Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chillin' Time

It has been a bit since I've had some solo time.
Last night I returned Siera, Fred, and Sunshine to the large meadow. I had intended on going riding last evening.

Good intentions get ruined by unexpected thunderstorms with a lot of lightening.
It was probably a good thing though, we ended up going to bed a bit early and I slept through the booming and crashing around us.

The other night when we watched a storm come slowly in from the porch the girls and I were amazed with the show of 'fireworks' in the sky.

I had the tiniest of urges to set up a tripod on the porch and do some photography but the thought fleeted through my brain and went out my ear.

I was tired and sleep sounded much better than watching the skies.

Tonight and tomorrow night there is a chance that we could see the Northern Lights. I may have to take a rest so I can check that out.

Today? I'm thinking it could be a nice quiet hiking type of day. Yesterday was spent cleaning up the gardens and weeding them.

However, we had a huge supper of good things. Fresh beets, lettuce, turnips, leftover carrots and green beans, onions, peppers, and pork steak.

I pulled my very first baby carrot out of the ground yesterday. I think our carrots will do nicely now that I think I have figured out how to grow them in our soil!

Well, off to do chores alone which will feel strange this morning.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mule Magic

I took out Siera last night'' to give Fred a break from the constant 'do overs' of training two young people at the same time on him.

I actually discovered a few things about Siera that I can now use in the future.
The kids tried to 'operate' Siera in the very same manner that they learned on Fred.

However I soon realized that I didn't train Siera in the same manner. She will not respond to confusing signals period. She will resist more than Fred, so in a way she is less forgiving unless you open up to her 'magic'.
Fred has been trained in the traditional "Whoa". Siera has been trained in the hands and seat 'whoa' with no verbal words.

When I realized that this was how I rode her, I showed Grace and then talked her through a non verbal no rein pulling whoa. When Siera complied quietly and calmly Grace's face lit up like she'd learned a great secret. Indeed she did.
To 'whoa' Fred one needs to pick up the reins, and ask out loud for a Whoa along with giving the reins a slight traditional tug.

Siera responds as I have unconsciously trained her to take photos. I bring up a hand and change my seat bones to put a slight weight in the back of the saddle.
I don't utter a sound. Siera halts quietly.
I couldn't figure out why the kids were having so much trouble with Siera at first. She'd pull her head up and turn it sideways at the pull of the reins. Oh she stopped, but she let you know that it wasn't a Happy Stop.

On directions. With Fred and new riders it is best to plow rein as the direct rein gives him a lesser chance to refuse the turn. He can do the western rein, but just depending on that doesn't help the novice rider when he really doesn't feel he needs to follow your direction.

With Siera neck reining is a combo of things. I use my body and a light one hand rein with the pinky finger of the second hand to direct the rein if she gives a slight refusal. With Siera, it is all light hands. Heavy hands and yanking will make her quit working period.

Siera is a bit temperamental. She is partial to females and to kids. She seems to thrive on attention and could care less if her equine pals are not around. She relaxes with the kids and seems almost as if she were a statue.
If someone has a loud deep voice she freezes. If she doesn't think she can go through a mud hole, she will be to put it lightly, a butt head. Once through though she goes back to being herself.
She is an animated ride.  Being a Peruvian Paso Mule, she stretches out those legs.
She doesn't do "Rough". I am not and advocate of rough anyway. I am an advocate of quiet uncomplicated riding. I like my animals to take verbal cues.

Grace was amazed again when I told her, "Just pick up the reins and say 'Walk'."
She did and Siera walked. I have other verbal cues I use such as a kiss means trotting. Since Siera is gaited I've never asked for a lope, gaiting out at 12 mph is all the speed I need.

I now can take this knowledge and help Ariel the next time she rides Siera.
And I realize that in order for anyone else to ride her properly without frustration, they would need to learn to use Siera's personal cues.

Perhaps that is not the proper way to train an animal, but I sure do like it.
Siera listens attentively to me and my body language. I like that a lot.

Surely Siera has some Mule Magic.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pinch Me!

The girls wanted to learn to ride. It is a fairly long process the way I teach it.

But it is step by step without skipping any safety factors. The goal of these lessons is to learn that a horse or mule are wonderful and fun. However these are huge animals with lightening fast reflexes.

You need to control that huge animal especially if he outweighs you by at least 10 times. Here is Evelyn using the finger method to turn Fred. The girls have to teach Fred that they are in control and the girls have a challenge with Fred.
While he makes a great schooling animal, he also makes you work each step of the way.
He won't kick, bite, or buck. However, while handling the reins, he will stop and not do a thing if the rider is sending mixed messages.
He doesn't just let the rider ride, he requires them to gain knowledge.

The end result of good schooling is a happy content pony mule that will take you where you ask him.
Once outside the girls found out that he will go more willingly. After all a mule gets bored doing the same things over and over indoors in a round pen.
Fred may be 30 something years old, but he still has a mule mind and dislikes mindless circles.

The girls and I stopped on a good note. They are ready for the next step and the easy mule who is lazy and doesn't mind the round pen.
Two mules for two Sisters!
Once they have ridden Siera, then I can get them both mounted in the little lot to experiment safely and ride on their own.

Here is what we have been up to.

We went to the ridge on Tuesday night to watch a huge front come in from the southwest.
After some oohhhs and ahhs, the girls climbed a round bale and did a nice pose for me.
"Let's pretend we like each other!"

Then they were off to stretch their legs and run. They played hide n' go seek. Chase,
I watched the storm approach and enjoyed their shouts of wonder.

My neighbor has goats. The girls love goats. The goats are the 'bomb' [I don't know if that is the proper term or not]. Each day we must visit the goats. MUST.
And we must pick black berries.

Who can resist these faces?
Yesterday was adventure day.
The kids who used to live in the 'upstairs' house came to spend some time and we all took off hiking to the creek after playing a break the ice game of Roll The Pigs.

We made it back to the house in the stifling heat in time for PB&J sandwiches on the porch. Our guests left and we rode.
Then we had to go back and visit the goats of course!

While in the goat pasture we heard rumbling and thundering. I called the girls who were disappointed and we headed back home. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning had been issued.
Rich came out on the porch and we all sat and watched it rain and chatted.

Pretty soon Grace got up and went inside.
She was rummaging in the kitchen.
I asked what she was looking for.
"Pans!" she replied, "I'm going to make supper!"
Tonight was grilled cheese and she was going to cook.
Count me surprised and pleased.
Not only did she make our sandwiches, but she also cleared the table and washed the dishes and cleaned up.
Pinch me.

We decided that after supper we'd grab a movie off from Netflix and enjoy some quiet time.
The girl's parents called half way through the movie and the girls went out on the porch to talk to their parents.
Everyone sounded excited and happy. Mom and Dad were having great adventures as were the girls.
When asked how their day went, the girls talked about the goats. They mentioned Fred and riding in passing, but the conversation went to the goats.
And what goat diarrhea looks like.
After the phone call, Evelyn suggested that she make microwave popcorn for us and she did.

Today is Thursday and as I write this, Morris has come down to go out and has returned upstairs to be with 'his' girls. He is going to be one very lonely old dog when they leave. He always spends a day or two wandering the house and looking for children after they have left.

The girls mentioned that they didn't think 5 days were long enough for them to be able to do all the things they wanted to do. I sort of agree. We haven't gone to Jersey Valley, we haven't gone to the river, and we haven't done a major adventure in Awesome Creek yet.

Each of our days have been jam packed with adventures around the farm. The kids are getting to be experts at helping with the chores and we've settled into a good routine.

The two sisters are having a good time.
...and so are we!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two Sisters Camp

This is sort of a Grandma & Grandpa Camp for non biological grandkids. Grace and Evelyn are not my grands at all though but they are staying with me for most of the week.

I've known Mom and Dad for years.  I taught Mom in 4H when I was a leader in a time long ago and far away. I find it fitting that their children can spend some time at our farm and do some learning about equine and riding.

Yesterday was our first full day. And wow what a day it was.

The girls had some very long faces when mom and dad pulled out and drove away. I thought "Uh oh, I am in for it. The kids are going to be so heartsick and homesick, they won't make it very long."

Well, that hasn't happened so far.
We ate breakfast and before we went out to do chores I sat with the girls and we made out a menu for the week and made up a grocery list.

Then we headed out for chores. Rich came too. The girls got busy with feeding the hounds and putting out hay for the equine. Grace I could tell right off had eyes for 15. And why not? Everyone who has met her has really fallen for the little bay horse.

We did so many things yesterday. I'm not sure I can keep track of them all. So perhaps I'll just try and make a quick list.
Fred introduction:
The first 'lesson' in riding an animal is how to be safe around an animal. We spent the cool morning hours learning about how to safely lead Fred. How to make Fred make right and left turns while leading him. How to stop him and back him up.
Fred is a pony mule and does well with kids. He can also be a bit of a challenge. I thought of using Siera to teach the girls about leading with a rope and halter. However Siera is too polite and too good.
Fred is just about perfect, but will make the kids work for it.
If it was too easy, it wouldn't be a good lesson.

After Fred
Painting on the porch

Goat visit
Play in neighbor's goat pasture
Climb trees
Pick berries
Fill the old stock tank aka Mt. Tank
Play in the water
Take 15 out
Apply lessons from the morning to 15

What Grace didn't realize, is that she was actually training 15. 15 was learning that a sponge bath with a towel was a nice thing, that someone fussing over her mane was a very pleasant thing.
15 has always been very quiet and has nearly impeccable manners when being groomed. It was interesting to watch Grace and 15 interact. At first 15 was fairly wide eyed and watched Grace carefully.
By the time Grace was done with her, 15 was so comfortable she was dozing in the shade.

Play in Mt. Tank
Take Morris swimming

I have to give the old dog credit. He went along with whatever the girls wanted to do. He was busy most of the afternoon following them so he could just be near them.
They asked me if Morris could go in the stock tank and swim. I said only if they helped him back out.

Second lesson with Fred
In lesson two with Fred the girls learned how to mount and dismount. They learned the importance of an emergency dismount. Grace is tall so the challenge of mounting Fred was not an issue.
Evelyn is small so there was a challenge to get up in the saddle. However Evelyn is an avid climber and an athlete like her sister. Getting mounted soon became a non issue.
The girls learned balance and how to ride with poise. We first learn to ride and sit a saddle with no reins in hand and no stirrups. Fred was good, the girls were excellent.

Evelyn jumped in when I started to put the hamburgers together. She helped make them. I was surprised a little but it was a very pleasant surprise.

Grace engaged Rich in conversation and they chatted while Eve and I worked on supper. I could tell by the tone of Rich's voice that he was really enjoying it.
Rich had spent most of the afternoon taking a nap and had stayed inside because it was so hot and humid out.

We cleaned up and everyone decided that it was time for bed. Morris went up the stairs last night to sleep with the girls. His skipped his spot on the couch for better sleeping quarters. He rarely passes up an opportunity to snuggle with a kid if they are willing.

This morning I woke up early as I usually do. I thought about the girls visiting. Outside the fog was dense and I could see that the dawn was going to be amazing. So I stepped out on the porch to watch the sky change colors.

The fog glowed as the sky brightened. The colors began to change from a pale pink to a dark pink, to nearly a brilliant red and then just before everything faded, the fog turned orange ...
and day two began.

Then it hit me. Two Sisters.

Okay. This week I'd call it: Two Sisters Camp

I went inside and made coffee. Day Two had begun.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Gone Fishing

We do a daily morning list nearly every day to set out two things that should be accomplished.

This is to assist with Rich's Aphasia and mild Apraxia. He has had some difficulty processing new things. We found out that spoken language is harder for him to recall than things that are visual.

So to help with the memory issues we have been making our morning list each morning with our coffee.

The list can be super simple.
Mow yard
Move hoses
Do Speech Therapy Homework
Move water tank

Yesterday we thought about the list and I started getting some things together. Rich looked up and said.
"Fishing. I'd like to go fishing."
Then he went on to say that the fish are probably not biting, or it won't be any good or there may be crowds.
But I got the hint and said, "Fishing would be awesome. Let's go fishing."

I headed out the door and did chores while he got the fishing poles together and arranged his little tackle box.

Off we went. He wanted to go to the place where he and Daryl had gone a few weeks ago. That is all he has been talking about for a while now.
I knew where Blackhawk Park was, but insisted on asking him which way did we need to go?

He gave me directions.
I really wanted to go to a place just south of Ferryville below the lock and dam. However, Blackhawk it was.

The little fish were biting but no big ones. The waters had receeded in the park leaving some brown stained shorelines along with gnarly trees. All neat things to get your fishing hook snagged in.

The snags made for an interesting composition with a long exposure at least. I sort of cheated. I love fishing, but love photos of water too.

I took out my Infrared filter and attached it to the camera.

Things look so much more interesting in the bright sunlight with an IR filter.

The fish weren't biting here either. So we drove left Blackhawk.

Rich said we should have brought snacks and said he was hungry. I suggested we drive over to The Bright Spot in DeSoto and have lunch.
As luck would have it, fish dinner was on special. So we had our fish dinner anyway!

We drove past the Veteran's Park in DeSoto, and then checked out the landings on Hwy 82. The wind was gusting by then and so we decided to call it a day and head home.

The day was not a bust. We'd enjoyed each others company, went out to lunch, and scoped out places to fish.

It was a good day.
We'd gone fishing.

And I got a few IR shots that turned out pretty nifty.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Here and There

I've been wandering again. To find the elusive yellow raspberries.
Mission accomplished.

Of course I had to do it on the hottest most humid day we've had so far.

I found some St. John's Wort.

Everyone is in a huge scare over the wild parsnip. If you mess with it and get juices on you while they are flowering, you will get burned and blistered.

However I walked carefully through a field full of them. Walk carefully. Don't wear shorts and be very cautious.

In order to find the yellow wild raspberries, I had to get through them.

It was a delight to find them and eat them.
I didn't bring a pickin' bucket.

I just enjoyed the taste.
However, I wonder why I always decide to pick the hottest days to do these wanderings?

At least I was able to cool off in the creek on the way home.
After splashing myself with cool water, I sat on a rock and just enjoyed the forest sounds.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Kids and Mules

This is a very unflattering photo of Siera's rear end. As you can see none of these animals are suffering from any kind of malnutrition. They are all glossy and a bit 'round'.

I pulled them out of the meadow and tied them up while I figured out who we were going to put in the winter pasture. The grand kids were coming and they had .... well... they wanted to ride.

I understand deeply what the urge to ride and the want to ride is like. I of course just wrote about being a kid and aching to ride. I don't want the kids who visit here to have to feel that ache.

However, the kids who want to ride can't just walk on the place and jump on and go.
Siera, Fred, and Sunshine are really great mules. They are calm and patient. Well, after yesterday, I think Siera is the calmest one I have.
Don't get me wrong. Siera is calm because she is so lazy!
After Ariel and Dennis did a refresher 'class' with Fred in the round pen, I saddled Siera and brought her in.

While I talked about Siera and held her reins, she stood like some Zen Statue. Siera is 14.2. That means she is 56" tall. Fred is 52" or perhaps 53" tall. You may think that those few inches wouldn't be an issue. That is until you try to get your foot in the stirrup that is now 4" higher than the one you are used to!

So the kids practiced getting on and off from Siera safely. I guess that is one of my sticking points when teaching kids anything. Dismount, remount. Be able to dismount on either side and mount on either side. mules have been trained to be mounted from either side and are used to quick neat dismounts as well as horrid sloppy dismounts. Why?

Siera just stood there while the kids practiced. She just sighed and waited. She didn't try to walk away or move. Siera is one of those mules that is just happy when she has a human with her.

The kids then rode her around the round pen a bit.
We were ready for the next step.

I put Sunshine in the pen and the two kids mounted up and started riding. At first I told them specific things. Then I realized that they would learn more by simply just going about the field without me nagging them on this or that.

Siera didn't want to 'work' for Ariel and I didn't realize why. Rich watched from inside the house and pointed out some things.

I've pretty much been Siera's only rider since she was started under saddle. My body language is very different than Ariel's on top of Siera.
When I settle back in the saddle and simply lift my hands, it is a silent cue for Siera to stop.

Mostly so I can take a photo.
Siera halts and waits until I sit forward and lightly cluck to her while tapping her side with my foot.

Rich saw the difference in how we rode. Siera was taking a cue from Ariel to stop, stop, stop.
When the kids swapped riders Siera moved for Dennis, but the way he sits the saddle is different.
Fred moved for Ariel and did what she asked.

I think Ariel got a bit frustrated with Siera and I could see why. She is the ultimate Lazy Gal. However, she also does not spook.

The kids spent until nearly sundown riding.

After we put away the mules, there was some daylight left.

Those who ride, must take care of their equipment. My saddles were dusty and dirty from last year and I hadn't taken the time to clean things.
I had two sort of willing folks who did a rather nice job on the porch.

The kids want to get up early and help with chores so they can start riding while it is still cool out.
Today I will saddle Sunshine up and join them.

We may even decorate the mules up and ride them up the hill past the neighbors, and out to the Y in the road. A mule parade?
Why not?

There is nothing better in life than a good mule [or horse] and a kid.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Once upon a time long ago

I guess I've grown up and now have had equines in my life for the past 20+ years. In fact, 27 years.
As a kid I'd wait in the summer time and get all of the chores done on the summer place and hope for my Aunt to call.

She'd call my Grandparent's house and ask if we could come and play. The moms would get together and the cousins would play.
[We had no phone at our cottage. Talk about being Unplugged!]

On the drive to my Aunt's house we'd huddle in the back seat, my sister and I. Would we get to ride? Would our cousins want to ride?
My uncle had horses and a pony. He'd started us riding when we were very small. We'd caught the riding/horse bug of course. We'd try to act nonchalant around our cousins when we got there.
We'd try not to stare at the horses and beg with our eyes. We'd try not to nag that we wanted to ride.

My Aunt sometimes had some work that had to be done. Pick cucumbers, or strawberries, or...something. We'd dive right into it, if we got those chores done, ... perhaps someone would let us ride.

I can recall how much I wanted to ride. My heart ached inside and felt like it was hurting. My inside burned with desire to be on a horse. I didn't even mind if it was the pony, Thunder. I needed to ride.
Because when riding [even the pony], I felt free. I felt so incredible. It was as if I'd grown wings and the world lay at my feet. My heart sang and my head was clear. It was like being high in a way.

Then I grew up and life didn't let me have any equine. Not until later in life. Suddenly there was a red horse in my life. Then there were two.

Over the years I have become a mule person. But the feeling is still there. The ache and the desire.
My husband used to complain that I loved my mule more than him. 
How could I even discuss that?

I haven't ridden as much in the past few years. But the itch has always been there. I promise to scratch that itch this year.

Once upon a time long ago my heart ached and fluttered when I go around horses. Even while riding the pony and getting dumped was better than anything else in the world.

I swore one day that I would have a horse of my very own. And I would soar with the eagles and feel the freedom.

No longer is it once upon a time.

Badger is gone, but I have Siera, Sunshine, and Fred.
And I need to pass on the burning desire.

Photo from 2008

So another young rider can get the itch and the burn.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

All One Mule Parade?

The burning question of this coming weekend. Will the Annual Folsom All One Mule Parade have more than one Mule in it?

Will it?

Um. Why do you think I've been training the kids so hard on riding?

I mean, last year these kids worked very hard at becoming mule riders.

Nearly every waking moment was spent on ... learning to ride and practicing.

We worked hard, so very hard.

This year I can ride with them in the old winter paddock for practice. The kids can ride the mules pictured. Fred and Siera.

I can ride my little red head.
After Badger died I figured the kids wouldn't have a thing to ride. 

I worked for 5 yrs on Siera, I worked hard. I have worked hard with Fred the elder mule and am working with Sunshine too.

Sunshine is proving to be a calm Zen mule just like her half brother Badger!

Because of our chaotic year, I haven't been able to ride Sunshine since last fall. Last night our outing was good. Not a blip in her radar.
Same with Siera the night before.

I do love a good mule. However...I love a great mule and I have 3 of them with one in training.

So...hopefully when the grand-kids arrive we can have a refresher and on Tuesday do a 3 mule parade. We may only go past one neighbor but that will be good enough for me!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Awesome Creek by Morris

Nobody rocks a brass bell like I do.
She decided I needed this so she could keep track of me at all times.

I guess the few times I sort of got lost in my head and the time I got lost in the Big Meadow sort of scared her.
This thing is loud enough for her to hear me just about anywhere.
I don't think it is that loud though. In fact, I think she is losing her voice. She says she isn't but she doesn't yell MORRIS icky icky! As loud as she used to.
She says I am losing my hearing. Harrumph.
I'd rather she get a smaller ding dong bell though. This one is heavy.

It has been a while since the two of us have gone off to look for adventure, and find deer droppings.
Well, she doesn't care for deer pellets, but I still do. One day her taste buds will awaken, I hope.

She said we were going to check fences and see how the black berry situation was.
I know better.

She wanted to walk around the creek and take pictures.

I must admit, I'm a pretty good assistant.

I do improve photos.

Maybe not in this one.

I believe she calls this ... Photo Bombing.
I call it, doing what I do best.

After all, this adorable face deserves to be photographed.

We did have fun together though. It was like old times. Even when I got very sneaky and stood very still in deeper water so my bell wouldn't ring.

She got to spend some time in her special quiet place. And I stood above her on the bank watching.

That is my special duty you know.

Soon enough she pulled out that thing that she does stuff on. Like talk, tell time, tell temperature, and weather. Smart Phone? It doesn't work in the Creek Bottom.
Anyway she mumbled something about the time and how we had to head home.

I may be a bit dingy in the head, but I do know home when she says it.

I turned and headed up the muddy bank. She put her camera away and scampered up on all fours.
I love it when I can show her how to do things.

I rang that bell all the way home. See, everyone thinks I am getting old. But can they keep up to me?

Mostly not. I'm still pretty fast.