Thursday, June 14, 2018

Horse News

After a winter of feeling like I just never could get back up to speed in my riding program, only managing three rides a week at most (and sometimes only 1), near the end of April I began to notice a difference.  We'd turned a corner!  Something so subtle, and yet, so huge:  improved connection!

I'd spent a few weeks consciously trying to overcome a habit I had clung to despite not wanting to have that habit.  I knew that when I got busy thinking too much, or when I felt just a little unstable, my hands had a tendency to 'dive' as I call it--heading downward toward the withers, taking the bend out of my elbows and making me slightly shift my shoulders forward and down which also affected my core and by proxy my seat.  So, early in April, I decided that I must give up this habit.  That I needed, no matter what was going on, to keep my hands (and by association: elbows, shoulders, core strength, center of gravity, and seat) where they belong.

In keeping those hands correct (elbows bent and shoulders back, core stretching up, and seat where it belonged), I noticed that my wandering left hand, which tended to want to take the rein across the withers at times, stayed put.  It wasn't so vagabond.  And when my left hand wasn't wandering, wonder of wonders, I had a better and more consistent connection on the outside rein when tracking right.  This lack of connection had been a bugaboo for pretty much the whole time I've been riding The California Horse.  And guess what!  With a nice connection on that outside rein, our turns on the haunches became much tighter.  Like half-pirouettes at the walk.  Our lateral work became easier.  Corners became corners again, not cheater half-20 meter-circles on the short ends of the arena.  And The California Horse began to use his hindquarters more.  Oh hallelujah, connection and better impulsion!

With the second six months of our (extended) lease approaching its end, The California Horse's owner contacted me.  Was I still enjoying him?  Was I interesting in continuing to work with him?  Now that she's out of college and in the working world, she had come to the conclusion that she does not have time (or $$) for two horses and would like to talk to me about finding a more permanent situation for him.

Would I like to talk about his future?  Yes.  Did I have really any time to get together with her or idea of what my finances were at that moment, just a few weeks before DD1's wedding?  No.  Which is what I told his owner, asking if we could wait and discuss it after the wedding.  She agreed that it could wait until mid-May.  Our lease wasn't up until summer time anyway, so no big rush. I would keep riding him as often as I wished.

Then The California Horse got kicked. In the hind leg, above the hock.  It was ugly, so ugly.  But luckily, not damaging.  With cold hosing, daily cleaning and goopifying (aka, antibacterial ointment slathered on thickly), plus a little Bute for it's anti-inflammatory properties, it healed well and only a few days off our riding schedule were necessary.

Thankfully just a flesh wound,
 no stitches needed and no joint or tendon damage.

Then he managed to poke himself in the eye (with some hay, we think), and had a little more time off, an actual vet visit (for staining the eye to determine the extent of the damage), and more daily doctoring; this time in the form of eye ointment applied every morning and night.

Then, I had to take a break for DD1's wedding; anyone who has ever gotten married knows that the week leading up to wedding day is just hectic.  But right after the wedding weekend, I was ready to ride.

And . . . The California Horse had a giant welt the size of a softball on his belly.  An absolutely enormous bug bite (or perhaps bee sting?)  that extended into the girth area and canceled any plans I had to ride him until the swelling went down after a few days.

By that time, K2 had a mental health crisis resulting in hospitalization and I had the pretty much round the clock care of K3 and Toad for about two weeks.

All a long five weeks or so of very little riding for me this spring.  Really, I think I could count on one hand the number of times I got to ride during the month of May. I'd probably even have extra fingers left.

But never fear!  June arrived and brought with it much better luck for me, and better health for The California Horse (and improved state of mind for K2) so my riding schedule is back to normal.  While both of us lost some conditioning (you should hear us huff and puff at the trot), apparently we didn't slide backwards much in training, because all of our rides in June so far have been at least as good as our sessions in April.  I'd even dare to say the trot connection and impulsion has been better than it was in April (our trot sessions are shorter as we build our endurance back, but of better quality).  The California Horse is eager to work and seems to enjoy our rides together.  I feel like I'm making the jump to the next level in my riding; like I won't be stuck at barely First Level forever.

"Are you going to stand there taking pictures or put my bridle on me?
Come on, we've got work to do!"

I would love to have another six months to a year with this horse.  Right now, it feels to me like I am close to making a break into Second and with another year on The California Horse, I might actually be able to ride him to the extent of his Third Level training.  It's time to sit down with his owner and see what she has in mind for his future; if another lease extension is possible or if she is wanting to sell him outright. 

A lease, I can swing.  Not so sure about a purchase (especially with the on again off again care of the grandkids), it would really have to depend on the price.  Schoolmasters such as The California Horse are typically very salable even in their twenties (he's currently 18), but with his shivers and his enormous stature, I'm not sure how easy it would be to sell him in a few years if I were somehow able to purchase him this summer.  Because as in love with this horse as I am, he is aging and I'm not in the position now--nor do I see being able in 2-5 years--to carry a giant retiree who eats a ton and also requires shoes and special care (for his shivers).

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Here's To Many More

Today is DH and my 25th wedding anniversary.  WOW!  25 years!!  Um, how did that happen?

Honestly, it was a decision we made, not just when we got engaged (a few days over 26 years ago now), not just when we got married at the tender ages of 21 & 23, but over and over, and over again, through the years. 

Getting married is easy.  Staying married, not always a piece of cake.  We've been apart a lot in the last 25 years.  Not in terms of separating from our marriage, but physical separations due to DH's job with it's regular travel requirements.  Those separations, while being challenging--talk about having to trust each other and stay true to our marriage vows--have also been strengthening.  While being a hardship mentally (and often physically too) when we didn't want to be away from each other, all those work trips sometimes gave each of us a needed break from each other.  They make DH appreciate me more (my good cooking, how I make sure he's up and fed in time to leave for work each day, how I manage all the finances and running of our household), and they let me, as he gets older and snores more, get a few good nights' sleep in!  LOL.

There have been times when we didn't see eye to eye.  Times when we seemed to be going in opposite directions, with opposite goals.  And, truthfully, one time when I'd had about all I could take, and actually told DH that if things didn't change, I was ready to see if the kids and I could move in with my parents. Now, sharing a house with my mom is something that I have never wanted to do as an adult.  It's something that I've avoided like the plague; one of the reasons, early in our marriage when we had three small children, a mountain of debt (doctor bills and student loan payments) and DH lost his job, that we worked so very hard to stay solvent, to make payment arrangements with our debtors, to not declare bankruptcy and to take whatever jobs we could find, just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies until more gainful (and enjoyable) employment came along.  So, when I told DH that I was seriously thinking of moving myself and our three teenagers in with Mom, he knew our marriage had hit dire straits. 

We worked it out, though.  Wasn't easy, and we both had to give more than a little.  (And, I do still get rather annoyed with his job when it starts working him to death--for the good of the program he's been assigned--and by default I get the crap end of the deal--like a grouchy, rarely available husband).  We also have had to keep a sense of humor, especially in those "you can laugh, or you can cry" times.  Like when we sat down and talked through the logistics of a divorce, and he said "I will pay the mortgage payments so that you and the kids can stay living in our house until the youngest one is 18, but I don't make enough to pay a mortgage here plus rent a place for me." and I replied "well, I work in order to pay board on my horse, I can see if the barn owner will let me work more hours in exchange for you living in the apartment in the barn."  It was kind of a ridiculous thought; getting divorced and working to 'board' my ex-husband at the horse farm.  Especially since in a horse barn is the last place on earth that he'd want to live. Made us both laugh, and admit we had faults that needed working on, and realize that neither one of us really wanted to go through the rest of our lives without the other. 

But up until that discussion,  as much as he denied it, his work situation for the previous two years had turned him into a super critical and grumpy person who was mostly a negative presence when he was home.  And I, in return, had pulled away and was less willing to spend time with him when he wasn't working.  Rectifying the situation took a lot of conscious effort from both of us.  I had to trust and reach out.  He had to try to put on a happy face when he walked in the door after work, and bite his tongue--rather than bite my head off--about any not done housework he noticed, or dinner menu that wasn't his favorite.

We both still slip up and fall back into those roles from time to time.  He's really dedicated to his work, and that is acknowledged and reflected by the heavy load his boss puts on him.  He doesn't realize when he's becoming what I refer to as a "large and growly bear" at home because of overwhelming work pressure.  I'm not fond of housework (I'd much rather do outdoor cleaning than indoor), and when I'm really busy with stuff I do slack in the housekeeping department.  I also lose my motivation to clean when DH is hardly ever home and prickly when he is home.  Compound that with my introverted-ness, and what he comes home to after a mentally and emotionally strenuous day isn't a welcoming and relaxing home with a companionable wife.

Extra hours at work = less time to keep up with his chores at home = more work for me at home = he's stressed out + I'm stressed out = more arguing and less fun.  As long as we both keep that in mind, when it starts to happen, we can pull together as a team instead of letting the situation rip us apart, as it nearly did those years ago.  It's really important to stay on the same team.

In fact, that is pretty much the advice that I wrote on a slip of paper back in March at DD1's bridal shower, where one of the activities was for the guests to write advice and well wishes for the soon-to-be bride.  My advice was "Always remember you are on the same team.  No matter how tough life gets, remember marriage isn't DD1 Team versus Honorary Son team.  Marriage is the DD1 and Honorary Son Team."

A team pulls together, whether the score is in their favor, or the score looks like victory is unreachable. A good marriage is the same way.  Good times, tough times, husband and wife remain on the same team and pull together.

DH and I intend to keep pulling, keep together, for many more years.  Hopefully at least another twenty-five.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Yarn Along: June

It's time to join Ginny once again for the June edition of the Yarn Along.

I've not knit much in the past month.  Just one dishcloth featuring Michigan's Upper Peninsula (using a pattern from the booklet Knit the U.P. that I purchased while on a brief visit to DD2 in late April.)  and not quite one sock--I have a few more rows on the toe before grafting it closed--using the Vanilla Latte pattern I've made a few times before.  This time I am using Trekking XXL yarn that I purchased at the same shop where I bought the U.P. themed pattern booklet.

The dish cloth is for me, as I've had several of mine wear out and needed to make a few new ones to replenish my supply.  I do intend, however, to make another one for DD2 yet this summer so she can take it back to school with her in August.

The socks are (shh, it's a secret) for her.  When I saw the yarn I knew it would be socks for her; the colors are just perfect for DD2. They too will be done by August, barring any unforeseen complications that keep me from being able to knit the second sock in the next two months.

Reading-wise, it's been slow going.  May was a very busy month with DD1's wedding, the garden to plant, and again having the grandkids temporarily live with us.  The new issue of Taproot arrived, and I've thumbed through it, but not actually read any of it yet. (Spoiler, this issue contains a sock pattern!!)  As far as books go, I'm about one chapter into Emma Miller's newest Amish murder mystery Plain Confession.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Elusion of Time

I was thinking this week how now that the grass is green (and tall!! DH had forgotten that the battery on the mower died last fall and that he needed to buy a new one before he could mow once the grass started growing again), and the trees also are green with unfurling leaves, and it stays light until after 9 p.m., that I don't wake up in the morning feeling this overwhelming need to rush rush rush in order to get my daily to-do list accomplished.  Not that I'm moving in slo-mo, but almost like the day is.  It feels like my day is so much longer, so much less harried. Almost like I have all the time in the world.

It is amazing what long hours of day light can do.  In the winter months, I feel so confined, so pressured, and in retrospect I think it has a lot to do with what I need to pack into the few hours of daylight each day.  We have electricity and lights, of course, but it isn't the same for me as working in natural light.  When it's dusky, I'm tired.  When the sun is up (even if it's obscured by clouds, like it is the majority of the winter months), I'm trying to not only do barn work as my job, but also the housework and outdoor work at home. And then, before DH is even home from work so we can have dinner, it's dusky and I'm tired again.  There stretches a long evening, several hours between dinner and bed time, that I try to accomplish things, but with lamps on and darkness out every window and in the corners, it always feels like there is just too much to do and not enough time.

Now, though, that we're well past the spring equinox, and daylight hours seriously outnumber the hours of darkness in each twenty-four we get, I have to remind myself that it's 9 p.m., time to quit working and relax a little before crawling into bed.  I'm not yawning at 5 p.m.  and longing for my bed by 8:00; no, I'm still bustling around at 8:00 happy as a clam in my endeavors.  It's almost like I elude time; like it can't find me, can't tie me down the way it does in the darker months.

It's a wonderful, freeing sense of being.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wedding Day!

Last week was a whirlwind.  So much last minute stuff for DD1's wedding.  So much stress, mostly on the part of DD1, although it was kind of contagious. 

She worried about the weather forecast; which was cold and rainy for both Friday--the rehearsal with outdoor cookout for dinner, and Saturday--the wedding which was indoors but she didn't want to get wet walking from car to church and church to car and car to reception hall.

She worried about packing everything she would need for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and of course for her honeymoon.  Once she left this little place here, she wouldn't be coming back for eleven days. So it was important not to forget anything vital. Especially her brand new passport, since she and Honorary Son will be honeymooning in Cancun (our gift to them, courtesy of accumulated hotel points).

She worried if the road back to the family cabin, where the outdoor cookout for rehearsal dinner was to take place, would be navigable by car.  It has been a cold wet spring up there, and as of three weeks ago they still had snow on the ground.  Two weeks ago, the road was pretty much impassible without four wheel drive, and even with it there was a chance of sliding into the ditch in a few spots.

DH worried about that road also.  A week before the wedding, he hauled our tractor up there, and with the help of his mother and his brother-in-law, installed three culverts in that road; one in each of the worst spots (this road is approximately a mile long two-track).  In the more dry areas he graded the road, smoothing out ruts and filling in low spots that have been worsening over the last handful of years. Even with all that, he wasn't positive the road would be dry and firm enough for two wheel drive vehicles of low clearance.  Especially with rain in the forecast.

DD1 worried if she would have to carry a bouquet of fake flowers--which we'd made as her throwing bouquet for the bouquet toss, instead of the lilacs she so wanted to carry.  Lilacs are her favorite flower, and come to find out she'd chosen this particular date to get married because typically my lilac bushes are in full bloom at that time.  This year, however, they are behind schedule, still being very tiny and undeveloped the weekend before the wedding.

She worried about being sick the day of the wedding, as Honorary Son came down with a cold on Monday, and on Tuesday she herself was ill.

I worried about DH and K2 how they would get along (they have blatantly avoided each other all year) and what effect that might have on the reception, where alcohol most definitely would be consumed by both.

I worried about flowers as I daily checked those lilac blossoms and watched them reach full size on Wednesday and begin, slowly, to have a few bottom buds unfurl. How to transport them, how to keep them hydrated so as to not be a wilted mess on Saturday afternoon, and how I was going to trim, arrange, and secure them into the bouquet of DD1's dreams.

All our worries were for naught.  Not only did God hear our prayers, know our worries both spoken and unspoken, but He handed DD1 and Honorary Son a great gift.

The cabin road was dry and easily passable. The weather Friday was cool and overcast, but stayed dry.  DD1 only forgot one item, and she remembered in time for me to bring it up with me on Friday.  Both she and Honorary Son were over their colds by Thursday afternoon.  The lilacs were open enough Friday morning that I cut a great armful (in hope they would continue to open even after being separated from the bush), wrapped the stems in wet cloths, and transported them in a cooler so they wouldn't get crushed.  DH and K2 were passingly civil to each other, enough that no one caught on there has been family trouble for months and months. 

Saturday, Wedding Day, had beautiful clear blue skies, a very light breeze, and sunshine making the air feel warmer than the 54 degrees on the thermometer.  Very cheerful weather, and great for outdoor pictures.

Runaway bride?
No, hurrying down to the lake for pre-wedding pictures.

DD1 got to carry a huge bouquet of live flowers.  Thanks to having the heat on in our suite, and keeping the ends of the stems in a sinkful of water all night, the lilacs opened about halfway, which gave a lovely effect of different shades of purple and different textures in the bouquet. I had also cut eight tulips from my flowerbeds, four each of a vibrant solid purple and a white with purple markings, and incorporated those into the front of the bouquet.

Soaking the bouquet until the last minute.

The wedding service was amazing, and standing room only at the small quaint church that DHs great-grandparents had helped build; where his grandparents had gotten married, where his parents had gotten married, and where DH & I had gotten married.  The minister was Biblical without being turn-off preachy, kept everyone's wrapt attention, and helped the bride and groom through their jitters.  Literally; you could see DD1 shaking as she walked up the aisle and stopped at the front of the church, but by the time the minister got to the part where DH placed her hand in Honorary Son's she was rock steady.

Giving her away.

The reception hall was beautifully decorated, tasteful without being over the top (another of DH's worries as he'd feared this was going to be very foo-foo based on all the decorations Honorary Son's mother seemed to be accumulating for the wedding).  The food was delicious and plentiful.  The bar offerings seemed to suit everyone's taste, no matter how far apart their beverage styles.  The music was a wide variety designed by Honorary Son and DD1 to appeal to the very old as well as the twenty-something crowd. It ranged from jazz and Sinatra-style dinner music, to classic rock, to country, to polka, to current favorites, and even included the Limbo!

All the guests seemed to enjoy themselves.  Those who had to leave early in the night (because they were driving back home several hours), were genuinely regretful at having to go so soon.  Everyone I talked to raved about what a wonderful wedding, a wonderful party, we had put on.  And I honestly told them that it had been planned by DD1 and Honorary Son, I was merely a consultant and a laborer (and partial financier, but the grand total was no where near as expensive as people thought).

Simply elegant.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Pickle With Eyes

DD2 finished her exams and came home from college last weekend.  It's hard to believe she's all ready done with her third year.  She is still very gung-ho on becoming a wildlife biologist, and has recently begun looking into possibilities for grad school.

Once home, she couldn't wait to see K3 and Toad, and to go walking in our woods.  A nice warm afternoon allowed her to do both, taking them to see if they could find frogs in the big puddle/small pond in the south end of our woods.

At first, it was hard for the kids to spot small creatures in the deeper water, so DD2 focused their attention on the small trench DH has dug across the woods road to help drain a very flooded area in late April.  In that shallower, easier to see through water, they were able to spot some small tadpoles, very tiny crayfish, mosquito larva, caddis fly houses and larva, and lots of freshwater snails in various sizes.

pointing out aquatic life

examining a small snail

picking up snails all by herself

Once they were able to identify small things in the shallow water, Toad and K3 wanted to see what they could find in the deeper parts.  A few water bugs, some more caddis flies, and then, they spotted a small frog!

DD2 was able to capture it, and demonstrated the proper technique for holding a frog (learned in college, a biologist hold is a bit different from how we always caught and held frogs).  That led to several minutes of examining and discussing the coloration and other aspects of this particular frog, which was a wood frog.  They even were able to see the tiny ear holes.

Now that they had found one frog, it didn't take long to see more.  Mostly wood frogs, but then, a larger frog was spotted.

Can you see the frog?

Spying on them was a green frog.  Literally, as DD2 identified it as a northern green frog (lithobates clamitans melanota).

Despite many attempts to catch it, they were unable to get a close look at the green frog.  It jumped out of reach, into water that was too deep to wade into, and proceeded to float there, observing them.

It was the size of a dill pickle and that's what they decided it looked like: a pickle with eyes.

pickle with eyes

They can't wait to come back over and go to the woods again.   They want to see how much the tadpoles have grown, and try to catch that pickle frog.  :0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another Long Awaited House project

Two summers ago, we finally stained our front porch and back deck.  12+ years after moving in, and a long time later than we'd intended to get around to that project.  Once done, DH wondered why in the world we'd waited so long (a question I'd been silently asking for years).

Last summer, we talked about another, somewhat related, house project.  Since this one involves being able to get to the base of the house, most of which is covered up by my perennials in the non-frozen months of the year, we decided it was more of a late fall or early spring project.  Either after the plants had been killed by frost, or before they got growing, so as to minimize stepping on and damaging them.

Well, fall came and went.  I have to admit, that it was a rather frustrating time, because DH got very few things from his "while I'm off work for hunting" list done.  Part of that was having K3 and Toad living with us for a large portion of November. Part of it was that DH ended up not having three consecutive weeks off of work like he'd planned (too many important things going on at work that he had to oversee).  And I think part of it was that he just felt like sitting and doing not much of anything rather than tackling these action items on his to-do list.

As the snow melted, and the ground thawed this spring, I took kind of an assertive stance on this one particular project. Mainly because I was just plain tired of things at home taking a back seat to crap at work that constantly came up and kept him busy.  But also because this was a simple enough project that after a little instruction, I could complete it without him. I would just need the pick up truck, and the use of some of his power tools.

That kind of spurred him into action, me talking about using his tools--I had learned to use most of them when we were building the house at this little place here, so he knew I would actually go through with this project with or without him. The tools would not keep me from it. Within a couple weeks of me first mentioning it (and only a few reminders), he decided that the time was right for tackling this one.

What was the project?  Installing lattice to hide the concrete foundation (and the visible cellar roof) under our wrap around front porch.  Mostly a beautification thing (which is why it wasn't priority when we built the house), but also functional as it will hopefully keep critters (raccoons, skunks,cats, naughty wandering chickens. . .) out from under the porch.  Also, on the south side of the house where the ground slopes, it creates an enclosed storage area that could potentially hold the grandkids outdoor toys in the winter.

First came measuring. Then came figuring materials. Then came the purchase: 8 sheets of wooden lattice and a gallon of stain.  Nothing that broke the bank.

Next was the selecting and ripping of four 2 x 6's from the pile of salvage lumber next to the barn.  That gave us eight 2 x 3's to use to attach the bottom of the lattice (the top would be attached to the fascia board on the front porch).  It was interesting to compare the outsides of these old boards to the freshly cut surface and see that while they looked not too impressive, really they are still very solid boards.

outer edge

cut edge

The Before pictures

North half of the front

South half of the front

South side

Installing the lattice went so amazingly quick, it was really hard to not say "Why has it taken so many years to actually do this??"  I'm pretty sure we did the entire length of the front and the south sides (19.5' plus 17', and 16') in less than an hour.  That included cutting angled pieces to enclose the sides of the front steps.

After that, it was up to me.  DH isn't fond of painting, nor staining.  Artwork is my specialty (along with cooking, gardening, animal care, etc.  You could say I have a lot of specialties. . .) 

I did the staining in three sessions; north front, south front, and the south side.  The weather was warm enough that I could wear a tank top each time, which allowed me to get a little bit of a tan, so my arms won't look so glaringly white when I'm wearing my (sleeveless) mother-of-the-bride dress at DD1's wedding this weekend. 

Mayhem supervising while I stain 

I love the way the house looks with the lattice.  There is a little fill dirt to be brought in on the south side to raise the grade to the bottom of the lattice there and I will most likely use that area as a new flower bed; several of my perennials are in need of thinning, so a new flower bed would be a welcome addition.  

We also need to make a door frame and install the final piece of lattice on the open east side under the porch, but those can wait until after the wedding.  I will probably also apply a second coat of stain this fall--after the flowers die back for the winter--to darken the color a little bit. The natural color of the lattice was lighter than the color of the wood on the porch railings and spindles, so they don't quite match yet.

Overall, though, I think the addition of the lattice has made a huge difference.  The house looks so much more polished and less never-quite-finished-the-job.  If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's unfinished projects.