Monday, July 30, 2012

Mule Fix

I wanted to ride so badly these past few days.  
Too hot, too muggy...and yesterday...we had a nice all day rain.

So this morning, I took a break from chores, after hanging out the laundry and picking up the house.
I went out and grabbed ol' dependable Opal.  I wanted to see how the ridge road to the Valley looked and see if we could still find the overgrown trail back through the woods towards home.
It was quite muggy and so we took it nice and easy.  Opal is probably around 29 years old.  She is calm and a very experienced mule.
My go to mule when I need just a peaceful relaxing ride.  [Siera is good, but right now needs a bit more confidence which we are working on.]

She walked slowly down the gravel driveway towards the ridge on PeeWee's land.  PeeWee is gone, but we'll never call it anything else.
You would have thought she wasn't the high stepping hard walking mule she usually is.  Perhaps she was conserving energy as it was pretty darned muggy and hot.

We headed down the old logging road and into the shaded woods.  I could see that the rain had perked up the undergrowth in the forest.  In the valley the long grass has long since turned brown, but the prickly stuff somehow always survives!

Part of the way down the hill there was a huge burst of noise as turkeys ungracefully dropped from their night roosts and floundered down and across the road in front of us.  I was surprised, but not Opal.
I think she knew they were there.  Mules are so aware of their surroundings.

Once we crossed the creek I pointed her towards the 'home' path.  An almost visible trail through the valley grasses and weeds.  
She perked up quite a bit.  Lucky me.
She ducked the berry briars and let them scrape me up nicely.  Yet she was able to find, step by step the proper trail, even if I could barely see it.

It was a short ride, but I got my 'mule fix' that may last me a few days.  
As a treat I let her graze in the yard for a while before putting her back in her lot.

The old coot even let me rub her ears and run my hands over all the places she normally doesn't let anyone touch.
Good ol' Grouchy Opal.  The mule that really is just misunderstood.  
At least that is what she tells me.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kid memories before A/C

Okay, there was airconditioning.  My folks' car had it.  Our home had it.
But our summer home did NOT have it.

Besides, Grandpa Fred would have thought it was a waste of electricity.  Understand that electricity was a commodity that Grandpa Fred thought was not only precious, but expensive.

I didn't understand the whole aspect as a 12 year old staying at the cottage all summer.  All I understood was that any use of electricity was deemed unnecessary as far as  Grandpa Fred was concerned.
Grandpa Fred made the 'green' people of today look backwards.  Everything was put to use, everything was conserved, including any rainwater.  Rainwater was reserved for baths and clothes washing.  That way no ground water was used and no electricity to pump the water was used.

It was hot.  Hot hot.  Humid hot.  Unbearably hot.  
Mind you, this was before heat indices....

My sister and I stared at each other over the old Formica 50's era kitchen table.  We were playing Crazy 8's.  A card game.  [NOT the computer age...Grandpa Fred had a phone and it was on a party line.]
We'd reached an impasse.  Neither of us wanted to continue.  But there was nothing else to do really.

We watched sweat trickle down off each others' noses and onto the Formica table.  We made a game of counting each other's drops.  We passed the hot afternoon watching sweat drip and of course playing a hand of Crazy 8's.
Occasionally we went outside to our bicycles and rode them swiftly up and down the driveway to create a breeze through our hair.

If we were good ... later ...  mom would let us ride our bikes down to Half Moon Lake and take a cooling dip in the waters.

You know what?  We never even thought about Air Conditioning.  We just dealt with the suppressing heat and humidity.  It was a fact of life.  Something we were able to work around as kids.

We got up very early in the morning, ate breakfast and then helped out in the garden.  The heat of the day was usually ours ... to read, play cards, or go down to the lake and swim.  Grandpa Fred napped with an ancient black iron fan blowing air on him.  Grandma and Mom went fishing.
My sister and I ... well we entertained ourselves and tried to beat each other in Crazy 8's.  We kept a summer long tally of points that usually got tossed before we left back towards the Chicago suburbs.

Hot taught us a lot of things.  Slow down, get your outside work done in the morning or afternoon.  
Being out in the 'boonies' taught us another lesson.

This is a lesson I shall never forget.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Good Mule, Bad Mule

If there is one thing that I have learned over many years in dealing with mules is ... don't let them get away with a Bad Habit.
Siera has decided lately that she will walk with me calmly on the lead until she reaches sight of the horse trailer where I normally tie her up and groom her.  Mind you, I don't ride her each and every single time I get her out of the pasture.

But apparently she has decided to go so far and then 'lock' her legs.  I can usually get her there with some backing and circling.  But the other night I decided that she was going to stop this behavior and that I wasn't going to allow it even if it meant NO riding that night.

The habit had to stop now or it was just going to get worse.  I tried backing her up and circling her, and for a half hour she and I got no further than one certain spot in the dooryard.  She wasn't acting fearful or wild.  She was just being, well....stubborn!
I finally found something I could tie her to and got a lunge whip.

We headed back towards her pasture and then I did a 180 and started back to the problem area.  As soon as the legs locked I cracked the lunge whip in the air behind her.  She hunched and crept forward, relocking her legs.  So I kept her moving in circles around me.  I found that I wasn't very handy at this method so I changed to a short riding crop.

When she locked up I either tapped her on the flank and if that didn't work, I turned her and tapped her chest and made her back up quickly towards the trailer.

This worked well.  
So I decided to try the rule of thirds with her.  Three chances at walking from the pasture gate to the trailer without hesitation.  First time we had two stops which quickly were remedied.  The second time, one hesitation.
The third time was a charm.  She walked right up to the trailer and stood quietly.

Each time I had taken her to the trailer before I also had tied her and groomed her for a period of time.  The trailer is to become a place of comfort for her, not a place of dread.

I'm also wondering if it is being tied up that bothers her so much.  She will stand untied with a lead rope and let me wash her and groom her.
I may try saddling her without being tied once and see how that goes.

But.  She does need to learn to be comfortable tied to the trailer for many obvious reasons.
Good mule.  She really is.  Bad mule, she really isn't!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We had some rain!

Not much but worth mentioning!

Tuesday night we had isolated showers, ...and I mean isolated!
While it did nothing for the crops, it did make for some beautiful shots while driving home.
 Last night though we had some real clouds and a front that swung through like a raging bull.  The winds swept up to 50+ mph.  I was outside when the winds hit.  It was like a dust bowl.
We did get some rain, not much, perhaps 3/10 of an inch.  
But that is more than we've had in such a long time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just a Mule.

This is Siera from two nights ago...she came out to stand guard over me as I did some things in her pasture.
She's only a mule, but she's very in tune with a person's needs and emotions.  I had no idea she could be so sensitive.  I wonder if it is because she is a female too?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The call

Normally I love hearing my brother's voice.  It is not often he calls.  In fact, I'm sure us siblings don't call each other nearly enough.  

We have quite separate lives in separate parts of the 'world'. 
When my brother called, I shamelessly let it go to the answereing machine without getting up and looking to see who had called.  I was tired and just got off from two 12 hours shifts that ran 8pm to 8am.

But when I heard his voice, I jumped up and ran to the other room.
As my hand reached for the phone, he began to leave a message.
'Call me at...when you get this message.'
The tone of his voice said he was not calling with good news.
The last time he had 'that tone' he had called to tell me of our father's death.
I grabbed the phone quickly.

At first I apologized for letting it go to 'message' and then we shared some small talk.  Then he gave me the bad news.  It was bad.
After more than 10 years of being declared cancer free, my sister had gotten the news that IT was back.

When I spoke to her on the phone, I felt quite strange.  What does one say to comfort another person with such bad news?
There are no true words to offer.  She told me there would be testing, but yes, IT was definitely back.  
I wish I could reach out and take some of the pain of not knowing away.  I know that is stupid and that I can't do it.  I wish a lot ...and spend my idle time thinking.  Wishes don't make things better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wash Day for Siera

Okay this sounds boring. Today was Siera's first ears to hooves bath and scrubbing.  I even de-tangled the her tail.

She was a bit cautious of the hose spraying at first but then stood like a rock [as long as I kept it at a reasonable pressure].  I was able to drop her rope and scrub her up with *Super Poo* Shampoo.  Yeah, it really is named that.

I've yet to have a mule that I could put in the middle of the yard and drop the rope and do what I did today without them moving around or walking away to graze or...simply running off.  Siera stood like a rock and tilted her head to watch me.

The rinse and drip dry went well too. I brushed her and de-tangled her tail~ well not all of it.  I didn't want the first wash job to be extremely boring for her.  

I decided to take a break and  sat on the picnic table. Siera was on a long lead rope, she decided to 'air' dry by watching my face.  


I've never had a mule do that before.  She seemed very content just to hang out together.  She didn't walk away or go look through the burnt grass for goodies.  She just stood by me as if to say.

Look at me.  I'm your best friend in the whole wide world.  How can I get you to realize that?

When I returned her to the meadow, she did it again.  Stared at me.  She did not crowd me like most mules, but she stood close enough to be polite and close enough to be there.

I am starting a new and Epic Adventure with this mule.
My best Friend Has Big Ears.

Monday, July 09, 2012

New Beginnings

Last night we had our first break in the heat in days.  I waited until 7pm and then took Siera out of the pasture.

Here is the last time that I make comparisons between her and Badger.  She is not Badger, though she comes willingly when I call her.

She doesn't walk like Badger, she is gaited.  She walks with pride, purpose, and a 'go get 'em attitude'.  She is a bay mule of 14.2 hands.  Bay is the only things she shares with the infamous Badger.

When I take a ride with her in the flat out open, it only takes me half of the time to get from point A to point B.  She walks [when she wants to] at an even 5-7 miles an hour.  Her faster gait is 9-12 miles and hour.  Badger was never ever in a hurry.  His was like Eeyore, we get there when we get there.  
Siera doesn't seem to mind dogs, even stray dogs.  So far we've only met nice dogs in our wanderings and one little nasty yappy dog.  She didn't offer to stomp it.  This is good.

Siera lacks confidence in rough terrain where she cannot see where her feet are going.  
She dislikes deep shadows and road ditches...where the deep grass may hold a huge dip.  We are working on that.
My husband says she doesn't trust me yet.  I think he is wrong, she trusts me, but not her own abilities yet.
The mule that Badger was ... was not done in a day or 30 days.  It was years of riding of exposure and of constant work.

My husband used to say...*If you'd only spend half of the time working with 'insert mule name' as you do with Badger, that mule would be fantastic!*  He is right of course.

So last night, we took off for a ridge ride and to visit with any of the two neighbors that may have been outside.  We met a couple on the road.  

Siera was NOT going to have anything to do with the dust monster coming towards her.  I made her get off the road and stand next to the corn field.  Lo and Behold, the folks in the car were in laws of a neighbor, they have raised and trained horses for many years.  They idled by and let Siera get a good look at the 'dust monster'.

We got to Linda's in no time flat.  As I went around the 'Slack' corner and turned Siera towards home, Linda came out from the shed with a tractor and a hay bine, her herding dog Bandit in tow...
Bandit thought Siera was the perfect animal to 'herd'.  Siera didn't bat an eye.  She didn't mind the dog but carefully watched the tractor.  
Linda shut down her tractor and we talked a while.
She inquired about Badger's health and was sad to hear about his passing.  

Siera learned that the huge tractor would also not going to eat her alive.  Surprisingly, Siera doesn't have HUGE reactions to things that may frighten her.  She will sometimes do a quick twist away from the object, but so far no bolting out of control.

When we turned towards home, she turned up the gait and strutted out.  We practiced ditches, stopping, walking, crossing the road into fields, and some reining to round things out.

For Siera and I, these are new beginnings.  We need each other.
When I let her out into the meadow, she didn't leave my side and seek out the other mules.

She stood by my side quietly even when I quite petting her and rubbing her ears.  She did not seek out her pasture mates until I stepped through the gate and shooed her away.

That alone makes her pretty special.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Could we have some rain please?

I went for a walk in the woods yesterday to see if I could nab the last of the 'black caps'.  I walked down our ridge road and was surprised at how dry it was under the canopy of trees.
Cracking Dry.
I could stick my finger down some of the cracks in the earth.

I did find some berries.  But the picking was scarce and HOT.  I came back with enough for hubby and I each to have a taste of black berries and yellow berries.  YUM!

As I was filling the stock tank in the Meadow at the end of the day, I took a shot across the meadow towards the woods.  The grass looks brown.  

I don't quite ever recall a dry spell as bad as this one.
My yard is yellow in spots.  Of course there are a couple of weeds that seem healthy, but where the sun feet crunch when I walk.

When I walk through the pasture the weeds and grass that seem to be surviving are covered in dust. Usually we are cutting the meadow grass so that the animals can keep up with it...not this summer.

Not to mention what my vehicles look like!
Oh...excuse me, is that a blue car or a tan car?  
Um, why it is a special color.  Dusty Tan.

I hung my laundry out to dry.  I was more worried about my sheets getting dusty than I was about them drying.

I told my hubby that I spit and watched it evaporate before it hit the ground.

That is a bit of a stretch.  It evaporated immediately after it hit the ground.

Could we please have some rain?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Some people may think that my jump right into riding Siera after Badger's death could be a bit heartless.
To tell you the truth, I always hoped and held out the belief that Badger would suddenly have a miracle cure...that he'd jump back to his formal self.
After watching him lose wieght and begin to suffocate and die before my eyes, I started to emotionally try to distance myself from him.  It hurt every day to see him stand and try to breathe.

I am sure that this recent heat wave would have done him in.  But....

But, a few years ago I met Siera, the mule I didn't think we needed.  The mule who decided that SHE was my best friend [aside from Badger].  I sensed in her a possibility of a 'Badger type relationship' and this was before Badger got ill.

It is rare that this sort of thing happens in the equine world.  A trust that is like no other that develops between human and equine.

Before Badger passed away, I couldn't concentrate on developing this special bond between me and Siera.  It just didn't feel right.  I felt like a traitor.

Now it is just the two of us.  [Granted, I have Opal, Fred, and Sunshine to ride too].  Siera has something that calls to my heart strings.
I think I'll go with the flow.  
She is proving to be a one of a kind mule.
The type that never comes along a second time.

I think I am blessed.

Obsidian Dawn, Corel Painter Essentials 4, reviews

Combining Corel Painter Essentials 4 [which is free by the way], Elements 5, and a variety of brushes from Obsidian Dawn have driven me in a direction that is a bit different with some of my photography.

Digital Photo Painting.  Yes Corel Painter Essentials 4 is a free program, but that doesn't mean it cannot be well used!  I followed the tutorials that came with the program and then dove into playing with it.
Some results were hideous.
Some results were fantastic.
I combined the painting with layers in Elements 5.  No I have not upgraded to the latest version, although I've thought about it.  I get along with '5' so well, that I haven't explored the $ to upgrade.

I decided to add some textures to my digital art by using some interesting brushes from Obsidian Dawn.

This one was particularily fun as I used Obsidian Dawn's 'scratch out' brushes to add texture.  I used layers to bring back the brick on the building and certain places that I wanted to bring the viewer's eye to.

Old crumbling buildings usually don't interest me at all, but this turned out ... in my own opinion, quite cool.  
I may try this technique on some more architectural shots if I can get out and about and take some!

These artistic digital programs give me a whole new choice of creativity to follow.
I've actually combined it with Topaz Lab products in order to prepare the photo for 'painting' in the Corel program.

So if you have some photos and you are not sure what to do with them...or are bored of the same ol', same ol'...try some digital painting.
After all, there is none of the mess, and you never have to clean your brushes!

Monday, July 02, 2012

HOT Hot Hot...

Welcome to the heat wave.  From what the weather services are predicting, it is going to be very very hot and humid out there.

As the day wears on the heat rises and so does the humidity, making it very difficult to sweat and cool off.
We plan to get what work we can get done around the farm before 10am.  The rest of the day will be spent checking on animals' waters, cooling off animals when we can, and keeping ourselves cool.
Right now the NOAA is calling for a heat advisory with a suggestion that they may go to a Heat Warning.
How bad can that be?

Anyway I am on my way out the door to work with Siera, the mule, before the sun comes up.  Chores after that.  
Stay safe, stay cool.
Check on anyone you know that may need help as far as A/C. 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A Tribute to Badger

Pets and Animals

I heard an interesting program on my drive to work the other day.  The discussion was about pets and animals and the Healing power of them.
Well, of course they were discussing something I was already aware of.  Most owners of equine realize that the animal they work with helps build self confidence [if all goes correctly] and sometimes it can build a bond like no human bond can be found.

An equine doesn't judge you but is a mirror of what is inside you.  The equine does not lie.  I have found over the years in my dealings with mules that they are very sensitive.  They can sometimes pick and choose a person and exclude all else.  I've seen that with Badger, Opal, and Siera.

Dogs on the other hand adore you no matter what.  They think that the ground you walk on is made of gold.  Dogs make you laugh.  Dogs love you even if you feed them just plain dog food every night.
To have a dog [or cat] in your household is a wonderful thing.  
I guess sometimes people think it is too much of a bother.

I've done 'time' without a pet in my house.  It is not fun.  I need that animal for some reason!
Animals have other health benefits also.  They keep your immune system healthy.  :)
I think I knew that!

The guest on the show insisted that all children should be surrounded by pets, it would help their immune system greatly.  I guess studies have been done that have proven that children brought up in a 'sterile' environment fair worse with their health and allergies.  Whereas, a child brought up with animals, or even on a farm fair so much better.

I think I knew that without the study.
But there you go!