Sunday, March 29, 2015

Afternoon Delight

What do you do when it is cold, windy, and it is March?

Well, Siera started to 'talk' to me when I walked across the yard.

She did little mule grunts and nickers.

I took her out of the muddy paddock and started to clean her.
Her mane was full of mud and hay particles.  
So carefully cleaned her mane, then took the scissors and tried to clip out a section for her bridle.

Oh dear.  I didn't stop there.  I pretty much butchered her mane.

She turned away when I pulled the camera out of my pocket.  I think she was embarrassed by my lack of hair cutting skills.

No matter, at least I could see her head when sitting in the saddle.

And off we went for a ride on the ridge to visit anyone else that might be out and about in the 'neighborhood'.

What a delight it was to ride Siera who had decided that this was an adventure for her too.
She had no hesitation regarding leaving home.

She stretched out and moved along as if this was a part of a normal routine.

We stopped and visited with one of the farmers.  Her dogs kept moving around Siera as I stood there, holding her rein.
Her dogs are cattle herding dogs.  And they thought Siera or I should be moving for them.

My neighbor stroked Siera on the forehead and kept saying what a nice calm mule she had turned out to be.

I had to agree.  Siera and I have worked towards becoming a 'team' for quite a long time.  Finally, our work was paying off.

We took a round about way over the ridge and through some hay fields.
Siera never offered to argue about who was in charge and she was super willing.

I couldn't have had a better afternoon ride.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

This was the view the other day...the  26th on our way back from the Madison VA Center.

Photographers call these rays of sunlight 'God's Rays'.  Now I won't argue anything about God or no God, but when this occurred I was struck with awe.

I used my crappy point and shoot camera through the windshield.

I know this farm so it was sort of a special thing for me.

Well on to another sunlight day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The C word has come to our house

On March 13th, Friday the 13th...

And who really believes in that bad luck stuff anyway?...

My husband was diagnosed with Throat Cancer.

His Ear/Nose/Throat Doctor confirmed the pathology report on Monday and gave it a name.

We will find out more after a PET scan and a meeting with the oncologist and those doctors who will be guiding us through this.

I will probably create another side-blog for following this and I'll let my readers know where that is.

For the moment our life seems on a perpetual hold until we 'know' more. Whatever that means.

Our days are up and down of course.  Because after all no one ever expects it to happen to them.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Enjoying the Brown Season

Here is the view from the saddle.  Oh Siera, your mane is unruly and you look shaggy!

Thank goodness you have such big ears so that we can tell...almost that you are a mule!

Fred,  you and your most handsome rider appeared to be happy and very content on the nice easy trail!

We were supposed to be looking for antler sheds but I was enjoying just being out with Siera and my favorite riding partner.

We rode out to look over the back valley.

You definitely want a mule here that is not suicidal or crazy.  Last year I was barely able to keep Siera standing still in this area, nor was I able to get her down this steep trail to the point.

Fred and hubby are at a rock point and I think it could be at least 100 feet or a bit more straight down to the valley floor.

The view is incredible though.

Fred and hubby continued along the top.  Siera and I meandered around looking for things.

In the summer this area is so full of undergrowth and the forest canopy is so heavy that you can't see the other ridge.

I was pretty proud of Siera though, she and I took on a very steep and nasty dry run.  A year ago she would have refused and we would have had a fight on our hands.
But I've spent a lot of time building up her confidence and she has spent more time maturing.

It was muddy, slippery, and steep.
I got off afterwards and rewarded her with some loving while my husband laughed.

Siera is not like his mule.  Fred, after all has about 20 yrs more riding experience than she has had.

After a hard climb out of the valley we stopped to let Fred catch his breath. Siera being a youngster was ready to go.

But she also needs a bit more 'patience' training.

She has actually come a very long way since we started working together.  I think she is going to be an exceptional rider for me.
She has the speed when I want it and yesterday she showed that she can dawdle along at a nice slow pace if need be.

And thus we enjoyed the 'Brown Season', the time before things turn green again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You are not like any of my Grandma's

Quote from a 10 yr old that I went hiking with yesterday.

I think that is one of the nicest compliments I could ever receive.

Of course this after we collected 'Owl Pellets', the jaws and the skull of an old buck, inspected a skeleton, found cool rocks, and did some creek jumping.

Of course I was very excited to find Skunk Cabbage emerging in the valley bottom.

We even hiked to the farthest end of the valley and found the remains of ice.  

We followed the ice up to the spring and then decided to climb the ravine side.  Crawling was more like it.  
We made it just fine, I was a bit out of breath but I guess I didn't do too badly from being a LOT older than my hiking partner.

We found Hepatica leaves dotting the east hillsides.

And then we decided to head home.  I'm pretty sure that my hiking partner would have stayed out there with me until past dark.

But we decided to do this again.  Of course, when schedules would permit.

My husband said it was good that I had someone 'my own age' to play with.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shhhh, I've been playing

Just messing a bit with different fractal programs.

Incendia and JWildfire.

No, I don't like that log,...seriously...

Everything is muddy and slippery, well in the areas I like to hike, that is.

Yesterday I decided to take Siera again on a hike.  The last time I took her we still had a lot of snow.

This time it was all muck and slippery mud in the woods.

We came to the first dip in the trail that has a big log across it.
I carefully stepped over and asked her to follow.

Her front feet slid into the log.  She sort of put one hoof on the log and then decided...

Forget it.  I am not going over.  I am not going to move.
You can't make me.
I don't want to.
I will stand here forever and stare at you.

I played her game for a while and let her try and decide what she should do.
This was a narrow trail with trees on each side and the briers are so thick that you cannot walk through them.

I finally got tired of the waiting game.  I know I can't coax, pull, or get her forward when she locks her legs.

So I carefully walked up to her side and then to her hindquarters.  I tapped her butt and said, "Siera, step!"

She sighed with her whole body and stepped over the log with great care.

She is a drama queen.

We then continued on our walk and she only hesitated once more when she thought we should take a different trail up the hill.

Instead I took her into a narrow valley and we crossed tangled logs, muddy ditches, and slippery obstacles.  I know this was harder on me than her!

We stopped in an open area so I could rest.  Siera looked through the woods and then decided while I was resting she'd look for something to browse on.

Soon enough we headed back on the trail and then took the uphill trail.

She only glanced at the other trail that leads back home and didn't offer to balk.

We came out on the road on the ridge where I stopped and had a 'talk' with her.

Shh, don't tell her that I was catching my breath from the steep climb.  She didn't seem out of breath at all!

One ear forward and one ear back.  She probably was thinking about the glove I tossed on her back so I could grab the camera and attempt a shot of the two of us.

We went down the road a bit, she walked on a nice loose line 'heeling' perfectly to me.
We picked up the mail on our way back from taking a look at the neighbor's sugar maple buckets.

And our hike ended.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The melt is over!

I went out on our 60 degree day and walked my riding trail after exploring the creek.

The snow melt is over.  The water was dripping off from the rocky wall on the north side of the creek.  I just love the details in moss, it is so delicate and beautiful.
It is also the spot to find 'green' this time of year.

I found ice still on the rock wall that rarely sees sunlight.  I expect that it will slowly disappear this week with the above freezing temperatures also.

I found a toy that we'd lost in January in the wall!  How odd is that?
One of the 'My Little Ponies' that my grand daughter had given me to take photos of had disappeared.
I didn't know where on earth I'd lost it.

Apparently when they were visiting in January for the day, and we'd taken a hike to the Ice Wall, we left the pony behind.

Well no harm done!

The March winds have come in blowing like crazy.
We are under a Fire Concern because of the dry winds.

Funny how quickly we can go from snow and ice to dry conditions!
We have no rain forecast for a few day.  Now we are hoping for rain as it will make things green up around here.

Oh, and the Robins have come back!
Looks like spring intends to stay.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Getting the mail.

Siera has never been a mule that was willing to leave home very well, especially first thing in the spring.  And especially solo.  Usually towards the end of summer she has decided that it is okay.

So I've been taking her on walks to do such mundane things as to pick up the mail on the ridge.
It involves her least favorite walk.
Up the driveway and away from her buddies.

I used to have to wait for her after she locked her legs.  I could force her but I want her to cooperate as her own idea.
You can force a mule, but it doesn't always seem the best way of training.
Siera is very 'sensitive' whereas Badger was not.

Up we started, Siera was doing the perfect job of 'heeling' me on the leadline. Her head was dropped and she plopped along as if there was not a care in the world.

That is until Fred and a couple of the mares whinnied.

Then she stopped and looked around as if coming out of her zone.

I let her stand and take a quick look, then asked her with a jiggle of the leadline to please pay attention to me.

I took a step forward.  She stepped a bit sideways.  I said quietly, but firmly, "Siera, walk."

She did.  When we walked passed the entrance to the woods trail, she looked over and stepped slightly in that direction.

Routine can sometimes be the best and worst training method for a mule.  But I think if I establish a 'routine' about leaving home with me while not saddled, it will become a non-issue when she is saddled.

We walked up the steep hill and every once in a while she stopped.  I let her take a look around and then simply said, "Siera, walk."  
And she did.

We got to the mailbox and I gabbed the 'junk' mail out.  Siera looked past me to the corn field and the gravel road which goes east to a secluded farm and to the south which leads to the ridge.
When riding we go both ways.  

I walked her passed the mailboxes and down the road a bit.  She walked like a big obedient dog.

I needed to return home but would have liked a longer walk with her since she was being so incredible.

But home it was...half way down our steep driveway Siera stopped and looked around.
I let her because it seemed she was in no hurry to join her friends.

Suddenly her eyes widened and she leaped sideways.  The lead rope never tightened in my hands.  I consider that a good 'spook'.  I looked over my shoulder to find the mule monster.  
Really, I expected to find one?

Then Siera did something very funny.

She dropped her head and stepped around to face me.  I don't normally put human emotions with animals, but it was almost as if she was apologizing.

She then lifted her head and stared off towards home.

She made no move forward until I asked her to.  And the rest of our walk was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

I let her read the junk mail when we got home, but she was more interested in trying to find a bit of grass.

I would have loved to walk with her in the woods, but the north hillsides are mud/ice, the south hillsides are slimy slippery mud, and level land is saturated.

So for now we are sticking to the roads.  I hope to take her on a longer walk next time.  Maybe I'll toss a saddle on so she can give me a lift on the way back!

Good girl Siera.
I am proud of you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hello Spring!

These shots were taken just a few days ago.  With the onset of warm temperatures lately, the snow is just about gone except in those areas where the sun rarely shines.

In the far eastern part of the valley is a dry run that had blue ice earlier this year, I got back to it a couple of days ago.

The sun's angle has changed and the ice is beginning to melt here.  However, most of the valley was without snow.
Everything was brown.

Although I still can find places I feel are beautiful.  I love this tree which stands over the 'hard' turn of the creek.

The sudden thaw always creates a few issues regarding gravel roads and even some more issues with gravel/dirt driveways.
Here is a shot of my neighbor's driveway.
He uses this sign each year and props it up with a kid's plastic picnic table.

The Grammar Cop in me wants to take a red marker and correct the word "Muddey".
However it makes the sign a bit more fun.
Especially the Call Me part which can't be seen unless you get out and pick up the sign!

Lastly, I created a separate blog for the house remodel.

This spring after the road bans have lifted, our cottage or Little House is getting a huge facelift.

I'm going to make it a photo project and update things that we do and the contractor does.  
It isn't going to be a how to do it yourself way!  I would not attempt to put on new roofing, drill through concrete to put in plumbing, nor try to excavate...

Anyway, I may refer to updates once in a while here so anyone who wants to follow it can.

The Little House Remodel 

It promises to be a great and crazy journey.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Photo Bomber!

Morris normally doesn't get in the way of the camera, but I guess yesterday was different.

He picked a nice spot to sit down just as the 1/5 timed exposure went off.

Since he was so insistent that I take his photo, I ended up doing just that.

Doesn't he look as though he is in charge?

He loves the spring rituals such as the snow melt and run off as well as I do.

We had hours to explore and take photos, not to mention wading and jumping the creek waters.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Taking a walk with Siera

I meant to take a walk with Princess yesterday but Siera gave me started to knicker at me when I came out of the shed with a halter and lead rope so I took her instead.

It was a good thing that I did.  The snow was slippery, the footing terrible, and it was very very wet due to the sudden warm up and the strong March sun.

Siera really didn't want to 'leave' home.  We have this issue every spring after a long winter lay off.

So she planted her feet and cocked one ear back towards her 'paddock' pals and refused to move.

So what do you do with a mule that refuses to move?
I've known Siera long enough now to know that she really needs to think about this whole leaving home business.  If she is forced she will go, but there will be a lot more hesitation and balking if she is forced.

So she stood and waited.  I stood and waited.  Fred carried on as if he'd lost his best friend back home and she could hear it.  Normally Fred doesn't care about Siera in the least.  Of course he did on this instance.

I was again amazed at a mule's agility at taking on terrible footing.  I was slipping more than she was.  I wish I had her 4-Hoof Drive sometimes.

Siera finally convinced herself to move and off we went making a trek up the north wooded slope and then back down and around.  I didn't take a long hike because the snow is so deep on the hillside.  It was more of a 'let's get used to leaving home exercise' than anything else.

She never was in a rush and followed me quietly.  The path is narrow with many trees, the one time she did try to surge ahead, she caught my elbow on her nose.

Just like leash training!  She only bumped her nose once and while on the narrow trail walked a polite distance behind me.

I was rather pleased how our hour went.  She was perfectly content to stand around with me in the woods when I decided to stop.

I plan on hiking again today.  Morris could go with us.  Siera adores having his company.

Our temps are supposed to get to 45 degrees again today!

That means we should have another snow melt that will crash down the rocks into the creek.

I caught the mini flash flood as it began yesterday late afternoon.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Dog Obedience can be used for Equine Obedience

The principal is much the same I've realize now after all of these years.

The lessons I learned in my first week of dog classes in 1980-something, was that it was important for your dog to learn to pay attention to you.

This was what we did for just one week in short 15 minute daily workouts.

A longe line was used, a very light cord tied to the collar.  In this case I had a corrective 'choke' collar.  We were never to nag or choke the dog.  The dog was to wander around and eventually 'not pay attention to the handler'.  As soon as the dog's eyes were not on you, you walked swiftly in the opposite direction.

Within two to three times my dog realized that she ought to keep an eye on where I was and she knew exactly how long that line was.

Now I wasn't working her a as a puppy, or taking her on walks as I did Morris as a pup because I lived in a city.  Her work started way after her puppy-hood.

How are equine trained?

In a round pen or on a longe line.  They need to learn to focus on the handler.
Does that sound familiar?

Dog Obedience can be transferred quickly to Equine Obedience.

Today's world is all about non painful training or Politically Correct training. Yet still the principles are the same and the goals are the same.
Happy are those dogs who understand what is expected of them and the rules of conduct.
Why not the same for equine?
I see so many equine walking all over their handlers...

Yesterday, as I was reading through the old lessons and the paper work I saw a very parallel line between equine and dog 'trickery'.

I used the method I'd learned in how to teach a dog how to 'heel' and transferred it into teaching a mule or donkey to 'heel' at my elbow on lead line.

I was surprised at how easily it was accomplished and how much faster the donkey and mules picked it up.  
And let me tell anyone who wants to know.....
No harm, no pain!

Not only that, I can walk my 'tricked' mules on a loose lead.  Siera is my new shining star in that respect.
She will 'heel' me in the pasture.  She will stop and stand if I stop.  If I turn into her and give her the shoulder signal to back up, she backs up as I turn into her.

I've shown this to visitors at our farm, and the believe I have a 'trick' mule.  All I did was apply Dog Obedience 'Heel' training to her at halter.

To some who've seen it, they think I've preformed magic on her.  No, I applied a few weeks of 'leash' work to her!

In the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1976 an article was done on Shepherd House and its Obedience Training classes.  One of the men interviewed said if he called his classes 'Trick' classes, he'd have more people sign up.
They did not use the strict Koehler method for training as they felt is was a bit harsh in some cases and wouldn't work on 'all' breeds.
So they developed a very non-harsh method that drew from several behavioral theorists.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

So you want a dog?

My friend blogger over at Dancing Donkey wrote an excellent blog about how she has taught her dog Conner how to stay close to her and not run off.

Responsibility Training is the title of it.
If you are thinking of getting a dog or a pup, go read it.

There is nothing worse than a dog who doesn't want to stay with you when they are off leash.
Chasing your dog all of the time is not fun as an owner, although it may be a lot of fun for your dog.

She explains about how she took Connor for walks as soon as she got him home.
How as a pup he tired out and she carried him.

I never thought of it as training, but I've done that with all the hound dog pups and our house dogs ever since I can recall.

Of course Morris would be a shining example of that.

He went everywhere with me as a pup.
I even devised a way to carry him.

And there is Dixie here at 12 weeks old.  I'd waited until she wasn't paying attention and then I ran and hid behind a log.

I didn't make it hard and she was so thrilled to 'find' me!  It became a game.

She and Morris both come with a sharp whistle on the fly.  As if no other creature in the world is important.

Well, that is, unless there is something delicious for Morris to roll in!

I have some neighbors that I love dearly.
They got one older dog.
He was very nice, but was a wanderer.

They lost him a few times.  Got him out of the 'pound' a few times.  
Two years ago he wandered off and got injured.  Some good Samaritan took him to the vet's office.  He was taken care of and put up for adoption.
He was adopted by a nice family.

Then our neighbor found him and once again paid a huge price to get him back.

Finally they got a collar with an electric fence.  Old dog stayed home as long as his collar was working.
But no one in the family interacted with him.  He was left mostly on his own to wander his little territory.  His humans fed him and the children watched him not trusting him.  He was large and they were small.  
Old dog started to seem down.

So Neighbors thinking they were nice, got him a puppy.
Puppy and old dog now spend time with their collars on seeking out things to shred within their electric area.

Neighbors called a trainer to come in and help with the Young Dog.  He was knocking kids down, jumping on people, and grabbing the children's hands.  
To the trainer's credit, she said the Neighbors must work with Young Dog daily. Exercise Young Dog, walk with Young Dog.

Yesterday as I left for work I saw Young Dog wandering down the gravel road, he saw my car and gave chase.
I stopped and checked to see if he was okay.  His electric collar was torn in half.
He sat politely when I asked him to.

I called Neighbor and informed her that Young Dog was on the loose and I had to go to work.

She said she'd try and find him as she was in town picking up her daughter from school.


When I was a young mom I got a puppy that turned into a shoe eating, plant digging, jumping on everyone nutcase, that would slam through the front door if someone opened it...

When I took her to the Vet to get neutered, he told me to take Missy to Obedience School.
And I did.
And we worked at it for 10 weeks of basic training.
It took time and effort.  Much like the training of any animal takes.

In the end I had a dog that would heel off leash and could walk through a crowd of people, children, and dogs and ignore everything but me.

I could use hand signals to make her stay, come, lay down, and other useful things.
Most of all, she became a very calm quiet dog once she had a daily job.

Dogs need a job, they need attention.  They cannot learn good behavior by osmosis.  It doesn't just come to them.
It is hard work to get a good dog, it is harder work to get a Great Dog.

Oh and if you read this far?
Same principals apply to donkeys and mules.
Good hard work.
I still have my weekly assignments from the early 1980's dog obedience class.
Guess what?
It really applies well to equine training also.

I did some research and the class I took in 1983 [I think] was a mix of the Koehler Method and the Chicago area Shepherd House, The Foundation for Applied Studies of Animal Behavior.