Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Work at Dinner Time?

Are you crazy??

These pictures are actually from breakfast.
But, you can see how much Winston likes food.
He brought his grain bin out into the sunlight where he could see every last bit of his vitamins.

When it was empty, he flung it around.
Maybe he was hoping it would loosen the stubborn bits in the creases.

I rode him this evening after work. 
It was dinner time.
He was not pleased.

You could say he was being downright pissy.
And that would be an understatement.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Stills: The Letter "F"

(we were in fog almost all day)


(Sedona and Kersey)



 More of the letter "F" on the Sunday Stills site.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rainy Day Kitchen Time

Another day of steady rain; not a storm, just a constant easy downpour sometimes light as mist and sometimes heavy as rain.  Constant.  Yesterday, we had rain as well.  I was busy in the kitchen -- my favorite rainy day activity is cooking (when I have energy).  Today, I'm engaging in my other favorite rainy day activity: reading a good book by the fire.

After lunch yesterday, I got a pot of chicken stock going on the stove.  When I roast a chicken, I throw the carcass in a freezer bag and save it until I get the urge to make stock.  I brown the bones and any clinging meat and skin in oil.  Then I add whatever vegetables I have on hand - in this case it was an onion, celery tops, carrot, fennel tops and a leek.  I gathered rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and a bay leaf from the garden.  I tied them together with string and tossed the bundle into the pot with everything else.  I filled the pot with water until everything was covered and let it simmer on the stove for a couple of hours. 

I tasted it for salt, strained it, and put it in tupperware containers destined for the freezer.  I kept enough out for the soup I planned to make for dinner.  Homemade stock is easy and tastes vastly superior to what you buy at the store.  It also makes the house smell wonderful.

While the stock was simmering on the stove, I made up a batch of homemade granola.  I mixed together oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar and maple syrup with a beaten egg white (makes the granola crunchy) and baked it until it was toasty brown.  When it had cooled, I broke it into a bowl and mixed in dried blueberries.  I love granola on yogurt and on fruit. 

For dinner, I made a lentil soup with chard and sausage.  It was amazing!  I found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog and I highly recommend it.  HIGHLY recommend it; perfect for a rainy night.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Muck and Mud

We are in the middle of a series of rain systems moving through Southern California.  The first two or three systems are coming from the south, down in Baja California (which is actually Mexico).  They are bringing rain but are tropical in nature so it isn't cold outside; temperatures are hovering in the 50s.  The last system, which will arrive Saturday evening or Sunday, is from the north.  It will be cold but it is also possible that it will be far enough north that it misses us all together.  We shall see.

The goats were all in their shed when I went out to throw them their morning hay, staying dry.  I was pleased to see that Thistle was up and perky with his head bonnet still firmly in place.

He didn't move away from me when I approached so I knelt in the straw and scratched his back and sides, the way he likes.  He turned his head towards me and touched my nose with his.  We are friends again.  Then he went over to eat with the rest of his herd.

When the weather is bad (rain or cold or wind), we keep the top of the Dutch door closed.  It keeps the shed warm and dry but the goats can come and go as they please.

The pasture was slippery and wet.  Picking up manure was not easy or fun.  Fun, you ask?  Yes, fun.  I enjoy mucking the pasture.  I enjoy looking at the mountains, at the hawks and crows, at the pond and at the horses.  This morning, I only had Jackson for company. 

Yesterday morning, he came out into the pasture from his paddock while I was mucking.  He chose a nice muddy spot and rolled.  Then he pogo stick bucked.  Landing, he dug his hind legs into the mud and pushed into a gallop, faster and faster, all the way up to the top of the hill.  I can't remember the last time I saw him to more than a bouncy easy canter.  I ordered more of his insulin resistant meds last week.  Clearly, he's doing very well with the stuff.  This morning it was too slippery to gallop so he just sloshed around until Brett brought down his hay.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thistle Loses A Horn

This morning when I went into the goat area to feed the goats, Thistle was standing off by himself on the hill.  He came over to me, like always, and I immediately noticed that one of his horns was dangling on the side of his face.  I tried to pull it off and he yanked his head away and skedaddled as far away from me as he could.

All of our goats were de-horned as babies and they all have little stubs where their horns would be.  Thistle's horns started to grow back and then stopped, at about two inches long.  He must have gotten it caught in the fence or something.

I went back to the house and called our vet.  The horns of goats are connected to their skull and when they break off they leave a hole straight into the sinus.  There are two big dangers with a goat breaking a horn: one is infection and the other is shock.  Either one can cause death.  Goats are fragile animals.

Our vet gave me instructions and we got to work.  Thank goodness we are in the dead of winter so flies aren't a problem.  I gathered a bucket of supplies in the barn and we isolated Thistle in the goat shed.  I sprayed the area with antiseptic and then Brett held Thistle across his lap.  I put a guaze pad over the bloody hole and wrapped it with vet wrap.  Thistle screamed like I had stuck a knife in his heart when I started wrapping.  After three or four ear splitting screams he went limp.  I wrapped under his chin, across the guaze, around an ear and back under.  I kissed his sweet face and told him he would be okay.  His limp body scared me.  We were afraid he was going into shock.  But when I finished, he scrambled to his feet and then hid under the goat shed bench.

This evening, we opened the goat shed door so the other goats can get in.  The first of a series of rain storms may arrive during the night so the goats needed to be in their shelter.  That, and a mountain lion killed a deer on a neighbor's property two nights ago so we wanted the goats in.  Our vet said the wrap should stay on for as long as it stays.

Thistle is my favorite goat, my special buddy.  Right now, he won't come near me.  He stands at a distance and gives me the stink eye.  I'm hoping he pulls through this (I think he will) and we go back to being friends.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back At It

Today is the Martin Luther King holiday so I did not have to work.  Poor Brett, did.  The electrician was scheduled to arrive at 8:00.  He wad going to put in the correct wiring to the barn circuit breaker so this water heater won't blow like the last two.  Apparently, the original electrician didn't have the correct amp load or some such thing.  I went out to do chores early, hoping to finish up before their arrival.

The goats were first up.  As usual, Cowboy and Thistle were more interested in playing than in eating.  Thistle seems to believe I want to play dancing-on-your-hind-legs games, maybe because I am already standing on two legs.  While I tried to convince him otherwise, Cowboy lost interest in playing and headed off to the hay feeder.

I missed the Sunday Stills challenge for yesterday which was to take a picture of a "big sky" with the sky taking up 2/3 of the shot.  The sun was peeking over the eastern ridge and ricocheting light off the western ridge.  I so love the light at this time of the morning.  I tried for a Sunday Stills shot of the western ridge.

Tuffy was in fine form.  Come to think of it, he's been in fine form two days in a row.  Yesterday morning, he was carrying the red, halfway inflated, jolly ball in his mouth.  Finessa wouldn't play with him so he was thwacking her on the face with it.  She gave him a disdainful look and walked off.  He followed, jolly ball still in his mouth, thwacking her body as they went.  This morning, I watched Mufasa chase him around the pasture.  They stopped and Tuffy circled Mufasa.  He tried to head butt Mufasa which was difficult given the difference in size.  Mufasa stood there, laughing at Tuffy's pathetic macho antics, and then chased him around the pasture again.

When I brought the hay cart into the pasture, Tuffy and Finessa were on my heels.  The second I stopped the cart, they dug in; not waiting for me to toss the flakes of hay into the bins.

Meanwhile, Flash was squealing in his turnout and biting Winston on the butt over the pipe corral divider.  All the horses trotted down to their morning hay lickity split.  Finessa dug in, sharing with the ever benevolent Mufasa.

The electricians arrived, met the dogs who danced around them in ecstatic welcome, and got to work.  They arrived early, around 7:30, and then muttered about how cold it was in the barn.  Silly boys, the mornings are always cold up here in the mountains.  They got the job done and were on their way by 8:30; headed down the mountain to the warmth of the desert floor. 

Later in the morning, I rode Winston.  I groomed him and then practiced my braiding some more.  He was very good while I stood on a stool next to him and tried to braid his mane.  The braid I did the other day was pathetic.  Today, I nailed it.  Winston seemed to enjoy it as well.  I know I loved it when my kids were young and would brush my hair -- and style it into something ...unique.  That brushing part sure felt good.  I think Winston agreed and was willing to tolerate braids for the bliss of brushing. 

We worked on his canter fitness and my canter seat, some leg yield, and keeping a regular tempo at both trot and canter.  One of the things the judge noted on my test sheet at the show was that our tempo was not even.  Winston seemed too much in charge, slowing down and speeding up.  Winston worked hard for me today and he worked honestly, trying to get it right.  When we finished, I hosed him off with warm (yippy!) water since he was sweaty.  As soon as I turned him back out in the pasture he rolled.  And rolled. And rolled.  It was warm, in the low 60s, and he was itchy. 

I tried one last Sunday Stills shot as I headed up to the house for lunch.

 One last housekeeping item.  I have a handful of new followers which is wonderful.  Welcome!  I like to visit my followers, if they blog, and get to know them better.  The past month or so I haven't been able to find blogs to visit.  So, if you are a new-ish follower and you blog, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments so I can come visit.  Thanks!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


This post is a bit off the usual subject matter of life at Aspen Meadows.  Those of you who have been following me for awhile may remember that Brett's daughter, Kerri, sent her three kids to stay with us for a week last summer.  We had a great time together; Rachel and Jackson bonded, Chris played King of the Boulder with the goats, and Andrew made sure his younger siblings were on their best behavior.   They were, of course.

In a few days, there will be another brother for the kids, another son for Kerri and Adam, and another grandchild for Brett and I.  Kerri and Adam are in China, going through the process of adopting Michael. 

They meet Michael for the first time this evening, California time.  Please send positive thoughts and prayers over to them as they go through the legal process and prepare to bring their son home.

We are all on pins and needles.  They are blogging about their experience from China.  You can read about it here, if you are interested in following along. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


...from the icy cold weather.
We're back to Southern California "normal" 
Highs in the mid 60s today and yesterday

...from the shock of the plumbing work to repair all the damange from the pipes bursting;
two plumbers, two and a half days;
replaced pipes, faucets, water main valves
and the barn water heater.
Brett can do basic plumbing;
this was major.
Homeowners insurance said the barn pipes are not covered.

...from the flu/cold something or other I picked up at the show.
Still only able to work in spurts with couch time inbetween;
I did ride Winston yesterday,
for 15 minutes.
We got the "Saturday canter" --
the canter I felt in my lesson last Saturday at the show;
It was awesome.

That's a brand new muck rack that Winston is trying to step on.
He's so helpful. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Damage Control

Yesterday, for the first time since last Thursday, the temperature crawled out of the 30s into the 40s.  In the morning, all the water troughs, buckets and puddles were still iced over.

I did my routine of breaking ice, carrying buckets of hot water and scooping frozen manure.  The pond had a small hole in the ice where the water was circulating.  I broke the ice around the perimeter and carried water back up to the barn in Jackson's blue bucket to wash out the rest of the buckets.  I had the routine down.

In the afternoon when the sun had warmed the air to 50, Brett went down to the barn and turned the water valve on.  Water rained down in the feed room through the ceiling, it came out of the wall by the wash rack spigot, and the main line was split.  Ice and pipes don't mix.  We tried to drain the pipes before we left for the show but I think we were too late.  They were already frozen; packed with ice.

Brett turned the water valve back off and called our plumber.  I was at work; I missed the excitement and, no doubt, the profanity.  Brett has quite the colorful vocabulary when things like this happen. 

The plumber comes tomorrow.  Don't you just love unexpected and unplanned expenses for which you are not prepared?  Me, too.

Today, the warming trend continued but there was a stiff wind.  I was going to ride Winston but my throat is scratchy and I feel like I'm fighting off a cold or the flu or something along those lines.  I stayed in the house all day, working and resting.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buckets and Breaking Ice

First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who left encouraging comments on my show posts.  Since I primarily train Winston on my own, I feel like all my followers are my "barn."  Axel is a tough judge, but he was very fair in his comments and marks.  I feel encouraged and enthusiastic about my dressage journey with Winston.

I have homework between now and the next show.  I need to get Winston's canter consistently forward and responsive.  He needs to carry himself at canter and I need to stop swinging my upper body.  I'm working far too hard.  I also need to get very firm with the Winster on his manners.  He is good about respecting my space because I consistently enforce it but he still tries to head butt people.  He did it to Brett at the show and the buckle on his bridle caught the back of Brett's hand slicing it open.  I always tell him "no" but I can tell I need to really get after him when he does it; make him back up; make his life not so happy.  Gayle commented that he did it to her (or tried) and he can't be thinking he's in charge.  I have to keep his "appy-tude" in check. 

Last night we got home well after dark so Brett just left the trailer hitched to the truck and parked in front of the barn.  It was bitter cold when we got back up our mountain.  The minute Brett stopped the truck Winston started up kicking and carrying on.  let me out!!  I put him in his stall and then went back to the trailer to get his blanket.  When I came back into the barn, he was in his turn out touching noses with Tuffy through the pipe corral... and he doesn't even like Tuffy.  Once his blanket was on, I opened the turnout and Winston gleefully trotted out to join the herd.  Brett and I hightailed it back to the house -- which was freezing cold. 

Brett was up at 5am this morning for work.  With him gone, the temperature in the bed dropped drastically.  I put a hoodie on and pulled the covers up, sleeping another hour.  The cold windy weather followed us home from the desert.  It has been in the teens at night for the past four nights and highs are not getting out of the 30s.  We turned off the water in the barn before we left so the pipes wouldn't burst.  The water is still off because nothing is thawing.  After feeding and picking up manure, I worked on the water situation.  I filled a watering can with hot water from the house and used it to thaw the water in the chicken pen.  Then I broke the ice on all the water troughs and buckets, topping them off with water I hauled in a bucket from the house.  I thought of Lori Skoog hauling water out to her barn every day in the winter to soften the beet pulp for her horses.  My hat is off to her and all of you who live in cold winter climates.  It takes forever. 

As luck would have it, Brett had to deal with an arrest at the end of his shift so he will be home late from work.  That meant I got to do ice patrol along with feeding again tonight since I managed to get home from work before dark.  The weather is supposed to warm up this week, hitting 60 by the weekend.  I'm so ready! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We Did It!

This morning, we all (Gayle and her students) met at the show barn at 8:30.  There is a guy you can hire to check your horse every hour during the night.  He records whether the horse is awake, sleeping, standing or laying down.  He reported that Winston was quiet throughout the night and that he laid down and slept around 3am.  It was bitter cold again so we moved our chairs into the sun and sat with our horses warm fleece coolers wrapped around us.
Owners of Trooper and Black Hawk, shown by Gayle
I'm not usually into hanging with the barn crowd, preferring to keep to myself and my horse thereby avoiding barn drama.  This was my first experience going to a show with Gayle and her barn.  What a nice group of people.  We had a great time hanging out, supporting each other, and eating. 

I took Winston for a walk while Brett cleaned out his stall.  Despite the cold morning, Winston walked calmly beside me.  We wandered out to the show ring and watched a test.  I noticed that they had taken down one of the show rings so we were down to one.  Trailers had been pulling out all afternoon on Saturday.  The windy cold was too much for half of the entries; they packed up their hyper horses and headed home.  The hustle and bustle of Saturday was replaced with peace and quiet. 

At lunch time, Gayle braided Winston for me.  I have to practice before the next show.  I used a French braid on my Friesian and Jackson has a thin, fine mane.  I'd never tried to braid a horse with so much thick, coarse hair as Winston and I was sure my rubber band job would look dumb and not hold.  Gayle braided him with beautiful tied braids.  He looked stunning.

When she finished up with his fuzzy, frizzy forelock his adorable face was even cuter than usual.

I washed Winston's tail and loaded it up with conditioner.  It was far too cold to give him a bath but I wanted his tail to have some semblance of silky.  My test was the last of our group.  I put on my fancy clothes and headed out to the warm up arena.  Gayle met me there.  I did not bring my whip.  Winston had been so forward the previous two days that I didn't think I would need it.  Mistake.  Winston was tired and sore and not interested in working.  He would not canter.  Period.  I pulled my legs wide off of his sides and slammed them against him as hard as I could.  Nothing.  Gayle sent Brett and one of the others to get my whip.  As soon as he knew I was carrying it, he was good.  I didn't have to use it; just a tickle behind my leg to let him know I had it and he was all "yes ma'am." 

We went into the show ring and he didn't bat an eye.  He was tired and I was so happy that he was going well, that I didn't push him.  I know, he should have been in front of my leg more.  We rode our test in front of Axel Steiner, who has judged at the Olympics and is not an easy judge.  We were at a triple rated show.  And we did it.  Our trot work was solid and our canter was the best he has done, including work at home, other than the amazing ride I had Saturday.  He went down center line like a champ.  He knew we were competing and he was happy to show off.  We have more work to do; oh, yes.  But, I have never had so much fun riding a test at a show.  We had trouble with the second canter depart, I pushed him forward, he went, and then we overshot the second half of our 20m circle.  I thought we were going to slide or jump out of the arena.  I laughed.  Out loud.  During a test at a triple rated show.  Me, the queen of horse show choking, was relaxed enough to laugh at our mistake. 

Here's the test.  I left in the vocal because my new barn friends were videotaping the ride (so Brett could watch) and giving a running commentary. 

Oh, and we got a blue ribbon.  Of course, everyone else in my class had scratched so I was guaranteed the ribbon as long as we didn't get eliminated but we don't need to tell everyone that, right?  61.4%, a blue ribbon, a happy trainer, a happy horse and a very happy me.  Brett was so proud of me he had tears in his eyes. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thermal Show, Day 2

We were back at the show grounds before 8:00 this morning to tack up Winston before my 8:30 lesson. There was a frost advisory in effect and I felt mean taking off Winston's nice warm blanket. I groomed him in his stall while he munched on hay. People were arriving, trailers were unloading more horses in the aisle, and the air filled with sound. Somewhere in the stalls behind us, a dog barked. Winston jumped -- on my foot. I yelled "goddammit!" and he jumped back off.

Gayle hopped on after he was tacked up and then hopped back off. Winston would not settle. She walked him off to the longe arena and I wrestled my tall boots onto my feet. I had bandaids over the blisters on my ankles. Despite wearing the boots around the house at home in the weeks before the show, they were still stiff. I had blisters and bruises from the time hobbling around in them the day before. The felt a tad better this morning and I limped down to the arena to catch up to Gayle.

She longed Winston until he listened and then got on and worked him at canter. The longing arena is huge -- I think you could fit six full size dressage courts in there easily. They were doing laps around the entire perimeter, weaving in between the horses being longed. The air was cold, crisp and breezy. The horses were all dancing on dynamite. There were lots of horses being longed. Winston, who normally looks like a good sized horse to me, looked like a shaggy peanut cantering between the huge, fully clipped, perfectly groomed dressage steeds: warmbloods of all style and color, all gorgeous. I felt like my horse was the country cousin, but a darned cute one.

It was my turn to get on. I can't mount from the ground so I found a raised platform and led Winston over. He stood still while I mounted and then he turned towards the barn. I pointed him towards the arena. He backed up in the direction of the barn. I kicked him forward. He started to rear. I turned him in tight circles and eventually got him to the arena. Gayle had me trot once around the arena perimeter and then pick up the canter. It was glorious. Winston was pushing from his hind and floating along. His canter was perfect with no effort other than a squeeze of my hands on the corners and a hint of leg for bend. We worked on my position - I was rocking my upper body as well as my hips. Gayle had me keep my upper body still by engaging my core, while still moving with Winston in my seat. We did a number of circles around the perimeter in each direction and then called it quits. Winston had never cantered so much in his life and he was tired. He was also very pleased with himself. And he knew that I was thrilled with him.

While I was taking my lesson, Brett was busy cleaning out Winston's stall and adding fresh, clean shavings. They were both tired.

They dozed together. Then Winston found a new toy he couldn't resist. He tried to take it, unsuccessfully.

That's not your hat, Winster.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thermal Show, Day 1

Winston loaded well this morning but as soon as he realized he was alone, without Flash, in the trailer he started stomping his feet and wagging his head out of the window. We closed the back door, hopped in the truck and started driving. The stomping diminished and the two and a half hour drive out to the showgrounds was uneventful. Thermal, where the show is located, is in the middle of the desert. Once we left the freeway, we drove through miles and miles of date palm tree groves (orchards?). The mountains in the distance were capped with snow and the sky was a deep, cold blue.

While Brett put bags of shavings in Winston's stall, dragged the hay bale to his stall, and set up his water, I walked Winston. He was not sure about the whole deal. The first time we walked down the barn aisle, he got worried and jumped into me. I started walking him with my elbow out so he jumped into a jab instead of my foot. After three or four trips down the aisle, he relaxed so we ventured out to the warm up area and show courts. Again, he was sure that there were horse eating goblins lurking about. When his head got high, I stopped and asked him to drop his head. Eventually, he would relax his head and then immediately turn to me for praise and face rubs. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

When the stall was ready, I put him in. Winston was not impressed. He's never been confined to a box stall before and he didn't like it. He dumped his water and threw his hay out into the aisle. He couldn't relax.

He was in everybody's business. Especially mine.

I took him back out for another walk before tacking him up for my lesson. Once again, we walked and walked and walked.

He was still high headed and worried -- and I worried that he would buck me off in my lesson. So, I longed him. He was a nut case on the longe line, racing, bucking and kicking. I longed him until he settled into a balanced canter, until he listened to my voice commands and made prompt transitions, and until he relaxed.

I tacked him up and met Gayle at the warm up arena. She rode him first and worked with him on his canter. He was well behaved and responsive. She was able to work on the canter a long time -- much longer than my back can tolerate yet. Then I hopped on and had a lovely ride.

Winston is tucked in for the night. Brett and I are tucked into our room. I'm wiped out from bonding with my horse. Brett is wiped out from taking care of both of us. Tomorrow morning, we'll be back for more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad