Saturday, February 6, 2010

In which I'm sorry for Lytha, because the sky is very BLUE here!

It's true what we say in the Swamplands: into each life a little mud must fall.

So, although the sky was blue, the trail near the parkinglot was still pretty mucky. We are Swamplanders, though: mud does not frighten us. We went through it, and up the hill:
Dry(er) ground! And more blue sky.

Poor Lytha in Germany is still buried in sn*w, but here in the Swamp it seems like the very first edges of Spring are becoming visible.

Of course, it is only February, and I'm knocking wood like crazy the whole time I'm writing this post. Weather here can change overnight...daytime temps in the 60's today does not preclude pouring rain or worse tomorrow. (The forecast for the next few days says "partly sunny" though). My fingers remain crossed.
Fiddle is beginning to regret growing a yak-esque fur coat this winter, especially when we are out on the trail!


I took the wrist-top GPS this time, instead of the hand-held. It reported that we covered 13.5 miles, although we probably actually went a bit farther than that because the GPS signal is weak when we are in the trees.
However, when Jim tried to load our track onto the mapping software, it reported that we travelled from the Tree Farm here in the Swamplands to a small island off the coast of Ghana, West Africa. And back.


I thought that was pretty impressive for a trotting horse in less than three hours! No wonder her face got sweaty.

But wait. RED ALERT! BATTLESTATIONS! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
What is this creature, under the tree?
A Heffalump, perhaps? They have Heffalumps in Ghana, right?

Oh, wait. We didn't really go to Ghana. We're still in the Swamplands. So it's probably just a young deer. Cancel Red Alert.
On the way back to the trailer, I saw ShadowFiddle and ShadowAareneX riding along beside us. We like riding with them--they make us both feel tall and slender.
They are really LOUD, though. I know Fiddle and I aren't really that noisy, so it must be the shadows making all the racket.



Clop clop clop clop, ching ching ching ching.
Life is good!

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : a tale about coffee

I have posted a couple of stories about the Mulla Nasruddin, and this is another one of them. The trickster-hero of Turkey and Iran is reknowned for his foolish wisdom, his unusual appearance, and most especially for his appetite. That's how he ended up with the cookie recipe, after all.

And what could possibly go better with cookies than a nice cup of fresh-brewed Seattle coffee?

So it was, one day, that the Mulla Nasruddin came to visit the city of Seattle. And what did he see there? Rain, yes. Traffic, yes. But more than that: wherever he looked, Nasruddin saw coffee stands.

Early in the morning, Nasruddin went out to get a cup of coffee from one of the coffee stands. He stood patiently in the line, and when it came his turn, he placed his order: a tall skinny double latte.

The barista, she looked at him, this tall short skinny fat man with a fez on his head and a donkey following behind him, and she did what any self-respecting Seattle barista would do: she sneered. Then she grabbed a paper cup, filled it half full of black coffee, topped it up with half-and-half and handed it to Nasruddin. Then she charged him six bucks.

Nasruddin, he took the coffee. He sniffed the coffee. He sipped the coffee. "It's wonderful!" he said. He paid six dollars for the coffee...and into the tip jar he carefully placed a twenty dollar bill. And then he walked away.

Early the next morning, Nasruddin was again up early. The barista, she saw him coming. She waved him to the front of the line, and he placed his order: a tall, skinny double latte.

The barista did not sneer.

She ground the coffee beans. She steamed the milk. She prepared for Nasruddin an exquisite tall skinny double latte, with extra foam, a shaving of chocolate on the top and a little paper umbrella for a garnish.

Nasruddin, he took the coffee. He sniffed the coffee. He sipped the coffee. "It's wonderful!" he said. He paid six dollars for the coffee...and into the tip jar he carefully placed a dime. And then he turned to walk away.

The barista called after him. "Nasruddin," she said, "I cannot help but notice: yesterday, your tip, it was much bigger."

Nasruddin turned back and smiled at the barista. "Yes!" he told her happily. "Yesterday's tip was for today's coffee.

"Today's tip--that was for yesterday's coffee!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In which Fiddle and I go around obstacles and head for the Hill

Blue sky! In February! I'm not scheduled to work until 4pm, there's plenty of time to ride before I have to leave!


I saddled (and booted) up Fiddle and off we went. We have done part of this route before, but got stuck when we hit a Wall O' Brambles. There's a limit to the amount of bushwacking you can do when the blackberry vines are up to your shoulders.



But, with winter still in full force around us (except for the sky! which is blue! in February!) there's a chance that the Bramble Forest has died back a bit. So, off we went, down the road.



Not far from us, somebody has built a McMansion. The thing is gigantic--4 car garage attached to the house, plus a three-bay outbuilding. I am so glad I'm not paying the heating bills on this sucker.


And (this always cracks me up) they paid gazillions of dollars to build the house, but left the barn in the front yard falling down. Maybe once you get inside the house it's so pretty that you never look out the window? Doesn't make sense to me.


About a quarter-mile past the McMansion, one of the neighbors is raising Highland Cattle. The fence between these cows and the road is two strands of hotwire, so yeah: I expect to see them wandering down our street someday. With all that shaggy fur, two strands of hotwire isn't even as irritating as a yellowjacket sting, and they'll walk right through it if they decide the food on the far side looks interesting! Ah, well. That is (hopefully) an adventure for another day.

Up the powerline road we went, until we got to the First Obstacle:
Not only is the gate locked, but also, one of the bovine occupants of this little pasture is not a cow. He is something else...something much larger. Something adverse to sharing his lovely lady cows with me and my mare.
Fiddle and I followed our new path waaaaaaaay around Mr Bull's Land of Love, waded through the Bramble Forest (which was knee-deep--prickly but not impassable anymore!) and emerged back on the Powerline Road (which is a two-track path of mud, by which the power company accesses the big overhead towers)!
Hurrah!
We trotted happily for a quarter-mile, until we came to a new obstacle:
You probably can't see unless you enlarge the photo, but the chain-link is missing from most of the end panels on each side. Also, it's just propped on two posts--no hinge, no latch.
I dragged it out of the way. It took both hands to drag this floppy thing, so Fiddle took a snack break.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Notice that she isn't tied to anything except the food. Also, the leadline is under her feet. I don't worry about her stepping on the line and fruckin' out, because she's hobbled-trained and we have practiced this maneuver frequently. It's not a good idea to do this on the trail unless you know that a.) your horse won't flip out if she stands on her lead, or b.) you know that your horse is such a greedy piglet that nothing shy of an elephant stampede will convince her to leave a bunch of green grass.
Ebey Mountain Road has recently been graded. Hmmmm. That's interesting. Who would grade a non-county gravel road in the winter? Most road work is done in the spring or fall, when the roadbed isn't soggy.
Ahhhhhhh. If I don't miss my guess, this landscape was designed either by a herd of rampaging beavers or by a lumber company. And since the road was recently graded, somebody was probably expecting trucks. And since beavers aren't eligible for a commercial driving license in the Swamplands...
...I guess the beavers are off the hook, huh?

As an environtmental Lorax-wonk, I deplore the practice of clear-cut logging. It degrades habitat, destroys wildlife, and causes gigantic amounts of erosion.

As a trail rider, I know that a lot of the pathways I ride are/were logging roads. No logging = no logging roads. Sigh.

I figure this sign must be a joke:
No Trespassing: no hunting or fishing access from here. Prohibited by law!

Yeah, whatever. I was passed on the road by two rigs full of hunters. Also, this is a state road--not subject to "no trespassing" notices. Somebody figured they'd keep the traffic down by posting the sign, apparently. Everybody ignores it. I ignored it. Fiddle looked at it, then she remembered that she can't read, so she ignored it after that.

Further up the road:
This is such a pretty little farmstead. Very sweet and tidy.

On the opposite side of the road:
Geez, guys, why not spray-paint a sign reading:
"Brother Bubba's Old Fashioned Meth Lab and Pot Plantation
Pitbull pups for sale or trade"
Cuz I'm tellin' ya: the tarps tacked to the trees aren't foolin' anybody.
We were running out of time for our little jaunt, so this was the turn-around spot:
a junction! I will return soon to take the road less travelled.

I did take my GPS with me on the journey, but I think I erased the track before I could report on what we did. Jim is pretty sure he can retrieve the data...but I don't know. When I goof up a gadget, I usually do a thorough job of it.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In which the start of endurance season is fifty three days away

I'm getting more excited about the 2010 endurance season than I have been for a couple of years...mostly because this year I actually think I might get to ride in a few competitions.

Because we were busy the last two years--training young Fiddle in 2008, buying and fixing up the farm in 2009, Jim and I have spent a fair amount of time in ridecamps, doing trail work, taking pulses, and doing other stuff that needed to be done. But this year, maybe we can ride a few!

Seeing the short movie Arabian Silk at the PNER convention got my heartrate up. And I just watched a short YouTube video about the Tevis. It was originally posted on Karen Chaton's blog, and I'm posting it below, because it's just fabulous.



...not that I think I'll be riding Tevis this year.

Someday, yes.


When I did the 100 at Mt Adams in 2007, the ride manager told me that there was a difference between a "100-mile horse" and a "horse that does 100s." A horse that does 100s does them because that's the job for the day. The 100-mile horse gets up early on ride day knowing and loving the challenge of an incredibly long day on the trail.


I also believe that there's a difference between a 100-mile horse and a Tevis horse. Again, some horses do Tevis because that's the job. Others, according to them whats knows, achieve some sort of magical strength on the Tevis trail that is almost visible to the eye. Zayante was one of those.


I don't know if Fiddle is a Tevis horse. I suspect she isn't, if only because the soles of her hooves are tender--and I do believe that if a particular horse requires a lot of extra support to finish a particular ride, maybe it's not a good idea to take that horse to that ride.


Fiddle shows early signs of being a 100-mile horse, at least.


As for Tevis...well, time will certainly tell about that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In which Puzzle the Cat is actually sort of fond of the dog

Whut yu doin' with da camera, mama?

Weez ignore yu. Then yu goez away, no more piktures.
Oh noes!
Yu puts da piktures on da interwebs, all dother kittehs find out I no killz the doggeh liek I told dem. NO MOAR PIKTURES!!!

Dad, you tell her I gonna drop camera in toylet, okay? Maek her stop.

My reputayshun wrekked noaw. I leeve ratz in boots fer reveng.
I think these pictures need better captions...somebody else wanna try writing the dialog? --A

Monday, February 1, 2010

In which there is a lovely poem about a horse and a rider

A friend who rides endurance met up with me one afternoon last week, and said, "Oh I'm so glad to see you: I found a poem for you."

And oh, she was so right--this is a poem that I feel must have been written especially for me, even though it was written by an Irish-Alaskan woman and published by a Texan university press. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Riding out at Evening by Linda McCarrison

At dusk, everything blurs and softens.
From here, out over the long valley,
the fields and hills pull up
the first slight sheets of evening, as,
over the next hour,
heavier, darker ones will follow.

Quieted roads.
Predictable deer browsing in a neighbor’s field,
another’s herd of heifers,
the kitchen lights starting in many windows.
On horseback I take it all in,
neither visitor nor intruder,
but kin passing,
closer and closer to night,
its cold streams rising in the sugarbush and hollow.

Half aloud, I say to the horse, or myself, or whoever:
let fire not come to this house nor that barn,
nor lightning strike the cattle.
Let dogs not gain the gravid doe,
let the lights of the rooms convey what they seem to.

And who is to say it is useless or foolish
to ride out at evening in the falling light, alone,
wishing, or praying for particular good to particular beings
on one small road in a huge world?

The horse bears me along, like grace,
making me better than what I am,
and what I think or say or see is whole in these moments,
is neither small nor broken.
For up, out of the inscrutable earth have come
my body and the separate body of the mare:
flawed and aching and wronged.

Who then is better made to say
be well, be glad,
or who is better to long that we, as one,
might course over the entire valley,
over all valleys,
as a bird in a great embrace of flight,
who presses against her breast, in grief and tenderness,
the whole weeping body of the world?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

In which a tea party reminds me of a story about cookies

The library ladies are coming to tea this afternoon, and so I made cookies last night to serve on dainty little plates.

The cookies are Willy's favorites, made from a recipe I got from an ex-boyfriend's mom. When you grow up, as I did, in a place that calls itself The City of Subdued Excitement, you can never escape past relationships...in fact, it's a point of pride that you can never actually leave my hometown. You can move away from it, but it will follow you everywhere.

To this day, I can walk into a coffeeshop, restaurant, bar or bookstore anywhere on the planet, stand on a chair and say "BELLINGHAM" in a loud, clear voice, and somebody in the room will turn to me and say something like "My sister went to Western," or "I was in the Ski-to-Sea race in 1997".

So it is that, although the ex-boyfriend and I broke up and moved away many yonks ago, when I got a hankering for his mom's oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie recipe it was no trouble at all to find the fellow and ask for the recipe, which he happily sent. Bellinghamsters are that kind of people.

And that's why I can tell you this story. Because really, it's a story about the ancient Turkish trickster-hero Nasruddin, and the time he came to Bellingham.

There are lots of stories about Nasruddin. I've posted one on this blog already, and will probably post many more. If you don't know about the Mulla Nasruddin, let me tell you that he is the tallest shortest thinnest fat man you will ever meet. He is so wise that he is foolish, and he usually wears a little red fez on his head and travels in the company of a donkey.

So:

One day Nasruddin came to Bellingham to visit. He went to the museum, he walked around the college to admire the sculptures, he spent some time at the bookstore, and in the evening he went to visit Eulalah, who served him the best oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies he had ever tasted.

Oh, the cookies! They were sweet, crisp, chewy, and absolutely everything that a cookie should be. Nasruddin was so enthusiastic in his praise of the cookies that Eulalah kindly put some in a little bag for him to take with him. She also wrote down the recipe on a piece of paper, which Nasruddin stuck inside his fez for safe keeping.

When he left Eulalah's house, Nasruddin wandered down to the waterfront to watch the boats. While he stood on the dockside, he couldn't help reaching into the paper bag to taste just one more cookie. As he munched the wonderful cookie, a seagull landed on a rock nearby and croaked at him, clearly begging for a bite of cookie.

"Here you go," called Nasruddin, and tossed half of the cookie to the bird. The seagull gulped down the cookie, and then launched itself into the air, croaking loudly. Almost instantly, Nasruddin was surrounded by gulls, wheeling and screeching and reaching out with their hooked beaks as they dived around him.

In self-defense, Nasruddin threw the bag of cookies high into the air, where the seagulls grabbed it and ate all the cookies before any could fall to the ground.

"Oh, you stupid birds!" shouted Nasruddin. "You think you have gotten all the cookies, you rotten thieves. But, ha ha! You haven't got them all. Because I still have the recipe!"

-----------------------------

Here's the recipe. Keep it in your hat for safekeeping, okay?

Eulalah's Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the ingredients, drop by spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, 375 degrees.

Life is good.