Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tiger and Iguana

Wandering through old photos again.  I have absolutely no idea what is going on in this picture.  James is 5 and Pearl is 9.  I do know that her outfit is a holdover from a Halloween costume, as is James' shirt.  Her mask is handmade by her.  His hat is a "gimme" from a conference Lee went to.  That was back when companies had money for such things.  Now Lee gets pens with logos on them. James'  hotpink pants belong to her dress up box.  
It looks as though there is a string tied to his ankle.  She has the other end.  That could only mean that he is her captive or pet, depending on the game they've made up. 
James is now older (10) than Pearl was in this picture.  I can't believe how quickly they grow.  What's best, is that they still like each other.  They don't play make believe games anymore, but that's okay.  They also don't dress up in silly costumes anymore.  I kinda miss that.  Not so many fun photo opportunities with which to embarrass them in the future.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Don't Know Why

I don't really know why I chose this picture.  I took it years ago at Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX.  Maybe I chose it because we are already thinking about a family vacation this summer.  We have to plan far, far, in advance, because the kids each have a week long church camp and Tom has a sports camp he attends as well.  
The kids have requested a trip to someplace with a beach.  Lee and I are tossing around locations at this point.  Wherever we go, me and a swimsuit will be involved.  That brings me to another, "I don't know why?"

At 43, I've mostly made peace with the way I look.  Mostly.  According to the health gurus, I could stand to lose about 15 lbs.  The AMA considers me overweight.  I should lose the weight for health reasons.  Vanity does not suit me.  I've come to the conclusion that I will never, ever, look 25 again, no matter how hard I try. 
Here's my dilemma.  Whenever I get around other women who spend hours a week at the gym and/or have had plastic surgery, I feel uncomfortable.  I feel fat.  I feel much less attractive. Suddenly, I have nothing to say.  I feel like when we're discussing things we do, that if working out, or biking or hiking aren't on my list, then there's something wrong with me.  What is wrong with me that I don't want to lose 15 lbs or do a triathalon, or hundreds of crunches or stop eating ice cream?  My head tells me "NOTHING", but my heart tells me "EVERYTHING".  By the way, these women do nothing and say nothing to make me feel this way. No little biting comments or put downs.

I know, that I am a good person .  I know I do important things in this world.  I do things for 'me', but getting skinnier just isn't one of them.  I don't know why I allow feelings of self-loathing to turn into a monster every time I'm around such women?
My two very best friends in the world are both thin.  They don't make me feel awful or even self conscious.  It's because they don't make a major production of anything they are doing to stay thin and they feel free to eat ice cream with me. One does work out every day, but it is purely for the health of her joints and bones.  

I don't know why I turn into a self-conscious teenager when I'm around women who constantly discuss/compare weight loss strategies or how many miles they biked this week.  I should be brighter than that.  Certainly I know that waist size does not make me more or less of a person.  Still.

Grace in Small Things #7
1. Spending alone time with Tom in the car
2. Watching the squirrels play
3. Having lunch with a friend
4. James asking if we got anything new or different from the CSA farm yesterday.
5. Lee asking how my time at the farm went. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grace In Small Things #6

Grace In Small Things
1. Getting to know people who grew up completely different than me.
2. TWO eggs in the nest box this afternoon.
3. Talking to my big sis and hearing her latest news.
4. James practicing his guitar
5. Being brave enough to say, "I disagree" and say why.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weather or Not

I have a little alarm on my computer, through WeatherBug, that lets me know of upcoming weather alerts.  Here's what it said this morning--"Winter Weather Warning!"  followed by the pronouncement of ice accumulation.
"Subfreezing Temperatures Will Be Met This Evening And Continue To Slowly Fall Through The Night. Hours Of Light Freezing Rain Will Result In Accumulations Of Ice On Bridges And Overpasses Up To One Quarter Inch Thick. Temperatures Should Climb Above 32 Degrees By Late Wednesday Morning." 

I know y'all in the places where you get real winter weather will laugh at this, but if we have 1/4 inch accumulation of ice on bridges and overpasses, the city will shut down.  Really, that's a good thing though.  Folks have no idea how to drive in rain, let alone ice.  We're so far into our drought down here, that folks forget that rain makes the roads slick.  I'm kidding.  Well, sort of.



1.forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary:The warm weather was exceptional for January.
2.unusually excellent; superior: an exceptional violinist.
3.Education(of a child)
a.being intellectually gifted.
b.being physically or esp. mentally handicapped to an extent that special schooling is required.

Speaking of droughts, does anyone else think that the weather gurus could have come up with a more appropriate word than 'exceptional' to describe the worst drought conditions?  
We, here in Austin, are in the 'exceptional' stage of the drought.  While definition #1 might seem to fit, there is really nothing rare or unusual about drought in our area.  We're to the point that seeing someone toss a cigarette butt out the window causes road rage------well, at least taking down their license plate number in case that butt causes a fire.  I know when I smell smoke, I try to figure out which way the wind is blowing in regards to which way the smell of smoke is coming from.  In other words, if there is a fire, is it coming my way?

So, winter weather this way comes.  Right now it's 66*.  Just like rain, I'll believe it when I see it.  The cliche that fits best, and was coined I'm sure by a Texan, "Don't like the weather, just wait a spell and it will change."

Grace in Small Things
1. The 66* weather, right now
2. The remote possibility of precipitation--freezing or otherwise.  We need the wet!
3. Coffee, coffee, coffee
4. The knowledge that a dose of winter won't last.  
5. Cough medicine--James is home sick today with an icky cough.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where Was I?

I was wandering through the latest photos this morning, looking for a picture I took of German Chocolate cake (birthday tradition) and came across this photo.  I don't remember having my picture taken.  It took me 5 minutes of looking back and forth in pictures around it, to figure out that Tom took it with his Christmas camera.  I then had to figure out where we were.  I don't wrap my silverware in a napkin and then hold the whole works together with a post-it note sort of paper.  It had to be a restaurant.  Three more minutes----it was at one of our favorite pizza places.  Tom tends to take odd angled shots for fun, and I was able to piece together a shot of the menu at the place.  Whew, now I can move on to bigger and better things.  

I woke up all discombobulated this morning.  I went to bed in a bad mood because of a problem at church.  When the alarm went off, I was met with "I don't feel good" from James standing at the edge of my bed.  We've all had colds, and he's been coughing.  Right away, my morning routine is off it's tracks.  I need to check James for fever and dose him with the proper amount of love and over-the-counter medication to make him feel better.  
1. No fever.  Check. 

Now I can make coffee.  Coffee is my main objective in the mornings.  It's fairly torturous to have to get dressed and wash my face before heading to the kitchen to make it.  I don't do it the other way around, because something in the kitchen will get me off track.  
2. Coffee brewing. Check

While waiting on daylight, I check my email.  I'm hoping for something that will make me feel better about church.  Nope.  
3. Type a letter to other members of the pastorate regarding my discombobulation. Check.

4. Feed, water, let out chickens. Check.  

Go to pour coffee.  Still brewing!  It's been 10 minutes!  Coffee, coffee, coffee.
5. Make time today to run vinegar through coffee maker.

Return home from taking James to school and a lovely breakfast with neighbor. Good to have her to bounce my church drama off of.  

Check email.  Thoughtful, helpful responses from pastor sisters regarding church discombobulation.  Feeling heard and feeling much better.  Check.

Time to start my Monday routine.  Clean up the disaster that my house becomes after 5 people have lived in it all weekend.

Pick up clutter. 
Take some clutter to staircase for kids to take to their rooms. (yea, right)

Get sidetracked by the fact that one of the kids has emptied the entire laundry chute onto the floor. 
Sort laundry.  Go back to clutter.

Start a grocery list because I realize when I'm putting away markers, that Tom told me we are out of note cards.  
Notice when I'm putting way markers that we are nearly out of pencils. Didn't I buy a gazillion of them when school started?  

Notice when I'm making grocery list, that the "important phone number" sheet by the phone, has gotten all covered in something wet and the colors have run. 
Go to computer to print another one.  Decide I don't like the font/colors for some reason, change it.

At computer, notice James' paper by the computer regarding what is required for a project that is due tomorrow. Realize this is one of those projects that the parents really do most of.  I start on my part, by looking for a picture I took of German Chocolate cake.
Find a strange picture of myself and think that it might work for my blog.

What was I doing again?  Where was I?  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Grace in Small Things #4

1. a 'thank you' at church
2. Tom not being last to get in the car
3. leftover German Chocolate cake
4. a Sunday nap
5. a shy child at church, talking to me

Silent Sunday

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And Baby Makes Three

Today is Tom's birthday. His 17th birthday! I'm not old enough to have a 17 year old. Well, maybe I am, just a little.
He used to bounce and bounce in the 'Johnny-Jump-Up' airplane. He'd cry if we took him out of it. He'd bounce until he was exhausted and then just fall asleep. He still goes and goes, but can luckily put himself to bed when he feels a nap coming on.
Loved money, still does. It's what he's getting for his birthday.
His birth brought my sister and me closer. We are 7 years apart in age, and didn't have much in common. Babies can sometimes be magnet that pulls relationships together.

Tom was a good-natured baby and a good sleeper. He has survived, all this time, despite the fact that Lee and I were first time parents with just a couple parenting books to lead us. Luckily, Lee had fabulous parents and he at least knew the direction we should take in raising our new little guy. I knew the mechanics of caring for babies and children because of years spent as a teacher for a child care center. Love helped get us through the parts we were guessing on.

When Tom was little and folks would say, "enjoy this time, they grow so fast", I thought they were crazy. Some days it felt like the day would never end, that he would never go to bed so I could just sit still for a moment. Here we are, 17 years later, and it's true. Time has flown. I am so proud of him. I think he is a great guy. We have our disagreements, but something would be wrong if we didn't. I'm especially proud of him this month. He's been waving at himself coming and going. He's been preparing for the SAT test (which he took today--on his birthday---got out of bed on a Saturday at 6:30 am!). He's had an SAT prep class nearly every day, in addition to his normal school hours, work, soccer, and homework.

Happy Birthday, Tom! You get your life back today. You might get a cake and a gift or two, also.

Much Love!

Grace in Small Things #3
1. I really am proud of Tom, not just saying it cuz he's my kid.
2. Breakfast with Lee
3. Pearl and James staying home while we took Tom to his SAT test. Pearl is outstanding at caring for her little brother!
4. Finding a sofa that we both agree on, on the first try! Never, ever happened in 20 years together.
5. German Chocolate cake--family birthday tradition. Yea Grandma!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Incredible, Edible, Egg

Don't you love surprises?  Early last week, I was sitting in my office when I heard a familiar "I laid an egg, I laid an egg!" squawk coming from the chicken yard.  I ignored it.  

My hens are 4 years old and haven't laid an egg since last July.  The summer had been brutally hot and dry.  That, coupled with their age, and egg laying ceased.  I really expected, that from that point forward, the hens would become purely pets. My sweet father-in-law suggested that the hens would make fine chicken and dumplings.  He's probably right, but they have names for goodness sakes.  They still eat bugs and provide quiet entertainment.  
Lee said I need to wait until they start dying off to get more laying hens.  That could be awhile.  Hens can live to be 10 years old.  I resigned myself to using icky grocery store eggs again.  I use them for baking, but really can't eat them by themselves. They don't taste the same.

So, back to the squawking.  That afternoon, when I went out to let them freerange a bit, I checked their food.  Something caught my eye in the nest box---an egg!  I was almost as excited as I had been when we got our first egg.  Since that squawk, I've gotten 5 eggs.  Not enough to plan meals around, but 'real' eggs, nonetheless.  It doesn't take much to entertain me I guess.  

Grace In Small Things #2

1. eggs when I didn't expect them
2. Tom saying, "I love you" before I do, when he's leaving.
3. James remembering to look to see if the dishwasher needs to be unloaded
4. daily talks with my friend, DD
5. crazy mark downs on meat at Randall's grocery store

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grace In Small Things

Men like to channel surf, I tend to blog surf.  Today I stumbled across this idea while wandering around a bit in a blog I haven't looked at in some time--Future House Farm.  It is a sort of challenge, although that word really goes against the idea at all.
The gist of it, is to post daily, five small things that make your life better.  A count-your-blessings sort of challenge.  It doesn't mean you'll have to stop blogging about the other things that are going on in your life; but it will enable you to sit down and think about the good things in your life, the ones you love, and the things that made you happy in that one day.  It's also an excellent way for friends and loved ones that read your blog to get a better look at the little things that make you smile. 
I will blog about other things, and add this at the end.  Sometimes, I might only blog about those 5 small things.  

Grace in Small Things #1

1. Quiet
2. Dogs in bed with us after the alarm goes off-- madly jockeying for just the right spot to lick Lee's face. 
3. Kisses goodbye
4. The Sun and springlike temperatures
5. Twittering of birds at my feeder, telling me to put out more of the special snack (peanut butter, corn meal, butter).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Thought I Was

This picture is a shout out to my big sis, who wishes we could just go back to the rotary dial era sometimes.

Today, I got two phone calls.  One from "Out of Area" 5-062-266-8329.  I think "Out of Country" is more like it. No one I know from out of the country, has my phone number.  I didn't pick it up.  
The second call was from GSA 1-281-220-0620.  I wasn't here for this call, but wouldn't have picked it up anyway.
Both numbers belong to telemarketers hawking insurance or lower interest rates.  The first one is freaky because it's a company in Indonesia that is doing the calling for a bank here in the US.   The one in the US is from an insurance scammer in Houston.  

Anyway, I thought I was signed up for the National Do Not Call list.  Evidently not. You can now sign up 3 different phone numbers (including cell #'s) for free.  If  you think you've already signed up, but don't remember, you can check that too.
 Also, the 3 year time limit is no longer valid.  You don't have to remember 3 years down the road to reregister.  It's forever.  

Just doing my part to keep your dinner time and  your favorite shows from being interrupted.  
If you're a bit worried about putting your phone number on the world wide web, or giving it to a government agency, don't be---they already have it. 

For My Kids

Look long at this picture.  Look at the people's faces.  Look at the young woman that is touching President Obama's face.  Do you see hope?  Do you see hope on the faces of others?  
Today, Barack Obama becomes our 44th President.  I have never felt such hope before.  I never realized how sad and jaded I was regarding the presidency until two nights ago when I watched him speak on television .  Many celebrities spoke and sang, but I don't care about them. His speech was a powerful message of accountability.  He acknowledged that the war and the economy will not be changed tomorrow morning or next week or even next year.  He is a man of change, but he is painfully realistic.  That's a good thing.  His speech made me cry.
I believe, that if it is within his power, that he will bring peace to our nation.  He will help the little man--- the man we feed at breakfast at church.  He will help the children that can't get a decent education or health care.  He will help figure out ways to boost the economy; but hold each person accountable for their financial actions.  You can't spend and spend and spend on a credit card and not expect it to come around and bite you in the backside one day.

He is bright, articulate, and driven.  I don't believe the endless string of  silly myths regarding him are true. 

The color of his skin is secondary in my opinion, but then again, the color of a person's skin has never been important to me.  To many of our nation's people of color (anyone who isn't white), his color gives them hope.  Hope that he might change the white man's impression regarding color. Hope that just his presence might give children of color, the impression that they can be something great. Hope that they can rise above their circumstances and believe they can make a difference.  Goodness, just any hope at all.  So many young people of color believe they will live and die in their own neighborhoods.  They live in conditions that we would consider battlegrounds. They die violent deaths. They die without good educations.  They die thinking no one cares. Faith is all they have.  Their faith is being rewarded today.

I feel good today.  I feel great today.  I will be going to spend time with others that feel the same way.  I wish there were a way for you to understand the importance of this day.  I know, to you, it is just another day.  I paid no attention to politics  when I was your age.  Your lives have not been negatively affected by the last 8 years, and I believe that this new president will not mean so much to you.  That's okay.  I just want you to know that things have been bad, laws have been broken, the constitution has been laughed at, men and women have died for a lie, human rights have been trashed, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.  All those things, and many more, will change.  

Presidents are not all powerful.  They aren't supposed to be able to change things, just because they want to.  That's what the House and Senate are for.  Herbert Hoover ( 31st president) once said, "A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage."  That's not what presidents have power over, unless Hoover actually meant to buy every person in the nation a chicken and a car.  President Obama has a big job ahead of him.  I believe, without a doubt, that he will do what he believes is best for all men and women.  He might do some things I disagree with, and that's okay too. Thank goodness we live in a nation, where we are free to disagree with those in power.

Tuck this day away in your hearts.  I feel a crushing weight is being lifted from the people of our nation.  Many tears will be shed today, tear of happiness and hope.

Much love,

Monday, January 19, 2009

For Lisa, and other Horse Folks

Lisa, over at Laughing Orca Ranch, is bed bound because of knee surgery.  This is a little horsey fix for her, until she can get out with her own, Baby Doll, again.

This pretty little girl is named Felicity.  She moved in across the street before Thanksgiving, along with her owners and her horse buddy, Prince.  He's a rescue horse, and I don't know his breeding.  
I know Felicity's horse mom, TS, would be horrified to know I was taking pictures of her slightly dirty pony.  I just couldn't resist, because she was so near the fence. TS has told me I can come and go from her pasture as much as I'd like, but Prince is a bit of boss.  Without a fence between us, he'd be in my lap.  I'd never get shots of Felicity.

I am wild about her mane.  She's a Fjord pony and this cool hairdo is normal for the breed.  Fjords are considered one of the oldest breeds of horses on earth.  They bear a striking resemblance to pictures of horses, carved in caves over 30,000 years ago.  They are native to Norway, but are descended from horses in prehistoric Asia.  They are supposed to be a strong and pleasant natured horse.  Felicity fits the pleasant natured part to a T.  The reason she looks a bit dirty, is that she's been sweating in our warm weather.  Fjords have coats that are meant to get them through harsh, northern European winters.
Despite her draft pony structure, she is supposed to have a light and easy gait.  TS will find out this summer.  Felicity is coming 3 in the spring.  TS has already been on her back for just a moment or two, and Felicity couldn't have cared less.  Of course TS has started other training, but actually riding will come once Felicity reaches her 3rd birthday.

TS tells me that the black spots at the knees are not normal.  Turns out when Felicity was just a baby, she was housed next to goats.  She learned that if she knelt on both knees and turned her head just right, she could nab goat feed under the fence.  A circus pony I guess.   My horse, Luke, would do the very same thing, except he'd only get down on one knee.

I can't tell you how tall she is, but Fjords are not supposed to get beyond 14 hands at the withers (top of shoulders).  Each 'hand' is 4 inches, so she won't get over 4'6 tall.

She's a sweetie, but has eyes only for TS.  She only came to the fence because Prince was there to guard her.  She's a little timid with strangers, but that's okay.  I'm sure we'll get to know one another soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Silent Sunday

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Honor Among Thieves

When my dogs are antsy and I don't have time for a real walk, I'll let them run in the pasture.  Usually there is much running and wrestling and sniffing.  One day last week, all that came to a halt and massive digging began.  
They were on the septic field, where the grasses were calf high and thick.  
Upon closer inspection, I discovered that I had a major rat problem!  The trails you see in the first picture were buried beneath the grass.  They had their own little highways from nest to nest.  They were 4 inches across and at least 2 inches deep.  
The two major nest sites were both around the water controls for the septic field.  
This time of year, when snakes are cold and the grasses are too tall for birds of prey, the rats flourish.  I decided to even the odds a bit by mowing the area of their little town.  What I discovered was that many paths led right up to the chicken run. They were thieving chicken food in the middle of the night!

I wanted badly to just toss a couple rat poison blocks down their holes, but discussed the matter with my vet first.  It seems that secondary poisoning of animals that ingest the poisoned rats, is a reality.  My cat and the birds of prey in my area (Red tailed, Cooper's and Sharp Shinned hawks, Great Horned and Screech owls) were definitely at risk for illness or death. Great, now what?  Short of buying a mongoose, I felt out of luck.  

Then I remembered I'd had a rat problem years ago when I worked for Wildlife Rescue, rehabbing squirrels.  I just went at it, one rat at a time with an old fashioned snap trap.  It took me about a month, but I got rid of them.

Last night I snapped my first rat.  The reason you don't see a lovely picture of said rat, is that his brother thieves decided if he was already dead, why not make a snack of him.  They also chewed on the trap a bit, but discovered it didn't taste as good at their poor buddy.

I'll be buying a couple more traps on my next trip to the store.  I think one trap is going to take too long. Too bad they don't make snap traps for English House sparrows.  I'd be all good then.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Photo Shoot

Subject: Tuesday Roo
Photographer: CeeCee
Date: January 11, 2009
Location: Pasture, Central Texas

Photographers notes
Clean definition
Maintains youthful appearance
Obvious attention paid to grooming
Full body shot

"Blue Steel" 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Silent Sunday

Proceed with Caution

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cool Hand Luke

My friend, Lisa, over at Laughing Orca Ranch has me thinking about my first and last horse, Luke.  Lisa was in what horse people call, a wreck, with her first horse, Baby Doll.  Her wreck was an accident.  It wasn't her fault, or her horse's fault.  Her horse zigged, and she zagged.  Unfortunately, her foot got stuck in the stirrup and she's just endured major knee surgery.
Anyway, she has me thinking about my history with Luke.

One of the primary reasons we moved to a place with land, is so I could finally have my own horse.  We moved in the summer of 2000.  By, November of 2001, I had purchased Luke for $800.  I'd only seen him once and then ridden him once.  I had looked at dozens of horses before him and was anxious to make my pick.  Luke was 10 at the time.  Plenty of miles under saddle.  What could go wrong?  Famous last words.

I brought him to a boarding facility nearby, as we didn't have a barn/fences yet.  The owner of the place had certain old fashioned ways of training that I considered.....well, old fashioned. To his way of thinking, you overpowered your horse both physically and mentally.  I began to push Lee hard for getting our own place ready, but something better popped up.  A new neighbor, with a plush barn and pasture set up, offered that I board at her place.  Problem solved.

Before I start saying bad things about Luke, I will say that he had amazing ground manners. He'd jump through fire before he'd step on you.  He stood still as a stone when getting groomed and when the farrier came.  He was never pushy and always followed where he was lead.  He never nipped or kicked.  He was even more careful around my kids.  

I began trail riding with the neighbors on the 366 acres of open land behind our properties.  He always had a fellow barn mate on our rides.  On a ride in August of 2002, I went with two neighbors, but neither was on a horse from our barn. Luke did very well for the better part of our ride.  When we reached a place where he knew we would turn for a "short ride", he began pulling.  I had him under control, turning him in circles and not letting him have his head.   My fellow riders were urging me to stay on and work it out.   I was a green rider and I wanted off.  I began to panic, and Luke's tension and urging to go home, escalated.  I made the mistake of letting him have his head and we were off for home at an amazing speed.

I'm sure my screaming at that point didn't help things, but I hung on.  We came to a creek and Luke stretched out to jump it.  I stayed on, but when he stretched out, his girth loosened and the saddle slipped to the side.  At that point, I lost hope that I'd ride it out.  Up ahead loomed a large grove of trees.  I had enough wits about me to realize that if I didn't bail, he'd wrap me around a tree.  I jumped.  

The husband of one of my fellow riders was sitting on his front porch drinking coffee, when he saw Luke race by with is saddle under his belly.  Thank God for that.  My friends couldn't find me, but he came out in his pickup and did.  I don't remember anything after that until it was decided to call an ambulance to come to the house.  I couldn't stand up.  I was sure my hip was broken, among other things.

My helmet saved my life and my 'saddle bags' saved my hip and back.  Never have I been so grateful for an extra 15 lbs.  I was told nothing was broken, but it was discovered a few years later during an CT scan that I had indeed broken my tailbone and 3 ribs.  I guess healed bone looks different than a bone that was never broken.  I was bruised beyond belief.  I could barely walk.  I wondered if Lee had killed Luke yet.  Lee's a practical man.  He knew that it wasn't the horse's fault.  It was mine for not knowing how to ride when the horse wasn't behaving properly.  He suggested maybe I get some lessons from someone other than the 'cowboy' who owned the first boarding facility.

I sent Luke to a trainer.  Jennifer was an amazing trainer.  She has a gift with horses and people.  At the end of three months, Luke came home.  Jen began coming to my place for lessons.  We did lots of work in an arena, but no work on the trails.  I wasn't willing to go out without her.  One thing she was trying to teach me, was that I needed to have confidence that I was the boss, or he'd walk all over me.  "He has your number."  

Something else she let me know, was that he had years and years of baggage.  He was covered in scars and had a huge (the size of a cantaloupe) brand on his hip.  It was clear that he'd had issues with a halter rubbing his face in the past.  His chest had been ripped open and healed badly, by the looks of the scars, and he'd been under an ill-fitting saddle for a long time before I had him (scars on his withers).  He also had wounded one of his fetlocks, but remained sound. Lastly, she suggested he could have come from Mexico because he was terrified of the garden hose (not the water coming out of it).  She worked for a couple years in Mexico, and witnessed trainers using hoses as whips.  In other words, Luke had reasons for not wanting to do what humans wanted him to do.  

We worked all of the 2002 and most of 2003.  Luke remained the boss, despite my best efforts. By the end of 2003, I had ended my lessons, but still hadn't ridden him alone on the trails.  I had really given up at that point.  I had begun riding with a friend, DD, on her Tennessee Walkers.  Luke had become a yard ornament.  

DD suggested she could bring her Walkers over and I could ride Luke, while she and her mom rode her horses.  I felt confident.  I shouldn't have.  I managed to get Luke past the first turn home, but near the very last turn he became unruly again.  A mile from home, I got off my horse.  I didn't want him to freak out and run off with me again.  I risked then having DD's horses follow him.  DD and her mother, neither one, needed to have an accident like I'd the previous year.  They rode and I walked (was pulled really) the rest of the way home.  As we neared sight of the barn, Luke had had enough.  He cow kicked me just as we passed a large outcropping of cactus.  I'm proud to say, that with a backside full of cactus spines, I didn't let go of the lead.  We got home and I put him in the round pen.  He was not going to be rewarded for his bad behavior by just getting to go back out to pasture.  I made sure DD got loaded in her trailer, picked the spines out of my backside, and headed out to the roundpen.  I worked Luke for 45 minutes before he got to go home to the barn.  

I put his name up at the feed store the very same day.  By late winter of 2003 he was gone.  A family that wanted him for 4-H playdays bought him.  I gave him his full history.  I begged them not to buy him.  The father seemed confident and it turned out he was right.  He loved barrels and poles and little girls.  He just didn't like the open trail.  

I don't think I'll ever have another horse.  Luke pretty much cured me of ever needing a riding horse again.  DD now has miniature horses which I love.  Donkeys are now on my radar as well.  Lee, if you're reading this, we need to get a fence up. :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Fair Trade

This is the result of five hours of my time.  
Thanks to my friend, TxJuJu, I was introduced to a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm back in November.  I have been volunteering every Wednesday since then.  Their crops are doing well, thanks to an irrigation system. 
Instead of being at the bottom of what is now, a 600 person waiting list, I get to bypass the list altogether.  All I have to do is volunteer.  It's called a 'work share'. It's really a barter.  I go once a week and do whatever needs to be done.  This week, it was pulling weeds that were threatening to engulf their strawberries, and then I moved on to cutting spinach.
Elsewhere on the farm, folks were cutting/bundling mustard greens, cutting broccoli rabe (aka rapini), pulling radishes and beets, snipping mint, and gathering arugula, broccoli, bok choy, and cauliflower.  Cabbages were picked last Saturday and spent the first part of the week in the coolers. Organic citrus is being provided by a farm in south Texas.  Three fun items coming in from the fields were "Romanesco" broccoli , "Graffiti" cauliflower, and "Cheddar" cauliflower. As you can tell from my pictures, I got some of the "Cheddar" variety.  
Next we brought in the days work and prepared it for boxing.  Spinach, arugula, radishes, beets, broccoli rabe and mustard greens all got a double washing.  The spinach and arugula got bagged, the rest were shook out to dry.  Everything is then put on a line and then we each take our place in that line.  I was the broccoli rabe and broccoli person.  Before me was the cabbage, and after me were the beautiful cauliflower varieties.   
The boxes are counted and put in their delivery truck.  We then put our 'pay' for the day in our own containers and off we go.  
It really is a joy to work in the dirt.  I've met so many nice people and the Johnson family is a delight.  It is so peaceful on the farm, and you know when you're done, that you've worked hard.  

The only thing missing this week was JuJu.  She was down with a cold.  The 'regulars' missed her a great deal.  Many wondered aloud whether they'd get through the morning without the yummy muffins she bakes as a treat for us all.
I'm so grateful that she introduced me to this bounty.  Thanks JuJu.  Now deciding what to make for dinner is a bit easier.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Can I Get an Amen!!

On my sidebar, you'll see a plea for rain.  We have not had measurable rain at my house since June 30th.  Before that it was April 26th.  The weather guessers tease us with 30% and 50% chances of rain all the time.  What normally happens is, it rains really hard for 18 seconds and then quits.  Yesterday we had a 100% chance of rain for the first time in forever.  It rained all 100% for about 18 seconds.  I spent the day pouting. 
This morning, the cat wanted out at 5:30.  When I opened the window he hesitated and I, in my sleepwalking daze, couldn't figure out why.  Then I realized the sound I was hearing was water dripping off the roof!

It has rained lightly, since then.  When it got light enough, I went out to visit with my rain gauge.  I was astounded that there was in inch of rain in it!  

So hurray, hurray and happy dance for the rain!  The fire danger is over for the time being.  

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Are You Making For Dinner?

Question Mark Button
It's Monday again.  That means it's time for me to come up with a comprehensive grocery list (stop laughing!) and hit the grocery store.
I used to be very good at this.  I'd map out what I'd be cooking during the entire week, figure out what I needed to buy, and add the odds and ends like toilet paper and laundry detergent to the end.  

Not any more.  I'm lucky if I get two days worth of dinners on a grocery trip.  When gas prices were nudging up against $4 a gallon, I tried really hard to make a once a week trip to town.  I had it down to about twice a week.  

The problem is, I just can't think of what to cook anymore.  I've been doing this for 20+ years and have just run out of ideas---new or old.  My poor family ends up with spaghetti, or tacos, or waffles just about every week.  I also used to make elaborate meals that required a few hours of prep and cook time.  I still do occasionally.  I used to be proud of such meals.  Now they just wear me out.  Besides, they are mostly bad for you, ie: homemade lasagna.

My family's tastes have changed as well.  The boys used to be pretty picky---not so anymore.  That should be a good thing, but it doesn't really address my poor attitude toward cooking dinner.  You see, I really pride myself on making things that are basically healthy.  Lee eats a good breakfast, but the kids are like me---can't hardly eat in the mornings.  I know they all basically eat bad-for-you foods at lunch; and so it falls to me to make dinner as good as possible.  Mac and cheese out of a box night after night doesn't sit well with the caretaker in me.

And so, here I sit with my grocery list full of needed items and coupon items, but no dinner ideas.  
Would anyone be willing to tell me what you are making for dinner tonight?  I'm fresh out of ideas.  I guess we could have cereal for dinner, but it will have to be something high in fiber, low in sugar and doused with lowfat milk for it to pass the Mom test.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Learning Curve

Let me begin by assuring some of my blogger buddies from up North, that this is, in no way, meant to be a "nana, nana, boo-boo" sort of post.
This blog, was originally meant to be a sort of diary for myself and my family.  I am lucky enough to have new cyber friendships that follow my musings as well.  
If you are suffering from the It'sbeensnowingandsleetingwaytoolongalready Blues, then you better not read this post. If you are feeling brave, and are up to reading about gardening in December, then read on.

Above, you see the fruits of my labor.  My second year trying my hand at Fall/Winter gardening.  This is the broccoli from three plants, not just one. It will be all I get.
Three things worked against me.

1. Lack of rain.  I have been profoundly aware that the only thing well water and rain water have in common is that they are both wet.  Plants would choose rain water, hands down--if they had hands. 
This is the 5th driest year on record (150 years of records), and the driest in the last 50 years.  

2. Lack of Sun. I admit, this is my fault.  I failed to remember the sun moves in the sky each winter, when I planted my seedlings.  That whole "full sun" thing means a whole lot in the winter.

3. Temperature Fluctuations.  Broccoli does not like large temperature swings.  It prefers cold nights and warm days.  Someone failed to email Mother Nature and tell her an 80* day followed by a 28*/sleeting night is not good for my broccoli.  She also didn't get the memo that several 60* nights in a row are challenging as well.  
That said, I have no idea how Brenton at the CSA farm I volunteer at, grew such beautiful broccoli.  Well, I sort of have an idea.  He has amazing soil--river bottom soil.  He has full sun.  His temperatures are a little more moderate, because he's right next to the river.  It tends to run cooler at his place.  
Not that he doesn't have bolting problems as well.  Yesterday, while I was picking, I was also tossing.  He had an entire row (probably 100 plants), that had bolted.  It was a shame, but that's the gamble in gardening.

Pearl ate the extent of our broccoli crop for lunch today.  I will share my broccoli and cauliflower from Johnson's Backyard Garden with my church family.  We have a potluck on Sunday.
I'll either steam it at church or take my favorite broccoli salad.  Maybe both.

PS...I planted more Spinach in large planters today.  I moved the planters into full sun this time.  I'm learning. :)