Monday, December 28, 2009

Once when I was in Boone ...

About fifteen years ago when our friend, Nathan lived in Boone, NC we had this conversation about how some parts of the world carry certain vibrational energies that coincide with an individuals energy. I tend to only truly believe things that have some scientific research behind them (except for God but that's another story) but I like that idea because it feels like my experience of the world. I feel more energized and at peace in rural areas than in the city. Maybe that's just because the air is cleaner and there isn't all that "industrial" noise. Anyway, I'm in a huge period of discontent right now where I feel like I'm just slogging through the slow-moving time until 2011 when we can start looking for a farm to move to.

The holidays ended up being nice and relaxing. Well, after the norovirus swept through our house. About ten days before Christmas my poor daughter woke up late at night with horrible stomach pains and ended up puking all night. The next day we had to take her to Children's Hospital because she was getting dehydrated and when I called her doctor to ask her for some anti-nausea medication she said to take her to Childrens to make sure there was nothing serious. After we got home from the hospital my inbox was filled with emails from other moms in her class saying their kids had the same thing. It literally rips me apart inside when she's sick like that. Luckily it sounds like only one other kids in her class got so sick she had to get medicine in order to get re-hydrated. At least they are super nice at Childrens and seem to have endless energy to be sympathetic to sick kids and freaked out parents. And they brought her a Santa beanie baby and the nurses brought us coffee after they came in and found our daughter asleep on the stretcher and the two of us asleep in our chairs (we had been up all night afterall). A couple days later my poor husband got nice and sick so we sent our daughter off to my parents for the night where she had much more fun than she would've had at home.

Thankfully we were all well by Christmas so we went out to my parent's house for the day. My brother and his wife were there and for the first time my cousin, Marge and her boyfriend, Richard actually showed up. Marge used to raise horses and barrel race but she had surgery to fuse some herniated discs in her neck last year so I don't think she'll be riding Girlfriend. But we still have fun talking about horses and the Australian Shepherds she breeds and shows.

My sister-in-law gives me the distinct impression that she feels like she needs to save our family from our non-intellectual, white-trashness though. And Marge, being a rural girl at heart like me - well, put the two of us together and it seemed like there were at least a few sighs of disapproval from my sister-in-law. The thing is, we are not non-intelligent. We are quite intelligent in our own interests, it's just that our interests do not include philosophy or "the right kind of art" or gourmet cooking. Why do people think that makes them so important, I wonder? There are so many people who find value in themselves by the art pieces they have hanging on their wall or because they eat at "the right restaurants", and then they look down their noses at people like say, me or Marge or my mom because we just eat what we like, don't see the need to spend lots of money at a trendy restaurant and like the art that we like, whether or not it has been approved by the critic or art history professor who tells us what we are allowed to like and dislike.

In my opinion, that is just another form of consumerism. It's not as overt as the people who stay up all night in line the day before "Black Friday" in order to buy the latest hot video games at Wal-Mart, but it's still no different. It reminds me of the line in a song I really liked in the early 90's by a then-unknown band named Cake that played around Sacramento when I lived there. The song was How Do You Afford Your Rock-n-Roll Lifestyle? and there is a line in it that makes me think of the intellectual lifestyle - "You're drinkin' what they're sellin'".

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fa la la la la

I'm in a very good mood today despite that when I went out to the car this morning I saw that someone had broken into it. Luckily, they didn't take anything because there was nothing valuable (at least on their radar) to steal. I did have our expensive equestrian riding helmets in the car but apparently inner-city car prowlers don't realize they are worth a lot. And I'm happy they didn't break a window, although I am baffled at how they got in the car since I know it was locked.

I was so distracted by the fact that the car had been broken into, and putting all the junk back in the glove compartment and under the seat, that I completely forgot to bring my coat out to the car. My husband and daughter dropped me off at the stable to see Girlfriend and went to pick up lunch and I thought for a moment I was going to freeze. But once I was moving around I was fine and it was 40 degrees out by then. Plus, Girlfriend puts out a lot of warmth so I got her groomed as quickly a I could so I could ride her and warm up.

She was really pissy since I have only ridden twice in the last month. She didn't even want to walk she was so ancy and pissy. She was jigging all over the place and I had to take a lot of deep breaths because if I get mad then we just get into a power struggle but if I stay totally relaxed and keep giving the same firm "We're walking!" command over and over again until she does it things calm down much quicker. If I give her a slap on the rump or a hard kick like I can do with Doc if he were to act up, she'd buck or bolt or both. I gave her a good hard, quick yank on the outside rein the couple times she tried to bolt and all that succeeded in doing was make her toss her head. She really is very good practice at being Zen with one's emotions, but the calmer I get the quieter I talk, the calmer and quieter she gets even though I can feel all this energy running through her body because she wants to run. But she's an old lady and she can't just go out into the arena with a rider on her back and suddenly start running without warming up her muscles.

Just to give her credit after about ten or fifteen minutes she really mellowed out and I ended up riding her with my feet out of the stirrups and she was fine. I've noticed if she gets super amped up, if I take my feet out of the stirrups it calms her right down because I'm assuming she was never ridden in competition bareback. Of course, last week when I rode her and had my feet out of the stirrups, she spooked when a flock of ducks outside the arena took off in flight in her peripheral vision, but somehow I stayed on. I was annoyed with myself because my instant reaction was to wrap my legs around her middle to hold on, but she somehow miraculously did not take that as a sign to run. Maybe because I was also simultaneously leaning back in the saddle and saying, "Sssssh ... you're ok." and I let go with my legs really quickly. But still I was disappointed that it was my initial instinctual reaction along with leaning back and saying "Ssshhh...". I'd be more proud of myself if I'd just done the latter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Maybe. But you're still a bozo.

I will explain the subject title later. First I want to say that I had one of my grand ideas and now I feel the need to research the heck out of it. I think I want to be a chicken farmer. Not one of those awful commercial ones but a free range chicken farm. With part of the focus being to educate the public on just how bad mass-produced meat is for us. It brings to mind a couple years ago when I was in the Safeway by my house and asked the guy working in the meat department if the chickens had antibiotics in them. He said, "Of course they do. You don't want to eat a sick chicken, do you?" To which I could only stare at him in amazement then turn and walk away muttering, "Damn!"

I want to have an actual free range farm and people can come to farm tours and actually see where the meat and eggs come from and the conditions the animals live in. There would also be a chicken cam (yes - the chicken cam!) for people out of town to see where their meat comes from. I started thinking about this over a year or so ago when I got a Draper Valley Farms Ranger free-range chicken (which was quite expensive) and the poor thing was all scrawny and had very little muscle and lots of adipose tissue (fat) where it was not natural for a chicken. Which by the way you won't see unless you buy whole chickens. My dad told me that all you need to say that something is "free range" is an opening where the chicken can go to from their cage, even if that opening is just a tiny concrete patch. Further research has shown that to be true. Apparently, these chickens have the option of being free range and would rather lie on the couch, eat junk food and play video games.

So, now I want to go visit the farms where the chickens are raised for Draper Valley Farms. I found their processing plant in Mt Vernon totally by accident while going out to Guemes Island last summer. Now I just need to find their farms and see what "free range" means to them. I'm sure it varies depending on whose farm it is that the chicken came from.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking chicken farm. It actually relaxes me to go out and take care of our three chickens - even manual tasks like cleaning the coop is relaxing. And they are funny little buggers. This afternoon when the sun went down, the wind had blown the door shut to do their coop so they all fell asleep at the top of the ramp next to the door. I was trying to get Alina to wake up and move so I could open the door for them, but she wouldn't wake up. Finally I just shoved her off the ramp and that pissed her, but I was able to get their coop door open for them. I poured their food into their bowl and Alina flew into the coop, quickly followed by Woodia (the cross-beak runt) who landed on Alina's back. Alina tried to shake her off and for a minute Woodia was surfing on Alina's back while Alina squawked and tried to shake her off. Alina finally managed to throw her off and Woodia landed in their food bowl, where with her wings still splayed she proceeded to start gobbling down food.

Entertaining as I find them, I still enjoy eating chicken. Therefor I would make a very good chicken farmer.

So, the subject title is from a website that a friend sent me a link to. It's a comparison of the ideas of people who believe that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 thus signifying the end of the world and those who have scientific data to show that prediction is a bunch of hooey. I liked these two statements: "But Daniel Pinchbeck is the reincarnation of the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl!" "Maybe. But Quetzalcoatl is Mexican Atztec, not pre-Columbian Mayan". How that sounded in my head was "Maybe. But you're still a bozo." Here is the link to decide for yourself.

Speaking of the Mayan Calendar and the world ending, my lovely husband finally conceded and said he'd move to a farm with me in 2012 and people kept asking, "Why do you have to wait so long?" and I finally realized it is because that is when the world is going to end and he was hoping to get out of it by the world ended! He has since come down a year and the projected date is 2011. He's starting to show signs that he might actually enjoy living on a farm too. As long as their is high-speed internet and a few weirdos like us. I really want to go up outside of Monroe, WA because I already have a few weird friends like us who live out there. We'll see. Chicken farm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas kitten!

I just realized I have not yet posted any photos of Emma June's Christmas kitten, Diamond on this blog. She is far cuter in person and I don't think that photos do her justice. She is almost completely black except for a few strands of hair on her chest which have just a tiny bit of white on their tips. My mom saw some photos on my Facebook page and said Diamond looks just like my kitten, Blackie that I got when I was five years old. My mom says I carried Blackie every where I went just like a little doll, and I realized I've been doing the same thing with Diamond when I'm the only one home.

I appear to be over the hell cold. Good lord. And life is back to its usual busy self. I don't think I'll get to see my horse until Wednesday when she has an appointment with the vet, and I probably won't have time to ride her unless I managed to get to the stable at an incredibly early hour. I know everyone thinks it's a pain in the butt to have to take care of a horse yourself, but I would rather have her live with me and have to feed her three times a day and muck her stalls, than not have the time to go out and see her more than once a week at most.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coop of Dreams Tour

Yesterday was a "coop of dreams" tour (based on the popular Street of Dreams tours of million mansion around Seattle) set up by Emma June's PE teacher. We were on the tour but didn't get that many people because we were later in the afternoon and I think people were getting cold and weary by then. I did a lot of talking about our chicken Alcatraz to keep the raccoons out, and about Woodia's cross-beak. I did not get to talk about composting but oddly, people are not usually interested in talking to me about composting. I really need to get a composting thermometer so I can figure out if my chicken manure compost will be ok for my garden when it's done. The big thing is whether or not the high nitrogen content of the chicken poop is evened out enough so that it's not either too low (which I think will be the case with mine because I have too much shavings in with the poop) or too high (not enough green or shavings in with the poop).

I foresee the end of my nasty cold. I'm still not feeling completely like myself but at least more so. Last night we went to a holiday party for an old friend from my high school days and I actually got to enjoy myself instead of blearly looking through a fog of painful sinuses and an inability to breath without heavy wheezing.

I have changed so much since high school it is fun to hang out with people who though they may not have changed like me, think I'm just fine the way I changed. And it's not that I changed from who I was completely, I have become who I was with the same interests I had as a kid and am not sure who that teenager was. I made a comment last night about how "that sounds familiar in that "other person I used to be" sort of way." And that is how it feels. I wonder what made me segue to being a girl who only cared about how she looked and if she was "cool" and loved being in the city. I guess I was trying to run away from myself. But it's nice to still have old friends who still like me even though I could care less about fashion and "being cool".

You may be thinking "But you're in your 40's - do you really have old friends who worry about being cool?" Sadly yes. There are still plenty of old friends from back in the day who are still concerned about their image and whether they are famous enough or whether they are connected well enough to famous people. There is a small component of Seattle that is like a Hollywood-lite but full of paler people with heavier sweaters, but just as much high school concern about how cool they are. They are not very interested in me anymore. Their eyes glaze over when I talk about the stuff I'm interested in. Which is fine with me although it has taken awhile to let go of caring about something so shallow that was once so important to me.

Meanwhile, Emma June and I had a little debate this morning about whether or not she can ride Cross Country in Eventing when she's a teenager. I say NO! Or at least not until there are some better regulations concerning Cross Country courses. Right now there are too many people and horses that are killed doing it and in my opinion it is a macho self-congratulatory sport for insecure people to bolster their egos. It is not about being a sport of skill because if it were it would not have the added part where if you mess up you or your horse could die. People make reference to cowboys being full of themselves and macho, but not as many cowboys die each year riding the bucking broncos as the refined English riders riding Cross Country. And horses don't die from bucking. As soon as the bucking strap is snapped off the horse calms down and all is well. Don't even get me started on how much I disapprove of Cross Country on so many levels.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

at least hurricanes aren't cold

My life has been derailed by a nasty, nasty worse-than-the-swine-flu-was cold for this entire week. Higher fever, feel awful, can't sleep. At least I could sleep through much of the swine flu. This week I've felt too awful to sleep and only can when I'm so exhausted I fall asleep for a couple hours. Grumble.

Anyway, because of this my husband has been on a lot of kid duty. And when he's not around she's been lying in bed watching tv with me which she likes a lot. Which is all well and good except for yesterday. I was lying in bed feeling horrid and watching Law & Order Special Victim's Unit to try and get my mind off how horrid I felt when my Emma June got home from school. I told her she could watch tv in my room with me (meaning kid shows on PBS) and that I would get her snack. I wandered into the kitchen in a daze to make her snack before collapsing back in bed and I hear, "Mama, I don't like this!" from the bedroom and I shuffle in to reailze "Aaack! I'd forgotten to the turn the tv off and she was watching Law & Order SVU!" Ooops. I apologized, turned the tv off, made her snack and came back and turned on Word Girl.

This week has been freakishly cold for Seattle. Every morning it has been about 19 degrees outside. And since I'm sick I can't walk EJ to school so my husband has. And every morning he comes back to the house and announces that it is too cold for living creatures. So today I pointed out that it never gets that cold on the Northshore of Lake Pontchatrain and also pointed out that hurricanes aren't cold. Apparently, this was not a good argument though because he just looked at me strangely for a moment and finally said, "That they are not."

Honestly, I'd much rather deal with hurricanes and flooding than the impending "big one" earthquake that is eventually going to hit Seattle. Sometime when sanity hits me I realize how incredibly stupid it is to own a house and live in a place that is guaranteed to be leveled by a giant earthquake any time within the next hundred years or so.

Monday, December 7, 2009

kittens, frozen chicken, frozen me

I went out to see Girlfriend yesterday despite that it was so cold I actually wasn't feeling very motivated. I thought it was a bad sign if cold weather was deterring me from my horse obsession so I bundled up and went out to the stable anyway. It was probably 31 degrees which really isn't that big of a deal. Especially if wimpy folks like me can wear many, many layers.

It was good I went because Sunday is the barn manager's day off and apparently none of the boarders or teens who hang out there wanted to be there when it was this cold. And Girlfriend had pooped in her water, which of course meant she couldn't drink it. Her bucket is probably around 20 gallons I would guess and it was full and I am not *that* strong. So, I had to drag it out of the stall and around the corner to dump it out in the frozen grass. Luckily, Girlfriend's stall is the last one right next to the barn door. The pump on that side of the barn was frozen though, so I dragged it to the other end and was able to break the ice off the hose and get it attached to the pump and get the pump working. After rinsing the bucket out with ice cold water, I stooped down with my hands between my legs to warm up my fingers while the bucket filled up. Then I dragged it back through the whole barn to Girlfriend's stall and she was very happy to have fresh water. My fingers hurt for quite a bit while they were warming up. Did I mention I'm a wimp about the cold?

Our ride wasn't too great again. Girlfriend did not want to trot although I did get her to trot at least a couple paces in a fast, but at least slightly refined way. After putting her through almost a half hour of boring refined, English walking, trotting practice, I let her have her couple laps of galloping. "Wheeeeeee!" actually flew out of my mouth at one point. Sigh. I've gotten so comfortable riding her fast that I'm not worried about keeping my balance so much as I'm worried about it hurting her legs and her stumbling or falling.

Last Tuesday evening we brought home a 4 months old kitten named Diamond as Emma June's early Christmas present. She's very little and thinks she's really big. She's completely black and stomps around on her delicate little tiny feet like she owns the whole house. She's been tormenting the pitbull, but I think that now some of it is playing. BuddyCat hates her and hisses any time she's near him, but she seems to like him despite that so I have hope that they will be friends. Last night was the first night she spent the whole night sleeping at the foot of Emma June's bed. Although she's still not very cuddly with her because she's not used to 5 year olds who are themselves pretty wiggly and unpredictable.

JP said that after he figures out a solar-powered sensor to open and shut the door from the chicken coop to the run, then I can put my webcam into the coop. And after that he'll give them a keyboard so they can blog. That reminds me of one of my favorite children's book. I might need to run power out there for a heat lamp at this rate with the cold weather. It was about 21 degrees last night and not supposed to get warmer than 30 degrees today, and their water keeps freezing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

chicken cam

I'm thinking of hooking up a webcam of some sort in my chicken coop in order to answer the burning question of "Who is really the one laying that one blue egg a day?" And because I'm curious what goes on in the chicken coop between my three kind of weird chickens.

I'm totally over the deep end, aren't I? Just be honest with me. This chicken cam thing is not a rational idea, is it? Unless there is an intervention though I think I'm going to do it.

Back in the cold Pacific Northwest

It got down to about 28 degrees last night. A far cry from the 60 degrees of New Orleans last week. I went out to see my horse yesterday for the first time in 2 weeks and had a moment where I felt like wimping out and going home when I got out of the car in the 32 degree weather and realized I should've worn long johns under my jeans since I was going to be outside for a couple hours.

I got warmer as I started grooming Girlfriend and tacking her up. I saw that she had a sore where her blanket was resting on her withers which is no good. I put on her other, heavier, more expensive blanket and I hope this one fits better. I could not see how her old one could've done that after just two weeks when she wore it for months last year with no problem. But she is also a lot more sway-backed this year than she was last year. She's starting to look old which is kind of hard to see. In Spring of next year she'll be 26 years old! So, she is becoming quite an old lady. But when I got on her yesterday after 2 weeks of not riding her she was jumping around and tossing her head and bucking just a bit in her insistence on running, just like she was a kid.

Emma June took her first real riding lesson at the stable at Audubon Park while we were in New Orleans. I'm hoping she can try a riding lesson at my stable now although usually the youngest age is 8 years old and she is turning 6 in January. There are exceptions sometimes, I'm just not sure if the instructor will make that much of an exception. I was really impressed by how well she did. She even trotted and posted a little.



I am now convinced that I want to move to the Northshore in Lousiana. Probably Covington area so we could have a farm. But I really liked being in Mandeville and I liked spending time in New Orleans. If the crime wasn't so high I almost wouldn't mind living in New Orleans if we could live close to Audubon Park. I could even handle the no recycling because I would join the cause to bring recycling to the area.

Woodia is continuing to lay one egg a day. One perfect little blue/green egg. I'm wondering when the other chickens will start laying? Possibly not till Spring with how cold the weather is right now. Woodia has started acting even more like a queen now that she is the only hen in the coop who is laying. The tiny little cross-beak runt is now the dominant hen. It's kind of cool.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Still in Louisiana

We're still in Louisiana. We went to Covington, LA yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner. They don't recycle there either. I went to sleep last night wondering how to get the cities around here to implement free recycling pick-up for residents. I think City of Seattle has a good deal going where they pick up yard waste from residents, sell it to Cedar Grove (or whoever) to make compost and end up making money on it two ways - by charging for pick-up and selling what is picked up. But it's still a good deal because it's less stuff going into the landfill.

I'm really liking Louisiana though. How could you not love New Orleans? And a lot of what I like is all of my husband's relatives. There were so many people at his cousin, Dara's yesterday I never did remember who everyone was or how they are related to us. But they are all so happy and friendly. Not to mention the food was amazing. JP's mom kept pointing out dishes and saying, "You should try that. It's not that strange, I swear you'll like it," and I kept saying, "You don't have to convince me!" Lots of spicy sausage, tons of garlic, lots of red peppers. There were a lot of oysters but I'm not so against oysters if they're cooked, I just don't like raw oysters which is completely incomprehensible to all these people. Even the little kids love raw oysters.

Dara and I were talking about the colleges her kids go to and her son Ryan went to college in Missouri and became a vegan. I commented it must be hard to find food at college in Missouri and she said, "Oh no, they have vegan options in the cafeteria". Then she said, "In my yoga class there are plenty of vegans. Sure, it's a little hard when you go into town (New Orleans) but you know, you can go just about anywhere and find good vegan options." I managed to not say, "You have a yoga class in rural Louisiana?" But I did say, "You know, the general thought in Seattle is if you leave the West Coast you won't find anything, you know ..." and Dara said, "You West Coast people need to get out more. We're in the 21st Century too."

Apparently, Folsom, LA is the horse capitol of Louisiana. I want to go check it out if we have time. It's the town right next to Covington, where Dara lives and Mandeville is on the other side of Covington where our other cousin, Debbie and her family live. There's a big wildlife conservatory in Folsom apparently. And Dara's good friend, Ellie who lives around the corner from her is a wildlife rehabilitator. We walked over to her house and she has 10 acres of woods in her backyard and all these cages for animals that were being rehabilitated. In her garage she has a cross-eyed possum she's raised since she was a baby. And in the house she has the tiniest little baby flying squirrels that she has to bottle feed (actually they're so tiny she uses a syringe) every half hour.

I was having so much fun that when JP said it was time to leave at 5pm I felt like having a little tantrum like our 5-year old daughter would have. But we had to go back across the Causeway and JP didn't want to drive over it at night because we're not used to it. And honestly, it's a little creepy. As soon as we drove onto it on the way to Covington, I got a lump in my throat and had to remind myself to breathe. It's a big bridge that goes across Lake Pontchartrain and it's 24 miles long. So you drive onto it and you can't even see the other side of the lake it's so big. The concrete sides aren't very tall and people drive like maniacs (just like they drive everywhere but it's not quite as unnerving as when you're on a long bridge in the middle of water where you can't see either shore). That bridge will take some getting used to for me.

I kept going through my mind "If we go off the bridge, make sure I roll down my window before we hit the water because the water will short out the electrical so that the windows won't roll down. And the water pressure makes it impossible to open the door of the car until the whole inside of the car is filled with water. So, I had my emergency plan running through my head: roll down window, unbuckle seat belt then reach back and unbuckle Emma June's so that I can hopefully swim out the window with her before the car fills up with water. And I kept reminding myself the water would not be as cold as the Puget Sound. Yes, I know. I am a neurotic spaz.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Greetings from Metarie, Louisiana

We're down in New Orleans visiting my husband's family for Thanksgiving and to meet his sister's newborn son, Marcus. We're staying at a hotel in a suburb called Metarie because it is in between the New Orleans relatives and the Mandeville relatives where we're going across Lake Pontchetrain for Thanksgiving. We're also hopefully going to Lafayette this weekend to see more relatives. So, we're in Jefferson Parish instead of Orleans Parish. I guess they have Parishes instead of Counties. I'm a bit confused. I've been a bit confused since we got her Monday evening.

I grew up in Seattle and other than my brief six months in Atlanta, Georgia (which was pretty northern for a Southern city) I've only lived in Seattle and Sacramento and San Francisco. So, I'm a West Coast girl through and through. It's not like I've never been to New Orleans. In fact, I drove across the entire South from New Orleans to Barstow, CA, hitting all of Central Texas and Mississippi and Alabama, etc. But for some reason I'm having some serious culture shock this trip.

For one thing, people are not freakishly, repressively afraid to express themselves. Seattle didn't used to be like that when I was a kid but it's really gotten that way in the last fifteen years. People also talk to strangers much more down here which is refreshing because half the time I do that in Seattle people look at me like I must be trying to steal their souls. But the weird stuff is, they don't recycle, they don't seem to care that they don't recycle and yesterday I saw a cop flick a cigarette out his window into the street from his police car! I know people outside of the West Coast probably don't think that's unbelievable but in Seattle it is such a big deal and you get huge fines for littering that it is akin to me as seeing a cop walk into a 7-11 and hold it up!

Of course it's gotten me thinking. It's really important to me to not destroy the Earth but I also feel bad about a lot of stuff that I have no control over. I find myself not wanting to buy anything in plastic packaging because it doesn't biodegrade. I'm not saying I shouldn't be proactive on not producing waste, but I also don't need to feel so horrible and guilty about what I can't control.

Meanwhile, I miss my dog, who is at "pitbull camp" meaning that she is being boarded at our vet's. But they love her there and when there are no patients apparently they let her out and she follows them around the clinic. They are also totally booked up so there are lots of other dogs there. I also miss my horse but she's fine. And I'm worried about BuddyCat feeling lonely. And I'm wondering if any of the chickens are laying any more eggs. Vacation would be a lot funner if I could bring all my pets.

Good things about our Louisiana vacation include "not having to do anything", the FOOD! And seeing my sister-in-law, Chantal and her new baby. It's fun to have something completely in common with her now that we're both moms. We've always gotten along OK, but she's a Metropolitan-type girl who was a cheerleader and loved living in New York City and we don't have a ton in common. I think the most we have in common is similar hang-ups and not getting along with my mother-in-law. But it's neat to have motherhood in common. And the food is soooooooo good! We stopped by the deli at Whole Foods in Metarie for lunch and the typical choices there are: shrimp scampi, shrimp jumbalaya, shrimp gumbo, chicken gumbo, shrimp ettoufee, squash/crab bisque and all with a side of cornbread. Dang! I don't see how people who grew up here can stand moving to another part of the country where this food isn't every day food!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our first chicken eggs and getting over the plague

Apparently, we did have swine flu (H1N1) at our house. Although somehow my husband managed to not come down with it. Emma June was sick with it over the weekend and I was sick with it by Tuesday. I'm still dragging to be honest, no more fever but still very worn out and fatigued. I'm going to bed at 7:30 tonight, I think.

This morning I went out to feed the chickens and was pouring food in their bowl and saying, "How are you my non-egg laying chickens?" when I thought I'd look in the nesting boxes. And there inside one of the boxes was a tiny little perfect green (or greenish-blue as my daughter would correct me) egg! It was so small that it had to have come from Woodia, the cross beak chicken who is half as big as the others. Plus, she is the only one I know for sure is and "Easter Egger" meaning she lays blue and green eggs. Janey, the big brown one might be an Americana but I'm not sure. She looks more like a Rhode Island Red and she is huge - twice as big as Woodia and even bigger than Alina, who is a Sexlink.

I took the egg in to show Emma June, who thought it was super cool. Then a few hours later I realized that I had been so distracted by the first egg that I'd forgotten to give the chickens fresh water. I went back out and found three more little tiny greenish-blue eggs! I'm not sure if Woodia just had all sorts of eggs that had to come out or if Janey started laying eggs also. Sheryl says they only lay one egg a day, but do they do that the first day they lay eggs? And somebody laid more than one because there were four today and only three chickens. Plus I don't think Alina would've laid any of them because she's supposed to lay brown speckled eggs from what I heard. Tomorrow we're going to have eggs for breakfast that were laid only about 18 hours before.

Ok - so I just did the serious google on unfertilized eggs. Apparently the largest amount of eggs laid in one day by one hen was 11 in 1652. And it is possible for one little tiny chicken to lay 4 eggs in one day. Go Woodia!

Monday, November 16, 2009

the plague descends and staying in the city for now

We went out to the farm yesterday for my second interview for the horse caretaker job. It was a beautiful farm, the owners were nice, I liked the people who worked there and my job would've been soooooo cool (grooming and babying horses) but it just isn't the right timing. JP couldn't work from home and they need someone by December 1st which is just way too soon to actually move somewhere. We'd need to get our house ready to rent, I'd need to give my bookkeeping clients plenty of notice, I would want Emma June to finish out at least school up through Christmas break before switching schools on her. So, I said no. At least I know there are cool jobs out there like that and I am apparently qualified for some.

I've really never spent any time in Oak Harbor and it's not as bad as I'd thought it would be. What really impressed me was Deception Pass! I haven't been there in years and even on a day like yesterday when it was rainy and dark and cloudy it was breathtaking! I noticed some good kayaking spots. And land is really cheap in Oak Harbor. Good to know.

It was incredibly windy yesterday too which was annoying when I was driving. When we were going over the bridge from Anacortes to Oak Harbor we caught a lot of wind which literally rocked the car. We'd told EJ that we would take the ferry home, but when we were driving through Coupeville and I had to hold on tightly to the steering wheel in order to keep the car stable, I was starting to regret that decision. It was dark by the time we got on the ferry and I hadn't brought anything to do so I went out on the deck to watch the view (the windows were covered with rain and the bright lights inside the ferry made it impossible to see out). But it was cold and really windy so I decided to go back to the car. When I started walking down the aisle inside the ferry it was listing so hard back and forth I had to grab the back of seats in order to not fall over a couple times. Then when I got to the stairwell the ferry rocked so hard I pitched forward and almost fell down the stairs (thank goodness for banisters!). Ferries are so big, I've never been on one that was actually bouncing around like that before.

We got home and EJ was really tired and felt kind of hot, so I took her temperature and it was 102. She's had a cough since Friday night, was exhausted all day yesterday and has a fever - all swine flu symptoms. Bah. She's doing better today - still no appetite and a low fever and nasty cough, but she is feeling better so that is hopeful that she's on the mend. I feel horrible though because we thought the cough was just a carry-over from her cold and she said she felt fine so we took her to a birthday party on Saturday where there were a couple babies and a lot of kids. I feel like Typhoid Mary. Or like one of the rats that brought the black plague.

The other bummer is I'm sure JP and I will get it, although we are downing lots of water and taking lots of vitamins so hopefully it won't get too bad. But we're supposed to leave for New Orleans to meet our newborn nephew next Monday and we definitely can't go if we have the swine flu. So, we'll have to see what happens. I won't be devastated if we don't go since being around the in-laws stresses me out. But JP will be. I don't want us anywhere near our nephew though if there is any chance at all we could be contagious.

On a happier note, I've been trying to work on a story I'm writing about some legends I made up about Jack Island and Vendovi Island in the San Juans. Jack Island is a nature preserve and Vendovi Island is a private island with part of it designated as a nature preserve. I'm fascinated by Vendovi Island because I can't imagine living on an island all by yourself like that. I'm assuming there's no wifi or anything like that. And you'd only have your own boat to get back to the mainland. For someone like me who doesn't particularly like people that much, even living out on Vendovi seems too isolated and extreme for me. I did meet the caretaker who lived out there year-round. He was really nice although kind of me-to-the-extreme in his liking nature better than having people around. I would've liked to have talked to him a lot more.

Anyway, I found this neat site that has ariel shoreline shots of the islands.

So, one of my regrets of not taking this horse caretaker job - besides not getting to spend every day with horses and live in the same place as my horse - is that the apartment they were offering is on the side of the barn and the little kid bedroom's window actually looks out into the barn. So, Emma June could've gotten up in the morning and looked out her window at all 37 horses below. That really would've been so cool.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

two chasms in the future

Last week I happened to run across a posting for my dream job and on a whim I emailed a cover letter and resume. My resume was a bit useless because the job is taking care of horses and my resume is all about accounting, but I blabbered on and on in the cover letter about how much I've learned in the last year with my horse and how wonderful I am. I got an email back setting up a phone interview which surprised me. I told my husband about it that night and it was met with a very heavy sigh and a "you're not really qualified are you?" and another heavy sigh when I said that I didn't think I was, but they had asked for a phone interview. He said if the job wasn't in Oak Harbor he'd lose me for sure and I pointed out, "No, you're coming with me!"

The phone interview actually went really well. The job involves filling in for the barn manager two days a week, then the rest of the time my job would be caring for the horses: grooming, making sure their blankets and halters were properly fastened in good working order, making sure they were healthy and first aid if they were injured or ill, then liason with the vet or farrier when they come out. Optional duties would be assisting the trainers and riding instructors and taking guests at the neighboring B&B on trail rides. The perfect job for horse obsessed me. That is all in trade for a 3 bedroom apartment with a deck that looks out over the paddock where the Shetland ponies and miniature horses live and free food and board for Girlfriend. We're all invited out to the farm tomorrow for the in-person interview.

JP says there is no way it will work because he can't work from home yet at his job because of what they're working on right now. He says it will be six months before they'll have his project virtual enough to work from home. But if this really is as good of an opportunity as it sounds like I think we can figure out a way to make it work. I have a quote on my facebook page "Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work". I really don't want to give up a great opportunity just because it doesn't fit inside the box of what our lives are supposed to look like.

This morning I took our daughter to the Spectrum testing and had to wait in the cafeteria for 90 minutes and ended up talking to another mom who was reading a book about home schooling. She said that in August they - herself, her husband and their by-then six year old daughter - are leaving Seattle for three years to sail around the world. I almost jumped up out of my seat and shouted, "Really!? Seriously!?" I told her it was very validating to hear that because I need to be reminded that we don't all have to live this "buy a house, live in it for 40 years, have the kid go to a good school in the city and make sure everything is proper and by-the-book" in order to be a happy family.

I won't be crushed if they don't offer me the job. Oak Harbor was actually on our list of "places we are not going to move". Although, if it means I have to live there in order to have a job working with horses and learning how to train horses and teach riding lessons it would be worth it. I checked out the schools and the closest school to the farm looks good. And I'd only be 40 minutes from my friend, Teresa who lives in Clinton. But if I don't get the job I am pretty happy where we are for now and we still have time to figure out what town we want to move to in 2011. Wherever we move to - either to this farm or to our own farm in 2011 - I want to be able to hear seagulls. Actually, the best would be to be able to hear seagulls and trains because those are two sounds that make me feel at home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

thunder, vegans, hail, composting and roast beef

I decided to make roast beef yesterday and not knowing how I looked up some recipes online. I think everyone who posted on cooks.com on how to cook a roast is out to kill as many naive people as they can. One of the recipes literally said, "cook the roast on 375 degrees for a half hour then turn off the oven, go to church and come back many hours later and turn the stove back on for a half hour at 350 degrees. That just sounds like a great way to give someone food poisoning. And why do I have to go to church to do this? So, I did attempt to cook a roast yesterday and it kind of turned out ok. I cooked it at 450 degrees for a half hour, turned the stove down to 375 degrees and cooked it another 90 minutes. I probably could've cooked it 15 minutes less and turned it over when I turned down the stove and it would've been better. And I didn't go to church.

We had on and off thunder/lightening storms night before last through last night which was uncharacteristic for Seattle. In fact, on Thursday night we had a huge storm right in town with lightning striking with a few blocks of our house. Yesterday I completely cleaned out the chicken coop and had them locked out in their run so it could air out when I heard more thunder. I wanted to finish washing the dishes, then I'd go out and put clean shavings in the coop and let them back in before it started raining. But apparently, I misjudged the timing and it started to rain as I was putting in the last shovelful of shavings and then it started to hail. I needed to put the tools back in our ancient, detached garage at the back of the yard so I ran those in just as a torrent of hail started to fall. So, me and the rats who live in the garage hung out in there for about 5 minutes with me occasionally dodging hail that was coming in through various holes in the roof. A couple years ago we had hail so big it tore holes right through the leaves in our larger plants like azaleas and rhododendrons.

Fascinated as I am by hail, I am more fascinated by composting . Our compost bin where we've been throwing leaves and shavings from the chicken coop along with all the poop is old and falling apart. So, today I went out to fix it and stir the compost while I was at it. As soon as I started stirring it, steam came billowing out which is just so cool! It fascinates me how the chemical reaction can actually cause heat in the core of the compost pile like that! It seems like there must be a way to harness that heat for an alternative power source. Apparently, others have had this same idea. I was wondering what the difference was between the process of heat developing in compost bins versus nuclear energy. My science-geek husband explained to me that in a nutshell the heat from composting is not actually a chemical reaction as I had initially thought, but a breakdown of the molecules and distribution of their atoms. Nuclear energy on the other hand is the breaking down of atoms and a by-product of that is radioactive waste which is extremely toxic. I guess since one of my clients is Hanford Challenge I should probably know that already. Plus, after learning about the government's huge inability to safely dispose of nuclear waste, I can honestly say I will never be a supporter of nuclear energy as a viable alternative source of energy.

The other day I was looking at job ads and I found what I thought would be the perfect job for, helping rescue animals for Pasado Safe Haven in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains by Sultan, WA. I was reading through their webpage thinking more and more, "Oh yes! This is totally me!" when I came to "their philosophy" and how it's easier for everyone to work together if they all have the same philosophy, which is (I'm paraphrasing) "we don't serve animals as food in our kitchens and we don't have fur hanging in our closets". Damn. I decided not to apply because I do eat meat and there's just no getting around it. They want vegetarians and I assume people who don't use leather products and that's just not me. I thought about explaining that it's really important to me to eat only healthy animals who are not brought up in cruel conditions and are slaughtered humanely, but I don't always eat that kind of meat (it is hard to find which I would like to change someday - I'd like that to be the norm!). But I've known enough vegetarians who were that serious about it that it would never work, them knowing I was going to go home and cook myself a chicken for dinner. The leather thing too just doesn't work for me. For one thing, what kind of saddle would I use? I'm not going to go out and get a synthetic saddle made of a form of plastic because that's a big hang-up for me. I do not like plastics. They don't biodegrade, they off-gas toxic gasses and they are all around just awful for the environment. So, in a nutshell, despite that I would love to save animals for my career, we have differing "weird, extreme" opinions. Although I think my weird and extreme opinions are of course more sane than general societies. And if they are not promoting synthetic, non-biodegradable substances as a good option other than leather I think they may be saner too. Who knows. My search continues for the perfect job for me working with animals. I wonder if there is any way we could afford for me to go back to school to get my degree in animal behaviorism or become a large animal vet tech at least? I know it's too much to think of going back to school to be a veterinarian, but I am pondering my options.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

with fava beans and a nice chianti

Ok, I can't believe I just quoted that movie. I try to be positive in my references even if my bitterness and misanthropy tends to come through more in my writing. But you know, I was reading about fava beans and that's what comes to mind. What is funnier is I just asked my husband "How do you spell chianti?" and he said, "I don't know - hold on, I will google "Hannibal Lector" and "fava bean" and ... yep! There it is. C-h-i-a-n-t-i."

Apparently, if I can get some fava bean and winter wheat seeds by tomorrow I can just barely squeeze in getting my cover crop planted before it's too late in the season. And I can get my bulbs into the ground before the first frost.

I took my new neighbor/fellow mom friend, Heather with me to look at a horse I'm thinking of adopting in Stanwood today. She is very afraid of horses but was a great sport and rode this horse anyway. He is a very sweet, patient horse, good for lessons so it was a good safe place to try that. I am always impressed when people do something they are really scared to do - like in her case get up on this horse they know nothing about and are afraid of. It's strange to me that horses can relax me so much but then scare someone else.

A couple days ago I was out riding Girlfriend and asked my instructor if she could answer some questions about saddles and after answering some of my questions she said, "You know, I'm still really impressed at how well Girlfriend did in the group lesson on Saturday." I'm still glowing over that too. Although, our practice ride on Tuesday was not as good, at least I felt like. She was all worked up about something and wanted to run from the get go. When we tried to trotting she got pissy and did her little bucks and tossed her head. Finally, because no one else was in the arena, I put the reins in one hand, grabbed the saddle horn and said, "Ok, go!" Of course, because I am still working on cantering/galloping she started out on the wrong lead and I had to pull her back to start over again which pissed her off, but then we got going on the right lead and went whooshing around the arena a couple times. Weeee! She doesn't neck rein super well, but she will neck rein enough to be safe so I feel safe doing that. But I don't trust my balance enough yet to go that fast without holding onto the saddle horn. In fact, most of the barrel racers I've seen even hold onto the saddle horn when they are going that fast and whipping around turns. And Girlfriend goes right into that mode, cutting her turns really sharp and leaning sideways. It is really really fun! And probably totally unacceptable if my instructor were to see me doing that.

Sadly I do not have any videos of Girlfriend with her previous owner from the state or national championships, but this is what she is trained to do and what she loves.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Waiting for the plague to descend

One thing I regret currently about living in the city is that during times like these where we're having a "pandemic" and "swine flu is a national emergency" it would be nice if we didn't live right in the heart of the city. More people=more chances of catching the flu. Luckily, everyone I know who's had it has been miserable for a couple days but come out of it OK. Even my friend's son who had complications bounced back quickly with some antibiotics. And some kids we know who have asthma have been OK. So, I'm trying to listen to my experience as opposed to the media, which does not make money by easing people's fears. I was thinking the other day I wonder how a station that only reports good news would go over? Would people watch it? Would it change that general sense of depressive worry and angry suspicion in our society or would people just ignore the station altogether.

The chickens still aren't laying eggs. I've been reading all sorts of theories about how they don't have enough light or whatever. I think we're probably going to just have to wait until Spring when they are old enough and getting more light. At least I am feeling good about how Woodia, the cross-beak chicken is actually growing. Janey, the Americauna and Alina the sexlink are huge and Woodia has not caught up to them in size, but she is growing. I clipped her beak a couple weeks ago and felt horrible because it started bleeding and she shook her head around and blood splattered everywhere, but it healed up just fine. I'm going to try filing it down next instead of clipping it. Oh - for those who don't know, chicken beaks keep growing like fingernails but get worn down when they peck. Because Woodia can't peck with her cross beak it just keeps growing and needs to be clipped - or in this next case filed.

I didn't get to ride Girlfriend all last week because I caught another cold and was too exhausted to do anything other than take care of Lil Girl and go to work. So, I went out yesterday afternoon but didn't have a lot of time because I needed to be home in time to get the house ready for all the neighborhood kids coming over before trick-or-treating.

(Ironic little interruption here - as I'm typing this my 5 year old daughter is dancing around and jumping over the pitbull who is lying on the floor. She just sat down on the dog and the dog jumped up and I had to say, "Careful Honey, don't hurt Willow!" Yes - I need to keep my child from hurting the pitbull.)

Anyway, the only time I had to ride at the stable yesterday was during a group class. I didn't realize they were going to have a group class at that hour because usually the group class is earlier during the jumping class. But I guess a lot of people had to reschedule their classes to Saturday afternoon so they all ended up in a second group class. I asked if I could do a practice ride in the arena during the class and our instructor said yes but I needed to keep up with the class so I wouldn't disrupt it. She looked a little skeptical but I said I would.

At first Girlfriend was thrilled to be in an arena with four other horses because she thought it meant competition! She walked really well at first when everyone else was walking to warm up. Then everyone started trotting but she needed more time to warm up her old joints and she started doing her little jigs in the center of the arena where we were walking. Then I decided she was ready to join the circle in trotting and she did Ok for a few minutes until the first student was told to canter while the rest of us trotted. And it was Doc, her pasture buddy who she is super-herd bound to. She got really restless and broke into a canter a few times, and I held her back but she started doing her head shaking, butt-bucking moves and cutting sideways into the middle to show she was not going to have any of this boring English posting trot stuff.

I took her back to the center of the arena and watched everyone for a few minutes and wondered if I should just give up for the day. But in my lessons our instructor never lets me quit till I get what I want to do right, so I decided I'd try again and if we were too disruptive our instructor would tell me to leave the arena anyway. So we went back out to the circle to try and trot with everyone else and she did better. In fact, she finally got into the groove and trotted right in line with everyone else - no jigging, no cutting into the center, no bucking or swinging her head around in frustration. We were also using the hackamore which is much harder to keep her head straight as opposed to the snaffle. She doesn't like the snaffle, that's for sure, even though my vet said the snaffle I have is less harsh than the hackamore I have. The hackamore apparently has "more stop" although that didn't do any good when she ran off with Jessie.

About five minutes before the lesson was over, I was exhausted from still getting over my cold and posting so much. So I went to the center of the arena and hopped off Girlfriend and our instructor said, "Julia! You're still here! I didn't even realize you were still here because Girlfriend blended right in! That was excellent! I am so impressed!" Then she paused and said, "I am really impressed!" Let me tell you, if my instructor tells you she is impressed, she is actually impressed! She does not give compliments to "build confidence" or "make you feel better". That's what I like about her is she will tell you if you are riding badly and she'll hound you about what you need to improve until you improve it. So when she compliments you it really means something!

I'm impressed with Girlfriend that such an old girl who was only trained to ride Western gaming is actually willing to learn English dressage and does well at it. I didn't think I would ride her English but she is doing so well at it and seems to enjoy the challenge of learning new things. As long as I lunge her and let her get her ya-ya's out running full speed or ride her really fast when no one else is in the arena for a couple laps, she is happy. I'm planning now to ride her in some English classes next summer when we have our annual show at the stable and actually entering her in the S.A.F.E. annual benefit horse show.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wrapped in my Memory like Chains

When my friend Terrill died last July I found it really soothing to listen to a song titled "Wrapped in My Memory" by Shawn Smith. He wrote it when a mutual friend died in 1990 so it's nice that I know the story behind it. But it also makes me think of Terrill, especially the line "before you started to fade, you gave me something to believe in." One of the biggest lessons I learned from Terrill was to enjoy life. She also had an autoimmune disease (Chron's) and that didn't slow her down or hurt her attitude. Even brain cancer didn't hurt her positive attitude. I feel like I learned so much by her example. You'd have to meet her to really understand how happy and friendly she was and it wasn't in a fake-cheerleader way, she really was that happy and caring and friendly. Not saying she didn't have terrible days but she didn't dwell on it.

After the first day of school my daughter and another little girl insisted I meet the other little girl's parents because they were "going to best friends". It turns out the little girl's mother, Susan has that same happy, caring spark that Terrill had. She just loves life and is very caring without all the walls and pretensions that are so normal these days. I wonder if it is because Susan is from Ireland and Terrill was from a tiny town in South Dakota called Miller. A town so small you had to drive an hour just to get to a movie theater. It makes me wonder a lot about American culture and "city culture" and how we really are compared to how we think of ourselves.

On my long drives out to see Girlfriend I've been listening to books on tape to make the drives less drudgery. I got half way through Scandalmongers and then had to return it to the library. But I hadn't thought about the founding fathers of our nation in a long time and how there were lots of fights about "immigrants" and battles over how the government should be run. And lots of backbiting and name calling and everything that still happens today. It makes me wonder if we are a country based and run solely on rhetoric and propaganda. What if our country is a house of cards created by slogans and ideologies that run no deeper than a lobbyist's pocket book.

Anyway, I had to take that book on tape back because it was overdue and had some holds on it. Now I'm listening to Chosen By a Horse which is a memoir of a woman who fosters a rescue horse. It's told in that "talking with a friend over coffee" way that is really easy to read or in this case listen to. And anything horse-like I really enjoy. It surprises me at the same time how much the writer doesn't understand how horses think, but then I've noticed lots of people who grew up with horses don't seem to understand horse mentality. I think it's because they don't ever need to learn it. The only reason I've been learning it is because when I asked my instructor if there was any way I could one day be a trainer she said, "Yes - but you need to ride as many horses as you can and read every book on horses you can get your hands on."

In other news, chickens really like pumpkin guts. I discovered that first hand yesterday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Something I'll have to get used to

So, here's something I'm going to need to learn to get used to when we move to the country: driving down long, dark, foggy, abandoned highways in the foothills. I had a meeting with one of the horse rescues last night up in Monroe. I've only driven back to Seattle from Monroe at night once and it was really foggy and creepy driving that 20 miles of Hwy 522 from Monroe to the north part of Bothell where there are no streetlights and it's pitch black. Except for the fog. Last night it was really foggy too which was creepy. I think I would've really disliked driving that stretch of highway except that I have driven it so many times in the day time that I know exactly where I'm going.

It reminded me of driving to Sacramento, CA in 1993. We were driving through the mountains in central Oregon and my traveling companion, Ben, had fallen asleep. We'd been listening to Dead Can Dance "Toward the Within" and it was around 1am and very foggy. All of the sudden I started imaging that any minute "Bob" from Twin Peaks was going to suddenly jump down from the cliffs onto the hood of my car. My imagination can really go wild in the dark in the woods. An old friend did a non-scientific survey in the early 1990's, of what women from the Pacific NW are afraid of if they're alone in the woods. Most women from other parts of the country would say "Bears, cougars, etc." but women who grew up in the Pacific NW in the 70's and 80's (including myself) are afraid of serial killers in the woods far more than wild animals.

The drive from Monroe to Bothell on 522 is really beautiful during the day. The highway is mostly lined with huge trees, although there is one spot a few miles before the first Monroe exit to Main Street, where you come to a clearing as you cross a bridge over the Skykomish River. JP did comment that he wouldn't mind living under that bridge although I think he may have meant more in the troll sense than in the farm sense.

Meanwhile, back in civilization (or so some would call it) I was told today by Jeremy while at coffee hour at church, that my chickens are probably not laying eggs because they are nervous. At first, with his twangy Oklahoma accent, I thought I should listen to him. Then I realized I don't know where he's from in Oklahoma and if he's from Oklahoma City he may not know anything more about chickens than I do. I said this to JP and Emma June piped up, "No Mama, it's because they're young," with such certainty that I figure I may as well believe her in her 5 year old wisdom. Also, lots of farms (including Sheryl's where I got my chickens) have dogs. Sheryl has three dogs that wander around her farm. So, they aren't nervous because of the pitbull. And the raccoons don't seem to come around because of the pitbull.

On a side note, "pitbull" is a term that came from bull dogs bred to fight in the pits. My dog was obviously bred to sleep on the couch. So from here on out she will be referred to as "the couchbull".

I'm doing the finances for the horse rescue that my vet started and last night I got all the books of receipts and incorporation documents and IRS correspondence to bring home and go through. I'm the only one on the board who doesn't live in the Monroe/Sultan/Gold Bar area and I muttered, "If I could find a job up here I'd move here and be much more available," and Hannah (my vet - the board president) said, "What kind of job???" in that hopeful tone like it would be easy for me to find a job that would support our family and thus convince my husband we should move there. So, if anyone living in Monroe/Sultan/Arlington/Stanwood knows of a job that comes with medical benefits for a bookkeeper/accountant, or wrangling horses or working with animals in any capacity do let me know. Sigh. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But I've been scouring craigslist for months and have not found a good job for myself in that area.

Couchbull:

Friday, October 23, 2009

English riding has kicked my ass

I had a riding lesson today in completely English tack: English saddle, English snaffle bit, the works. I was actually very afraid to get on Girlfriend for fear she'd freak out and rebel against the snaffle. But my instructor told me to get over so I got on her and things went ok. Ok, as in I didn't fall off. The saddle I was using is a dressage saddle so apparently not the easiest English saddle. A couple times I lost my balance and pitched forward a little and my instructor said that in an all-purpose English saddle I'd be less likely to do that. I'm curious how the shape of two types of English saddle would be so different that my balance would be better. Since an English saddle is this little slippery piece of leather with tiny little metal bars that claim to be stirrups as opposed to a big suede seat with huge thick leather stirrups like my barrel racing saddle. But hey, I learned English as a kid so it should come back to me despite these teeny little wisps of saddles.

So, my lesson kind of kicked my ass especially after my run day before yesterday. I do fine except when Girlfriend starts freaking out and trying to run when I want her to do a nice slow posting trot. Mostly it takes its toll on my back from me trying to balance. I don't realize how much I'm using my back muscles until after I get off and feel very ... "ooof". There was one point where I lost my stirrup and Girlfriend was really fighting me - throwing her head up and down and snorting and breaking her trot to canter over and over, so I stopped her to a walk. My instructor got frustrated and said, "Every time something gets hard you get scared and stop! I'm sorry but it's true! How are you ever going to improve if you don't try to push past your comfort zone?" I know that's true riding but I also see how that is a struggle in all of my life. I do push myself past my comfort zone quite frequently, but there are some things I stubbornly hold onto my status of being afraid of them. One thing that is really encouraging is that every time my instructor tells me to push myself to try things in riding that are scary for me, I know she really believes I can do it because she's so blunt and will not say something "to be nice". And she has no problem saying, "You're not ready to do that," about something. Like jumping. I am definitely not ready to jump again yet. That wasn't actually an issue last year when I swore I was never going to jump again. It was one thing to fall into a jump when I was 11 years old, but it sounds very painful now that I'm 42 and have rheumatoid arthritis. But I've decided to work back up to doing that again. Not on my horse though. The crazed little Western girl that she is. The other thing that rocks is that after my lesson she said, "You did a really good job!" which means she actually thought that. I could not see how I did a good job so of course I think she meant "You did a really good job not falling off."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My mom is having more fun than me

I was driving to work in Pioneer Square this morning and decided to call my mom and see how she's doing (with my hands free headset so back off!). She answered on her cell and kept breaking up and saying, "We're just outside of -something something- Utah. We're heading to a -something crackly- animal rescue. We've been wanting to visit for quite awhile now ..." Then she completely broke up and said she'd call from the motel tonight. It sounded a lot more fun than going to work.

In 1988 I lived in Pioneer Square briefly. Yes, me who wants to live out in the woods lived in a loft in Pioneer Square. I lived with a girl named Lisa - spelled Leesa - who wanted to be a model. We didn't have a refrigerator but since it was winter we just put everything perishable on the fire escape outside. Every morning we would go across the street to the Grand Central Bakery for our coffee and bagels. Well, I had a bagel but "Leesa" didn't eat because she wanted to be a model. We'd also hug the trees in the cobblestone square outside the bakery. I was mortified deep down inside when I first heard the expression "tree hugger" a few years later.

I brought my dog to work with me because my clients are at a conference in Santa Fe so I figured I could use some company. She is kind of a sensitive little pitbull girl and was very nervous with all the people and traffic and noise from the viaduct right above us. I was trying to find a grassy place for her to "go potty" and I couldn't find one. It's so odd to me that the ground is all concrete down there. It's just really really weird and disconcerting. It is also really dirty in a gross sort of way - not in a cool, muddy sort of way. When I've gone up to Monroe to help muck stalls for the 20 or so horses at the rescue farm, I feel like washing my hands before I eat something, but in Pioneer Square I feel like washing my hands every time I touch something. Earlier in the week when I went to work down there there was blood on the parking meter.

On a happier note I went jogging yesterday for the second time in over six years. I used to really like running even though I've never been very good at it. Now I'm horrible at it because I've been laid up so much in the last five years from the rheumatoid arthritis. Yesterday was the perfect conditions for running though. It was raining but not really cold so it was actually refreshing that it was raining. After about three blocks (ok - stop laughing! Keep in mind that two years ago pre-arthritis-medicine I couldn't even walk a block because I was in so much pain!) "Rearview Mirror" by Pearl Jam came up on my iPod and it was the perfect running song. Besides that it is my "emancipation from assholes" song, it also has a rhythm that goes quite well with my slow jogging pace. I seriously had a moment of feeling all gleeful and endorphin-y where I could've easily started singing at the top of my lungs ... except I would like to not have my neighbors be afraid of me and I'm not a good singer.

Next week is Halloween. I'm not sure, but I think I missed my window (again!) this year to plant my cover crop in the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

chicken appetites, white line disease and spider dreams

I used to have reoccurring nightmares about spiders. The scariest was about twenty years ago when I had a dream that giant spiders were flying at me and my brother in our parent's old living room and we kept holding up encyclopedias to repel them. I told my brother that dream and he said it made him feel sick. There have been many other dreams since then but they have gotten less and less disturbing over the years. Last night I had a dream that I looked down behind my bed and saw two bird-eating spiders sleeping in their nest. Instead of feeling horrified I thought, "They're kind of cute. Like fuzzy stuffed animals. But I think I will remove them anyway." It reminded me of something I'd forgotten from about ten years ago: for years I had nightmares that I was trying to escape my parent's house and I was trying to get to the front door but couldn't move and danger was impending. Eventually, I made it out the door in those dreams, and eventually, I had a dream I was running down the street, and that was the last time I ever had that particular re-occurring dream. I guess my brain is pretty literal.

I saw my old best friend from middle school days on Sunday and she told this really funny story about when her oldest daughter's pet tarantula, Dr. Phil, escaped once and was lost in their house for 16 hours. I just think it's so cool that her 17 year old daughter has a tarantula named Dr. Phil.

It's been very hard figuring out what my chickens will and will not eat (besides chicken mash). I was told they love lettuce but apparently mine do not. They do like spinach. And only Alina seems to like slugs although both she and Janey like earwigs. I keep pulling up weeds and tossing them into their run but they're not interested in very many of them. They like fennel. I've been trying to figure out what kind of small plants to plant in their run but so far all the lists on the internet tell me what they won't eat but not what they will eat. They are also not laying eggs. They're getting bigger every day either because they are still growing or because they are bloating up from all those unlaid eggs.

There is a horse I'm thinking of adopting and I need to talk to my farrier about whether or not she does hot shoeing because he is recovering from a disease in his hoof called white line disease. I need to figure out what the difference between hot shoeing and cold shoeing is. When my farrier comes out they heat up the metal then pound it into shape to fit the horses hoof but I'm not sure if that's "hot shoeing". If it is - then how do they shape the shoe to fit the horses hoof if the metal is cold? I imagine I could google all this to find out. One thing I can say is that I do not have dreams of being a farrier. Cleaning my horses hooves is not my favorite chore and I don't feel like I need a job where getting stepped on by a half ton creature is a regular on-the-job hazard. Or where I can guarantee that at one point or another I'm going to get kicked.

Speaking of horses, I went out to see Girlfriend and rode her with the English saddle again. I'm thinking that is what I'm going to use from now on because I feel so comfortable in it now and I do think I ride better. When I started riding again in summer 2008 after 20-some years off, the first time I got on one of Sheryl's lesson horses in an English saddle I felt really far up off the ground and really unstable. But today I got on Girlfriend and she was feeling really ancy, so as soon as my butt was in the saddle she tried to take off. I didn't even have my right foot in the stirrup yet but was still balanced enough to keep her at a trot, then get her to slow to a walk. And I still felt secure and balanced. It's so huge what a difference there is in how I feel even though the saddle is the same and I'm on a much more difficult horse to ride. I wish I could convey to everyone who's never ridden a horse how great it feels to master a sense of balance on a horse. It kind of makes one feel very powerful and very accomplished. Even if one - like me - still has a long way to go to be a particularly good rider.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My first time on stilts

Tonight was family game night at my daughter's grade school. The PE teacher puts it together with all the stuff they do in PE out plus tables with games and puzzles. Is it a rule that all PE teacher's have to be hot? Anyway, the most exciting game we played in gym when I was a kid was dodge ball or this crab game where you scooted around on your butt on these square skate-boardy kinda things that hurt like hell if you ran over your fingers. At my daughter's school they ride unicycles, walk on stilts, play with poi sticks, and learn to juggle.

I was in the obligatory cluster of moms while our daughter dragged her dad around showing him stuff, so I decided I needed to try out the stilts. Thankfully, the other moms decided they also needed to. It was actually really fun and by the time we left I'd gotten the hang of it. I kind of got the hang of the poi sticks too after much obsessing. There was also a big rubber bell-looking thing you balanced on a string between two sticks but I stayed away from it after my neighbor said, "Look! I can throw it up in the air and catch it again!" then next thing I heard was, "Aaaack! Julia!" and the thing came crashing down on my head. There will be some neighborly revenge for that one! (I'm still plotting ... I'll get back to you when I come up with something ...)

Met a couple kids from Emma June's class who she'd liked to have playdates with. One of their moms started in on a huge diatribe about how awful our kindergarten teacher is. I tried to shrug it off with "It's just kindergarten ..." and she said, "That's what I thought but listen ..." then I tuned out, but it was basically why our children will never excel in an ivy league schools because there are no goldfish in the classroom or something like that. I started to get stressed about it and almost blurted out, "So, what's the plan? Do you want to start a revolution?" then thought better of it because my daughter really likes her daughter. Then I decided I'm just not going to get involved. In retrospect I should've said, "Wow, that sounds very frustrating for you. Here! Try the stilts! They're really fun!" For the record I really ilke my daughter's kindergarten teacher and what's more important my daughter really likes her.

People kind of drive me crazy. I think my lesson in life is to not let them get to me. I don't know if people drive others so crazy or if I'm just really cranky and pissy by nature? Even when I was a kid I preferred the company of animals over many people. I still do. A couple days ago I decided that I am going to take seriously my wish to one day make my living working with animals - whatever capacity that turns out to be. I'd like it to be training horses or dogs but I have yet to find out how I could afford to work as an apprentice for years to do that. I'm just keeping my eyes and ears open to whatever opportunities I can find and hoping it will work out.

When I talk to Sheryl - my riding instructor - it validates that I'm on the right path though. I've been listening (probably more than she realizes) to what she tells me and have been reading a lot of books about how horses think and what the mentality of a prey/herd animal is compared to say me - who is basically a solitary predator. Not a pack animal. Far too cranky to be a pack animal. But what is weird is I do like to meet people and always naively look at all new people as potential new friends. Wow. I just totally diverged from the initial theme of this paragraph in one fell swoop. My old Honors English teacher Mrs. Hawthorne is probably cringing somewhere as we speak.

On a happy note, I'm going to go look at a used kayak for sale tomorrow. Yay! Kayaking is one of my favorite new hobbies even though I've only done it a handful of times now. And I would must rather be kayaking in the San Juan islands than say in the Puget Sound off Alki or Shilshole or in Lake Union. But I'll take kayaking there over not kayaking at all. Here is a picture to remind of me a moment when I was very very happy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Little Heathens

I've been listening to a book on tape called Little Heathens while I'm driving. It is very interesting and kind of fucking with mind in regard to consumerism and materialism. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by how much "stuff" we have. It makes me think of the song "Society" by Jerry Hannan that Eddie Vedder sings in the soundtrack of Into the Wild. By the way, I don't think the kid in Into the Wild was a hero. I think he was foolish and arrogant and probably disturbed and he made a lot of foolish decisions without any real preparation.

So, I have been thinking a lot about consumer culture lately. Especially because I want to help Emma June grow up not being brainwashed by it. JP is definitely a lot more frugal than I am and always has been and I don't think I've listened to that as much as I could have over the last 14 years we've been together. Although, I'm still not going to eat some of the food that is old enough to be scary that he will. But that's a different family argument. Still, I've been having flashes lately of just how consumer driven our culture is. Even our economy is supposed to improve with "consumer confidence" which means we're supposed to buy more stuff, create more garbage, create more clutter and unnecssary piles of "stuff".

I'm not sure if I'm expressing this well or not, just how much of my lifetime has been focused on the right clothes, the best car, the latest technology. I don't have a problem with technology (ie: not quite a luddite) it's the having to replace that technology every couple years. I feel like it's part of my mission in life to learn how to not live by consumer culture and see if I can convince some around me to not live by consumer culture. How is the Earth going to survive if the Western version of life - meaning buying and upgrading stuff all the time - continues to be the norm? I wonder if it is possible to have a non-consumer based economy? What would that look like? We do need to buy food and have shelter and warm clothes and entertainment. But do we need so much advertising and commercials everywhere and do we need new cars every few years and new clothes every year as the "fashions change"? I think we'd need a massive societal revolution to change that. Recycling is all well and good but I think stopping the need for "stuff" - especially stuff with so much excessive packaging would be a lot more beneficial.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

So dorky you've never even heard of it.

I told my very hip friend, Sybil today that I have a dorky new hobby - needlepoint. She said, "What is that?" and I said, "Oh my god, it is so dorky you have never even heard of it!" Anyway, yeah, I learned about needlepoint yesterday. Well, relearned because I used to do that when I was about 8 years old. It's very zen. The only problem is I need to find some decent patterns. I did not like any at the craft store. I think I may start making my own. Nothing against Precious Moments and stuff like that, but it is not my style. You can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the goth out of the girl. Or something like that.

The chicken run is almost finished after what now? Two months? My poor husband is having dreams about chicken wire and hearing ghostly chicken clucking in his head when he is no where near them. But they are going to have a fabulous raccon-proof run when we are finished. And earlier today I stopped by the RE Store with my daughter and found a couple really cute antique leaded glass windows we're going to put in the coop so they get some light in the main area (the nesting box is a little dark but I hear they like that). Not that they are laying eggs yet. I am trying really hard not to say things to them about how they need to earn their keep "after everything we've done for them!"

The last week or so I've been feeling pretty stomped physically. I'm not sure if I have mentioned in this blog yet or not that I have an autoimmune disorder called Rheumatoid Arthritis. That means that my immune system attacks my joints, thinking that they are foreign invaders. For the last couple years I've taken two immunosuppressant medications so that I can function. Without those medications I can't bend my knees, my feet hurt too much to walk more than a few feet at a time and my hands hurt so badly I can't even pick up a pencil or make a fist. But I also had three sinus infections and a couple ear infections last year and felt like I was sick the whole winter so my doctor agreed I could quit one of the medications. Unfortunately, my hands are getting achy and by 5pm every evening the last week my feet hurt so badly I don't want to stand up for the rest of the evening. I'm debating in my head how to handle this.

One thing I heard about yesterday is worm therapy. My husband heard about it on NPR and my initial thought was that it sounded about as plausible as bleeding someone with leeches. But I've been reading more about it and I might actually be kind of slightly interested in it. It's super expensive so I doubt I'll try it - but one company is offering discounts to people with Lupus and RA because it has not been tried much on those disorders. Still, I can't quite imagine purposely infecting myself with parasites although I've been in varying degrees of pain constantly for about five years now so I'm starting to feel like I'll try just about anything that has some scientific validity behind it.

A big trigger for RA flare-ups apparently is pollution. So, in spring of 2011 when we move out of the city I'm hoping that being in clean air all the time will help me a little bit. Meanwhile, I need to just keep thinking optimistically that I will feel better eventually for more than just a week or two here or there. My biggest fear is that being crippled is right around the corner. My doctor says as long as I keep exercising and taking the medication to slow the progression of the disease I should be fine, but the fact that there even IS a progression of the disease is always in the back of my mind. What if by the time we move to the country I can't ride horses any more or walk or use my hands?

That is kind of tied to "what if I die before I can live the life I want to live?" But that's not just about living out of the city - I think a lot of people feel that way. That they are living a life that is not their choice. I had a very wonderful, close friend whose husband took a job in Baltimore so she and her family moved there a couple years ago. She didn't like it at all, but there was nothing she could do about it and it was "just for a few years". Then they'd move back here or maybe move to Ashville, NC or move to her home town in South Dakota. We'd talk about moving somewhere together when our husbands could and we finally had the chance. Then out of the blue she was diagnosed with brain cancer and died this last July. And now I have this nawing feeling, "What if I die living in the city, feeling like I never lived the life I wanted - out on a farm, living off the land, surrounded by dogs and horses." "What if my daughter grows up and goes to college having never had the life I wanted to give her - learning about nature and spending her days outside in the fresh air all year long in real wilderness - not manicured and landscaped parks." But that isn't my life now so I guess I will just keep doing what I'm doing and be happy with the life I have.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Time to get a gun ... that's what I been thinkin'

Many people reading this probably don't realize that is a line from a Fred Eaglesmith song that my friend, Laura and I used to like to sing together. She bought me a Fred Eaglesmith cd many years ago when I went down to a little town outside Centralia to take a weekend course in gun safety. It was kind immersion-gun-safety. Sunday evening my husband noted that there was a lot of testosterone in the room and it was not coming from him.

Anyway, the latest crime trend in our neighborhood is home invasion robberies. Some group of someone are kicking in people's doors in the middle of the night and if the residents get up they get pistol whipped before the robbers take off with their stuff. I'm not so worried about our stuff getting stolen as I am violent people kicking in my door. There have also been a string of arsons. Needless to say, sleeping for me has not been so relaxed. I want to scream, "Isn't this enough? Can't we just leave living in the city now?" but I still have about 22 months left to go. I'd rather have to worry about bears getting into our stuff than having our doors kicked in. At least bears are less likely to be high-out-of-their-mind on crack or whatever the drug-du jour is now. I'm not sure it's crack. Maybe meth but if you can make that at home why steal stuff when you don't need to buy it? I'm a little out of touch with drug culture.

Meanwhile, there are good things like our chicken coop is almost totally secure from raccoons after my husband built a moat and filled it with leftover concrete and bricks we've had lying around for a long time.

Speaking of raccoons, the latest scare in the neighborhood is "rouge, crazed raccoons who are attacking women and children and small pets with no provacation in broad daylight!" I'm not sure if these same raccoons are the same ones who are doing the home invasion robberies.

It turns out what started the fear of attack raccoons is that a family's tiny little 5 pound dog was in the backyard and a raccoon thought it was food and pounced on it. When the dad tried to save his dog from the raccoon, the raccoon turned on him. So, the mom came running out and tried to get the raccoon off the dad and it attacked her. I really feel for the family because I was do the same thing to save my dog and because of getting bit they had to get all those awful shots for rabies. But then they made a statement to the media and sent out flyers saying the raccoon just attacked them without provocation. So I've been seeing lots of chatter on neighborhood newsgroups about how we need to keep our children inside lets these raccoons decide to attack them. Very little discussion on how tragic this was, but it was totally normal that a raccoon would attack someone trying to take their dinner away. I'm hoping that maybe for awhile raccoons will become the scapegoat-animal-of-the-hour and replace pitbulls.

The other thing on my mind lately is figuring out how city sewer systems and septic systems work *exactly*. I know the toilet waste goes to the sewage plant to be processed along with everything that goes down the drain. But how does the septic process it? And if we were to build a house with composting toilets, what else would happen to the rest of the water that went down the drain? How much does it need to be processed if one uses only natural products for washing? Or IS there such a thing as a product for washing that is natural enough not to be bad for the environment? Did lye hurt the environment in the days of settlers and homesteaders when that was a common ingredient in soap? Is lye really that bad if people eat lutefisk that has been soaked in it?

Friday, September 18, 2009

This time a big saddle ooops

I start to feel confident because some riding stuff is coming back to me, then I'm reminded of the simplest thing I didn't remember but was really really important and I feel totally green with horses all over again.

So, I bought my saddle brand new just over a year ago and it really is a lovely and incredibly comfortable saddle. But over the last year the leather has stretched and relaxed and I think Girlfriend's back and gotten just a bit more swayed since she's quite senior now at 25. My client for this morning canceled so I went out to see Girlfriend and my instructor and her student Dorothy said I could join Dorothy in her lesson. Girlfriend was acting up more than usual (I noticed that even now she still acts up a lot more when there's another horse in the arena - I hadn't noticed for awhile because I'd been out at the barn when no one else was out there so much over the summer). And Sheryl (my instructor) kept having to tell me during trotting to pull my saddle more to the left. Girlfriend would break her trot and canter when I hadn't told her to and I'd correct her and instantly Sheryl would yell, "Pull your saddle back to the left!" My back was starting to hurt both from trying to do a posting trot and correcting her without unconsciously pulling the saddle to the right, and from having to post and pull the saddle to the left (and cause I'm not in very good shape).

Finally Sheryl came over to check my girth, which was as tight as I could make it without something to give me extra torque, and she said, "Oh my god! Your saddle doesn't fit!" The tree was flush on Girlfriend's withers and was obviously uncomfortable for her and over time could really injure her. I almost sprang off her like I had a spring under my butt I was so horrified I was accidentally doing something to hurt her. That would explain why she had progressively gotten more and more pissy about having her girth tightened. I feel horribly guilty for not knowing/remembering that from 25 years ago when I used to ride.

Our lesson had just started so Sheryl sent me to go get one of her English saddles, which I have not ridden Girlfriend in yet. In fact, Girlfriend has never even had an English saddle on. Somehow me - an English rider who takes lessons at an English barn, ended up with a Western trained horse so of course a Western saddle and hackamore, but in my lessons I was still learning English technique. But honestly, I was afraid to try riding Girlfriend in an English saddle. I've ridden Sheryl's horses in my lesson in an English saddle, but Girlfriend is so hot and it takes so much effort to control her desire to run that I've been scared to give up my cushy saddle with the big, bulky stirrups and the big saddle horn right there to grab if I lose my balance. Ok, so it's been almost a year since I've had to grab the saddle horn to keep my balance, and I saw that holding onto the saddle horn didn't help Jessie stay on when Girlfriend bolted with her, but it's a psychological crutch more than anything.

After my little freak-out about how I wasn't a good enough rider yet to try Girlfriend in an English saddle Sheryl said, "Oh good god. You know this horse like the back of your hand. Go get the saddle. The black Wintek. The big one, not the kid one." So, I slunk off for the umpteenth time in the last year thinking Sheryl had a foolishly disproportionate confidence in my ability to not really hurt myself and saddled up Girlfriend in an English saddle. When we tightened the girth Girlfriend let out a big, happy sigh and I could tell she was relieved to have a proper fitting saddle on. I was happy to be using a saddle so light compared to mine that I could've juggled about three of them. Ah ... the joys of English saddles.

I used a huge amount of will-power to wipe the vision of Girlfriend bolting the minute my butt hit the alien saddle on her back and mounted. She did her usual little, "Hey! Are you we going to run now?" dance as I settled in and put my leg in the right stirrup. Then my feet slid right through the stirrups up to my heels, I pulled them back out to the correct position and they slid right through again. So, I demanded we just walk for the rest of the lesson. But after five minutes I realized that my posture and form were actually much more natural in this saddle (and my feet stopped slipping in the stirrups). I asked if my stirrups were short enough and Sheryl said, "I won't be able to tell until you trot," to which I said, "Ok fine then! Geez!" and actually tried a trot.

I think you'd have to see my horse in action to understand why I was so worried. It's taken me quite a bit of practice to give her just the right amount of half-halt and the gentlest nudge of leg to get her to trot without immediately breaking into a canter or worse a gallop. And I was really worried my balance would not be good enough to do this on a tiny little English saddle. But I really surprised myself! She did her usual trying to bolt, shaking her head around, after a couple times in the circle trying to buck because she was frustrated, but I held my ground and I stayed balanced in the saddle. Even Sheryl praised me for doing well - better than I'd been doing in the Western saddle, although I wasn't keeping my hands down and elbows ahead of me enough because I was used to having that saddle horn in the way. So, that was cool! I did something I had been unjustifiably afraid to do and I did ok with it!

I even asked Sheryl if I could keep taking lessons in her English saddle on Girlfriend because it felt more natural to me - my body kind of remembers riding as a kid more since the only time I ever rode in a Western saddle was on an occasional trail ride on vacation. My lessons were mostly dressage and jumping in an English saddle. Sheryl said she hadn't expected me to actually want to keep riding in it but that it was fine and if I wanted to use it for practice rides I could too. Yay me! I'm proud of myself for trying!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big horse ooops

Last Sunday I took my friend, Jessie out to ride my horse, Girlfriend with me. Jess and I haven't seen each other since before my daughter was born and we have a lot in common so I was looking forward to hanging out. We took EJ with us and she stayed entertained taking video with Jessie's digital camera. So, we got my big horse oops on video - kind of.

Jessie used to ride English and worked at horse camps as a teen and seems to understand and be able to talk about how to ride better than I can. But she had never ridden Western and never ridden a horse with a hackamore and hasn't ridden for a few years. Still, whenever someone actually seems to know what they're talking about than me I seem to automatically assume they are better at stuff than me. So, I figured if I could ride Girlfriend then she could (not taking into account I have been riding her consistently for a year and have been taking lessons with her). So, Jessie got up on Girlfriend and I sat down on the mounting block on the far end of the arena. Girlfriend tried to trot a little but Jessie was able to hold her back, but then lots of stuff happened. I feel like narrating it like in the original Curious George book where all he says during a big fiasco was "and then something happened ... this ... and this ... and this ..." Jessie got confused because a hackamore feels a lot different than a bit, she shortened the reins which is what I do to collect Girlfriend right before we run (the shorter the reins, the faster I'm planning to go) Next thing I know, Girlfriend had taken off at a full gallop. I jumped up and tried to run to the other side of the arena to cut her off at the pass, but this is a huge arena and a galloping gaming horse is REALLY fast. Jessie lost her balance and Girlfriend panicked and bucked - which meant "ack! I want her off my back!" So, she went full speed and did a quick turn and threw Jessie right off into the wall with a loud thunk.

I got to the end of the arena just after Jessie got thrown off and Girlfriend was just standing there next to her looking relieved. But I was so upset and angry I looked at Girlfriend and for a split second had a vision in my head of grabbing the reins and beating her. But since I would never do that to a horse and I was more worried about Jessie, I turned around to see if she was ok. Apparently, according to the other girl riding in the arena, Girlfriend ducked her head and just slowly walked over to the arena door and hung her head. The mother of a girl who was in the hallway tacking up her horse came over to the arena door and held onto Girlfriend, although Girl was pretty obviously not going anywhere. Later, the other teenager (who drives me nuts as it is) said she was terrified that Girlfriend was going to turn around and go after her horse. This is a teenager who thinks she knows everything about horses and is always bragging about being the expert on natural horsemanship, but she screams at her horses and beats them and I don't want her anywhere near my horse. Anyway, I just said, "She won't go after your horse," when what I wanted to say was "Do you even know ANYTHING about horses and how they think and react???? Good fucking god." But that is a different subject.

Jessie was rolling back and forth on the floor making this horrible gasping noise and I told her not to move and was sure that she had broken her back. EJ meanwhile was crying and screaming for Jessie outside the arena and I yelled to her that everything was ok and I'd come get her in a minute. Then Jessie sat up and gasped out, "I'm Ok. Do you think EJ managed to get video of that?" At which point I knew she really was ok. So, I went and brought EJ into the arena to give her a hug and see she was ok, then said, "Let's get back on," which induced a "WTF???" look from Jessie before she said, "Oh yeah, that's right. I guess that's what you're supposed to do." This time I walked next to Girlfriend the whole time so that she knew I was the one in control and I could tell her to stop or slow down if need be. Things went fine, within a few minutes Jessie relaxed and then Girlfriend's whole body relaxed and they had made up with each other. Then EJ demanded she get to ride and I led her around the arena on a leadline. But I learned my lesson. First time anyone rides my ex-gaming rodeo champion horse, no matter what they say I am definitely walking next to them the first time they get on her just in case. Eeeeek.

The carnage.