Saturday, September 25, 2010

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : a neat hero story

I learned this story from the mother of one of my storytime kids. Heather had gone to a storytelling concert at some, wait, it was a neighborhood was a block party, maybe...she didn't remember where and she didn't remember the name of the storyteller, but she DID remember the story.

That's what I call a great story.

(I tracked down the gig and the storyteller: Mary Dessein, who just happens to be a co-host on the storytelling radio show with Jim and me! Mary and I and Jim have been sharing the microphone for eleven years now, and I'm delighted to share her story with y'all).

A dragon swooped down upon the village late one night, burning the roofs, frightening the horses, making a huge mess...and when it swooped away from the village, it carried with it a little girl.

The King took immediate action. He called together his army, and selected the three fastest, strongest, bravest knights. "Go," said the King, "Go and rescue that girl!"

The knights galloped away on their fine warhorses. They followed the path of the dragon--not difficult to do, as it was a burned path 100 yards wide, still hot and smoldering. They rode fast for three days and three nights, and on the morning of the fourth day they saw ahead of them a mountain. At the top of the mountain they could see a cave, and coming out of the cave they could see smoke.

The knights were just about to gallop up the mountain to rescue the girl when they saw...

a woman...

coming down the side of the mountain...

carrying the girl.

The knights were astonished.

"How did you do this? We galloped for three days and three nights to battle the dragon and rescue the child, and yet here are you, with the girl in your arms!"

She looked at the knights, and she shrugged her shoulders and said,

"Well, you aren't her mother, are you?"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In which we celebrate Saturday stories (early): a frog story

The little dumb frogs that we discovered in the anchor holes for the new barn inspired this week's storytime theme in my other life.

In my other life, I'm a librarian...mostly a teen services librarian, but I also do a lot of storytelling and storytimes for little kids, including the Wednesday evening "Pajama Storytime".

And hey: how many other professions require that I wear my pajamas for the Wednesday night shift?

Since in my other life I'll be telling stories about frogs, and singing songs about frogs, and sharing poems about frogs, I thought maybe I'd post a story about frogs for my blog readers. This is not one of the stories I'll share with the kids tonight (but I will have printed copies available for their parents to read!)

The Princess and the Frog – a story for adults

Once upon a time, a pretty princess lost her golden ball while she was playing in the garden.

“Don’t cry, Princess,” said a croaky voice in the bushes nearby. “I will find your golden ball for you.” A few minutes later, a large green frog hopped out of the bushes with the golden ball in his mouth.

“Here’s your golden ball, Princess,” said the frog. “And now, you must do something for me. Take me home with you. Let me eat dinner from your plate, let me drink wine from your cup, and let me sleep in your silken bed with you.”

The princess didn’t want to be with the frog, but she did feel grateful to him for finding her golden ball. She took the frog home with her. She let him eat from her plate that evening, and let him drink from her cup. And when she went to bed that night, she carefully made a space and allowed the frog to hop up onto the silken bed beside her.

Imagine the surprise of the princess when she woke up in the morning and found a beautiful young man lying beside her in the bed, wearing only a crown and a silken bedsheet.

Imagine the surprise of the queen, mother of the princess, when she entered the bedroom of the princess early the next morning…

…and she didn’t believe this crazy story, any more than you do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In which we make a big hole in the ground, and plant an erector set

Did anybody have an Erector Set as a kid?

My brother and I were more Tinkertoy kids, and my father cemented that firmly when he bought us a set of Giant Tinker Toys in the late 1970's. We built all kinds of crazy structures with those plastic pipes and poles.

Who knew that those skills would be handy so many years later?
A truck pulls into the backyard, laden with the erector set!

Stacked neatly in the corner, out of the way.

Jim gets the tractor running again (fuel hoses were leaking, he replaced them, tractor runs better when the engine can get fuel!)
and made a
the Ground.
Next, fill up the Big Hole with gravel.
I ordered the gravel from a new company located very close to the Farm. They hire independent truckers to haul for them--and they hired this guy (below) to haul gravel to me.
I stopped in my tracks when I saw the name on the side of the rig:
Uh, dude? What's your name?
"Storms" is a very unusual fact, the only people I've ever met with that last name are my own family. Steve Storms, truck driver, doesn't appear to be directly related to me, but I can't believe we aren't at least cousins! (Also, his family is from Chewela, WA--population: 2,000...and two of those people are Madeline's grandparents! Ultra weird!).

Anyhow, once the hole in the ground had gravel in it, we could move the Erector Set pieces out of the nice stack in the corner of the yard.The pieces are made of galvanized steel, and they're heavy.
I suppose that means they're also sturdy, so that's probably a good thing.
We drilled holes for the anchor posts, and dropped in cardboard tubes for concrete forms.
We had to put 2x4 boards in the holes at night so that the little frogs who hopped in the holes
could climb back out. Dumb frogs.
Lisa learned how to use the power driver to drill holes to attach the anchor posts to the erector set panels. Then, we stood the panels up to make sure the holes were all in the right places!

Jim's battery-powered Sawzall had a nearly-dead battery, so he fired up the trusty chainsaw instead
and shortened the 12' boards a bit so they would fit inside the dimensions the wall panels.
We put the boards in place, and then got out the rachets:

and the ladder
and started putting the whole thing
Fiddle's stall is on the right, and Hana's stall on the left. We'll add more gravel in pickup truck loads to ensure LOTS of drainage--a structural necessity in the Swamplands!
Next week, we will assemble the beam pieces for the aisleway roof, and then put up two stalls to mirror the pieces in place (those will become the hay storage and tack room, when it's all finished).
Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In which my saddle is examined in great detail, with lots of pix

We're getting ready to go to a new endurance ride next weekend: the Elbe Hills Challenge. This is a new ride, with new ride management, and we're only signed up for the LD, but when I talked to one of the managers this summer at Renegade, she said that the terrain for Elbe is similar: mountains, lots of elevation changes.


I just hope that it doesn't dump rain (crossing fingers).

So, there have been lots of questions about my saddle. I ride in a Specialized Saddle, the Eurolight model.

(Jim has a Specialized Trailmaster model, which he got super-cheap at a used tack sale a few years ago.)

Here's my saddle with all the gear attached. Lots of purple stuff! (it's sitting butt-high on the sawhorse for some reason. It isn't really that tall in back)

The underside of the saddle with the "booties" made by Carol Brand attached. These little bootie pads velcro onto the bottom of the saddle, so they don't squinch around and squirt out the back like others pads I used with previous saddles. They are also small enough to fit in the washing machine easily, so they're easy to wash. Unfortunately, they are starting to fade to blue, rather than remaining the wonderful original "goofy grape" color. Ah, well.

The booties work especially well with this saddle, because they allow the space above the horse's spine to be completely uncovered, which I like because it allows the spine to flex and bend, and also allows some extra heat evaporation in that area.

Here's the underside of the saddle without the bootie pads. The little squares are velcro.
Peel off the underside of the saddle -- yes, you can DO that with this saddle! -- to reveal the biggest strength of it: you can change the shape of the "horse side" of the saddle, quickly, easily, and at no charge...and the only tool you need is a pair of ordinary scissors. The "shim pads" are made of different widths of neoprene, and they all adhere to the saddle with velcro. I can fill in the dips in my horse's back, or shave away pieces of the pad to allow room for muscle bulging, so that the horse can have a saddle that is absolutely and uniquely fitted. I can change the fit anytime--so if a horse grows a huge hair coat in winter, or muscles up a lot in the middle of ride season, I can change the saddle to match.

The photo above shows a cross-section of the saddle: purple rump rug on the top, leather saddle skirting below that, and shim pads on the bottom (I pulled the shim pads apart slightly so it's easier to see).

Peel off all the shim padding, and you see the tree. It's very wide, because all of the "smallifying" fitting is done with shims, so it fits most riding horses. Specialized was trying to make a mule tree a few years ago, but the mules (and their riders) didn't like it then. I haven't talked to anybody recently about that--would love to hear news if anybody has some!
Drilled into the tree are three receiving holes for your stirrup leathers. The older saddles didn't have these holes--the stirrup leathers (which are made of very wide biothane) could slide freely along the tree in a space about 2 inches long. I like to set my stirrups on the "very far back" hole, so that they hang in the proper dressage position. For people who prefer a more chair-like position, the most-forward hole supports this.
In the picture above you can see how how far the stirrups can swing. This photo also shows some wear marks--the impact of biothane leathers on the leather skirt. Mostly just a rub mark.
The billet straps above also show a lot of wear. My stirrup buckle rubbed on the billets just below the skirt for at least 2 years. I've changed the position of the buckle, but I will need to have the straps replaced this winter. You can see where the stitching is worn.

The quality of this saddle is above average--but when I got it, two of the billets (on opposite sides of the saddle) were too wide to fit into a buckle! I've heard this from other Specialized riders also. I fixed the problem with sandpaper...but a my former saddle, a DeSoto saddle built by Marilyn Horstmyer, would never have had a flaw like that. That saddle was a work of art, but it didn't fit my horse. I was sorry to let it go (but Fiddle wasn't).

I got my saddle in 2007, and have used it for everything since then--training rides, LD competitions, dressage lessons, work parties, backcountry trips, you name it. The billet straps are the only part that shows a lot of wear.
The "buckle guard" and the leather stirrup keeper that came with the saddle are made of cheap material, and the guard is about an inch too short. I added the pirate stirrup keeper myself. The skulls glow in the dark.

Here's the saddle with the rump rug attached--not a Specialized product, but I realized that I've never mentioned this rump rug and I should because it's the coolest dang thing. The photo above shows the rump rug in the "deployed" position.
This photo shows the rump rug in the "storage" position. Unlike other rugs that require the rider to dismount or at least turn around to roll up the rug or secure the ties, this one has elastic strings. Pull the string and the rug scrunches up close to the saddle. I don't even need to turn my head to do this, and I have done it many times at the trot.

To cover your horse's rear engine, just reach back and stretch the rug back out. No velcro, no clips, no unrolling or unfolding.
Luna demonstrates the amount of rear coverage offered by this object.
For SwampDwellers, a bonus: flip the rug over your saddle seat to keep the rain off before you mount up.

Want one? The lady who makes them is a Pirate on my endurance team! If you decide to order one for yourself, tell "Bloody Blanche" hello from me.

Here's the whole rig, reassembled and ready to head out next weekend. Elbe Hills, here we come!