Wednesday, November 25, 2015

giving thanks 2015

I am grateful for:

- a big forward walking ride on the 26-year old Keil Bay today

- the return of Mystic the cat who didn't show up for dinner last night (his front claws are worn to nubs from trying to escape some place he obviously got shut up in but otherwise he is fine)

- a husband who will jump in and figure out how to create a safe backyard habitat for a curiosity of unruly cats (will photo and post when done!)

- two amazing children (now young adults)

- a loving family including my mom who shared a wonderful meal last night (appetizers included spicy crab dip, warm Brie, and calamari, dinner a hefty salad and shrimp puttanesca with goat cheese, a glass of Malbec, and coffee with limoncello cheesecake) 

- two exuberant Corgis (and one is 16 years old and still chasing things in the backyard)

- our farm, newly refinanced with a good locked-in for the duration interest rate

- the creative life and process, which keeps me happy

- amazing friends (which includes many of you reading this)

May this thanksgiving day be full of good company, good food, and the opportunity to count our blessings!

Friday, November 20, 2015

the all you can eat hay buffet

On Wednesday night we had over 2 inches of rain, so the horses were in that night and most of yesterday as it began to - well, dry out is not accurate - seep in enough that they could march around without going fetlock deep in mud.

I did manage to ride Keil Bay as the arena had drained well. After the ride, Cody got a little groundwork with daughter and I opened both arena gates so they could go to the back field without having to tramp through the muddiest areas.

They were out last night with the arena still open, got their after-breakfast hay out this morning, and when I looked out the window at 9:30 or so they were all huddled in the arena near the hay tent (which backs up to the 4-strand HorseGuard tape fencing. I got the sense something just wasn't quite right, so out I went. Some helpful beast had managed to pull up the hay tent flap, reach in, grab an entire bale of hay, pull it through the HorseGuard tape, and served it up to the entire herd. 

I got the bale and put it away, then made about 12 piles of hay in the barnyard so they could come in there and soak up some sun. At 11:30 I glanced back out the window and there they were in the arena again. Another hay bale had been served up for all to enjoy!

I think it might be time to test the charge on that fence tape!

Keil has had 4 rides this week and although I was planning to ride him today, he seemed sleepy and very content in the stall as he ate his midday tub. It's possible he bamboozled me but I gave him today off, grooming and massaging and then letting him back into the barnyard.

Cody got his second ride of the week. I'm going very slowly with him as he has been out of work as long as Keil has but it's been over a year since I last rode him. And he has been galloping around the farm tossing his head and acting generally like a 4-year old. Dear daughter has patiently helped me get him back under saddle, and of course he's been fine. Just walking so far, though he tried to trot several times today. I'm guessing he is ready for more work.

Daughter also had to talk me through a moment of panic about dismounting straight to the ground. Keil and I have been using the elevated block for awhile now but Cody thought that was just too weird. (and honestly, it was awkward for me when I attempted it because he's not really tall enough to warrant it) Leave it to our horses to push us through our fears - I've dismounted to the ground both rides and had no problem at all. 

I'm keeping an eye on the abscessed hoof. So far so good. He's tracking up at the walk and there's no sign of swelling in that fetlock so we'll keep going. Hopefully we'll be trotting soon!

They all need it given the all you can eat hay buffet they've set up for themselves!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

booking it

Finished Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See and so loved the book. He creates vivid and clear images and a story that flows beautifully. I'm looking at his other work now and am eager to read more.

I read and enjoyed Andrea Barrett's Voyage of the Narwhal years back and am just now getting around to reading her book of stories, Ship Fever. Two stories in and two thumbs up.


Keil Bay and I had a lovely ride yesterday. I had meant to ride Cody too but didn't time things well. He needs the work and I'm going to have to figure out how to make it happen. Or maybe I should use the word "allow" - I want it to be a flow and not a checking things off a list kind of ride with him. He deserves it.

Mostly my days are geared around writing, riding, and keeping up with house and barn chores. Some days I have clients, other days there are errands to run in town or appointments to keep. Putting two rides in the day will change things, but there has to be a way to do it gracefully so that I bring my best self to both horses.

Any advice is welcome!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gioia Timpanelli and stories

Last night and today I'm listening and working with Gioia Timpanelli (author, storyteller, speaker) on myths, archetypes, and stories. She speaks in English but slides in and out of Sicilian as she goes, and what is miraculous is that with her body language and gestures everyone suddenly understands Sicilian.

It reminds me of horses and the archetypal language they use.

I'll write more about this later but wanted to say this, now: go find a story today, or tell one. Stories hold us all together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

rain refrain and listening to what they say

Our weather has been alternatingly gorgeous and abysmal. The rainy days would be lovely too if not for what it means for the horses and donkeys and the Little Man, who stands out in it like a wildling on the coast of Shetland. I do everything I can to make the rainy days more interesting but they get bored and grumpy nonetheless.

There has been no riding in a week. Today the sun has come out and there's a balmy breeze blowing but it rained hard through the night so every inch of November Hill is mush, including our very well-draining arena. 

I've thrown open all the doors and windows in the barn and turned the fans on and fed the herd their hay in the sunshine but not out in the very wet pastures. I'll see how much drying happens by this afternoon. If I can give them some time in the front field I will. 


On Saturday I went to the barn and it was rainy and dark. I busied myself with chores and for a little while didn't notice that Keil Bay was standing at his stall door just watching me and waiting - not for hay or his mid-day meal, not for water, or anything related to food.

The busyness of doing chores can sometimes turn into a wall around me. I have worked hard to create the habit of stopping every few minutes to take it down. I'm not sure if there's a fairy tale about a woman who was so busy doing chores she never had time to notice all the beauty around her, but if not, there should be.

Keil Bay has a gift, as did Salina, for piercing that wall. Keil does it silently, soundlessly, the most quiet demeanor he ever exhibits. Sometimes I hear him instantly, others I need a few minutes, but he has surely been a teacher for me in letting chores be the background music and beauty in each moment taking the solo part.

I walked over and asked him what was up and he turned his head so that his right eye was in my face. He had a small cut on the eyelid and although it had started to form a scab, it was recent and the eyelid was swollen.

My heart whirled in a moment of pure panic, an engine revving and then quieting as I turned on the lights and took a close look. There was no involvement of the eyeball itself, no redness, no closing of the eye or squinting or blinking. But the swollen lid looked uncomfortable and I suspect the bump that caused the cut had hurt. 

My husband brought me a bowl of warm water and a clean cloth and Keil let me hold the warm damp compress over the entire eye. Mainly I wanted him to know that I knew what was wrong - that I had listened - and heard - and to gently clean the area. I gave him a dose of Arnica and put a dab of triple antibiotic ointment into the cut and then stood and held his head, stroked his face, and let him know that I was going to be keeping an eye on his eye.

He let out a long, soft snort and then shook his head gently, as if shaking off the cut and the swelling.

A couple of hours later I went out to give the second dose of Arnica. The swelling had subsided by about 70%. By the next morning it was normal.

We arrive at the barn with stuff swirling around us, the dust of daily life, little tornadoes and hurricanes of emotion and lists of things to do and unfinished conversations. It's easy to grab the muck rake or the grooming bucket and let our minds tumble forward as we mentally cross things off our lists or continue those conversations.

I'm grateful for the herd I live with and that every one of them is opinionated and expressive and determined enough to remind me to stop the train of thought, look at what is right in front of me, and listen. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

James Hillman, alchemical psychology, and yes, deworming day

Last night was the first of a 10-session webinar with Robert Bosnak on James Hillman's chapter "Silver and the White Earth" in his wonderful book titled Alchemical Psychology.

I did the online course Alchemy 1 this past spring and summer, with Bosnak and Patricia Berry discussing the first two chapters in Hillman's book. I missed the live webinar for Alchemy 1, and for the chapters Salt, Black, and Blue, but I've listened and read on my own and will eventually go back and get the online audio discussion for the chapters I missed hearing.

It's a wonderful course. James Hillman writes eloquently and richly about alchemy and elaborates on Carl Jung's writings on alchemy and psychology in a fetching way. Robert Bosnak does a lovely job illuminating Hillman's words, and with the web audience joining in, it's a wonderful conversation. 

Last night's talk had to do with silver and whitening and luna, and the luna-tic way of reflection. It's a little bit mystical, a little bit poetic, and very provocative to consider. I had the window open in the garret and curled up in my reclincer with a glass of wine and my notebook and pen. A wonderful way to move into fall and winter, with two of these a month, on Thursday evenings at 9 p.m. EST.  It's not too late to sign on for this segment - go to Jung Platform online if interested. 

I went out today thinking I would be riding but rain swooped in and I renamed it deworming day. Little Man and Rafer and Keil Bay were eager to get their doses and even Cody and Redford, much more leery of even the apple-flavored variety, were cooperative. A round of peppermints and some clean waters and fresh hay and that was that.

It is so lovely outside with all the color and the leaves falling and the rain just wets everything down into its own palette. By tomorrow I'll want sunshine again but for now, sweet potato walnut muffins (our own sweet potatoes!!) and coffee are calling my name.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

more rain and hoof trims all around

We're in another stretch of rainy days here. The horses and donkeys are hanging out in stalls most of the day and night so it's an ongoing effort to keep the barn clean. The longer they're in the messier they get, strowing hay, dropping manure all over the place. Relationships were straining: Keil Bay and Little Man pinning ears over the stall door at one another, Rafer Johnson nipping at Redford. 

I had the trimmer coming in an hour and needed to tidy the barn, clear the barn aisle, and get the herd settled in some new configuration that would hopefully improve their moods.

Over the years I have learned that they like to be surprised, within a range of options. They like switching from one side of the barn aisle to the other; mostly with a few exceptions they enjoy having a new "barn mate" to hang out with. Alternating between hay on the stall mats to hay in nets to hay under the shelter keeps them happiest on these long rainy days. Apples or carrots in feed tubs make them happy, as do peppermints.

It was noon so time for Keil Bay's mid-day meal. I quickly cleaned a stall - not the one he was standing in - and moved him in with his meal, a fresh bucket of water, and a closed door. The rest of the boys were upset - they wanted meals too - so I gave them each a very small snack of Chaffhaye which gave me time to get another stall cleaned and set up for Cody. I closed him in too. When free to come and go 24/7 Keil and Cody seem to enjoy being closed in from time to time. The pony and donkeys had been on the near side of the barn all morning, so they went on the other side - with one stall open to the shelter and the arena open in case they wanted to take a stroll in wet but non-muddy footing.

Once I got them all situated with fresh water and Chaffhaye I served up their hay. 

Our barn is never really dark during the daytime but I put all the lights on, including the twinkle lights in the feed room, and turned on NPR. Suddenly it was cheerful and like a big living room. Everyone was munching, no ears were pinning, moods had improved dramatically.

By the time the trimmer arrived I had the barn aisle clean and horses groomed. The pony - well, his elves took the night off and he was simply a lost cause. The donkeys don't roll in the mud so they were nice and clean and fluffy already.

All mine enjoy the attention they get from our wonderful hoof trimmer. She is attuned to them as she works, gives lots of praise, and yesterday offered a "Peace and Calm" blend of essential oils to all of us. The rain was falling outside the barn and it was a dreary day with flies and mosquitoes (yes, in November - the curse of a temperate climate) but everyone got a turn and everyone ended up licking and chewing and enjoying the new scent.

It looks like Cody is okay to ride, carefully, with an eye on his abscessed hoof as the opening grows out, and if we can get to the end of this rainy spell, I'll be aiming to get he and Keil Bay on a schedule I can keep up with. Cody is feeling terrific - cantering and galloping around and tossing his head - so I think he'll enjoy some time in the saddle again. His break has been longer than Keil Bay's! I'll have lots to report as I bring him back into work.

I went to the barn at noon yesterday and came in at 5:15. Barn time, as most of us know, doesn't follow the clock. I came in damp and, once I took my boots off inside, realized my feet were tired from standing for so long. But I was also deeply relaxed, content, and restored. Peace and calm. 

And here's the pony last rain spell we had, the morning after. His grooming elves not only cleaned him up, they awarded him a gold star!!