Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another Day in a life....

The day began like most yesterday, with coffee making, decaf, but the idea is the same. It is the ritual of awakening that sets the day in motion. I plugged the plastic disc thing into the coffee machine that is then, supposed to magically spit out coffee, a modern convenience that I have found to be cold, heartless, and alien to the process of morning arisings , but too convenient to be dropped, just yet. Something was not right with the little plastic pouch that housed the pre-ground coffee and soon my entire counter top was covered in brownish water and bits of grounds, and there was no coffee in my cup. I turned the eye on the stove to heat some water and found a tea bag, leaving the mess to writhe in its own failure to produce a cup of coffee. After feeding the dogs and downing the tea, it was time for a trip to the barn.

It is finally sweatshirt weather in the mornings, and the day was bright but soft with a thin veil of clouds filtering the morning rays as I walked with Gracie to the barn. I got there first as she had so many distractions to take in, so many smells of unknown critters who had crossed the yard in the night to check out. Following a routine that is fixed in my brain from years of doing the same thing, every day I pour out the feed, to the few remaining horses in my barn, peel off flakes of hay and toss under their stall gates, check the water tanks, close the feed bins, and walk back to the house, squinting because I forgot my sunglasses. Back inside, a load of laundry started, the dishwasher loaded,  the bed made, another cup of tea made, it was time for my trek next door to help my neighbor with her horse.

Marianne is a face of smiles. She is full of energy and spunk, but, having gotten hurt in the past by a bad fall from a bolting horse, she is reticent about taking her new, and relatively young, horse out on trails, or out of the safety of the ring. My job at her request, has been of late to help her, and him, to be able to, as safely as possible, do what horse and rider are supposed to be able to do, just get along and go for a ride. For a few weeks now, twice a week I have traveled across our fence lines to coax and cheer her along, trying to share with her the distillation of the many years of my experiences, some good and some not so very good at all. In these few weeks that we have been working together she, and her lovely golden gelding, have made out standing progress.
It is just so nice to see her smile and be so happy at the end of each ride, and it is gratifying to me that some of that hard earned horse sense of mine is doing someone else good and is not going to be a complete waste when it goes with me to the happy trails in the sky.

When our lesson was done I came back to our farm and since the weather was still so nice in the middle of the day, I saddled up my big mare, Cistine, and worked for a while in the dressage arena in a leisurely fashion just to keep what we had worked on the day before fresh in both our heads. It was one of those early fall days and it felt great to be outdoors again after summer’s now fading strangle hold. After her, I put a halter on Sunset and got her all harnessed up and ready to hitch to the carriage.

Last week I had gotten the carriage out from back of the barn and gave it a thorough cleaning from a summer of dust and no use. I am not a big fan of driving in the heat and humidity being chased by flying blood sucking bugs, so the carriage gets a bit of time off from about May until the weather starts to change like it has now. Sunset, too, gets a bit rusty from not being driven and so the first times back out are always interesting.

We headed down the driveway and turned at the edge of the pond dam down into the grassy field below. Right when we hit the shade of the trees she began swishing her tail in serious ernest attempts to rid herself of some unseen attacker. Her panic was rising as she clamped her tail down and it was looking like her next move might be a bit overly theatrical. I hollered at her and sent her onward. Whatever it was did not follow us and we made our way around the edge of field on the mowed path surrounded by waves of the wild flowers in bloom. A fawn that had been resting in the tall grasses panicked, jumping to its feet right in front of us, and bounded away with its white tail bouncing along until it was out of sight again.

We had a very nice, but short drive, so as not to stress her too much, being out of shape for pulling heavy loads too long. Pulling with just me and the weight of the carriage to deal with left Sunset huffing and puffing but hopefully soon it won't take me long to get her back in shape again, enough to pull a full load of passengers, and especially our grand daughter, around. 

Last weekend the kids came out to play farm and we introduced Margaret to the idea of climbing onto the carriage, with no horse hooked, so that she would be comfortable with the idea when the time came. She was sitting in the front with her mom when her big strong daddy, with the help of granddaddy, Uno,  grabbed the shafts and began to pull them both around the barn yard. Margaret liked this idea and wanted more rides but daddy and Uno were done after a few times around the big oak tree, but I do think she is going to really like it when there is real horse in front of her. 

After putting Sunset away in her pasture, the afternoon was finished off with a quick trip to town to see my bone crunching, good witch, Dr Maryann. Once realigned, and few groceries were loaded up, it was retreat time back to farm world. When Mark got home we set on the front porch with a glass of wine and watched, as the long shadows filled the pasture, small groups of deer slowly coming out of the woods and moving across the pasture.

The first doe out of hiding is crippled, lame on her right hind leg, and she limps badly. This summer she lived in the thick brush in front of the house and ate pears off the trees in the yard. She seems to be getting along well enough despite her lameness, but one has to wonder how well she will be able to do as it gets colder and there is less food around.

There was another doe with twin fawns beside her that I have seen several times lately, and the fawns have got to be a male and a female. Their behavior suggests this, as one of them.... is very naughty and very high spirited, much to the disconcertion of its mother. But, there are few things in this world as cute as two spotted fawns playing, jumping, and taking off in wild bursts of speed, turning and doing it all over again. Other does and fawns soon joined these three and they moved as a group to the line of oaks on the fence line, and began grazing on fallen acorns. 

The light finally faded until we could see them no more and we retired to the house. Another day, done.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Climbing L'Alp Pintlala

Yesterday morning looked to be a fine morning for going on a bike ride, to get a bit of the weekend sludge moving around the veins and breathe some fresh air. The sky was blue and the temperature nice.  So, after feeding the horses and doing a bit of farm world work, we donned our flattering padded seat pants, loaded up the bikes, and headed off to one of the rural roads that is one of the occasional ones we take a journey on. We parked the car at the Pintlala Babtist Church, over in the corner of the lot so as not to get in the way of the church goers,  snapped on our helmets, and from there, headed west. 

The first mile or so of this ride is pleasantly downhill to Pintlala Creek and is a good way to get the wind in your face and enjoy the speed of the bike with very little effort. We rode along, mostly coasting, taking in the scenery as we did.

The lush colors of the summer countryside have changed now. No longer the color of spinach, the landscape has muted to a more subtle pallet of soft olive greens, browns, yellows, and rust. It is a quieter background, lighter in feel,  and drier. The grasses are browning and rattle now when the wind blows them, and crisp leaves float through the air.

The plants that bloom now and into the fall, grow casually scattered among these browned grasses, along the sides of the road, and out in fields that have not been mowed recently. Blamed for allergies, the goldenrod with its tall mops of a garish deep yellow plumes rise tall above the grasses. Then there are purples of unknown named flowers in deepest violet to a softer pale lavender. Pinks, whites, and softer yellows blend in. I  am more partial to the changing colors because they indicate summer is leaving, or has left, and it is easy to equate them with cooler times ahead.

We rode over the bridge that crosses the creek. It is a dark area of tall old cypress trees with knobby knees rising out to the mud. Oak trees, covered with clumps of hanging Spanish Moss, stand tall among them and palmettos cover the ground below. Sand banks have built up in the bends of the winding stretch of water and the log piles and sticks piled up on them make perfect habitat for the wild things, snakes. I didn’t see one there as we quickly passed, but they are there. After the turn to Ray Scott’s place we rolled along passing some horses munching on the last shoots of green they could find, oblivious to us.

Rolling hills began giving us a bit more of a challenge but we both were hitting a pretty high speed and were feeling good. It was the fun of being a kid on a bike, wind on the face, sunshine, blue skies, and browned leaves crunched under our tires as we sped along. There are some days that are like that. You feel great like you could climb a mountain, and some that are just hard work, from either muscles being tired or attitude, or whatever. But not this day, it was all good.  We reached the end of the road where we needed to head back, and turned back around to the east.

What I had not really paid attention to on the way out, going down hill at first, and going fast, was, that there was indeed a very good breeze blowing and on the first part of the trip we were going with it, having it push us along like kites. When we turned back around, though, we were rather astonished to find that the same kindly breeze that had pushed us down the road, was now blowing like a gale right in our faces. Suddenly the little rolls in the road now became massive climbs, and there was little relief going down the other side of the hill because the wind pushed so hard that we had to peddle downhill even then for distance. We once again crossed the shady bridge and in about a mile began the long rise to the top of the hill where our car sat waiting for our now, panting selves. 

To just glance at this hill is to barely notice its rise and fall. If one were to stand, though, at the top and survey the distance one can see off down into the creek valley below, then you get a scale of how high and how long the drop actually is. It is in its deception that makes it hard to gauge, and harder to conquer. Now, add that to a stiff wind blowing straight at us from the top of the hill. I had shifted down to the highest gears I had to try to ease the pain but it was still brutal.

It reminded us of once when we were snow skiing in a blizzard, a total white out, and while crossing a long bowl, we couldn’t tell if we were moving. The wind in our face said we were, but there were no visual indicators to say one way or another. With a good pole plant we learned that were standing still in skiing position, not moving. This wind and this long incline were about doing that to us. I think it was the slowest I have ever ridden on a bike, without training wheels, and kept upright.

When we finally reached the top of Alp Pintlala, with legs burning and chests heaving for air, we coasted past the school and then the volunteer fire department. I had not noticed the flag there when we had gone out the other way. If I had I would not have felt so smug about how well we were riding along to begin with, knowing it would be a factor on our return. The red white and blue stood absolutely straight out in the wind, no ripples or pops, just straight like it had been dipped in starch. We loaded our bikes and collapsed into the seats of the car and drove home. Piety achieved, for at least one day. 
The breezes that blew so hard yesterday, were ushering in a cold front, which has left today refreshing and pleasant, and me, a bit tired. It has been a long time since the sky has been filled with little tuffs of clouds that are high up in the atmosphere and are blown into wisps and curls. Tonight just might be the first fire if it continues to go down, temp wise. We had a fellow deliver a nice stack of oak on Saturday and it sits waiting for use. The woody smell of the split logs is drifting through the screen on the back porch and brings back the scent memories of fall, and of the getting ready for the changing season ahead. I am ready. Gracie is too.

For those interested in keeping up with Frank, (Frank is the gelding I wrote about last epistle who has gone to a new owner) word is that he has gone to boot camp for sixty days to learn how to be a horse one can ride and stay on. The word from the trainers is that he is intelligent and sweet, but, I already knew that. I will post more as I hear of his progress. Meanwhile the barn world sure misses his pretty face.