Monday, September 30, 2013

Renovation Report: Floors

The past week has been challenging.  Monday they started stripping and sanding the floors.  Then they added a light oil to bring out the character of the wood.  Last they added three coats of sealant.  The entire process lasted all week.  We were not allowed into the house until after 8:00 at night.  All the furniture from the kitchen, dining room and great room was outside.  We were able to hop skip into the office for the hour or so before we hop skipped to the stairs and went up to bed.

The house stunk of stain and sealant.  All the windows were open to help dry the floor and air things out.  It got down to the high 30s at night.  I sat on the couch with a hoodie sweatshirt on under my denim jacket and a fleecy blanket (from Sheila) pulled across my lap.  It was REALLY cold in the house.  Yes, my nose turned red.

But the floor is stunning.  The red oak is just gorgeous and far exceeds our expectations.  Who knew that there was so much beauty lurking underneath the old, dark wood!

Friday, installation started on the carpet upstairs and tile in the laundry room.  Hopefully, the furniture will all be back inside the house soon.

It's an adventure, right?

Brett put up a sign he found at a local winery.  I think its a self portrait...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

This Too Shall Pass

There is storm system north of us sending cloudy skies and breezy conditions to our valley.

The rain from last weekend soaked the ground and sunshine coaxed the seeds into sprouting; we have green grass springing up in the pastures.  Finessa has wasted no time in sampling it.

After breakfast and chores, Brett and I headed into Placerville to look for a mud room bench at the Antique Fair.  We wanted a small bench that we can sit on while taking on and off our shoes.  We found exactly what we were looking for, wedged it into the back of the Subaru and headed back to the ranch.  I wanted to ride before our lunch at MiraFlores winery.

We tacked up Winston and Mufasa in their stalls.  After all our work yesterday in the barn, it's finally horse friendly.

There are rings in the stalls for tying horses while they are tacked up.  Winston is good about being groomed and tacked up in his stall; we've done that at a few shows.  Mufasa doesn't like to be tied and will pull back so I used baling twine to create break-away loops.  You tie the lead ropes to the twine loop and that way the twine will break if the horse panics.

Mufasa stood quietly in his stall with one eye on Winston, next door, and the other on Brett.  The trust between Brett and Mufasa is steadily increasing.  They are so fortunate to have found each other.  Winston was a bit fussy, worrying about where everyone was and what they were doing.  We mounted and rode out to the dressage court, with Winston and I leading the way.  Winston walked into the arena without balking and we made a couple uneventful loops around the entire arena.  As I was getting ready to cross the arena and go the other direction, Winston decided he was done.  I understand that he was tired and no doubt sore from our work on Saturday but his behavior was unacceptable.  Once again, he plowed backwards dragging the arena rails and a pylon with him.  I know I should have smacked him with my whip and sent him forward and to work but, well, my confidence just isn't there.  I'm disappointed in myself.  Next time I will deal with it from the saddle.  And I know he will outgrow this and he will get fit.  He's six.  Its a difficult age -- kind of like the terrible twos.  Instead of grabbing the bucking strap, giving him a smart tap, riding out the inevitable buck and trotting off, I got him to walk forward by kicking.  Back in the arena, he threatened to go backwards again.  I kicked until he walked forward into a halt and then I got off.  The lunge line was hanging on the fence.  We worked on the lunge line, on transitions because they require obedience.  I hadn't planned to canter today but he ended up doing interval work -- canter-trot-canter.  He had to be prompt and he had to keep the gait going until I decided it was time to transition.  He has a bad habit of trying to make those decisions himself.  So, we did get some work done.  I will get braver.  He will get older.  This phase will pass.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finding a Trainer

Vanessa's mother asked us if Vanessa could take a lesson Friday afternoon in our dressage court.  Of course we said yes.  I managed to sneak out of work early and get home in time to watch.  I have the name of a trainer I wanted to use in the Sacramento area  - she came highly recommended by both of the trainers we used in Southern California.  The trouble is, that trainer is located over an hour away from us.  Good for the occasional clinic but not for regular work.  So, I've been on the lookout for someone local.

Vanessa came over for her lesson with her mother's Arabian, Calibre.  He was amped up in a way that was true to his breed.  (and I love Arabians).  Katy, the trainer, worked with them in a way that was sensitive to Vanessa's confidence (she is a very confident girl; she is also only eleven) and to Calibre's energy.  After the lesson, I asked Katy if she would come back next weekend and give me a lesson.  Brett would like to take one as well but he is having a medical procedure on Friday that requires he not leave the house all weekend.
This morning, Brett and I went to the farmers market.  On the way home, we stopped at the barn where Katy helps out a FEI level trainer.  We were hoping to watch him ride or give lessons but were told he doesn't work on the weekend.  So, he definitely wouldn't work for me since I only have time to ride on the weekend.  We did, however, hear wonderful things about Katy so we are optimistic that we have found a trainer.

When Brett and I rode later in the morning, I asked him to lead the way into the arena in case Winston got silly on me.  We entered the dressage court with no problem whatsoever.  I found myself recalling the instructions Katy gave Vanessa.  I sat deep, kept my eyes up and used transitions to keep Winston calm and focused.  Winston chewed softly on the bit and only worried one time when he thought Mufasa was leaving.  I was very pleased with the work and also very pleased with how I was riding -- I've lost some of my confidence as a result of the abrupt departures from Winston's back over the past year.  When Winston rushed, I sat deep and straight.  Winston instantly relaxed and slowed.  So, I'm already happy with Katy as a trainer and I haven't even had a lesson with her yet.  I rode Winston back to the trailer and hopped off.  His mouth was covered in thick foam -- a sign that he was relaxed, thinking and connecting with me.

Brett and I spent the afternoon in the barn.  I planted bulbs in the wine barrels by the barn aisle entry.  Brett unpacked boxes.

The horses slept.

The dogs slept.

We started putting together the tack room.

And the sun set on another beautiful fall day in Pleasant Valley.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gurgle Gurgle Swish

Last night as I was dozing off to sleep, I heard that sound coming from our bathroom.  I nudged Brett awake and he heard it too.  When he checked the toilet, he discovered that we had no water.  None.  Zippo.  He got dressed, grabbed a flash light and headed outside.

While I waited for him to return, I remembered seeing a huge puddle in the clover arena when I drove up the driveway from work.  I hadn't thought much about it at the time; it is the low end of the pasture near the marshy area where the streams converge and flow out of the ranch.  I thought that the inch of rain we received over the weekend was gathering there.

Brett finished his investigation and climbed back up the stairs.  He said that the holding tank was dry.  He had seen the puddle marsh as well and we reached the same conclusion -- we had a pipe leaking between the well and the house.  Brett had turned off the water at the well and we tried to sleep.  The water table is low right now and he was worried that the holding tank wouldn't refill.  I worried about not having a toilet to use in the morning before work.

Brett called a plumber in the morning and Marv came over to help.  Fortunately, the holding tank was slowly refilling with water.

Brett and Marv were able to locate the pipe and a coupling was definitely cracked.  The plumber arrived in the afternoon and fixed the pipe.  Once the glue set, we were able to turn the water back on -- at 7:00 pm.

Meanwhile, the floor guys were busy working on the floors.  They finished sanding and applied the stain.  We are keeping the floors natural, with just a coating of oil, under the sealant.  The rustic red oak is beautiful and we wanted to be able to see all the color variation and grain.  We were not allowed to go into the house until after 8pm and we were instructed to go straight upstairs (the wood flooring is all downstairs), to wear socks and to not go anywhere else.

Brett had my mucking clothes waiting in the barn when I got home from work so I changed in the tack room.  I walked Winston around the dressage court, letting him nibble on the bits of green grass coming up after the rain, and just chilling.  He was happy to be hanging out with me and curious, but unconcerned, by the court.  We worked on reinforcing my position as alfa -- I chose which bits of grass, he couldn't crowd me, and he had to promptly back up when asked.

Yesterday, Brett filled all the letter cones with sand.  They weigh close to 100 lbs each so they won't be going anywhere.  He also filled some of the pylons.  And then he groomed the arena.  Of course.  It looks awesome.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tempered Happiness

Wednesday, a FedEx semi pulled in the driveway of Oak Creek Ranch and left some big boxes on a couple of pallets.

I downloaded directions for assembly and Brett got to work on it while I was at work on Thursday.  I asked him to take some pictures as he went along.

He even took a self portrait:

 When I got home from work, he had two corners and the long side done.  I helped him carry out the rest of the rails and pylons.  Then we fought with the corners.  The instructions made it seem so simple: measure 3 feet down one rail, four feet down the other, and five feet across between them.  Voila! You have a square corner.

...except that the last two corners didn't line up.  Frustrated and tired, we quit for the night.  The donkeys and horses were watching intently.  Of course, that could have been about dinner being late too.

The next day Brett made some minor adjustments and everything lined up.

It was really sweet of Brett to put the dressage court together for me.  Especially since what he really wanted was a garage for his car and the truck.  And, while I am very excited to have a real life competition size dressage court... I am also feeling more than a bit guilty about this purchase.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Curious? Yes. Brave? No.

Last night as Brett, Richard and I were leaving for dinner the sun briefly broke through the clouds.

The rain started up again later in the evening, but for a moment we had magical light.  I walked under the trees and by the streams to see how the property shed the water that had fallen steadily all day.  This property doesn't shed water; it drinks it.  I could feel the ground under my feet, under the oak leaves and under the grass, sighing as it gulped the water into its parched throat.

Back at the porch, I noticed a rainbow lifting into the dark sky behind the barn.

Brett who rarely never gets cold didn't see the need, but Richard and I out-voted him and lit a fire in the wood stove.

The storm moved out overnight, leaving snow on the Sierra mountain peaks and a sun-drenched, but cold, fall morning in Pleasant Valley.

The arena had drained well, despite the .70 inches of rain, so I grabbed Winston's halter and went to the oak pasture to get him.  He had other things in mind.

Winston reluctantly roused himself from his nap and I tacked him up.  Brett and Richard were busy moving furniture from the dining room into the garage so we were solo in the arena.  I tacked Winston up without incident and he stood quietly at the mounting block.  We walked past the dogs and he just flipped an ear in their direction.  As we rode next to the donkey pasture, Tuffy galloped up to the fence, bucked and raced in a circle.  Winston didn't care.

As we approached the dressage court, he balked.  He stopped and I felt his energy rise.  I wasn't sure if he was going to race backwards or buck but he sure as heck wasn't going to go forward, to the big dressage court, at the end of the property BY HIMSELF.  Brett called over to me to get off -- he could see the energy I was feeling.  Instead, I asked Brett to take the reins and walk us into the arena.  Winston was good with that... until Brett left.  We were alone -- horrors!  The energy and fear started building underneath me.  Winston is brave when I work with him on the ground but, for some reason, it doesn't translate well when I'm on his back.  I hopped off, grabbed the lunge line, and walked him to the far end of the arena.  He was unsure, but ready to trust me -- honestly, I think it has something to do with him being able to see me.  I worked him pretty hard just in case he was partly thinking he could get out of work.  Winston has a stubborn streak and you cannot win a battle with him.  It isn't my style to battle, but I needed him to trust me, respect me, and obey me.  When he was forward, obedient and relaxed we stopped.  I think we'll be riding with Mufasa a few more times until we try solo again.  He needs to be bored with the arena before we go in there alone.  I'm not interested in being bucked off again. It's not good for our relationship, for trust, or for my back.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

First Rain

I heard the rain start in the wee hours of the morning.  Thundering hooves woke me again into the dark pre-dawn.  I had planned to ride this morning, before the rain started.  Clearly the rain had arrived well ahead of schedule and plans would need to be altered.

I threw on a sweatshirt and my floppy gardening hat before starting the morning chores.  Even Brett wore a sweatshirt and it has to be very cold before he feels it.  Our jackets are still packed somewhere.  I did find a  box with my muck boots so my sneakers were spared the mud.

The rain has been steady all morning; not pounding and not softly drifting; it comes straight down in soft sheets.  The donkeys were in their run-in shed, warm and dry.  The goats called to us from the interior of their shelter.  The horses were standing under the grove of trees with the densest canopy.

Winston and Mufasa run laps every half hour or so.  Flash moved into the run-in shed where he is standing watching the others play and rest under the trees.  He has obviously taken control of the run-in shed and is not sharing.  The others don't seem to mind.

Brett's friend Richard arrived last evening.  He is staying for the weekend to help Brett with projects.  Richard was Brett's roommate in college and remains his closest friend.  They started in Camille's room where the ceiling fan was dangling, a casualty of the moving guy bringing in Camille's mattress.  After that, they fixed the fan in our bedroom.  They took an inventory of all the light bulbs that are missing and will make a trip to the hardware store to replace them.  The last project before lunch was taking out the built -in desk in the laundry room.  The laundry room is narrow with hardly enough room for the door to open.  We need the desk space for shoe storage and a bench.  They had the desk out in nothing flat despite it being very securely installed.

Meanwhile, I worked on packing up the kitchen and squirreling away paintings, ceramics and the items around the fireplace.

Remember the wood floors we had installed in the great room and kitchen?

We had the same rustic red oak installed as the existing wood floor in the entry and dining room. The new floor is unfinished.

The existing floor will be stripped and sanded.  Then the entire wood floor will be stained the same color.  We want the floor to match and we want it a bit lighter than the existing floor stain.  I love the variation in color and grain of this wood.

Before the guys arrive Monday morning to start stripping the floor, we have to remove everything.  Brett and Richard will move the dining table, sideboard and hutch to the garage tomorrow.  I'll keep packing up boxes.  It seems wrong to be packing and moving furniture out of the house.

And, lastly, felicitations! to my friend Sylvie who is marrying her companion of many years, Christian, today.  I wanted to be there in the worst way; sipping champagne on a small island of the coast of Brittany; toasting her happiness.  But, a new job, new house and surgery conspired to keep me here.  My thoughts are with her today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Beautiful Boy

Yesterday, after Winston finished free jumping, Brett brought Mufasa into the arena.  Mufasa isn't educated in jumping and he isn't interested in adding it to his repertoire.

Mufasa trotted around the arena a few times and then put himself on a 20m circle around Brett.  They worked for a few minutes before calling it quits.

Brett was tired and sore from painting.  Mufasa was thinking about dinner.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Frick and Frack

Winston loves to gallop down the fence line in the oak pasture, throwing a cloud of dust from his hooves.  He banks right past the last pine tree and makes a wide turn then, as he straightens on the uphill side, he digs in and accelerates.  The thing is, it isn't much fun to do alone.  It only takes one nip on Mufasa's haunches and he has a willing partner.  Back by the pasture gate, between laps, they rear and snake their heads at each other.  Then they are off, racing under the trees.  Jackson trots in small circles, tossing his grey mane and head to show he has attitude.  This morning, I caught him bucking with all four feet off the ground and adding a bit of canter to his circle.  Mufasa and Winston were at the other end of the pasture; Flash was placidly watching -- amused no doubt.  No one was nipping Jackson, his antics were self directed.

I arrived home from work before six o'clock which gave me time to play with Winston before chores and sunset.  I changed into my work jeans and headed outside.  I set up a jump in the arena and grabbed Winston's halter from the hook by his stall.  As I walked out to the oak pasture, I saw Winston and Mufasa running laps again.  Winston saw me, paused and then left Mufasa at a canter, running to the gate to meet me.

Winston was full of energy but respectful as we walked to the arena.  I led him inside, closed the gate, and slid the halter off.  He trotted off to explore while I walked to the center and picked up the lunge whip.  I didn't really need it.  Winston cocked an ear at me and broke into a canter.  He threw in his signature move, kicking out with his left hind while all four feet were off the ground.
Not ready to jump yet

A little disorganized

And then he started nailing the jumps
Winston finished up with a beautiful scopey jump, stretching his back and tucking his front feet, as he easily cleared the poles.  I let him take a victory lap before walking him, sweaty and happy, back to the pasture for dinner.