Saturday, December 31, 2011

The New Year New Training Program

Jackson and I started our new training program today.  I took him into the arena and we got right to work...

After chewing on my water bottle and the chair, Jackson went for a roll.  Brett decided to get in on the training program so Jackson came over to explain the rules.  (Pet me, kiss me, let me sit in your lap).

I've got a cake in the oven.  We are going to a potluck New Year's Eve party tonight at a neighbor's place.  Perfect.  We can walk over and wobble back home.  No driving involved.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Horse Hunting

I have looked at hundreds of ads.  I almost went to see a horse today.  But, there was a typo on the ad and I thought he was four, but he's actually 14.

I'd like a horse somewhere between four and ten.  I'm hoping for a long term partnership and I prefer to train a green horse myself instead of retraining a horse who never learned correct half halts or to carry himself.  Of course, there are dressage horses out there with great training but they are way out of my price range.  So, a sensible green warmblood would work as would a well trained trail horse with no dressage experience.  I'm looking at tall QHs since I am tall with long dangly legs.  15.2h at a minimum.  Someone suggested Appendix QH and they are on my radar as well.  Jackson was a TB/QH cross and that worked well except for those dang TB feet -- flat and weak.  He's my third horse with TB blood (either full or cross) and they've all had bad feet.  I guess I'm a bit gun shy at this point.  I do so love the movement and heart of a TB though.

I'm trading emails about this warmblood.  He's four and sensible.  On the video, the trainer is clucking constantly and she said he needs to be ridden forward.  Hmmmm.  I don't want a horse that needs to be pushed forward.  But, lordy, he is beautiful.  (and expensive)

I've asked my trainer to get in touch with this horse's trainer and see what she thinks.  If she thinks he is worth trying, I will.  Otherwise I'll save the airfare to northern California.  And I won't need to rob a bank. 

...the search goes on...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Ceramic Gifts

Sylvie asked to see the ceramic gifts Camille made me for Christmas.  Here they are:

Matching coffee cups and a tall, dramatic vase.

And a smaller vase and prep bowl.  I don't know what the firing process is called on these -- Camille told me and I forgot -- but it isn't traditional.  She said that they are quite fragile -- maybe it's called pit firing -- because of the different process.  I love the rubbed metal look that they have.  And the vase matches my native American made sculpture from Taos that I love so much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm Thinking About a New Horse

This seems to come as no surprise to anyone except me.  I've been resisting and resisting with all my might.  Jackson has made me happier than any other horse in my entire life.  He's also been lame most of the year and he is, again, lame.  Lame.  Lame.  Lame.  Not abscess lame.  Laminitis lame.  I've moved from denial to grief.  All my dreams of the dressage journey and trail rides on the beach are shriveling up like the hollow apples left on the trees.

The pain ebbs and flows, but most of the time he stands like this.  Even with bute and pads, he isn't comfortable.  I caught him the other day doing the laminitis park -- the stance they take with their feet forward and their weight rocked back.  I turned away.  I tried to pretend I hadn't seen it.

For Christmas, my parents gave us a generous gift.  We were going to use it to do some remodeling in the mud room bathroom.  Yesterday, Brett suggested that I use it for a new horse.  It's not enough for a whiz bang warmblood.  But it is enough for a steady sound trail horse with potential.  I looked at some horses on line.  I talked to our trainer.  And our vet.  And the nutritionist.  My parents said a horse would be a better use of the gift than the bathroom -- and they don't even like horses.  I went to bed depressed; feeling like I was putting Jackson in the old folks home and looking for a new husband.  Of course, I'm not.  Jackson will live here forever.  But, that is how it felt.

This morning, while I was picking his feet some dogs started barking and he startled.  He jumped sideways, knocking me over.  I landed on my left seat bone and it hurt.  Jackson hobbled back to his hay and I hobbled out to the edge of his run-in shed and sat on the wood edge.  I folded my arms across my knees, put my head down and sobbed.  Deep, hard, can't breathe sobs.  My seat bone didn't hurt that bad, but my heart was breaking.

I expect it will take me a long time to find a horse.  I want sweet and sensitive, smart and brave, curious and willing.  I want sound.  I want hooves so hard they don't need shoes.

In the meantime, I'll be riding Flash whenever Brett lets me borrow him.  And I'll be sitting with Jackson, cleaning his manure stains, and scrubbing his tail.

And maybe by next Christmas I'll be riding my own horse again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Handmade Gifts

My favorite gifts are handmade gifts.  I love when Brett builds me something for the garden.  I love receiving home made fudge and cookies from friends and neighbors.  And this year I hit the jackpot with gifts from my daughter Camille.  She is in her second year of ceramics at school; loves it and is talented to boot.  I took ceramics in high school as well and, while I loved the class, I was far from talented.  This year she gave me matching coffee mugs, a couple to-die-for vases and small bowl I will use for prep work in the kitchen.

AND ... I made gifts too!  I watched Michaele's tutorial and tried felting soap.  It was easy and fun and the results were pretty.  I ordered felting wool from a small family farm in Massachusetts, Cranberry Moon Farm, that raises Leicester sheep.  I like the idea of supporting small farms instead of going to the store and buying there.  The wool was beautiful.

I bought some soap and got to work.  I had to be sneaky because I was including Brett in the recipient list so I made the felted soaps on a day he was at work and then put them in the greenhouse to dry. 

I love the color of the natural fiber.  I used the light colored wool for soaps for the girls: my mom, my daughter, and Brett's son's girlfriend.

I used the dark wool for the boys: Brett, my dad, my son Kyle and Brett's son Scott.

The soaps smell wonderful and they are so soft.  I love the idea of having the soap and wool together like a built in wash cloth.  I hope everyone uses their soap .... and that they hold together.  ...kind of worried about that part. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Recovering Tranquility

This morning after breakfast, I carried my parents luggage, gifts, coolers full of food and medication, and my mother's oxygen machine out to their car.  After loading everything up, they headed back home.  Brett left in the pitch dark early hours of the morning for work and the kids are still sound asleep.  It's blissfully quiet in the house.  After my parents' five day visit, the heater is turned off.  My mother has lost a lot of weight and she has difficulty staying warm.  I kept the heater on high and the fire roaring to keep her comfortable.  She also loves listening to Christmas music so it was playing from breakfast to bedtime every day.  For five days.  My mother was very happy sitting in front of the fire, a throw across her lap, listening to Christmas carols, and reading a book.  I managed to sneak away yesterday to the barn for an hour where I washed Jackson's manure stains, and enjoyed the sunshine.  We have had three days of warm weather so it was nice to be outside.  Most of the time, though, I was in the kitchen.

I cooked three Christmas dinners.  Friday, we celebrated with my brother and his family.  Christmas Eve I made a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, balsamic and brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes and homemade rolls.  Christmas Day we had eight people (Brett and I, Kyle and Camille, my parents, Brett's son and his girlfriend).  I made a loaf of crusty Italian bread, prime rib, roasted potatoes, au jus, and sauteed spinach.

I am wiped.  Absolutely wiped.

My mother, who left her farming relatives far behind when she married my father -- and never looked back, thinks the gifts that Brett and I exchange are hysterical and odd.  But, hey, we are happy.

I gave Brett a new wheelbarrow and muck boots.

He gave me a pretty plaid flannel work shirt and duct tape for Jackson's feet.

...and a year's supply of savon d'alep.  My friend, Sylvie, who lives in Normandy got me hooked on this olive oil and laurel soap.  I have dry skin and it feels like heaven in the shower.  It smells clean, not heavily perfumed, which I love.  Brett also gave me a variety of French soft ripe cheeses.

Today, I am going to be happily unproductive.  I may nap on the couch.  I will most likely sit with the goats and hang out with Jackson.  I am not going to cook or listen to music.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Party 'till You Drop

(but take it easy on the eggnog)

Merry Christmas Everyone ~
from Aspen Meadows

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Feast, Round One

This morning was quiet.  My parents arrived yesterday, my son Wednesday night, and my brother this afternoon.  Before noon, I was busy making bread for dinner while Brett rode Flash and got the property spick and span.  The dogs were sacked out.

My brother arrived in the mid-afternoon with his wife and their daughter, Taylor.  They brought amazing cheeses and champagne.

On the right, goat cheese topped with lemon curd and pistachios.  A crowd favorite.  My favorite?  The very ripe, stinky, soft triple cream French cheese on the left, in the back.

Taylor is supposedly doing her math homework with my brother.


After snacking, we headed to the barn.  Taylor wanted to ride one of the horses.  She posed for a few pictures with Jackson.  He's still off on that front foot so she had her choice of riding.... Flash.  But, at least, Jackson got a photo op.  He was more interested in cookies at first.

Meanwhile, Brett tacked up Flash.  Taylor rode in the arena until it started to get dark.  Flash was an excellent boy.  He's so good with kids.  He's very careful and won't go forward if they become unbalanced.  Taylor was well balanced so they walked all over the arena.

After putting away her helmet and feeding Jackson a cookie, we headed up to the goat area.  She was particularly taken with Little Bear.

I put out the goat's evening alfalfa and they dug right in.  After closing up the goat shed, we headed back to the house for dinner.

Time to dress the turkey for tomorrow (feast number two).  Then I'm going to collapse on the couch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All I Want for Christmas... a sound horse.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Yesterday morning when I did barn chores, Jackson was completely sound, with perky ears and bright eyes.  He looked at his halter, then at me, then at his halter.  I promised to ride him today because there wasn't time before work yesterday.  I was SOOOO excited.

Last night as I was driving home, stuck in traffic, in the middle of a two and a half hour commute (which should have been an hour less than that), Brett called me.  He had just finished feeding and Jackson was "don't-make-me-walk" lame.  All the joy of the season (what little there was left after being stuck in the car for so long) flew right out the car window and sailed off towards Palm Springs.  I choked back tears and thought pessimistic, fatalistic thoughts.  "I'll never ride him again."  "He's never going to be sound."  "If I want to ride, I need a different horse."  "I don't want a different horse."  I got home.  Brett gave me a big hug and I dissolved into tears. 

I did some research after visiting Jackson in the barn.  I'm not alone, apparently.  Horses with thin soles and crappy hoof walls are prone to abscesses in the wet months.  This will probably be my life from October through April.  I pick his feet twice a day, apply hoof hardening products, supplement, and he has pads on the front.  Brett keeps his turnout as dry as possible with wood pellets added after it rains.  There really isn't much else I can do besides locking him up in a stall on shavings 24/7.  And that is not going to happen.  His mental health is as important as his physical health.  I'll just deal with it.  Occasional pity parties and all.

This morning, he was still hopping lame.  I could tell the minute I saw him standing in his turnout.  His eyes say "my feet hurt and I don't want to move."

On the other hand, I hear the hay cart coming down the barn aisle.

He managed to hop inside his stall for breakfast.  At lunch time, he was back outside standing in the sun.  And he had rolled.  I told him about the competition with Abbe at Skoog Farm and he isn't about to let a girl beat him in a Dirtiest Horse contest.

The big lunchtime news was herd integration.  I talked to Kalvin's owner and we decided to release Kalvin from his paddock and let him be part of the herd.  He's completed his year of paddock rest, and he's back in light work.  He's very social and wants to be with the other horses in the worst way.  After spending over a year getting to know each other over the fence, the integration was pretty blasé.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Fix

Going down to the barn in the grey of dawn before the sun peaks over the mountain, while the fog hangs in the orchard and frost covers the barn roof, isn't the most exciting proposition when I open my eyes in the morning. But, really, it is a wonderful thing.  I put on my jacket, my muck boots and my gloves and head outside.  Sedona and Kersey meet me outside the garage door.

The dogs are happiness incarnate.  Sedona smiles from ear to ear with her tail doing a slow wag.  She stands with one paw on my foot and leans into me for attention.  And more attention.  Kersey runs in a piggly wiggly squirming panting blur around us.  As I start down the walkway into the orchard, they race ahead of me, checking on the chickens (safe in their pen) and looking for squirrel holes.  I stop at the chicken pen and dump the contents of my pail of scraps for them.  They attack the pear core, apple peel and extra waffles from yesterday's breakfast.

As I reach the barn, I see Jackson standing in his turnout with his head over the fence, watching me.  His ears are pricked forward, his eyes are bright, and he is happy to see me.  I call out a good morning to him as I step into the rabbit pen.  They are waiting for me, front paws resting on the block that serves as their breakfast counter.  I scatter a handful of treats on the cement block and they go to town, climbing over each other and the block in their eagerness to snag the choice pieces of dried fruit. 

Then it's into the barn.  Jackson and Flash both have their heads out their stall doors watching me head to the feed room where I will prepare their buckets of vitamins.  I stop and kiss Jackson on the soft spot at the base of his ear.  Normally, he has a wonderful horsey smell but this morning he just smells like the manure he uses as a pillow.  Yech.  The cat pokes her head over the top of her bed as I go into the feed room, and stretches.  She won't actually get out of bed until I'm done with chores and have taken the dogs back up to the house. 

When I take Jackson's bucket into his stall, he nudges me with his head towards his grain bin.  Flash is even ruder.  The minute his apple rolls out of the bucket into his bin, he dives down and grabs a bite of apple.  I haven't even finished pouring out the contents. 

Moving right along, I push the hay cart into the pasture.  It's been pre-loaded the night before with flakes of hay by Brett so I don't have to mess with the hay shed (guaranteed to bring on an allergy attack).  Flash comes out first, being the alpha horse.  Jackson follows doing his snakey head while trotting.  The donkeys move in to eat out of the last bin.  Kalvin is waiting at the gate of his paddock, already chewing and licking his lips.  No one loves hay more than Kalvin.

Mucking is a long process.  I have to sift through the straw in Jackson's stall and find the piles of manure he has hidden there.  Flash was a good boy and only pooped in his turnout.  Three cart fulls later, I am done. 

The dogs know the routine and are waiting for me, laying in the grass, next to the barn.  We walk back to the house.  After feeding them, I go to the goat area and open their shed.  They pour out, baa-ing in excitement, and scatter.  Bella and Bear go to the feeder and start in on the hay.  Whiskey and Cowboy walk around eating leaves.  Thistle touches noses with me before going over to the hay feeder.

Isn't that a happy way to start the day?  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by animals who love life and who share that joie de vivre with me.  It's contagious.  I am smiling when I leave for work.

Tonight, I made us a simple dinner when I got home.  It was dark and late and I was tired.  I pan fried some trout, roasted a couple tomatoes and warmed some bread.  And poured us each a glass of wine.  Of course.

Life is good.  Very, very good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Stills: 'Tis The Season

Christmas at Aspen Meadows....

A few seasonal decorations as I'm not big on creating a Christmas Store look.  I like the house to look festive but homey and warm and a reflection of us. 

The stockings are all hung by the chimney with care.  I handmade all of them, starting with Kyle's when he was a baby.  Camille's stocking was the most time consuming -- counted cross stitch on linen with a VERY intricate pattern.  She didn't think much of it when she was little (Kyle's had sequins which was way better in her mind).  She loves it now.  Brett's was a lot of fun -- I used fun threads (silk, metallic, wool) and fun stitches.  Mine, well, I like the theme but the colors and overall composition don't do it for me.  I keep saying I will make myself another one but now that we have Aspen Meadows (and I've discovered blogging), I just don't have the time or inclination.

It was fun making Santa's fuzzy beard, the curtain tassels and using all sorts of beads.

There are a gifts under the tree. 

A basket with Christmas cards received sits by the front door.  The card on top is from Brett's daughter, Jen, and her family.  Both of his daughters are beautiful, with beautiful families.  We wish they weren't so far away (Seattle area and south of Denver) so we could spend more time with the grandchildren.

I've started my Christmas baking -- Brett's favorite cookie (gingersnaps) and mine (my Grandmother's recipe for sugar cookies).  When the kids were still at home, we would do cut-out cookies of Santa, snowmen, bells, and Christmas trees with elaborate decorations.  On my own, I just do circles.  Bah humbug.

The thing that I enjoy most about Christmas, and that I miss, is the liturgical richness of the season at church.  I love Advent; the music, the colors, the focus.  We live over an hour from the closest church so we don't go anymore.  And, to be honest, I have some issues with my Church right now.  I love my faith, but not my church. 
On one side of the hearth, Mary, Joseph and a shepherd adore baby Jesus.

On the other side, the wise men are making their journey.

And inbetween, the wood stove gives us warmth.
Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends and followers.  I wish you all a warm and wonderful season.