Friday, November 29, 2013

Random Five Friday

1. Shelly asked me what kind of space heater we bought for the house and, unfortunately, I don't remember. The guy at the hardware store told us it was well made and effecient. Hopefully, it will also last for a good while.

2. We are currently in Baywood Park, on California's Central Coast, spending Thanksgiving with my family. My mom and dad got the turkey stuffed and in the oven yesterday morning. My sister and I arrived around noon (it's a 5 1/2 hour drive for us; a bit shorter for my sister, Marie) and we got to work on the side dishes. She brought seafoam salad (jello salad with pears and whipped cream) and I brought pies. She cooked the green bean casserole and the yams, I made mashed potatoes and gravy. We warmed rolls and set out cranberry sauce. Then we feasted.

3. Later this afternoon, my brother and his family will arrive. There is a pork roast in the oven. Brett is at the market buying apples for applesauce and potatoes to roast. Marie and the kids (Camille is the youngest at 19 so not technically kids) are at the dunes. It's a Thanksgiving tradition going back to when they really were kids. They scramble and climb to the top, then turn and race down to the bottom, tripping, falling, and rolling into laughing sandy bundles at the bottom.

4. Our kitchen remodel is coming along. Monday the kitchen was gutted. The cooktop, oven, microwave, dishwasher and sink are out on the porch. We don't feel too bad about the eyesore factor since it is an improvement over the toilet that was perched out there when we first moved in. The existing granite countertops were successfully removed without breaking. The new cabinets have been set around the kitchen, ready to be installed. We have a butcher-block counter top on order for my work area. It won't arrive until January. The rest should be finished in time for Christmas.

5. Sedona is doing well. We've been able to reduce her pain medication to twice a day from three. We bought some raw dog food to see if she would like it... when I opened the bag, a chunk flew out and landed on the barn aisle. She grabbed it, chomped twice, swallowed and came looking for more. Kersey kept her nose on the ground, going in circles, unable to believe that Sedona got to food faster that she could.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Walk Around the Neighborhood

Camille flew up last night and I picked her up after work.  Tomorrow morning, we will drive to my parents' house in Baywood Park on the Central Coast.  Today, while I worked on spreadsheets and conference calls Camille sat on the couch doing homework.  Mid-afternoon we went for a walk.

Winston and Mufasa were dozing when we came out of the house.

Winston gave Camille a kiss goodbye and we headed down the lane.

We walked the dirt road that circles behind our ranch, a three mile loop.

On the way, we saw deer,

Spectacular views,

and sheep.
I love this house, down the road a bit from us.

Back home, we went back to work but it was a great brain break.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Before and After: The Mud Room

The laundry room was undoubtedly the sorriest room in this house.  The room is very narrow, with just enough room to squeeze in the back door, past the washer and dryer and then through the door into the kitchen.  There are some cabinets above the washer and dryer, tired, worn and dirty.  There was a plastic laundry sink standing on skinny legs.  Between the sink and the wall at the end of the room was a built in sewing desk, beat up and useless as counter space since it was multi-level and knee high from the ground.  The floor was dirty, yellow-brown linoleum.

When Brett's friend, Richard, was up visiting a few months ago they dismantled and removed the sewing table.  Next they took out the laundry basin and put it in my garden.  Some day it will be part of a potting bench.  We had the linoleum removed and tile installed.  I took those awful blinds off of the window.

We wanted a bench to sit on while taking off and putting on shoes.  We talked about Brett building something but thought an antique bench would work better with the farmhouse feel of the house.  We found the perfect bench, in pine needle green, at an antique fair.

I found a sink I liked on Houzz (great website for remodeling ideas) and Brett found it at Home Depot.  The sink cabinetry is grey so we talked about how to incorporate the color into the room. I wanted a counter top for folding laundry and I wanted shelves to store light bulbs, canning jars, and dog treats.

Brett built the shelves, with a beautiful folding counter, and a space at the bottom for storing the dog beds during the day.  At night we haul them out and they span the entire floor area.

On the wall next to the bench, there are hooks for hanging our jackets.

 It's a small room but very functional with a hint of country style.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brett and Mufasa Check out the Trails

This morning our neighbor Cindy called and asked Brett if he would like to go on a trail ride with she and Vanessa.  They were going to go out on the trail through Flemming Meadows, just up the road near Sly Park Dam.  Well, duh, of course he'd like to go.

Brett and Mufasa had a great time riding through the pines.

Sometimes they were sparse,

and sometimes they were thick.

Sometimes it was like riding in a Christmas tree wonderland.

Mufasa was well behaved.

They were both very happy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lesson with Katy: 7

The good thing for me about Katy riding Winston one day during the week, is that she understands what he can, can't and would rather not try to do.  The bad thing for Winston is that she has his number.

The first observation that Katy made is that Winston is braced in his back and braced against the bit.  She suggested a long warm up with lots of bending; circles and serpentines at walk until he releases his back and poll.  Limber has never been my middle name so I understand and empathize with Winston.

While we were doing our long (boring to watch) warm up, Brett took pictures of things that fell out of the trees in the high winds last week.

He wrote love letters in the sand.

He took pictures of the trees.

Finally, we were done with our warm up.  The other observation Katy made is that if Winston doesn't want to do something, he can be belligerent.  I laughed and told her that when I bought Winston, his trainer told me to never get in a fight with Winston; that I wouldn't win.  Katy said she didn't push anything with Winston, she patiently kept asking until he gave it to her.  The ask wasn't hard; she wanted Winston to bend around her leg.  She told me he tried a few bucks and a half-way rear.  Katy is a strong rider and she just sent him forward.

My thought is, better her riding this stuff out than me.  I'm tired of coming off.  She did make the observation that it is good Winston is young so we can nip this disobedience in the bud.  If he were twelve and bucking and rearing, he would be a dangerous horse.  As it is, he's a pushy, naughty six-year-old and he will out grow the behavior. Winston is an honest horse, he tries to get it right, and he works hard.  When I felt his brain start to go on overload, we took a lap around the arena in a nice relaxed trot.

 Then we went back to work.

We continued to work on getting Winston to bend around my leg.  We worked on my position while asking for him to step under and around: chin up, shoulders back and turned toward the inside of the circle, inside shoulder over his hip to influence that inside hind leg, elbows bent and elastic, hands above the withers, seat bone weighted, inside calf and thigh pressing in, outside toe pointing toward the shoulder so he doesn't fall to the outside through that shoulder.  My brain is almost as tired as my legs.

After my lesson, Brett finished wrapping the pipes in the barn.  We had very thick frost last night.  A new water line was installed from the hot water heater (above the tack room, next to the wash rack) over the stall we use as a feed room, around the corner past the storage closets and down the wall... to the washing machine.  We ended up with two washing machines when we moved into the house; the one we brought from Aspen Meadows and the one already in this house.  We moved the washer from the house into the barn.  Now we can wash barn rags and horse pads there.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turning up the Heat

When we bought this house, we were happy that there was a huge wood stove in the great room.  When we lived at Aspen Meadows, we were able to heat the house in the winter with our wood stoves.  The wood stove here at Oak Creek is the same brand, Vermont Castings, as we had in our bedroom at Aspen Meadows.  We hardly used that stove because, despite being very small, it put out a ton of heat.  Our bedroom would go from cold in the early evening when I lit the kindling, to warm while I took a bath, to sweltering when we went to bed.  We like sleeping in a cold room so usually I took a quick shower and skipped the fire.

The house here at Oak Creek is not well insulated.  Sure, there are double pane windows -- with gaps where they don't close all the way.  There is no central air downstairs.  Since the weather turned cold, the house has turned icy.  When I arrive home from work the house is in the mid-to-low 50s.  Brett is wearing sweats, in his recliner, with his fuzzy blanket covered in pictures of the grandkids, pulled up to his neck.  I shiver out of my work clothes and into my sweats.  I light a fire in the wood stove before starting dinner.  The wood stove has solid cast iron doors that can be opened with a curved screen snugged in tight against the opening.  I love hearing the wood crack and spit.  When the power went out the other night, the firelight danced around the dark room.  But the fire never gets very warm.  By the time we go to bed, four hours later, the great room is barely scratching 70F.  Brett is still under his blanket (the heat never reaches the office), and I stay on the couch under my own blankets.

My parents are coming for Christmas.  While a cold house is not my favorite thing, it absolutely is not acceptable for guests.  My parents both like to be warm; who doesn't?  This morning, Brett and I bought a couple area heaters.  One for the TV room/office and one for the dining room.  We can't be shivering into our Christmas dinner and Brett needs to be able to watch football without his teeth chattering.

We also looked for a replacement screen for the wood stove.  The screen is torn and bent and, well, ugly.  There are three wood stove stores in town -- and they were all very busy.  We were told to get the serial number and a screen could be ordered for us.  Back home, I found the information on the back of the stove, fired up my iPad and started researching.

We have an antique (well, circa 1980 antique) that is no longer made.  The model we have was deemed to be too large for residential use, given the high heat it emits.  Seriously?  I kept reading.  The stove can be used two ways; as a fireplace with the screen or as a heating unit with the doors closed.  I found an owners manual online (don't you love the internet?) and read the instructions on how to get the maximum amount of heat.  I got a merry fire going, shut the front doors, opened the side door and piled it high with more wood.  I shut the side door, closed the damper and opened the temperature thing-a-ma-jig halfway.

It cranked out the heat.  Within an hour, it was pushing 90F in the great room.  Now I need to learn how to regulate this monster.  ...a nice problem to have.  And I don't need to worry about keeping the house toasty warm for my parents.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1. My favorite post of the week comes from A Work in Progress -- even though Shannon and Spider ride at third level (some day, please God), they still work on keeping those basics solid. In this particular post, Shannon talks about the importance of riding every step. I found myself nodding in agreement (and smiling) the whole way through this post.

2. You may have noticed that I don't post much during the week. By the time I get home from work, my brain is jello. I typically make dinner and then crawl on the couch with my iPad, playing mindless games like Spider Solitaire. In answer to Lori's question, yes, I do still like my job. Very much.

3. Sedona did not kill the neighbor's chicken. Phew.

4. Autumn has been splendid this year. The light glows in the evenings and the trees are crimson, sulfur and flame. Rain came three weeks later than normal, giving the trees time to develop more color. I've been told by locals not to expect this every year. I consider the splendid display a housewarming gift of sorts.

5. Our new kitchen cabinets were delivered today. The garage is full of big boxes marked "Alder with coffee stain." Let the chaos begin! (Monday).

Thursday, November 21, 2013


After two days and nights of steady rain, the storm moved out of our area and the wind picked up. I go for a walk most afternoons at work. It gets me out of the office and clears the cobwebs from my brain. I do my best thinking when I am walking and, more times than not, return to my desk with a fresh perspective or a problem solved. It also burns calories. Today the red, gold and brown leaves blew around my feet and across the road, like flocks of small birds flying low. My scarf whipped around my shoulders and my hair blew in my eyes and mouth. The squirrels I usually see running up the oak trees with acorns held tightly in their teeth were nowhere to be seen. Only crazy humans were out walking in the wind; most of us in business attire and tennis shoes, in groups or alone.

Back at my desk, Brett called to tell me the dogs got out. Sedona is doing well with her pain meds and, other than sleeping a lot, seems like her old self. One of our neighbors came over to visit Brett and drove in the main gate instead of parking outside and using the pedestrian gate. Brett had asked him to not drive in because we didn't want the dogs out roaming the neighborhood. The dogs were up by the barn when the gate opened and they ran, full speed, to the end of the driveway; slipping through before the gate shut (and we have it set to close fast). The neighbor called to the dogs but they just laughed and kept going. Brett drove up and down the road but couldn't find them. He left the pedestrian gate open so they could get back in and waited.

Half an hour later, my cell phone vibrated on my desk. The dogs have my cell phone number on their collars. A neighbor had come out of her house when she saw Kersey and Sedona chasing her chickens. One of the dogs (I'm guessing Sedona) had a chicken in her mouth. The neighbor yelled and Sedona dropped the chicken. She put them both on leashes and called me. We didn't know this neighbor and she didn't know us so she got confused on giving me directions to her house. I called Brett and sent him the wrong direction, walking up the steep hill towards the wineries. He called me from the end of the road and said he couldn't find them. He was frustrated and angry and tired. I called back the neighbor who realized she lived in the other direction...

The wind continued to pick up and by the time I left work, it was blowing hard. The wind buffeted my little car on the freeway and blew me into the grocery store where I picked up a few things for dinner. The last ten miles of my commute are on a country road lined with oak, pine and maple trees. As I drove, the leaves blowing in the wind were joined by twigs and then by branches. I gripped the wheel and flinched every time a branch hit the car. Our driveway was littered with leaves and acorns, the cat was hiding in the garage and a big camping cooler went tumbling past me as I hurried into the house with the groceries.

After changing out of my work clothes and telling Brett about the branches flying everywhere, we decided to bring Flash and Jackson in from the oak pasture. Fortunately, there was a lull between wind gusts while we led them from the pasture to the barn. Both Flash and Jackson are limping a bit, most likely from running around in the wind. Winston and Mufasa are in a pasture with no trees so they should be fine.

...and the power just went out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lesson with Katy: 6

Having Katy work with Winston one day this week, while I was at work, was an excellent idea.  She got a better idea of what he can and can't do, he got a good work out, and I got a horse who had advanced a tad between my rides.  She is also reinforcing ground manners with Winston so between the two of us he is becoming a gentleman.  He stood quietly while I mounted up; no shuffling forward, no walking off when I was on until I said so.

We worked almost entirely on teaching Winston to bend through his body, step under with his inside hind, carry himself, and relax at the poll.

He knows what to do but it's hard work so sometimes he'd rather not try.  He figures that if he waits long enough, I'll give up and stop asking.  Sorry, Winston.  You may have a stubborn streak but I am determined.  I found that when he went into a "don't wanna do it" place, it was most effective for me to tune everything out (including Katy), go within, concentrate on what I was feeling and channel that determination.

 We finished up with some canter work.  I let Winston find his own balance and rode strictly from my seat.  Katy told me to ask for halt by sinking my outside seat bone at the same time I felt his outside hind land, and half halt.  Bam!  He went from canter to walk.  We have never done that before.  I burst out in happy laughter.  We ended on that successful note.  I swear Winston was grinning while we walked back to the barn.

Brett and Mufasa were up next.  They continue to work on similar concepts, getting Mufasa to relax and bend.  All this dressage stuff is very foreign to Mufasa, who has been a roping horse his whole career, but he tries hard.  He's smart and he learns.

Today was chilly so I made clam chowder (from my new cookbook) for dinner.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Spent the Whole Day with Vets

Brett and I rode Mufasa and Winston after breakfast so their muscles would be relaxed before the vet arrived to give them their fall vaccinations.  Both horses were forward and fun in the cold morning air.  We had just enough time to ride, put the horses away and clean our tack before the vet and his assistant pulled up the driveway.  Jackson went first and got thumbs up for his overall health.  He could stand to lose a few pounds but his IR is well controlled with diet so I don't need to give him meds over the winter.  We will reassess in the spring when the grass turns green. Flash was next.  He didn't even need the cookie given after each shot, but he ate them anyway.  Winston is usually a basket case with new vets or dentists.  He hates needles and he hates strangers at his girth.  This vet took his time, showed Winston the shot and did a trial run: a pinch on the neck followed by a cookie.  Next it was a pinch, the shot, and more cookies.  Winston was a champ.  Mufasa got the most attention.  He was fine with the needles but not so sure about the vaccine that went up his nose.  Dr. Mike was concerned about the quarter crack on his front hoof and thought it might be contributing to his being slightly off behind.  We took Mufasa to the round pen and Dr Mike watched him go.  He suggested trimming Mufasa's front to relieve pressure which might allow the crack to grow out.  It takes a year to grow out a hoof so Mufasa might be out of work for awhile.  He suggested talking to our farrier and beginning the process over the winter, when it is wet and cold and not good riding weather anyway.  By spring, we'll know if it is working.  The donkeys were last to receive their vaccines.  They typically try to run away from the vet but they were both love bugs today.

I asked him to take a look at Sedona and give me his thoughts, even though he isn't a small animal vet.  He said she is way too skinny and recommended taking her in.  He thought it might be a parasite from something she ate.

As soon as his truck disappeared down the driveway, Brett lifted Sedona into the back of his pickup truck.  I climbed in the back with her (shhhh, don't tell) and we drove the two blocks to the vet clinic.  Sedona stood on her wobbling legs and stuck her nose into the wind.  Brett parked and lifted her out, she walked slowly in by my side and laid at my feet while we waited our turn in the waiting room.  There were other dogs, and cats, but she didn't care.  She just wanted to lie down.  The vet sat on the floor with Sedona and poked and prodded.  She suggested a total blood work up to determine if her liver or kidneys were failing.  What I had interpreted as depression and being tired was actually pain.  Sedona was in a lot of pain.  While we waited for the lab work to be completed, Sedona slept on the floor of the exam room.  Her blood work came back normal.  No kidney or liver failure, no thyroid issues, no parasite, no infection.  Just pain.  Some of you know where this is going.  Sedona may be in pain from severe arthritis but, more likely, she has cancer.  We can do x-rays and ultrasounds to determine what kind and where but it won't change the outcome.  We aren't going to go down the chemo road with an old dog who has lived a good, full life.  We have pain medication and we will do our best to control the pain.  She is going on a diet of "whatever she will eat" -- outside of bacon and gravy.  She can have eggs, chicken, beef, cheese.  The goal is to control her pain and entice her to eat.  When we can't do that, we will let her go.  We are hoping she can last a good while longer but we are also realistic and know that our wishes may not come true.

A huge thank you to everyone who left comments.  Your support means the world to me.  CrazySheepLady: I am going to try a people food diet but will keep your suggestion in mind.  For the people who offered opinions, it did not offend me in the least.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Its Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Sedona is an old dog. She's eleven and she's a mix of two large breeds: kuvasz and German shephard. Her face is more white than gold and she moves at a dignified pace. An old injury to her ACL makes it hard to get up steps, and out of bed in the morning. However, it does not slow her down one bit when chasing squirrels and raccoons. She's always been a selective eater, turning her nose up at dinner if the brand and flavor aren't changed on a regular basis. Sometimes, she loses her appetite for a few days. I feed her scraps and eggs in an effort to put some padding around her backbone which is far too obvious when I run my hand through her thick fur. When I step out onto the front porch after dinner she trots up the steps and politely takes the bits of meat from my hand.

Last night, I mixed an egg with a little milk in a bowl and went out onto the front porch. I called and called with Kersey jumping around my feet (Give it to me! Give it to me!) and then I saw her, walking slowly towards me with her head low, her ears hanging limply against her face, and her tail dragging behind her. She put one paw on the bottom step, paused, and then turned and walked away. I took the bowl down to the front lawn where she was standing but she turned her face away. Concerned, I ran my hands over her face, her body, and her legs. I felt no swelling, no moisture, and she gave no indication of pain.

At bedtime, I opened the laundry room door and called the dogs. Kersey came skidding around the corner and up the steps. No Sedona. I walked around to the front porch and found her laying on the front lawn. I called to her again. She looked at me and started to push up with her front legs, then sank back to the ground, looking at me with tired, defeated eyes. I slowly and thoroughly ran my hands over her again. Brett came out and we discussed carrying her into the house, but decided to leave her on the front lawn; her favorite place to be; where she could watch over the house with a clear view of the front gate. She doesn't love coming into the house at night but she does to make me happy. I knew she wouldn't be barking at raccoons so we agreed to leave her in her chosen location.

Brett went to the barn to bring her a bed and I grabbed a throw blanket from the porch. She's an Alpine wolf dog who likes to sleep in the snow but it made me feel better to tuck the faded brown blanket around her. I sat next to her on an edge of the blanket and she rested her head on my lap. I stroked her head and kissed the furrow between her eyes. I told her that I knew she was tired but that I wasn't ready to let her go. She said she wasn't in pain. I kept stroking her face which was damp with my tears and asked her to please wait until Camille comes at Thanksgiving. All I heard back was that she was tired; so, so tired.

I cried some more in the shower and then I wet my pillow with tears. I dreamt the vet, who is coming tomorrow to vaccinate the horses, cancelled our appointment. Next, I dreamt Sedona chased squirrels, ears perked, nose forward, running like a rocket.

We woke early and I went to the window overlooking the front lawn. Sedona was laying on her bed in the middle of the grass. I opened the window and called to her; she lifted her head and looked at me. I swear she smiled. I reluctantly dressed for work and drove off leaving her in Brett's capable care.

She didn't eat breakfast but she followed Brett around all day while he worked on the fences. She lay where she could watch him, moving as necessary to keep him in view. But she didn't chase squirrels, dig holes, or eat her dinner. When I arrived home from work, she greeted me with a slow wag of her tail, a paw resting on my boot, and her face pressed against my thigh. Brett emerged from the back porch door carrying her bowl of egg and milk. He said, "maybe she'll eat it for you." And she did. Every last drop.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bigger is Better

...when it comes to pastures.  Brett was busy today with a room pasture addition.  We've been in a bit of a quandary since Flash jumped out of the back pasture, signaling quite clearly that he didn't like being banished to the back forty where he couldn't see the rest of the herd.

We played musical pastures and put Flash and Jackson in the clover pasture where there is grass for Jackson to nibble.  It is important for him to have access to 24/7 grazing to keep his ulcers at bay.  Since Winston can't be in the same pasture as Jackson, we moved Winston and Mufasa to the oak pasture.

It gave them a lot of room for running which they enjoy.  The only problem is that the fences are in horrible condition, sagging and falling over.  Winston, being an ADD six-year old, paws at the fence, leans on the fence, and rubs on the fence.  The fence didn't stand a chance.  He needed to be moved back to the clover pasture where the fences are in better shape.  But there isn't anything for Jackson to graze on in the oak pasture.  What to do?

Today, Brett busted down the fence that divides the oak pasture from a smaller pasture.  The small pasture has a few oak and pine trees, and grass; dead grass and green grass.  Enough grass to keep Jackson's gut happy.

It didn't take them long to get down to the business of grazing.

Lastly, lookie what I received in the mail today.  A gift from a blogger friend.  Great photos and recipes.  I can't wait to settle in front of the fire and look through it.  We love fish and it is full of seafood recipes.  Perfect!  Thank you!!