Friday, June 5, 2009

In which Willy learns the real reason that those old cowboys walk that way

When Willy first arrived here and was introduced to our horses, he (very astutely) observed that Hana is very PRETTY...and Fiddle is very BIG.
Yes. Very astute, indeed.

Today I was getting ready to hit the trails with the mares and Madeline, and Willy was at hand thanks to a school district workday...so it seemed like a good opportunity to see if he was sincere in his recent interest in riding lessons.

Start with cleaning up the horse.


Hana is a big believer in dust bathing.
I don't think Willy realized that anybody as cute as Hana could be this dirty!




Yup, gotta get the tangles out of ALL the parts of her mane.

And clean out her feet, too.
I encouraged him to adopt the traditional "farrier stance" for feet cleaning, but he prefers this posture.
It must be nice to have a young spine with limited milage.... I'll never be in that position again, alas.

Tacking up: I demonstrated on Fiddle, then guided Willy through the process of tacking up Hana. She's so little, he practically has to kneel down to reach her girth.


Madeline has worked for several years as a sidewalker and assistant at Little Bit, so I was totally comfortable with her doing the sidewalking instruction for Willy's first trip around the pasture.
I stayed close by (on Fiddle's back) and took a ton of photos.
He did great!












Nudge with the legs to ask her to go forward.



Steering.



And dismounting, gracefully.
Mostly gracefully, anyhow.

After dismounting and walking a few steps, he nodded his head at me. Now he understands why cowboys walk that way.
Mads and I spent a few delightful hours on the trails in the sunshine. I was too relaxed to take a lot of photos, but I did document the Eating of The First Salmonberries of Summer:

Please note that Madeline and Hana are BOTH eating salmonberries. Mads prefers to eat just the berries, though; Hana likes the leaves and stems also.

After a nice ride, Willy, Mads, and the dogs joined me on a trip to the river to cool off. Temps have been in the 90s here lately, unseasonably hot for the Swamplands. Some of our bogs are dry enough to start crunching underfoot!




The Stilly is pretty deep and fast, so we just waded. Later in the summer when the water slows down, we'll swim.




It's pretty easy to tell that this water is recently-melted snow. Cold! But...refreshing.




Shelties are too small to go in the deep water, but they like to sit in the shady sand and help people eat Goldfish Crackers.

Life is good for all of us, even for the dogs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In which I wander around the yard and take pictures of pretty stuff

Everything is growing, blooming, and blossoming here!

I took my cup of tea and my camera and wandered around the yard and the orchard this morning, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye.




The hens are nearly grown-up ladies now, and quite pretty. They have almost outgrown the FEMA tractor and will move to the larger chicken tractor soon.



In the garden, beans and potatoes are sprouting, and I also detect a little bit of non-weed growth in the carrot patch!




Tomatoes (planted by Jim and Willy, not me!) are beginning to flower.




Up in the orchard, there are little apple pippins, and lots of cherries.











Blueberries, growing much more happily now that we have freed them from the tyranny of blackberry vines.



Raspberries, too.


And strawberries! There are a bunch of these in the yard--I hope I can get them before the crows and slugs (and Mimsy) find them. Yup, wish me luck on that.


I found these thimbleberry bushes growing as volunteers along the fenceline. They grow wild here, I don't think that I've ever seen them in a yard before.



Rhododendrons, the state flower, growing behind our wood shed. They also grow wild here, although a lot of people cultivate them.



The ultimate "grows wild here" plant: blackberry vines. Sigh.

Since the farm lacks nuclear technology, I will never be able to kill them all. My mom will get her blackberry pies this year after all.



"Bee flowers" (somebody else probably knows the proper name for this plant). Bees love this plant, so Luna likes to sit in the middle of it and snack on the little buzzers. Ack, Luna! Don't eat the pollinators!

Sigh.



Life is good, especially on a sunny day at the farm.

Monday, June 1, 2009

In which there is meandering, and Fiddle shows off her monkey lips

All the way home from work today, I planned to ride Fiddle in the pasture, because it's such a delight to have her in the back yard instead of boarded miles away from home!

Sure enough, when I got there, she met me at the gate. She was expecting cookies, of course.

I gave her cookies, (of course), but first I required her to carry me around the pasture a few times.


Look at this weird thing she's doing. Recognize it?

Yes: ITCHES!

Fiddle doesn't suffer much from the "regular" flies that plague Hana. Instead, the almost-invisible black gnats drive her crazy--in early spring she gets a rash of ping-pong ball -sized bumps on her chest and under her mane from those nasty bugs.


By this time of year, the swellings have gone down, but she's still very itchy...and she's discovered that I can scratch her best when I'm on her back. She makes the most absurd faces when I scratch her, with her eyes rolled back and her lips wiggling in ecstasy.

The lip-wiggle is how Fee got the nick-name "Monkey", because she makes such silly monkey-lips.

Hana just meandered along behind us in the pasture. As long as Fiddle doesn't actually LEAVE, she doesn't care what I do with her.

Herd-boundness is a problem for Hana. I'm going to have to deal with it pretty soon, but not today. Today, the menu calls for "meandering". Ahhhhh.

Willy was waiting back at the gate, with cookies. He's promised to take a few lessons this summer...but not on Fiddle, because she is BIG.


Post-ride fashion: the tell-tale dirt marks on my jeans prove that I went riding today!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In which the long-awaited finally happens: the horses are HOME!!!

My friend Sky reminded me last week to make sure somebody else was holding the camera on the day the horses came home, because she wanted to see me smile.

I am smiling.

At this rate, I may smile continuously for the next 30 years.

The horses are home at last!


We had to get up early this morning and continue the work on fences. I drove the tractor again, with a little more ease this time, and Jim was able to move a little more comfortably--we still didn't let him lift or push much, though.


Finally it was time to go to the old barn. I had one last day of barn chores to complete there, as part of my board payment. I took my time, and said goodbye to all the horses, except the Toad, who refused to be caught and given a cookie. I waved at him.


George, the regular barn manager, came out and helped me finish the chores. Then he made sure that I took everything that was mine, down to the ugly pink bucket I had with me when I moved my old mare Story into this barn 12 years ago. We loaded it all in the truck, then I hitched up the trailer and loaded the horses.



I've hauled a lot of horses over a lot of miles in this rig, but this was something pretty special: driving down my own driveway.


Jim was waiting for me, with the camera in his hand.


Then he handed me the camera and unloaded Hana. They both look pretty happy to me!


After Fiddle hopped off the trailer, it was time to take a walking tour of the fence perimeter ,


so we handed the camera to Willy.


I pointed at the fence every 20 feet or so. "See the fence," I said. "It's hot! Don't touch it!" Fiddle was taking notes.


Jim noticed that we both have wire cutters in our back pockets in these photos. We are totally stylin'.


All the way down to the bottom of the pasture.

"That's a corner," I told Fiddle. "Don't get stuck in there." She looked carefully to make sure she would remember where they are.



Then we turned them loose to graze for a while. Mmmmmm. Food.


Hana kept an eye on Jim...at first. Then she settled down for some serious eating.


After about an hour of stuffing their faces with grass,





it was time for Equine Gallivantation!


For some reason, Hana is usually in front. I'm not sure if she's leading, or if Fee is pushing. It's hard to tell.


Acrobatics.




Hana's pretty copper color shows up best in the sunset light. She's such a pretty mare.



Time to come into the paddock for dinner. Fiddle is ready, she always wants to be first.



Hana wasn't sure she could step over the pipe. Oh, but hey, there's food in the paddock. Lemme in! Sigh.



Still smiling. Life is good!