Friday, October 31, 2008

spirits and angels

Since today is Halloween, and in honor of the Celtic celebration of Samhain, I'm offering a true and mysterious tale of spirits and angels.

When I was a little girl, in the middle of the night of the first sleepover I remember having, my friend woke me up to ask why there was a man standing by my dresser. I looked around the room and saw nothing, but she insisted there had been a man standing there, and that he had been watching me while I slept.

This same friend reported this on more than one occasion during our childhoods.

When we were teenagers, years later, we were having a sleepover at another friend's house. There were 5 of us there, and we were in the kitchen, doing what adolescent girls love to do: listening to music, talking, and eating.

My aforementioned friend and I were sitting on one side of the kitchen table, our backs to the kitchen window. The other three friends were on the opposite side. They suddenly started screaming and ran out of the kitchen. My friend and I flew around the table and followed.

It turned out they had seen a man's face in the window. They each described the face in some detail. As they went through their individual descriptions, my other friend's face became more and more puzzled. "That's the same man I saw watching you those times," she said.

I've come to believe that this man is some sort of spirit being who, for whatever reason, has looked out for me my entire life.

I don't know who he is. My maternal grandfather died when I was young, and I do remember going to his funeral. But physically he doesn't resemble the descriptions of the man my friends described.

In any case, his presence has always been benign, and it's always been true that I have had an aura of safety that has carried me through some dicey situations.

I'd love to hear your stories if any of you want to share!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

my new intention with reference to the novels

Ezra Pound said:

Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.

Now I know why it is taking me so long to get these novels right AND why writing novels is such a transformative, wonderful process. It's alchemy of a very special kind.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


When I left for my office late this afternoon, Rafer Johnson was in his cast. He'd spent the morning (he and Redford put themselves in Salina's paddock this a.m.) lying in the sunshine on top of Salina's pile of hay, while she tenderly plucked strands from beneath him and Redford stood guard behind him.

We allowed Salina to spend an hour with Rafer and Redford in the barnyard this afternoon, and Rafer took an afternoon nap once again with Salina standing guard on one side and little Redford on the other.

When I came home tonight, Rafer's cast was gone! And in its place he now has a spiffy little splint on his ankle, to give him support as he heals that hairline fracture.

We're charged with the mighty task of taking the splint off every 2 days, giving him 1 day without it, and then putting it back on. For a month!

I'm not real sure how putting the splint back on the donkey is going to work. But we'll figure that out in two days!

Redford is now braying loudly for Rafer whenever Rafer is out of his sight. My daughter said that Redford did caprioles today when she had to take him for a walk away from Rafer during the procedure. The Flying Donkey returned - but at least this time it was on the end of a lead rope and there were no walls involved!

hush for a while

We suddenly have COLD here. I was shivering in the barn before we came in for dinner last night, but realized later in the evening that the temperature was 34 degrees out and would surely drop lower. So around eleven, I suited up in my husband's LL Bean down coat and my black fleece hat and marched out to the barn to blanket the horses.

I always wonder if I should blanket at all. But given that they go in and out all night long, and since two are older, I do it. I'm using single weight sheets, so not piling on the layers, but still... do they really need it?

By the time I went out last night it had dropped to 32 degrees, and the forecast for early this morning was wind - and a high not cracking the 40's. I tossed my blanketing dilemma to the birds and they got their sheets on.

It was so quiet out, the way it gets when the cold comes. Quiet with horses snuffling and then the pure sound of a donkey braying in the night. Rafer Johnson and Redford got cookies and then my husband came out to help. I mucked and he blanketed and we gave extra hay. Rafer Johnson escaped the barn and headed directly for the round bale! He is walking well now, using his leg almost normally. The puffiness is almost gone.

I was glad my daughter and I had devoted the day to switching the donkeys across the barn to the center stall, nice and warm, and moved Salina over to the end stall beside them. The geldings have their three stalls back. And everyone can come in if they want, or take a walk if they want. Donkeys in the barn aisle for now, but eventually they'll get access to the grass paddock with Salina.

Those LL Bean coats are warm - my body was toasty but my fingers started tingling in the cold night air. And those few moments of cold quiet reminded me of a favorite Sam Keen passage:

The Word is still spoken in sparrowsong, windsigh, and leaffall. An electron is a single letter, an atom a complex word, a molecule a sentence, and an indigo bunting an entire epistle of the sacred. The ocean whispers its mystery within the chambered sea shell. Listen quietly to the longing in your heart for love and justice and you may hear an echo of the holy word that addresses you. Hush for a while. Be still and know.

-Sam Keen

For some reason the cold nights and early mornings of winter are times I hear this most succinctly.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

feeding the "whole" herd

A few trims ago, our natural hoofcare trimmer recommended I head over to Pete Ramey's website to read THIS article, as he knows I'm constantly trying to learn more about feet and keeping them healthy.

As a result of reading the article, and then following up by talking to more folks who steep themselves in hoof/whole horse knowledge, I signed up for an online course in equine nutrition with Dr. Eleanor Kellon.

The course, NRC Plus, was already full, but she allowed me to audit the class beginning in November, and then I will be a full class member for credit in the February section. In effect, I'll get to go through the material twice, which sounds good to me!

Our trimmer, Pete Ramey, and Dr. Kellon all strongly recommend getting pasture and hay analyses done while taking the class, so that the numbers and percentages are actually relevant ones to your horses. THIS is a good place to get that done at a reasonable cost.

Pete recommends a few places to go to for custom supplementation (if needed) once you have all the data and want to add in only and exactly what your horses need based on the feed/hay/pasture analyses done in the class, and applied to the individual needs of your horses. I wasn't surprised to see Horsetech listed. Rod and his staff have been enormously helpful to me over the past year and a half, making custom blends for me based on the changing needs of my herd.

I'm very excited about Dr. Kellon's classes, and learning how to feed my horses with confidence based in knowledge.

Right now they are off all processed feeds, and looking wonderful on a combination of soaked beet pulp pellets and whole oats, with a good salt blend mixed in. I tried alfalfa pellets but they wouldn't touch them - and come to find out, that particular brand of pellets has "feed grade animal fat" added in for "palatability." I need to find some alfalfa pellets that are pure alfalfa next trip to the feed store.

Salina also gets rice bran, and the two big geldings get black oil sunflower seeds. They all rotate through several vit/min mixes during the course of the year. I've also started giving probiotics after deworming.

I think I'm doing a decent job but I'd like to get it better, using more real data. I've started to see how powerful it is to be able to customize the tubs for each of my horses, and I'm so excited I wanted to share the links in case any of you horse folk readers have interest.

It's my answer to the "ignorance is bliss" conundrum I posted about a few weeks ago. Hopefully Dr. Kellon can help me synthesize all this data into a good, organized plan.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

finally! our rising star

Redford arrived Sunday morning and my first sight of him was his perfect little jump out of the van, onto his bale of hay as a step, and down to the grass. He looked like he had done that particular move forever, and that was just about how his first day at November Hill played out.

He was absolutely and completely at home from the first moment on. You would never know he hadn't been here a dozen times already!

Rafer was so intrigued as Redford came into the stall next to his:

He and Rafer Johnson met over the 2 1/2 foot stall wall we had lowered so they could interact more easily. They touched noses, they shared hay, and they did a lot of looking and watching. Little donkey eyes met and studied, as only donkey eyes can. The horses, including Salina, were in the front field, and although they had access to the barn, they didn't come up right away. The donkeys had their own special time to say hello.

Redford is absolutely adorable. I had already forgotten how snuggly baby donkeys are - and although he is 7 months and some days old, next to the handsome, more mature Rafer Johnson, Redford seems like a teddy donkey! What a treat to get to watch him grow up as we have Rafer!

So... these two donkeys visited. And then suddenly Redford started looking at the wall between them. "He's thinking about..." and then he did it - he jumped right over the wall into Rafer's stall! Rafer jumped off to the side, clearly startled, and we all felt terrible. We had seen it coming but then it happened so quickly we couldn't stop it. We were all stunned too at the agility of little Redford - and Rafer wasn't quite sure he liked this little Flying Donkey coming right into his space. Redford got his halter on and went back to the adjoining stall, and we all gave Rafer time to relax again while we watched his leg to make sure everything was okay. We also added another board to the wall!

A little bit later (I think I have the sequence straight) the horses ran up the hill and Salina marched up to the back windows of the three stalls. Redford was in the middle, Rafer in the end stall to the right. Salina stuck her head in, expecting to see Rafer, but there was Redford! You could see the thinking process going on as she looked, amazed, from Redford to Rafer, back and forth a number of times, almost as if she couldn't quite believe it. There were two of them!

Suddenly a light bulb went off above her very alert ears. Wait! There's another stall! Maybe there are THREE! She went down to the last stall and looked in, just to be sure. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen. She was so hopeful - but when she saw there wasn't another one, she came back. And then she, Redford, and Rafer had a pow-wow right there over the stall door and stall wall. Redford walked up and let her sniff him. They stood with noses outstretched, and you could see that Rafer and Redford were both forming opinions based on one another. Redford looked at Rafer to see what he thought of Salina. Rafer watched Salina befriend Redford. (maybe that scary Flying Donkey who sailed into his stall minutes before wasn't quite so scary!) And Salina had no qualms at all - she was as happy as could be to have both of them.

After we said goodbye to Ken and Marty, who stayed and helped us navigate this important meeting, the geldings went back out to the field. Salina remained in the paddock with some hay, right by the stall windows. I went into Rafer's stall to muck and forgot to latch the door. When I turned around he had marched out the door and around the corner of the barn to stand by Salina - with the fence between them. He seemed so happy to be out and grazing in the sunshine, I decided to let him be for a few minutes. About that time, I heard a rumble and then Redford dashed out of the barn. This little donkey had jumped a 3 1/2 foot wall taller than his head!

I realized at that point we had to stop raising the wall and just let the two of them be together. They spent the rest of the day with Rafer's stall open to the barn aisle. They watched one another, shared some cookies, touched noses, munched on hay, and after the first hour, Salina went back out to the front field and Rafer Johnson was completely fine - because suddenly he realized he has a new buddy who wants very much to be with him. You cannot imagine (well, maybe you can) the absolute joy of standing in the barn aisle with these two precious donkeys and watching them bond.

They do it so differently than horses do - without all the fanfare, just those sweet donkey eyes measuring the situation and deciding that it will be all right.

Redford very appropriately has a star - and if his arrival here is any indication, it looks like he is one special Flying Donkey. The last thing I did before heading off to my Pony Club meeting Sunday night was kneel between two donkey noses and two donkey eyes gazing into mine - one on each side. Double the donkey love.

Welcome to November Hill, Redford! You have already taken Rafer Johnson's mind off the wandering mare, the puffy fetlock and hairline fracture, and the temporary confinement. And you have taken our breaths away with your jumping skills. We know you'll be very happy here.

And some more settling in photos, first playing donkey carousel:

Having a moment with the other red equine on the farm:

Shining his star light all over the barnyard:

Rafer Johnson, our little donkey of the light:

And finally, the November Hill donkey team:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the picture that would have been worth a thousand words

But can't be, because not only can I not upload, my camera battery is dead!

When I went out at mid-day, Rafer Johnson was lying curled up in the soft, clean hay left over from the round bale, in the sunshine, with Redford standing right behind him, like a little guardian.

It was the sweetest thing I've seen yet with these two, and it made me so happy. Rafer hasn't been able to lie in the warm sunshine since he broke his leg. Today, with Redford's company, he was totally "in the light," soaking it in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

technical difficulties!!

I tried last night late and again this afternoon to get some photos uploaded - but we're having internet issues over here, and until things are working well again, the uploading is out.

We learned last night after doing radiographs yesterday morning that Rafer Johnson's puffy fetlock is due to a hairline sesamoid fracture. :/

Apparently this can happen with full casts, and sadly it has happened to Rafer. The bottom line is that he had to have the full cast initially, so even had we known this was a possibility, there weren't really other alternatives. And the good news is that they assume it will fuse on its own. But he will need to stay in closer confinement for now. Thank goodness, he has Redford with him!

Next thing on Rafer's schedule is Oct. 28th when they will take the cast off, bi-valve it, and put it back. That way we can take it on and off to check for sores, let the leg "breathe," etc.

He's getting a homeopathic remedy and a bit of Banamine last night for discomfort. The swelling is again better today and he is moving more normally. Interestingly, Salina has stayed up at the barn, keeping an eye on BOTH donkeys. :)

Send some healing light his way. Photos when I can get them up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a shocking turn of events (with a really wonderful outcome)

It became quite apparent this morning that Salina has gone into a full-blown cycle of heat. :0

She went out to the field with the geldings after breakfast and by 2 p.m. had not come back up to the barn. She stuck to Keil Bay like glue and then decided (poor Keil Bay!) that maybe the younger man was the one to pursue. She followed Cody all over the back field all day long. He was quite flabbergasted that the black monster mare suddenly wanted to be with HIM, the lowly bottom of the herd order gelding.

At one point she was sniffing his hindquarters and he turned slowly around at the neck with the funniest expression on his face. What's going ON back there?

It would be hilarious if not for one lonely little donkey stuck inside the barn.

Rafer Johnson and I spent the morning and much of the afternoon listening to NPR while I did chores. He was clearly missing Salina and didn't understand why she wasn't coming when he called. I opened up his lick ball, gave him lots of neck scratches, and we got caught up in "Car Talk."

Rafer's little fetlock, having been unused for 6 weeks, was a bit puffy yesterday. The vet came by to check up on him, and said he felt it would resolve pretty quickly on its own. But Rafer is stall-bound until it improves. I have given him a homeopathic remedy and it is less puffy today, but given the whimsy of the mare, I decided it might be time to make a change.

So I emailed our donkey experts and we have all agreed that it's time for Redford to come cheer up the troops!

Ken and Marty have generously offered to bring Redford tomorrow morning so that Rafer Johnson doesn't have to spend another day wondering what in the world his best friend Salina is up to. He will have Redford right next door to keep him company!

And when he can resume his twice daily turn-outs, he can do so with Redford, at least until Salina passes through this phase. My worries about the suddenly agile and unpredictable mare bumping into a casted donkey are over.

We are so excited - I have been thinking of Redford for the past few days, and now he will be here tomorrow! I think it's just what the doctor ordered for phase two of Rafer's convalescence.

Thank you, Ken and Marty. You are the very best.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

old cast new cast

My wonderful husband got up early this morning and managed the entire re-casting process before he went to work, so that when I went out to feed breakfast, there was little Rafer, slightly subdued still from his anesthesia, but newly casted and standing once again with all FOUR hooves on the ground.

Salina is in fine spirits this morning, insisting on being in the paddock where she can interact with the geldings in the back field AND Rafer in his stall. She seems to know that this healing process is approaching the halfway point - and thus she can hang out halfway between the members of her herd. There is no pacing or sense of urgency - she simply seems like she's ready to move back toward the herd life. We are all eager for this to happen, with Rafer Johnson, and with Redford!

Rafer will be completely stall-bound for several days, until he gets used to using his fetlock and hoof again, and builds those muscles back.

His pressure sore is not bad at all, but it's tender, and a good thing it is now completely untouched by the cast so it can heal.

What a little trooper! Today I'm so much closer to seeing things back to normal here on November Hill. And looking SO forward to seeing two donkeys running together with Salina not too far behind!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

harvest moon afternoon

We had a warm day today and decided to give equine baths. Salina went first, and then Keil Bay snuck into the small barnyard in front of the pony, so we did both of them together. Cody will get his tomorrow or Thursday, and Rafer Johnson did his own bath rolling in the grass paddock. No water for donkeys!

After baths, Keil Bay and Apache went into the front field and had themselves a 20-minute play session. They galloped up the hill, they reared and bucked, they did collected trot in 5-meter circles, they did passage. They were both floating. It was so nice to see, particularly with the pony, who I believe was feeling quite good to be doing all that work from the hindquarters.

I did some cleaning in the tack room, and when I came out, this is what I saw.

A very distinguished Dickens E. Wickens surveying his property. And two of his cohorts enjoying the round bale.

Our very most favorite hay is once again available, but only in round bales until next spring. We've been feeding from the bale with a pitchfork and hay barrow but since the bale is in the barnyard it makes a nice buffet for the equine crew.

We're getting ready to re-fence the grass paddock and move Salina and Rafer back to the near side of the barn so the geldings can have their stalls, but until then there is a fair amount of free access to the buffet. As you can see, it's quite the hot spot.

I meant to get a photo of the harvest moon as it rose up over the trees tonight. I was doing a client call outside, and watched the moon rise. Just at the pinnacle of the call, when the good insights happened, Keil Bay walked over and bowed to me. After that I forgot all about the moon.

But it does feel like a full harvest day.

update on the little man

The pony's acupuncture treatments are now down to every other week. During the last one, she went further into the "trouble" spots, and he fussed a little, but mostly he seems to understand that once she gets things set up, good stuff happens.

The vet and I were sitting at the picnic table, and I was holding the lead line loosely. Apache Moon was about 3 feet away, eyes closed, quite literally sleeping with an expression of bliss on his face. Suddenly he opened his eyes, took a few steps toward me, and put his eyes right up to mine. He kept inching closer and closer. After gazing at me for a few moments, he dropped his head gently into my lap and began to lick my hands. Then he went back to sleep, with his head in my lap.

It was the most wonderful "thank you" I think I've ever seen from a horse.

Meanwhile my daughter continues to wrap his hocks in soothing, moist/warm towels. The vet has asked us to tack the pony up, completely, wrap his hocks with the moist heat, and then randomly ride or simply untack. She wants to break the cycle where he tenses up when expecting the ride, so he can realize that things are getting better, and can experience some time under saddle with warm hocks.

He is still being ridden very lightly, but thoroughly warmed up before doing any trotting.

My daughter has developed a way of tying the towels around his hocks and he stands there like he's getting a very special treatment. His entire demeanor is different when he has the towels on.

Otherwise, he is slimming down (he has come to accept the grazing muzzle and doesn't seem to detest it) and his lush winter coat is coming in.

We will be giving him Bute the night before and morning of hoof trimming, as well as the towel treatment before and after, so he knows, again, that we are attending to the sore spot.

He completed his herbs and will be getting his re-check later this week.

I'm very pleased with how things are going. He's getting a softer eye, and I think that means we're on the right track.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


In my workshop this weekend we ended with some hands-on using clay and collage materials. It's been a long time since I have done a collage, but for years of my life it was a very soothing, freeing exercise.

I think it's the cutting and pasting, and clearly the visual aspect of it appeals to me as well.

It was the perfect way to end a journey in the sandplay of men in midlife, rendered with the backdrop of the story of Gilgamesh.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

the rafer johnson report

(photo credit to son)

The vet came by today and did radiographs of Rafer Johnson's leg, right through the cast. The bone is fused about halfway across, and you can clearly see that the rest is fusing.

We decided to leave the cast on for one more week, and next Thursday he'll be getting this cast removed and a new, hopefully slightly smaller one, put on.

The vet will saw this one in half and save it so that we can possibly reuse it as a bivalve cast in the last stretch.

There was a small pressure sore, more like a calloused area, just inside the current cast, so we applied some Neosporin while he was still groggy and now he is back munching hay!

The vet was very pleased with the progress and the fact that Rafer is getting around so well on the cast and is feeling so spirited. Rafer showed the vet he could not only buck but rear up on his hind legs, cast and all! He did not really want the sedative injection today but he settled down and did a great job.

Salina was in the back field whinnying and I think that got him a bit excited.

Anyway, we are very happy with the healing we're seeing - the vet said what you see on the radiograph is actually a conservative view of the healing that has occurred. And if you think of this as a 4-month process, we're only in week 5 of a 20-week time frame. (well, duh - no one corrected my math error - it's actually 16 weeks total!)

Whew! We're on the road to recovery. Not done yet, but it's good to see the progress.

Way to go, Rafer Johnson!

costume prep

Matthew mentioned the rich texture of life on November Hill, and the above is one of the things that makes my days richer.

My daughter gets a lot of "air time" on here because she does so much horsey stuff with me, but my son (also a horseman, but on hiatus for the past year) does so many things that add to the creative pot in our home. He has an eye for detail and the skill to make things with his hands. I often wonder if he might end up doing prop and costume and set design for some award-winning TV shows and films.

I walked past the dining room table this morning and had to smile. He is preparing to be a WWII soldier, and this is one piece of his costume - the supply kit. He found the bag at an army surplus store, and the rest of the materials he bought and is using to make up the packets you see here.

He also found the cross for his sister's costume (one of them - she has two going at the moment) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Last week he made her a wooden stake, and she used her allowance to buy a black leather jacket at the local vintage clothing shop.

It is going to be a really fun Halloween!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the writing life

I finally got brave and unplugged the white Apple mouse I've been using for the past few days - and plugged in the funky black upright mouse I had insisted I needed. When it arrived, along with the keyboard, it looked so weird and felt so weird beneath my hand, I chose not to try it out.

But I kept feeling tension in my right forearm using the regular mouse, and yesterday I made the change.

I complained about it for five minutes, then it started to get easier. Today, it's like I've been using it forever. And the arm stays totally neutral and relaxed. My set-up is clunky looking, with cords and boxes and all the other stuff on this desk. Nothing matches anymore. I'm sitting with my feet up on a cardboard box recycled from the last UPS delivery. But suddenly I'm truly comfortable.

In addition to the new chair, keyboard, wrist rests, gel mouse pad, upright mouse, fancy foot rest (not!) and elevated screen, I'm now set up at the desk in the living room. I'm not sure why I no longer want to write in my garret, but I suspect it has something to do with ease of access. This way I can write while cooking. I can dash out to the barn and settle right back in to the pages without disappearing upstairs. It might not be permanent, but for now, I have a new office.

The newfound comfort has translated into writing/editing in several one-hour blocks both yesterday and today. Even better, it has resulted in many aha! moments with regards to book issues. In the bathtub yesterday, in the car today. I love when the book is right beneath the surface of my regular routine, bubbling up whenever there's a lull.

Today I actually went online and commented on LitPark, a wonderful site I haven't visited in several months. Head on over - there's a fascinating discussion about literary fiction and thrillers.

It's good to be back. I've been missing the writing life.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

busy but good

Typing to you from the new keyboard, wrists resting on cool gel pads, mouse skating along on the gel mouse pad too, and screen raised to nearly eye level.

I still need the foot rest but the set-up is close enough and comfortable enough that I worked on the book for an hour this morning. A good thing - now the top of my head won't be blowing off.

The week is busy and I think my getting the cold, which is nearly gone now, was an in-advance response to all the things on my schedule.

We have trailer cleaning, fence repairing, shower head replacing, riding lessons, costume shopping, haircuts, acupuncture, cast check, clients, and I have a 3-day workshop this weekend, called For Whom Have I Journeyed? Spiritual Initiation in the Sandplay of Midlife Men.

I'm excited. This is the kind of workshop that does double duty: it's continuing education for my work, but it also feeds the writing.

Around the farm, we have a new barn cat in training. Mystic has decided that his calling is to join Dickens E. Wickens in the cowboy life. He is out there constantly, helping with stall mucking, learning how to drink from horse buckets and troughs, and lying in the pasture with the horses while they graze. I had a feeling he was destined to be a cowboy.

(photo credits to daughter)

A cowboy named Mystic. I think I might have a new book character forming.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

cody's big adventure

Today my daughter and husband set off with the new truck and trailer, hauling the lovely Cody, aka Coden Locomoden, aka Coco-puff, to his first Pony Club activity. They are riding in a mock fox hunt!

It was a little sad for me as he loaded, because if the pony were up to speed, he would be the one going. However, after they drove off, and I let Keil Bay and Apache in from the front field to have some hay in the stall with the fans, the Little Man looked at me with what felt like appreciation. We are trying to take good care of him and allow the acupuncture and other things to take effect. I think he knows that.

Salina was a bit concerned that we were taking one of her geldings away, but she limited her trumpeting to one long whinny. Keil Bay was simply happy it wasn't him being hauled off to do things in the mid-day sun.

Why am I not on the road with them? I developed a sore throat Friday afternoon and went to bed with a stuffy nose. I'm feeling better today except that I think my body is running a fever off and on fighting this thing, so I opted NOT to have my debut trailer hauling experience this weekend. (meaning, me driving the truck and trailer without husband along!)

Adding the scoop now that they are on the way home and have called with an update.

Daughter says he did great - "he didn't buck or spook or run off" - well, I'm REALLY glad to hear THAT. :)

His main issue was going through water. As a 5-year old who has not left the farm since he came here at age 2, I guess he's probably never seen a big body of water. He jumped up on a 3-foot bank at one crossing, but walked back down when asked. He jumped completely OVER one of the crossings instead of walking through, which I suppose bodes well for his career in jumping/eventing.

And finally, he followed a BTDT horse through, and hopefully learned that the water does indeed have a bottom to it and won't swallow him whole.

Otherwise, he handled his first big outing well. She had to do half-halts to keep him at the proper following distance from the pony in front of her. He whinnied some. But he had no issues with horses galloping past, or odd noises, with riding through forest or up and down hills, or past fields with horses bucking and neighing, or the general atmosphere of riding with a group of horses he didn't know.

He unloaded and loaded back up at the end "like an angel," my husband reported.

And now they are all home. He walked off the trailer and headed for the round bale in the barnyard!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

a real treat for word lovers

Roy Blount has a new book coming out called Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory.

In it, Blount writes:

To me, letters have always been a robust medium of sublimation. … We're in the midst of a bunch of letters, and if you're like me, you feel like a pig in mud. What a great word mud is. And muddle, and muffle, and mumble. … You know the expression "Mum's the word." The word mum is a representation of lips pressed together. … The great majority of languages start the word for "mother" with an m sound. The word mammal comes from the mammary gland. Which comes from baby talk: mama. To sound like a grownup, we refine mama into mother; the Romans made it mater, from which: matter. And matrix. Our word for the kind of animal we are, and our word for the stuff that everything is made of, and our word for a big cult movie all derive from baby talk.

What are we saying when we say mmmm? We are saying yummy. In the pronunciation of which we move our lips the way nursing babies move theirs. The fact that we can spell something that fundamental, and connect it however tenuously to mellifluous and manna and milk and me (see M), strikes me as marvelous.

Friday, October 03, 2008

information overload

I'm swimming in information here at my desk today. In my ongoing equine diet research, I've got everyone very happily on soaked beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, rice bran, and their supplements. I'm very much wanting to add whole oats to the menu. Not all of our horses/donkeys get all of the above, but having the whole ingredients on hand means everyone gets what they need.

Right now we're rotated off all supplements except for the seniors who are getting a joint supplement in between their Adequan courses.

And Cody is getting BOSS.

They're all getting psyllium and pro-bios this week.

It's time to re-order the custom flax mix, but I'm signed up for a class in equine nutrition and I keep thinking what I learn there will affect what I do with the custom mix.

I need to send off grass and hay samples for analysis so I'll have our numbers in front of me when the class starts.

I'm thinking I should re-order the general vit/min supplement next. But which one? The one I used previously turned out to be soy based, so I'm switching. The one I like best among the new possibilities is too similar to the flax mix I get. More reading, more info.

Meanwhile, I've been researching de-worming protocol and determined I have probably been underdosing. While reading about that, I stumbled onto a de-worming schedule that addresses the adult Onchocerca and supposedly, with many positive anecdotal results, is also ridding a number of horses from various types of itching and deep sulcus thrush among other things.

I did a test on my herd, and have seen some results that bear out what I've read, so now I'm rethinking my entire de-worming strategy.

Add to this the kinesiology test results and herbs and you see that my brain is boiling over with data. It's all faithfully written down in my barn calendar. Who got what when, and what resulted. But sometimes I feel like buying a hundred acres, planting it with grass and adding what the soil needs to be complete for horses, and doing wild horse style turn-out.

Keil Bay and Salina would be happy until the magic hours of mealtime, and then they'd both beat a path to my back door. And there would be Rafer Johnson, Cody, and Apache right behind them, loyal herd members that they are.

I would miss mixing the feed tubs every morning, because truly, I love the scooping and the customizing and the ability to tweak things on a daily basis.

Sometimes though, I have a secret longing for the whole "ignorance is bliss" approach to ... I was going to type horse care, but really, it would have to be to life in general.

Which is of course not at all my style. But it would be nice to be able to turn the switch for a few days a month.

Knowledge database OFF. Ignorance Is Bliss Over-ride button ON.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

more signs of autumn

I went out on the front porch just now to take a photo of the fog. It's lifted already, and it's cooler out than I expected on this gray day. Immediately I noted the trees - several are changing colors to gold and red already, and even the green ones are a duller green. Autumn is happening around us.

There are three dead garden spiders on the front porch. They have lived and died, and I believe the perfect egg sacs I see hanging in various spots up near the porch ceiling belong to them. I am both afraid of and fascinated by spiders, especially the yellow and black ones, the ones I grew up knowing as the "writing spiders."

They represent writing in all its glory: the mystery, the brightness, the sticky web, the creativity, and the fear, too. I think if we as writers don't feel a little fear as we write, we probably aren't going deep enough. We are staying in the zone of our own comfort. The novels and poems and stories that touch us deeply are the ones that go further. Readers can feel the journey of the writer between the lines of the story.

It was sad seeing the spiders curled on the porch, legs unnaturally bent, color already fading.

There is one huge one left, just outside the porch but perfectly visible through the railing. She had a gigantic horse fly in her clutches. I'm glad there is still one living out there, writing until I get the keyboard and take up where I left off with the books.

I tried to take a photograph and the little icon flashed - the battery was dead. Fitting on this autumn morning when the end of so many little seasons are all around.