Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Five

I am going to implement a new weekly themed post at this little place here.  Might just be for the month of November, or I might (if I'm successful at regular posting) keep it going for an undetermined length of time.

It will be the Friday Five, in which I will give five highlights for the past seven days in my life around this little place here.

For this week, here's my five:

1. Finding out about, and meeting DS2's girlfriend!  He is such a private person, and doesn't feel the need for a lot of social interaction, that DH and I have long joked that we will only find out if he's dating someone when we receive an invitation to their wedding.  So it was kind of a surprise to have him come home for dinner last weekend and bring a young woman we've never seen (nor heard of) before!  Even more of a surprise to learn that they met nearly three years ago, and have been carrying on a long distance relationship (she lives on the East Coast).  And yet more of a surprise to hear that he will be bringing her with him for Thanksgiving, and that she plans to move to Michigan next year and transferring to college here!  So many surprises that I'm leaning toward making her official blog name Surprise, as it seems like she will most likely be joining the family and becoming a regular here.

2. Carving pumpkins with K3 and Toad.  Not just carving the pumpkins, but walking through our garden and letting them each choose exactly the perfect pumpkin for themself.  Also being visited by them on Halloween before they made their trick-or-treating rounds in the nearby village.




3. Our first snow of the season.  Nothing that actually stuck, but it was a real snow, nonetheless.  And Mayhem's first snow; it was quite entertaining to watch her try to figure out what the white fuzzy things flying around were, and try to leap and catch them.

4. Good rides on the California Horse this week.  Definitely a week where I feel like we are making progress.  Lateral work is getting more natural for me; we even managed 3-5 consecutive strides of good leg yield at trot in both directions.

5. DH got a decent six-point (4 on one side, two on the other) buck with his crossbow, so now we have red meat for the freezer!




Saturday, October 28, 2017

One Step Forward. . .

. . . Two steps back.

That is how my riding has been feeling for the past month or so.  Somehow I've gotten myself into another uncoordinated phase.  Things were progressing so well, with better contact, better sitting trot, nice transitions from trot to canter, unkinking myself to do more accurate lateral work. And then. . .

--lateral work that is stuck in place.  Either no forward/sideways at all, as if the horse's legs are twisted up too like my body used to be, or lateral work that is very steep and rushed, but mostly the non-moving version.  Kinda like a halt and a half-sideways step combined.

--twisting my torso.  WHAT?!?  Sometimes I can see it in the mirrors, it's that obvious. Like my right shoulder being higher than my left. But most of the time it's slight, like I somehow only breathed with one lung and the other isn't inflated and neither are my ribs on that side.  However, the horse feels it and reacts to it.  Hence the shitty lack of true lateral work.

--an inability to get the canter strike off.  Or, strike off on the wrong lead.

It has felt like I've totally forgotten how to ride.  Like somehow I went from decent First Level quality work, eyeballing Second Level, to rank beginner-can't-make-the-horse-go.

Well, not quite can't make the horse go, just can't make the horse use it's body properly, with impulsion from behind, contact in the bit, and flexibility in the middle.

GAH!

My trainer and I have had a few discussions about my frustration with my regression as of late.  Part of it is a sticky hip (mine) that needs to be more supple and able to be used (or removed) with the proper timing.  So. . . I need to get back to doing yoga at least once a week like I used to do several years ago.  Aging bodies don't stay limber without a little encouragement.

Another part of my issues is that, as my dear trainer reminded me, she has upped the bar for me and we have been working on refining my aids.  Which means more slight corrections that are applied in quicker succession.  Timing is a big part of this.  Timing is kind of a nemesis for me, as I've always struggled with moving gracefully.  I can do the slow one-two-three-four of a waltz, and I can ride very well in the same sort of slow dance of the Training and early First Level of dressage.  But I can't mambo, and that's kind of what I need to be able to do--the increased number of movements in the right timing and fluidity--to be able to make the jump to the next level.  Not only the increased movement and effort from me, but also draw that out of my horse at the same time.

Which means that even though right now I feel awkward and uncoordinated, and am having some trouble performing some movements (like lateral work and canter transitions) as well as I was in August, it's not because I've forgotten how to ride. It's because now I'm being asked to do them with lighter, politer, more invisible aids, while keeping my horse balanced, in contact and with more impulsion from the hindquarters.  Which is a challenge for him, too. He's got to pay more attention to 'hear' my quieter requests. He's got to work a little harder to carry himself (and me) with a rounder frame.

Yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually felt like maybe we made two steps forward in our riding session and only one step back. There were some things we could have done better, I could have done with better timing, but overall, it was a ride that I'd classify as positive. For one, we didn't get stuck in the lateral work.  It wasn't as fluid or technically correct as it could have been, but it moved in the right direction without losing much impulsion.  We had decent canter departs in both directions on the correct lead.  The trot is getting bigger as well rounder, and I can sit that fairly well.

Best of all, one of our downward transitions was the absolute best I've ever felt.  Even though we were changing gears from trot to walk, the change actually felt like we were going up.  Not one iota of impulsion lost.  Not any of the energy leaking out the forehand and flattening the horse's body.  Not any tension in my hands or arms blocking the energy flow. Instead, I merely sat a little deeper while keeping my arms elastic and yet not giving away the contact, asking for the downward gear shift and when he changed, I felt the forehand unmistakably lift .  Hard to describe, but an awesome and hugely rewarding feeling.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  A step up to the next level.

His body might be pointed toward the arena,
 but he'd rather be out back with his friends lazing in the pasture.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

First Frost

We had our first frost of the season last night, which is very much later than usual--usual being sometime during the first week of October.  We've really been luck with having warm weather so far this Fall, and only started heating the house about a week ago, when the cool nights coupled with cloudy days wasn't keeping the ambient indoor temperature above about 63 or so. 

Last night's frost, for however late it might be, did not go easy on us.  It may have been a first frost, but it was a good solid hoar frost, coating everything white and fuzzy.  On first glance, you'd almost think we'd gotten a dusting of snow.



frost crystals on the deck railing


As the sun rose higher in the sky, things lit up.  Like the leaves on the huge old oak tree in the field.  Even with the bright sun, it took a few hours for all of the frost to melt away.



Friday, October 20, 2017

U.P. Getaway

I've been wanting to take a 4-day weekend for a while, and my favorite place to go when there's time is the Upper Peninsula.  DH and I decided to combine a "let's escape from our everyday lives" getaway with a visit to DD2 (since her birthday was earlier this month), and we ran away to the U.P. for a long weekend of beautiful fall weather and colors. (Although it started out rainy for our drive up.)




















Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five Years Later. . .

In the Fall of 2012, I took part in a quilt block swap at the homesteading forum I was a part of back then.  Each person in the swap made a 12.5" (unfinished dimensions) block in their choice of pattern, using "Fall" or "Autumn" colors, for each of the other participants in the swap, so that we all ended up with sixteen different, but coordinating quilt blocks. 

I blogged about being excited to receive my packet of blocks way back here.

The next month, DD1 moved back home from college in MN after just one extremely homesick semester.  That was, I thought, just a slight adjustment, and that I'd get to putting those blocks together into a quilt by the following summer, so that it would be ready when Fall came again.

Ha ha.  Boy, was I wrong.  Looking back from five years, and many (more than slight) adjustments to our living arrangements later, DD1 moving home from MN was not a small blip in a radar that returned to normal. It seems, instead, to have been one of many bumps that sent me way, way off course.  Because other than a few Christmas or birthday presents here and there, and two baby quilts (this one and this one), I really haven't done nearly as much sewing after 2013 arrived.

In fact, for most of this year, my sewing machine has been pretty unreachable, buried against the far wall of the room it's in, with a whole bunch of other stuff (quite a bit belonging to people other than me) between it and the doorway.

Kind of how I feel, buried in tasks, quite a few 'dumped' on me by other people.

This past weekend, when DH was up north helping his mom with a project yet again (the fifth weekend he's done so since--and including--Memorial Day weekend) and DD1 was also out of town, and I decided that for once I was not going to bust my butt doing tasks all weekend while everyone else was gone.  Not a whole lot of things have gotten done around here this summer in my opinion, and I'm totally burned out on trying to accomplish tasks on my own.  Instead of working on something on the to-do list or the project list, I waded my way (OK, maybe more like bushwhacked, as there was quite a bit of shoving involved) to my sewing machine and retrieved it from the mess in what was once, oh say five years ago, my sewing room.  Then I dug out those quilt blocks from that swap in 2012.  And the fabrics I'd bought, in 2014, for borders and backing to make those blocks into a finished quilt. Oh,and the batting I'd also bought, in 2014, when making those two baby quilts (I had bought extra, with the plans to finish the Fall 2012 swap blocks as well as another set of blocks.)

I hauled all that, plus my ironing board and iron, rotary cutter, mat and ruler, downstairs to the dining room.  Then, I commenced measuring, cutting, and sewing.  And doing math, and more cutting, and more sewing. 

I thought I would have this quilt finished by Saturday night. 

I was wrong.  First off, the fabric I'd bought for the backing ended up being a wee bit short of what I needed.  Like, not even half a yard.  Since it had been purchased three years ago, at a quilt shop on hour away, running out for an extra half yard just wasn't possible that day. Probably not possible any day, as the fabric probably was no longer available. So I had to improvise with what I had on hand.  That required a lot more math.  But I got it figured out.

Reassessed my timeline, and I thought I would have the quilt finished before DH (or DD1) got back home on Sunday.

Nope.  My machine jammed up.  Because, of course, it's been sitting in a pile of assorted boxes, books, clothing, etc gathering dust, all year.  And it hasn't been oiled in several years.  So, dust plus dry machine plus about eight hours of sewing going on in two days equaled having the needle stuck in the down position and nothing moving when I pushed the foot pedal or tried to manually turn the flywheel.

Do you know, it's about impossible to find info on taking apart and servicing your own sewing machine?  How frustrating!  Finally, I found one video of a guy (who does sewing machine repair) taking the front and back off of the exact same machine I own, although for a different reason than why I was hell bent on getting to the guts of my machine.  I did manage to free my quilt by using a pair of tin snips to cut the needle and then lifting the quilt off the piece of needle that was still stuck in the sewing machine

So, the quilt didn't get finished Sunday, and it didn't get finished Monday either.  BUT, with DH's help, I did get my machine opened up, cleaned, oiled and fixed.  All without having to take it to a service place.  Yay me!  Saved some cash there!

Today, I finally finished it.  Several days, and many more hours longer than I'd planned.  I quilted it by stitching in the ditch around the border, the sashing, and the design in each individual block.  The back has it's own border made from the same fabric as the border on the front (how I solved the problem of my backing fabric being scant) and the different blocks can be identified by the quilting.

It is 60" x 60" square. I intend for it to be a seasonal throw on the back on the living room couch.  Doing double duty as both decor and a nice warm blanket to snuggle up in on chilly Fall days


front, partially quilted 
(taken yesterday once it had been freed from the machine!)

front, with quilting finished
(I think the quilting makes the blocks really pop)


back, showing quilting
 (still needing thread ends trimmed)


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lots of Apples

It has been a good year for fruit.  We harvested about a bushel and a half of pears off of our two small(ish) pear trees--after not realizing one of them was definitely ripe and had all ready dropped half of it's fruit. The apple trees have, by far, outdone the pear trees though.  It's been an excellent year for apples.



In early September, we harvested roughly a bushel and a half of apples from my Ida Red apple tree.  It is the first one in  my orchard to be ready each year.  It is my favorite for making applesauce with, as it is sweet enough I don't need to add any sugar, yet it has a slight tartness also.



The next tree is the Cortland, with it's deep red skin and bright white flesh.  Also good for sauce, it's kind of a back-up in case the Ida Red has a bad year.  It makes good pies, crisps, and baked apples too.  This year I kind of dropped the ball on my Cortland tree, getting preoccupied with other stuff and not keeping an eye on how quickly it was ripening.  Probably half the crop from that one went to the deer, the rest, at least a bushel, made it's way into storage until I can get them processed. Depending on how much applesauce we want, I might try my hand at canned apple pie filling with the Cortlands.


Following quickly behind the Cortland, and the one tree I don't really care all that much for it's fruit, but planted it as a pollinator for some of the others, is the Red Delicious.  That tree outdid itself this year.  We picked well over two bushel of apples from it.  I'm thinking I will make juice out of them.

Not quite ready yet, but very soon, as it's an October apple, is DH's favorite, the Granny Smith.  We've picked up over a dozen drops lately, but haven't harvested the tree yet.  It doesn't produce quite as well as the red varieties, but still looks to have at least a bushel-worth of apples hanging on the limbs.  These make really good pies, but also store very well in the cellar, so are designated as DH's 'lunchbox apples'.  Typically they stay nice and crisp down in the cellar until around the beginning of March.



Last weekend, DH and I had K3 and Toad 'help' us to harvest some of the apples.  K3 was surprisingly talented with the apple picker, and really got into the idea of picking apples.  It was hard to get her to relinquish her tool so that her brother could have a try at it.  It was also difficult to get her to stick to one area of one tree until all the apples in that spot had been removed.  She mostly wanted to go from tree to tree, choosing what she though was the best looking apple on each.  She was pretty intent on filling a grocery bag with apples to take home to her mom and dad.


Toad, being younger and shorter, couldn't aim and balance the apple picker quite as well.  He got a few low-hanging apples on his own, but mostly had help from Grandma (me) steering the picker.  I think he better liked helping Grandpa (DH) collect the bruised dropped apples from the ground and tossing them into the tractor bucket to be hauled away from the orchard (where they were attracting yellow jackets).


He did put a few salvageable ones in my 'use right away' basket (where most of the California Horse's treats have come from this week), as well as pick a really big Red Delicious to take home.  He proudly told his dad "This apple is as big as my head." when DS1 came to get them later in the day. It was actually only about half the size of his head; very large for an apple.

Toad's big apple

Meanwhile, my garage currently smells deliciously of apples, as that is where all the baskets and bags are being stored while they await their turn in the canner.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

We've all heard that patience is a virtue.  Through the nearly 28 years that I've been a parent, I've often prayed for patience.  Patience to not get upset with my children's antics.  Patience to not blow my top at DH after a long day of cleaning house and having him come home to remark on the one thing I didn't get to, rather than comment on how awesome the house looks where I did get things taken care of.  Patience in my desire to ride horses more than a couple times a month.  Patience with people who are yanking my chain when I'd really like to wrap that same chain around their throats and give a good hard yank of my own. . .

And what do you know; the older I get, the more I see that I possess an extraordinary amount of patience! 

Patience with our finances is something that, luckily, DH and I share.  We are on the same page as far as our budget goes, our wants and needs, and what our long term game plan is (debt free living by age 55--me--and 57--him!).  Not that we don't argue about money, we do, but we don't argue about money much.  Most of our financial discussions are honest to goodness discussions, with give and take and feed back.  All vacations are planned. All large expenditures are planned.  Very little impulse buying goes on, honestly, because you can't really call it an impulse buy if you've all ready got the money set aside for 'fun stuff' or small 'wants'.

We know, and have experienced over the years, that good things come to those who wait. Everything in it's own time.

I've wanted a crew cab pickup for a long, long time.  My first vehicle purchase--at age 18--was a pickup.  I'm a truck girl.  I'm also a practical mom, who knew that I would need a crew cab truck if I was going to be able to haul all my kids around.

But, there were a lot of other vehicles I could haul four kids around in, so we didn't purchase a crew cab truck way back when.  The photo below was taken in early 1998, for fun, of me and a long bed, 4WD, 3/4 ton crew cab dually.  My dream truck.  A truck we certainly couldn't afford to buy, and really had no use for that much of a work horse of a vehicle.  At the time, I was driving an all wheel drive Astro van, and it met all our needs. But I've always dreamed of a crew cab truck.  Someday. . .



Guess what?!?

That someday has come!  It's not a 3/4 ton (although DH and I debated 3/4 vs 1/2 ton for most of the past year--yes, we've been planning this purchase well before going shopping).  It's not a dually, since we don't do that much heavy hauling to merit having a dual wheeled rear axle.  And it's not a long box, as those are about impossible to find any more, but it is a 'regular' box, not a short bed (the angle of the below pics make the bed look shorter).

What it is, is a 1/2 ton, 4WD, crew cab Chevy truck.  Blue (like the one above, although that pic is too dark to really tell).  Six passenger seating, so we have lots of room for grandkids, both now and the ones we'll be getting in the future.  Because we plan to have this truck for about 20 years.  It will probably take us that long to wear it out. 



This is our new trip truck, for long distance travel.  This is our new hauling vehicle. This will be my daily runner when the Suburban finally bites the big one in a few years or more (rolled 238.800 miles this afternoon!) This is the good thing that certainly has been worth waiting nearly 20 years for.  And, despite the fact that we had to take out a loan to purchase it, fits right into our plan to be debt free by ages 55 and 57.  Because of the durability of this vehicle, we'll be driving it for many, many years, long after the loan is paid back (loan payoff goal: less than the 60 months the bank planned the loan for).  Also long after our mortgage is paid off, which will give us the ability to save up money to pay cash for the next brand new truck we will need when this one gets to be on it's last legs.

Patience.  Good things.