Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Just some things I've done for color...

On these dreary days...

Can you tell that the weather has been awful?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

So you do well for your....


Black Tulip Fungi

Skunk Cabbage

Virginia Pinks

Wild Dutchman's Breeches

My neighbor who turned 32 this week wanted to go for a nice long hike with me...sans the children.  We've gone on short hikes because even though her three year old is a tough little hiker, I was pretty sure he wasn't going to enjoy this hard hike.

We covered about 3 miles under the canopy of more than one forest mini eco-system.

Near my place there were no flowers blossoming and just the mayflowers were beginning to poke there heads up like little torpedoes through the leaves.

She has studied plants and I have studied the forest floor.  She could give me the proper scientific names and I could ID the plant with the common name.

We headed through our land into the valley across the creek and up onto the ridge.  We took a fast walk over what we fondly call 'the velodrome' which is an open ridge.  It was farmed two years ago and no one did a thing with it last year.

As we dropped onto the trail that lead to the 'back' valley, flowers began to be noticeable in abundance.
Everywhere we looked there was beautiful hues of white, pink, purple, and blues.
The Hepatica were up ... and another plant I call Virginia Pinks which are actually Virginia Spring Beauties.

I was disappointed not to be able to find the Blood Root, but I'm pretty sure they'll come on strong as soon as the weather warms.

Well we wondered into the 'hidden' valley, crossed the creek and found skunk cabbage in all of its glory.

Then off we went while I pointed out landmarks that would soon disappear with the greening of the woods.
We went past the 'ice' cave and did some ravine exploring.

When we got back to the first valley, we crossed that creek and headed back through the old mule trail.  I did a little half step and trip but didn't fall.

I laughed and said something about one day I'd probably fall down and not be able to do this sort of hike any more.

My good young friend said, "You do so well for your..."
I could literally hear her mouth slam shut.

I laughed.  "For my age?"

"Um, no," she recovered, "most people my age couldn't keep up with you!"

Funny, I don't feel that 'aged'.  
We had a great time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cool Beans!

I found this cool app for Windows 8 called Music Maker Jam for Dell.  It was free and I decided why the heck not?

So I put this together as an experiment.

It was pretty darned fun.

Looks like I'll do some more monkeying around with it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cool... stuff! Spring.

In the past few days we've had another heifer Dexter calf.
She is a Houdini, which I guess will be her name.

We had 1.5" of rain yesterday.  That is greening things up quite nicely.

Morris and I went for a hike in the woods and found a few cool things.

May apples coming up through the detritus on the woodland floor.

My favorite find, Dog on a Log.
My helper of course!

Wild Dutchman's Breeches.  
Very beautiful.

I can't wait for them to blossom!

Off for another hike this morning to see what surprises the forest will bring!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Passing on knowledge.

My neighbors don't live very far away.  We share the same driveway.

The children came down yesterday morning early to see Bunny the new Dexter calf.

Later on when I was ready to go out and give Siera her daily currying and brushing, I asked if the 9 yr old daughter could come down.  She has been expressing an interest...a Strong interest in our equines.
So after her math homework was done, our neighbor came down the driveway.

I had Siera already out.  Siera is actually quite calm and easy to work around.

It was this girl's first time to actually curry and brush out an equine.  She followed my instructions carefully and really concentrated on being safe around Siera.

UPS arrived and delivered my Veterinarian Quality Stethoscope, so we decided to listen to Siera's heart beat.

We went over the hoof, while Siera held it quietly in the young girl's hand, while I pointed out the frog, the heel bulbs, and parts of the bottom of the hoof.

Passing on the knowledge like this to a 9 year old who is absolutely madly in love with mules or horses is fun.

Next time we get together, we'll be exploring the importance of getting your equine's normal resting heart rate, as well as respiration, and body temp.

She wants to ride, but a child needs to understand the importance of the 'what' and 'why' around an equine before they just get tossed on a nice lesson animal and begin to ride.

Anyway that is my opinion.
And I'm stickin' to it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bunny The Easter Dexter

That is mom, Annie watching me taking photos of her newborn calf.

She is a great mom.

We thought it appropriate to name her Bunny as she was born on the cusp of Easter.

As with all farms, there is life and death.  One day brings you great sorrow and another brings surprise and joy.  [We knew Annie was pregnant].

Here is Bart enjoying his little kingdom and the proud father of Bunny.

Bunny is doing well, when not up leaping around and running, she is sleeping by one of the trees.  She wanders around to the other cows and checks them all out under mom's watchful eye.

Next due is Valerie.  
Any day now we'll have a second calf!

Our little Dexter Kingdom is beginning to grow.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lessons from Siera

Mistakes I made yesterday with Siera and what I learned from it....

One, I was not thinking.
She hasn't had a woodland timber outing since last fall, I figured like all other of my past mules she'd just 'do it'.  Nah, her brain is not put together like that.  
The first ride after a long break, will always a bit annoying.  At least until she has put more age on her and maturity.

She's had a 5 month lay up.  No, she didn't forget what she was supposed to do, she was just a bit more hyper than normal.

I also tried to make her walk slow with Fred.  She is gaited, she likes to walk fast.  On an open trail it is easier to let her gait out and get ahead. If she has a bit of too much steam to stop and wait, she can do some reining and other fun things.


In the really tough stuff, she surprised me by willingly stepping right into the creek and going through black mucky yucky sucking mud that was sure to EAT any mule.

But since it didn't eat Fred, I'm sure she thought that was okay.

She stood in a hard running creek.  She climbed around tires and debris, over logs and generally did a good job.

But this was after we'd been up on the 'bluff' where she was acting as if a HUGE ugly monster was after her.  She even tried to buck in protest at one point.
Siera cannot buck, seriously, it was just a butt hump.

I got nervous so I choked on the reins, which got in her mouth, which got her more upset, which got me more upset...see where we were going? No win situation.

I loosened her reins up, she calmed down.  I let her move in the open spots as she wished.  When we got into the back valley she rode quietly and concentrated on every hoof placement.

I talked with hubby as we brought the old logging road up and out of the valley and began to head towards home.  He'd helped point things out and told me never expect Siera to be a Badger.
Well I think I know better.

Still after her first timber rides, she does seem to prefer to go with just a dog.  She still wants to go fast, but she has one extremely outstanding and important feature that NO mule has ever had with me before.

She is a pointer.
She sees deer and she stops and points with her head and ears.  She stands rock stolid as they bound away and other animals spook.

She 'sees' more than I can.  She pointed out a magnificent hawk so I could watch it from her rock solid...'I'm glued to the ground' ... stance that she has and watched the hawk glide into the evening sun.


Further up the old soybean field we came up on a bon-a-fied real deal MULE eating monster.

Fred gave it wide berth, it fluttered and rattled in the field.
I let Siera have her head.

Dam if she didn't walk right up on it to investigate it.  She looked at it and then walked away as if it...the Monster did not deserve her attention.
It as a kid's kite that was fluttering and rattling against a weed it had gotten tangled in.


Further up the drive she walked right up the the tiny odd shaped 'monster' that was in the middle of the road.  A Tiny Tots plastic picnic table with a piece of plywood propped on it.  The board teetered in the wind.
Siera stepped around it.

And read the sign:

You know what?
I have another personality to get used to.

She's young, ambitious and full of spunk.  She has a good mind even if she gets nervous leaving home after not being away for a while.

I learned a great deal.
She has matured enough to take on some really tough terrain and she thinks it through.

I have to re-think my mulish ideas with her.

She is her own Mule.  
And I like that a lot.

Let's go.

Yesterday, a beautiful ride with Fred and Siera.

Most shots are of hubby.  Siera is was not exactly in the co-operating mood yesterday.
She is young and still learning.

Have a nice Easter!

Dexter newborn calf photos to come soon...Easter Calf!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Afterwards...Farm Life continues...

Recovering from Opal's loss has been tough, but we realize that animals don't live forever and they cannot tell us what is the issue if they get sick.
We can guess at what happened but cannot be sure unless we would have had a Necropsy done on her.
[That is an Autopsy done by a vet]

So we move on.

I've been riding Siera a little each day.  She has been my last 'project' mule now for a while.  While she is a dandy mule, she still sometimes has some issues about leaving sight of the herd.

Since my time lately has been limited, I decided to try her out bareback  [no extra time wasted by saddling up]
There are very few mules I would ride bareback. 

Badger was one, Fred is another, and Opal?  
NO never, she would spin out from under me and leave me sitting in the dirt!

She has her doubts about me using a bucket to mount her.  But we are working on that.  Twice now we have done this.

She actually isn't too bad bareback, I was pretty surprised.  Right now I appreciate the long mane to grab onto when we decide to boogie up hillsides.

For some relief over our grief with Opal, Hubby and I are going on a 'memorial' ride for her today.  Siera will now step up to the plate and take on more.  Sunshine will be moving up into our regular use line up also.

Training with Princess will continue.  The Dexter gals Valerie and Annie are getting ready to have their calves at any moment.

So while Opal's passing caused us great grief, we have new life to look forward to.

I have found out that riding Siera Bareback is a great pleasure which increases my balance skills and her attitude at the same time.

I can still ride tall.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farewell Opal, we loved you

Opal was our 'special' mule.  
She distrusted people, was hard to catch, and was extremely ear shy.
Under saddle she was an athletic and willing partner.
She could spin on a dime, neck rein like a fool, do slide stops, climb rocks, turn a barrel, and work cattle.
I could go on filling pages of her wonderful abilities but won't.

When I first met her I thought she was 'too much' mule for me to handle.  Later, when Badger became sick with equine COPD, my husband suggested that I ride Opal for my solo rides into the timber.
He assured me that she of all mules would take care of me.
But I didn't want to spend 1/2 hour each time I wanted to ride just trying to catch her.  Nor did I want her to give me the 'stink eye' every time I bridled her.

After two years of hard work Opal began to actually trust.  It took countless hours of patience and I never uttered a harsh word to her.
Last summer Opal would follow me around in the pasture.  By fall, she would see me coming to the gate and meet me with her peculiar chortle or snuffle noise of greeting.

No longer did she look at me with a wild eye, but she was always still wary.
Winning her unwilling trust was probably the best feeling I've ever had regarding working with animals.  She had been a difficult one to crack.

Opal seemed to enjoy our rides in the timber solo...and with Morris.  She would walk quietly and slowly so I could look for cool things to photograph.  She'd stand patiently tied to a sapling when I used her to pick wild raspberries.
At the same time, Opal gave me confidence that I could ride a 'spin on the dime' mule.  She gave lessons in extreme patience and she made me a much better rider.  She gave me freedom, confidence, and joy.

Opal also taught me again the pain of loss.
The Vet had come Monday as Opal was still 'off' somehow.  I'd taken her vitals and all were good, even the Vet concurred.  We even heard gut noises but he felt we ought to treat her for colic.  Outwardly she showed no signs of illness.
Except that she wouldn't eat, barely drank, and seemed lethargic.  
She allowed the vet to treat her without much ado.  
This, we explained, was NOT our Opal.  She would normally have never let a stranger close to her at all.  Period.

Opal spent a lot of time resting.  All I could think of was "please let this NOT be her time".  We had come so far together and had great trails yet to travel.  
I took her out in the yard and spent the day with her.  She picked at grass and would perk up once in a while.
Then she'd lay down in the yard and fall asleep while I watched over her.

Wednesday I had to work the night shift.  Hubby called me at work and said that Opal was showing the first signs of 'something'.  She was breathing hard and emitting a small cough or gagging type sound.

At 5am I parked my car by the house and jumped out with flashlight in hand.  I headed for the shed.

Opal had laid down on her fresh hay and had gone.  I knelt next to her and held her beautiful head willing her just to be asleep.
But I knew by the chill in her body that it was not going to be so.

I held her that way for quite a while, my tears dropping onto her face.

The mule that never fully trusted humans finally let me embrace her tightly.

The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. 

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. 
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. 
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. 

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. 
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. 

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. 

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. 

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... 

Author unknown... 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mother Nature's Cruel Joke.

Yesterday mild temps, rain fog.  We'd had 2" of rain on Saturday night.

Soggy foggy critters on Sunday morning.

Then I had to take Opal inside the shed, she wasn't feeling well.   Seemed the rain overnight and sudden drop in temps chilled her.

She didn't want to eat when I fed her, so I took her inside and well....

....Warmed her up.  Her vitals were normal.  Thank you to my 'Vet' Assistant who called out times for taking her respiration and heart rate, thanks Ariel.

Then we had more rain, at least 2" more.
Top that off with about 2-3" of snow this morning.
That outlook is rather wet and mushy looking.

What a surprise to wake up to this morning!

Well there you go, that is our wacky weather for you!

Welcome to April.  

When the snow does melt though, the grass will be astonishingly green.

Happy Monday to you all.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Things found wandering the woods...

Red Cup Fungi


Winter Kill

Skunk Cabbage

Ice Formations

And the beautiful Marsh Marigold

Siera and Princess

So by now you all know Siera.  She is my 'after' Badger Mule.  Will she ever be as good as Badger?
Ahhh, it isn't fair to even compare is it?

Time to move away from comparisons and just go forward.

Yesterday I took Siera out and gave her a nice clean up [actually I did that to several equine!].

I put a bridal on her and wondered how she'd react after not being ridden since November and how would she like being ridden bareback?

On came the helmet [safety at all times].
Next came "bucket training".

I not tall enough to jump up on her.

So at first she decided that the bucket was mildly interesting, but would step back when I went to swing a leg over her.

We repeated these steps until she stood still for 3 mounts.  Then we rode around the yard and up the drive, around trees and ... climbed a big dirt pile.

I was happy to have her untrimmed mane to hang onto  when she and I slid down the pile of dirt and then re-climbed it.
For about a half hour I just sat on her and enjoyed the warmth from her body and the view.

We were practicing patience at standing still.  She is pretty good at that!

Next I took out Princess.  She came willingly.
After a long currying, I decided to give her a halter 'lead line' obstacle course.
I was curious to see if she would go anywhere with me, including climbing huge piles of dirt and down a deer trail and around trees...out of sight of the other donkeys.

Princess does not care about her 'buddies'.  She went everywhere and did everything for me.
We do however have to work on her back up.  She has no clue what that is.

Soon she will be getting her first saddling and bridling.

She won't be hard to teach to ride.  This I can be pretty sure of.

In case you are wondering ... Princess is the mom to Thor.

The photo was taken March 28, 2008.

I think she will be a fine riding donk.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Gotta love that Equine Hair!

If you are an equine lover you know that spring brings out a special event that we all love.

Shedding season.  The time of year where you curry and curry and brush and brush and donkey/mule hair flies into your face and leaves you coated with it.

You must like spitting it out and trying in vain to brush it off your clothes, the more you try and get rid of it, the harder it sticks to you.

You resign yourself to wearing it.

I took out Nikki the little donkey, she really didn't want to leave her buddies.  But she did well and let me clean her up nicely.
Then Emma [a donkey] decided she was next.  She is a pretty cream colored donkey and we went up the driveway for some halter lessons.  
She did very nicely.

Then there is Princess.  We bought her about 10 years ago.  Her first breeding resulted in twins -- we should have had her checked!  But twins are pretty rare.  Both twins died during birth and we nearly lost Princess.
That night I slept with her in the yard and laid next to her with my arms around her neck so I could feel her breath.

I was supposed to get her up and make sure she ate and drank.  By morning, you would have never known she had any problems, she wanted back in with her herd.

She is an extremely classy donkey, and we have a pretty special bond.  I've been thinking about starting to ride her now for a couple of years.
I think this spring is the time to do it.

I just have a feeling that it would work out well for the both of us.

After all, I ... don't know, she seems pretty spooky and all.

I mean she looks more embarrassed than spooked.

On I went to Opal, Fred, Dinah, and Siera.  All seemed to enjoy their first really good currying of the spring.

I enjoyed spitting out hair and watching it float in the air.

Gotta love that Equine means shedding season is upon us, it also means spring!