Sunday, August 30, 2009

A busy, but productive week!

It's been a busy week, since getting home from our little vacation (yeah!). [Travel post coming.] I've been scrambling to finish up all the projects I should have been working on all summer. Even managed to get a couple of rides in.

Finished (mostly) the 450 foot section of cross-fencing in the north pasture.
After the first of the month (ah, credit at the farm store!), I'll pick up the 16' gate for the middle of the run (where we bring in the big hay loads). I already have the 12 footer for the horse-and-little-tractor opening at the paddocks.My reward for [almost] reaching this goal came the next day.


Pat came and picked Kate and I up for a trail ride.
She came earlier than expected, because she had given misleading directions to another gal that was joining us at the last minute, and wanted to beat her to a particular intersection en route, to cut her off.
Consequently, I had to gulp down the last of my raisin nut bran while pulling on my boots, make a quick trip to the little girls' room, and grab my horse and gear in a rush! I therefore forgot my water bottle (Pat shared), a snack (again, thanks, Pat), and my camera--so no pictures. Pat got a couple, but has yet to download her camera from any of the rides so far this summer, so I'm not holding my breath!
[You can just pick out the trail head, just to the left of bottom center of this satellite photo, where two creeks come together in a Y. We took the western branch up to the tree line, under the "show labels" box.]

View Larger Map
But the ones she got should be breath-taking! Five of us wandered about five miles up Parke Creek canyon, northeast of E-burg, until we started hitting the trees. We came upon some privately owned cabins and decided we'd try to find the road back down the east branch of Parke Creek, so we climbed up to the top of the ridge. This is what we faced when we topped the ridge:We were as high as the newest and highest turbines at the Wild Horse Wind Farm! Our view included not only most of the Kittitas Valley, but Mount Rainier and Mount Adams! [If we had actually been on the same ridge as the turbines, we could have seen the Columbia River and beyond to Moses Lake!] Pat shot the rest of us against two backdrops: the wind turbines, and the valley/volcanoes. Looking at the topo map now, I see that we had climbed from about 2500 feet at the trailhead, to 3700 at the top of the ridge.)
We never did find a route down to the road on the south east branch of the creek, so we descended about halfway down the ridge-top, over nasty volcanic rock (glad I did remember Kate's Simple Boots!). Then what trail was there sort of petered out, so we side-hilled back down to our original path, dropping on self-made switchbacks close to 500 feet in about a quarter mile!
Kate was very well behaved for the whole trek, other than draggin' along at the slowest pace possible without letting the others get more than 50 feet or so ahead of her. I used Pat's wide tree synthetic trail saddle, which worked really nicely, except for sliding forward just a snitch on the descent from the ridge; nice even sweat pattern when we got back to the trailers. Her Simple Boots lost a bit of tread, but really helped eliminate the "my feet are killing me" excuse.

The little gal who watched the horses while we were gone last weekend decided she'd rather have some riding lessons that cash, so she came over before it got too hot. I had done this with C last summer, too--C had ridden Misty last year, and Hank had loaned her a somewhat sour little pony for the summer, as well. But C's parents aren't horse people (and Mom is a bit wary of the big creatures) so she didn't get much riding in then. This year, C has been riding some on Pat's dependable old mare, and her natural balance and confidence, as well as Kate's inherent laid-back nature, led me to believe they would do alright together.
Kate was like "Whaddya mean, work two days ina row?!?"
C's biggest problem was convincing Kate that she couldn't be buffaloed (like Kate had managed to do with my grandson). We started out with some walk-jog in the round pen, then moved out to the arena for some trail obstacles, then out in the pasture for some less confined work.
My friend Anita arrived part way through, and after seeing how mellow Kate was for C, I convinced her to get on board for a few minutes. Getting on a green horse (she's known Kate since she was foaled) is a bit of a milestone for Anita--she is still rebuilding her confidence from a wreck 8 or 9 years ago. Counting Kate, she has been on five different horses in the last three weeks! (She called me on Friday to say she had actually trotted! the mare she plans to bring home soon.)
I didn't even have to remind her to breathe!

I finally broke down and took baby Jackson in to have the vet check his butt--it didn't seem to be shrinking very much more than it had in the first few days.
Being without a trailer, Pat agreed to bring down hers--a step up! Misty has not been loaded in a step up in the 13 years we've had her, but she walked right in. After the fussing Jackson did when he was a week old, I was prepared for a fight. But he leads very well these days, and I only put the rope around his rear when we got to the trailer. He actually tried stepping in, but bumped his shins a few times and then just stood there. I lifted his left fore and put it up on the floor (he's learned that lesson well, too!). He weighted it just a little, then stepped back out. I lifted it in again and waited a moment. Then I tapped his other fore foot with my toe--he stood up....settled back on the ground for a sec....then stood up, stepped in with both fores....then hopped up behind and walked up to join mama!
At the clinic, he walked off as nice as could be--no mad leap into space.
Vet felt the swelling was a "seratoma" (fluid, rather than blood--I called it a "hematoma" last post). He said we could drain it, but that often such swellings would just fill back up, as the damaged tissues still need "protection". Plus this time of year, creating a wound (the needle puncture) would just be asking for infection. He kindly remarked that Jackson's training was very good (thank you, Dr. Ben), and he did not care to undo it with daily antibiotic injections. He suggested we just watch it a bit longer, and maybe do some hot packs to increase circulation to the area, to improve healing and internal absorption.
Back on the trailer Jackson hopped, like nobody's business, and we headed home, where he unloaded in just as mannerly a fashion.

Then back into town!
I had not planned being able to get a ride-on Ditch Witch until next week--when I would have had to do all my hoped for projects with it in one day. But the rental place called to say they unexpectedly had one available over the weekend; did I want it? Yes!
I still have only eight hours "credit" before I have to pay extra, but now I have two days to spread the work over. Which is good, 'cause I'm only half ready--I had hoped to get everything laid out and marked over the weekend.

C came again first thing to ride Kate again. While she warmed up in the arena, I took Maddie, who I am ashamed to say I haven't worked with in several weeks, into the round pen to gauge her frame of mind. I put the wider synthetic saddle on her, with a nice new 1 inch felt pad, and a nice new felt "Smart Cinch"--hoping to eliminate some of Miss Sensitive-Thin-Skin's grousing. She started out a little snotty, then seemed to settle down.
C and I headed out for a short "trial ride": down the driveway, around the east side of the property on the ditch road (Maddie led the way past the dump truck and noisy water at the weir!), out into Hank's cattle pasture, down the draw a ways, then up the hill to the road and home. All three girls (C, Kate and Maddie) did a good job.

Then it was time to do some serious ditch-digging!
I have 2700 feet of landscape fabric to install prior to planting tree seedlings. They recommend burying the edges in shallow ditches--the ditch-witch slid right through this project--it was probably over-kill for 4-6 inch trenches. But I need to install one additional sprinkler line, and that has to be 18-24 inches. Down at that level I hit some serious rocks--no Volkswagens like the summer we first installed the irrigation system, but plenty of basketball sized boulders. It took me almost as long to dig this 200 foot stretch as all of the other ditches combined! (I only stalled the machine a half dozen times!)

Today's projects included this trench for the water line to the final frost free hydrant in the paddock areas, along with electric for the tank heater. Then all six paddocks will have access to their own side of a water trough (no more hose and extension cord to that third tank in the winter!).I have found that, in our rocky soil and nasty caliche (hardpan), the Ditch Witch actually does a better job digging post holes than an auger. I just set the brakes on the trencher, and slowly work my way down to the desired depth. It leaves a long and narrow hole, so I try to aim the machine so that the solid, undisturbed sides of the hole are against any possible horse pressure.I put six post holes in two spots in the paddock area, where I have used panels or T-posts in the past, until I decided exactly where I wanted permanent fences.The gate and panel will still give plenty of access for manure management and loads of hay.
I also pulled out one wall section in the barn to add another post for a new stall door.And I dug some slightly shallower holes for some feeders along the south wall of the barn (that should get built sometime this fall-- I will set the posts soon, so I can let the horses back into these two paddocks).
Tomorrow, after I drop the trencher back off at the rental place, I'll go in to school (gaagh!!) and spend some time getting my office put together. Nothing happens in this town until after the Kittitas County Fair and Ellensburg Rodeo ("Greatest Show On Dirt!") on Labor Day weekend. So our first teacher work day, for planning/professional development (we used to get three, then two, now only one, due to economic conditions) is Wednesday the 9th. Then the kids start on the 10th.

So I'll have exactly eight days to set all the posts and get the paddock fencing up, set up the water and electric lines, install the new sprinklers, and lay all that landscape cloth. The latter could stretch into fall weekends, if need be, as it does not present any potential danger to the horses. But I'd like to get a start on planting the 300-400 seedlings this fall, if I can.
And besides, once school starts, weekends will be my only real time to ride!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boo-Boo Baby Butt (update)

The little gal who was caretaking the horses for our weekend getaway was worried that Jackson's hematoma was not getting any better. But, of course, she was looking at it twice daily.
Upon returning after two and a half days, I could definitely see some progress, albeit, slow.

B.B.B. (Before Butt Bump)

Thursday AM:

Friday AM:

Sunday PM:I'll continue to monitor it for an abscess forming, but I think the little butt is going to be okay.

As for our weekend, I'll have future posts on the trip, but the concert itself was outstanding. Browne sang a nice mix of old hits and new songs, and had an outstanding band and two gloriously talented back-up singers.
The only things that marred a wonderful evening were related to site management screw-ups: the major one being their shifting policy on cameras. Originally (on their website) they said "No cameras of any kind." While waiting in line however, the sign said "No professional cameras." (emphasis mine). When asked by a nearby concert-goer what they considered "professional" they said "Anything that the lens detaches from." So Al went all the way back to the car and got my little Canon point and shoot. But as we were entering the venue, we watched as two different guys brought in their big digitals, basically convincing the gate folks that "I'm not a professional." And we saw several more inside.
I was pissed!
Primarily because, with my (Al's) Nikon D40, I could have gotten much nicer photos than these two:

Half the shots I took, I just deleted; even of the ones I saved, most are fuzzy and dark and distant. Last night, after I down-loaded them, I fired off a somewhat irate email to the management. But I'm having to work hard not to let it spoil the [largely undocumented] memories.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not So Silly Baby

Today was Al's first day of vacation. He had a doctor's appointment first thing, and I was going to go into town with him, to get last minute supplies and gas for our trip tomorrow. I headed out to the barn to do a "quick feed" and put everybody's fly masks on. As Jackson stepped away from me, his left hindquarter looked positively deformed!
At first I thought that there was an indentation right at the point of his buttock. Looking closer, there was actually a hot, soft, fluid-filled swelling, perhaps the size of a cantaloupe, with more generalized swelling surrounding it, from the croup halfway down to his hock. Upon close inspection, I could find no "wound"--whether puncture or abrasion. He was not running a fever, which might signify an infection or some kind of insect bite gone overboard. He was moving just fine (thank you), as evidenced by the "catch-me-if-you-can" game he played with me when breakfast was no longer in play as an incentive (maybe just a wee bit stiff). So my conclusion is that he probably got kicked.
Probably by his own mama (I've never seen RT offer to kick him).So Al went to town without me, and I changed out of my "city clothes." After consulting with the vet, I hosed Jackson's round rump down for maybe ten minutes, every hour or so for the rest of the day.
I had not yet had the "bath" lesson, but Jackson handled it pretty well. All those folks who suggest starting at the legs and working up to the body don't seem to take into account the fact that the legs, having less muscle mass, are more sensitive. Jackson did NOT like the hose on his legs, but tolerated it on his hips, barrel, and shoulders pretty well.And truly seemed to appreciate it on his swollen butt!By afternoon the generalized swelling was down, and I think the main area as well, though it's a little hard to tell for sure, because the lessening of the diffuse swelling made the localized lump stand out all the more.
It was now close to 100 degrees out, and wanting to make this a total bathing experience, I sprayed him down pretty much from throatlatch to tail. Both sides.Misty, too, got the evaporative cooling treatment, while RT waited his turn.
Tonight, things look a little better still. I showed the folks that will be minding the farm, and told them what to look for, red-flag-wise: more point-localized swelling, or an actual abscess rupturing. They will have our cell number, and there are lots of folks nearby to help if need be (the primary one being my trail buddy, Pat).
We'll postpone leaving on our trip 'til a little later than I'd planned. I'll decide about noon if I need to cancel the evening's motel reservation....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Second Honeymoon!

Allan and I are coming up on our 16th anniversary (which officially passes crazy first marriage). In those 16 years, and the previous two of our "courtship," all of our vacations have been spent with relatives: mothers/mothers-in-law, children, grandchildren.

This weekend we are sneaking away for a long weekend to southwestern Washington.
Wandering down back roads towards Mount Adams, possible stop at the Goldendale Observatory.Friday night at a ranch-themed motel which reputedly serves melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato waffles in their continental breakfast.More leisurely wandering Saturday morning (or maybe not 'til afternoon). Check into an historic railroad hotel on the Columbia River. Then pack a picnic dinner and head to the Maryhill Winery's natural ampitheater, overlooking the River Gorge,
for a concert by one of our all time favorite performers:
We saw Jackson in Spokane 12 or so years ago, and stayed afterwards to meet him on the loading dock. He was a gracious man, who signed Allan's copy of his very first album (original LP!)
Allan's comment to Jackson at the time was:
"Your music got me through my 40's."
Here is a nice video of my favorite Jackson song, which you may not have heard on regular air play. At first it seems like a bit of a downer, because it related to the death of a dear friend.
But the final stanzas are full of Hope.

[If you want to see the lyrics, double click the video to go to You Tube, then click "more info" in the upper right corner.]

Spotty baby at home got his barn name because I was planning this sojourn about the time he was foaled. His registered name may very well be "A Joyful Sound" or possibly "Jubilate."
After the concert, back to the hotel for a cozy night's sleep.
Then Sunday we'll wander back up into the hills along the Klickitat River towards Goldendale, and home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Silly Sunday (One Day Late)

Haven't done much this weekend besides pick up Mike from camp and return him home to Spokane (with a visit to the other grandkids while I was there).
Some brief videos from yesterday and today.
Jackson's got a tumbleweed he wants to send to Cactus Jack Splash.

This morning I moved RT, Misty and Jackson to a new pasture. I took the cameras out, fully expecting some action! Well, it was 10:00, and the temperature was already climbing towards 80! I got some little spurts of action--but seems like every time Jackson would start racing about, my little Canon had cycled itself off. I would turn it on quick and start shooting, only to remember that, unless I go to full zoom mode one can't see anything, so I would stop filming, zoom in, and start filming again just as Jackson decided to rest up again!

Jackson had the sense to stay away from the temporary electric-rope fence until I took it down moments later.

I'm beginning to wonder about putting Amy in with these three, to give Jackson someone closer to his own age to play with. Amy's low filly on the totem pole in the other pasture, so maybe she wouldn't be too rough with the baby....

If I'm going to get any work done, I need to shut off this camera and get to it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kate wakes up!

Yesterday's "reward" ride was anything but:
Since grandson Mike is at camp this week, I got to ride Kate myself. She has been a sleepy, lazy, feet-ouchy, lump for the last month, both with Mike (good) and in group trail rides (not so good). Yesterday, however, when asked to leave the place (just down to Hank's cattle pasture, where she learned to be a trail horse!) all by her wittle self, Kate became a little twit!
Well, actually, a big twit!
About half the time, she would just balk and say "Oh no oh no oh no! I can't do it!" But a couple of times she got a bit nasty, shaking her head violently, half rearing, threatening to whirl around and head for home.

We had several things conspiring against us:
There was a storm front moving in.
I was trying Pat's trail saddle, which felt entirely foreign to me.
I had taken along my dressage whip, anticipating lazy, but once she new it was there, she was anything but.
I put Kate's Simple Boots on, so she didn't have to be so careful where she put her feet.
I think Kate's been emailing Washashe at All Horse Stuff for naughty inspiration.
The Army was playing across the ridge, so we had artillery fire most of the day.
The neighbor is getting a new porch, so we had compressors and nail guns all day.
With the heat, there's been a burn ban, and Hank's refuse pile has blown all around the pasture.
But the worst was:
The was COW POO in the cattle pasture!

There was a time when I would have really gotten after her for such nonsense, but since my fall with Maddie I have noticed that I have been a little more timid. And I was by myself, so I did not want to risk another wreck. So I merely corrected her misbehaviors, waited for her to be calm, then asked her to move on, which she generally agreed to do on the first or second request. The couple of times I thought she was settling, and I would relax on my contact a bit, she'd pull another silly prank. We looped around the pasture twice (though I decided to forego the muddy bottom), then cut through the back way to the ditch road. Once Kate realized where she was, she relaxed a bit--until we came upon Sandy's friend Trackster playing in the field. Oh, and then there was the foreign looking beach chair that the neighbor boys had left beside the ditch the last time they went for a dip in the heat last week! But these two spooks were mostly just hard looks, and we finished the loop back to the driveway and home.

As we came down the driveway, Jackson was all bug-eyed, so I took Kate into his pasture to meet him. He was really curious, but wouldn't come up close until RT came over (Misty was obliviously grazing). Then he did that little chomp-chomping thing that juveniles do towards new horses and snorted a couple of times. Then RT wandered off, so Jackson backed off too. But it was a cute way to end the ride. (Wish I'd had the camera!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pesky Projects

Hot weather, the infamous Ellensburg wind (once the temps finally dropped, the wind came up!), and various responsibilities have all conspired to keep me (and Mike) from doing as much riding as we would have liked these past few weeks.

One of the more pressing issues was getting the yard fenced for Sandy's safety. She is recovering well (no more cone-head!), but confused that she no longer has the freedom to roam. She does seem to appreciate having the run of even the small yard, after having to stay on leash for the last month.
This little gate used to be our access to the horse pastures, and the missing bar in the center box was to allow Sandy clearance to get through (the gate is upside down in this photo). She was frustrated that the gate is now covered by wire:
"Watz the deal, ma?"
Another bit of fencing, for the horses, is this last 500 foot run of cross fencing. Six years ago, when we were starting to upgrade from electric to permanent fence, the guy at the farm supply store convinced me that high-tensile (think New Zealand fence) woven wire (think field fence) was the way to go. "Stretch it good and tight, and the horses just bounce off of it!" Well, that may be, if one's horses run into it, but my horses tend to put their feet through it, and the lighter gauge high tensile wire cuts like a knife. When Amy ran into it as a baby, leaving small scars on her nose and one foreleg, I was willing to write it off as a freak accident.
But when Kate chopped up her back legs last summer, I took the rolls meant for this last section back, and started saving for 2 X 4 inch mesh, that feet can't go through. (I already have it installed in all my paddocks and the arena.) It costs as much for one 100' roll of the 2 X 4 as for 330 feet of the other, but I will slowly start replacing the high tensile stuff, a fence line at a time. I was able to sell some of it on Craig's list for a dog-proof orchard enclosure and for some goats. But I don't recommend it for anyone with horses!

This patch of dirt is a lousy example of one section of my arena footing. Or should I say a good example of my lousy arena footing? I have gotten several loads of free fill dirt, but the last one was full of rocks and weeds and stuff. I've found that a muck fork is really good for picking all but the smallest rocks.
I needed fill because the south end of the "almost-an-arena" dropped off fairly drastically. So I built a little retaining wall and am back filling it.
However, the mesh fence that Mike helped me put up last summer is slightly low for the level I want to bring the dirt to, so I was hoping that he and I could adjust it and finish the back fill. Dog-fence, however, took priority.
Also: the trailer floor has needed work for a while now.
Because I was beginning to question it's safety (the first and last boards were looking pretty iffy) it was time. And I'd like to upgrade to a newer, smaller trailer (if I can ever sell some stock!)and I won't sell this one to someone in less than safe condition. (I can't say "less than perfect", as this homely old girl is far from perfect!)
It was a frustrating process, as I couldn't find the right tool to drill out the heads of all the little (big) bolts that held the floor down. I would try one carbide tipped drill, that would fly through two or so bolts, then be totally dull. Back to town for a different approach...over and over again. We were getting one board pulled up per day and getting very frustrated. Finally got a "deburring tool" that held up for the final three boards. I have to pick up a couple of additional replacement boards, trim them to fit, then we'll be good to go again!
[Edited to add: finished the floor yesterday morning, but don't have any "finished" photos, because I sold the trailer in the afternoon! Anyone out there in the Pacific Northwest know of a two-horse slant for sale?]

Another major chore: we fenced off a "shelter belt" for tree/bush riparian habitat several years ago, but have had very little success competing with the reed canary grass that grows rampant on the canal banks and adjoining fields. So I'm off to mow it down, in preparation of herbicide spraying and then landscape cloth, to try to give the plants a fighting chance!
This is the southeast corner of the property, and probably the most naturally moist area. You probably can't see them all, but there are a grand total of four bushes and four trees in this photo--out of I think 50 that we planted!
The biggest of four quaking aspens (out of 10) from two years ago planting.
One of only three little evergreens (out of 25) that have survived now for four years.
One project that is complete (OMG!) is pruning back the driveway trees, so that Pat can bring her trailer in without the "car wash" effect (also the UPS guy). The willows had really gotten thick between the hybrid cottonwoods, to the point that several little Austrian Pines that I had planted a few years ago were being choked out. All of the back branches of this little guy had been pushed forward--the two white sticks are to try to train them back to the rear.
It's hard to believe all of these cottonwoods were only about 4-6 feet high when we moved here seven years ago! I love trees and it hurt me to cut them back, but they do look much more civilized now.
So, as Grey Horse Matters said: Summer time, and the living is...BUSY!
But I've gotten two little jobs done in the barn this morning (that have been waiting forever) so, to reward myself, I'm goin' for a ride!