Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Monday, October 31, 2011

Geting ready for winter

I just looked at the weather forecast.  Within a week, our lovely highs in the mid-70's and lows in the mid 30's will have been replaced with highs in the 50's and lows in the 20's.

We will have had about a week and a half of autumn.  By this time next week, winter will have arrived.  I barely remember summer, autumn went by in the blink of an eye, and winter will be here.

So . . . it's time to clean last year's ashes out of the woodstove and fill up the woodbox (before the wood gets rained on this coming Friday and Saturday).  Time to turn off the water to the orchard and drain the water lines.  Time to winterize the garage bathroom and turn off the water there.  Time to take the timers off the barn faucet and have to start filling water buckets manually.  Time to get out the immersible water heaters and install them in the horse buckets, and get out the heated water bucket for the chickens and feral cats to use and set it up behind the pump house.  Oh, and time to plug in the heat lamp for the pumphouse (or get around to wrapping heat tape around a couple of pipes in there).

Time to rake the leaves that dropped three days ago and add them to the manure cart to be turned into compost by the guy down the road.  He's been taking my manure for four or five years now.

Time to get the gardener over to rake the last of the fallen apples from the orchard and add them to the manure trailer too.  Time to finish cutting down the tree that was hit by lightning a few years ago and cut it up for next year's firewood.  Time to then haul off all the piles of branches from earlier yard work to the brush pit a few miles away so they can be burned.

Time to dig out winter blankets for horses to use if it gets below 20 degrees.

Time to put that 300 gallon water tank I bought earlier this year into the alleyway in the barn between the stalls and fill it up.  Time to put the hose bib on it and be ready to use it to water horses in case I lose water sometime during the winter.  Time to coil up extra hoses and find a way to run the three I need to use above the ground so they don't get buried and frozen if it snows.

Time to find my vests and jackets and insulated gloves, and time to make sure each vehicle has emergency food and water in it.

Time to straighten up the leaning carport I park the truck under during snow season so I don't have to shovel snow off the windshield to use it. 

Time to put away the portable air conditioner and the window fans.  Time to plug in the heater in the garage that I turn on for the feral cats when it gets extremely cold.

And just about the time I get all the above done . . . or so it will seem . . . the first robin will appear and the cycle of life will begin again.  And it will be time to reverse all the above (except the leaning carport thing -- it can remain upright) and prepare for summer.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Different critters

I was in the house when my neighbor called me on the phone.  Usually she calls to tell me something is amiss with one of my animals, or my dog has showed up in her yard.  This time she described a huge bird with long legs that had flown over her head and landed on the topmost peak of my two-story garage. 

I grabbed the cell phone (the camera wasn't handy at the moment) and peeked out the back door over to the garage.  Perched there on the roof, looking down at the world, was this huge bird -- not sure if it was a crane or a heron.  No idea why he was here.  The nearest water is nine miles away.  I've never seen one here before.  I'm told we might be on the migration path for cranes though.

My guest and I went to the valley for a concert that night.  On the way home about 10:30 I was driving through the dark desert with only my highbeams to light the way.  I saw a shape in the road ahead and went for the brakes. It was a raccoon, waddling across the road.  I was relieved that it managed to waddle just outside my path of travel -- I suspect my tires may have brushed its tail, but I was reluctant to swerve more than slightly at the speed I was going.

As we neared my neighborhood, I was explaining to Jackie that I hated driving a certain section of roadway because it was an elk crossing zone and there were a lot of elk strikes in that area.  I went on to mention, as I was turning onto my road, a friend of mine who had hit two elk, about a mile apart (and a year apart) on a certain section of road while driving to Winslow.  I told her that we had an elk herd that came through my neighborhood every night, and pointed out where they usually came in from the woods.

But as I neared my house I was explaining that in the nearly seven years I have lived here, I had never seen the herd actually on the road in front of my house, although there was plenty of sign that they had been there -- tracks and droppings.  I was in the process of describing elk droppings (they look like olives, mostly) and getting ready to turn into my own driveway when she said, "What are those?" and pointed.

Caught in the glow of my headlights, five full-grown cow elk were just walking out of my neighbor's yard.  They looked at me, then turned away from my headlights and trotted down the road ahead of me.

Okay, so make a liar out of me!

In six weeks, I will have been in this house for seven years.  And FINALLY I have seen elk in my neighborhood.

It was a "wild(life)" day.

Oh, and the concert was great too -- Celtic Thunder.  I highly recommend it.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Road trip!

I have just returned from a trip to Oregon to bring Dash and Dawn's mother, Dottie, home.  She's been up there at the home of a friend of mine for about 15 months on a lease that didn't work out due to the mare developing severe arthritis.  So I flew up there Wednesday, and Thursday through today (Saturday) we drove down here in my friend's rig to bring her home.

We came through northeast California and stayed the night in Susanville.  Dottie was stabled at a private ranch while we stayed in a cheap motel (cheap being $55 a night versus the $88 we were quoted at a name-brand motel).  The second day was a hard drive through Nevada -- 11 hours on the road, about 2 of which were due to innumerable construction delays.  By the time we found the stable in Vegas, the sun had set, we were both tired and cranky, and the "cheap motel" for that night was $110 versus the $190 quoted by the first place I called.  Everything is relative.

The $110 motel was a Hampton Inn, the room was spacious and immaculate, the beds cushy, the walls soundproof, and the drapes blackout.  The shower was hot, the towels fluffy and plentiful, and a free hot breakfast awaited us this morning.

You could have put three of the first motel's bathrooms into the one that came at the Hampton.

After a good night's sleep, we picked up Dottie and headed out.  After a relatively short 7 hour day, we arrived in Star Valley at about 4 p.m.

The highlight of the trip was being stopped by a cop who looked to be about 19 years old for driving faster than the "vehicles towing trailers" limit of 55 on an otherwise 65 mph stretch of virtually deserted highway in California.  But he was nice and let us off with a warning to slow down from the 73 we had been going until we saw him.

The second highlight of the trip was seeing a couple of wild burros in a small town in Nevada.

Other than those two things, the trip was uneventful.  We listened to audio books on the way, I had my wifi unit with me and was on the internet some of the time, reading my kindle some of the time, working on a manuscript edit some of the time and trying not to fall asleep pretty much all of the time.

We ate a lot of fast food and somehow managed not to visit a single Dairy Queen along the way, although we did take note of all the DQ's we passed.

Dottie handled the trip fine.  We stopped every couple of hours for gas or food, and Thursday and Friday we unloaded her around noon and walked her around a bit.  We had her legs wrapped and she traveled fine and there was never any sign of swelling in her legs.  She was eating well and feeling energetic.

Now she is home, and of course neither of us had camera or even cell phone in hand to get a picture when Dottie met her daughters again for the first time in over a year.  After they all sniffed noses, I separated alpha mare Dash from the other two for the first night, leaving Dawn between Dash and their mother.  A little later I got to witness something I've never seen before -- Dawn and Dottie with their foreheads touching over the gate between their pens, Dottie making an unusual "huh huh huh" sound and neither of them offering to squeal or strike, which usually happens when two mares meet.  I really think Dottie recognized that this was her daughter and was greeting her.  It was a sweet moment, but I'll have to remember it in my heart -- the Kodak moment came and went before I could even think about trying to get a camera.

So now there are three horses at Rancho Mucho Caca.  Dottie is believed to be unrideable although I will be talking to my vet about possible treatments that might ease the arthritis in her hock enough to allow her to do some light work, maybe as a lesson horse, or pulling a cart.  I think she would be happier with a job than just standing around all day doing nothing but we'll see what the vet thinks.

I do know that she is nowhere near wanting to be put to sleep.  Her pain has been easily managed with a low dose of bute and regular glucosamine.  We brought her back to Arizona because she didn't winter well in Oregon between the cold and the rain and mud so maybe she will be more comfortable in a warmer and drier climate.

She presented me with two foals who have grown into the beautiful mature mares pictured on this page and I will do what I can to ensure her comfort and happiness until she and I both agree it is time for her to go.  She's a sweet beautiful mare and I'm glad to have her back home again.

I'll post a picture of her tomorrow when I get a chance to find my camera.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting my life back

At midnight tonight I will officially get my life back for the next approximately ten weeks.  Today is the deadline for filing tax returns if you requested an extension.  Normally it would be October 15, but since that day falls on the weekend, the deadline is extended until today.

I have one return I'm working on and will finish in probably an hour (waiting for the client to fax me one last document), one return that I got the data last Thursday and the client has responded to neither email nor phone request for additional information -- but he's getting a fat refund either way so if he files after the deadline there are no penalties involved.  Then there's a client who has been out of town for two weeks that usually ends up owing who told me she'll call me today.  I just hope she doesn't wait till 5:00 to call because her return is a little complex.

And then . . . I will go to bed and wake up tomorrow without tax returns hanging over my head.  Okay, so there's ONE corporate return who files with a March 31 fiscal year end that isn't due until December 15 but that won't take more than an hour or two in November to finish up.

So . . . what do I do when I actually get my life back for two months?

First I will fly to Oregon in two days and drive back with a friend and a horse of mine who has been up there for the past year.  So first I will get a "road trip!" with a good friend.  We should be back here by Saturday, and Monday we have concert tickets to see Celtic Thunder in Mesa.  My friend will stay here for a week or two before driving back, and the State Fair is running so we'll probably go there for a day.

I'm about to close escrow on a rental property in the valley so I'll probably spend part of the next two months getting it ready to rent out.

I've got piles of branches to take to the brush pit -- after the gardener finishes cutting down a dead tree (lightning strike about two years ago) now that I finally got the chainsaw fixed.

I need to fix a wall and re-insulate the pipe that burst last winter so it doesn't burst again (although I have since found the water shut-off to the garage and will probably just turn off the water completely this winter -- someone remind me to winterize the garage toilet and sink).

And I need to clean out the garage and put my tools away.

At least I don't have any barn or corral repairs waiting for me.

And all those long winter evenings will be spent working on manuscripts.  I plan to publish my other two completed books and work on the sequel to "Tails" of a Suburban Cowgirl.

Well, that's the plan, anyway.  Reality is I'll be lucky to even get the branches to the brush pit.  I've been planning to spend long winter nights writing ever since I moved here nearly seven years ago and it hasn't happened yet.  But one of them is one final read from being submitted to Kindle so at least I'm making progress.

January 1 will be here before I know it, and then it will start again -- first come the 1099's and W-2's I have to issue for my business clients, and by mid-January the easiest returns will start to trickle in.  I'll do a draft of my own tax return, but by the time I get all the "Important Tax Documents" in the mail to check my figures against -- I'll be buried with everyone else's tax returns.  I've had to file an extension for my own return for the last three years.

And that's the circle of MY life at the Ranch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

That pesky detail of making a living

I'd rather be riding.

Pretty much any time I'm NOT riding, I'm wishing I were.  Well, maybe when I'm cuddled up with one of my cats I might not be thinking about riding, but pretty much the rest of the time I am.

Unfortunately, it's crunch time for tax returns and I'm trying to finish up the last three before the extension deadline Monday.  There actually should be six returns on my desk, but I haven't heard from three of the clients I filed extensions for, so . . . they're on their own.  Or I'll be hearing from them about 5 p.m. Monday, which is the deadline since the 15th is on Saturday this year, hoping I can squeeze them in before midnight.

And so, instead of being out on Dash or Dawn on this lovely clear warm fall day . . . I am working.

And the sooner I hit "post" and get to it, the sooner I CAN ride, maybe tomorrow evening.

And that's the latest from the Office.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A perfect ride on a perfect horse on a perfect day

I love my beautiful bay mare, Dash.  I expect to be buried with her someday.  Bill Gates doesn't have enough money to buy her from me.  She's one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses that you know is your horsey soul mate.

That is Dash.  I bred her from Dottie, a mare I chose for her beauty and disposition, bred to a stallion I met personally before Dottie was bred to him because it was important to me that the stallion not just be beautiful and well-bred, but I wanted him to be nice, and friendly, and manageable.  And Poco's Super Buck was all those things.  I became friends with his owners and occasionally took care of their horses while they traveled, and "Buck" was one of those good stallions that you don't have to handle with chains and a pitchfork.  He was manageable and mannerly and a joy to handle.

So the product of Gold Poco Dots (Dottie) and Poco's Super Buck was Buck's Poco Dash, followed a year later by Buck's Poco Dawn.

Dash was named before she was born.  She came into the world on St Patrick's Day, and she was friendly and sweet and curious from the moment she hit the ground.  I had just been laid off, and was in the process of preparing to move to Arizona, so I had plenty of time to bond with little Dash.  Every day for the first month of her life, I haltered her, led her, handled her, brushed her, and started the process of desensitizing her to things that might have frightened her.

She had a two-foot-tall black and white stuffed penguin for a toy.  An old tarp lay in her corral and was dragged all over the place by the curious filly.  The sprinkler that watered her 20x100 foot grazing strip ran a river across the south entrance to that area, so she learned at a very young age to cross water without fear.  At 11 days old, I led her on a loose rope into the horse trailer -- in front of her mother, not following her mother.  She was an absolute joy, and learned faster than any other horse I'd ever owned.

Fast-forward three years -- after trying to train her to saddle by myself, I realized I didn't really have the nerve to finish the job so I sent her to a professional trainer, Sally Wills of Pine, who sent her back to me six weeks later with an outstanding start.  She was a bold and willing trail horse who would go anywhere you asked her to go, and would stand quietly for mounting -- in fact Sally taught her to sidepass over to a mounting block or fence on command.  She was light and responsive to weight and leg cues, would stop in an instant on the word "whoa" and move hind or forequarters in either direction from leg pressure.  She would back on a loose rein with a light stroking of heels on her side.

She's now seven years old.  She's developed into a gorgeous, classic foundation Quarter Horse mare, and still has that calm and willing and friendly disposition that she got from her mother and father.

And I ride her in a halter, with a bareback pad.

Yes, I sometimes put a proper bridle on her -- mostly if I'm riding with people who might be worried about my ability to control her without a bit, but most often, the bridle is just hanging on her face for decoration, and I am actually controlling her with the halter under the bridle, and using the doubled lead rope for a rein.

On the ride up Gibson's Peak, described here previously, she wore the bridle but I never touched the reins.  She went up and down that hill under control of the halter and lead rope.

She's so amazingly responsive -- I can ride her under a tree, stop her on a dime, try to break off a branch that is in the way, apply the calf of a leg to her side and have her move sideways if the branch doesn't break, back her up, turn her 180 degrees in place, then turn her up or down a hill and ride around the tree, all without ever even tightening the lead rope that is tied to the halter.  The more I ride her the more she seems to be able to almost read my mind.

Tonight was one of those "after this I can die happy" nights.  My neighbor and riding buddy, Tessa, wanted to go for a long ride.  I chose Dash and the bareback pad and rode over to meet her.  We headed into the woods on our usual trail, rode over to trail 433 and headed toward the wash.  En route, we heard a quad coming, moved off the trail until it came into view, put up a hand to slow it down, then motioned it forward.  It rode past us while Dash stood like a statue on loose rein, then I lightly reined her after it as it rode up the trail away from us.

When we reached the wash, Tessa took the lead on her mare, Jessie, and we cantered awhile, and I relaxed into Dash and she rocked along in Jessie's wake until Tessa felt like stopping.

There's no better feeling in the world.

We turned back, rode most of the way home, then turned down another wash that I'd only ridden in once.  There were trees to duck, logs to step over, a few times we had to climb out of the wash to go around fallen trees.  Dash was such a joy, doing everything I asked, calmly, with no protest, and all on a loose rein.  I could feel her muscles moving under me through the bareback pad.  It felt so good to just relax and trust my horse and not have to worry about her bolting or acting up or refusing to go as would have been the case with so many of the horses of my past.

The weather was 75-degree-perfect, only the merest touch of a breeze, and we rode through the wash toward home, arriving just as the sun was setting.

If there are no horses in Heaven, I don't want to go; I think I may already be there.  Because I'm not sure anything can top the ride I had tonight, it was so perfect in every way -- a wonderful, sweet horse to ride, with the closeness and bonding made possible by using the bareback pad instead of a saddle; a good friend to ride with; perfect weather to ride in; and the natural beauty of the forest to please the senses in every way.  Even the smell of the air was heavenly -- the cool pine scent of a forest recently rained upon.

No, it doesn't get any better than this.  I have been truly blessed to have this special horse to share my life with.  And I am double blessed -- her sister Dawn is almost as perfect, and even smarter than Dash.

But Dash is the one who stole my heart over seven years ago as a newborn foal, my firstborn foal, and I treasure every ride on her.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kids at the Ranch

If you read "How it all began" you'll understand why I enjoy sharing my horses with children.  If I can possibly avoid it, I will never tell a child, "No, we can't ride today," because I remember how precious and memorable it was for me whenever someone shared a horse with me when I was a child.  So I was particularly happy when my niece Susan (whom I taught to ride at age 2) wanted to bring her family up here for the weekend  -- because her family includes two kids, Tyler (age almost-13) and Erica (age 11) who both love getting to ride my horses.  Her significant other, Val, is not a horse person but has gotten on one for a few minutes once or twice.

But "going to the Ranch" isn't just about riding horses.  They were barely out of the car late Saturday afternoon when I pressed Tyler and Susan into service helping me put away about 10 bales of hay that I couldn't stack by myself.

That night the friendlier three of my six cats got more attention than they knew what to do with from all the visitors.  Susan and Val plotted to kidnap Bernstein, the larger of my two solid black males, who loves visitors and will get in anyone's lap within about 30 seconds of arrival.

I made homemade chili and fry bread for dinner, something I rarely do when alone.  We watched TV awhile then the visitors went to bed by nine.  Cats made the rounds during the night, and by the end of the night, everyone had been cuddled by at least one of the resident felines.

The next day, after a good night's sleep, Tyler and Erica picked apples from my orchard so we could make pies that evening.  Then they took the dogs with them and went for a hike in the woods.  By the time they came back Susan and I had gone to the grocery store and gotten the ingredients for taco salad and a few ingredients I needed for apple pies.

And THEN I got out the horses.

I saddled both Dash and Dawn and Erica said she wanted to ride Dash, so she started on Dash and I put Tyler on Dawn and we all went into my arena and the kids got to ride.  This was their third or fourth time riding Dash and Dawn so they were more ready to do some trotting on their own instead of being led at the walk.

The horses aren't terribly responsive to the kids because the kids' signals are less clear than mine are, but they are both good-natured and tolerant of the confusion and after awhile (and a few pebbles tossed at the horses' rumps by Auntie Debbie) both kids were managing to get both horses to trot.  Later they changed horses and I was surprised to see Dawn willingly trotting in a circle for Erica.

After about an hour of watching the kids ride and taking pictures, Val got on for the typical three-minute walk and then I started noticing signs that Dawn was getting cranky so we put the horses up and my visitors got apples from the orchard and made lifetime friends out of the two horses by feeding them fresh apples.

The grownups went in to relax, Val took a nap, and the kids took Daisy Dog for another walk, having decided that Lacey wasn't minding them on the first walk.

Susan and I sat around talking, and about an hour later I got a text from my neighbor and riding buddy, Tessa, asking if I was up for a ride.  So Susan and I went back out and saddled Dash and Dawn again, took Lacey with us, and went to meet Tessa.

We met the kids coming back from their walk at the gate leading to the national forest where we ride, so we took Daisy with us and the kids went on home.

Susan hadn't ridden in over 20 years, but enjoyed the pleasant ride on Dash while I rode Dawn, who showed residual signs of crankiness for the first 10 or 15 minutes, then settled down and we had a lovely ride.  We rode to the wash and had a long trot, then turned around and came home again.  Susan wanted to ride in the arena a little, and Erica wanted to ride some more, so she got her helmet and I put her on Dawn and she got to ride for a few more minutes before the sun started to set and it was time to put the horses up and go in for the night.

Susan and Erica helped unsaddle and feed them, then we all reluctantly went into the house.

By the time we got back in, we found that Val had already peeled and sliced the apples and the first pie was in the oven.  None of us had ever made a homemade apple pie before, so I had found recipes on the internet and we were comparing two of them.  Just as we got back, the first pie was ready to come out and the second went in shortly after.

Susan put herself to making the fresh salsa and chopping ingredients for taco salad.  We already had ground beef I'd cooked the day before when making chili that I'd held back for tacos, so it wasn't long before dinner was ready.

And while tacos are great for dinner, apple pie for dessert is even better, and we each tried a slice of each of the pies.  The consensus was we liked the texture of the second pie better but the stronger spices of the first, so if I do this again, I'll use the second recipe and increase the cinnamon and nutmeg a bit.

Monday morning the kids went for another walk -- and Daisy refused to go.  I guess two walks and a ride with the horses the day before wore out her 11-year-old self so the kids went alone.  By the time I took a shower and woke up enough (after a breakfast of leftover pie) Susan and Val had already cleaned the corrals and the horses were out munching hay.  We watched the horses eat until the kids came back.  I never get tired of looking at those two beautiful mares.

One of the other "favorite things" about the Ranch is my quad.  Tyler loves to ride it, and Erica loves to be a passenger on the back.  So when they got back I asked if they would help me by driving the quad with trailer attached around the property and gather up garden tools, aluminum cans, and other trash.  So the yard got cleaned up and the kids got to ride the quad.

They enjoy helping around the Ranch and I love having the help.  But mostly I love the smile on Erica's face when she's on a horse, and love watching how Tyler's seat develops more each time he rides -- he seems to be a natural rider.

Frankly, it's what I live for -- passing a love of horses on to another generation.  I never had children of my own, so I have to borrow other people's kids.

I can't wait for them all to come back again.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The "Caca" part of the Ranch

Rancho Mucho Caca was not named in vain (and yes, I know, it should be "mucha" caca but I think it sounds better this way). Caca is a big part of my life. This morning I have spent the last two hours dealing with caca -- an hour shoveling a week's worth of manure from the stalls followed by another hour tending to the three automated self-cleaning litter boxes that serve the six cats who live in the house. I still have one ordinary box to clean out but that will only take a minute.

Here at the Ranch, there is a six by eight foot open trailer with 12 inch sides that belongs to a gentleman down the road whose hobby or livelihood (I've never asked which) is the production of compost. That trailer has been parked outside my gate for four or five years now. I load it up with horse manure, chicken litter, and fallen leaves and fruit (but no branches or grass) and he comes down with his little garden tractor about once a week and hauls it off.

I have another friend who is into compost who would take it too, but I'd have to haul it about 3 miles to him. Before I got into this arrangement, it went into the dumpster. I save about $20 a month in trash fees by not having a dumpster. Of course, the tradeoff is the occasional trip to the brush pit to dispose of tree trimmings since they won't fit in the household can I now use.

The reason corral cleaning took an hour today instead of 15 minutes is because it has been cold and rainy all week and I've been swamped with out of town errands and just haven't taken the time to do it.

The nice thing is that the two mares out there have been staying in since it was so cold and rainy so the manure was essentially un-rained-upon. It was all under roof, somewhat piled up, and not soggy.

Normally I clean daily, twice daily if I can during the summer. But along with the cold comes freedom from flies, and they are the primary reason I try to keep the stalls pristine.

As for the six indoor cats I have, I found it interesting to note their potty habits. I have three "Litter Robot" self-cleaning litter boxes. One was bought new for about $400. The second one was a refurb unit I got for $300. The third someone found for me at a Goodwill store and bought it on half-price day for $65. It is one of the earliest models, they have been vastly improved since then, and very noisy and slow.

And THAT was the one where the cats had filled the catch pan to the brim. It appears that is the box of choice for doing "number one."

The other two Robots (R2D2 and C3PO) had barely been used at all since their last emptying about two weeks ago, and apparently those Robots are used primarily for "number 2."

There is one open box I keep in the bathroom, not self-cleaning, and it seems to be their second choice of toilet, and it is used for both number one and number two.

Which makes me wonder -- who decides? I've noticed this pattern before when I had multiple litter boxes, that some are used for one function and others for the other function, and usually another box for both. (I try to have as many boxes as there are cats but I have two "extra" cats at the moment. Anyone want a nice spayed tortie? Or two?)

Which makes me wonder if Alfie, the little Princess, has claimed one box as her personal potty and uses it for both. Or do the boys use the old Robot for pee, and one of the newer ones for poop, and the three females share the open box, perhaps because they don't want to touch the sides of the robots?

Who knows?

I do know that Bugsy prefers clean litter, so he probably uses the lesser-used robots. Alfie is a longhair with a big fluffy tail and probably doesn't like going inside the robots (she's also the one who pees in places other than the boxes in the first place but that's a subject for another blog post).

I think I will get her a Litter Maid, which I've used before unsatisfactorily, but there are better litters available now that resolve some of the issues I've had. It's also self-cleaning, but open. The Robots are a big globe that the cat goes into, and the globe rotates to sift the litter so they're inside it while using it.

As for the horses, Dawn is the best when it comes to bathroom habits. She literally piles it up against the back wall of her stall, or far corner of the corral. She never walks through it or spreads it, and she pees in the poop so there are no mud holes. Dash, her older sister, tends to go in an area, walks through and scatters it a little.

Their mother, however, is coming back from Oregon in two weeks, and she goes everywhere, walks through it, scatters it, pees all over, and is generally a slob.

The reason I can get away during non-fly season with not cleaning for a week is because they do pile it up, so the majority of the corral area stays clean. The manure I picked up today was mostly in a 10X20 area of one stall, with a small amount in a 6x6 area of another stall.

And that's probably more than you wanted to know about the Caca at Rancho Mucho Caca.

Watch for the 2012 "Manure Makers of Rancho Mucho Caca" Calendar coming soon.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How it all began

I thought today I would put a couple chapters from my book so that those who don't know me well can see how it all began:


A “Tail” Not Foreseen

I HEARD A LOUD BANG and ran out of the feed room to find Zipper hanging by the groin over the barn door, forefeet barely touching the ground. Blood was running down the inside of his right thigh from a gash torn by the top latch that was now bent at an odd angle, leaving the door ajar. The other latch dangled uselessly in its bracket. He tried to lurch himself free, slid sideways against the doorjamb, and finally gave up and stood there on his toes, his desire to get to the other horses suddenly forgotten.
He sighed and looked at me as if to say, “Well, now what?”

“Now what?” indeed!

The books never mentioned situations like this. Considering how often situations like this apparently occur, you’d think they would. This was my third.

I was expecting a load of crushed granite and needed to open up the fence panels so the dump truck could get to the low spots in the corrals. The corrals held my three horses – pregnant but flirty buckskin mare Dottie, palomino gelding Dutch, and proud-cut (improperly gelded) wannabe stallion Zipper, a tough little buckskin of Mustang breeding who still retained herd sire instincts. While Dutch could share a corral with either of the others, I had to keep Dottie and Zipper away from each other or the “stallion” would try to breed the mare, never mind that she was already pregnant with a real stallion’s foal.

I had to move two horses out of there until the truck came and I didn’t want to stress the pregnant Dottie by leaving her alone in the back, so the simple solution was to put Dottie and Dutch out front in the grazing pen and leave Zipper in his own corral. So that’s what I did, leading first Dutch, and then the mare, out the gate to the fenced area in front of the house where an unmowed lawn awaited their pleasure.

A simple thing, or so it should have been. I’d done it before. But things are never as simple as they should be with horses, especially not when hormones get involved.

As soon as I led the mare out of sight, I could hear Zipper raising a noisy protest. I quickly put Dottie in with Dutch and ran back to the barn to find Zipper galloping back and forth, frantic to get to the rest of his herd which he could no longer see on the other side of the house. In his single-minded determination to join them, he reared up and tried to climb a five-foot high pipe corral fence. I saw the top rail bow under his weight as the comparatively short horse tried to chin himself over the top but failed to make it.

He wheeled and charged into the barn, thrusting his chest against the wooden door, and whinnied again. Dottie answered. He galloped back out, desperately looking for a way to get to his lady love.

Worried whether the two gate latches would withstand another assault by the agitated horse, I ran inside the adjacent feed room and was just reaching for a flake of hay, hoping that I could distract him with some food, when I heard Zipper gallop back into the barn. Then I heard a loud bang and knew I was too late. He’d gone over the wall.

Well, almost, anyway. I looked around the edge of the feed room door and flashed back to a similar sight from twenty-five years before – another buckskin stallion hanging in the air, front feet scrambling for purchase while he whinnied frantically after the mare he loved. And I remembered another incident when there had been a white stallion needing rescue, hanging over a barbed wire fence by his most precious parts. This made three times I’d been first on the scene of a situation like this. Was I just lucky?

Stallions! The things they do for love! I thought as I ran around to the back of the stall to see what was going on with the horse’s back end. I had had help with the two previous incidents, but now I was alone. How was I going to get him down?

His hind feet were dangling with the points of his hooves just brushing the foundation of the stall. The stall door had been wrenched ajar, bending both latches, and the horse was hanging over the top of the door by his groin, much as his predecessors had hung over their respective fences. The weight of his body slumping against the doorjamb prevented the door from opening wide enough to let him slide free.

I tried shoving his salt and mineral blocks under his hooves, trying to give him enough purchase to shove the door open far enough that he might slide off the edge of the door, but the door must have been pressing on a nerve for his legs seemed to be paralyzed.

There was nothing to do but to holler for help. I ran back around to the front of the barn and grabbed the phone, speed-dialing the number of the next-door neighbor. I’m as liberated as the next cowgirl, but sometimes a cowboy comes in handy.

In minutes, Cliff was there and I was relieved that at least I had reinforcements. Zipper in the meantime had figured out he was stuck and miraculously stood quietly on his tiptoes while we contemplated the situation. It was soon clear there was only one way out of this mess – the horse wasn’t coming off the door, so the door was going to have to come out from under the horse.

Cliff stayed with the horse while I ran through the house into the garage to get the socket wrench and ratchet. There were four three-inch long hex screws holding each hinge in place – twenty-four total inches to back out of the wood. I could have had them out in a minute and a half if I used the drill to drive the socket, but I didn’t dare try. The noise might scare the horse into struggling and hurting himself worse in the process – to say nothing of the risk to myself, crouching on the ground two feet from his front hooves. Cranking those eight screws out an eighth of an inch per twist of the ratchet seemed to take forever, but I finally got the last screw out and tossed the wrench aside, massaging the cramp in my right forearm.

“Now what?” I asked Cliff. The door was still exactly where it had been, perfectly vertical, with a thousand pounds of numb Mustang bearing down on it.

“I guess we pull,” he replied. He grabbed a crowbar that was hanging on the tack room wall and stuck it between the doorjamb and the top of the door. He leaned against it, tipping the door forward while I tried to lead the horse forward on his front feet. The door started to tip, and, once he felt the ground again, Zipper scrambled forward, knocking the door the rest of the way to the ground. He gave a defiant stomp as if to say, “Take that!” as he lurched free of the door to stand shakily in front of the barn, blood running down his leg.

He seemed to have forgotten all about the mare by this point.

One hundred and thirty-five dollars later, Zipper’s laceration had been “zipped” up with a neat row of stitches and he was sleeping off the sedative in a very small three-sided enclosure I fashioned from the corral panels I had swung out of the way for the dump truck. He didn’t have enough room to try anything even if he’d been inclined, which he wasn’t.

It was just another adventure in the life of a suburban cowgirl. Who would have thought nearly fifty years ago that one day this city-raised kid would be living alone in the horsetown of Norco, California, trying to figure out how to wrestle a “stallion” off the top of a barn door?

Nobody would have thought it. Not even me. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the road I would travel to get to Norco and actually live my dream, nor the adventures – and mis-adventures – I would have along the way.

It started when I was a tiny child in Prescott, Arizona . . . .

Cowboy Dreams

IT WAS MAY 16, 1957.

“Come help me with the cookies, Laura,” said the gray-haired older woman. “The Colonel will keep your sister occupied.”

Laura got up from the floor, taking her doll and her toy horse and leaving her not-quite-two-year-old sister clutching her own stuffed pony. The little girl reached for her sister’s lifelike model horse. “Horsey!” she protested.

“Play with your pony,” Laura said firmly. “I have to help Mrs. Hart with the cookies.”

The old man in the rocking chair set aside the paper he was reading. “Come here, sweetheart,” he called to the little girl who looked as if she would cry. “Let’s do Pony Boy.”

Clutching her pony, the child toddled over to the man who had been like a grandfather to the two girls during the two years they had lived in Prescott. “Pony boy!” she shouted happily. She dropped the pony and held up her arms. Colonel Hart lifted her to his knee and, holding her carefully with both hands on her waist, gently bounced his leg and began to sing, “Pony boy, pony boy, won’t you be my pony boy?”

Gleefully bouncing on the old man’s knee, the child giggled, clutching his kneecap with her chubby hands, the stuffed pony forgotten on the floor.

From the kitchen, Laura looked back into the living room at the sound of her sister’s happy squeals. She shook her head with all her six-year-old maturity and said, “That’s all she ever wants to do, Mrs. Hart. Ride a pony. I wish she’d quit playing with my horses, though. She already broke the white one trying to ride it. She even tried to ride the dog one day, but he just laid down on the ground and rolled over.”

Mrs. Hart chuckled, dropping spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the pan. “She’ll outgrow it someday, Laura. She’s not even two years old yet. She just likes being bounced, like babies like to be rocked.”

“Do you think my mommy will let me rock the new baby sometimes?” Laura asked. “I’d rather play with a baby than horses anyway.”

“I’m sure your mommy will need all the help you can give her, Laura. Your sister will be able to help, too. Once your new baby brother or sister comes home in a few days, she’ll probably forget all about horses.”

Another gleeful shriek could be heard from the living room. “Again!”
Once again, Colonel Hart sang, “Pony boy, pony boy, won’t you be my pony boy?”


A few months after my baby sister Mary Ann was born, the family left Prescott for a new house in the suburbs of Phoenix. Colonel Hart’s “pony boy” was going to do her growing up on the fringe of a concrete jungle.

As a little girl, I spent Saturday mornings watching a whole lineup of westerns on the old black-and-white television set. Straddling the back of a blue plaid easy chair in my pajamas, I galloped across the plains on Fury, Flicka, Trigger, Champion and Silver. My first true love was Roy Rogers and at the age of three I decided someday I would marry him.

How bitterly disappointed I was when I learned that he was already married to co-star Dale Evans in “real life.” But, not to be dissuaded, I decided instead I would marry Trigger.

Those old westerns formed the basis for a lot of my core values – truth, honesty, justice, protection of the weak or innocent, fairness, loyalty, kindness to animals – all these things were modeled to me by my hero Roy. My role model for what a woman’s life should be was not my suburban housewife mother, but the exciting cowgirl who galloped after Roy across my TV screen every week.

The fact that Roy rode a gorgeous palomino stallion and Dale rode a beautiful buckskin
only made me want to live in that world all the more. If Roy had ridden a plain brown horse like the bad guys he chased, would he have been quite the hero? The message I got was that good guys rode beautiful horses. I’ve always preferred buckskins and palominos, no doubt as a result of my childhood hero-worship of Roy and Dale and their beautiful mounts.

While my mother stayed home with the kids, my father went to his job working as a research biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish department. Part of his job involved going to where the deer and the antelope played for the purpose of counting them, their babies, their droppings, and occasionally their predators. It was his job to know how many deer lived in an area so they knew how many hunting permits to issue during deer season. He also studied the plant life in the area, to learn how many deer the area could support without the deer starving during the winter, and he needed to know how many lions were in the area that might also influence herd size, although a man named Al did those surveys, much to my mother’s relief.

During the summertime, my father would make the trip to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona to count the deer that lived there. He would take his vacation at this time, so that he could work for a week, then have a week off to fish the local lakes.

Since part of the trip was vacation, the family got to go with him, and if Laura and I got up with him before dawn we would be allowed to accompany him on the deer surveys. He used a pre-printed form for this purpose and would record where he looked, what the weather was like, how many deer, elk, and antelope he found, and whether they were males, females, or babies.

Laura would mark the deer, elk, and antelope on her form.

I counted horses and cows.

The public land on which Dad counted the deer and the antelope was leased to ranchers for the purpose of grazing cattle. I found it much more interesting to know where the cows and horses were than the location of timid creatures whom I could never hope to ride. Nothing was more exciting to me than when we got a glimpse of cowboys in the distance, herding the cattle from pasture to pasture.

One day when I was three, the family was fishing from the shore of the lake when two cowboys rode up on their horses to let them get a drink. By this time, I’d been on a carnival pony ride once, but this was the closest I had ever been to a real, live horse, and I looked up at the animals in awe. “Daddy, look!” I said excitedly as they drew near. “Horses!”

One of the cowboys heard and looked over at the little girl who was being restrained by her father from running up to the horse. “Little horse-lover, huh?” he said to my dad.

Dad laughed. “You could say that. It’s all she ever talks about.”

Then the cowboy said the magical words: “Would she like a ride?”

I tore my gaze from the magical steed and looked at my daddy. “Please, Daddy, please? Can I ride the horsey?”

Thus it came to pass that Colonel Hart’s “pony boy” took her first ride on a full-sized horse on the front of the saddle of a real, live cowboy. The second cowboy gave Laura a ride, while one-year-old Mary Ann looked on with little interest, clinging shyly to our mother.

Clutching the saddle horn with both hands with the cowboy’s arm across my stomach, I grinned as we trotted across the grass, up the hill away from the lake, then broke into a canter and swung in a wide arc back to the shore. The canter was the best part.

I patted the horse’s neck before the cowboy handed me down to my father. “What’s his name?” I asked.

“Charlie,” the cowboy answered. “Charlie Horse.”

He was just a plain brown horse, but the man on his back was clearly one of the good guys and that made Charlie a special and beautiful horse in my eyes. “Thanks, Charlie,” I said as my father set me on the ground. I patted the horse’s leg one more time, then my father led me away, thanking the cowboy for indulging his daughter.

“Someday,” I declared, “I’m going to be a cowboy, too, and I’ll give rides to little kids who don’t have horses yet.”

It’s been well over forty years but I’ve never forgotten that moment and that promise I made to myself that day. Throughout my years of horse ownership I’ve remembered those who shared their horses unselfishly with a horse-crazy kid and have tried to pass that on to other children who have looked up in awe at my own mounts and asked permission to touch.

That first ride on Charlie was the beginning of a lifetime love and association with horses. I was raised in the suburbs of Phoenix, and my family never had the opportunity to keep horses, but I clung to the dream that someday I would have a stable full of them and would be the greatest trainer and rider that ever lived.

Well, I said it was a dream, didn’t I?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Flash, bang, boom!

Took the mares to a desensitization training tonight with the posse. Tonight's spooky objects were road flares, fireworks, and a patrol car with lights and siren going. I left Dawn tied to the trailer where she could observe from afar and took Dash into the arena. Led her by the flares first and she was a lot more reactive than I thought she would be. Normally she settles down quickly but she hasn't been ridden in over a week and it's been cold and windy and rainy and horses are usually a lot fresher and spunky when it's cold and windy. But at least she wasn't rearing and bucking like two of the other horses. Eventually I got on her and she watched them set off fireworks. She didn't want to approach but at least she didn't try to turn and run.

Later I had to put her behind Wyman's horse and got her to follow him through the grid of flares, down the middle of two rows of them, then weaving up and back each side. Eventually I could get her to go without him giving us a lead over and I finished up with her standing calmly in a square of four flares, and there had her do turns on the forehand and on the haunches and sidepassed her back and forth and she started paying less attention to the flares and more attention to me.

So, ultimately, I was proud of her as usual, although a bit surprised she was unwilling to approach the commotion with the fireworks. But it's asking a lot of a horse. I think if we do another session she'll do better since she'll have had a chance to think about it for awhile.

Dawn mostly just whinnied wanting Dash to come back.

It will be her turn next time.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cut off from the world

Well, except for the internet, anyway.

I have lost my cell phone. While I can call it and retrieve any messages anyone leaves me, I can't call anyone back. And I can only call and get messages if I borrow someone else's phone.

It's interesting how lost I feel without it. And helpless, to some extent, since it has been a long time since I backed up that phone book in it and I have no idea where I backed it up TO. And I gave away the phone before this, and they already wiped my data so I can't even restore up to that point if I have to get a new phone; I'd have to go back to the one before that, if I can even figure out which phone in my "old phones" box is the one I had before the last one.

So I really hope I find it soon. I may need to go buy another one if I don't find it today just so I have something I can keep calling it with . . . but if I activate a new phone on that number it will deactivate the phone I need to find. Probably I'll go get a cheap Tracphone to use.

I'm pretty sure I took it to town yesterday afternoon but can't find it in my car or house, it wasn't at any of the three places I got out while I was in town. Likely I dropped it getting in or out of the car and someone picked it up.

No end to the drama at Rancho Mucho Caca.

Update: Found it under a hay pallet. It fell out of my pocket while I was stacking hay yesterday. Luckily it fell under the pallet, not under the hay. I had to lie on the garage floor and reach into the pallet to get it but at least I didn't have to move five bales of hay to get it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Riding with the boys

As a member of the newly-formed Gila County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, I recently participated in my first real missing-person search. I’d signed up picturing searches through open woods, looking for lost children who would come running up when they saw the “horsies,” carrying them back to their mothers’ arms on the back of my saddle. Reality proved to be vastly different from my na├»ve fantasy.

My primary posse horse, Dawn, is a six-year-old Quarter horse. She’s white with blue eyes and her tack is turquoise. Her full sister, Dash, is seven. She’s a beautiful red bay, and her tack is pink. They are both fantastic trail horses, but Dawn always seemed to be tougher than Dash when the going gets rough. So she is used for posse work, whereas Dash is used mostly for pleasant evening rides on familiar trails.

Photo by Tessa Nicolet

 The author with her two mares, Dash and Dawn.  

When I arrived at the search site at 11 a.m. Monday, the rest of the group had already been out for a couple of hours looking for a missing man with a medical condition. He was known to be on foot and “out there somewhere.” Shortly before noon, twelve riders on horses, including Dawn and me, left to go search another sector. I was finally on my first official search.

We rode as a group to the starting point, spread out in a line, and went “that-a-way,” looking for any sign of the missing man. There were five women and seven men, and we randomly positioned ourselves in the line without regard to gender or terrain. We were there to do a job, and we all attacked it equally.

Of course there was no trail going “that-a-way;” so we had to make our own. The footing was rocky, and there was a seemingly impenetrable wall of manzanita and other unfriendly, prickly shrubbery to push through – no casual stroll through open forest on this search.

Dawn emerges from the manzanita thicket.

Push through we did. Dawn had to break her way through manzanita at times as high as her shoulders and shove through tree limbs that occasionally poked the side of her face. I never had to ask twice. One nudge with the heels and she resolutely stepped into the thicket and made her own path. Later I would find spots of blood on her white hide where the manzanita had punctured her, but she never hesitated to go forth when I asked.

We rode like that – breaking through brush and climbing up and down rocky hillsides – for over five hours, until we returned to the command post at 4:45, with no sign of the missing man.

I had to miss the continuation of the search Tuesday but I was there at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Dawn again in tow. By the third day of the search, we had only seven riders – three women and four men. The search moved to another area, also populated with tough manzanita to push through. Again that young mare performed admirably, did everything I asked her to do, climbing the rocky slopes and descending into washes and gullies without complaint until we called a halt to the search at about 3:30 p.m.

Three of the other women who participated in the search.

Some of the other riders had been there for all three of those search days, and they and their animals were exhausted and sore. There was discussion of calling off further searches since we had searched the likely areas and really didn’t know where the man could have gone. But some of us had an idea that maybe Gibson Peak was a possibility. I was warned, “It’s a tough climb,” but it didn’t look all that bad to me; I thought the first day had been the toughest. I agreed to come back at 8 a.m. Thursday to help search Gibson Peak.

Since Dawn had already given two days of hard work I decided to take Dash instead. Dash hadn’t been ridden in a couple of weeks, but I figured she could handle a four- or five-hour ride. I was a bit apprehensive, though, about not taking Dawn since she’s usually my “tough ride” horse. But it was time Dash took a turn at bat.

Only three other riders came that day, all men – cowboys, really – all on geldings. We headed out about 8:30 a.m. and rode on a rocky trail to the foot of the mountain. It hadn’t looked like that steep of a climb when they had pointed out our destination in the distance so I still wasn’t too worried…until we got to the mountain and I looked up....

Jerry and Wyman were intimately familiar with Gibson Peak from hunting forays, Rod less so, and I not at all. We turned to climb uphill. There was no trail at all, just Jerry’s sense of direction to guide us. The route we took was steep, and rocky, and frequently blocked with manzanita or trees. I looked up at the climb ahead and wondered what in the world I was thinking to go on a ride that the cowboys who were actually familiar with the area had described as “a tough climb.” Many times we had to duck over our horses’ necks to get under tree limbs that threatened to knock us from their backs while our horses scrambled to keep footing and dodge prickly pear at the same time. Frequently we had to double back and find another path after being blocked by trees with no way to get through them.

Searching really was nearly impossible on the slope; most of our effort went into simply finding a way to the top. We stopped several times to “let them blow” since the steep ascent was hard on all four horses, but particularly for my relatively out-of-condition mare. I quickly realized this was the hardest ride I’d ever been on in my life and I wondered if we were going to make it.

Twice Dash went to her knees trying to step up and over rocks on a steep section. Somehow she regained her footing without pitching me off onto a cactus. Often we would fall behind and one of the men would call back to ask if we were okay and I would reply that we were fine, and they would stop for a minute to let me come back into view. I was grateful to have three such competent men looking out for me, but determined to get through this on our own steam. It would have been extremely embarrassing to have to call out the posse to rescue a posse rider!

And ultimately, Dash managed to follow in those geldings’ footsteps and made it to the top of the mountain right behind them. I was proud of her – and of myself – for persevering and succeeding.

It turned out two members of Tonto Rim Search and Rescue had arrived on foot and searched from the other direction so we had no reason to go on further. We dismounted and took a break while looking at the views, which were spectacular – a 360 degree panorama of Rim Country splendor.

Wyman and Jerry on Gibson’s Peak.

But as I admired the view and snapped pictures with my cell phone, I worried about the ride back down. I hadn’t known what I was getting into when we came up; now I knew what lay before me on the trip back. I hoped there was an easier way back. Surely we didn’t have to go down the way we had come up?

Uh...yes. We did. The way we had come up was the easier way back. After resting for about a half hour, we remounted and headed back the way we had come.

Down is a very different experience than Up. Going Up, the horses’ powerful hindquarters can push the front end up and over rocks. Going Down, the horses have to nearly sit on those same hindquarters while the front end carefully drops down over rocks as much as a foot high, the landing usually consisting of loose rocks that could slide under the weight of the horse. Many times, Dash had to stop and figure out for herself how to get down without falling down; there was nothing I could do to help her. My job was to sit still and let her do it, lest some unexpected movement of my own upset her balance.

Every time I hit a place (going or coming) that I knew was more than she’d ever encountered before, I would look at the retreating rumps of the mens’ horses and tell her, “If their horses can do it, so can you.” And she did. I’ve never been more proud of her.

While they never verbally expressed any doubts within my hearing, I really think the men had expected me to bail out halfway up that mountain. By the time we got back, they were all expressing how proud they were of us for hanging in there when the going got tough.

I told them, “If I can’t ride with the boys, I’m not much use to the posse.” This was what I had signed up for. Rescue fantasies aside, I knew a search wasn’t going to be a pleasure ride down a well-used trail on soft dirt. I knew the going could get rough – although I had no idea just how rough “rough” could be – and I was proud of the way both of my mares had risen to the occasion and done everything I asked them to do, and gone everywhere I had pointed their feet.

We hadn’t found our man, but my mares and I had found something very important – our own confidence. Dawn had bravely pushed through manzanita that poked holes in her skin and scraped painfully at her hide, and Dash and I had both faced our own fears and uncertainties and made it off that mountain together without help. I won’t hesitate to send either one of them anywhere the posse needs to go.

We had ridden with the boys and made it – pink bridle and all!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hay today, Manure tomorrow

Getting more hay Tuesday.  I probably have enough to get through to next hay season already but I had an opportunity to sell 20 bales of cruddy bermuda from last year's hay so I'm getting 30 bales of alfalfa to help tide me over.  Any excess I can sell at a profit this winter.  The quality of last year's hay wasn't that great so I'm glad to get rid of it.  I've got another 25 bales of it to go through before I can get into the Teff hay I bought for this year.

Hay prices are getting scary.  So far all the hay I have I own at about $14 a bale delivered.  A few years ago it was going for $10-12 delivered.  It's expected to get as high as $25 a bale this winter, an unheard-of price.  I expect there to be a sharp increase in horses sold cheap and ending up in a Mexican slaughterhouse.  People just can't afford that these days.  I'm lucky; I have the room to store hay for three horses for the winter so I can buy before the price goes up.  A lot of people don't, and they will have to pay whatever the market price is at the time they need the hay.  Some will feed less, and horses will lose weight.

Normally I don't feed alfalfa; my well water is so hard that the added high calcium of alfalfa can cause enteroliths (stomach stones) which can kill a horse.  But it's a cumulative thing and takes years to develop.  If my horses get a few bales of alfalfa once in awhile it won't be a problem and I can add vinegar to their feed to counteract it.  Grass hay will probably cost even more than alfalfa.  The Teff hay is a grass hay and the horses really put weight on the last time I had it, so hopefully I won't need to feed as much as I would of the bermuda.

If they get 1/4 of their hay as alfalfa that will help make the Teff last until new crops come in next May.  Let's all pray for normal rainfall and no flooding.  Droughts and floods are what has caused the shortage that will drive the price up this winter.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello and welcome!

If you have enjoyed my posts and are interested in the adventures of the Suburban Cowgirl and the goings-on at Rancho Mucho Caca, then this is the place to come for more of my ramblings.

So welcome to my blog!  I hope you enjoy it.