Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thieves and Hunters

My garden attracts all manner of birds and squirrels.  None of them expressly invited and some of them, namely the squirrels, not welcome.

Squirrels are the thieves in my garden.  They steal the fruit from my trees and the tomatoes from my planter boxes.  Nothing is sacred; not artichokes, not pomegranates and certainly not tomatoes.  All my tomatoes.  All.  I may never recover or plant tomatoes again.  It was a painful, frustrating summer.

Squirrels also target the bird feeders.  I have a large feeder with sunflower seeds hanging on a pole, with a squirrel guard (an upside-down cone that swivels in an unstable way when touched( on the pole.  Last summer, one managed to climb up a sunflower stem and then scramble onto the feeder when the flower bent under its weight.  I cut down the flower.

The other day, one climbed to the top of the fence and leaped across to the feeder.  When it had stuffed its cheeks full of seeds, it launched onto the ground and scurried away.

I also watched a hunter make its way through all my flower beds.  At first I thought it was a dove; a big dove with a dark splotchy back.  It hopped through the tangle of leaves and branches under the shrub rose hedge.  Then it flew to the top of the fence -- where I was able to get a good look at it through my binoculars -- before landing in the flower bed below.  It wound its way through the native grass, sage and lilacs, searching for lunch small birds and rodents. 

I looked through my bird books; it looked like a hawk but it was far too small and the coloring was not consistent with the red tail hawks that are common in our area.  I found it -- a hawk indeed.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Photo Credit: Audibon website
These hawks are not nearly as common as red tail hawks, which also stalk the garden.  The red-tails are larger and sit on the fence posts before swooping down into the garden and then right back up.  These little guys sneak around the garden, winding through the lavendar, and poking their heads into the lilac bushes.  It reminded me of hide-and-seek -- except that all the little birds had hidden themselves far, far away from my garden.  It was a few days before they came back.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesdays with Tex: Splish, Splash

Another thing that happened last week while I was at work...

Brett replaced another section of fence in the boy's pasture; the front pasture; or pasture number 3.  It has many names (also known as the swamp in the spring).

While he was working on the fence, he put Flash and Tex in with the donkeys, in their pasture.

Funny, how a new location can be exciting.  Tuffy loves to run.  Finessa not so much.

So most of the time Tuffy runs by himself, or not at all.  Tex loves to run, too.  So, they raced around the pasture, leaving deep divots in the mud.

Then Tex discovered the pond.  He waded into the middle and pawed at the water, splashing himself with the icy water.  Then he added running through the water to his race course in the pasture.  There wasn't much water left in the pond by the end of the day.

...and both he and Flash were covered in mud.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Recycling Pumpkins

Remember this pumpkin from the front porch?

It's now chicken food.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

While I was at Work

It feels like forever since I have been able to enjoy the ranch.  We were out of town the last two weekends, and during the week I am gone from pre-dawn dark to night-time dark.  Last weekend, we were at my dad's house on the central coast to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It was pretty rough...

While I was at work last week, Brett was very busy.  One of the things he did was plant ten Giant Sequoia trees out by the front gate.  Not that we'll live to see them to full maturity.  Giant Sequoias can reach 350 feet in height -- and live to be 3,000 years old. 

Why, you ask, did we plant trees we won't see in all their majesty?  Partly because they are native to our area, but there aren't many left.  There is a big (famous) grove of them in Yosemite -- the Mariposa grove.  You know, the place where you could drive a car through one (before it fell).  There are a few smaller stands of these redwoods between Yosemite and Georgetown, just north of us. 
That's Camille and I standing in front of a smaller (ahem) one, a few years ago in Yosemite.

Plus, they are drop dead gorgeous trees.  They will grow two or three feet per year, after the first few years when they are busy stretching their roots into our soil and getting comfortable.  The trees grow tall before they grow wide.  So, we will get to enjoy them.

While Brett was planting the trees, some deer came onto the property.  They are always hanging around outside the gate, but they usually only venture onto the property at night when we aren't outside.  This time, they made themselves at home while Brett worked.  At first, they jumped into the pasture with Lucy and Pistol.  Lucy wasn't too thrilled about that and promptly chased the deer from one end to the other.  Pistol watched.

Later, Brett was in the house and Kersey was resting on her bed on the front deck.  Brett heard Kersey bark and looked up from what he was doing.  Kersey only barks at deer and skunks.  Then, Brett heard hooves clatter across the front porch. 

I'd say those deer are getting pretty brazen.  And, that is why we have wire cages around the trees.  I love the deer -- and they love our plants.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday with Tex: The Limits of Trust

Last weekend, Brett and I were out of town celebrating our anniversary.

While we were gone, Tex lost a shoe.  Our horse sitter found the shoe and put it in the barn.  I sent the farrier a text and to let him know -- and also suggested that he come out after we returned home since Tex might be difficult to catch.

When the farrier arrived, Brett moved Flash into the barn.  When Tex is left alone in the pasture without his buddy Flash (goats don't count as company, in his mind), Tex becomes very motivated to be caught so he can join Flash.  Brett typically does not have any trouble catching Tex anymore (Tex knows that Brett always has cookies on his person), but it is an extra measure ensuring success.

Our farrier gets along very well with Tex.  He is calm and kind, and Tex stands quietly for his shoeing.  The farrier knows Tex's trust issues and has spent time showing Tex that he understands.  So, when the farrier asked Brett if he could try catching Tex, Brett gave him a handful of cookies and sent him to the pasture.

Tex said no.  Tex didn't run away but he stayed at a safe distance, circling and refusing to let the farrier approach.  After a few minutes, Brett went into the pasture and took the halter.  Tex was fine with Brett approaching and slipping on the halter -- which made Brett happy.  A year ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

So, Tex has become almost a pocket pony with me and he trusts Brett -- but that is clearly as far as it goes.  Its good to know.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

From One Injury to the Next

I keep telling myself that I will be back to riding at as soon as my foot heals (done), my boob heals (almost done) ... and now, as soon as my rotator cuff heals. 

Fortunately, its my left shoulder so I can drive.

Typing?  Hunt and peck.

And pain meds like clock work.  One week since injury and still in pain.  Lordy.  I am so done with this pain.

Of course, I am also in the one month period between when my old health coverage ended and my new coverage will begin.  I could buy it through COBRA, of course, but for the $750 I'll self treat. 

I love my new job so that's a good thing.

We had our first fall rain last week and the ground is starting to green up.

The animals are all doing well.

And Brett is cooking dinner -- since I get home late and its pretty hard to cook with one arm.  He's doing great. 
Some very tasty Korean rice cake dish that came in our weekly SunBasket box.

Life is still good, overall.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Patient and Long Suffering

Jackson has always been a level-headed horse.  He was unflappable on the trail -- crossing anything, be it water, logs or boulders.  If we encountered something new, he would drop his head and study it for awhile.  Then he'd carry on.

He's also been through many abscesses, standing with his hoof in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salts.  He no longer jerks his foot out, but stands stoically with a bored look in his eye. 

Saturday, I treated his white line.  This required slipping a bag with a nasty smelling solution over his hoof and leg.  It was tied above his knee; and he had to stand like that for 45 minutes.

I did the treatment at lunch time.  Brett brought his feed bin out to the tie rail and filled it with hay.  I brought Jackson out and tried slipping the long sleeve over his leg.  I wasn't sure how he would react and didn't want to try it with the solution inside, until I'd managed it empty first.  Jackson was unconcerned about the whole operation. 

I poured the contents of a small bottle into the bag and added a gallon of water.  Then, I slipped it over his hoof and up his leg, securing it at the top.  Jackson stood in the sun, with the heat bouncing off the black stall mats, sweating, for the entire time.  He rocked back and forth on the leg a few times, as he ate, but stood quietly. 

Our farrier will put his pad and shoes back on tomorrow.  In six weeks we will see how it looks -- and repeat if necessary. 

Thank goodness he is such a good boy about all these treatments.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wednesday with Tex: Riding

Sunday morning I rode Tex.

I've only ridden him a handful of times since he transitioned from being Brett's horse to being mine, a couple years ago.  Mostly, we've been laying groundwork and building trust.

Talk about paying off.  Tex was the most relaxed he's been under saddle.  He was pretty chill.  And, instead of worrying, he tried really hard to figure out what I wanted.  I'm sure my aids are much different than the cowboys he is used to.

We worked in the arena first, making sure he was relaxed and that I had brakes.  Of course, I had brakes.  And he tried hard to understand.  He didn't freak out or worry.  If he wasn't sure, he slowly and carefully backed up.  It must be his "go-to" skill.  I've been on horses who rush backwards when worried; this wasn't like that at all.  So I laughed, and said "whoa" and we tried again.

Brett was riding Flash at the same time and after awhile we left the arena and wandered under the oaks.  Tex was happy.  He put his head down and carefully looked at the dry stream bed before calmly walking across.  He did jump forward when Flash jumped the same stream bed, behind us.  We marched over the bridge, around the house, down to the front gate, over some downed logs, and then back around the barn before calling it good.

Afterward, I sat on a flat rock next to the pasture.  Passage weaved back and forth behind me, rubbing against my back the way cats do.  Kersey was sprawled at my feet, all four feet in the air, hoping for a belly rug.  Tex came over and hung is head way over the fence.  We sat there like that for quite awhile.

My definition of perfect happiness.

Monday, October 23, 2017

White Line

Jackson has white line.

Its not surprising given that he has the world's crappiest feet.
Jackson eats his morning vitamins and meds from a feed bag.  That way, Pistol and Lucy and can't "share" and he eats all of it.

We will treat it, of course.  But conservatively.  White line happens when bacteria gets into the hoof and grows, causing the sole to pull away from the hoof wall.  Our farrier was able to put a nail into the crevice, all the way to the nail head.  Don't worry, Jackson couldn't feel it.

You can go crazy with treating white line: cutting away most of the hoof and then having the horse live in a fake shoe for a year or more.  Meanwhile, you cross your fingers and hope that there are no complications.  With Jackson, you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be complications.  So, we won't go that route.  We will treat it with a topical (White Lightening) and a frog pad which pushes on the frog, creating better circulation.  We already know circulation in Jackson's feet isn't great.  Fingers crossed this works.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dinner worthy of Wine

Before I left my job last week, I was given a wonderful bottle of cabernet by a friend and co-worker.  I told him that I would make a dinner worthy of the wine this weekend.

I picked up some delicata squash at the market, as well as Point Reyes blue cheese.  I had an idea for a salad in the back of my mind.  I roasted the squash until it was soft and camelized, then drizzled it with honey balsamic vinegar.  I topped it with sliced apples, the blue cheese, chopped almonds and a drizzle of local honey. 

Saturday afternoon, we went to the local butcher and picked up chateaubriand.  I made a wine sauce to go with it (no, I did not use the special wine -- it was decanting on the counter, waiting for dinner).

I rounded out the meal with baked potatoes.

Dinner paired beautifully with the wine.  We drank the entire bottle; it was that good. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday with Tex

Today the farrier came to trim and shoe the horses.  So, we brought them into the barn for their breakfast.  As the farrier finishes work on each of them, Brett will return them to their pastures.

It was a nippy 40F when we went out in the grey morning light to do chores.  Brett had the stalls set up with hay and water.  All we needed to do was add their morning bucket of vitamins and bring them in.  I added an apple to Tex's grain bin, already containing his pelleted vitamins and carrots.

I talked to Robin after the last time I brought Tex into the barn, at liberty, for feedback.  She advised that I not carry food on my person, but that I load up the destination (the stall in this case) with a bonanza of goodies.  She also gave me advice on what to do if Tex walks off -- which she said he would do at some point.  I was ready.

We brought all the other horses into the barn first.  Being with the herd would give Tex added incentive to walk with me to the barn, on top of the knowledge that breakfast was waiting in the stall.  When we went to the boys pasture, Brett opened the gate and let Flash out first.  Flash broke into a trot and skidded across the barn aisle and into his stall.

I asked Tex to come to my shoulder and we started walking.  Half-way to the barn, he paused and looked around.  I asked him to continue and he complied -- for a couple steps.  Then he calmly walked off.  I calmly followed.  He broke into a trot and ran behind the barn.  I calmly followed.  He dropped his head to the dead grass and I said no.  He lifted his head and looked at me -- I was still quite a distance from him, just rounding the corner of the barn.  He thought for a moment.

He broke into a trot again -- but this time, he trotted straight over to me, slid to a stop, and stood at my shoulder.  I praised him and we walked back to the front of the barn, down the aisle, and I indicated he could go in his stall.  I talked to him the whole way.  "That was amazing, Tex."  "I'm so proud of you."  "Look at you; making good choices."  "You are the best horse, ever."

As he stood in his stall, his lips wet with apple juice and slobber, he reached his head out and looked at me.  He looked awfully pleased with himself.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A New Start

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile have probably noticed a pretty steep decline in the amount of posts in the past year or two.  Before we moved to Northern California, I was able to telecommute a couple days a week.  I knew my job inside out -- heck, I was there for 20 years.  So, I had extra brain waves to devote to things like riding and blogging.

Four and a half years ago we moved to the Sierra Nevada mountains with our animals.  We wanted to live (and eventually retire) in a place with fewer people and more trees.  My new job was demanding, with a vertical learning curve, but I enjoyed the challenge.  I worked with friendly, smart people for a nonprofit with religious roots.  It felt like a good fit.

...until two years ago when I got a new boss.  I was hopeful that with time she would get her management feet, and things would improve.  I have awesome co-workers and we formed our own little support group.  Others gave me encouragement and acknowledged the work I accomplished.  I thought I could "tough it out."  Why let one person ruin things, right?

But, it got worse instead of better.  The more I accomplished, the more I was berated.  The positive feedback I received from others was resented.  I was threatened and harassed.  Those of you who have been in abusive relationships know the feeling; the clenching in your stomach when you hear footsteps; not knowing whether it was going to be roses or fists.  I was in an abusive marriage when I was just out of college -- I recognized the symptoms.

People, within and without the organization, advised me to file a complaint.  Or get an attorney.  But, really, all I wanted was to work without repercussion.  So, when head hunters called, I listened.

I didn't want to jump from the frying pan into the fire so I was careful.  I took my time.  I wanted to work for a nonprofit.  I wanted a company with a strong commitment to its community.  I wanted their work to fulfill a mission that resonated with me.  And, as luck would have it, just such a company called.

Monday, I start the new job.  I will have a long commute but I won't be working evenings, weekends and holidays on a regular basis anymore.  I am anticipating having my life back.  I am hopeful.  I am excited about making a difference -- about mentoring staff and building a team.  I am excited about working for a company with the goal of giving back to its community of working poor and the under-served. And, hopefully, I will have energy to do more than sit on the couch at night staring blankly into space.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

California Smoke Out

It seems like every September, sometimes into October, smoke descends onto our ranch.

We wake up in the morning, open the back door and step into the haze.  It looks like fog, but it smells like a campfire.  The smoke stings your eyes and burns your throat.  But unlike a campfire, you can't move away from the smoke.  It's everywhere.

We are not close to the fires burning west of us, in Sonoma and Napa counties.  Those are a good two hours away.

And the the fires to the east of us, towards Lake Tahoe, are about an hour away.  Maybe less.

There are also fires to the north of us.

Normally, when I head down the mountain for work I can see the outline of Sacramento clearly in the distance.  This morning?  It looked like this.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Princess Prima Dona

Yes, this is about Lucy.

You know how some horses really want to be ridden?  Lucy gets pissy and pushy and downright obnoxious when she doesn't get regular attention.  She's one of those horse who does better with a few days off between rides because she goes into over-achiever mode when ridden after a break.

I can feel her saying, See? You don't need any other horse.  I am the best.  All you need is me.  Me Me ME.

Yes, Lucy, I hear you.

Between the heat of the summer, and then my surgery, I haven't been on her back in ages.  During the summer, I spent time with her in the pasture everyday -- and she followed me around while I did the morning and evening pasture clean up.  But, since my surgery, I haven't been allowed to do chores.  At least, not to the degree that I was before.  And now the days are short (and cool and crisp and wonderful), and I'm off to work in the dawn and home after dusk.  So, poor Lucy has been poorly neglected.

She's been getting more and more vocal about it -- calling to me from across the pasture fence.  And, she's taking it out on Jackson -- charging him for no reason at all.  The other day, Brett was in the pasture and in Jackson's haste to escape her pinned ears and teeth, he ran right over Brett.  Not good.  Not good at all.

So, Sunday I lunged her for a few minutes.  No Pessoa, no cavesson, no equipment at all.  Just an opportunity to check in and see how she's moving.  I'm still limited in the use of my left arm, but thankfully Lucy is an angel on the lunge.  Even when she bucks, she never pulls.  So, I felt pretty confident that I wouldn't injure myself.

(I didn't tell Brett 'till afterward though.)

Camille was visiting for the weekend and took a couple pictures for me.  I was happy to see that Lucy, while clearly out of shape and sluggish, was stepping under well and her hips were swinging.

But, best of all, when we did chores in the evening she was in a very mellow mood.