Friday, July 31, 2009

In which it's still pretty darn warm here, and we have coping strategies

Our weather has cooled somewhat--below 90 degrees most of the day instead of above 100 degrees--and our coping strategies have gotten quite streamlined in the process of surviving a week of heat.

In the house (which we generally AREN'T, but every once in a while you gotta go in there): the swamp cooler. Those "blue ice" packages work really well, combined with a fan, to move cooler air through the stuffy parts of the house. I also learned that elevating the swamp cooler by putting it up on a couple stacks of library books (covered with a towel to protect the pages from drips) helps even more.

Jim came up with this genius idea for keeping the Minervas cool during the day while we're at work enjoying the air conditioning: a little wet-towel tent. He made a little clothes line and hung it with wet dog-towels. It provides shade, moisture, and a little bit of swamp cooling when the wind blows (which it is doing today, hooray!).

The hens are pretty happy about their tent, although they do like

to peek out between the towels to see if anybody is bringing them some frozen watermelon!

Mimsy considers "farm security" to be her job, even in hot weather, so she patrols the perimeter every 15 minutes or so. Luna is happy to sit in the shade and let Mim do the work.

Speaking of shade, that's where I am working today. My little writing desk (formerly my grandmother's tea cart) has wheels, so I can push it to wherever I need it. Today, I chased the shade around the house, staying cool and watching my horses.

The sun hasn't deterred the horses much at all. Although they have plenty of shade available, they spend most of their time "outstanding in their field," even during the hottest part of the day. They are drinking about twice as much water as usual, though, so we're careful to keep those water tubs full!

One thing that hot weather makes really easy: laundry.
I can fill the clothes line up early in the morning while it's still cool(ish) and everything is dry in just an hour or two, having used not a single kilowatt of electricity.
Life is good!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In which I share a few new haiku poems about the (sad) garden.

We didn't have time this spring to do all the soil amending that a proper garden requires. There was no addition of well-rotted compost, no manure for extra organic matter, no minerals sprinkled on top to adjust the native Ph of the soil.


Herb next door came over with his tractor, tilled it under, and I stuck in a bunch of seeds.

That's all the time I had for preparing the garden this year, and it really shows.

The weeds aren't too rampant, but then, neither are the vegetables.

I was pretty depressed about the overall patheticness of the garden, until I thought (with the optimism required for any gardener, but most especially a Swampland gardener):

"Just think what a lovely contrast the photos this year will make when I show off the garden photos next year!"

Yes indeed. Not only is my glass half-full, it's half-full of, uhm, fertilizer. But >shrug< , whatever it takes, right? So here's the before garden picture. Notice that the corn is barely sprouted, the squash plants are very indifferently lolling around on the dirt, and the bean plants can hardly be bothered to climb up the poles.

Check this space at the end of July next year, and I'll certainly be proudly displaying the after photo!

Until then, allow me to offer up a few puny plant-ly haiku poems:


I greet the sun
Tilting my bright face upwards,
Too bad I'm just knee-high!


It's a good trade, Jack
These beans will bring your fortune...
"magical fruit," right?

Fiddle won't mind that
they look so puny and weird.
They will taste just fine.


The world's tiniest
Giant Pumpkins, now showing,
at gardens near you.

Just when I've given
up all hope for this garden:
little zucchinis!


From Megan's good seeds
and planted by Jim, (not me)--
love must makes them grow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In which I write a poem (with pictures) especially for Lytha

I really didn't intend to write this poem, but Lytha inspired me.
That's why I wrote this poem, and included an old photo that she's probably forgotten entirely.

I apologise in advance to the non-endurance readers, because there are a lot of endurance references in this post that probably won't make sense to normal people. Maybe the poem will make you curious enough to explore endurance riding...that would be awesome.

I've got one more poem in me, but I'll post it tomorrow, and I promise that normal people will be able to understand most of that one.

Where I'm From, part 3

I am from biothane.

I am from Skito and Enduramax, from Easyboots,
from vetwrap and

I am from a two-horse slant decorated with purple flames,
pulled by an old pickup, and
filled with fragrant shavings, cool water, aromatic hay.

I am from the sweet slosh of beetpulp, the brisk chop of carrots,
the scattering of oats.
I’m from stacks of buckets, and clean leather and dirty boots,
and from duct tape, glowsticks, and a battered GPS.

I am from long-strided arabs, quick-pacing standardbreds, colorful appaloosas.
I am from mules, I am from horses.

I am from trotting out and pulsing down and sponging off.
I am from ride managers, trail builders, timers and vets.

I am from the unwilling to give up, and the tenacity to succeed,
and enough luck to get home and enough batteries
in the light to know it when I see it.

From ride your own ride, and from fit to continue and
you can rest when you die, and from
to finish is to win.

I am from LDs, and from 50's. I am from 100-milers and multidays.

I am from keep the ribbons on the right, stop at every water tank, listen for gut sounds, from watch for bears, and
keep a helmet strapped on tightly.

From the squirrel and beetpulp story, the barefoot vs shod discussion,
best condition awards and welfare of the horse.

I am from potluck dinners.

I am from junior riders and sponsors of junior riders,
from mud and sand and hills and rocks and things.

I am from Robey Park and Auburn, California.
I am from the Biltmore Estate. I am from Owyhee.

I am from Wendall, Lew, the Duck, and Trilby.
I am from Angie, and Susan G and Merri and Steph.
I am from Ten Feet Tall, Still.

I am from long riding. I am from ridecamp.

I am from endurance.

In which I can't sleep, and so now there is a horsaii poem to share

Yup, it's too hot to sleep. Also too hot to build goat fencing, too hot to chop firewood for winter, and too hot to even vacuum the house. It's too. dang. hot. for just about everything...except poetry.
Seems that when it's too hot to sleep, it's not too hot to think about yesterday's poem. And to wonder how I could write it again, but focus this time on a different set of origins. Here's the result.

Where I'm From, part 2

I am from boots and breeches and helmets, from beetpulp,
Coppertox, and saddle soap.

I am from a hay-sweet shed at the bottom of the hill, from a boarding barn crowded with nickers when the truck is parked, a pasture outside the kitchen window.

I am from the green alfalfa crumbs, the long timothy stalks, the bale-flattened thistles. I am from fresh-chewed grass drooled on a white shirt.

I am from cleaning paddocks by moonlight, building fences in the rain, from a quick trot up the hill and back after work.

I am from Midnight and Tonka, Mariah, Bo, Kira and Sarek.

I am from Story.
I am from the Toad, and Hana. I am from Fiddle.

I’m from dressage, from endurance, from trail riding.

I am from too dumb to be scared sometimes, and more stubborn than smart sometimes too.
From shut up and ride, and don’t worry about falling off because the ground is right there.

I am from carrot-breath as the cure for a bad day, and stall cleaning as refuge from a bad marriage. I’m from agile lips whuffling through cornstalk hair.

From the last time she fetched the bunny, and
from the first time she put her head through the stall window.

I am from portraits above the piano, on the fridge, on the desk. From paintings and photos, and scribbles in the margins of class notes.

I am the tattoo, forever trotting, that will never go away, never fade, never be left behind.

I am from horses.
Blacks and bays, spotted and greys, I am from all the pretty horses.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In which I write a poem, and invite friends to write poetry too

Where I'm From
I am from JP Patches mornings and old radio show nights.

From Vicks Vapo-Rub winters and Coppertone summers.

I am from a neighborhood of kids, bicycles and muddy sneakers outside each garage door.

I am from blackberry vine, blackberry blossom, blackberry jam, blackberry pie,
blackberry-stained fingers, blackberry thorn-scratches.

I am from the Fourth Corner, from Galen Biery photos, from acres of clams,
from ghost stories that are really love stories,
from a town that was once four towns.

I’m from a rowboat, a sailboat, a ski boat,
endless kid-made
rafts that would sometimes even float.

I am from trombone and piano in the basement, and
tapping out rhythms on the steering wheel.
I am from singing in the car, and making up new words to the song.

I am from yardwork on Saturdays and church on Sundays.
I am from cats in the window waiting to be fed.
I am from rain in spring and rain in the fall, and cold rain winter and
warm rain in summer.

I'm from salmon on the barbeque and eating asparagus with my fingers.
From stealing apricots in the pouring rain and
making cider from roadside apple trees.

From counting the eagles nesting over the river, the dog who knew a thousand tricks
and the old cat who hated whistling.

I am from photos on the guest-room walls, bent-up school pictures
forever in a leather wallet.
I am from my father’s nose, my mother’s eyes, my grandmother’s posture.

I am from many colors, many places, many ways, many songs, many stories.
I am from home.

This poem is the result of a writing exercise I found here, written in response to an original poem located online here.

Several other blogs have played around with this exercise--some of my favorites are The Georgia Farm Woman blog and the Blind Pig and Acorn blog.

Wanna try it?

If you would like to try writing a "Where I'm From" poem, I've attached the basic directions below. Don't be afraid to change, expand, or delete things to personalize your poem. I hope you'll try it, and share your poems with me!

Here are the directions:

I am from _______(specific ordinary item), from _____ (product name) and ______.

I am from ___________ (home description...adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the ___________ (plant, flower, natural item), the ___________ (plant, flower, natural detail).

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.
I'm from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

Life on a Southern Farm: Chicken Nest Box Giveaway: what a cool thing!

Life on a Southern Farm: Chicken Nest Box Giveaway

Just a quick note to all my chicken-keeping friends out in the blogosphere: the blog cited above is giving away a nest box. Wouldn't it be cool to win one? Yes, I think so too!

Go to the blog and put in an entry in the "comments" box.

Hey, if you don't need that nest box, send it to me--the Minervas can always use an extra nest!

Monday, July 27, 2009

In which we have two friendly farmers visiting from far : Germany!

Look who came to visit Haiku Farm this evening: it's Lytha and her man from the Horse Crazy American blog!

"The hay smells so good!" she said, and ran to get her husband. He was very dutifully impressed by the good smell. Really, Lytha's man is a good 'un, such a nice fellow.

After a brief tour of the garden (beans! blueberries! tomatoes! and some rather pathetic-looking potato vines!) we went out to the pasture to visit the horses.

I offered to let Lytha hop up and take a ride on Hana, but she's still sore from her long ride last weekend on some borrowed endurance horses. Old Baasha doesn't make her work that hard anymore, and her endurance muscles were surprised by the sudden workout at a CMO in the foothills!

Instead, she wanted to see Fiddle's tricks.

They are cute tricks.

If you scratch Fiddle in all the right locations, she makes monkey-lips. Really big monkey-lips. Not dignified at all. Heh heh heh.

Hana doesn't do many tricks, but she is pretty and sweet.
And she loves to be everyone.

Now, what to do? How about a trip up to the orchard, where we can get some windfall apples for the horses....
and throw them all over the field.
I throw like a girl--so embarrassing--so I just took photos.
Lytha and her man lobbed apples all over the upper pasture.
It took Fiddle and Hana at least an hour to find all those apples. Huh. Rough life, gals.
Life is good, isn't it?

In which Fiddle learns something new, with carrots to make learning nicer

Fiddle and I will be heading to Oregon in August, to do a week of camping in the backcountry with our human-friend Sky and our horse-friend Cricket.

Before we leave, Fee needs to learn a new skill: hobbling!

I start by leading her out to a nice part of the pasture where the grass is soft. I also bring a big bucket of hay and carrots with me.

Carrots make teaching easier for me, and make learning easier for Fiddle.

I'm a huge supporter of "making things easier" for everyone.

While Fee has her head in the bucket, I attach the hobbles. When each one is secured, I give a little tug on it. That doesn't mean anything to her now, but in later lessons, it will remind her that her feet are hobbled.

Next, I move the bucket a little further away from her nose....

Do you want the carrot, Fiddle?

"YES. Give me the carrot!"

Come here and get it!

Every time she took a step forward, I gave her a piece of carrot. Even a little step, or a tangled-up step. She wanted those carrots so much, she was eager to figure out how to get them.

After a few minutes, I scattered some on the ground, and stepped back.

She did just fine.

In fact, she did great!

We will practice a lot more in coming days, so she feels comfortable moving around with the hobbles on, and so I don't feel like I have to stand right there every second when she's wearing them.

I don't recommend this for every horse, by the way. Fiddle is very sensible about various kinds of ropes and restraints. I started more than a year ago letting her graze with a halter and leadrope (YES, I was watching the whole time) so that she could problem-solve the occurances of standing on her own rope. Her solution in that case was to, first, eat all the grass she could reach without moving any of her feet, and then gradual lift one foot at a time until her rope was released.

Fiddle has also never been a "panic-and-fly-backwards" horse when she gets a foot tangled in, say, the longe rope. Instead, she stops and looks at the human for assistance. I think this may come from harness-training, and even from the breeding for harness racing--a horse who explodes and flies sideways while harnessed to a racing buggy will never be a winner, assuming it even survives long enough to reproduce. It makes sense that standardbred breeders deliberately select for the "non-explosion" trait, if only so they don't end up with drivers tangled in the shafts!

Jim and I discussed all the reasons that we will not be hobble-training Hana: she is a high-strung Arab, for starters, and a drama-queen. Hana also has silly moments, when common sense is clearly pastured far away from her little brain. She's smart enough to try to "outwit" the hobbles, but I fear she's not quite nimble enough to unbuckle the straps without injuring herself.

So, hobble-training around here will be limited to Fiddle.

She thinks that's a fine arrangement, as long as we keep a big pile of carrots ready for her.