Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guess Who's Still Here

The lab at Washington State University didn't get everything run by the end of the day Friday.  They said results will not be available until the tests are completed next Thursday.  Really??   I have no idea when we are going to get Bella to the breeder's place.  The next two weekends I will not have a Bella transport vehicle available.  Brett will be busy driving across the western US transporting grandchildren.  sigh.

So, Bella gets to spend the next however-long living on her high line.  Brett set it up so she can get to water, food, shade under the aspen tree, and the porch of the goat shed.  She still hates it though.

It was hot today, close to 90F.  It always feels about ten degrees hotter than it is up here.  I think it must have something to do with the altitude.  Nobody felt like doing much.

Jackson was hanging by the water trough.  He's happy in his paddock, moving pretty well, and starting to lose a bit of weight.

Flash and Winston were in the barn, enjoying the shade.  Flash was dozing while Winston was flinging his grain bin around.  He picks it up in his mouth and runs it up and down the wall like a washboard.  Sometimes he gets carried away and throws it into the barn aisle.  Then he's frustrated when he can't reach it. 

Brett was busy loading up the horse trailer with his mounted patrol tack.  He has a deployment this evening at a big park where there is an Independence Day celebration being held.  Brett hates the bridle they use for for the posse.  It's a pain in the neck to put on with extra leather everywhere you look.  He practiced putting it on before leaving.  Flash wasn't real thrilled with that but he does look handsome once its on. 

Winston doesn't like being left out. 

While Brett finished getting ready to go, I headed back to the house to put my foot up.  I checked on Speckles as I went by the hen house.  She's still broody.  How long do they stay like this??

Tomorrow we move Kalvin.  I'm looking forward to seeing the therapeutic riding center, where he will live, up close and personal.  I'll take lots of pictures.  Promise.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Problem with the Bats

There is a colony of bats that live in the eaves of our front porch, close to the front door.  They have lived there for three or four years and we enjoy looking up into the eaves and seeing a line of little furry bodies dozing in the afternoons.  We have little tiny bats, small brown bats to be precise.  They eat insects from the garden, preferring potato bugs and scorpions; leaving bits of legs and bodies scattered on the ground outside our bedroom.  Sometimes in the evening I hear them squeaking as they fly off in search of dinner but generally they are quiet.  The bats take up residence in the eaves during the mid-afternoon.  I'm not sure where they hang out in the morning and I've never seen them arrive so maybe they are up inside the eaves where they can't be seen.

Yesterday, Camille noticed three baby bats on the ground.  They were small, hairless, eyes still closed and dead.   We have never found dead bats before.  I googled dead brown bats and found a link to the US Geological Survey who is tracking the spread of white nose syndrome in little brown bats.  The syndrome (a fungus) affects adult bats coming out of hibernation, primarily in the Northeastern US.  This didn't fit the description of what we found but I sent an email off to the biologist there anyway, and included some pictures.  I didn't expect to get much of a response, if any.

To give you an idea of how tiny these little pups are, this one is resting on top of a brick on the front walkway next to the front door sill.  Poor little thing.

This morning, I had a long email from the biologist.  She said it was not white nose syndrome, that she hadn't heard of any other cases like this in California, and could she give my phone number to the biologist with the California Dept of Fish and Game in case they wanted to follow up.  Of course.

In the meantime, Camille found another one who fell from the eaves in the morning and crept slowly, crawling along the bricks, until it found itself against the sill a bit further down from the one in the picture.  It squeezed itself into the corner, upside down, in a pathetic attempt to hang.  It squeeked faintly a few times and then was silent.  We monitored it all afternoon and at nightfall it was, amazingly, still alive.

Mid-afternoon, I received a call from the Dept of Fish and Game.  They were very interested in our bat situation.  We ruled out a temperature spike or other obvious cause.  Sometimes, a colony will lose pups due to dehydration or lack of food.  Regardless of the cause, it isn't a good thing.  Bats only have one pup a year so a loss of multiple pups isn't good.  I was on the phone and watching the email exchanges between the two departments the rest of the afternoon.  I am impressed.  These two ladies care about my little brown bats.  They want to research and see what is going on.  If I can collect three to five freshly dead bats, I will send them into the government lab.  The trick will be getting them fresh -- these little pups are so small that they shrivel up into nothing within hours of dying.

I hope we don't find anymore dead bat pups but if we do, I know what to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

For You OTTB Followers

Over on my poetry site (link at the bottom of my blog page), I often write from prompts.  Its fun and a good way for me to try new forms, focus and words.  One of the prompts I follow regularly is called the Sunday Wordle.  The blog posts 12 words and then you write a poem using all the words.  You post your poems on a linky so you can see what everyone else did with the words.  I have a lot of fun with this.  This week, I looked at the words and an OTTB showed up.  If you are interested in what others did with the words, here is the link.

The words this week were: scrap, trapped, ample, domain, window, jasmine, montage, sunset, flawed, granite, demons, and whistle.


Her name was Jasmine
but her mouth
was hard as granite.

She grabbed the bit
and ran like demons
were on her tail.

Her domain was the racetrack
until she was tossed aside,
a flawed, unwanted scrap of horse.

I taught her to waltz
to a music montage;
to swing with Shubert and Chopin.

She hated feeling trapped
so I left a window open
in the release of the reins.

When I whistle across glowing grass
and clover, she gallops to me;
the sunset shining in her mane.

My very first horse, that was mine and not borrowed or rented, was an OTTB.  Sadly, we were not a good fit but he went on to be a nice jumper for someone else.  Dressage was not his thing.  At all.  And I was far too inexperienced at that time to deal with his race track fears.  I read quite a few blogs with owners who have done wonderful things with their OTTBs.  Some do dressage, some jumping, some eventing, some a mix.  I am constantly impressed by the work, confidence and patience required and given by these women.  My hat's off to you!  And this poem was meant to celebrate what you do.  I love rescued animals the best; be they horses, donkeys or dogs.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bella Gives Blood

Fern, of Joyful Hearths Farm,  who bred Bella and Little Bear has been reading my blog.  She saw the posts about how Bella is jumping the fence.

And about how the little acrobat likes to explore the neighborhood, accompanying people on their walks, eating their roses and their sapling trees, and disappearing from the goat pen for hours on end.  And about how we now tie her up to keep her in the goat pen. 

When Bella wakes in the morning, she jumps out and nibbles on the cottonwood trees lining the driveway.  When she sees movement in our bedroom and knows we are on our way out to feed, she jumps back into the goat pen.  If she isn't fast enough, the dogs chase her back when they go out with us.  She eats her breakfast, takes her morning nap, and then hops out and heads down the road.  ...or she did until a few days ago.  Brett constructed a high line and we tie her to that in the mornings.  If she would stay on our property, we wouldn't tie her but, more and more, she likes to wander.  And she wanders further.  We worry about her safety and we receive phone calls form irate community members.

Fern contacted me and offered to take Bella back.  Glory Hallelujah!!  I love this breeder and I would buy a goat from her again in a heart beat.  She doesn't normally take goats back because that compromises the bio-integrity of her breeding farm.  But, she worries about Bella who is a beautiful little goat and is willing to make an exception.  First, I needed to get blood work done to ensure that Bella won't be dragging any diseases to her farm.

Tuesday morning, we loaded Bella in the back of the car and drove her down to meet our vet (saves on the farm call fee).  I know Brett doesn't hold the goats properly around the back haunches but you can't teach an old goat new tricks.  She doesn't seem to mind.

She was not pleased with being in a crate in the back of the car and let us know the entire way down the mountain and back.

She was very good while Dr. T took her blood.  We had her stand in the back of the car and I wrapped one arm around her chest, the other around her haunches and pulled her tight against me.  I scritched and rubbed her during the procedure, telling her she was a brave goat.  Brett held her head.  She didn't scream at all.  I gave her a horse cookie (she loves them) when we finished and then we brought her home.

I triple bagged the blood samples, wrapped them in bubble wrap, and put them with the lab form and an ice pack in an Express mail envelope.  The postal guy stamped "HAZMAT" all over the envelope.  He held my envelope with two fingers, like it was a bag of poop -- I didn't tell him it was blood; just that it was lab work. 

If we have clean lab results by the end of the week, Bella will be living behind a very high fence at the breeder's this weekend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rustic Bread: Round Two

For round two, I used a recipe from "Bread Alone."  Unlike the La Brea bread book, this one does not rely on sourdough starter so I didn't have to do the whole feeding three times a day for three days gig.  This author also is very precise in measurements and temperature -- and in the type of flour you use.  There is an entire chapter on flour; the protein content needed and sources.  I mail ordered some high gluten, high protein flour and mixed it with wheat flour.  Three parts high gluten to one part wheat flour. 

The night before I wanted to bake the bread, I made my poolish.  I mixed water, a pinch of yeast and flour together and stirred until it all grabbed together and was smooth.  Then I covered it and put it in the refrigerator for a long fermentation.  You can also leave it on the counter for a few hours, but the book said that if I put in the refrigerator and slowed the process down for 12-15 hours, I would end up with a better tasting loaf.  Sounded good to me.  The next morning I took it out, put it on the counter and let it come to room temperature (about three hours).  In that three hours, it rose up and bubbled happily.

I added more water, flour, yeast and some salt.  I warmed the water up more than last time -- in an attempt to get my dough to the elusive perfect dough temperature of 78F.  The instructions gave a wide variation in the amount of flour to use -- it is a "feel" thing, depending on humidity and weather and age/type of flour.  I used the least amount I could manage as a wetter, stickier dough yields a lighter airier loaf in my experience.  I set the timer and kneaded for the prescribed 17 minutes (so much better than 45).  Then I put it in my proofing container (which is clear so I can see how much it rises) for about three hours.  It doubled and bubbled.  When it was ready to be deflated, formed and put in their baskets, I noticed that the dough didn't hold its shape well since it was so soft.  It rose nicely in the baskets but when I turned it out to bake, they deflated quite a bit.  Rats.  Then my razor snagged on the tops and deflated them even more instead of just cutting a clean line.  I slid them into the oven onto the baking stone, squirted in the water, and waited for the result. 

Nice color, nice crust but not as high as I would like.  Overall, I'm calling it a success but next time I will make the dough a tad bit stiffer. 

For dinner we had BBQ steaks, salad with a garlicky vinaigrette, and bread.  Glorious bread. 

Brett said this is the best tasting bread I've made.  I would have to agree. 

Bon appetit!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Macro Monday

Heritage Roses and Carnations

I love these girly ruffled and very fragrant roses.  I picked myself a bouquet from the garden yesterday and threw in some spicy cinnamon scented carnations as well.  I set them right by the computer where I can enjoy therm the most.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Les Chevres Miserables

Brett started working on building a tie line for Bella so we have a permanent way to tie her, that still allows her some freedom in the goat area.  His first endeavor was to set two posts in the ground.  We decided to let the goats out of the pen so they wouldn't be underfoot while Brett was digging holes, and pouring concrete around the posts.

Brett gathered his tools and prepared himself for the work.  (That Coke is for energy, I'm sure).

Bella was sporting her new collar, complete with her name and our phone number.  Hopefully, someone will call us instead of tying her to a post next time she goes for a walk around the ranch.

Bella checked out Brett's tools and decided that they didn't taste nearly as good as my apple trees.

She rounded up the troops and headed for the battle field.

You have to humor me;  Brett and I went to see Les Miserables (the 25th Anniversary tour -- amazing!  Loved it as much, if not more, than when I saw it years ago).

Cue the music:  Can you hear the people goaties sing?

The horses were on high alert.  Prepare to man the barricades flee!!

Never a dull moment on the ranch.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Just for Fun

Jail Break

In the grey light of almost-dawn
we found the fence break.
I jumped the rail cleanly;
Flash followed, pushing
the rail to the ground.
Jackson studied the situation
before carefully stepping over.

We could hear the howl of coyotes
as Flash led us
down the deserted road.
He flicked his ear at us in warning
when we crowded his broad rump
for security.

At the pond
our hooves sank in the thick muck;
we waded out
belly deep
and drank.
The mallards took flight.
Back on shore we rolled;
mud turning Jackson’s silver to brown.

Spring’s green grass was gone
and a sinister buzz
came from the dried weeds.
I lowered my long nose
to investigate.
Flash pushed me aside
with his stocky shoulders
and something gold and brown
–like a thick lead rope –
slithered past.
I manured.

Jackson’s head was bobbing;
he went lame on us.  Again.
So we took him home.
Flash marched along,
steady and strong,
a glint of laughter
in his blue eyes.
I danced behind
on my lanky legs;
ready to run wild.

No, this isn't factual.  It did give Brett a bit of a heart attack, though.  He read it on my poetry blog while he was at work the other day and thought the horses were out wandering the ranch.  Heh heh heh.  


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Watching Speckles

Brett and I have been keeping a close eye on Speckles, our Speckled Sussex chicken.  She is one of our older chickens, arriving when the kids were younger and Camille claimed chicken naming privileges.  Speckles is a pretty hen; black with grey and white dots scattered over her ample body.  She has always been an efficient layer; climbing into the nesting box, depositing her egg, and leaving.  She wasn't one of the chickens who lingered.  Until now.

I wouldn't be worried about it if we hadn't had a strange death last week.  We were on our way to the barn to feed and stopped at the chicken pen.  The chickens are my responsibility but Brett has been taking over that role in an effort to keep chicken poop off of my walking cast.  Chicken poop is great fertilizer but it isn't so great on the carpet.  If I get it on my work boots, I scrape the boot bottom on the grass or some dead scritchy weeds.  Then I park the boots in the garage on the boot shelf.  However, my walking boot stays on and tromps back into the house --so chicken manure remnants are not a good thing. 

Brett went into the chicken area to give them their scratch and fill the waterer.  I bent over to turn on the hose spigot for him and, as I was standing back up, noticed a dead chicken laying on ground in the corner.  It was one of our new Marans, only four months old.  We are used to, and accept without much thought, our older chickens dying.  But this was a young healthy chicken, who had just started growing her wattles, sprawled in an awkward position on the ground.  We couldn't see any sign of trauma -- it didn't look like a raccoon grabbed her.  It looked to me like she fell off the perch and broke her neck.  Bizarre.  So, when Speckles started acting lethargic I took notice.

Speckles isn't an aggressive, mean chicken by any means but she isn't friendly either.  I can reach under the chickens when they are in the nesting box and retrieve eggs and most of them really don't care.  Sure, they may plump their feathers and give me a dirty look with their bright eyes, but they don't protest.  Speckles, however, will peck at my hand so I usually leave her alone, knowing she will lay her egg and be on her way.  So, that morning when I opened the lid to the nesting box to check for eggs and found her there, I said hello to her, closed the lid and went down to the barn to feed the rabbits and check on the horses.  On my way back to the house, I lifted the lid and she was still there.  At noon, still there.  I reached under her to collect eggs and she didn't budge.  Her eyes were open but she didn't seem to register my presence.  Her wings were fluffed out next to her, soft and puffy.  She wasn't panting, but she didn't look normal either.  I cautiously reached under her to check for eggs, waiting for her to whip her head around and peck me like usual.  She did nothing.  Just stared off into space.  In the evening, she was still there.  The next morning.... the same.  I started expecting to find a dead chicken every time I opened the nesting box.  The other chickens started laying their eggs elsewhere. 

Two days ago, after removing all the eggs from underneath her, she got up off her hiney, jumped out of the nesting box and mingled with the girls in the chicken run.  She looked normal enough, walking around, pecking and scratching at the ground.  The next morning she was back in the nesting box.  Maybe she has gone broody on me in her old age.  She's hoarding eggs.  We are collecting five or six eggs from underneath her every day -- and she, herself, is only laying a couple per week.  I've noticed other chickens in the box with her, laying their eggs on the other end of the box: two or three chicken body lengths away.  Somehow, all the eggs end up underneath Speckles.  She is definitely gathering them into her little nest. 

This afternoon, when I was collecting the eggs, pushing her ample body to the side and feeling underneath her for eggs, she half-heartedly pecked at me. 

And I said, "Good girl."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Longeing Winston: Illustrated

I had a couple requests for more information about how I longe and also for video.  Brett was kind enough to take photos and some short video while I worked Winston yesterday morning.

Everybody longes a bit differently so if you do it another way and it works for you, please carry on.  This is the way I was taught; it works for me and my horses.  That being said, a few safety points:  Never loop the extra longe line and hold it with your hand through the loop.  If the horse gets away from you, it will tighten around your hand and you will be going to the hospital.  Similarly, do not ever let the loose end lay on the ground where it could wrap around your legs in a tangle.  Again, horse takes off and you just scored a broken leg.  Instead make big accordion type loops and hold the entire accordion in your hand.  The longe line will feed easily out of your hand and you won't get caught if your horse gets silly.

The idea is to form a triangle with your body and your horse.  I hold the extra line and the whip in the hand towards the hindquarters.  The other arm is outstretched in the direction of travel, and is the signal for "go." My focus is on the hindquarters -- especially when I'm asking for more.  So one arm is part of a "V" towards Winston's face and the other arm is part of the "V" towards his hind.  He closes the triangle with his body.  Here's a short video of us starting out.  You can hear me saying "aaaanndd T-rot" in the first section.  He is getting much better at making prompt transitions off of my voice from walk to trot.  In the second section, you can see him get a little silly when I ask for the first canter.  This is as crazy as he gets.  I ignore the antics and we just keep going.

Winston is not as prompt with the other transitions.  He gets trot-canter promptly about 50% of the time which is a big improvement over where we started.  Canter down to trot is good, but he's clueless on trot to walk.  You can see it takes him awhile to get that one in this next clip.

We worked quite a bit on transitions.  Winston made his work harder by transitioning from canter to trot when it had not been requested.  When he did that, I put him immediately back to canter and he had to complete a full 20m circle without breaking into trot on his own.  Once he completed the full circle, I let him trot.  You can see that in the last video clip.  I've also asked Brett to put a couple more holes in the side reins.  Right now they are on the last hole and are still too long to help him with contact.  Now that we have the basics of longeing commands and etiquette down, he needs to work with contact.

My foot has been feeling much better this week -- not nearly as fatigued and achy at night.  I'm hoping to step up the number of days that I longe him.  Right now, I've only been able to manage two per week -- each with a couple recovery days on the couch in between. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Update on the Ranch

So, what has been going on with the animals while I've been lounging around writing poetry and snoozing on the couch?  Brett tethers me to the house when he is home but Monday he went off to work and I headed outside with my camera to feed the horses lunch and give you an update. 

The Blanket Flower jumped out of the flower bed and started growing in the lawn.  I'm hoping it continues its migration into the orchard.  I love these flowers.

Poppies are supposed to be done blooming by now.  These didn't get the message.

Easter lilies are blooming.  I don't like this angle but with my cast, I couldn't get low with the camera.  Grrrr.

Jackson is packing on weight again.  We moved him out of the paddock when Winston arrived and then never moved him back in since he was getting along okay with the herd.  However, he is getting chubby and he is also getting bites from the others (I suspect Winston).  He can't move fast on those laminitic feet so he gets nailed.  We put him back in the paddock where we can regulate his hay intake and where he can socialize without being bullied.  I gave him a bath.  He was pleased.

I was very popular at lunch time.  Kalvin and Flash came up from the bottom of the pasture where they were napping under the oak trees to meet me, nickering as they came.

I tried to get a good picture of Kalvin, but he wouldn't keep his head out of the hay long enough for me to do so.  He is going to be moving to the barn where his owner works on July 1st.  We will miss him but it is best all the way around.  Kalvin and his owner have an amazing bond.  They will be together every day when he moves.  Kalvin will live in a stall with a large run out.  I think he'll be happy.  He loves being in the barn; he has spent most of his life there and I think it is a place of security for him.  Since we got Winston, he hasn't had a stall in the barn and he complains about that.  He stands behind the run-ins and paws at the gates.  His move will also mean less for us to muck and that's a good thing too.  Especially since I can't help Brett with my broken foot. 

He will leave here fat, shiny, sassy and sound.  We feel good about that. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Catching My Breath

The past almost-week has been a whirlwind of activity.  Last Thursday, it started with this:

Fortunately, they let me sit on the field in the handicapped area so I didn't have to navigate the bleachers with my walking cast.

Saturday, we were up early to drive to Santa Barbara where we had Camille's graduation brunch.  Camille has three of her four grandparents still living and I picked a location close to them so they could all attend.  The food was superb, the guests well behaved, and the weather gorgeous.  We were gone all day -- just couldn't pry ourselves away from the beautiful Santa Barbara coast.

Camille is not comfortable being the center of attention.  This picture is SO Camille.

My family, the kids'  father's family, Kyle, and friends.  
 Around the table starting at the head and going right: my dad, my mom, Camille's Auntie Cheryl (Randy's sister),  Randy's mom, Randy (Camille & Kyle's dad), Kyle, Camille, two friends of Camille's you can't see, my good friend Heather (you can't see either), yours truly, and Brett.

Ahi Tuna tartar on Parmesan crisps

Cheesecake with raspberry sauce and tangerine sorbet

S'Mores:  Chocolate pot with a marshmallow and vanilla ice cream. 

We got back home later than planned -- after dark -- and Bella, who was tied up outside the shed where the goats sleep, was screaming her head off.  She continues to jump out every time we untie her.  She wanders further and further down the road.  She eats the plants and shrubs in the neighbors yards.  Sigh.  Anybody want a jumping goat?

Sunday morning my foot was killing me.  I stayed on the couch all day with it up.  I even took a nap in the afternoon which is something I never, ever do.