Monday, October 31, 2011

Apple Pie, Oh My!

I gained a couple pounds while we were on vacation and I was okay with that.  But now that we are back, I'm still putting on weight.   I don't suppose it could have anything to do with this, right?

Apple Blackberry Pie
I used this recipe but added a couple handfuls of blackberries.  I also add some oats to the streusel topping because I like that. 

I did attempt to be somewhat healthy with dinner.  I started with chard -- I just love how colorful it is.

I cooked it, drained it, and then added it to a creamy cheese sauce.  I poured the sauce over browned ground beef and topped it off with more cheese.  I put it in the oven until the cheese was nice and bubbly.  -- um, not sounding low cal, is it.

And, we had to have this nice crusty loaf of bread.  It jumped into my shopping cart.  Honest.  I don't know how it happened.  But then I had to eat a bunch of it.  I'm a sucker for fresh bread.

Yipes!  I'm thinkin' I will avoid the scale for a few days...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On The Trail Again

This morning Brett and I trailered Flash and Jackson down to Los Penasquitos Canyon for a trail ride.  It was a big test for Jackson.  This was his first time back in the trailer since March and his first "real" trail ride.  Up until now, we've just been riding around our community with short forays onto the local trails. 

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is an hour and a half from our place.  It's a coastal canyon in San Diego County.  We like riding there because the trails are shady, crossing back and forth across a stream.  The preserve is closed much of the winter because once the rains start the stream becomes dangerously full and fast. 

Some of trail is hard packed, rocky road and shared with mountain bikes.  But, most of the time we were on single track trails reserved for hikers and horses.  They ran closer to the stream, in the shade, and were much softer.  We rode for two hours.  Jackson was great.  He sloshed through the water, marched on the roads, didn't blink at the mountain bikes, and smiled at the hikers.

The weather was warm, in the 80s, and the people on mountain bikes all had that parched red-in-the-face look you get when you push it hard in the heat.  Most of the mountain bikers were courteous; slowing down or stopping, and asking if they could pass. 

About 10 minutes into our ride, a woman on a Paint horse rode up behind us.  She was alone and asked if she could join us so of course we said yes.  For most of the ride, Jackson and I were in front followed by Flash and Brett and the woman brought up the rear.  I was thankful.  Man, that woman could talk!  Nonstop.  Blah blah blah.  Brett is more of a talker than I am, which is good, so he chatted away to her.  She was very nice, just a motormouth.  One of the things I love about trail riding is the solitude, the sound of birds and the clip clop of hooves.  I suppose I am selfish about my trail time.

But even with Mrs. Yakkity Yak, it was a very nice ride. 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Jackson isn't lame in the morning.

Sunday Stills: 25 and 50 Steps

Here's the challenge:
Choose a starting spot, walk 25 steps in any direction and take 3 photos. The 25 steps can be outside your home, inside your home, in your neighborhood or away from your neighborhood.
Once your steps have been counted out, you must anchor one foot, you can pivot on that foot but your anchor foot may not move.

Here's my starting point:

25 steps took me almost to the end of the path.  The path is lined with coyote bush when you get around the bend.

I had to look closely at the bush, and then use my macro setting to get my pictures. 

I don't pay much attention to the coyote bush.  It exists as a ground cover for the slope between the front garden and the arena.  It was fragrant and buzzing with bees. 

I continued on another 25 steps which took me to Camille's pine tree and Oreo's grave.  Oreo was Camille's 4H rabbit and she buried him here between her tree and some boulders.

Passage followed me around while I was taking the pictures.  She was in an affectionate mood today, joining me in the garden and the barn, insisting that I take breaks and hold her. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Busy in the Garden

This morning I started picking the Fuji apples off of the trees. 

I took five baskets down to the refrigerator in the barn.  I filled the fridge -- All the drawers and two buckets full to the brim -- and I still have a tree with a lot more apples.  I see more apple pie and applesauce in my future.

Next I turned my attention to the vegetable garden.  I harvested the last of the tomatoes and then pulled out the plants.
Tomatoes for me

Tomatoes for the chickens.

The chickens were quite pleased with the bounty.

After pulling out the plants, I covered the planter bed with a thick layer of composted horse manure.  I dug it in, turning the soil deeply with a spade, and then planted it with garlic and beets. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Can't Keep This Girl Down

Guess who's jumping out again?  Sigh.  Her leg must not have been injured too badly, despite the awful picture she made.  I'm glad she's okay.... not so happy that she's still jumping.

I love days like today when the mornings are crisp and cold, the skies are sapphire blue, and the leaves crunch under my feet. 

I rode Jackson after breakfast.  We warmed up on the bridle trail, going further than planned because the sun was warm, the breeze was blowing, and we just felt like it.  Back in the arena, we worked primarily on trot and he was working very well.  His back was up almost the whole time, he was stepping into the contact, chewing like mad (silly boy) on the bit, and nicely forward.  I had to race back up to the house for a work webinar but we managed to squeeze in a good ride.  Jackson waved goodbye and went back to breakfast.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Couples Bootcamp Rocks

Brett and I spent four days last week at bootcamp.  No, it wasn't one of those fitness bootcamps that are so popular nowadays.  This was Couples Bootcamp and it was at a beautiful guest and cattle ranch on the central coast of California. 

The itenerary went something like this:

Thursday:  arrived after lunch. Check in.  Go for a long ride around Alisal lake.  Change for dinner and the evening meet and greet activities.  Dinner was with a winemaker -- a different wine with every course.  The winemaker also breeds QHs -- needless to say the conversation was lively at the table. 

Our room was cozy and clean.  We did have an unexpected visitor in the bathtub when we arrived.

When we returned to our room after dinner, he was gone and we never saw him again.  Maybe the turn down ladies do frog relocation as a side business.

Friday: Morning ride to Alisal Lake where we had lunch, learned how to play with bows and arrows (Brett rocked.  He hit the deer target which was far, far away dead center).  Then we rode back to the barn taking a different route -- the ranch is a ba-zillion acres huge so every ride is different.  We got back just in time to make it to the spa for our couples massage.   Ahhhhh.  I got teased at dinner... a few people from our group (there were five couples) saw us walking back to our room afterwards.  I, apparently, resembled Gumby....drunk.  Dinner, then line dancing, then sleep.  Deep, heavy, solid sleep.

Saturday: Morning ride to the old adobe house for breakfast and cowboy music.  Back to the barn... out to the rodeo arena where we learned how to rope.  Well, they tried to teach us how to swing a rope and nab a plastic heifer.  We both failed.  Brett was grumpy.  Box lunch.  Brett didn't like his sandwich.  He was really grumpy.  Then back to the barn to get our sorting horse.  Brett's horse was named Grouch.  I thought that was hysterically appropriate given his mood.  It turns out Grouch is an awesome sorting horse and a personal favorite of the head wrangler, Tony.  I rode a little pony size QH named Teddy.  He was a good little sorting pony.  Spot on.  We rocked.  It was a BLAST.  My favorite part of bootcamp -- even if it was 92F.  Dinner was back at the adobe.  We piled into the back of a truck and sat on hay bales.  Tony's wife convinced Brett and a two of the other guys to take the taxidermy mountain lion out to the road so Tony would see it when we left.  In all the years he has worked on the ranch, he has never seen a mountain lion.  He's seen evidence and other wranglers have come across them but he's never seen a live one.  I don't think the guys would have done it without the vast quantities of wine in their system... but they did.  It went off great. 

Sunday morning:  We moved cattle from one pasture to another.  It was interesting learning about how to move them, how to ride ahead and block "holes" so they stay on the right track, how to keep them at a leisurely walk and not create any stress...  I have even greater respect and appreciation for the working mind of a QH now -- and I already thought that they are great (especially Paints, like my Jackson, of course).  We got back around noontime and it was time to check out and drive home. We were not ready to leave.  We've already reserved a spot for next year.  We are hooked.  Seriously.

...and I made a little movie to share with you guys...

Pearly Whites

This morning the equine dentist came to work on Jackson and Flash.  We have this done annually.  We had cold, foggy weather with heavy drizzle yesterday and it was forecast to continue this morning.  Fortunately, we woke to clear skies and sweatshirt temperatures.  ...a perfect fall day.

Jackson was up first.  Last year, he quite a bit of work done since it was his first visit with the equine dentist.  At that time, the two main things I took away from the visit were that (1) Jackson is very crooked in his mouth and his body and (2) that he had a pretty severe case of sugar mouth. -- Picture teeth that are brown at the gum line and look yuccy.  This time, Jackson had no sugar mouth at all.  The vet (in California, you must be a vet to practice equine dentistry) said he has noticed that horses on diets with no sugar are experiencing sugar mouth.  He has started tracking it and talking to colleagues and is formulating a theory that it has to do with the water -- maybe flouride -- and not sugar.  Our water treatment was changed a year or two ago so that could explain why Jackson didn't have any sugar mouth this time.  Of course, I've also drastically reduced his carrot intake because of his ulcers/tummy issues.

He also said that while Jackson will never be a straight horse, he is definitely straighter than he was a year ago.  We attributed this to all the dressage work.  Yes! 

Jackson watched the treatment room being set up.  Not too sure...

When the tech led him in, Jackson had to check for hay.  You never know where there might be food.

First, Dr. Kelly did a visual exam and took pictures. 

I love how he shows us everything he finds and explains it all.
Jackson was done pretty quickly.  He got a shot of bute and was put in his stall to rest while the sedative wore off.  Dr. Kelly also recommended giving him GastroGuard to counteract any stress he might have from the dental work.

Next up was Flash.  He didn't have any sugar mouth at all -- and Brett is very liberal with carrots and cookies and sugar cubes.  Hmmmmm.  The water theory sounds plausible.  Flash's teeth were also in good shape with minimal work needed.

Good for another year!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Line Dancing... sort of

Brett and I went to Couples Bootcamp last weekend.  It was four days of riding, roping, sorting cattle, moving cattle.... exhausting!  We didn't lose weight though.  When we weren't riding, we were eating.  The food was amazing in both quality and quantity.  The second evening, after dinner, they brought in an instructor to teach us line dancing.  hahahahaha.  Brett and I are the world's worst dancers.  We sit and listen to the music, tap our feet, think we want to dance -- and then when we try, it's a disaster.  I attempted line dancing but I think I was over-thinking it.  I wasn't successful at any rate.  Brett claimed he had to use the men's room and disappeared.  We managed to sort of two-step to one song.  Sort of, kind of, but not very gracefully.

We did dress for the occasion, though.  So we looked spiffy sitting on the sidelines.

There were four other couples in our bootcamp.  Peter got the prize for most entertaining dancer.  After we finished with the line dancing part, he requested that they play "Brick House."  He was hysterical.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bella Jumps and Scares me to Death

Last Thursday morning before leaving on vacation, Brett and I were doing morning chores.  I took care of the goats, opening the door to their shed and giving them hay.  I gave them some scritches and scratches and then let myself out of the goat area and headed towards the house.  The goats ran along the fence line calling to me.  They never like it when we leave.  Just as I reached the gate into the dog area, I heard Bella jump and scramble to the top of the fence.  No big deal.  This is also a common occurrence.  She jumps out and spends some time nibbling on low hanging twigs of the cottonwood trees and then returns to her herd. 

This time, the scrambling was followed by an awful cry.  I turned around and she was dangling from the top of the fence by one leg.  It was HORRIBLE.  My heart stopped, my stomach did a somersault and I ran for Bella.  I lifted her up so her weight was in my arms instead of on the hoof caught in the fence.  She had caught her ankle in the chain link on the other side of the fence and when she jumped - or fell - it twisted around her foot.  I was sure it was broken.  She laid quietly in my arms while I un-twisted the wire holding her leg.  Then I carried her into the goat area.  She was pressing her little face into my shoulder for all she was worth.  I sat down on the goat shed porch and held her and cried. 

After awhile she wanted to go.  She walked three legged with the hurt leg held high against her side.  I couldn't feel any broken bones or swelling but she wasn't going to put weight on it.  I went to the barn and told Brett who followed me back up.  He felt her leg as well.  She was getting around okay, like a three legged dog, so we went into the house to have breakfast and change into presentable travel clothes. 

We checked on her again before we left and she was putting a bit of weight on the foot.  She wasn't holding it off the ground but she wasn't walking normal either.  When we got home this afternoon, we noticed that she was walking with weight on the leg but her gait was stiff.  She had some trouble jumping up onto the porch but was doing fine otherwise. 

I think her days of jumping out of the goat pen may be over.  That's a good thing.  I just wish it hadn't involved her getting hurt and me being scared out of my wits.  I had told myself that if she jumped out some day and got killed by a loose dog or coyote, it would be okay.  It would be the price of her refusing to stay put.  Obviously, I was lying.  I knew it when I cradled her in my arms, she put her head on my heart, and looked up at me with her eyes full of trust and gratitude.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Stills: Rocks and Rock Formations

These are rocks we came across while riding at the Alisal Guest Ranch.  The rounded holes were created by the native Americans grinding acorns into flour. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feeling like Happy Jello

Brett and I are on vacation for a few days, celebrating our anniversary a bit early.  We are having a great time but I'm too relaxed to think of a post.  I promise to resume my regular posting when we get home (and I download the pictures).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jackson Goes on a Trail Ride

This morning, Brett and I took the horses on a trail ride.  We rode on the ridge trail, which starts at the end of one of the roads in our community and climbs along a ridge.  The views are great and its nice on days that aren't too warm.  It's also not a long trail -- about an hour from the time we leave our barn to when we get back.  I thought it would be a good first trail ride for Jackson.  He did great.  Just before we got to the trail, we met a new trail buddy.  She was trying to shush her dogs and we started chatting.  We ended up asking her to join us and she jumped on her beautiful mustang, Bella, bareback and off we went. 

Shortly after we returned, our vet arrived to vaccinate the horses and dogs.  Brett wanted her to check out Flash as he's starting to show some joint soreness from time to time.  He is 15 and Brett wants to make sure his joints are supported appropriately.  She did some flexion tests and watched Brett trot him out.  She said he was doing pretty well but recommended Adequan as a preventative measure.

Discussing Flash, who looks a tad concerned.

All the horses and donkeys were measured for weight.  Flash and Jackson each weighed 1100 lbs. 

Flash did great.  Brett... a bit of a struggle with his bad knee. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When you have too many tomatoes...

I harvested what will be the last of my tomatoes this past weekend.  The tomatoes are getting that split look that happens when the nights turn cold.

Over lunch on Sunday, I was talking about cooking with my parents who were visiting.  One of them mentioned the tomato jam my grandmother used to make.  I could taste it's sweet savoryness even though I haven't had it since I was a child visiting my grandparents in Illinois.  I dug through my notebook of recipes, family and otherwise, and voila! there it was.

I got to work.

tomatoes, sugar, brown sugar and lemon slices
I put it all in a pan and let it boil until thick and syrupy.

I ended up with two jars.  One for us and one for them.  The taste takes me straight back to Illinois, to my grandmother and my Aunt Irene, and their kitchens.

Here's the recipe:
2 quarts tomatoes, peeled and quartered
2 lemons, thinly sliced (including rind)
2 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil until thick and syrupy -- about an hour.

Enjoy on toast.  Yum!!!!