Friday, August 26, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011



We got home at 7:30 pm – immediately brought the horses in, got them water, fed them, April was outside with us – it gets dark around 8:00 now (darn) and he wanted me to clean up the dry paddock – I told him I would have but he needs to empty the manure spreader – where’s the muck bucket? Its full, won’t fit anymore into the manure spreader – He had already talked to his mother – he had to explain to her, slowly with good diction, why the METRO was so slow (15 mph) and why it took so long for the medical emergency to get resolved on the train in the station, blah blah – she was out in the yard when the ‘quake’ occurred, but Rob and Debi were just getting onto the road (Montrose) and noticed the traffic lights swaying – being from California, they knew what it was and immediately turned around to make sure Mary and the house were ok.
Anyway – Those minis are messy! I had cleaned the stalls over the weekend and they purposely go in there to use the facilities. She’s ‘going’ in Fred’s stall, too. With the spreader empty I had plenty of room to dump the muck bucket. He came out and asked if I had eaten, I said I had a pretzel and some dried peaches, what did you eat? Well, it was better than that! OK, but I’m too busy to eat. I got all the manure cleaned up, threw hay, he cleaned and filled the water buckets. The weather was delightful! And then its time for bed, just like that!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dog Days

Another whirlwind weekend – The usual Friday night blitz (grocery/gas/load the truck); Saturday morning chores routine. Then we hit the road – destination: West, by God, Virginia.

We planned, seemed like at the last minute, to go to our place in West Virginia to mow a little and pick up the box scrapper. We also are having family in Sunday afternoon from California. Too many things going on at one time, bound to be a conflict, right? A blind man can see this coming.

Friday night, we hitch up the flat bed trailer, load the tractor with the finish mower deck on it, pack the cooler with extra drinks. We’re ready to go for early Saturday morning.

For some reason we leave later than expected, he forgot to bring the gasoline can for the mowers up there, we stop at Kerr’s for a new tank and gas. We arrive there around 10:45.

The weeds in the drive way are almost waist-high. He’s lamenting that there is ‘cattle carpet’ under there, shouldn’t have grass and weeds growing. I tug on one of the weeds and it pulls out like a toothpick in a cake. No dirt attached to the shallow roots. This will be an easy task, except there are thousands of plants to pull. We pull and pull, throwing the weeds into a heap. The heap becomes a large mass, taller than the dog. Now there are several heaps, here and there. Taking about an hour, we finally are done.

He tries to get either of the mowers going, and uses up all the starter-fluid. Neither mow is going to run today. I put on the weed-whacker and hit the yard. He unloads the tractor, it’s about 12:30 p.m., and mows around the barns and lots of the pasture. He says he sees hundreds of mice, scattering from his tractor. He tries to run over as many as possible.

There is evidence that it has flooded, one of the bridges is moved about three feet down-river. The grass is still flattened from the rush of water. I weed-whack for about three hours, three tanks of gas, and lots of string. I try to kill or damage as much multi-flora rose as possible. I see a couple frogs and a mouse. I’m watching out for bees and snakes, see none.

We take a break, eat the lunch I've packed. I drank most of a bottle of pink lemonade. We hit our machines again; working, working, working. Now my hands are buzzing, numb. My shirt is wet, my hair is damp, I've got mud on my glasses. We're having a wonderful time!

He finally comes in about the same time my string is short and ratty. He moves the truck and trailer to mow where that was parked, then e hastily load up the tractor. He says we don't have time to pick up the box scrapper. What? Next time? We have to have the tractor to lift the box scrapper, it's like 600 lbs.! Next time.

We take the same way home and it was really a wonderful route; no Route 81 or 66 or Beltway. Scenic views. We get home at dark and everybody is at the gate, wondering where in the hell we've been! Tom fills the water buckets and I dish out the grain. Instant happiness all the way around. We eat the rest of our lunch. I'm pooped.

Sunday: another beautiful day, get up early like normal. I had things planned that I didn't get to the day before and it is heating up out there. He decides he's going to prep the exterior walls for paint; my new job is to scrub the walls. O boy.

I do get lots of dirt off, but the more I scrub the more the paint peels, a lot. It dries quickly and he starts painting with a primer. It loosens the existing paint. This is going to be futile. It looks like a Paint Horse. Then it starts raining. Great!

Retreat into doing household chores. Lightning and Thunder. Rain, heavy at times. O boy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Clean-Out Connector, Guttering

On Sunday, late afternoon, Tom started digging into the sewer line to connect the RV clean-out. He bought everything he needed, he thought. Apparently the sewer line is not the measurement that he thought it was, so we had no in-door plumbing for Sunday night and Monday morning. He took Monday off to correct this problem.

By mid-morning he had resolved the plumbing issues and had guttering for the run-in shed. By late afternoon that was installed, too. This will cut down on the muddy spot in front of the shed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Third Monday in August

The day started off with a shower in the horse trailer – Tom was unable to finish the plumbing job because of the horrific storm Sunday night. When I walked back into the house, Irene was in the back hallway, battling a snake! A little Ring-Neck, the sixth this season.

That evening - around 6ish - I get home earlier than normal because I don't have to wait/pick up Tom. I hear dogs (at least two) barking/yapping behind the house, but down at the bottom of the hill, behind the pasture fence. Tom says it’s been going on for about a half hour - and you didn't try to figure out what is going on? Sounds like they’d treed a ‘Coon or something. Anyway - I walk into the other field because I know a way across the creek and into the bean/corn field and there are THREE people sitting on the edge of the hill (where David would stand to shoot his guns). I run back to tell him, we get in the RAV4, April is with us, and there are three sitting there, a man with two kids. They never heard our car, so we drive back. He said if it was three GUYS he would have said something. He’s been home but not home (went to THREE Home Depots, local hardware store, too, to buy guttering materials for the run in shed) and didn't see them come onto the property. They've got the dogs in the woods, and the guy is yelling at them. Never saw the dogs. The horses (4) are concerned about what's going on.
I'm nosy so I climb the fence and can see the tops of their heads from there. Then I walk onto the big berm next to the landscaping bins - and can see them walking back to the house next to us - on the other side of the power lines. Never met the Widow that lives there, but know that she has others there because of the amount of yard work/bonfires that happen (can see that from our house when the leaves are gone).
I see them walk back over there and tell him that this must be the guy that is stringing aircraft cable across the paths that we are creating in the woods - he thinks it couldn't be - why not? Logical deduction - it’s not the horse barn people; they would NEVER carry that kind of obstruction into the woods. This is a guy that is staking out his 'territory' to use his dogs to hunt. Why is this so hard to imagine? From the widow's house, walk straight out and anyone would be on the top of the hill where the cable was strung. Duh? Anyway, I'm sure that's the guy. We’ll continue to make our paths in the park as we see fit - it's 'public' land, not somebody's territory, even if he did grow up there. He’ll be surprised when he sees new fencing going in, right?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Second Weekend in August - Wrap up

Nothing new with reporting that weekends fly by, evaporate. So many things planned, can only accomplish what can be done. The most important thing is to get hay - one bale left in the hayloft. Rain is in the forecast.

Todd Greenstone was supposed to come by Thursday night but didn't make it. I would have liked to have ridden Thursday - full Moon and low humidity. That didn't happen. He came over Friday night with his two Vizsla: Angel and Hank. Since they apparently follow him everywhere they got chased, rather aggressively, by Lil Fred and Sprite. We walked around the place, him giving us advice on this and that, estimates on the fields, what not to waste our time and money on. He also gave us a bale of timothy/orchard grass hay.

Saturday morning, overcast, Tom called around for hay and hay prices. They must belong to a Union or something - all the same price, unless you go North, but that costs fuel. We'll get it locally from Tahill Farm in Lisbon.

On the way to get hay it started sprinkling. Great!

it poured buckets last night - everybody stayed IN ALL NIGHT - it was still raining at 11pm so I left them all in with hay.
yesterday - i finished cleaning/waxing the shower - scrubbed the floors, vacuumed, finished up the laundry - dusted (yikes!) - tom finished mowing - he also trimmed trees on the roadway! and pulled all those branches into the truck - now in the burn pile - we need a bonfire! then he dug up the sewer line to install the RV clean-out - the sewer pipe is an odd size so he couldn't complete the job before the rain came - and it rained - from 8:00pm to after midnight. The clean-out will be at the back corner of the house in the 'little woods.'

Anyway - no water can go down the drain in the house - I showered in the trailer this morning - boy, that water is blazing hot! hahaha - and peeing in the yard. Country living! He is home today to fix that problem. We want to be able to dump our black/gray water tanks after camping like we did at Grandin.

We lost two bales of hay on the way back from Tahill Farm - HOWEVER - Todd Greenstone gave us a bale Friday night and then on Saturday afternoon Chris said there was a bale at the end of Annapolis Rock - Tom got that bale - so we actually aren't missing any hay.

Not as hot today, which is a good thing - I'm wearing long sleeves because of the poison ivy/grass rash I have on my arms. Also went grocery shopping yesterday late in the day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Snakes, Bees and Groundhogs - O My!

There has been four snakes, so far, found in the dining room this summer. Two live, two dead. If we don't find them soon enough Irene kills them. Three have been obviously Ring-neck snakes, the first one was a black snake. Why are they in my dining room, second year in a row?

Last night we were relaxing with the gang at the gate. I noticed a weird, elongated shape just past the back fence. It was as big as Skip's head. I hadn't noticed it before. I walked most of the way down and realized it was a HUGE bee's nest, could see them buzzing around it, coming and going like an air traffic controller was coordinating their flight.

It is still pretty hot around here. Tom decided he would try to blow up some groundhog burrows, hopefully with them in it, hiding from the heat. The last straw was while mowing grass and nearly losing the tractor in the vertical holes. You can see to China in a couple of these things!

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Weekend in August

Tom took off on Thursday, taking the tractor over to Mullinix & Sons in Dayton, among other things. He did get a lot of items done and off the list.

We also had been invited to camp out Saturday at the League. There was a hurricane slated to drive our weather to warm, humid, with rain likely. We decided we'd go anyway. So what if we get wet, right? We have to bring April and Irene but not the little ones. This will be the first time we leave them alone, unattended.

The tractor is ready to be picked up, but Mullinix & Sons' hours are abbreviated. Closed on weeknights at 5pm, open 8 am Saturday until noon. We have to get the tractor before we ride out. I plan on being there at that time.

We pack the trailer, I do laundry, go to the grocer, gas station and feed store (not in that order). It doesn't matter if you are going for over night or for a week, the same amount of trips from the house or barn to pack the trailer. The only detail I was really missing was what time to meet. On Friday night, around 10pm, I find out from Martin that we'll be joined by Linda Losey and Tom Kiefer. Haven't seen them since February. Time flies, right?

At the horsey club the event of the day is Judged Pleasure Trail ride. We are not participating and most of the rigs aren't for overnight camping. I'm sure the place will clear out later in the afternoon. At this point it doesn't matter where we'll stay, we can move if we don't like it.

I texted Martin, like a teen-ager, and he texted back that they were on the road. I honestly expected them momentarily, they live close by. Linda and Tom pull in soon after that, park in a great, strategically convenient place. We find out that we're to meet at 11am. What I also didn't know was that Martin and Tracey, and Louisa the dog, are coming from Philly! Minor details. We are the ones always late, but not this time.

Tom gets busy setting up the high-line, I get the water buckets filled, the hay net hung and he ties the boys to the line. Martin and Tracey finally arrive. Awning pulled out, the dog and cat situated in the trailer. Tack up, let's go!

I learn that Linda and Tom are not going to stay for dinner; one hen goes into the freezer right then. Everybody eventually gets ready, it is now after noon.

We head down the driveway, cutting onto the trail in the woods, down the drive and across the roadway. Walk through the woods, all the way to the 'edge' of League Hill, then turn right to get to the power plant for the Henryton Hospital.

We cross the railroad tracks and see swimmers/picnickers at the swimming hole; a barbecue grill is fired up, roasting hot dogs. The smoke fills the air. More people, some with dogs, are coming into the area. We meet four on horseback, don't know any of them.

We cross the river and scrabble up the bank, stopping at the 'crossroads.' I ask the for the final destination. Are we going to the Woodstock Inn or not? Whether we turn left of right will make all the difference. We are heading to the Woodstock Inn! We turn left.

I'm leading, and KC can't walk any slower. If he did, we'd be stopped. I have to continual urge him on. We cross the roadway at Marriottsville, I stop traffic because I can. Linda and Tom say they are hungry, it's now after noon, so I decide to take the quickest way to the restaurant that I know. It will still take an hour and a half, at least.

We continue on to the bar, fairly uneventful. We meet horse people and bikers and hikers. We travel as much in the shade as possible, it's really heating up. We find a few opportunities to pick up the pace, but it is hot and I want to take it easy.

Along the way we meet an old friend who tells us they got into bees at the bottom of 'League Hill.' We didn't go that way and will avoid it for the rest of the season. We also were overtaken by a larger group, booting it up the hill. One of them said something about bees, a few of them are people we know from the Club.

We continue traveling along and another group comes towards us. We move off the trail and the group that was behind us takes the opportunity to get in front of us and race off ahead. They also don't take the time to water their horses in the river for the last time before hitching up at the bar. Their speed paid off; they got to the bar and placed their food orders before anyone else could get inside.

The last time we were at this restaurant there was no one but 'us' and now the place was getting busy. The bar maid was working, working, working. We ordered lunch and beers and had a nice visit waiting for our food.

While we were eating, a large group of bikers (motorcyclist) come into the tavern. They are boisterous and loud. More joined in, even louder. They take the booths along the wall behind us. There are more than a dozen, women, too, and now they are singing 'Happy Birthday' to at least one of their legion. They remind me of cartoon characters or Muppets. One of them has a Britishesque accent; Tracey and I tried to figure out if it is real or fake. We couldn't tell.

We get our food, order another round of beer. The birthday bikers are loud. Linda is sharing a story of her first ride at the League and the beer is settling into my head.

I don't know why or how Linda felt that she didn't get enough pickle with her lunch, but the bar-keep put a pile of pickles on a white square plate and the Britishesque Harley-dude presented her with these pickles. I am not sure the Woodstock Inn will ever be the same after crazy horse woman befriended loud motorcycle dude over a plate-full of dill pickles. It's so nice when a little pickle can bring everyone together like that, bridging that unspoken divide between equestrian and Harley biker-dude. It ended with us leaving and Linda smacking the Harley-dude on his butt check. I wonder if his butt still stings?

When we get to the hitching post I realize that KC was not securely tied to the rail. He didn't notice; his eyes are closed, dozing, and he's very relaxed. The way home was a lot quicker than getting there. KC was walking briskly now. We went up to Granite, to the Fox Hole Quarry. The sign says "No Swimming" and there are people in the quarry! I wouldn't go in there without my SCUBA gear, honestly.

Uneventful on the way back, too, we saw deer, squirrels, hawks, bathers, bikers/hikers and dogs. It was well after 3:00 p.m. so I did want to get everybody back by 5:00 p.m.

We picked up the pace on the flat next to the river and KC wanted to throw his head down, I was pulling him up the best I could. He gets his head down, he'll buck. I don't like that gait. It hurts my back!

We rested in the Reservoir outlet and proceeded onward. Walking or trotting a little through the woods we came to the hill we ALWAYS race up. We rested at the bottom until everybody had 'aired up' and then wound our way to the straight away. OK, let's go!

By the time we got up to the top of the hill, KC was no longer trying to throw his head down (too much like work). We let them eat grass at the top and catch their collective breaths. We are still an easy 45 minutes out from the League.

Continued on through the Park back down to the river. Skip and everybody was glad to get into the fast-moving cool water. We sat there for a while, too, then under the bridge (yes, under the bridge!) and traveling in and out of the water, but mostly in. We took the lower route, the way with more water.

We untacked back at camp, Linda and Tom headed out - sorry to see them go - Linda does not ask me one single time if I know where I'm going! The first/last time we rode with them that was her constant refrain. The answer is 'yes, I know where I am." We started preparations for dinner - for everybody!

Dinner was great, we ate a lot - I had a cocktail, then around 9:30 p.m. it started raining. We didn't have a bonfire, but if we did it would have been put out. We were snug under the awning at Martin's table.

April and Irene slept through the night, we were all tired. The boys were out in the rain, but it has been so dry and we were on the top of the hill. Nothing got muddy. All the water was soaked in and the boys were clean in the morning. I slept till almost 7:00 a.m.!

We fooled around and didn't ride out until after 11:00 a.m. We packed lunch, which included Oatmeal marshmallow cream cookies. Not going to Woodstock Inn two days in a row! We went out the same way as Saturday and detoured from the Henryton power plant up to the top of the hill for a tour the abandoned and neglected Henryton Hospital. We saw the ruins of the swimming pool, the dormitories and staff housing. Most of windows are missing. When we retraced our steps to the bottom of the hill there were kids on the power plant roof.

There were people in the swimming hole and we proceeded through that and up into the previous day's intersection that would be the choice for today. We are going right, away from the restaurant.

Some of this trail has parts that Tom does not care for; the path is right next to the River and the way is undercut. He's afraid of a collapse. He dismounts and walks Skip past these scary parts. We turn left and go up the hill. I love this part of the woods. In the Spring it looks like a fairy land, in the Winter you can see the contours of the thin stream valley with large rock outcroppings. Full of wildlife.

At the top of the hill we came across the old barn, with no Buzzards in it this time. To the right is a path that leads to the O'Neal's cemetery. Tom trimmed some bushes and trees while we chatted about the O'Neals: William, Mary and Charles. There are other stones, too, but can't read the inscriptions. The 'N' is backwards.

We came out of the woods, onto the gas pipeline and entered the woods on the other side. More tree trimming and came out onto the pipeline again. Into the woods and down the trail to the river. So cool in the woods, better to stay in the shade.

We got down to the river, turned left and followed that to some really huge rocks, large outcroppings as big as whales and picked a good picnic spot. We tied our horses to the trees on the trail; not a single person came by. So peaceful out here today.

Chicken sandwiches, apples and oatmeal marshmallow cream cakes (yum). What a great spot to have lunch. Does it get better?

We proceeded down the trail, crossing the river and the railroad tracks for the last time. We went up a very rocky, steep hill. There must be a spring on this road way, it is always wet. We came out into bright sunshine at the dead end of Gorsuch Switch Road.

We let them graze a little in the hay field, which was recently mowed. Then Martin asked if it was OK to canter through the field. I told him that the trail should be obvious; go to the top of the ridge, turn right following the tree line, then turn right. Giddy-up!

We boot it through the hay fields and come into the corner of the woods. We pause there to air up and I point out the largest Poplar tree in Maryland. How do I know this? It's actually on the NPS map! And this tree is HUGE. The entire woods is made up of Poplars, some big, some small. This tree is estimated to be about 200 Hundred years old. Towering Giant.

We travel through the Poplar woods, on the ridge we can look down on the rail road tracks; there is a train going by. During the storm over night a large limb has fallen into the streamlet crossing; Martin finds a great way around without going back to the rail road tracks. Tom trims more branches and now this will be the way!

We hear a loud thundering and Tom suggests we hurry back to camp. We're still about a half hour away, and some of the trail is not great for fast travel. We trot or canter where we can.

There are people at the Archery Club; never seen anybody there, ever! More thunder, hurry up! We zig-zag through the woods, following the trail, but this part is not good for a quicker pace. More thunder with lightning now.

The last part of trail into camp is straight, level and wide. We hurry up, lightning crashes just past my left shoulder. KC never flinches. We are cantering into camp, but the Club rules say nothing above a walk in camp. It is starting to rain; big, fat splatters.

We untack hurriedly and get the saddles under the awning. It's raining, thunder and lightning. We put on rain jackets, Tracey takes their horses to the wash stall to clean them up, but it is raining. Our boys are high-lined and now it is coming down in buckets. The boys are steaming!

The rain doesn't last long, the Sun comes out and we take off our jackets. Glad I brought extra clothes. We clean up the campsite, break camp and load everything into the trailer. Everything is sparkling.

What a great weekend! What a fun relaxing horse camping weekend.

Can't wait for our next get together...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Our beloved Ford tractor is ailing. Over the weekend, everybody was ‘in’ and Tom took that opportunity to mow the pasture. He was not out there for very long before he came back in the house. Huh? Why are you here?

The tractor had conked out. Just like that. Our faithful tractor, dead in the pasture.

We’ve had this tractor, got it new, in 1994. We had looked high and low, far and wide, for a used tractor. This was in the dark ages, pre-internet, pre- eBay. The local want ads weren’t going to have much anyway. Tractors are sold, traded and swapped out in the country, and we didn’t live in the country. We knew no country people. We bought it new.

At that same time I got the flat-bed trailer, also new, to drag the new tractor around. We needed the tractor in West Virginia but had no where to keep it, so we hauled it back and forth, back and forth. Not long after that we built the barn there, with the tractor’s help, and kept it and the flat-bed in West Virginia. Until we BOUGHT THE FARM!

He tried to figure out what was wrong with it, eliminating this and that. Fuel filter? No. Air filter? No. Fuel Starvation? Maybe. Injector? Maybe, but don’t think so. Injector pump? Maybe. Crimp in a line? Maybe. After it runs for about 15 minutes or so it conks out again.

He finished mowing the pasture with the little riding lawn-mower. The manure spreader is full and I need to clear out the run-in shed, too. A lot of our farm duties depends on that tractor being there for us. And now it is an ornament, looking pretty.

I asked Merhle who he uses and he said the outfit up in Damascus, but he didn’t like them and didn’t have much faith in them. George Halterman uses another guy out of Dayton.

Tom calls on Monday, the place in Dayton said they would pick it up today or tomorrow. He also had trouble spelling A-n-n-a-p-o-l-i-s. Really? When he called back to add another item to the ticket, no one knew what was going on, like he’d never even called over there.

When we got home Tuesday the tractor was still in the parking lot. What day are they picking up?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

April - Farm Dog Extraordinaire!

Today is April's 11th birthday. Hard to wrap my mind around that fact. We've had her since she was 8 weeks old, just a little black worm with tan legs. Doesn't seem that long ago, but eleven years is a good block of time, in dog years or girl years.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Monday in August: Hot

Sunday morning was cool, but heated up pretty quickly after that. Merhle called early in the day and we got to talking about his plans for the barn expansion. One bidder informed him that it was foolish to set wood pillars into concrete. I know that is normal construction practice around here. I’ve seen it done the three ways: poured concrete footers, pillar resting on a large, stable rock, and posts anchored to concrete piers.

I let him know that our new barn is set on concrete piers, with angle-irons bolted into the concrete. Our old barn in West Virginia (1930’s vintage) is sitting on large rocks. The newer barn there has the posts in the ground with concrete poured in. He came right over with Tom, his barn manager and resident trainer.

We had a nice visit, then I resumed the laundry duties and straightening up the kitchen. He decides to go to Sears and buy a pressure-washer for the upcoming barn staining and house paint projects. O boy. We went riding instead.

It was getting hot in the sun, we decided to go to the Agricultural preserve. We were the only ones there, naturally, and to get to the trail head you must ride in the meadows and bean fields, in the sun. In the shade it was pleasant, but nary a breeze. In the sun it was a cooker.

We rode 'under the bridge' into SVU #11 and #12. There was evidence that horses had been back there, but not many and not recently. Tom hacked through the downed limbs and invasive plants trying to cover the established trail.

We managed to find our way to Muncaster Mill Road, but the return wasn't as easy, more downed trees, limbs blocking the trail. We crossed the Rock Creek and made our way along the other side, choosing to enter the Creek again from a fairly steep (vertical) embankment. I went first, and Tom was not keen on the idea. It was dry, no mud, no roots or limbs in the way and the first step would have been into the solid creek bed. I kept Fluffs head up so he didn't vault into the creek, which was about 5 inches deep at this point.

He went into the creek easily and stopped for a drink. I told Tom to grip the cantle and lean well back. He did but Skip vaulted into the creek anyway. Solid ground, five inches of water. So dramatic!

We made our way back mostly on the old trail that wasn't obscured by downed trees and limbs. The upper trail is in pretty good shape, the lower has more trees down and needs some serious attention, like with a chain saw. I'm not carrying a big saw into the woods, we'll have to deal much later. Have trails closer to home that need such attention and that should be the priority.