Monday, January 31, 2011


Live In the Moment

Last night I tossed and turned once I went to bed. I was fretting about the weather mostly.  How heavy was the snow on the roof? What would I do if it snowed another foot? How was I going to get the driveway open?  Did I have enough hay for the Boys in case we got snowed in?  What if the power went off?

Finally, I surrendered to the creed of just putting it all in the hands of God. I certainly wasn't going to be able to do anything about the weather, so what was the point in worrying about it?

That's worrying, not planning. Planning was deciding to stack some hay in the barn so I didn't  have to cart it across the snow.  Planning was going to the gas station to get the cans filled with diesel for the tractor.  Planning was making a trip to the feed store if I was short on grain--I'm not. Planning was making sure my shelves were stocked with food.

All that's fine, but how much time do we spend worrying about things we can't control?  And that translates over to riding and training our horses.  Unlike us, they live in the moment.  They do not spend hours of their time figuring on how to avoid taking a right lead canter, bending in a corner, or going on the bit.  We're the ones who do that for them.

How much better to get on with the same pure sense of the moment our horses have. Instead of being locked in a rigid pattern of "This is what I am going to do today,"  we would be far better off letting the day, the horse, and our own physical state guide us in our work.

Training needs to be adaptable, now only in goals, but also in technique. Perhaps the horse simply will not offer a good canter depart.  You'd planned on training shoulder-in that day, but in the warm-up, you start to discover that your horse is not cantering off the aids.  Time for a change of plan.  You need to address that "hole" in your horse's training instead.  And then, what if the standard, basic techniques you've been taught don't work to fix the problem?

Time to open up the "bag of tricks"--the most valuable set of tools I've ever gotten from the riding masters I've worked with.  As Lockie Richards always used to say in every lesson I ever took with him, "Feel it?"  Why won't the horse canter? If we can eliminate a physical issue--not always easy--then what else is wrong? Is he falling on his forehand?  Dropping on a shoulder? Being lazy?  Does he need more rein support? Are you sitting in an effective position?  Has he dropped his quarters in so he can't strike off?  Is he straight?  Would he work better from a more forward trot? A more collected trot?  On a circle? On a straight line?

"Feel it."  Be in the moment, responding to what's happening as it happens, not just a theory.

It takes forever, as far as I'm concerned, to learn how to ride and train.  I was lucky enough to have some fantastic trainers in my career who taught me all kinds of ways to improve my horses.  And yet, I still don't have all the answers.

But one thing I do have is the confidence to try to figure it out.  And it all starts by remembering to ride "in the moment," responding to what's happening at that moment, not worrying about tomorrow's ride.

Now, if only I could apply that to the weather.....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Enough is Enough!!

Still Snowed Under

Even as I write, it is snowing outside. This little "cliipper" is not supposed to amount to much, but the insult is obvious.  Nature is doing her best to bring us to our knees.

And, as noted, the horses are already up to their knees in the snow. The path to the barn is shoveled but still is about six inches of semi-packed snow underneath. The driveway is a wreck of bumps of snow interspersed with patches of bare pavement all soon to be covered again with another inch or so.

For one brief moment this morning, I saw the sparkle of snow diamonds on the piles where yesterday's dusting had fallen. It was quite crystalline and under normal circumstances would have been beautiful.  But, enough is enough.

And the worse news?  There is another huge storm brewing in the middle of the country that seems to have plans to dive down and then come up the Atlantic coast to batter us again in the middle of next week.

The even more insulting factor?  They are calling it the "Groundhog Day Storm."  For those of you abroad, Groundhog Day is an invented holiday here in the USA where formally dressed handlers pull a hibernating groundhog (see pic) from its den.  If the critter sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not, then we will have an early Spring.  (Spring will still be six weeks away, but supposedly, it will arrive before its time.)  So Groundhog Day is one of the first welcoming celebrations that winter is bound to end sooner or later.  Talk about an insult to interfere with the festivities by holding a blizzard in its honor.....
This is Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog weather predictor of all. 

My horses just seem to be standing around doing nothing of interest. I mean, after all, how long can you wade around in two feet of snow and still have a good time?  I just keep trying to make sure they have hay and that their stalls are picked out.  The stalls are not perfectly clean, as they keep going in and out during the day, dragging the snow in and dragging their hay out.

I am going to have one big mess to clean up when it does thaw.  The run in areas are pretty trashed on both sides of the barn.  I did clean the manure out of the west side a week ago, but I needs a cleaning again, and I will have to dig a path to get to the manure pile if I do it before the next storm hits.

The east run in is wet, since the snow has blown in there and melted twice already.  There is wet hay, some bedding, and some manure mixed in as footing.  Again, there is simply no way to clean it up right now.  And I have a new manure pile about 15 feet from the barn as that was as far as I could get the wheelbarrow to dump it--again without digging a LONG path to the other manure pile.  I figure I'll be able to move this fairly easily with the tractor once the snow melts, but again, for now, it will have to stay.

When they talk about an area being paralyzed by a snowstorm, they are not exaggerating.  I shudder to think what's going to happen if we do get hit again.  I am running out of coping options.

Not sure how to credit this photo, but it's been posted on Facebook by some of my friends. It seems an appropriate close to this blog.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sleigh Ride

In Search of a Toboggan

I have a little plastic toboggan I use to drag hay over to the barn across the snow.  It works pretty well in the snow, compared to the wheeled cart, of course.

My friend Stacie is suffering from the same kind of snow we have here and mentioned that a plastic sled would be a real help to her.  I was positive I'd seen some at Lowe's the other day, so this morning, I headed out to try to find one for her.

Five stores and stops later--including Toys R Us--I had absolutely no luck even seeing a hint of one. This is a bit of a shopping mecca where I was looking, so it's pretty clear plastic toboggans had been a hot item this winter and were sold out nearly everywhere.

Finally, as a last resort, I stopped at the local ski shop.  Lo and behold, for a rather stiff price--not to be mentioned here--I found a 66" long plastic toboggan made for hunters.  There was a sale price on in, and after much debate with myself, I bit the bullet and bought it.  I am making it Stacie's birthday present--two months early.  With it, she should be able to drag a bale of hay out to the pasture for her boys, and pull the manure tub to the pile when she cleans the stalls in the snow.

The trouble is that it's getting to the point around here that there is no way to properly clear the snow to make paths for manure carts or even walking.  Stacie just had the area around her barn plowed, but that was this week's storm. Now there is the threat of another huge storm coming for the middle of next week.  She and I need to get together before that so I can give the sled to her so she will be ready for the next snowy onslaught.

My driveway is just lumps and bumps of snowy icy stuff and unless it warms up with some sunshine between now and the next storm, I'm not going to get it properly cleared. I finally called Scott, my farrier, to tell him I don't think he's going to be able to get his rig in here. My thought is to simply pull Toby's and Tucker's shoes while we have the snow cover.  If he can't get his equipment in, there's no way he can put snow shoes on, and I'd rather have them barefoot than shod with regular shoes in this stuff.  Hopefully, as long as he is in the snow, Tucker will be OK and not get bruised.  I honestly don't know what else to do.

I am soaking all of Toby's feeds right now, and adding oil.  Despite all my efforts, he seems to have lost some weight this winter, and I want to try to get him fatter. He seems to like the wet feed and actually prefers it to cribbing.  His normal routine is to eat a bit of his grain, crib for a while, eat, crib, etc.  I am pretty sure the feed triggers the cribbing, but for some reason, when his feed is soaked, he tends to focus on eating it.

All three Boys get a wet feed at the "midnight" feeding anyhow.  As I've said before, it makes me feel good to know they are getting something warm in their stomachs on a cold winter night.

And from the looks of things, we are in for quite a few more cold winter nights before the first hint of Spring.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Pics

OK, So Some of It's Pretty

I went out to fix the mailbox and took the camera to get some snow pics.

I just posted a whole bunch at random.

Tucker was up to his knees too, and he's  16.3 h.

The piles by the garage are nearly six feet high at this point.  At least the driveway is open, but I'm not sure the car can navigate it.  Four wheel drive and the truck are my planned mode of transport, at least for the next few days.

I suppose there is a certain cruel beauty in nature.  If we didn't have to clear the stuff out of the way, I might actually appreciate how it all looks.

I ended up nailing the mailbox to the post platform instead of using screws.  If it gets knocked off again, I'm going to have to rebuild the platform anyhow and probably get a new box.  It feels pretty sturdy now, but it'll never stand another blow from a plow or errant driver.

Worse and Worse

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

What I should have done was plow during the day yesterday, between storms. The first layer of 5 or so inches was wet to start off with and then got even wetter with the rain and sleet.

But then, last night, heavy snow came in a dropped another foot on the wet layer beneath. Fortunately, the top layer was lighter snow, so it was easy to plow. But every time I dropped the loader all the way to the ground I ran into the icy, heavy snow layer beneath and the tractor simply could not push it. It was a long frustrating process to get the driveways open. Had I plowed the wet stuff earlier, it would have been a lot easier today.

Ah well, live and learn.

But I managed. Heaven knows where I will push the snow if we get another storm before the bulk of this one melts. It has gotten simply ridiculous out there. I figure I was clearing snow for over two hours.  The sun is warm, though and wherever I did manage to expose some of the driveway, it's melting fast. I'm going to need to go out at some point to get the diesel fuel for the tractor, but I'm just kind of resting up now. Even though I was driving the tractor, it's still a tiring process to dig out.

Just to give you a sense of snow depth, Chance was in the paddock by his stall when I went out to feed this morning, and the snow was over his knees. I may go out to take some pictures later so check back if you've already read the blog to see the results.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weather Rerun

Snow and More Snow

I am awaiting the onslaught of the heavy snow. We already have several inches from this morning and today, but the heave snowfall should be here in two or three hours.  I am SO tired of it.

I apologized to Tucker tonight when I went out to feed. telling him I had no control over the weather. He was looking as me as if to say, "When are we going to get rid of this stuff?"   He was also watching me shovel the path to the barn for the second time today, and I suspect he would have liked me to do some shoveling in the paddocks.

I've been dumping the wheelbarrow at the edge of the riding arena since the Christmas storm, so that pile is getting ever bigger. I am optimistic that the tractor will make moving the manure to the back of the property an easy task once things thaw out, but you never know.  Without digging extensive and repeated paths to the farther manure pile, I am making the best of what is now perpetual snow cover.

I have to wonder how animals in the wild cope. Of course, a lot of them go into hibernation, either partial or complete, for the worst of the winter. But it has to be hard on the creatures who stay awake and have to feed themselves.  Around here, with the woodland, there are small bushes and trees to offer some forage for deer and other grazing animals. I guess the birds would do OK even if I didn't feed them as there are various berries and seed pods still accessible. Meateaters would, of course, prey upon the other critters out there looking for food, so somehow nature tends to take care of its own. But all the snow has to complicate things.

My horses, for example, would have a hard time finding good food sources.  We don't have excessive grasslands, and even if we did, most of them would be buried in the snow, making it a hard job to paw through to reach the grazing.  The cut cornfield might offer some edible stalks and for the lucky browser, ears of left over corn.  And, I think the farmer did not plow under the pumpkin patch, so it's possible there may be some leftover pumpkins out there too.

The battle against winter's elements makes me all the more diligent in keeping my Boys well fed with hay and, of course, their grain rations.  The thought of their being hungry this time of year makes me shudder.

I only wish every horseowner felt the same way.  I keep reading horror stories of horses being starved, and it makes me cringe.

At least I know my Boys are doing fine despite the weather.

On another topic entirely--apparently the road snowplow hit my mailbox and knocked it off its post.  This is the same mailbox the guy hit when he drove off the road this summer.  I managed to reset it on the pole with new screws, but now it's broken off again.  Rubbermaid no longer makes this box, so it's essentially irreplaceable.  I tied it back on for the time being with some baling twine, but that is far from secure.  Some bungee cords might work better, but, of course, replacing the screws--if I can--is the only real option for repair.  But who the heck can do that in the middle of a snowstorm??

One more task to keep me entertained or annoyed, I guess. *sigh*

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Awaiting Another Storm

Or Just Some Wet Sloppy Mess

Now the worry comes. This next storm may be sleet, may be rain, may be snow, or may be a combination of all three.  The big fear, as far as I am concerned, is ice.  Even if the Boys were all decked out in full snow shoes--Scott has not been here yet--or simply barefoot, ice is dangerous.  I am going to have to carefully monitor the situation in case I have to keep the Boys in for safety.

I have to laugh a bit at all of this. I keep thinking about mothers sending their children off to school on a cold morning. They have to make sure the little ones have the right coat, hat, mittens, and boots to ward off whatever weather is going to strike.  The standard cliche moment is the little boy bundled up in his snowsuit who suddenly decides he need to use the bathroom after the long struggle to get him dressed "just right" for the winter.  Or, better yet, if you know the film "A Christmas Story," the little kid so zipped into his snowsuit that he can hardly walk, let alone get up after tumbling in the snow.

Fortunately, our horses give us a little more leeway,  Snowpants are generally out, but the many variations of blankets and hoods certainly do make things entertaining.  "I put my horse out in his heavy turnout today," says a friend. And then you, as a fellow caring horse owner, start to worry that perhaps the midweight turnout your equines are sporting is perhaps not quite warm enough.

Luckily, today, the options for horse clothing is amazing.  "Water resistant," "waterproof," "ripstop," "ballistic nylon,"  "freedom fit shoulders,"  "stable blankets," "turnouts," fleece liners, storm flaps, hoods, and all kinds of strap configurations offer a wide range of choices.  Lightweight, midweight, heavyweight, "breathable," lined and unlined come to mind in the long list of options.

And then there are the colors!  Gone are the simple drab choices limiting you to blue, green, red, or black.  Lavender? Pink? Purple? Floral? Plaid? Stripes?  Geometric pattern?  Not only will your horse be comfy, warm and dry, but now he/she will be stylish as well.

There seems to be a trend among small dog owners to deck their little pooches out in all kinds of fashions. Maybe the equine manufacturers have been missing an opportunity here--fashion foward outfits for horses!

Wonder how Tucker would look in a sailor suit?

(The winter is clearly affecting my mind......*lol*)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saddles and Stuff

Thoughts for a Freezing Afternoon

Weather report? Bitter cold. The Arctic air has settled here in New Jersey with temperatures in the teens F.  I suspect we are around -9 C now and it's supposed to go down to around 5 F (-15 C) tonight.

Obviously, doing much more than the basic outside chores is not exactly appealing.

So, I began thinking about a conversation I had with my friend Stacie last night. She is an agent for Trilogy saddles and also a saddle fitter. She stuffs and adjust saddles for clients as well as selling saddles.

We were discussing the business last night.  As a distributor/representative for Ansur treeless saddles, I have run into many of the same situations Stacie has in her sales trips.  We've both driven for hours to meet a client only to have to wait until they show up for the appointment.  A number of times, the client doesn't even have the horse they want to try the saddle on remotely ready to test ride.

I've had clients actually take a riding lesson in the saddle as a test, taking up a couple hours of my time.  One rider rode in the saddle herself, loved it, and then insisted on waiting for her instructor too arrive to get her opinion.  Said instructor liked how the saddle fit and felt, but thought it wasn't stylish enough and convinced her student not to buy on looks alone.

Another of my favorites is when a client loved the saddle and then decides not to purchase a new model from me but instead seeks out a used on on the Internet.  As a result, I have set up demo fees so that my time is not totally wasted.

But both Stacie and I agreed that one of our pet peeves is another saddle maker who sends out high pressure salespeople who spend more time making negative comments about every other brand of saddle--especially Ansurs--than they do bragging about how good their saddles are.  Usually, as soon as I hear that a client is going to have that company out to show saddles, I'm pretty sure my sale has gone up in smoke.

Stacie and I believe that our saddles speak for themselves. Although we have a basic difference of opinion regarding treeless vs. treed saddles, we think a good saddle basically sells itself.   Trilogy saddles are beautiful and well made. I know that Stacie is very particular about fit for both horse and rider.  I know that Ansurs are wonderful and the treeless advantage is super for most horses and riders.

We have faith in the products we sell.  We don't need a heavy duty sales speech, and we would never talk negatively about the competition--at least not in the way this other company does.

Is this the way America does business? It sounds like politics. Instead of talking about how good your candidate is, you talk about how bad the opposition is.

Just a thought on a cold winter afternoon.

And, by the way, Ansur treeless saddles are incredible!! I've been riding in treeless for over 10 years now and my horses' backs are in excellent shape.  The Ansur Excel dressage saddle puts me in a great position and is super comfortable.  And, one of the biggest benefits is that the same saddle fits all three of my horses, even though their conformation is very different.

There's my sales pitch. 'Nough said.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cold But Still

Decorations Down

I had a chiropractic appointment this morning. Then I did a bit of shopping, mostly to return a sweater I had as a Christmas gift.  I lost money on it because I had no receipt, but I would have given it away anyhow, so any money back was a plus.  I found a couple items on sale instead and got them, then headed home.

It was in the 20's all day, but there was no wind.  Remarkable, actually that with still air and late January sunshine, it was not totally intolerable outside.  So I took the opportunity to take down the outside decorations.  I still have to pack them up--left them on the front porch for now--but they are down.  The only things left are the garland, lights, and star on the barn and the floodlight buried in the snow on the front lawn.  I'll pack everything tomorrow and put things in the basement. Wading through the snow and just doing the basics was enough for one day, as I am still feeling the affects of being sick for so long.

The Boys were in and out all day.  The run in shed in the riding arena seems to be one of their favorite hang out spots this winter.  The afternoon sun seems to shine there and I guess it serves as a windbreak. It makes me happy to know I had it built.

Right now it seems all I do each day is feed the Boys.  Well, I feed the birds and the two stray cats too, but each day breaks up into three trips to the barn to feed the horses.

It's one of those tasks with unique rewards. The first is a nicker of welcome and impatience from Toby.  He's not very vocal, but that low murmur of welcome just makes me feel good.  Tucker tends to make his presence known by banging on the stall gate.  He's not bad, but definitely wants me to know he wants his food.  Chance is quiet and just kind of watches.

I keep the order of feeding the same.  As alpha horse, and the eldest, Toby always gets his feed first.  Then I serve Tucker, and Chance, and youngest and least dominant gets his last.  The only one who fusses is Tucker who has delusions of grandeur and the ambition of moving up in the herd hierarchy.  Since Toby is very "alpha" that will never happen, but Toby's laid back attitude about his feed and his bad habit of cribbing gives Tucker an opening to make his move.

Toby eats slowly and will often stop to crib.  Tucker gobbles his smaller meal down and then lurks at Toby's door for an opening.  When Toby stops to crib, Tucker pushes into the stall and goes for Toby's feed tub.

Surprisingly, this is a totally non-violent and rather quiet takeover. Depending on his determination to crib instead of eat, Toby will often let Tucker steal his feed for quite a few bites before shoving him back out of the way. Tucker then simply scurries out of the stall and waits for the next time to dive in.  There's no fight between the two of them, and all it takes is a stern glance from Toby to send Tucker back out.

If I'm there, I simply stand by Toby's outside stall door and shake my finger at Tucker to send him off.  I could close all the stall doors until they were all done eating, but I've gone off to do other errands when I've done that in the past and then forgotten, until a few hours later, that I'd left everyone locked in the barn.

The best combat for this is for me to add alfalfa cubes to Tucker's feed.  The big cubes slow him down in eating his own feed so Toby has time to finish his.

What I find most interesting is how tolerant Toby is of Tucker's intrusion.  He is clearly the boss, but for some reason just doesn't feel the need to defend his territory where feed is concerned.

I guess, in some ways, it's a tribute to the fact that he's well fed and just not too worried about where the next meal is coming from.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Several More Inches

Adding Insult to Injury

So we got perhaps 6 inches of snow last night.  It was enough to plow considering the following: it is going to get very cold and everything will freeze, there may be another storm coming early next week.

I've not yet run out of places to put the snow, mostly because with the front end loader, I can pile it quite high.  The key here is to somehow keep the driveway and my pathways defined so if we do get a storm, I will be able to see where to plow.  I've already damaged the a lawn in a dozen places, digging up the grass the the topsoil.  I'll have to do some patching in the Spring.  But considering that I never did quite get all the leaves cleared up, I may not have much grass to worry about anyhow.

The Christmas decorations are still up.  I might get them down this weekend, depending on how cold it is.  There is an Arctic high coming to visit that promises some really cold days.  But the sun is strong already this time of year.  Where I cleared the driveway this morning, all is dry pavement again.

Plowing was scary this morning as there was a lot of traffic on the road. As I discovered the other day, not many of the cars or trucks think that it's worth slowing down just because there is a tractor at the edge of the road.  In fact, twice, while I was piling snow across the way from the house, I was passed by cars in the other lane.  They hardly slowed at all when they passed.  This time, the road itself was fairly clear, but still, I was a tractor in the opposite lane.  You'd think.....

I brushed Toby and Chance last night as planned. Tucker was quite annoyed.  He was eating, and my brushing was interfering with his chewing.  At least that's what he was telling me.  "Leave me alone. I am eating. Can't you see that?"   He tossed his head and snapped his teeth, stomping a hind foot and swishing his tail for accent. And this because I was brushing mud off his neck.  What a prima donna.

Chance was fine about it.  He just went on happily chomping away politely moving over when I switched sides.  It's pretty clear evidence of the difference in personality and temperament between him and "His Royal Tucker."

I checked Chance's and Toby's white fetlocks and didn't find any sign of scratches.  Again, it's something to keep a check on when conditions stay wet for a long time.

The Boys were romping a bit this morning in the new snow--or Tucker was simply harassing Chance, I'm not sure which.  I think their biggest frustration is that there just isn't much to browse on.  They do nibble tree branches across the fence, but otherwise, there's not much to keep them occupied.  They all have plenty of hay in their stalls, but that is not exactly the most social experience.  I often find Toby and Tucker in one stall, kind of eating hay and Chance hanging outside in the run in, looking for stray pieces.

This is where a more communal hay supply would be nice.  I don't have a rack, though, and putting hay out in the snow would waste a lot.  I'll have to think on how to make a more social eating situation while the meager grass is covered over.

I just chased another bird off the back porch. For some reason the little ones seem to think coming in under the door is an interesting adventure. I don't know if they are looking for food or shelter, but once they get in, they flap against the windows trying to get back out.  I have to wedge the door open and then herd the little fellows form the back of the porch to the front so they can fly out.  I'm beginning to wonder if it's the same little bird over and over, or different ones with the same idea.  I did just put a baffle along the edge of the door--an wooden sill that was attached to the cement is gone so there is a gap--but that will have to move every time I open the door to go out.

Looks like one more engineering project I need to figure out.  Maybe some plastic matting fastened to the bottom of the door would work.....H-m-m-m--m. Something to keep me busy!

UPDate:  Enough already! The forecast is getting worse and worse for another major snowstorm for early next week.  It does not look good.  Guess I'll need to go to the feed store tomorrow to stock up again.  And, I'll need to get some diesel fuel for the tractor.  *sigh*

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Doldrums

Not Much To Do

I'm still not 100% recovered from my respiratory thing, so I am lacking a bit of energy. However, I think winter is sapping my ambition even more than that. I am just not accomplishing anything worthwhile.

I feel sorry for the Boys too. There's not much entertainment out there in the snow.  However, Chance and Tucker did find some mud to roll in somewhere. I have a feeling it might have been out in the pasture since I saw no sign of bare earth in the paddocks or arena.  The other clue was an oak leaf in Chance's mane.  I think there's an oak on the northwest edge of the pasture.  I didn't go out to look as I only had my muck shoes on instead of my boots.  The snow between paddocks and pasture is still several inches deep and it looks to have melted down underneath, making it snow soup.

My driveway is now dry and clear wherever I plowed, which means it's just about time for the next round of snow--predicted tonight into tomorrow.  Every time I start to see bare ground the weather takes a snow turn and covers it back over.

I didn't bother trying to brush the muddy boys as the coating was still wet.  All I'd be doing is kind of smearing the dirt around on them.  I must admit, though, that Toby's and Chance's white socks are still sparkling.  That is one thing the snow does nicely.  But you have to keep an eye out for scratches, particularly on white legs.  The constant wet can cause a problem.  I never had a problem with any of my dark legged horses, but I need to make a note to check everyone's legs tonight when I go out for late feed.

If the Boys are not snow covered at that point, I may be able to give the muddy ones a quick brush then.

Once again, it all depends on the weather.

Winter at Follywoods continues to confound.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nice Enough

Temperatures Were Up Today

But the footing was not good because now the snow is wet and slippery.  I cleared the area for my farrier with the tractor but even it was slipping and sliding when it hit the wet snow underneath.  The snow is now heavy and hard to push out of the way, so it took a bit of work.  The good news is that I didn't see anything leaking from the tractor!

Will not discuss how much the tractor repairs ended up costing me.  It was not pretty.

I left the Boys in their blankets anyhow.  Mostly because the sun did not come out until late afternoon and the air stayed pretty cold from the snow cover.  On the plus side, the hose to the water trough thawed, so I was able to scrub the trough and refill it with fresh water.  I'll fill it up again tonight as well, suspecting that in the morning it might freeze up again.  The cold is definitely coming back in and with it more......


Estimates vary.  There may be a could inches. There may be 6 inches.  Either way, at this point, it's not much to worry about. More a nuisance than anything, I guess.

I had a doctor's appointment for the morning to early afternoon, and when I got home, I called my hay man.  He brought over a load and insisted on putting a pile of bales in the barn itself so I didn't have to cart it from the carport across the yard.  Then, he stacked the rest in the carport for me.

I followed him back over so I could give his sweet Labrador, Sadie, her chewy bone.  I'd gotten it for her at Christmas, but hadn't seen her since.  She is so funny.  Her "dad" made her sit and wait before I gave her the bone. What a struggle. She was all wiggly and excited and really had a hard time being obedient.  I finally turned my back on her so she would not focus on me and only turned back around when he said she was ready.  Then, at his command, I gave her the bone.

Dogs smile with their whole bodies, and Sadie broke out into a huge grin.  Then, after thanking me with a head butt, she headed off to show everyone in the office her new prize.  Apparently, she will carry it proudly with her for a few days until the rawhide starts to soften up, and then she will chew it to bits.  I love giving her presents because she is just so grateful.

Sadie's been getting a lot of exercise lately and really looks fit.  She is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met, despite being full of energy.  

I have a toy for my farrier's dog too, so that will be fun when I give it to him. It's one for him to take home instead of all the toys I keep here for him.  He's going to be shocked when we put it in the truck with him when they leave.

I like both these dogs because they are enthusiastic about life, but still are well trained and well behaved for their owners.  I always a appreciate a dog that has manners and good solid basic obedience.

It's kind of the same way in the horse world when you think about it. A horse without ground manners or basic training is not only a nuisance, but a danger as well.

It's one more thing to think about on a soggy winter day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Is Getting Old

What Shoed I Do?

My Boys are due for the farrier. Now the puzzlement begins. What do I do?

Chance is barefoot, so there's no problem there. Toby and Tucker have shoes. They do not have ice studs on them yet, nor do they have snow pads.

We know Tucker cannot go barefoot. That was how he ended up being lame for most of the spring last year. But if I put snow pads on him, will the shoes stay on? The extra bulk of pads can make the shoes less secure. Rim pads might be an option, if my farrier does them.  We definitely need the ice studs.

And Toby. Do I take the chance of trying him barefoot?  He has had shoes for 18 years and aside from one problem with a crack and an abscess, has been totally foot sound for all that time. Do I dare risk barefoot to save some money and make him more secure in the snow/ice?

The only factor left is what the weather will do.  Apparently, according to the long range forecast, we are not likely to get any warmer weather or get rid of the constant repeating snow "events" at least through February.  Of course, that could be wrong too.  If we go from snow to mud, then the pads pose an even bigger problem as far as keeping shoes on goes.

I'm pretty sure I'll bite the bullet as far as both big Boys are concerned and go for the pads.  Even if I am not riding, it makes it a lot easier for them to get around.

Then again, if past practice has any merit, then as soon as I get them shod for the snow, it will all melt.  I used to call the "snowshoes" snow insurance. It always seemed that as soon as I decided to get them done, the weather would moderate.

AHA! That's the answer.

I've put in a call to Scott.  I need to know when he wants to come so I can plow the area around the barn for him to park.  If my usual luck holds out, once he gets the Boys done, Spring will arrive.

Perfect. I should have thought of this back in November.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nothing Going On Here

Status Quo

The weather outside is frightful and had I the fireplace lit, the fire would be delightful.  Still snowy outside, still cold, and today, cold and gray.  Not much sunshine, that's for sure.

I've been giving the Boys lots of hay so they have something to do during the day. Now I am worrying that it's supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow, and then rain and sleet.  My fear is that we will get a coating of ice which could make the footing treacherous. If so, The Boys will have to stay in the barn. That makes twice as much work, more bedding, stall cleaning, and monitoring of water buckets.

But, what will be, will be. The weather is out of my control.  I do have the manure pile by the barn so if worse comes to worse, I can spread that around the front paddock to make a small exercise area.  Trouble is, that just makes more mess to clean up in the spring.

Then again, the forecast seems to hint that temperatures will be moderating a little over the next week or so, which may mean a bit of a thawing trend.

It's really amazing how having horses gets you in tune with the weather. Most non-horse people I know have a different perception about the weather. Driving conditions matter, but not much else. Shovel the walk, get the driveway cleared so you can drive out, and then it's off to work or off to the mall. If the ground freezes, no big deal.  Frozen water tubs. snow banks to the manure pile, carting the hay across the yard, or changing a blanket just don't figure into their equation of life.

Do I have enough hay if there's a storm?  When should I go pick up more feed?  Do I need more bedding?  It's easy enough to go to the convenience store to pick up a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread, but 50 lbs. of fortified horse pellets takes a bit more planning.

So far, this winter hasn't yet beaten me down, but it hasn't been fun.

Here's wishing us all some sunshine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Still Cold and Snow Covered

I Long for the Green Grass

It's a rare winter here in New Jersey.  Usually, snowstorms melt after a week or so. We still have the snow from just after Christmas topped by the recent snow of this week.  The temperatures have just not risen above freezing for weeks.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration as I think it may have been a few degrees over freezing today, but not by much. And, as noted, with the snow cover, it still doesn't warm up much.

The Boys were hanging out by the run in shed in the arena this afternoon.  The sun was shining there and, at least in the shed, there is some sand to stand in instead of snow.  They kind of wander about during the day, just picking spots to hang out as there is really not much else to do.

On the other hand, the fence line between the riding arena and the paddock has another section of rails down, so I have to suspect that when I was not watching, a game of horse volleyball or knee bite or nose nip must have been going on.

When the top rail goes, I suspect "nose nip" or "lip wrestling."  I do not leave halters on my Boys when they are out, mostly because both of these games become "halter demolition" which has the same rules but destroys halter straps to an alarming degree.  The object of each game is, of course, to grab your opponent by nose, lip, or halter and hang on until he cries "uncle" or promises to give you all his carrots for the next week.

Knee bite starts only when the upper fence rails are knocked down in the earlier games.  Then, you try to bite your opponent in the knee. The first horse who falls down trying to either evade a bite or take a bite loses the round and pays whatever penalty is agreed on at the start of the game.

Either way, the real loser is the fence.  But watching your owner put the rails back in place is an endless source of entertainment, particularly if she mutters all kinds of colorful words during the repair.

Hey, at least it's something to break up the boredom of a winter day.  Maybe not as much fun as dumping the wheelbarrow after she's filled it, but worth a few minutes entertainment, anyhow.

Not much else for a horse to do when there's nothing green to nibble on.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Will Six Be Enough?

Quickie Update

Will six extra winter blankets be enough?

The back end of Tucker's blanket--the new one--was shredded when I went out to feed this morning. I put a new one on him. So, that's three for Tucker.  I still have four new blankets left.

Guess I have to do the math. Will that be enough to keep him covered for the rest of the winter?

Maybe a picture later. *sigh*

By the way, I still suspect a certain Chance of this destruction, but I haven't caught him in the act yet. Then again, maybe Toby isn't so innocent either.  The only thing I'm pretty sure of is that it's not Tucker doing it to himself. He'd have a pretty hard time reaching around to his buns to make a rip like that...then again.

I think you guys are right. I need a "nanny cam" out there. *lol*

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Another Winter Day

Tractor Man Was Here

The tractor repair guy came in the morning. Once more, he was quite ready to just replace the hose that was leaking.  He seemed quite puzzled that one hose after another has failed, but somehow it makes sense to me. I insisted that he replace all the hoses instead of doing one at a time every time I had a new leak.

Look at it this way. All the hoses were the original ones that came with the tractor. One at a time they seem to be springing leaks. My suspicions is that as a whole they functioned fine in their weakened state until the first one was replaced. That put a kind of uneven burden on the hoses left, so the next weakest one went, and so forth. They were all on the brink of failing, so no point in waiting.

Anyhow, since the boss back at the garage had already agreed to it, tractor man decided to do as I asked. What he did was take off all the hoses and then went back to the shop to fabricate replacements. Then he came back and installed them.

Here, I hope, ends the saga of the leaking tractor.

For your entertainment, pictures of horses in the snow. Not too novel this year, I'm afraid, and they are directly off the camera, so I've made no adjustments in color or lighting.
The Boys in the paddock
Chance thinking of going out into the arena.
Toby and Tucker discussing something, but Toby disagrees.
Toby looking a bit cheerier.
Tucker, thinking deep thoughts.
Tucker's slightly blurry head shot.
And Chance. Obviously, I haven't pulled manes in months. I figure the extra hair keeps their necks warm.

Any excuse is a good one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Leaky Tractor

Once Again

My farmer friend borrowed the tractor to clear out his father's driveway today.  When I'd put it away yesterday, I thought I saw some fluid leaking out of one of the hose areas.

Sure enough, when he came back, he confirmed my suspicions. There was indeed another fluid leak.

Now, I've had the tractor repair truck out here three times for leaking hoses, and I did suggest that maybe we should just go ahead and replace all the hoses since one was leaking. They are the original hoses on the tractor and like most things, when one starts to go bad, you have to get suspicious.

Well, that never exactly happened. The repair guys never brought enough hose or fittings on the truck.

Fourth time pays for all.  Tomorrow morning, the first repair guy will be here around 8 AM with, I hope, enough hose and fittings to replace everything that hasn't been replaced yet. I HOPE!!  When I called the repair shop this afternoon, the manager agreed that would be the best thing to do.  (Of course, I suggested that two repairs ago...even on the first repair. But I was

I am ever hopeful that this last trip will end the saga of leaking hoses. That tractor is fantastic for moving snow and in some ways even better than the truck with a plow.  There is no cab, so I am exposed to the weather when I do plow, but that's not a big deal if I dress well.  There doesn't seem to be a cab made for that model, but it's OK.  I always figured if I did decide I wanted one, I could probably have something designed at the school.

Not much else to report. I THINK the medication is helping my respiratory thing get better, but I'm still not totally cured. I've stayed inside as much as possible and have to admit that last night I had one of the first refreshing sleeps I've had in a while.

Maybe my tractor and I will be fixed at the same time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Report

Once Again

We interrupt this blog to bring you the nearly weekly snow report from New Jersey.

It snowed.

And snowed some more.

And then snowed some more.

All told this time we only got about 8 inches. That's a far cry from the nearly two feet that hit us last time, but enough to need plowing, digging, and shoveling.  Fortunately, it was a light, fluffy snow here, so it was relatively easy to move.  I shoveled my path out to the barn, fed the Boys and then started up the tractor.

Off we went, across the lawn in one swoop to the driveway.  It took a bit of back and forth to clear the area in front of the garage, but once that was done, the driveways themselves were not too difficult. I had to plow diagonally to start off, but once I had the top portions of each cleared out that way, it was a straight plow down to and across the road.

Ah, but there lay the peril. Traffic.

My road is a busy commuter/truck route. For some reason, snow does not seem to deter many of the drivers out there. Worse, they do not seem to be too impressed by a tractor crossing the road with a pile of snow in front of it.  Some people slow down and others just keep coming.

I always get a good look in both directions before I pull out. This morning was no exception.

But to the west, there is a bit of a hill, and sometimes cars come ripping over it at speed.  Despite the slick conditions, that's exactly what happened.  I was already across the road, lifting the pile to dump it when along came a car.  At some point, he saw me, but when he started to brake, he started skidding all over the road.

I gunned little tractor's engine, put it in reverse and backed up fast.   Luckily all survived unscathed but here's the punch line.  As he drove past, the car's driver gave me a glare to kill as if I was all at fault.

Uhm, who was it driving too fast to stop on the icy roads?

Getting the ends of the driveways open is, as you can see, downright dangerous. That's one of the reasons I prefer plowing earlier than later. If I get out there before everyone else in the world is plowed out, I have less traffic to deal with.

Every now and then a driver does go by slowly. Some of them even pull over onto the other side of the road to give me some extra clearance if I am at the end of the driveway.  Those guys usually get a friendly wave of thanks from me.

The rest of them, including "Mr. Slip and Slide?"  You have a few safe driving lessons yet to learn. Maybe your skid in front of my driveway will save your life at the next stop sign--that is if you learned anything at all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm???


I am feeling a bit better, but slowly so. This is good, considering my day.

When I went to feed the Boys, I was about to open the new "alfalfa" cubes, only to realize they had sent me home with timothy/alfalfa mix.  So, I needed to take them back for an exchange.  I tried to start the tractor so I could cart the bags back to the car, and no luck. It had gotten so cold last night the tractor battery was gasping and it just didn't have the energy to turn the engine over.

So I pulled out the batter charger, hooked it up, and after a few minutes, got the tractor going.  I loaded the bags into the car.  But then, I noticed that something was leaking out of one of the hoses on the loader--again.  Spritzes of fluid were spurting out of another hose.  I trudged back into the house to call the tractor repair place. After one missed call, it turned out the repair guy was in my area and he'd be on his way shortly.

I had my cup of tea and sure enough, the tractor guy was out there. I went out to see how things were going and another truck pulled into the driveway. This was my hay man checking up on my hay stock before the storm.  We both agreed we'd be happier if I had a few more bales on hand--just in case So, since he didn't have his pick up truck today, I'd drive over in my  truck and get some bales to put directly into the barn.

As soon as tractor man left, I went out to start the truck, only to find its battery dead. Darn!  I'd driven it right before Christmas, but not long enough to give the battery a good charging, so I guess I earned that one. Funny thing, though, all the lights, bells and whistles in the truck were working just fine. There just wasn't enough power to inspire a very cold engine to run. (Please note: While truck is a 2003, it only has about 6,000 miles or so on it, so it's a really good shape. The battery was replaced not many years ago, but I don't run the truck enough. I will have to remedy that, at least for the winter.)  Anyhow, after much fussing, I hooked up the battery charger and managed to get the truck running.

Then I headed next door to get the hay.  Sweet hay man loaded my truck and then followed me home to unload it as well. I stacked it in the barn, but he did the main labor.  What a guy!

Then, I decided that the truck really needed to be driven some more, so I transfered the bags of cubes from the car into the truck and headed off to the feed store.  No problem making the exchange there, and since I had the truck, when I got home, I was able to four wheel drive it right up to the barn door, making the unload a cinch.

Then, I went into the barn and stripped all three stalls.  I've been a bit neglectful of doing super cleaning jobs over the last week with this darn cold/fever thing, so the cleaning was rather a challenge. But it's done. I'll put some nice fresh shavings in when I go out to feed in a little while and I will be able to give the Boys their alfalfa cubes.

I do have to laugh. This morning, after I fed, Chance came out of his stall to stand by the fence near the feed room, kind of giving me a look as if to say, "Hey, didn't you forget something?"  He loves his cubes and this was perhaps the first time he didn't get any with breakfast. He was SO cute. He is going to be one happy camper tonight when he gets a nice little bucket full of them with dinner.

I am still waiting for an uncomplicated day around here. With an impending snowstorm (6-10 inches or more) tomorrow doesn't look too simple either. But maybe we will luck out.   The less snow the better.

Oh, yes, hoses.  I thought of a heated hose, but it has to run--unless I were to figure out something else--along the edge of the aisle and then out through my feed room to the water tub. Too many places for it to get damaged.   Of course, it could stay on a hose coil in the barn to be pulled out just to water the Boys, but I already have hoses I keep on the back porch for that.  I carried one of them out this morning to fill the tub and it was fine. Hopefully I drained it completely, but if not, I can always bring it in the house to thaw.  While it's annoying, carrying buckets of water to fill the tub is actually sometimes less hassle than carting the hose out there. The point is that I cannot recall such an extended period of time when the hose I have set up to fill the tub with little effort on my part has stayed frozen for so long.

This winter has had some unusually extended periods of very cold weather around here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Off to the Doctor

Woke Up With a Fever Again

I lucked out and got a doctor's appointment today, just before noon.

However, due to a new computer system in her office, she was running well behind schedule.  That cost me until sometime after one before we were done.  She prescribed an antibiotic, mostly because of my fever and set me up to get some x-rays to make sure I didn't have a case of pneumonia.  

It wasn't until well after 3 PM that the x-rays were declared clear and I was sent on my way. I picked up the prescription and headed off to the feed store. 

There is definitely a snowstorm coming and I was out of alfalfa cubes, as noted yesterday.  I picked up the cubes, some bags of feed and some bales of bedding.  Then I went to the supermarket to get some cat food as I as low on that too.  

By the time I got home, fever and all, I was nearly exhausted.  The path to the barn was snow covered from the other day, and it soon became pretty clear that the car was not going to be able to safely back up to the feed room door so I could unload. 

So I started up the tractor, drove it over to the car, loaded the feed into the loader and carted it over to the barn.  That done, I fed the Boys, came back into the house and collapsed in a heap on the couch.  

I've just gotten back up for a bit.  I may be dreaming, but I think the congestion in my head is clearing up.  If so, then the antibiotic is actually doing something! That means par of my problem was a bacterial infection.  I hope so, actually, because that means I should be pretty well recovered in short order.  

Goody. Just in time for the new snowstorm......yeah.....

Sunday, January 09, 2011

It's Freezing Here

As We Await the Next "Weather Event" 

In the 20's here again. I honestly don't remember a stretch of winter in a long time that's stayed below freezing for so long. I judge that by my water hose going to the horse's water trough. I did get to use it once within the last month or so, but otherwise, it's frozen.

In response to Muriel's suggestion that I hire someone to do the barn work--it's a great idea, but not yet in my bank account. Perhaps in a year or two when some other financial issues resolve, I might be able to swing it.

Taking care of the Boys is generally not too hard. Feeding is a cinch. Carrying the feed to the bin in the barn from the truck is only a matter of feet since I back the truck up to the feed room door. Right now, my hay man stacks my hay, so for me, it's a matter of pulling one bale at a time over to the barn in my little hay cart. I've often even made that easier by breaking the bale apart in the car port where it's stored and carting just the flakes I need.

Stall cleaning is perhaps the biggest job to do.  Usually, though, the Boys don't spend a lot of time in their stalls, so they don't get too dirty.  Right now, they could use a good stripping, though which does take some effort. If we didn't have the snow, I'd pull the tractor up to the stall doors and completely eliminate the wheelbarrow effect.

A winter like this is hard. The snow makes everything less accessible and means I have to shovel paths and clear the areas I need to work in.  I can officially say I hate snow....

Funny when how we were kids, a snowstorm was a wondrous event.  My Dad did all the plowing with his tractor, so I never had to worry about that. My older brother did most of shoveling, so I was left to play in the drifts.  I remember once slipping off the bank in the front of our house had having to have my Dad pull me out as I nearly vanished into the deep snow.

A big thrill would be to to down the road by the turnpike bridge to see how high the road crews had piled the snow a the side of the road. It used to drift to badly up there that the big machines would often get stuck.  We have some pictures of snow piled 10-15 feet high in places.  Due to a Christmas tree farm up there and a warehouse, the topography has changed and it doesn't drift into the road the way it used to.

Thanks goodness.

My fever seems to be largely gone, but the congestion lingers on. I'll call my doctor tomorrow. Not sure much can be done, but I surely am tired of this annoying sickness.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Woke Up With a Fever

Whatever bug I have is not user friendly, that's for sure. This morning I had a definite fever.  Not high, but fever.

Of course it's the weekend, so the doctor's office is closed. I am not so sick that I need emergency treatment, so unless things change, I'll wait until Monday.  If it's a virus, there is nothing anyone can do anyhow. If it's bacterial, then, of course, antibiotics can help clear it up.

I had  flu shot earlier in the season, so it shouldn't be that, but you never know.

So far aspirin and decongestants are helping just fine and all I'm doing it lying around looking at the light snowfall.

Feeding the Boys this morning was a bit daunting, but I managed OK.  At some point, I need to get some alfalfa cubes before the next storm on Tuesday or Wednesday. If I'm feeling like this, I can go get them tomorrow. It's not a long drive and I don't have to unload them from the truck when I get home unless I want to.

Apparently the snow we are having today may about to a couple inches although it looks more like just a trace here. Then, in the middle of next week, another storm arrives with the potential for another mess. Then again, we could luck out and it could as they say, "wobble" off course and leave use alone.

One can only hope.

I'm not exactly in shape to do a lot of shoveling right now. *sigh*

Friday, January 07, 2011

More Snow

Winter Is Here To Stay

From the looks of things, winter has decided New Jersey is a great place to spend the...well, the winter.

Temperatures have barely been above freezing since early December.  A few days of warmer weather have been chilled off by either wind or the snow cover. Now, to add insult to injury, we've just had another few inches of the white stuff.  Not enough to do more than coat all the bare spots but enough to make the roads a bit icy and discourage hopes that we were going to have a nice thaw.

And, from what I've been reading, there is another potential nor'easter for early next week.  For those who don't know, a nor'easter is a coastal storm that comes up our way from the south, with circling winds from the northeast to just make it more miserable.

The irony of all this is that we had an exceptionally dry summer and were essentially in a drought for most of those months.  On the plus side the winter storms do tend to refill the water supplies and the underground aquifer, helping us survive the dry summer.  So, in a sense, as much as I curse it, the snow is a mixed blessing.

The Boys looked a bit perplexed this morning.  I got the feeling they were asking me when the snow was going to go away too.  They were hanging out in the corner of the paddock by the garage. There is some tree cover there and the hedge row so I guess it was a protected spot.  It's kind of interesting watching where the horses do decide to spend their time in the bad weather. But as long as they are inside the fence, wherever they hang out is fine with me. *G*

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Not Gonna Happen

Still Sick, Ick

I am still sick today. This time I've been coughing nearly all day. I had a cold before Christmas and it just keeps lingering. Now it's an annoying cough.

I took care of the Boys in the morning and cleaned stalls then, so when I go back out for dinner, the chores will be light. The hose was frozen again, so I carted some water to the trough by bucket. It's warmed up a bit during the day, so maybe I can use the hose this afternoon.

Either way, I want to get things pretty well set out there as a snowfall is coming in again for tomorrow.  Unless we fall into the band of "heavy snow" we are only supposed to get perhaps three inches. More an annoyance than a mess, this time. But still, it's snow and what we had from the last storm is not yet completely gone.

My arena is largely snow covered. As noted yesterday, I thought perhaps I might ride Chance a little, but with the coughing and general lack of energy that seems to go along with it, that's not going to happen.

Meanwhile. when I went out this morning, I found one of the leg straps on Tucker's brand new blanket ripped out at the main attachment point.  I ended up tying the strap to the back surcingle, although I'm not sure it will still be tied there when I go out to feed. It was a stop gap repair until I figure out something better.  It was pretty darn cold out there this morning so I didn't feel like doing too much more with the blanket strap.

At this rate, Tucker will be going through my blanket surplus before the winter is over! So far the other two Boys are still on blanket #1.

On the good side, my knee is feeling a lot better. I guess I did just overdo in the first snow. As well, I put a pair of ice grippers on my barn shoes.  These little sets of spikes are a lifesaver when the footing is slippery. The ones I have just slip over the toe of the shoe, but there are some more expensive ones that spike both the heel and toes of boots and shoes.

EBay has a quite a few pairs on sale now if anyone is interested. I didn't see the kind I have but I ordered two pair just last week.  I like the looks of some of the others and have had a different kind as well.  More than once I am sure they saved me from a fall.

I can remember going to school one icy morning. When I got there the principal had assigned custodians to escort the teachers into the building. They'd tried to clear the parking lot ,but ended up with an icy mess.  I had my grippers on my shoes, and actually ended up keeping my escort from falling on the way into the school.  I always made sure I had a pair in the car to toss into my school bag just in case.

And, of course, more times than I can count, they have come in handy when I'm taking care of the horses. If you live where there is ice and snow, they are a wise investment.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

At the Movies

Bargain Matinees for Cold Days

I've been to the movies twice this week.  The cinemas not too far from here offer bargain prices on Tuesdays and a Senior discount on Wednesday, so for just under $10, I got to see two films. 

What were they?  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Tangled.  I'm not much of a movie goer, but I've seen all the other Harry Potter films, and the other just looked like fun. 

Reviews are in. Harry Potter was OK, but I had to admit I wanted to look at my watch to see just how much longer it was going to go on.  "Lugubrious" is a word I'd use to sum up the pace of the film.  Tons of dialogue mixed in with endless chase scenes and magic battles, bouncing around from place to place just to accomplish very little storytelling to move the plot along. The story just lumbered along, adding side characters, and little plot bits here and there to apparently set up for the final installment in the series. While perhaps faithful to the plotline of the book, this does not necessarily make for good film.  I can't say it was exactly a "bad" film, but it could have been much better if it had been tighter in both action and plot development.  Fortunately, I like the characters and their quest, so I wasn't totally disappointed.  I just think there wasn't enough to carry this film along.  

Tangled was, on the other hand,  pretty darn entertaining.  It has a rather simplistic, typical Disney plot, based on the story of Rapunzel.  Ironically, the best character in the whole film was a horse!  Maximus, the mount of one of the castle guards, proved to have more personality than most of the human characters.  His dogged determination to capture the hero/bad guy, and later on join him in a prickly alliance is a gem of creative genius.  He's not a talking horse either, but expresses himself quite clearly with his face, ears, and body throughout the story.  He was, to my mind, the best part of the whole film and deserves an Oscar for an outstanding performance. The film was fun, frothy, and just what you'd expect from a Disney version of a fairy tale.  

While the temperatures have warmed up a bit, today was pretty windy, making it not the nicest day to be outside. My arena is still snow covered, but if the wind dies down I may try a little riding tomorrow.  I did something to one of my already bad knees on the ice last week so that hurts, and I'm still not feeling 100% from whatever virus has been bothering me.  

I'm pretty sure Chance would be fine in the footing, but I'm not sure about Tucker as he has shoes and his feet pack with snow.  I'll just have to see how I feel tomorrow and how the winds are behaving. 

The one big plus was that when I went out to feed the Boys their dinner, I hooked up the hose and, to my delight, the water ran through just fine so I could fill the water trough without carrying buckets!! I do have a coil hose on the back porch that I take out there now and then, but buckets actually take less time.  On the other hand, the regular hose is far more efficient and takes no time at all to fill the trough.  I love it when it works!  

Here's hoping we stay in "thaw" mode for a while longer.  The snow is gradually melting as I noted yesterday, and so far, the mud hasn't been bad.  Maybe we will luck out this time.  

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Winter Musings

Animals Outdoors

People often ask me how my horses are doing in "this weather"--whatever the weather may be.  I usually tell them, "Oh, they're OK. They are outdoor animals. They're used to it."

And truth be told, they are. The Boys are wearing blankets now, but if I hadn't started sheeting them early on, they'd probably be just fine without.  If they were in the wild somewhere, I'm guessing they'd be OK too, provided there were a supply of food and water adequate to keep them alive.

Here, they have plenty of water--in a heated trough, lots of hay for forage, and a scientifically blended pellet feed three times a day.  Oh, yes, they also get wormed on a daily wormer, and have complete access to three run-in shed areas and three box stalls.  Not exactly the Taj Mahal, but more than enough shelter from the wind and weather.

There are people with horses in heated barns and indoor arenas.  Nice for the people, but not as good--at least in my mind--for the horses. After all, they are "outdoor animals."  Somehow it seems contradictory to try to create an artificial indoor environment for them.

But that's just my opinion.

I was thinking of that in regard to the stray kitty. I finally saw him/her this morning, snuggled up on a bale of hay in the carport.  I put canned and dry cat food out there every day, so it's a good spot to hang out.  I'm not sure, though, who was eating the food when I glanced in later. I think it might have been Mommycat. It's not well lit in there. Mommycat is a dark striped tabby and the little stray is solid black with just a tiny white spot on the chest. The eating cat seemed to have lighter colored ears, so it may have been Mommy.  I'll put some more food out later, just to cover all bases.

But there's a little furry creature adapting and taking advantage of shelter and food where it can be found. Cats are indoor/outdoor animals in my mind. I know they are essentially predators, bred from outdoor lineage, but they certainly do happily adapt to staying inside out of the weather, provided they have food and entertainment to keep their instincts appeased.

I put some nuts and peanut butter crackers out for the squirrel that lives in the tree right here by the house. Squirrels, definitely outdoor animals adapt to nature's whims as well.  Squirrels do not hibernate in the winter, but they do spend days sequestered in their nests when the weather's bad.  I saw the squirrel out yesterday, so I put out some food. I was gone this morning, so I put out more.

That's when some more "outdoor animals" showed up to take advantage--the blue jays.  I've seen few birds with more of an instinct for self-preservation. In the human world, we'd consider them selfish. They arrive at the feeding station, dominate all the other birds and eat their fill.  Here, about five of them showed up to make short work of the nuts I'd put out.  And yet, though the squirrel will be deprived, I have to admire the jays. They are a perfect example of a successful "outdoor animal," ready, willing, and able to exploit the situation to their own advantage.

As I write, they've just come back for a second round at the crackers. I only mention it, because they chased away another rival, a redheaded woodpecker.  I think the woodpecker had eaten some of the bounty before climbing up the tree to just sit there for a while. (Sorry, not the best picture, but I took it through a window screen.)   I certainly could go on about how well the woodpecker has adapted to its life as an "outdoor animal"--just look at how easily it sits on the tree--but the jays are more to the point.  They simply seize the opportunity to make their lives better and the heck with everyone else.

How different the animal world is from all the lessons we humans are taught about society.  Then again, unlike the "outdoor animals" that don't usually need each other to fend for themselves, we do. Without artificial heat, clothing, and shelter, we'd freeze to death out there in a matter of hours.  In essence, we're pretty inadequately adapted to nature's whims.

Animals--outdoor animals?  Simply amazing.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Under the Weather

And Over the Snow

I wasn't feeling 100% today. Not sure why, but I just kind of lay around most of the day.  It was still cold and the ground still covered with snow, so I suppose there wasn't much to do outside anyhow.

However, I am amazed at how fast the snow cover is melting. The piles I plowed up that were at least five feet tall are now around three feet and in many places the bare ground is starting to show through.  I am debating about plowing out the area where Scott, my farrier, needs to back in. If I do, I am going to have to be very careful so that I don't dig up the lawn into mud in the process.

Mother Nature is being wise with this storm, I think. A gradual thaw over many days keeps things from getting too soggy and from flooding. The ice in my driveway is essentially gone and the path to the barn is now completely bare.

The Boys are still contending with snow in the paddocks, arena, and pasture, but now it's inches deep in most places rather than feet deep.

I'd be happy if it all melted and I didn't see any more for the rest of the winter--but that is pretty unlikely.

In other barn news, I seem to have a new stray cat.  I've only seen it twice now--over the last two days.  Both times it was in the barn aisle. It looks awfully small.  If it's a kitten, I am going to be doubly upset.  People seem to think farms are good places to toss out unwanted cats. That's how I got Patchadoodle, Barney, Butch, Cassandra, Clancy, and Mommycat over the years. I really can't take another cat into the house this time, though, so if this is a kitten, I'll have to figure something else out.

There is a lot of shelter available for an outdoor/barn cat. That's what Mommycat's role is as she wanted no part of indoors. And there was another stray living in the garage, but I'm not sure he's still around.  I'm not keen about outdoor cats due to the dangers of the road, but I will do my best to see that the little furfaces get plenty of cat food and can always find a snug place to sleep.

Guess we'll just see what happens. I put a dish of food out in the barn and the horse's blankets are in a pile, so for now, any cat will do just fine.

It just makes me so angry to think that someone probably just dumped the little guy off to fend for him/herself.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Still at Three Quarters

Comcast Not Fixed

Technicain #2 was here yesterday. He was sure he'd found the problem in my "upstream" signal and tightened some more wires.

Once again, after he left, everything was working beautifully.

I went to my annual New Year's Party, came home, worked a bit on the computer, called Stacie to see how her dog was doing--in the vet hospital with a so far undiagnosed fever--and then I fell asleep on the couch.

I woke up around 2 AM, went out to give the Boys their ""midnight snack"  Back in the house, I went to check my email and sure enough, the Internet and phone were not working again.

Comcast has a 24 hour service line, so, using my cell phone, I called in again. We rest the modem, etc. and nothing worked. The tech was really good, but there was nothing he could do except set up another appointment for a service call. They had one for today, but I will be in church for the first "hour" of the window he gave me.  I took the appointment anyhow, hoping I would be home in time for the later three hours.

Here's hoping the tech will be late. Otherwise the next appointment was not until Tuesday.

The phone tech said his mother had had a similar problem and one of the repair people finally found a chewed wire in the line from the pole to the house. Apparently a squirrel had been in action.

I have trees, I have squirrels in the trees. Could be.  I'll certainly mention it whenever my next service tech arrives.

Meantime, I am off and on the Internet at the whim of some mysterious gremlin in my service.


Update: The third Comcast guy just left. Of course, everything was working perfectly again. We are now really confused. But he gave me his personal number to call him if it went out again.  He did another reset of the new modem, and fiddled with settings, but my signal coming into the house is super good and far better than average...when it works.

The next step is for me to keep a log of outages and to call him directly if it goes out again.

*double sigh*