Monday, December 31, 2012

The Journey with Winston: 2012

January: I find Winston and bring him home.

March: Introduction to cattle work at Reed Valley Ranch
April: Hangin' with the herd.

May: My toes are broken on a trail ride when Flash kicks at Winston.
June: We work on the longe line while my foot heals.
July: We wait and wait and wait for my foot to heal. 

August: We try free jumping while we wait... for my foot to heal.

September: We go to a schooling show and ride the Intro tests.
October: Annette is bucked off Winston on a trail ride at the Alsisal Guest Ranch.  Twice.
November: Back in the saddle.  Toes and back healed.
December: Took a lesson in the rain. Had a blast.

Almost one year into the journey.
Loving it.
Stay tuned for 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cold, Wet, Fog and Snow

Sometimes, it's hard to slide out of bed in the morning; hard to leave the heavy warm weight of the duvet and stand shivering, jabbing your cold legs into cold jeans and pulling a worn sweatshirt over your head.  The house is cold and, outside, it's even colder and damp. 

I let the dogs out and trudge, head down, to the goat area.  I put a flake of hay in the feeder and break the ice on the water buckets.  The goats are more interested in playing in their shed than eating.  I have to smile, warming up inside.

The dogs meet me as I shut the gate to the goat pen and they walk, flanking me, down the driveway towards the barn.  As we round the corner, they take off in pursuit of squirrels or rabbits or cats.  The sun is trying to find its way through the fog.

I walk down the barn aisle to get a carrot for the rabbits from the feed room.  Mufasa is standing with his head over the stall door, looking down the aisle.  I stop, smile, and praise him for his bravery.  Until today, he wouldn't stick a whisker over the door, preferring to be closer to the back door and his run out.  I get the carrot and go back to the rabbit pen.  Sage is ready, hungry and eager.  She wastes no time going to work on the carrot.  Basil waits until I am gone before hopping over and eating her share.

While we are mucking, the sun breaks through the fog.  The horses and donkeys crowd to the bottom of the pasture and stand in its weak warmth.

When Brett opens the gate to bring down the hay cart, bits of ice break off and scatter on the ground like diamonds.

The sky clears briefly, but then new clouds move in.  We spend the remainder of the day close to the fire, watching snow fall. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Blue Caterpillar

Today we had the good fortune to take lessons with the blue caterpillar.

 We have been trying and trying to get in lessons with Gayle ever since Brett bought Mufasa.  But, the rain has conspired against us and we've had to cancel every time.  This morning was cold and frosty, the way it has been for the past few days.  Lows at 25F and highs at 45F.  Brrr. 

The weather forecast said 80% of light rain, primarily in the afternoon.  Gayle called at 8:00 for a weather check.  I told her to wear her heaviest jacket and a hat.  I promised to have hot tea for her to sip.  She said she would be at our place at 10:00.  Brett went first because I wanted to make sure he got a lesson in on Mufasa.  I could keep doing what I've been doing if need be, but he really needed direction and input on how to best approach teaching Mufasa about connection and how to be straight.

When Brett and Mufasa started their lesson, we had clouds moving in but the sky was still blue in patches.  Brett's lesson was extremely helpful and Gayle loved how Mufasa uses his motor, his attitude and how he takes care of Brett.  She helped Brett get in rhythm with Mufasa's big trot and how to keep his heel down so he is more stable and able to move in a balanced way.  These pictures are from the beginning of his lesson when they were trying to figure each other out.  By the end of the lesson, when I was busy tacking up Winston and couldn't take pictures, they were looking like a team.  They were both more balanced and they were flying around the arena loving that big stride trot.

Winston and I were up next.  The blue patches had disappeared and the sky was slate grey.  Winston was in a vinegar mood, trying to nip me while I was grooming him and tacking him up.  He was not nearly as soft and willing as usual but, even so, Gayle was impressed with how well we were going.  She said he had a very consistent first level trot.  Whoo-hoo!! When he got distracted and fell on his forehand I felt it, half-halted, pushed him into the bridle by pushing him forward, and asking for more bend with my inside leg.  We even did some leg yield at trot from the center line -- and did it well.  Up to now, we've only done bits of leg yield from the quarter line and he's popped his head up.  Today he kept the frame and stepped sideways with big crossing strides.  I told him he is a rock star.

 The sky continued to get dark and the natives (Flash and Mufasa) started getting restless, searching in the mud for lunch.

About the time Gayle asked us to pick up the canter, I felt raindrops on my cheek.

 Our canter needs more work but I've only recently been able to tolerate the rocking motion of canter.  My back is healed and so are my toes.  It's time to whip our canter into shape. 

Mufasa had given up on lunch and was dozing after taking a good roll.  The poor guy was pooped out. 

The rain started to come down a bit more and Gayle said Quick, let's get some canter in, going the other direction, before it really starts coming down.

 A couple 20m circles, and we were getting wet.  So the blue caterpillar, my tired horse and I skeedaddled back to the barn where it was dry. 

We had to cut my lesson short but not by much and Winston and I learned a lot.  We have his first rated show in two weeks and I have our homework until then.  Canter, canter, canter.  Whee!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Potato Galette

The secret to this recipe is to use a sweet onion, such as Walla Walla, and to cook the galette in a 9" or10" cast iron skillet.  It doesn't stick, I swear, and it comes out just beautiful with the onions and thyme caramelized on top.  It looks difficult but it's super easy.  It uses a lot of fresh thyme -- 12 sprigs, it's not a typo.  They caramelize and taste amazing.  For the cheese I used a bag of shredded Mexican mixed cheeses (cheddar, jack, etc) but you can also use Gruyere and mozzarella.  I think its best when you mix at least two kinds of cheese together.

2 1/2 Tablespoons butter
12 sprigs of thyme
1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
3/4 to 1 lb potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cups grated or shredded cheese
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.   Melt butter in a 9-10 inch cast iron frying pan over medium heat.  Add the thyme and the onion.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Put the potatoes, oil, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss together.  Put the potato mixture on top of the onions.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and tender.  Turn upside down on a large plate and serve.

There won't be any leftovers.  Guaranteed.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Look Alikes

Have you ever noticed how dogs and their owners often look alike?  I think the same thing holds true for horses.  Take Brett and Flash for instance...

Actually, Brett's picture has changed slightly since Christmas.  I gave him that recliner he's sleeping in; he's only wanted one for the entire twelve years we've been married.  I figured it was time.  His daughters, Kerri and Jenni, gave him a new blanket with pictures of the grandkids on it.  Very cool!  Here he is on the phone thanking them.

He goes by Grandpa Mike -- for Mickelson.  His mom and dad started the Grandpa and Grandma Mike names.  Isn't that a cool gift?  Pictures of all seven grandkids are on there.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Feasting

Christmas was quiet at Aspen Meadows this year.  My parents spent Christmas at my sister's house, and the rest of our brothers and sisters were staying home for the holiday.  Christmas eve we feasted.
For breakfast, I made donuts while we waited for Camille to arrive back home.

While they were in the oven, Camille called.  Her car was overheating and she didn't know what she should do.  We told her to head back to her father's house since she was closer to him and there was no way her car would make it up the mountain.  Before she could get off of the freeway, the engine starting seizing up so she pulled over to the shoulder and called AAA for a tow.  Brett headed down the mountain to go pick her up.  Throughout the entire ordeal, Camille held it together.  She didn't have a panic attack, she fought her fear and got the situation dealt with.  I was so proud of her. 

I set the table while Kyle and I waited for Camille and Brett to arrive.

At lunch time, I made clam dip and stuffed mushrooms.  I poured us each a kir royale (champagne and cassis).  The feasting began.  I made a loaf of challah bread to have with dinner.

Our first course was salad with roasted acorn squash, Parmesan cheese and pomegranate seeds.  Very festive and very tasty.

Brett provided comic relief with a napkin ring.

Then I carved the tenderloin steak into filet mignon steaks and turned out the potato galette.  We feasted until we couldn't eat anything more. 

We went to bed stuffed and tipsy from the champagne, wine with dinner, and a bit of eggnog for dessert.

The next morning, Brett and I were up early to do chores and fill the stockings.  By the time we got back in the house after feeding, the kids were stirring.  The tree was bursting with packages.  I like the look of lots of packages under the tree so I wrap all our gifts in big boxes. 

Kyle and Camille sat on the couch while I got my coffee.  Kyle read Christmas books from their childhood to Camille.  It was too cute.

After opening the gifts, Camille and Kyle headed down the mountain to spend the rest of Christmas Day with their dad.  Camille was also very anxious to see her boyfriend.  Imagine that.  Brett and I spent Christmas afternoon and evening at my cousin, Nancy's, home.  I hadn't seen her in years.  My aunt was there as was another cousin, Linda, who lives in Tennessee. Brett and her husband hit it off big time.  Linda and Nick have an organic farm in Tennessee so you can imagine all the tractor talk that went on.  Linda's daughter, Carrie, and her boyfriend were also there for a few hours before they left to drive home to Las Vegas.  We had a great time sharing memories and laughing.  It was a warm and wonderful time.  My aunt, who is 82, looked great.  She was sitting with her feet tucked up under her in a noodley way that I can't even imagine doing now, much less at 82. 

Last night another storm moved in, weak but cold.  It's moving out this afternoon but temperatures are going to stay in the 40s all week.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Stills: Holiday Lights

The tree is decorated, the presents are under the tree, and holiday fudge and cookies are in bowls strewn around the great room.

The tree is decorated with multi-colored lights and an eclectic mix of ornaments.  The tree does not have a theme, other than memories of places, friends and family.
An ornament made by my son (who will be 21 on New Years Day).
A fuzzy stork; a gift from my mother when the kids were young.  It makes us laugh.
A snowman from my friend, Sylvie, who lives in France.
Another gift from my parents: from a trip they took to Russia

The stockings are hung by the chimney, waiting for Santa.  On Christmas Eve, Brett and I battle over who goes to bed first so we can fill the other's stocking without being watched.  I put all the gifts under the tree but stockings are never filled until Christmas Eve.

This afternoon my son, Kyle, arrived.  I'm making turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and homemade rolls for dinner.  Kyle and Camille spent Thanksgiving with their father this year so I picked up a turkey to make for them.  Camille is working tonight so she won't be here until tomorrow.  The turkey is huge so there will be plenty for her to nibble on in the coming days.  Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey enchiladas... the list is endless.

We had rain this morning, a break this afternoon, and more rain tonight.  I hope Santa's reindeer don't get stuck in the mud.