Saturday, February 28, 2009

The view from on top!

That's right!
I actually got to see ears
from the topside this afternoon. (Aren't they cute!)
I couldn't resist all the sunshine sparkling off that fluffy new snow. Of course, right at the moment I'm still thawing out, since it was all of 9', and I had to shed my heavy coat to get my butt on. But still... Sunny's back was nice and warm.

And I figured that even if he dumped me,
at least the landing would be soft.

But Sunny was a perfect gentleman - the worst thing he did was step off before I was quite settled across him, but more in a, "Hey Mom - let's get moving, shall we?" way than anything else. I didn't get too carried away though, with just a halter & lead.

We traipsed around the pasture a few times, tried out a leg yield or two along the fence to I could collect my camera off the post where I'd left it, and inspected the snow to see if there was anything edible underneath - well, he did the last by himself. I'm not much into grass, even the non-frozen kind - LOL!

Unfortunately, it only took a few minutes for my fingers to go numb, so it was back in with the rest of the gang for him, and I headed up to reclaim my jacket and rescue this guy.

They'll squeeze themselves through trying to reach the alfalfa in the center, but then they can't back up, 'cause their ribcages get in the way. So it's a matter of opening a panel on the feeder and then chasing them the rest of the way through and out. Which is easier when everything isn't frozen to the ground, but hey, I got it done.
They hung out for a second to see what I was up to, and then...booked it for someplace less populated with people.

Rules of the Barn (for horses)

Okay, so if you don't usually read MiKael's blog, check out her Rules of the Barn. If you have horses, I guarantee you'll appreciate them!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Snow Pony

"Hey, mom - can you unstick the hay from my eyelashes, please?"

5" of new snow and still coming down.
Fluffy stuff.
Hope the wind stays down.
It's 3', but kind of pretty out.

Fancy lady!

Check out this pretty girl:
ASA Sunny Spark(s)
(RA Sunny Boy x ASA Onyx Fire)
She's Sunny's half sister (same sire), and she's available for a pretty price, as well! Not sure if her name gets an "s" at the end or not, since she's also featured (s'less spelling) here:

Can't say it's a terribly flattering video.... but she's prettier here - she's the second to last horse on the page.

Not too much family resemblance with my poor scruffy boy, is there?

Edited to add: I should say, I was just Google-ing Sunny's sire to see what would pop up. It's always interesting to see which traits pass on and which don't. Sparks certainly got some size & breath from somewhere!

Friday Book Review: How many thousand miles?

I ran across this book weeding the library shelves early last week, and I was immediately hooked (needless to say, the book isn't going anywhere!).

I'm not usually a fan of travel literature, but the sheer magnitude of what this particular traveler set out to do is... mind-boggling.

Tschiffely's Ride by A.F. Tschiffely
So basically, it goes like this: In 1925 A. F. Tschiffely, a young Swiss instructor of English, set out to do what no one had ever done - and the majority of sane people thought to be impossible: ride from Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina to New York City. He would take only what supplies could be carried by his two horses, Mancha and Gato, and his dog. (The dog's company lasted only hours into the first day, and was something of an adventure all by itself.)

In all, bu the time he decided to conclude his ride in Washington D.C., Tschiffely rode over 10,000 miles in around 2 1/2 years, all of it on either Mancha or Gato, two teenage Argentine Criollo horses he'd acquired from a supporter only a few weeks before the start of his ride. (Tschiffely's reason for breaking off his trek? He was concerned for his horses' safety as motorcars were increasingly prevalent and their drivers often did not respect his right to travel the roadways.)

What's truly amazing about Tschiffely's account is as much what isn't written as what is. In spite of the hardships and dangerous situations in which he found himself, he writes mainly of the people and places he encounters, glossing over many incidents which must have threatened to derail his trip entirely.

The book has a few black & white photos, mostly not of the horses, unfortunately. But I was somewhat surprised when I checked online for more information about the breed to find that a) there isn't much out there that's really credible, and b) as pictured, they aren't exactly.... Well, let's just say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's quite obvious that they're tough, hardy, and possessed of rare endurance, however they look!

When I think of the many reasons I've been known to postpone a ride..... An amazing story, even if you're neither a horse person nor a fan of travel literature.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How do you groom?

It's shedding season, early as it seems.

With only a few days until March, the horses are about to look as bad as they ever do: muddy, tufty, dull-coated (old winter coat, no matter how clean & shiny it's brushed, just has that sun-faded look, doesn't it?) & motheaten. The barbering jobs several of them have courtesy of the sheep they share their waterer with won't help.

Today's snow had melted & frozen on them here & there in miniature icicles dangling from their sides. Then there was the hay adhered in odd places after I got through toting pitchfork loads to the feeders - they will insist on standing in the way, and end up freckled with fallen bits which I usually brush off. Tonight's chaff just stuck to the ice. None of them were cold, though, so I fluffed them out as best I could and left it at that.

My weapon of choice against hay debris & dried mud is usually something really similar to one of these handy little Rubbermaid numbers (a whopping $2.50 - I get the generic kind about half that). They have nice stiff bristles, a handle, and they work pretty well for removing crusted on dirt, hay & dust.

Also good: they are mane & tail safe, as long as I'm careful. Twigs & random hay bits come right out.

They aren't so great, however, when the horses start shedding. Oh, the hair comes off, but it tends to get stuck well up into the bristles, and I have to clean the brush out every 30 seconds or so.

So when shedding season starts I turn to my old pal, the rubber curry. When I was a kid, I used one of these on my pony. It was huge for my (then) small hand, had a woven canvas handle, and was quite stiff.

Today's models are much more flexible, and seem to be somewhat smaller in size. (At least, I don't think it's just 'cause I'm bigger!) The one on the right from Country Supply at is even available in two sizes, full & junior.

Now I know that some people like shedding blades & metal curry combs. But I'd never been a fan of the way they strip the hair off. So not mane & tail friendly.

If they get damp, a lot of them rust, and they're also prone to getting bent. You can't really use them on anything much below the knees, as there simply isn't enough meat in those areas to make it feel pleasant for the horse. Not to mention the fact that if I use one without gloves on, I always seem to end up bleeding, and how horse-friendly can that possibly be? Not.

My other pick for spring grooming? Well, Arabians, at least most of them, have lots of mane. And in spite of my best efforts they quite often manage to acquire a 5 AM, bedhead-worthy collection of dreadlocks, wind tangles, elf-locks and what have yous. So a nice, sturdy, wide-toothed plastic comb is also a must. I usually pick up several at a time, as I'm apt to either break the teeth out accidentally prying at something, and/or they just disappear - much like those socks the dryer is always eating.

Expensive isn't necessary - those Oster ones made special for horses? They don't last much better than the cheap people kind you can buy at Wal-mart. But I do avoid the hand-size, fit in your pocket ones you can get for $.19: they tend to have sharp edges, and just aren't comfortable to hold onto for any length of time.

Probably the most helpful thing for spring shedding season, though, is getting them out on grass. Spring greens gloss them up in no time. But edible pasture won't happen for a while yet, at this rate. It's snowing again. Yuck.

So, anyone have any favorite shedding-season tools? Does anyone use a vacuum? When I was out east they used a vacuum routinely on some of the lesson horses, and they never seemed to mind. Crazy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

I opened my email on Monday after a super long day at work and discovered this waiting for me:
Pretty cool! Jennifer over at How did This Happen? passed it along to me. Thanks, Jennifer!

And I'm passing it on to the following... 7? Oh, dear, so many good choices...
Here are the rules, if you have been chosen:
1) Write a post (on your own blog), announcing that you have received the Honest Scrap award. Be sure to mention It's Sunny in SD, the blog that conferred the Honest Scrap Award upon you. Add the Honest Scrap Award graphic.

2) Choose at least seven blogs that you admire. List these (with links) in your Honest Scrap Award blog entry.

3) Visit the blogs you have selected, and leave comments to let the bloggers know you have chosen to honor them with the Honest Scrap Award. Include a link to your blog post in each comment. (Click here for instructions on making simple active-links for blog comments.)

4) Visit the blog that offered you the Honest Scrap Award, and leave a comment with a link to your post.

5) List ten honest things about yourself. Try to have fun with this one, and include facts others may not already know about you.

6) Display the Honest Scrap Award proudly on your blog sidebar.

Ten honest things about me:
  1. When I'm reading a book I hear NOTHING that goes on around me. If you ask me a question and I respond, don't ever take for granted that I actually heard you. In fact, when I was in grade school anyone who sat near me had permission from the teachers to reach over and poke me when I was reading and didn't here the lectures start.
  2. I helped out with a Girl Scout Riding camp for two summers. I learned that many horses are endlessly patient with hyperactive, bouncy, and sometimes terrified, children - actually more patient than me.
  3. I enjoy singing with the radio. But most people don't want to be in the car or the house with me when I do - LOL!
  4. I'll drink cold coffee. Not the iced kind, just the left-too-long-in-the-cup cold coffee, and actually enjoy it. (At least I'll enjoy it as much as I enjoy it at any other temperature.)
  5. I really dislike caramel.
  6. I have more horse pictures up in my office than I do people pictures. Also more plants.
  7. I hate, hate, hate asking for things. It opens up the possibility of "No" so I tend to maneuver things so that if I have to ask, I'm sure pretty sure I'll get a "Yes."
  8. I have a hard time not following the rules, whatever they are. But if I'm going to break them, I tend to do it in a big way.
  9. I spent a summer working in Norway. I took lots of pictures of horses & horse-related stuff, including some Thoroughbreds on a breeding farm there, and of course, some really adorable Fjords. The TBs seemed really short, for some reason....
  10. You know the Punch Buggy game that people play in the car? Well, one long trip to MI when we were still dating, my husband invented a new game: Slap-Horse-y. (I was leading the PB total.) Unfortunately, by that point I'd driven to MI from SD umpteen times, and I knew where all the horses were apt to be located before we got there. **grin**
    (That last sounds rather violent, doesn't it? No actual hitting is involved, honest!)
So there you have it. Ten things at least some of you probably didn't know about me.

Wednesday update

Well, this has been a super-busy, nut-so week work wise, which may be why I haven't had the energy to do more than check on what everybody out there in blog-land has been up to.

The horses are settling in to shedding mode, which means I finish feeding coated in sticky, prickly, horse hair. (Note to self - must remember to segregate horse-feeding clothing from work clothing, especially sweaters. Horse hair is ITCHY! LOL)

Wacky SD weather, as per usual - we had 50' yesterday, and tomorrow's high will be 18' with snow. No idea what the weekend will bring. But I could sure tell that there was something moving in Monday night - Sunny was doing a lone rodeo horse act, hopping and crow-hopping all by himself (as opposed to just chasing the rest of them), and the others were just plain squirrelly. So were the calves, for that matter - butting heads & careening off the sucker bars and over the muck heap. Last night in the heatwave they were ALL much more polite & laidback.

Had an invitation to work cows (maybe) on Sunday, which I'm debating. We'll see how the weather is and whether I have time to ride at all on Saturday. Courageous of me, isn't it? But if we're going to be dealing with an all day thing, knee-deep mud, and/or below zero temps, I'm out. I haven't been riding since last fall, and Sunny's activity for the last three months has consisted mainly of eating & sleeping. Wouldn't be kind to either of us, I don't think.

Anyway, that's the news (or not) for the week thus far. Happy riding, everyone!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Book Review: romantic suspense, anyone?

I'm right in the middle of reading next week's book review title (sneak preview - it involves a lengthy trip and a foreign country), and since I didn't read anything else specifically horse-y this week, I'm going to do what I used to do in high school English class when we had to stand up and give oral book reports - I'm going to rely on my memory.

I first discovered this author's books sometime in my teens, but I still enjoy sitting down with one on a snowy day. They're fairly short, and usually don't take much more than an hour or so to breeze through, so they're a perfect weekend/evening indulgence - like chocolate!

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart
Chance results in Vanessa March spotting her husband where he patently isn't supposed to be. Sick at heart that he's lied to her, she sets out to locate her errant spouse in the Austrian Alps.

Accompanied at the last moment by an engaging teenage companion, the pair are the only witnesses to an aging circus horse performing airs above the ground, or specialized actions only one of the famed Spanish Lipizzaners would be trained for. As with any good circus act, there's a lot more going on than what's showing on the surface.

Missing jewels, missing persons, espionage, and a truly hair-raising conclusion make this one of my absolute favorite of Stewart's novels.
Stewart has a deft hand with a plot, and her heroines aren't milksops. Most of her books have a sort of modern Gothic feel to them - if you like Barbara Michaels (a.k.a Elizabeth Peters), chances are you'll find Stewart to your liking.

This is, as far as I know, one of only two novels Stewart wrote that has horses central to the plot, but her level of detail is quite good. (The other title is The Ivy Tree, which revolves around a family squabble, a case of mistaken identity, an inheritance, a nefarious plot to claim said inheritance, and of course a bit of romance. In that case, the heroine's talent with horses is... no, but that's telling! :) But I will say there's a mad horseback dash across country to prevent murder. Wonderfully suspenseful!)

So there you have it. Not quite a true British "cozy" for your February viewing pleasure, but a nice treat to curl up with nonetheless.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Contented, Cute, and a Mabel in the box

Today was chilly, but quite lovely otherwise. After lots of errands, I collected T at work and we headed for the farm so he could get a new bale moved in. Afternoons are naptime in the farmyard, so everything was pretty quiet. The horses were contentedly munching away, post-bale moving...and small heaps of sun-tired lambs were collapsed in their tracks in random locations elsewhere.

Everything's better with a daily dose of cute :-)

This one was obviously a supplemented-by-bottle lamb, because it kept attaching itself to T's pant leg.
Kitty cat was NOT thrilled
about sharing his new-found person.

And if that isn't enough cute for you, guess who decided that empty laundry hampers are perfect hiding spots.

Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, she seems to think we can't see her when she's in one, and will spend inordinate amounts of time lying in wait for poor Snowball - who knows perfectly well where she is, and avoids passing directly past her. Silly cats!

(No, we don't ordinarily keep laundry hampers - even empty ones - in the living room, but in this case, it's just plain entertaining! LOL!)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Clearing the air

Things were okay yesterday when I went out to do chores. J came out & we chatted pleasantly enough. Nothing was said about hay, other than that G will be moving up some more bales.
The silly thing about the whole hay issue? It's not that there's any lack of it - G purchased hay in the fall for all the livestock, including the horses, and there's plenty. It's just that this year he decided she'd get the bill for the horses' portion, since she's been telling him for years that the horses don't eat as much as all of his sheep and cows.

When it was "free" hay, she didn't care how quickly they went through it. Now that she's "paying" for it herself, it's critical that they not waste any of it, because it's expensive....

What's that old saying?
Something about the way
to make a small fortune
in the horse business is...
to start with a large fortune?
I suspect this winter has been a reality check.

Anyway, she's contacted a couple of people who've been interested in her horses in the past, and maybe that will pan out. I'm going to continue to press - tactfully - for the benefits to getting a couple of the mares started.

I'm very grateful for the suggestions everyone has made, and when things have had a chance to cool off, I'll drop a word here or there and let the ideas percolate. Right now since she has the inclination and is actually exploring sensible options for selling a couple, I'm going to let things rest for the time being. We'll see how things shake out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

So by all means, let's make more...

Okay, so this may never see the light of anyone else's computer monitor. But I'm irked. Again. And I'm stewing about it, and I need to stop, but it keeps running around and around and around in my head.

It's the same old story.

Talking to the farm owner the other night she says, "I need to seriously think about selling some horses."

Which is true.... 5 mares and a gelding.
She doesn't really need that many horses.

But the reason she's thinking she needs less is that she wants to make more. She's been considering local studs and what they have to offer and which of the mares she wants to breed this year, because it's been 4 years since she had babies on the place and she likes seeing babies around.

The last four foals she had didn't "sell." We now have one of them - she gave T one of the weanling fillies around the time we got engaged. Two went to a sale - as weanlings, which I don't want to think about, but I didn't have any control over and couldn't stop. And the last one is still there - the gelding - and I may make an offer on him if all else fails. Sunny's half brother (same stud), out of a nice mare with a wonderful disposition, and he's a doll, but I don't really need another horse....

The three 6 year-old mares she bred on the place. They haven't been started beyond what I've done with them - basic handling & groundwork. Two older mares that have been ridden. But the one that rides well is only fit for a light rider and light riding, and the other although gentle is pretty much just started, and doesn't know squat beyond "don't buck."

Sp she's talking about this stallion and that one, and maybe we should go look at one somewhere else. And I suggest politely that perhaps she might consider instead of breeding this year, spending the stud fee money on getting a couple of the 6 year-olds started and some advertising.... But no.

Because she wouldn't get
her money back out of them.

Ummmm.... At this point you've paid the stud fee to make them. You've paid to feed them for 5 years. You've paid for vaccinations, hoof-trimming & worming. You haven't shown them; haven't had them trained beyond ground work. You're NOT GOING to get the money you've put into them back out of them. At this point with the horse market the way it is, you're going to be lucky to re-coup the stud fee you paid. At this point it's about getting them suitable for using, rather than for a one way trip through some dog's digestive system.

But somehow, that's not the point.
At least not the way she sees it.

And then tonight it was the hay. New bale, I'm peeling off the part that was on the ground so they don't eat mold, and she asks me what I'm doing. Duh!

She says, "Well, they're going to have to learn to eat some mold, because I'm not paying for hay just to have it wasted!" And she starts to pick it up and put it in the feeder.

I was PISSSED. Excuse me, but MY HORSE IS NOT EATING MOLDY HAY!!! I like him alive and not colicking. And I told her so. In no uncertain terms. And then I wrote her a check. She hasn't wanted to be paid for hay because I'm doing all the horse chores and paying for the grain - but I figure if I pay for it, I can "waste" it.


Friday Book Review: I'd rather be riding

I like riding with a purpose. If I have a purpose, Sunny isn't as apt to get distracted, and I don't get as nervous, and we don't start that nasty downward spiral into, "Yuck, this was a really bad day."


See, I have this tendency to get stuck in a rut when I ride. I either repeat the same things, or I run out of ideas mid-ride, and end up trotting in aimless circles. Neither of which gets us anywhere.

Sooo, with that in mind I'm going to start plotting my spring rides, or at least trying to. And this is one of the books that's going to help me - I hope!

101 Arena Exercises : a ringside guide for horse & rider by Cherry Hill
Since I don't have the luxury of working with a trainer, I tend to muddle through as best I can. Sometimes it's difficult to come up with simple effective exercises on my own, so I do a fair amount of reading. Do I want to get better bending? Better upward and downward transitions? Maybe it's cleaner gait changes, or Sunny's leg yielding is sluggish.

This book is one I refer back to when I've set a new goal for myself, or if I'm not feeling the result I want with what I've been trying.
The exercises are laid out in a progression that works, and they start on a very basic level. There's sufficient explanation - each exercise includes a description and list of uses, and many include notes, cautions, and checks for telling whether you've been successful. There are lots of black and while illustrations to make each step clear, as well.

The other good thing about this book? The format. It's spiral bound, landscape-oriented, and it will hang quite nicely over a rail so that you can refer back to it arena-side.
There are a several books in this series - I also have one of the pocket-sized ones with more advanced exercises. It's helpful too, although I haven't used it quite as much. At any rate, for the time being I can read and make plans. Hopefully it will be nice enough, and dry enough, to put Sunny to work this weekend.

And more of the same

It's about this time of year
that winter always starts to seem very long.

We've had a January/February thaw. Mud has set in (and thawed & set up again) as the snow has dwindled. The horses are starting to shed just a bit - I keep telling them it's too early to be losing coat yet, but they aren't listening.

The days are getting longer
and a tiny bit warmer.

Yesterday the sun was out, and I so wanted to ride. But the ground is still slick, Sunny was filthy, and there's so much else to be done.
Maybe this weekend.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More weather

Well, thankfully, the freezing rain seems to have missed us. Other than the few spatters that were hitting my windshield last night on the way to work, that is. And that amount is tolerable.

According to the Weather Channel it's currently 42'. It's drizzly, but not pouring and not freezing, which is not great, but at least better than falling ice if not quite a good as snow, or better yet, nothing falling from the sky.

And I just realized something...
I've become my mother.

Or at least I'm creeping in that direction. She always seems to know what the weather is, was, and will be doing. In all the states in which we have relatives. Calling her is quite often much quicker than waiting for the Weather Channel to cycle around to local. It's kind of cool in a scary sort of way.

Of course, with one weather maven in the family, it's only fair that we also have those who pay little attention beyond acknowledging that weather exists. My father, who worked out sorts of weather for years and years? "Weather's what it's doing outside. When I'm outside, I'll worry about it." His weather forecast tool of choice? The Weather Rock.

But the horses ARE outside in the weather, and I do worry about them.

My husband? "The horses have survived many, many winters outside. They're healthy, well-insulated with fur & fat, and they have plenty of food, water, and a wind-break. They're FINE."
All of which is true.

Today's forecast?
High 46F.
Winds SE at 15 to 25 mph.
Chance of rain 80%.
Rainfall around
a quarter of an inch.

Yep. I'm becoming my mother.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weather update :(

We're having freezing rain! In February! In South Dakota?! Sheesh...

Minitature winter wonderland

I drove out to the farm this morning on the off chance that Mark would call and/or appear to do the remaining two horses - we'd left things at the tentative stage yesterday, in case he had something come up or the weather turned out to be cold. It was still below freezing, so probably the latter. But since I was there, I occupied myself taking pictures of the frosty world we woke up to this a.m.

This is a frozen puddle up in one of the pastures - everything was spiky with hoar frost. Really beautiful.

And then, of course, there was this...
Star the contortionist
There's corn in there, and obviously, somebody's been practicing her yoga! It's unfortunate that the grain bin is located where it is - if the waterer was about 20 feet farther east the horses wouldn't have pass the grain bin to get to it, and I wouldn't have to worry about gates getting left open, or their access to water cut off for long periods when G is filling all the sheep feeders or on days grain is delivered.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

24 down, 8 to go

Mark zipped through 6 horses this morning before heading off for his tax appointment. The ponies were mostly good, which I expect, but which doesn't always happen. Inevitably one of them is a snot, and quite often which one surprises me. Thunder was polite - he snorted a couple of times, but from a horse who was a quivering, snorting, scaredy-cat he's come a looonng way, baby.

Mark said these lesion-looking things...

(pre-trim pictures taken a week or so ago)
on Foxy's feet are places where little abcesses(!) have grown out. They likely blew out at the hairline, and have been growing down as her hooves grow.

She has four of them. One on her left front, two on her left rear, and another one on her right rear. All at the same level - the one on the left front is the largest.
She was never lame or hesitant to move around past few months that I can recall. Of course, she's the one who gets chased - so being hesitant to move wouldn't have served her very well. And it's tough to be lame on three feet at once. Makes it difficult to pick which one to favor, and if she was ouchy, would have made it harder to catch - at least that's what he said.

The good thing is, she's sound now. I just wish I knew what caused multiple abcesses in the first place.

He'll be back hopefully tomorrow morning to catch the last two horses, schedule permitting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The farrier is coming!

Of course, he's coming at 8 AM instead of 2 PM as originally planned - something about getting his taxes done a birthday party and dropping off a horse.... Anyway, he's coming!

Which is great, because the ponies have grown long toes since their last trim.

T has drill and H has a basketball game in Yankton and has to be on the bus at 7:30 AM (sheer torture - she's NOT a morning person). It will be a bright and early Saturday tomorrow.

If I'm early enough, I'll try for some before & after pics.

Friday Book Review: something for the season

We're having another spring-like day here in eastern SD. It's warm enough I left my down jacket in the truck after lunch, and although I was a little cool in my sweater hurrying back in to the library, it's still gorgeous for anytime in February.

Yesterday when I got to the farm the horses, lured by the warm sunshine (and disgusted with the state of their bale) had actually ventured out into the winter-brown pasture. They were lipping across the seared grass tops looking for new spring shoots. Overly optimistic? Sure, but when it's this nice, it's hard NOT to start looking for greening grass and budding leaves.

It's in that spirit that I thought of this book. Gary Paulsen has written some well regarded young adult books over the years, including Dogsong, The Car and The Crossing. If you know any boys who are reluctant readers, and like their fiction gritty, raw and action-packed, you might recommend Paulsen's books. (He also wrote one of the funniest, guttsiest auto-biographical tales I've ever read documenting his attempt to prepare for and complete the famous Alaskan Iditorod dog sled race - the title of the book is Winterdance: the fine madness of running the Iditarod.)

This particular book, however, is neither a YA, nor particularly humorous.

Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass by Gary Paulsen
Paulson writes (hate to use this word, but here goes!) lyrically -- almost poetically about the rhythm of life on a turn of the century farm. A time when horse-pulled farm equipment began to give way to horsepowered farm equipment. Work rules; the type of work governed by the seasons, from which no hands are exempt from the smallest to the oldest in the continuous effort to make sure there is enough food, because there surely is no money.

The foreword almost put me off with its central feature of a large dead horse, but there is a reverence to Paulson's writing about the circle of life that pulled me on. This is a book to sit with and enjoy. To read and be grateful while reading that better machinery makes life a bit easier for those hands and backs that struggle to fill our nation's plates.

But the passages about luck, about fate, about the horrible accidents that can befall the careless or inattentive on a farm... those still ring as true, pure, and gruesomely cautionary as ever. Ruth Paulson's accompanying illustrations are a lovely series on their own, and compliment the text beautifully.
I thought of this book when T came home last fall from drill with the news that a local farmer had been careless clearing a wire jam while milling hay for silage. I thought of it again yesterday smelling mud & farm smells and watching the new lambs hop about and bask in the sun. It's the kind of book that sticks with you. But I'll let you read, and judge for yourself....

(Oh, and if you decide to read Winterdance - watch out for the skunks. You'll know why when you get there.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February comes with presents!

Like this one:

Just a wee small bit toastier
than what we had last month...
The lambs were enjoying the sunshine - the ground was carpeted with small snoozing white bodies, but these two came over to see why I was leaning over the fence at them.
The horses were not napping. And they were neither enthused about having their pictures taken, nor prepared to hold still for a photo session. This in one of a series of treetop pictures I captured in the process of attempting to get Sunny to stand still.
At least the sky held still!

I spread the last of the bale T moved on Saturday out - they went through this one really quickly, but there was a lot of waste. It was full of very stemmy stuff which they picked through but didn't eat. Hopefully that will be the last of those!

Finally, once I had an arm around his neck, Sunny decide he might as well cooperate - you can see a bit of Star breezing past in the background.

Looks like the weather's going to hold fairly well through the weekend, so I'm off to try to track down the farrier again. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All present and accounted for!

All was well tonight with Thunder and the rest. A huge relief!

He was back to his perky, bright-eyed self, and headed right down to the hay to dive in after his grain.

NONE of them are as excited about this bale - it's a lot stemmier than the last few, and they're picking through it pretty thoroughly, leaving a fair amount. Which is fine - the calves are getting what the horses push aside, and are making a nice nest of it. (I kid you not - where I've dumped the hay over the fence it looks like a giant, rather messy, bird's been nesting!)

Now I'm going to go sit quietly and stare at something that's not pixelated for a while - it's been a very long day at work.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Here's hoping...

The phone doesn't ring tonight. J's going to check in on Thunder, and I'm hoping she doesn't see any reason to call. My spidey-sense was tingling tonight. He didn't seem quite himself. Nothing I could quite put my finger on, but....

I've been keeping an eye on him anyway the last couple of days. He got in with the calves and ate I'm not sure how much alfalfa on Friday afternoon. No bellyache from that, but he didn't get his grain that evening. He's got a sore spot on his shoulder, I think from squeezing (or being chased) between the grain bin and a loose fence panel, but other than that didn't show any ill effects. His route in is now blocked by a newly placed 5' high gate panel, but he's been looking longingly over the fence at the remainder of the bale. Silly boy.

So anyway, I fed and then hung out with him for an extra hour or so tonight. He was quite happy with the company and enjoyed the attention he was getting. Didn't seem out of it or distressed.... It may just be that he'd been eating hay all afternoon and was more enthused about hanging out with me than more hay right then - that would be pretty typical for him. Or that the new bale they're eating from is a bit stemmier than the last one and he's not as excited about it, especially after his alfalfa binge. Still, I let J know she might check on him through the evening. Man, I hate stressing over this kind of thing!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Weekend update

Wow - 57' on Saturday. Absolutely fantastic (except for the giant puddles). We weight-taped & wormed all the horses (AnthelcideEQ) and T got a new bale moved in. I didn't want to ride in the slippery mud, or get Sunny all warm after worming him. But it was a gorgeous day.

Today I worked on trying to make sure that the melted puddles wouldn't freeze into solid sheets of ice. Judicious application of melted clods of horse manure, which will at least provide some traction once things freeze again.

It wasn't nearly as nice Sunday - sunny still, but brisk, with a north wind that wouldn't quit. As I left the farm this was moving in...All in all, it was a relatively unexciting weekend.