Monday, January 31, 2011

First Flight

She looks so cute and innocent!

Riding a new horse is kind of like piloting an airplane for the first time. I traveled to Michelle’s house on Sunday, to take my maiden flight on Kiri. Unfortunately, I forgot my girth – fortunately, Michelle had one that worked. Since it was cotton web, and stretches, I walked her around a little before getting on, which is when this picture was taken. (I do wear a helmet when I ride…)

So, I got on, got settled, and Michelle let go of the reins. Kiri hit the eject button, and I was summarily dumped on my butt…

I’m ok. My knees are ok. It’s actually rather nice falling off a horse that’s so close to the ground. I got back on (after putting the halter on over the bridle). Michelle led us around the arena. Every time Kiri got pissy, I made her turn around. By the end of the ride, she was a little better.

As near as I guess, these contributed to her general bad mood:
• She’s suffering from the mare version of PMS, and her ovaries hurt (I was sitting rather near them).
• She didn’t like the girth (it was a little tighter than I usually do it).
• Unlikely, but possible – her teeth hurt (see below)
• Most likely – she was out of sorts being asked to DO something.

Michelle’s husband is an Equine Veterinarian. When I got Kiri, I knew that she was going to need pony orthodontia. Since Rick was home, and had his dental tools there, Kiri got a shot of pillow/blankie/night-night, and had her teeth done. She has what’s called “monkey mouth” – basically an undershot jaw, like a bulldog. Lack of care had caused one of her incisors to grow abnormally long (the rig she’s in simply holds her head up, and her mouth open – pretty slick and totally painless).
After cutting off almost ½ inch spur, and evening up her teeth, it almost looks normal.
This view shows how “off” her jaw is. The last top tooth and the last bottom tooth should be directly opposite each other.

So, we can cross off the third bullet above – no teeth excuses.

The first bullet will be solved by putting the 1” copper pipe back into the stock tank (the copper helps with mares’ cycles), and getting some Mare Magic (raspberry leaf supplement that really works…).

The second bullet will hopefully be mediated by using my girth, which is a little more elastic.

The final bullet will be good for both of us. I’m going to put her into the training surcingle, attach the drive reins, and ground drive her around the pasture. As soon as she’s convinced that stopping is not an option, we’ll be well on our way. I’ll be walking up and down hills with her (great for the muscle tone, and cardio).

I’ll also start riding Chris to get my riding muscles in shape.

I’ve now lost 8.5 lbs!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The beginnings of a happy cat

Chaos has discovered my lap.  With much purring and rubbing, in fact.  Lyra is jealous!

 And (drumroll...) I rode my horse yesterday.  Chris was not sure that he should have to do anything, being 20 and having the last 6 months off, but with a little persuasion, he settled down.  We had a nice amble around the pasture.  Between that ride, and unloading a ton of hay, I was very tired, hence the lap availability for the cat...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kiri is home, new chickens, future gardening.

And Chris tried to eat her...  He was quite bent out of shape that he only had 24 hours to himself as boss of the pasture.  However, after locking Kiri in the barn, and then letting her out and locking Chris in the barn, I knew that this was not a routine that I could manage for very long (like never...).  Plus, neither of them were very happy being locked up - Chris paced and wove and worked himself into a complete lather.  By Monday, they were both getting twitterpated when the other one was out of sight, so I thought I'd try putting them together. Success! After a slight bit of "I'll show you," they wandered off grazing together.  The size difference is rather comical - Chris at 17.1, Kiri at about 13 hands.

Kiri has already established her place in the herd as higher than the alpacas.  She's very quick to turn her butt to them or bare her teeth at them, and after their experiences with the big boys, they are very respectful.  I think Chris will now get all the feed he's supposed to.  She seems to have let him be boss (good call...), so I don't have to worry about her stealing his ration. After almost a week, he looks like he's actually gaining weight.

I stopped last night to put in my turkey order (15 std. bronze, 15 royal palm and 10 midget white), and was deciding what kind of replacement chickens I was going to get.  My Dark Brahmas are really lovely, and very friendly, but they haven't laid an egg since Sept.  There is no free lunch on the farm.  I have had Buff Orpingtons in the past, and my sister has had Black Australorps, and I was trying to decide between them, when the feed store owner mentioned that they had some crossbreds (buff/Australorp x) that some guy brought back because he thought they were roosters (they aren't).  I went out to look at them, and they appear to be 3-4 months old, and took them home (there are 5). 

I have a chicken/turkey tractor that I broke last year when I moved the turkeys to their bigger pen. It's made out of a 2" pvc frame with 3/4" electrical conduit "hoops" covered in chicken wire.  Because it is raining today, I covered it with a tarp.  In the dark last night, I just put some straw in, their box, and opened the lid.  This morning (in the dark), I furnished water and food - one of the girls was out of the box the other 4 were huddled in their box wondering what was going on! Of course, Lyra, the chicken terminator, was quite interested.  The plan is to repair the tractor - it broke the fitting at the corner - and start moving them around when the weather gets nicer.  Where they are now will make a nice garden-ette, particularly with their manure added to the horse poop that has been piled there in the past.

It would be nice to make a quasi-green house where the chickens are at the end of the house.  It would help keep the underside of the house warm in the winter, and give me a place to grow greens, brassicas, and roots.  I may move them before the weather clears up - I want home-grown salads...
Like Leigh, I have 5 acres.  While I would love to be self sufficient, I know that I won't ever be able to feed the large quadrapeds from my land. The birds can scrounge a lot, but they still need more nutrition than I can provide from my land.  I can, however, work towards growing all my own herbaceous food and canning, freezing and drying it for future use.

Last year, I raised 32 cornish x chickens.  I should mention that I'm a practiced procrastinator.  I arranged for them to be butchered (I'll do one or two myself, but 32?) at 10 weeks.  I forgot how fast they grow.  I had cockerels that dressed out at 10 lbs.  I sold 6, gave a couple to neighbors for being "neighborly", froze 5, and canned the rest.  It's really nice to just grab chicken off the shelf to use in cooking.  This year, I would like to do some tuna and salmon.  It would be fun to catch it too, but I don't think I can make the time to go that far, but a couple of the grrls here at work are talking about it so maybe we will!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts for the day...

I found this on Arlette's blog (Ranching with Sheep) - it was very timely:
1. Strength is not a matter of size. We are much stronger than we think if only we believe we can.
2. The biggest effort is getting started.
3. When you gain a little momentum go with it and keep it rolling.
4. If you get caught in a depression it's okay to sit, rest and ponder for a bit.
5. If you find yourself wallowing in your depression or getting angry, you've been sitting for too long or trying too hard.
6. Going uphill is more difficult no matter how small the load or slight the incline.
7. It really is easier to go with the downhill flow of life.
8. It's okay to cut the strings that tie you up and spread yourself out a little.
9. If life isn't unrolling smoothly you need to turn and go a different direction.
10. Sometimes all of your best efforts will go unnoticed and some days we all need the freedom to run around and be crazy.

I've been stuck in #5 for too long...

I tried to take Merlin to the auction on Saturday.  I started early, catching him, giving him a sedative, letting him eat while it took effect, etc.  I lead both he and Chris down to the trailer so he wouldn't freak out.  After trying unsuccessfully to load him with Chris standing outside, I put Chris in the trailer (told him to duck, and he did), and tried again.  After an hour and a half, I lost it.

Realizing that it would be counter productive to continue, I put the boys away, and went in the house and cried.  It's hard enough to make the decision - it's doubly hard when the horse in question knows something's up.  It's three times harder when the freaking drugs that cost $28 don't do squat...

So, and so.  I will try again this weekend.  I will see if the vet can come out Friday afternoon to give him really, really good drugs, and haul him over Friday. I've talked to a friend about borrowing his trailer - however, he thinks that even though it's a slant, it's shorter in height than mine, which makes borrowing it a less than ideal solution. 

On a happier note:

Go Ducks!!
Call me a duck! This was done by On the Rocks - a local group that went national, though they didn't win (they should have...).

Flock the village! My boss' wife and daughter were in this crowd somewhere!

And, the Wolf Pack won, too!!

Life is really ok...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

Ok, so I’m a little late, but I can explain…

I had a wonderful time for Christmas with my cousin, Glenna (see this post). We sat around and I knit and she read, and we talked and laughed and cried, ate prime rib, drank wine and margaritas, and generally let our hair down. The time was too short. She is the perfect guest!  I also dyed some yarn for projects - some are included later in this post.

The day that she came, I had a farrier appointment (pony pedicures). It took me 20 minutes to catch Merlin after he busted out of the barn :-(  I’ve been having trouble with him for awhile, and have hesitated to mention it here – the upshot is that he’s dangerous because the human race let him down. I had decided to take him to the local livestock auction while Glenna was here (some of the source of tears).

I have $100,000 knees – I don’t want to mess them up “saving” a damaged horse. His behavior is like that of a fear bitter dog. If he’s cornered, he fights – he’s too big to fight with. He also picks on Chris, who is currently injured and lame because of some interaction (but getting better), and harasses the alpacas. Life will be much calmer for the large quadrupeds when he’s gone.

I hadn’t planned to get another equine (you can tell where this is going...).

There is a feedlot in eastern Washington that a group rescues horses bound for slaughter and rehomes them. I was cruising CL last week and found this:
(can you say "dressage pony?")

She’s a 10 year old, grulla quarter pony, 13.3 hands. I called – she was still available for adoption. In their evaluation, they found her responsive to leg and rein, and very calm.

My New Year’s plan was to go to Prineville, spend the 31st with Correy, cook duck and hang out. We did that, but on New Year’s Day, she and I drove to Washington to pick up the pony. We arrived at the holding area (half-way house for feedlot rescues), to find her happily munching away on a large bale of hay with other horses. Since she was near the fence, I held my hand out with a treat. At first, she was “busy” eating, but kept looking over. Finally, she came up, took the treat, and let me scratch her – ears, neck, shoulder (beautifully sloped), pretty much anywhere. When I put the halter on her, she just stood there calmly. She leads beautifully – slack lead line, head just slightly ahead of my shoulder. She also loaded in the trailer nicely. All in all, she seems to be a very level-headed, easy-going, and very friendly.

She’s still at Correy’s, in quarantine. Being a feedlot rescue, they have been exposed to various diseases, and Correy has the ability to separate her, where I don’t. After a couple of weeks, depending on the weather, I’ll drive over to bring her home. I’m hoping to get some riding in this winter – hauling the little one will be much easier than shoe-horning Chris (once he’s sound) into the trailer! I’ve named her Kiri – her previous name was Jingles. My mom’s childhood nickname was Jingle, and somehow it just didn’t seem appropriate to call her that.

The kittens are running rampant – Chaos has slept under my bed, and in the living room on a sweater – he’s really coming around. The other two, Mayhem and Ted, are still pretty standoffish, but they come running for food. Last night, they were both in my bedroom while I was reading; Mayhem sniffing my hand, Ted just watching from around behind the dresser – progress.

Harry and Lyra are good, though Harry is fighting his flea allergy. I’m going to try some new stuff, as Frontline seems to have stopped working.

I’ve also been knitting. I used some of the yarn (see this post) that I had spun to make this cowl. It’s warm and I really like it!
Note the tassel - it's kind of my signature.  I love putting I-cord and tassels on things - this helps me get it on the same way each time.

I’m making another out of merino/silk from KnitPicks that I dyed – the Victorian Neck Cozy from Ravelry (link here). The copy of the pattern that I printed was in black and white – the yarn I dyed is a lot like the yarn in the color picture!

I’m also working on another hat, this one’s for Correy. Her maternal line is of Sami extraction (Northern Scandinavia, Lapp, with a little Alaskan native thrown in), so I’m using some of those colors and patterns in my “yurt for your head” style. It’s barely underway here, but it’s a start!
 I have resolved to increase my fitness level and eat better. It’s so cliché, but I really need to do something about my cardio-vascular fitness. To that end, I’m embarking on riding my bike (on a wind trainer) three times a week, and looking for healthier meals. I’m starting slowly – don’t want to shock my system, or anything…

So far, I’ve had almost 30 inches of rain since 11/1/10. The storm on its way this week should top that. The ground has been frozen for the last few days, giving everyone a respite from the mud.

I’m also welcoming back the sun. I did chores last night until after 5:00, and it was still light enough to see – YAY!