Archive for » February, 2021 «

Happy Birthday 8!

He’s getting so big. Almost all grown up.

Such a sweet little boy 8 will usually try to save his sister when I’m torturing her. He is usually much nicer to her than she is to him. He shares and helps her with everything. Even homework. It is fun watching him do her math homework when he’s two grades behind her.

The times that aren’t ‘usually’ he can be pretty mean  to her. Those times are rare though.

Over the last year he’s finished preschool at home and moved on  to kindergarten. Back in school fortunately. He is good friends with most of the kids in his class. He’s gotten a few sweet notes from some of the girls! 8 can drive a 4heeler and often runs errands for us. He can also ride a horse. Or sit happily on a horse. He has taken over his sisters horse Lady. He loves her zippy walk while it intimidated The Goblin Child.

A hacker at Minecraft, or so he informs us, he loves to play  computer games. The is balanced by his extreme amount of energy and time spent playing outside or at gymnastics.

It’s been a good year. Hopefully your six year old year will be good too. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

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Gymnastics

Gymnastics is going good. I don’t know what else to say. It uses up lots of energy and the kids are doing good. Mostly they like to run around and play. 8 bounces all over the place. Not usually doing what he’s supposed to. Usually causing trouble. He’s so cute doing it though. If we lived inn town I’d have him signed up for the ninja classes they offer.

The Goblin Child does a great job but it’s hard to compare. She’s the oldest one in the class. She wishes there were other girls her age and I do too. To push her to try harder if nothing else. I wish I knew the names of what she’s working on so she could look back  and compare in a year or two, or twenty.

 

Still Cold

I don’t know how long the cold has been  here. It seems like months, years perhaps. It may be as little as a week or less?

It has been snowing all day for the last three days. There is no accumulation. It’s too cold to snow. This is more like what little moisture is in the air freezing and falling down. The cattle are white though. They creak and groan as the stand up, leaving brown patches where they had been laying. The horses are frosted too. The bottom layer of their winter coats keeping them warm  and dry as the top is covered with snow.

Life right now is all about trying to keep at least one vehicle running and getting animals fed.

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I’ve decided to amend that to a belly of hay keeps the shivers away. All horsemen should know there’s nothing better to keep our horses warm than all the hay they can eat. Cattle are no different. We keep a bunk full of ground hay and corn in front of them and round bales set out in the pen to go with it. The gates are open. They could leave the pen to go out to their pasture. If any of them  have, they returned quickly to the pens.

Baa and Violet, running out with the herd now, have their own special way of eating. Instead of fighting larger cattle for space, they crawl into the bunks and eat, standing in their food. A reminder that they stay where they are because they choose to.

Th stack yard doesn’t just provide the hay to keep the cattle full and provide a wonderful playground for the children.

All winter the wildlife flocks to it, for shelter and feed. I love to watch for the tracks of pheasant wings on the fresh fallen snow as I walk out to break ice. Where they crash to the ground, then run off, barely more capable of flight that a chicken. A flock of grouse in a tree, wobbling about. They are uncommon to see here, where we mostly have pheasant.

In a large clump of weeds the brown specks of sparrows decorate like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Along the edge of the driveway the are scratch marks in  the snow. We had fun debating what had been digging for corn until we saw the birds covering the ground only to fly away in a swarm as the car drew near. Circling and diving they circled back  to their grazing as we passed.

In the stack yard green stands out brightly along the edges of dull drab weather worn hay bales. The deer have been nibbling though the outer edge to the fresh taste of summer buried within. Out in the corn stalks I count a herd of deer numbering around fifty every afternoon as I drive to get the children after school. By the time we moved the cattle to that field it was with doubt that there was any corn  left for them.

Cold snaps are all about feed. We provide plenty of that. To livestock and wildlife alike. As I watch all animals eat on food provided by us I have to laugh at the people who seem to think that farming and nature somehow exist separately.

 

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Cold Mornings

It was up to zero when  we went out to feed this morning.

The snow from last night dusted the ground in a dry fluffy powder. So cold when it fell that there was no moisture to it. Cheeks immediately prickled with the cold as glasses fogged and noses froze.

The horses have heated waterers, as do most of the cattle. The tanks in the farthest pens are froze though. The ones too far out to justify having electricity run  to them. I walked through the snow to reach them. Ice covered them, an inch thick at least. By the time I got there I was warmed. Steam puffed as I breathed fast, nearly panting pounding the ice. After breaking ice I was hot.

Coat unzipped I walked back towards the house. My job done.

It’s too cold for school apparently and with the late start my husband was out driving the feed truck. The children were waiting at home, hiding inside, in the warmth. I had wanted to feel the cold, get my blood flowing, keep from getting lazy and spoiled, so here I was despite offers to do the job for me.

And it felt good.

Stopping to pet the horses I thought about how important it is for people to have a job. Work to keep them busy, satisfied. Without work what are we? Even  animals will choose to work for food instead of accepting it for free.

The horses were covered in a blanket of snow, each of them toasty warm in  their winter coats. They may prefer to work for their food but they are happy to beg scratches for free.

As my hands grew tired and cold from being buried in  their snow covered fur I said my good byes and turned for home. There was more work waiting for me. No need to seek any other satisfaction, I had plenty at home.

 

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4H

At eight The Goblin Child is old enough to participate in the horse activities in 4H. Of course I want her to. Not sure if she’s as excited as I am. She is willing though.

One thing that really bugs me about it though is that part of their curriculum teaches that you should ALWAYS approach, lead, mount from the left side. I wish that at the very least they could say for showing purposes you have to do these things from the left. At most if the importance of being able to do all these things from both sides could be mentioned it would be great.

That isn’t the point though, although it does factor in here.

The benefits of the program far out weight the little faults I like to pick at.

She has been working hard to get the horses haltered by herself. She is already very comfortable with leading and handling from the ground. I was getting something else done after she had haltered Lady and told them, both children, to go see if they could lead Lady through the hoop.

There was no ‘see’ about it. By the time I caught up with them they had already made laps through it. Through the hoop they had thrown their coats over to add to the difficulty.

I think they’re almost ready for this part of the test at least. Except for the little thing about leading from the right instead of the left. Such a silly little thing. Inconsequential but so important. Surely she can lead from the left for that one little thing.

Special Safety Breakaway Reins

Many man years ago, quite a bit more than twenty, I bought my all time favorite set of reins. Soft woven cloth roping style reins, they came with clips on the ends. The kind everyone mocks for their lack of coolness. They sure came in handy though, for unhooking a rein to use as a lead rope, to switch between bridles, to, gasp, unhook so I could use them to tie my horse.
I rope with those reins constantly. They were probably about ten years old by the time I was riding with them doing ranch work.

I still loved them. They felt good in my hands. Even if the clips were showing a bit of wear and tear. They were getting weak and loose.

I was also still riding my hot little bay Morgan that was about the same age but not showing any wear and tear. He was just as energetic as he had always been.

We were bringing cows out of the canyon pasture. Its name derived from the big deep draws that filled most of it. Two of them that came down and met in a Y shape at the gate down in the bottom. These draws were lined with smaller draws feeding into the bottom. There were springs all  throughout leaving water holes in some places, bogs in  others.  The sides were steep, riddled with banks, brush, and holes.

Cows had an easy time disappearing up the finger draws in  thickets of chokecherry bushes.

The rest of the herd must have already come down and through the gate. They were a wild bunch, to suit the pastures they grazed. A few were probably trying to stay where they were instead of moving on to the fresh pasture. Somehow I came to be galloping down the hill along  the draw trying to cut off a cow who wanted to go back up. Nate, my hot little bay Morgan was up to the job. With legs of iron and endless stamina he could go all day. Barefoot even on the sharp rocks he was like a mountain goat in  those hills.

We thundered down one side hurrying to cut off the cow. I was always scared of heights so I probably wasn’t as enthusiastic as him in the chase. The cow went through the bottom of the draw and up the other side. We were running along one of the finger draws. It went straight down right next to us.  Using it as a fence we turned her and she took off back  down to the bottom of the draw. She probably went out the gate with the other cows. I have no idea actually.

Because we didn’t stop.

Nate was going full out by the time we caught her. He wasn’t going to let a little thing like having finished the job stop him.

I  pulled back  on the reins. Nothing happened.

I yanked back on the reins. The aged weakened clasps that attached my reins to my bridle gave out. They flew back past my head, nearly grazing my ears. I was still holding my reins in my hands but they weren’t attached to anything.

We were still galloping headlong up the side of the draw. A steep bank on one side. Fortunately nothing but a grassy incline directly under us. For the time being.

I leaned forward in my saddle, reached down  the length of his nec  and grabbed the side of the headstall.Then  hauled his head around pulling him to a stop.

We spun circles for awhile until he conceded and halted for a moment. I  reattached the clips and we took off back down the draw to catch up with the herd.

No, I did not replace the clasps as soon as I was able. Instead I took great joy in  knowing they could fail any moment. They were my special safety break away reins.  I figured that as long as they stayed attached I knew I wasn’t pulling to hard on the reins. The safety break away was for the horse not me. Especially if I was using them to tie with. Those clips stayed on my reins for a very long time. I don’t remember why they did finally get replaced. It wasn’t because they were a safety hazard. They were, but it wasn’t why they got replaced. It could have been that they got broke. Or it could be that they reached a point where they wouldn’t stay on at all any more.

I always have enjoyed the walk on the wild side brought on by improper tack, whether it’s gambling on my reins staying attached or a snaffle without browband or throatlatch. That doesn’t mean it’s a safe or smart thing to do. Just adds that bit of excitement to my life. Like riding Nate did.

Nate is long gone and well missed. The reins are still hanging with my bridle, still as comfortable in my hand as they were then. The clips are newer.

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