Saturday, March 28, 2015

Silvrin Shards

Newly Published

Silvrin Shards, the next book in The Saga of Magiskeep is now available for Kindle at Amazon.  Epub version is available at Smashwords. Paperback will be available soon.

Epub Version at Smashwords

Kindle Version at Amazon

Silvrin Shards—fractured pieces twisting reality out of the Way of Mirrors. The world is distorted, and the very life of Magic is challenged by the darkness of men's evil ambitions and the hunger of Shadows

Deceptions abound in three new stories of Magiskeep as Jamus’ mastery of both the Keep and  Way is challenged by Shadows, reflections and the foolish ambitions of men.

Darkwing’s Daughter holds the secret of Shadows in her heart as a passage to the Way spills deceit into one of the provinces. 

Dreamchaser offers a dangerous adventure, horse thieves and a young boy whose courage knows no bounds. 

The dangerous Cave of Shadows leads Jamus into a riddle he must solve in order to save Magiskeep from the treachery of Reflections determined to conquer the very heart of Magic. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scary Stuff

This Is My Road

If any of you wonder why I never trail ride along my road, here's a picture of an accident that happened today.
South Brunswick police and fire departments on scene
I was trying to get home from a doctor's appointment and had to detour since the road was closed. This accident happened about a mile west of my house. To be honest, I am surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.

My road is two lanes, without a shoulder, and it has many dips and bumps. We get truck traffic all the time even though the road was never designed to carry big trucks like this.  People fly by at speed past my house all the time.

I have no idea what happened here nor who was at fault. I know one driver was airlifted to the hospital. I suspect is was the car's driver. At the moment there are not a lot of details made public.

The road was closed for perhaps five hours.  Trucks that were on the road when the accident happened had to back up for more than a mile before they had a place where they were able to turn around. Hours after the accident, there were still trucks backing up past my house.

I must have reached the intersection near the accident less than a half hour after it happened. On my drive home I was passed by one emergency vehicle after another. When I saw them all heading for my road, my heart sank.

I hope the injured driver is OK and recovers.

This used to be a quiet country road until the lands at either end were sold to commercial developers who built warehouses. Now it's become a main route for trucks. The promised through road that was promised by one of those developers at least 25 years ago has not been built so my road takes the brunt of the traffic.

This is the result.

Additional Thoughts:  The most recent article about the accident said it was a head on collision. Considering that the truck is off the road to the right, I am suspicious that the car driver went over the line and the truck swerved to avoid him. That leaves me with the thought that perhaps the car's driver was texting or on the phone?  Either way a head on with a tractor trailer is a pretty serious accident. No wonder the car looks totaled.  There is swamp on truck side of the road there and wet woodlands on the car side. The guard rails are to keep vehicles out of the water. Well, not a tractor trailer, but that may have saved him a little.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Take It As It Comes

The Horse's Philosophy

We complain about the winter, moaning with each snowstorm and shivering our way through the cold wind.

Horses just take it as it comes. When you think about it, it's something else about horses to really admire. They adapt to the weather and just don't complain.

Now, I'll admit, my Boys have clothes. For the bulk of this brutal winter, they each wore a middleweight, waterproof turnout blanket (rug).  There are many horses around the area that went "naked" all winter and were just fine. Their own winter coats were more than enough to keep them warm.

I think I put blankets on just because it makes me feel better.

But I haven't heard one word of disagreement from the Boys. They make do.  As long as they have food, water, and shelter, whatever the weather brings, they cope just fine.  Sometimes, even when it's raining or snowing they prefer standing outside exposed to the elements rather than hiding inside the barn.

My barn has run in shed roofs on both sides, open access to the stalls, and there is a separate run in shed in the riding arena, again always open for their use. There are also a number of trees around the paddocks, and one is a cedar tree that's green all year with plenty of sheltering branches. Since my property has woods and trees on two sides, some of the winds are naturally blocked as well.  I guess it makes for a pretty good habitat in general.

I keep a heater in the water trough and make sure there's always water. Luckily, this winter, we never lost power here. I haven't tried my new generator hook up yet to see if it really does power all the stuff I need powered to keep the Boys and me happy, but if I never have to use it, I'll be content.

I do feed three times a day, both hay and grain. Sometimes it seems all I do is feed horses, but I like the idea that they have food more often than not. I don't have much pasture grass--none in the winter--so keeping their digestive systems working is important. Since Toby is a Cushings horse and I'd not be surprised if both Tucker and Chance have metabolic issues, not having a lot of quality grazing is just fine and probably better for everyone. There's just enough to nibble and keep them busy between feedings. I try to give them plenty of hay too.

Perhaps their spoiled. Perhaps they don't complain because they are just too content with room service around here. But when I look out to see them basking quietly in the sun or napping in the paddock, all I see are three horses just taking it as it comes.

Maybe we could all learn a lesson by watching.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

To Plow or Not To Plow

That Was the Question

And I answered it by plowing.

Several sections of the driveway were bare. Several sections had 5" of snow on them.  Some sections are in the shade, more are in the sunshine.

It only took about a half hour to plow out the deeper sections of snow and as I did the warm spring sun appeared. Now the plowed sections will melt thoroughly and my driveway will be clear.

I also plowed the grassy area leading to the barn where Scott, my farrier, parks his trailer when he shoes the Boys. Again, it's hard to tell just how much over 5" of snow would melt on the grass.

The negative side of all of that is that I have now damaged some sections of my lawn. Now, mind you, I don't have the greatest lawn in the world, but digging up the turf with the plow is not good for what's there. I suspect I will have some repair jobs to do when the grass starts to grow or doesn't start to grow again. But as Whitman said, "I am grass, I cover all." Usually the turf grows back. However I may invest in some lawn seed to fill in spaces. Some of that stuff that comes with its own mulch might do the job. And I do have the dirt/turf I plowed across the driveway to fill in.

Trying to plow over grass and dirt is tricky. If the surface is frozen solid as it was for most of the winter, it's not too difficult, but once the thaw sets in, then trying to keep the plow from digging into the dirt is a delicate operation. I didn't do too badly, but there are some definite gouges. Ah well. More yard work to keep me busy.
The Trail into the Woods

Looking at the Barn from the Woods

One View of the Pasture 

Another View of the Pasture

Toby and Chance in a Social "Hay In"

Toby, Enjoying the Sunshine

Tucker in Toby's Stall Looking for Food

 I am hoping these will be the last snow pictures of the season but the forecast does not promise real Spring any time soon. Temperatures are predicted to be below normal for the next few weeks.  The warning is that any precipitation might end up as snow instead of rain and that the weather patterns are very active. 

I bought my Easter outfit already. I hope I don't end up in a turtleneck sweater instead of the top I got. I'm not sure my blazer will go over a sweater. 

The Boys are in their sheets again. I'm glad I put their blankets on for the storm as the snow was wet, heavy and cold--the kind that sticks. So their having that extra insulation was a good move.  They are shedding however, so I will need to get the shedding blade out to do some extra grooming. 

Maybe a layer of horsehair over the snow will make it melt? 

Friday, March 20, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

Insult to Injury

OK, spring flowers last post and this today:

More to come, I fear. The storm is not yet over. The roads are starting to get bad and it's supposed to be colder tonight, so that means ice. 

On the plus side, it's forecast to go up to about 50F tomorrow and if the sun comes out, a lot of this will melt. 

It's just kind of a sad start to the first day of Spring. Once again this seems to be the perpetual winter here in New Jersey. It just doesn't want to quit. 

I may take some more pictures later, but the snow's coming down pretty hard right now and I need to go out to feed the Boys their dinner. In the third picture you can just see their silhouettes hiding out under the run in roof. I put their winter blankets back on over their sheets to add some insulation against the snow.  Should be back to just sheets tomorrow. 

It may not look it yet, but there is definitely enough snow for plowing and shoveling. I will shovel a path to the barn on the way out. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Signs of Hope

The Good and the Bad

Spring is on the way. The signs are clear.

The crocus are blooming:

They are such happy little flowers and oh, so welcome.

Not so welcome is the returning horde of blackbirds. They have come by the hundreds--grackles, redwing blackbirds, and starlings. I don't mind them in general, but they attack my bird feeder by the dozens, guzzling all the seed I put out for the little noble birds who've suffered the winter here. I have taken to scanning the trees to see if any of the huge flock is perched there watching, before I put the feed out for the little snowbirds, sparrows, junkos, cardinals and wrens. The bluejays are ever present, and make their usual grab for anything that looks edible, but they do not match the number of greedy blackbirds. It was a bit quieter today, so perhaps the bigger flock has moved on.  I didn't get any pictures of them this year, but here is one from last year. All those black spots are not leaves, they are birds roosting in the trees. 
The snow is melting fast, not so much by warmer temperatures as it is from the sun. Already higher on the horizon, the sun is quite warm and bright.  Just for contrast, here is my driveway snow pile from a couple weeks ago.
Here it is today:
And the front lawn? 
Quite a contrast. 
I like green better, and there's more to come as all the plants start to grow again.

The bad news? There's a possibility of snow in the forecast for the end of the week. 

Enough already. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Back in the Swim

Too Bad It's Cold Outside

There's enough water lying around as the snow melts to offer plenty of places for wading or even swimming. One of the farm fields up the road from me is a 5 acre lake. However, it's still too cold outside for such activities.

So, twice already this week, I've been swimming indoors. Again, it's the indoor pool at the county college where the high school I sub for is located.

The pool water is heated to a nice 84F and in the area of the pool, it's nice and warm The hall to and from the pool is a bit "brisk" but a hot shower usually solves that once I'm done swimming.

Since I am dreadfully out of shape since winter began in earnest, I tried to take it easy. That meant only ten laps of the pool.  It was mostly slow swimming but I did add a pool length of my bad version of the butterfly just to get my lungs and heart pumping.

I also add sets of water aerobic exercises into the workout, again limiting the number of reps as I work on building up my stamina. It all felt really good. As I swam, I realized how much I'd missed it during the frigid spell.

I'm not particularly good at repetitive exercises unless they involve horses. I can ride exercises on my horses over and over, seeking elusive perfection and certainly go around in circles "forever."  At least when I'm riding/training, there's an end goal, something accomplished, work done.

Not so with exercises. Twenty-five situps or a half-hour on a treadmill might build stamina and muscle as it burns calories, but what have you accomplished in the end? The stalls are no cleaner, the hay is still not stacked, the grain's not unloaded, and the horse certainly isn't any better to ride.

For some reason, the principle does not apply to swimming for me. I go back and forth, lap after lap just because.  Just because it's good exercise. Just because I like it. Just because????

Walking as exercise isn't bad either provided I do a cross country trek. I do, normally, have lots of outdoor places to walk around here. This winter? Too much snow and ice everywhere.  Last week I started a little regimen of walking up and down my driveway. The driveway circles the house and has hills at each end. I did manage to go up and down ten trips several days. Not exactly exciting, but timewise, I matched the 15 or so minutes the TV ads advertise as wonderful exercise on the elevated treadmill.

No machine for me. I have a real hill.

I also worked on stretching my leg muscles in the pool, trying to simulate sitting in the saddle on a moving horse--a wide backed moving horse.

Maybe when it gets warm enough to swim outdoors again, I'll be fit enough to ride!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Sometimes Justice is Served

I was heading out to the feed store yesterday, driving my Dodge Durango. It has a big engine and pretty good acceleration. I wasn't in a hurry, but I don't like to dawdle either.

The road I travel to the feed store has two traffic lights that always seem to turn red when I get to them. It's kind of strange because this is a main county road and most of the cross roads are more local thoroughfares. Apparently the traffic signals are set to trip pretty quickly for the side roads, so I just keep an eye out when I reach them.
 Traffic Light Clip ArtThis time the second light was just turning green for my road as I neared. There was one car ahead of me at the light and further ahead, the traffic that had just turned off the side road onto our street. There are two lanes at the intersection for traffic going straight. The right lane is for cars either going straight or turning right, the center land is for traffic just going straight and there is a left turn lane as well. I was going straight and was in the center lane. A bit beyond the right lane merged into my lane, so there was no reason for me to choose it as an option.

The car in front of me moved along, I followed and we both accelerated at an even speed up to the 40 mph speed limit. In my rear view mirror I saw a car bearing down behind me at a good clip in the lane to the right of me--the lane that was fast disappearing. That did not deter him. He raced up behind me, sped past and then, had to suddenly brake as the lane disappeared and he had to swerve behind the car in front of me, nearly backending him.

We all drove in a line for a bit at the speed limit until I saw the car in front pull over to the shoulder of the road. I'm guessing the speeding car was tailgating him for he let the speeder pass and then pulled back into the lane in front of me. All's fair. He was there first and I was in no hurry and I'd already decided to put a little distance between me and the speedster anyhow.

Well, speedster hurried on up the road until he caught up to the traffic ahead.

Glory of glories, the traffic ahead was a full school bus, dropping students off on their way home from classes.
School Bus Clip Art
Speedster was stopped dead behind the red flashing lights of the bus as the car ahead and I caught up to him.  All speedy's reckless maneuvering had gotten him was a dead stop.

The road offers no place to pass, so all three of us were stuck behind the bus as it stopped again and again to let kids off. Frankly, I was having a wonderful time laughing at how justice had been done to Speedy. He'd gotten exactly what he deserved and gotten no farther ahead.

The bus finally turned off our road, much to my disappointment, and Speedy raced off again, but I'm pretty sure he hit the next red light in the town where the feed store is.  All that rushing to get nowhere fast.

This is the second time I've seen Karma at work behind the wheel. The last time was when the police car pulled the speedy driver over who passed me in a 25 mph zone.

Sometimes things just work out right.

The Boys have their feed, and all is well at Follywoods.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Naked Truth!

The Boys Strip: Springtease!

Finally! Temperatures reached well into the 40's today, near 50F. The sun was warm, so at about 3 PM DST--the clocks changed early this morning--I took the blankets off the Boys to let them soak up some sun.

Not much action, but I was glad to see that with the sun shining on him so I could get a good look, Toby has gained some weight over the winter. He was bit lean going into the season, as much as I was trying to bulk him up. He has Cushings and, at 25 is not the muscular young fellow he used to be. I've been monitoring his weight all winter, but until I got to see him outdoors in the sunshine, I did not appreciate the improvement.
Now, if I can just plow the snow from the area where Scott, my shoer, needs to park, I can get hoofies done. Tucker's feet are really long. His shoes are still on, which is good, and with all that growth, he should have nice solid walls for the next trim/shoeing. The trouble, is, there is a fair patch of old snow in the area needed for parking. I think I'll try to clean it out this week as it warms up.

The challenge of keeping horses at home is neverending, and yet, at the same time delightfully rewarding. Being able to just step out of the house today to pull off those blankets was a treat.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Really, People?

Snow, Still Go

So we had quite a snowstorm today. Not sure how much snow but there may well have been 10 inches where I plowed. The road in front of my house was snow covered and not exactly what you'd call safe for driving.

The Governor--who shall go nameless--declared a state of emergency which implies that only necessary vehicles should be on the road. Did that stop people?

Nah. New Jersey drivers are cool. They think if there's a road they can see, there's a road to drive on.

That's one of the reasons schools close so quickly when the weather gets bad. It's not the inability of people to get to school, but it's all the traffic they have to encounter on the way. Oh yes, and by law, all the doors to a school building have to be cleared before students can go in the building.

All that being said, apparently there were dozens and dozens of "essential" workers who needed to use my road today. And tractor trailers carrying "emergency supplies" to places like the Coca Cola warehouse. State of emergency or no, these drivers were going somewhere important, I'm sure.


Anyhow, when I went out to plow at about 4:30 or so, they just keep driving by. Sometimes in convoy. At least most of them were going slowly because the road was really bad. That usually gave me time to get the snow pushed across the road and the tractor backed into my driveway well before they arrived.

And this time, no one blew his horn at me.

The Boys spent most of the day outside. They had a layer of snow on their blankets and icicles hanging off them. If I hadn't worn myself out with the plowing and shoveling, I would have taken a picture or two. Still might later on when I go out for late night feed. Not much will melt. The temperatures are dropping well below freezing...again.

The tractor did the job again, but the pile of snow by the garage is at maximum height. Even with the loader lifted all the way up, I can't pile any more snow on top without its falling back down into the driveway.

A bit tired of making this blog a weather report, but this winter doesn't offer too much more in the horse department.

To be honest, years ago, I'd be saddling up and riding in the snow. It really is fun and if you know what the ground is like underneath you can do all gaits. I even used to jump in the stuff. With proper snow shoeing, Russell R. was quite sure footed and the snow acted as a nice cushion. We had a nice level, grassy pasture and that's where I set up the jumps. Nothing big, but a ton of fun.

Trail riding around here gets a big trickier as I need to go out into the woods and there are lots of fallen trees/branches buried in the snow that demand caution. But I make no other excuses at this point because with my hip I am still not in riding form, and this kind of cold weather is not exactly conducive to the kind of stretching I need to do to get in shape.

For now, I'll just wait it out and wonder where all those cars were going.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ya Gotta Be Kidding!

Patrick O'Patticats my Computer Assistant 
Get Out the Shovels

Yep, you got it. More snow and "stuff."  Rain, sleet, mess for today and tonight--it's already started snowing--and then for Thursday a snowstorm that might bring as much as a foot of snow on top of it all.

Here's the thing that anyone living here on the East Coast knows. The stuff that fell last month is still on the ground. There are about four layers of snow, ice, and "stuff" already on the ground. Melting has been minimal. It just hasn't gotten warm enough to get rid of it.

This is actually pretty unusual for this area. Normally, we have spells of warmer--at least above freezing--weather in between storms. Not so this year. The Arctic air has just dropped down and stayed.

Not sure what I'll do about the driveway. As you may recall, I did not plow Sunday. As I'd hoped. the snow/ice melted off the blacktop and the driveway was clear by the afternoon. This time, that will not happen. Obviously, I will need to plow, but my worry is how wide I'll be able to make the driveway. The snow on the sides is ice coated and hard. It may well act as a barrier to the new snow when I need to shove it aside. All in all, it's going to be interesting if we get the amount of snow predicted.

Chance is the victim of a bite and run.
So far, the Boys are able to get out and about. I would not say they are happy, but they are able to walk around imagining there is actually stuff to nibble on.  When I went out to take these pictures, Tucker herded Chance off. Then, he decided to chase him. Chance kicked up his heels in defense and Tucker grabbed at the back of Chance's blanket with his teeth. Clear evidence of how the blanket got ripped the other day. No damage this time, but Chance was pretty quick to run off.
Tucker tries to look innocent. 
Toby just stays out of trouble.

Follywoods could use a good thawing out at this point, but to be honest, I'm not looking forward to the mud that will come with it. With all this snow, there will be quite a bit, I fear. 

Ah, well, just another phase of "yuck" to face this winter. And to think, less than twenty more days until Spring. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Second Invitation

And Jaws 2

Ok, Winter. Enough already. This time it was a layer of snow overlaid with a layer of ice.

I did not plow. Not sure if I am going to. The sun is out and it's supposed to warm up during the day. I am going to monitor the driveway in hopes that the stuff will melt on its own. If, by around 2PM or so it doesn't It may soften up enough to plow and I'll go out and take a few swipes.

Again, not a major storm, but just enough to pass the point of being really annoying to really, really annoying. And it keeps freezing up solid again at night, just aggravating the situation.

As for Jaws 2?  Somebody ripped Chance's blanket yesterday. Two neat angular tears in the butt area. Now, just who could that be? Tucker the Avenger? Toby the Innocent?

I went out with needle and thread and did a quick stitch repair job while Chance was eating his hay. Not, I suppose the safest horse handling technique, but it worked just fine. He stood still, and I sewed.

It's a minimal repair job, but there's a chance the weather may break over the next week or so and if it does, I can take his blanket off and do a proper job. Fortunately all the pieces are there, so it should heal nicely. I am rather a bit short on replacement blankets at the moment, but I'm sure I could rig something up if the tatters continue.

Again, yesterday was one of those days when I feel better when the Boys are blanketed. It was cold snowy, rainy, sleety, and wet. When I got home from church the Boys were standing out in the arena, completely unsheltered.

I put some hay in their stalls and they were quite content to come in to eat.

Once again, it made me feel better knowing they were under the roof, inside.

At least twice a day--I feed three times a day--I've been soaking the Boys' grain in hot water. It does give them some extra water and again, I think it makes me feel better.

I suspect they'd rather be out grazing.

Frankly, at this point, I'd rather they'd be out grazing. I had a dream it suddenly warmed up and all the snow melted at once. Beneath it was lush green grass.

One can only hope.