Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recipe: Barbecue Chicken Breast w/ Jalapeno Beans

We actually got a couple of inches of snow today!  It started about 1 PM as nearly invisible flakes, and by 4 o'clock it was snowing to beat the band.  I made it to the dump with another load of assorted nail-studded boards and half a truckbed of "it's biodegradable, so we can just leave it sit in a mound by the barn" bale wrap somebody didn't dispose of properly. Grrrr! Along with a few more odds and ends of things, I got another 420 lbs dropped off.

After a stop by the library and the grocery store, with the snow picking up, I headed home for evening chores pondering what to make for supper.  Personally I love soup, and the slow cooker has had a workout these past few weeks, but I know T prefers to cut something with a fork at least a couple time a week so....

I had some chicken defrosting, but not a clue what I was going to do with it.  Our usual fallback meal is stir fry, but I wasn't in the mood.  After some browsing around, I decided to experiment. T says this is definitely repeatable, so I figured I'd share.

Barbecue Chicken Breast w/ Jalapeno Beans

1T. oil
3 small/med sized onions
2 chicken breasts
1/2 container honey mustard barbecue sauce (or to taste)
5 or 6 (more or less if you like spicy or not) slices of pickled jalapeno
1 can of Great Northern beans - do not drain

Add oil to a large skillet.  Slice onions and saute with jalapenos over low heat until translucent.  Adjust heat to medium, wait until pan is hot and add chicken breasts.  Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides (3-5 minutes) and onions have caramelized.  Reduce heat to low.  Add barbecue sauce and beans.  Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender (at least 30 minutes) - the longer it cooks, the better the flavors marry.

Serves two, but would easily stretch to three or four with the addition of a couple more chicken breasts and another can of beans.

I served it with homemade bread and butter for mopping up the gravy, and a tossed salad.  Sorry, no picture.  The steam from the pan kept fogging the camera lens and I finally gave up.  I guess I could have taken one of my plate, but by the time it was on the table I was too hungry to be thinking about photography! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday, Monday

This morning we had fog.  The peasoup kind, which made it a good day for burning papers but not particularly much fun for anything else.  The ponies were damp.  Sunny was not amused, especially when I made him wait for his breakfast while I took pictures.  (I borrowed T's camera short-term.  It's waterproof & supposedly really durable which is good, but the recovery time is really slow and it's heavy.  Plus, if I break it I'll never hear the end of it.)
Speaking of pictures, got my KS drivers license (finally) in the mail last week - in their continuing efforts to save money, KS like many other states is economizing by closing stuff.

A lot of the small towns where you used to be able to get a new license at the courthouse aren't able to issue them anymore, or can only process renewals.  We drove about 30 miles north to the closest office that could issue new licenses - 1 day a week - got there at 5 minutes to 4 PM (posted hours said Thurs.-Fri., 8 AM-5:30 PM) just as  the one worker there was preparing to lock the door.  The usual lady was sick, and her replacement had driven in from an hour and a half away.  She locked the door before she started processing...  Once we went through the whole question/answer, picture, eye exam process she handed us a paper receipt printed with our new license picture and vital stats.  Our real licenses would arrive in the mail in 3-6 weeks.  Sigh...

Anyway, I finally got rid of the awful - I looked drugged - license photo from SD, and on the b/w receipt my KS pic looked pretty good.  Of course, the color photo on the actual license is not nearly as flattering, but at least I don't look high.  But I had to laugh last night when it dawned on me:  I had the SD pic taken just after I started letting my hair grow, so it showed a chin length bob.  In my KS pic, my hair's long and braided.  And yesterday I had it cut off.  It's chin-length again.

Hair-do courtesy of horse chores
It was down past the middle of my back.  I like it long, but I've been wanting to do the Locks of Love thing for a while so... My head feels really light.

I worked on inside stuff until the fog finally cleared this afternoon, at which point it warmed up and the horses took naps in the sun.  I ran Saturday's load to the dump.  580 lbs worth of decades of post-project wood scraps - we would have burned it, but most of it was studded with nails.   By the time I got that out of the way it was time to start supper and do afternoon chores.  The days sure go by quick!  I'm so glad we're past the shortest day and daylight's on the uptick again, even if it is only a few minutes a day.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Redneck Drag

I've been waiting for a nice warm day to get the orchard dragged, and today it was nearly 55' and really windy, so that worked.  T charged the battery on the lawn tractor and we hooked up the "drag" - it's an old, heavy, spring bedframe,  This one was taking up space in the (newly cleaned out!) chicken house, and was destined for the recycling pile, but re-purposed and chained to the back of the tractor, it works a treat.

The ponies were initially interested, but went back to snoozing pretty quick.  Farm equipment - no matter how oddly shaped - is old hat.

We traded off driving; whoever wasn't circling cleaned up more little trees under the pecan tree.  I couldn't let T have all the fun!  Between us, we got all of the trees small enough to trim off with the pruning shears, leaving only a handful that will need cutting off with the chainsaw.  And the pasture looks MUCH better.

All the divots are smoothed down, the piles are broken up, and if it rains tonight like it's supposed to that would be even better.  Next on the agenda is grass seed.

We also filled up the big pickup with a load for the dump, and the Ranger with a(nother) load of metal for the recycle yard. The former we pay to take, the later they pay us to bring.  So far we're not coming out ahead, unfortunately.  Among the metal that didn't get loaded is this old mail box.

JAN 22 1903
Of course, it has a bullet hole through it, but only one - and it's kind of neat.  Not sure what we'll do with it, but it looks darn good for 110 years (and 4 days) old, doesn't it?

Cold Mornings

The indoor cats' days start early.  Their mental alarm starts going off about 4:30 if not earlier.  Mabel bounces around at our feet for a while before moving up to tromp solidly across our heads.  No snooze alarm on her, but if she doesn't get any response she might settle for 5 minutes or so on a shoulder before resuming her march.  

Nu-Nu's approach is more subtle.  She parks herself on the door side of the bed next to T and stares fixedly at him.  The slightest twitch of a hand or a brow spurs a plaintive meow.  "I'm starving to death here."

Snowball doesn't bother with harassment.  She lurks on top of the living room chair closest to the food dishes, soundless, a nearly invisible darker spot in the dark room.  She's going to get there first, you see. 

Once feet finally hit the floor around five, the path to the kitchen is littered with swiftly moving anxious bodies.  Far more than two, or even three, but that's probably just morning vision. And heaven help the human that hits the bathroom first - pit stops and extraneous stuff like teeth brushing are NOT approved activities and should take second seat to cat necessities.

Thankfully, peace descends once the rattle and crunch has started.  Who ever is first out of the bathroom has coffee chuckling to itself and cups out for a much needed hit of caffeine.  It's still dark and not much later when T leaves.  By this point the cats have retired to decorate chair backs, the bed or sprawl in front of the stove like furry rugs.  I settle to enjoy the last of my coffee, pay bills, catch up email, on FB and blog posts, or Google whatever random oddities came up on morning conversation.  Non-spinning dryers, mower cables, vintage Western Flyer scooter frames, and window clings this morning. 

I have about an hour before I need to start layering on socks and woolie underthings.  We don't have a light on the barn yet, so I wait until the sun's started to come up before outside chores commence.  Then it's knee socks and jeans and stamping feet into boots cool from a night in the entryway.  Neck gaiter, earband, etc., and a lot of thankfulness that I'm not wriggling my way into coveralls to head out into -'s Fahrenheit.

The front screen door squeaks and bangs, and Sunny hollers at me as soon as he hears it.  He's as impatient as the indoor cats.  And I'm sure he'd happily tromp across the bed too, if it meant he'd get faster service.  The outdoor cats get fed first, though.  I pry the cold bungee strap securing the bin off and dip out a bowl full of food for Cat 2 and 3.  They've commandeered the garage, and most mornings are waiting a whatever their idea of a safe distance has fluctuated to.  They won't come close enough to eat until I've walked off, but they're getting bolder.

Today I fumble with refilling the coffee can of kibble to carry down for Cat 1 in the granary before I close the bin back up.  Then I head on down the hill to Sunny's impatient encouragement.  Getting the granary door to slide back on its track is a job for both hands.  I cram the can under one arm and drag it back ignoring protesting shrieks.  Cat 1 pops out of his box and hops down to strop himself madly around my ankles.  He's stopped yelling excitedly at me every morning, but he bumps his head and sides against my gloved hands as I bend over to shake cat food into his dish.  Regular feedings mean he's not as desperately hungry as he was, but he'll still linger at his dish for a few minutes, making walking to the corral a safer proposition for both of us.

The Rubbermaid garbage can that serves as my rodent-proof (and cat-protected) feed bin has another tarp strap for me to deal with, reluctant to give up its cold-tightened grip, but eventually I manage to get enough slack to unhook it.  I scoop out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 full 2-cup measures of grain.  T picked up an oat/ground corn mix at the Co-op.  It's chaffier than I'd like, but the horses scarf it down enthusiastically.

Amyra waits in the corral, and the boys are lined up along the section of fence in the much-abbreviated orchard pasture.  They're all whickering at me now and I scan for any nighttime damage as I head in their direction.  Experience proves it's best if Sunny gets his grain first, and once I'm moving toward the corral he leads the other three around the barn to meet me at his spot.  Nose almost but not quite bumping my shoulder, he waits while I dip his portion out.  Amyra and Thunder know better than to push up to try to share.  He knows better than to threaten them with more than laid back ears and cranky face while I'm standing there, but that's enough to keep them waiting at a respectful distance.

Amyra gets her share next, near the hay feeder.  She'll share, usually, with Thunder for the first few bites, so leaving the two of them taking turns at her spot, I head for the backside of the barn and what has become Rufus's.  He backs and fills in front of me - his pan tends to get moved around more than the others and needs to be flipped upright more often than not.  I dip his grain out, making sure he gets a well-rounded scoop and a bit more.  I rub his neck for a few seconds, then head back to dump Thunder's allotment out.  By this point he's generally heading for his place, content with having snagged a few mouthfuls of Amyra's portion.

I still have some grain though, so I divide what's left hitting Sunny's spot first, then Amyra, and finally tipping the last out for Thunder, scanning the barn interior on my way past to see if they've used it overnight.  They munch while I slip out the gate.  Once Sunny's done, he'll circle around, moving Amyra and Thunder to make sure he's not missing anything, before heading around the barn to move Rufus and clean up any crumbs there.

By this point, I've started the morning wrestle with the round bale.  Parked on end, the hay just peels off in great sheefs; this one got dropped on its side and it's not nearly as cooperative.  But it is good exercise.  I alternately pry and pitch forkfuls of hay until the big feed bunk is full and drop a couple across the fence behind the barn, too - Sunny, Amyra and Thunder will share at the bunk, but Rufus is persona non grata when the three of them are eating together, so I tip a couple forkfuls off for him either inside, behind, or next to the barn as well, depending on wind direction.

Cat 1 has polished off enough crunchy bits to come out to join me.  It makes walking a challenge, but burdened with the hay-loaded fork, he just has to watch out for me.  He's learning.  I haven't squashed him thus far.

Once hay distribution is complete, I collect the grain lid and scoop and head back into the granary to snap the lid on and re-secure the strap.  Cat 1 hunkers down over his dish again, polishing off the remainder of his breakfast.  It's too cold yet to top off the water tank - the hydrant prefers afternoons - and my fingers are numb from the chill of the pitchfork handle seeping through my gloves.  The barn cleaning, assuming it's necessary, will wait until later as well.  For now, it's time to head back inside for more coffee and some much needed Kleenex.   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life in a Flyover State

Leaving T at the tiny regional airfield last month started me thinking.  Except for a short break for college, most of my life has been spent in places where the closest airport is smaller than the average Wal-Mart.  After high school I opted to leave Michigan behind and head several states east for college.  Getting home for Christmas usually meant someone got to pick me up in Green Bay, WI, a 3+ hour drive away.  But you couldn't call where I grew up flyover country exactly.  Mostly because we weren't even in the flyover zone; if we spotted a plane overhead it was the DNR scoping for poachers or pot growers and the odd bi-plane or classic areoplane heading for Oshkosh, WI's annual fly-in.

When I moved to SD, the hour drive to Sioux Falls where a medium-size jet could actually land didn't seem too bad, although economy-wise I tried to fly out of Omaha - never have figured out why flights are routinely at least $200 cheaper down there; the airport's not that much bigger, and the flights still went into Minneapolis, mostly. 

With a county population density approximating 6 two-footed mammals per square mile (if the cows ever decide to rebel, we're gonna be toast) it didn't exactly shock me to learn that major airports in this part of Kansas are non-existent.  But planes... well, now I know (at least one reason) why they call it flyover country.  It's not uncommon to look up on a clear day and spot as many as eight or nine big jets dragging con trails across the sky, and a few more old tracks pluming out besides.

Denver's new airport's pretty much due west, and Kansas City sits roughly southeast, which accounts for the popularity of our airspace, I guess.   Neither of them are close though, so there's relatively little noise attached to the air pollution.  But it's a good thing we're accustomed to a lengthy drive pre-flight - if T's not on orders for the army (they book his flights out of even tiny regional airports - which in SD still meant a 150 miles plus round-trip), we'll be making the 5 hour drive to Kansas City or Denver.

Along with the ready availability of air transportation, we also left behind pretty much all forms of public transportation - unless you count the local ambulance, which knock-on-wood we won't require out here any time soon. And I suspect T and I may have lowered, albeit incrementally, the average age.  People are friendly (and curious).  Drivers in oncoming cars are more apt to wave than not.  I mostly don't see any cars when I walk, but of the few I do see 99% of drivers wave, and I've had a couple slow down on colder days to make sure I'm walking on purpose.

And we've already been invited over for dinner, received a few house-warming gifts, and more people "just thought we'd drop by" than we ever did in SD.  Okay, so the majority of offerings originated with cousins - I swear T's related to half the county and he or one of his siblings went to school with, dated, or worked for the other half, but still....  I've never minded being anonymous, but it's kind of nice to be welcomed.  Although I suspect when I finally do get to town with un-frizzy hair, clean clothes and make-up on rather than grubbies and a thick coating of grime, no one I've been introduced to is going to recognize me - lol!

Among the neighbors who've dropped by is the owner of two horses that inhabit the pasture at the southeast corner of the crossroads just to our south. (An old retired grey mare with creaky breathing, and a younger sorrel gelding his daughter was using for a barrel horse until she got too busy with the rest of her life.)  The gelding, T was informed, needs riding.  He volunteered me.  Um, really?  Because I have so much time to ride the four we have?  Probably not gonna happen any time soon. 

At work and out and about, T's been fielding questions about moving back.  People are happy for us, but curious - that's more polite than calling them nosy, right?  A frequent question is, "But how is your wife liking it?"  His usual response, "Couldn't pry her off the farm with a stick."  Or, "She can see her horses out the window, so she's happy."   Both true.  Scary how well he knows me.  I have the horses, I found the public library, we have hot water, heat, and the internet.  I'm happy.

I love my new view!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm so proud!

I'm not complaining about the cold - not after looking at the temps our neighboring states to the north are "enjoying" these past few days.  It's been chilly here the past few days, but our lows have been higher than the highs up there!

So yesterday it was in the 30's with a pretty good breeze and having been spoiled by last week's mid-50's I spent the morning debating: to walk, or not to walk.  Walking would mean layering... and one direction or the other I was going to have to walk into or across the wind.

But the temps kept creeping incrementally in a warmer direction, and it was on the upward side of 35 by 3 PM when the sun finally poked out from behind the clouds, so I went down, cleaned the barn and being all warm from that, decided to go for my walk.

I walked south and east into the wind, figuring that it was going to cool off by the time I turned around and I wanted to have the wind behind me for the hike back.  I could feel the temp easing back down, but the sun was still nice and warm, and when I turned around I actually unzipped my top layer.  For about a 1/3 of the way, it was great.

Then the wind switched.  And picked up.

Wind is NOT supposed to come from the northeast.  And it was cold, too. My zipper went right back to the top, and I was really happy to turn that last corner toward home, even if it meant walking right into Mother Nature's AC vent.

Which is when I saw them...  The boys - well, two of them - were up on the east creek bank.  They haven't been going into the creek bed since it snowed because a) snow and b) melting.  The footing down has been really slippery.  And as far as I know, other than the first day's excited scramble up the steep slope, none of them have been on top on the other side.  There's a perfectly good path along the creek toward the bridge and back up the other side at a gentle angle, but straight up the hill is SO much quicker.  But Sunny and Rufus figured it out, and there they were.  I'm so proud!

They'd been up there exploring long enough to nibble the bark off of a couple of the baby elm trees and leave poop piles up and down the fence, so they must have headed that direction right about the time I left.

It was closing in on time to pitch their evening hay, so I walked on up to the house to put my chore coat and boots back on, and by the time I got back out Thunder was up on top too.  But I didn't figure they'd stay up there long once they saw me heading down to the barn.  Sure enough, I could hear the mad scramble and lots of thudding headed my way - they get 2 cups of grain each in the mornings, but hope springs eternal that there might be more in the offing at night. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Signs, and the Purple Paint Law

I've often wondered if signs in urban areas carry as many bullet holes as their country cousins.  I'd guess if they do, the homes nearby probably get offers to appear on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or  Cribs about as frequently as ours does... So far, never and counting!

Even back off the gravel since 9/11 and the advent of fire numbers, the intersections have street signs.  Which is a huge improvement from, "Turn at the old Jones, place, go about 3/10ths of a mile, make a left onto the Kelly road, and you'll see a white silo set off the road in some old cottonwoods.  Go three more intersections, you'll pass a feed lot and some tanks.  Turn left at the Dunn place (that Ross's used to farm, but Websters' have leased now and put it in milo, but it got hailed out this year), and it will be on your right back off the road but you should be able to see the barn roof..." 

Stop and yield signs aren't all that common, though.  Not enough traffic to warrant it, I guess.

Kansas Banker's Award
Soil Conservation
No holes in this one.  No one lives on the acreage now, either.  You can still see the bones of an old stone house sitting back in the grove at the back of the field, but they've tilled and planted across where the driveway used to run.

Some variety of "no hunting/trespassing/violators will be prosecuted" signs decorate posts and power line poles up and down the sections.  I'm familiar with those - who isn't?  But the purple paint law was new to me.  Apparently, in Kansas since late 2000 if you paint a post or some easily visible object purple and stick it on your fence or along your fence line, it has the same legal implications as a "No Hunting without written permission" sign.  

I was skeptical at first, but I googled and Kansas isn't alone.  Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Illinois and North Carolina (possibly other states, as well) all have similar purple paint statutes.  Among other reasons, it's harder for vandals, poachers and trespassers to remove fence posts and trees and then claim they didn't know they weren't supposed to be wherever they got caught at.

So in addition to my NO HUNTING signs, I think I'll be investing in some purple paint!

Cat 3

In other news... Cat 3 is getting just a bit braver.  It actually sat outside the hole this morning while I walked back up from feeding the horses.  Of course, I couldn't take a picture... Thank you, Sunny!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Hoss high, pig tight, and bull strong..."

The ponies are annoyed with me.

I cross-fenced the orchard.  The snow has almost entirely melted off, and the grass needs some time to recuperate so... they're now restricted to a narrow strip along one side that leads down to the pass-through to the creekbed.

They spent the last couple days staring longingly over the new fence and loafing by the barn.

I've been thinking a lot about fence lately, mostly because we have a lot of fencing to do.  But also because out walking I pass a lot of it.  Mostly barbwire.  Some of it's horse-high, pig tight and bull strong - the kind Louis L'Amour wrote about in The Rider of Lost Creek (the phrase stuck with me, but I had to go look up which book is was in).

Some of  it's hanging on by a few shreds of rust and the grace of a line of creaky, weathered posts.  Most of it's somewhere in between.

Apart from high and tight or old and disintegrating, it pretty much comes in two varieties: 2-5 wire barbed, and single strand electric.  Farmyards and lots might have continuous pipe fence or panels, but not fields.

Once you get off the paved roads, nice straight, factory-milled posts are a rare commodity.  Hedge posts - weathered, weirdly warped, spindly or thick and knobby with bulbous burls - are cheaper and just as durable. 

They're set to last, too - 15 yards apart, with a wood post every two metal stakes.  A good, tight fence might last 40 years or better.  Here and there you can even find a barely listing line of World War II-vintage metal posts. 

Further south is limestone post country, but I haven't found any within walking distance yet.  

Which reminds me - I met some more neighbors out walking.  The four-footed kind...

They've watched me from across the pasture, but yesterday they finally came over to see what I was up to.  The old grey mare (she really is) was skeptical... two-footed people type critters might mean she'd have to work.   But the gelding was friendly.  

And stout.  He's supposed to be a barrel horse... he certainly has the barrel part covered.  He liked getting scritched enough to trot down the fence after me, but once I hit the corner of the field he took off like a shot back to the bale feeder at the other end of the pasture, the mare trailing behind him. 

I've been itching to ride, but had to settle for giving all four a good brushing tonight and a few minutes each grazing on the narrow patch of green grass by the granary.  I hopped on Sunny really briefly to test the footing, but everything's still squishy and slidey.  Not safe.  The moisture's great to have though, so no complaints.  Well, maybe just tiny ones...

Sunny 2, Cameras 0

The problem with leaving your camera stuck to a post while you do chores?  Sometimes a horse tries to eat it...

Sunny has now accounted for two cameras.  The first one I dropped while riding.  When I got off to pick it up, I wasn't quite quick enough to stop him from pawing it into the dirt.  Result?  Cracked screen so I couldn't tell what mode I was in or what I was taking a picture of.  Camera still worked, but the only thing you could be sure of was if it was on or off.  I really liked that camera, too.

Camera two bit the dust today when I carelessly left it hanging by it's Gorillapod feet on the fence.  I thought it was out of reach.  I came back to Sunny craning his neck to poke at it.  But it was still solidly on the post, so I figured no harm done.  When I turned it on to take a picture of the sunset later, the screen light up white with all sorts of colorful checks and striations, and look-y there, sure enough on closer examination it has teeth marks. 

Again, it still takes pictures, and at least this one has a manual view-finder so I can tell what I'm cutting off, but adjusting settings, turning the flash off or changing modes... will now be done by Messuers Guess and Golly, 'cause psychic I'm not.

Okay, so I've been drooling over the new smaller, higher zoom digital cameras, but destruction by horse was not in the game plan. 

Think he was upset because I hadn't deleted this picture yet?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Making Tracks

And to think I was complaining abut how warm it's been.  Yesterday's high was in the low 20's with a good, stiff northwest wind and weak, hazy sunshine that wasn't doing much to improve the temp.  Since it was too muddy to walk while it was warm, I was determined to get out for a walk regardless of the cold.  And I did. 

In multiple layers topped by puffy vest, scarf, quilt-lined flannel jacket with a hood, ear band and thick gloves.  Winter stylish, for sure - lol!  But if I don't start getting some more exercise soon, my jeans aren't going to fit by spring.

I headed south at the end of the driveway with the wind across my right shoulder.  The road that was an inch deep in slop yesterday was concrete hard.   At least it was that hard until I turned at the first corner and headed west.

Part of my "you're now living in rural KS" lecture from T was a list of local roads to be avoided it it's wet.  This is one of them.  It's dirt, with a goodly percentage of clay mixed in, and when it's wet it's a nasty combination of slippery and sticky.  Needless to say, it's not one of the roads that gets plowed. 

Even at 20' there was enough moisture left for my sneakers to leave prints.  I wasn't the only one.

Pretty sure these are coyote

Cat, maybe?  Much smaller than the coyote prints

Big coyote...

Raccoon, I think
Walking briskly I was warm enough, although my thighs went numb pretty quickly.  It was much better when I finally made it to the next mile marker and turning around put the wind mostly behind me again. 

I had a pocketful of odds and ends of metal bits and a good-size tangle of pieces of barbwire as well by the time I got home.  It's amazing what rattles out of the back of pick-ups and off of tractors.  Might as well pick it up now while I'm on the ground as have to get off a horse to pick it up later on.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Post-Christmas Reindeer and other presents

The ponies had a good Christmas.  They just don't know it yet. 

The horse treats, peppermint, which is season appropriate and always a favorite, and apple I know they're going to enjoy.  The new-to-us polo wraps, safety trailer ties, and the trail bag... I'm going to enjoy using those, tee-hee!  The ponies (well, they have to share with the cats) also received a TSC gift card, which I'm sure they won't mind if I spend for them....

TrailMax 500 Series Front Pocket

This nifty little number will replace my old, battered camera bag for carrying binoculars, Tylenol, chapstick, etc.  Outfitters Supply carries them, along with all sorts of other trail-riders' and camping and packing supplies.  It has an adjustable strap for fastening securely around the pommel of your saddle, two zipper pockets, and even a velcro belt attachment if I decide to wear it on the ground.   I always carry my cell attached to ME, but the camera or binoculars I've never minded attaching to the saddle.

They have a couple of different sizes, and if this one wears well I might look at replacing my even older and more battered canvas saddle bags with something nicer.  Although they still work for what I want, so probably not for a while.

Other than admiring my er, the ponies' gifts and getting them put away, I haven't accomplished much outside the past couple of days.  Yesterday was wet, wet, wet, and while the air is dryer today (translation, I don't have to wade through peasoup fog), it's also on the warm side and what isn't sticky mud is slippery snow melt. 

I fed the horses in and behind the barn this morning and came in wet and windblown.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be colder, and everything should hopefully firm up again. 

The sun finally came out around 3:30, but the puddles are pretty deep.  It made it up to nearly 55'.  I'm not used to winter this far south!  I was scouting online for some new winter boots suitable for barn wear since my old ones are getting kind of thin, but now I'm wondering if I shouldn't be getting new liners for my knee-high rubber boots, instead.

Sunny and Thunder were happy to play reindeer for me - well, for food, anyway.  The other two were having no part of the crazy lady who wanted to stick jingly antlers on them. 
One last present... no-extra human required video. Santa left a JOBY Gorillapod in my stocking!  If you haven't seen them, they're tripods with flexible legs that let you position your camera hands-free and leave it securely perched on a handy post, branch or whatever.  I had its legs wrapped around a pecan tree branch for this.  And even with the wind, it stayed pretty stable... I've done much worse hanging on to the camera.

How 'bout all of you guys?  What did (you)r critters get for Christmas?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We're melting! We're melting!

T requested Ginger-people bars - post-holidays the gingerbread flavored marshmallows were on sale for $.75/bag, so I picked up a bunch.  

Every time I make them the witch's plaint from the Wizard of Oz runs through my head.  "I'm meeeellltting....".

It really is melting here... mornings are crunchy, but my midday the snow has that slippery, wet feeling to it and the driveway is sloppy.

They're predicting a chance of rain for Thursday, and then it's back into the depths of winter for the weekend.  I hope we get more snow!

Yesterday I worked on the chicken house, restacking all of the wood that's been stored inside it outside, raking out packrat nests and moving all the other odds and ends that have accumulated.  It finally got too dusty to breathe, so I moved down to the barn and worked on that.

Down there, I acquired an audience.

What'cha doin?
For now I'm hauling the manure over to dump next to the granary in what will, if all goes as planned, be tilled for a melon/squash patch next spring.

Cat 1 came to see what I was up to via the barn window.  He tried sitting by the muck bucket, but after a couple of frozen horse apples bounced off his head, he moved over into a spot of sunshine by the door and gave himself a bath. 

Thunder came in to see what I was doing, checked out the bucket to be absolutely certain nothing inside was edible, poked the cat to make sure he wasn't hiding anything tasty, then migrated back around the barn to watch me through the window.

You work, I'll watch

Next trip to Orschlens, I'm getting a wheelbarrow!
T and I checked out the loft over the weekend.  It's not as full as he remembered, thank goodness! There's some old alfalfa, and some straw bales along the back side and one wall, and someone stored a bunch of windows along the other wall, but a large portion of the floor is clear.  It's really dusty. 

We'll back a truck in below the loft door and shove the bales out, and I think we can use them for mulch.  The windows... not sure if we can use them to make hot boxes for the garden, or if we'll end up just hauling them to the dump.  Anybody have any nifty ideas for old screens?

Also up there, hanging from the rafters, two complete sets of harness.  I think it's too old and cracked to be saved, unfortunately.  But I'm going to see what I can salvage.

Remnants of the old days

Since the horses have been using the barn to loaf in, today's project is getting the mangers cleaned out.  That way, if it's really nasty I can feed them inside, not on the floor.  And there's more cleaning to be done in the chicken house.

A bunch of cows were shoving one another around their water tank when I finished up in the barn, and when I checked sure enough, the tank was empty.  The guys have only been filling it in the morning so that it doesn't freeze solid at night - no heater, so it saves them from having to break ice all the time.  There's another big tank clear on the other side of the pasture, so some days the cows don't come in to this one at all.

I turned the water on for them and Cat 1 and I hung out on top of the well house cover in the sunshine while they drank. 

Pet me!  Pet me, pet me, pet me!
Definitely not a bad way to spend an afternoon!