Saturday, February 27, 2010

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : the Hummingbird's Story

This is the "signature story" for the storytelling radio show hosted by Jim and me and another friend. We always finish the program by telling some version of this story, which we originally learned from local storyteller Dr. Margaret Read MacDonald . --A

Elephant and Hummingbird

Early one morning, an elephant was walking through the jungle when he saw a hummingbird ahead on the path. The hummingbird was lying flat on her back in the middle of the path, with her feet sticking straight up in the air.

"Hummingbird, Hummingbird," cried Elephant, "are you okay? Are you sick, are you injured?"

Hummingbird looked up at the elephant. "Hello, Elephant," she said. "I'm okay, I'm not sick or anything. I just heard that the sky might fall later today, and so I'm ready to hold it up."

The elephant couldn't help laughing. "Oh, Hummingbird," said Elephant, "you are so tiny and little. You can't possibly hold up the sky with those teeny little legs!"

Hummingbird answered, "Well, of course I can't hold up the sky all by myself. But I'm ready--I'm ready! I'm ready to do my part!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

In which Fiddle decomposes an old song, and we see flowers

I got new shoes today, oh boy!
I had some boots but then I got to trade....
and though some folks think shoes are bad
Well, I just have to laugh.
Check out my photograph.

It's really true that Fiddle strides out better with shoes than she does barefoot or with boots. The photo (above) was taken when Fee was a green-green-green 5-year-old, at a Standardbred playday in Canada. She'd been under saddle with me for about 3 months at that point. Notice that no feet are touching the ground. (You can also see in the picture that she will land heel-first, which some of the more adament barefooters assure me doesn't happen with a steel-shod foot.)

I had errands to run this afternoon, so Fee was turned out in the pasture after her appointment with the farrier. When I got home and hitched up the truck to the trailer, she met me at the gate!
Out we went, for a quick jaunt into the swamp before the sun went down. The salmonberry bushes are beginning to bloom! Spring cannot be far away.

Wild cherry trees are more sensitive to heat than to light from lengthening days, so the recent warm weather has convinced the trees that spring has actually arrived.

I have know idea what plant this is (above). It is one of the very first plants in the Swamp to bud and bloom in late winter and early spring. It has no fragrance, and Fiddle says it's not good to eat. Anybody know?

I took 8 pictures of huckleberry bushes and they were all blurry because Fiddle kept grabbing bites from the bottom of the bush and shaking the branches. Sigh.

The salal plants are starting to grow new leaves as well. Fiddle and Hana both love to eat young salal leaves. The berries are theoretically edible in fall, and traditionally they were mixed with oolichan (bear fat) to preserve them so they could be eaten through the winter. Without the bear fat, they are bland and bitter, so the only members of our family who actually eat them these days are the goats.

After taking as many photos as the light would allow, we trotted. At first, Fee kept to the short-strided trot she has developed in order to keep the boots on her feet. I was very concerned. Had those danged boots wrecked her wonderful stride?

Finally, we swung around a tight corner and I asked for a canter...and got it. That broke her gaits loose, and she remembered how to stride out like she did in that photo at the top of the page.

And we flew!

Life. Is. Good.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In which the Middle Swampland County Road Crew brings a toy for the goats

The road crew has been working along our road this week, clearing out ditches and taking down trees and branches that compromise the road.
We don't have any such trees on our perimeter, but our neighbors do. When the trucks stopped at the neighbors' driveway and started taking down branches, I walked over to say hello...and to ask for some of the chipped wood they were creating from the scraps of trees.

"Sure" said the guy, and I showed him where to dump the woodchips.
When I got home last night, there was a gigantic pile of FREE woodchips by the pasture gate. Hurray!
The goats immediately claimed the pile as their very own toy."Oh, hey, this toy tastes terrific!"
"Whaddaya mean, I'm not supposed to eat it? I'm a goat. I eat stuff like this."

"...and stuff like this..."

"...and possibly, even...

...stuff like this!"

To a goat, the whole world is a playground, and everything we do is just adding toys to it.

Life is good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In which I am an opportunistic heliophile in winter

It's been five days, and the sky is still blue and full of sunshine.
I went up to the North Swamplands to visit my family for the day. I am genetically disposed for opportunistic heliophila--my mom and dad love to be out in the sunshine as much as I do--especially in the winter!
Luna isn't much of an athlete, so Mom and I took her and Mimsy on a walk on a nice flat trail at Tennant Lake park.
Don't let the waves of golden grain fool you--this grass is growing in 2 feet of standing swampwater. The trail is built up so that it stays dry (mostly).
We didn't actually walk on the trail in the photo (above), because it was under a lot of water. I took the photo from the top of this observation tower:
At the foot of the tower is a fragrance garden designed for the blind--very cool and also very pretty.
Later in the afternoon, Mimsy and I still had some energy to burn, so the two of us ran up the Fragrance Lake trail up the side of Chuckanut Mountain (yet another hill named "mountain" isn't really a proper mountain that erupts or has snow).

Such pretty trails! Uphill....ooof.

You know, if you stop and take photos of the dog in the middle of an uphill pitch, nobody will think you're slacking. Huff, puff, huff, puff.

These trees have grown all over this big rock.

Huff, puff. I should take a few more photos of the cool trees, I think. Huff, puff.

Top of the hill, there's a viewpoint:
overlooking Chuckanut Bay and out into Puget Sound.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is RAIN. I'm not surprised--it is February, of course. I'll just be happy if it just rains and doesn't turn to anything colder or whiter for the rest of the winter!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In which we go up and down some hills, and Willy makes a nice dinner

With sunshine in the sky again today, Jim and I took the mares a little farther afield.
Heart Lake is a neat little trail system maintained by the city of Anacortes around "Mount Erie" (another hill labelled as a mountain by out-of-towners making early maps of the area). I am always grateful for a tall mounting block at trailheads. It's a long way to the top of this mare!
The trails in the area are pretty, steep, and pretty steep. Not up to Trail Master Standards, for sure--there is a lot of washout and exposed rock, as a result of trails built too steeply for the slope. We did notice some blue flags in the woods marking what we hope is a re-route of an especially washed-out trail, so maybe the parks department has gotten tired of clearing bad trails and is ready to make some good ones. We can hope.
Pretty. The parking lot is waaaaaaaaaay down at the bottom of the hill.

More pretty.
I didn't take many pictures because we were under the tree canopy for most of the ride and it was pretty but kind of dark.
The low-tech tree branches also outsmarted the high-tech satellites: my GPS only picked up 3 spots on the entire journey (one location was the parking lot) and therefore it reported that we traveled about 1.6 miles in two hours. In real life, we squiggled around on trails under the tree branches for close to 10 miles.

We got back to the parking lot about an hour before sunset, so the light for this picture is sort of harsh. Still, you can see how sweaty Hana was. She is starting to shed her yak-like winter fur, but it still keeps her pretty warm when she's running up and down hills!

Fiddle did the same distance on longer legs--clearly, she didn't work as hard! Also, Fee's recent training rides have got her in a little better shape. She isn't shedding at all yet, but she grows a light winter coat. She is still wearing boots (I had to hop down and replace boots three times, what a pain), but the farrier called me today: he will be out Friday to put steel shoes on again. Hooray!!!
If Hana were a high school girl, she would be the cheerleader who always sticks out her tongue at the yearbook photographer.

Back at home, it's Willy's turn to cook dinner. On the menu: chicken marsala.
Shallots, garlic, lemon juice, marsala wine and chicken broth, over grilled chicken breasts.
It looks great. It smells great.
It tastes great.
Well, it did taste great. It's gone now.
Life is good, you know!