Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In which we've lost Waldo, the chickens sink, and Pickles has some good fun

It's like one of those "Where's Waldo" pictures: 
Where's Haiku Farm?
Being stuck at home isn't all bad.  We didn't lose power until late afternoon, so there was plenty of time to write like crazy on the books. 

About an hour before sundown yesterday, the sky cleared up and we got realio-trulio sunshine--which makes for some awesome photos:
I am still absurdly happy to have a barn!

Sunbathing in late-afternoon January


lower pasture

Snow on alder trees.  I had to be careful shooting this--
those branches are heavy and inclined to break and fall!


Lisa and Will (and Luna) enjoy rolling in sn*w...

Will and Luna

...but chickens don't.  In fact, chickens sink.

Her legs are short and her body is heavy.  She sinks like a rock.

I had to stomp down a scratching area for the hens so they could eat their dinner and not get stuck in nearly a foot of white stuff.

Hen party.
Jim did a little higher-tech sn*w-stompage to clear out the driveway...

Jim and Tootles the Tractor

...but here's the view of our road:

No WAY am I driving on this!

The county plows as often as possible, but they only need to make sure that emergency vehicles can travel safely.  More than an inch of compacted snow and ice is NOT safe for civilian cars and trucks.   So, we stayed home.


Fiddle was fascinated by all the goings-on.   The dogs can't get enough of playing in the white stuff.  Even Luna, who is normally quite sedentary, romps around like a puppy. 

Luna and Mimsy

but the one who enjoys it most is Pickles:


Yesterday, the drifts were bigger than Pickles, and she had fun porpoising around the yard.

Pickles the Porpoise

Today, she learned to find the shallower spots near trees and vehicles, but she still enjoys playing in it for as long as I will let the dogs stay outside. 

When they come inside, they flop down beside the woodstove and sleep like a pile of dead things.

I'm not the only one who dislikes the Winter Wonderland:

"I want to go back to little grass shack/ In Kealakekua, Hawai`i;
I want to be with all the kanes and wahines/ That I used to know long ago..."

Today, the blue-sky went away, and the wind blew away a lot of the white stuff. 

Rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Where's the MOUNTAIN???

Me?  I'm ready for rain.  Now would be just fine.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In which the weather continues on with whiteness, to which I say "BAH."

Fiddle's paddock and pasture, covered in white stuff.

Not much to say about the weather today, except:  BAH.

Yes, it's pretty.  But truthfully, it's always pretty here. 
Mostly it's pretty green, especially the mossy, moldy, mildewy bits. 

I don't know what these red berries are.  They're pretty, and they aren't green.  Also, the birds won't eat them, not even the chickens.  The plant, like many other things around here, "came with the farm" and I haven't been able to kill it with neglect or the truck so far.  If I ever find out what it is (readers?  any ideas?) I'll go get a bunch of them: a bush that I can't kill is worth having!

I'm not the only one who dislikes the cold wet stuff. 
Can you sense the disapproval of this apple?
(it's the only one left on the tree, because Mimsy can't reach it!)

I got them to sit still for a photo...briefly.
The dogs think this stuff is pretty fun, but it makes Pickles sneeze!
"Ahhh.  Ahhhh.   Ahhhhhh-------"
Big sneeze + little dog = she frequently gets blown off her own feet, and then has to go chase a chicken to compensate.

If plastic owls could speak, this "snowy owl" would be saying something rude.
The plastic owl in the chicken coop seems to share my opinion of the weather.

Not a big fan of sn*w.

Hana: "Why go outside?  There's plenty of food RIGHT HERE!"

wearing her heaviest blanket--it's nice and warm under there!
Fiddle:  "I don't care either way, as long as that's a cookie in your other hand."
Pirate flag today should say "Shovel or shut up."
The bright side of bad weather:  plenty of time to write. 
I've got drafts of Chapters 1-4 done for the Endurance 101 book, and finished some editing on the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the other book.

And of course, I wrote a blog post...on a Monday.  

Silver linings, right? 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In which the best-laid plans are somewhat waylaid by the stupid weather

I really shouldn't complain too much about the weather this year.  It's been wet, but not any wetter than usual, and it mostly hasn't even been very cold.  The trails are a mess, of course, but the logging roads have been just fine for riding.

As usual in winter, Fiddle and I have been taking lessons. 
A lesson on one of the warmer, non-rainy days

We had a big set-back a few weeks ago, and it was almost entirely my fault:  instead of asking Fiddle to do something in the arena, I was ORDERING HER TO DO IT NOW.  The whole thing turned into a spitting contest, and nobody ever really wins those things. 

Sigh.  I should know better.  She really does TRY very hard for me, and when I get impatient it always takes longer.  So, it was two steps backwards, and we regroup and try again.

The problem is that, although she's forgiven me for MY bad behavior and I've forgiven her for HER bad behavior, she still worries that I'm going to start spitting again, and she's defensive.  And when Fee gets defensive, she gets nasty:  she throws those back feet around, pins her other words, she exhibits all the bad behaviors I saw all the time when I first got her. 

She never gave those up entirely, but she has learned other, better behaviors.  And now the badness is back, and it's my fault and my responsibility to fix it (again). 

I know (because I have been through the process with a lot of animals) that she will return to better behavior.  I know that getting good behavior will be easier now than it was five years ago.  I also know that my best option with this mare is to not react when she has a defensive tantrum, but instead to continue asking (not demanding and not punishing) her to move forward.  When she's in her defensive mode, she can't listen to me very well, and the thing that works best is soft hands, soft legs, and a steady, calm, asking posture that makes "going forward" the easiest thing to do.  She also gets lots of praise for doing things correctly and calmly. 
Dory coaches me on "opening my hips".  Lisa is riding Guy in the background.
One of the ways that I wanted to practice all this with her was to take her to our first dressage show!  I've never showed with any horse, so this would be a new experience for both of us--good practice, I figured, in "being a beginner", since that's the audience I'm writing for in the Endurance 101 book.

(UPDATE ON THE ENDURANCE BOOK:  the publisher who expressed interest is still on vacation, but I'm writing like a mad fiend anyhow.  I hope to have at least half of that book in rough draft by the time she gets back in mid-February.  Meanwhile, the proposal spawned from my other blog has been offered a book contract by VOYA Publishing.  So I'm also frantically writing that, as well!)

It's been a long time since I've been a beginner at a horse sport.  I've done what I've been doing for more than a decade now.  I'm familiar with the process, and it's comfortable for me. I'm comfortable taking dressage lessons--I trust Dory to challenge us without facing us down impossible roads.

 Dressage shows, by contrast, are completely new, and now I remember what starting out in endurance was like:

Did I fill in the form properly?
Did they receive my entry?
What if people are mean?
What if I do things wrong?

Oh yeah, NOW I remember all those emotions.  Urgh.  This really IS good practice for me.

So, I was all set to go to the show this morning:  last night I set out my clothes, packed my lunch, hitched my trailer, and cleaned up my horse (and was glad that she's mud-colored, btw). I set my alarm for 5am and went to bed early....

And this morning, there was THIS:
Swamplanders really don't like sn*w. 
Also, our roads become treacherous really quickly, because we don't have
good equipment to clear them properly.
I called the ride manager, and was pleased to learn that she isn't mean.  She's nice!  And she totally understood why I didn't want to drive my truck and trailer on icy roads.  Apparently, a lot of people had already called her to cancel, but she was still nice to 6:30am.  That's impressive.

So now I have an entire day to write stuff on both books....

...but first, maybe I'll go back to bed.  At least until the sun comes all the way up.

Life is (unpredictable) Good.