Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And Who Are You Today?

Subbing and Such

Substitute teaching is one of the few jobs offering a daily identity crisis. I have been subbing a lot lately, and each time I go in to the school, my first question in the main office is, "Who am I today?"  Most certainly, I will be asked by fellow faculty members a similar question during the day, "Who are you today?" 

Obviously, I am still me, but I will answer, "Oh, I'm Mr. Jones."  People will then nod knowingly and that's the end of the discussion. Fortunately, most of the students in the school know my real name, so that makes it a bit easier, but I do have to laugh inside about the indentity "crisis."  It is kind of fun taking over different classes, especially, since as a substitute teacher, I don't really have any responsibility to grade papers or do the harder work a regular teacher handles. I do teach classes now and then, if I know enough about the subject matter. And, I try my best to help students with any assignments the teacher may have left for them to do, but subbing is a far cry from regular teaching. 

And each time I go in, I get to be somebody else! *G*

In case you haven't heard, it's been very hot here in New Jersey over the last few days.  The Boys have been spending most of the day inside the barn, away from the flies and mosquitoes.  With all the rain we've had the little bugs are breeding like crazy and horseflesh seems to be a favorite menu item.

So far the fly sheets are holding up, but I won't brag too much. It's only been a couple weeks.  I've used minimal fly spray so far, and so far, as well, the fly predators may be keeping the barn fly population down.

I just bought some Equitrol feed through fly control for the Boys and am considering one of the garlic supplements as well.  I'm not sure which one is best or whether it's wise to spend the extra money to get a name brand. 

I also looked into the new Fly Armor products. These are browbands, cheekpieces, tags for manes and tails, and leg bands with citronella inserts that claim to do a wonderful job of repelling flies and mosquitoes.  They are moderately expensive, but if they work, they would be about equal to the bottles of fly spray I use every season. 

Anyone out there try them yet?  Just wondering if they are worth the investment.

Meantime, the Boys seem fairly content to stand in the stalls with the floor fans blowing on them, offering at least a little comfort from the heat and certainly relief from the flying pests. 

The heat is supposed to ease off by the end of the week.  But heaven knows what the rest of summer will bring.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back In the Swim

The Pool Is Open!

Crystal Springs is open on the weekends until school lets out for the year.

It's been raining, but it's also been warm, so today, after church in the late afternoon, I went for my first outdoor swim of the season. The water was chilly, but not really cold. One of those, "It feels really good once you're wet," kind of days.

I swam my ten laps and did a good 15 or more minutes of underwater bicycle with my legs.  Then I took two rounds on the Lazy River. It was so refreshing and wonderful!! I hope to go back tomorrow, weather permitting and then I'll swim at least once indoors during the week when I substitute again.

Love it.

If I get a bit more fit swimming, I think that will inspire me to do some riding as well. Exercise tends to give me an energy boost.

In the meantime, I need to get the fans set up in the barn for the Boys. It's already getting "summer hot" and they need some relief.

The summer season is upon us all.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What Do You Do With an Avocado?

Shopping for Food

I am an impulse buyer when I go food shopping. The other day, I bought some discount apples for the Boys, and then browsed the veggie department. I had carrots, onions, some mushrooms and salad greens at home, so the avocados, on sale, struck my fancy.

That night I had a nice tossed salad with avocado and tomato. Loved it, but I'd bought two avocados and the other was going to ripen soon. What to do?  Another salad? Guacamole?

How about....soup?  I looked up some recipes on the Internet, and sure enough, there were recipes for creamy avocado soup, some of which included the exact foods I already had at my disposal.

So I invented, as I always do. I will read a recipe and then modify it to suit me.

I did run down to the corner WaWa for some heavy cream--I could have used sour cream, but decided I try the regular instead. Then I browned mushrooms, onions, and celery in my soup pot, added some apricot brandy, salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian spices.

While that cooked, I put my ripe avocado and some cream in the blender and made a puree. By then the soup pot mix was about ready so I added a can of chicken broth, brought it all to a boil and then , scooping out the solids, put them in the blender to make another puree.  I added the two purees to the chicken broth with some more cream and a bit of flour to thicken it all, brought it to a light boil and voila! A really delicious soup resulted!

I just ate a nice bowlful and I think there is one more generous serving left for another day.

It was another "seat of the pants" cooking experiment that worked out. Every now and then, I have a failure, but more often than not, my inventions work out pretty well.

I suppose wise shoppers plan ahead and buy what they need to make fabulous meals. I do that occasionally, but it's much more fun to impulse buy and then get creative with the purchases.

Speaking of impulse, sweet corn was on sale yesterday at a pretty reasonable price for this time of year, so I bought eight ears--two for me and two for each of the Boys! They each got at ear with the husks on at late feed last night. Talk about spoiled.

To add to their feast, my hay man brought me second cutting bales this time as he'd run out of the first cutting. For anyone who knows hay, there is a considerable difference. First cutting tends to be coarser and consists of the top growth of the grasses. The second cutting is softer and more grassy.  It's more expensive by the bale but the horses really tend to clean up every blade.

My Boys do not need the richer hay, but it surely does make them happy.

All I could hear as I left the barn was the sound of very contented chewing,. *G*

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Still Here

Not Much New To Report

I have taken the last few days to battle to weeds and mow the grass. But I fear it is all for naught.

The rains have returned in full force and I'd swear the grass was growing again overnight. Times like this I wish I had the funds to hire a yard service to do the work. But, alas, it's up to me if I don't want to wade through foliage up to my knees.

The Boys are doing fine and despite everything, so far, the new fly sheets are intact. Of course, all I have to do is say that out loud and one of them will overhear me and start the demolition

I think Peppercorn finally figured out how to get in and out of the back porch through the open window. That's a good thing because I have had to lock the door to keep Raccoon Raider from getting in to eat anything that's not nailed down.

I've also tied the feed bin shut in the barn to discourage the masked bandit out there. I told my friend Stacie the story and she started laughing because she'd gone through a similar raccoon invasion last year. We both agreed that trying to out smart a determined raccoon was not an easy task.

More rain today and perhaps some thunderstorms this afternoon.  It is definitely soggy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Long Will They Last?

And I Get Acupuncture

I had an acupuncture treatment today, mostly for my knees. Hard to say if there is any real effect yet, but they did not feel stiff when I got off the treatment table.  Of course, since then, I was pushing the DR trimmer up and down the little bank to the west of my driveway, trying to get rid of the weeds before they begin to tower.  It was physically very hard work so I am expecting a reaction tomorrow.

I didn't ride again, mostly because I had spent the latter part of the morning once again nearly stripping the stalls as the horses had spent some time standing in because of both the rain and the surging bugs.

Which leads to the title of the blog.  Just how long will the new fly sheets last?  They are they good ones, but with an added feature--neck covers.  I didn't really want that but they sheets were such a deal on Horseloverz this winter--under $40 each for really good poly mesh sheets.  I don't worry about the sheets themselves lasting. What I am wondering about is how long the attached neck pieces will survive.

They are designed to be fastened to a halter, but my Boys do not wear halters in turnout.  No bigger there as the fabric does have some substance to it.  And I can always cut them off if I want to.  I just wonder how much of a "target" they are going to be for horsegames 102.

So, in lieu of more explanation, a portrait gallery of the horses in brand new fly sheets and some gratuitous kitty pictures. Peppercorn is the black kitty and Misty is the gray striped one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Knees Are Great

But What's Up With the Riding?

I went to my orthopedic doctor on Friday to have my six month knee checkup. They are just great! Apparently the swelling I have--especially after vigorous activity--is perfectly normal, and very expected at 6 months. The doctor said the soft tissues take a very long time to fully recover after the replacement surgery, and it well might be a year to a year and a half before things settle down completely.

After the appointment, I went to lunch with my sister-in-law and then visited her new cat, Bella. (Who happens to be a boy...long story as he is a neutered Maine Coon with gorgeous long, soft fur)

So, I have no reason physically not to ride, so what's up? Wish I knew. I am totally unmotivated.

I am guessing it's mostly because I have no specific goals in sight. It's never really been that way with my riding career before. I was either competing or taking lessons or going to clinics or something. Now, retirement from the show arena and nothing particular on the horizon is not exactly what I'm used to.

All three Boys are fine, shiny and happy. Yesterday I think Toby had a bit of a tummyache at dinner time, but I kept an eye on him and he came out of it without a full colic episode. But other than than, all is well.

Tucker and Chance do need some work to get some of their weight off--they thrive on air--and Chance needs work for that stifle of his.  But I am lazy. Don't know why.

I certainly do enjoy my time in the saddle when I do manage to mount up, and I still definitely enjoy the challenge of training. But what I need is a routine or habit to keep me going.

I suspect I'll figure it out sooner or later.

Meantime, I don't think the Boys care too much.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vet Visit

And A Ride

Yesterday the vet came for the Spring routine. That meant vaccinations, sheath cleaning (I like the vet to do it at least once a year), teeth floating and a general look over.

This was Dr. McAndrews, one of the female vets from Colts Head Vet Clinic. The only reason I note that is because she loves to float teeth and I guess it really doesn't matter how big or small the horse is. She showed me a picture from her floating a mini the other day--she was being "helped" by the Trigger's  equally mini companion, Ginger. So cute.

And then there are my horses. Chance is "only" about 15.3 or so but Tucker is about 17 h. so it's quite a contrast. But that doesn't stop Dr. McAndrews.  We needed a little extra tranquilizer for Tucker as he has a chronic "hook" way back in his mouth and apparently has an ulcer there where the tooth cut his mouth, but for all and all the Boys behaved like champs.

I was particularly proud of Chance who has been a handful in the past. I asked him if he would help us by cooperating before we started, and sure enough, he did. The last time, despite the tranquilizer, he was not exactly an angel.  

We didn't do all the vaccines this trip, so I another two weeks or so, we'll have another visit to finish up. That's when we'll draw blood for the coggins tests.  I'm not sure I'll be shipping the horses anywhere, or competing, but it's always a good idea to have the paperwork if needed.  

Today, I rode Chance. I am pleased to report that he felt much sounder his hind leg. He was just a very little uneven on the left rein and I did not have to post on the wrong diagonal to help him along. We did quite a bit of trotting in the arena, a session of canter on each lead, and then I went out to the pasture for some hill work.  Because it's been raining for so many days, I didn't want to trot downhill in case of slipping, but uphill was fine. 

My brain considered riding Tucker too, but my body said to wait until next time. 

I think my horses are fitter than I am. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Lungeing and Jumping

After a "Day" At School

I subbed today, but ended up able to leave school about an hour early because the teacher I was in for did not have classes the last periods of the day.

The only downer about this was that the swimming pool did not open until an hour later, so I had a choice. Either I stayed there and waited for the pool, or I came home to work the Boys. Horse lovers out there will be pleased to know I opted to work the Boys.

Frankly, after all the work I did yesterday, I was rather muscle sore, so I decided to lunge instead of ride.

I really like lungeing because I can watch my horses move and evaluate their gaits and attitude. I say "attitude" because both Tucker and Chance certainly have one.

Tucker does not exert himself unless persuaded and then, he acts insulted if I snap the whip at him to get more "forward."  He also likes to drop his head really low---talk about "down and round"---in both the trot and canter. Sometimes that leads to a buck at the canter, or a playful strike at the lunge line with his front leg. He will also look for any excuse to spook.  Then, he'll gallop off for a few strides before settling back to a more steady gait. His jumping is wonderful, but he also likes to see if he can catch me off guard and run around the jump rather than go over it.  A little verbal lecture is usually all it takes to correct him, but he never really gives up testing my attention.

Chance also lacks forward on the lunge, but is much easier to persuade with a snap of the whip. (Mind you, I do not hit the horse, I make the whip "Snap" with a quick flick instead.)  Keeping him in the trot when I press him forward is the biggest challenge. He has an easy, "rocking chair" canter and it's his favorite gait.  Sometimes, it's so slow motion, he hardly makes any headway around the circle.  Again, I can chase him pretty easily, but his notion of "how to canter" does make me laugh.  He's pretty honest about the jumping, but today he did run out to the outside twice on the right rein. That's the direction he pulls out on anyhow, so it was pretty easy for him to evade.  The jump was set at around two feet, so it was a little bit of effort to get over it unless he had some impulsion.  However, "impulsion" is not in Chance's everyday work ethic vocabulary. "Relaxed" is, so his casual approach to a fence can make the jump more up and down then "over."

But, the fact is, I do like the way both Boys jump.  I know I 've said this before. Toby--whom I did not lunge today--has a huge, athletic jump with impulsion, power, and exuberance. Of the three, he is probably the most talented over a fence, but that is not always the easiest to ride.

Like Chance and Tucker, I prefer a much more "laid back" approach to a fence. But that's one of the reasons I became a dressage rider.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Boys Mow the Back

And I Mow the Front Lawn

I trimmed the front bank and around most of the trees with my electric weed whacker today.  While I was working, the farmer from two doors down dropped by to chat and I mentioned that I was waiting for my other neighbor to come over to see if he could get the belt back on my lawn mower.  My farmer offered to look at it for me.

Apparently, it's really just a matter of strength to get the belt slipped on again, because it took him just a few minutes to do it, putting me back in business with the mower.  I finished up the weed work and in short order had the lawn tractor up an running to mow the front lawn.

Now, apparently, I was sending mental messages to the Boys, because as soon as I was finished, Toby started nickering to me--something he is not prone to do.  So, I closed off the gates on the driveway and let all three Boys out on the back lawn area to graze.  They are not quite as neat about it as the lawn mower, but I must admit, they do a pretty good job with the bonus of trimming a lot of the longer grass that grows up around trees and the garage where I can't get at it with the mower anyhow. Essentially, they do my weed whacking out there for me.

While they grazed, I did another thorough barn mucking. Because of all the rain, some of the bedding in the stalls got wet--long story for another day--and the Boys had been hanging out under the run in roofs.  So everything needed extra cleaning with perhaps a dozen wheelbarrow loads or so.  Wet hay fills the barrow pretty quickly, explaining the expanded number of trips to the manure piles.

But, the work is done, and everything is pretty cleaned up for now.

Needless to say, I am exhausted. I may go out a bit later to lunge a horse or two, but I have had enough exercise for one day.

At least the sun is back out and the mud is drying up quickly.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Waiting Out the Rain

And Watching the Grass Grow

It's still wet outside, and it looks as if it's going to rain again any minute.

The Boys were even in their stalls this morning.  Guess they are tired of being wet.  I have some serious cleaning to do out there as a result. But I'll wait a little longer.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the grass grow in the front yard.  The back isn't so bad because with the fencing and gates across the driveway, I was able to put the Boys out there to graze and they did a pretty good mowing job.  But I can't let them out in the front, so the grass and dandelions just keep on growing.

I mowed just over a week ago and as I finished the belt slipped off the mower deck.  Then it started raining and I just haven't made the effort to get it back on.  I think I know the technique, but it is a bit of work. And it's still hard for me to get down low like that on my new knees. So, I've put it off.

Not that it matters. I think since then I've only had one or two spaces of time when it's been dry enough to mow.

Worse, the front bank has sprouted with a vengeance, which means I am going to have to week whack sooner than later so I can see oncoming traffic when I try to pull out of the driveway.

Ah well. Clearly, I need a yard worker, but since I can't afford one, I'm it. I'm still certainly capable of handling the work, I'm just too darn lazy to do it--especially in the wet. (Weed whacker has an electric that's not too safe in the wet either.)

So, I may need a hay baler soon.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Patches Returns!

At the Back Door

I went out to feed the Boys this morning, and who should greet me at the back door, but Patches!  I sat down on the wet back step and he stayed nearby. I had a can of cat food ready, and opened it. That brought him over, but instead of eating it he sniffed my finger.

I was able to pet his head and in an instant, he started to purr and was up beside me and into my lap. I cuddled him close and then lifted him up and brought him in the house. He never stopped purring.

For the next hour plus, he was in my lap getting brushed as I tried to get all the ticks out of his fur. He ate some food, played laser light at least twice and just kept on purring. He's on my lap now as I type this.

I need to go to the feed store to get some Frontline Plus to get rid of any fleas or ticks on him, so that's on the agenda. But I have to wait until I have my conference with my communicator and at least one of the barn kitties.

Which leads to the barn kitties in the sunroom. Once Patches was safe inside, I figured I'd let them back outside. Misty is picking on Pepppercorn off and on, so I thought they both might need to get out where they had more space. So I opened up the window and took out the screen, giving them free access to the outside world.

Oh, great. Misty sat in the fully open window for about fifteen minutes then went back to settle on the carpeted cat tree. Peppercorn made no move either, and curled himself up on the couch.

Now what? Does that mean neither one of them wants to be an outdoor cat?  If they would get along with the indoor kitty crew....well MAYBE. It really is too many cats in the house, but I've had an overstock before.  I just can't see giving them the sunroom for life, though. The other kitties love it in there too and it does cut off some of the circular romping room around the house. (With the sun room closed, running kitties cannot make a full circle around the back of the house, so it does spoil the fun.)

I will have to see what Misty says today during the consult. Maybe a compromise would be to set up the back porch with some super comfy lounging places and leave window open there. The porch already has a cat door, but if I leave that open, I have raccoon and opossums....and an occasional skunk....come in to visit.

So, the saga continues. If Patches shows he wants to go outdoors, I will honor my promise, but for now, he seems really happy to be safe inside.

Now, if it ever stops raining, perhaps I will be able to ride a horse or two and get the "horses" back into the blog.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Patches Update

I Want to be Outdoors

Patches has now told both communicators he wants to be outdoors.  I can respect that.

Last night we discussed a compromise where he could go out during the day and come in where it is safe at night. We have coyote, fox, and raccoon on the prowl here and, of course tractor trailers and fast moving cars. I don't like the idea of outside kitties at all, but in this case I want happy kitties.

That leaves the two barn kitties, Misty and Peppercorn, who are still locked in the sun room. We hope to have consult with them at the end of the week, trying to strike some sort of deal so they don't attack Patches.

I don't know if anything will work out of this. Apparently Patches was quite attentive and considered the proposal. We tried to make being indoors with a safe place to sleep, a nice brushing, good food, play with the laser pointer, and flea control as attractive as possible.

Once again, it's just wait and see.