22 August 2014

This most lovely August

     “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,
Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high,
       Your daddy is rich, and your momma good-lookin’,
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry”


sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Summers in the Pacific Northwest have seldom been so hot or long lasting.

Usually, it doesn’t stop being cold and rainy until the 5th of July. Yes, the 5th. Usually it’s raining and cold when one goes out to see the fireworks on the 4th.

For two weeks after the 5th of July, the temperatures are torrid, with highs sometimes reaching 100 degrees. Being that we are above the 45th parallel, the same latitude as Frankfurt and Southern England, it shouldn’t be surprising that our summers are usually short and cold.

Frustrating my attempts to grow tomatoes, (especially) and other hot weather loving plants, the thermostat seems to plummet at the beginning of August. Tomatoes and beans not only like hot temperatures, but they also need a lot of ‘solar units’, meaning long hours of sunlight. Nope, again, right after summer solstice on 21 June, the PNW  sun shortens its work day.

This summer, however, has been an exception (although I believe it is the first summer of global warming normal). It got hot in June and has stayed hot. We’ve had but two days of rain, which we badly needed, as the West (East, to me) is burning. Literally. Wildfires have consumed over 400,000 acres just in my state alone.

Still, true to form, late August still is cooler than July. Today, the temp was 43 degrees and foggy on our morning walk.  It warmed up quickly, as it has all summer long, and right now is a balmy 74.

Growing up in the hot, humid, sweltering Midwest, I used to hate August. There was no escaping the heat (my father couldn’t afford air conditioning), and I used to suffer headaches that now, I know, were due to dehydration. What did we know then? 

But now, living in the PNW, I am loving this August. The temperature is perfect. The California poppies are still blooming, with fat, happy bumblebees wallowing in them like tiny buffalo. This year’s batch of onions is hardening off in the sunshine before I split it-half goes into our chest freezer, half goes to the food bank.

The lawn and gardens have senesced, meaning the only mowing I need to do is to behead the weeds. The flowers that aren’t still blooming have gone to seed, providing us the opportunity to watch goldfinches hanging upside down to harvest them. 

The bedsheets I washed this morning are drying on the clothes line. I’ll make up the bed with them this evening, and go to sleep with the scent of sun and wind in my nostrils.  

All my winter bedding, the comforters, the wool blankets, have had a good long day in the sunshine. My feather pillows have had the same treatment.
The goldfinch babies are now teenagers, no longer begging from their fathers for food. The ravens are klonking in the trees just beyond our property line. Despite their predatory ways, I love the ravens, if for no other reason than they keep the damned crows away. Cooper’s hawks have raised a pair of babies, and our barn owl babies are still coming out, late, late at night now, shrieking for mom and dad to bring them a rodent! They’ll be leaving soon, as will our purple martins. This is the first year I had martins nesting here, and only one pair raised up a couple of babies. They’re still in the area, getting ready for their migration to Brazil. They will be back, I know. 

While the birds have finished singing their summer songs, the crickets have taken over. There is something about crickets that just sound summery. It's a peaceful sound, a sound you only hear when it's warm, and dry. 

The wasps, as usual, didn’t get really going until the beginning of this month, but have made up for lost time in an explosion of nests.  While I appreciate the job they do killing nasties such as gypsy moth larvae and cutworms, still…my husband is allergic to their sting, and I don’t like being harassed when I’m weeding my gardens.  They have five acres in which to play, they don’t need to live in my eaves. We’ve sprayed over a dozen nests, and are still finding them.

We are actually getting summer chores done: cleaning and tightening gutters (very important in our rainy winters),cleaning out the garage (arrgh),  fencing the apple trees in hopes we get SOME of the Liberty’s before the deer do, cleaning bird boxes preparatory to sealing them off for the winter, putting up corn, marionberries, green beans and onions, and waiting for my fabulous black beans to completely dry before shucking. 

As I write this, we’ve got Jordan’s shed almost completely dismantled. Tomorrow I take the old siding/rotted out roof wood to the landfill. Last Tuesday, we’d filled up Tomboy (my trusty pickup truck) with a load of shingles and tar paper and took it to the landfill. After handling those things three times in less than 24 hours, I was glad to see them go for good.

It’s sad, in a way, to see my beloved geldings’ home taken down, but I know myself. I won’t be keeping a horse here, probably not ever again. It’s a ton of work, and my knees, back and shoulders can’t do it anymore.
But, I have money set aside. If I ever come into possession of a horse, I can board him for quite some time.

We battled tansy ragwort on the prairie from late Jun to early this month. We filled 35 garbage bags with tansy tops and toes, donating over 125 hours to the non-profit organization that oversees the restoration operations. We are still hunting for the late bloomers. Whether we’ve made a dent on the infestation, I don’t know. It’s been a wonderful year for tansy, as well, and it’s evolving to survive hot summers. The cinnabar moths only eat the first flush of tansy flowers, then pupate. The tansy blooms recover almost immediately and try to go to seed.  What a bummer. It’s a lot of thankless labor, especially as it’s all voluntary.

But the prairie knows. She’s given me so much, how can I not return her generosity with my own? There is a huge sense of satisfaction to go out on the preserve and see no tansy, knowing it’s all due to my husband's and my long hours of work.

Besides, nothing tunes up one’s birding/hunting eye like hunting tansy, a DYC that sneaks in amidst other DYC’s like St. John’s Wort and ragweed. (for the non-biologist/botanist/environmentalist/tree hugger, DYC is shorthand for Damned Yellow Composite, a description of the most common types of flowers. It’s in the same league as a birder’s LBJ-Little Brown Job ). Not that I intend on hunting deer this year, although we could use the meat. But we’re considering a camping trip to California, to see redwoods and wildlife. Migrating fall warblers are hard to spot and even harder to identify, so a sharp eye is a must.

We have spent the vast majority of the summer outdoors. It’s been fabulous.

I’m writing this, probably, for myself. Because, in six months, it will be February, with days just a few hours long, when the sun is down by 4 PM and the skies are gray for months at a time. There will be snow, rain, icy roads, and power failures. The foyer will be cluttered with a dozen pairs of boots in various stages of wet, drying and dry, the scent of wet clothing ponging the indoor air. We'll have to dress in layers, waddling like the Michelin Man, but not so cheerfully. Doing anything outside will be an exercise in exposure to the elements. 

Riding will be an effort. Horses don't really care to have an icy cold bit put in his mouth. Cold leather tack is frustratingly hard to work with. One either fumbles trying to buckle a bridle with gloves, or freeze one's fingers (or worse, tear off a fingernail) if one tries it barehanded. Blankets get wet and stay wet, adding a hundred pounds to your efforts at caring for your horse. You worry about horses not drinking enough, muddy paddocks sucking the shoes right off his feet, not daring to do anything more than a tentative walk for fear of his slipping and falling on ice, rain rot if he's not blanketed, icy conditions keeping him in his stall, and wondering if it's worth driving in the rain, the snow, the dark to look at a horse you don't ride in the winter.

So, I suppose I am blogging for myself.
I will scroll back through my list of posts, and see this title, and read it, remembering this lovely day. 

Oh, August, month of barbecues and home made lemonade, of sunscreen and clear blue skies, spiders weaving webs on my lawn mower, gossamer shining in the evening sunshine,  watching the cats stalk grasshoppers and preying mantises in this, the Year of the Horse (2014).  August, here’s to you. It's been lovely.

21 August 2014

Stolen tack is jinxed

         Raven recently moved into a new barn (which I'll call The Barn, as it's privately owned.)

        It's a well kept facility. I know several of the women who already have their horses there, some for years. They're all honest people.

       Last week, the owner hosted a tack sale. Signs were posted on the road and I was invited to add whatever I wanted to sell.

        Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to stay for the sale. So I put only one item in the sale: my 22" Albion padded leather girth. I used it no more than five times, and then changed horses. I've been trying to get rid of it ever since I sold the saddle, because it fits Arabians, not the big warmbloods I've been riding since.

       The day after the sale, I went back to the barn, and my girth was not to be found amidst the other items that hadn't sold.

      The story (and I have no reason to disbelieve the barn folk), is that a woman showed up with several kids in tow. She wandered the barn aisle, looking at the tack, and showed an interest in the several girths for sale, to include mine.

     Just before she left, the kids suddenly went berserk. There were '3 or 4', that rampaged through the barn, one went running to see the horses in their paddocks, another tried to go up into the haymow, etc.

    These actions were planned. The barn folk's attention were drawn to the kids, NOT the woman. Within a few minutes, the woman called her kids back to her side, seemingly embarassed, and used that as an excuse to leave.

    One of the barn folk said, 'I didn't like the looks of her right from the start.'

    It was only the next day that we realized that my girth was missing, and no one had purchased it.

   The woman had stolen it.

   Well, let me tell you something, Momma Thief.  It's a horrible example you're setting for your kids. I'm betting in the future, I'll be paying for them in the way of keeping them fed in prison. 

   It's not the fact that I'm out a girth that pisses me off-I wasn't using it. It's the fact that you stole at all.

     I wanted to sell it. Despite the fact that it cost me $175 new, I was willing to let it go for $65, and was willing to accept a reasonable offer.

    But no, you had to steal it. You went in with full intentions of stealing something. It's why you brought your kids. You've done this before, haven't you? My friends at the barn were amazed at how the kids all scattered at once, in four different directions. You've trained your kids to be accessories to theft.

  Let me warn you, Thief. Stolen tack is jinxed.  Yeah, I just made that up, but I want to throw that little bottle out onto the internet sea. If you steal tack, that item is is going to have its revenge: fall apart when you need it to stay together. Break when it's the most inconvenient. Lead someone else to steal everything you own. Or, maybe, if you're stupid enough to put it on Craig's List, lead the police to your door. (I bet they already have your name and address on speed dial.)

    Stolen tack is cursed with bad juju, and I hope, woman, that it hits you.

   Thief, (I can't call you "lady" or "ma'am", as they are honorifics), just remember, Karma will get you. It will.  What goes around, comes around. It always does.

   Bad luck to you, thief.

18 August 2014

Welcome to my new blog! If you've been following me at Through the Bridle Lightly at word press http://www.throughthebridlelightly.wordpress.com,
then  you know a little about me.

If not, I'll try and introduce myself. 

I'm a middle aged American woman living in the Pacific Northwest. I spent 21 years in the US Army, where I was, among other specialities, a microwave antenna repairer (yes, I climbed those impossibly high metal towers) (and no, I didn't like it, I hated it) and for most of my career, a tank repairer. That MOS I found a little more rewarding, mostly because I became enamored of the M1A1 Abrams tank, especially after seeing it in action in Desert Storm and Iraq.

After retiring from the Army, I found myself with a little more time to indulge my passion for horses. I hadn't had much training in riding back then. Most of my riding consisted of here's someone's western saddled horse, hop up and hang on.  But I found a career (such as it was) that melded two of my interests together: animal anatomy and massage. I professionally massaged horses for 16 years, until my shoulders couldn't take it anymore. I was good at it. I could...and sometimes had to, especially at endurance rides, massage horses in the dark. Touching a horse, especially without interruption, can tell you so many things if only you know how to listen.

Because I can hear horses. I know what they're thinking. I'm not psychic, no, but I am a student of animal (and human) behavior, and I've learned two things:

One, you cannot lie to an animal. Meaning, not that you shouldn't but that you as a human (that uses speech to communicate with other humans) are also yelling your every thought and motive through your body language, and every animal I've ever met can read you like a book. In other words, you CAN'T lie to an animal. It knows the truth, just by reading YOU.

The other thing I learned is how to read an animal's body language. They tell you, just as you tell them, what they are feeling and in many cases, what they are about to do. I don't mean to boast, but this ability does well for me when I'm at the racetrack. Once they get onto the track, preparatory to entering the gate, that horse is telling you tons of info. I can usually pick the winner, or at least the place horse. The problem is, I'm poor, so I don't bet a lot of money, and the handicappers and the tracks can also tell pretty much who's going to win. The favorite rarely pays well. The track wants you to put big money on the long shots...and occasionally, those long shots win. But not often.

Finally, at the ripe old age of 48, I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe it took that long it took that long for me to grow up. Or maybe it was because my life had finally slowed down enough for me to be able to take time to  go back to college and get my degree in my other passion, biology. I didn't need schooling for anything more than a tune up, especially in genetics, but going to college to get my bachelors made me 'official'. Not that it got me a job. I was told by a so called 'counselor' that I would never get a job in biology without a Masters or a PhD, and damn it, she was right.

The sting, though, is eased by the fact that I see plenty of Biology masters and PhDs serving coffee at Starbucks. They're not getting jobs in biology, either.

Not only could I not afford a Masters/PhD, but acquiring one involved taking some hideous subjects such as physics, trigonometry and calculus. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this. Chemistry and Physics majors aren't required to take biology, but Biology majors are. I think it's because chemistry and physics are old, tired fields, without much new work being done, whereas this is the Golden Age of Biology. So most math, chemistry and physics majors end up being math, chemistry and physics teachers.  Not for me, thank you, I didn't like being indoors for hours on end, so I took what courses I wanted and when they gave me a Bachelor's diploma, I was done.  

So I'm merely a BS than MS. That's okay. I don't mind. I went back to school to indulge myself in science. And I've been wallowing in it..and horses..ever since.

For the last part (if you've read this far, I commend you. Mostly I'm trying to build up an archive so webcrawlers find me), I am lucky in that a friend of mine, Sue, shares her Hanoverian gelding, Raven with me. I can't afford a horse, and she needs a 'horse friend'.

Because I'm new to Blogger, I'll try and put a picture of me and Raven in here.
Isn't he a beauty? I think so.

Alright then, let's add a few labels and publish.

17 August 2014

I've moved from my WordPress blog, "Through The Bridle Lightly". That blog host site made ridiculous, juvenile and unwanted changes to the entire process of blogging, without bothering to listen to the people who created them (and in many cases, purchased premium or domains for a lot of money).

What WordPress.org did was use the customers on WordPress.com as lab rats, as beta testers, without asking us if we minded. And we did mind, quite vociferously, but were ignored. WP cherry picked the issues it chose to address and ignored the rest.

Thus I am changing to blogger. I don't know if it will be better than WP, I sort of doubt it, but Google being who and what it is, I don't believe they depend on bloggers to make their money.

Anyway, you are welcome to follow me here. I am going to try and import all my posts from Through The Bridle Lightly, but if they don't import...well, I suppose I must start all over again.

I'm still Khutulan. I do like the name of my new blog. It is a better reflection of who I am.