Thursday, December 31, 2009

lonely sailors pass the time away

Maizie and I headed out this morning for a New Year's Eve kayak trip. The temperatures were warm and the water was calm. At least it was calm in our inlet! We hit a fierce wind as we made our way south. We certainly earned our breakfast! Our local McDonald's is on the water and provides boaters with a handy dock. As we tied up our little crafts, other boaters were docking for their New Year's Eve breakfasts too. Our trip back was quick and easy as we were with the wind. I am shocked at how much kayaking is like riding. Maizie on her "horse" and me on mine. We are out in nature enjoying secret views. It is probably not like riding at all, but I am horse deprived! I went to see dear, sweet Thoroughbred Red yesterday. She nickered and nuzzled me up. It is going to be hard not to ride this year! As I was tying up the kayaks after we had finished, Maizie kept apologizing for not helping. I laughed and explained how easy it is to "tack" and "untack" the kayaks! They don't wiggle or move like Pie and Sovey! Below is Maizie in all her cuteness!

Here is the view from our porch. I just love how the sun glistens off the water.

Can you see the bird on a branch in this photo below?

It is a Cormorant and he (or one of his relatives) caused us a heap of trouble on New Year's Eve in 2004. I guess we caused our own trouble because of our lack of Cormorant knowledge. That entire Christmas week we had observed Mr. C. sunning himself, wings outstretched on this very branch, below. As the New Year approached, it seemed to us that he never left the spot. He must be stuck we reasoned. Why else would he stay in that exact position? No bird, we thought, would purposely stay with wings outstretched for hours on end, days even. On New Year's Eve, Brian and I began to seriously worry that we had no choice but to "rescue" this bird from certain death. He must be caught in a fishing line and would die from dehydration and starvation. (My imagination can get rolling and I usually am able to bring Brian right along with it.) I frantically phoned the local bird authorities. No answer - it was a holiday. All our neighbors had headed north, but I left nervous messages on their answering machines anyway, asking for help. Brian and I got into our bathing suits and geared up to dive off the dock to make a swimming rescue. We had scissors and wire cutters and shoes and gloves. The very second we went to dive the bird just took off - it flew away!!!! It wasn't stuck at all! We learned later that the Cormorant is known for finding branches to stretch out on and staying like that for hours! Duh! I was terribly embarrassed about my messages, but what else is new? I can just imagine the employees of the seabird rescue station returning from holiday and falling down on the floor laughing at my breathless plea.

Brian is demonstrating, below, our usual position on the back porch. The porch is like a beach cabana, keeping wind at bay and allowing us sun and shade and perfect weather no matter what is really happening outside. We also have a radio out there and we listen to a silly, soft, easy listening station that plays sappy songs from the 70's that bring tears to my eyes. It is nostalgic and relaxing and everything a vacation should be. You can just see my iced tea glass and coffee mug and book in the photo. The book is The Pink Motel. Right before we left home, Maizie's school library was giving away the "old" books to make room for new. Maizie and I are obsessed with old children's books. Often the stories are so much better than the new fare. Maizie inhaled the book whole on our trip down here. She said that it is ironically a mystery set in sunny Florida. It was written in 1959. I can't wait to begin. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another song, another mile

After we dug out from our snowstorm last week, Brian, Maizie, Noodlebug and I safely made our annual trek to St. Petersburg Florida. In addition to showing how dirty our windshield is, this photo I took sort of captures the sad, long December shadows on I-95 through the Carolinas. I always feel very melancholy at this point in the trip. I look forward to the Florida sun, but it is sad leaving everyone behind at home. Especially this year. My mom is staying behind to be with her dog, Eby, and has graciously (and bravely) taken on the horsekeeping of two giant Thoroughbreds, Pie and Sovereign. Brian made changes to the barn so that turnout of the boys would be “easier” but with the snow, and now mud, nothing is easy. Every report from my mom has been excellent about how the boys are behaving, but the weather has been simply awful. Our lovely pastures are nothing but mud because the snow melted so quickly. In addition, she has the daily stall cleaning and bucket scrubbing. When we return, we will take over Eby’s care and Mom will come down to Florida for a hero’s well-earned vacation.

Staying in my family’s condo is like walking into a time machine. Everything is exactly as it was in 1973, when it was built. It is so much fun. Here is a painting I did of the kitchen. The counters really are orange. The appliances really are avocado. There is a dome light ceiling. We love the contrast from our English cottage lifestyle at home.
The most magnificent part of our vacation is the back porch. The condo is on an intercoastal waterway. We have a dock and a back porch that is warm and private and has an island bird sanctuary directly across from us. We spend most of our time out there reading and playing games and just soaking in the sun. Dolphins often swim up! We haven’t taken Maizie to Disney or any place like that. The condo is part of a retirement community. Maizie really gets on well with all the elderly people. We play shuffleboard, tennis, bocce ball and we use the putting green. We bike to the grocery store, library and beach. To us it is idyllic, but I am sure it would be boring to other people!

Here is a photo of Maizie and Noodlebug taken right before we left. I love both of them so much! They are such good travelers. Both ride in the van without any complaints. Maizie made a cd for all of us to enjoy on the long trip down to Florida. She is 11 years old now and so intelligent and sweet and athletic and all the things a parent could ever want to brag about. Yet, as I was listening to her cd, I started to laugh thinking about how I want to brag about how cool and eclectic her musical taste has become. Isn't that goofy of me? I just love music and I am so glad she "gets" it. I hope one day she gets horses the same way!

Here are some of her Christmas gifts. This adorable dollhouse furniture is from Pottery Barn Kids. Maizie doesn't have any dolls to fit - only animals. Isn't the puppy too cute?

I rode a wonderful Thoroughbred mare named Red while I was here last year. You can read my December 2008 and January 2009 posts about her. I will probably visit Janet and Ted and Red and all my horsey friends here, but I am going to spend most of my time catching up with Maizie and Brian. They have been so kind to share me with Pie and Sovey this past year!

Here is the list of songs on Maizie's cd in case you are into music like I am. I think her order of songs adds to the strength of the choices. What a great mix!! (Thanks for letting me brag!)

1. Brandy - Looking Glass
2. Fell on Black Days - Soundgarden
3. Sabrina - Jellyfish
4. Life is a Highway - Tommy Cochrane
5. Helpless - Neil Young
6. Shambala - Three Dog Night
7. Bastard - Ben Folds (I don't think she knows what this word is!)
8. Ghost at Number One - Jellyfish
9. Sunshine - Matt Costa
10. Peaches - Presidents of the United States
11. Half Breed - Cher
12. Cold December - Matt Costa
13. Long December - Counting Crows
14. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
15. Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry
16. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
17. Crackerbox Palace - George Harrison
18.Crooked Teeth - Death Cab For Cutie
19. Closing Time - Semisonic

Sunday, December 20, 2009

with jingle bells and fairy tales

Today is December 20 and it is exactly one year that I have been blogging. That first post featured Pie's head and I said that he would soon be coming to our farm. I was in sunny Florida when I wrote that and I didn't even know Pie. I had just received the photos of Pie and Sovereign. I remember being excited and scared and elated that the two boys were actually coming! So here it is, one year later, and I envisioned this post being from sunny Florida again. As you can see from the photo above, we are not sunny and we are not in Florida!!! We got snowed in!!! Our bags were packed. The last minute details about horse care was all finished and we were ready to go. And then the snow fell, and fell and fell.

Before the snow, I had perfect rides all week on the boys. Each ride was a little depressing, though, because I knew I was leaving them for Christmas. Now, I may still be here! Maizie and I slowly drove to the barn yesterday and turned the boys out. Then, we went cross-country skiing with mom. It was blizzard conditions but we had fun. After, Maizie and I sledded down a big hill near our north pasture. Pie and Sovey watched in disbelief. They just couldn't understand why we were moving like that on our big blue sled. Our whoops and laughter was just too much for them. They had to dance and play too!

This year with Pie and Sovereign has been better than I could have ever imagined. They have brought joy to our lives in so many ways. (I just hope they continue to bring joy to my mom's life while she is taking care of them - the little imps!) Have you ever seen anything as lovely as two Thoroughbreds racing through the snow?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

from every bend in the road

Yesterday started out sunny and mild. Our temperatures reached 47 degrees. It was balmy and a perfect day for a ride. The footing wasn't too good though. I had barn chores to do anyway. I moved 63 bales from the top of the barn to the bottom. We are getting ready for our annual holiday trip and I want to make feeding as easy as possible for my mom. I also moved 350 pounds of grain. Pie and Sovey only eat a small amount of grain for vitamins so that should last them well into February. The entire time I was working, Sovey kept looking at me to see if I was coming out to get him. We had such a fun ride on Sunday and I think he wanted to go again. Both he and Pie remained clean until 3pm. Then, they just couldn't stand it another second. I was still working and I couldn't stop. Off they cantered to the muddiest spot they could find. Above is a shot of Sovey's muddy rump. I honestly have never seen more mud in all my life. Ugh.
Later, when Maizie returned from school, she told me the cutest story ever. I have posted before about how she "teaches school" to her stuffed animals. You can read that post here. Well, Maizie told me that she was reading to her group and Noodlebug nonchalantly walked in and delicately picked up the littlest stuffed animal and casually walked out. Maizie found the little animal at the foot of her bed. In the past, there were other animals that she had noticed that had been "kidnapped - catnapped" but she didn't know what had happened to them. This time, she saw the naughty thief in action! That Noodlebug - she is a silly one!

The little robin in the bottom corner had a friend beside her, but it is missing.

Here is the little friend!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't fly, Mister blue bird

Here is our "little" friend, Zoe, who stays with us when her family is away. She is a Bernese Mountain Dog. Bern, Switzerland, is a cold place to be from, apparently, because Miss Zoe always prefers the great outdoors to our snuggly cottage. I took this photo of her this morning as she rolled around in the snow. Our kitty, Noodlebug, loves when Zoe comes to stay. Noodle steals Zoe's food. Zoe is a gentle giant and puts up with so much from Noodle. Over Thanksgiving, I found Noodle in Zoe's bed more than once. Zoe has a huge heart and is very good at sharing.
Another gentle giant is one silly Pie-Pie. He is very big and very full of himself now that the temperatures have dropped. Yesterday was too windy to do much of anything, but somehow our "I'm just going to mess around with Pie a little" evolved into a long ride around the property! I am not sure how this happened, but it worked out wonderfully. Our weather has been snowy/rainy followed by cold, howling winds. The snowy days were too wet and muddy for good footing and the windy days have been too wild to keep Pie and Sovey's feet on the ground. I snuck in a ride on Sovey on the 7th, but Pie was only grazed and groomed and walked on a lead. He was starting to become a big imp. I knew that he needed some more attention. I stuck the boys out yesterday morning and went for a run. The wind wasn't too bad at that point even though it was 28 degrees. I groomed and grazed Pie and practiced his leading. He was good, but antsy. I tacked him up anyway - just in case! The wind started whipping and I decided that I would get on and just walk in the ring near the barn. He was so good so we walked a little farther. Then, more, and before I knew it we were out through the fields. I had a ride like this last fall on Ellie, a QH. She was young, but pretty good. I often reflect on that ride as being so windy that I couldn't believe that I made it through. It seems like the wind can just start at any time and then you are out there...stuck! Never, ever, did I think I would live to tell of another windy ride like that - especially on Pie! He is wound a little tighter than Sovey and that wind was treacherous. His good behaviour was rewarded - we found FOUR apples on the barstool yesterday and my mom provided yummy carrots as we passed her house! Oh, Piggy Pie was in heaven! Every time we faced west, the wind was coming so fast and furious I worried that he would just bolt and dump me and take off. It was crazy like that - it made me want to run and jump. He held it together, though. I think it was so windy that he could only feel me. It was like we were in our own little wind tunnel world. The wind shuts out any other sound. He had to listen to me because it seemed like I was all he had. After our ride, Pie was calm and relaxed. He really needed that exercise. Later, I felt a little guilty for taking him out in that and asking him to be so good. I guess the test of a great horse is when their "person" does something stupid and they are able to hold it together anyway. I am so lucky to ride two nice boys like Pie and Sovey.
Last evening, when the boys were tucked away safe and sound in the warm bank barn, Maizie, Brian, Zoe, Noodlebug and I all settled down to a nostalgic (for me) viewing of Bing Crosby's Christmas Specials. With big bowls of popcorn and the wind howling outside, I felt very content. My favorite part is Bing's duet with David Bowie. Sigh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

what I want to know is are you kind?

This snowy picture is from Saturday morning. The boys are barely visible in the pasture. Brian and I planned to ride thinking it would be very picturesque, but I soon discovered it was nothing but rain in snow's clothing. I told him that I would never ask him to ride with me during a rain storm so we postponed our snow ride for a "real" snow day!

Above is our little house, "Nutmeg Cottage" in the same Saturday morning snow.

I rode Sovereign this morning and we had a lovely time, other than the fact that I was freezing! All my blogging friends are dressing smart for winter riding, but I was not dressed properly. It was 31 degrees, which isn't so bad for December 7th, but it was overcast and penetrating and I was cold.
When we finished, I grazed Sovey and philosophized about my "problem" with being "too nice" to animals. Twice last week, I was told that I am too nice. Last Wednesday, my farrier trimmed the boys. My farrier is quiet and kind, but he is admittedly partial to Quarter Horses. He doesn't understand what I see in Thoroughbreds. I can't really explain it to him, so we muddle forward with our monthly appointments. Pie and Sovey stand well, but it is apparent to me and to my farrier that they are antsy within their bodies. My farrier slowly and calmly tells me stories about shoeing horses and I hold each horse on a lead. They stand and submit to him with little fidgeting, but I know that they are wound up inside and wish he would hurry. I try to calm them, and I think I am very successful, but they are not asleep like a Quarter Horse might be. They hold their legs for him, but I don't think they want to be there one second more than they have to. When they are finished I walk them into the stall. On Wednesday, Pie had had just about enough of being good. He walked into his stall and calmly turned around. He lowered his head and I slipped off his halter and I walked out of the door and...then...he reached forward and bit my arm. To say I was stunned is putting it mildly. Here is the part about me being too kind. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I was born without the knee-jerk reaction of hitting or slapping. I don't stop myself - it just never comes. I can't do it because it just doesn't happen. I never react that way and I never have. I think I would be ok, morally, with performing a slap across the chest of a horse that just bit me, but I can't do it. It doesn't "happen" naturally. I just stared at Pie in disbelief. He backed up and I shut the stall door. My farrier said, "You are too nice. You have to show him who is boss here." Now, I agree with his assessment to a point. I agree that horses are looking for a person who they can trust to lead them through difficult and scary situations and that person can't be wimpy or weak. But, I have a problem with the hitting part. I don't actually believe that would convey my strength. If anything, I think that would make me look little, especially the way I would do it because it isn't me. I would be a fake. I just can't muster enough anger to hit. I am not proud of this fact. It just is.
Now, stop there, and fast forward the same idea to the next day. My father-in-law has started keeping chickens. He has 4 hens and 2 roosters. He asked me to take a few photos of them for his Christmas cards this year. I got a few good shots and one of the hens befriended me. She doesn't seem particularly bright, but she was sweet and friendly and kept "snuggling" up to me. Well, "Big-Man-on-Campus-Rooster" was having none of this. He started attacking me (I guess it is called flogging in chicken circles). He was really driving me into a corner with his jabbing and flying. My father-in-law was yelling, "Kick him," in between his hysterical, doubled-over fits of laughter. Again, the "kick him" reflex was absent. I just could not kick that rooster. I made my way over to a stick and sort of held him at bay. I walked to the gate and got out. It just seemed ridiculous to kick the rooster. My father-in-law said, "You are too nice".
Now, is this true? Am I really too nice? I have a very strong disposition. I am occasionally "bullied" by aggressive people, but I only take so much, and then I am definitely not "nice". I can be a real bitty, if pushed, I think. So what is this all about with animals? My father-in-law claims that the rooster would never do that to him. And, I know my farrier would say that Pie would never do that to him ever again. I don't know if Pie would bite me again, but I admit that I did nothing to tell him that the behaviour was unacceptable. I am not sure what I should have done.
I was thinking about all of this as I was freezing, grazing Sovereign, after our fabulous December 7th ride. I only walked and did not lunge or do anything to make sure Sovey was calm. We rode without a bit all around our farm. I believe that both horses are good for me under saddle because they do trust me and they do think I am a strong leader. They both put an enormous amount of trust in me, if you add up all we have done so far. I suppose it could be argued that that old rooster doesn't think too much of me, but is it true, can you be too kind?