Monday, March 30, 2009

signs of spring

Now that the sun is back, and we're not inundated with rain, it's easy to see the signs of spring.

Dandelion flowers, the yellow primrose blooming by the front porch, the dogwoods and redbuds, and the big tulip poplar bursting forth, which usually means pollen is soon to come.

The carpenter bees are doing their kamikaze flight patterns around the barn, the fire ants have put up a few new mounds, and butterflies are beginning to appear. In the past two days I've seen a number of black ones, and one especially lovely one - white with golden tipped wings.

Keil Bay got this year's First Tick Award.

The main color when you look outside is GREEN, and that has prompted a true, sure sign of spring on a horse farm. Thoughts of ESCAPE.

Redford has suddenly decided the grass is greener on the other side of the grass paddock fence, and has climbed through 3 times in the past 3 days. He comes back when Salina and Rafer Johnson get a very specific number of feet away from him, but we've moved Cody to the grass paddock side of the barn until we can make some adjustments.

Horse hair is everywhere. Brushes become inoperable after a few swipes, because the bristles are so coated with horse hair.

And yesterday, in what seems to be my annual succumbing to spring fever, I decided on the spur of a very windy moment to offer the first taste of the front field to the herd.

Salina and the donkey boys had first dibs. 30 minutes of GREEN grazing! The donkey boys went all the way down, as they seemed to know this was a time-limited event, and the further down they were, the longer it would take me to get them back in again. Even removing Salina did not bring them up the hill. And when we went down to get them, they RAN! Bucking and kicking up their little donkey heels.

The geldings were up at the fence, annoyed that they were not being given a turn. But then the magic gate opened, and Keil Bay, authority on how to get the most green possible, went all the way down just as the donkeys had.

The poor, poor pony - it was his turn for a ride, so he was allowed some time with the round bale but didn't get the green stuff. Unfortunately he will have to have the muzzle on when he goes out there, so it's a mixed blessing for him.

By the end of April they'll be ready to move to night-time turn-out, and will be acclimated to the green. For now they're transitioning, one of my favorite times of the year because they are so clearly ready for the fresh forage.

And while spring brings a lot of things we have to protect the horses against, namely flies, ticks, fire ants, etc., I think we're ALL ready for the sunshine, the warmth, and the next season in the cycle of the year.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

whirlwindy end to the week

A few hours away yesterday a number of tornadoes touched down and did some damage, and the local news is reporting the possibility of severe thunderstorms this evening with high winds and hail. It's been really warm here at night, and as a colder front moves in this afternoon, there's going to be about a 20-degree drop in temperature and ripe conditions for more yucky weather.

We were lucky yesterday not to have the whirling wind close by, but we did have a bit of a scare last night. When my husband went out to feed dinner at the barn, Salina went into the stall where she normally eats and proceeded to lie down. She didn't try to roll, but laid out flat and then got up. She was pawing a bit, and he took her dinner in, and she laid down again and then got back up. She ate about half of her tub and then stopped eating.

He came in to get me, and we went out together to decide what to do. Her gums were pink, she wasn't sweating, she wasn't agitated, but she did continue pawing and seemed like she might want to lie down again. Her respiration seemed normal, she had gut sounds, and when we tried to take her temperature, she pushed the thermometer out and swished her tail. Her normal reaction to that intrusion.

I suggested walking her in the arena, where it wasn't so mucky, to see if she settled or worsened. She walked normally, a nice big walk, and did her characteristic nicker upon halting. She dropped a very normal pile of manure very quickly, and we decided to give a dose of Banamine and check her in a couple of hours.

We put Cody and the pony on the opposite side of the barn, so that Salina could share the other side's three open stalls with Keil Bay, and be free to walk about in the less mucky dirt paddock on that side. Initially I tried to keep the donkeys in the barn aisle, but she and they were miserable being separated, so we let them join her.

At 1 a.m. she was calm and relaxed, hadn't gone down again, and had dropped more normal manure. She wasn't eating but I figured her system was doing what it needed, and we came in and went to bed.

In the midst of all this I kept hearing a very high-pitched squeaking sound that seemed to be coming from the walls of the barn itself. I kept walking around listening, stopping, waiting for it to resume, asking if anyone else heard it, etc. Bats? Baby birds? Some kind of tree frog? Some kind of insect? Or tons of baby mice who had all just been born?

When I got to the back deck of the house, I heard it again. Then when I got inside the laundry room it was even louder. It was one of those moments when logic escaped me - I thought, oh my gosh, we must be infested with mice and they've all given birth at the same time, everywhere!

And then I realized - it was my right muck boot! I have no idea how or why it was making the noise, but every time I stepped a certain way, or shifted my weight onto that side, there was the noise.

We got a good (and much needed by that time) laugh out of that.

I got in bed and did my usual meditation of surrounding the horses with white light. I also told Salina that we would take care of her, but if it was time for her to go, that was fine too. At her advanced age, with her arthritic knees and all she's been through with the loss of her eye, I've decided that we wouldn't send her to the vet school or an equine clinic for surgery or treatment should the need arise. The stress of travel, of separating from her donkey boys, would be huge, and given her personality and intensity, I don't think it would be in her best interest at this point in her life. So I reminded myself that if things worsened, I already had the lines drawn for myself and wouldn't need to struggle with that kind of decision.

It's a difficult thing to think about, but a sense of relief knowing I've already made the decision, at least for Salina.

I had a very bizarre dream, in which Salina did go to the vet school, but the donkeys accompanied her, and it was determined that she'd eaten the ear off a stuffed animal and it had lodged in her digestive track somewhere. They recommended exploratory surgery to find and remove it. I had to say very clearly to the vet staff that we would not do that, and it almost felt in the dream like a "practice run" for me - to walk through a possible scenario and carry out what I've decided theoretically.

The dream then shifted to a very bizarre symbolic representation of some other stuff going on in my life, so literal it was almost laughable when I woke up and recounted it. It never ceases to amaze me how the psyche offers us what we need using the images we need, and are ready for, in order to "get the message."

This morning, Salina was eager to go to the field with her herd, and proceeded to graze on grass and hay immediately. She came in for breakfast at her appointed time, nickered as usual, and got highly ticked off when she found out I had only served her the beet pulp plus salt and mineral portion of her meal. I added some chopped apples, and she did eat some of it, but harassed Keil Bay in the stall next door, wanting some of his meal.

She ate a bit of the donkeys' timothy cube mix, more of her meal, and then proceeded to set in to eating more hay. She dropped more very normal manure, and although we're continuing to watch her and monitor things, I hope this crisis has passed.

With all the potential for severe weather, I'm also sending out some calming thoughts, in hopes that we all get through the weekend safely and easily.

Friday, March 27, 2009

more rain, more editing, and playing catch-up

We've had another string of rainy days, and a predicted thunderstorm with high winds for tomorrow evening, so life on November Hill has been a little quieter as we try to keep up with barn chores, and keep the house from becoming a mud pit - our boots/shoes are easy to take off at the door, but 8 Corgi paws and 20 cat paws can track in a lot of gunk!

I've tried to use the extra indoor time for editing, which is helping to offset those lovely sunny days from last week when I got almost nothing done on the ms.

I'm also behind on my equine nutrition class homework, so I am vowing to be caught up with all my figuring by Sunday night. Right now I'm working on how many grams of protein each of my herd members needs for their weight, age, and level of work. It's not rocket science, but there are a lot of things that factor in to balancing an equine diet, and I'm just grateful for the support of the class to walk me through this.

I've said it before - only horses and/or children could get me to deal with needles, and the same holds true for math!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

a little blessing from third grade

For the second time in two weeks I awakened to dense fog, and today I've been infatuated with the way the soft white causes other things, like open barn windows, and wet tree trunks, to stand out in stark relief. Which is intriguing, that something so untouchable and ethereal brings out the sharp edges of the things it surrounds.

For some reason, today's fog made me remember third grade, which was the year I was skipped ahead to a fifth grade class. It was a hard year for me, but for a part of that year we had a student teacher, whose name I can't recall, but I do remember the way she looked.

She had an intense passion for teaching and particularly for literature and poetry, and one of our assignments was to write a poem and then prepare it for display.

The poem I wrote was titled Mr. Mist and although I do not remember it entirely, I can recall a few lines, and the fact that the poem personified mist as a man who came wearing a "brown hat and cloak." I clearly remember being very excited about using the word cloak, which I'd obviously read in a book and while no one around me ever used that word, I loved it and wanted to incorporate it into my poem.

We had to read our work out loud, which was difficult for me, as I was very shy. It was also difficult because my audience, the fifth graders, had all written very funny, silly limerick style poems and mine was so serious and full of metaphor and imagery they just sat there while I read it, which I took as negative critique of the highest order.

The student teacher had pulled me aside earlier in the day to tell me how wonderful the poem was, and to praise the various elements I'd used, most of which were new to me. She was clearly excited about my work, and I remember her giving me a little hug, and saying how proud she was to hang the poem on the bulletin board. I'd copied it in newly-learned cursive handwriting and taped it onto a piece of bright yellow construction paper, and the incongruity and intention of that choice also made her smile. I explained that I wanted to make the contrast visible - the sunshine yellow paper for a poem that was all about mist and darkness.

That I recall all these details so vividly, all these years later, makes it obvious that her attention that day meant a lot to me, and I'm sure it was one of the earliest moments when I felt like someone else saw me for what I felt I was - a writer.

And how perfect it is that today, surrounded by mist and fog and the dark shapes made more intense, that wonderful feeling has come forth again, fully formed, a little blessing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

horse show season and reconciliation

It's the time of year when my email in-box is filling with announcements of horse shows, Pony Club rallies, and various horse activities that require hauling, and in some cases overnight stays.

I woke up this morning feeling bombarded with my own mixed feelings about all this. My daughter is in Pony Club, and greatly enjoys the activities they offer, and she also enjoys the Combined Training shows and cross country schooling opportunities that seem to be everywhere this time of year. Her trainers are active and frequently available for coaching at these events, and it's been fun to get a taste of the various horse sports over the past few years.

We are not a dedicated horse show family, however, and I find the logistics of these travels incredibly stressful. Plans have to be made for horse care for the herd members who stay home. With a few exceptions, hauling to these events requires completely altering the regular routines of the horses going. I fret about ulcers and colic and accidents and break-downs on the side of the road. Even more, I worry about what the horses are thinking and feeling as they drive off down our driveway and head off to a strange setting without the comfort and security of their herd.

Every month that passes I seem to be increasingly dedicated to a way of horse-keeping that makes traveling with horses a more difficult decision, and I find myself trying to reconcile my beliefs about what is good for horses with the enjoyment of horses in sport and competition.

It's even more difficult right now because I'm not reconciling on my own behalf, but on that of my daughter. It's become pretty clear to me that I will probably never choose to get up at the crack of dawn, load the Big Bay into a trailer, and haul him off to a show so that we can compete together. The idea that I would put him up for overnight stays in a setting where he couldn't go out to graze and roll and move freely is unthinkable for me personally.

I'd be just as happy to pay a judge to come watch us do a dressage test or two here, and give me feedback. I'd probably enjoy dressing up in all the right clothing to make the ride special. But otherwise, I don't have the desire to prepare, go through the process of getting to a show, and insert myself into a schedule that, imo, has nothing to do with what's best for horses.

But it's so clear to me that my daughter, who also loves our horses and obviously cares about their welfare, really does enjoy the excitement of a show setting. It's also clear that many people I like and respect enjoy the show atmosphere as well.

And I enjoy seeing horses and riders performing together at these events. It's impressive, and fun, and inspiring. But along with the successes, I have to witness some of the truly upsetting scenarios that invariably occur. Frightened horses. Riders who mistreat their horses. Accidents that the human has chosen to risk, but the horse hasn't been given that choice.

I'd love to know how any of you reconcile these things in your own lives, with your own horses. Or for that matter, dogs, or cats, and shows, and things like agility trials.

How do you balance all the factors? How much weight do you give your own pleasure and satisfaction versus that of the animal? How do you know when the animal actually gets something out of the experience so the risks and the stress of travel are outweighed?

For me, when we haul the pony or Cody, the best part is when they return home and step off the trailer, and I see the relief on their faces as they walk through the barn and through the gate to rejoin their herd. I'm not sure if that's an argument for going or not going, but it at least ends the travel on that particular day on a good note.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

flying by the seat of our pants

This week has been chaotic in a lot of ways. Chase, our male Corgi, has a tumor in the same area as a cancerous one that was removed several years ago. While this one appears to be very different, we have to talk to the vet and create a treatment plan. Apollo Moon, our older cat, is having mini-seizures again, and suddenly sneezing off and on, so I've been trying to monitor him more closely the past few days.

My head is swimming with information for feed routines, and equine nutrition.

When I went out to open a new round bale last night, I discovered that both the round bales we had here were wet all the way through and spoiling. It was nearly 7 p.m. on a Saturday night and I had no hay!

My daughter and I managed to fill hay nets with the little bit left from the previous bale, and my husband and son returned home early from a weekend trip so that my husband could go get more hay early this a.m.

I reconfigured feed time last night to try and make the most of what we had, fretting that the temps were dropping to the 20s and the equines would need more than what we had.

In the midst of my worry, I forgot to soak beet pulp for this morning's breakfast.

My husband found the empty pitchers this morning and made up a batch, but by breakfast time, the pellets hadn't yet dissolved. He left to go get a new round bale, and I sat in the feed room, in the middle of the floor, surrounded by feed tubs, picking hot beet pulp pellets apart with my fingers. The horses and donkeys stood in the paddock, ready for breakfast but so patient. Every now and then I heard the chain on the gate being rattled, but I'd told them what was going on, and the usual impatient hubbub never happened. They stood and waited.

I called out periodically to let them know I was still working on the pellets. At some point a goose seemed to be circling the barn, honking repeatedly. Ted Andrews says in his book Animal Speak that the honking of the goose is a call to a quest. It all seemed funny suddenly, me sitting there, all the craziness with the hay and the beet pulp, and all the other things that never truly seem to be quite under my control, even given my tendency to be organized, fooling myself that planning and organizing are enough.

My husband got back with the hay just at the moment I finally served the breakfast tubs, and I realized we'd gone through the feeling of feast, famine, and then feast again within a 12-hour period.

Even with all the chaos, we are having a gorgeous springtime day, and I have spent much of it cleaning one small corner of the dining room, inch by inch, clearly a way of soothing this weekend's unsettling reminder that in fact, we're all pretty much flying by the seat of our pants, on a daily basis.

And remembering that, for the most part, flying by the seat of one's pants is okay.

Friday, March 20, 2009

week's end and the first day of spring!


Addendum for anyone who is interested, up top so you won't miss is:

The Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance cubes are indeed the equivalent of horse crack. In fact, if you're like me and are a total horse nutrition/food geek, they're probably better than human crack! (not that I know about that, but... sticking with the analogy here)

I wet them down in my mixing bowl in the feed room and the smell was heavenly. The color is beautiful. They 'melt down' really quickly and look, truly, like something I would eat.

I made up a bit too much for the donkeys and the pony this a.m. and the donkeys couldn't eat all theirs! So I stuck their little tubs out in the paddock so anyone who wanted to could lick them out as they headed out to pasture.

None of them made it to the pasture - there was a total logjam of horses right up near the barn, all wanting the cube mix. It got a bit scary as Keil Bay was protecting both the tubs, Cody was hovering to get what Keil didn't eat, and Salina was determined Cody needed to leave the area ASAP.

Whew! All I can say, is, big hit with the cubes, and don't make my mistake with leftovers!


Yesterday was another beautiful sunny day, and after doing the morning chores I went to the feed store to replenish some of my bins. I was excited to find that the feed store had gotten in my first bag of Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance cubes.

These are made from timothy hay, beet pulp, and have the correct mineral balance so that they are a complete feed if fed at the right % to body weight of the horse/donkey. They're often used for IR/Cushings' horses, but I'll be trying them with the pony and the donkey boys in an effort to simplify my feed routine and keep the easy keepers happy and healthy without high sugar/starch.

They do have to be soaked, and I'll add their loose salt, ground flax, and vit. E as needed, but otherwise, all the mineral work is done. (assuming nothing is really out of whack with hay/pasture analyses)

The bags are plain brown with the info printed on front and a lavender tag with the nutritional info. It reminded me of years ago when I worked in Perkins Library at Duke and the French shipments would come in brown paper lined with the most stunning lavender/purple paper. I used to ask for it and take it home, and for years all the gifts I gave were wrapped in that paper. Very understated and classic, but lovely.

So I was impressed when I saw this feed bag! The first thing I did when I got it in the bin in the feed room was open it up and check out the cubes. They are lovely too, very green and really, like something you'd pop into a pot of soup cooking on the stove. I'll be trying them out this morning, mixing a few into the existing mix to let the pony and the donkeys get used to them. I have read that they are like "horse crack" for many horses - we'll see.

After Salina had lunch, my daughter helped me get Cody cleaned up for a ride. He was a mud cake, again, and it took awhile! But then I had a lesson with my daughter as instructor, although it probably wouldn't be too far off base to refer to her as a drill sergeant.

She stood on the mounting block with my dressage whip and issued her commands while waving the whip about. Cody didn't mind, but it was very disorienting to ME. She tends to push me really hard in these lessons she gives, and I get a lot of feedback on my position.

Keep those heels bouncy. Fix your wrists. Stop pulling on his mouth. Don't use your leg every stride. Bigger trot!

And I thought I was doing pretty well!

She's a no-nonsense instructor.

At one point I balked at something she told me to do, saying I'd already done that, and she responded:

No talking back!

I finally had to inform her that my thighs were jelly and she would have to hop on and finish Cody's canter work. Which she did, but with a few comments about me pushing harder.

It was an interesting ride. We're doing a new protocol with Cody right now and are closely monitoring his movement. We're seeing a much more relaxed, swinging walk, and a bigger canter, but the trot is slower to change. Yesterday, I noticed that the canter was so big it almost felt like the early cantering I did on Keil Bay. I can usually sit Cody's canter easily, but yesterday found myself going up in the saddle and riding it in two-point the first few strides.

There were two sequences of trot where he got on the bit and really pushed from behind, and it felt just like it does when Keil Bay turns on his Big Powerful Trot. So I think we're on the right path.

I realized again about myself that daily riding is the secret to all good things. If I miss days my back gets what I call "the hinge" and I get the blahs (not mentally so much as physically) and my riding stamina decreases.

After sponging Cody down and letting him have some time in the barnyard, my daughter got the pony going for his ride, while I cleaned Cody's bridle and watched.

During the course of her ride, we went from sunshine to a very ominous deep blue/black sky, and the wind began to whip up. When she got off, we had to move quickly to get the barn set up for evening.

Especially touching was Keil Bay walking with me to the back field to get Salina's fly mask, and to close the back gate. The wind was really blowing, and there was a bit of lightning, but he had gone into protector mode and didn't want any of the herd wandering out.

Believe it or not, we had a rainstorm last night! The sun is back today, and I hope we haven't completely reverted to mud outside. Certain areas hadn't even dried out completely from the last rain spell.

Today, the first day of spring, is sunny and bright. I have two family members heading for the beach and the other one off to a sleepover/party. So by this evening I'll be celebrating the vernal equinox on my own.

The redbuds are blooming, I've pulled the first tick of the season off the Big Bay, and I received notice that the first batch of fly predators has been shipped. Spring really is here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

back to the good days

We had beautiful fog, the sun came out, I worked on my book, and I let the blahs go and got back on the Big Bay.

This was one of those rides when I wish I had a gate that led to about a thousand acres of trail. Keil Bay was in the back field caked with mud, anew from the mud he was caked in yesterday, because all THAT mud got groomed off, and I called to him as I fed Salina her lunch tub to come on up and get ready for a ride. It took a few minutes, but he came in, and I spent what seemed like a long time getting him clean.

My daughter had Cody all ready and she did things like play with donkeys and go inside to use the bathroom and finally came and just handed me Keil Bay's saddle because it was one of those endless grooming sessions that threatens never to end.

I decided to forget the bridle and just use the halter and clip-on reins, and off we went.

We had decided ahead of time to split the arena in half for the first portion of the ride, and so Keil and I warmed up in our end at the walk, did a little bit of shoulder-in, and then he went into his big beautiful trot right off the bat. For whatever reason, after these wet rainy days of not riding, we just clicked instantly when he trotted. He was in a lovely frame, moving well, and I was balanced. It felt perfect. We did more trotting, we changed directions, we did a little bit of leg yielding, we did some walking around the entire arena, we did a little cantering. And it was all fine.

But that initial trot work was so perfect, the really right thing to have done was to head out the back gate and go on a long, relaxing trail ride. Mostly I love where we live and rarely want to leave, but today, I wished, for the Big Bay as much as for myself, that I could reward such a beautiful bit of harmony with a little adventure.

In any case, we finished our ride and his reward was being in the barnyard with Salina and the donkey boys, sun shining, green grass shimmering, round bale tipped over and split open in the most inviting way -- I suspect he liked that almost as much as the thousand acre adventure.

and now, fog

We woke up this morning to dense fog, so thick our neighboring houses were not visible. It felt like we were on top of a mountain here, very isolated from the outside world.

I kind of like that.

My husband took my camera out when he opened the back gate for the horses, and got a few photos of the herd in the fog.

I think personalities become pretty clear, even when surrounded by fog.

Keil Bay and Apache Moon go about business as usual. Eating tops pretty much any weather event.

Cody follows more slowly, looking like a spotted horse because of the shavings he's wearing. A young man needs his beauty rest!

Salina is ready to head out, but is held back by the donkeys. Redford is ready to go too, but can't quite bring himself to leave Rafer Johnson, who says Do you REALLY expect us to go out in this?

Supposedly the fog will burn away in a bit and we'll have more sunshine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

here comes the sun

No rain today, and this afternoon, later than expected, the sun finally came out. The horses and donkeys were ready for it - Keil Bay galloped in from the field for his breakfast tub, Cody spent his time waiting for breakfast in the arena doing beautiful trot work all on his own, and Salina was doing pirouettes in the paddock. I kept having to leave the feed room to see all this lovely action, which made breakfast take longer than usual, and the longer it took, the more they moved.

In spite of my happiness to see the sunshine, I still had a case of the blahs, and did not manage a ride as I had planned. Finally in the late afternoon I groomed two of the mudcakes, Keil Bay and Salina, and worked on the donkey boys a little while my daughter rode Cody.

They were all happy and ready to come in from the first full day in the field they've had since last Wednesday. And according to the 10-day forecast, there is nothing but sunshine in our near future, with nice temps for the horses.

I came in with the lovely soft, relaxed muscles that come from doing the exact right amount of work. That grooming was a good idea, and I hope the horses have the same good feeling.

Monday, March 16, 2009

rainy day donkeys

Each morning when I come out to the barn I get at least one good morning bray and always two sweet donkey faces letting me know they are ready for breakfast. Even on rainy mornings!

I love that they can eat together so respectfully. They get the privilege of eating in the barn aisle because they are so very controlled and courteous. I can't imagine the horse geldings behaving this responsibly!

Everyone got about 8 hours in the field before the rain kicked back in, and tomorrow is supposed to dawn sunny and nice, so if they can hang in there one more soggy night, we should get some relief from the wet stuff.


Isabel Zuber's novel Salt was published in 2002, and has been on my list of books to read ever since. When I was on my writing retreat earlier this year, one of my fellow retreaters was a poet who is in Isabel Zuber's writing group, and when she learned of the kind of writing I'm doing, she suggested I put Salt at the top of my list.

I bought it last week and let it sit on my bedside table for a few days, to savor the idea of starting it.

Last night I did, and could hardly set it down. It's beautifully written, with a poetic use of language and description, and an engaging story that pulls the reader in quick.

As if a good book isn't enough, there is a touch of synchronicity: the book travels from chapter to chapter back and forth in time, using places and years as chapter titles. And it takes place in the NC mountains, so as I read last night I came upon passages taking place in the same places my current editing is taking me.

I had no idea!

What a treat. I recommend this book, particularly if you've enjoyed reading Charles Frazier, Lee Smith, Silas House, and Dot Jackson, all authors I admire.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

it is still raining!

Thankfully it's a bit warmer than it was the first two days, and there is no wind, so it's just wet, not so much cold.

But I think we're all getting tired of slogging through the muck. Even musical stalls has lost its excitement. The apple chunks are still welcome, but seem to make them all that much more grumpy, like bored kids who argue over the treat that's supposed to buoy them.

After lunch, though, when I'd moved everyone back around to their "regular" spots, Salina and the donkeys went in the barnyard in search of green, and Keil Bay left his messy stall to go poop in Cody's clean one, which always makes me laugh, and Cody went to the arena gate and looked back, inviting me to play.

So I took a break from mucking and in we went. We did some slow dancing, as it is raining so steadily the arena is draining more and more slowly, and I didn't think running around would be good for footing OR dancers. The pony came to the open gate and waited for his invitation to come in too. After a few minutes, Cody was done, and the pony declined my invite to play, so I went back to mucking.

The moment I turned my back, those two were trotting around and the pony led the way to a small jump and went right over it. When he saw me looking he slowed to a halt like "uh oh, she wasn't supposed to see that."

He's been on a break from jumping for some time now, but maybe he's ready to try it again.

When I came in, the two of them were still in the arena playing. Salina and the donkeys were nibbling grass and Rafer Johnson seems to have made peace with the rain. Redford is like the little boy who never stays inside. He'll go out no matter what.

Keil Bay thinks they're all nuts. He went back to his messy stall and played boxing match with the hay net.

One more day of wet stuff and then we can start drying out again.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

the well-oiled machine goes KERPLUNK

In a travesty of miscommunication last night, the beet pulp pellets did not get soaked, and it was only this rainy morning precisely at feeding time that it was discovered.

So the breakfast for equines has now become brunch, and they must subsist on hay until the pellets turn to actual pulp.

I can't even show my face in the barn - I'll be booed and hissed for sure, and Keil Bay is likely to start twirling halters and lead ropes.

I suppose I should take some apple chunks out with the beet pulp, as a peace offering.

Friday, March 13, 2009

rainy friday

We woke up to rain, and when I went out to feed breakfast, two little donkey heads peeked out from the barn door, happy to see me with my arms full of morning tub supplies.

Life got easier when I realized I have an electric tea kettle that never gets used - so I've taken it to the barn and can heat up my water out there instead of hauling pitchers out every morning.

Rafer Johnson and Redford think the electric tea kettle is a fine and intriguing thing. For now, I have to plug it in in the barn aisle, until I can get some things moved around in the feed room, so I move my little wooden stepladder to the barn aisle outlet, put the kettle on it, and plug it in.

The donkeys are not afraid of the flax grinder, but they have not really wanted to get too close to it. They stand at the far end of the barn when I plug it in, and I call out "get ready!" and whirl the flax a time or two so they all know what I'm doing. Then I grind away.

The kettle, on the other hand, is quiet, and it sits there nicely on its perch. The first morning the donkeys stood at attention, monitoring this new contraption. Now they stand right by it, defying the adage a watched pot never boils.

Actually this one rarely does boil, because I only need the water warmed a bit, not steaming hot!

This morning they walked me back and forth as I prepared the tubs, and then suddenly the geldings lit out for the back field. Salina insisted that she be allowed to follow, and of course the donkeys were right behind her.

I'm not sure what it was - it sounded like maybe a bobcat capturing a bunny, but the screeching and shrieking was intense and the horses were absolutely determined to go check things out.

About the time they got to the bottom of the field, the rain intensified, the shrieking stopped, and they headed back to the barn.

After breakfast, we started a day of musical stalls. Everyone got turns on both sides of the barn today, and the donkeys were at the center of the action at all times, supervising the shift changes. We had apple chunks and more visitors at mid-day: three deer in the woods just behind the wood line fence.

All the equines have opted at various times to go out and graze today. I guess the green stuff is important enough to make the cold rain not such a big deal.

Right now I'm having a mug of Earl Gray tea and some spice cookies made fresh by my daughter, who has recently started getting comfortable with our gas stove. I'm going out in a bit to set up the horses with hay, fresh water, clean stalls, and close off the field for the night.

After that I think it might be time for a hot bath and a movie.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a dulcet day

Today was much cooler than yesterday, but the predicted rain never happened, and in fact, the sun was shining, so horses and donkeys and humans and cats and dogs all enjoyed the middle ground of sunshine without sweat, a slight breeze without chill, and ground that was just about perfect in its moisture level. No mud, not rock hard.

My daughter and I took the core of a round bale out to the back field this morning and unrolled it, so the hay would last all day long. The only time anyone came back to the barn was Salina to get her lunch, and Cody to get a ride.

I spent a portion of the morning straightening up the tack and feed room, another portion bringing up more items from the garage (from my office), and late in the afternoon went out to get horses organized for the evening.

The donkeys decided to have an all-out rampage, running all over the back field, up to the paddock, where they dodged Salina who was attempting to settle them down with that mama mare head toss. She decided to let them go, and meandered over to the fence to gaze at the front field, which is resting until April and every day looks greener and more appealing.

Mystic went up the oak tree by the barn, and Dickens sat below gazing up at him.

My daughter was riding Cody in the arena and my husband had arrived home from work.

Salina went into alert mode and I walked to the gate to see what was up. The shavings man had arrived with a new load, and we all watched with relief as he dumped it in our pile. There's a long rainy weekend coming and I had wanted the stalls set up with deep new shavings ahead of that. The worst chore to do on a rainy day is putting in shavings. But not doing them if they're needed is worse.

My husband loaded shavings in the wheelbarrow, I spread them, and my daughter filled hay nets while Cody grazed in the barnyard, a treat after his ride.

Horses are fed and watered now. Round bales are covered. The stalls are soft and deep and clean tonight, the shavings pile is covered with a brand new tarp, and the rain can come as it will.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

first sightings of the season

A purple butterfly.

A carpenter bee.

New leaves on the butterfly bushes, and leafing out in a number of plants along the labyrinth path.


Fly predators!

A wasp.

Even with a cool spell rolling in later this week, it seems that spring is near.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

an interesting turn-around

Earlier in the day I was down in the labyrinth area spreading manure, and I noticed the most fascinating shift.

Last spring and summer and on into fall, the entire area down there was green and almost jungle-like with the wildflowers and brambles and brush growing like mad. My labyrinth path was a fairly narrow band of pine shavings and manure that wound around through this jungle. By summer's end the walls of the labyrinth were taller than my head, and because of the chiggers, my husband was often down there cutting back the growth to preserve the path.

Over the winter the trees were trimmed back down there and the machines made a mess of things. I decided to work on the woodland path for awhile instead, until I saw how to proceed on the labyrinth itself.

Today when I went down there I noticed that all the brush areas are the browns and faded tans of late winter, but the path itself is a vivid green. Apparently, the manure and the hay scraps that were spread along with the shavings had seeds, and now a gorgeous swath of orchard grass is winding around the area, like a giant reached down with a big paintbrush and made a spiral of green.

It was sad to see my labyrinth the way it was last spring and summer fade into the winter and the tracks of huge machinery, but I smoothed it out as best I could and let it sit, figuring something different, but equally good, might come of it when I finished the woodland path. And so it has.


And another turn-around:

Last week we were fighting to keep ice out of water troughs. This afternoon Keil Bay is in the back field doing hoof trough baths for himself, Cody, and the pony, who line up beside him while he goes to town with his hoof. They all get a cool-down and the tub - well it then needs to be cleaned, but the Big Bay knows his personal maid service will be out in short order to take care of it.

Monday, March 09, 2009


And not the kind that comes with lots of rain in a short period of time!

This is just one of those days when my perspective has gone wonky and I feel like there is NO WAY I will ever be able to get all the things done that seem to be front and center on my pile of things to do.

I would like to ride Keil Bay. Laundry is piled way up. My desk is a monstrosity of things to be done, none of them boring yucky things, and yet there are so many I can't sort out where to begin.

Edits to do, a pony story to continue, my equine nutrition class homework, which involves using a more accurate calculation to get a better estimate of their weights, so that I can begin to figure out how many Mcals they need in a day based on weight, personality, age, and amount of work. A very practical bit of homework that will involve some time. Client paperwork.

A load of furniture to configure. Boxes to unpack. Shelves to empty and then fill. The regular chores of the day.

Part of this is that I never really "caught up" last week, and now everything is snowballing. Or so it seems.

The thing I have to remember is that tomorrow I'll wake up and most of the same things will be calling to me, but the voices won't be as loud, and my sense of it all will have shifted.

Could be spring fever. Could be a hormonal blip. Could be brain chemistry.

In any case, I am going to do the next load of laundry, print out some client forms, and then decide what will come next. One task at a time.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

alchemy in the feed room

The alchemists spent years in their laboratories, observing the fire that purified the metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.

-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I got two scales yesterday for the feed room, and spent an hour last night and again this morning weighing feed ingredients to get more exact about amounts and ratios.

I should have taken photos this morning, of the vivid green of alfalfa pellets, the mixed and more muted green of the beet pulp, the light brown fluffy wheat bran, and the beautiful oats, layered in the white bowl sitting on the big scale.

Cody's coconut oil is iridescent in its tiny glass, and the vitamin E capsules are a rich amber liquid. I use a pushpin to puncture a hole in each one so I can squeeze it into their tubs.

Right now I'm doing one horse's feed at a time, using the nifty bowl scale which allows you to zero out after each addition so you don't have to calculate as you go. The smaller gram scale is for the few things I am feeding in smaller amounts, like flax seed, and measuring individually for each horse.

Once I get everyone on the exact amount by weight, I can convert back to the easier measurements, i.e. Salina gets two scoops of this, that many of that, etc.

I keep the best sized scoop for each ingredient in the bins and a white board with instructions so nothing gets confused.

This morning I also took my new coffee grinder out so I can start grinding the whole flax fresh each feed. It turned out beautifully and smelled really good. The horses were intrigued with the grinder, not at all afraid of the noise. Salina and Keil Bay actually seemed to be happy hearing it - the warmbloods love food and I suspect would put up with anything if it meant a feed tub was the end result.

My husband was not thrilled with how long it took me to get all the tubs done. I know there will be times when it will seem like a lot of work, but for the most part, I truly enjoy it. The scooping and measuring - just the sight of the flax seeds in the little scale bowl made me happy. I had NPR on, and the sun was shining through the feed room window. I have a pretty vinyl tablecloth on my work table in there, and a container full of measuring spoons and scoops.

I fancy myself a sort of equine nutrition alchemist, mixing up potions that keep them healthy and well.

It's time for a spring cleaning in there, and I have a dark green wicker love seat that came from the foyer outside my old office, so if there's room once I clear and shift things, I may get the seating I've been longing for. There's a lot of good energy in the feed room, and I'd like to be able to sit down and soak it in.

I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these things are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.

-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Friday, March 06, 2009

catching up

With all the rain last weekend, and then the snow, a lot of things got pushed aside to deal with the extra work of having horses and donkeys in the barn, so yesterday and today we're catching up.

I spent a lot of time with the horses and donkeys. After breakfast, I worked for half an hour getting all the tarps off the shavings pile and laying them out in the sun so they could dry. We've got a big load of shavings coming too so I wanted the remains of the pile to dry and be clear for the big truck.

It was much warmer yesterday, even in the morning, when I didn't need gloves or even a jacket. There was a little breeze, and as I began to lay the tarps out they ballooned up like parachutes. I got caught up in this and played a little, letting the tarps float up, listening to the billowing sounds.

The horses and donkeys were all in the back field, but within about a minute, Keil Bay, Salina, Rafer Johnson, and Redford all trekked back up to the paddock and lined up at the fence to watch. There's a big deal made about de-spooking horses to tarps, but what I have found is that they do it themselves if the tarps are used for practical purposes around the barn, which ours are, and the horses are allowed to graze/relax in the same space as the tarps.

All of our equines will walk on tarps, stick their heads under them, and otherwise mostly ignore them, but yesterday the Hanoverians and the donkeys seemed ready to play.

I briefly thought about letting the four interested equines into the barnyard with me, to explore the tarps laid out everywhere, but the possibility that the shavings truck might come made me think twice. So they watched over the fence while I flapped.

Around mid-day I gathered up all my de-wormer boxes (I do double-dose Ivermectin in February, but it got pushed back due to the cold weather) and my daughter grabbed a lead rope in case we needed it.

The herd had come up to the paddock again to see what was going on, so I opened two tubes and climbed through the fence.

Rafer Johnson is the king of de-worming. He has always been really cooperative with this, to the point of following me around and asking for more. The Ivermectin I use is not the flavored kind, so I can't imagine why he wants it, but it sure makes life easier.

He saw the tubes and marched right up. I let him smell the tube, he positioned his head, and I gave him the double dose for his weight, then went in search of Redford to finish off the tube.

Redford wanted to check things out longer, but he too offered his head and took his medicine with no fuss. I only needed the hand holding the de-wormer tube.

The intriguing thing about this is that the other horses see what's happening, and if they wanted, could head out to the field. But they never do. Their curiosity sometimes gets the better of them, and there have been times when I've been encircled by all of them, pushing their heads close for their own dose of de-wormer.

Yesterday they stayed where they were, within about ten feet of one another, and let me go to them one by one.

My daughter put the lead rope over Cody's neck, as he sometimes wants to walk away from tubes (especially after the foul-tasting digestive enzyme debacle awhile back). However, I tried the one-handed approach on him (he had to get two full tubes) and he too stood and took them without moving his head at all.

Keil Bay smelled the tube, raised his head high and lifted his upper lip, and then took his tubes with no fuss.

Salina has gotten over her hatred of tube syringes of all kinds. The key with her is to slide the syringe flat along the side of her face/cheek, and the insert the tip from the side. She doesn't like the tip going at her mouth, and now that we always do it the way she likes, she knows it's coming and takes it easily.

All done, and it took nothing but a dangling lead rope on one horse's neck. We piled the hay-barrow high with orchard grass hay and rolled it out to the field so they could munch.

Later in the afternoon while my daughter rode Cody I took a brush and currycomb to the back and spent an hour brushing donkeys and horses. The donkeys stood quietly and did their quiet happy snorts, and Salina closed her eyes and enjoyed the day.

Keil Bay likes to exercise his right to march around while being brushed, and the pony was not too happy initially but when I persisted, he relented and let me get the mud off his coat. It's time to bring out the grazing muzzle and I dread it. But he's gained a little weight already, and the muzzle is better than separating him from his herd.

It was nice brushing in the field while watching Cody move under saddle, calm and relaxed at the walk, trot, and canter. He is looking better and better, and my daughter showed off her sitting trot at the end of the ride. She really looks like she's part of the horse, with no bouncing, no artificial pumping with the pelvis, and no head/shoulder bobbing. It's a delight to watch.

By sunset I was exhausted and slept like a rock. Today I can finish catching up and hopefully get most of the office stuff incorporated into the household so we can roll into the weekend free and clear.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

cross of invocation

Yesterday afternoon I was out at the barn, enjoying the sunshine, the mid-forty degree temps, and the sight of four horses and two miniature donkeys soaking in the sun. Although it is still a bit of a mud-fest in the paddocks and high-traffic areas, they had nice hay, clean water, and good company.

My daughter had just shown me something neat - a number of hoof prints in a muddy patch that had filled with water and then frozen. When you stepped into the print, the ice made a satisfying crunch and interesting patterns.

There was nothing monumental about the afternoon, but it held a sense of peace and a good feeling that is, I suppose, easily missed if you're not paying attention.

I happened to look up, and a jet had made a sign in the sky. For years I would see what I call giant runic crosses in the sky, and my habit was to take each of them as a good omen, a sign of fulfillment and good things. I haven't seen as many of those in the past year, which doesn't mean things aren't good, but perhaps that I no longer need the symbol to remind me.

Yesterday's giant symbol was one I'd never seen before. I enjoyed it in the moment for what it was, feeling blessed in some way and also intrigued that as I continued to work in the barnyard, the entire symbol floated east in the sky.

Later in the evening, before dark, I was answering someone's question about an arthritic protocol for horses I'd mentioned on a forum, typing that it was something I'd looked into for Salina. I ended up on the phone with my husband, talking through the whole thing again, thinking about whether this medication is something we should go ahead and try for her, even though most of the time she seems to be fine, given her age and the condition of her knees.

Just about that moment I heard a commotion in back, and looked out the glass doors just in time to see Salina galloping in from the back field, leading the herd, bucking and kicking up her heels like a young filly. Rafer Johnson and Redford, her Donkey Guard, were bringing up her flank, one on either side, doing their fanciest donkey trot with heads turning right and left, like young officers in a magical and elite formation.

"I guess she doesn't need that medication just yet," I said into the telephone, and then marveled at how she always seems to sense my worry and does something to reassure me.

This morning I went in search of the symbol from yesterday's sky, and found that it's called a "cross of invocation."

It was often used to mean "take this medication with a blessing" - and has made me think today that sometimes all the medicine we need can be found by simply looking.

A giant mark in the sky, a galloping black mare, ice in a hoof print.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

a warming trend and some mid-week meandering

Although it is 16 degrees yet again this morning, we are headed into a warming trend this afternoon, as the temps roll into the 40s. Each day until the weekend we will jump up 10 degrees or so, and by Saturday will be in the 70s. I think all of us here at November Hill are ready for spring.

Yesterday my daughter reported that when she went out to check on hay, the donkeys and Salina were in the barnyard, joined by a single deer who had been there long enough to be ignored by the partial herd.

I had seen footprints in the snow the day before, coming over the fence, through the woodline, and into the barnyard, so it's possible we have a deer who wants to be a horse hanging around.

Most of the day we spent going out, doing chores, and coming in to warm up again. Keil Bay rolled in the cold mud and plastered his entire left side. The only thing to do was let it dry, and brush it out before sunset so he could get his blanket back on.

It never really warmed enough to thaw the pumps, although I managed to get the barn pump clear so I could do waters. On these cold days, I begin to get a sense of the routine of a working farm, where the day stretches ahead and certain things have to get done before sunset. Other things can't be done until the sun has warmed things up a bit. A rhythm to the day forms, and on some deep level, is very satisfying.

Another rhythm in my day, thanks to Kim at Enlightened Horsemanship, is the hourly gong that sings out as if by magic from my computer. It's like a call to stillness, a moment to pause and do nothing but listen. Each time it sounds, I make a little sound of surprise and pleasure. It's quite wonderful.

Yesterday in a comment over at Peggy Payne's Boldness Blog, I wrote:

Boldness in the Moment, Joy in the Process

And Peggy remarked that this phrase was needlepoint worthy.

I hadn't stopped to consider my own hastily typed in words, but after seeing her response, I realized that I love the idea of what I'd written.

We haven't ridden since Friday due to rain, snow, and windy cold, but hopefully we will return to the routine this afternoon, or tomorrow, depending on how much the arena thaws today.

Meanwhile, I have continued my editing, which has its own rhythms - page by page, section by section. This novel goes back and forth in time, and as I work through the pages/sections, it feels very much like I'm defying time itself, slipping not only into the lives of the characters, but into their youths.

This novel is more complex than the first two, as it weaves several stories together, in a way that we never get to do in our own lives, because we don't have the ability to go back and forth between perspectives, back and forth in time, making the connections that link them all together. This is the same book that I was working on back in the blog archives, putting the sections individually out on the floor of the garret to try and organize the flow of the story. It's a nice thing to be editing through it now, experiencing the results of many incarnations of arrangement. It has taken me awhile to get it right.

Michael Blumenthal, in his poem called What I Believe, writes:

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

I'm not sure how that connects exactly to what I've written today, but it's been in my head all week long and it seems to have informed today's meanderings. The poem in its entirety is a favorite of mine, and worth looking up.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

one more thank you to Whinny Warmers

It is 16 degrees out this morning, with the remnants of our snow making it look and feel colder, and the very mushy ground is now rock hard. Water tubs had to be broken, and it's the kind of morning when I fret about Salina and her arthritic knees, which can get stiff and sore in the cold.

I wondered this past fall why someone hadn't come up with something to keep horse legs warm - and then I discovered that someone had.

Whinny Warmers are what I call "leg warmers for horses." I ordered two pair for Salina back before Christmas, hoping they would work, but not expecting much. There are a lot of "miracle" products out there that don't stand up to equine use.

When they arrived, I was instantly thrilled with the quality. They are soft and well-made, and when we put them on, Salina accepted them immediately. Surprisingly, they stay up easily without being tight or restrictive. They make a noticeable difference in Salina's comfort in the cold, they wash and dry beautifully, and the cost was very reasonable. What more could I ask for in an equine product?

There is more. The owner of Whinny Warmers saw a photo here of Salina wearing the warmers, and noted that I had mentioned the company and recommended them to anyone seeking socks for horses.

He emailed to say that he would like to donate Whinny Warmers to the rescue of my choice.

I sent out a couple of emails to two of my favorite rescues, the NC USERL and Primrose Donkey Sanctuary.

I heard back from our local USERL quickly, and Whinny Warmers were sent within two days to every single horse they have in their care right now who might benefit from extra warmth on the legs.

Yesterday, I received an email from Sheila at Primrose Donkey Sanctuary, telling me that she has been busy and was just now getting to my email, but that she has two donkeys who could use the Whinnies: a mammoth donkey (Tabolinsky) and a large standard gelding, 35 to 40 yrs. old (Amos) who has a hairline fracture in the left front pastern. Amos protects and guides Patsy - a 14 yr. old jennet - who is totally blind and he is her eyes. They are trying to keep him going as long as they can and think the leg warmers will help.

Mr. Petterson had already donated so many Whinny Warmers I was hesitant to ask for more. But the two donkeys in need at Primrose touched my heart, so I sent the email on. Mr. Petterson emailed overnight to ask for the address so he can put the Whinnies in the mail.

I want to say another big THANK YOU to the Pettersons for their generosity and for the Whinny Warmers, a great product for equines.

They also have a product called Summer Sox which protect equine legs from flies - I'll be trying those this year too, and will report on the results.

And finally, for anyone here who reads Sheaffer's blog, Primrose is where TJ, the infamous mini mule, lives. Sheila passed on an update and said that TJ will accept treats but is still wary of hands. She says she can tell that he wants her to touch him - and that she will give him all the time he needs to learn to trust humans again.

I'd like to ask that if you have healthy, beloved equines, give them a hug today. And then find a rescue and send them a donation and a thank you for all they do.

Monday, March 02, 2009

snow melting

The sun is out now and the snow is beginning to melt, although tonight we have temps falling into the teens so everything is going to freeze back up again.

Meanwhile, though, I have turned everyone out of the barn, put Keil Bay on the near side for a change of pace, and put the donkeys and Salina out on the other side where they can march around and stand in the sun.

Everyone has a little hay to munch on, and stalls are mostly mucked. I need to top off shavings and get the water buckets cleaned and refilled, but the hardest part of today's work is done, with thanks to a daughter who works hard.

I'm doing pages of editing as I make my way through the day, and we're taking a break now to enjoy last night's roast pork - which is today's barbecue sandwich.

Mugs of cocoa after lunch, and then we'll be back out at the barn to finish up.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

snow falling

My mom called earlier tonight to say that the day I was born it snowed 9 inches. I am a little bit intrigued with the notion that it snowing today marks some sort of circle in my life, but it's fine with me if we get a smattering and not the whole nine yards.

The Mystical-kit is sitting outside on the deck rail, by the butterfly bush, a favored feline spot here, watching the snow fall as it also dusts his silky gray coat.

I tried to get a photo, but it didn't come out well, and I've been editing and decided more editing is probably a wiser choice than fiddling with my camera for the perfect shot, not to mention getting it to upload.

So, I'm sitting here typing, shortly will be editing again, and if I look to my left through the laundry room window, there is the silvery wolfen kit-meow, who I believe thinks it is snowing just for his personal entertainment on a winter's night.

rain, rain, and possibly snow

It is a complete mess outside here, as it rained almost all day yesterday, apparently all night long, and is still going right now. The temperature is dropping, the wind is blowing, and for the first time in a long time, I've actually closed the geldings in stalls to keep them dry and keep the stalls from getting drafty.

Salina and the donkeys have the barn aisle plus two stalls, and I've left them two places they can look out if they like, but even so, Rafer Johnson is moping. He really dislikes this rainy, cold weather. I have tried to make things interesting by putting hay nets in two places, and hay piles in two more, and we had NPR on for awhile this morning, but of course what a donkey really wants is warm sunshine, an open field, and a nice dust spot to roll in.

Right now he has none of those.

I started Salina, Keil Bay, and Cody on a bit of alfalfa pellets in their dinner last night, and I am so happy to report they loved it. The animal fat smelled odd in the pellets we tried several months ago, and now that I am smelling the real pure thing, I understand why they blew and snorted and refused to eat the tainted ones.

I noticed yesterday that the Southern States alfalfa pellets label had alfalfa and soybean oil listed, but no animal fat, so perhaps they have gotten some feedback and changed the way they're making them.

I can hardly bear to mention the forecast we are looking at for later today. Depending on how things track, it appears this rain may change to sleet, and then later tonight snow. Right now they're saying an inch of sleet and up to 6 inches of snow!

As a child, or even a young adult, this news would have been cause for celebration, but now I view it from a different perspective, primarily, how it will affect my daily routine.

I have my February de-wormers ready and now will have to wait until we get through this rough weather. I don't like to de-worm the horses when it's too cold or we have adverse weather - I figure the stress on their systems is enough without adding more.

So that has to wait, and I'm focusing on keeping everyone happy and fed and hydrated and mucked out.

The crazy thing is that today we are looking at snow and a few nights of temps in the teens. Next weekend we will have temps in the 70s and sunshine again! Which is a good thing, but what a swing of the weather pendulum.

A good writer friend emailed that she planned to stay in this weekend, and read and write and relax. I think I'll make some tea, light a candle, and try to get on that wavelength!