Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Peach brandy soused this year

The fruitcake is out of the oven, and the stockings are hung...

With care, if not by the chimney...

Hope Christmas Eve finds you all with loved ones, family and friends you hold dear.  Whether you're making merry or yours is a peaceful silent night, Merry Christmas to you, one and all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cookie Jar Gingersnaps

When I was in grade school back in the not-quite-dark ages, we used to get these saucer-sized, rich-with-molasses and rolled in sugar, crackle-topped cookies every now and then for dessert with school lunch.  I loved them. They had that crunchy-stiff outer edge and a slightly chewy middle... yum. Once I learned to bake, I started looking for a recipe and this one is about the closest I've found.

It also has the benefit of being relatively quick and doesn't require a lot of complicated fiddling.  I don't make them hand-sized, because that's a LOT of cookie - and the big ones don't fit in a normal-sized coffee mug. ;-)

Cookie Jar Ginger Snaps
Cream together
  • 1/2 c. soft shortening (butter flavor Crisco works well)
  • 2 c. sugar 
Beat in:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c molasses (blackstrap, or the darkest you can find unless you like a lighter cookie)
Sift together... and then add to moist ingredients and blend well:
  • 4 c. flour
  • 2 T. ginger
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
Roll into balls the size of a walnut.  Roll in white sugar.  Place 2 1/2" apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350' for 12-15 minutes.  Store in airtight container.  Yield: 4-5 dozen.
Molasses-y goodness
My sister always asks for these in lieu of a Christmas present; she's the sugar cookie baker in the family, so we swap! They're good right out of the oven, but the spices get stronger as they're stored - so they get better and better until they're gone - they keep well and they don't crumble when packed up and sent USPSing across country, either. 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend Update

Cookie Jar Ginger Snaps

Holiday baking has commenced.  Two Swedish Tea Rings dropped off, and the and second round of Cookie Jar Ginger Snaps are ready to go.  I love the smell of the house during the holidays.

Rolled in sugar
Hot out of the oven
We had about 1/2 an inch of rain the other night - the horses were all proper mudballs in the morning, but the ground and all the vegetation is surely happier for it.  I wouldn't have minded if it had kept up for all of the next day, too.  Unfortunately it didn't.  The horses weren't entirely pleased to be kept penned up in the corral with hay until afternoon to give the orchard pasture a chance to dry some.  Every time the house door swung open Sunny would whinny notifying us that, "Hey, you've forgotten us down here!  We want out!"

It was still damp even yesterday when I went down to snip off some more spindly trees along the orchard fenceline.  I'm making progress - I've done most of the way to the barn now, although there's still work for T to do with the chainsaw.

Cat 1 joined me to supervise, yammering away the whole time.  He's nothing if not vocal.  He's still a youngster, definitely a tom, and was likely someone's pet at some point.  He worked his way closer and closer and finally got up the courage...

Once he'd had his ears rubbed I couldn't keep him out from underfoot - I almost dropped a tree on him a couple times.  Finally the horses came over to check out what I was up to and after Sunny snuffled him over and got slobber on him and Thunder almost flattened him, he retreated under the pear tree to complain at the lot of us.

Cat 2 is still running off whenever he spots us getting closer than 20 feet or so, and there's an even shyer, big fluffy grey cat that showed up briefly over the weekend.  Finding some outside cats is not going to be a problem.... keeping track of them all, however....

I have the majority of the tub surround tiled, along with the sink backsplash.  Hopefully we'll have a working shower before company arrives for the holidays, but it still has to be grouted, so we'll see.

Last night when we went down to bring the horses in, only Amyra and Rufus appeared.  T called, I called... finally a crashing and thudding, and the errant pair trotted up over the edge of the creekbed both with grass still hanging out of their mouths.  So at least a couple of them have figured out there's edible stuff down there. 

This morning all of them but Amyra were standing in the barn when I went down to let them out, so they've figured that out, too. 

T pulled the cover off one of the old well pits yesterday so we could see how deep it is.  Fairly deep, with a bit of water in the bottom from the rain.  And it also had snakes.  T says just corn snakes. 

They eat mice and bugs and aren't poisonous.  But I still wouldn't want to run across one unexpectedly, and I sure won't be picking them up. 

They look a bit too much like rattlers at first glance.  And I'm not sure what the green one is.

And that's the news from here for the last couple of days.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stupid Human Tricks

Another beautiful morning
After Tuesday morning's run to T's mom's for showers and internet fix, T headed for H- for a round of shopping.  I stayed here and played with the pruning shears.  I managed to get the majority of the baby honey locusts cut off at ground level in the creek bed.  I also knocked the pointy clumps off the mature trees up as high as I could reach, collecting the spine clusters as I went.  That took a good chunk of the afternoon.  Good exercise, too.  As I pruned I was dumping the branches and small trees over the fence in piles, so then I had to collect them all and haul them back closer to the house to be burned.  (If we ever get wet weather.)

That was NOT fun.  The ends aren't barbed like burrs so they slide right out when they stab through your clothes, but you know how old barbwire forms big tangles and springs back at you?  After much cautious yanking, no small amount of cussing, and some gingerly squashing down, I had a truckbed full to brimming with one big spiny octopus load of trimmings.  Then I had to unload it all.  T missed all the fun.

Filled the horse tank, then put the hose in the cow tank and let it run for a hour or better - the cows were forming circle around the tank three deep when I got done unloading the locusts, so it wasn't a surprise that their tank was pretty well down.  While it filled I got the horses weight-taped and wormed.  None of them were thrilled, but they all behaved pretty well.  Even Sunny didn't put up as much fuss as he's been known to. 

Waiting for that last few inches of tank to slosh full I finally just stood there in the sunshine for a few minutes, basking.  I'd shed my quilted jacket sweating over the trees, and it dawned on me I was standing outside in a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, in December.  Not exactly the season's usual base layer of long underwear and additional woolies, topped off by heavy winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves I'd have on in SD....  Lovely, but something tells me I'm not going to enjoy June, July and August, much. 

Yesterday we spent most of the day working on horse-proofing the creekbed.  I clipped out more trees, T used the chainsaw to get some of the bigger stuff whacked off at the base, and we strung fence across to keep them out of the pile of washed-down trees and debris the county needs to come clean out of of the bridge base on the upstream side of the road. 

Well, you can almost see something....

Hooray for chainsaws!
The horses initially viewed all this noisy activity with suspicion... from a distance.

As far away as they could get

But it didn't take too long before they chalked it up to more bizarre human behavior and went back to eating, creeping incrementally towards the noise.

Finally, it was time to take down the fence and introduce the ponies to their new pasture.  I collected Sunny and led him over - they have to go down a short, sharp dropoff just past the fence.  Not surprisingly, Sunny and Rufus, the two who've been ridden through the most rough country, baled right down.  The other two weren't far behind. 

The first victim

Where's he going?

Down in the bottom
Initially they weren't too sure about staying down there - the wind had treetops rushing and squeaking together, and the leaves underfoot were loud.  Once they'd charged up and down through the gate a couple times, Sunny scrambled up the slope on the far side with Rufus a length or so behind. 

Rufus and Sunny explore the topside
The others followed, and they poked checking out the new boundaries.  Then they skidded back down the hill and back to the safety of more familiar space. 

"I think there used to be a fence here, George!"

When we turned them out this morning they cruised the pasture a couple of loops, then settled in grazing at the far end away from the creekbed gate.  But they were gradually easing their way that direction.  Once they're comfortable down there we'll run a temporary fence across the north section of orchard pasture  so that the grass there has a chance to recover. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pasture possibilites

Walking to the mailbox yesterday I spotted a small herd of deer across the road in the neighbor's pasture and slid down into the ditch to get a clearer view.

They must know hunting season's over
That's when I noticed that the creekbed and fenceline on his side of the road is 85-90% porcupine quill-studded honey locust trees. 

Honey Locusts
Sweet name, prickly personality
The birds don't seem to mind them - there are nests galore tucked back into the crotches of even the prickliest looking ones.  And apparently the cows weren't too deterred because there are paths winding under and through, but I hate to think what those needless would do to horsehide.  Or me!  Ouch!!!

We walked the creekbed before supper last night.  It's a slice of pie-shaped section of dry wash/gully boarded on the east by the road, the west by the horse pasture and on the south by the cow pasture.  It's full of live trees and old deadfalls washed into heaps by the spring flooding.  It has one nasty patch of baby locust trees but only a couple large ones.  And it has a good amount of grass.

Since it shares two sides with what's already fenced horse and cow pasture and it's fenced along the road, as well, it's potentially a more immediate option for added grazing space than the tree grove, which doesn't and isn't.  And it offers the added bonus that if the horses eat it down this fall, if there's any moisture whatsoever this winter, the grass down there will come back when the creek starts flowing in the spring.  We just (hah!) need to do some clean-up and decide where to put a gate at.

While we were down in the gully, the horses could hear us but not see us, and the dead leaves and small branches going crunch and crack underfoot had Thunder snorting and blowing at us.  When we emerged they'd retreated to the far edge of the pasture and were standing in a cavalry-straight row, poised to dash away in all directions.  Goofy beasties!  Of course, once they saw us they headed right over to see if just possibly there might be something tasty in the offing. 

In other accomplishments, I did more laundry (I swear, laundry and dirty dishes breed like rabbits when I'm not looking), T finished up the carpet in the north bedroom, trimmed out the inside of the south door and we finally hung the second set of curtains in the living room.  I'd planned to do more tiling in the bathroom, but I didn't have enough mortar left to start the section I need to finish next, so that's on hold until we get back to Home Depot later this week.

Oh, and put I put new batteries in the fencer.  It was dead this morning, I'm guessing due to the cold (and the fact that one of the batteries was starting to rust).  The little light that blinks on the fencer itself can be difficult to check in daylight, but when we strung the fence I mounted one of these babies:

Peace of mind on a stick!
Right where I can see it easily from the kitchen window or the front door.  If you haven't run across them, they're battery-powered, clip on like a clothespin, have a high and low setting depending on your fencer's power, and this is the best part, they flash when the fencer goes down or something cuts the power.  And they're bright enough to be noticed even when it's light out.  I picked this one up for $8 on sale at Orschlens - they were originally about $24, but I think it might still be worth it. 

Today we pick up the tank heater and a new gate for the corral which I should have gotten on Friday but didn't.  It's supposed to get progressively warmer the next few days, but the ice I broke in the water tank yesterday and fished out barehanded because I didn't think to use a pitchfork was about 2" thick.  Of course, it was all of 1'F when we got up.  I broke a hole for them in the morning, and then had to break it again around noon, but by 2 o'clock it was nearly 40', and the ice that I pitched out was melting.

It wasn't quite that cold last night, thank goodness!

Evil Trees

One of projects we'll be tackling in the coming months is cleaning up the tree grove on the north side of the driveway. Getting it thinned and fenced will give the ponies some extra grazing space.  Thankfully for the clean-up efforts, it's not the graveyard grove where all the old farm equipment and random household metal bits were left to die (although there's one of those, too).  This particular grove has its fair share of deadfalls and the packrat mounds are... numerous.  

The squirrels scolded at me as I walked through this afternoon, scoping things out.  There's actually a fairly wide clear spot at one end where T says they used to put a picnic table in the summer months.  The table's long gone, but the grass is as lush and thick as winter grass gets, and it was somewhat heartening to find at least one section of ground that won't need too much work.

Along with the deadfalls and other debris, the grove also has a couple of particularly nasty hazards that are definitely going to have to go: honey locust trees.  

If you've never encountered one of these spine-y beauties, count yourself lucky.  Some of those spike balls have needles as long as my hand, and they're distressingly sharp.  I cleared a small patch of young growth out of the pasture along the driveway when I was running the fence, and even sturdy leather gloves weren't proof against their porcupiney-ness.  There are at least two big locust trees in the grove, but thankfully the majority are more innocuous varieties.  We'll thin and so some limbing, but not enough so we lose the windbreak.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overslept Sunday morning in spite of the cats dancing impatiently across my head.  Woke up to T's phone call - 10+" of snow predicted for Minneapolis, and he might not get in as scheduled after all. The cats just were pleased I was finally up, since their usual 5:30 breakfast was over an hour late.

Contrary to my prediction of cold by morning, it actually warmed up overnight.  Slightly.  It was a brisk 31', with a stiff northwest wind when I turned the horses out, but by full daylight it dropped back to hover in the mid-20's with lots of wind.  The sun hid until after noon; morning was overcast, the sky a flat dirty grey.  I crossed my fingers for precipitation - rain, snow, I don't really care. Rather than stand in the barn out of the wind, the horses were all tucked in the lee of the barn.  Still out of the wind, and since it's dry, probably just as warm.  I'm curious to see if any of them will actually use the barn when it finally does decide to rain. When they cleared the gate and took off down to the far end of the pasture for a brief surveying circle, dust puffed up with every thudding hoof-fall.  The perfect Christmas gift?  A wet winter.

I suppose I should have listened to the weather, but I finally got my mp3 player to play nice with my laptop.  Maybe later.  Weather happens regardless, right? 

Only the thinnest scrim of ice in the water tank, and no packrats to fish out.  Not sure if that's because I filled the tank to brimming the night  before and none fell in, or if my makeshift rat ramp worked.  I've been using half a steel post to break the ice/fish out rats, and it occurred to me that I could lean it kitty-corner in the tank to give them something to climb up if they fall in. I hooked it to the fence with a piece of wire so the horses can't knock it over.  Rats, it's up to you.  Field test away.

Coffee on and the first load of laundry in the washer, I tackled unpacking and sorting one of the "sort" boxes.  The first boxes all arrived with contents notes, but toward the end there were those random odds and ends that when lumped together, kind of defied description.  I'm down to the last three of them though, so the end (of those, at least) is in sight.

Mixed up a batch of cookies - I decided on good old classic chocolate chip - pausing now and then to watch Amyra's attempts to persuade the boys to play with her.  She'd swing her neck, bounce a little, trot around and bump her shoulder off a one of them, immediately poised to race off.  None of them wanted to cooperate, but finally they got into the mood and raced up and down, tails flagged, swapping ends, sliding to a stop, snorting and caroming off of one another like four-legged bumper cars. Even Sunny got into the spirit of it, kicking his heels in the air and generally acting like a two-year-old.  Yep, seeing them out the window isn't going to get old anytime soon! :)

The blustery days one of them is perpetually on watch. And even on calm days they're still pretty alert for anything that might be sneaking up on them.  They're still learning what all the normal noises here are.  Grazing or napping they tend to line up three abreast, with the fourth horse turned to face into the wind, butt toward the other three.

Periodically a random gust will slap something against a metal shed side, or a cow will barge through a thick patch of dead brush and one of them will startle.  The other three heads will pop up and they'll stare toward wherever the noise originated.  T's brother stopped out yesterday morning to sight in a rifle.  He stopped up at the house first for a cup of coffee - he wanted to make sure I knew he was here.  T'd told him the horses shouldn't mind him shooting - three of them grew up next to a pheasant hunting lodge where fall always meant the sound of shotguns, and the fourth one's been hunted off.  Still, it was nice of A to check again that he wasn't going to scare them silly. 

I couldn't hear it in the house when the rifle cracked the first time - foot and a half-thick stone walls make excellent buffers - but I could tell he'd fired.  Heads popped up, and the ones that weren't already facing A's direction spun around.  They moved a bit closer to the fence on that side, and nobody went back to eating until he'd finished, but none of them ran. 

Nu-nu does her best dead cat imitation

Morning Baking

Soup and baking.  Two delicious reasons to love fall/winter months.  Today will be a chilli day, and the house already smells like pumpkin bread.

The kitchen is chilly in the mornings.  The best cure for that is something in the oven filling the air with heat and tasty smells.  I have wonderful banana bread recipe, but since I ate the last banana Friday for breakfast, that was out.  And my zucchini was frozen rock solid.  But I did have can of pumpkin that missed out on being pie at Thanksgiving. 

I've always wondered if I could substitute pumpkin for banana in the banana bread recipe and with a bit of tinkering, come out with something edible....

I suspect there might be a tad more than three bananas worth of pumpkin in a 12oz can, but what the heck - bananas come in all sizes, so there had to be some flexibility built into the recipe, right?
Banana Bread
  • 1 stick butter/margarine, melted
  • 3 ripe mashed bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup nuts
Combine butter, bananas, eggs, vanilla and sugar and stir until mixed.  Add flour, salt, baking soda and stir together.  Add nuts and stir until just mixed.  Pour into greased bread pan and bake at 350' for one hour.
So... I substituted the canned pumpkin for bananas, added 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves and since I had about a cup of fresh cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, I added those in when I added the nuts.

It makes a pretty loaf - sort of deep orange, with the bright red of the cranberries.  I suspect I probably could have added an extra 1/4-1/2 cup of flour, and an hour of baking time wasn't quite sufficient, but an hour and a quarter saw it done.  It's definitely best to let it cool in the pan, and it cuts better when it's been chilled in the refrigerator for a while, but all in all I'm pleased with the result, and I think with the extra flour it would even be company-worthy.  But possibly as muffins.

Good thing we have all these nice neighbors/relatives that stop by for coffee.

The Cows Moo-ve In

Friday afternoon the cows arrived. 

I'd been in and out all afternoon with the laundry and various chores.  The horses were grazing, stopping now and then to stare northward.  When I walked up the road to get the mail I could hear cows bawling and the sound of engines from our closest neighbors.  By the time I'd walked back to the house and processed the next batch of clothes from washer to basket to line, the cow noises were getting louder and the horses had abandoned grazing in favor of standing sentry looking up the hill.

Sure enough, when I walked down to where I could get a view of from their vantage, here came J (yes, I know, another one) and his Kubota runabout leading a trail of complaining bovines.  Most of the older cows have wintered here before, and once they'd passed the gate from the next field up they picked up the pace and trotted ahead of him down to the big tank.  There was much splashing, banging and thudding as they all pushed and shoved for first dibs on a drink.  The level on the tank, even large as it is dropped alarmingly fast.  I hooked the hose to the hydrant - it has too much pressure behind it to leave a float on, water just blows out the top - and watched a couple cows climb right into the tank.

Through all the commotion I'd been keeping a weather eye on the horses to see how they'd react, but they were more concerned with tracking J's progress on the runabout than they were with worry about the moo-vers-in now sharing their fenceline.  J drove around to check the gates on the far side of the south pasture, then stopped back up to chat for a minute. 

He's got some late/early(?) calves starting to drop, and with the forecast set for winter-like temps and maybe snow to arrive at long last, he figured they'd better get the cows moved.  There were 8 or so new calves mixed in with the rest.  He still had a few stragglers making their way along, a couple with newbies, so he was heading back up to see where they'd gotten to.  The cows will have about 6 big fields and pastures that are all opened up for them, but they'll be watering here and when the weather gets bad they'll bring in bales for them down here in the trees where it's more sheltered.  It makes a great place for calving.

The horses have all seen cows, but the cows had never seen a horse before. 

I picked up grain yesterday not because any of them need the extra calories, but because I wanted a tasty treat to teach them to come when I holler.  Pre-cow invasion I'd set up four feeding spots in the corral and dribbled a half-cup or so of sweetfeed in each spot.  Then I called the horses.  They didn't come, which wasn't a big surprise.  But I went out, brought them in and let them eat, then go back out a couple times during the afternoon.  I had enough daylight left and the cow-tank was still filling, so I figured I might as well give it another go.  About 15 cows lined up along the corral panels - including the bull - and blew snot at the horses.  The ponies ignored them.  Good ponies! 

They got a drink and then trailed back out again.  I left them out overnight, since I'd had them in the corral during my airport run.  When I checked them at sunrise this morning I decided to see if they'd figured out "Come on" yet.  They were dozing midway down the fence, but ears pricked when I called.  By the time I had the last half-cup distributed I could hear hoofbeats heading my way, and the first nose, Thunder's, was rounding the barn corner in very short order.  Smart ponies!  Nothing like food to encourage that mental click - lol!

Cat 1

Cat 2

Friday happenings

Woke up Friday morning bright and early at 5 a.m. to the cats bouncing up and down on us.  T still had to finish packing - mandatory Yellow Ribbon ceremony in Minneapolis which I bowed out of courtesy of not having identified anyone I feel comfortable looking after the four-foots yet.  Missing the Mall of America opportunity does not depress me.

We still had hot water and no leaks from the new water heater, so I decided to be bold (before T was gone and I triggered an Ark-worthy flood in his absence) and test the washer.  All was well until the first spin cycle - no leaks, good pressure... and then the spin cycle arrived, and suddenly we had a puddle.  For some reason there was back pressure on the drain hose, and it was spraying out around the connection.  Of course, I'd run a large load which meant the washer was FULL of clothes and water, and of course it had to be pulled away from the wall to get to anything useful.  But a few four-letter words, a new c-clamp and some electrical tape later, we seem to have a leak-free drain pipe.

Went out to throw a leaf or two of hay to the ponies since they'd be in the corral until I got back from the airport, and discovered it was spitting snow/sleet.  Which meant hurry up, grab the ladder, and haul a couple of boxes up to the attic (no inside access) and stash some stuff in the garage much to the chagrin of the yellow cat, who promptly hid out and scolded me from under some folded up boxes. 

At the corral there was a nice skim of ice in the water tank (still need to hook up the heater) and under the ice the third pack rat I've had to fish out - all dead. Which brings the total to 3 rats in the horse water and 1 dead possum in the big cattle tank. YUCK!!!  Any suggestions for keeping the rodent population from committing suicide by drowning much appreciated!!!

Dropped T at the airport without further incident and headed for downtown and the opportunity to get some any, really Christmas shopping done, but discovered the shops mostly a) didn't open until 11 o'clock, and b) consisted of furniture stores, interior decorator places, and very pricey art studios.  Phooey!  So I hit Dillon's for a couple of items and a store card for cheaper gas, Wal-Mart for baking necessities, Home Depot for a garbage can, and Orschlens for a mineral block and a bag of feed.

In the meantime, the internet tech people called to say that the soonest they could be out our way is the 18th of December, since they don't really have anyone local....  (I'm not ignoring your comments, honest - I'm still only getting internet when we come to town.) We tried the local guys first, but although they promised good things, apparently there's a bluff in the way and we'd have to erect a 54' tower (our expense) to get a signal.  There's the tantalizing promise of DSL/cable on the horizon, but it could be anywhere from 2 months to 2 years out depending on which way they decide to go.  One of the cons of rural residence, I guess.

So I stopped in P- at the Cardinal Diner, a local once-upon-a-time-had-car-side-service lunch spot, lured in by the promise of free wi-fi and the promise of one of their home-cooked lunch specials.  The special (bacon cheeseburger with a thick slice of onion and tomato and a wedge of lettuce, served with fresh home-cut fries - YUM! - for $1.75) of the day lived up to the homemade lasagna I had last time we stopped, but unfortunately the wi-fi was absent.

Back at the farm I swung by the barn to drop off the salt block - cue happy ponies - and the grain, then unloaded the groceries to the tune of cats warbling threats at one another.  Our one stray yellow cat twinned, and is now two yellow cats.  The second one is a bit bigger, longer haired and a richer gold color, and has a white tip on the end of his tail.  Cat 2 is even more leery than Cat 1 and was completely disinclined to come to, "Here, kitty-kitty," so I put out more cat food and left them puffed up, glaring and growling at one another while keeping a weather eye on me.  I have my second load of laundry on the line, one in the dryer, and no signs of water anywhere it shouldn't be, knock on wood!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The cat came back... or at least continues to show up

We have three indoor cats, all spayed females.  Two of them occasionally flirt with the outdoors... if it's warm enough, dry enough, and calm enough, and there are people present.  The third one just hisses at the world from the doorway now and then.  Now that we have out-buildings, barn cats are sounding pretty good.  And as luck would have it, our first one seems to have found us.

On our second to last trip down here we had a dusty yellow cat show up outside.  At first, all we did was hear it.  He/she/it is nothing if not very vocal.  But also very leery.  And hard to spot against the winter-tan grass, which is probably why the coyotes haven't gotten hold of (used generically) him.

Most of the time at first all we'd see would be a blur heading very fast in the other direction trailing muttery yowls. 

No idea if he was a drop off, or if he just roamed down from a neighbor's placeIt would be a bit of a hike for short legs, but doable. In any case, he's obviously no stranger to being fed by people.  He certainly knows how to holler for his supper!  Luckily, since the cats came down that trip I at least had cat food I could put out along with a big bowl of water.  We definitely don't need another indoor cat, although that doesn't seem to be a danger.  But I was hopeful I could at least convince him to hang around and deter the rodent-size wildlife outside. 

So far so good.  He's getting a bit braver about staying in sight when we're outside, and yesterday when I went out to fill his dish he only ran off about ten feet before he flopped over sideways and rolled around in the dirt. Since he seems to be staying around I picked up some "outdoor" cat food so that he's not getting the expensive stuff we get thanks to one of the indoor ladies' sensitive stomach.  He's spending nights in the garage - previous residents cut a gap in the door so that the cats could go in and out, and after I say him coming out of there mornings, I fixed him a spot to curl up. We'll give him another week or so to get settled, then see if we can't live trap him and get him in for shots, etc.

In other news, still no internet - computer time and showers are still courtesy of our my in-laws, bless them - but we did get the hot water heater (which is worth a post of its own, let me tell you) hooked up tonight, and the phone is working.  Progress.

I managed a short ride on Sunny bareback the other night, but no substantial pony-time since the Great Escape.  Sigh...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Great Escape

Saturday was absolutely gorgeous.  I'd baked cookies the night before to drop by our new neighbors, T's cousins who had so nicely moved in/filled the stock tank for the ponies.  Their place is up the road and around the corner on the next mile, and since it was such a beautiful day we decided to ride up.

Sunny and Rufus stepped out nicely, ears pricked but walking along smoothly.  I could hear the whinnies from behind us.  We'd made it about 3/4 of the way to the corner to the tune of whee-ee-ee. T kept saying, "They're fine, just keep going."  Until I looked back to see two horses galloping up the road after us.

Of course, they didn't stop when they got to us - they kept going.  I called, and we both headed back toward home, thinking that if they spotted Rufus and Sunny leaving them they'd turn, but no luck.  So I headed on back to the house for halters, and T followed them down the road.

I've never been so grateful for the lack of traffic!   Checking over my shoulder as I reached our driveway I was thrilled to see them dive into an open gate where another neighbor (yet another cousin) had just moved his cows out.  Whew!!  T stopped at the gate with Rufus, and I trucked on up the drive with Sunny crossing mental fingers that they'd stay put.

Unfortunately, by the time I'd collected halters and gotten myself pointed down the road again, the escapees had made a circuit of the filed, dived out the gate past T, and were high-stepping it the opposite direction.  At the crossroad they headed west briefly, then spun back around and thundered off to the east out of sight down the hill.  T stopped Rufus at the intersection to wait for me.

I could hear a car coming from the way the horses had headed, and thank God, I could hear it slow down.  Then accelerate again.  An old white SUV with a couple of orange-clad hunters appeared over the crest of the hill... trailed at a pretty good clip by our two runaways.  The windows were down, and T said afterwards that he could hear the woman laughing and yelling from the passenger seat, "They're gaining on us, go faster!" as they passed him.

At the turn, the SUV went north and the horses turned south toward me.   I stopped, broadsided Sunny in the road, stretched my arms out, and said, "Whoa-o," and this time it worked.  As T brought Rufus up, slowly, so as not to send them flying down the road again, I haltered a puffing Thunder, handed him off to T, and then collared Amyra.

They were both sweaty and hot, but otherwise fine.  We ponied them home, by which point they were pretty well done blowing and mostly dry.  Then everybody got to stand tied while we checked the fence and made repairs.  Next time they get to guard the trailer while we're gone.

The cousin - the one with the cow pasture the pair made their initial detour into - stopped by the next day.  Apparently he has a game camera set up back by the trees so that he can a) check for deer, and b) keep track of anyone poaching on his property.  The camera snapped three pictures: his son-in-law setting it up, him checking it, and right in the middle a very large, whiskery horse nose.

I'm sure one day I will look back and laugh... but probably not.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Moving Day

No, I haven't fallen off the map - just moved south a couple states.  We got the last of the household stuff packed in our trailer last Thursday, then drove it out to J's and parked it.  The plan:  he'd bring our trailer down, and we'd load the horses, horse stuff, hay, etc. in his trailer (which is bigger) and pull it down.

Rufus and T head for the trailer

J had cleaned out the trailer, but there was still a bit of splat-art-by-cow decorating the walls.

Unsuspecting victims
We had everything loaded, good-byes said at Eric's and at the farm, and were on the road by 11:09 a.m.  The ponies, bless their hearts, all hopped right in.  And the weather cooperated by being above freezing when we left and getting progressively warmer the further south we got.
We stopped for short breaks every hour or so when we needed a stop for fuel, coffee, or a bathroom, and they seemed to be riding comfortably when we checked on them.  Traffic was light, and after the rest of the trips we'd managed to scope out the smoothest route.

We pulled into the yard in the dark at 6:30 p.m.  Since there's no light at the barn yet, just up by the house, that's were we unloaded.  A chance to drink - which they mostly ignored in favor of peering around at everything - and then we left them at the trailer while we grabbed a quick bite.  (T's mom met us out there with a hot supper, bless her!)

We'd planned to fill a couple of big tubs for water and get hay out for them in the corral for the night, but when we got down to the corral we discovered T's cousin had stopped by, cleared a bunch more weeds, reset the panels, hauled out his cattle chute and hauled in a big oblong water tank - and filled it - for us.  (T's cousin has some of the ground rented, and his cattle overwinter across the fence and water using the same hydrant - they use the corrals for loading the cattle out in the spring.)

It was a lovely surprise, and I owe them some baked goods ASAP!  We spread a couple leaves of hay per horse out in four different piles, doublechecked the gates, and then walked the horses down.  They checked out their new digs, tested the water, and then dug in.  Sunny was, of course, his contrary self moving the other three from pile to pile until he'd located the one that met with his approval.  I warned him, if he kicked at or bit anybody, his butt was going back in the trailer for the night!  

We got a few things unloaded, checking on the horses periodically - they were fine - and then called it a night.

The next morning my eyes popped open at 4:30.  Okay, so the cat that landed in my middle crying to be fed probably had something to do with it.  But I had horses to check!  All was quiet - at the corral, Thunder was lying down, and the others were dozing, hips cocked.  We divided another half-bale of hay for them to munch on until daylight.  I wanted to check fences and make sure everything was good to go before we turned them out.

After coffee, T made a run to the dump, and by the time he was back I'd had a chance to walk the fence and check the current to make sure the electric was up. 

Of course they ran around like idiots at first, but it didn't take too long before they'd settled down to the serious business of eating, interspersed with more exploring.  Since none of them have been on grass for a while, we didn't leave them out for too long.

Naps all around

They seem to be settling in pretty well.  It's sure wonderful to be able to look out the kitchen window and see them!

Friday, November 16, 2012

All Vetted

I had our trailer all cleaned out yesterday before we confirmed the vet appointment and I realized we'd need it this morning.  So I figured I'd be out there with the bucket, shovel and hose again this afternoon, because the first thing the four-foots do when they get in is christen the trailer - lol!  But as it turned out the trailer the guys used to haul the horses out west was still sitting out at J's.  It needed to be dropped back off at M's place which is right over near Eric's where we were picking up Amyra and Thunder, so new plan. 

Two birds with one stone, we'd drive out to J's and hook up to M's trailer, head to the farm and collect Sunny and Rufus, then to Eric's for Amyra and Thunder, and then to the vet's. 

The trailer's a 24" stock, longer, but not quite as tall as ours, and with no front tack, but nice a roomy especially for not-too-long ponies like ours.  Sunny and Rufus could both stand crosswise without bending their necks.

Four on board
Thunder started snorting and bobbing his head at me when I got to his stall.  He seemed happy to see me, but happier to be outside as we walked to the trailer.  Eric says once he got past the whole nervous anxiety thing, he's been lovely to work with.  He's still watchful and kind of wary in the barn aisle - eight years of outside living doesn't make adapting to a stalled environment easy, even when the stall is spacious and the barn is nice and light. 

We decided to load Amyra, the lone mare, in last since if someone was going to kick it chances favored her - or Sunny and he was already in the spot next to the mid-gate - getting annoyed at Thunder for sniffing at her. Thunder took a minute to sniff the strange trailer, then stepped on like a champ, but Amyra out-did him, bailing right in like she's been loading daily for years instead of once - today - in the past year.

At the vet's we pulled up in the not-too-terribly-wide alley between the clinic and the storage units next door.  The clinic's located on a busy road, and to make things even more interesting, the power company is retrenching or something equally loud requiring heavy equipment next to the road in front.  So no shortage of noise and traffic, it's just about reached freezing, and the wind is picking up by the minute.  Fun, fun, fun.

But in spite of our running a bit late, they were able to get to us right away, so we got everybody unloaded and lined up in a row of sacrificial victims along the trailer.

Rufus, Sunny's ears, &Thunder's back
(Amyra's beyond Thunder)
 Rufus and Sunny didn't flinch at getting poked, and Amyra stood like a rock for her draw and her rabies shot.  Thunder was good too, for him.  I requested the female vet for his sake - not great with strange men - and he'd been stellar for her when she did his rabies shot earlier this year.

He wasn't quite as copacetic this time, but we accomplished his draw with only one pull back, and it didn't involve the needle.  He actually spooked at the clipboard when she was drawing in his markings for the health papers.  I untied him for the draw, and although he danced a few steps when the needle went in, he stood for the draw itself just fine. 

In around half an hour, including time to chat, we were loading them back up again - this time in reverse order.  Thunder and Amyra in first and then Rufus and Sunny.  We dropped the last ones in off at the farm 

"Really, that's all you wanted us for?"
and then swung back out to Eric's to return Amyra and Thunder.  I was really glad to get the trailer left off at M's and head home - that wind is getting nasty!

We'll have the blood test results back in a couple of days, and one more moving hurdle ticked off the list.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Home again, home again

The guys all finally rolled in after dark last night - I think 5 days of deer camp was... maybe too much of a good thing?  At any rate, they unloaded 10 deer in our garage for the night while I patted pony noses through the trailer slats

T regaled me with hunting stories while I (again) waited impatiently for the Rufus report.  Finally, after hearing how they'd walked here, driven there, hiked up this hill and down that bluff, I asked, had they ridden at all?

Between the snow and icy build-up, they ended up riding only one morning.  And T forgot the camera.  Sigh...  Rufus did just fine, though.

Since it was so late when they got home, we decided it would be easier all the way around to collect Sunny and Rufus this morning.   All eight four-foots were lined up along the back of the barn enjoying the sunshiney heat reflection.  Sunny had parked himself a good 10' away from the closest horse and declined to brave the line-up to come greet me.  He did whinny, though. 

Needless to say, neither he nor Rufus put up much fuss about leaving.

Loading Rufus
 As soon as I had his halter off, Sunny headed over for a long drink and then it was straight to the spilled corn by the grain bin.  (Rufus didn't bother getting a drink first.)

"It's good to be home!"

No squabbling over spilled grain now :)

T and his buck
It really is good to have them (all) back home safe and sound.  We'll collect them again in the morning, head over and pick up Amyra and Thunder, and they'll all get a trip to the vet's for a Coggins test and a rabies shot for Amyra.  The other three all got theirs this spring.  The results should be back in a couple of days, and then it will just be a matter of setting a date for their big trip.