Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fly Update

And More Sheet Work to Do

Spaulding Labs emailed me with an explanation that their billing/order system had gone completely haywire with orders their customers had placed for the fly predators. Apparently, it was a software error that went, as they said, "from bad to worse."  They sent me a corrected copy of my order which was fine and promised to follow up with a standard confirmation.

Good company, and, as far as I'm concerned, they sell a good product. I'm sure from what I heard from other horse stable owners last year, that I had far fewer flies because of those little predators. They are worth the money.

The Boys are enjoying the nice weather we've been having, but what the heck does Tucker do to his clothes?  I finally got my sewing machine's bobbin straightened out so I brought Tuck's turnout sheet in and sewed up the rip. That's fine.  But, when I went out last night for late feed, I saw that his sheet was lopsided on his back. So I straightened it, only to find that the front surcingle was missing.

I don't see a tear in the sheet, but the darn thing is not there.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to rescue some pieces from sheets and blankets I've had to dispose of over the years, so I have an extra surcingle I can put on. That means I have at least one afternoon project.

When it warms up, I'll  go out, take Tucker's sheet off and bring it inside to repair. I'm beginning to think I need a sewing room right out there at the barn.  Come to think of it, if I had the money to build a gorgeous, full service barn, I would. Or at least I'd have a nice, well appointed tack room with a huge washer and dryer as well as a nice sewing station and a heavy duty machine.

Alas. I do not have the money and probably, my Township would wrap the building permits into so much red tape that even if I did have the funds, it would be years before I'd get the darn thing built.

The New Year is creeping up upon us all. Here's hoping it will bring better things for everyone.

For me. All I need right now is enough thread to sew on that surcingle.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Oopsy! Super Fly.

What in the World?

I ordered my fly predators the other day, taking advantage of the early order form to get the special double shipments twice during the fly season.

For those of you who don't know, fly predators are teeny tiny wasp critters that feed on the stable fly larvae. You get a shipment of little ready to hatch eggs and spread them about the stable areas where it's wet or near the manure pile.  The little bugs hatch and eat, cutting the fly population considerably. They are not a 100% cure for flies, but they surely do help around here.

I just received an email from the company indicating that there had been an error in my order and would I please check it and notify them as to how to remedy.

My goodness!! According to the order on the email. I bought about 10 or more "subscriptions" to fly predators for 2012!  Somehow, my order had multiplied worse than stable flies.

Hopefully, their email shows the company clearly understands this was wrong and it will be easily fixed.

But things like this make me nervous. It's one of those moments when using the Internet as opposed to a face-to-face transaction gets a bit risky.

I do a lot of business and shopping on the Internet myself. As a matter of fact, I find shopping on line a great way to get bargains and save the time of driving all over to find just the right purchase.

And yet, this little incident pulls me up short now and then. It's a good reminder to shop carefully and from reputable sellers all along the way.

Hopefully the Boys and I will not be buried under fly predators this summer. At the size of my erroneous order, we'd have every acre of land covered with them.

Then again, I guess I really would have no flies around here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Twas Days After Christmas

And All Through the Farm....

Peace reigns. The Boys are fat and happy and so am I.

Well, not too fat, yet. What is it about the holidays that brings out the appetite? We had my cousin's delicious lasagna Christmas Eve, along with cookies and candy, of course. Then on Christmas Day I went down to my other cousin's house--at Ship Bottom which is on Long Beach Island at the Jersey Shore--for a sumptuous ham dinner. I ate and ate.

But, I also took a three block walk to the beach before dusk.  Not the biggest deal, normally, but with my knee replacements, a potential challenge. Walking in the sand is not the easiest effort for muscles and joints.  New Jersey beach sands tend to be fine so when they are dry, you sink in several inches.  With my own bad knees, it was hard to make it across the top of the beach down to the water. Christmas Day, new knees?  No problem! Again, my knees are still a little stiff and, depending on where the swelling has decided to rest for the day, a little sore, but they are stable and for the first time in years really feel as if they can hold me up just fine.

So, I walked all the way down to the water's edge and dipped my hand in the ocean. Not normally a big deal, but I haven't been down to the ocean in about two years, so it was an "event," for my fingers. I was rather surprised that the water didn't feel a lot colder. It might be that it is salt water, of course, but it was not a feeling of "instant freeze" even though the air was rather chilly--not icy cold, mind you, but hovering around 40F or a bit below with a breeze.

I'm not a big shore goer, even though it's one of "the things" to do in New Jersey. I get sunburned easily and getting thrashed about by waves was kind of hard on my knees. But perhaps this summer I will go down at least once to my cousins' house to take a dip. I much prefer the pool for real swimming, but the ocean does have a unique allure and with new legs, I will probably enjoy it.

Meantime, the Boys have reaped the benefit of the season as well with apples in their feed and the traditional carrots with green tops--I think I noted that before. I did finally manage to stitch the rip in Tucker's sheet so he doesn't quite look like a ragged orphan any more as well.

My friend Stacie was supposed to bring her lovely little mustang mare, Rosie up here to the mustang trainer who lives on the next road over. Stacie has only done the basics with Rosie who is now coming four years old, so it's time to start working on getting her under saddle.

This is Rosie. She was adopted and handled at Rutgers University in their equine program as a baby. They auction the horses off at the and of the school year.  She was two in these pictures and the handler is the student who was her caretaker.

So, back to the story. Around 9AM or so, Stacie called me from the emergency room. She had been sick all night and in pain.  Turned out she is OK--drink plenty of fluids and just wait it out--but the call gave me quite a scare. I was afraid something had happened when she was loading Rosie for the trip up. Whew!!

I just spoke to her on the phone a few minutes ago, and she is doing much better and was even able to do the barn chores this morning. Of course, as we all know too well, that horsewomen, in particular, do not "know the meaning of pain" when it comes to taking care of our horses. I know that I, for one, have dragged myself out to the barn despite a fever, nausea, weakness, and even a non-supporting knee more than once to see to the Boys' care. But, I'll take Stacie at her word and accept that she really is feeling better.

I am ever hopeful that the New Year will bring better things for us all, particularly my friends who've not had the best 2011.

In the meantime, I am doing all I can to enjoy the rest of the holiday season, even if it means a few extra pounds. With my new knees, I should be able to work them off anyhow. *lol*

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas To All

'Tis the Season

I have carrots with tops for the Boys as well as apples for their Christmas feed. I got each one a new flysheet--for the summer, of course--and a new halter.

I plan on doing a little extra barn cleaning to make the manger suitable for the Christ Child and have some extra special wood shavings on store for bedding.

My family presents will be wrapped and ready for Christmas Eve and my outdoor lights will be shining brightly.

So, to all, a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at Follywoods--kitties, horses, and me!

Merry Christmas To All

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rituals and Routines

Just How Do Animals Tell Time?

It was just about 8:30 this morning, the time I've been feeding the horses.  I had just rolled out of bed and was headed towards the kitchen when I looked out the window to see Peppercorn, the barn kitty, heading for the house.  This was not a random stroll, but a direct walk with a mission--to meet me at the door as I was coming out to feed.

The house is too far away for him to have heard me roll out of bed and I hadn't turned on any lights or made any kind of noise he could have heard. And yet, he knew it "WAS TIME" and I would be on my way.  Some internal clock had struck "breakfast" in his brain and he was acting on it.

Feeding the Boys is a routine, of course, but when I see those faces waiting for me to appear, I begin to wonder where the routine ends and the magic begins.

I enter the barn with hay first, open Toby's stall door, put his hay in the corner and go into Tucker's stall from the outside door to put his hay in as well.  Toby is always fed first, in deference to his alpha horse standing in the herd. Then I cross the aisle to put Chance's hay in his stall.

Each horse, in turn has to pee. I'm not at all sure what that is all about, but it's part of the routine--or the ritual.  Sometimes one, or all three will go out to the paddock to do this duty, or stand just inside the stall door looking out as they do.  Wet spots are almost always in exactly the same place in each stall when I muck out, so that too is part of the whole scenario.

If I leave Toby's inside stall door open as I often do, part of his routine/ritual is to come out into the aisle and stand at the feed room door, watching me dole out the feed.  It's apparently important to him to both be out, in charge, and supervising my work.  One quiet reminder "Back in your stall," is enough to send him back in where I dump the feed in his bucket, then Tucker's and finally Chance's.  Same order, every feed time.

Toby a long time cribber, gets caught in another habitual behavior as he eats, stopping after a bunch of bites to windsuck on his stall wall.  If I don't catch him Tucker takes that as his cue to sneak into Toby's stall from outside to grab a few bites of Toby's grain while Toby is lost in the euphoria of his vice.  Most of the time, I see the sneaky Bay Boy and once again, "Own stall," is enough to send him back home unless Toby rouses himself and chases him out with snaky ears and an alpha horse warning.

It's the same every feeding. A routine we all share like clockwork.

And most of the time, Peppercorn joins in, insisting--as cats are wont to do--that I feed him first of all.  Alpha cat--only cat.  He lets me pet him as he eats now and is thinking perhaps it might feel good to get some stroking at other times, although he's not quite sure yet.  

He led the ritual this morning, but was clever enough to wait under the shed roof, nestled in the leftover hay in the wheelbarrow as the rain drizzled down this evening.

Apparently, ritual can be dependent upon the weather here at Follywoods.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


How To Waste Time

I am playing computer games again. I haven't done this with any kind of dedication for years.  Most of the games I've played have been mere diversions, not obsessions.

But, "back when" I played the Sierra adventure games with a serious vengeance--for hours and hours at a time.  These were not "shoot 'em up" arcade games, but legitimate adventure games where your character moved about in a virtual world and had to solve puzzles to move the story along. The avatar would need to find objects along the way to use in various places, interact with various characters, and actually move through life as his/her story unfolded. Sure, there was combat at times, but nothing that I--somewhat "speed challenged" on the mouse or cursor--couldn't handle. I didn't need a game controller or quick fingers. All I really needed was my brain. The games?  Hero's Quest, King's Quest, the old Leisure Suit Larry, and Space Quest.  

Then "adventure" games moved to arcade mode. I had to shoot fast at targets, kill, maim, destroy, all requiring physical skills I just didn't have.  My fine motor skills just don't suit that kind of action.

Time passed. I played FreeCell, a lot. There were a few little short adventure games--mostly Scooby Doo--online.  Then, I discovered Angry Birds and a number of other "physics based" games online.  Basically, you shoot some kind of object--birds, rocks, etc.--to break or move obstacles which then supposedly react as they would in the real world to collapse or knock things about in order to reach a goal.

Fun stuff. I found and played Zombie Drop, All We Need is Brain, and, of course, the Angry Birds series.  I have since spent hours happily smashing zombies or leading them to their deaths and crunching green pigs.

Then, I discovered some more old fashioned adventure games from Big Fish Games.  These are not the "find the hidden object" games with time restraints, but the kind of games where you wander about solving puzzles in order to reach an objective.  I spent a good part of the day finishing up Spirits of Mystery: The Amber Maiden, and have already spent hours working out the puzzles in the Drawn series.

I am sure I could be spending my time more productively. I'm still not quite ready to ride again, so that's out for the time being.  The outside chores beckon to some degree, but the colder weather has put me off a bit. I did do the laundry and I have to wrap my presents.  There is some house cleaning calling to me again--as it so often does--but I'm having fun.

Sometimes there's really nothing wrong with that.

I do need to go shopping to get the Boys their traditional carrots with tops for Christmas. The rest of my shopping is done.

I guess I have a little extra time to waste.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Picture Perfect--Well, Not


My friend Christina has a new Border Collie puppy, Jake. I visited them today at the barn and also met, RC, the new barn kitty. RC was "making moves" to play with Jake and the pair were adorable. So, enjoy a few moments with the cutie pies.
RC batting at Jake.  
 Jake eating his carrot.
Jake, crashed as only a puppy can crash!  He took a nice long nap.
 JC planning his next move.

And, for those of you who need some bad Christmas lights pictures, here is one of my house and one of the barn.

It is almost impossible for me to get good focus on these, but at least you get the idea.

I put up all the lights and garlands. The front fence is done as is the back porch. So, I have completed my decorating once again.

And I wore myself out. I still have feed to unload from the truck, so that will exercise me tomorrow. It is supposed to rain at some point, so I don't have any other big plans for the day.

I guess Christmas has come to Follywoods.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Partially Lit

No Deed Ever Goes Smoothly

What is is about jobs around the house and barn that always makes them filled with drama?

I put the lights up on the front porch--lighted garlands around the pillars, a green spot light, and a lighted wreath on the door. Plugged everything in and...nothing. Checked the switch inside--on. Checked the fuse box in the basement--OK. Something has gone wrong with the outside outlet on the porch.

I will not try to fix electrical stuff.  I can rewire a lamp and do the wiring on my horse trailer, but house wiring repairs--Nope. My Dad was an electrical engineer and did all the electrical work around the house as easy as anything. He did the plumbing work and carpentry work too. I cannot aspire to his heights, although I am willing to tackle a few tasks.

But electrical? Nope!

So, what to do? There is an electrical outlet in the basement by the basement window at the side of the house. I already had the window fixed to things could be pulled through it. So, I hooked up an extension cord from the basement to the front porch where I put a surge protector so I could connect several cords.

That left how to turn the lights on and off. Needless to say, I didn't want to have to hike up and down the basement stairs to unplug things. Nor was I too keen on having to go out to the porch to trip the surge protector all the time. And, while an automatic timer was an option, I'm not too keen on losing control of when the lights go on, especially since I sometimes like them to stay on longer or shorter depending on what's going on here.

Enter the remote control device. I had one here already, but there was another good brand on sale at Target when I visited today--in search of red bows.  I've hooked it up and even from the living room upstairs it seems to work a treat. So I can now turn the outside lights on and off with the touch of a button! Too cool for words.

Tomorrow is going to be another nice day weatherwise, so I hope to finish up the garlands and bows along the fence--probably add the lights, decorate the barn, and put some more lights on my little tree. Then I am all set.

For ideas about wrapping presents. I have, for the second time, come up with what I think's a really good one. I am using the fabric reusable shopping bags they sell in the markets. I had to do a bit of searching, but I found some very pretty green ones and some lovely red ones that don't have huge advertising images on them. instead they have nice, attractive trees.  I simply put the unwrapped present inside, add a bit of tissue paper, some ribbon, and the tag.  They look pretty, they're practical, they save a lot of work wrapping, and they save all that wrapping paper.

Meanwhile, the Boys are just hanging out. I did get a good buy on bagged apples yesterday, so each horse got one for dinner.  When I shop, I count how many apples are in a 5 pound bag and usually it's only 11. Since I have 3 horses, that never divides evenly. However, these apples were a bit smaller and there were more than a dozen in each bag. So, it still might not divide perfectly, but I do get at least three sets of treats out of each bag before I have to start cutting something up to share.

I am a bit obsessive, I fear, about making sure that the treats are always given equally to each horse. Sometimes Toby does get the biggest carrot, but never two if everyone else has only one.  I guess even if my Boys are not altruistic or fair with each other, I can set a good example.

After all, isn't that what a "parent" is supposed to do?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

To Light or Not To Light

How Holiday Should I Be?

OK, the horses are settled all snug in their beds as visions of carrot tops danced in their heads. (I always buy each Boy a bunch of carrots with the green tops still on. Most of the time we get carrots here with the tops trimmed off, so tops on ones are special.)

I am just back from the annual choir Christmas party which began after church this morning--actually about 1 PM. My church has changed the annual tradition of an evening musical vespers service to a morning service of "lessons in carols."  All the musical groups of the church participate, singing and playing songs to illustrate a reading of the Biblical Christmas story.  I do miss the beauty of the evening service with the candles, but this was nice.  And our chorale/choir held an after service brunch/party afterwards.  I hung out longer than the others to chat with our host and hostess--we are good friends--so I was later coming home.

On the drive, I passed dozens of houses all lit up for the holiday.  Colored lights were everywhere.

My house, as I pulled in, was dark and dreary.  I do have my little tree in the bay window, but it was not lit, so there was no sign of holiday spirit anywhere.

So, do I light up or not?  The decorations are in the basement, waiting. I am certainly capable of climbing up and down the stairs to drag them up. But then I need to go outside and put them up.  Once again, I am physically capable, but do I have the will and energy?

I could do a partial version and only put up the basics, but I know myself too well for that. Once I start, I will have to string the garland along the fence, add the red bows and then the lights after I've decorated the front porch with garlands and lights.

And then, how can I leave out the star, garland and lights on the barn? Or the garland and lights on the back porch?

I fear it's another one of those jobs I cannot do half way.

So, to light or not to light, that is the question.

Then's supposed to be a nice day tomorrow.........

Friday, December 09, 2011

Quiet Days at Follywoods

No Snow, Though

We had heavy rain over the last two days and despite predictions that it might change to snow overnight, it didn't. Of that, I am glad.  Snow, in moderation, is OK, although I am not fond of it, but over top of all the water that was already lying about, it's just a mess.  This scenario would have been rather dreadful.

I am, obviously, not yet riding again. My knees are nearly back to how they were before the famous fall, but I think the colder weather is making them a bit more sore than they might be if it were warmer. Not bad, however, so I am not complaining. And most of the time, when I get up to do something, I don't really think much about how I am going to walk. I just walk.

I think the Boys were grateful for their rainsheets the other day. As noted, it was pretty miserable out there and more than once I saw them all gathered under the run in shed. Well, sort of. Chance usually ends out being half in while the other two Boys hog the better part of the protection. There is plenty of room on both sides of the barn for three horses to fit, but it always seems that it's "third man out," and Chance is at the bottom of the pecking order.

It is kind of curious to me as to why that happens. There is no physical reason why the two older horses cannot move a bit further under to let him fit comfortably under the roof.  But herd protocol seems to be that the alpha horses get all the benefits and the omegas must be reminded of their lower status.  You'd think there'd be an urge to support the common welfare.  It's not as if the three of them are not good friends.

When I went out to feed on Monday morning, all three were romping and frolicking in the front paddocks. Tucker was galloping around while Chance and Toby played horse volleyball--or whatever--over the paddock fence. They were rearing and biting at each other, having a grand old time. Once again, my camera was in the house, but I probably wouldn't have gotten any good pictures anyhow. Either they would have been blurry, empty as the horse galloped off just as I pressed the shutter, or I would have ended up with close ups of horse noses which is usually what happens when they see me with the camera. *lol*

If I want good horse pics, I have to sneak around like one of those paparazzi hiding in the bushes to catch shots of celebrities.

Maybe I'll go out later today, since the sun is shining, and try to get a few pictures of my little herd in the orange sheets. Everyone is rather dirty from rolling about in the mud, but they certainly are happy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Chores and the Escape

Taking Advantage of the Weather

Nice day today, so I decided to get some outside work done.  The big task was getting the big tree branch off the lawn and out to the woods. For this, I needed the tractor. And the tractor needed to get through the gate into the paddock with the branch dragged behind.  And that meant the gate had to be opened for a little bit with me in the tractor seat instead of in control of the gate.

Of course, the Boys thought this was all great entertainment. They were all hanging out in the front paddock, watching my every move. This time it was Toby who took advantage and made for the gate as it was swinging shut after tractor and tree were through.  It was almost closed all the way when my clever boy shoved it with his nose and made his great escape out onto the back lawn. Tucker and Chance were quite miffed about that as there is at least a little nice green grass out there and Toby immediately dropped his head to graze.

Since I do have the gates across the driveway and Toby still respects them--as long as Chance is not taking the lead, I left him to enjoy himself while I dragged the branch out to the field and rolled it into the woods.  At that point, Tucker and Chance galloped out to the front paddock where I'd put some flakes of hay and settled themselves down to eat and keep an eye on Toby.

That left me to make another trip back and forth to get the rest of the tree limbs out to the woods without worrying too much about the gate.  Once I finished that, I cleaned the loose and wet hay out from under the run in shed--only one tractor bucketful and pondered my next move.

I decided to cut it short--stacking the manure pile was one option--and go back out to the lawn to pull the arena drag back into its proper parking spot where the tree branch had been lying.

I was about to park the tractor back under the roof area by the tack room when I realized that the hay had piled up there pretty badly and the whole area needed a cleaning.  Once again, I discovered that baling twine reproduces like rabbits.  Nearly every forkful of old hay had some twine in it, even though I had been putting the twine I'd pulled off the baled I'd fed the horses into the garbage can. I am quite convinced that two strings of twine have a litter of about ten as soon as you allow them to lie about instead of being properly contained.

At any rate, the garbage can is now full of twine, the  hay is pretty much cleaned up, and the tractor is once again parked where it belongs.

Toby was quite willing to come back into the barn for his dinner and all's well with the world.

I have a feeling my knees are going to complain about all this work, but so be it. They need to earn their living too.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Taking Small Steps

Impatience Doesn't Always Pay Off

I am not a patient person about most things. I like to get a job done and I don't like to wait for things to be done. I often take my time starting a task, spending a lot of time thinking and planning on how to tackle it and that often leaves a lot of work never even started. But once I begin, I am driven to "get 'er done, " ASAP.

Riding and training horses has taught me a lot about taking things a bit at a time. But I must admit, through a lot of my training, I would battle out an exercise with my horse in order to accomplish it--often pushing both of us beyond our emotional and sometimes physical limits.  As long as the exercise was something we were both capable of, it was OK, but I'm not sure it was always the best approach.

Over time, I learned from my horses that taking things more slowly and breaking down larger goals into smaller, more easily accomplished steps worked a lot better.  Half pass is considered an upper level exercise at the trot and canter. It's really hard to teach a horse to half pass at first effort if he does not understand first how to move sideways off the leg.  Moving sideways off the leg requires that the horse understand to move away from pressure in the first place and that is an even more basic concept.  Then too, a horse that cannot balance itself well at the trot is going to have trouble balancing sideways, so  that is an even more elementary skill.

That idea is where all the steps on various training scales have developed over the years. While I don't necessarily follow one set pattern of training my horses, I have learned that nearly every goal needs to be reached through a series of steps designed to prepare the horse both physically and mentally.  I'm not always great at it, but at least I've learned.

So, now, I am trying to apply the same thinking to my own life/recovery.  Need a bale of hay?  If you can't carry a full one, open up the bale and carry a few flakes at a time. Cleaning the stalls? Don't fill the wheelbarrow to maximum weight capacity. Better to make two trips you can manage than struggle to push too many pounds through the mud. Fifty pound bags of  grain?  Open the bag, empty a bucket or two out and then dump the much lighter bag into the feed bin.

And then theire's the big tree branch still lying in the back yard. I've been sawing off the limbs a little at a time. Saw until you're tired, put the saw away and save the rest for another day. I am pleased to say the limb is at last ready to be dragged off by the tractor.  The too wide limbs are off, and I should be able to move it out to the woods as soon as I get around to it.

No hurry. I'm just taking this job one step at a time.