Thursday, September 29, 2011

Somehow I suspect Sheaffer is behind this!!


Use comment section for write-in votes. :)  And go visit Sheaffer's blog to read his many wonderful blog posts about everything you can imagine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

chiro notes september 2011

We had our wonderful equine chiropractor here today. Keil Bay was up first, as I knew he was going to be fussy if he had to wait. He LOVES the chiropractor!

I also knew after a few skirmishes with the pony this past month that Keil probably had some issues. His panther walk has been slightly less swingy. He settled in and waited for her to start. I was right. His hind end was a mess. The mess extended up into the lumbar region, then things were clear up to his neck and atlas, which was also a mess.

Fortunately Dr. E. knows her stuff and she got many goo-goo eyed looks from the Big Bay as she worked. Every time she put something back into correct alignment, he turned his head completely around and rolled his eyeballs around at her. It's a look of pure bliss and gratitude.

He was panthering around not too long after she finished.

Cody went next. I wasn't sure if he really needed it or not, because unlike Keil Bay, Cody is not very attuned to his body. He sometimes looks like things are okay when in fact they aren't. We erred on the side of caution today and she found only two minor things with him. I'm happy - with his muscle issues I always worry a little. He's been looking pretty good to me this month so it was nice to have this check to back that up.

The pony then had his turn. Apache Moon is incredibly flexible and limber. He spends some time every single day stretching his body out like a dancer. He does the deep down dog positions, stretches each hind leg out behind him in turn, and does neck stretches on his own, no carrot needed. But even limber ponies can get out of whack, so he got his turn with Dr. E. He had two things - both significant - and he visibly released as she adjusted them. I knew after she left he had really needed the work because he came up to me in the paddock and licked my hand, then lowered his head and chewed. He can be a Thelwell but he always says thank you when we know something is wrong and we help get it fixed.

Last for today was Redford Donkey. This was his first chiropractic adjustment and I wish I had photos of his time with Dr. E. He walked in like a prince with his purple halter and lead rope. He stood quietly as she checked him out. He had a couple of things that needed work and although he had no idea what was coming, he was a total pro about it! He was so cute standing in the barn aisle, having his turn just like one of the big boys.

Salina and Rafer will get their turns next visit, and at least one Corgi.

Now if only I hadn't had to cancel MY chiro yesterday afternoon!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

hodge-podge of a week here on November Hill

I kept thinking things would settle down and I could write a focused blog post, but each time one thing resolved, a new one popped up to grab my attention and my energy.

It's been a busy month on November Hill.

I'm not sure I've mentioned here that we have been doing research on family milk cows. I'm following the writings and research of Weston A. Price these days. I cut all processed sugar and white flour from my diet and have been pleased with the results. The first week was hard. I started craving desserts like crazy, and it can be challenging to use anything that isn't made from scratch. The evil "high fructose corn syrup" seems to be in everything!

It's gotten easier. I've made my own salad dressings as well as mayo, and we've been enjoying lots of good locally grown/raised fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, and cheeses.

The one thing we haven't been able to get locally is raw milk. Thus the family milk cow research.

As things seem to happen, when I start thinking about something, it tends to present itself. Outside my daughter's art class I met a mom and dairy farmer who just happened to have a Dexter cow in milk. Her name is Raspberry. She sounded perfect for us, and we were readying to go learn to milk, taste her milk, and then assuming all went well, to bring her to November Hill.

About that time the dominoes started toppling. Salina had been acting a bit iffy with one hind hoof. I wasn't sure if she'd pulled something, if another abscess might be brewing (she's only ever had one in a hind hoof), or if other things were going on with her.

Muffine Eloise, the princess puff feline, has had a rough summer with flea allergies and suddenly I noticed she was in the litter box a LOT. It's been many years since I had a cat with urinary issues, so I needed to research that issue anew.

Salina went pretty much 3-legged lame.

On Thursday I became convinced that it was time to think about helping her go. As is my usual routine, I asked her about it. She pinned her ears at me! I couldn't stand seeing her so lethargic and clearly not wanting to move. We'd done one round of abscess treatment. It hadn't worked.

We did round two. Husband felt strongly it was an abscess.

Meanwhile I had Muffine Eloise and in fact all five felines on a new food routine that gives them two half-hour eating times a day. They are used to free choice and I don't know if you've ever lived with five cats all wanting food at one time, but whoa! They all seemed to be starving. Both teens expressed concerns that the cats might actually leave home. I had an image of five felines with little suitcases marching up our lane.

Yesterday morning I woke up stiff and sore. I haven't felt that way in over a month, thanks to the new "diet" and the fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter I'm taking. I've also been doing lots of stretching in bed before I get up in the mornings.

Yesterday, I decided to do some EFT tapping. I tapped and tapped, thinking of muscles releasing tension and soreness. My mind was also on Salina, and what might be waiting at the barn. I had given myself a window. If she weren't better by Monday, we would need to resume the conversation about what to do next for her.

Husband went out to give morning hay and I got up. I looked out the kitchen window and saw him leading Salina around the arena. She was doing a big, bold, incredible walk. I went out on the back deck and called to them. The abscess had burst.

Muffine Eloise is 100% better. A homeopathic remedy and changing from free choice dry food to two feeds a day have relieved her issue.

It seemed clear to me this past week that taking on a milk cow, as much as I want to do it, is not in the cards right now. So that plan is on the back burner. But we have a mare who is walking again, a cat who is only using the litter box the normal number of times a day, and we have trees beginning to change color for fall.

(We also have black ants coming inside and fire ant mounds rising from the earth but you know, if there has to be something to manage, I'll take that over urinary issues and abscesses!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the wisdom of donkeys

Yesterday afternoon I had a wheelbarrow of hay sitting in the barn aisle. Salina set herself up to eat straight from the barrow, one of her favorite ways to eat hay. She was soon joined by the handsome Rafer Johnson.

For those that don't know, Salina has one eye, the one on her left. Rafer was eating on that side. Salina was a big grumpy because she has another abscess (big sigh) brewing and she uncharacteristically sniped at Rafer when he reached in to take a bite of hay.

Rafer stood there for a moment and respected her limit. Then very slowly, he walked around her to the other side, her blind side, and began to eat the small pile of hay she had dropped. Every time she took a big mouthful from the barrow, she tossed more right in Rafer's reach.

I had to smile. There was no drama and he got exactly what he wanted.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

300 donkeys in Texas need your help!

GO HERE for more information and a link to sign the petition.

Rafer Johnson and Redford hope you'll take the time to click, read, and sign.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the swimming pool dreams

Time for one of my infrequent dream blog posts!

Many years ago when I was nearing the end of a very intensive psychotherapy, I had a dream that I was in a swimming pool trying to swim. I couldn't do it. I kept going under. The emotional aura of the dream was vivid and real - I was truly in that pool, submerged in water that was deep and scary, and at some point I grabbed the side of the pool and refused to let go.

My therapist was also in the dream. He was sitting on the edge of the pool, talking to me about letting go, and that one could not swim without turning loose of that rounded, concrete edge, which was my safety net. I was gripping it with both hands.

I kept describing how I would go under if I turned loose. He got in the pool and showed me that he could stay afloat without holding on. He could dog paddle in place, or he could swim around to different parts of the pool. He pointed out that there was no way to learn to swim at all while holding on. That in order to swim, you had to let go. And in order to let go you had to trust.

Eventually I worked my way to revealing that I did not trust him to help me if I went under. I didn't trust myself to do what I needed to do to stay afloat.

The dream seemed timeless. We went on and on with this discussion. Finally, he convinced me he was trustworthy and that he believed I could do what I needed to if I would "let go."

The dream ended when I did let go, and he held me up for a moment as I found my arms and legs and began to swim.

It was an incredibly healing dream that represented in just one night's dream time what I had struggled with for several years. It was a turning point in my life, and was part of what pushed me to want to go to graduate school and become a therapist myself.

Over the years since that time I've had more swimming pool dreams. They always involve my unconscious processing something that relates to my psychological growth.

A few weeks ago I had a swimming pool dream that involved a trauma that happened a long, long time ago. It's been "resolved" in my mind for many years, but in this recent dream, a sort of final resolution happened - in a swimming pool.

Last night I had yet another swimming pool dream. In this one I was taking care of a little girl. She knew how to swim, and was bold and brave, but she still needed supervision in deep water. We were in a huge expanse of water that had been corralled in from a river, into a huge "swimming pool." The water was not clear - it was clean, but it was dark.

There were lanes, and there was a large open area. We chose to stay in the open area, outside the lanes where other adults were swimming vigorously back and forth.

The little girl immediately swam out in a straight line toward the middle of the water. I was behind her, swimming along but not helping - just being there in case she needed me.

At some point in the dream I wondered what would happen if I got tired, or had a muscle cramp. I started worrying about my ability to keep up with her. We got out of the pool and I went and got a pure white, very elegant and minimalist "skiff" - it was long like a kayak but it was nearly flat with a small curve - almost ethereal in substance. It floated/glimmered along beside us as we headed back to the water, and was there beside us as we swam again, just in case we needed it.

Later in the dream, I worried about one of us getting sick. As we swam back toward the edge, a priest walked up and offered me a microscope slide. It was square, and larger than the usual ones. He had prepared a purple flower on the slide, and said it would heal us if we ever needed it, and that if I wanted to study it more, I could use a microscope to see the smaller details.

I took the slide and put it somewhere safe for later, and we went back to swimming.

It seems fairly obvious that the little girl is me, and the woman is me, and I am processing the middle stage of life, looking back, looking forward, and finding resources for my Self. I love that the priest was benign in the dream - not affiliated with any one religion, not omnipresent. He came only when needed with a remedy, but also gave me the instructions to do my own further study.

It's difficult to describe the emotional ambiance of dreams in words, but this one was soft, and vivid, and very satisfying.  The water was big and deep, fed by a rushing river, so it had the energy of the natural world but the relative safety of being stilled by the structure of the "pool."

There were other swimmers there, presumably processing their own life stages. In a way it was like being literally in the midst of the collective unconscious!

I confess I am fascinated by these watery dreams. If I had more hours in the day, and lived simultaneously in another dimension, I'd want to do research to study the kinds of dreams people have and how they process similar life events and stages.

Friday, September 16, 2011

lessons in riding, 9: the back-up ride

Monday afternoon sometime a big oak stall board got broken on the geldings' side, and then on Tuesday, Keil Bay kicked his stall door and broke the latch. He was fine just prior to kicking the stall door, but somehow in his annoyance with the pony (who I am sure was behind the stall board too) Keil must have pulled something. He had a visible limp for about 15 minutes and then began to move w/o limping but was walking with what I call "caution" for about 12 hours. Now he is walking normally but now and then has a funky step.

I've given him arnica (the day it happened) and now ruta grava, and I've been keeping him with Salina and the donkeys so he doesn't have to deal with the pony being such a persistent pain in the ... I guess in this case, leg.

Today Keil is moving with more of his usual saunter, so I think we're nearly back to normal. Today we are also having a wonderful prelude to autumn. It's 58 degrees and although cloudy, not rainy, so although I am sorry I couldn't tack up Keil Bay for a non-sweat ride, I'm happy there is a back-up. Cody.

I did a really long warm-up with Cody, using the entire arena, then doing serpentines, and changing directions frequently. He went from a short stride to a nice long stride, and once that happened I plugged in some leg yielding, shoulder-in, and a few small circles.

When he was really stretched and moving out, we did some trotting. The wind was gusting a bit today and the hay tent was flapping wildly at times, since I had opened the front flap to air it out before the new round bale goes in.

Cody was doing a little snorting but his desire to please generally overrides his fear so all he needed was a pat and a refocusing to get back to his task at hand.

We did a fair amount of trotting. Although I love Keil Bay's big trot with lots of suspension, I have come to enjoy Cody's trot too. It's a smaller trot, but if he's warmed up well and encouraged it's possible to build up his trot and engage his power mode. The difference is he is very much more sensitive than Keil and he is much easier to steer since he is not quite so big.

We had a nice ride. I am not fond of the dressage saddle I have for Cody and realized I should put my sheepskin seat saver on it - that will help! It felt good to be in the saddle. It's also good when the back-up ride is different, but equally wonderful, as the "main" one.

This afternoon the donkeys and the pony are in the front field while Keil Bay, Salina, and Cody graze the front yard. It's nice to see them out with no worries about flies or the heat.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

trim notes september 2011

Today my son and I had trim lessons. We learned how to balance the heels, how to assess the sole, white line, and wall, how to address flaring, and we actually did the 3-week touching up on both the pony and Keil Bay.

The pony was not exactly thrilled that we were rasping and trimming his hooves. He was a handful for the front feet, rearing (a very controlled rear, more like a levade in hand than anything else) several times. I have no idea where this behavior came from, but it finally occurred to me he needed some in-hand work to get him focused and he was perfectly, and I do mean perfectly, behaved on the lead line as we took a few turns around the barnyard, walking, trotting, backing, halting, yielding, etc. Interestingly enough, after that bit of work, the hind feet were very easy and he was very well-behaved.

Keil Bay was his usual self. He took his hoof away a few times, bobbed his head a little, searched everyone for horse cookies, and fell asleep.

We stopped at two because that's honestly all I could do, even taking turns with my son. Our teacher/trimmer did lots of sketches for us along the way, and answered questions with terrific examples and explanations. We're fortunate to have not only a good trimmer but a wonderful teacher who is glad we want to learn and is happy to get down on the dusty barn aisle floor and guide us through the process.

I have some rasp marks on my left hand. I'm not sure what I did that made these, but they're like hash marks that barely break the skin. I wore gloves! I also must have held the rasp under my arm at one point and whipped it out too quickly - there's a 3-inch swath of rasp markings on the inside of my right bicep.

We'll do Cody on Friday and at least one donkey, and will probably leave Salina to her regular 6-week trims for now. With her arthritis she doesn't need us fiddling with her hooves - maybe when we get better at it.

It takes some strength, but more than that it takes dexterity with the tools. My son is much much better than I am already, since he has used rasps before in his woodworking and seems less nervous about making mistakes. He's careful, and very focused, but more willing to try what he's been shown.

This evening the pony gave a riding lesson and was the king of good ponies. I was surprised at his anxiety earlier in the day when putting his very healthy hooves into our novice hands. Although on some level I don't blame him at all!

I'm looking forward to the day when I can do this with even a modicum of confidence. But until then I'm excited to be learning more about the hooves and trying a new set of skills.

Friday, September 09, 2011

lessons in riding, 8: infinity

This morning someone sent me THIS LINK - it shows a keeper saying goodbye to his long-time elephant friend, and her incredible reunion with an elephant she knew from 20+ years ago. It also reveals the relationships humans can have with animals, as well as what we take away from them when we remove them from their natural families and environments.

I was in tears only a few seconds into the video. And I'm sure no one will be surprised when I point out that the same is true of horses and donkeys. They form attachments, have complex relationships, and it matters to them when those are broken by humans buying and selling and not always considering what it means to them to be shifted around that way.

The day got crazy and I had ten different errands to run and things to do. I started feeling a bit frenzied, like I wasn't all the way in my body any more. Around 6:30 this evening I decided it was in my best interest to go out and see if Keil Bay was up for a ride. 

When I got to the barn he was in the back field, out of sight down the hill. I called out his name and instantly his handsome head popped up. "Come in and let's have a ride," I called out, and he picked up a big bold walk and in about a minute was at the gate to the barnyard, ready to oblige.

I knew I needed to get moving and groom quickly so I could get into the arena before it got dark. I often get lost in the grooming, and we enjoy that, so it's not a bad thing, but today I really needed to ride. Keil cooperated by lifting each hoof for cleaning before I even got to it. He craned around when I sang a song about the two of us dancing to the classical music on the radio. He was ready to go, just as much as I was.

In the arena I hopped on. There was no time to waste fidgeting with the mounting block. And then I was in the saddle. My feet found the stirrups and almost that quickly, I was grounded. 

All the frenzy drained right out through the heels of my boots. I noticed a couple of huge horse flies swooping and warned them off. They left. We proceeded with a very relaxed walk. I had no desire to "train" or "work." I just wanted to find that nice place Keil Bay is so good at taking me to - where my inadequacies as a rider melt away and our shared crookednesses don't matter one bit.

The dressage markers are still stacked in one corner of the arena from my pre-hurricane prep, so we used the entire arena initially and just walked. Relaxed walk, with changes of direction across the diagonals, stretching and moving.

A small herd of deer emerged from the forest in our neighbor's yard, in full view, close to where the pony and Cody were grazing. Keil Bay looked and peered and then we turned the corner and he forgot they were there.

We gradually picked up the walk and moved in to the actual dressage "rectangle." We did a little leg yielding but mostly I wanted us to walk and get into a nice rhythm, as if we were on a stroll. I alternated between taking a little contact and going to the buckle, and in about 15 minutes Keil responded to the slightest touch of my legs with a trot. 

About that time a V of geese flew right over us, low, so that we could not only hear the honking but heard the wings as well. I thought of Wendell Berry's poem. Quiet in heart and in eye clear. What we need is here.

Keil Bay let me know he was warmed up by becoming perfectly responsive to my legs. I only had to think of touching him with them and he went into his signature trot, on the bit, powerful, but very controlled. I sat. I didn't bounce. My feet hung almost weightless in the stirrups.

The moon is waxing and gibbous and it rose up over the tree line by the A end of the arena. Each time we came around I felt its luminance.

We moved into a very small bit of work on the 20m circle. And then we went out again, on the buckle, happy, in near darkness lit by the arena light and the nearly full moon, grounded.

In the barn Keil Bay stood in the doorway of the tack room and waited while I took off his bridle and his saddle. He was perfectly patient as I took off my helmet and put the whip away. He took his alfalfa pellets and his oats and lifted his hooves one by one on cue so I could check them. He stood while I brushed him down. 

And even when we were done, and he was free to go, had been all along, he stood. We had our moment of stillness together and then I opened the barn doors so he could join Salina and the donkeys in the grass paddock. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

september already? a few tidbits from August

Hard to believe it's already September and my hiatus from the internet is over. I admit, about two weeks in I started wondering why I would even come back. There is so much to do on November Hill on any given day I had no real time to miss blogging or Facebooking.

But a few things pulled me back and here I am.

In August we had an earthquake, the outer edge of a hurricane, a number of severe thunderstorms that involved many very close lightning strikes, more heat, and finally a cooling down.

We enjoyed the mourning dove couple's two dovelings who are now adolescents. The four of them hang out in the same areas each day and it's always a treat to see a new generation of birds come into their own.

The fall spiders are here and for the first time ever, one made it into the house and built a big beautiful web by a window. It relocated to the kitchen counter right by the stove, and then my husband relocated it to the back deck.

The charm of goldfinches have entertained me more than usual this year. They fuss when a storm rolls in. Even as lightning is striking and thunder is booming, they sit in the sweetgum tree and fuss fuss fuss. They fuss at the cats sitting on the front porch. Yesterday Muffine Eloise was on the porch rail lounging and at least six goldfinches were in the dogwood tree in full glory chattering away at her.

One evening when the sky grew dark and thunder/rain rolled in, I looked on the front porch and spotted a huge praying mantis standing on the porch rail, looking out over the front field, watching the storm.

We plugged in one of those Feliway gadgets upstairs and so far I am noticing the sisters laying serenely at the top of the stairs. I'm not sure what else it might be doing, but we had a cat marking war going on up there and I decided to give this a try. We'll see.

Out at the barn we had a very interesting incident that I'll be incorporating into my book. As soon as I do, I'll share that chapter here. As usual my equine herd keep me busy with all they have to teach and share.

The pony now has three young beginning riders coming each week and I was surprised by how much he seems to enjoy it. He has been the best pony ever, again, with each one. Cody has one rider coming once a week and I am completely impressed with his demeanor and the care he takes in his work. None of this crew have ever been used as "school" horses and I wasn't sure how this experiment would go. I'm proud that their trust and goodwill extends to young and beginning riders. And I'm thrilled the pony is having such a blast being an ambassador to a new generation of pony girls and boys.

Keil Bay took a turn yesterday and although he behaved with complete restraint, I was given the evil eye on and off the entire time. He clearly has no desire to teach anyone anything at this point in his life, and after slugging around quite literally glaring at me out of the corner of his eye, I hopped on when the rider left and he proceeded to do a quite lovely job of walk, trot, shoulder-in, leg yield, turns on the forehand, etc. His message was pretty clear.

We've done a few upgrades this past month. We brought in a small load of stone and bedded the hay tent. We replaced the very old and ugly electric fence tape at one end of the arena (we keep the tape there so we can take it down if needed to get big trucks in and out) - we decided to match the brown HorseGuard tape we have on most of the farm but instead of wood posts we covered the metal ones with their nifty brown covers. The end result is quite nice and we'll be continuing that in a few other places on the farm.

I have compost piles simmering, a few wood piles that need burning, and a lot more stone work to do.

We also have a new set of neighbors who are renting the horse farm down the lane. They moved in with two pony girls, three horses, a tiny pony, two goats, and several dogs and cats. There is now the daily sound of whinnying up and down our lane, and it's been fun hearing that.

There is more, but I'll save it for another post!  Hope all are well and that folks who were more directly in the path of Hurricane Irene are recovering power, roads, etc.