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Posts tagged “spring

Old Friends

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Hard to believe this was taken only four springs ago. Where does the time go? I still miss Tia and the Bean every day. It’s hard to get used to looking at Dharla and Bullet down in the pasture and seeing only two horses. And every time I see a picture of a grey Arab I feel a little stab of sadness. I wonder if I’ll always feel the small hole in my heart that opened when I lost Tia? I’ve had dogs all my life and I’ve never felt their loss years after they’ve passed on. Good dogs, too. But with every new dog that comes into my life the pain of losing the previous dog lessens, and eventually gives way to happy memories. I’ve not found this to be so with my horses, and I’m not sure why.


Bye Bye Bunny

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Gus has grown up. I seriously doubt he’ll get any bigger, though I suspect he’ll continue to fill out. But for now he’s just a lean, mean bunny killing machine. That’s right, he finds and kills baby bunnies. Now before you go all ewwwww or awwwww on me, I should remind you why we got Gus. To kill yard, farm and garden varmints. Bunnies are a menace to your yard and garden. They do immeasurable damage and make off with the cream of my crop every summer. Yes, I could fence my garden off, but that creates more cost, time and effort than I’m willing to spend. Besides, a fence is unsightly. And dead bunnies aren’t, you ask?  Well yeah, they are. And every time one bites the dust I feel a little heart pang for it and the short life it led. But I also did a little research and found out that the average female wild bunny has something like 8 or 9 litters per summer and out of the 65 or so babies they produce each year, something like 4 or 5 are expected to reach a year old. Yeah, those are not good odds. So basically, the rest are destined to be little more than a cog on the wheel of the food chain anyway. Gus is just helping speed up the process. Besides, Gus kills them in an instant, which I’d much prefer to them being swallowed (alive) by a black snake. And boy, do we have a TON of snakes. And hawks. And owls. I listened to an owl eat a nest of baby bunnies one night.  The next day I went down to the spot where the nest had been and there was nothing left but an odd discarded leg (or three) and a few tufts of fur. That was much worse than knowing Gus might kill an occasional baby bunny every now and then.


Pleased to Meet Ya …. Not?

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I’ve been riding a lot this spring. As usual, mostly alone. Yesterday Dharla and I were on our way home from a long ride along Salmon River when four women approached on horseback at a fast canter. Right before they got to us they slowed to a speedy walk/trot, then passed with hardly a nod or a “Hello.” I found that odd, given most equestrians stop and chat a bit; ask where you’re from or what part of the trail system you’ve been riding. When people learn I know the area well and have years of experience riding the local trails, many want to exchange a phone number or try to make arrangements to get together for a ride in the future. We have a huge assortment of trails in our area, but it can be somewhat daunting to ride out on them if you’re not at all familiar with the system. So it was a little strange when these women blasted up to me, passed with nary a word, then blasted off. I dunno. Maybe they were late for something? Either way, it was a great opportunity for me to see how Dharla would respond to this kind of situation, and she did me proud. Maybe it was because we were headed for home and my horse knew that, but she wasn’t phased at all by the sight of four large horses charging up to her, then immediately moving on. I was so pleased. While there are times when Dharla can seem overly sensitive to situations or circumstances, this just goes to show that she does have a lot of common sense.


Peeking

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As of yesterday I still had small mounds of dirty snow tucked in spots around my yard. But a sudden spring shower came barreling through in the late afternoon and melted the last remaining signs of winter. And in it’s place, spring has sprung. Every April I’m amazed and impressed by the resiliency of perennials. The ground slowly softens, heaves, and coughs up the first threads of green. Everywhere I look I see signs of new life. It’s like being five years old, waking up on Christmas morning and excitedly anticipating a plethora of new presents! I love spring; so full of hope and possibility.

I got out on my horse yesterday for the first time since last fall. I was literally craving an opportunity to ride. I got a late start and didn’t go as far as I’d hoped, but that turned out to be a good thing because I nearly got caught in our first thunder storm of the season! Yee-ha! Life is never dull!


Rose

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Donogh and Mikes By Lúnasa from The Merry Sisters Of Fate

Well, I’ve been crazy busy. Plus, the weather’s been bad, the lighting’s been bad and my eye is no better than it was six weeks ago. The husband is sick, I think I’ve caught his crud, but the critters are all good and the barn finally got started this morning!

I’ve been working hard in the garden, but when the fog started to burn off  this morning I decided to put my tools down and grab my camera. Macro is a good fit for someone with bad eyesight because I can set my camera on live view and use the tripod and remote. There were a couple of great webs that I tried to shoot, but there was an almost imperceptible breath of air that foiled my attempts. Even some of the flower shots were tricky because it doesn’t take much of an air current to make the heavy blossoms sway. Especially when they’re wet from an overnight drizzle. Still, that makes for some super shooting conditions, so I had to try.

I’m pretty stoked about the barn. I’ve been picturing this barn mentally for about ten years or more and I can’t believe it’s actually going to be a reality. It’s like having a long-term dream come true!


Ruffles

 

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There is a Time by Solas from the CD For Love and Laughter


Reaching

 

 

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The Irises  in my garden are starting to reach for the sky.


A Little Green

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Little Green by Joni Mitchell from the album Blue

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In a few short weeks my nephew will graduate from high school. Right now he’s all wrapped up in the complex dynamics of  his peer group, a few who will be moving on to college in the vicinity of where he’s chosen to go. But soon after making heartfelt pledges to always stay in touch, the vast majority of them will splinter off and go their separate ways, never to be seen again. And so this photo and song are for an old high school friend, because we should have kept in touch.

Janet wasn’t a childhood friend, in fact, I didn’t even befriend her until my senior year. Barely three weeks into my final year of school I lost my high school sweetheart and first serious boyfriend in a tragic automobile accident. Already somewhat of a fringe person, I felt lonely, isolated and completely unprepared to navigate the  grief process. So I don’t recall how Janet first came up on my radar screen, but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with music. Music was my lifeline. I was enrolled in several music theory classes and sang in the highly revered select choir. It’s quite possible given Janet’s love for the same, that we met in music class. Or rather, that I simply snapped out of my funk one day and there she was.

Janet was quite possibly the most beautiful and serene person I’d ever met to date. She had an ethereal quality that was both calming and soothing. Her voice was soft and breathy, a natural fit with her tall, willowy shape. Even her laugh was as gentle as a breeze. I learned later that Janet had a strong spiritual upbringing, but at the time I didn’t understand the filter that would have on everything she did and said. I do know I never heard her speak a harsh or unkind word to anyone, ever. What I do remember is that one day Janet was just suddenly there … in my life.

Janet played a mean acoustic guitar. I understand now that her impetus for playing probably got it’s roots from her involvement with church. Back then, church youth groups were very folksy. Flower Power was still very much in vogue. So if a kid brought up in the church wanted to rebel a bit and spread their creative wings, they got involved in a youth music group. (Today, this kind of group is called a Worship Team) I remember Janet came over to my house one day and brought her guitar. We escaped up to my bedroom, where I sat on the floor as she perched on the edge of the bed and strummed. I enjoyed listening to her play, but I didn’t know any of her music since most of it was stuff she played with her youth group. So I did the most logical thing I could think of doing: I broke out my Joni Mitchell albums! Janet was immediately captivated. She borrowed my alum Blue and started working on the songs at home. The next time we got together we both sang along as she played and it was clear by the rapturous look on her face that Janet had found her Holy Grail.

When we’re children, teenagers even, we think we know so much about the world around us. But we don’t. We’re unable to see our friends and ourselves with any sort of clarity because we lack the life experience we need to measure them. I know now that Janet was a very sheltered, naive girl who probably grew up in a family with parents who had certain expectations for her life. But then I came along and threw open the door to a whole new world she’d never known, and everything changed for her. Another drawback of being a teenager is that we’re so self-absorbed and focused on our own stuff that we don’t really know what’s going on with our friends. And that was very true of my friendship with Janet; what looked OK on the outside was not a bed of roses on the inside.

Janet had struggles I didn’t know a thing about until one day I got a collect phone call from her. She’d ‘run away’ from home and was living at the Y in the city. Would I come visit? I did, and what I saw was very sobering. I lost touch with Janet shortly after that visit. Apparently her stay at the Y was only a temporary layover and she left, destination unknown. I don’t know if she had somewhere else to go live, but my next contact with her was a letter postmarked California. She told me she’d met someone and was in love. He was a songwriter and a poet and her dream was that they were going to make beautiful music together, be singers and poets, Bohemian beatniks. Peace, love, groovy. I was happy for her, considering all her sadness and struggle. She sounded so up, so excited about her life.

A season or two passed, then in the last letter I got from Janet she told me she’d had a baby. Her love child, a boy, was born with Down’s Syndrome. It was 1977, she was maybe all of 19 or 20 and living in a van in California. Two decades passed before I heard from Janet again. By then she and her husband had relocated to the area where we grew up. She tracked me down and called and brought me up to speed on her life. There were many changes. She’d gone through an amicable divorce shortly after having relocated and given birth to a baby girl (In her late 30’s!). She was still playing guitar and writing music. We talked in vague terms about getting together when I went home for a visit later that summer, but even as I spoke the words I knew our plans would never materialize. I was going through a really rough patch in my own life and I didn’t have the wherewithal to rekindle an old friendship.

A few years later I went home to attend a class reunion with the hope that Janet might go. I’d heard rumors she was still in the area, but she never showed up. In the years since I’ve tried several times to track Janet down. I want to apologize for dropping the ball, but I can’t seem to find her anywhere. I think of her often, especially in the spring. And every time I listen to Joni Mitchell I get a lump in my throat when I picture Janet; still seventeen, still picking and singing, her clear voice high and free.


Fiddle Dance

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(In The House of Tom Bombadil by Nickle Creek, from the CD: Nickle Creek)

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It’s time for the spring dance of the fiddleheads!


Rain

Finally!

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I’m having a heck of a time trying to figure out how to share some music. For now, I guess the very bland play bar will have to do. The song is Una Mattina by Ludovico Einaudi. I would be lucky to play half this well some day!


Gathered Together

 

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A small flock waits to see if someone will open the gate and let them into the pasture.


Brothers

Ben & Moss

 

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When it comes to some things brothers can be amazingly similar! Here, two litter mates enjoy a good spring romp in a lingering patch of snow.


Rock Star

 

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Hazer, the rock star. He’s so cool, he doesn’t have to open his eyes when I take his picture. Basically, this is a dumb photo, but I love how green this spring morning was, so ripe with possibilities. And I love that the Bean is in the background. It’s still hard to look at pictures that have Bean and Tia in them. Bittersweet, I guess.


Iris Eyes Are Smiling

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Siberian Iris. How fitting is that in this Siberian Spring?

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Seniority

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Baring the ever-dreaded health concerns, I truly love senior animals. There’s just something about an aged dog, cat or horse that tugs on my heartstrings. Perhaps it’s their wisdom that I like, their unflappable demeanor that comes from having weathered life’s ups and downs. As seniors, they know when to respond, what to ignore and they have a good fix on what’s really important. Like elderly people, aged animals have some pretty distinct likes and dislikes and they’re usually not shy about making their feelings known.

Beanie (above) is by all standards a senior equine. He’s 28, which is not ancient by Arabian standards, but he’s certainly well into the golden years of his life. For the most part the Bean is easy to love: he can be patient, wise and he usually shows good common sense in most circumstances.  But he can also be cantankerous, fussy and mercurial and he doesn’t have any problems letting the other horses know what he thinks. He may be old, but he demands respect. The picture above was taken in the first few days after Dharla’s arrival. The Bean was willing to share a pile of hay, but Dharla was being cautious all the same. Smart girl!

These two horses have formed a nice bond, but Dharla still gives the Bean the right of way. She likes to hang out with him and you can tell she’s a little hesitant to leave the Bean when Bullet starts to walk down back. Beanie seldom leaves the barnyard anymore, but will stand in the run-in shed and wait for Dharla to return. Sometimes he’ll whinny to her just to let her know he’s waiting. Oddly, he seldom whinnies when I take Dharla out for a ride. Again, I think that in his wisdom he understands the difference between wandering down back to graze and going off to work.

Dharla has definitely taken to the role of lead mare. Obviously, she doesn’t have any competition here, but God help the poor mare who thinks she can come in here and challenge her. I’m pretty sure Dharla would kick some serious horse butt. She’s no weenie, that’s for sure! Thankfully, my three all get along. Sure, there’s some pushing, shoving and tooth and hoof threats from time to time, but generally speaking they all seem to know their place … and Bean’s place is always at the top!


Green Giant

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This Jack-In-The-Pulpit is HUGE! It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the leaves are gigantic … like baby elephant ears! I took this shot when the morning light was just starting to peek through the branches of a nearby cedar. The filtered sunlight made the green really pop. I love wildflowers and I try  to let them have their way on my landscape, but Jack-In-The-Pulpit is so prolific here that I sometimes have to cull them. It always amazes me how certain ones grow so big while others stay more modest in size. I’m not sure why, other than the obvious answer that some spots are probably just better growing locations than others. Our pond and streams attract a few different species of turtles, which eat the bright red seeds of the Jack and help spread them. I guess the turtles have been doing their job … we have lots of Jack-In-The-Pulpit coming up in every nook and cranny around here.

Today, in memory of my veteran father I will be planting my first small veggie garden in 14 years. This used to be a yearly spring rite that Dad instilled in our family, but I all but abandoned vegetable gardening after spinal surgery made the task too challenging. However, my husband has built me a (somewhat) raised bed that, with the help of a small stool, should be fairly manageable. And I’m not going to go nuts like I used to, planting a half dozen or so of everything I can think of. Instead, this will begin as a small project. It will be a tentative trial, an attempt to step back into time and resurrect a much missed ritual. So on behalf of my father, who (along with my mother) taught me to love the land and soil that he fought to protect, I wish everyone a safe and sacred Memorial Day.

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May 27, 2011 7:37 AM EST.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO:160, 90mm, 1/13 sec, f/8.0

Lightroom: small crop, minor brightness/contrast adj.


Simplicity

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Macro photography has taught me that some of the most simple things can be quite beautiful. Flowers aren’t the most exciting subject to some, but I’m amazed by their complexity and diversity.

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May 25, 2011 7:31 AM EST.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 250, 90mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0

Lightroom3: Crop, brightness/contrast adj.


Wild Horses

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I love this whimsical metal horse that I found at the Brimfield Antique show! It looks right at home in my flower garden!


A Good Fit

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I’ve owned Dharla exactly two months today. I’ve only had her home with me a little over a month and when I think about how far we’ve come and how many “firsts” we’ve experienced together I’m pretty amazed. We’ve been very busy girls! I will say one thing; having a new horse is a very good way to step out of your comfort zone. As much as I loved and miss my dear Tia, I didn’t realize how easy life had gotten with a horse who fit me like an old pair of slippers!

That said, I’m really growing attached to Dharla; her personality makes liking her easy. Dharla is affectionate, easy-going and seems to enjoy being with me. Sometimes she can be a bit willful, but for the most part she’s a team player and wants to please me. She’s got common sense and good dose of self-preservation, which in a trail horse means she isn’t prone to doing anything stupid.  For example, last weekend we did our first big river crossing. Since most Arabians have an extreme dislike for water, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve worked very hard on getting Dharla to cross everything from small puddles and little trickles of water to medium-sized streams, but a big river crossing is a completely different animal. Having been through this before with our other Arabs I figured she could either go to great lengths to avoid crossing (anything from a hissy-fit to a mule-stubborn outright refusal), try to jump the river (another avoidance tactic) or simply give in and cross.

Some horses learn well from observation, so we followed Aldo and Bullet down to the edge of the fast-moving water and watched them calmly walk in and stand about halfway across the river. Dharla firmly planted her feet and looked around with an alarmed expression on her face as I sat and encouraged her gently with my voice. After about a minute or two of letting her access the situation I lightly squeezed her sides with my legs. I felt her start to gather herself for a leap, so I quickly checked her with my hands and she responded immediately by stepping carefully into the water. Granted, she was still nervous and not sure what to expect, but she was willing to trust my judgment and didn’t attempt to take control or make a scary situation turn into something truly dangerous! Now that’s the kind of horse sense I like!

Our trees are finally getting all their leaves, which changes our trail landscape dramatically. I’m looking forward to getting Dharla back out in the woods to see how she handles things  now that it looks so different again.


On Guard

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More action in our pond. There’s a female too, but she was taking a quick snooze in the long grass just off to the left of the frame.  This guy was very hard to catch standing still. He took his sentry duty pretty seriously.

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May 10, 2011

Canon EOS 7D

ISO:200, 163mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.0

Lens: Tamron 70-200mm

Lightroom3: brightness/contrast adj.


Up Periscope!

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The pond is in full fledged activity mode now, with plenty of frogs, snakes and polliwogs. The resident hawks swoop over the murky water regularly, hunting whatever they can find while I circle the perimeter, camera in hand, doing the same.

April 29, 2011.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 100, 135mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6

Lens Canon EF-S18-136 3.5-5.6 IS

Lightroom3: Crop, minor contrast/brightness adj.


Hips and Hives

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I was out pulling a few weeds this morning when I came upon a small segment of an old abandoned wasp or bee hive. It was a bit soggy, but I set it aside to add to my collection of macro props. A few minutes later I while weeding under the rose bushes I found an old dried rose hip from last summer. Thinking it an unusual shape, I added that to my collection too. When I was finished, I headed for the house. As I passed a wood stump I noticed how the rain had soaked into the wood, enriching the color and making it appear almost shellacked. Thinking the stump might be a nice contrast to the grays of the rose hip, I got my camera and went to work.

A few hours later I decided to try taking a few more pictures using the same props and stump. Unfortunately, the stump had started to dry and the deep rich mahogany color was almost gone. Also, it’s interesting to note how the ends of the rose hip bud  curled as they dried. I puttered around and took a few more shots, but it’s my opinion the lighting wasn’t nearly as good as it was earlier and the “magic” just wasn’t there. Still, it was good practice. The more I use my tripod for macro the better I get at manipulating it. That’s not to say I’ve mastered it, but I’m not pulling out my hair quite as much as before!

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Wash Me

Me? Dirty?

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I was wondering if anyone noticed how filthy Bullet was in the last group of pictures? I’m kind of self-conscious about his filth because it’s not like I don’t brush him or anything. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: I brush him several times a day! But for some reason Bullet is like that dirt-seeking kid who just can’t seem to keep himself clean for more than a few minutes.

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Mr. Sweet Cheeks

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He’s so serious about his filth that he makes a point of grinding his face in the dirt when he rolls. That’s pretty darn serious!

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Latte al la grunge

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I used to be embarrassed by Bullet’s constant covering of grime, but I’ve come to believe that some horses  just don’t care how they look. If the bugs are biting or they’re itchy, they’ll roll and not think twice about how it makes them look. That doesn’t make for dreamy equine photos, but I’d rather my horses act like real horses than perfect photo subjects any day. So you can expect to see plenty of pictures of a certain dirty cream-colored buckskin in the near future, but rest assured, that doesn’t bother him one bit!


Grasscapades

Dharla & Bullet chow down!

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The horses have been getting antsy for green grass. Because we are a small farm we have to limit our horses access to our precious pasture. From late fall to early spring, they are restricted to the small paddock around the barn. But by spring, they’ve worn that down to little more than dust, which promptly reverts to mud the minute it rains. I’m sure it’s a bit of a tease when the grass on the other side of the electric fence starts popping up. This time of year I’ll often glance out the kitchen window and see Bullet or Dharla doing their best to nibble under the bottom strand of the fence.

We finally got a few days in a row where it didn’t rain and I decided it was time to open the upper part of our pasture. We’ve split the connecting fields into three sections and will open them gradually over a period of a week or two.  It’s easier to limit the horses access and not have to go traipsing all over the property to find them and wrangle them back up to the barn when they’ve had enough. Since they don’t get grass year-round I’ll let them start by having access for about forty-five minutes, and then I work their time up from there. Eventually they’ll have free rein to wander the pasture as they wish, but for now they’re on limited exposure.

Yesterday I walked the lower fields to pick up sticks, check, clear and secure the electric line and tie ribbon markers here and there to increase visibility for Dharla. In years past, all three horses would go tearing down the fareway when we opened up the back pasture. There’s something about the long gentle slope of the fields that just makes them want to run and kick up their heels. They usually go streaking out of sight, then circle around the bottom pasture and come roaring back up to the barn as fast as they can. They usually do this about three or four times in a row before Bullet has had enough and settles down to eat the green grass. Bullet was raised strictly a pasture (herd) horse with little to no time spent indoors, so he’s pretty serious about his pasture time. Not much distracts him for very long from the business of eating green grass.

Oddly, not all horses like having the freedom of a pasture. I never knew that. I thought all horses liked to eat grass. We spent the better part of ten years clearing our heavily wooded land only to discover Beanie  would much rather stand right next to the barn. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because he was never allowed to be an outside horse when he was young. I think he feels insecure when he’s away from the barn. We got Beanie when he was just four years old, but by then he was a confirmed cribber and really didn’t know how to just be a normal horse. We tried to expose him to normal horse things, but he’ll still opt to stand right next to the barn if given a choice. Granted, he prefers to be outside rather than stuck inside in a stall, but his spot of choice is to stand in one of the two run-in sheds that are attached to the barn.

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Beanie: "What? Leave the Barn? Are you NUTS?"

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Like Bullet, Tia always loved having a pasture and couldn’t wait for us to start opening things up. Often, the three horses would wander down back in the wee early hours of the morning, then Beanie would head back up to the barn where he would stand and watch the other two horses eat.  I’d go out to feed breakfast and have to call to Bullet and Tia to come up for their grain. Tia loved grain as much as grass, so she’d always come running, but Bullet prefers pasture over anything else and I’d practically have to stand on my head to get him to come up.

It will be interesting to see where Dharla falls on the spectrum of things. I know she spent a lot of time outside with a small group of horses, but the farm where she was raised is a lot different than ours. So far she’s shown a distinct preference for being outside and she seems willing to hang out with Bullet when the pasture is opened up. Which is good, because if she hesitates to accompany Bullet down back then she’ll end up just hanging out with Beanie by the barn. Then Bullet would end up having too much pasture for one horse. Given that Bullet is an “easy keeper” he certainly doesn’t need that. Oh, the logistics of having farm animals  … who woulda thunk?

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Bullet: "Alright already! I'm coming ... sheesh!"