Saturday, January 31, 2009

images from this writing week

A few images from the day, first, the talis-ponies, crow feather from the labyrinth path back at November Hill, and the talis-woman I brought home last night, who is already lending her charms to the writing:

Next, a view of the wintering long beds, and beyond, the goldfish pond that in summers has bullfrogs singing all night long:

A rear view of the big house, the magic mansion; in every shadowed window I see stories being formed and shaped:

Friday, January 30, 2009

this writing life

I took some photos earlier but left the camera back in my room, at the other end of the big house, so I'll have to put them up tomorrow. We have wireless here now, but only in one area, and I'm generally just getting online once/day.

It's being a very productive week thus far. I've enjoyed the freedom to stay up late, knowing I don't have to get up by any certain time, and it's wonderful being able to work, break for a bit, and get right back to it with no other responsibilities.

The things I miss, ironically, are my barn chores. I've become so used to measuring the passage of my day by the horses and the chores that several times I've found myself wandering about the house here, looking for a chore to do. Using my hands seems to now be intimately connected to balancing my day. Fortunately, there ARE usually a few dishes in the sink here, and I can busy myself for a few minutes doing that.

Tonight all the writers in residence went out to dinner at a lovely little Greek restaurant, where we shared good food, good wine, and excellent conversation. Afterward, we wandered down to a coffee bar we thought was open for business and ended up unintentionally crashing a private birthday party (the owner's). She was incredibly gracious, and made us coffees anyway.

I also bought myself a little spirit doll, as an early birthday present. I'll take a photo later, but it has blackbird or crow or raven wings and my favorite colors - and I felt like she wanted to become my talis-woman, so now she's sitting on my desk along with the two pony figurines and my crow feather from the labyrinth path.

This morning, the property manager came upstairs and found all of us writers sitting in the kitchen sharing a few minutes' chat before we got to work for the day. He looked around at us (we are 4) and said "this is what it's all about, right here, this energy."

And he is right. It's easy to get drawn into the "publish or perish" web, and easy to mark success using that scale, but the joy of writing and the joy of living the writing life is being able to sit at the desk and do it, and to share that passion with other kindred writing spirits.

As much as I get done when I come down here, I always leave with the renewed sensibility of what being a writer truly is. It's a lifestyle. It's not whether or not someone in NY picks the query or the book or the story or the poem. It's not an advance or an x-book deal. Those are things most of us aspire to and celebrate, but they're not the most important part of this practice and this art.

We've talked a lot this week about being true to our voices and our work, and to aim high but by our own standards.

I'm grateful once again for the reminder.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Typing to you from the NC Literary Hall of Fame

A quick glimpse into the richness of place here. You can see why it has so much power to inspire.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

writing frenzy

I've been working on the new project the first half of the day, and switching over to editing work the latter half. Thus far this work schedule is going really well. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. this morning I was so caught up in the edits.

It's been rainy and windy here most of the day, and we lost power for about 6 hours. Fortunately, I'm working in longhand this trip, and so the power loss didn't affect my writing time at all.

In between the writing I'm enjoying the company of two of my favorite women colleagues in fiction, who are also here working hard on their novels and stories.

Right now, I feel like I'm in a novel myself - in the mansion full of antiques and history and layers of writing energy from years on end, the wind howling outside, the ghost room just down the hall. It's quite stimulating.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the magic mansion

So, here working on the new pony project and what do I see this morning when I walk into the kitchen and look out the window?

What more could I ask for? Life is very, very good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

telling stories

Later today I'll be leaping into a project that has been simmering for a couple of years. I have a cast of characters, a setting, the first 2-3 chapters, and finally the sense of conflict that will drive the story.

Two days ago every project was shrieking my name, but after doing some barn chores yesterday the din settled and this story's voice won out. This is the first book I've started that didn't already have a title and an ending scene, and I've discovered that having something to write toward makes it easier to get going. I also know that once the pen is on the page, or the fingers are on the keys, things begin to happen. I just have to listen.

Meanwhile, the stories here: Keil Bay's neck lump has disappeared. The pony is moving well. Cody is feeling good. Salina is in fine spirits and the donkey boys are chipper and sweet. We have a couple more cloudy days but thus far very little rain, and the ground is a bit more solid beneath our feet. Not quite dried out, but getting there. The temperature spread is such that they won't need blanketing all week.

Corgis and kit-meows are all existing peacefully and keeping life interesting. As I was writing this post, the Mystical-Kit got up on top of the kitchen cupboards and made his way onto the top of the one above the refrigerator. There's an opening there, I guess for venting, and I heard a scrabbling of cat claws, agonizingly long, and then silence. I hadn't seen him up on the cupboards, and after he fell there was no sound. I guessed he might be back there, and heaved and pulled until the refrigerator was out of the cubby it fits into like a glove. There was Mystic. I was writing, and fortunately some part of me was listening.

I was thinking this weekend about the need to tell stories. We all seem to have that desire on some level. Jung said something about that:

The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.

Interesting that I spend some of my time telling stories and another chunk of my time listening. Not just in my therapy office, but everywhere I go. People seem drawn to tell me their stories. Usually I think "I don't have time for this. I do this for my job, I don't want to do it in the grocery store too." But then I listen. Because they need to tell it, and I usually get intrigued in spite of myself.

It's important to listen.

This week, in a tribute to balance in the new year, I aim to do both.

Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.

-Christina Baldwin

Saturday, January 24, 2009

weekend fun

Cody was getting a ride today when the donkeys decided they wanted in on the action. As it turns out, the Quarter Horse knows how to do the herding thing. And of course the donkeys played along. :)

end of the week shenanigans

Yesterday as the snow melted away, the day got started early when Redford decided to announce near and far that they did not have enough hay. My husband had given them their morning hay earlier than usual, and they'd finished it up before the normal breakfast tub time. He brayed until I came to the door, and when I realized why, I went out and set them all up again. It was still too early for breakfast tubs, and I like them to have a good amount of hay before I feed concentrates.

I decided to let Salina and the donkeys have the heart of the round bale, in the big barnyard, since that side was thawed out and not as mushy as the other areas. They were excited to get back over there - it's a favorite morning thing for them, but I don't allow it all the time, as it can get messy around the bales.

When I went out again to feed breakfast, the 65-or-so lb. heart of the round bale had been moved about 25 feet. It was still intact, but they had strewn hay in a semi-circle in the process of moving the core. I have no idea who did it, or how, but they were having a fine time, so much so that they didn't even care about breakfast tubs!

The geldings were supremely jealous, and came in to gaze over the fence at the big mess of hay lying hither and yonder.

After breakfast, I told Keil Bay to come back up to the barn in a while, as I was planning to ride. When I came back out dressed in breeches and boots, he marched up from the back field. He was ready for a nice long grooming and a quick hoof trim. He and I are both getting better at that. I feel more confident, and he understands that these are very little "mini-trims" that keep his hooves in shape, so he stands perfectly still and helps me out.

I saddled him up with a new "wither relief" saddle pad I bought just to try. It definitely keeps the pad off the withers. I want to ride in it a few more times before I decide for sure how much I like it. We also used H's loaned bitless bridle. The Big Bay was loose and supple, but there was something going on with his neck, which he wanted to stretch down. We did a lot of walking and some stretches, and a bit of trotting, and we tested out the bitless bridle. He was responsive, but I think did need some adjustment to the way it works. We'll try it again a few more times and see how it goes. Yesterday, everything was complicated by the fact that we have had a week or so off, he had a new pad, a new bridle, AND as it turned out when I dismounted, a sizeable lump on his neck. I had noticed some hair missing there when I groomed him, but didn't feel the lump with the brush - it was when I ran my hands over him after the ride that I felt it.

My daughter thinks he might have been bitten - one of those teeth-scraper bites they do sometimes in play. Whatever the cause, there is hair missing, and the lump. Interestingly, this is the same area he always seems to "do something to" - he has had two twigs embedded there the past two springs. After getting him untacked, I let him have the barnyard for awhile by himself while I put things away. He got three doses of Arnica and I'll see how the lump looks today. It didn't seem to be tender, but Keil Bay is stoic, so sometimes it's hard to tell. I have a good remedy for deep bruising that I can use next if needed.

While cleaning up the barn aisle, I found some animal poop that resembles deer droppings, rabbit droppings, and, as I discovered while researching animal scat last night, red-tail hawk droppings. It seems unbelievable to me that a deer was in the barn aisle, during the day, but I can imagine a bunny coming up to the edge of the manger to nibble some hay from underneath. It wouldn't surprise me if a hawk came in there either - it was right at the barn door, and a site that mice have used in the past to access the mangers.

This morning I was awakened by our new resident rooster, who happens to be a miniature donkey named Redford. He has taken on the task of alerting us to morning, the time for fresh hay and turn-out to the field. An important job for the youngest herd member to take on. He does it very well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

the remains of the very snowy day

Out doing chores yesterday afternoon, I was faced with all the remains of the snow. There are still large areas of ground, roof, and deck that have large amounts of the white stuff, some of which is packed and hard, other spots which are still soft and surprisingly fluffy.

In between the white patches there are border areas of lacier white lying on top of cold, brown mud. A few areas are red mud mixed with white. Beyond the lacy areas is the bare ground, nothing but mud and wilted winter grass. Strewn helter-skelter across this vista are what I'm calling hoof packs. Many of them. Apparently, when horses are barefoot, as ours are, the snow packs into the hoof until it reaches a certain overstuffed point and then it simply pops out. That big clot of snow and earth has the perfectly formed hoof on one side, and brown on the other. They will be the last to melt, as they have now frozen hard as rocks.

I have to say it: as beautiful as the snow was, it is now the ugliest I have ever seen it here.

In an effort to find some lasting beauty, and to get rid of the manure and hoof packs I'd mucked, I trekked the wheelbarrow down the long path several times. The path hadn't melted, and the snow in the woods was still fairly pristine. It was a wonderland of animal tracks: deer, birds, the bobcat. Most had blurred a bit but were still quite visible. At every fence and gate I saw something which amazed me: the deer tracks would go right up to the obstacle and then reappear directly on the other side, as though they had walked up nose and nose with the fence or gate and then popped over as if on springs.

It occurred to me that each time I went up and down the path, it got harder and slicker. And then I remembered the best time of sledding I ever had, when I was 12 and a neighbor packed down our road from top to bottom with his 4-wheel drive jeep. We had two weeks off from school, we had good sleds, a bonfire, treats at every house along the way, and a sledding track that seemed to go on forever, with curves and a few dangers (our creek was one of them) to avoid.

I called my daughter, who was in the barnyard giving sled rides to the Mystical Kit and Dickens. She brought her sled to the path and down she went. Had we thought of this the day of the snow, we could have something akin to those luge courses I used to watch on Saturday afternoons on TV. She convinced me to take a turn and down I went, laughing and shrieking. When I emerged back up at the barnyard all the horses and donkeys were looking, ears pricked. Salina especially was riveted on me. I've seen her run with the donkeys, moments when she is with them, but recalling something from her youth, a long stride, the pleasure of movement, a buck and a head toss thrown into the mix. She understands, I suspect, the pure unbridled joy of an experience from childhood, shared with one's child of close to the same age.

When we finished the last of the barn chores, a bit before sunset, the geldings came in from the field where they'd been playing. There was 5-year old Cody, the 8-year old pony Apache Moon, and 19-year old Keil Bay. Who do you think had the muddy legs up above the knees? I guess all of us middle-agers found some fun yesterday, even in the melting mess of snow and mud.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

warming up and chinese fortunes

This morning it's 20 instead of 6, and going up to 49/50 by the afternoon, so more meltdown and mush, but no blankets and ice in troughs. A reasonable trade, imo.

Although if I could trade for sunshine and dry ground, I'd take that one.

I'm having a hankering to do one of my stone runes this morning, but as I'm still downstairs and my runestones are upstairs in the garret, I resorted to the Chinese Fortune Sticks which are sitting on this desk.

This red can is full of sticks that have fortunes on each one, and you're supposed to shake them half out of the can, and select the one that protrudes the furthest.

The thing about these is that they are NOTHING like the Chinese fortune cookie fortunes. These are rather brutal and often say things one doesn't want to hear.

My question was simply: what can I expect for today?

The answer:

A long delayed package of value will come to you.

Well. That's a relief!

I'm expecting a new box of Adequan for Salina. A couple of special writing notebooks for the upcoming retreat. Neither of which have been long-delayed.

We'll see what happens.

If anyone has questions and dares consult the brutal sticks, ask it in the comments and I'll shake one out and type it in for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the morning after

As of now, it looks like we got around 6 inches of snow, and since it is currently 8 degrees outside, it isn't going anywhere. We should be getting up to 36 later in the day though, so I hope things melt down a bit. Tomorrow we're up to 50 and I suspect that will take care of the rest. Back to mushy ground.

The thing about snow, for me, is that I find it comforting and beautiful as it falls, and I love seeing it before anyone walks in it or drives through it. Once it's marred up by traffic, foot, sled, and otherwise, it simply looks messy to me and I get the same antsiness I get when my house is messy, except I can't exactly go out and straighten up the landscape.

The worst is when you drive into town and see big chunks that were plowed off to the side, dirty and compacted, and there until the temps get high enough, for long enough, to melt them away.

My husband, who was home yesterday, is back to work today, and I hope he makes it in and back home again this evening without incident.

And I sure hope the mail gets delivered today. We didn't get it Monday due to the holiday, it wasn't delivered yesterday because of the snow, and today, with 3 days worth of mail to deliver, on rural roads that haven't been cleared, it will surely take the carrier 5x as long at least.

In the south, having a decent snow means a lot of things grind to a halt, and that's another reason I like the kind that comes and goes quickly.

Yesterday afternoon the geldings had a huge party in the back field, trotting and cantering, grabbing branches on trees and standing with their faces turned up while the snow fell on them, rolling over and over again. We kept Salina and the donkeys in their own paddock, which is big enough for all sorts of frolic, but they mostly stood and watched the gelding entertainment. Rafer Johnson and Redford did finally emerge from the barn, and walked around tentatively with Salina, who looked absolutely regal - her black head emerging from her emerald green blanket.

This morning the donkeys made a dash for the round bale when they got morning hay, so it seems they have embraced the snow and have no fear of setting off into it.

The Corgis chose to stay out half the night. They love the cold and the snow. They even like the rain, and I sometimes find them lying flat on their backs, letting the soft rain fall on their bellies.

The cats are in and out at their own whim, doing what cats do. Stalk. Eat. Nap.

I dreamed last night that I had a new job as a sort of "diarist" for President Obama. In the dream I had done the same job for former President Bush, and was talking over the ropes with President Obama, telling him that generally we stopped the diary-keeping around 11 p.m. so hopefully he wouldn't mind going to bed then, because if he didn't, I would have to stay later and I already had quite a long work day as it was.


Then I dreamed I took my kids on a field trip to a small factory that made styrofoam packing peanuts. We could see the peanuts flying out of the machine like.. yes, snow.

Then the factory owner asked us to participate in a test run of his newest invention, which involved grabbing stickers off an assembly line and sticking them correctly onto paper. Not sure what the point was, but he had all his workers lined up, practicing, and he wanted us to try and see how we did. His target goal was to get 6 done in a certain amount of time, before they rolled past us on the line. No one had yet been able to do it. Even with my perfectionistic placement of each sticker, I did it easily. He was trying to figure out the exact movements I was doing that allowed me to accomplish that.

I think I prefer my current job, thank you very much.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We're getting a lot for us, and it's quite beautiful. Thus far, the Corgis are having a blast, the cats have mostly all had sled rides courtesy of my daughter, Salina and the geldings have been out, but the donkeys are staying warm and dry in the barn.

The mystical snow kit:

Why we sometimes call the pony Tangerine Dream:

A wonderful ice picture M. took this past week:

Often enough, when we get snow it melts within the day, but this is significant enough that it will apparently be here at least until Thursday. Husband found deer tracks up to the tree by the barn this a.m. I guess at least one deer wanted to say hello. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

beginning of a quiet week

We're back above freezing, with night temps going to the 20s and the possibility of a few inches of snow tonight, and although I'm ready for drier ground, it might be fun to see the horses and donkeys and cats and Corgis play in the white stuff.

In a little while, I'll head out to do the chores, which I suspect will include adding some shavings to stalls, and I need to make a run to the feed store later in the day as well.

Last night I watched Legends of the Fall, which I originally watched during what we call the "sleepy years" - the time during and after pregnancies when most movie watching in the evenings involved me dozing off after a short period of time, no matter how engaging the movie.

There are a number of films that, when asked if I've seen them, the answer is "sort of." Often I would wake up at odd moments, see a bit of a scene, then fall back asleep. I usually caught the final credits when nudged by my husband that the movie was over.

Anyway, I had a vague memory of Legends of the Fall, and that I had been quite captivated by it, and it has been in my Netflix queue for awhile. Since it was a "watch instantly" movie, last night I decided it was time to watch.

What a story - I loved the farmhouse and the setting particularly. It was one of those movies that had me racing to Google after, putting Jim Harrison titles (I've read a few already) in my Amazon cart for future reference and reading interviews.

He said something that I love, about writing:

I think it's interesting what someone there said to me once -- it's something that I hadn't thought before, and it startled me. He told me that (the French) read me because in my fiction you have the life of relative action but also the life of the mind. In so much fiction we have one or the other, but never both. We tend to try to separate them. You find that in Barry's work as well -- this marvelously convoluted thinking system but yet people are still doing something.

Nice to begin the week feeling inspired and justified in my writing style. Maybe I should be querying European agents. :)

The life of the mind. I just love that.

Friday, January 16, 2009

the highlight of a very cold day

On this cold day, I fretted over icy troughs, hauled many buckets of hot water from the house, adjusted blankets multiple times, fed a warm lunch to the herd in the event they didn't have enough hay (we now have a new round bale and an extra coming tomorrow), fussed at my children when I felt I was doing all the work (I wasn't), and got very upset when a neighbor's ATV cut a rut in the lane.

However, there was a very bright and warm spot that made all the rest of my day better, and this was it:

busy and cold, sending warmth

Yesterday was busy with kids and activities and getting ready for the cold dip last night, and today my aim is to keep horses warm and happy, and to come back in frequently to a warm spot by the woodstove and work on edits.

Right now Kyra the Corgi and Dickens the cat are sharing a dog bed by the fire, a nice image on a cold morning.

Since so many folks are having extremely cold weather right now, I'm going to keep thinking warm all day long, and hope some of that energy finds its way to anyone who needs it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

back in the sun, but still cold

Added note the Second:

I just walked down the back path with a huge wheelbarrow, squeaking and groaning, when I spotted something flap one time. I stopped and looked and it was the red tail, sitting in the woods. I thought it might be hurt. I squatted down and just looked at it, and we shared a long gaze. Then I went through the very back fence (which is not our horse fencing but the outer fencing, barbed wire) and it allowed me to get just 3 feet away. I squatted down again and we both just sat there, gazing some more. It was gorgeous.

Four crows were flying back and forth overhead, cawing away, and then the hawk looked at me, looked down, took up a squirrel it must have just killed, and flew through the trees and away. The crows went crazy, and another red tail went after them while the first one flew off with the squirrel.

I was speechless. What a day!


Added note:

When I was out just now extending the hay trail, I was looking around wondering where the red tail was. Just at that moment I heard the call, from above, and looked up to see THREE of them whirling in big circles overhead. Which is, by the way, pretty much exactly what happens in the final scene of this book.

The synchronicity of nature and animals never ceases to amaze me. :)


Late in the afternoon yesterday the sun came out, and just as the brilliant sunset began to light up the sky with bright blue and deep orange, the horses decided to have a party. I heard the hooves from the big barnyard, thundering up the hill out front, and looked up to see Keil Bay in full gallop, followed closely by Apache Moon, and then Cody.

Salina had wisely gone to the corner to stay clear of the geldings, and Rafer Johnson, being the incredibly intelligent donkey that he is, wanted to run wild but also wanted to stay safe, so he galloped up to the dirt paddock and had his own little rodeo, circling and bucking and braying. Redford was torn between guarding Salina and joining Rafer's show, so he trotted back and forth between the two.

I heard the red tail calling after everyone had settled down, and followed the sound to the front field, where it flew up to a low branch and settled there to watch me and the horses for what felt like a very long time. Another red tail call was coming from the other side of the house, which makes me wonder if they've built a nest and perhaps the one is on guard. There haven't been red tails this close since we moved in, so I'm curious and especially intrigued with their presence now.

Today is more sunshine, and cold again, with the temps dropping over the next two days to a low of 11 on Friday night. I've ordered a new blanket for Salina, who has been alternating between her lightweight (and not waterproof) fleece and the older mid-weight blanket that has a ripped lining thanks to Cody. She prefers the fleece, but when the temps drop this much it just isn't enough, so she has a new Schneiders' coming, and I sure hope the UPS van gets it here so she can wear it Thursday night and on through the day/night on Friday.

I have more editing to do today, and just remembered that the final scene in the book involves red tail hawks. Maybe they've come to shepherd me through this edit - and hopefully spread some of their visionary magic across the pages in the process.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

trims on a cold gray day

B. was here trimming this morning, in the low thirties and with clouds filling the sky. Thankfully it is not raining! I fed everyone early so they could stand for trims without fretting over when breakfast might be served.

I'd planned to do the pony first, but the moment B. drove up, Rafer Johnson and Redford left their hay to come into the barn aisle with him. Rafer lined right up by the hoof stand and it was more than obvious he was ready for his trim.

Once again he stood like a little soldier and offered each hoof in turn. Redford was right beside him the whole time, trying to take B.'s hat off by the brim. Too cute. I predicted Redford might be a little hellion, mostly to set that thing in motion where you predict something and get proved wrong. And it worked. He stood very well while Rafer supervised every single stroke of the rasp. They are so enamoured of B. now we had to take them out to the hay to get them to leave him alone. :)

Salina went next. Her abscess that popped out at the coronary band last April has now grown completely out and chunked off, just as B. said would happen when he was here last visit. Initially it was a big ragged, but it wore itself smooth over the next few days, and the hoof actually thickened a bit at that area to make a buttress until the hoof grows more. It continues to amaze me how horse hooves truly do what they need to to keep the horse sound, if other things are balanced and attended to.

B. rounded it some and now it looks almost normal. Salina has had abscesses in that same hoof the past two Aprils, and that knee is the most arthritic, so I suspect there is a connection. I'll be curious to see how she does this year, on the new diet and with me balancing things as I learn how. At least I know not to do joint injections!

Keil Bay went next and once again his fronts were really good due to the touch-up at week 4. I'm feeling good about my part in making that happen.

Cody had very little growth in back this time, which is curious, so we'll watch that to see how things go this next 6 weeks.

The pony continues to be loose and relaxed in his hinds.

B. advised that we do a week or so of ointment treatment for the frogs, as it's been so wet and muddy, and we don't want thrush, but otherwise everyone is doing great.

When he drove off they were all in a procession down the hill to their hay path, and I came in to get warm!

Monday, January 12, 2009

it's a writing monday

I'm working on edits today, and author/friend A.S. King has a new, wonderful, guest post over at mystic-lit. Go read it, and follow the link there to learn more about her new book coming out in February!

And if you're writing today, how's it going?

If you're reading a good book, share the author/title.

I'll add some photos later in the day, but for now - back to the pages.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

getting hay on a friday evening

Last night I joined my husband in his weekly trip to get our round bale of hay for the week. The moon was gorgeous up in the evening sky, and the road out to the hay farm was quiet and still. All along the way we saw herds of deer coming out of the woods in various open areas, grazing like horses that belonged there.

When we pulled up to the hay grower's house, he had our round bale skewered on his machine, and my husband pulled up so M. could simply back up and place it in our truck.

M. came out, and I went in to see if they had any eggs for sale this week. E., his wife, took me over to the little original farmhouse they've refurbished and use for their sales of eggs and certified organic beef. She made me up a nice dozen of what she calls her "top shelf" eggs - those that had irregularities in the shell and are thus not sold. She said those were the eggs for "sharing."

She told me the eggs come from the "Run Around Ladies" - who are free to forage at will, and thus the eggs are full of flavor and very rich.

M. pressed an entire collard green plant into my husband's hands, and invited us back in to sit by the woodstove while E. worked on dinner, husband wrote the check, and the dogs lay like black and white rugs on the warm floor.

I talked with M. about getting some hay to send off for an equine analysis. He had graciously given me his results, done for the nutritional profile for cattle, but I needed a few more minerals analyzed for the horses. He showed me the hay probe, and said he'd get the sample ready for when we come next week, so I can send it off. I offered to give him a copy of the results, so he can share it with any other horse customers who might be interested.

Every time I go out there I feel like I've entered an episode of All Creatures Great and Small. It's a way of life I value and wish we had more of, where the things we need come from people we know, and the exchange works for the good of both.

Friday, January 09, 2009

quiet end to a chaotic week

The sun came out yesterday, and the winds died down, and horses and donkeys were quite happy to get out again. I ended up opening the front and back fields, spreading hay in both, and letting them march from one end to the other enjoying the nice weather.

It is not totally dry but the extreme mushiness is gone and we're back to the regular version. Hopefully today's full sun will continue the process of drying things out.

Yesterday afternoon we did an interesting thing. My daughter and son agreed to come up with meals for 3-4 days, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, and do the shopping while I sat in the Starbucks with a Caffe Mocha.

I thought they would come back with questions, but they went through the store aisle by aisle, and ended up with a well-thought-out cart full of very good and healthy food. I was impressed.

Last night we had baked ham, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and a lovely salad. For dessert we dipped strawberries and butter cookies into melted chocolate. It was a wonderful way to transition back to colder nights. The horses are back in blankets and Salina is in her knee warmers. The wood stove is going, and I'll have to bundle up to feed breakfasts, but at least we have sunshine!

Last night I ordered a small mesh hay net for each stall. I'm hoping to keep horses stocked for the entire night, reduce mess and wastage of the loose hay, and keep them busy chewing. Best price for these nets is at Smith Brothers, if anyone needs one.

Good friend, writing mentor, and bold writer Peggy Payne has a birthday today. Go over and say happy birthday, and soak in some of her exuberance and boldness. One way she's celebrating her birthday this year is taking an apartment in NY for a month to write, an idea that makes my skin tingle with excitement. It's not something I could do at this point in my life, but isn't it grand that I'll get to anyway, vicariously, through Peggy?

I'm taking my bold full week of writing later this month, and I can't wait.

Today is full of laundry, feeding the wood stove, dashing to town for a lunch with H., and reminding myself to embrace the sunshine with each slightly less mushy step I take out at the barn.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

assorted and sundry

We had sunshine this afternoon, lots of wind, reportedly a stunning double rainbow, and then a terrible hour of wind and rain that blew so hard and so steady I stood in the barn with the horses so I could deal with a crisis if one happened.

A lot of folks have had trees come down today, and I am never sure which is safer for the horses - pasture (with trees and electric lines and fences and blowing objects) or the barn, where they could be trapped if something fell in. Our vet says if the barn is solid, keep them in. I let the geldings have stall doors open, and I stood in with Salina and the donkeys.

They are all so good. The pony helped me hold the flashlight with his teeth. They stood quietly and the geldings watched the roaring wind out back. At one point, after dark, there was a big boom and the power went out. I had prepared for that by filling all the water buckets earlier, and I had the big flashlight. I discovered that I can hold the handle along with the rake handle while mucking, a sort of "muckrake headlight."

Fortunately the wind began to slow a bit and we had power back within two hours.

This was the odd light that came right before the dark skies, hardest wind, and rain blew in.

And while uploading that one, I found these from last week, that I'd forgotten all about. The stare down!

Salina modeling her new knee warmers. I highly recommend these - although a bit of an effort to get on and off, they are warm, can be easily doubled to make extra layers, and they stay where you put them w/o being too tight. They also wash and dry back to perfection. You can find them online by Googling Whinny Warmers.

And, more donkey play. Rafer likes to be the Boss Donkey. Redford seems to be just fine with it.

yesterday was so chaotic I thought it was monday!

It was Tuesday.

Today it's raining, still more, and the wind has blown in. I'm glad for the wind's help in drying things out as the rain clouds leave, but with the ground so saturated, I'm worrying about big trees coming down.

It looks like we'll have some sunshine by tomorrow morning, and hopefully on through the week.

It feels impossible that today is Wednesday, like time has gone out of whack completely.
The funny thing is, there are calendars everywhere here and I still don't know what day it is!

I'll try to add some photos later in the day.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

slightly chaotic monday

It was raining. The back gate was left open by accident. All the geldings were soaked to the skin when I got outside to feed breakfast. Massage therapist was due in an hour.

I got them in, fed them breakfast, closed the stall doors, mucked while they ate hay, and then came in and got cleaned up to get my hot stone massage first, in hopes that they would dry out.

One Corgi climbed into H's hot stone case. The other one tried to leap onto the freshly made massage table. Mystic-kit played music on the table cords with his paw.

I was telling a story about Dickens E. Wickens when the door burst open. It was Dickens. H. shut the door back and continued. By this time there were two dogs and two cats in the room with us.

Mid-massage, I heard my kids. "Keats! What IS that?" Keats the cat had brought in a bird, which was upstairs in our tree. The rest of the cats ran up (H. had to open the door again to let Mystic and Keats out) and chaos ensued. H. asked, "What do you want to do?"

"Just keep massaging," I said.

The kids opened the upstairs windows and the bird eventually flew to safety.

After my massage, I went out to help get the horses set up. Cody was being very antsy, so I ended up holding him. The pony was nervous about the hot stones, as it was his first time with them. I ended up holding him.

Keil Bay stood at his stall door and quite literally begged for a massage the entire time. The donkeys propped their little velvet noses on the stall door across the aisle and begged to come out. Salina knew it was not her turn for massage and she munched hay and kept an eye on the donkeys.

Keil Bay eventually managed to let himself out of his stall and into the barn aisle, where he stood gazing at the big bowl of hot stones.

H. brought me a bitless bridle to borrow and we tried it on Keil Bay. All the buckles had to be put to the last holes, his head is so big. He loved modeling the bridle. He was somewhat upset when we removed the bridle and he did not get that massage he wanted so badly.

Alas, it was still raining so no trial ride today.

H. and I decided that our word for 2009 is "balance."

H. made the very astute statement that perhaps mine is "balance w/o symmetry."

H. sent me in to take a hot bath with epsom salts to get warmed up.

While I was in the bath, jets going full blast, the power went out. It came back on.

All chaos aside, though, it's been a great day.

more rain and barn improvements

We're having more rain. The ground never truly dried out from the last rain, so this morning when I looked out there is standing water everywhere. The only thing that saves us from total mudville is that the property slopes both in front and in back. The barn sits on the highest point, and the previous owners wisely made very slight "ditches" in the various paddocks so the water can drain away.

The riding arena drains like a dream, so it is nearly always rideable, and during times when we have lots of rain, I often use it as an exercise paddock for bored horses. The footing cleans and stimulates the horses' feet, they get a bit of activity, and the fact that Cody will almost always roll before I can stop him is a small price to pay for the satisfaction they feel coming back into the barn.

Yesterday I spent a little while thinking about improvements I'd like to make. Like a gardener pondering seed catalogs in the middle of winter, I'm sitting inside thinking of ways to make various areas better, while outdoors the rain keeps falling and horses munch hay.

Last night I found a site with photos of the exact thing I was thinking of - screen panels with pea gravel or crushed stone. My plan is to make a path from our back gate up to the barn door, where the stone area will extend maybe 5 feet out in a sort of box-shape. I'd like to do the entire small barnyard, at the other end of the barn, this same way, since I use that area for cleaning feed tubs and for hosing/bathing in the warmer months.

At every gate and water trough, I'd like more "squares" of screen/stone, so those areas don't get muddy and horrid when it rains a lot.

I'd never thought of using this system in stalls, but after the great putrid stall spot debacle of a few months ago, I think I might test this system out in one stall to see how it works. The stall base, then the panels, then the crushed stone screenings, then the stall mats, then the bedding. It seems the panels would keep things nice and level underneath.

I've also been thinking about feeding hay inside the barn. We have mangers built in at ground level in each stall and they do keep the hay contained quite nicely. However, unless we totally pack the hay in, the horses seem to run out at some point during the night. I've been reading about slow feeding hay nets and bags, which make the hay last, keep the horses chewing longer, and keep them occupied. None of ours are locked in stalls, but even so, to have the hay last and reduce waste would be a good thing.

The small mesh hay bags were my original choice, but then I couldn't quite figure out how to secure them in the mangers so they wouldn't be tossed all over the barn like beach balls.

These feeders look interesting. They would stand right inside the mangers, and should anyone ever need soaked hay, voila, they would do the job nicely.

I've also priced potable hoses, which I can get immediately. I've been reading about garden hoses and what happens in the sun to the plastic, and don't want to be adding that to my horses' water.

There was also a similar concern about the hard plastic water troughs sitting out in the sun, and someone suggested old porcelain bathtubs. Yikes. I actually thought the hard plastic Rubbermaid troughs with stainless steel inserts would be perfect, but to my knowledge, they do not exist. I'll keep looking and thinking about that.

I'm thinking about making a barn "wish book" where I cut and paste pictures and jot in ideas as I have them. Sometimes living with things a while changes my mind, so it's always good to let the ideas for change sit and simmer for a bit before I carry them out.

NOTE: The slow feeders are VERY expensive, but perhaps provide a model for designing your own, or worth the money if you need the soaking option for an IR horse. Obviously, nets are the cheapest way to go.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

thinking riding

Daughter came home last night with some books checked out from the pony club library. One, called Thinking Riding, by Molly Sivewright, has completely pulled me in.

The copyright is 1979 but it seems like a classic.

This, in the first 50 pages:

Correct work, fresh air and a certain amount of relaxation are necessary in the horses' daily routine for their proper development and general well-being. By nature, from their ancestors, horses are creatures of the plains; they love freedom and wide open spaces for their minds as well as for their limbs. The horseman can feel and share his horse's contentment as his equine eyes take in far-distant views and activities in the countryside, as he is allowed to pick his own way on a long rein, at a purposeful yet leisurely walk.

The full value of walking exercise is often underestimated; there is no better gait for putting on and establishing a horse's condition, for at the walk the horse moves his head and neck extensively, and all the muscles of his top-line are brought into play and are worked and developed, providing he is ridden correctly, and yet at the same time stress and concussion are less than at any other gait.

I love the writing style, and there are nice sketches throughout.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

thoughts on thieves and light

I was summoned to my office yesterday b/c the historic house it's in had been broken into on the first evening of the new year, and every office but one ransacked.

When I got there the CSI had just left. It was eerie walking into my sandplay inner sanctum and finding his business card with contact info lying on the wooden table by my chair.

The break-in was very odd. There was almost no evidence of entry from the outside, but inside, most of the individual office doors had been violently kicked in. The doors were original to the house, solid wood, and seeing deadbolts intact but holes ripped in doorjambs, as well as the splintered oak of the doors was heartbreaking.

With the exception of one office, which had been trashed a bit, the rest were oddly intact, and the things stolen made very little sense. In my sandplay space, which had nothing of commercial value but did have my incredibly valuable-to-me sandplay collection, not a figure was out of place. The thieves opened the closet door and looked inside, and in the inner sanctum they took a lamp and dipped a hand into 2 out of 3 sand trays.

I have a large clean paint brush I use to smooth out the trays between every client, and I always do that right before leaving the office. It's common for clients who don't use the trays to put their hands in - the smooth contained sand seems almost like a blank page that calls out to be marked in some way. But the fact that a thief paused in the act to do so made me wonder about what was going through his/her mind in my little space.

The lamp was a personal favorite that has been in my therapy offices for many years now. It was unusual but absolutely not expensive. Still, it has been the lamp for most of my practice that sits between the client and me during sessions. The light was soft and perfect, and I couldn't help but think "they stole the light that connects me to my clients."

Instead of leaping to anger and wanting justice, which would normally be my next leap in such a scenario, I have been thinking of how the thief might use the lamp, and what will happen when that powerful light shines into *their* space.

I have worked with mostly trauma victims, including many children, and that lamp, and those sandtrays, hold potent energy indeed.

My hope is that the lamp shines some light, for whoever has it right now, on boundaries and violation of such. That all the brave and courageous words and emotions that have been shared in the soft circle of light that little lamp has cast over the years offer invisible but powerful support to someone choosing a different path, and a more honorable one, in this new year.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

we are stardust people

I just reprised Joseph Gallo's New Year's post from last year on mystic-lit, and I encourage everyone to head over there right now and read it.

It's one of my favorite blog posts of all time, and that's saying something, considering how many blog posts I've read, and written, and think about writing.

This year as I read it, part of the Eleanor Lerman poem Joseph quoted stood out. In an odd but clear way, it tells the story of my second novel ms, the idea that what we experience and see and think of as distance and separateness is only there because we think it is, or expect it to be.

Everything affects everything else, and although we can't see it, or know it, exactly, when we even think something, imagine it fully in our minds, we impact someone someplace else. And that energy goes on and on, connecting us in a long chain of events we might never know.

I tried to capture some of that in my book, how, among loved ones especially, the connections are strong, and what seem like coincidences are not co-incidents at all, but sequences that got started years before, rippling outward in ways we don't really know how to track.

My hope is that the book will get born between hard covers soon, but either way, it's out there, having its own impact on things, setting off dozens of sequences, the same way we all do, every single moment. I like that idea, and I'm taking it with me into the New Year, as I get the third one ready to sail forth.

If you're reading here for the horsey content, imagine this applied to horsekeeping. And riding. Horses don't draw lines the same way humans do, and that, I believe, is their magic.

May the new year be full of magic for us all.

And this is true: You are a stardust person.
Muons are passing through you as you read this.
Cosmic rays are building you up and breaking you down.
Seas are evaporating, gases are freezing into planets,
planets are spinning off into the void.

Hold out your hand and watch the pions dance,
watch your nuclei exchanging forces with the universe,
watch the miracles ebb and flow as endless joy
folds into endless silence and everything is
everywhere all at once and it goes on and on.

-from Eleanor Lerman's poem Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds

(photo credit to Matthew)