Monday, October 13, 2014

My First Experience with a Bad Boy

We met briefly on a warm summer afternoon.  It was a quick introduction but Bad Boy's (BB) sleek build and heavy muscle made my heart beat a little faster.  My hands itched with the desire to touch BB again.  In other words, I couldn't wait for our next encounter.

Over the next few weeks, I often thought of my BB and how we would get along.   When the fateful day came, I quickly realized that I had no difficulty getting BB to respond to my first inept attempts.   We were in sync in several ways but BB just could not complete the most important task.  I was frustrated and I tried not to feel angry. 

After BB's checkup and proper treatment, we gave it another try.  Again, BB was incredibly responsive to my touch and rose to the occasion. Success, however, eluded me again.  All my years of experience were failing me.  I guess I was going to have to go back and read as much as I could on the subject. 

Yesterday, I felt BB and I were ready.  I climbed on top and began pulling and pushing different parts until I felt BB vibrating beneath me.  When we reached a steady rhythm, I gave a final push.  I was elated that we at last were in complete harmony!!

In no time, I had the front lawn mowed.

Oh wait, did I fail to mention that the Bad Boy is the brand name of my new lawn mower??

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Whack! Wednesday

This blog post is aptly named since after nearly three years of riding, I fell off Queenie.  Whack!  Right on my back.  Luckily, I wasn't hurt.

I always say that if something bad has to happen, I hope that I at least get a good story out of it.  Well, my fall is one heck of a story.

Zoe and I took our girls out the gate in the back pasture for a ride through Rachel Carson Park.  It was a beautiful fall afternoon and we were enjoying a casual ride.  At about the halfway point on the trail, a fallen tree formed an arch across the trail.

The tree looks exactly like this only much closer to the ground

Zoe and Deja followed a narrow path around the tree.  But Deja made a significant deposit on the path and Queenie decided she didn't want to step in it.  She turned and walked right under the tree.  She had no problem fitting but I was going to hit the tree at waist level.

In the split second that it took Queenie to get half of her body under the tree, I apparently took complete leave of my senses.  I grabbed the tree and pushed against it as Queenie continued walking.  I didn't let go so before I knew it, I was lying on my back on Queenie's rump still clutching the tree.  I felt like I was part of a circus act.


As Queenie continued sauntering forward, I did not let go of that tree.  Perhaps after years of watching my daughter compete in gymnastics, I thought I could just swing my legs over the tree, jump down and salute the judges.

Did not happen.  Instead, I rolled slightly, fell off Queenie and hit the ground.  I confess that in that one second between leaving Queenie's back and eating dirt, I thought, "Oh shit.  This is gonna hurt."  Zoe had no idea all of this was going on behind her until she heard the "thunk" when I made contact with the ground.

I laid there for a minute stunned and staring up at the sky.  The first thing I said to Zoe was, "do you have Queenie?"  As I slowly rolled up, I started laughing at how ridiculous I must have looked in the 30 seconds it took for the whole grab-the-tree, lie-on-Queenie's back, hit-the-ground event to occur.  Where is a camera when you need one? 

I credit my safety vest and helmet with preventing serious injury.  I only have a few scrapes and bruises on my arms.  I thought I might be sore today from the impact, but I'm not.

Oddly enough, even though I was wearing heavy boots, I must have jammed the toes on my right foot when I hit the ground.  I don't think anything is broken, but two toes are bruised and I'm limping a bit.

I don't think that I will be wearing the high-heeled shoes that I had picked out to wear to a wedding this weekend.

The old adage is that you have to fall off a horse three times before you are considered an experienced rider.  I hope that I can count the two times that Queenie decided to lie down and roll while I was in the saddle (read about those adventures here and here) plus my "Whack! Wednesday" event and call it done.

In the meantime, today I will ....

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Old Boots, New Dirt

I borrowed the title of Jason Aldean's new album for this blog post because it describes the major change in my life so perfectly.  I just finished moving all my old boots (and a lot of other stuff I hadn't realized that I had stuffed into a two-room apartment over the past two years) to "new dirt"--my very own farm.

I've named it Copper Penny Farm because I wanted to honor Queenie.  She was the first step in making my dream of rural living come true.  When Queenie's coat was so shiny this summer, I started calling her "my beautiful copper penny."  Zoe thinks the farm's name also is appropriate because it's costing me a pretty penny!!

View of the front pasture

One of two pastures on the side of the barn 

I still pinch myself that my life-long dream has come true.  The farm is a stone's throw from the barn where I lived and boarded Queenie.  My farm is 7.6 acres and is absolutely perfect for me.  There are five pastures, a two-stall barn and a run in.  A gate in the back pasture provides direct access to the many trails of Rachel Carson Park
The trail in Rachel Carson Park that's right outside the gate in my back pasture.

Queenie will be joined on the new farm by Zoe's horse, Deja and Saiph's horses, Lily and Gracie.  The accommodations are perfect because Queenie and Deja have always been in stalls while Lily and Gracie have been fieldboarded.
Queenie in her new stall
Deja in her new stall
Lily and Gracie in one of the fields

I moved in two weeks ago and the first task was to clean out the barn which had been empty for a couple of years.  Zoe, Saiph and I grabbed masks and brooms and went to work removing the thick dust and spider webs that seemed to cover every surface. 

Zoe spraying a Clorox mixture in the stalls

Zoe and Saiph took a break from getting rid of cobwebs to clear out other things from the barn

I also got my first look at dirt daubers--a type of wasp that builds their nests out of mud.  The empty nests were on the walls of the stalls and, luckily were easily scraped off with a shovel.

Black and yellow mud dauber

Dirt dauber nests are made of mud

Removing the dirt daubers from the stalls

Kayla, of course, was our tiny helper

Zoe taking a much-needed break for lunch (which Kayla felt she should share)
One of the big concerns I had was how to get hay delivered to the barn since it's located behind the house and isn't easily accessible by vehicle.  As a test, I drove my truck through the side yard and  pasture.  Problem solved  (as long as it's dry, that is)!!!

Once clean, it became a masterful feat of organization to get all of the horse paraphernalia belonging to three people and four horses to fit in the small barn.  I had spent hours looking at all the beautiful barns and many ideas for storing tack, etc. on Pinterest.  I had big ideas but I quickly found out that a limited budget and small space means my barn won't be featured in the pages of Better Barns and Pastures.

Before photos

The owner left this tack which I'll donate to Day's End Horse Rescue

The barn was set up for two horses so I needed to acquire additional saddle racks, bridle brackets, etc.  Luckily, I volunteer one day a week at the Day's End Horse Rescue tack shop.  I bought much of what I needed there for a fraction of the cost of new items. 

After photos

There is no way, however, to scrimp on the cost of hay.  Our horses are used to high-quality hay so I ordered from the same farm as the owner of the boarding barn.  I suffered from major sticker shock, though, when 250 bales of hay and five bales of alfalfa cost nearly $2,000!!

Cleaning out the loft before the hay delivery

Who knew grass (at least the non-smoking kind) was so valuable?

250 bales fit perfectly in the hay loft

Even though I lived on a horse farm for nearly two years, I feel like I'm standing at the bottom of the learning curve when it comes to owning a farm and running a boarding operation.  I'm lucky to have Zoe and Saiph as boarders since both are very knowledgeable about horses.

Count on many blog postings about how and what I've learned as I charge forward into living my farm dream.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pest Control--Barn Style

One of my favorite farm chores is to feed and care for the barn cats, our little mousers.       

Flossie (aka "The Floss") is always busy.  She'll come when you call, let you pet her for a few     minutes and then she's off to patrol the farm for a mouse or two that she can decapitate and leave at my front door.  That's how I know she loves me. 

Priscilla is our shy cat.  It took her many months before she would even venture out of her hiding places.  In the two years since we got her, she has become much more comfortable with people.  She likes to lie under the table where the barn ladies gather to chat.  If you call her, she will meow loudly, wanting attention and petting.

Mousing, however, is not her thing.  She spends her days in the feed room lying in the bed on top of the cabinets.  We often see only a foot or two hanging over the edge of the bed until dinner time.

Zuzu is our "I'd really rather live in the apartment" barn cat.  I'll admit that she has me well trained.  She scratches at the door and I let her in so she can spend the evening lying on my bed or on the back of the sofa.

And I can't talk about our barn cats without mentioning Bootsie.  She liked people but had no time at all for the other cats.  She was sure the main barn was her domain and loudly protested if the other cats entered.   Sadly, Bootsie was killed by three dogs who came to the farm with their owner.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Knocking Some Sense into Myself

I had a mild concussion last week.  Before I tell you how it happened, let me just say that it was so
incredibly stupid that I asked my Facebook friends to help me come up with a more interesting story.  There were so many excellent suggestions that I couldn't choose just one.  Instead, I combined them into one brilliant and incredibly believable (not!) explanation for my injury.  And here it is:

I was having hot sex on a bucking horse that slipped on ice from an ice bucket challenge while being attacked by a cougar.  

Okay, now it's time to sheepishly admit what really happened.  I slipped getting out of bed (I was holding my chihuahua, Kayla) and hit my head on the corner of the nightstand. So now you understand why I needed a much more interesting story.

When I fell, I didn't lose consciousness right away but rather when I tried to go down the stairs a few minutes later.  I woke up to my find my chihuahua, Kayla lying comfortably on my stomach.  Glad I could be of service to her in my hour of need.

I laid down on the sofa for awhile and felt better so I didn't go to the hospital.  Over the next few days, I continued to have a slight headache and I was worried about riding again without having my brain checked.

I went to a nearby HeadFirst Sports Injury & Concussion Care Center, fully expecting the doctor to tell me that I was being ridiculous and there was nothing wrong with me.  A quick exam (touching my finger to my nose, trying to put one foot in front of the other and walk in a straight line), she said, "Yes, you do have a concussion."  She also told me that they no longer do CT scans for possible concussions because 1 in 2,000 patients will develop a brain tumor from the test.

With the concussion, I couldn't walk the line. 

Instead, I had to sit at a computer and take the 30-minute ImPACT test that measures verbal and visual memory, processing speed, and reaction time to a 1/100th of second.  The six modules of the test are designed to assess attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non-verbal problem solving and reaction time.

Personally, I think the test is designed to make the user feel like a complete idiot.  I don't think I could have done any better before my concussion.

The first module of the test focuses on "word discrimination."   Twelve words flash on the screen for about two seconds each.  The words are shown a second time.  The program shows pairs of words and ask which one of each pair was part of the series.  That happened about 25 times.  Okay, not so bad.  I got 100%.  I'm feeling pretty good about myself.  A little old concussion couldn't stop my high-powered brain!

The next module tested "design memory."   The sample showed a different design (aka squiggle) on each of three pages and I had to (try to) memorize them.  No problem.  I aced the practice test.  I was ready for the real thing.

And then one by one, 20 different squiggles flashed on the screen.  WTF?   I was supposed to be able to remember one from the other?  Yes.  The test consisted of two similar designs per page and I was expected to choose which of the squiggles was shown earlier.   Concussion or not, it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.

I was feeling discouraged.  The next few modules were fairly easy.  One module, for example, tested response time.  If a red square flashed on the screen, I was supposed to press Q; a blue circle, press P.  Pretty easy except if I tried to do it really fast, my fingers would get twitchy and I'd hit the wrong key by accident.

The next module was another brain muddler.  There were eight shapes on the screen numbered one through eight.  A shape would appear on the screen and I had to press the corresponding number.  No problem since they left the shape and number key on the screen--until it disappeared.  Then I had to remember which number was assigned to each shape.  Oh brother.

After completing all of the modules, the squiggles reappeared.  I was supposed to remember which ones were shown 20 minutes earlier?!?  The screen flashed "INCORRECT" in red every time I got a wrong answer.  Needless to say, there was a lot of red.

When the test was over, I went back to see the doctor who nicely said, "I would like to see you do better on the test.  Come back when your headaches end and take the test again."

I'll take the test again the next time I have a concussion.

If you would like the challenge of taking the test (and the opportunity to feel stupid), go here and scroll down to Section 3: Baseline and Post-injury Neurocognitive Tests.