Monday, July 27, 2020

Five Times in A Row

This weekend was the first time since March of last year that I rode five days in a week, and five days in a row. Wednesday was a short ride of only about ten minutes due to the sudden storm that blew in while I was riding with a friend in the outdoor arena. We went from pretty warm but overcast to so much dust we could barely see the barn in about 30 seconds. Ashke and I had just started our canter work and as we turned our circle toward the barn we were met with a chest high tumbleweed that hadn't been there two seconds before. Ashke did a bizarre movement that seemed to be a jump, shy, stop thing as it hit his chest, which was so awkwardly funny that I burst out laughing until I heard my friend say something behind me. I turned around and she was stock still on her 16.3h Friesian. I could tell she wasn't comfortable and starting to panic a little at the conditions. I swung down off Ashke and walked over to grab the horse, who in his defense did not move a single muscle despite the weather conditions, which had added lightning to the mix. He stood stock still until his rider was on the ground. I never worry about Ashke, since I know that I can ride anything he is going to do, because I also know he would never try to hurt me. I don't have that confidence in other horses, but this time, the big guy stepped up and took care of his mom.

I rode Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was very good, even though that was basically the only thing I did on the weekend. The rest of the time was spent doing nothing: I mean, I read, watched some TV, cooked, did dishes, watered the lawn, picked veggies. But no projects. I'm feeling tired, which I think is stemming from depression. I spend a lot of time alone. I'm not lonely, per say, but I am alone. This feeling is pretty familiar, since it is how I have been feeling for years and years now, however, even when I was feeling alone with my ex, there was another person to talk to about meals, or house cleaning, or grocery shopping. Some interaction. I was expecting an end to that feeling sometime this year, but Covid has other plans.

Anyway. it was a quiet weekend, with only riding as my source of excitement.

One of the things we have been working on is changes where Ashke keeps his body straight through the change. He's gotten so much better and is no longer swinging around a corner and throwing his body into the change without waiting for me to ask. Now, he waits and tries to give it to me when asked instead of improvising. Along that goal, we routinely work on tempi changes, which were exceedingly challenging when we first started, but have now slowed down enough mentally that I am able to count strides. When I sit up, look up, and swing with the motion, they are pretty cool.

Not too shabby.

Sunday, we were practicing and when we got to the far end of the arena, he suddenly started throwing changes everywhere. I brought him to a halt and conversationally asked him WTF, dude? Amanda's mom, who had been watching us, started laughing and explained that Laz was coming around the corner toward us and Ashke was reacting to him. They really act like rival stallions in the barn and neither of them really like the other. Ashke is the only other gelding in the barn working on the kind of things that Laz routinely does (he is a FEI Grand Prix horse). 

Monday, July 20, 2020


I took Thursday off to help T with his new motorcycle. He purchased it the end of May with my help and it was delivered a couple of days later. The first day it was dropped off, he drove it from the trailer to the front of the garage, over balanced and dropped it. This is pretty common for motorcycles and something that happens. He was pretty bummed because it bent the handlebar. Not enough to make it hard to ride, but enough to be annoying. Then he started riding it - mostly in the neighborhood and then further out just to get used to the bike. A couple of weeks ago, I threw the dogs in the truck and followed him to a rec center that had a big parking lot because he wanted to learn to rev-match when downshifting. We got to the parking lot and he waved me over. He said the handlebar felt "loose" and he was afraid it was going to break. He drove straight home, pulled the bike into the garage and two minutes later the handlebar broke. We think, in retrospect, that it had been damaged in an earlier fall, which is what caused it to bend when it tipped over in our driveway. They aren't supposed to do that from tipping over slowly from a stand still. The faring did have marks on it showing it had been dropped in the past.

 It's Yamaha R6

Anyway, we were very thankful that he was safely home when it happened. He ordered the part online, had it shipped to a nearby dealership and then had to wait a week to get it into the shop. Thursday was the day and so we headed to the Uhaul dealership to rent a motorcycle trailer bright and early. Then we had to stop and pick up rachet straps to attach the bike to the trailer. It was a little scary to load the bike minus the handlebar, but we managed, got it strapped down incorrectly and headed to the dealership. The bike fell in the trailer about the time we hit the highway and T fumed the entire way to the dealership. Luckily for me, the bike wasn't damaged and we learned a valuable lesson in tying down a bike.We unloaded, dropped the trailer back off at Uhaul, grabbed food and then went back down to get the bike. T was exceedingly pleased that "Shark" was back in one piece and rideable. He did a good job navigating some pretty hairy traffic and not great roads. His confidence is growing, he drives very defensively, doesn't take it out during rush hour and has demonstrated his growing ability to handle the bike. I feel like he is as careful as he can be on a motorcycle in Denver.

I did a half lesson after that adventure, which I detailed in my last post.

Friday, I stayed home and canned. I bought a bushel of green beans (30 lbs for $30) and spent Friday cutting beans, stuffing jars and running them through the pressure canner.

 It's a lot of green beans.

 I know why people don't can very much any more. This is one of the most labor intensive things I've ever done.

50 jars of canned green beans.
Just call me the Lesbian Prepper

Saturday morning, I went to Circle Star Arena and helped with the schooling show they had. I was masked and socially distanced the entire time. I was the gate/paddock steward and there were only 11 rides for the day. The only bad thing was the temps. It was over 90 by 10 am and a high of 97. I kept dunking my mask and hat into the cooler of ice, which helped for the length of an EOH ride. The final EOH ride happened at about 1 pm. I said my goodbyes and headed for the barn where I said hi to Ashke, stuffed his face with carrots and then headed home.

It was just too hot to ride.

I spent the rest of the day making my world famous Sweet and Spicy Sauce and jarring 20 of them for the year. I did it a little different this time (third time is the charm) and ran everything through the blender prior to cooking. I like the flavor and texture of this most current batch. And I have 26 pints of it on my shelf. 

So much happiness in little jars

I woke up thinking I would ride on Sunday, but when I got to the barn I remembered that the hay was being delivered. So, I emptied our hay area, raked all of the moldy and bad hay out from under the pallets, rearranged the pallets so that there was room for the new hay, and hauled out all of the nasty stuff. Then I went to lunch. By the time we had eaten lunch, the hay had arrived, so we got it unloaded and stacked in the area. All of that while wearing a mask. Mine had the added benefit of screening out the hay dust and mold, making the abuse my lungs were taking a bit less than it could have been. I would never have thought to put on a face covering, under normal circumstances. 

Organized and neat.
There were no baby bunnies in the nest I destroyed under one of the pallets.
It was way too hot and I was pretty darn miserable, so Ashke got turned out with Kat to play.

Random moments
 You would think the one with all the fur would be too hot to lay in the sun.

 I can't tell if Boo thinks she's a dog, or if she just believes that all things belong to her.

 Maya snuggling her kitten.


Boo is laying across my chest in this video.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Half Lesson

My watch said it was 97 in the indoor arena today. Amanda looked like she was melting slowly into the sand and I had a river of sweat running down my sides. Ashke thought he would like to just stand and let us talk, instead of moving. We opted for a half lesson due to me being a wimp.

Amanda has me working on a new exercise. We trot shoulder-in and then I shift Ashke's hip to the inside step and straighten his body. Then back to shoulder in. It's difficult to keep the horse from wanting to move his shoulders out instead of stepping in, or swinging his hip in an overly exaggerated move. It takes a lot of work on my part to be subtle enough to have him step in without overswinging his hip or me losing control of his shoulder.

We worked on square corners in both directions, asking him to remember to be round and listen to my ask. He did better today, not trying to throw his butt to the inside, nor spinning to the inside. He stayed straight through his body.

Next we worked on changes in the serpentine and I really focused on keeping him straight before and after the change and resting my hands on the pommel during the changes. My interference with my hands is throwing off his timing. By anchoring my hands, I'm not fucking with him during the change. It's been very helpful and he is getting so much better. His change from right lead to left is still just a hair off, but Amanda and I can live with it. She's afraid that this might just be how he changes from right to left. It feels so much better, that I don't care that he is a half-step behind in his change in the back.

We finished up with half-pass at the canter, with a change to half circle and back.

Amanda thinks the hitch in that change just might be limited by his physical injuries.
I'm okay with it though.

And some random images from the past couple of days:

 Outside and the hawks be damned!

T wouldn't let her lay with him so she did the next best thing

 Weds walk-about
Skeptical horse isn't sure about the golfing happening in the field nextdoor.

 This is the look one gives the white and green bench!!

She is just flat out cool.

Monday, July 13, 2020


  Just as a cautionary tale, twelve squash plants may be a few to many. That is a single day's harvest. I am going to have to find a food pantry that will take home produce.

Pic from our ride on Saturday.


 So opinionated.

Part 2 of the facelift in my kitchen.
I am doing it in segments so as not to complete overwhelm myself.

In the evening, once the shade has covered the patio, I let Boo out to explore.
She really wants to play in the garden, but I really need Maya to protect her from the Cooper's Hawk living in the tree directly above the garden.

She loves being outside.

She also loves Maya, but sometimes she doesn't want to put her head in Maya's mouth.

 Drill Team practice

 Noosh, the largest animal in the group, with the slowest walk, is in the middle.
Ernie wasn't as happy to be in the group or on the very outside.

 Shuffled to put Ernie on the inside.
Kat, on the outside, has a huge walk, so she was happy.

Saturday, July 11, 2020


Thursday night I had a lesson. I had been warming up and practicing changes. Ashke has been very sticky in the change from right to left and so I asked Amanda for the dressage whip they had been using in the lesson prior to mine. She grinned, handed it to me and said, "keep it in your right hand and just give him a tap in time with the aid." I did it exactly as directed and Ashke tried to bolt, didn't change and threw his head straight up in the air.

He was pissed and very animated for the rest of the lesson, even though I handed the whip off to Amanda. She made the comment that his trot was very floaty. He was really pissed. Amanda had me anchor my hands to the pommel of my saddle as we went into the change, which actually made the change much better. I am getting in his way with my hands at some point in the process. She directed me to hold my hands still and let him figure out how to do the change without my opinion getting mixed up in things.

Today, I practiced one-handed (with my non-dominant hand). I have video that I will share below. We aren't nearly straight enough, he needs to lead just a little more with his shoulder in our half-pass, and he definitely needs to relax through the poll. However, all of that said, his changes felt so much better and everything you see was off my seat.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Wordless Wednesday (Almost)

We did a ride around the big field next to the barn (one big city block)
He seemed to enjoy the ride

This was about five minutes after a firework exploded into the air a couple hundred yards away from us. He spooked at the noise, spun to try and figure out where it was coming from, and then settled at a word from me. I sure do love this horse.


The skyline and setting sun leaving the barn.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Covid Catch Up

Because Lytha requested it:

This year has been a real struggle on so many levels. Let me start by saying we are all fine, staying as safe as it is possible with the plethora of covidiots running around without masks. The big challenge has been figuring out how to deal with the social isolation of a viral pandemic where the virus is easy to transmit via casual interaction and zero contact. Plus, we can add the American benefit of some of the population believes this is a hoax, not serious, not deadly (or at least not deadly to those of us they value), and somehow wearing a mask has come to determine: 1) masculinity, 2) white power, 3) libtard vs conservative, 4) level of stupidity (which is argued on both sides about the other) and 5) potential risk of mortality or brain damage due to increasing the CO2 levels you are breathing (which I would say you are already dealing with if this is a serious concern of yours).

America may be the reason we cease to exist as a species.

On behalf of my country, I apologize.

So, here goes:

1. Ashke has a melanoma

In front of his right ear. It has been there since 2014, when I thought it had been caused by a barn worker twisting his ear and damaging the cartilege. In May, it doubled in size overnight the day before we did hock injections. Doc took a look, stuck a needle in it and declared it a melanoma.

Other ear for comparison. 

I walked around for a couple of days in a complete depressive episode, crying my heart out on the inside. I was at the barn and feeling so sad. Ashke pinned his ears and snapped at me. He didn't come close, but it was enough to get my attention. He told me very clearly and concisely that I was not to grieve for him. The melanoma was a long way from his heart and he wasn't fucking dying. I needed to fucking stop. That was enough to snap me out of it. Hopefully, the growth will stop and nothing else will happen with it for a long time.

 His ear no longer goes all the way forward, though. The melanoma is too involved with the structure of the ear for surgery (and I have no reserves to spend on surgery, so anything that potentially might happen will have to resolve with minimal costs). 

We are working on riding all of the dressage things one handed. He still needs the support of two hands for some of the canter work, but we are getting closer every day. He is learning to figure out the canter pirouette and most of our work is off my seat and legs (this is helped by riding one handed since I stay out of his way better). Our flying changes are still a work in process. He is so good switching to the right, but I still struggle to get out of his way biomechanically going to the left. 

One of these days we will haul out and ride. We both need it. The only thing keeping me stuck at the barn is the potential for mishap and what happens if either of us are injured. Some day it will be safe to take risks again, but for now we are making do. I am riding either three or four days a week right now. No competitions, since my budget no longer includes show fees. I figure by the time we find the ring again, we will be competing one handed at whatever level we decide to ride at.

2. If you need to be stuck in isolation during a pandemic, having a new-to-you house is always helpful.

Maya sitting under the sprinkler.
She is such a doll.

I don't know if you remember my yard, but it was an empty dirt patch when I moved in. This was early April and some green was beginning to grow. I don't care what kind of green it is (dandelions, morning glory, scraggly weeds of indeterminate origin) I just wanted it to grow to cover the ground. It has been a delight to see it spread out to cover the dirt. It has gotten even thicker since I seeded it with white clover and added a bit of fertilizer. I am hopeful that by the fall it will be established solid enough that next year it won't need so much water. I plan to seed in the fall and do a fall fertilizer to help sustain the viability, while taking advantage of the snow and moisture we should get. 

I covered the inside of the fence with ply, 4' x 8'. The fence needs to be replaced at some point in the future, but for now, this blocks Lily from being able to see through to the neighbors backyard and try and eat the dogs that live there. She still barks, but only about 1/8th as much, and she is no longer bouncing the fence with her front feet in a very effective method of trying to knock the pickets out. 

As you can see, we have patchy green, made more so by the battle I am waging against the Canada thistle that seems to want to grow. I am using boiling water poured over the leaves to kill them back. It is a lot of work, but I think I am mostly winning. Mostly.

There were two sheds on the property when I moved in. One is a wooden shed with tight walls and a locking door. The other was this rusted out heap shown above filled with objects and items that really should have been tossed before we moved in. My plan has been to remove this shed and clean up that area of the yard since we first saw the house. One Saturday in May we had a derecho come through. It was basically an earth bound squall line that lifted that shed up, twisted it around and dropped it back in my yard. (Our neighbor's shed ended up a couple of houses away). That was enough motivation to remove the shed.

It took T and I five hours to tear it apart. Some of the screws came out, some had to be hammered apart and in some places the metal ripped like paper. We got it taken down and stacked for disposal without either of us being hurt. The dirt pile next to it, that looks like a compost pile, was actually grass clippings tossed over bags of garbage. Taking that hillock apart and getting the garbage out was a smelly mess and I am still picking pieces of plastic out of the yard as Maya continues to work her way through the spread out dirt. I did some research and ordered a Bagster from Amazon. It was big enough to hold all of the pieces and parts of the shed, including the rotted out wood from the floor, plus the last bags of straw from the spring raking of the yard. Then I scheduled a pick up, Waste management obliged and I am now debris free. Best time, energy and money spent on the house to date.

What that space looks like now.

The only drawback to removing the shed happened on this past Saturday. Our neighbor's dog was able to use a built in planter on the back side of the fence (directly behind where the shed sat) to scale the fence and come into our yard. Which I discovered at the same time my dogs did, moments after letting them out. That was a raging, snarling, crying mess of five minutes. Kudos to Tristan for hearing me scream his name (waking him from a deep sleep) because things could have been a lot worse without his help. We got Lily and Skittle in the garage, Maya wrangled into the house (she stood back and barked at the intruder and supported her sisters' murderous intent from afar) and the poor pup reassured. She is a border collie mix of some sort and much smaller than our dogs. Her owners came looking for her when they discovered she was out and reassured me they would fix the issue so she couldn't escape again, but I'm not sure she would try to get into the yard again, anyway. I don't think the experience was pleasant for her at all.

3. Meet Snips

Snips is a Bur Oak. When she is fully grown she will be 80' tall, with a 80' diameter crown and a trunk that will be 4' in diameter. She might not develop acorns until she is 35 - 40 years old, and with care could live to be 400 years old. Since I plan on dying in this house, she will outlive me by a couple of centuries. There is something amazing about planting a tree that will outlive you. And your child. And your child's children (if he has any). She was planted in hope for the future. There should be enough natural moisture that once she is established (this year) she should grow even if the rest of us come to an end. And I have a wonderful oak that I can sit under, talk to, cry on and anchor my future around. It is a gift.

4. Garden Space

This was my garden space last fall.

We put a fence in between the main yard and the garden area and started creating planting boxes. This has been somewhat of a struggle. What I discovered as I started to pry apart the mounds of dirt in this photo, was the piece of carpet (smaller mound) the dirt was piled on, and the larger mound is sitting on top of a huge tarp. The ground was incredibly hard as well so rather than fighting breaking it up and tilling it under, I decided to try a raised bed.

This is a picture of the patio and fire pit T and I built, but behind it you can see the raised beds and fence we put up.

The raised beds did not go as well as I had hoped. The bind weed growing up through the beds and around the multitude of plants is not easy or desired. I have one bed planted with tomatoes (20) and jalapenos (12) and one bed with yellow squash and cucumbers that are mostly thriving. Well, both the squash and tomatoes are taking over.

Tomatoes are the big bush looking things on the right and the squash is the big bushy things to the left.

The tomatoes and squash are loaded with fruit and I am just waiting for them to fully ripen before picking them. In the meantime, I really wanted to grow some green beans, so last weekend I converted one of the bind weeds beds into another raised bed, albeit a bit different.

The wood below should keep the weeds from growing up through the bed.
There are 130 bush beans planted and mulched inside.

T and I have talked and our long term plan is to remove the large pile of dirt that's still there, get the large blue tarp out from under, and build a water feature of some type in the space surrounded by lilac trees. So, I also planted eight lilacs in the area, against the fence. 

This thing was a stick when I got it in the mail. I misread the advert and thought I was ordering a 1.5'-2' lilac tree. It actually was 1.5"-2" stick with a few roots attached. Currently, about 8" tall with leaves. 

This one had two leaves when I received it. I planted two of them and although they are growing slowly, they are growing.

 The two bush things against the fence directly above the back of the chair are two more lilacs.
They cost me a ton of money, but they are thriving as well. I should have a wall of lilacs around this section of fence by next spring.

 Hard to see, but two french lilacs (a bit more open and less leafy) in this section.

5. Inside the House

 I started working on the kitchen.
I hated the yellow - it was dingy and almost mustard colored.

 Went with a turquoise for the wall behind the cabinets.
I have paint sitting in the garage for the cabinets and may get that project started this weekend. 
I will need to find a good clean color for the ceiling when I am done, but I need to decide on the living room colors before making that decision.

Large pot of homemade spaghetti sauce.
So very good.

 Used this to seal them into quart jars.

Canning is something my mom used to do every summer. I decided to do so as well. I have been teaching myself the art of food prep/storage and have been enjoying it. This is the primary reason I planted the tomatoes and green beans. I have put up my mom's world famous meat seasoning sauce, spaghetti sauce, raspberries (to put over ice cream) and some diced tomatoes. This process really fills some needs for me - cooking (which I love), food storage (kind of a left over desire from being raised Mormon) and prepping for the apocalypse. Regardless of what happens, I will have food.

I've also been doing puzzles while T and I watch our way through the entire Star Wars cinematic universe. If you are a Star Wars fan and have not watched the Clone Wars, you should do so. The series really fleshes out what happened between The Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

6. New Animals

 Boo was a gift for my birthday from T last year.
She is fearless, fierce, demanding and independent.

 She and Maya have a special relationship.
I pretty sure that Boo believes Maya is her dog.

Maya doesn't seem to mind

I feel a lot better when Maya is with Boo in the yard, since Boo is a small cat and we have a hawk's nest in the tree to the west of our house. They have dive bombed her a couple of times. Maya acts as protection.

They hunt bugs together.

She is affectionate but on her terms.
I suspect her need to cuddle will increase once it is cold again.

 This is her ploy to keep me from going to work in the morning.
She will come up to me, chirp and smush her forehead against my lips for a kiss.

I spend a lot of time alone. I still do not want to date any one and the idea of being in a relationship is not something I am ready to deal with yet. This is not new to me and I am not struggling with it, but it can be lonely. I read a lot, play some Switch, cook, clean, mow and plant. The dogs have managed to train me to sleep on a sliver of my bed in order to make room for all three of them. I do struggle with finding the time and focus to blog. It just seems overwhelming sometimes. I try to minimize the stress and so it has fallen by the way side. It is also hard to keep blogging about riding circles in the arena. 

Hope you all (the readers that might be left) are staying home, staying safe and wearing masks. Find some activities that you enjoy and settle in. I think this thing is here for the long run. We should have made better/different/informed decisions and actions in January if we wanted any hope of containing this virus. Or even February, although there is plenty of evidence that some of the people in our govt were aware early on. It is both criminal and heartbreaking to be where we are now.