Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In which Santa brings us some December Sunshine for our photo shoot

This is the third year in a row we've taken shots at Santa Jim.

Monica is the official photographer for the North Pole (and Haiku Farm)

In 2012, we needed pictures of Santa to promote the newly-published Endurance 101 book for holiday sales.

We didn't even have a real copy of the book yet, so Santa and Jingles had to read a mockup of the book for the pictures...but we did get a completely unexpected sunny day for the shoot.

If you need a copy of the book to put under the tree this year, order fast, and
ask for Priority Shipping--the elves do their best to get books
out the door on the same day that you order them!

In 2013, the Antler Humiliation Festival started to attract more people who wanted some pretty photos with Santa.  And again, against all predictions, blue skies in December.  Amazing.

I always try to get at least one picture of Monica performing
Photographer Yoga poses

This year we had a BIG crowd gathered in the empty pasture next to the stallion pen, dressed in finery and smiling at the camera under -- you guessed it -- sunshine and blue sky. 

I think Santa has some weather magic.  Hmmm.

People, horses, dogs...and antlers too

This year we also had an extra-special prop for Santa:

A bright red 1923 Model-T touring car!

The Model T was restored by Fish Creek Farm owner Dick Borton, who carefully eased his pretty red prize out of the "T-House" and up onto the knoll to take advantage of the beautiful light.

Santa Jim with Patty and her parents, plus Rudy the dog

And then, the picture-taking started:

There were so many dogs hanging around waiting for a turn to talk to Santa that we were able to wrangle a bunch of them into a single photo.

At least twenty dogs got pictures taken with Santa, but not
everybody would sit together for a single photo.
We were lucky to get eight dogs to hold still!
 And since there were so many good-looking dogs available, plus a talented photographer, Patty was able to get some website photos for her brand-new business!

The new pictures haven't been added to the website yet, but
Critter Calls Mobile Vet is up and running now!
If you are local and need a small animal vet, Dr. Patty is the best.

Of course, we had to get a group photo of all the Usual Suspects.

Jeff held the camera so Monica could join us in the picture

Some folks might prepare for the season by spending a bunch of time and money at the mall, but to me, hanging with my friends in a pasture on a sunny winter day is the best celebration of all.

It. Is. So. Good!

Friday, December 12, 2014

In which the only way to get better is to be bad at it first

 It's nice to feel competent, isn't it?

Fiddle + me = very good at trotting
(all photos and vids in this post by P. Robinett)

The first few dressage lessons of the winter were sufficient to get our brains back in the game.  

Fiddle and I feel comfortable at the trot pretty much always. 
We can trot all day together, literally.  Fast, slow, collected, extended.
When it comes to trotting, we have Mad Skillz
 We may not be as flashy as Monica and Gangsta

He's pretty fancy for a "lesson horse"

and we will never be as elegant as Betsey and Arianna

Pretty together

but when it comes to trotting, there's just nothing like a Standardbred.

Alas, we've reached that part of the winter lesson cycle where Dory starts to challenge us.

Challenge is a good thing.  Challenge helps us improve.

We can see progress.  The bending and stretching exercises she had us doing a few weeks ago were awkward to the point of awful when we started.

Now, we're starting to get a handle on stuff like haunches-in and shoulder-in.

It's not awesome yet, but it's not as embarrassing anymore, and the moral support of group lessons (where Dory yells and yells and yells and we all cheer when somebody gets it right) is so helpful.

Fiddle actually enjoys the bending parts, and it's pretty awesome when we make progress.

But I'd be lying if I said that I want to share the next video with everyone.

I don't.

It sucks.

Specifically, I suck.

I am absolutely dreadful at riding the canter.  Posture, ack.  Legs, ack.  And odeergawd my hands.

It would be so easy, so pleasant to share the pretty trotting pictures and let everyone admire how pretty Fiddle is at the trot.

It would be so easy to avoid posting video evidence of suckiness, and avoid all chance of people making rude (but true, and therefore even more painful) comments about it.


That's not fair.

There are folks reading this who want to ride better. There are also some folks who read my book, and think that I know how to do stuff--or at least, know how to throw myself in the path of knowledge and hope that it runs me over in a constructive way.

Those folks need to know that riding better is a moving target for all of us, not just for green beans!

And that means that, to be honest with my readers, I need to be public about stuff I don't do well.

I truly believe that the only way to get better at something is to start with something that isn't good to begin with.

I don't intend to suck at this forever.  Getting better is where I'm going, but I'm certainly not there.


Dressage doesn't need to be a crying sport.

(I did cry a bit today, but not as much as last time...)

By posting evidence of suckiness here, I'm also challenging myself to get better at this.

(It would be difficult to be much worse at it, frankly.)

From here, the only way is up.


Comment box is open.  Please be kind.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In which some meals might be faster, but not many meals are tastier

 Early on Thanksgiving morning, the Facebook bragging started up:
people were talking about how early they started preparing their feast.

Some folks had started getting ingredients ready at 7am.  

Others got up earlier, and had sweet potatoes roasting and dinner rolls baking by 6.

Still others told us that they had been brining their turkey two or even three days prior to the holiday.

At Haiku Farm, we started preparing dinner in 2009.

turning grass into garden
Our first year on the Farm, we built a garden...at least, we put in the beginnings of a garden.

The dirt was too rocky to grow carrots at first.  It took
until 2012 to build up enough good garden soil to grow good carrots!

We fenced off a big space, and started amending the soil--

Spring garden, 2014

with stall cleanings, yard waste, kitchen scraps, and, of course  

The gardening staff


The chickens live in our gardens every winter, breaking up all the organic stuff we toss in there, stirring it all together with their clever little toes, and depositing their own special fertilizer in the process.

The result, after 5 years:

Fingerling potatoes are excellent mashed, and perfect for a Thanksgiving feast

We included several home-garden ingredients in this year's feast, including carrots, potatoes, and the green beans that Jim canned last summer.

 And, then, of course, there was the guest of honor:

We named the birds:
"Thanksgiving," "Christmas," and "Smokem If You Gottem."

We didn't have the skills in 2009 to keep turkeys alive long enough to eat them.  

We learned lots from keeping chickens for several years, though, and applied our knowledge to raising turkeys this year.  

Also, of course, there was no place for turkeys to live on our property in 2009.

Before we could raise turkeys, we had to build a barn for them to live in!

Winter, 2011 

The turkeys lived their entire lives in Stall #2 of the barn--starting first in the apple box that the goats came in, before graduating to the stall and then the stall and paddock.

Winter 2014

Plus, of course, the Extended Turkey Playground, also known as our backyard.

Turkeys at age 4 months--big, but not finished growing yet

The turkeys themselves took more than 5 months to prepare.

And the result, on Thanksgiving

Chef Santa brined the bird formerly known as
"Thanksgiving" in plum juice, an homage to the birds' favorite food.

Worth the wait.

"Thanksgiving" was served to family and friends, along with garden veggies and
a stuffing that included turkey favorites:sage, blueberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. 

But wait, there's more!

When your turkeys weigh more than 20 pounds each, it's good to have a Leftovers Party.

Post-Thanksgiving Leftovers Party at Fish Creek Farm
And for THAT occasion, we brought Turkey #2, known as "Smokem."

Prior to the party, Patty took Smokem (pre-brined in plum juice here at the Farm) home, where her lovely husband smoked her gently on low heat during the coldest weekend of the year so far.

Connor is not allowed to have smoked turkey.  Sigh.
And on Party Day:

Isn't she beautiful?

But wait--still more?

Of course!  After all the delicious smoked meat had been devoured (endurance riders are NOT shy about eating!), there was still a lovely, smokey carcass, which then got turned into:

Smoked Turkey Broth
the perfect base for a Smoked Turkey Bean Soup, which is bubbling on the stove this very instant.

So there you have it:  the Ultimate Slow Food.

It took five years to make it to the table.


It's really, really Good.

Monday, December 1, 2014

In which Monica is inspired and I'm not, so here's a link: Horsebytes

So, Haiku Farm now has an artist-in-residence:  Monica!

photo by M. Bretherton
Since I've been struggling two days with a blog post and still haven't written the dang thing, I'm going opt out for today (again).

But, before I put on my woolies and head out for a (short) ride, I want to boost the signal on Monica's blog so you can see some of what's up here at the Farm.

The link is HERE.

Errr, and watch out:  There Be Dragons.

Oh, and before I leave, here's a Cyber Monday heads-up:

Santa Jim and Jingles, photo by M. Bretherton

The publisher of Endurance 101 has a special offer on right now, good until December 15th.   If you haven't got your copy yet, or if you need to order a copy for a friend, now is the time.

Visit the website HERE and see for yourself!

Friday, November 28, 2014

In which I achieve a goal. It was hard and it sucked but I did it

Why I wrote 50,000 words this month, and why nobody gets to read any of them,
and what I’m going to do, now that it’s over.

I’ve done a NaNoWriMo project almost every year since 2008.  

If you've never NaNo'd or had a NaNo in the family,  lemme s'plain:  the challenge is to write the first draft of your book in a month.  

50,000 words, 30 days.  
You don't have time to edit or refine or fix.  
The only way out is THROUGH.  

That first year, I had a wonderful NaNo experience, and wrote a story that delights me still. 

The second year didn’t go so well.  I wasn’t very excited about my premise, and my characters were too much like the people I spend my days with for me to want to go home at night and spend an additional two hours with them in my head.  

Plus, the setting was pretty boring. 

The best thing about the entire month of writing that year was the last day, when I loaded all my characters into a Jeep and “drove” the fictional vehicle off a cliff, killing them all at once.  I registered my 50,000 word triumph at the NaNoWriMo website, collected my Finisher’s Badge and then deleted the entire file.   There was nothing in the story that I recall except that final scene, and nothing in it that I want to retain for future use.

One year I wrote a series of short non-fiction articles instead of a novel.  Most readers here have heard more about that year than any of my other NaNo projects, because that set of articles became the rough draft of Endurance 101  

I wrote my other non-fiction book the same way.

One year, I started a bunch of short stories about a semi-fictional town here in the Swampland, and about the quirky people who live in the town.  Many of the “Skookum” stories were junk, as most NaNo stuff is.  

But a few of those stories were not junk, and I still sometimes write Skookum stories; when I see something that inspires me in my real life, it often turns into a Skookum story at some later date.  There are a few Skookum characters that may even be real people, although I’m sure that I invented them all; for example, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to meet Lulu Rubidoux walking out of my local hardware store or feed store.  

(You can do a keyword search for "Lulu" to find her stories, or "Skookum" to find all of the Swampland stories)

The Skookum stories might be a book some day.  Not this year.  But, someday?

This year, I thought I might spend some time writing and some time editing, but it turned out that what I needed to do most was to write.  

The funny thing about this year’s NaNo project is that it’s awful.  

It’s as bad as the year I drove everybody off the cliff.  It might even be worse than that (and yes, I deleted the file as soon as the numbers got registered and I collected my badge). 

But here’s the difference:  this year, for the first time, writing was really hard.  

I was fighting constantly against the even-shorter-than-usual attention span I’ve had since my surgery last spring.  

My attention span is getting better—and NaNo was a way to not only prove that it’s getting longer, but a way to push myself, by making myself finish something that my brain was really not sold on finishing. 

“I can do something better with this time!” I found myself thinking throughout the month of November, and I'd fling myself away the computer.

But really, aside from riding my horse, I didn’t do anything better with the time. 

So, I’d nail my butt to the chair again and force myself to write for an hour and then another hour until I’d got my word count back up.

And now I’ve done it:  I’ve spent an entire month writing.  

I’ve composed 50,765 words (as of this sentence) during the month of November.  They are not good words.  They will not be smoothed and edited into good words.  That turned out not to be the goal of NaNo for me this year.

The goal of NaNo for me, apparently, was to get my brain and my butt back on track to be a writer again.  

And, as of this sentence, I’ve composed 50,835 words this month.  It’s amazing what can be done, with a little incentive (I’ve promised myself a piece of pie when I finish this page!) and a ton of determination.

Next month I am actually going to edit.  In fact, I’ll be editing my very first NaNoWriMo project, the one from 2008.  It’s still a fun story, about a 100-mile endurance ride open only to teen riders…and the completion prize is a wish.

It’s got unicorns, and pixies…and a dragon!  And a little bit of romance.  I think you’re going to like that story.

And maybe next year, I’ll write another good one.  I’m kinda looking forward to it. 

Because you know, as of this sentence, I’ve composed 50,952 words. 

And I’ve earned myself a big piece of pie for doing this hard thing.

And that, my dears, is a Good Thing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

In which winter does have a use: it's a good time for riding lessons

The calendar supposedly calls this "autumn," but here in the Swamp
we are in the middle stages of the Winter Rain Festival.

With cold rain pouring down, it's time to move some of our play under a roof.

And still, we smile

We all have different issues to tackle this season, and it's a little easier to tackle them with moral support from the Usual Suspects.

Margie is a greenish rider on Magic, a talented endurance horse.

Tightening up those wonky steering cables

Margie and Magic just finished their first season of distance riding.  Now, it's time to return to the arena and fill in the training holes that got skipped over in the rush down the trail.

Patty and Flower have been out of lessons for more than a year.  Patty's knees have given her pain for a while, so she's been spending a bunch of time with our favorite physical therapists, plus she's still coping with the aftermath of that poorly-executed flying-without-wings incident.

"Shoulder back, butt forward!"

And then there's me.
 My muscles and connective tissue on the "surgery side" are still weak and crunchy from the abuse they sustained during surgery and recovery.

REALLY crooked!
Getting back on the horse and back on the trails so fast after surgery certainly made me happy; it didn't necessarily make me symmetrical.

"Geez, lady, you're so crooked you make ME crooked!"

Muscles and tendons on the "bone side" of my body are uninjured, but the natural joint is weak and uncooperative.

Finally: rider is more straight, allowing the horse
to bend a little better.
 It's gonna be a long winter.

Bend! Bend! BEND!  Sigh.

 Fortunately, I still have that stolen trailer to get me out to my lessons and the trails.

Photoshopped.  But, cool idea, right?

Happy Winter, all y'all.