Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Thursday, May 28, 2009

C: NAPA vs NASA

I am so blessed to have great neighbors, great friends! Here I am on the farm, now single, with all this equipment that has been the sole province of my husband for the past forty years. I am playing catch up in knowing how to use and care for it all and, I must say, I am loving it! (See the post from last year, “Power Woman Update” for a look at the beginning of this equipment odyssey). My male neighbors have been such a help to me in learning about tractors and mowers and weed-eaters and such. This week’s lesson included a marvelous product called “fix a flat,” which is aerosol and you just pump it right into your flat lawn mower tire and Voila! the leak in your tire seals right up!

Amazing…all women need to know about these things…

This long Memorial Day weekend was built around rain, which very much impeded my outside ambitions, but I managed to get some work done. I have developed an actual love of riding the lawn mower over our acreage. It is really satisfying work to see the grass coming down to civilized state in rows; such a vivid picture of progress! My son was laughing at me weaving in and out of trees along the edge of our woods—accusing me of having an obsession with getting the weeds down. He’s not far from wrong, but I don’t think it’s really the weeds coming down that has me hooked. I have just enjoyed the thinking time. It is amazing how much thinking one can do while riding a mower!

This weekend also ramped up my lawn skills a notch: I did weed eating for the first time! I must admit that this is not the fun the mower is. Still, it wasn’t bad. And I actually felt like I was getting some upper body exercise, to boot. At least my arms felt like it the next day.

When I finished my home looked so much better! We have been through weeks of rain, and the grass had grown long. Now when you drive up, it is unmistakable that someone actually lives here. Now, mind you, it’s also clear that this is not the Martha Stewart abode, but at least it looks lived-in. I'm including a snapshot which we will consider the "before" picture...just wait, we're transforming!




But the piece de resistance for me on this lawn equipment weekend was a trip to the auto parts store; yet another foray into uncharted territory for this newly-single woman! Here’s the scoop (and the part where my great neighbors come in…): I share my tractor with my over-the-hill neighbor (that’s over-the-hill location-wise, not age-wise!).



This weekend he came to get it and discovered that some hydraulic hoses were leaking. (Who knew?). He pulled the defective parts off and told me how to go to the auto parts store to get them replaced and then promptly invited me to join him and his wife for a holiday weekend feast, so off I went.

My friends’ grown son was visiting from out of state and some of their other family was at dinner—all good friends of mine, too. The food and fellowship was great, and the wine flowed freely. I began to wax eloquently on my lawn accomplishments for the day and moved right along to discussing my tractor—the apex of my equipment inventory. It’s beginning to feel good to be able to discuss the tractor, etc., etc., etc. I think I got puffy and carried away in some of my new-found equipment confidence:

Yep, those hydraulic hoses need replacing,” I intoned to my fellow diners. “I’m goin’ to NASA tomorrow to get ‘em replaced so your daddy, here, can get that gravel moved.”

The male contingent at the table went quiet, quizzical looks on their faces. After a brief conversational pause, my friends’ son spoke up, “C, I imagine that NASA does, indeed, have hydraulic hoses, but I doubt that’s where you’re going. I bet you mean that you are going to NAPA, which stands for National Automotive Parts Association…

Well, nothing like being taken down a notch or two, and I’m sure I blushed at my blunder; but it was a good laugh. He was right; NAPA was where I headed the next day, and they replaced my hydraulic hoses in ten minutes’ time. I spent that waiting time looking at all the automotive merchandise in their showroom. Amazing! There sure must be people out there who spend lots of time cleaning their cars and duding them up.

My neighbors are so good to help me out. They know that—as I’ve said before—males have inborn knowledge of motors and equipment that we females have to actually learn. Here, in my fifth decade of life, I’m just wading into it, and these guys are patient with my blunders. Like all learning, this has been fun. I have enjoyed finding out about stabilizer for my lawn mower and two-stroke oil(although I’m still not sure what that two-stroke reference is--note to self: consult wikipedia for two-stroke...).



The work gives me a good sleep, tired from the activity and serenely secure in knowing that my hydraulic hoses are in good shape…

Monday, May 25, 2009

C: Quigley Comes and Goes

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a soft touch for animals. In fact, I am animal-poor: two horses, two dogs and one cat, down recently from three dogs, seven horses and innumerable cats, the loss of all of whom was sadness to me.

I have two dogs: Chili and Scout, both of whom I have told you about in other posts. This is Chili (Belgian Malinois), guarding our front door:



Our cats have short lives out here in the country. They live mostly outside and are fine when they are purring on my wide back porch, which is a perfect feline haven. But, as cats do, they invariably venture forth to the beckoning forest where the “real” game is, no longer content with the bugs and occasional rodent they can hunt in the back yard. Unfortunately, big game country also means bigger predators, and my cats must face roaming dogs, coyotes, and owls, all of whom love to come upon a cat. Sasha is the remainder of a litter of five kittens, all of whom just one-by-one disappeared. It is a fine life for a cat, so long as it lasts. My theory is that Sasha has lasted her four years because she is a homebody, always to be found on a lawn chair on the porch.

My horses are an emotional issue with me. All my life I have been a horse lover (beginning with those stick horses!). My husband used to joke that if one ever got on our place, it never left. He was right. Rarely have I ever sold a horse—I’ve given them away to good homes, but selling is just too hard to do.



When my husband left, I knew I could not deal with pulling myself back together and feeding and caring for horses as well. It was part of our separation agreement that he would take care of finding them homes. He readily agreed to do it, and just as readily has refused to honor that agreement, leaving this sad task to me. Here, a year later, I have placed all but two; and homes for them seem in sight. These horses have been such a part of my life that having none will seem certainly like a chapter closing—a sign of sorts. It is a sad sign, but I am fairly certain this is the right direction for me to go. I have to concentrate on other things.

But, I digress! The point of this story is Quigley…a “newbie” to the farm. My son came in one day and said, “Mom, don’t you think we need another dog?” The question was rhetorical. He knew we do not need another dog. The question was a softening tool. Here’s the scoop: “Quigley” is “the sweetest dog ever” according to him. She belonged to the girlfriend of his college roommate who had moved to an apartment. She needed another home. I declined.

He persisted, knowing where the soft underbelly was located: “But if we don’t take her, they are giving her to the humane society.” Recall that I am a woman who does not sell horses…only gives them away to proper homes. That did it for me! How do you put a faithful dog in jail? I relented, and Quigley joined us. That's her, below on the left, with Chili.



She is a medium-large mixed dog, black and tan. Both her color and her distinctive baying tell us that she has hound in her. But she also has a broad, blocky head that looks suspiciously “pit bull”—not definitively, but suspiciously. She is smart, amiable, and stayed right around our dog-fenceless farm. She seemed to love little Scout and submitted appropriately to Chili. The pack seemed to gel, and all went well…for about a month.



One weekend my sister and her family came to dinner. They live just through the woods, and when they come over, their pack of dogs come, too (one short-haired Border Collie “Lucy,” and two rat terriers). They had been there to meet Quigley before, and all seemed to be fine.

My youngest niece went out to play. Before we knew it, she was back in yelling about a dog fight. We rushed out to find Quigley with Lucy on the ground, her neck in Quigley’s mouth. It was horrific, because it was clear that Quigley meant business. She was shaking Lucy, who is not much smaller than her attacker. It required a broomstick to get Quigley off, and Lucy’s ear was torn badly, not to mention probable bruising that no one could see.

I knew then that Quigley would not be able to stay. This understanding was confirmed when the next day my brother-in-law came over with one terrier, Queenie. Quigley literally strained to get up in the back of the pickup truck to get at Queenie. It was obvious that Quigley was intent on chomping down on little Queenie, as well, and we had to drag her off.

I’m not a dog psychologist, but it seemed to me that Quigley had some “settle in” time, decided who were the members of her pack (Chili and Scout) and who it was that did not belong on our property. She had seen Lucy and the terriers before with no problem, but one day they just were not welcomed by Quigley any longer. It was as if she had determined that these dogs had no business at our home.

I was saddened but told my son that Quigley must go back to her previous owner. I was not going to have a dog that was a danger to other dogs, and I was not going to be responsible for the task of turning her over to the Humane Society, if that was necessary. He agreed.

The following weekend, Quigley’s owner, Sarah, showed up to retrieve her and gather Quigley’s belongings (a vast assortment of toys). The scene was touching. I know, beyond doubt, that Quigley was happy during her short stay here. She was unfettered, allowed to roam at will through the woods and enjoy life as dogs should be able to do. See her sloshing through our creek? Divine for a dog!





But when her mistress got out of the car, Quigley stopped and stared, began wiggling all over and emitted a high pitched whine as she ran to greet. It was obvious that she recognized and had missed her owner.

Sarah’s eyes filled with tears, and she bent down to pet Quigley. I was gratified to hear her say to her dog that they would not part again. We chatted a few minutes, and Sarah joked about how having Quigley was a great incentive to exercise each day as they walked and went to the dog parks.

I had thought that it would be a bad thing for a dog such as Quigley to be pent up in an apartment. I have changed my mind. I think that Quigley, with her super-territorialism and loyalty, needs those boundaries that Sarah will provide her. I am happy that this story had a happy ending.

Call me silly about animals, but I think they are so important to our lives. I interact with mine daily, and my life would be so much “flatter” without them. They each have their own personality, and based on that I can predict how they will react, what they will do in situations. Truly, they are my friends.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

V: Do You Like Horses?

"The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears."
~Arabian Proverb





Do you like horses? Wish you had one? Perhaps you are like me in that you have always wanted a horse, but never actually owned one? As a child I used to cry and beg my parents for a horse. Hey, it worked for a puppy! I suppose it never occured to me that it would never fit in our suburban backyard. C was lucky in that she got her first horse as a child and it did actually stay in her backyard for a few days before they moved it to a farm. I actually awakened in the early morning and looked out my window to her backyard and there was a horse there!! In the city! Well, it was not that urban, but definitely not horse country!


So, I never got the horse my grandfather promised me, but I did get to vicariously enjoy the horse-owner life through my teenage daughter who saved her money and bought a horse when she was in high school. Now she is all grown up and lives on a farm with horses and cows and a lovely little filly (I'll call "Ivory") who was born week before last and became ill last Saturday. The diagnosis is a bacterial infection and the pitiful little creature injured her leg on the trip home in the horse trailer, but she is hanging on! So, if you're inclined (like me), to think that the Lord of the universe cares about all His creation, and all His creatures, would you lift a little prayer up to the heavens for Ivory?










P.S. Ivory is a cremello Tennessee Walking horse. The color is the result of the action of two cream genes on a red (chesnut/sorrel) horse. Where one cream gene on a red produces a palomino, two of them create the Cremello. Ivory also has blue eyes!

V: Vanity



I never considered myself particularly vain, but I must say that in recent years, I've become almost obsessed about being photographed. Well, I guess what I really mean is that I absolutely do NOT want to be photographed at all, especially since it seems to have become my dear husband's mission in life to catch me in the most unflattering poses possible! He lays in wait to catch me in mid-chew, or grimacing or yawning! I WILL retaliate, I warn him. I will hide with camera in hand to catch him unaware! So, until then, to prove that I am not totally vain and I am willing to bear some humiliation, I will publish this "deer in the headlights" pose that he captured as I enjoyed Easter breakfast sitting between my two grandsons! Enjoy your weekend!
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