Thursday, August 31, 2017

No Problem!

After chores we caught up Mica and took her over to the trailer to put Rich's saddle on her. Rich said if she was behaving that well he would ride her.

I wanted to take her on a test drive first and well, I was not disappointed. She behaved perfectly.

I took her up and down the driveway and rode her for about 10 minutes. She never flipped an ear the wrong way nor did she make any misstep. In fact, I think she was quite pleased with herself.
I had told the kids that mules were happiest when they had a job to do.

We got the rest of the mules out and started grooming them for saddling.

Everyone gets involved. Dennis is still learning about saddling, but Ariel has learned how to properly saddle Siera along with putting on the breast collar and the crupper.
It really helps to have an assistant when getting this many animals saddled up.

I used my Stonewall saddle on Sunshine. My other saddles are used for the kids.

If we do another group ride, I will have to hunt up another saddle pad too. It has been years since we rode this many animals together. The last time may have been about 10 or 11 years ago.

My love of riding helmets also has proven to be a nice bonus. I have three and so we were able to use them.

After some safety checks and equipment adjustment, we were ready to go.

I called my neighbor and asked if she'd come out to our shared driveway and take a shot of this 'historic' event. Grandpa riding Mica .. and all of us mounted and together!

She obliged and I am grateful to her.
We went off to ride the oat/hay fields on the ridge. Nothing too difficult or demanding as Dennis is still getting down the finer points of mule operation. Plus Fred is in his early 30's so we try not to work him too hard.

I can only say that everyone was smiling. The mules were happy, the people were happy.
I was over the hill happy.
After Rich's stroke he was sure that he would never ever ride again. This proves once again that animals are great therapy.

This was a pretty large step for everyone. Grandpa out riding with the kids.

Sometimes things just pull together and this was one of those times.

What a fine day!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


August 2009 is one of the last times Mica was ridden out and about. I don't recall why Rich stopped riding most of the time, it seems that my job then interfered a lot with riding.
Here she is in full riding gear.
Mica has an excellent training backround. Her trainer was pretty meticulous about her ground behavior and her manners.

Fast forward to 2017. Mica has been 'out to pasture' retirement. Not because anything is wrong with her, but because Rich just 'didn't have time' or was 'too busy' to ride.

I insisted on keeping Mica even though she hadn't been ridden in ... 8 years. Rich took her out a few weeks ago and she acted like a bit of a ninny.
I sometimes wonder if it is the attitude of the person handling the animal.
Don't get me wrong, Rich is not mean but he does demand perfection.

I realize the animal is an animal. Mica has been handled a lot since her 'retirement' I catch her often, clean her feet, move her from one pasture to another...and she has never been tough to handle.

So. Yesterday she came out of retirement at the ripe age of 21.

I worked for about 20 minutes with her. Then I put on a saddle and mounted, dismounted, and lay across her.
I let her 'heel' me around the pen, stop, turn, follow, back up, and stand on vocal command.
She actually was enjoying the attention and the work.

The kids handled her too. And she was polite when Dennis made mistakes, she tried to 'heel' him and not get in his way.
After a bit of coaching, Dennis nailed it.

I was so happy and Mica was so content with the kids petting and grooming her.

My question to the kids was.
"Do you think Mica enjoys this?"

Most mules love a job. Mica is going to love coming out of retirement.

We put her away and the kids still wanted to 'mess with mules'.

So out came the fabulous bay duo.
Siera and Fred.

End of story!

I needed to bring Mica out of retirement. The kids want Grandpa to ride with them. He can ride Miss Sunshine and go along if all goes well with Mica.
This week will be fascinating.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bridges and Streams

..and adventures ...

I woke up early Saturday and peered out the window. It looked grey and overcast so I fell back to sleep. I woke up a few minutes later and got up to go make coffee. I didn't know if my guests would have looked outside yet or not.
Our Sunrise Date for going to the ridge and perhaps to the M Bridge might not be very exciting after all.
However I did find one of my guests awake. Daryl was sitting at the kitchen table reviewing something on his smart phone.

I said good morning and made coffee. We both glanced out the window and remarked that perhaps the sky wouldn't be very exciting for photographs but perhaps the lighting would be interesting.

And hey, it wasn't raining like the forecasters had predicted.

As we sat drinking coffee, Daryl's youngest daughter came down the stairs and joined us. We sipped our coffee quietly as to not wake anyone else.
We all glanced out the window as the clouds seemed to give off some color and a promise of...something...

In a flash, we'd grabbed our stuff and deposited ourselves in Daryl's Subaru. His family had been here enough now, that he knew the 'good' spots by heart. We drove to Kolstad Road and pulled in at the cattle pen.

"What about M?" asked Daryl. I shrugged. One can never go wrong with the trout stream. There was always the chance of fog, sun, cattle, and beautiful reflections.

The views of Bridge M never disappoint. It is one of my favorite spots to see the landscape change with the seasons.

I just love that clump of trees. Daryl captured the water and the bridge with an incredible eye. It helps to have another person's viewpoint when doing photography.

He is more adventurous than I am.

We decided to meander up the road and check out another spot near the J Bridge.
It did not disappoint.

We spent a good deal of time exploring and decided that we needed to come back and check it out with Daryl's wife and other daughter.

However, we first planned on visiting Jersey Valley. Those who wanted to hike could hike, those who wanted to fish could fish. It is just about the perfect Vernon County Park.

And of course we found more bridges...

Well, and parts of what used to be bridges. These trails were devastated in one of our 3 floods last year. The trails now circumvent these broken bridges. Except for the brand new snow mobile trail that goes over the South Fork of the Kickapoo River.

Fishing proved to be plentiful at Jersey Valley and ...
we got fish to eat!!!

Our photography group's theme for the week was "Bridges" so indeed we decided to explore more.
JJ Bridge.
Bridge Out.

Never underestimate the power of a flash flood. This bridge was nearly destroyed by the flash floods of last September. The rest of the bridges along this stream have also been compromised again and again over the past 10 yrs.
We just passed our 10 year anniversary of the August 2007 floods.

This bridge has been closed since last year and there is no funding from FEMA in sight.
In a way that makes me look upon Hurricane Harvery with a different set of eyes.
For the past 10 years FEMA was full of promises and slow to react.

However this area is so unique and I don't think I'd want to live anywhere else.

For me it is a hiking a photography paradise.

I wonder how many bridges and streams I can photograph?

I won't run out of choices very soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Where is the summer going to?

The Hopi Squash are getting ripe, the cosmos are getting ready to explod into colors in the garden. All is so beautiful.

The sun is moving towards the south as the earth tilts, racing towards fall.

Our nights are actually pretty cold for this time of hear. We were in the 40's this morning. It has made the bees sleepy and lazy. Better to photograph them though as they are madly buzzing about.

On our way to go fishing at Blackhawk Park on Wednesday we saw trees that were turning. What a surprise! I don't know if they were damaged trees, sick trees, or just as Rich said. "They are turning because it is time!"

We fished at Blackhawk and enjoyed a few hours of peace and tranquility. The fish weren't really biting and the 3 small ones Rich caught were tossed back into the water.

I couldn't help myself with the bright glaring sunlight. Perfect for Infrared photos and not so great for regular shots.

Thursday was another whirlwind day. Off we went to the Madison VA to do Speech Therapy. Towards evening, I had promised to go visit a 4H family and walk around and inspire the kids to take their photos for the upcoming fair.

To say the least, we had fun!
Their farm is on a high ridge top with amazing views.

School starts soon and some of the grand kids are coming for another visit.

This weekend will be a whirlwind of activities. My K-town friends are coming to visit. We'll be target practicing with our bows, doing some hiking, and of course seeking beautiful places to photograph.
On Monday Ariel and Dennis will arrive to spend the last week of August with us.

I am looking forward to the fall season.

And more visits to the farm on the ridge....

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hot Shoeing

The morning started with a phone call from our farrier.

"Say Val said she'd like to see some hots hoeing, well I'm going to be at Linda's and will be hot shoeing Thunder, would you guys like to come over?"

Indeed we did! To watch Dan work is like watching art in motion. He'd probably blush at that description.

We arrived and Linda told her border collies to sit in her 'Mule'. Her cattle dogs are incredible and they were our audience.

The horse to be hot shoed for a Wagon Train was Thunder. He would need shoes to navigate blacktop and gravel roads.
I'm not going to get into the the discussion of shoes vs. no shoes. In our area if you ride often on gravel roads and our rocky trails, shoes are pretty much a must.

First Dan trims the feet.

Here is his portable forge. Hot? Yes it is hot!

Here he puts the hot shoe against Thunder's hoof.
NO, it does not hurt the horse.
Thunder never even had a reaction.
We however were warned that it would be stinky.

The purpose simply for hot shoeing is to create a smooth surface between the hoof and the shoe. It seals the horn tubules and as Dan told me makes the shoe lie nice and flat against the trimmed foot.
[Imagine putting on a pair of shoes that are lumpy and bumpy against the bottom of your foot. You'd get sore feet in a hurry right?]

Dan finishes up the first foot and moves around the horse repeating the process and custom fits his hand made shoes to each foot.

While doing endurance my mule's feet were cold shoed. After watching and understanding the process of hot shoeing, I'd never do cold shoeing again.

Dan makes his own shoes and that would seem to be a lot of extra work. However he takes a lot of pride and care with each shoe.

Dan is also a certified farrier. He understands the anatomy and physiology of the horse. I suppose I could list his credentials if I knew them all.

He does know feet and he does know horses, mules, and donkeys.

Dan can tell exactly how he has to adjust the shoe to fit properly when using hot shoeing method.

Here he determines where he has to make adjustments ...

And then he goes to his anvil and custom fits the shoe.
After a bit more work, the shoe goes on.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert at hooves, horses, and shoes, or trimming. However I do know that taking care of the equine foot is so very important.

I like watching Dan work and I really like how he explains things as he goes along. Sometimes I have to stop him as I don't quite get all of the terminology and jargon that goes along with a farrier/blacksmith job.

I do know that my small herd of animals are much better off in having him take care of their feet now. He helped get Siera back on her 'feet'. So far she has been the only one we've ever had a with an issue.
Since Dan came to our farm as our farrier, things have gone quite smoothly.

Last but not least.
Our entertainment while we were visiting.

Sully, the mini donkey.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 21st, The Big Eclipse. Well...

The Big Day came and went without much ado. I'd seen that the forecast was for thunderstorms and overcast skies.

I actually did go outside during the partial eclipse. Of course with such a huge event, "The Event of a Lifetime" as the news was calling it, I had to be a part of it.
Someone may ask me years from now, "What did you do during the Great American Eclipse?"

I went and worked in the garden. The skies got gloomier for a bit and I took advantage of the subdued lighting to take some photos.

I took these of my Cosmos flowers. The blue behind the flowers are Forget Me Nots.

I will be collecting the seeds from the cosmos for next year, along with my 4 O'Clocks, Malvas, and an interesting climbing plants that is getting ready to bloom with bright red flowers.

Nothing much happened during the partial eclipse. My day was normal. The mules ate, pooped, and the young ones aggravated the older ones.

I dried 8 trays of cinnamon apples and picked vegetables.
Freeze and dehydrate sweet corn!

I do dislike processing corn. It is so messy!

However, tomorrow this little beauty arrives.

It certainly will help me with the apples. I have a 5 gallon bucket full of apples to make into jelly and applesauce.
The tomatoes are getting ready to blast off too.

And I hope to get some Concord Grapes at the Farmers Market so I can restock my grape jelly. I have enough black raspberries to make into jelly also. This food strainer will separate the seeds from the berries.


The eclipse was a good excuse to go into the garden and admire my flowers.