Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oh to ride the the sobreandando!

Do you want to ride smoothly?
Do you want to ride fast AND smoothly?

The Purvian Paso has two gaits.

*The paso llano is a broken gait. It consist of a permanent, harmonic, and rhythmic tapping in which the animal makes a gentle and pleasant alternating movement. It is a quick advance in which the center of the horse's gravity stays almost immobile, producing a smooth ride.*

*The second gait, the sobreandando, is faster. Instead of four equal beats, the lateral beats are closer together in a 1-2, 3-4 rhythm, with the pause between the forefoot of one side to the rear of the other side is longer.*

From the site: Peruvian Horses at Fox Creek Homestead

Combine these gaits with a mule who is intelligent and you have something quite special.

This sounds stupid, and to those who don't really 'get' an equine it will make absolutely NO sense.
I looked into Siera's eyes before we rode.
I saw something there, like a window into my own soul.
...and it was free.

While we rode, Siera sought re-assurance from me when we got 'into a scary' place. Where the creek ran hard over the rocks and the footing was soft.
I asked her to step over a downfall which was hidden in the grass.

She did.
She sighed.
She stood quietly.
My hand brushed her neck, my fingers played across her withers.
She was content.

We moved on and explored many of the trails that Badger and I have done over the years.
I had to recall, that these were new to Siera.

We had a great ride.
Her eyes and body language told me this was so.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Riding Siera with a Garmin GPS

The day looked promising for getting in a ride. It was a tad bit windy, but I decided to throw caution 'to the wind' and saddle up Siera.

I'd just bought a Garmin eTrex GPS handheld unit. Did I need one? Not really.

Well because I am able to figure out how to operate the Trip~MPH~Distance menu.

And I wanted to see just how fast Siera walks out even in the rough woods of PeeWee's.

Was I ever surprised.
Siera is a gaited Peruvian Paso Mule. She can walk extremely fast ... and she loves it. She has a very hard time backing off.
More than once I did make her stop, just so I could get a photo of her.

Not easy on a mule that averages 7 mph in the rough.
That my friends, is FAST.

We exited the woods, after doing my normal 'work out' route for Badger when he was being kept in shape for Limited Distance rides. She seemed to cover the route in a blink of the eye.

We headed out the road and gaited our merry way to the black top and back home.

Our average speed which included 15 minutes of being stopped [visiting with neighbors and taking photos].
Was 9 miles per hour.

We covered nearly 10 miles in an hour and a half. My count isn't truly accurate though because I'd forgotten to delete the previous 'trip'.

When I got home ... hubby came out and we tried Siera's new-old Stonewall saddle on her. Hubby has totally refurbished this.

It fits like a dream and weighs less than 12 pounds.

What a fantastic ride.
Thank you Siera.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Marry a Handyman if...

You ever want anything new.

Today we got the Dryer out of its cubbyhole.

Last time I wrote about the 'Great Laundry Experiment' was in March of this year.

I'd been without a dryer since the beginning of December in 2010.

He looked at it and called to see if he could get a belt to replace the one that had broken.
I meanwhile cleaned floors and washed walls and did laundry, hanging it out to dry with cloudy gray skies.

I was used to guessing the weather and getting laundry dried successfully between the outside line and the inside clothes rack by now.

I was sort of hoping that the old machine was 'un-fixable' which means I could get a new one ...or
get some more storage space in the house.

My husband hung up from the appliance store in town saying that a new belt would be ours in a day or so.

I looked at the torn apart kitchen/dining area.

The dryer was taken apart and looked as if to be the victim of some violent wretched crash.
Its door hung off kilter, the drum was laying on top of one of Morris's hedgehog toys in the living room. The top was leaning up against a door.

In short. It was a mess.

I glanced up at him while scrubbing the floor where the dryer used to sit.
*Not 2 days!* I exclaimed!
*Yup, only 2 days!*

Okay 2 days of walking around pieces of the dryer sitting around the house, most definitely in the way. Most definitely ~~ in my book ~~ an issue.

*Hmmm, we don't need a new one?* I asked pointing to the old machine. I was eager in any way to get it out of my way. This is part of the reason it has taken so long to address the broken belt.

*Nope,* he replied, *it'll be as good as new as soon as the belt goes back on.*

I tossed dirty water out the door into the dooryard. Sometimes my well meaning and wonderful handyman can take 2 days or 2 years to fix an item.
But it does get fixed eventually ...

See Why You Must Eat Ice Cream!

He is awfully good at fixing things. In fact very good. He can keep a lawn mower going long past the time it should go to the junk yard.
We did get a new water heater 3 weeks ago because the old one is not doing very well.

He was going to install it right away.

It is resting comfortably in its box, in the shed. Nestled between the tractor he is going to fix and the old Toyota that needs a Master Cylinder.

In my house, patience is the key.
The handyman can fix it.
But it is on his time, not my time.

...and so it goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finally Moving

Last year we began 'renovating' woods above the creek.
In 2007 a magnificent storm roared through our area and took down hundreds of trees, knocked out the electricity for 5 days ... and completely destroyed most of our boundary fence between us and the neighbor to our east.
It washed out creeks and cleared valleys of rocks and rubble.

It has taken us 4 years of slow but steady work to cut the trees that were tossed down like mere match-sticks.

We hired a dozer last year to clear a trail through the woods so that we could replace the electric fence.
A few days ago we finished patching the border fence.
We plan on restringing the barbed wire with new next year.

Today the donkey herd of 7 and 3 mules were turned into the woods.

They'll work on clean up of undergrowth for a couple of weeks until it is time to corral everyone up safely near the house and shed for the 9 day gun season.

Come winter the woods and the trail will be open for adventure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

About Fall

Sometimes I swear I detest this time of year.
The days have grown utterly short.

The nights come on fast and you are still wishing to have daylight left because of all the things YOU wanted to get done this summer ... but haven't.

The brilliant show of foliage has mostly faded into crunchy [if it is dry] or soggy squishes under your feet [if it is damp].

The birds that are left to sing are blackbirds, crows, chickadees, along with some sparrows.

This is the time of year that feels lost. The Deer-Gun Hunting season will come soon taking everyone's minds off the dull browns of this time of year. Snow will soon come and everyone will start thinking about Christmas.

But what of now?
I've learned to begin to enjoy these days also.
For actually they do provide quite a bit of beauty in the woods if you know where to look for it.

There is the old abandoned car in what the kids call 'the bone yard'.

There is the creek to always delight in its sound and its beauty.

...and the comedian who makes you laugh.

Then as we head back home we stop and say hello to Sundance who is turning out to be one beautiful red molly mule. Her momma, Cheyanne would have been very proud of her.

And I think to myself ... that perhaps fall with its dull days really isn't quite so bad.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Fence Repairs

Without fail, it seems that there is one constant on our place.

Fence work.
It is never ending.
Fence for the Dexter Cattle have to be tailored for them. Hot wires must be put on the tops of all perimeter fences for the mules ~~ Badger shows a fine example of this.
He'll reach.
I've known other mules to simply jump over and graze, then jump back.
Badger is grazing from the summer meadow, into the winter meadow.
After hubby knocked down a young choke-cherry tree, I dragged it out for the ladies to enjoy. The red mule amongst the donkeys is Sundance.

After getting DEEP down into the woods, hubby and the Mystical Magical Skid Steer come back out.
I had my doubts, but heck ... he got it done!

Another day of work at the Mulewings Hideout...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Joy to the World

Joy is seeing a dog that is utterly happy all of the time.
This is Morris sitting on the Allis Chalmers Tractor thinking he is King of the World.

Well I suppose he is in a way.
He is King of his own little World.

And then there is my buddy Badger.
And yes ... Badger seems to be getting along quite well thank you!
This fall has been a wonderful for him.
His ROA has settled down quite a bit.

We'll see what this winter brings.

These simple things make my heart sing and my world fill with joy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Sleeping Forest ~~ The First Entry

I'm making a sequel of sorts to the Enchanted Forest~~

A follow up to what it feels like to be in the Forest during the winter months.
I spent last winter going out into the woods as often as possible to 'get a feel' for what it is like.

I know, this sounds stupid as we all know that winter is cold and the forest is quite still during those cold months.

That is not what happened.
I got a whole different feel for life in the Forest for the Winter Months.
The harshness.
The beauty.
The wildness of it all...

This is the first entry:

End of October:
The leaves have fallen, the trees are mostly stark and bare limbed. The summer birds are gone and an unusual hush fills the forest.

It is a time of change. Autumn makes me slightly uneasy. The long summer daylight hours are gone and it feels as though suddenly time has run away on me.

The Forest feels as if it is waiting for something. Squirrels chatter away as they gather and bury their food. Soon, they too will fall silent.

I find myself wandering down our ‘hill’ road towards the creek. I have nothing in mind but a simple walk. I walk with my feet, but with my eyes and ears also. I try to breath in the smell of leaf decay under my feet, the smell of dirt. For after winter’s arrival, the smell will be gone until spring.

I stop and peer at thorny multiform rose bushes that are heavy with rose hips. These bright red berries will be gone soon after the first snowfall.

I memorize this moment. For one thing is true, this too, shall change.

The Forest knows that Autumn too is but a fleeting moment in it’s memory.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Last Hurrah of the leaves

The weather the past few days have been glorious for the first part of October. Partially warm nights with no frost and wonderfully ~~ almost ~~ hot days.

I did do other things besides ride.
But those were household and farming chores.

Opal, Siera, and Badger all got workouts these past few days. Lots of saddle time.

I got to see the last hurrah of the fall colors.

The winds on Saturday blew most of them down.

Yesterday I rode in a mostly bare forest, except for the oaks and some of those trees in the valley that were still clinging to their leaves.
I have a love~hate relationship with fall. I love to see all the beautiful colors in the trees. I love the autumn weather [warm days, cool nights].

But in the end, when the leaves have fallen, the land looks still and somewhat barren. Frost comes along and turns everything a sullen brown. The forest looks abandoned of life, yet I know too well that it isn't.

But for now, I'm going to grab every luscious moment of October and enjoy it to the fullest.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Beautiful Morning

I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed up towards the ridge top before dawn.

I wanted to sit and watch the sun come up in all of its red glory.
It did not disappoint me.
The leaves have blown off on most of the trees on the ridge.

I stood and watched from the corner where the ancient tobacco shed used to stand.
There was a haze like a faint fog that graced the horizon.
The colors kept changing, the clouds added an interest to the sky.
My one ridge neighbor brought his son out to the cross roads to meet the bus.
I reflected on what it may be like in the dead of winter...and then let that thought pass.
This morning was warm ~ like an Indian Summer.
I thought.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
The pastel colors after sunrise tied it all together for me as a photographer.

When I at last went back home ~~
My husband said to me...
*Well was it worth it?*

I sighed and nodded.
Of course it was.
Dawn and sunset are the most beautiful times of the day.
No matter what season it is.

I felt complete.
I felt whole.
I felt happy.

All because I was able to stand and watch the sun begin my day.

Friday, October 07, 2011

It is too Windy to Ride ~ so they say

The winds were gusting about 32 mph.

But the training must go on, right?

Siera has experience, she needs more.

So today I decided to continue with yesterday's work.
She had absolutely NO reaction to being saddled.

This was a good thing that made me smile.
It also meant that we could go ahead and do a brush busting ride through the creek bottoms.


That means me...and her.
Alone in 500 acres of woods, doing deer trails and brush busting.
Yup, that is my ugly mug with my orange vest, extremely cool helmet and a hanky to mop up blood or make a tourniquet.

We would not go solo if she wasn't ready.
And believe me, Siera is willing and ready.

We got down in the valley and into the deep woods. We jumped up deer three times.
No reaction other than to stop and watch them run through the woods.

The wind blew on the top of the ridge, sometimes roaring. Leaves rained down upon us.

What was Siera's main concern?

Nothing really. She was concentrating on what I was asking of her. Which trail to follow...or to perhaps resist going down.
She is of course not in any way like Badger.
But she does gets 'nerved' up when away from home.

In short, she sweats around the head and neck.
[Of course it was also 80 degrees!]
She did all of her creek crossings without much pause.

She stopped, looked, and at my urging, went forward as if she'd never had any fear of crossing little creeks.

She's fast. She walks fast and is full of energy.

So we did practice standing still 3 times.
The first time for 1 minute.
Second ~ 2 minutes.
...well you get the idea.

It was a delightful ride. A wonderful ride.

We'll be going again soon.

[ ear listening to me and one ear cocked forward]

Until next time...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Working with Siera

It is odd how one mule can have such a reaction from one person to another.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy interacting with them so much.

A few weeks ago I tossed a saddle on her and took her for an awesome ride.

Last week we went to the 'Secret Place' where I let my hubby ride her. For some odd reason, when he saddles her, she is an unhappy mule.
Is it because she just has picked a 'favorite' person?

Mules do tend to do that.

Or is it a new problem?
Today I took her over to the trailer to see if she'd react any differently to my saddling her.
To my surprise, she did have a reaction and leaned back against the halter as I slowly tightened the cinch.

She then gave a half hearted rear and stared at me with a wild look in her face.

Well instead of riding, I decided to do a 'session' on saddling and un-saddling.
About 45 minutes later after repeated saddling and un-saddling...along with a 'time out' for patience while tied to the trailer,
I pronounced the exercise complete.

I gave up the ride to work with a possible issue to keep it from happening again.

This is satisfying work.

Next time, if hubby rides Siera, I'll ask to saddle her for him.
Perhaps our body language is different and that is what makes the difference.

Yes. I can saddle her untied in the round pen without any problems, for those who are wondering.
But that is not always going to be the case when you are trailering somewhere to ride.

Tomorrow we saddle up and see how it goes. We should have a good day to get some brush busting in.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

One year ago

One year ago I was ending my 'last' adventure in Hawai'i with the self promise that I would go back in two years.

Today marks one year.

I really did love my time there. It was adventurous and wonderful...and at times, it felt like a visit that was too short.
That is, considering that as a child we would rent a house and spend a month there.

No question in the back of my mind...I will go back.
And I won't wait until I am too elderly to take adventurous hikes.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Mule ride in the 'Secret Place'

There is a secret place that we've known about and heard from some local riders...well.
It isn't really secret.

It is on the map. It is a county park. After all we have the Kickapoo Reserve, Wildcat Mountain, and Horseman's Park to ride in.
All fabulous and awesome places to ride in.

we'd never gone to this place.
Where the Bad Axe River flows hard, creating a dull roar of watery music as it rushes over rocks.
The trails are switch backs and if your equine is in fair shape, they can march right along the 3 mile loop with ease.

The 3 miles does not feel like 3 miles.
It is up, down, around rocks, around ridges, over logs...

it crosses the Bad Axe. In one place it was up to Siera's belly.

She handled it well after the first refusal.
Opal did her usual self and simply took it all in stride.

In the valley and above us the trees were touched with brilliant gold.
Too hard to get on a Pink Fugly point and shoot camera.

The trails were fun. Challenging to an equine's physical fitness.

Am I going to disclose this place?
No, I'm not.
On a Saturday we ran into one other couple that were riding.
We saw one hiker.

...and we only covered half of the trails available to us.
On the way home we talked excitedly about what a great find this was.
Heck, though...we'd known about it for 15 years.
We just thought it wasn't worth our time.
We wanted miles and miles of trails.

What we found was plenty of trails with fantastic scenery. And a wonderful place to get Siera and others in tip top shape.

We are eagerly putting this 'Secret Place' on our favorite list.

I still wonder at how we could have ignored this gorgeous place that is nearly in our 'backyard'.

Whoops I forgot my camera!

I ran to town to do some quick errands.

As I drove back I admired the colors of the leaves and the incredible skies.

Why oh why did I not bring my Olympus or Nikon?


All I had was my cheapo Ugly...Fugly Pink Camera.

So I managed some shots anyway.

I think everyone should challenge themselves with a cheap P&S and see what they can get.

I was happy with the results.