Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon

Last day of the month and a full Blue Moon, which has been waxing big and bright all week, is here, too. This Moon phase is so bright I think I've left barn lights on, shining into the bedroom window like daylight. The nights are cooler, but still pleasant and dry.

The days are shortening, too, morning and evening. The summer has evaporated.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


K.I.S.S. - Keep it Simple, Stupid

I prefer simplicity. My favorite headstall is a one-eared bridle; no chin strap, or brow band, nose band, throat latch. These are vocabulary words that horse people know. My husband calls some of these things 'danglies,' as in, 'you've got a dangly.'

It took me FOREVER to learn the western girth knot. I'm definitely 'knot impaired.' I don't know a Granny from a Half-hitch or Square. I know they exist but wouldn't recognize one from another. I also had issues learning to tie my own shoes, but that's going way back.

I do try to keep everything as simple as possible. I can sleep-walk through lots of my barn chores. How much brain power does it take to muck a stall? Fill a bucket? I like simple steps, like a Texas Two-step as opposed to Dance of the Flowers.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Broadcast Spreader

One advantage we have right now is the internet. Some say it's the beginning of the end times (the end is near) but for some of us it beats getting wrong/bad advice, running to the Library, not finding information as needed.

Between and Craigslist we are set! Videos have great 'how-to' information and Craigslist has everything, including the kitchen sink, for sale. As you might recall we got the hay elevator for $100.

To help rehabilitate the pastures we need a spreader that runs off of the tractor's PTO. We can also break up with the 'custom' farmer and do this ourselves. We need to fertilize and re-seed the pastures.

He located a used spreader in East Hanover, in West Hanover Township, north of Harrisburg.
The guy wanted $350 cash. We wanted to pick it up over the weekend, but he was going camping with his grandkids, before school started, and wouldn't be home until 3:00 p.m. Sunday. That's like a cannon ball through the weekend, being 4-hours round trip.

We chose to incorporate a trip with the boys to Swatara Township and ride the trails there. That turned out to be a total bust, but in the long run we do need to break up the routine of riding and then not for the boys.

I loved the guy's farm. It had been a dairy farm, but he got rid of the cows long ago, sold off some acreage and now has close neighbors. The frame house has an upstairs sleeping porch, and the bank barn was full of bats.

He also had sheds that he said were full of stuff, but everything was neat and orderly, not the usual hoarder. I noticed his Winebago had Viet Nam Vet tags, too.

We never let the boys out of the trailer while we figured out one way and the next to load the spreader into the truck. Eventually we were successful. I opened the trailer doors and the boys were eying the place. Even though there was plenty of clover to eat I didn't want either of them to think they were getting placed here. They were happy enough to stay where they were.

We drove home in the rain, their butts getting wet, two hours back. They were glad to be home, too, having ridden in the trailer for a long time, but getting tacked up and not ridden on the trail.

White Plastic Bags

In our county there is a 'ban' on plastic grocery bags. If you want one at the store, any store, there is a .5 cent purchase price for each bag. I use these bags, a lot, because we have two dogs and a cat. I NEED these bags to clean up the 'little woods' at the house and the kitty litter box.

These bags are getting scarce. I've been lucky from time to time to pick them out of the recycle bin at the local strip shopping center. Sometimes the bin is empty. Curses! Some have holes in the bottom; I like to 'double-bag' the kitty litter, too.

Back in the day, when we were boarding the boys and KC was three, there was a trail challenge at the barn. Lots of the boarders were participating and we were very involved in this fun day. We even built, at our own expense, a couple of the challenges.

One of the challenges was taking a white plastic bag off of the fence post. Sounds simple. One evening practicing for this event I moved KC to the corner post, reached out to pluck the bag off the fence and he did an awesome, text-book roll back, threw his head down and proceeded to buck like a bronc. I was catching some air, big time, as was he.

I executed an unscheduled dismount onto the sandy arena floor, landing pretty much on my chest. I then had gritty dirt in my mouth. He continued to buck, high and frequently. He got so high that he did not land on his feet, he landed on his side. I felt the earth tremble in my chest. He laid there for a couple, few seconds and I thought maybe I had killed my little pony and broken my saddle, too.

I remained on the ground, on my stomach, he got up and continued on his terror-filled quest to leave the white plastic bag as quickly as possible. He ran the rest of the length of the arena, spotted the blue tarp on the ground in the corner and stood on that.

I got up, and realized my leg really hurt, putting my full weight on it was painful, but I was determined to suck it up and disavow any injury. There were spectators and they were already totally freaked out. I hate witnesses!

I walked towards my little man and he walked off the blue tarp back to me. He was trembling and blowing. How could I be mad at him? I set him up, he panicked, acted like a horse, but was coming back to me for comfort. I gave him a hug and he hung his head. I waited for him to air up. My shin hurt, big time. I was spitting sand out of my mouth.

After this incident I worked really hard with the white plastic bag issue. I tied the bag to a stick and rubbed him all over, waving it around, and like that. He accepted this eventually, but seeing one blowing on the side of the road or trail was enough to create panic - in him and in me.

During this time at the boarding barn our friend lived in the barn, too. Her front door was above the stalls and her home's staircase was right next to KC's stall. One night she came home from the grocers with white plastic bags and KC must have been sleeping. He spooked into the iron 'gossip' gate of his stall. He hit it so hard he bent the gate, which then would not reach the latch and he got a large double welt on his chest. The barn manager took the gate down, had to run it over with his dually, flattening it enough to span the opening. It is still bowed, but not as badly. Needless to say he didn't do that again!

I tried a different tact: Any treat (carrots, apples, Nutter-Butters, candy, cookies, pretzels, corn silks and husks, etc.) were introduced from a white plastic bag. At that time they were plentiful, I had a hundred of them. And I made a big, rattly show of producing his favorite treats out of the scary white plastic bags.

Fast forward to Sunday's ride at Swatara State Park. I had two apples in a white plastic bag. This bag was in the dressing room of the trailer. I pulled one apple out, cut it into eighths with my folding Buck knife. I gave KC several pieces, shared a couple of the pieces with Skip on the other side of the trailer. When I came back around KC had reached the white plastic bag and had it in his mouth, crushing the other apple, most of the bag was on its way down his throat. YIKES!!

I squealed to Tom for help, who didn't seem to be concerned, I pried KC's mouth open, like you would a dog, and pulled and pulled the white plastic bag from him. I didn't want to tear it and risk any of the bag going down the hatch. The apple, still inside the bag, was crushed flat.

Was my desensitizing him to white plastic bags successful? Did I create a brave monster? You be the judge.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shed Cover

From the beginning: The very first visit to this place, covered in 30 inches of snow, there were the 'bins.' Landscaping bins, three stalls, concrete walls to about my eye level and a base with apron. The few others that saw them were estimating how much it would cost to have them removed. We were thinking it was the best foundation for a shed, to park the tractor with all of the implements.

We are now in our third year and still no cover for the bins. We are undecided about the methodology for the construction. In this county we don't have to permit it, don't have to claim in on a tax form if we don't park a registered vehicle in it. We are also undecided about running electric to it.

And we are all over the page on this, from car port, metal, fabric, which way to run the roof, how high, how low, porch or not, doors or not.

On Sunday we went for a ride at the Agricultural Preserve. This is a nice park, with a 'historic' farm house, outbuildings and a museum. The weather report had said it was going to be a beautiful day, that deteriorated into rain any time after 1 p.m.

We used to board on this park, the boys know it backwards, front-ways and in the dark, too. The fields are planted in corn. We noticed a few improvements and some trails that have fallen into disuse. There was still a lot of storm damage from the June 29 derecho that hit the area.

We also noticed that one of the 'decorations' that he had installed on a tree was missing two pieces. At this time a doe is resting under the dogwood, beneath the tree where the art was installed. She eventually got up and followed her fawn down the hill. Upon further inspection is was discovered that the tree had grown and the screws were not long enough to support the 'art.' He searched for the missing parts, and pulled the last piece off of the trunk. We'll re-install it somewhere closer to home.

There were a few people out, some with dogs, but mostly very quiet. I like being alone in this park.

There was another re-route at Rock Creek, and we noticed a dog standing in the creek. Amazing that horses can become almost invisible in the woods. From our vantage we could see a man and another dog coming towards the creek. He finally noticed us.

He said that the one dog, in the creek, 'knew' horses. We said our horses 'knew' dogs. He said the other dog he didn't know about because he had recently gotten her. A white GSD. He got them both leashed and we picked our way along the new trail and crossed the creek into the meadow of corn.

We proceeded up the tractor path to the farm stead. Several outbuildings might be good examples of the kind of covering the bins need. We were not there but a couple minutes and heard what sounded like gravel hitting the metal roof. Uh oh! It's raining!

Neither one of us wants to get our saddles wet, so we got under the shed.

We need to find a telephone pole supplier!

After the brief rain we headed back to the trailer, stopping off to visit the goats, who live there as part of the museum display. Lucky goats!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Horse Fly

Last evening I was out filling the water trough and Skip and KC were standing further down the fence line in front of the run-in shed. It takes a few minutes to fill the trough.

I notice that KC starts stomping, then bucking (I hate when he does that when I'm in the saddle!) and I can actually see the horse fly on his back. This fly is HUGE!

He pivots and runs straight to me! Most people would freak if they saw a crazed horse galloping down the fence line but I knew he needed help from me. If I hadn't been there he would have certainly dropped and rolled. I've had several people tell me that he has done this.

He runs up to me, then jumps sideways. That damn horse fly is still there! I whacked it, too. He fell to the ground but he was only stunned, I stomped on him, a couple, three times. He was HUGE!

I'm honored that KC thinks of me as a safe place to land, literally. I've seen him take a hit for me in the pasture at the boarding barn. Usually he would get himself out of any confrontations, but he does know I'm afraid of horses, basically. I know they move fast, and can be unpredictable (if you aren't paying attention) and potentially dangerous.

KC also was 'imprinted' at birth. He is a real people person, and has not been mistreated a day in his life. He's been known to sulk when he's unhappy or uncomfortable, especially if he believes something can be done about it. He looks to me to provide for him. I am doing my best.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Killing Spree

It's that time again: Snakes (babies) in the house! Irene has been on the job, too. She's a Killer Queen, really. Got into the house and noticed bits of insulation on the rug. Hmmmm. I then noticed the two bodies, dead snakes. I knew it was the work of Irene, the barn cats' daughter. She may be petite, but inside beats the heart of a Tiger.

I'm sure she killed them downstairs and carried their bodies onto the rugs.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Second Weekend in August - Wrap-Up

Thursday night it rained, got nearly 3 inches of rain in just a few hours. The lightning was pretty awesome, too. I brought them in to feed, left them in until around 9. It did rain again, but the lightning was far off. It rained again on Friday, but cleared up for the weekend. I put extra hay in the run-in shed.

The weatherman was again calling for rain on Saturday, but it never materialized at our place. We had planned on doing some chores that could be done in the rain, but turned out to be a beautiful day. And he finished mowing all of the grass; front, back, side, pasture – everything. Max helped out with this, too.

On Sunday we went for a ride at Schaeffer Farm Park. We really like this place, and it is well maintained, too. After the horrible storm on June 29 there have been extensive clean-ups everywhere. This park is no exception. The amount of downed trees, big, big trees, is tragic.

There are also lots of ‘dry’ water crossings. Some of these bridges or boardwalks are only about 2 feet wide. Most have wire mesh tacked on them, too, so they are not slippery for the bikes. KC got on every single one of them. One was so flimsy that it definitely bowed under our weight and when Skip came across it, the bridge sort of flipped and scrapped his shank.

We love this park, but the bikers are not as courteous as in other parks. Some don’t give any eye contact as they zoom past. They’re in denial that we are even there. Our boys are fine with bikes, but do the bikers really know that? KC was on his best behavior, although when we first started out he wouldn’t stay on the trail and ran both my knees into trees. Eventually he woke up, got with the program and was a model prisoner. We had nice long canters through the soy bean fields, and we did let them eat the beans. I think this is stealing.

When we were going through the parking lot back to the trailer, a biker was sitting on his truck’s tail gate, eating a bag of peanuts. KC went directly to him, practically demanded the peanuts! The guy gave him two palm-fuls, how sweet is that! What a beggar!

Note to self: buy more Nutter-Butters.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Too Hot to Handle

For the third year in a row baby ring-neck snakes have been born at the house. It has been mostly hot, some days triple digits. Unfortunately this baby snake could not make it past the patio and cooked to death before we got home Sunday evening.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

First Weeekend in August - Wrap-up

The punchline is, 'and then it rained.'

It's still hot, but not as hot as it was. When the high is 94 and we're rejoicing, it makes it seem like we're crazy. We might be, but the weather will cook your brains!

We spent the day at the old house, getting it ready for the new tenants. He had put the first coat of stain on the deck on Thursday, but the weatherman was always calling for rain, which didn't happen.

He put the second coat on Saturday, after the 5 p.m deadline for thunderstorms. It looks fantastic, too.

On Sunday we met a friend and his daughter at a park near him, although he had never been riding there, only at the ball fields.

We had a lovely ride and a 'cold' front blew in while we were out, bringing the temps down to the high eighties. It did feel cold - haha.

KC moved in slow motion all day, but other than that I couldn't complain about his behavior. This particular park is a favorite of bicyclists. Only a few yielded to us, and he never spooked until we were almost back at the trailer, and only because he was not paying attention. The biker startled me, too.

This behavior did not happen overnight. We worked on the bike thing, a lot. We have fantastic parks in our area, but we have to share them with hikers, dogs, bikers, fishermen, and baby strollers. A decision had to be made: make him safe with all kinds of stuff going on or stay in the arena for the rest of his life. I chose to educate him, to the best of my ability.

I had money to send him to a trainer, but with each lesson I found it easier to show him challenges and build the bond between us, cut out the middle man.

When he lived at the boarding barn our friend lived in the barn, too. I paid her daughter $20 a week to ride her bike up and down the aisle, and especially up to his stall, over and over. Some of the other boarders were not happy with this, but she lived there, the boarders would eventually have to go home. Consequently bikes do not bother him in the least. That opens up a lot of trails for us. Cost less than the trainer, too.

This park also has lots of water crossings - wet and dry. And the kinds and styles of bridges are a must for training your horse to trust. All of them are built for horses but some are pretty narrow or don't have railings. Whew! He was really, really good about walking on all of them. This behavior did not happen overnight, but he's a wonderful student and he does trust me. I never once got after him or punished him because he didn't know something.

After we were in the truck, heading home, it rained a good bit, and we were glad for this rain at the right time. The deck was dry and we were not riding. It was a great weekend.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

April: Farm Dog Extraordinaire

Today is April's 12th birthday. It really does seem unreal. So much has happened in those years since we picked her up from Blacksburg as an eight-week-old puppy. She was a really good puppy, too. She slept through the night from the very first, still does, and was house-broken at twelve weeks.

She's a good traveler, having been to Canada a couple times and so many states. She doesn't care for the beach but she doesn't hate it. A good camper, not a beggar-dog at the table.

She still has a couple toys she got as a puppy. Never destructive or messy, always sweet, she will go to her death never realizing she is a big dog. And she loves her kitty, Irene.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August - Full Moons

This month we'll have two full Moons, but first tonight we have to deal with the 'Green Corn' or the 'Grain' Moon.' At the end of the month we'll have the 'Blue' Moon.