Saturday, February 28, 2015

Light Rain

The horses enjoyed the sunshine while big marshmallow clouds floated into the area on Friday.

Brett spent the day on his mower and with the weed whacker.

He was tired and sore at the end of the day but the property took my breath away when I got home.

So beautiful.

I tease him about how he keeps the grass mowed and edged and the driveway swept; how it looks like we live on a country estate instead of a little ranch.  He works way too hard but that's him.  He's not going to change and I get to reap the benefit of living in paradise.

Rain started in the evening and fell softly all night.  Kyle and his girlfriend, Ana, are visiting for the weekend so we're going to introduce them to the local wineries today.  ... a good rainy day activity, don't you think?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Still Bruised

Saturday morning Brett and I rode.  Lucy seemed to be fully recovered from her stone bruise; playing in her usual exuberant way in the pasture since Wednesday.

Brett was anxious to get back on Mufasa and re-establish their connection.  Brett's been on a waiting list to clinic with Mark Rashid in March.  He got the word last night that he has a spot.

Unfortunately, Lucy was off still.  She was perfectly sound at the walk and happy to trot right.  However, she bobbed her head when tracking left and would not canter on that lead at all.  So, we walked for a short while and then called it quits.

Brett had a good ride on Mufasa who was well behaved and responsive; if a bit out of shape.  They'll have to work on the fitness thing before the clinic.  Talk about motivation to get out and ride.

We'll give it another try next weekend, weather permitting.  There is a slight chance of rain.  If my ride gets rained out, I'm good with that.  We need rain more than I need to ride.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Last summer we moved Jackson from the boys' pasture into the donkey pasture.  Jackson was covered in bite marks, the target of Mufasa's teeth.  Since then, all has been peaceful.  Flash and Mufasa share the oak pasture where Mufasa tries regularly, but unsuccessfully, to bully Flash.  Jackson leads a quiet life with the donkeys in their pasture with a big blue oak, a pond and a run-in shed.  The donkeys and Jackson are not the best of friends but they co-exist peacefully.  Lucy and Pistol share the front pasture with the goats - and, at the moment, our annual Canada goose couple.

The grass in the far back pasture, behind the dressage court, is getting tall.  After their breakfast buckets of vitamins, we moved Flash and Mufasa up to the pasture for the day.  We decided to try putting Jackson up there as well.  The pasture is very large, dissected by a stream, with many oaks and more grass than the three of them could eat in a week.  We watched the horses for an hour and they busily, and peacefully, got down to the serious business of grazing.  And then we left for church.

We pulled into the driveway after lunch with the trunk full of groceries and wine.  I could see Jackson standing with his head over the pasture gate.  He did not look happy.  He looked at me like "get me outta here."

We started unloading the car and Brett noticed our neighbor, Marv, had left us a message.  Marv lives across from the back pasture.  He said that Flash and Mufasa were running Jackson into the ground.

I changed out of my church clothes with lightening speed and headed out to the pasture.

Jackson saw me coming at met me at the gate.  He was covered in sweat.  His hind hoof was cocked in an uncomfortable way -- his protective trail boot was gone.

While I walked around the pasture looking for it, Jackson followed close behind.  You could say that he was hiding behind me, in the way that small children do when in a strange environment.

The bullies watched us.  They were sweaty too.

Flash came over and touched noses with Jackson.  It didn't feel like an apology.  It felt like "Don't you forget it and don't you come back."

I put Jackson's boot back on and walked him down to the barn where I curried the dry sweat and counted his wounds.  Twelve bites.  Most were superficial, but a few drew blood.  I felt tears prick at my eyes.  I promised Jackson that I would NEVER, never put him with Mufasa again.  Jackson didn't seem to hold it against me; he was his usual affectionate self.  Which made me feel worse.

When I put him back in the his pasture with the donkeys he stood, exhausted, with his head low.  Tuffy and Finessa had called to Jackson when we passed by them on the way to the barn.  Surprisingly, Tuffy took up a position behind Jackson in solidarity and kinship.  Maybe the three of them have bonded more than I thought.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Donkey Antics

Tuffy and Finessa were playing hard this afternoon.

Tuffy grabs a mouthful of mane and neck, while Finessa spins in circles.

They break apart and run, trotting with their heads high and ears flying behind.

Tuffy runs up behind Finessa, who lets loose with both hinds.  Smack!  Right in Tuffy's chest.

They run, cantering with their heads low, ears flying and hind feet throwing in an occasional buck.

They stop, look at me, and put on their most innocent faces.

...and then they are off for more fun.  Not my idea of fun, mind you, but clearly their's.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Random Friday

1.  The master bath is coming along.  The tile guy is meticulous.  He shows up after breakfast and works steadily all day.  We're okay with the tile taking awhile to complete because it looks gorgeous.  When we picked the tile, paint and vanity colors, I crossed my fingers that they would all work together like I imagined.  They do.

The shower tile on the walls looks beautiful in a vintage sort of way.  The shower floor is a mix of pebbles in shades of grey, bone and bird's egg blue.

The floor tile looks like old barn wood.  Perfect.

And the shaker white vanity looks bright and cheerful against the grey walls.

2.  On other fronts, we continue to have warm dry weather.  You wouldn't know it from the state of Jackson's coat and his trail boots.  He must spend all his time in the mud by the pond in his pasture.

3.  My daffodils are blooming, bringing bright yellow patches of happiness to the front lawn.  I picked myself a bouquet when I got home from work.

4.  The longer days are welcome.  I'm counting down the days until the time changes.  As it is, I was able to help Brett with the evening chores today after work.

5.  Lastly, we continue to battle ticks.  Flash and Mufasa, in particular, are tick magnets.  Brett found two on Mufasa tonight.  I spent some time with Google and learned that ticks are particularly numerous in wooded areas; they lurk in the tree bark, the leaves carpeting the ground, and the downed wood.  The arrive courtesy of the deer -- but also the other critters looking for acorns to eat and trees to climb.  The boys pasture is heavily wooded with oak and pine.  We are going to try Equi-Spot -- the stuff you squirt on particular spots every few weeks, similar to what I put between Kersey's shoulder blades once a month.  The comments I read said it works well for ticks, not so great for flies.  If it works for the ticks, I'll be happy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brett's Latest Project

When Brett finished the chicken cover, he decided to replace the third side of my garden fence.

When we moved in, it was saggy, patched together wire fencing, held up by t-posts.  There was no gate, just the end of the wire that rolled up on itself.  It drove Brett nuts; definitely not to his standards as you can imagine.  I said it wasn't that bad, it kept the deer out, and we had other priorities.

Shortly after we moved in, he replaced the fence closest to the house behind the hedge of roses.  And he built me a beautiful gate.

Next, he put in the back fence at the same time he built the chicken pen, a year ago.

He continued to complain about the other two sides.  I continued to be fine with them.

Last week, he put up the third side, between the garden and the horse trailer parking area.  It looks awesome.

And now I think that the fourth and final side looks shabby.  ---and it was the side in the best shape of the four when we moved in.

The ground is too soggy to put in any fence posts now but I betcha that by the end of this summer, I'll have beautiful fencing there too.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Me and the Shedding Blade are Popular

The horses are starting to shed out their winter coats.  That coupled with unseasonably warm weather this weekend, has made the horses itchy and hot.

When they see me with the shedding blade, they follow me around like I have candy.

While I run the blade over Lucy, she grooms Pistol on the withers.

When I turn my attention to Pistol, who is shedding huge handfuls of white hair, Lucy prods me with her nose.

None of them want me to stop.  --except Mufasa who can't decide if he is scared to be touched with that metal weapon or thrilled with the feel of it scratching away the itchy loose fur.

Even the donkeys enjoyed a turn.  As I was working on Jackson, I felt a nudge against my lower back.  I turned, and there was Tuffy's butt, right up against me, waiting to be scratched.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Someone has an Abscess

...and it isn't Jackson.

Lucy came up lame Friday morning.  Brett checked her feet and didn't see anything.  I checked her legs for heat and swelling.  None.

I came home from work early to work on her foot.  She stood quietly with her hoof in a bowl of Epsom salts while I got my supplies together -- duct tape for the sole, a baby diaper for cushion and to hold the Epsom salt poultice, bandage tape to hold everything on her foot and green vet wrap to top it off.

I had found a rock deep in her frog before I set it in the bucket to soak but decided to wrap her foot just in case.  If she had a stone bruise and not an abscess the poultice wouldn't hurt anything.  She held her foot for me while I wrapped it, a perfect patient.  Even when the tape got tangles and the vet wrap wouldn't tear, she just stood like a statue with her foot in the air.

Today she was improved; still a bit off but not "help me" lame.

Meanwhile, Jackson continues to march around his pasture and jump the stream. I can't believe he's made it all the way to February with no abscesses.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shower Update

The storm that came through last weekend delivered just over six inches of rain.

The donkey pond almost overflowed it's banks.  The local reservoirs inched higher.

It was a warm storm so it didn't help the snow pack (which is California's most important water source), but it was a good rain.  Definitely worth celebrating.

Meanwhile, good progress is being made on the master bathroom remodel.  We have drywall and paint -- and tile going up in the shower.

We love this tile.  We think it goes well with the country farmhouse feel of the house.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Playing in the Rain

When I was a child, my mother would bundle my sister and I up in our bright yellow raincoats, pull the hood up over our hair, and send us out to play in the rain with our bright rubber rain boots. We would build dams in the gutters of water racing down our hilly suburban street, watching the water spill around our sticks and pebbles. When we tired of stomping in puddles, we would return to the house shedding, our soggy rain clothes in the back hall. I loved playing in the rain. Still do.

Yesterday afternoon Brett and I headed out to the barn to do chores during a break in the rain that had been falling all day. The horses were in their pastures. The rain was not cold and there was no wind so we turned them out in the morning. The horses grazed when the rain let up and stood in their sheds when it came down hard. In the barn, I sifted through the shavings in Lucy's stall while Brett trundled in their evening hay.

As I approached the mares' pasture to muck, the rain began pelting down. I took refuge in the run-in shed with Lucy. Pistol approached and Lucy shook her head. Pistol retreated. I moved so that I was standing against the side wall, towards the front. Lucy moved to stand next to me, leaving room for Pistol to come in out of the rain on the far side. Pistol tried to come over towards me but Lucy reached over and gently nipped her on the shoulder. Then Lucy put her ears half-way back, not pinned but stern, and shook her head sideways. Pistol backed up and stayed on her side of the shed.

The rain continued to fall; harder and harder. I leaned my muck rake against the wall and rubbed Lucy's neck. She stretched and cooed, while bits of the dark hair she was shedding fell to the floor. The goats stood behind us, on their side of the partition watching the rain. Bear was perched on top of one of the igloos and the others stood knee deep in the straw. The rain on the metal roof drummed out the steady falling rain, the tempo increasing, ebbing, and picking up again.

Brett arrived in his yellow slicker with Pistol's halter. I fetched Lucy's from the barn and we brought the horses in. Lucy and I walked to the barn in the rain, splashing through the puddles together. That mare makes my heart sing.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Between the Waves

Last night I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I drove the last ten miles of my commute, down the country road from the freeway to our lane.  The windshield wipers slashed the water in front of my eyes, while the wind made waves of water across the road.  The center line of the road was buried and I couldn't see the edge.  I held my breath every time the headlights of an oncoming car met me, not sure if I would be able to correctly guess where the pavement ended and a water filled ditch started.  Once in the house, the wind howled around the house while the rain blew against the windows.  The horses were in the barn, the chickens snug in their hen house, the goats burrowed into the straw in their shelter, and the donkeys huddled in their run-in shed.  Kersey, Brett and I burrowed into blankets in the house and prayed the power wouldn't go out.  The storm was even worse further up in the Sierras.  Donner Pass was closed to traffic and trees were snapping in the hundred mile winds.

This morning, the sun came out while we were doing chores.

It was beyond beautiful.

The streams were all singing, the toads were croaking, the geese were honking, and the horses all rolled in the welcoming mud when we turned them out in their pastures.

The rain gauge measured 2.4 inches of rain for the first storm in this three storm system moving through Northern California.

We met a large group of our neighbors for the monthly pancake breakfast at the grange.  When we emerged a few hours later, the sun was gone.

This afternoon the rain started back up.  Wave two is supposed to be less intense.  Wave three will come through Sunday afternoon and should be a doozy;  More high winds, hail, lightening and a lot of rain.

We don't get our annual rainfall in a steady, well behaved manner through regular rain.  No, we get our rainfall through storm systems.  Six or more in a good year.  We had a couple good systems in December, none in January, and this is another good one.  The power is on, the phone is working, the wood stove is burning steady and warm -- life is good.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Cover for the Chicken Run

Our flock of 15 has dwindled to 12; two roosters and ten hens.  Hawks flew into the chicken run and killed the Polish girls, Lady Gaga and Phyllis Diller, last fall.  The roosters chased them off but not before the girls were killed.  They weren't the brightest birds but they were entertaining.  Amelia loved to fly out of the pen and into my garden.  There, she would scratch and peck in the compost, happy and busy.  I loved watching her.  We knew the chances of a hawk getting her eventually were high.  She didn't have the protection of the roosters in the garden, although she was a Lakenvelder and they are known to be savvy foragers.  A few weeks ago, Brett found her carcass in the garden.  The victim of a hawk.

Brett spent the next week thinking about the best way to construct a cover for the chicken run.  Of course, his plan had to look great and be strong enough to withstand a tsunami.  The pen is too wide to fit a standard length of wire fencing so he put in posts and built a trellis type cover.

Lucy, who is scared to go outside the arena and walk under the oaks and pines, wasn't at all bothered by Brett's piles of materials, a tarp and the tractor.  Go figure.

After installing massive posts, Brett built a grid with 2x4s on the inside and 4x4s on the edges. The grid has four by four foot spaces.  It looked just like a fancy patio cover when Brett finished.

Last, he laid fence panels across the top, cut to fit, and anchored down.  The chicken pen cover isn't going anywhere.

Hawks can't dive in and adventuresome chickens can't fly out.

Lets' see, at an average of five eggs per day, how many years before we get a return on this investment?  Not that we care, we love our chickens and want them to be safe.  And Brett doesn't know how to build anything that isn't top notch.