried about her.  This founder just doesn't seem to be leaving.

The artichokes are doing well.  It looks like there will be three nice ones for Camile's birthday dinner tomorrow night.  The main course changes from year to year, but she always chooses artichokes as the vegetable. 

Poor Brett was up and down the mountain three times today.  This morning he went down on the coastal side to shoot (he has to qualify at the range every month for work) and then picked up a sycamore tree to plant by the goat palace.  After lunch, we went down the desert side to Home Depot for more goat palace paint, fencing to protect the trees from the goats, then to the feed store to pick up dog food and look at goat feeders, and then to the grocery store.  There was a nice goat feeder at the feed store and the sales lady suggested that we find a newspaper coupon for 20% off and come back for the feeder.  We picked up three newspapers and couldn't find said coupon.  When we got home, I called and offered to buy the feeder if they would give me the 20% off without a coupon (you could tell the feeder had been sitting there for months).  She agreed so back Brett went, down the mountain to get it. 

In the meantime, I did the barn chores and started dinner.  The wind has picked up and the fog is blowing in so I thought comfort food would be good.  I made chicken in a pot.
I assembled all the ingredients before doing chores.

Brown the veggies in olive oil.  Carrots, yams, onion, celery, and garlic.  Salt and pepper.

Transfer the veggies to a heavy dutch oven.  Add lemon and herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano).

Brown the chicken in more olive oil.

Add the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces in amongst the veggies.  Add chicken broth, wine and more olive oil.

This was the strange part.  Make a dough from flour and water, roll it into a log and then lay the log around the rim of the pot.  Put the lid on, squishing the dough.  This creates a tight seal.  Then slide it into the oven for an hour.

I served it with roasted beets and crusty bread.  The broth was amazing. 

...a fun, strange, tasty recipe from my French cookbook.

Dry Lots and arenas

I've had a few questions about our arena and "pasture" (California style). 

We use washed concrete sand in our arena.  I think sand types vary around the country, and internationally, but washed concrete sand is the type of sand most commonly used for arenas in California.  There is a base of decomposed granite - again the crushed rock source probably varies from place to place.  Granite is everywhere here.  So, there is the base, then the sand, and then a product called AirFoot that is mixed into the sand.  AirFoot is a mix of fiber and rubber.  It looks like chopped up running shoes and has been nicknamed "Nike footing."  The AirFoot aids with water retention,  reduces dust, and creates fluffiness.  We installed it four years ago and it should last ten years.  The initial investment was high but I haven't regretted it at all.  The arena is used for schooling.  We don't use it for turnout except in cases where the horses cannot go out into the pasture. 

Here in Southern California, grass pastures are very very rare.  If you are driving along a road in a horse community and see one, you slam on your brakes and stare. 

Reason #1: Real estate prices are ridiculous.  Horses require at least an acre each for grass pasture.  There is an empty lot near us, 2.5 acres (1 hectacre), and it is for sale.  $100,000.  Seriously, who can afford to put two horses on that?  Not me.  Not most Californians. 

Reason #2:  Our climate does not encourage grass growth.  We get no rain at all between the beginning of May and the end of November.  It is freezing and most plants are dormant from November until April.  Native grass grows in March and April.  Our hills are already brown.  We do irrigate a small section of grass but the amount of water it requires is high.  We pay a premium for water (which is premium by definition in Southern California) because it has to be piped up the mountain.  There are a few wells up here but they don't produce enough water to support our small community.

Most of the front yard is planted in drought resistant perennials such as lavendar, sage, yarrow, blanket flower, agastache and Jupiter's beard. 

The slope between the house and arena is planted with a wonderful hedge of a California native called Coyote Bush.  It is a wonderful shade of green (most native/drought resistant plants are an olive green or grey green) and grows into a dense groundcover.  I try not to think of the snakes that probably live in it.

Reason #3:  The soil is very poor.  The mountains in which we live are comprised of granite, shale and a bit of clay thrown in here and there.  Although we live in a wilderness area, surrounded by the National forest, it is a forest comprised of scrub oak, mesquite, manzanita, yucca and sage.  It is fragrant and beautiful in its own way, but it is not lush by any standards.  I compost the horses' manure and we spread it everywhere.  The only part of the property that does not require additional water to grow is my agave/aloe garden.  The new goat area gives a good example of what grows on the unimproved soil. 

Keep the questions coming!  I'm off to ride Jackson on the new sand in the arena.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Visit from the Sand Man

This morning we had sand delivered for the arena.  We got a total of 6 trailer fulls.  Four yesterday, two today. 

Brett had his work cut out for him.  First he spent a couple hours spreading the sand evenly in the arena.  Then he went back to painting the shed. 

The three Nigerian Dwarf goats will arrive on June 12th -- they won't be old enough to leave mama until then.  The two African Pygmy goats were just born this past week.  We get to go visit them Sunday.  It will be six to eight weeks before we bring them home.  The Nigerian Dwarf breeder encourages bottle feeding as she feels it builds the bond between owner and goat.  We will bottle feed them when they come home. The African Pygmy breeder is a firm believer in mama goat milk only, no bottle feeding.  So we will have to wait until they are weaned to bring them home.  I understand both positions.

I was going to blog about why we have dry lots for our horses instead of grass pasture (a question I received) but I had too much wine with dinner and am having trouble typing... much less thinking.  So, I will post about that tomorrow.  I had my annual mammogram this afternoon so the wine was medicinal.   I mean, after going through that (why WHY does it have to hurt so much), wine is a necessity. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eating Out

This morning Brett and I tried to take the horses on a short ride around the community but Flash was slightly gimpy so we turned around and came home.  Jackson was not pleased.  His nice forward walk became distinctly sluggish as we turned for home. 

Brett dragged the pasture which did a nice job of distributing and drying the mud as well as softening up the footing.  There is quite a bit of sand at the lower fence line and that got moved around.  Then Brett went back to painting the goat shed.  The front is taking him awhile because there is a lot of trim work and he is meticulous.  Beyond meticulous, actually.  But it sure looks nice.

This morning I noticed that the shrub roses by the greenhouse door are going bloomin' crazy. 

I made myself a pb & j sandwich for lunch, trying to stick to my calorie count.  Then Brett came in the house and started rummaging in  the kitchen.
Brett: I'm going to BBQ some hot dogs for lunch.  Do you want one?
Me:  No, I already ate a sandwich.
Brett:  I think you should have one anyway.  There's just one left.
Me:  It's not good for my diet.
Brett:  But it's good for my mental health if you sit with me on the viewing stand and eat one.

The hot dog won.

This evening when I was mucking the pasture, I noticed that the footing was dry and soft so I decided to turn Jackson out with the herd for dinner. 
First they met for drinks at the ol' watering hole
Followed by appetizers (sprouting weeds missed by the harrow)
They moved on to the main course

Flash and Jackson briefly shared a plate.

Jackson and Kalvin were on the alert for dessert
Meanwhile, Brett bbqed a rib eye steak and I threw it together with blue cheese, dried cherries, beets and croutons for a dinner salad. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not so smart turn out

This morning Jackson was sound and full of energy so I rode him in the arena.  We worked for 20 minutes -- 10 at walk and the other 10 mostly at trot with some yee-haw canter thrown in for good measure.  It was a lot of fun for both of us. 

Flash was off and his hooves were very muddy so I cleaned them out and put him in his stall where they could dry.  I suspect he has the same "wet = soft soles = hard footing = ouch" issue going on.  

This evening when I got home from work, I turned Jackson out in the arena for his evening chill pill time.  He was calm and relaxed, not racing around or blowing off steam.  I let Flash out into the pasture to walk around and stretch while I mucked and he still seemed a bit off.

Brett got home from work and I gave him the update.  He wanted to let Flash chill in the arena as well so I suggested putting them in together.  I figured Jackson was tired/mellow and Flash was sore so they would behave.  They haven't been able to hang together in months. 

Big mistake.

This behavior didn't exactly help either.  He's as bad as the horses.

I hope they can walk tomorrow.