We’ve spent the better part of the last two days prepping for the looming “historic” snow storm of 2015. We have batteries, candles, propane, gas for the tractor and snow blower and plenty of milk and bread. (?) It started snowing at 9:15 this morning and so far it looks like any other gray, mid-winter January day. That’s to say that at this point our storm of ‘epic proportions’ doesn’t have much bite. The weather channel has been peppering their forecast with words like ‘gravely dangerous’ and ‘life-threatening.’ I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps we’ll find out as the night progresses? I’d think a better choice of words might be ‘inconvenient’ or ‘bothersome,’ but I suspect those words aren’t sensational enough to drive ratings.
So here we sit, waiting.
This is my horse Dharla. As Arabs go she’s not bad looking. Not show-stopping, drop-dead gorgeous, but she’s kinda cute in a girly sort of way. She was an adorable, make-you-want-to-squeal filly. I know this only because I saw pictures of her from when she was a baby. (I have a few baby photos somewhere,
but I’m too lazy to look for them.) She was a very feminine little thing, full of pep and spunk, yet dainty. Four years ago when I was looking for another horse and went to see Dharla, I didn’t ask her breeders/owners to relay any antidotes about her “childhood.” I kind of regret that now that I know Dharla better.
I noticed right off that (for an Arab) Dharla was well-reared. She was cooperative and well-mannered while being handled, groomed and led. She had no qualms about us, total strangers, walking into her stall and picking up each of her feet. She stood there quietly, attentive, yet untethered as my husband and I gently went over every inch of her body. We watched as Dharla was tacked up to be ridden. Again, she was compliant and calm. While I credit her trainer for much of Dharla’s quiet acceptance of this routine, I know it spoke of a horse that had been exposed to a great deal of variety over the course of her (still) young life. (Dharla was coming on age four that spring, which is considered quite young by Arab standards)
Dharla was born and raised on a local, high-quality Arab and Warmblood farm. The owners take part in every aspect of the breeding, foaling and rearing process of every foal and have a reputation for turning out some very lovely, highly successful show horses. That said, no matter how carefully one pours over pedigrees and bloodlines, sometimes a foal just doesn’t live up to expectations. While that was never said or implied, I have my suspicions Dharla was one of those foals. And I suspect her breeders knew this from fairly early-on, which only makes me respect them even more. Why? Because they didn’t just let Dharla slip through the cracks, like some breeders would.
Instead, Dharla was raised exactly like every other foal born on this farm. She was handled often and given lots of opportunity to see and do new things as she grew up in the safety of a small herd of youngsters her own age. Bred as a Sport-horse prospect, Dharla was halter shown and graded as a yearling. (Her grades were very high!) This meant she got a little exposure to riding in a trailer and being in a show environment. When Dharla was old enough, she began the slow process of being trained to be ridden. Professional trainers do the early prep and backing of the youngsters on this farm, but as her training progressed one of the owners rode her too. Nothing in Dharla’s young life was any different than her more valuable relatives and companions.
There’s nothing really wrong with Dharla. It’s just that on a farm like this, babies that are going to grow up to be really outstanding prospects are earmarked from an early age. Dharla was a slow bloomer. That’s not unusual for an Arab, but when trying to run a profitable business one must determine where to invest the most time and money. Dharla had a sister (bred from the exact same parents, but born a year later), who had already proven herself more worthy of that investment. The sisters looked almost identical, but the similarities ended there. Twice I rode Dharla’s sister and I liked her a LOT, but she was priced out of my budget and she was way out of my league. Besides, I wasn’t looking for a show prospect, I was looking for a future trail mount. (Although still on the market to the “right” buyer, Dharla’s sister has been retained by her breeders and has been extensively and successfully shown by them.)
Dharla has grown up to be a fine trail horse. Athletic and smart, she has just the right amount of common sense and self-preservation that makes her a good team player, but capable of independent thought when necessary. Translation? She’s not inclined to do stupid shit. Granted, at this stage of my life I’m not prone to take a lot of risks out on the trail, but occasionally we’ll run into a situation where I really need to rely on my horse to get the job done with no wiggle room for mistakes. It’s times like that when I’ll look to my horse to help me make a decision and execute it, and it helps to know she’ll work with, not against me. Sometimes Dharla can be willful and stubborn. That’s the quirky side of her personality. But usually when the grit hits the fan I can count on her to do her job without a lot of extra drama. I value that.
All that said, it’s hard to understand how a horse that is apt to think clearly on the trail is so accident prone at home. I went out to feed early this morning and found Dharla sporting a big bald patch by her left eye. During the night she must have had a close encounter with a blunt object. The good news is that her eye is fine. (Phew!) Unfortunately, she looks like hell, and will continue to do so until the hair grows back. I know this only because this is a common occurrence for her and boo-boos are seldom a big surprise. For some odd reason Dharla has a tendency to like to throw her weight (and head) around. I’m sure if her pasture-mates could talk they’d say Dharla can be hard to get along with. She’s seldom truly mean, but she’s known to be ornery and mercurial. I kind of get the feeling neither of the boys ever really know where they stand with her. She wants them nearby, but she doesn’t want them close. And that makes for some interesting dynamics. It’s a little like taking kids on a long car trip; eventually someone’s gonna get poked.
As Gilda Radner would say, “It’s always something!”
(Baby Dharla. Photos not taken by me)
The horses are starting to realize the new barn is home. I’ve let them down back to graze a couple of times and after having to go down and lead them up the lane twice, they figured out how to get back to the new barn on their own. It’s not complicated, just different. In fact, they have to walk past the lane that leads up to the new barn in order to go to the old barn. It’s really just a matter of them understanding that the new barn is where the hay, water and shelter can be found now.
It seems they like to spend their nights under the pines. At first they avoided the wooded part of their new paddock, but they’ve gradually started to explore it a bit more on their own. I’m seeing signs that they’ve bedded down in the pine needles and both Dharla and Rascal have had oak leaves tangled in their tail and mane the last few mornings. When I was picking the pasture today I noticed several piles of manure in the woods. Apparently they like to lay right where Beanie and Tia were buried. At first that discovery seemed a bit creepy, but after some thought I came to the conclusion that dead horses probably don’t mind the company. When we were first thinking about including the burial ground in the paddock my husband was hesitant, but I didn’t think it all that strange. It’s one of the rare flat spots on our property and since it abuts the new barn it would be silly to exclude it from the paddock. With only a few suitable acres, every square inch of property that we can wrangle for turnout counts.
It’s been four years since both Bean & Tia died. The ground over their resting place has long since settled and were it not for the large flat stone that marks their grave you’d be hard pressed to know where they’re buried. Do our horses sense something we can’t? I don’t know, but I find it both strange and comforting that they’ve chosen this very spot in the woods to lay down. Their caramel-colored dropping mix with the long pine needles and I smile as I pick through their cozy slumber nest. In that moment I feel like we’re all together again, one big family.
It’s easy to tell it’s almost full-fledged fall. I get three distinct reminders:
- The horses start shedding their summer coats
- The dinner plate-size hibiscus burst into bloom
- The skunks make their dusk or dawn presence known
Twice in the last week I’ve been jarred out of sleep by the pungent scent of Peppy LePew wafting through my open bedroom window. The first time it happened I could hear the low rumble of Gus growling in his crate. Gus typically doesn’t make a peep during the night, but his highly tuned nose put him on full alert. The scent wasn’t too horribly strong, but there was no mistaking that a skunk had wandered across our property. When this happens in the spring it’s usually the young skunks who don’t have full control over their scent glands yet. But when it happens in the fall it’s more likely a full-fledged adult, which is a little more worrisome. It’s been years since I’ve had a dog get skunked, but it’s something you never forget. The smell that you usually associate with a skunk meandering through the area is nothing like the full force stench of them using their smell for defense. It’s got to be one of the most gagging, God-awful, eye-watering smells on earth. And it’s dangerous too. The dog who got skunked took a close-range shot to the face and I’m still not convinced that didn’t contribute to his blindness just a year or two later. With that episode in mind I’m not taking any chances. At the first indication that a skunk might be nearby the dogs get leashed and walked and there’s no running about freely until we’re sure the coast is clear. The pups are a little put out by that, but it’s far better than the alternative!
There are other signs of the approaching fall. The hummingbird feeder has transitioned from a dull roar to the occasional passer-by. We’re on the migration route so I’ll continue to fill the feeder until a couple of days pass with no visitors. The cardinals are getting very vocal. I’m not sure why because they’re here all summer, but every fall they become more active and noticeable. Could it be one of their food staples has come into season and they get more competitive over that? I don’t know, but I enjoy seeing the colorful pairs. Crickets are louder. I always end up with a few that get into my basement looking for what, I’m not sure! And the days have grown noticeably shorter. Our mornings stay dark now until almost 6:30 and the late afternoon sun slips over the ridge across the road by a little after 7 PM. The changing of seasons happens so fast that if I didn’t have nature to remind me I might miss it altogether.
Bullet & Rascal
I’m attending another funeral this morning. I’ve lost count of how many this makes in the last 18 months. This time a very dear friend of my mother-in-law died. I can’t remember a time when this woman wasn’t helping someone or doing something for someone else. She was one of the sweetest, most selfless ladies I’ve ever known, and a very beloved friend to mom. I know how hard it is for my mother-in-law to lose another close friend. I’m lucky to say I count a few of my friends as true sisters to me. And my own sisters are always there for me too. I can’t imagine my life without any of them, yet every time I go to one of these funerals I get a sharp reminder that the clock ticks for all.
In the hallway of one of my childhood homes there used to hang a small plaque that said:
This is the day the Lord has made.
We shall rejoice and be glad in it!
As a child I used to ponder the meaning of that plaque. Nobody ever explained it to me and I didn’t know the verse was scripture. But I know that now. And with each passing year I feel the urgency of those words with a greater understanding.
Get out there and make the best of your day today. Rejoice in it and be glad you are alive to experience whatever your day brings. And here’s to friends who always have your back, no matter what.
The bane of any buckskin: their dark skin. Especially if they’re a big old buttinski. Bully can’t keep his head out of places it shouldn’t be, and as a result he always has some kind of dark tattoo on his face. It’ll get better, fill in with time. But a few weeks (or days) later he’ll be sporting the remnants of another dark patch somewhere.
It took a little over two years, but yesterday we finally moved our three horses from our “old” barn to our “new” barn. (Insert a huge sigh of satisfaction and relief) It never dawned on me how much finishing work a barn requires before it’s suitable to house horses. And even though the horses have been moved there’s still several projects yet to complete. Like getting an inside wall properly finished off and slapping a coat of polyurethane on all the inside surfaces. We still need to figure out the schematics of the grain and tack room and the stalls need rubber mats that will require some custom fitting. (Insert several curse words here) The barn doesn’t have any electrical power yet and we’ve pretty much decided that getting water from the house to the barn might be impossible. Ledge. Our entire damn property is cursed with ledge and/or water. Yes, that’s a huge disappointment, but I suppose there’s some consolation in the fact that it’s a much shorter distance to run a hose than our old barn.
Yesterday as the humidity and temperature crept higher and higher my husband worked to wire the power box for the electric fence and I took hammer in hand and proceeded to bend the tips of a gazillion nail points. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that horses will find any little thing to get injured on when they are moved to a new location. Then I made countless trips to and from one barn or the other, moving essentials that we’d need once the horses were relocated. It’s kind of like moving into a new house, but not having any of your stuff unpacked. It was mid afternoon before we finally threw halters on all three horses and walked them over. They weren’t as impressed as I’d hoped. There’s a small area of green grass in the new paddock and they all promptly dropped their heads and proceeded to eat. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I guess that’s about as excited as a horse gets over new digs.
I had to make a couple of trips out to the old barn this morning. I was greeted by a strange silence and a feeling of desertion and melancholy. It’s not like the old barn won’t ever get used, but it’s unlikely it will ever house our horses again. And that’s a little sad. My husband built that barn in 1989 and there are lots of memories associated with the structure. Good memories and bad, good times and sad. I’ve been going out to that barn at least three times a day for two and a half decades. I know every nook, cranny and nail of that barn and I could walk there in my sleep. I wonder how many times next week I’ll head out of the basement and get halfway to the old barn before I remember where I’m going.
Goodbye old barn. You’ve earned your rest.
I generally don’t use my blog to comment about stories posted on the Internet (by others), but today I read something that touched a personal nerve. Assumptions. We all make them from time to time. Even in a world that puts such a high priority on not judging. However, I find it more than ironic (and bit hypocritical, too) that some of the same people who berate others for judging don’t try to check their own assumptions.
I remember the comments I read after the first time I saw this photo, comments from people of all walks of life. Most of the comments were critical and sarcastic, but the most scathing remarks came from fitness fanatics. They ranted about how ironic it was that a fitness facility would install an escalator, and that perfectly healthy people would use it (as opposed to the stairs) when going to (or from) an exercise facility. Now I’m no an angel, but my first thought was a little different. I approached this picture from a handicapped point of view. I thought about the scores of people who’ve had hip replacements, knee surgery, back surgery and various injuries and broken bones, who need access to a gym to continue their rehab or fitness regime. When I mentioned that point, most people chastised me, pointing out that neither of the people on the escalator LOOKED handicapped. Ah. The old appearances and assumptions game. So apparently we’re told we shouldn’t judge others, but it’s OK to make assumptions about people based on how they look!
To be perfectly honest, I also thought about a few other scenarios regarding this photo. I wondered if the city or town had certain zoning regulations about how business must manage traffic flow, safety and accessibility. I know most gyms are swamped by crowds of members during certain, high-traffic times of the day. Perhaps escalators were installed to comply with a specific zoning criteria the facility had to meet? I also thought back to those days in my own lifting career when I trained to absolute failure and inhalation. There were many times when I left the gym and found myself nearly incapable of operating the clutch on my standard car. Would I have chosen to use an escalator some of those days? You betcha! With no hesitation, shame, or loss of pride I might add! My ego simply isn’t that big.
So today’s photo that gave me pause was this:
The comments about this photo were scorching. Lots of angst and hate toward everything from SUV drivers/owners to bad park jobs and vehicular dings obtained at parking lots. Now I’m no stranger to parking arrogance or vehicle dings, but I don’t particularly like ostracizing people for their choice of vehicle. While I might not choose to drive a big SUV myself, I like having the right to pick the vehicle that suits my needs. Therefore, I don’t think all SUV drivers or owners are the “bad guys” any more than I think all hybrid drivers are raging liberals and nerds. I think most people are a lot like me: they drive what they like or (sometimes) what they need.
Upon further inspection, I noticed a tag hanging from the rear view mirror on the windshield. My first impression of this photo instantly changed. Was that a handicap tag? If so, that would totally change my interpretation of this picture. I have a handicap parking tag. I don’t always use it, but when I do, I can’t help but notice the vehicles and the people parked around me. First of all, let me say that handicap people (or their drivers) drive all kinds of different vehicles. Sometimes the vehicle is specifically designed to transport the handicapped, while other times the handicapped person is a passenger in the driver’s car. I’ve seen vans and trucks that that have been fit with lift kits to transport several wheelchairs, and station wagons and hatchbacks with walkers and wheelchairs stashed in the trunk. Handicapped parking spaces are extra wide so doors that swing open can be opened all the way and wheelchairs can be wheeled alongside the vehicle to ease the transition in and out. Lucky is the handicapped person who has a vehicle that has been customized with a lift kit for their chair. More often than not, the elderly and temporarily handicapped (think: trauma, critically ill) must make do with grossly inadequate substitutes. Many have to improvise on the fly.
Handicapped people come in all shapes and sizes. Some wear their handicap on their sleeve, meaning, you can tell just by looking at them that they have a handicap. But some (like me) don’t look impaired. In fact, I work very hard not to show my disability. And even though I have a perfectly legal handicapped parking tag, I’ve had perfect strangers come up to me and point out that I’ve parked in a handicapped parking space. Um yes, I know, and I’m legally entitled to park there. I have to submit a signed medical form to the DMV every four years for the right to park in a handicapped parking space. Not to mention that I often forgo the handicapped space on days when I think I can manage OK. In my state, there are so many people who have handicapped tags that you’re lucky if you can even score one. I know the average person thinks there’s tons of spaces devoted to the handicapped, but they just have no clue how much need there is and how every year the need is growing for more. Handicapped spaces are based on the overall number of parking spaces in a given parking area, not by estimates based on need. I remember when my father-in-law was in the hospital dying and I was taking my 84 year-old, severely arthritic mother-in-law to visit him daily. Seldom could we find a handicapped parking space in the parking garage, despite what seemed like plenty of handicapped spaces. It was enormously frustrating, getting her in and out of that facility every day.
The vehicle in the photo looks like it might be a Humvee. So what? Handicapped people have been known to be passengers in all sorts of vehicles. My niece’s future husband drives a Humvee. Should that exempt him from parking his vehicle in a handicapped parking space if I’m a passenger in it? No. If I had a wheelchair should he park in a manner that allows safe access and prevents his vehicle or the wheelchair from dinging the cars parked next to it? Of course not!
Let’s not make assumptions, folks. There’s enough shame in this world without having to carry chalk in our purse to draw signs around a vehicle on those occasions when we think (maybe) someone has over-stepped the boundaries or broken the rules. Do you know the whole story behind everything? Probably not! And who cares! If a certain situation forces you to park a little further out of the way then embrace the exercise and don’t let it get your panties in a wad!
(Click for best resolution)
Yes, it’s winter and yes, it’s been a cold one. While we haven’t had as much snow as we did the year this photo was taken, we’ve had more than I like. But worse than the snow is the bitter cold; it’s worn me thin. The constant parade of various layers of clothes and trying to whip through barn chores as quickly as possible has made this winter seem like one big, long tedious task. I have so many extra pairs of gloves and socks in my car that it looks a bit like I’m living there. I’m counting the days until it warms up, but until then any day that hits the low 30’s feels like a treat!
Like most things in life, nature has many layers. Sometimes things seem straightforward and uncomplicated while at other times more like a mosaic of twists and turns. This fungus, with it’s many layers of color and texture, was quite an interesting discovery. It appeared soft and velvety, slightly fuzzy from a distance, but upon closer inspection I found it rather slimy, and not nearly as inviting to touch as it looked.