Saturday, December 26, 2009

In which Fiddle and I use the tools provided to fit her new boots

True to their word, the good people at EasyCare popped a Fit Kit into the mail to me just before they left to go on vacation for the holidays.

The kit contained five boot shells, and a bunch of very clear instructions.

Out I went this afternoon, to use the kit (and the instructions) to see if I can get a better fit for Fiddle's boots.

Willy got a new camera for Christmas from his dad, so he offered to take some extra photos for me.

He's still new at the whole camera thing, so he wanted some practice...handy, since it's so difficult to juggle a foot, a rasp, and a camera all at once.

Willy and I both took tons of photos and notes so that Tara and Garrett at Easy Care as well as all the hoof geeks reading this (you know who you are) will be able to offer advice.

EDIT: I came back on January 3rd and did even more tweaking, mostly trying to fit a size #1.5 on--this size fit better than I expected on three of her feet. The later tweaks are noted in blue.

The key points in the instructions are

1. the boot must fit snugly
2. the "V" cut at the front of the boot should open up


Left front foot:
I started with the left front foot and worked widdershins because my farrier routinely does it that way and it's opposite from the way Fee learned to do things on the racetrack. Even after three years, she still prefers the old way and needs to practice the other way.

It's been three weeks since Fee's feet got trimmed, so I tidied her feet up a bit with the rasp. The farrier makes this process look a lot easier than it is, but at least this time I only rasped my own hand once.

Okay, well, twice. Ow.

I tried the size #2.5 on this foot, but there was a big gap on the outside with that boot, and the "V" at the front didn't move. Too big.

So, I tried the size #2. This one took a little more wrassling to get it on the foot.

The instructions said that getting the correctly-sized boots on would take effort, so it didn't worry me too much. It was still not as much wrassling as with the old style boots. Also, this boot doesn't have those nasty cables to rip up my hands. I hate those cables, so a boot without them gets a gold star from me!

Still a bit of gap on the outside, but not much. The "V" opened quite a bit more. I don't think I could possibly get a size #1.5 on that foot, so it seems like #2 is the best fit.
Update: Different day, warmer temps (44 degrees today!), and I shoved the size #1.5 on this foot a lot easier than I thought it would happen.

I also taught Fiddle a new trick: I wedge the hoofpick under the boot and tug and say "pull!" She pulls her foot forward, and the boot slorps off in my hand. Neat-o.

Moving on...

The left hind foot:

First, the size #2.5

Again, it was a bit of a struggle to get this thing on, but once it was there and I walked Fiddle around for a minute, I could see that it was too big. The "V" at the front isn't spread at all!
Size #2, only 4 millimeters smaller, seemed much snugger.

Still not a dramatic spread to the "V", but when I walked her around, the boot seemed to hold tightly to her foot.
Update: with quite a bit of wiggling, I got the size #1.5 on this foot as well. More spread to the "V" with the smaller size...still a (small) gap on the inside.

Right hind foot:

I had a daunting struggle to get the size #2 on her foot. Is there enough spread to the "V" on this boot? I'm not sure. Update: the size #1.5 wiggled on with minimal struggles....why? Do these things "relax" as they get broken in? Anyhow, there's a little gap on the inside, but it's much smaller than the gap with the size #2, and the V spread is better. That's good, right?

Last of all, the right front foot:

This foot is different from the others in several ways, probably because this foot is her "forward" foot in the pasture. I could look at a hundred photos of my horse grazing, and probably 99 of them would show her right front foot forward. When she strides out from a halt, her first step is always with this foot.

The hoof tissue on this foot grows faster and flares more than any other foot. The photos show the flare on the outside. To make fitting the boots a little easier, I rasped the flare down a bit.
Fiddle is always curious about rasping. She hopes that it involves a cookie, although it never has. Watch out, Fee, I don't want to rasp your nose!
Because this foot seems broader than the others, I figured that size #2.5 was a good guess.

When I got it on, though, there was a huge gap on the outside. Sigh. That won't work.
Size #2 on this foot

The best fit yet. It was really difficult to get this boot on, but once it was on her foot, it actually looked like the pictures in the Easy Care instruction book. Success!

Update: there was no way that a size #1.5 was going to fit on the right front foot. It truly is bigger than the others.

So, now I need advice and opinions:

Should I take the size #1.5 and try to wrassle it onto those other feet?

Or is a Power Strap needed for this?
Okay, hoof geeks (you know who you are), I need to hear from you!

Update: the size #1.5 fit onto three feet with less struggle than I remember having with the size #2. Why? Her feet haven't changed much in a week--and they certainly didn't grow smaller.

However, the weather was warmer today, which I've noted before makes the boots more pliable. Also, I got smart about the "warm" thing (since the Swamp is just plain cold this time of year) and kept the boots in the house until it was time to put them on Fiddle's feet. So that probably helped.

I also tried a different technique for getting the boots on: I shoved the boot most of the way on, and then walked/trotted a circle on a leadrope. This seemed to move her foot further into the boot. The fitting boots don't have pastern straps--will the straps interfere with putting boots on partway and then walking them on the rest of the way?

Also: do the boots get more pliable from being used? If so, it would be helpful. I hope that the straps don't complicate things, now that I feel more confident about getting the boots on.
I think the best fit is a size #2 for her right front foot, and a size #1.5 for the other three feet. I hope that's right!

Now, it's time to hear from the people at Easy Care: take a look, Tara and Garrett, and tell me what you think!

In which I share a story gift: "King Solomon's Magic Ring". Share it!

This is a story from the Jewish tradition. I first heard Joel ben Izzy tell it in concert many years ago. This story has gotten me through some tough times.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, this story is for you. If you know other people who are feeling overwhelmed, this story is for them. Send it along, won't you?

King Solomon’s Ring

The wise King Solomon once had a captain of the guards who was very brave, very bold, and very obedient. He was also very boastful.

The guard was forever bragging about the brave, bold deeds that he and his guards had done in the service of the wise King Solomon.

King Solomon admired the brave, bold deeds. He did not admire the boasting.

So he decided to teach the captain of the guards a lesson.

He called to the captain, and he made the following assignment:

“There is a ring, I have heard of, a ring with a very special power: it can change the heart of a sorrowing man into the heart of a joyful man. It can also change the heart of a joyful man into the heart of a sorrowing man. Find this ring, and bring it to me.”

The captain of the guards started searching that very day.

First he went to all the jewelers in the town, but none of them had ever heard of such a ring.

Then he went to all the traveling merchants in the market, but none of them had ever heard of such a ring.

Then he went to all the sea captains in the harbor, but none of them had ever heard of such a ring.

The captain understood that this was a challenging assignment. He set off on a long journey to find the ring for King Solomon. He traveled to far away lands, and everywhere he went he asked about the ring. No-one he spoke with had ever heard of such a ring.

After a year and a day had passed, the captain of the guards had run out of ideas. He started walking back to the palace of King Solomon. He was tired, he was hungry, he was poor, his clothing was in rags, his shoes were worn out.

At last, he approached the city, and as he walked, he fell in beside a traveling tinker’s wagon. Out of habit, the captain asked the tinker if he knew anything of a special ring—a ring with the power to change the heart of a sorrowing man into the heart of a joyful man, and also change the heart of a joyful man into the heart of a sorrowing man.

The tinker looked carefully at the captain of the guards. Then he said, “I think my father, who is a tinker in the city of King Solomon, he might know of such a ring.”

Without much hope, but with no other ideas before him, the captain followed the traveling tinker to the little shop in the city. He explained to the father about the ring he was seeking.

The father looked carefully at the captain of the guards. “Wait here,” he said.

The old man went into the back of the shop, and brought out a cheap tin ring, the kind of ring worn by very poor people. He took this ring, and engraved on it four words. Then he handed the ring to the captain of the guards.

The captain looked at the ring, and read the inscription. As he did so, he felt his sorrowing heart change into a heart of joy. He thanked the old man and his son, and gave them the last of his money.

Then, holding the tin ring in his hand, the captain hurried to the palace of King Solomon.

Arriving there, he found that the palace was in the midst of a celebration. Fabulous foods, flowing wines, dancing girls, jugglers, musicians…everywhere he looked, the captain saw richness and happiness.

Without washing the dirt of his travels from his feet, the captain presented himself before the king.

King Solomon looked down on the bedraggled captain of the guard, and smiled. “My friend,” said the king, “I wished to humble you, to stop your boasting. I hope you know now that I have given you an impossible task.”

“But, Your Majesty,” protested the captain of the guards. “I think that I have brought you the ring.” And he handed the little tin ring to the wise King Solomon.

King Solomon looked at the ring, and read the inscription. As he did so, he felt his joyful heart change into a heart of sorrow. He looked around him, at the lavish bounty that filled the palace. Then he read the inscription aloud:

“This, too, shall pass.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

In which it's a nice green Christmas, and I've been blogging for a whole year!

Christmas dawned bright and early, and (after opening a few useful gifts, like wonderful fingerless gloves that my mom knitted!)

Jim and I left Willy alone with his new guitar and took the horses out for a little ride in the clear cold day.

Hana and Jim do a few yoga stretches before we leave the trailer.

Fiddle poses for her pre-ride photo.
Even a Swamp is beautiful on a day like today. Blue sky! Sunshine!
It was doggone cold, of course.
Here in the Swamplands, we have only a few choices for December weather, and the clouds that so often rain down upon us are the same clouds that keep our normal temperatures above freezing....
It's okay. No complaining, I promise. If I don't have to shovel the weather, I won't complain.
But it sure was great to get back to the truck, where a thermos of nice hot tea was waiting for us.
Exactly one year ago today I wrote my very first Haiku Farm blog post, bemoaning the wretched weather and hoping like crazy that someday we would be able to buy a certain little farm in the country....
Twelve months later we are living our dreams here on the farm!

You know it:
Life is so, so, so good.

in which I share a story gift: "Drumming Wisdom" (for parents and kids)

Today is a day when a lot of parents might wish in vain for a little peace and quiet.

This story is for you.

Drumming Wisdom

There was once a small boy who banged a drum all day and loved every moment of it. He would not be quiet, no matter what anyone else said or did. His distracted parents didn’t know how to make him stop.

The child’s teacher told the boy that he would, if he continued to make so much noise, perforate his eardrums; this reasoning was too advanced for the child, who was neither a scientist nor a scholar. And so, the drumming continued.

The local minister told him that drum beating was a sacred activity and should be carried out only on special occasions. The child didn’t believe a word of this, and so the drumming continued.

A neighbor offered the parents plugs for their ears; another neighbor gave the boy a book; a friend gave the neighbors books that described a method of controlling anger through biofeedback; a doctor prescribed meditation exercises to make the child placid and explained that all reality was imagination. Each of these remedies worked for a short while, but none worked for very long.

And so the drumming continued.

Finally, the child’s grandfather came for a visit.

He looked at the situation, handed the boy a hammer and chisel, and said, "I wonder what is INSIDE the drum?"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In which I share a story gift: "Two Brothers" (give it to a loved one!)

I got this story many, many years ago from storyteller Eric Kimmel. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Two Brothers

A long time ago, and far away from here, there lived two brothers.

The elder brother lived at the north end of the farm with his family: his wife and many children.

The younger brother lived at the south end of the farm. He lived all alone, for he had no wife and no children.

These brothers lived at opposite ends of their farm, and together they worked the land, plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting the grain. The harvest was sacked and shared evenly between the brothers, and each man stored his half of the grain in his own barn.

One night the younger brother woke suddenly from a sound sleep and thought to himself, "What have I done?

"My brother has a wife and children to support. How unfair of me to take half of the harvest!"

To this brother, thought was the same as action.

He got dressed in the middle of the night, went to his barn, and carried a bag of his own grain through the dark fields to the barn of his brother.

There, unseen by anyone, the younger brother left the bag of grain, and resolved to bring another bag of grain each night to help feed his brother's family.

That same night, the elder brother woke from a sound sleep and thought to himself, "What have I done?

"I have a wife and children to love and comfort me, but my younger brother has no family at all. How unfair of me to take half the harvest!"

To this brother, thought was the same as action.

He went to his barn that night and carried a bag of his own grain to the barn of his brother, resolving to bring another bag of grain to his brother for each night thereafter.

Night after night. Week after week. For more than a year, each brother would rise silently in the night to carry a bag of his own grain to the barn of the other.

Until, of course, one night they ran into each other in the dark, both carrying bags of grain.

They stopped right there and laughed at themselves.

Then they woke up the elder brother's family, and everyone laughed.

Years later, when the village wanted to build a new church, the site they selected was the very place where the brothers had met in the night.

For where else would they find a more holy place?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In which I share a story gift: "Pulling the Rope" : a tale for couples

Jim and I are often invited to tell this story as part of wedding ceremonies. It's adapted from a traditional American story collected by Pleasant de Spain in his book Sweet Land of Story.

Pulling the Rope : a traditional American story (retold)

Once upon a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, either, either, there was a girl.

You would never hear this girl say things like, “Oh, I could never lift that heavy thing.”

She would never say things like, “I’m just not sure what to do.”

And she would NEVER say things like, “Whatever you want is fine with me.”


This girl would rather say things like, “Let me give you a hand with that.”

Or she would say things like, “I’m sure I can handle it.”

And she would often say things like, “You have my word on it.”

So that was okay.

There was also a boy.

You would never hear this boy say things like, “Why don’t we wait and find out?”

He would never say things like, “I think it would be too difficult.”

And he would NEVER say things like, “I don’t have time to help.”


This boy would rather say things like, “This is my opinion.”

Or he would say things like, “I’m sure we can finish this by dinnertime.”

And he would often say things like, “You have my word on it.”

So that was okay.

As you might expect, the girl loved the boy. And the boy loved the girl.

And when they got old enough to marry each other, that’s what they did.

They took his wagon into town, hired the hall and the preacher, and a fiddler. They invited their friends, and their family. And they got married.

So that was okay.

On the way home, when they were driving home together in the wagon, the girl said to the boy, “I hope you realize that I intend to be in charge of our household. I’m as smart as you. I’m as strong as you. I will give the orders, and I expect you to do what I say.”

But they boy said, “Now, that’s not right. I’m as smart as you. I’m as strong as you. I should be the one in charge of the household.”

And that might have been their very first argument, right there, but the boy had a better idea.

“Let’s have a contest,” he suggested. “The winner of the contest will be in charge of our household.”

And the girl agreed.

So that was okay.

When they got home, the boy got a long, long rope out of the barn. He held on to one end of the rope, and threw the other end of the rope over the roof of the house. Then he showed the rope to his new wife.

“You take hold of one end of the rope, and pull. I will pull the other end of the rope. Whichever of us pulls the entire rope over the roof of the house will be the one to be in charge of our household.

And the girl agreed.

So that was okay.

She took hold of her end of the rope and pulled.

He took hold of his end of the rope and pulled.

She pulled strong and hard. So did he. They stayed there, pulling, for nearly an hour. They got very tired, but neither of them could pull the rope over the house.

Then the boy had another idea.

“I will stop pulling, and you will stop pulling. Then you can come to my side of the house, and I will show you something.”

So they stopped pulling, and she came over to his side of the house.

He handed her the rope.

“Take hold of the rope. And I will take hold of the rope also, right next to you. And then we will pull the rope…


They did. The rope came sailing over the roof of the house and landed at their feet, with hardly any work at all.

“So,” said the boy, “this is what I propose: that we run our household the same way that we pulled the rope.”

“Together?” she asked.

“Together,” he said.

And that is what they did. They did the work, they cooked the meals, and they raised their family together.

And they are still doing things together, to this very day.

And that is okay!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In which we are up on the the housetop (click-click-click) making spirits bright

Since the story for today is all about filling up the house, it seems appropriate to show photos of us decorating the house.

For two hours this weekend, there was no rain. We took advantage of the break in the weather, and up we went, onto the roof!

We've always been kind of indifferent to decorating for the holidays (well, especially me), but this year we have a house of our own. Somehow, that makes a big difference.

Willy was the ground-support crew. With him on the ground to move the ladder around and hand us supplies and tools, Jim and I could work a lot faster because we didn't have to keep climbing down from the roof to get stuff.

II actually enjoy being on the roof, and have cleaned the gutters on the house twice since we've moved here, just so I have an excuse to climb up there and mess around.
Puzzle disapproves of having people on the roof. He stayed in the window the entire time we were up there, meowing and telling us to get down!
Finished product:
We had enough lights left over to string some around the Chicken Palace too.

If we make it to New Year's Day without having any light bulbs eaten by chickens, I will consider our decorating efforts a rousing success.
Life is good.

In which I share a story gift: "Filling Up the House" (two parts)

The first part of this story is a traditional folktale. Part Two was inspired by my Horse Girls. They know all about how to fill up the house, bless 'em.
Filling the House (part one)

There once was an farmer who had three sons. The time was coming for the farmer to retire, but he didn’t know which of his sons should inherit the house, the farm, and all the animals.

He decided to have a contest. He gave each boy a small coin—worth about a dollar—and told them to use the coin to buy something to fill up the house. Whichever of them could fill the house most completely would inherit everything.

The eldest son took his coin and went for a walk. He walked for nearly an hour until he came to the farm of a neighbor. The neighbor was in the barn, raking straw.

“How much straw could I buy with this coin?” the boy asked. The farmer agreed to give an entire wagonload of straw for the coin.

The boy unloaded all the sweet-smelling straw into the house, and the straw covered the floor in the entire house about 2 feet deep.

The middle son took his coin and went for a walk. He walked for nearly two hours, until he came to the farm of a different neighbor. This neighbor was in the barn, raking up chicken feathers.

“How many feathers could I buy with this coin?” asked the boy. The farmer agreed to give 20 bags of feathers for the coin.

The boy unloaded all the feathers into the house, and the feathers covered the floor and all the chairs in the house, about 4 feet deep.

The youngest son took his coin and went for a walk. He walked most of the day, all the way into town. When he got there, the sun was starting to go down. The boy went to the little store, and when he came out he was carrying a little paper bag.

The boy walked all the way home. When he got there, it was very dark. He called his family together, and with everyone watching, he took from his bag six little candles. He carefully lit the candles and carried them to all the rooms of the house.

When the family looked around, they saw that the youngest boy had filled the entire house…with light.

Filling the House (part two)

Many years after inheriting the house, the farm, and all the animals, the youngest son was ready to retire…but he didn’t know which of his three daughters should inherit everything.

He decided to repeat his father’s contest. He gave each girl a small coin—worth about a dollar—and told them to use the coin to buy something to fill up the house. Whichever of them could fill the house most completely would inherit.

The three girls left the house together, and talked for almost an hour. Then the eldest daughter took all three coins and walked to town. When she got there, she bought carrots, and yams, and beans, and other good vegetables. Then she carried the food home, put a big pot of water on the stove to boil, and added the vegetables.

Her father smelled the soup cooking, and smiled. “My eldest daughter is filling the house up with the smell of good food! Perhaps she will inherit everything.”

The middle daughter walked down to the pond, cut some reeds with her pocketknife, and made a little flute. Then she went back to the house, playing a merry little tune.

Her father heard the song, and he smiled. “My middle daughter is filling the house up with the sound of music! Perhaps she will inherit everything.”

The youngest daughter went to visit each of their neighbors. At sunset, she returned home, followed by all of the people of the town. Each person carried a pot of food, a loaf of bread, or a bottle of wine. When they got to the house, they all shared the food they had brought, as well as the soup made by the eldest daughter. Then they brought out musical instruments and played music and sang and told stories by the fire until late into the night.

The father joined the party, and he smiled. “My youngest daughter has filled the house up with our friends and neighbors. But now, which of my daughters should inherit the house, the farm, and all of the animals?”

The daughters answered him together. “Father, this house is large enough for all of us, and for our children and their friends as well. We want to inherit the house together so we can all live here.”

So that is what they did. The daughters shared the house. When they got married, their husbands moved into the house with them. And when their children were born, they all lived in the house together.

And for many years, all those people filled up the house…with love.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In which the events may not have happened, but the story is still true

Before I do anything else, I must explain that the title of this post came from an old friend of my family. Ron Silvern has done a lot of stuff in his lifetime, and one of the best things he has done is to always be available to give us wisdom when we need it. Many years ago he was telling a story to a group of kids, and one of the kids asked him if it was a TRUE story.

He answered the kid, "Well, the events may not have happened, but the story is still true."

Now that you know that, let me tell a story of my own:

One night, many years ago, I hated Christmas.

I hated malls, I hated stupid music, I hated colored lights, I hated the mall and I hated presents. Oh, yes, and I wasn’t very fond of the fellow that I was divorcing, either.

That fellow celebrated holidays by buying stupid presents and maxing out MY credit cards, and he had done so for a number of years, until finally I took back my poor cards, pitched the fellow out, and stepped forward on my own.

Divorcing him was a good thing to do…but it didn’t feel that great on that night many years ago.

That night was about a week before Christmas, and I only had one present. I just couldn’t face anything more, so I called my mom, blubbered over the phone that I didn’t want to do anything for the holidays and couldn’t afford anything anyhow.

My mom is blessed with the ability to do the right thing pretty much all the time.

She told me not to worry about the presents, but to come for the holidays anyhow. She promised to make my favorite carrot-cauliflower soup, and promised that they would all be happy to have me there. She said it would be all right.

The morning of Christmas Eve, I was up early. I did have one present to wrap: a present I’d found for my brother during the summer, and I’d stashed it away in a closet to save for Christmas. The present was the coolest thing in the world: A Star Trek cookie jar with a picture of the old Enterprise on it. When you lift the lid, it made the transporter sound. My brother and I are both hardcore Trek fans. I knew he’d love it.

I smiled for the first time in days as I wrapped up that cookie jar.

The smile made me stop for a moment. I was happy about giving my brother a present.

Maybe it wasn’t Christmas I hated. I like my family. I like giving them presents.

Maybe I could still participate, but somehow avoid the stupid music and the stupid mall….?

But how?

I hadn’t bought any gifts except for the cookie jar. I had no money. There wasn’t any food in the house. But I wanted to give my family presents.

In a fit of inspiration, I booted up the computer. I went through my gigantic file folder of stories, and printed out a bunch of my favorites. I folded up each story and wrote the name of a family member on it—a story for each person, except for my brother. I already had a gift for him.

That night, my family was kind. They were happy to see me. We ate soup. They gave me presents. I gave them the printed-out stories. Everybody opened their stories and read them, and then read them out loud, and then passed them around.

Then it was my brother’s turn. He opened the box. He loved the picture of the Enterprise on the outside of the cookie jar. He lifted the lid and listened to the transporter sound. Then he looked in the jar again…and then he looked at me.

“Don’t I get a story?” he asked.

I swear, my heart stopped and re-started right then.

Telling stories is the very best thing I do.

Why would I give my family anything other than the very best thing?

I told my brother a story that night.

From that night on, my best presents have always been stories.

Every year in December, I print up a little booklet of my favorite stories, and give them to people—to my friends and family, to coworkers, and also to strangers standing next to me in the grocery line. This is the single best thing I do all year long.

For almost a year now, I’ve been writing this blog. I consider some of my readers to be blog-friends.

So here are some gifts for you, my friends:

I will post stories on the blog from now until
January 6th.

Some stories are old, and some are new. Some stories you already know, and some of them I just made up this week.

Please feel free to give these stories to your friends. Send links to your family, email the stories to your co-workers, tell the stories to people standing next to you in the grocery line.

If you want a copy of this year’s booklet, send me your email address, and I’ll send you an electronic copy of it.

It’s my gift to you, and I invite you to pass it along.

Come back tomorrow, and I’ll give you a story.