Saturday, November 30, 2019

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Wednesday morning, I packed the cooler, then Brett packed the car and we started on the long drive to my dad’s house on the California Central Coast.  The weather was wet — snow at home and rain down the mountain, but we arrived in time for me to put the apple pies in the oven to bake while we ate dinner with my dad.  The rest of the family arrived in trickles over the evening and Thanksgiving morning.  By Thanksgiving, at noon, we were all gathered.  So, while we were drinking champagne, our house and animal sitter was slogging through snow at the ranch.

The horses were in the barn so she didn’t have to deal with dragging hay to the pastures.

All the animals were happy, healthy and well-fed when we got back home this afternoon.  I’m sure Sage had a good time jumping in snow banks, one of her favorite things.  Kersey stays on the porch where its dry.  She’s no dummy.

A new storm started its path through our area shortly after we got home.  This one is not so cold, so we will get lots and lots of rain but no snow.  It’s a dreary grey color outside — not exactly like the brilliance of the Central Coast.  The kids took this photo while they were hiking at Montana de Oro, with waves crashing over the rocky shore and spraying them on the bluffs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Girls Just Wanna Have Fu-uhn

Part of the reason we got Sage earlier this year was that Kersey has really slowed down.  She acts like an old dog now, sleeping a lot and watching us from the front porch during chores instead of coming along.

She had some ACL injuries when she was younger and now her joints are fused and arthritic.  She’ll be ten next summer.

So, Sage arrived and immediately started tormenting poor Kersey.  Then, Kersey taught Sage what to do with squirrels.  Sage is fast — she catches ground squirrels a lot.  She didn’t know what to do with the squirrel at first; Kersey demonstrated.  I won’t go into details but our squirrel population has decreased, which is a good thing.

We put Kersey on a new arthritis medication a month ago and she is a new dog.  She’s dropped almost 15 pounds in the past six months and she looks good.  She was way overweight before.    The two of them have a lot of fun together chasing squirrels, swimming in the stream and digging in the compost pile.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sage Graduates

On Sunday, Sage had another obedience training class.  She did really well this time.  There were a couple of things that helped with that success.

First, I’ve been able to work with her everyday (yay retirement).  Some days we do a lot and some days we do a little but we do something everyday.  She can walk politely on a loose lead, she can heel, and sit, down, stay and come.  Reliably. home anyway.

Secondly, she didn’t get car sick on the way there.  Brett traded in his Subaru last week and got a Honda.  We put a seat cover/hammock in the back seat and she did fine.  She looked out the windows and her eyes were clear, bright and not in the least bit glassy.  On the way home, she laid down and slept.  Interestingly, a number of people have gotten carsick in the back seat of the Subaru.  So, maybe the car had something to do with it.  I have also done some work with her, sitting in the car and feeding her treats when she climbed partway in.  So, maybe she wasn’t as anxious either.

Thirdly, I started using a Gentle Leader when working with her on heel.  I had seen these things on other dogs and thought they were like a muzzle.  Wrong.  They go across the nose and around the neck in the same way as a halter.  So, you are leading by directing the head instead of pulling on the neck.  Way better.  And super effective.  I only use it when training things that are difficult for her to focus on — or when there are a lot of distractions.

So, at class she was gold.  She understands that class isn’t about playing with the other dogs although she does do some whining, leaning and tail wagging.  But not too much.  She held her down-stay even when the trainer rolled a ball in front of her.  She held it when I danced in circles around her, and over her, singing and clapping my hands.  And everything else was easy-peasy for her.

At the end of class, the trainer said that Sage has it down, is getting a bit bored, and is ready to move up to the next level.  I’m not sure what that will involve exactly, but we’ll find out soon enough.

I’m very proud of my sweet Sagey-Poo.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Lucy Conundrum

What to do about Lucy?  My attention loving demanding, ambitious, talented, hyper mare needs a job.  I had hoped that when I retired my back issues would improve.  No more 2 hour commute (each way) and no more long days of sitting behind a desk or in meetings.  I figured my routine of daily yoga strengthening and more physical movement would help my back.  And it has, in general.  But not enough to ride Lucy.

Lucy is a blast to ride.  She is trained to third level and one of her nicknames is Gumby.  She’s super supple and things like shoulder-in and half-pass are easy for her.  I’ve had horses before that were talented, but they didn’t like to work (Auke and Winston).  I’ve also had horses that weren’t talented at all but would try their hearts out for you (Jackson).  Lucy has both those pieces and that’s what makes her so much fun.  I think her trot is the most comfortable I have ever ridden — she floats.  She tends to get anxious at canter but when she is in a settled state of mind, her canter is lovely too.

The trouble is my back can’t handle trot and canter anymore.  And Lucy is happiest working in those gaits.  When I rode Tex for a 15 minute leisurely walk around the ranch, I spent the evening on the couch with my friends the heating pad and ibuprofen.

And there are the trolls to consider, of course.  Lucy spooks at the most unexpected times at imaginary things.  She doesn’t bolt or anything; she dips and jumps sideways.  I’ve never felt like I was going to come off, but it does jolt me a bit and that would definitely cause my back to go into major meltdown.

So, what to do.  Lucy gets a lot of attention.  We give each other back rubs when I muck her pasture twice a day.  She has Pistol to boss around and space to run.  But she wants to work.  She needs to work.  But, I can’t ride her and she requires a very balanced, confident and quiet rider.

I’m thinking about leasing her.  I’d love her to be ridden by one of Sandy’s students because Sandy knows Lucy and I’m confident she would be both ridden well and well cared for at Sandy’s barn.  It would take some work to get her back in shape — she needs joint injections and then some time in the Pessoa building back her fitness and top line.  But she could get there easily.  So, we’ll see.  Fingers crossed I can find a solution to the Lucy conundrum.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Time with Tex

Over the past two years, while I was working working working and hardly ever home (it seemed), Tex was hanging in the pasture with Flash.  In the summer, I’d put on his fly mask before leaving for work and take it off in the evening.  Sometimes I’d hang out in the pasture with him and share an apple.  But mostly, he just hung out.  I think that for Tex, having all that down-time was a good thing.

That stressed out, worried, please-don’t-hit-me horse?  I haven’t seen him in a long, long time.  In its place is a relaxed, friendly — and a tad mischievous, handsome red dun.

Friday was clear, sunny and cool; perfect weather for being outside.  I gave Tex a good grooming and got all the tangles out of his luxurious mane.  Brett and Flash joined us; Brett wanted to ride Flash around a bit.  I told him to go ahead but that I wasn’t sure I would ride.  Sometimes Tex doesn’t like to be saddled, or doesn’t want to line up at the mounting block so I figured I’d be spending all my time working on that stuff; taking my time; making it a no stress, no expectations venture.  After all, its been months since I’ve been on his back.

He took a few steps back when he saw me with the saddle pad.  But he stood still as I settled it on his back and didn’t move a muscle when I swung up the saddle and set it gently in place.  My, my, that was a pleasant surprise.

Brett mounted first and as I walked up to the mounting block, Tex lined himself up.  Honestly, I wasn’t even to the top step and he was already there, waiting for me.  Once on, we walked around the arena a bit.  Sage thought this riding stuff was very exciting.  She ran behind us, and around, crouching and leaping and running and barking.  Flash didn’t look up and Tex didn’t mind either.  So, Tex and I pretended Sage was a wee little heifer and we tried to herd her around.  Sage didn’t like the game much, but we did.

Back at the tie rail, after a short walk around the ranch, Tex was not ready for me to dismount.  Every time I asked for halt and shifted my weight to get off, he’d move off.  He cracks me up.  Once I was off and had removed his tack, we took Tex and Flash with us out the front gate to get the mail and to let them graze where the grass is lush and green.

Lucy watched us over the fence.  She gave us a hard stare before turning on her heel and galloping away, striking at the air as she went.

Lucy is really fun to ride.  But, Tex... well, he’s stolen my heart in the same way that Jackson did.

Friday, November 22, 2019

I’m In!

The two passions of my life have been horses and gardening.  I’ve never had as much time as I would like for either, and its something I intend to remedy now that I am retired.

I started gardening, oh, about 25 years ago when my kids were small.  I experimented with flowers and vegetables and trees.  Some lived, some didn’t.  I read a lot and I went to classes offered at various locations.  Often, the classes were taught by Master Gardeners.  I was impressed with, and envied, their knowledge.

After we moved up here, I learned that UC Davis offers a certification course to become a Master Gardener.  I inquired.  At the time, there was no way that I could make the time commitment and so I, sadly, put certification on my bucket list for retirement.

Guess what?  I’m retired now.   And the first thing I did?  Even before my retirement date?  You know it.  I called UC Davis to see if there would be a program in 2020.  The answer was yes.  So, after attending an orientation class, submitting an application, and enduring an interview by a panel of ten Master Gardeners (yikes), I found out today that I have been accepted into the program.

Champagne and pizza for dinner tonight.

Certification is a lot of work.  I will be attending lectures one day a week, all day.  There will be homework, and reading, and exams.  There will be labs.  And, when I finish in late spring, I will be a rookie Master Gardener.

As a Master Gardener, I will provide education to the public — backyard gardeners — through teaching classes, writing articles, going to Farmers Markets and the County Fair, giving demonstrations, and manning the help line.  I can’t wait!!!

Classes start in January.  In the meantime, I need to get my books and get fingerprinted and all that jazz.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tuesday Hike: Jenkinson Lake

One of the first things I did upon retiring was join the local Tuesday hiking group.  Brett and I went on our second hike with the group today — the first one was the Persimmons and Turtles post last week.  The hike this week was close by; up at Jenkinson Lake which is just eight miles up a fairly steep and very windy road from us.

It’s a friendly group of retirees; some who hike fast and some who hike slow; some who are talkative, some who aren’t, and some who know a whole lot about the local plants and animals.  On alternating weeks they go on a long (6-10 miles) or short (4-6 miles) hike.  This week was a long hike; nine miles around the perimeter of the lake.  We joined a subset of the group that hiked to the waterfall and then turned back — still a respectable six and a half miles.

The water in the lake is very low right now.  The lake is a reservoir for drinking water for towns further down the mountain, in the foothills.  They’ve been taking water from the lake all summer, with not much coming in so there was a lot of shoreline exposed.  Depending on how much rain and snow we get, the lake will fill by spring.  It is fed primarily by snow melt.

Along the way, we passed this gorgeous Pacific Dogwood.

Surprisingly, there was water splashing down at the waterfall.  I had expected it to be dry.  It wasn’t the mad, spray drenching, torrent that is there is spring but, still, it was water.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Trout for Dinner

Trout is my favorite fish.  Brett loves King Salmon best and I have to admit that it is also very good.  But there is something about trout.  It is the taste, rich without being fishy, but also the many happy memories I have of camping as a child.  My brother loved to catch fish (but not to eat them) and my mother would fry up whatever he caught on the camp stove.

Because I love the flavor of trout so much, I don’t overwhelm it with seasonings.  A simple sprinkle of salt and pepper is all that is required.

I like to saute it in a cast iron pan that has been pre-heated in the oven so when I lay in the fish, there is an instant sizzle.  You can’t beat cast iron for searing meat and fish.  And as long as your pan is well seasoned, your meat/fish won’t stick.

For our side, I cut up a delicata squash.  I love these winter squash.  You don’t have to peel them so prep is super easy.  I cut off the ends, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and then slice each half into 1/4” half moons.  I toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of maple syrup.   I roast them for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees until they are soft with caramelized edges.

Add a crusty baguette and a glass of chardonnay, and dinner was served.

...and maybe a slice of that pie I made yesterday for dessert.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Lucy Loves Greys

Lucy was pitching a fit the other day: running the fence line with her tail in the air, skidding to a stop, bucking in place, straining her neck over the fence, and then running off again.  Pistol was unconcerned.

Sure enough, there was another horse across the road.  A new horse in the neighbor’s pasture.  And he was grey.

Lord have mercy.  There is something about grey men horses that just drives Lucy out of her mind.  Remember how crazy she was about Jackson?

Oh, and totally off the subject, I baked an apple pie tonight.  I figured I should practice before Thanksgiving.  Brett asked, “If I finish the pie tomorrow, will you practice again?”   Silly boy.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hay Day

During the last months before I retired, when Brett and I talked about my retirement, he always said something along the lines of, “and you can go with me to get hay.”  Every time.  Honestly, it wasn’t the part that I was most looking forward to, but we all have different ideas about things.

Today, we drove to a hay farm near Lodi and picked up 41 bales.  Each bale is 100 pounds and lasts about a day.  We buy grass hay, and are currently using Meadow Mix which is nutritious and popular with the horses.

Brett is hoping that this load of hay will take us through December.  Orlando stacked the hay in the trailer and then Brett and I tied it down.  Before heading home, we stopped and picked up some sausage at a butchery in Lockeford.  On the weekend, there is a line around the corner but today it was relatively quiet.

Back home, Brett backed the trailer into the barn and we unloaded the hay.

Passage was the first to inspect the hay.  She deemed it worthy, jumped down, and disappeared back into the feed room.

I pulled the bales down and pushed them off the back of the trailer.  From there, Brett stacked them on pallets.

We took a break and Brett lifted Sage into the trailer to sit with me.

She wasn’t too sure she liked it, and then she didn’t want to leave.  Now I understand why Brett was so excited to have me around on hay day.  It’s a heck of a lotta work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wrapping the Wrap-Around Porch

When we first saw Oak Creek Ranch six and a half years ago, it was in really sad shape but ... it had a wrap-around porch.  Despite knowing the house and property were going to be the mother of all fixer-uppers, we went ahead and bought it.  We joke that with all the plumbing and windows and siding and bathrooms and kitchen that we’ve replaced, we’ve pretty much rebuilt the house.  There are still projects on the list but we are making our way down to the ones on the “wouldn’t it be nice” side of the page, instead of the “holy crap, the xxxx is broken” side.

Back to that wrap around porch.  The front porch was, and is, beautiful with a wide deck, pretty railing, comfortable chairs and brick steps.

The sides are kind of meh.  We’ve added railing to driveway side and the other side is primarily used for stacking firewood but we did add some French doors.  The back... it’s always been pretty stupid.  The porch did not wrap around to the back door when we bought the house.  Instead, there were some rickety steps leading to a wobbly landing so small that you couldn’t set your groceries down to unlock the door.

Brett cleaned things up and a few years ago he wrapped the porch around to the back door.  The old steps came out with one swing of his sledge hammer.  It was a definite improvement.  However, in the winter, the deck (which wasn’t covered) got very icy and was a definite hazard.  Brett would scatter sand on the deck in the frosty mornings so I didn’t slip when leaving for work.

This past summer he widened the deck and, with the help of a friend, added a roof.

Now we have a very comfortable place to sit and put on our shoes, or have a glass of wine, or give the dogs belly rubs.

Brett keeps saying he doesn’t know what to get me for Christmas.  I think he’s already given me a great Christmas gift with an extension of the best feature of this house.