Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chores with Siera

When I got home from work on Tuesday the weather was still pretty nice.
Chores needed to be done and I changed out of my uniform and into work clothes.

I walked down to the paddock and took Siera out. She was going to spend some time with me and it might as well be while I did chores.  Morris accompanied us running around Siera and through her legs.
She just sighed and watched him.

I led her into the shed where the hay was kept and put enough flakes of hay in the snow sled to feed the cattle.  I wondered how she'd react to the sled being pulled at the same time I was leading her.  
She smelled the hay and stole a bite.

Well now, she was associating the sled as a food source and not as a monster.
Funny that when I pulled the larger sled with hay in it to feed her in the paddock with Fred she'd eyed it as a Mule Eating Monster.

I walked up the hill to the calves and dragged the noisy sled through the gravel and over the grass.  A wheel barrow would have worked better but that takes two hands.  I had Siera in one hand and the sled rope in the other.

I walked over to the yard hydrant and hooked up the hose to water the cattle.  When I turned it on Siera's eyes widened and then she watched.  She is a very observant mule.

I turned the hose onto her hooves and sprayed her feet.  She picked up one foot and then set it down.  That was her reaction.
I praised her and then told her to 'stand' while I watered.  I dropped the rope to hook up the hose to another line and then straightened up.

She hadn't moved a muscle. She waited until I picked up her lead rope and then she heeled me back to the hydrant where I hooked up the hose for the large stock tank. 
We moved on to where our three cows were and I hooked Siera's lead over a tree branch.
She grazed as I forked hay to the 3 gals.
Annie was quite content and came to the fence line to look Siera over.
Morris ran about and did his Jack Russell thing.  

When I lifted the black plastic cover to put over the round bale, Siera gave it an eye and then curiously watched it.

It is interesting that sometimes under saddle these things seem to be monsters to her and while on halter and lead, they are not.
I've been working with Siera for almost 6 years now and she is broke, or trained quite well.  She has some most amusing quirks and one of them is her spring time ritual of being annoyed and upset about riding the woods trail away from the farm.

This is understandable since I don't get to ride much in the winter.  There are things that bother her under saddle that don't bother her when I am leading her.
Perhaps she thinks I am protecting her by being on the ground?
I don't know.

She does love to be with me in this fashion.  And I have trained her much like one trains a dog for obedience.  However, she doesn't 'sit stay', but she will 'stand stay' when I ask.

We did as much as I could while having a mule 'in hand' and then I groomed her and put her back in the paddock with Fred and Mica.  She stood at the gate and let out a soft nicker as if to say.
"What? Are you not going to keep playing with me?"

Another week or so of this kind of treatment and we will be good to go off on the trails.  

Siera came out with me for a while yesterday.  We walked in a rain shower to go get the mail.  She walked away from her 'buddies' willingly until Fred started to bray like crazy.  It took us much longer to get the mail and I got wet, but there you go.

I am trying to do something little with her everyday.  Rich told me that time with her would only make her 'a better mule' and since she was attached emotionally to me, it would solidify our relationship.

And yes, mules do get preferences in people.  Sometimes extremely strong preferences.  Badger was one such mule, and Siera is one also.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Exploring with children

Finally!  We got a nice brilliant day that was not too cool and not too hot.  My young neighbor and her children voted to take a hike to the creek.

What is more attractive to kids than water?  I can hardly think of anything.
We all got dressed and headed out on a Big Adventure.

The water was incredibly amazing to the two year old Logan. He loved it.  Walking on the gravel bottom of the creek was a challenge and we discovered that we needed to help him out with a hand, did.

It is a little creek here with not much water flow, but it changes as one walks through the valley.  In places there are springs which add to it.  Other places are deeper and wider.  The creek is in a constant state of change which makes it all the more fascinating.

Carson found a water strider and caught it to show me.  I've seen them around forever and have never gotten a great shot of them walking on water.  Now, I not only knew the name of the insect but had an opportunity to photograph it even though it was in Carson's hands.

I can see that I am going to be learning quite a bit about insects with these children.  Apparently reptiles fascinate them too. Add that to my list of things to learn!

While we were looking at the water strider, Logan ran into the water and took a face plant.  The temperature of the creek at any given time is about 45 degrees so it is cold.
We stripped Logan and wrung out his sweat pants, socks, and got as much water off from him as possible.

As you can see, he recovered quickly and was not shy about getting back in the water.
The older kids kept running ahead and exploring the creek.  I am amazed every time I take a fresh pair of eyes to the valley as to what they see.

As for the rest of the adventure, lots of boots were emptied of water. 

The kids did get soaked over and over. 
We did find a reptile. Carson was quite excited at his find.
Allie found bones and started her own collection of them.

And I am pretty sure there will be more walks together in the woods for exploring things.

All in all it was a fine adventure.
The kids explored and were enthusiastic about everything they discovered.

I can say assuredly that it is much more fun to take children along on a hike than to always go by myself.
Mom was a super trooper too. She ended up having to carry Logan a fair distance.  I'm looking forward to our next 

I have to say the most fun conversation happened as we left the creek and headed up the ridge road towards our pasture.
Carson asked: "How old are you Val?"
Me. "I'm going to be 60 in June."
Carson: "Oh really? Because you seem like 90 to me."
Me: [slight pause] "Oh. It must be all the wrinkles on my face."
Carson: "No, it is because you know so much stuff!"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

New Farrier, visit two!

Okay he is not a New Farrier.  Let me rephrase that, he is a Certified Journeyman Farrier.
This means he holds the highest certification by the American Farriers Association. I only know that because I looked it up.

I know that titles don't always mean everything, but I've watched a few farriers in my life and know the difference between those who just do the job and those who Do The Job with knowledge.

This fellow Dan, does it with care and knowledge and he doesn't do a rush job. He points out any health issues that he sees concerning the hoof and if he has a concern with an animal's overall health he will mention it also.
Some folks would probably prefer that a farrier not point these things out, but I don't mind.  
We are just getting to know each other.  
He may see something we have overlooked or he may see something that we are already addressing. 

Siera's frogs are recovering very rapidly.  Exercise is her best medicine right now Dan says.  Well that is fine with me!  
I can see it now.  

Me: "Honey, I am going riding."
Hubby: "Jeeze again?"
Me: "Well Dan said Siera needs exercise to recover!"
Hubby: "Darn that Dan!"

Here is Dan in action.  Sorry Dan, I was not trying for a rear end shot, but wanted to get a shot of the two of you guys talking.

Dan trims Sunshine, the older red molly mule.  The lighting for photos was terrible, but I was more interested watching Dan work than taking photos. However one day I'd like to see him make a shoe!

Sunshine and Sundance were in the round pen with two of our donkeys.  The red heads were sort of being naughty so I thought I'd step in and give them something to do.

Sunshine trots past the Mule Monster while Sundance decides to halt and give it the evil mule eye.

Sundance finally decides that she should smell it and then walk on it.  After that, it was something to jump, step on, tromp, and take a bite out of...just in case it decided to turn back into a Mule Monster.

I didn't get a shot of it, but the donkeys were rather unimpressed with the whole thing.  Emma gave it a stare and willed it to lay there and be submissive while she walked by it.  Princess walked over it without a care.

So the day really was a good one for us.  I got to make the red heads work, and the donkeys too.
Plus we had excellent trim jobs.

I am looking forward to doing some more work with the red mules.  And of course...I have to exercise Siera.

Happy Easter.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Ice Man cometh

The weather folks predicted 7-14" and we got a very bad ice storm out of it.  We had probably about 4 inches of sleet type stuff on the ground and the trees were covered in thick ice as well as anything that stuck up out of the grass.

Gate handles were encased in ice.

The trees were laced with ice that cracked and made a spooky kind of music when the breeze blew.

Chores were a bit more time consuming and difficult.  But eventually they got done and then my husband plowed the driveway. I really wished he didn't have to as I'd just completed raking all of the rocks out of the yard.

Looks like I have to do this job all over again once it melts and dries up.

It was late afternoon before the town grader came through.  The only person to travel our road was our neighbor.
The scenery was surreal and quite beautiful.

And in the evening the sun came out.  As we were doing evening chores, ice was falling from the trees.  However the sun set and the temperatures began to drop.

Some ice remained with an orange glow.

Our world was still iced this morning, but I imagine as soon as the sun peeks down into our 'hollow' the ice will melt.

Today the temperatures are supposed to rise again and there will be another quick melt off.  Hopefully this was the last of the winter weather for a while.

I can look forward to more muck in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Between Siera's Ears

Every animal definitely has their own character.  Siera is one of those.  

We hadn't ridden off the farm since March 22, 2015 when hubby and I went looking for antlers last year after his cancer diagnosis.  I did take Siera for a short ride on March 29th of last year, but I've only ridden her two other times.
Once with Lily and Fred and once a few weeks ago.

Siera said NO, I am not going into the woods!
I said, yes, we are.
It took some coaxing but we headed down my hiking/riding trail.  

Siera stared at the logs that had fallen into the ditch.  She gave it a once over and then stepped across.  She kept turning her head and looking through the woods towards the summer pasture.  She twisted her head and shook it, nodding her nose up and down.

Siera was protesting leaving her farm/paddock buddies.  She was peeved.  Yet she moved forward.  I wanted to see if I could get her through a section of trail I'd just cleared this fall and winter.  
However she decided she was not going there.

Yes.  Gently I asked her.

NO, I said NO, I mean NO, okay but under protest.

We were able to get through the mess of downed trees and to the first big ditch.  I was slightly surprised by the amount of water in the ditch.  The dirt was black and inky.

NO! Alert! Killer Mule Ditch, eats mules alive, out of shape fat molly mules named Siera.  NO!

Really Siera? However I just walked her along the edge of the ditch and looked around.  She began to sweat behind the ears and act irritated.  I let her stand for a moment before I turned her away.  I'd told my husband that I'd only work Siera on the eastern hillside section.  This path would take us beyond that.  And I could see that I needed to do a bit more trimming to keep the sapling branches from poking our eyes out.

I turned her away and we wove back up in the general direction of the farm.

Thank Goodness, Pony Woman, have you lost your mind and sense of direction? Home, yes, Home!

When we got to the up hill trail, the one I use often to go check for morels, wildflowers, and sometimes the round about way to the road and mail box...I turned Siera.

NO, you idiot.  Home is not this way!

Protest from my mule.  Head bobbing and shaking.  Her ears twisted back and forth and I asked her politely and then forcefully to take the trail.  And we went.
By the time we reached the top of the hill she was breathing hard but still flopping her head up and down and acting a bit homesick.
I decided to tie her up and let her calm down.
This is why I always ride with a rope halter.
I did an equipment check and then sat down on a stump and listened to Fred bray at home.  When in the paddock together he acted as if Siera was his mortal enemy.  When she was gone, he cried like a lovesick child.

Really? Tied to a tree Pony Woman?  Oh never mind, this calms me.  I can stand and relax.  I like this tree, do you like this tree?  It is a friendly tree. Hi nice tree, how are you?  

Siera seemed to calm down once tied to a tree.  Now I have never figured that out. If she is nervous, tie her to a tree and she'll just stand there.  Odd mule.

After she relaxed we rode my eastern hillside trails a few times, making a big circle.  Siera made a nice trail to follow so it will be easier once the leaves start to come back.  At first she tried to charge going down hill.  Each time she did, I turned her around and had her work back up hill.

YES, down down, let's go.  Home, home.  Uh-oh, NO! Not back up. Oh darn.
Okay, you win, I will walk like a sensible mule.  This is hard work and I don't like hard work.

We ended our ride on a very pleasant note, the last time we did the trail her ears were flopping and she was relaxed although a bit sweaty.
We went home.  I had to fill the stock tank and Siera had to cool down.  I tied her to the trailer and turned the hydrant on.

Then I went back and mounted Siera.  It was time for standing still while doing nothing with a rider on your back.

Boring.  I see grass.  Can I have grass? Please?  Oh you won't notice if I sneak forward and grab grass.  Oh darn you!

We had moved the Dexter cows due to give birth in the next few months out of their winter area and onto a grassy area.  I thought I'd ride Siera up between the buildings and up the narrow lane to check on them.
We got between the buildings and Siera froze.  At first I clucked and then tapped her with a foot.  She shook her head and backed up.

YOU idiot!  That could be a monster!  See that piece of nasty orange rusted metal? It could eat mules.  Let me look at it.  Let me look at it!

I sat and wondered why she was suddenly frozen and being obstinate.  I waited. Her head moved up and down, she sniffed.  I then did a slight kiss and she moved on through.

I'd forgotten the golden rule with Siera.  She needs to look some things over and convince herself that it isn't dangerous.  We walked passed Thor who ran and brayed in his paddock, she ignored him.  We went back to see the Dexters.  Siera acted curious.

Stupid cows.  You get the fine new grass pasture.  I get bupkiss.  I am still in a paddock.  Why are you so special?  What? Can't you talk? Dumb cows.  At least I am useful.  See? 

I sat on her and she watched the Dexters who watched her.  Finally we went around the other side to go check on their stock tank of water.

UH oh.  This could be a trap.  No, yes, no.  Maybe.  That black thing, it is a grill. Yes that is where they cook bad mules who don't behave.  Wait.  They don't eat mules.  Nice people don't eat their mules, right Pony Woman?

Siera had to stop and look at the grill that was in the driveway near the outhouse. She was not going to go passed it.  I sat and let her look the situation over.  We haven't done 'yard work' together in a long time.  

We finished all the chores that I could do, riding from one area of the yard to another and then I took her back to the trailer and curried her out.  She was dry and seemed to like it.

Nice lady, you are nice.  Gotta scratch right there, a little to the left please.  Oh much better.  Maybe I'll be good next time we ride together.  Maybe, a mule doesn't always make promises, especially if they are a molly mule.  We are known for having a female temper sometimes.

I turned her out and watched her find a dry spot to roll in.  I felt good.  I hadn't realized exactly how much I loved our forest adventures together.  I really needed to ride more.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Still Life week 8

I am working with this self 'instructed' class to better some of my photography skills.  I was not an avid fan of Still Life before but I am finding that I enjoy it now.

I am constantly trying to come up with something interesting without getting too heavily invested in things like a light box [although I may build one myself] and other fancy studio things.

Most of the images I try to 'make' or shoot are simply done on the living room floor and with things I find around the house.

Last week I used a rug for a backround and draped it over a board. I wanted a soft white textured backround for the shot.  
This wasn't what I considered a keeper.  It was however interesting to work with the light since it was heavily overcast that day and I didn't have to deal with harsh sunlight coming through the window behind me.

I took out pages from my grandmother's old diaries and set them up with some beads, coffee and my old glasses. 
Somehow, this shot looked much nicer in black and white.  The pretty colors on the cup seemed to clash with the different colored inks in the pages.

Eventually I tossed everything on two wooden boards I'd gotten at a flea market along with my father's wedding ring.  After several hits and misses, I ended up deciding that this was the photo of the week.
I was very satisfied with it. I simply edited it with a white vignette around the edges and left it be.

I took this shot below while I was at it and loved all the patterns, but needed to mute the bright red carnations and ... well, it was almost too busy with textures.

This one in color:

This one in muted black and white:

Better but still too busy. And my assignment was for backlighting anyway so I had to go back to the drawing board.

I had to wait for some sunlight and finally we had some.  This shot was an accident.
I edited it and added a textured backround to it.

It didn't have all of the elements in it that the assignment suggested so I tried some other things.

This ended up being colorful and soft, more like what the assignment had been.

In the 8th week we are to review what we have done so far. 
Apparently I should be able to decide what sort of items work best for me and decide what I need more work on.

However I am still seeking that perfect way to take photos in the living room using available light.

I also need to mention here that I have an assistant who seems to have to inspect everything I do.

Next, I'm going to do some 'dark' work. I really like black and trying to figure out how to use simple black matte cardboard, some glass and figurines to make something interesting.

Sometimes it is more the challenge than anything else.
Thus ends week 8.  And no, I haven't found my 'niche' nor have I figured out what works best for me.

I am still experimenting because light and dark fascinate me to no end.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring has arrived

Well at least it has on the calendar.

I finished getting the sheets hung out on the line and thought about my Still Life project that I'd been working on.  

The house was put in order, supper was already partially prepared and the chores had been done.

It was a toss up.  I could groom a muddy mule, or I could go hiking.  Morris knew what my choice was immediately.  He began to do his circling thing and then poke me with his nose.  
With all the rain we'd had the poor old guy hadn't been out much.  And a Jack Russell needs to burn off energy.

I did too as I chose the hiking over the riding.  I was fairly surprised at how dry it actually was in the woods.  I thought I'd encounter mud slick trails.  
I'm not sure that is a good thing.  March should be a bit soggier than this.

Morris and I hiked the 'high' trial which takes us around just below the ridge.  It is sort of like walking on the edge of a bowl.  The valley was below us and the ridge above us.

We crossed dry runs and downed trees.  At times we lost the deer trail, but would find another one. 

By mid summer these woods will be hard to get through. The undergrowth will be thick and nearly impossible to navigate.
There is a 4 wheeler trail that relatives drive on when they come to camp on the land.  But other than that, the woods and the valleys are slowly getting choked with willows and prickly ash.

When Mike had cattle on the land, it was a pleasure to hike the cow trails and wander under the large canopies.  Since he died and his brothers took it over, it has gone to the wayside.

Fences have fallen and in order to bring it back to pasture condition, it would take quite a bit of work and money.
I still maintain a few deer/hiking trails that I can also ride on.  It is hard work though keeping it clear in the warm months.
Maybe this is why I like fall and winter so much.

We looked but didn't find any antler sheds nor any intriguing mushrooms growing yet.  However the moss was quite lovely in spots where it grew on rock formations.

More on a log.

We saw some deer and heard a red tail hawk.  The chickadees were singing as were the cardinals.

I could see buds on the the briers and other plants with sharp pointy ends.  How is that for a technical term?  Okay, the barberries, multi flora rose, black berries, gooseberries, and probably some other pointy sharp plant that I am forgetting, ...are all getting buds.

I keep hand nippers in my pocket for times I want to get through a rough patch and have no other choice but to chop my way to where I want to go.

We eventually left the area where the rock outcroppings were and dropped down into the valley.
Morris took off running up the creek.  
After 11 years of hiking with me he is pretty good at also telling when we are heading home.

He and I took the creek bed which is by far the easiest for walking.

We eventually get to our portion of the creek where it is dry.  
Water runs on both ends of this dry bed, so I imagine it goes somewhere underneath us.

We stopped at the odd little pond.  And it was very peaceful.  

I wanted to sit and relax a while near it, but then remembered that I still intended to rake rocks out of the yard and back onto the driveway.

I quickly climbed the bank to take a peek in case the wild leeks were poking up through...

...there they were!

That means I should be able to find Blood Roots soon!  

I do love this time of Spring when things begin to appear on the floor of the forest.

Monday, March 14, 2016

More of the Silly Doe Story

Stinky, Val Barbie, and the Trolls have decided to look for Doe and bring her back so she can get help from the Toy Council.

After the emergency meeting at the Dynamite Box, the members of the council begin a search for Doe.  They are pretty worried as Doe is one toy they are sure that they need to watch over.

Val Barbie goes to the creek to search, but has no luck.  

Woods Troll asks Thelma the hound dog if she has seen Doe.  

Meanwhile Doe is hiding from her friends.
Maybe I should just live in a knothole in a tree!

Oh Doe, that is not so smart!
Wild animals live in the woods, and you should not be on your own.

Val Barbie fears that Doe may have been accosted by a Coyote.
She takes out her Tommy Gun.

The toys come back home, they cannot find Doe.  Stinky says he knows the forest best of all so he will go looking.
Stinky finds Skunk Cabbage but no sign of Doe.

At the creek Doe finds another Deer. 
They become immediate friends.
 Doe meets Dear in the creek near the little falls in the creek.  They become fast friends. 

Dear takes Doe out to eat and they talk.
Dear thinks Doe should go back and face her friends.
Hiding from them is not a good thing.

Doe isn't too sure she is ready to go back to her friends yet.  Dear says she will talk with the Toy Council on her behalf.
She tells Doe to go sit in her tree and wait until she gets back.

Will Doe wait?  Will she do what Dear advises her to do?
Oh DEAR!!!  Maybe you shouldn't leave Doe on her own in the woods!