Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In which summertime is hot and dry, and we make pickles (and "ketchup")

Today's post is completely unfocused--we'll call it a "ketchup" post, 
because there's lots of stuff to catch up on.

Farmers always want to talk about the weather, and this year, especially.  So hot and dry!

The garden sprinklers were on timers set to run for a hour
every other day for the last month! For context:  the summer started with
"Where ARE the sprinklers?  Didn't we have some around here a few years ago?"

We finally had real rain a few days ago--several hours of fast, fat raindrops.

We don't irrigate the pasture, and the grass has been crackling dry

It isn't nearly enough precipitation to boost us back to our usual Swampish levels, but it helped a lot to bring down the fire danger.  So that's good.

The garden is growing like crazy, though.  Anybody wanna zucchini?

"Zucchinis make us grow up big and strong!"
photo by M. Bretherton
Speaking of growing, the turkeys are ginormous this year.

Since turkeys don't start add fat until 22 weeks, we need to keep them going until mid-October--

Foxie Loxie watches over "his" turkeys  

I truly hope they will fit in the oven at Thanksgiving!  Foxie has offered to exercise them for us, but I'm pretty sure that goading them into premature death by cardiac failure will not help.

Foxie thinks everyone should play with him.

What else is happening? 

Madeline came to visit!  She's on summer break from her teaching job in Texas.

(my cute hate, my cute dog, my cute girly)

Patty borked her shoulder a few weeks ago (somebody else's horse did it! not mine!  not hers!) and wasn't quite sure how to cope with the 16 pounds of cherries that she had procured on the way home from Renegade Rendezvous..

Covered in cherry blood.
We pickled all those cherries...err, except the cherries we ate.

The Usual Suspects came to the rescue and had a pickle party!

 Jim and I went to the annual Powellswood Storytelling Festival.

Antonio Rocha tells a story from Brazil

He ran the sound, I ran the stage.  We do this every year, and it's always fun and inspiring.

In between storytelling sets, I wandered the Garden
with my camera.

I've been writing a bunch (just not on this blog).  Look for my articles in fall and winter issues of Northwest Horse Source:  the September issue will have a piece about equestrians and pain (and hip replacement).  Then (I'm not sure what month), an article about lost horses,

Local endurance rider Katie Glowaski lost a horse near the
trailhead where the Suspects usually ride.  I interviewed her
 after Normandy was found, and added my own insight on the topic.
and how to find them again.  Late in the winter will be an article about biothane.

I've got another potential writing gig upcoming, but I'm going to hush-hush those details for a little while until things are more concrete.  (but very excited!!!)

There have been parties and visitors.

Instead of gathering around a campfire, we gather around the
Boat of Cold Water.  Connor thinks this is the Best Thing Ever.

lytha from the Horse Crazy American in Germany blog came to visit
with her family.

Fiddle loves showing off her tricks for visitors.

And, of course, I've been riding.

Fiddle is still in good weight despite lots of training and competition miles.
We are "coasting" right now--not conditioning anymore, just working enough
to keep everything in good order.

During the hot weather, riding in the river is always a good idea!

We have another 50-miler coming up on Saturday.

The Best View of the World.
Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In which the camera wanders around the farm to view the gardens

Oh, how far the garden has come since early days on the Farm!

The "old" aka original garden, est. 2009.  Sunflowers, squashes, potatoes, carrots.
The peas and radishes are done now, and those beds are getting run over by
enthusiastic squash vines.

The garden this year is a brag-able part of the landscape.  Our very warm, dry Spring has led to a hot dry Summer--unusual for the Swamp, and perfect for the vegetables.

The "new" garden, est. 2014:  beans, tomatoes and a few potatoes.
We are very fortunate to have a deep, productive well to keep everything watered.

The lack of snow pack in our mountains last winter was worrying to local farmers.  The lack of rain this spring has got some folks really frantic.  Our trails were closed last week during a very hot spell, but with a few spits of precipitation and some lower temps, things are open again.

Patty taught us that radish seed pods, aka the "rat tails," are delicious.
She pickles them.  I mostly eat them raw, right off the bush.

Still, we look at the sky every morning, hoping for rain.  So far, not much.

Bean blossoms.
We will be harvesting beans in a few days--our earliest harvest ever.

The gardens are putting all that heat and light to good use.

We may actually harvest tomatoes this year,
instead of our usual crop of black slime.

We leave room for serendipity in the vegetable patch.  If something "volunteers" and it isn't too much in the way, we plant around it and let it grow.

This volunteer squash plant sprouted in the carrot bed...
all the squashes on it  are yellow and green like this!

As always, we have a robust crop of pigweed, an obnoxiously sturdy weed that shoots up overnight.

Pigweed is good for something.  Who knew?

Monica discovered that our pigweed is actually edible (by people as well as by pigs):  it's a relative of spinach, and the leaves are good served steamed or raw in a green salad.  I was pleased to learn that pigweed is excellent poultry fodder as well.  Stay tuned for a poultry post, coming soon.

Zucchini isn't exactly a weed.

The Z Apocalypse is nigh
I only planted three zuke plants this year, but as usual, they are growing so enthusiastically that I'm hauling buckets of zucchini to work every week to distribute among my unsuspecting delightful library patrons.


future pickles!

the cucumbers are tiny, but growing fast.  And the butternut squashes are way ahead of schedule,

Baby butternut squashes

which is good--we often have to harvest not-quite-ripe butternuts in late September, because they don't always get fully grown before the first frost.

It's almost time to stop weeding the old garden entirely (except for periodic harvests of pigweed for the birds) because soon

Honk!  Honk!  Make way!  Giant Pumpkins coming through!
 the Giant Pumpkins will run over everything in the garden...and part of the lawn.

Weeds will mostly die back once they are shaded by pumpkin leaves the size of truck tires, and it's hard to get into the garden without stepping on vines,

Another glorious evening in the garden

so some day soon I will give up pulling weeds (except as a treat for the birds), and just watch the whole thing explode like a bright green sun gone nova.

And that is Good.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

In which the Renegade ride is not a simple thing for us to do

Crossing the finish line at Renegade Rendezvous with a happy healthy horse 
(and a friend) isn't a task for those who crave instant gratification.

Duana and Hana joined Fiddle and me at the finish line--
the first time in 20+ years of friendship that we've
done a competition together!

When Jim and I met ride managers Mike and Gail at the ride site back in May, 

Jim and Mike suss the damage thrown down by helicopter logging

we had a huge task in front of us:

There is a trail under there...somewhere....

repair or re-route more than 50 miles of trails that had been 

trashed by recent logging operations.

A lot of stuff got thrown off the trail by hand

It was a long, hard weekend. 

Ride Managers Gail and Mike Williams

We made a lot of progress.  But we weren't nearly done.

We returned to the ridecamp, 9 days before the Renegade Rendezvous event, loaded with chainsaws, hand tools, trucks and quads and horses.

loppers and gloves

chainsaws and quads

brute strength

Gail and Mike and their two dogs, plus Jim and me and our three dogs, plus Mike and Gail's grandson  Zach and his buddy Will, plus Patty and Henry and Joyce, plus Gail's two horses, plus Fiddle and Ariana.

First we cleared trails, then we marked them.

trail directions, and the beginning of a song

extra points for fashion <--we didn't get any

Often, we were route-finding, clearing, and marking trails all at the same time.

And it was HOT.

Luna taught the other floofs how to drink from a water bottle

No, really.  It was HOT.


We've never had such a huge trail crew for this ride--and we needed everybody, all week, to get things done.  We also had help from local riders like Marty and Janin and a few others.  

a detour around some deeply eroded trail took most of a morning

Even the guy hired by the Forest Service to decommission roads got sucked in to assist.

Straw bales, a fire truck, and a tarp.  You know where we're going with this.

Renegade is the most beautiful ride in our region.  It's also the most complicated to put together. 

After nearly 10 years of assisting ride management, I can usually find my way around the main trails...at least, I can find my way if the logging opps don't move all the furniture around.

There's a landmark in here...somewhere...

As long as there are a few landmarks remaining, Fiddle and I can find our way home.  

After all these years, we have some short-hand landmarks:  "the trail we made"
doesn't make any sense to most folks, but Madeline, Jill, Jim, Gail, Mike and I
know where that spot is in relation to all the rest of that section.

We worked hard every morning until the temps got too high.  Then we had a siesta mid-day


really zonked

before returning to trail work in the evenings.

back to work!

We also played around, of course.

Foxie taught the other floofs about the joys of wet feet.
Luna remains dubious.

Patty and I are big believers in wet feet.  See the straw bales!

Late in the week, riders started rolling into camp.  

The Usual Suspects arrived on Wednesday evening--Duana's first long
road trip with her rig!

It's hard to explain how it feels to the crew when the riders show up.

We're glad to see them...but they are so clean.  And so energetic.

I was a music geek in school, so it seems natural to me to compare the experience in camp to the experience of hearing "Stars and Stripes Forever."

We have an intro section, which is getting everything to camp.

Then the first and second strain, which is a huge team effort of trail clearing 
and humping tools around the mountain.

Suddenly, the third strain (commonly called the "dogfight") shows up, 
with a lot of interesting but alien energy.

By the final strain, we are all working together to get those horses across the finish line.

It takes real artistry to gracefully transition between the initial strains and the dogfight.  But we do it, every year.

Luna is the most graceful of us.

There were a few luxuries in camp this year.

Suzie Griffin brought her massage table--and FREE MASSAGES
for Ride Management and staff!  Wahooo!

We also had a bathroom.
We normally "rough it" in the woods until the porta-potties
are delivered just before riders arrive.  But this year,
Jim set up a restroom in the back of the trailer, complete
with bucket toilet and wash station.  

But, of course, we can't have a whole week without mishaps.  This year it wasn't the weather or my skeleton that went pear shaped.  It was Ariana!

Sugar bandage and bute...uh-oh.

Our best guess is that she was a little colicky during the night, and while rolling, she got hung up in the paddock.

It looks worse than it is.  But it's not great.

She'll be fine.  But, due to the scrapes on her legs (and the bute we administered for the bellyache), she didn't get to compete in the rides.  Bummer.

Hana was also not accident-free.  She spun a shoe twice--once at home, the day of departure, 

Du stopped at the farrier's house to get the shoe put back!

and then another time in camp.

Uber-farrier Sue Summers diagnoses the problem, and
recommends some solutions for Hana's feet.

Speaking of the rides, we had them.

A 25-miler on Friday.
Dragon = excellent form  Me = too much chair seat
But we had fun!  photo by M. Bretherton

Fifty miles on Saturday.

They are going to be so surprised when they
see us riding together!

photo by M. Bretherton

Beautiful trails

Uphill, through the doldrums.  Duana hopped off and walked.
I didn't.  The ground is too uneven for my still-wonky joints.

Hana gets checked by the vet--all good!

Overlooking the valleys

Up the hill...and back down again.

Finally:  the finish line.
Fiddle completed 75 miles in 2 days,
despite losing a shoe on Day 2.
photo by M. Bretherton

Unfortunately, Hana was slightly "off" at the finish line vet check.
Even the expert help of Dennis Summers didn't help--
the long, hard trail won that round, despite Duana's good care.

I can't emphasize this enough:  this trail is hard.  

Dennis and Sue Summers, who win the ride frequently, took more than 7.5 hours to finish it this year because of the extra demands of the heat.  Even in a normal weather year, the trail is challenging with tons of ascending and descending routes, tricky footing, and elk to eat the trail markers.  

If you want an easy ride, this ain't it.

If you want a beautiful, fabulous ride that will make you work as hard as your hard-working pony...well, here ya go.

It's Good.  

It's very, very GOOD.