Friday, September 8, 2017

Back in the Saddle Again

And I don't mean the occasional lazy saunter around the pond (with or without glass of wine), but the kind of riding that involves dust, sweat and sore muscles and our trainer, Mary, barking orders at us from the center of the arena.  This woman is tough, patient and very good, but she has her work cut out for herself as she roots out our bad habits.

For Cornelius, this means learning to hold himself upright, driving his body forward through his haunches.  His plowhorse DNA has him programmed to lean on his shoulders and move off slowly and heavily as though he's pulling a load behind him -- it's the Percheron draft horse half of him.  When he moves this way with a rider on top, he's inclined to drag his front feet and stumble.

My main problem is a compulsion to lean forward in saddle, especially when I'm nervous.  It's something that I do so habitually that I don't even realize I'm doing it -- when Mary tells me to lean back, I'll say back that I am and she'll inform me that, no, I'm not.  So I'll shift my weight and tilt backwards at what seems like an impossible angle (feeling like I'm looking up at the sky and only a few inches from lying on top of my big guy's rump).  And only then is Mary satisfied.

The unfortunate thing about our horse and human problems is that in conjunction they cause both of us to spiral downward together and everything gets progressively worse:  when Corny trips, I'm startled and lurch forward and my added weight makes him even heavier in front.  And this leads to more stumbles from him as I battle not to crouch into a fetal position over his neck.  I'm finally learning to control this impulse and it's empowering to realize that both Corny and I are getting our bodies working together at last.  I finally feel more like a real rider as a push his body forward and with my seat and nudges of my heels.  Corny stands up straighter, arches his neck and lifts up those big feet of his, so the stumbles decrease.  Being ridden must surely be more comfortable for him without the threat of tripping and possibly falling.

We're not there yet, but after years of not being able to get my body to give up its fear reaction, I'm elated to feel all the pieces coming together at last.  Dear Mary is pretty happy too -- she never gave up on either one of us.

Friday, September 1, 2017


Acorn woodpeckers playing in the misters (six are in the picture)

We're into the third (and, hopefully, last) heatwave of the summer.  Today's forecast is for 112 degrees and this is set to continue for the next several days.  This year, we strung a mister hose through the tupelo trees behind the house.  We originally installed it during the first heat wave in hopes of making the potted lilies more comfortable (it definitely made the voles more comfortable as they chomped down most of the lilies).  However, we now turn it on when the weather is hot because it cools the west side of the house and is an oasis for heat-stressed birds.  All through the long afternoons when the sun is beating down on everything, birds arrive to refresh themselves in the fine spray.  Assorted oak titmice, scrub jays, finches and sparrows come to sip from the nozzles and preen the water that sparkles from their feathers.  A family of seven rowdy acorn woodpeckers doesn't even bother to leave -- they set up a noisy camp in the trees and spend the hours blustering, playing and cooling off. I stand at the kitchen sink and watch through the window -- washing dishes has never been so entertaining.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Walk Around the Pond

Bruce came home a little early the other evening, so we had time for a walk around the pond before the sun went down.  Cornelius came along (he was a pretty good sport about being pulled away from his dinner).

Corny is fun to walk with as he's calm and interested in looking around at the scenery.  The pace suits him as his favorite speed is "slow."  He also just seems to genuinely enjoy being part of a social group with humans - he's a bit like a dog in that way.

We practiced a few small obstacles,  but not for too long.

Then we meandered up the hill.  Yes, that's a glass of wine in my hand.

When we got to the top of the dam, Bruce held my wine glass (empty) and gave me a leg up.  Corny does very well being ridden bareback with only a halter.  In some ways I think he's better behaved than with a saddle and bridle.  I know that he's happier going along this way.

He really is a very sweet horse -- I'm lucky to have him.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Hecuba found a new place to sleep.  Unfortunately, the space was already occupied by a very large, very old, very valuable Chinese vase.  Young as she is, Hecuba is already an accomplished problem solver.

I'm going to miss that vase...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Amazing, Shrinking Horse!

Bless my honest farrier and her bluntness.  When she last came to trim Cornelius' hooves and she looked him up and down and told me he was fat, I was a bit taken aback.  But not exactly surprised.  I knew he was plump (even for him) and I knew I should be feeding him less and exercising him more (actually, I wasn't exercising him at all).  I'd grown so used to not making the time to attend to him that I'd grown comfortable with it.  But when Raleigh told me that he was fat, I knew she was right -- and that same day began to change that.

So, for the past seven weeks Corny's been on a strict diet/exercise regimen:  1 1/2 flakes of grass hay a day (down from 2) and walk/trot/canter work at least five times a week.  The results have been impressive.

Here is my rotund Corny on July 5

Corny on August 21.  He hardly looks like the same horse -- there's so much less of him.

Here is the other side of him on July 5th.  Just look at how big his butt is -- not to mention his belly.

Corny on August 21.

Until I looked at these photos right next to each other, I hadn't realized how much Corny had changed in seven weeks.  When we started, he was so out of shape that he slipped and tripped and tired very quickly - all that extra fat to haul around and no muscle tone at all.  Riding him was scary because he stumbled so often.  I'll admit that it also was scary because my own muscles were in need of strengthening.  Now that both of us have been at it for awhile, my guy trots and canters with energy and, although he grumbles, I think that he's enjoying his new, more svelte body.

And, may I add, I've lost 5 pounds.  I love Raleigh!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Day

 In our neck of the woods, all we got was a partial solar eclipse -- 76.5% to be exact.  That didn't seem like much to get excited about, but I'm a stickler for doing things the right way, even if the results can only be a C+ average.

The dogs and I went to the hillside across the pond from the house.  I set up shop on a log surrounded by vole burrows, rabbit droppings and lots and lots of dry grass.  I unpacked my iPad, phone, solar binoculars, and eclipse glasses while Chance and Murphy went off to swim in the pond.

I will admit that sitting there on that log, waiting for 76.5% was rather like watching paint dry...until I picked up the binoculars and trained them to the sun.  The moon had begun to slide down in front of the sun.  Right then and there I realized that sometimes 76.5% is not a C+ and definitely not average. These little baby blue binoculars cost $30 and my opinion had been that we had gone overboard in ordering them.  That was before I saw the crisp black outline of the moon take a bite out of the sun.  WowWowWow!

At 76.5%, the sky did not become dark.  There were no stars and no confused crickets chirped.  The dogs played in the water, oblivious to anything celestial going on overhead.  But every time I raised those binoculars to my eyes, I could see the spectacular sight of the pip-squeak of a moon doing its damned best to blot out that Goliath of a sun.  Even at 76.5%, it was doing a very good job of it -- as long as I watched through the binoculars.  Without them, I don't think I ever would have noticed that there was an eclipse.  Yes, the sky was dimmer and had the yellowy tinge of late afternoon, but nowadays with all the summer fires, we're used to that overlay.

I was all by my lonesome, but felt as connected to the universe as I've ever been.  Not bad for 76.5%.
Chance and Murphy ignoring celestial history

I snapped this picture of the sun without looking.  This was near the maximum amount of coverage by the moon.  The sun is so bright that there's no evidence of the moon at all.

The light was...different, though.  The algae on the pond was such a virulent green that it seemed to be marching up the hillside.

After our little bit of the eclipse was over, I went back inside and watched some of the coverage on the NASA TV network.  I'll admit that I really, really wish I could have seen the total 100% eclipse.  But 76.5% will do nicely.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


These days, as I blog, I find myself wondering at why I'm making the effort to notice the minutia of life here at Frogpond when it appears that the entire planet seems to be launched into a dreadful downward spiral.  I write about voles, kittens, weaving and cleaning out the barn against a backdrop of such awful national and world news that I can't help but feel ridiculous.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I used to consult the Tarot for insight into my existence.  Those days are long over, but the detailed illustrations on certain of the cards became a part of my thought process.   These cards come to mind, unbidden, when events match their meanings (my hippy roots run deep).  Here's the one that has come burbling to the surface:

What I like about Tarot illustrations is that they're self-explanatory -- it's a relief not having to construct a long-winded essay.  Definitely a case of a picture being worth a thousand words.    

With that out of the way, I'll add that I also believe that when things appear to be devolving into chaos,  observing and celebrating minutia takes on increased importance and relevance  (earlier this week I was rereading parts of Ann Frank's diary and this realization jumped out at me).  So....

                                                   Some Minutia:  Update on the Rodent Wars
As we'd hoped, the natural predators of rodents have discovered that Frogpond is a wonderful place to come for an easy dinner.  An assortment of various hawks, snakes, owls and coyotes (thankfully these last have stayed away from the house stayed in the surrounding hillsides) have descended upon us and the vole, gopher and mouse populations have dramatically decreased.  

The bird in this blurry photo, taken from the kitchen window, is a Swainson's Hawk.   It's been concentrating on hunting the voles that took up residence in holes all around the house and decimated my flower and vegetable gardens.  It's gorging on the easy pickings and I'm seeing fewer and fewer voles scurrying around when I go outside.  

Perhaps the most surprising help has come from the kittens.  I never expected that TimTom and Hecuba would turn into such efficient hunters so quickly.  Between the two of them, they catch two to three rodents a day.  Little kittens to the rescue!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Barn Cleaning

The resident rodents, a lot of junk and layers of filth are being evicted from the barn.  I'd like to say that the process is complete, but it's a work in progress.  We're at the stage where, at first (and second) glance, things actually look worse than they did before we started because of the pile of stuff that's been lugged out and is now in plain sight all over the drive.  I'm fighting an impulse to just dump it all in the trailer so we can haul it all off to the landfill.  But that would be wrong, lazy, wasteful and self-defeating.  So, instead, we got busy with brooms, pitchforks, rags, buckets of water, cleaner and the hose.  Oh, and two kittens.

I'll be the first to admit that we spent way too much time watching them play.

Their job was to catch the mice that ran as we forked out hay and hauled out junk, but they were too busy hunting each other and taking naps.

Feed Room (minus hay and mice)

Middle Stall (minus junk)

Despite the lack of effort on their part, we got the feed room and one stall completely cleaned out and hosed down and a good start on the tack room.  The stall where the geese sleep needs washing down and the mats removed, but is junk free (thanks to the movie shoot of several weeks ago).  The third stall -- stuffed with a filthy assortment of troughs, a bicycle, cat carriers, cages, bird houses, garden tools, fertilizer, heat lamps, chick feeders, etc --  still awaits its turn.  I also believe that all of the voles and mice have migrated over to that one as there's nowhere left to hide.

This is what the drive looks like when the barn's nice and empty.

Evidence of feline supervision

Once that last stall's been cleared out, we'll order a load of decomposed granite to replace what's left of the layer we put in years ago.  After we've compacted it, we'll return the rubber mats and get everything put away.  At least, that's the plan.  I'm determined not to lose momentum on this -- projects (especially the ones involving cleaning) have a habit of stopping somewhere around the halfway mark.

Actually, getting the barn in shape is only a prelude to the REAL cleaning project that awaits:  the garage.

God give us strength.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Sampler

The sampler's been woven, taken off the loom, ends knotted and trimmed, then washed and ironed.  I've got to admit that this is one very busy piece of weaving -- all that pattern going on and so many color changes!  It's rather dizzying to the eye and perhaps I should have limited the number of variations I tried.  But it was irresistible playing with the treadling patterns and seeing what the ten colors in various combinations looked like.  So there we are.

About the colors: I gravitate to the same colors and color combinations from project to project and am working to break free of this.  At one of the Weaver's Guild meetings this summer, a member shared a runner she'd woven  and showed a photograph of the desert landscape that guided her color choices.  I was intrigued by this way of working with color.

This will be my first attempt using her method  These are some of the pictures borrowed from the internet that guided me.

To my surprise, I already had all of these colors, so I didn't have to buy anything (that's a first, I believe):  two greens -- one darker and the other a bright chartreuse, brown, and off-white. There also is a touch a touch of russet red.

This treadling is called undulating twill

Undulating Twill and Rosepath


These stripes are very bold compared to the more subdued colors of the photographs.  Too much bright green!  Too much russet!

I'll admit that I'm delighted with all of these color combinations.  Settling on only a few is going to be a challenge because there is a part of me that loves the over-abundance of color and pattern.  Only touches of the bright green and russet...I'll edit and simplify and do my best to stay true to the original inspiration.  We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


This is the summer where all my roads seem to lead to the little town of Knight's Ferry.  Yesterday we celebrated/observed a double anniversary: our marriage of 17 years and the second year since the suicide of our daughter, Becky.  Knight's Ferry was there, waiting for us.

We started at the cemetery on the hill above town.  I showed Bruce the tombstone of Mary Dennis, the Englishwoman who had died in 1866 and whose epitaph had so struck me.  This time, I remembered to get a picture of the poem at the bottom of her stone.

I don't believe that Mary Dennis would have minded if I extended the sentiment of this verse to my own Rebecca.

Rebecca Kim Dong 1984 - 2015

"From cares & pains may all be free
   Surround the whole with joy,
 Sublimity alone can mould
   And elevate the Soul.
 Begone vain joys, begone vain doubts
   Arise with minds set free.
 And learn the language of the soul
   That you may learn to see."

Afterwards, we drove the half mile down the winding road to have lunch at The River's Edge. 

 Our first toast was to our 17 year partnership and the love we share, and the second was to the memory of our dear Becky.  We then had a memorable lunch as the river flowed through the soft, cool day.  And we were happy.