Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Riddance 2014. I'm hoping for a quiet 2015.

2014 was a year of loss for me. The largest, most overwhelming, loss was that of my mom in February. I am still haunted by the memory of the days in the hospital with her that last week, of wrestling with her wishes to go - against my want of her to stay, in the quiet nights while I sat in the room alone with her. I find my eyes welling with tears, still, on my evening commute home when my mind drifts to thoughts normally shared in our frequent phone calls. Camille and I have a whole new understanding of pelicans flying close by -- Grandma is with us in spirit.

We lost Sedona in the summer after her battle with cancer. Sedona lived a long happy life and her final demise was sudden and clear. We did not have to wonder about whether it was time; one morning she couldn't walk and her eyes told us it was time. She was a great dog and part of our family fabric.

There was also the loss of Winston. It was difficult for me to accept that I was not the rider he needed. We lost confidence in each other and we couldn't find our way back. Selling him to a brave young rider was the right thing to do but it wasn't an easy decision to make.

Thanksgiving was difficult. There was hurt and, hopefully, some healing. It was painful regardless. That's all I'm gonna say on that subject.

The year wasn't all bad, of course. Lucy and I found each other and we bonded immediately. She fixed my tendency to curl and lean forward in a matter of weeks; something that years of lessons failed to do. If I lean, at all, she rushes. If I'm straight and balanced, so is she. The reward for both of us is huge. When I ride Lucy, I am in a place of relaxed joyfulness. She is truly a gift (thank you Victoria and Sandy).

Brett underwent successful knee replacement surgery. The recovery was very different from the time he had his first knee done. He had much less pain, greater range of motion almost immediately and healed in record time. I can hardly keep up with him now.

Kyle graduated from college and started working in San Francisco. I have successfully launched my eldest child -- and it feels great. I'm very proud of both of my children; of who they have become and how they live their lives. Camille is on her way and I expect a successful launch, in a few years, with her as well.

Here's a big raspberry to 2014 and a hearty welcome to 2015.

Kersey misses Sedona but being an inside dog in the winter has definite benefits.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Cold Snap

After the last rain ended Christmas Eve, the temperatures dropped.  And stayed dropped.  Friday evening I had the privilege (choke) of spending the night in a sleep center.  Brett has woken a few times during the night and been alarmed by the fact that I'm holding my breath.  I mentioned it to my doctor and she sent me to sleep center to see if I'm suffering from sleep apnea.  Brett went with me and watched them glue sensors all over my scalp, my face, my chest and my legs.  He headed back home and just before lights out, they stuck sensors in my nose and over my mouth.  Then I was supposed to sleep.  HAH!  With wires going every which way?  I don't think so.  I did doze but it was cold in the room and I had trouble getting comfortable.  Twice, the tech brought me additional blankets and commented on how cold my room was.  Finally, at 4am I was warm and slept.  At 6am sharp, the tech flipped on the light and had me sit up so he could take off the sensors.  I held a towel over my face while he squirted acetone in my hair to loosen the glue.  At 6:07 I was free to go.  I never get up that fast; I'm a leisurely stretch and come to life morning person.  I need at least fifteen minutes to become oriented to life.  I left, feeling a bit dazed and tired.  It was 32F at the sleep center, in Sacramento, when I left and 23F when I pulled in the driveway at home.  Brett said he hadn't slept at all; he was freezing despite the heavy down duvet on our bed.  We do not have central heat in the house.  We have a wood stove.  Since he was at the sleep center with me in the evening, the house was already cold when he got home.  When I walked in the door in the morning with my overnight bag, it was 49F in the house.  Brrrrr.   I jumped in the shower in an attempt to get the glue and acetone out of my hair.  I'm still finding bits of it stuck here and there.  Ugh.  And, of course, the sleep study showed nothing out of the ordinary.  (For which I'm thankful, of course).

I cranked up the wood stove and we spent the day inside, getting warm.  We were both too tired to do much of anything else.

Last night was another cold one.  We are hitting highs in the mid 40s with the frozen puddles and frost in the shade never thaw.  We did manage to get more than basic chores accomplished today.

I put a layer of fresh straw in the goat area.  The cold weather will continue this coming week and I wanted them to be able to burrow in and stay warm.  Bear checked out the inside of one of the igloos.

And one of the African Pygmy goats checked out the other.  I can't tell from the rear which is Whiskey and which is Cowboy.

Meanwhile, I took Lucy and Pistol out to the grass by the dressage court to graze.

Jackson and the donkeys were not impressed.

And, later, the mares made their way to the gelding pasture and started squealing at Flash and Mufasa.  I put them back in their pasture.  Flash and Mufasa were not pleased.  They both galloped the length of their pasture, with Flash squealing as he went.  I haven't seen him so animated in quite a while.

Brett tossed all the horses extra hay tonight to stay warm.  We'll keep the wood stove cranked.  Winter is definitely here.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Oak Creek Ranch

On Christmas Eve we hosted an Open House in the afternoon for our neighbors.  I set the table with cheeses, dips and heritage turkey.

I set out wine glasses and a selection of local Sierra Foothills wine.

And then I put up my feet and prayed we would get guests.

At 1pm, they started arriving.  We had a full house, laughter, shared stories and supportive conversation for Marv, who will be starting chemotherapy soon.  The rain poured down while we laughed and talked.  The last guests left at 8pm.  We sent them home with cartons of eggs and warm hugs.

During the night, the rain moved out and the skies cleared.  It was 29F when we went outside to do chores.  All the gate latches were frozen shut and the porch was slick with ice.  I started a fire, put on my scarf, beanie, gloves and jacket before heading out to the chicken pen to open the hen house pop hole.  While trying to unfreeze the latch, I heard the smoke alarm going off in the house.  I ran, slipping and sliding, on the crispy grass back to the house.  I had forgotten to open the damper in the wood stove before starting the fire this morning and the house was filling with smoke.  I opened the damper, turned on the whole house fan, and waited for the smoke to abate.  Brett says I need at least one cup of coffee before starting the fire in the morning.  No doubt, he is right.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

An Early Christmas

Kyle and Camille came home last weekend to celebrate Christmas with us.  As soon as the rain let up, Camille went outside and took selfies with the animals.

We had our Christmas Eve dinner Friday night; a tenderloin roast with roasted potatoes and mushrooms.  Saturday after chores, I cranked the Christmas music and we opened gifts.  The kids took Kersey for a walk in the drizzle but mostly we stayed inside, eating chocolates and cookies.  I made a heritage turkey for dinner.  Have you heard of them?  I keep reading about them and was curious to see if they taste as good as the articles say.  Think about the difference between a supermarket tomato bought in the winter compared to an heirloom variety plucked from the garden in the heat of summer.  That is the difference.  The dark meat was really dark; almost purple.  The skin was thick and hard to cut through.  The recipe I followed strongly suggested cutting off the thigh/leg quarters and cooking them first and then adding the breast later.  The dark meat takes a long time to cook and there is nothing worse than dry white meat -- especially when you've paid four times as much as usual for the turkey.  But, oh my, that bird was tasty!  We all agreed that it was worth every penny.

Sunday, Kyle and Camille headed over to Tahoe to ski.  Brett and I worked outside, cleaning up after the last storm.

The kids were home in time for dinner.  It is a definite benefit living so close to the Tahoe ski resorts.  Monday morning they loaded Kyle's car and drove to San Francisco where Kyle is now living and working.  He showed Camille around the city and they spent the night in his apartment.  This morning they drove down to Southern California to spend Christmas with their dad.  Kersey was not happy about them leaving.

It's the first time we've celebrated Christmas on a day other than Christmas itself and we liked it.  It did seem strange, though, at work today with people stressed about getting their shopping and holiday cooking done and I'm feeling all relaxed because I'm finished with all of that.  


Monday, December 22, 2014

When the Sun Shines

We haven't had much sunshine this month.  When the sun finally broke through the rain and fog and mist, the animals all had the same agenda.

Pistol, Thistle and Lucy





Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Losing Steele

One of my favorite blogs is Journey With a Dancing Horse. I found Theresa originally through her photography blog and then a couple years ago she bought a two year old Andalusion, Steele. She brought him home to the barn she built with Ed, her wonderful and supportive husband. Steele settled in and was a constant source of amusement as he pestered Irish, his older thoroughbred barn mate, learning about stall mucking and horse flies. Theresa writes in a way that brought me into the barn and I felt like I knew both Irish (sensitive and hot despite his age, a gorgeous chestnut) and Steele (inquisitive, demanding of attention and level headed). I watched Steele grow, learn his ground manners and get sacked out. I held my breath when Theresa mounted him for the first time -- he was a perfect gentleman. Steele was smart and he figured things out fast. He grew into a gorgeous four year old. Theresa did everything right. She was unfailingly kind. She was clear with expectations and boundaries. She laughed at Steele and scolded him and taught him how to be an amazing partner. They were a great team.

Then, a couple days ago, two dogs came onto her fenced property and started harassing Irish and Steele. Steele panicked -- well, both horses did. But, Steele went through a couple of fences and gates before ending up trapped in a swamp, with the Huskies circling. His leg was broken and he had to be put down.

When I read the post, I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't sleep that night; pictures of Steele ran through my head; memories of his life. Funny, in a way, since Theresa lives in Canada and I live in California. We've never met. Heck, we've never spoken on the phone or in email and yet. And yet. I know them. I still can't believe Steele is gone. I, like so many, loved that horse. I can't imagine the horror and pain and sadness engulfing Theresa. Four years old.

Theresa was interviewed by a radio show in Canada. She did a great job explaining the prey instinct of dogs and why it is so important to train your dogs to come, why they need to be on a leash if they can't/won't obey, -- and she held it together really well. Here's the link.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fixing the Flooring

The run-in shed that is shared by the mares on clear days and used by Pistol on rainy ones, had a very uneven dirt floor.  Uneven is an understatement.  The center of the floor had been pawed by previous and current occupants, resulting in a large cavity in the center.  This wasn't a big deal until the last rain.  Rain ran off the shed roof and then into the hole.  Poor Pistol had to stand around the perimeter of the run-in to keep her feet dry.  The center was more than ankle deep in water, pee, hay and floating manure.  Gross.  There is another storm coming in tonight so Brett needed to work out a solution today.

He filled the hole with road base, which will pack down hard but still drain.  Then he put stall mats on top.

What a pain in the neck cutting stall mats to fit.  Between the two of us, we got it done.

Then we summoned the horses over.

Lucy and Little Bear were the first to arrive.

Lucy checked it out thouroughly.

As did Bear.

Pistol took her sweet time coming over.  And then she was more interested in checking Brett's pockets for cookies than in her fancy new flooring.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flash Gets Thumbs Up

The rain stopped sometime during the night and we woke to a cold morning. The stream was busy moving water through the property, gurgling and singing as it went. The sun was out and patches of steam were rising from the fence posts where its warmth met the cold wet wood.

Brett loaded Flash into the trailer for a ride down the road to our local vet. It was time for Flash's follow-up visit. He walked out of the stall behind Brett and then pivoted in the aisle with no stiffness or loss of coordination.

Our vet, who treats a lot of tick fever, since it is endemic in our area, said Flash looked great. No kidding. Flash was alert and animated in the cold morning area, dancing in circles like a five year old. Brett will finish giving Flash the remaining antibiotics in a day or two and we are adding in a red cell building supplement for a few weeks. That's it. He has been given a clean bill of health. Brett smiled all the way home.  Flash did a couple celebratory laps in the pasture with Mufasa this afternoon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Monster" Storm

All week, the newspapers, the radio and the TV have been telling us that a monster storm was coming our way.  This storm is a blend of two systems; one is the pineapple express which is fairly common and brings heavy rain from Hawaii via the Pacific Ocean.  In this case, an extra strong pineapple express (the kind that comes around every 6-8 years) joined forces with a high wind system and started throwing all that rain, with all its windy might, at Northern California.  This morning, 50,000 people lost power in the San Francisco Bay area and wave after wave of power outtages followed the storm, through Napa and Sonoma (where a university campus was closed due to flooding - in the middle of finals week) to Sacramento and then up into the Sierras.  We had wind and light rain this morning.  Just before 2:00 in the afternoon, the deluge began.  Knock on wood, we still have power.

There are tree branches scattered across the property as expected and water is filling the streams to the top of their banks and then crossing under our road into a larger stream as it continues its journey downhill.  The goats are safe and warm in their side of the run-in and Pistol is standing on her side.

That picture was, obviously, taken on a drier day.  The rest of the horses are in the barn where they have each other and Passage for company.  She patrols the aisle and the hay stacks -- good barn cat that she is.

The donkeys are staying in their run in shed as well.  We got two eggs today, from chickens who hardly left the dry safety of their hen house.

The heavy rain will continue over night and then lessen a bit, but continue, through tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Farrier's Thoughts

The farrier came out to trim the horses on Monday.  I was curious about his thoughts regarding the state of Jackson's feet.  Jackson has been walking sound, through the mud and muck, with his trail boots but I was worried that maybe his hoof health would suffer.  I've been spraying his soles, frog and heels with anti-thrush spray and they look good to me; but I'm not a farrier; not an expert.  Because we've had steady rain, storm followed by storm followed by storm, Jackson has been wearing his boots 24/7 for a month.

Our farrier was amazed at Jackson's lack of abscesses and the health of his feet.  Last winter, Jackson had 6-8 abscesses (I lost count, there were so many).  This season we've had four times as much rain and, so far, zero abscesses.  I am going to purchase another set of boots so I have a back up pair.  I think Jackson will wear through these pretty quickly.  Trail boots aren't cheap ($100+ per pair), but they are cheaper than steel shoes and pads (that didn't work) and vet calls.  We think that the abscesses were caused by stone bruises.  Jackson has extremely thin soles.  In the winter they get wet, and then very soft.  The farrier thinks he was getting bruised by the smallest of stones.  With trail boots, he just motors over the rocks with no discomfort at all.

Jackson and I are ecstatic.

Meanwhile, Flash continues to eat his pills and improve.  Brett has to hold the bowl of pills and sweet feed for Flash.  If he doesn't, Mufasa would help Flash eat his meds.  Even with Brett holding the bowl, Mufasa tries.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quick Check In

The sun came out briefly yesterday afternoon and disappeared again behind clouds this morning. There is a slight chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. Rainfall, year-to-date, is slightly above normal so I am not complaining in the least. I made the most of the few hours of gorgeous weather yesterday and worked in the garden, raking oak leaves and using them to mulch the fruit trees, and weeding. It was far too soggy to ride.

We put the horses, except Flash, out in the pastures when the weather cleared yesterday around noon. Brett advised me that Lucy had been a handful the last time he took her from the barn to the pasture. She had had happy, happy feet and pranced and pulled next to him; even doing a half-rear at one point. Fortunately, I have been very firm with Lucy about manners on the lead line. When I first brought her home, and turned her out in the pasture, she tried to rip her head out of the halter, spin and run -- dangerous for the human on the other end of the lead line, especially if the horse kicks out as they leave.

The minute I slipped the halter on Lucy in her stall, I reminded her that there were rules and I expected her to follow them. She nodded. It was hard, but she managed to walk quietly next to me to the pasture gate. Once inside, I turned her to face me and asked her lower her head while I took off the halter. Once the halter was off, she got a cookie -- then she spun and was outta there, scattering goats in her wake. She loves scattering the goats.

This morning, Brett and I went to a Christmas tree farm on Apple Hill and hiked around before finding one that pleased us. We wanted it tall and I wanted it fragrant. Why is that flowers and trees are bred for beauty and not fragrance? Fragrance is the number one criteria for me in the garden, and in a Christmas tree. I decorated the tree this evening. I wasn't prepared for the difficulty; the emotional difficulty. This is the first Christmas since I lost my mom and many of my ornaments were gifts from her. So many. It was a bittersweet exercise.

Ending on a better note, Flash was able to go out to the pasture today. He's still slightly stiff but definitely improving everyday. This morning he sounded his breakfast "hurry it up"nicker when we went out to feed. Brett squirts some syrup on top off his pills and he gobbles them down. We see improvement every day.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Lucy and Pistol kicking up their heels during a break between storm systems.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Flash is Home

Brett drove down to UC Davis this morning and brought Flash home.  Brett walked into the barn and found Flash waiting in his stall where he immediately perked up upon seeing Brett, who offered him a cookie.  Flash took it, munched it down and then proceeded to lick Brett's hand.  Next he tried to push the stall door open -- he was definitely happy to see Brett and anxious to go home.  Brett called me when Flash was loaded and they were ready to head home -- and his voice caught a bit as he talked about how happy they were to see each other.

Once home, he slowly and stiffly walked out to the turn out area of his stall.  One of the symptoms of this infection is stiffness in the limbs.  Flash is still carrying some of the bacteria and he is still a bit stiff.  But, so happy to be home.

He had a happy reunion with Mufasa over the fence between their run-outs.  They snaked their heads at each other in a "happy to see you" game.

Flash will continue on oral antibiotics for about two weeks.  He gets a dose of 22 pills, twice a day.  Fortunately, he eats them straight with his supplement and some sweet feed.  He'll get repeat blood work in 7-10 days to determine if the bacteria are all gone.

He is also getting banamine (for pain) tonight, and twice tomorrow.  Banamine is dosed via a paste and Flash hates having any kind of paste shot down his throat at all.  When he saw me walk into his stall with Brett this evening, he turned and stiffly walked outside.  He knows I'm the one who gives him nasty paste medications.  Brett followed Flash outside, put on the halter and walked him back into the stall where it was light.  We went through the usual head tossing evasions and then he let me insert the syringe into the corner of his mouth and press the dose onto the back of his tongue.  Yuck.

I gave him quite a few cookies as a peace offering afterwards.