Friday, August 24, 2012

More about horses and slugs

School starts just over a week and as usual things are very busy.   I've been dogsitting my boss's dog Keiko the last week or so and it's been surprisingly more quiet with two dogs around than I thought it would be for this long.  I'm hoping that convinces my husband that in Spring when my parents move into their new condo on Mercer Island and can't take their Australian Shepherd, Misty, that we should take her.  My brother wanted to take her but his wife vetoed it because their house is already small, they have as many pets as us (sans the kid and the horses) and they both work full-time and are gone all day.

Speaking of animals, day before yesterday when I went out jogging on my usual path through the woods I ran into a bobcat.  That was unexpected.  I didn't think they came down this far from the foothills.  I had both dogs (my boss's dog is actually quite big - bigger than our pitbull) and my daughter was riding her bike, so the little guy paused, looked at is curiously for a second, then scurried off.   He was very young and I'm assuming had already been weaned and didn't need his mama, but I wasn't taking any chances on a possibly freaked out protective mama nearby so we went the opposite direction of him and I keep my daughter within eye sight just in case an 8 year old speeding through a wooded path on her bike was a threat to a protective mama.

I'm watching with my garden and wondering why my tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelon are all doing well despite the slugs, but my peppers, lettuce and carrots were eaten almost immediately.  I noticed the slugs were going for my pumpkin starts a month or so ago so I tried putting used coffee grounds around the starts to deter them.  It worked and now the pumpkin plants are huge and have buds getting ready to try and be pumpkins (I have no idea how long it takes to turn into a pumpkin so I'll be watching curiously to see if we'll have any by Halloween).  I tried the same experiment with the pepper plants and I guess that they are so tasty that a little coffee grounds are not enough of a deterrent.  My husband thinks I should cave in and try slug bait but I'm bound and determined to figure out this no chemical organic gardening thing.

Which reminds me, I found out yet another irritating thing about "organic" food in our lovely corporate food industry.  I recently read The American Way of Eating and was horrified to find out that organic farms are allowed to use a certain amount of chemical pesticides and that even though they are only allowed to use a certain amount, it doesn't stop the huge corporate farms from using a lot more.  That's not to say that little organic co-op right outside your city is doing that - they probably aren't which is why they are still small and not millionaires, but the large organic farms have free rein.  So, unless it's a local organic farm that I can go visit and see for myself, I'm hesitant to bother spending that extra couple dollars or more per pound for products that have "organic" stamped on them - probably a label bought by the corporation, much like Energy Star products are more about the company following the bare minimum guidelines and then buying the brand.  Someday we'll have a farm big enough that I can grow much of our own food.  Maybe by the time we have enough money to buy a place like that I will have figured out how to successful deter these damned slugs!

And when we have enough money to buy that farm, it will also be a horse farm so I can have my horses at home.  And in an ideal world I'd also have Trainer K.'s horses there too so that she would be at my barn everyday! I've learned so much from her in the last year but I'm nowhere near being ready to be cut loose and on my own.  I imagine it will be a good ten years or more before I feel like I am.  But I feel a bit more confident.  The other day my friend, Star and I decided that we would take Bogo and his mom Temple out for a walk.  We got the ok from their owner and Trainer K. and Bogo is 5 months old now and the only "work" he gets is when Trainer K. leads him to and from the paddock.  But she can't afford to work with him and handle him for free - she barely has time for all the horses we all pay her to train.  Star and I are worried that the older he gets, the harder it will be for him to be handled and we don't want him to get any bigger and get dangerous and end up with no one wanting him and having to send him to auction (ie: bought by the Canadian slaughter houses because no one wants a full-grown horse that can't be handled).

Ironically, I said I felt safer handling Bogo than his mom because when he breaks away and panics he run wildly (and without paying attention to where he's going) to his mom and I don't want to get run over.  Whereas if I'm handling him I can focus on him and stay out of his way.  And Star seems better at avoiding danger than I am - she has a lot more horse experience than I do.  So, I asked her to take the hard task of holding mom.  When we left the stall Bogo did really well (his times being lead by Trainer K. obviously are paying off).  He got a little excited about being near the pastures so we let him and his mom out in an empty pasture to play for a little bit and Star kept an eye on them to make sure Bogo wouldn't escape.  When it was time to bring them in Bogo had obviously not had what he thought was enough time outside playing (he really doesn't get any time really to be in a big pasture and run around because he breaks through fences and his owner doesn't have time to come out and let him run while keeping an eye out on him).  So, I walked up to him to put the lead rope on and he scooted backward just as I was about to clip it on and to my surprise reared up and struck out at me with his front legs.  My instinctual reaction was to snap, "Oh! That is so not ok!" and smacked him as hard as I could in the chest with the lead rope while he was still in the air.  He made a funny grunting, squeeling sound that sounded distinctly like "Oh shit!" and scurried to the other side of his mom and tried to hide his head under her belly.  Star just reached around and grabbed his halter and held onto him until I came around and clipped the lead rope on.  Then he was very sorry and polite (or as polite as a baby can be) after that.  I was impressed with him that when he tried to break away and rush the gate, I was able to ask him to back up and he did.  He would walk a few steps and then try to bolt ahead, but because I was holding the lead rope it would turn his head as he bolted so he'd try to circle, but each time I just pushed him back over to my side behind me and he complied - he just looked very confused.  But I could see the gears working in his baby head as he was trying to figure out the cause and effect.  I think he's a smart boy and a very good horse - he just needs someone to work with him every day and handle him a lot more.


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