Sunday, May 31, 2015

Start with Walk

We beat the heat this morning.  Brett and I were both awake at 5:30.  We were mounted and in the arena at 6:30.  The sun wasn't yet up and it was a very comfortable 58 degrees.  I planned to just walk Lucy.  I had set up some of my cavelletti blocks to mark out a small dressage court.  If I do enter one of the Interdressage online shows, I will need to ride my test in a small court.

Mufasa took one look at the blocks and snorted.
I'm not going near those things.  They weren't here last time we rode and they probably harbor horse-eating monsters.  Uh-uh.  No way.
Brett worked with Mufasa in the lower end of the arena, far away from the blocks, turning this way and that so Mufasa couldn't brace.  He eventually settled, relaxed and went past the blocks.

Meanwhile, Lucy (who was a jumper in her youth) was not impressed or even interested in the blocks.  We wove through them, doing our version of a slalom pattern.  We worked on some rein back, some leg yield and lots of circles.  All at the walk.  She became supple, relaxed and through.  Her walk got bigger and any hint of hiccup in that front left completely disappeared.

What the heck, I thought, let's try trot and ride through the test.

Lucy:  I thought you'd never ask.  Enough of this walk stuff already.  Let's move.

We headed down center line and rode the test.  She was awesome.  Not perfect, mind you, but awesome nonetheless.  Her trot was forward and through; her canter transitions were smooth as silk; we even got a few strides of extended trot on the diagonal before we came back up center line for our final halt.

And then we did chores.  The sun was up by then and it was warm, but I had a big grin on my face as I flung manure into the muck cart.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Too Hot to Move

This morning, Brett and I were a bit late getting up.  I am exhausted by the end of the work week and I just couldn't wake up.  It was 7am by the time we got ourselves outside and started chores.  The sun was already up and beating down on the pastures while we mucked.  The air was very still and moist.  We were sweaty by the time we finished up at 8:00.  Our plan was to go to the farmers market and run other errands in the morning.  We would ride in the afternoon when their was a breeze.

Or not.  The afternoon temperature climbed past 90 and the breeze never came.  Brett stayed in the house where it was cool.  I refused to go inside.  I am stuck in an office all week and the last thing I wanted was to be inside.  So, I sat outside on the front porch, next to a citronella candle burning and smoking away the mosquitos, sweating.  We never did ride.

Our injured chicken has recovered although her neck feathers still look pretty mangy.

It's hard to get a picture of her; she is always on the move.

I decided to let the chickens out so they could scratch and peck at the ground, eat grass, and be too busy to pick on little Amelia or any of the other hens.

They started out hugging the chicken run for safety.

Then they discovered the cool dirt next to the stream bed and dug themselves in.

Lord Byron, our Blue Andalusian rooster, stood guard.  Isn't he gorgeous?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Random Friday

1.  There were a few comments after my post about Mufasa's meltdown that suggested maybe Mufasa has an equine equivalent of PTSD.  This resonates with both Brett and me.  Mufasa is kind, willing and calm almost all of the time.  However, once in a blue moon (let's say, once a month) he has an episode.  We've had horses before who played "catch me if you can" and it was very clearly a game.  Their eyes glinted with mischief as they galloped past you; letting you think you had them cornered and then scooting out at the last minute, their manes shaking with laughter.  That isn't Mufasa.  It isn't a game and he isn't having fun.  Every fiber of his body is asking for help, for rescue, and for security.  Thanks to skills learned at the Mark Rashid clinic, Brett is better able to respond and diffuse Mufasa's panic attacks.  For the time being, Brett is working with Mufasa at home and not trailering out for trail rides.  The last thing we need is for Mufasa to experience an attack while in the wilderness, pull back from the trailer and break free, and then go racing off into the hills.  I'm not sure that we will ever "fix" Mufasa, but we can teach him to come to Brett for safety and help.

2.  I'm crossing my fingers that I can ride Lucy this weekend.  She was a tad uneven in her gait walking around the pasture yesterday evening.  Brett said she was racing around like a mad woman in the morning so maybe the hard ground had something to do with that.

3.  You heard that right.  The soft, mushy ground of the front pasture is now rock hard.  It seems to have happened overnight.  We won't be getting any more rain until November; the days are warming up; and the flies are out.  This weekend, we will have temperatures in the mid 80s.  Next week we should dip back down to the 70s but I'm sure the reprieve will be short lived.

4.  The first of June will mark the one year anniversary of Lucy arriving at our ranch.  That first summer, she required a fly sheet and mask at all times.  She had no tolerance of flies but also hated fly spray.  Since then, she has learned how to keep a coating of dust on herself as protection.  She welcomes fly spray (we use an herbal spray with no pesticide - it smells wonderful) and no longer needs a fly sheet.  We attack flies in a number of ways: we remove manure from all the pastures twice a day; we feed a stinky garlic supplement so they won't taste good to flies; we use a monthly spot-on repellent and we use fly spray.  The horses do wear fly masks and Lucy loves hers.  The other evening, I removed the masks from Lucy, Jackson and Pistol after mucking their pasture.  Lucy followed me to the gate and stuck her head under my arm and into a fly mask.  I laughed and put hers back on.

5.  Brett paid a visit to the doctor a few weeks ago.  It's been eons since he's had a thorough check-up so they took a bunch of blood, ran tests, took x-rays and he was poked and prodded.  The good news -- his heart and his cholesterol are in fantastic shape.  His blood work results were great.  But, the x-rays show lots of wear and tear on his joints.  He was a bit discouraged about that.  I can't say I was surprised given how hard that guy works and plays.  He has some issues in his back; falls from Mufasa and Flash probably contributed there.  They are sending him to a hand specialist due to calcification in his wrists and fingers.  If he were a couch potato, his joints would be in better shape.  But, his heart and cholesterol would be horrible.  Maybe he'll go easier with the weed-whacker now (but I'm not holding my breath).

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Good Long Busy Weekend

Brett and I flew down to San Diego Saturday morning.  Camille met us at Brett's sister's house and from there all the girls bundled into cars and went to a baby shower for our niece, Jan.  It was lovely. When Camille pulled up in her little turquoise car I ran out to the curb to meet her.  I'm pleased to report that her eye is, indeed, healing great.  You have to really look for the scar and once it fades from red to white, I'm sure you won't be able to see it at all.  We toasted Camille's 21st birthday at dinner -- she will be celebrating for the next few weeks with her friends, I'm sure.

Sunday, we enjoyed brunch with Brett's sister, brother, their spouses, and all the nieces and nephews.  It was a crowded, happy, noisy affair.  We flew home Sunday night.  We had a good time; enjoying family and far too much food.  We were hoping to see Brett's youngest grandson but that didn't work out.  It's the only bummer about the trip.

This morning we retrieved Kersey from the neighbor; she exploded out of their house and straight to us.  I think it had more to do with wanting breakfast than anything -- Rich and Fran spoil her rotten.  When I take her over to their place she pulls on the leash and whines in her eagerness to see them.

This morning we drove out to our favorite local farm to buy peaches since we missed the farmers market Saturday. Then we rode.

Brett had a great ride on Mufasa; who stood quietly for the halter and was calm throughout their time together.  He stood perfectly still while Brett mounted and waited until Brett asked him to move off. They've been working on that.  Brett said he had one of his best rides ever on Mufasa.

Lucy met me at the gate and walked out nicely when we went into the arena.  She was reluctant to trot tracking right, and refused to canter on that lead.  The other direction was fine.  There was nothing obviously off, but I could feel her discomfort; so subtle that it was almost intuition.  I know Lucy well enough that I could tell it wasn't attitude.  She was sore.  We called it quits.  I'll continue to give her lots of rest between our rides.

Later this afternoon we had neighbors over for a BBQ.  Like I said, busy!  But busy in a very good way.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.  We'll be thinking of Brett's dad who served in WWII and was part of the Normandy landing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Random Friday

1.  The chicken who suffered the bloody neck is doing well.  We will leave her in the dog crate for a few more days, until her feathers start growing back.  In the meantime, she is eating and drinking and laying eggs.

2.  Mufasa has been fine since his last meltdown.  He is happy to have Brett approach and run his hands over his neck and back.  We think the comments about PTSD sound pretty accurate for Mufasa.

3.  Jackson and Pistol were doing some heavy petting in the pasture yesterday.  Brett reported that they were locking lips and giving each other massages.  He said Lucy was off on the other side of the pasture, shaking her head in disgust.

4.  We didn't get any riding in this week because we've had rain.  Yay!  Not a lot, but a couple brief episodes of light rain in the evening.

5.  I'm thinking about entering one of the InterDressage shows next month.... anyone else been tempted?  I just have to get Brett to video tape me riding a test and then send it in -- no trailering into a barn, hanging around all day, dealing with show nerves.  It sounds tempting to me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mufasa Has a Meltdown

This evening, I started mucking the mares' pasture while Brett went up to the top pasture to bring Flash and Mufasa back down to their pasture.  He does this almost every day.  About the time I finish mucking, Brett usually shows up with the hay cart.  Lucy was pacing impatiently while I finished up and dumped the contents of the cart into the compost bin that Brett finished the other day.

I could see Flash in his pasture, but no Brett or Mufasa.  I started walking up towards the back pasture and soon saw Brett standing with the halter, and Mufasa running.  Not good.

Brett was frustrated.  He had been trying to catch Mufasa for a good 20 minutes.  He was tired and not happy about the setback.  Mufasa was running like a deer -- the bounding, not breathing running that indicates fear.  But fear of what?  Brett said Mufasa had met him at the gate, as usual, but as Brett started to slip on the halter Mufasa ducked and ran off.  Now Mufasa was in full panic mode.

I took the halter from Brett and walked toward Mufasa.  Brett walked over to the gate and watched.  Mufasa eyed me warily and then took off.  As his butt passed me, I swung the rope.  He stopped, turned and faced me -- but wouldn't let me get close.  He was clearly worried.  His shoulder twitched nervously.  I stopped outside his bubble and talked to him, breathing slowly and calmly.  He looked at me intently, tried to stay, but couldn't do it.

The interesting thing was that he ran to Brett.  Twice.  Brett didn't have the halter so he just stood and stroked Mufasa's neck and back; telling him it was okay.  The second time, Mufasa stayed while I approached.  I talked to him, praising him for being brave and staying, before slipping on the halter.  Brett led him down to his pasture, where hay and Flash waited, with no drama whatsoever.

Mufasa is an interesting nut to crack.  He clearly thought he was in trouble or danger or both.  Poor boy.

Monday, May 18, 2015


We have stormy skies every afternoon, continuing through this week.  We don't expect to get any rain out of it, but the skies sure are spectacular.  I took some pictures with my new camera; playing with some of the settings.  Which is your favorite?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

All Together Now

This morning both Lucy and Jackson were much improved.  Lucy came trotting to the gate for her morning bucket of vitamins, floating across the pasture in fine princess style.  I could watch her trot all day.  Jackson wasn't trotting but he wasn't doing a bad imitation of a canter pirouette anymore either.  He was walking pretty well; well enough that I took off his boot and skipped the bute.
He looked pretty bad yesterday:

Brett and I decided to check out a couple of wineries after running chores this morning.  We love the small boutique wineries, run by passionate people who aren't in it to sell truckloads of wine.  The first winery we went to was recommended to us by friends.  We spent a long time there, talking, tasting, and learning about his wines.  They were excellent.

After a pizza lunch on the creek in Sutter Creek, we went to the next winery.  The owner-winemaker had turned his garage into a tasting room.  He looked like John Denver; he had that same goofy intensity and big grin, and his name is the same as Brett's oldest grandson.  We won't forget him -- or his wines; big and jammy without being sweet.

Last we went to a small winery, turning off a back road onto a narrow gravel road.  The tasting room was deserted.  Rusty vehicles and weeds covered the property.  As we were turning to leave, the owner ran into the barn and poured us a glass of zinfandel.  Bleh.

We got home and started on chores.  Brett killed weeds in my garden while I put fresh shavings in the chickens' laying boxes.  I noticed one of the chickens up on the ladder roost, covered in blood from a wound on her neck.  This happened earlier this month and she healed; it looks like she is being tormented again.  We've had hens peck at each others' backs before, but never a neck wound like this.  Do any of you chicken owners out there have a guess?  Could it be a rooster?  I set her up in a dog crate and then we fed the horses and mucked the pastures.

Lucy and Pistol eat their hay from their hay feeder.

Jackson eats his a small distance away.

Tonight Passage was in their pasture.  See her to the left of Jackson?

She's guarding a gopher hole.

That cat is worth her weight in gold.

Wait!  You forgot us!  (nice try boys).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trot from Thought

Brett and I were dragging this morning.  Last night we went to a neighbor's house for Friday night pizza and wine.  We ate too much, drank too much, talked too much -- well, not the last part.  You can't talk too much with good friends.  There is a group of seven couples in our neighborhood that regularly get together for pizza or potlucks.  I'm the youngest of the group, at 55, and the oldest couple are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next week -- let's call them 80-something.  I am the only one who isn't retired and they tease me about that.  So, we were in bed late last night and woke up with that fuzzy tired feeling that comes with too much wine.  On our way home from the farmers market this morining, we discussed riding.  We knew we should ride but neither of us had the energy.  Back home, I settled in the garden with a bowl of cherries

while Kersey stole green peaches from the tree.

Brett found me there and convinced me to ride.  I'm glad we did.

As I led Lucy out of the pasture, I felt (but couldn't see) that she might have a slight hitch in her step. She wasn't off, but she was - perhaps- not 100%.  She felt fine when I rode her in the arena; a bit sluggish at first, but even. We worked on walk-trot transitions from feel.  As we walked, I thought about trot (nothing), then I lightened my seat (still nothing), and then a nudge (and off we went).  It didn't take long for her to slide into trot from a light seat and eventually we were doing it from a space somewhere between thought and light seat.  The transitions were seamless, relaxed, prompt and through.  Happiness vibrated in the connection.

Meanwhile, Brett was having an excellent ride on Mufasa.  Their connection and bond just keeps getting stronger.  Brett had put a row of blocks across the front of the dressage court to keep the sand from washing out during the rain last week.  Lucy didn't care about the blocks, walking right through the small opening Brett had made by removing two blocks.

Mufasa wasn't so sure.  It took a bit of convincing to get him to walk in.  After we finished our ride, Brett worked with Mufasa and the blocks.  They walked back and forth, in and out, of the court until Mufasa was relaxed.  Brett was happy with the way that Mufasa trusted him and walked in despite his apprehension.

This afternoon I noticed that Lucy was walking a bit off.  Jackson is very off.

 The rain was just enough to soften their feet, but not the ground.  Jackson got a big dose of bute and a trail boot this morning.  I'll keep an eye on Lucy.  I need to keep her sound so we can enjoy more moments of happiness.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Cold Rain

Yesterday afternoon storm clouds started moving into the Sacramento area.  About half-way home from work, rain drops started splashing off my windshield.  By the time I reached Placerville, my windshield wipers were working furiously.  A freeway notification sign said "Snow at the summit. Carry chains."  As I left the freeway and made my way across the winding mountain road that leads to our valley, the rain let up a bit.  At home, the road was barely wet and the windshield wipers were back to intermittent.

While I was changing into my chore clothes, the storm cell caught up to us.  We waited for awhile before going out to do chores, hoping that it would let up.  Flash and Mufasa stood in the open at first, grazing.  Then they moved under the trees and finally into their run-in shed.  Lucy and the goats were in their respective sheds at the first drops.  When it started to come down harder, Pistol moved into the shed with Lucy.  Jackson stood outside the shed, with his head down, getting drenched.  We quickly decided to bring the horses into the barn for the night.

Brett set up the stalls with hay, while I shooed the hens out of the henhouse and collected eggs. The minute I was done, they raced back inside.  Brett headed off to the oak pasture to get the boys and I headed over to the mare pasture.  They saw me coming with my arm full of halters.  Lucy craned her head over the run-in shed divider and looked at me over the heads of the goats, but didn't budge.  Pistol came out and met me at the gate.  Jackson stood right behind Pistol.  As I walked Pistol to the barn, Lucy came charging out of the run in shed and started racing along the fence-line, screaming her head off.

How dare you take Pistol first!
Can't you see I'm getting wet?  
Get back here right now and take me into the barn!

 Jackson trotted along behind Lucy, staying out of her way as she careened back and forth.  He waited for me at the gate when I took Lucy in next.  Jackson was so eager to go that he dove his head into his halter and then started shaking his head impatiently.  Once in his stall, I noticed that in addition to being soaking wet, he was shivering.  His sides, his flanks and his shoulders were quivering and twitching.  I thought about putting a cooler on him but I knew he would be walking back and forth between the stall and the run-out -- and a soaking wet cooler wasn't going to help.  Instead, I grabbed a big bath towel and rubbed him down.  The towel was very wet when I finished but he wasn't shaking nearly as much.  He was diving into his hay and his stall was deeply bedded with shavings.  I knew he'd be okay.  The horses have all shed their winter coats so they were not well prepared for this very cold storm.

This morning the clouds were moving out and the sun was trying to make an appearance.  We had over half an inch of water in the rain gauge.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Random Friday: Did I Fulfill my Hopes and Dreams?

This is a question that has been circulating among some of the blogs I read.  So, I've been thinking about that question over the past few days.

1.  When I was a little girl, I collected Breyer horses.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom, with my legs tucked under me, and built pastures for them out of my brother's Lincoln Logs.  I'm still collecting horses and Brett's fixing the fences.

2.  I devoured books when I was younger.  I read every horse novel in the Glendora Public Library.  I can still see the aisle with shelves of books high above my head.  I particularly loved the Golden Boy series by Montgomery.  I read, and I dreamed of living on a horse ranch.  The ranch in my mind looked an awful lot like something from an old Western movie, with the women in gingham dresses and pies cooling in the window.  I think the movie Oklahoma! figured into that picture too.  I don't exactly have that ranch; but its close enough for me.

3.  If I couldn't have a horse (and when I was a kid, I was sure I wouldn't ever have one), then I wanted a dog.  A big dog.  I didn't want a lap dog, a purse dog, a yapping couch dog.  I wanted a big dog to take on hikes in the mountains.  It took me awhile, but I finally got my dogs.

4.  Of course, the road to now, and fulfilled dreams, was not direct.  It involved marrying the wrong person first (no horses, no dogs, discussion closed).  The first thing I did after my divorce was sign up for riding lessons at a barn close to work.  I regretted tossing all the horse supplies I had accumulated in my youth for "someday when I have a horse."  I got rid of them when I married the father of my children.  The one who didn't want a dog, and said me wanting a horse was a selfish and inappropriate thing.  Why did I marry him???  Million dollar question (maybe so I could have two beautiful children that I wouldn't trade for the world).

5.  Dressage wasn't a dream of mine.  Not exactly.  I didn't know what dressage was.  As far as I knew, there were only two horseback riding disciplines: trail riding and jumping.  When I was eleven, I spent my afternoons after school up the street at a boarding stable.  The owner of the stable let me ride a Shetland pony he had for his grandchildren.  I wasn't allowed to use the saddle so I rode Petey bareback in the arena.  My favorite thing was to put Petey in a canter, let go of the reins, and sing "I'm a Little Teapot" while doing the hand motions.  I can still remember how that felt; the balance, the swing and the joy.  I've always preferred arena work to trail riding -- although I did a lot of trail riding in high school and college (on horses belonging to other people).

6.  Lastly, I hoped to find romance, true love and a soulmate.  I've got all those things in Brett.

Did I fulfill my hopes and dreams?  You bet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Deer Eat Horses

You didn't know that?
According to Lucy, it's a well-known fact.
(it was news to me too)

I rode last night after work; at around 6pm.  Brett was too tired to join me; he had been working on the compost bin all day.  It's looking good.

Lucy and I were all alone in the dressage court.  Alone, except for the deer on our neighbor's property across the road.  Across the stream, through the trees, past the fence, across the road, and up on the hill.  ...clearly within striking distance.

Lucy spooked.
She did her best imitation of a giraffe.
She tried to bolt.
She refused to go and then threatened to rear.  I swallowed, said a Hail Mary, and made her go.

We did half circles to the center line, then leg yields back to the rail.
Over and over and over.
I kept her thinking.
We changed direction constantly.
Figure eights, spirals and serpentines.
No straight lines; no time to think about deer.

When she finally settled into a relaxed trot we stopped.
I asked her to back and she softly did so.
I hopped off.  We stood and watched the deer making their way across the hill, under the pines.
Then we walked back to the barn.

Well, I started to walk and Lucy charged past me.  (lemme outta here!)
We practiced walking.
I stop, she stops.
I turn, she turns.
I back, she backs (that's a new one, I copied it from Teresa's work with Carmen).
She sighed, dropped her head, and we walked quietly back to the tie rail.

So now you know.  Deer are deadly.  To horses.

Monday, May 11, 2015

From the Front Porch

I hope all you mothers out there had a wonderful Mothers Day.  I spent mine at a peony farm in the morning and in the garden -- planting the peonies I couldn't resist -- in the afternoon.  There was a sprinkling of wine tasting thrown in on our drive home and lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.  My favorite Mother's Days were the ones when the kids were still at home and they made me breakfast, complete with a menu and flowers on the table.  Still, I can't complain about yesterday.  It was a lovely day.

I sat on the front porch and unpacked my new camera.  I bought a Canon Powershot -- one step up from my point and shoot that died.  This camera is larger, so it won't fit in my pocket, but it has more functions to play with.  I practiced taking a picture of the roses spilling over the porch rail in the corner by the swing.

Then Brett came out and tried taking pictures of the pasture and front driveway.  It's the porch view, if you will.

And for dessert tonight I made my favorite -- rhubarb blackberry crisp.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


This morning Brett and I squeezed a ride in before the vet came out for spring vaccinations.  The weather was perfect, 60F, with clear skies, a light breeze, birdsong and the arena sand still slightly damp from last week's rain.

(I can't take any pictures as our camera died last night.  It was in Camille's pocket when the shed came down on her and it sustained quite a few dings and dents.  -- which is fine with me.  I'd rather have a broken camera and not a broken daughter.  It has not worked well since then and last night it quit completely).

Lucy is no longer in heat so I didn't have to scrub her disgusting hind legs and she was chill at the tie rail.  In the arena, she marched right out (when she is in heat, she is very sluggish).  I wore my tall boots.  This is the first time I've worn them since they came back from the cobbler with zippers and gussets.  I think I will wear them all the time.  I loved how they kept my lower leg quiet and against Lucy's side.  With a sensitive horse like Lucy, you have to keep your leg against her all the time.  That way, she knows where I am and kicks or bumps don't come out of no where; there are no surprises, just gentle nudges.  Lucy was very forward and relaxed.  We worked on transitions within trot first.  I posted as we sailed along the long sides and then sat and compressed a bit on the short sides.  We did circles with transitions between trot and canter.  Last, we did arena laps at canter.  I picked up the canter at A or C, rode a 20m circle at E/B, back down the long side, the short side and then we did some extended canter on the long side.  I sat tall and braced in my back a tiny bit to get her back to a working canter.  We changed direction at trot and picked up the canter again.  Lucy wanted to skip the 20m circle and go straight to extended.  She started to rush and lose her frame, throwing her head in the air and hopping.  We did a few more 20m circles.  When she was relaxed, we went back down the long side and had a lovely, controlled extension.  Brett was sitting on Mufasa in the middle of the arena, watching us.  I transitioned down to a walk, stopped, and beamed at him.

Meanwhile, he and Mufasa had a great ride as well.  Mufasa found his rhythm and balance in the trot.  He halted from thought.  He backed with no pressure; just a simple ask.  And they had the straightest canter I've seen from them yet.  They looked pretty pleased with themselves, too.

After putting the horses away and cleaning my tack, I sat on the front porch and drank it in.  Brett started lugging his project equipment out to the compost bin site.  He saw me and called over, "Are you all right?  What are you doing?"

"I'm sitting here being happy" was my reply.  He smiled and joined me on the porch.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Random Friday

1.  We got a bit of rain yesterday.  Brett and I were awakened before dawn by crashing thunder and lightning flashing across the bedroom.  It was followed by rain -- and some snow at higher elevations.  Brett was stuck inside all day so when I got home from work I found the wood stove merrily creaking as it cranked out heat, and laundry washed and folded -- and put away.

2.  I made another Blue Apron dinner for dinner last night.  The theme this week has been Mexican, because of Cinco de Mayo.  We had fish tacos earlier in the week and a wonderful pozole soup last night.  Brett claims he doesn't like onions but he only complains about them when he can see them.  I should have diced the onions instead of slicing.  I thought the soup was wonderfully rich with flavor and texture (garnished with roasted pepitas, matchstick red radishes, avocado and cilantro).  Brett had a messy pile of onions pushed to one side of his bowl as he used a dinner roll to soak up the broth.

3.  Now that I've been cooking with Blue Apron for a few weeks, they've given me the opportunity to "invite" three friends to try a week of meals free.  To get the free meals, you need to enroll but you can cancel at any time easily, with no hassle.  It's also easy to skip weeks if you want a break or are going on vacation.  If you are interested in trying it, send me your email and I'll put you on the invitation list.

4.  Brett started working on a compost bin today.  First, he had to replace his wheelbarrow wheel which was harder than expected.  He drove to three shops before finding a tire that fit.  He got his trench dug for the first row, his string pulled and his supplies lined up.

5.  When I got home from work we did the evening chores and then settled in the garden with a glass of wine.  I wandered around checking all the plants while Brett sat in a chair under the oak tree, rubbing Kersey's belly.  For dinner, I made a big salad with local spring greens, strawberries, mango, beets, goat cheese and toasted pecans.  I seared a piece of Ahi and set the slices on top.  The dressing was a dab of good French Dijon, lemon juice, honey, sea salt and lemon infused olive oil from a local store.  It was a great way to start the weekend.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Getting Better all the Time

Brett and I rode again Sunday morning.  It was already warm at 9am when we headed out to get the horses.  All of us (humans and horses) were sweaty by the time we finished grooming and tacking up.  The arena was in full sun with no shade and no breeze.  We didn't ride for long.

I led Lucy up to the mounting block and she stood perfectly still while I mounted.  I settled in the saddle, slipped my feet into the irons, gave her a good long scratch on her neck and withers - and then we walked off into the arena.  She immediately dropped her head and stretched into a long frame.  Saturday, every time we passed by Brett and Mufasa she tried to stop.  A boy!  A really cute boy!  Let me pose for you!  A nudge didn't work yesterday; I had to deploy a swift hard kick to her belly.  Under normal circumstances, a swift hard kick results in her head flying up and a careening lunge forward.  Yesterday?  I got a slow amble forward.

This morning her focus was much better.  As we approached Mufasa, I gave her a gentle nudge reminder "We're working Lucy, not cruising for boys." She kept her focus on me and hardly slowed at all.

I am trying to get to a place where Lucy and I do our transitions from thought.  We are making progress.  My hands don't do much at all.  They maintain a very light connection and I will periodically tense my ring finger as part of a half halt.  When I want to trot, I bring up my energy and off we go.  I rarely need to press with my calf anymore.  Today, we were in perfect sync.  Her canter was lovely and I didn't need to use any circles to slow her down as we cantered around the perimeter. I concentrated on following with my hands, sitting tall, and using my abs to regulate our speed.

After our ride, Lucy and I stood in the shade so she could munch on dandelions.  She pulled a big clump out by the roots and started shaking it in frustration.  I grabbed the root ball and held it while she ripped off the leaves.  She gave me a little nicker of thanks.  When I put her back in the pasture, she didn't rush the gate.  In fact, she completely ignored Jackson; eating her cookie and calmly going off for a roll.

Brett had an excellent ride as well.  Mufasa isn't straight at the canter and he falls out on a circle.  Today, Brett tried cantering him on the long side of the arena instead of on a circle.  Mufasa was much straighter and more relaxed than he had been on Saturday.

Back at the tie rail, Brett took off Mufasa's bridle and then undid the cinch.  Brett's fingers are arthritic and he has trouble gripping things.  (He dropped a basket of eggs last week after collecting them - and Kersey thought she had died and gone to heaven as she slurped them all up).  Sunday morning, Brett lost his grip on the cinch buckle and it dropped against Mufasa's side, causing him to spook.  The spook caused his saddle and pad to slip off onto the ground.  Mufasa pulled back and took off with the lead rope flying behind him.  Brett walked over to the pasture fence where Mufasa had stopped.  Unlike in the past, Mufasa stood still and waited for Brett.  This is huge for Mufasa.  He trusted Brett to help him and he trusted Brett not to be angry.  Lucy and I stood up by the barn watching.  I wanted to clap -- and Lucy wanted to give Mufasa a big kiss.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring in the Garden

We've had clear blue skies, warm sunshine and bird song this weekend.  The garden is bursting; the peach, nectarine, plum, pear and grapes are setting fruit.  Kersey likes picking peaches off the lower limbs -- Look mom! Balls growing on trees! My rose hedge is blinding, bursting with pink blooms.  My memorial garden is a riot of Shasta daisies, orange-red poppies, white carnations and blue straw flowers.

The herb bed is overflowing with native poppies.

Yesterday afternoon Brett spent time on his mower while I planted heirloom tomatoes in the raised vegetable bed.

I wasn't going to plant a vegetable garden this year, due to the drought, but a cheerful young student was selling heirloom seedlings at the farmers market and I couldn't resist.  We walked past her table, slowly, and then continued on -- with me dragging my feet, trying to tell myself that I didn't need those seedlings.  Brett looked at me, "Go back and get the tomato plants."  So I did.  Four plants, all different varieties, with names like Bumblebee Pink, Indigo Apple and Blue Berry.

I've been spending time in the garden every morning and evening; just walking around, pulling stray weeds, thinning the fruit, watching it grow and bloom.  The garden is my peaceful place to start and end the day; it takes the stress of my work day and sends it away, out of the garden, and out of my mind.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Queen Bee

Jackson is walking normal (for him) so this morning I moved him into the mare's pasture.  He immediately got to work on the grass which is much thicker than in the pasture he shared with the donkeys.  Lucy ran up to him, spun, squealed, and kicked (she never makes contact).  Jackson trotted off a few strides and got back to grazing.  Lucy went back to the hay feeder where Pistol was busy eating.

Brett and I rode in the late morning.  When I went into the pasture, Jackson lifted his head and walked towards me.  Lucy glanced at him and then marched over to me, cutting off Jackson.  He got back to grazing.

It was a bit warm during our ride, in the upper 70s, but both Lucy and Mufasa were great.  Lucy's trot was elevated and smooth, she was relaxed and the little bit of canter work we did was nicely cadenced.

Afterwards, I washed the sweat off of Lucy and led her back to the pasture.  Jackson and Pistol were by the gate.  Lucy put her head and tail in the air, going into alpha mare mode.  I backed her up, told her to put her head down, and we tried again.  It took quite a few review repeats before Lucy decided to walk next to me like a lady and not rush the gate.  Jackson took one look at Lucy and walked away.  Pistol hung around, hoping for extra cookies.  I shooed her off and brought in Lucy.  She stood quietly while I removed her halter, ate her cookie, then wheeled and raced off towards Pistol and Jackson.  They sighed, moved off a few steps, and started grazing.  Lucy strutted off and had a thorough roll in the grass.

The three horses spent the day peacefully.  Jackson at one end of the pasture, eating; the girls at the other.

-- Until Lucy saw me by the fence taking pictures.  She and Pistol walked over.  Jackson kept his distance (he's no dummy).

Lucy was fine until she caught me taking a picture of Jackson.  Then she saw Pistol walking over to say hi to Jackson and she lost it.  Miss Lucy Queen Bee had to go buzzing over and re-establish her authority.

She charges Jackson but never bites him or kicks him.  He trots off four or five strides and she is mollified.  In a few days, she won't be pushing him around at all.

Jackson is like a mild mannered Charlie Brown to Lucy's ... well, Lucy.