Saturday, January 31, 2009


This is just to remind me that I don't live on Hoth.

It's so cold and has been for so long that today's high of 22 with sunshine made me feel happy enough to go to the barn sans hat! I got a giant bag of frozen carrots in the garage to give Reno hope for spring. He can smell 'em a mile off. In fact, I had put two little carrot stumps into my coat pocket several days ago and forgotten them and when I was putting on his blanket the other night, he started backing away from me as I was trying to buckle the front. He never does that and he was not stopping and then I remembered, or thought I remembered that there might be some carrot stumps--He knew it! He smelled those old wilty things and wasn't taking no for an answer. Good thing I found them or I could have become the victim of a stall rage incident.

Today, I whipped off the horse blankets and shoveled that water tank full of snow (turning on the heater, of course). The poop is still frozen solid and the hay supply is dwindling, but I saw a huge flock of robins near the henhouse and I am thinking we're about to turn the corner. Well, except for that entire month of February. The dark doldrums lie just ahead...after the Cardinals kick some serious steel batootey tomorrow!! Gotta go make some chili, make some velveeta rotel dip and start on my taxes...

I've got my Gurney's catalog laying on the dining room table and I am still trying to figure out why we live this far north. We're lovin' Netflix here in the sticks, although I miss the librarians, a little. We've watched Tropic Thunder, The Mummy--Curse of the Dragon Emporer, Becoming Jane, Dark Knight (not me), IronMan (not me) and tonight, Mad Hot Ballroom (it's about middle schoolers.)

Time for dog dinner!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How cold is it?

I hate the cold. I really hate the cold. There hasn't been much wind and we're way behind on the snowfall; but I really hate being cold. Thank goodness my MIL bought me the second pair of fleece-lined jeans or I'd still be wearing the pair I put on in November. Once they're on, I can't bear to part with them. I am a poster child for effective winter gear. I was selling fleece-lined jeans to some lady at my chemo treatment six weeks ago! I have cuddle-duds. I have Muck brand boots. I have a down-filled coat from LL Bean that MIL gave me before I got married (!!), that I still wear when it is colder than all get out. It's the best. I have smart wool socks. I have these fleecey pajamas that actually make me almost too warm. I have a bed heater. The only thing I don't have is a butt-warmer in my car. Handyman got used to one in a truck he uses on occasion and I think we'll be having one in our next truck, whenever it comes.

In fact, Handyman appears to be weakening on the whole seasonal-demeanor issue. He seems to be suffering this year more than ever. I never noticed it too much. It was always me whining and complaining. He is the one who taught me about great outdoor gear. He made sure I acquired all the right stuff. I made sure we got a good bed warmer. But this year he has been whiney and slow to get outside. I may be making headway with the whole "let's retire further to the south" thing.

But back to the headline--how cold is it? It's so cold that I bedded my stalls with straw last week. Seeings how I have next-to-no sawdust left and it was going to be -15 overnight, I felt they had to have something more than their blankets between them and the ground, so I used a couple bales of free straw that came home from a shoot. Looks great, makes a big mess to clean up.

It's so cold that Handyman broke three muck tubs trying to empty them. This brought on the "don't fill tubs with wet sawdust when it's zero degrees outside" lecture. Also noted that the $17 muck tubs from Tractor Supply did not break. Only the $6 from Menards. (Note to self.)

It's so cold that my plastic muck fork doesn't really cut it since the piles are rock hard. So, the effective method is pick them hand. Grab one dooper with your (gloved) hand and the whole pile comes with.

It's so cold that Reno had frost forming on his ear hair. It's so cold that the snow on the barn roof won't melt so we had to haul water twice last week. It's so cold that the heat lamp has been running in the chicken house 24/7 for more than four days.

It's so cold that my million-dollar geothermal furnace has been running on "auxiliary" (read BIG BUCKS) power for four days plus. It's so cold that all my gloves have frozen snot on the back of all the thumbs.

It's so cold that we're burning through the hay and will be needing to get more--of course. Of course the RCI vacation guide came in the mail this week...wonder how much a horse-sitter charges for January, if I provide all the polar fleece you can wear?

Dear Old Dad had to haul water for me yesterday and today he is bringing SAWDUST! I can't remember the last load of sawdust we got! Unfortunately that means I have to remove all the sodden straw that I had to use this past out to the barn I go to muck, on this one glorious day of temps above 35--it's a divine gift to give me hope that there are better days coming!

I might lay on the asphalt just to pretend it's summer!

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Dad sent this to me...

...and needless to say, I loved it--Bet there's lots of "girls" who relate:

My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future. As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined woman she would soon be.

I started thinking about some the girls we knew in our town who were already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no where, seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem. The parents of these same girls have asked me why I "waste" the money on horses so my daughter can ride. I'm told she will grow out of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try to pin the current generation's "slacker" label on my child. I don't think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her life.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has compassion. She knows that we must take special care of the very young and the very old. We must make sure those without voices to speak of their pain are still cared for.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned responsibility for others than herself. She learned that regardless of the weather you must still care for those you have the stewardship of. There are no "days off" just because you don't feel like being a horse owner that day. She learned that for every hour of fun you have there are days of hard slogging work you must do first.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned not to be afraid of getting dirty and that appearances don't matter to most of the breathing things in the world we live in. Horses do not care about designer clothes, jewelry, pretty hairdos or anything else we put on our bodies to try to impress others. What a horse cares about are your abilities to work within his natural world, he doesn't care if you're wearing $80.00 jeans while you do it.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned about sex and how it can both enrich and complicate lives. She learned that it only takes one time to produce a baby, and the only way to ensure babies aren't produced is not to breed. She learned how babies are planned, made, born and, sadly, sometimes die before reaching their potential. She learned how sleepless nights and trying to outsmart a crafty old broodmare could result in getting to see, as non-horse owning people rarely do, the birth of a true miracle.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she understands the value of money. Every dollar can be translated into bales of hay, bags of feed or farrier visits. Purchasing non-necessities during lean times can mean the difference between feed and good care, or neglect and starvation. She has learned to judge the level of her care against the care she sees provided by others and to make sure her standards never lower, and only increase as her knowledge grows.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to learn on her own. She has had teachers that cannot speak, nor write, nor communicate beyond body language and reactions. She has had to learn to "read" her surroundings for both safe and unsafe objects, to look for hazards where others might only see a pretty meadow. She has learned to judge people as she judges horses. She looks beyond appearances and trappings to see what is within.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned sportsmanship to a high degree. Everyone that competes fairly is a winner. Trophies and ribbons may prove someone a winner, but they do not prove someone is a horseman. She has also learned that some people will do anything to win, regardless of who it hurts. She knows that those who will cheat in the show ring will also cheat in every other aspect of their life and are not to be trusted.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has self-esteem and an engaging personality. She can talk to anyone she meets with confidence, because she has to express herself to her horse with more than words. She knows the satisfaction of controlling and teaching a 1000 pound animal that will yield willingly to her gentle touch and ignore the more forceful and inept handling of those stronger than she is. She holds herself with poise and professionalism in the company of those far older than herself.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to plan ahead. She knows that choices made today can effect what happens five years down the road. She knows that you cannot care for and protect you investments without savings to fall back on. She knows the value of land and buildings. And that caring for your vehicle can mean the difference between easy travel or being stranded on the side of the road with a four horse trailer on a hot day.

When I look at what she has learned and what it will help her become, I can honestly say that I haven't "wasted" a penny on providing her with horses. I only wish that ll children had the same opportunities to learn these lessons from horses before setting out on the road to adulthood.

Thanks Dad--for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime; and for putting the plexi in my stall doors this week! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Be very wary

My BFF has spent the last week of her life in the Children's Hospital downtown with her soon-to-be eight year-old daughter--who got some skin grafts for the New Year! Seems there was a ugly combination of a long plugged-in flat iron, a can of hairspray next to it, a little fingernail polish remover in-use and the ultimate ingredient of...a little burning tea-light candle at the far end of the bathroom vanity.

Seems the little girl bumped into the hairspray, which was apparently overheated from sitting next to the flat iron. The can sprayed out under pressure and went right into the burning candle at the far end. There was some sort of flash fire and the fumes from the nail polish remover hovering around her hands ignited, burning the backs of both hands and spot on her neck below her chin.

We are all praising the Lord that her daddy was in the living room, in direct sight and saw the entire thing. He was able to fling the child out of the bathroom, douse the flames and while he did inhale searing fumes; he was not badly harmed.

She is being released today; will probably not return to school until February and will wear pressure garments on her hands and neck for a year. Again, the critical component in this near-tragedy: a burning candle.

Candles are fun. Candles smell great. And, candles can be deadly. Do not ever underestimate the danger in a burning flame, no matter how small.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spreading Manure

Yes, I took a long holiday hiatus, although I thought of blogging, a lot! We had several mild days over the holidays and Handyman is making serious headway on the south side of the barn. The "tack room" has a window now, and there are three sliding stall doors. One of them has plexi in place and the other two have all functional hardware. Princess continues to entertain us, by galavanting right on through the inside stall door, if it's left open by chance. She isn't a bit phased by stacks of lumber, power tools, cords. If there is any snippet of food in the immediate area, this gal would take on fire-breathing dragons with a wide-eyed, pinky-nose gaze. I hope someday we get to take her out on cross-country or something. I think her attitude would be amazing.

During those warm days I was able to dig out some colonies of Curly Doc that were taking hold in the pasture and do some "manual" manure spreading. We do not own tractor or implement, but we are both committed to not having an eaten-down dirt lot, so we try to keep the pasture maintained. The first year, I dutifully picked up all the manure piles, summer and winter, in the whole pasture. Then a couple of people reminded me that I was gathering up and disposing of some great fertilizer that could benefit my grass.

We have a large area of deep, terrific clover and grass that the horses will not graze. There was also a lot of Curly Doc in that area, so I went on a rampage to eradicate it. I tried hand-spraying Round Up, but Handyman and I were both unhappy about the results from that. So the only choice left was to dig it, one at a time. This is one of those weird, wacky tasks that I actually enjoy--although it may take a lifetime to finish. Fortunately, Curly Doc grows on a tap root, so I use a sharp, straight-edge shovel, point-first into the root. When I hear the snap under the ground, I can pull the whole, giant plant up and dispose of it.

So during those warm days, whilst I was digging Doc, I also started "spreading" manure. As I wandered from plant to plant, I kick any nearby piles for all I'm worth! WARNING: Do a few test piles first. I am not responsible for any broken big toes! It's pretty easy to do a hip and thigh workout, as I kicked for all I was worth about two thousand times, each day! If the manure is spread out, it won't kill the grass underneath, it fertilizes a bigger area and melts away in the soil. Left in those big piles, it burns away the grass, the horses won't graze there and it takes MUCH longer to disappear.

Now, my horses are wormed regularly and there are no other horses coming onto my property, so I feel pretty comfortable about leaving/spreading their own manure in their field. Of course, there could be a time when there is too much manure in the grass and in that case, I would remove it.

The bad part of my method is that Tucker the Wonder Dog thinks it is awesome to have fresh manure flying into his face. So he would bark and dive at my feet as I kicked. Fortunately, I avoided kicking his teeth out. That dog would not quit. Didn't matter how much poop was flying, he was on it.

Although I do not miss having a chicken living in my kitchen this winter, I was delighted to see that a guy down the road has four or five roosters that look just like my old John. I'm even thinking of leaving a note in his box, asking if he wants to get rid of one. Are there folks who don't want to get rid of roosters?? Probably not.