Friday, November 26, 2010

After Thanksgiving Ride

My older sister came by for a visit and we went for a lovely short ride in the snow.

Ladybug is sporting Keith's new custom saddle that he finally got. It really looks good on her I think.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gagga for Grapes

Sometime last week a big rig broke down with a load of grapes and plums. My boss brought several cases of grapes to work with him. Everybody got what they wanted and that still left a full box that needed to be taken care of. Since no one else wanted it, I brought it home.

This is the box after it was all empty. As you can see it's sitting on a large dog kennel converted to hold our fire wood. This box of grapes weighted between 20-30 lbs. Yea that's a LOT of grapes.

So I spend the weekend juicing up all those grapes and making grape jelly.  I made 27 half pints and 2 pints of jelly. My neighbor came over yesterday afternoon to see if Keith could help him with some wiring on his truck and I passed off a half pint of jelly right away. I'm going to take some back to the people at work, but that still leaves us with quite a bit of jelly.  I guess Keith better start eating more grilled cheese sandwiches since he ALWAYS has grape jelly on the grilled cheese.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I'm sure that's what Miss Shy Ann thought this morning after her latest break out was discovered. If you haven't yet heard about the adventures of this Houdini mule, you should read up on some of her other stories such as:

Today's adventure is nothing unusually new for this hard working escape artist. I'm sure she enjoys herself greatly when she's hard at work figuring out new escape tactics.

I go out to feed and see this

That's right the mule has worked hard to pull out three of the 4 drop pins in the corral panels in order to plop that panel over and escape. Now to find everyone.

Yep that is certainly NOT where the critters are supposed to be! Rounding them up was pretty easy as all we had to do was shake an empty feed sack and almost everyone runs back into their designated pasture. Notice I say ALMOST everyone. That's because miss mule monster has decided that she's just not following the crowd today. 

First she decided to run down and chase the neighbors dog ( the black one in front of her)

Then she just needed a really GOOD roll!

Now she just had to say Hello to the neighbors!

Hey dude's How's it going? Oops gotta go Mom's after me!

Oh my I think I spy a bucket full of food. Get out of the way dog I'm coming through!
UMMM I think Dad's trying to trick me, but man that food smells good!
OK I guess my adventure is over for the moment, can we have breakfast now?

So that ends this chapter in the life and times of Houdini mule. More whenever the next escape attempt happens. 

Lame Duck Congress is ready to mess with your food

I have heard and had confirmed that Senate Bill S 510 the "Food Safety Modernization Act" is due to go for a cloture vote next week. Cloture can be filibustered, and Senator Coburn of Oklahoma has previously stated that he would do just that....But he will need help.

 In a nutshell, S510 is effectively NAIS for everything. It is a tremendous amount of additional enforcement (fines and penalties, license revocations, further license requirements, control over processes and harvest) are definite issues with the bill as it currently exists. However, not unlike the "Health Care" bill, they will have to pass this to see what it actually does.

 Here's why....In S 510, the FDA is instructed to follow all international agreements. One of the issues with international 'guidelines and standards' is "good agricultural practices". Well those are not necessarily good. Most GAP certifying bodies have checklists about 25 pages long for growers to follow. They all require traceability (ie. NAIS) they also require auditing, verifying and certifying the processes used to produce a consumable product for human or animal feed. Every step in GAP costs the grower of food money and a good deal of paperwork. What happens if you're better at growing food than filing forms? You will be penalized...
.ie more money. Sec 420 is exceptionally dangerous in my eyes. It subjects all farms that 'produce' milk to risk assessment and insurance.

 The idea that exemptions will be helpful is rose colored glasses thinking. Exemptions can easily be taken away or modified without Congressional oversight through the regulatory process. Most farmers aren't watching the Federal Register like hawks.

 The FDA has plenty of authority to protect the anonymous food supply already. But they don't. Instead, they put small entities out of business through HACCP (also to be expanded in this bill) and heavier regulations that are not helpful to smaller economies of scale. The FDA inspects less than 1% of imported produce, has performed inspections on less than 25% of processing facilities that they are authorized to inspect (in a five year period) and they ALREADY have authority over live food animals on the farm. The USDA authority is over animal disease.

 Please, call your Senators and tell them to go with Coburn on stopping this bill from coming to the floor. Coburn has a list of objections and concerns with the bill listed on his website:

 Send that to your Senator's office, and tell them we don't need another drop of regulation from an agency who has told us we don't have the right to eat foods of our choice.

 BTW, I am sending this out there asap, and if you want back up on my statements, you will need to download the newest version of the bill from thomas or govtrack and read my articles on I'm in a hurry, so please forgive my failure to give you the massively easy button. Here's the switchboard number for the senate:
(202) 224-3121

 Just ask yourself when's the last time the Feds gave highly expansive authority to an agency and it turned out to be good for freedom and good for the economy?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cat and the Dog

My sister had a stray cat show up at her house. Her dogs didn't get along with the kitty so she called me and asked if I wanted another cat. So I brought home the little Pipsqueak and she has settled in really well her. Poor Jazzy dog is totally perplexed. Catastrophy our old cat doesn't like dogs and tells them immediately from 10 Ft away. Pipsqueak on the other hand is totally different. She doesn't scare the dogs only reminds them when they get to rough with her. Little Pip is quite bold in her interactions with the dogs.

Here is her photo journal from Sunday morning. 

Wow the dog has a nice sunny spot to sleep.
 I think I'm going to sleep in the sun also.
 Step one: Distract the dog
 Step Two: draw the dog away from the sunny sleeping spot
 Step Three: Rush back to sunny sleeping spot and plop down.
 When dog tries to move you, clamp claws into face.
 Poor Jazzy crying " MOM she stole my sleeping spot!"
Jazzy finally settles for the next best thing. The edge of the nice warm sunny sleeping spot. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wood hauling

Well our wood hauling for the winter is now over. We've accumulated approximately 4 cords of wood. We will still have to cut down and split quite a bit, but we already have a good supply split and up in the barn.
Based on the way this winter is going, this 'stockpile' should last us a two full years.  We had to get a new chain saw this year because my old Sthil died.
I got a HuskyHusqvarna 455 Rancher 20-Inch 55-1/2cc 2-Stroke Gas-Powered Chain Saw. I'm still getting used to some of the Mechanical differences between the Sthil and the Husky, and we are still breaking in the Husky but it's not a bad saw.  When we go to gather wood, I operate the saw and cut down all the trees and Keith loads the truck. I usually help with the little logs after I'm done cutting things up.

 Here is our cutting and splitting area. This photo was taken before we hauled in another full chord yesterday so there's even more in there now.

This pile is a tree that was greener then the rest and so we split it down so that It can dry faster. We keep it separate so we can put it out in a different area to dry. It will be perfect for use next winter. 

And here is the split and stacked in the barn pile. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sunday ACTHA Ride

Sunday's ACTHA ride was also the Halloween Costume contest. I didn't officially dress up for this ride as I was more interested in staying warm and comfortable enough to finish the course. Next year however I just might dress up.  There were some really awesome costumes through out the ride. Lots of people did a great job to dress up.

I was really pleased with Ladybug working the obstacles on this ride. We completed all seven obstacles and did quite well even with the blowing wind. The weather was a bit colder and the wind was pretty strong most of the day.  But I grew up knowing that here in New Mexico, If you don't ride in the wind, you never really get to ride because the wind blows so much.

 The first obstacle of the day was the mailbox obstacle. At our first ride in June, I didn't complete this obstacle, but today we did. We were to walk up to the mailbox, open the door and get out an object on a stick, then ride over to a post and place that object in the hope on the post. We got scores of a 6 and a 7. It wasn't a perfect run and we need more practice, but it still was a good run.

The second obstacle was to cross a tarp. They had the tarp all weighted down with pumpkins all around it. All we needed to do was walk across it. The wind was blowing and made the tarp edges flap and move quite a bit. Ladybug looked at it as it flapped and hesitated, but finally stepped right on out and over that tarp.  We scored a 7 and an 8 on it.

Our third obstacle was a vine simulator.  We practiced at home with a bunch of hay bale twines hanging between two trees, but what they had was more like a ripped up plastic banner of some sort.  It also didn't help that the wind was flapping that around really hard when we got there because one of the parts almost popped Ladybug in the nose as we headed in to walk through it.  Ladybug decided she wasn't going to walk right into that screen, but she walked close up to the side of it. I'm not sure how a plastic banner can really simulate vines, but overall we got a decent score. Ladybug got a 6 for not totally freaking out and I got a rider score of 8.

Obstacle 4 was to cross a wooden bridge, My division was to dismount before we started, lead the horse across the bridge and then mount up and head out.  Ladybug did awesome! She quietly followed me across that bridge like she'd had done it a million times, but we've never actually practiced this one either. I messed up when I went to get back on and got the reins hung up for a few seconds on her bride as I was preparing to get on. So Ladybug got a score of a 10 and I got an 8.

Obstacle 5 was the noise obstacle. We usually do really good on this one. Ladybug is used to all kinds of noises. We are supposed to place the horse inside a square and they use some sort of noise device to test the horses reaction to the noises. This time was the first time they walked all the way around the horse. Ladybug didn't move her feet, but followed the lady with noise maker with her head.  She wasn't spooked by the noise, but I'll bet she was wondering why that person was walking around in circles around her. We scored an 8 and a 9 on this one. 

As we were leaving the noise obstacle, Lisa from Laughing Orca blog got a photo of us beside the spooky ghost dude at the end of the obstacle. Ladybug was on alert to see if it was going to eat her, but she did fine with it.  Thank you Lisa for this pretty photo.

Obstacle 6 had us walk over some logs to a point near the opening of an L-back. At the L back my division only had to complete the first part of the back. I had a little bit of difficulty getting Ladybug set up for the back, but as soon as we got straightened out we did great. Total score there was a 7 and a 9. Not bad.

Our final obstacle was a trot transitions.  We started out at the beginning in a posting trot, transition down to a sitting trot at the first flag, then transition to a walk near the end and walk on off. The whole while trotting over a bunch of little logs in the path. We did fairly well there and scored a 7 and 7.

Over all the day was awesome and with the completion of all the obstacles, we managed to finish just out of the money in 7th place. I was extremely excited. That's our highest place score yet.

After the ride during the awards ceremony, there was another raffle. One of the rescue's volunteers built a beautiful wooden saddle stand.   When I saw the raffles that were offered, I decided to donate $50 total to the cause. I really wanted the Easy boots that I won on Saturday so I put in $30 towards them. The other $20 I put on the saddle stand. Well guess whats now in my tack room holding up my antique sidesaddle right now. Yep you guessed, it's that awesome saddle stand.

It really was a great weekend and I had a very good time. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Riding on Halloween

Walkin N Circles equine rescue ranch has been holding several ACTHA rides As a way to earn money to help support their rescued horse population. These ACTHA have two benefits, they give organizations a way to earn money and they give people like me a place to bring my horses to compete and have fun.

ACTHA rides are set up to be a one day one competition ride. So when an organization hosts two days of rides, that means it will be two separate competitions with two separate chances to have fun and attempt to bring home some money.

So Saturday was the first competition of the weekend. The weather was beautiful with a fairly light wind and sunny.

Our first obstacle was a water crossing. Instead of a nice clear stream, they found an old, stinky cattle stock pond being fed by a really creaky noisy wind mill. Quite a few horses weren't to fond of that stinky stock pond and the deep mud on the edges. Even Ladybug was thinking something along the lines of "ARE you CRAZY" but after a few seconds of convincing, she stepped right on off into that pond and on to the other side. It quite surprised me that she'd do that since she's pretty much refused to do it here at home several times. She scored a 7 mostly for the hesitation and I got a rider score of 9. That was a pretty good start to our ride.

The second obstacle was a weave trot through a set of cones. But to make it a bit harder, the ride management found these little scarecrows on sticks to place in each cone. Ladybug didn't even bat an eye at this one. We started out and smoothly went through the whole course of cones with no problem. We each got a perfect 10 on this with a plus each. It was our best obstacle of the day.

The third obstacle was to open a gate and ride through. Pretty simple and easy, Ladybug did hesitate for a second as we approached the gate, but she still scored a 9 and I got a rider score of 10.

The next two obstacles we didn't do good at all on. But I guess when you don't practice, you can't expect good results. I"d only seen obstacle 4 on the website but hadn't developed an obstacle at home yet. It's called a pinwheel. You need two barrels and one 2x4 board with a rope handle on one end. You set up the two barrels so that the board lays across both of them. Then you ride your horse up to the rope handle on the board and pick up that end of the board and walk all the way around the two barrels without dropping the board off the barrel. Once you make a full circle, you place the handle end back on the barrel you took it off of. Definately not an easy obstacle. I dropped the board off the barrel almost as soon as I picked up the rope end. So we ended up with zeros on that obstacle.

Obstacle #5 was also one of my bad obstacles. We had to drag a bag of cans from one barrel to the other barrel. My biggest problem was actually reaching the rope on the barrel in the first place. Once I got a hold of the rope, I managed to drag the bag to the second barrel, but we ran out of time and didn't get the obstacle completely finished. another set of complete zeros.

Obstacle #6 was the Slicker and Hat pick up. You had to ride your horse to the first post where the Slicker was hanging, take the slicker off the post and lay it across your horses neck. once you have the slicker, the judges assistant hands you a stick to use to pick up the hat from the ground. Ladybug and I completed this all quite well and we started to ride off to the second post to place the hat and slicker back on. Almost to the second post the slicker starts to fall off the horses neck so I reach to grab it to prevent it from falling and disqualifying me. Seems that must have been some sign of weakness to the judge because the slicker was falling off the side away from him. I was able to complete this obstacle in the time frame and based on the full ride scores, I was one of only 11 riders out of the 31 in my division who was able to complete it. No one else in my group was able to complete it. My only issue with the obstacle was the judges score. Ladybug got a 5 and I got a 4 on the rider score. Based on our performance and the fact that only 1/3 of all riders at the event were even able to complete this obstacle I don't agree at all with the judges score. Ladybug and I were not even able to touch the slicker at our first event in July and at this one we were able to complete both the slicker pick up and the hat pick up. I can't protest the score, but I do know we were better than the below average score we were given.

Obstacle #7 our last obstacle was a trot into a box and stop at the flag and turn around and trot back out. I think I rode past the marker a little bit, but we completed the obstacle and got 7's each. So it was a fairly good job for us.

Our overall placing was 19th out of 31 riders for this days competition. Still not to bad considering we blew two obstacles completely. After the ride at the awards ceremony, they also help a raffle for a pair of donated easy boots and a container of hoof supplement. I bought three tickets at $10.00 each and won! So at least I won something.

I'm still waiting on some ride photos and will post them as soon as I get them 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Busy Lately

I've been seriously crazy busy here lately. We have been hauling wood almost every weekend for our winter heating supply. The only reprise from wood hauling was this past weekend when I took Ladybug to an ACTHA competition.  On top of all that I've been having issues with my glasses. I broke my nose piece off my glasses so it's been hard to concentrate on my typing. I'm headed to the eye Dr. tomorrow for an exam and to find a new pair of glasses.  I'll post more about our trail riding adventures after I get home tomorrow and the eye dilation stuff wears off..