Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I've been thinking about a word to live with in 2014 and this is the one that keeps coming back. Persevere. I was hoping for a happier word but a happier word didn't find me.

2013 was a year of change for us. I still feel strongly that the change was a good one but it hasn't been easy. I don't expect 2014 to be any easier.

Winston. Perseverance incarnate. He's at a difficult age and some days I just don't have the energy to deal with his antics. I know there is a sane brave horse who wants to get it right underneath his six year old skin, its just hard to see right now. I am going to work with him on the lunge line before riding. I can effectively deal with naughty moments from the ground. If he is naughty while I am on his back and I get dumped, that is encouraging/rewarding the behavior. I will ride him but only when he is relaxed, focused and obedient. Only then. I will continue to have Katy work with him as well. Her approach is kind but firm and she is strongly rooted in the basics.

Sedona. We will continue to give her pain pills and as many table scraps as she wants. As long as she eats and trots with her tail in a happy curl, she will continue to bury her bones and sleep on the porch and chase squirrels at Oak Creek Ranch. I hope she perseveres a long time. I'm not ready to say good-bye. I'm not sure I ever will be; she's the best dog I've known.

Fences. The pasture fences are brittle and breaking. It is going to take a lot of time and effort -- not to mention money -- to replace and reinforce all of them. This is Brett's project, but its a fund sapping one and not very exciting.

Finances. An ugh category for sure. My new job pays significantly less than my position in Southern California. Brett is fully retired. Both of these were planned and done with no regrets. Learning to live on less with two kids in college and a money pit property is difficult. No vacation in 2014.

The job. I have no regrets about taking my new job. It's interesting and I love working for an organization with faith based values. I've been in the position for eight months now and the learning curve is still steep. Some days I feel completely out of my comfort zone and like I will never understand the Sacramento market. Other days, I get it right all by myself. I'm going to persevere and hope I get there. ...that the "feeling competent" days outnumber the "feeling stupid" days.

The house. This part is going well. There are a few things, such as curtains in the kids' rooms, that still need to be done but the house is very comfortable. I still love, love, love this house.

Garden. Oy, lots to do here. When I look at the garden with its dead fruit trees and weeds, it is overwhelming. Brett built me a beautiful planter box. I ordered new fruit trees. I will slowly remove the debris and a garden will emerge. I'm going to try to enjoy the process and the journey.

As I try to persevere, I will continue to be thankful for all of you who comment and encourage me. I rely on your advice and wisdom more than you can imagine. Thank you so much. I wish all of you a happy New Year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Doggone Dogs

Some of you may remember that we had to kennel Sedona and Kersey while we were in escrow on this place. When we moved the animals onto the property, they were barking at night and one of the neighbors complained to the real estate agent. The last thing we wanted was to get off on the wrong foot with a new neighbor. We were living in a hotel so having the dogs with us wasn't an option. We put them in a kennel.

Initially, when we moved into the house we had the dogs sleeping in the laundry room at night so they wouldn't bark. It worked okay from a barking standpoint but Sedona hated it. Every night I called and every night she took longer to arrive, despite there being treats once they settled on their beds. At some point, she stopped showing up at all. I think she heard me calling and hid. Meanwhile, Kersey was all wagging tail and panting happiness, begging for her treat and Sedona's. Eventually, we stopped bringing the dogs in at night. They love sleeping on the porch so we put their fluffy beds outside the great room door. Sedona slept up against the door while Kersey hauled herself up onto the wicker furniture. Sometimes, we would wake and hear them barking, the sound fading as they chased some animal away from the house. The barking would stop pretty quickly (unless it was an instance of all the neighborhood dogs joining in the chorus), we would roll over and go back to sleep.

Yesterday morning, the neighbor called to Brett over the fence. He said that the dogs have been barking out close to their house and keeping them awake. When the dogs chase raccoons and other animals, they do seem to head out his direction. His house sits pretty close to our property line, next to the dressage court. Brett asked Marv (another neighbor) if he heard the dogs and he said yes, he had heard them the other night and when he looked outside he saw Sedona and Kersey chasing what looked like a fox into the back pasture. We decided to start bringing the dogs in at night again.

Later yesterday afternoon, I noticed Sedona standing alone with her tail drooping to the ground. Kersey was nowhere to be seen. Kyle and Camille had told me that Kersey figured out how to get into the oak pasture and had been swimming in the water trough. Sedona declined to follow Kersey since Jackson has chased her on more than one occassion. Sedona won't go into the pasture when the horses are there. Kersey either forgot about being chased or the call of a frigid swim was stronger than her fear. So, when she went missing Brett figured she had gone into the pasture and slipped out under the fence in one of the many low spots. Sure enough, an hour later the same neighbor and his wife came walking up the driveway with Kersey on a leash. They were friendly, with laugh lines around their eyes, and said Kersey was running the fence line trying to figure out how to get back in. She isn't the brightest bulb, but she's so cute and sweet that we just smile and scratch her belly. They mentioned the barking again. I wanted to hide under a rug.

Last night I went out on the porch at bed time to bring the dogs into the laundry room. They followed me around the house to the back porch and then Sedona stopped. Her tail dropped, she lowered her head and looked up at me with dread. "Seriously? You are going to make me go in there? Why am I in trouble?" She wouldn't eat the milk-bone cookie I offered. She circled three times, lowered her body onto her bed, crossed her paws and stared at me. I opened the window so they would get fresh cold air and went off to bed.

At 4am, Camille was awakened by the sound of the laundry room window screen clattering onto the porch. A few minutes later, Kersey started whining and crying. When the noise didn't subside and she didn't hear us get up (whoops, slept through it), she decided to go downstairs and investigate. She met Kyle on the landing, pulling on his sweat pants, and together they went to investigate. Sedona had jumped out of the window leaving Kersey behind. Since Sedona was not going to come back in, they let Kersey go outside, closed the window and went back to bed. At 5am, Brett and I woke up to the sound of them barking. They were clearly outside -- so Brett went downstairs to see how they got out. We figured they both went out the window since the screen was on the ground but we couldn't figure out how they shut the window behind them.

Of course, all the mysteries were solved in the morning. Tonight the dogs will sleep in the barn. Tomorrow, Brett will work on building a secure dog area that incorporates the side porch that they love so much. And we will pray that they don't bark.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cookies and Snow

Kyle and Camille made cookies the other night.  My feet were killing me and they were bored.

Their plan for this weekend involved skiing.  Unfortunately, we have not had any rain in December (just one big snow storm early in the month and it has all melted).  We have frost in the mornings but no rain and no snow.

So, we climbed in the car and drove to Lake Tahoe where there was snow.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Eve

Christmas was quiet in a comfortable peaceful way.  The mornings were frosty, the wood stove warm, the afternoons clear and the evenings cozy.

The horses spent both days staking out the best grazing places.  We opened both pastures and let them roam freely all day.
Mufasa and Winston: Why is Jackson outside the pasture?

Winston: Kyle is looking the other way and the gate is open... I'm outta here.

Winston spent more time running around than eating.

The front lawn was a popular grazing location.

Kersey went for a swim in the pasture water troughs.  

Brett, my dad and Kyle went for a walk around the property.  They started at the well house.  When my dad came back inside he said, "I need a Tylenol."  I'm not sure if it was from walking the entire property or from thinking about all the work we still need to do.

Christmas eve we feasted on prime rib, crusty rolls, potatoes and peas with bacon.
Camille, Kyle, Brett, dad, mom

After dinner we sat in front of the fire, with the Christmas tree twinkling red, blue and green, listening to Christmas music and trying to stay awake.  We failed.  No midnight Christmas service for us.  We were all snoring in our beds well before then.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Message

I don't post about work on this blog, but last week one of the executives in our organization sent out the following Christmas message.  She graciously granted permission for me to share it with you.

Merry Christmas to all my friends.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cold and Frosty Mornings Continue

We continue to have cold mornings and comfortable days.  It's great weather for working outside, but not good for the Sierra snow pack which provides our water.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Have A Kitchen

David finished up in the kitchen last night, after spending close to twelve hours working on it. He packed up his tools, rolled up his tarps, and vacuumed the floor. He left at 8:30 and then I made dinner. Yes, we ate late -- at 9pm. It was a simple dinner: steak, baked potato and carrots. But it was dinner made in my kitchen. David will be back in mid-January when the butcher block table top and pantry doors arrive and are ready for installation. I'll do the before-and-after post then but here's a sneak preview.

Dare I say that I like this kitchen better than the one I had at Aspen Meadows? That was my Mary Poppins kitchen -- you know, "practically perfect in every way."

This morning, I arranged my spices on the island rack.

I put pots and pans in the drawers under the cooktop, and I placed my measuring cups in the corner cabinet lazy Susan. It took all morning to move my cookware from the dining room table, floor, chairs and window sills into the kitchen. It was a labor of love.

I made French toast for breakfast.

This afternoon we went wine tasting Christmas shopping. Brett treated me to lunch at the pub in Fairplay (awesome French dip sandwich). The sun was behind the hills when we got home so I didn't get a chance to work with Winston.

But I have a kitchen. A beautiful, functional kitchen.

And there's apricot bread in the oven. Ever since I can remember, there has been apricot bread for breakfast Christmas morning. When I was young, my father cut thick slices and we toasted them while my mother ladled hot chocolate into mugs. I slathered butter onto my toasted bread and sipped on hot chocolate, melted marshmallow sticking to my upper lip. I sip coffee now, but I still eat toasted apricot bread drenched in butter Christmas morning.

Kyle and Camille fly in tomorrow afternoon and my parents are driving up from the Central Coast. Posting may be a bit sporadic while the house is full of family. You know where I'll be.... in the kitchen!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Naughty AND Nice

The morning dawned clear, cold and frosty.

The temperature hovered just around freezing, but the sun quickly melted the frost and warmed the ground.

There are only a few small patches of snow left, clinging to the shady cold hollows down by the blackberry bushes bordering the road. I startled three deer who were enjoying the bushes for dinner earlier this week. They turned to look at me with mild annoyance, and then wandered slowly off the driveway and further down the blackberry patch.

Jackson and Flash stand in a patch of sun at the bottom of their pasture in the mornings. They watch Brett push the hay cart, from the goats, to Winston and Mufasa in the clover pasture, to the donkeys, and then over to their oak pasture. When he crosses the bridge over the dry stream bed, they turn and canter up to gate to get their carrots and hay. I can't remember when Jackson has looked so good and moved so well.

The donkeys wait for the sun to crawl down the hill and into their pasture.  We all wait for the sunshine.

After breakfast, Brett fired up his chain saw and we went for a walk through the oak pasture collecting firewood. There were oak and pine branches littering the ground. It took hardly anytime at all to fill the cart with wood. Flash and Jackson barely looked up from their hay while Brett cut the wood into pieces.

Winston watched me set out his tack box, my helmet, and then sit on the bench, in the warm and welcoming sun, and put on my boots. I slid his halter off the end of the tie rail and walked down to the pasture to get him. He was waiting, standing impatiently at the gate. Grooming and tacking him up was uneventful. Brett had Mufasa out as well. The horses periodically looked out towards the road with high headed interest, but were calm and quiet for the most part.

Winston stood while I mounted but the second my fanny settled in the saddle, he went from nice to naughty. I didn't even have my feet in the stirrups yet and he was arching his back. I turned him towards the small arena behind the barn and he said "Ha! You think I'm going in there? Think again, lady." Brett and Mufasa walked calmly past us into the arena. Katy has been working Winston in that arena for the past two weeks so it wasn't fear of a new and different place. It was six year old punk teenager attitude. Have I mentioned before that six is my least favorite age?

I thought about getting off, but I didn't want to encourage his attitude. I kept the reins loose and kept turning him until he figured out that it would be easier to just go in the arena. We marched along at a good clip with Winston looking for a reason to explode and me sitting back on my seat bones and breathing deep for all I was worth; we marched in big circles, in small circles, in circles that spiraled in and then back out; we marched from the center line to the rail in forward leg yield. When he relaxed, finally, we picked up the trot.

We had some very NICE trot work. Katy has done an amazing job with showing Winston how to relax, how to reach for the bit, and how to be sensitive to the slightest bit of pressure from my leg. He was like butter. Coiled butter. He had energy to burn and he wanted to use it. Sand flew from beneath his feet and hit a pipe, making a smatter sound. He spooked. Really Winston? He planted, then hopped sideways, then bolted. I lost my seat somewhere in the jolting change of direction, but I stayed on. Winston came back to me quickly but I could tell he wanted to go. We picked up the trot again, did a few circles with nice bend and cadence, and then I got off. Brett and Mufasa rode out of the arena and closed the gate. I stripped off Winston's tack and picked up the lunge whip. He snorted and cantered off, sliding to a stop in the corner, then digging in and galloping to the other end. He kicked out behind and pawed the air in front. He was full of it.

I think tomorrow I will lunge him before I ride, not after.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1. Yesterday, after two days of work by two plumbers, we got water back in the barn. Brett estimates that the pipes burst in at least 15 places, blowing holes right through the insulation he so carefully wrapped around every pipe.

2. Last night we dipped back into the 20s. I helped Brett prepare the barn. After turning off the water, he disconnected all the automatic waterers and drained the lines into a pail. While he worked his way around the barn opening faucets and letting the water splatter and dribble into his pail, I flushed the toilet and opened the sink faucets. Then I went outside and helped disconnect all the hoses, opening those faucets as well. When every pipe had been drained, Brett closed all the doors to the barn; aisle doors, side doors, stall doors. We left the water off today and will not turn it back on until we warm up.

3. The last of the snow has melted away. Other than the big snow storm, we haven't had much rain and are facing draught conditions. The ski resorts are suffering. There isn't enough of a base to attract skiers and some of them have closed until we get another storm. I don't think my sister and her family will be coming over to ski next week as planned. The kids will just have to come back up when the conditions improve to ski with their cousins.

4. I had to put my lessons with Katy on indefinite hold. The hard freeze was a financial disaster. After fixing the well, the barn pipes and purchasing a boat load of insulation, there is no money left for training me and Winston. I'll slog through on my own until we get back on our feet. Fortunately, Winston isn't the first horse I've trained so I can do the basics on my own. And the basics are everything in dressage.

5. The kitchen is nearing completion. Tomorrow and Monday, the electrical outlets will be finished and the lighting installed. The pantry doors and butcher block counter top/work area won't be delivered until mid January. I'm letting go of my Christmas baking. I can bake next week; I don't have to have everything done before my parents and the kids arrive Monday. Right?

Are you ready for Christmas?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, December 15, 2013


The snow is melting away.  We had a warm winter day with highs in the 60s.

Katy worked Winston in the small arena yesterday.  The dressage court is still half covered in snow.  I have been fighting a cold all weekend and didn't have enough energy to take a lesson.

This afternoon I refilled all the empty water bottles and put them in the garage so we are ready for the next time we don't have water.  Hopefully, we won't be dealing with water bottles for a long time but there will be a day when the power goes out and the well pump doesn't work.  It pays to be prepared, as we well know.

David has made great progress with the kitchen.  I am hopeful that soon I can move everything off of the kitchen table, the dining room table and the dining room floor -- back into kitchen cabinets.

I'm going to start with moving my cookbooks onto the new bookshelves.  Most of my cookbooks are still packed in boxes in the barn. These are my core cookbooks; the ones I use all the time and can't live without.

Then I'm going back to sit on the couch.  I am doing my best to beat this cold out of my system.  I can't be sick for Christmas.  I am feeling a tad more energetic this afternoon.  In church this morning I was dragging so I turned sideways, leaned into Brett and had him drape his arm across my shoulders and then around to my hip where I held his hand.  I was warm and happy and sleepy.  He was embarrassed to death.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Starting to Feel Like Christmas

When Camille was up Thanksgiving week, we went out to Camino to get a Christmas tree at one of the many tree farms in the area. We were looking for a small tree to fit in the family room but we also found a tall narrow tree -- perfect for the entry, with a star peaking up above the upstairs landing. We bought both trees and brought them home.

We put the trees in water, in the barn, and there they sat until last weekend. In the midst of the snow storm, Brett broke the frozen water off of the base of the tall tree and we brought it into the house. I decorated it with red and gold lights and bulbs. It is the "formal" tree.

Today, Brett brought the smaller one in and I decorated it with multi-colored lights and ornaments with meaning; gifts from friends and ornaments handmade by the kids when they were small. Hanging the popsicle stick snowman and glitter crusted frames brings back memories.

In just a little more than a week they will be home. They are all grown up and living their own lives, but tonight my memory travels back to the days when there were Legos and dolls under the tree. My memory is selective, of course, choosing to ignore how lonely I was in that marriage and the constant exhaustion that went with the work of mothering small children. It's easy now to sit on the couch, sipping on hot tea, and selectively choose a memory here and there.

(Many thanks to Camille who gave me all these pictures)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1. I discovered a new blog today -- one with spectacular photos of food; french food even. My French Heaven (aptly named).

2. Mary Ann recommended using a chick light in the well house to keep the pipes and valves and holding tank from freezing. We plan to do exactly that. Right now, Brett has a horse blanket draped over the top and it's working great. Once we get an outlet installed, we'll plug in a light.

3. TailsFromProvence asked if the cold we had this past week is normal. Absolutely not. Winter lows typically dip into the 20s, not the low teens and certainly not 9F like we saw Sunday. We still have snow today, a week later, which is also unusual. Typically we get snow, then sunshine or rain, and it all melts away within a day or two. (Her post about French drains made me laugh; check it out).

4. Lori Skoog asked if the kitchen was finished. No ma'am, not yet but our contractor swears I will have a functioning kitchen by Christmas. I am so tired of dishes, measuring cups, silverware, pots and pans piled on tables; tired of take-out; tired of the mess. The contractor works alone (no crew) and he is meticulous. We couldn't be happier with the quality of the work so I'm doing my best to roll with the snail speed of progress, the dust and the cardboard flooring.

5. Camille took pictures of herself with all the animals when she was up at Thanksgiving. I particularly love this one of her with Whiskey.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And on the Fifth Day There Was Water

You don't really want the boring details but suffice it to say that we have water tonight.  The well company came out yesterday and fixed part of the frozen well.  The bigger issue is getting heat in the well house so it doesn't freeze again.  We can't run off of the well pump, we need a separate outlet.  So, the electricians were here all day today trying to find a line to use.  There are wires that start and stop in the middle of nowhere. They aren't live, and they can't be traced enough to be used.

There was a generator running all day to power a heater so the water thawed.  Brett wrapped the pipes in the little bit of insulation he had left and then added towels and rugs.  Fingers crossed that the water is still running in the morning.

The weather warmed up today to almost 50 and the snow is starting to melt.  Patches of dirt are appearing here and there but we are still covered in snow for the most part.  It will be warmer every day through the weekend.

My favorite part of snowfall is the way the trees look immediately afterwards, before the wind and the sun knock the piles of powder off the boughs.  What is your favorite part?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Water, Wells and Winter

Last Saturday when the snow was freshly fallen, I delivered hay to the horses via sled.

Mufasa kept a safe distance from the funny green, careening, sliding, skidding, sled. Winston chased it, then tried to eat it.

Flash was bored and unimpressed. Jackson was initially curious,

then alarmed,

and finally came over to investigate.  Flash followed.

Today wasn't nearly as full of new adventures. I took the Subaru to work since icy roads and small sports cars don't go well together. The drive from our home to the freeway took 40 minutes instead of the usual 20 as I crawled across the icy snow, steering straight and slow - but not too slow - and taking a straight line across the ice. There was a steady stream of trucks coming the other direction, delivering goods to the market at the end of our valley; important goods like Doritos and Coors -- and a truck piled high with pink rolls of insulation.

Shortly after I left, the well company came to "fix" the pump. The pressure gauge was shot and, underneath the insulation, the pipes were frozen. The pipe from the well to the pump was split and shattered. The water in the holding tank was frozen. Brett was advised to get an electrical outlet installed so we could put a space heater in the pump house. We also needed to get a special kind of insulation for the pipes that has little wires embedded in it that are sensitive to the cold. When the temperature drops, they heat up and keep the water from freezing. We had no idea such things existed.

Brett started calling electricians and plumbing supply stores. The electricians were booked out for two weeks and the county was sold out of heat tape for pipes. He found a place in Sacramento and I left work early to snag enough for our well pipes. Meanwhile, he found an electrician who said he will come out tomorrow.

We are hoping for much warmer temperatures so the pipes and holding tank thaw. Until they thaw, we will STILL have no water.

After getting back home with the heat tape, I warmed some water on the stove for the goats. I poured the warm water from my stock pot into a bucket and walked out to the goat area. I unlatched the gate and stepped inside with my blue bucket of warm water. My foot slipped on the slick icy mud and I landed on my butt with a thud. The bucket sailed out of my hand and the water spilled at Thistle's feet. He looked at me, wondering what game I was playing, then came over and sniffed my face. I'm not hurt, but my shoulders are sore and I feel a bit... tweaked. And I still had to fill the goats' water bucket. Their water was frozen solid.  I turned it over and dumped a twisted ice sculpture on the ground.  I ended up setting a bucket under the down spout from the barn roof gutters and filling it with the water from the melting snow on the roof.

After chores, we went to Marv's house to use his shower. It felt wonderful.

Living in the Sierras in winter is beautiful but it's hard work too.