Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In which I write about Patty's horses: the new one and the old one

Happy New Year, everyone!

Patty decided to celebrate the beginning of 2013 with "pony play".  

ground driving

She's been ground-driving River for the last week or two, and the mare has really gotten the hang of it.  

Today, we added a few new important new elements.   First new experience: ground driving while other horses are working in the arena.

Hey, wait.  This is AARENE, but it isn't FIDDLE!

I decided that the New Year was a good time to do some stuff I've been intending to do for a while, including "ride other horses."  I  asked Patty to scrounge up a mount for me to ride today, and look who she chose:

It's Ross!
Ross is mostly-retired these days, although Maddy likes to ride him when she's in town.  He's in his mid-twenties, and fuzzy as a stuffed animal in his winter coat.  Here are some pictures of Ross in his glory days:

Patty and Ross at Cougar Rock in 1997.
They finished Tevis in 74th place.

Although Ross has an entrenched reputation for teleportation (i.e. you are riding Ross, and suddenly your bum hits the ground and Ross is eating grass 2 acres away), he was AWESOME for me today.  Not a beginner's horse, for sure, but he gave me a lovely ride...and look what I got to practice:

Once River was comfortable with the crowd in the arena, Patty asked her to "thread the needle" between two other horses.

Look at the "thinking" ears on the spotted horse!

She thought about it for a moment, and then marched on through!

Then, it was time to add another new element:

leaving the arena behind
They practiced for a few minutes with Crystal as a sidewalker, while Ross and I stood by and took photos.
Watching Patty's young horse through the ears of her old horse.
Yeah, I'm loving that.
 When River seemed comfortable with the "outside the arena" thing, Crystal let go.

"Thanks, Crystal!"

And off they went to explore the farm!

Large weird pile of gravel = not scary
 Ross and I went along, supposedly for moral support.

 In reality, we just wanted to get a bunch more pictures.

Big tree between Ross and River -- this mare is NOT herdbound!
Still not enough challenges!  Let's add more!

Patty's first time up on River -  lots of pets and praise for the mare!
 River has been backed a little bit this week by Dory and Big Meagan (they are doing the Formal Training for this mare), but this is Patty's first time in the saddle.
Safety first: helmets for the rider and the sidewalker

We start with Sirie as sidewalker until River is comfortable with the concept.  Then...

Cast off the training wheels


A few rounds of "follow the leader" with Duana and Hana...

"Do like I do, River."

and then River is asked to walk away from her new friend Hana and go alone.

"Bye!   Write when you get work!"

When River's brain gets full, she stops to think.  We call this her "data compression" face.

file compression 80% complete

She yawns for stress relief.  And then...

Brain is getting full.

...she moves out again.

Good girl!

What an excellent start to the year.

Monday, December 31, 2012

In which we return to normal life again: mostly horse stuff (plus food)

Thus far, the abominable sn*w forecast has avoided us.  
So, even though the weather is cold and wet, we've been riding in it.

Barely enough diffused light to see the road.
This photo was taken around noon, by the way.

Just before the holidays set upon us, we even dressed up in the Traditional XMoose Attire.

Happy Xmoose to you!

By the end of the ride, however, the Festive Antlers were permanently disintegrated by rain.

Ah, well.

A nice day on the trail with Dean and Duana (and the Dragon, too!)

After riding, food is always in order.

The Usual Suspects are big believers in the restorative power of lunch.

We have a few favorite spots--local establishments with staff that likes to see us even when we tramp in wearing our muddy boots and wet breeches.

Winter is also a good time to take lessons indoors.

Jim taking a lesson on "G-Man."  

Although the curriculum is officially "dressage", Fiddle's unofficial focus during lessons right now is "play nicely with others."

Fiddle greets Whiskey politely

We're still working on it.  She is learning to tolerate other horses in the arena when she's working, and she's also learning to share space with them--politely.  She actually sort of likes Katie's new mare Whiskey.  She completely ignores the 2-year-old stud colt who gets worked during her lesson time.  She looks the other way when the Curly gelding is in the arena.  For some reason, she still hates the nice little Arab gelding Parker.  It's not perfect, but it's a vast improvement.

Nice ponies like Hana got special presents from Santa this year:

"Wake me up when my Outfit is ready, please."

Maybe it was the nice rider who got the present.  It seems to me that Duana has been better behaved than Hana this year.  Anyhow, look at the new gear:

You could even say it glows...

This new tack doesn't just glow in the dark...it glows in the DAY!

Out for a midwinter mosey: Standies and Tekes and Arabs--oh my!

Get all dressed up, and then go for a ride!   And after riding:


We had so much fun at our Thanksgiving Leftovers party in November that we decided to have parties more frequently.  The weekend between Xmas and New Year is the perfect time to get together and celebrate.

two cups?

And what's a little celebration without
Ahhh, here we go:  two bottles!

a little homemade cherry wine?

2012 Round and Red sweet cherry wine

After the riding and the eating and the drinking, what's a person to do?  Allow me to make a humble suggestion:  hunker down with a great book.

Katie and Duana have a great book to read--do you have yours?

The book is here!  If you haven't ordered your copy yet, no need to wait any longer.  Follow the link HERE, and get Endurance 101 for your very own library.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Let's make this a good 'un.

In which this is the last story...until there is another story...

It's been more than a week of storytelling here at the Haiku Farm Blog.

We'll return to regular posts about horses and farm life soon...but first, here's just one more story.  I learned this from storyteller Aaron Shepard, and my version isn't very different from his, even after years of telling it.  

I think a story about generosity is a good one to start out the New Year.  Let's make it a good 'un.

The Baker’s Dozen (Colonial America)
In the colonial town now known as Albany, New York, there lived a baker who was as honest as he could be. Each morning, he checked and balanced his scales, and he took great care to give his customers exactly what they paid for—not more and not less.

The baker’s shop was always busy, because people trusted him, and because he was a good baker as well. And never was the shop busier than in the days before December 6, when the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas Day.

At that time of year, people flocked to the baker’s shop to buy his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. Made of gingerbread, iced in red and white, they looked just like Saint Nicholas as the Dutch know him: tall and thin, with a high, red bishop’s cap, and a long, red bishop’s cloak.

One Saint Nicholas Day morning, the baker was just ready for business, when the door of his shop opened. In walked an old woman, wrapped in a long black shawl.

“I have come for a dozen of your Saint Nicholas cookies.”

Taking a tray, the baker counted out twelve cookies. He started to wrap them, but the woman reached out and stopped him.
“I asked for a dozen. You have given me only twelve.”

“Madam,” said the baker, “everyone knows that a dozen is twelve.”

“But I say a dozen is thirteen,” said the woman. “Give me one more.”

Now, this baker was not a man to bear foolishness. “Madam, my customers get exactly what they pay for—not more and not less.”
“Then you may keep the cookies.”
The woman turned to go, but stopped at the door.
“Baker, however honest you may be, your heart is small and your fist is tight. Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again!”

Then she was gone.

From that day, everything went wrong in the bakery. His bread rose too high or not at all. His pies were sour or too sweet. His cakes crumbled or were chewy. His cookies were burnt or bitter.

His customers soon noticed the difference. Before long, most of them were going to other bakers.

“That old woman has bewitched me,” said the baker to himself. “Is this how my honesty is rewarded?”

A year passed. The baker grew poorer and poorer. Since he sold little, he baked little, and his shelves were nearly bare. His last few customers slipped away.

Finally, on the day before Saint Nicholas Day, not one customer came to the baker’s shop. At day’s end, he sat alone, staring at his unsold Saint Nicholas cookies.

“I wish Saint Nicholas could help me now,” he said. Then he closed his shop and went sadly to bed.

That night, the baker had a dream. He was a boy again, one in a crowd of happy children. And there in the midst of them was Saint Nicholas himself.

The bishop’s white horse stood beside him, its baskets filled with cookies. Nicholas pulled out one after another, and handed them to the children. But the baker noticed something strange: no matter how many cookies Nicholas passed out, there were always more to give. In fact, the more he took from the baskets, the more they seemed to hold.

In his dream, the baker tried to thank Saint Nicholas, but when he looked up, he saw that it wasn’t the saint at all. Smiling down at him was the old woman with the long black shawl.

He awoke with a start. Moonlight shone through the half-closed shutters as he lay there, thinking.

“I always give my customers exactly what they pay for,” he said, “not more and not less. But why not give more?”

The next morning, Saint Nicholas Day, the baker rose early. He mixed his gingerbread dough and rolled it out. He molded the shapes and baked them. And the cookies were as fine as any he had made.
He had just finished icing the cookies in red and white to look just like Saint Nicholas, when the door opened. In walked the old woman with the long black shawl.
“I have come for a dozen of your Saint Nicholas cookies.”

In great excitement, the baker counted out twelve cookies—and one more.

“In this shop,” he said, “from now on, a dozen is thirteen.”

“You have learned to count well,” said the woman. “You will surely be rewarded.”

She paid for the cookies and started out. But as the door swung shut, the baker’s eyes seemed to play a trick on him. He thought he glimpsed the tail end of a long red cloak.

As the old woman foretold, the baker was rewarded. When people heard he counted thirteen as a dozen, he had more customers than ever.

In fact, he grew so wealthy that the other bakers in town began doing the same. From there, the practice spread to other towns, and through all the American colonies.

And this, they say, is how thirteen became the “baker’s dozen”—a custom common for over a century, and alive in some places to this very day.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

In which there's another little winter story (I rarely run out)

There's a gigantic, scruffy-looking black walnut tree in the backyard at Haiku Farm.  

When we moved here in early spring 2009, the other trees were already beginning to bud and leaf out, but the walnut stood steadfastly naked for months.  If we'd had more time, we'd have called it a dead tree and cut it down for firewood, but the first year in a new place is a busy time, and the first year on a farm is doubly busy.

I don't think we paid any attention to the tree until summer...when it suddenly produced leaves, buds, blossoms and fruit.   Amazing.  

The Walnut Tree and the Philosopher (Turkey)

Long time ago, when people didn’t know many things, and that included how to eat walnuts, a walnut tree grew by the road. It might have been planted there by someone, or it could have grown there by chance.

One day a traveler passed by. He stopped by the old walnut tree to rest in its shade. Then he noticed the green fruits and tasted one of them only to spit it out in disgust, because the husk was so bitter.

Sometime after he had gone, another traveler passed by. He too sat under the tree and noticed the tooth marks on the fruit the first one had bitten. “This fruit must not be very tasty,” he thought. “But everything in this world has a purpose. It must be the hard heart that is to be eaten.” And he bit the hard shell but nearly broke a tooth in the process. He too walked away hungry.

Next came a traveler with a scholarly disposition. He studied the fruit carefully, first tasting the bitter skin, then scratching the hard shell until he came up with the idea to break the shell with a stone. That was rewarded with the tasty walnut. The scholar smiled contently: “Wisdom and patience conquer all,” he thought.

Soon a businessman leading a donkey laden with his goods arrived under the tree. The scholar happily shared with him his secret. The businessman thanked him and after they had eaten loaded the donkey with walnuts for sale. He let the scholar ride the donkey as a reward for his discovery while he himself walked and rubbed his palms in anticipation of his future profit.

They traveled in silence but soon darkness fell over the road. They were worried because there wasn’t a town or village to be seen and they were afraid to spend the night in the dark forest. Suddenly the merchant saw a faint light in the distance.

“There," he said. “I see a light!”

“But how can that faint light help us,” said the scholar. “It is so small and lonely while the forest is big, dark and threatening.”

While they were arguing, the light moved closer and they saw a man carrying a lantern.

That man was a philosopher who lived in a hut by a lake nearby. He took the travelers to his place to spend the night.

The inventive travelers shared with him the secret of the walnut tree, and gave him a bag of walnuts as a gift.

“Well done!” said the philosopher. “Tomorrow, I will go and begin to travel all over the world and plant a walnut tree by all the roads that I pass.”

“But, then who will buy the walnuts that I am trying to sell?” said the businessman, disappointed.

“Don’t worry,” answered the philosopher. “When more people taste the walnuts from the trees by the roads they will be more likely to buy them from you in the city marketplace.”

“But what will be your reward for your labor?” asked the businessman.

“And how exactly do you plan to do it?” asked the scholar. “I mean, how many walnuts will you start with and where you will plant them?  Will you start your journey towards the East, West, North or South?”

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know,” answered the philosopher. “But as the light from my lantern is just enough for us to see the immediate road in front of us, my initial intention and desire will carry me perhaps to the next step on my way towards my humble goal. And if I meet someone else with a lantern, then together we will be able to see further.”

Thus they spent the night comfortably until the sun rose over the dark forest and they went each on their way to find their own happiness.