Saturday, May 4, 2013

In which we get some cheap Cheeps...because how can we say "no" to cheap Cheeps?

This is not Luna's lunchbox.

"Mmmm.  Smells good!"
 We stopped by the feed store on the way home from running errands.  We needed weed killer and dog treats.  We came home with this:

Didn't you know that chicks come in 6-packs?

How could we resist?  They were on sale!

"Hey!  I called window seat.  Push over!"

Chicks normally cost $2-$4.  These chicks are "big" (i.e. a week old and costing the store too much to feed them), so they were on sale for $1 each.

Cheap Cheeps!

It's been a long time since we've had chicks.
Jim and I have been talking about getting some replacement birds this Spring, anyhow.

The Minervas are four years old now (!!!) and we lost some a few months ago to egg-boundedness when some hens who hadn't laid much during winter started producing eggs but were unable to expel them.  Egg-binding isn't easy to treat, and we euthed a hen whenever one was obviously not going to recover.

(No, we didn't eat them.  We gave each a "flying burial" into Sherman's Marsh at the bottom of the property, where I'm sure something ate them, but it wasn't us)

The survivors (we still have 5 Minerva Louises, including Twelve) are the hens who kept laying through the winter, and they are each still producing 4-5 eggs per week.  Four of them live in a chicken tractor--a portable pen that we push around the yard so they are constantly on fresh grass and can eat up greens and bugs and worms and stuff.  Chicken Twelve runs around free, outwitting the elements and the predators because she is just too weird to die.

Still, they are clearly perimenopausal, and it's time to start raising up their replacements.

Meet Eleanor Sackville-Baggins.
All the Cheeps have the same name, because
we can't tell them apart.

Since we only have one teen at home now, and she and her appetite will be off to college soon enough, we decided to get a smaller batch this time.

Six Rhode Island Red pullets

We hope they are pullets.  Roosters will be euthed and eaten, I have no need nor patience for roosters!

A Rubbermaid box will house them for the first week or two.

The box is inside the henhouse, which is inside the fenced garden,
which is inside the fenced yard.  It's as safe as we can make it.

When they outgrow the box, they will live in the Winter Palace for another month or two.

The Winter Palace is spacious, but protected from hawks and weasels
When they get to "full chicken size" we'll move them into the Tiny White Van, and then they can join the rest of the flock back in the Winter Palace when it's, you know, winter again.

But we're not thinking about that season today.
Blue sky over the Winter Palace

Because today is sunny and warm.

And tomorrow:  we ride!

Friday, May 3, 2013

In which photos with blue sky and ears means that my life is very good

Suddenly, it's Spring in the Swamplands.

Pre-ride photo

The skies are increasingly blue, and the temperatures are finally above 50 degrees during the daytime.
The Usual Suspects hit the trails again

It's still cold at night, of course, and we have heavy frost on the ground most mornings, so I have to wait another week to plant the beans and tomatoes--those don't go in the ground until Mother's Day at the earliest, even though the forecast says we may hit !! 80 !! degrees !! this weekend.  

It's pretty obvious how I entertain myself while waiting for the approved planting dates.

Ears!  Sky!

Patty is getting Flower ready for their first long-distance event:  the 25-mile Limited Distance ride at Mt Adams.  She's pretty excited--Patty, I mean.  Flower isn't a tremendously excitable mare...which is a virtue as far as I'm concerned!
Patty and Flower

Sirie and Ariana will be going along on the LD as the "anchors."

Sirie and Ariana

Looks like Monica and Danny will be doing the same distance, as well as Duana and Hana, which makes a nice mix of "green" with "experience."

Post-ride photo

I wasn't sure that Fee and I were going to get enough "trail time" after Home on the Range to prepare for Mt Adams.  Luckily, the weather has cooperated since I returned from Texas, so we're going to enter the 50-miler.

Ready for a challenge

Dory and Spot did well on the 75-miler at HOTR, so they're signed up for the 100.

Mt Adams is the ride where I did my first-and-so-far-only 100 back in 2007, with the Toad.  It took us almost the full allotment of time, but we finished, and it is truly a beautiful ride.  Someday I hope to do it again--with Fiddle!  But not this year.

Fee is not only fit for a 50, she's also also showing advanced signs of the improvements we've seen since her spay surgery almost exactly 1 year ago:

"Give us a snuggle?"

Patty would never have wanted to hug the Dragon last Spring.

I've worked for years getting Fee to accept human touch, but until about 6 months ago, she never really enjoyed it.  Fixing her wonky hormones made a huge difference to this mare--and to everyone else around her!

I've been doing a lot of solo riding as well.
Clear blue skies, and a view of Puget Sound from the top of the Monument hill

Fee and I really love getting out for a few hours, away from everybody and everything.

Camera flare is always so dramatic.  

Biggify the picture and you might be able to spy Mt Rainier
floating on the horizon above Fee's ears

And of course, the Dragon especially enjoys what happens when we get home:


 Do you know this part?  About it being good?  Because it really, really is good.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In which Texas is home to a bunch of very friendly equine folks!

I managed to find horses in the middle of downtown Ft. Worth (okay, it was actually in the historical "Stockyards" district, but still well-within city limits) which was good.

You gotta cookie in that hat, lady?  I like cookies!

The livery in the Stockyards houses all the animals used in various parades and other tourist-y activities.  We even met the bulls that get saddled up so folks can have their photos taken while sitting on a realio trulio bull, while assisted by a wrangler (high school kid) and surrounded by dance hall girls (colllege kids).  These bulls are born and raised in the Stockyards, and are exceedingly tame.  They live mostly indoors, which is kind of sad...on the other hand, one of the  bulls we met is 17+ years old and still "working" (i.e. standing around smiling for the camera) one day each week.  So it's not a terrible life.

We also saw the traditional Way-Out-West pack animal

You no gotta cookie, I gives you a kiss anyhow!

Wait.  A camel?

Apparently, "Truffles" is part of the petting zoo, as is the camera-shy "reindeer" (on this continent, they are technically called caribou, just so you know).

Yes, Fort Worth had a bunch of old secrets, some of them out-in-the-open for the average tourist, and some of the quite well hidden.

Our tour leader is a librarian from Fort Worth Public Library.
He showed the group how to find a geocache.
I took the early-morning historical walking tour, and not only located several geocaches in the blocks surrounding the Ft Worth Convention Center, I also learned a lot about the area.  Coolio.

But, readers of this blog aren't necessarily here for the historical or literary content.  You're really here for the horse stuff, right?

Well, I gotta tell ya that the best horsey part of the trip came about because of this nice lady:

Michelle and Encore

Michelle Morgan is the heart and soul of Mandolynn Hill Farm, outside of Aubrey, Texas.  When I wrote in a horse-spit-deficit panic to my friend Merri Melde, pleading for the contact info for anyone, anyone at all  in the area who could provide my missing element, she suggested that I contact Michelle.

One of the stallions.  This guy is a flirt with everyone, even the guinea hens and me.

Merri stayed at Mandolynn in 2012, and took some amazing photos while she was there.  The pictures are linked from her blog post HERE.  Have a drool rag ready.  These are "eye-candy horses" like you can't believe.

The babies were happy to provide horse spit.

"Come on out," Michelle wrote to me.  "I'm leaving for the Bluebonnet ride on Saturday morning, but you can stay in the guest house and hang out with the horses as much as you like!"

So I did!

I'm sure Merri or Monica  could have taken thousands of gorgeous photos,
given the quality of the models just standing around waiting for their turn
in front of the lens.  I lack the talent and the hardware to do them justice...
all that "pretty" barely fits in my little camera!

Michelle breeds Arabs for flat-track racing, but not every horse on the place has a spot reserved in the flat-track winner's circles.  The culls from her racing program often end up doing endurance...and doing it very well, too!

For Sale, just in case you know somebody who needs an awesome horse?

Michelle doesn't compete in long-distance rides.  She does the occasional limited distance endurance event so she can spend the weekend with friends and her horse.

However, I did leave a copy of Endurance 101 with her.  Perhaps we'll see her out on the 50 mile trails in future years?

This mama ended up with three "duckling" foals
while the other mamas hung out in the shade and napped.

She certainly breeds the right kind of horse for the sport!

Born prematurely, this little one is still trying to figure out how knees work

Y'all know that I'm more of a Team Sensible gal, and not-so-enamored of Arabians.  But I won't deny that the Arabs totally corner the market on good looks...and charm.

And, let's just say that if any of these fellows accidentally showed up at my barn, I wouldn't throw them out again!

We would fit in the overhead compartment, right?  Take us home, lady!

I admit that I am easily charmed, but these Texan people and critters went out of their way to be kind to this visiting Swamplander.  Why, I even made friends with the funny, bratty bird!

"Hi, Honey!"

...and then, I retired to the comfortable porch of the guest house to write for a few hours.

I wrote a bunch of chapters on the new book while relaxing and watching horses.
Happy sigh.

As for life?  Well.  It's good.