Monday, February 28, 2011

Sheaffer Donkey reviews Jane's Transformation!

My dear friend Sheaffer has reviewed Jane's Transformation!  What a treat to get his hoof stamp of approval.


And of course, if you want to read the book itself, just click on the book cover on the sidebar to your right. Or do a search on Amazon.

Thank you, Sheaffer!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

wind and rain and pondering gardens

We've had a lovely week, although most days have been a little windy. The spring fever has continued, although I abandoned the urge to clear closets and went instead to the arena, thinking I might get it spruced up. The thought of potted flowers sitting on dressage markers fueled me for a while, but then suddenly the back field, now off limits to the equines, called.

I spent about 45 minutes setting up 5 jumps and a row of cavaletti. I put flowers on one jump, white buckets on another, and stuck pinwheels into my compost piles. It was a lot of fun. My daughter rode Cody back there to let him check everything out, and then the pony asked to go back as well when it was his turn to ride. Keil Bay left a full hay net in his stall to go back, and although I thought he might get excited and do a little running around, he was more interested in the subtle greening that is occurring across the ground of the entire property.

We're definitely moving from the bark-chewing dead of winter into early spring. The horses are no longer tempted by trees, but are constantly roaming the fields nibbling at the emerging shoots of grass. Just in the past two days when I look out the window, I'm seeing green instead of brown and tan.

Today we have warm weather, but instead of sunshine we're getting wind and rain. We can use the rain after this time of drying out. Horses will likely be hanging out in the barn and paddocks today, munching hay and watching. Although at 70 degrees I won't close off the front field. If they want to head out and nibble, they can.

It's a good day for me to work on planting seeds. Of all kinds. Vegetables, flowers, herbs, and also seeds for other things: ideas and books, dreams and wishes. If I could sketch right here on the blog, you'd see this:

A garden bed sprouting books, little loads of stone and screenings and sand, hand-knitted ponchos in jeweled colors, notes for songs I could suddenly read and play on the keyboard in the corner of our living room, hand-thrown plates and bowls and mugs, and plants full of little buds holding things like time, the kairos kind, that bloom only one bud a day, for the entire year, so that every single day is one very special flowering gift of between time, in which something magical and special happens.


When I went out to the barn the sun came out. Completely. I'm not sure what happened to the forecast, but after the perfect rain, in which the ground got a good soak but not enough to make mud, the sun has come out, the wind is blowing, and there is indeed a light sheen of green across the fields.

I discovered as I walked down the front hill that the horses and donkeys are sleeping right outside my bedroom windows, which makes me very happy. That's today's kairos bud opening into bloom.

Monday, February 21, 2011

could it be? spring fever?

The past week and a half I've been feeling the intense desire to look out the windows or at the landscape in front of me as I walk around outside and see GREEN. Lots and lots of lush, vibrant green. The excitement of seeing the earlier signs of spring, bulbs pushing up, the spring-blooming redbuds and dogwoods budding ( but not yet blooming), Salina shedding, equines chewing on trees, and the Mystical Kit losing his winter mane mats, are giving over to a cell-deep feeling of impatience and agitation.

I've been walking around overwhelmed with all the things that need doing this time of year. Getting fields and beds cleared and groomed. Keeping track of equines who are shedding and not yet shedding and getting white butt cheeks on warm days. Seeing all the maintenance chores that need to be done in a "new light." Starting seeds. Moving the indoor plants out to the front porch for the spring/summer.

For me, the surest sign that I am managing an acute case of spring fever is when I start feeling driven to do things like clean closets. Usually it just takes one or two to cure me, but this year I have so many other things going on: books to promote and write, a young Corgi who is so furry I am realizing we are probably going to have to have him clipped for summer (he is what is called a "fluffy" Corgi - and we were not prepared for this level of coat care - I've never seen anything like it), monitoring all the different needs of all the animals in the family, getting the sandplay garret back into gear for new clients, etc., etc.

This weekend I found myself washing window sills and curtains in the living room. It's only a step away from that to closets, but instead, this beautiful morning, I'm going to feed breakfast and listen to birds and muck some manure.

Interestingly, our drying out and warming up and getting a large dose of wind, all the things I hoped for a month ago, have put us in the middle of a huge threat of wildfires. There are numerous fires burning in our region, and each day for the past four or five days there are tallies of how many more fires have started. So now the mud is gone, but I'm watching for sparks, and smoke, and hoping we get a day of rain to wet things down a bit.

But Saturday I saw the first butterfly, and although I haven't seen one yet, I suspect the carpenter bees are next line. There's something about waiting for the next season to fully arrive that pulls us forward. Keeps us watching and waiting and going.

It amazes me that the things we dislike about each season are the same things that make us look forward to the next one. It's a cycle, and it's how we mark time in our lives, outside of clocks and watches and appointments and places we have to be and things we have to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

we have a birthday today!

And later I will get a birthday portrait. But for now, let me wish the happiest of birthdays to Redford Donkey.

He is three years old! And spent yesterday evening chasing a very wild Bear Corgi all over the front field. Which gives you an idea of the personality of young Redford. What do you do when a wild at heart young herding dog escapes and runs huge circles in your territory?

You herd HIM, of course!

I was most impressed that Redford, although indicating clearly that he was in charge, and that this wild running of circles was not acceptable, did not in fact go at Bear with the intention of stomping him to death.

Keil Bay looked on with amusement and the pony headed out to take up the call of duty should Redford need back-up.

It was probably good we'd had a day so warm every equine had white butt cheeks by 3 p.m.! They indeed came in to the barn for cool wet hay and fans. So were not quite in the mood to go into wild herd antics over a Little Bear. (actually now grown into a Big Bear)

Happy Birthday, dear Redford! We know our farm is safe with you in charge. (and we are glad you have that 750 lb. pony backing you up!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

and the fog has lifted...

I had an eye exam yesterday afternoon and pupils dilated, which resulted in a foggy sunset and evening. Then woke up this a.m. and when I opened the blinds the world was foggy - real fog though!

Now, as the sun has come out and burned the fog away, my pupils are back to normal, all the fog, both induced and actual, is gone, and we are looking at the possibility of an 80 degree day.

Which is kind of crazy, given that it is February and horses have full winter coats! I am thinking maybe I need to turn the fans on for them this afternoon!

Right now I have a Corgi Bear and a Wickens cat in full-blown playfare in the kitchen, a house that needs vacuuming, and morning chores to do. But even the possibility of such a warm day is also triggering a touch of spring fever.

Wouldn't it be fun to pack up this whole menagerie and head for the beach?

A private, safe, perfectly contained beach where they could all run wild while I sat in a chair and listened to the sea.

The fans in the barn have a slightly oceanic sound, so this afternoon I might be out there, sitting in a chair, eyes closed, transported.

Happy Friday and happy weekend!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jane and the Magical Pony School are cantering up the rankings!

As of earlier today, The Magical Pony School: Jane's Transformation hit #8 in its Kindle category and #41 in its category overall! 

I'm so grateful to those of you who have already bought it - don't forget to review the book on Amazon if you enjoy the read, and keep passing the word. This is so exciting for me.

It is time to take a writing retreat and get my first draft of Book Two: Fiona and the Waterhorse!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Treasures

Tonight while my son was in class, I wandered back to the free book cart to see what might be there. Thus far, there haven't been any books of interest, particularly when I am focused on clearing, not collecting. But tonight there was a treasure:

A translation of Alois Podhajsky's The White Stallions of Vienna. Although the dust cover was torn, the photos inside are perfect, and include many whole page photographs as well as photos that were hand-tipped by the printer.

I couldn't quite believe it, but here it is, in my bedroom, where I've been sitting and enjoying the many photos of the white stallions.

What a treat!

I also found my camera on my desk with two videos of a painted pony. Alas, the battery was 1 minute from dead so it has to recharge before I can even think of uploading. 

Other great scenes this week:

A red-tail hawk flying in huge circles over the barn and paddock and then the back field.

A very naughty Corgi with husband's on-call smart phone in his mouth, running in circles in the back yard. (with a very annoyed husband chasing him)

A determined Salina with ears pinned backing her butt down the barn aisle to let Cody and the pony know they were not to come through. (always fun to see a near-1200 lb. QH spin and leave the scene when that big black mare is telling him to move it! not to mention the pony assessing whether or not he has room and time to dash past her without getting nailed - he didn't, today)

I read today that we could have 80 degrees here by week's end. Here come the flies! And I don't even care. I'll wait 'til July to complain about that!

Monday, February 14, 2011

oh, happy days! donkeys and dust circles

It's been so wet and so mushy here for so many weeks... but finally, after some sunshine and temps above 60, with a little wind to help with drying things out, I noticed yesterday that Rafer Johnson and Redford have been able to construct not one but two dust circles in the back field!

In case I missed it, Redford followed me out the back trail with the muck barrow and rolled in one of them while I stood and watched. It amazes me how the circles are so perfect in form, and how fine and soft the dust gets after only a day or two of donkey rolling.

The perfect texture for maintaining a donkey's coat, and also creating a lovely little dust cloud that can only mean one thing: there's a donkey in full roll!

Between Salina shedding, donkey dust circles, and sunshine, we are having a lovely start to what looks like a beautiful week here on November Hill.


And over the weekend, book one in my Magical Pony School series, Jane's Transformation, was in the top 100 titles in its category on Amazon both Saturday and Sunday! It has slipped down some today but hopefully it will sell some more and climb back up. The top 100 titles tend to get more attention, so I'm hoping it hits that magic number again and eventually stays there awhile.

I appreciate any and all support from readers here in helping get the word out about this series. While I feel the same way about my adult fiction, these magical pony school novels are very special to me and I really want them to do well out in the world.

Over the next month or so I'll begin some focused marketing, which includes getting myself Skype savvy so I can make myself available to book and reading groups. Keep me in mind if you'd like your group to read a book and have the author visit via Skype for a discussion. I love to talk as much as I love to write! :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

ups and downs on Friday

While the horses were finishing their feed tubs this morning, I invited the pony to join me in the arena. He looked interested until I started trotting down center line, and he decided to leave the open gate just in case I got more serious about him joining me. A little bit of a down.

But Rafer Johnson came in and stopped by the mounting block, waiting, just like he might if he were tacked up and I was getting ready to mount.  I walked over and sat down on the block, and told him I'm sorry I'm too big to ride him, because I bet it would be a very nice ride.

Instead, we had one of Rafer's "love bug" sessions, where he lays his head in my lap, on my shoulder, and in my hand, and puts his very quiet eye by mine so we can gaze as he gets his neck and ear and face scratches.

That was definitely an up. I moved on after a little while to let Keil Bay out. Keil rubbed his nose across my hand and headed out to the water trough, and as I put his feed tub out to be licked and then rinsed, I noticed my hand was covered (well, not totally) with bright red blood!

I followed Keil Bay out to the back field, where I quickly realized he had blood inside his nostril. It wasn't dripping out - it was up in the curved area - but each time I wiped, blood came back. I walked up to the barn, mostly to give myself time to think. When something isn't right with Keil Bay, I get more upset than when something is off with the other horses. Which, if you know how upset I get about *them* means I'm pretty upset when Keil Bay has any problem at all.

I decided to check out his stall, in the manger where he'd eaten breakfast, and look at the feed tub to see if I could find any blood. There wasn't any, but I realized when looking at his tub (it's one of those meant to be put into the corner of a stall) that as much as he tends to bang it around when done eating, inside the manger, that edge might have poked up into his nostril and scratched him.

So I went back out to the field and sure enough, when I wiped his nostril out again, a clotted string of blood came out and when I angled him toward the sunshine I could see the white scratch. Whew!

Fortunately I did not take the time to come inside and start googling nosebleeds in horses - there is no telling where a little information and my imagination might have taken me.

That was a down and then a very sharp up.

I had some business chores that needed to be done today and although they weren't truly terrible it was a down to have to do them on such a beautiful day. So, a mild dip down again.

This afternoon was mostly up. I took a look at the full muck barrow, decided to HELL with chores, and proceeded to groom and ride Keil Bay. We had a very nice ride, with him very much in front of my leg, and although we mostly did walk and "big walk," the little bit of trotting we did was truly lovely. We did some shoulder-in, turns on forehands and haunches, and broke all that up with very big, stretchy walks across the diagonals.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I love Keil Bay. He is absolutely and without question the horse for me. And that is the biggest up of all.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

observations and lessons from the herd

This morning I was out in the back field with the horses and the donkeys. We have Keil Bay, who is the acknowledged herd leader; Salina, the only mare and the boss mare; Apache Moon, the pony, who seems to always be on the move to move up in the herd; Cody, who is the lowest status herd member in most ways but a very good friend to Keil Bay and also showing a few signs of moving up in status lately; Rafer Johnson, our miniature donkey who seems almost neutral in his status (he seems to enjoy the benefits of higher status but at the same time doesn't push anyone around); and Redford, miniature donkey with what I would call Total Spunk.

After breakfast tubs the equines filed out to the back field where their hay piles were spread in a long swath. The three horse geldings clustered closely together to eat, while Salina and her donkey guardians went further down and spread out a little.

I was in and out between the two groupings, moving the muck barrow and generally just enjoying the sunshine. It was a quiet, peaceful time.

Suddenly, out of the blue, the pony charged Cody with no warning, moving Cody away from that area of hay. The sounds of the scuffle were loud and intense, but I noticed that Keil Bay, who was right in the midst of all that movement, didn't even lift his head from eating hay. The donkeys looked, much further away, but Salina didn't lift her head either.

Keil Bay gave enough time for things to settle down, i.e. Cody resumed eating hay in a new location, and the pony resumed eating the hay he'd moved Cody off of, and at that point Keil Bay sauntered over, very quietly and with absolutely no fanfare, and moved the pony off the hay he'd just stolen from Cody.

We read and hear a lot about ourselves as humans becoming the "herd leader" for our horses. And although to some degree I think we are in that role, and should always feel our personal space is being respected, I like to think of myself as the kind, easy-going, benevolent leader that I see in Keil Bay. He didn't try to surprise the pony - he lifted his head, looked at the pony, and then casually walked over. His ears were not back at all, he didn't flag with his head, and there was absolutely nothing but good will in his demeanor. However, somewhere in his demeanor there was the message: move away. But the communication was done quietly, with no malice or harshness, and with a very quiet confidence.

The most interesting thing happened next: the pony went and joined Cody, making it very clear as he approached that this time he was NOT trying to take over, but simply wanted to be close and eat hay side by side. This even though there was more than enough hay and more than enough space to steer completely clear of any other equine.

By that time I had moved up to clean the water tub, and the pony decided it was time for a drink. He walked up and in every way revealed himself to be a pony with only good will in mind. He drank for a long time, periodically lifting his head to stand with me (I was filling as he drank) and when Rafer Johnson approached the tub made no claim on the space at all.

Then, Salina decided SHE wanted a drink, and my expectation was that she would approach and flag the pony away. But she decided to take the much longer walk to the main tub in the paddock, leaving Apache free to finish his drink. She was immediately flanked by her donkey boys, who accompanied her to the big tub and stood with her while she had her drink. On the way back out to the field, they went ahead of her, showing her that if she walked along the edge of the very muddy paddock, the footing was firm and easier to manage. She followed right behind them.

This morning's observations came on the heels of my reading a thread about dressage riders and the "volume" of the aids. I've realized over the past six years that every equine here responds best to quiet aids, both on the ground and in the saddle. But the surprising thing is that the "loudest" equines seem to truly need the quiet aids to form a partnership. The tendency is so often to get louder than they are - and I'm thinking specifically of the pony here, but what works the best is to get very very quiet.

Today I saw Keil Bay do that very thing, and in one graceful and well-timed move, he seemed to set ripples of peace and good will through the entire herd. There's no question in my mind that we humans have so much to learn from our horses.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Magical Pony School, Book One: Jane's Transformation

It's finally here!  The first book in my middle grade fiction series is up on Amazon as an e-book - you can see the cover and click over to Amazon from the sidebar to your right.

The product description is not up yet - that usually takes a little longer to go up, but I'll give it to you here.

Jane loves ponies and riding, and after a lesson one day in which she rides a circle and suddenly feels total harmony with her sometimes difficult pony, she goes home to discover that she has been invited to attend the Magical Pony School. The book opens as Jane and her fellow first-year students are getting ready for the Winter Solstice ceremony - a very special event at the Magical Pony School.

Things don't quite go as planned - and Jane soon finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime, where she encounters wild pigs, shapeshifting creatures, bugganes, dwarves, an odd bitter woman, and finally, a black mare with one eye and two donkey guardians who lead her to the most important part of her journey: saying goodbye to her father and letting go of the need to be perfect.

The Magical Pony School series is a good read-aloud for younger children, an "advanced" chapter book for early middle graders, a quick read for older middle graders or avid readers, and will appeal to both girls and boys - there is magic, adventure, and a fair amount of Celtic lore. For readers who ride, there is classical riding and a focus on partnership, not domination, over our equine friends.

This is also likely to be one of those books horsey moms and grandmoms will enjoy.

Fiona and the Waterhorse, book two in the series, should be out before summer.

If you read this and enjoy it, I encourage you to review it, talk about it, and spread the word!

Monday, February 07, 2011

nearly a week without a post? unprecedented!

Well, except for when I go on hiatus.

It's just been really busy here. Cody is completely recovered from his abscess. We had a ton of rain. The local weather station posted a story that our area is still in severe drought. I invite anyone needing water to come siphon off our excess.

Friday the wonderful H. came to massage Salina, with even better response this time. Although we were having light rain that morning, I put the geldings out of their stalls and opened up the arena so they could experience footing without mud. Within minutes the three of them were trotting and cantering around, including Cody. Keil Bay looked ready for at least a second level test. Meanwhile Salina nuzzled my hand with her lips and alternated between closing her eye and chewing as H worked. Rafer Johnson was highly indignant that while he earns the massage money, someone else gets the massage!

And this was writing group weekend. D. arrived and we hit the ground running. On Saturday we went into town and ended up discovering a steampunk gallery and coffee house that has been there for 9 months and I didn't even know it!  The young woman who owns and runs it turns out to be a home schooler who moved down here and is following her dream. And while I know not very much at all about the steampunk genre, I admit I was intrigued by the artwork and the toys and the ambiance.

Even with all the exploring we did on Saturday, the weekend was wildly productive. I finished my final edit on The Magical Pony School: Jane's Transformation. It's the first book in my middle grade series, and at any moment it will be available on Amazon!

I'll do a big announcement when it's live there, but for now, I'm just thrilled that this book is so close to being out in the world. A secret: although it's aimed at early middle grade, I suspect moms and grandmoms of middle graders and younger pony girls and boys might also enjoy the story.... :)

We're back in the 50s as we begin the week and once again I am in hopes of major drying out happening. Between grooming the mud and walking in it, I am just plain tired of soggy, wet earth. The donkeys have nowhere to take their dust baths, and I think even the most deeply-rooted trees have had their fill.

And that is all I can say because I swore after seeing some fellow bloggers' photos recently that I would never complain again!

I hope we all start the sweet shift to spring, soon.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

finally - some progress!

We left the hoof alone yesterday - and I switched to my other homeopathic "abscess" remedy yesterday afternoon since the first one didn't seem to be acting. This morning things with Cody were holding steady, but by mid-day I noticed he was not moving as much as he had been. I picked the hoof and flushed it with hot epsom salt water, and gave him another dose of the new remedy. Within moments he began to act very strangely - licking the arena footing, pawing with the off hoof, and then simply refusing to move.

I got his halter and lead rope and brought him into the grassy barnyard, and although he really didn't want to move, he walked out with me. But then resumed the licking on the grass! He was also jerking his hoof up periodically, as though it was hurting him. And then he seemed a bit wobbly. I gave him water, and he took a long drink. I'm really not sure what was going on - I came inside and called husband and we talked it through while I watched Cody from the back deck. After only a few minutes he stopped the licking, dropped a nice, normal pile of manure, and turned himself to face me!

I went back out and did some chores, keeping an eye on him. He was not moving as much still but had stopped the odd licking and jerking and went back to eating hay. In retrospect, I think the remedy might have "kicked in" - I usually give 3 doses total and sometimes the action doesn't start with the first dose. I've had the human equivalent of an abscess before and was given this same remedy - within minutes of taking it, I could feel the infection drawing tighter and getting more painful, and with the second dose, the "abscess" burst. Cody is fairly sensitive to physical things - although laid back in many ways. I wonder if today's dose, the second, triggered a drawing action that just plain felt weird.

In any case, late this afternoon he asked to go out with his herd and since I was out mucking I decided to trust his judgment. He walked carefully to the back field and stood with his best buddies, relaxing and clearly feeling good about being with them again. I decided to go ahead and give the third dose before I had to leave to take son to his class. Only a few minutes after we left, my husband called to say that the abscess had opened and was draining, and that Cody was moving almost normally again.

Thank goodness!