Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Dog's Christmas

Kersey had a great Christmas.
Photo by Camille

The house was full of people; and she loves people.  Love, love, LOVES people.

Even better, those people included Camille (above)...

and Kyle.

Aren't these photos awesome?  Ana (Kyle's girlfriend) has portrait setting on her new phone.  So, I had to order one -- look for better photos in the future in this space.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chopping Wood

After the Christmas gifts were opened, we went off in somewhat separate directions.  I headed to the kitchen, Kyle curled up on the couch with his computer, my dad listened to the Christmas music -- and Camille went outside with Brett to chop wood.

They hauled the log splitter into the pasture with their gloves and protective eye-wear (sunglasses). Brett gave Camille some basic instructions and they went to work.

After a while, Brett put Camille in charge.  She was in her element.

They split a lot of wood.

Brett is still recovering.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Feasting

Christmas at Oak Creek Ranch is all about the food.  This year was no exception.  In addition to the usual cookie baking marathon, I baked bread.  I pulled my sourdough starter out of the refrigerator, where it had been hibernating, and fed it twice a day for a week until it was thick with bubbles.  Brett grumbled as he vacuumed flour from the floor after each feeding.  I used my basic recipe but I played with the amount of water until I had a nice wet, but still manageable, dough.  I stretched and slapped it, rested it, then stretched and folded it before creating nice taut balls that finished with a slow proofing in the refrigerator overnight.  I was rewarded with two beautiful loaves, crusty, high and moist.  Brett stopped grumbling when he saw the loaves.

On Christmas eve, I made a roast crown of pork with an apple cider and fig sauce.

Christmas day was the most ambitious -- prime rib, scalloped potatoes, green beans amandine, and bread.  My dad provided some especially tasty wine and we had a jovial meal.  Camille captured Brett doing his Rudolph the Reindeer imitation.

I love to cook for my family; it is a tangible gift of love that I give them.  Nothing makes me happier than watching them at the table, admiring the ruby red meat and scooping mounds of potatoes onto their plates.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cabin Fever

Jackson's white line has not improved, despite special shoes and soaking in Clean Trax.  Our farrier wants to try resection -- basically removing part of his hoof in the hopes that it will grow back healthy.  Given the myriad medical conditions that Jackson has, I don't think he would survive the healing process from such a drastic procedure.  He's like a fragile diabetic, with all the complications (and foot problems) that go along with it.  I repeated the Clean Trax treatment last weekend, and we are going to try reverse shoes at the recommendation of our vet.  She specified that Jackson must be in a bone dry environment for the next 6-9 months if he is going to have any success in recovery.

So, Jackson remains confined to the round pen.  While the other horses relax in their pastures, he is surrounded by walls and a roof, with just a window and a door from which he can view the outside world.

He is pretty depressed about the whole thing.  Lately, he has stopped meeting us at the door for his morning bucket, standing instead with his back to us and his face to the wall.

Yesterday, Brett wheeled the muck cart into Jackson's cell roundpen and began picking up manure.  He swung the metal gate closed, but didn't latch it.  Jackson is a friendly sort of guy who usually follows us around and sniffing at the poop in the muck cart.  Yesterday, he walked over to the gate, pulled it open, and walked out before Brett had time to put down his muck rake.

Jackson headed to the hay bales stacked in a corner of the barn.  Brett grabbed Jackson's halter from the chair outside his pen, and followed.  Jackson, the easiest horse on the ranch to halter, the horse who prefers human company to almost anything else, pulled his head away and headed out the door.

Brett followed in hot pursuit as Jackson rounded the corner by the small arena.  Jackson picked up the pace, bucked and kicked out.  After a few more futile minutes where Jackson snatched bites of grass without letting Brett close, Brett went to plan B.

With a red bucket full of senior feed and cookies in his hands, Brett approached again.  This time, Jackson allowed himself to be caught and returned.  He was wearing trail boots at the time, as our farrier won't be out until this afternoon to tack on the reverse shoes.  So, he feet didn't get wet.  And, honestly, I couldn't blame Jackson for taking the opportunity offered by the open gate.  All the running and bucking was probably bad for his feet but it made him happy.  And, sometimes, that is more important.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thieves and Hunters

My garden attracts all manner of birds and squirrels.  None of them expressly invited and some of them, namely the squirrels, not welcome.

Squirrels are the thieves in my garden.  They steal the fruit from my trees and the tomatoes from my planter boxes.  Nothing is sacred; not artichokes, not pomegranates and certainly not tomatoes.  All my tomatoes.  All.  I may never recover or plant tomatoes again.  It was a painful, frustrating summer.

Squirrels also target the bird feeders.  I have a large feeder with sunflower seeds hanging on a pole, with a squirrel guard (an upside-down cone that swivels in an unstable way when touched( on the pole.  Last summer, one managed to climb up a sunflower stem and then scramble onto the feeder when the flower bent under its weight.  I cut down the flower.

The other day, one climbed to the top of the fence and leaped across to the feeder.  When it had stuffed its cheeks full of seeds, it launched onto the ground and scurried away.

I also watched a hunter make its way through all my flower beds.  At first I thought it was a dove; a big dove with a dark splotchy back.  It hopped through the tangle of leaves and branches under the shrub rose hedge.  Then it flew to the top of the fence -- where I was able to get a good look at it through my binoculars -- before landing in the flower bed below.  It wound its way through the native grass, sage and lilacs, searching for lunch small birds and rodents. 

I looked through my bird books; it looked like a hawk but it was far too small and the coloring was not consistent with the red tail hawks that are common in our area.  I found it -- a hawk indeed.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Photo Credit: Audibon website
These hawks are not nearly as common as red tail hawks, which also stalk the garden.  The red-tails are larger and sit on the fence posts before swooping down into the garden and then right back up.  These little guys sneak around the garden, winding through the lavendar, and poking their heads into the lilac bushes.  It reminded me of hide-and-seek -- except that all the little birds had hidden themselves far, far away from my garden.  It was a few days before they came back.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesdays with Tex: Splish, Splash

Another thing that happened last week while I was at work...

Brett replaced another section of fence in the boy's pasture; the front pasture; or pasture number 3.  It has many names (also known as the swamp in the spring).

While he was working on the fence, he put Flash and Tex in with the donkeys, in their pasture.

Funny, how a new location can be exciting.  Tuffy loves to run.  Finessa not so much.

So most of the time Tuffy runs by himself, or not at all.  Tex loves to run, too.  So, they raced around the pasture, leaving deep divots in the mud.

Then Tex discovered the pond.  He waded into the middle and pawed at the water, splashing himself with the icy water.  Then he added running through the water to his race course in the pasture.  There wasn't much water left in the pond by the end of the day.

...and both he and Flash were covered in mud.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Recycling Pumpkins

Remember this pumpkin from the front porch?

It's now chicken food.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

While I was at Work

It feels like forever since I have been able to enjoy the ranch.  We were out of town the last two weekends, and during the week I am gone from pre-dawn dark to night-time dark.  Last weekend, we were at my dad's house on the central coast to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It was pretty rough...

While I was at work last week, Brett was very busy.  One of the things he did was plant ten Giant Sequoia trees out by the front gate.  Not that we'll live to see them to full maturity.  Giant Sequoias can reach 350 feet in height -- and live to be 3,000 years old. 

Why, you ask, did we plant trees we won't see in all their majesty?  Partly because they are native to our area, but there aren't many left.  There is a big (famous) grove of them in Yosemite -- the Mariposa grove.  You know, the place where you could drive a car through one (before it fell).  There are a few smaller stands of these redwoods between Yosemite and Georgetown, just north of us. 
That's Camille and I standing in front of a smaller (ahem) one, a few years ago in Yosemite.

Plus, they are drop dead gorgeous trees.  They will grow two or three feet per year, after the first few years when they are busy stretching their roots into our soil and getting comfortable.  The trees grow tall before they grow wide.  So, we will get to enjoy them.

While Brett was planting the trees, some deer came onto the property.  They are always hanging around outside the gate, but they usually only venture onto the property at night when we aren't outside.  This time, they made themselves at home while Brett worked.  At first, they jumped into the pasture with Lucy and Pistol.  Lucy wasn't too thrilled about that and promptly chased the deer from one end to the other.  Pistol watched.

Later, Brett was in the house and Kersey was resting on her bed on the front deck.  Brett heard Kersey bark and looked up from what he was doing.  Kersey only barks at deer and skunks.  Then, Brett heard hooves clatter across the front porch. 

I'd say those deer are getting pretty brazen.  And, that is why we have wire cages around the trees.  I love the deer -- and they love our plants.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday with Tex: The Limits of Trust

Last weekend, Brett and I were out of town celebrating our anniversary.

While we were gone, Tex lost a shoe.  Our horse sitter found the shoe and put it in the barn.  I sent the farrier a text and to let him know -- and also suggested that he come out after we returned home since Tex might be difficult to catch.

When the farrier arrived, Brett moved Flash into the barn.  When Tex is left alone in the pasture without his buddy Flash (goats don't count as company, in his mind), Tex becomes very motivated to be caught so he can join Flash.  Brett typically does not have any trouble catching Tex anymore (Tex knows that Brett always has cookies on his person), but it is an extra measure ensuring success.

Our farrier gets along very well with Tex.  He is calm and kind, and Tex stands quietly for his shoeing.  The farrier knows Tex's trust issues and has spent time showing Tex that he understands.  So, when the farrier asked Brett if he could try catching Tex, Brett gave him a handful of cookies and sent him to the pasture.

Tex said no.  Tex didn't run away but he stayed at a safe distance, circling and refusing to let the farrier approach.  After a few minutes, Brett went into the pasture and took the halter.  Tex was fine with Brett approaching and slipping on the halter -- which made Brett happy.  A year ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

So, Tex has become almost a pocket pony with me and he trusts Brett -- but that is clearly as far as it goes.  Its good to know.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

From One Injury to the Next

I keep telling myself that I will be back to riding at as soon as my foot heals (done), my boob heals (almost done) ... and now, as soon as my rotator cuff heals. 

Fortunately, its my left shoulder so I can drive.

Typing?  Hunt and peck.

And pain meds like clock work.  One week since injury and still in pain.  Lordy.  I am so done with this pain.

Of course, I am also in the one month period between when my old health coverage ended and my new coverage will begin.  I could buy it through COBRA, of course, but for the $750 I'll self treat. 

I love my new job so that's a good thing.

We had our first fall rain last week and the ground is starting to green up.

The animals are all doing well.

And Brett is cooking dinner -- since I get home late and its pretty hard to cook with one arm.  He's doing great. 
Some very tasty Korean rice cake dish that came in our weekly SunBasket box.

Life is still good, overall.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Patient and Long Suffering

Jackson has always been a level-headed horse.  He was unflappable on the trail -- crossing anything, be it water, logs or boulders.  If we encountered something new, he would drop his head and study it for awhile.  Then he'd carry on.

He's also been through many abscesses, standing with his hoof in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salts.  He no longer jerks his foot out, but stands stoically with a bored look in his eye. 

Saturday, I treated his white line.  This required slipping a bag with a nasty smelling solution over his hoof and leg.  It was tied above his knee; and he had to stand like that for 45 minutes.

I did the treatment at lunch time.  Brett brought his feed bin out to the tie rail and filled it with hay.  I brought Jackson out and tried slipping the long sleeve over his leg.  I wasn't sure how he would react and didn't want to try it with the solution inside, until I'd managed it empty first.  Jackson was unconcerned about the whole operation. 

I poured the contents of a small bottle into the bag and added a gallon of water.  Then, I slipped it over his hoof and up his leg, securing it at the top.  Jackson stood in the sun, with the heat bouncing off the black stall mats, sweating, for the entire time.  He rocked back and forth on the leg a few times, as he ate, but stood quietly. 

Our farrier will put his pad and shoes back on tomorrow.  In six weeks we will see how it looks -- and repeat if necessary. 

Thank goodness he is such a good boy about all these treatments.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wednesday with Tex: Riding

Sunday morning I rode Tex.

I've only ridden him a handful of times since he transitioned from being Brett's horse to being mine, a couple years ago.  Mostly, we've been laying groundwork and building trust.

Talk about paying off.  Tex was the most relaxed he's been under saddle.  He was pretty chill.  And, instead of worrying, he tried really hard to figure out what I wanted.  I'm sure my aids are much different than the cowboys he is used to.

We worked in the arena first, making sure he was relaxed and that I had brakes.  Of course, I had brakes.  And he tried hard to understand.  He didn't freak out or worry.  If he wasn't sure, he slowly and carefully backed up.  It must be his "go-to" skill.  I've been on horses who rush backwards when worried; this wasn't like that at all.  So I laughed, and said "whoa" and we tried again.

Brett was riding Flash at the same time and after awhile we left the arena and wandered under the oaks.  Tex was happy.  He put his head down and carefully looked at the dry stream bed before calmly walking across.  He did jump forward when Flash jumped the same stream bed, behind us.  We marched over the bridge, around the house, down to the front gate, over some downed logs, and then back around the barn before calling it good.

Afterward, I sat on a flat rock next to the pasture.  Passage weaved back and forth behind me, rubbing against my back the way cats do.  Kersey was sprawled at my feet, all four feet in the air, hoping for a belly rug.  Tex came over and hung is head way over the fence.  We sat there like that for quite awhile.

My definition of perfect happiness.

Monday, October 23, 2017

White Line

Jackson has white line.

Its not surprising given that he has the world's crappiest feet.
Jackson eats his morning vitamins and meds from a feed bag.  That way, Pistol and Lucy and can't "share" and he eats all of it.

We will treat it, of course.  But conservatively.  White line happens when bacteria gets into the hoof and grows, causing the sole to pull away from the hoof wall.  Our farrier was able to put a nail into the crevice, all the way to the nail head.  Don't worry, Jackson couldn't feel it.

You can go crazy with treating white line: cutting away most of the hoof and then having the horse live in a fake shoe for a year or more.  Meanwhile, you cross your fingers and hope that there are no complications.  With Jackson, you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be complications.  So, we won't go that route.  We will treat it with a topical (White Lightening) and a frog pad which pushes on the frog, creating better circulation.  We already know circulation in Jackson's feet isn't great.  Fingers crossed this works.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dinner worthy of Wine

Before I left my job last week, I was given a wonderful bottle of cabernet by a friend and co-worker.  I told him that I would make a dinner worthy of the wine this weekend.

I picked up some delicata squash at the market, as well as Point Reyes blue cheese.  I had an idea for a salad in the back of my mind.  I roasted the squash until it was soft and camelized, then drizzled it with honey balsamic vinegar.  I topped it with sliced apples, the blue cheese, chopped almonds and a drizzle of local honey. 

Saturday afternoon, we went to the local butcher and picked up chateaubriand.  I made a wine sauce to go with it (no, I did not use the special wine -- it was decanting on the counter, waiting for dinner).

I rounded out the meal with baked potatoes.

Dinner paired beautifully with the wine.  We drank the entire bottle; it was that good.