SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 




We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label seasons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seasons. Show all posts

July 9, 2016

The Day The Sheds Flew: Farmpocalypse 2016

As I was preparing horsey dinners last Wednesday, I never imagined the building I stood in would be torn violently apart 30 minutes later.

So many stories are overdue, but this one must be vexed about not getting a full telling, since it revisited last night!  I hope you'll forgive my job for swallowing me whole -- wildlife don't seem to courteously time their activities to my convenience, alas.

It Seemed Like A Normal Day 

Just home from work, I noticed the darkening sky, but it wasn't unusual for an early July evening.  Carolina summer frequently includes late-day cloudbursts, when hot, humid air blows its soggy overload.

Glancing west as I carried buckets to the boys, I was arrested by this...thing:


I know just enough about clouds to be afraid, very very afraid.  Convinced the Hand of Sauron itself was coming for us at an unsettling speed, I secured horses & hay in a record 7.8 seconds.  My ears popped as the temperature & barometric pressure went into freefall.  The passing Coast Guard rescue chopper you can hear in the video did not seem like a good omen.

My run-in, hayshed, & house are all engineered for 120 mph windstorms, my construction default here in hurricane country.  Feed & tack I keep in smaller kit sheds, but both have weathered much larger storms & are stuffed with heavy objects.

So while I wasn't thrilled by less than five minutes of warning, I hunkered down in the house feeling that all major bases were covered.  NOAA weather alerts showed this particular beast hurtling SE at interstate speeds, with angry windshear.  And hail.  (Some news photos of aftermath in the area here)

Run with the Tolkien theme
Fortunately, I keep 17 water bottles filled in the fridge, because I had time to run a whopping 1/2" of water into the tub before the power blinked out.  I was a little surprised, as in three years, I've lost power (>5 mins) exactly 0 times.  Hazarding a guess from the perfectly horizontal rain out the front windows, I'd say there were probably some trees down already...

But Solo & Encore have their safety walls I built during our first brutal winter.  I uneasily watched the now-rain-hail-mix swing 180 degrees from West --> East to East --> West in 10 seconds, but I was glad they were protected.

A half-hour seems a lot longer in the dark.

I went out front as the rain stopped, to attempt salvage of my now-shredded hay tarps before the next band moved in.  It was then I noticed the horses standing in the farther corner of their paddocks.  Which they only do if something scares the bejeezus out of them.

Like, I don't know, flying walls?

The remnants of Structure Formerly Known As Feed Shed

Priority One:  Horses

Both horses were luckily unscathed.  It's always a dilemma of intense storms:  flying debris risk vs. building catastrophe risk.  Sometimes you get both -- along with storms that don't read textbooks!

Incredibly, both fencing tape & posts held.  I called my Miraculous Rescue Neighbour as I had to get buildings off the fences & important gear/feed under cover immediately, because more rain was on the way.

Tack shed flipped off foundation

My big lag screws had been ripped out of the walls, but stayed in the brackets, so I made sure to account for each one as I dragged scattered panels out of horse areas.  Red arrows in the pic show locations over about 3/4 of an acre.  The last thing I needed to add was a punctured hoof.

Priority Two:  Additional Waterlogging Prevention

Homeless things
Gear got hurled into vehicles as quickly as possible.  I was grateful I hadn't unloaded three bags of feed in the backseat of my truck.  Although improbably, feed lid bins had stayed on & watertight!

We only had about an hour before it started raining again.  Just enough time to get pastures cleaned.  And just enough time for the full weight of the damage to begin sinking in.

Bathed in exhausted sweat, I was very glad it was at least 9 pm & NOT 100 degrees as no power = no shower.  And given the chorus of sirens in every direction, it wasn't returning anytime soon.

We gonna eat it all!
The horses were ok.  I was ok.  Major structures & vehicles were ok.

But rain had blown UNDER my hayshed walls in seemingly impossible ways.  I finally got the tarp off the roof, but some of my beautiful bales were decidedly wet:  not ok.  And it's pretty hard to keep mice out of a building with one wall, which didn't bode well for feed security.

Two words echoed in my head:

April 24, 2016

We're Still Here, Still Crazy

My intentions to update you remain overwhelmed by assignments, but I couldn't leave a gaping hole for guesses, so I shall at least attempt The Bullet Approach:

  • To each person who has shared & those who continue to share support, kindness, laughter, & even just saying hi – THANK YOU, YOU ARE AWESOME. 
  •  
  • I apologize for any impressions that I may be sitting in a hole of self-pity, (ok, I'm human, I totally own that there was some egregious despair) however life stepped in & ripped the cover off the hole in short order. 
    • Field research season opened for roaring business at work, leaving little time for whimpering. 
    • See splashy horse (unless on a mobile)
    • It's also nearly the first weekend in May, which means – click the countdown to Heart of the Carolinas 3DE in the left sidebar to visit event central...GO LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY THINGS, THEY TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE! ;P  There's more on the way, thanks to great sponsors & my fantastic Sponsorship Assistant:  Erica, you rock
     
  • Encore & I are picking away at this whole rehab thing.   I'm not sure where we are right now, but today was sunny, 70F, with a light breeze, & we walked through a green forest of birdsong: vireos, warblers, wrens, thrashers, gnatcatchers, woodpeckers, even the wild turkeys.

    Each note landed gently on my heart, seeming to say that the Moment is here, the Moment is now, & this Moment has much good.  That is a melody I embrace.  There has been more than enough darkness, today I unquestioningly cherish the sun.
  •  
  • Back on a lighter note: HOTC 2016!  There will be some seriously amazing new elements this year.  You will still be able to follow the live media feeds on Twits & InstaThingies (you know you have it in your diary: “Be entertained by eventer79's ridiculous sleep-deprived commentary.”) & I'll share more very soon. 
    • Hints: listen in when Sally O'Connor joins us – yes, THAT Sally – and meet both new & familiar equine crafts(wo)men. 
    • On top of the Mother's Day craft contest (eventers + beer + glitter markers = no-lose possibility), annual Southern Eighths KY Derby party, the return of our flying volunteer veterans, & did I mention a collection of mind-blowing prizes??? 
    NOMS??!?
  • Solo sends his shiniest magic to all of you, although he is still working on transferring an unfathomable amount of dull winter fur into every single one of my pores.  Note to self: do not open mouth while brushing horse on windy spring days.  Or eyes. 
So for now -

When your eyes are tired 
the world is tired also... 
The dark will be your home tonight. 

The night will give you a horizon 
further than you can see. 

Iris woke up today!
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in... 

Sometimes it takes darkness & the sweet 
confinement of your aloneness 
to learn 

anything or anyone 
that does not bring you alive 

is too small for you.

 -excerpt from Sweet Darkness, poem by David Whyte, thanks for the discovery to Calm Things
 

February 2, 2016

Of Tales And Trails


Do you think our stories break when we do?  Or do they just get so tangled up that we can't find a view of the road?

I'm still struggling to figure it out - or at least looking for some high ground that might offer a bit of perspective.  Who knew the search would be measured in years??  But the tangle, the fog, whatever it is that swallowed the map is the same thing that has dragged at my efforts to write to you.

This blog is a journey, just as much as the tales it chronicles.  I guess it shouldn't be shocking that a journey involving horses has sinkholes, detours, & inexplicable roadblocks!  Nonetheless, I apologize for my stutters, fits, & gaps of silence (although more than one person that knows me might say that last is a blessing, ha).

I'm working hard on the search for impulsion, though.  Half-steps are hard for horses & people (dressage joke FTW)!  I do feel like there's been some improvement in muscling!

Encore approves
Stepping Out

Encore & I did get to indulge in some desperately-needed trail therapy on Sunday.  Sun & warmth & wait, was that a bud on that tree?

Riding has been a wee bit challenging for everyone this winter, so our rehab pretty much matches my posting attempts:  sporadically possible, with moderate chance of fail.  But there be muscles on the horse too!

We've combined hill-walking, W/T transitions with roundness, some collected walk with lots of topline stretching, & occasional bursts of weather-permitted trot sessions.  While we're hardly ring-ready, Encore's been pushing evenly behind (one of my big indicators) & happily loped over some 18" obstacles.

Getting back in the woods was a wonderful treat - many thanks to lovely neighbour Vanessa for  pony daycare, as poor Solo can't keep up with giant TB strides for two hours anymore.

And my gratitude to you for all the forms of support & patience, no matter how small:  they always means so very much!

Deep breath then, & we shall attempt another step.

I'll never tire of my sky!
I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:

day draws near
another one
do what you can. 

-Czeslaw Milosz

January 9, 2016

She Moved To Texas But NC Wants Her Back

Belated yes, but I must share the fantastic-ness I got to meet, when Lauren of She Moved To Texas was kind enough to visit us recently.

In town for the holidays, she traversed the wilds of greater Raleigh-Durham to say hello to my two goofy chestnuts in person.

My unconscious motto?
Kudos & thanks to you, Lauren, for putting up with my rambling - my brain switched into OMG A FRESH HUMAN FOR STORIES mode, sigh.  But I think I can safely speak for all residents of Flying Solo Farm when I say that "pleasure" is not an apt enough description.

Actually, I'm sad now, because I want this kind, thoughtful, friendly, smart, creative, patient, funny, & pretty much 100x cooler than me person to move in next door!   (which of my fellow state employee friends do I need to bribe? ;P)

Simon is a very lucky pony & I hope I didn't crazy-scare her too much, as I'd love to do it again, ya know, when it's not freezing & mid-Great Flood with rifles blasting?  I vote riding & sunshine!

Tyrannosaurus Encore attacks Lauren's promising hands...
It's been a helluva...ugh, I don't even like to count time periods anymore...re-phrase: shit has been flying for so long for too many of us, thank you for bringing a bright spot with you.  May we all get a bit of breathing space & more good moments in 2016, to string together into a better narrative.

These meetups are one of my favourite gifts of the blogger community I stumbled into 6 years ago.  My life would be that much poorer had I not discovered people like Beka (um, if you haven't read her 2015 recap, go NOW!) and Jenn J and Erica and Amber and Meghann and Jennifer S and Lauren.

There are so many more, both online and (for the brave, LOL) in person, who make this circle of support, commiseration, laughter, & friendly madness of our shared passion so unique & wonderful.

Keep being awesome.  It matters.
"Stuff" optional

December 25, 2015

There's No Present Like The Time*

Holidays & I have mixed relations, but there is still no repressing my smile at Solo’s unfailing welcome nicker as I step out the back door.

So I relish every opportunity to lean on that massive shoulder & giggle at his never-ending fascination with nuzzling feet.

I’m filled with gratitude for this time off work to continue Operation Encore (v. 6.0?); we’re on day 9 or 10, I think, of my modified fitness regime. It’s some pretty thrilling stuff, like 20 minutes of walking while on the bit, or adding in some trot transitions on our longer hill walking sessions.

Where did everyone go?
We spiced it up yesterday with some radical Guinea Cutting & I think we’d have scored very well, successfully isolating the same bird three times in a row! You may not have heard of this discipline yet. That’s probably because I invented it yesterday.

Don’t worry, there’s still time to qualify for the Championships the next time Neighbour Vanessa’s flock wanders over (ride times are subject to change at the whim of pea-brained fowl).

It may have rained 427 inches in 24 hours, but at 75F, no one’s cold OR dehydrated.

For all these moments & many more, I say an inadequate thanks. Solo hates it when I press my face against his neck to absorb him with all my senses – so I try to do it often. At least he doesn’t mind my irritating chest congestion visitor (blech).

I hope I get many more chances to harass both of my ridiculous redheads in the coming year. But one thing all of us can do without fail is to seize the wonderful gift of Now.

Our bests to you from Flying Solo Farm -

My highlights
*Yes, I totally stole this from a movie.  No, I do not feel any remorse.  ;P

November 11, 2015

Catching Up: Like, RIDING HORSES!

It’s a tad squishy out, what with several inches of rain over the last 24 hours.  But the sun is warm & some of the grass is still green.  And my carefully guarded drainage sloughs & soils are hard at work already, drying it out for me & eight expensive hooves!

Storms make great sunsets though
There’s a lot to catch up on, both on these pages & in the saddle.  I commend the patience of anyone still clicking over to TFS.  One look at my annual post numbers over there in the right-hand archive tab reveals yawning gaps in our journey.

It’s not that there weren’t stories to tell.  More often a general overwhelm of the universe conspiring towards my demise combined with…well, who really wants to read, “I didn’t ride my horses because I’m sad & tired?

There are hints of change in the wind, though.  I’m not entirely sure of their direction yet, but I’m thinking that they’re the good kind.
 
To my shame, I have to admit that my riding muscles were actually sore after giving Encore a chance to stretch his legs on Sunday.  If that doesn’t tattle on me…  I was reminded, though, that vacations are always good for our partners.  They don’t forget what we’ve taught (good OR bad, heh) & more often than not, giving things a chance to settle in has brought us better results in the long run.

Encore: Please, admire at your leisure...
Encore Escapades

The Turf Beast has had quite a bit of down time, with intermittent bursts of exercise (let’s not go crazy & call it ‘work’), first to heal his X-Games injuries, then to wait for his rider to finish grubbing fish out of swamps through the fall (only THREE trips left this year, woohoo!).

While that naturally means we both get to rebuild muscle, all the buttons are still there, & once we start moving, it’s now only a few minutes before he is working over his back properly & staying elastic in the contact.

Um, super exciting progression from ‘llama/hackney cross impersonator locking the left side of his jaw’ that we started with.  It helps that I’m getting better at staying focused on how I WILL ride & remembering to notice that if my left shoulder starts aching, it’s probably because I’m hanging on to that rein like a climbing hold.

Psssh, with my eyes closed... By High Time Photos
 Because guess what:  your horse goes forward so much nicer when you aren’t blocking all of his energy with your iron grip.  You can have that earth-shattering tip at no cost!
 
Life on Solo terms: not the side of the fence I left him on
Solo Shenanigans

Solo’s been keeping my guilt active with his very special “I’m making a list of every time you don’t play with me” look.  He had his own vacation (or in Solo-terms, ‘horrific neglect,’ because somehow I have a horse who thinking eating grass & hanging out with his best horsey buddy is punishment), thanks to aforementioned ridiculous employer demands that I actually EARN my paycheck, as well as working out Weird Shoulder Thing.

While he is Member #3 of Muscle Rebuild Club, he assured me he was a solid, sexy, fancy stud both under saddle & on the longe last week (feel my awesome canter, mom, hey, let’s jump this log, did you see how awesome I was, yeah, check out this sexy canter, did I show you my badass canter?).

I couldn’t stop giggling (er, between panting) – I’d ask him to trot & he’d step up into his favourite canter instead, with that trademark spark in his eye & both ears cocked back at me to make sure I was paying attention.

Naturally, I’m rediscovering my ability to begin picking up (& searching for) pieces as soon as that nasty winter time change sets in.  But that’s ok; when it’s dark out, that's when you get to see the stars.
My Solo superstar

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!


Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at Horze.com can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!
www.horze.com
 

October 8, 2015

Why Should I Ride?

TB always ready! (Get it?!)
I felt a restless hassle, mixed with now-familiar fatigue, as I slipped the saddle billets into girth buckles.

Why am I doing all this?  I seem to have lost my goals for the time being…

Rational brain shook a finger at impulsive brain, saying, "Just get on the horse, you’ll see why."

I sighed & buckled my helmet strap as I led Encore into the top field.

With a quiet, ready eye, he took his place by my mounting cinder block/dressage letter & I swung up to his back with a fistful of mane.

As I slid my foot into the opposite stirrup & gave Encore his cue of Good Boy! to move forward into the crisp dusk of autumn, I looked towards my pond over my left shoulder.

That’s why.
Last autumn's pond delights
Oranges & reds of the setting sun were reflected in the concentric circles rippling out from a spot where a fish popped up to nab an insect, breaking the mirror surface of the water.

After the windy damp of the hurricane & the too-many rainy days before it, the clean breaths of a sun-cleansed evening were a glorious gift.

Everything in my body clicked into its respective place, my muscles wrapping around & channeling the energy of my horse, both us reveling in the sheer act of motion.

He responded in kind, stretching over his back, reaching up through the bridle for the connection, soft & ready to use his restless body.

Yes, most definitely yes.  That’s why.

C'mon, mom, there's a whole world out there for us!

September 27, 2015

TFS Time Machine: My Life's Lullaby

On these quiet evenings, having walked out to groom the horses as the weekend rain subsides, I'm reminded of a constant.  That balm which soothes pain, fear, worry, even exhaustion, which has been the solace of my life as far back as memory can reach.

So I share it anew, as I think it cannot be possible to ponder it too often. 

Striking: five years ago seems another lifetime, yet some patterns persist, before & since.  This text is excerpted & slightly updated, you can find the original post here.

Little Melodies

I often feel sorry for people who never know the companionship of animals, outdoors in their own realm.  Their playlists are missing the sweetest music I know.

Just today, I am struck with the notes:  embraced by the gathering dusk, my left hand rests on warm, red hair while my right guides a soft brush in its particular rhythmic chord over Solo's side.  Pay attention to that sound next time you groom:  there is a real, earthy caress in its tone.  


Prairie Warbler surveys FSF
Sheltered alongside us, there is the ever-present, ever-pleasant undertone of Encore pulling at his hay.  A barred owl throws his signature announcement to the evening sky, following the burbling arpeggio of an immature bluebird snatching gnats from the fenceline.  

I can feel my heartbeat slowing & my subconscious finally allows the tension to leak out of my muscles.

It's a quiet symphony, syncopated by Solo's tail, a gentle, slow, swishing counterpoint.  The growing chirps of the crickets, the string section of all Southern nights, adds a higher harmony.

 
You will never hear it on the radio, although it's not because such peaceful music is rare.  But drinking it in doesn't cost a thing beyond allowing an inviting silence, through which the song may enter your life.  


Take a sip; you may find yourself enriched in ways you never knew existed.  You too can know the wonder of feeling your pulse hum in tune to the ancient song of horse, of nature, of life.  It is always there, just waiting for you to listen.
 

July 24, 2015

Halt That Headshaking!

Nature no touchy!
Summer brings not just sweat, but the War of the Flies (sorry, William Golding).

You're attempting to make centerline approximate an actual line or ramble scenic trails or enjoy a sunset handgraze...only the tormented buzzing & biting around your horse's eyes & ears has you worried he might sprain his neck during the incessant attempts to shake the beasts off.

Bid Those Flies - And Sweat - Goodbye

It felt like my lucky day when our friends at Horze.com sent us their -

1.  Extended nose flymask (UV protection for your pale-nosed friends!
2.  Fringed mesh fly veil

Fine, I'll nom-model  (1)
I hatez dinner pauses  (2)
What Makes Them Different?

You know those days when it's so hot & sticky that the mere thought of anything touching you makes you shudder in aversion?  Well, the horses agree.  And fly spray can only do so much (particularly in places where you can actually hear the deer flies snicker every time you squeeze the spray-bottle trigger).

So I really REALLY liked that both of these combined a physical barrier with fabrics which maximized airflow.  A horse's ears appear to be a very small body part, but, being thin-skinned & packed with blood vessels (i.e. gnat nirvana), those twin radar dishes play a huge role in heat exchange, just like your head & feet.


The mask was made of a quality-feeling structured screening, much like the SuperMasks I use to screen eyes in the trailer.  However, where I almost never use the latter in turnout as the heaviness of both the mesh & fleece seem to layer grit & sweat on Solo's face, the unique combination of the technical wicking material & much narrower jaw cut of the Horze mask means he's more comfortable.

What, Does He Nicker Twice For Yes?

Not quite, although I did learn this winter that he has an "I want my blanket" nicker, LOL.  But he freezes & sticks his head out when I approach with it now (Solo must have tasty eyeball juice, the flies seem to prefer it to Encore's?) & when removed at night, there's only a small patch of sweat on his crown.

Yes, he also is a member of the Pig Sweat club.

The veil struck a similar nice balance.  The retro-hippie-rasta vibe was just a bonus!

I use old-school browband veils while riding Solo every summer (alas, Encore gets mad at his own bangs touching him & violently shook OFF a cotton bonnet, although I may have to try this once...), but his ears are unprotected unless I add a conventional fly bonnet.  Bonnet fabric usually ends up soaked in sweat & the tight-fitting ears mean the deer & horse-flies bite through them anyway.

Adding the loose mesh to a veil was a novel idea.  Airspace between ears & mesh creates a little wider "DMZ" protection from bites.  The super-light mesh kept things cool, although I wouldn't try to add it to a turnout halter, I'd be worried it would tear off during vigorous tree scratching.

And we still had the strings functioning as the perfect forelock (vital for Solo The Follicularly Challenged), constantly moving to deter landings while not obstructing vision or trapping heat.  And um, hi, $7 is the kind of budget-friendly I'M talking about, thank you!

Who's got bangs now, dudez??
Be Prepared To Trim Or Size Down

Both items have a bit of an odd measurement.  Lengthwise, they were fine for Solo & would be spot-on for Encore (both are a normal 'horse' size, but Solo is short from ear to mouth; if I had money to burn, I'd buy cob cheekpieces for his bridles).  But the jowl straps were ENORMOUS.

They may be purposefully designed that way, it's simple enough to trim off the velcro ends.  There is certainly plenty if you do happen to have a horse with the cheeks of a Shire!

Or, if you are a just-in-case person, you can invent velcro patterns like I did:


You can check them out along with Horze's other Fly Weapons here.  Thanks once more to the great folks at Horze.com for diversifying our arsenal!!
www.horze.com