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We Are Flying Solo

March 6, 2014

It Was A Dark & Windy Night In North Dakota

At least, that’s what it felt like Monday night as an assault of horizontally-driven snowflakes pelted my face and hands while I daisy-chained extension cords.

It was my first official work-then-home-to-farm day.  As of last Saturday, I am officially residing in the new house, although “moved” would be a strong word.  I have my bed, washer, dryer, and pets along with clean underwear and work clothes.  So we’ll stick with “residing.”

Gee, thanks, mom
My boss and I had spent the day in a project meeting about four counties south.  Having had no internet access, I knew the weather was supposed to be around 50 during the day with some rain and then plummet to 14 that night.  So I’d left the horses nekkid and figured I’d throw their blankets on when I fed that evening.


My first clue came as we drove south and all the DOT signs along I-85 flashed “WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON UNTIL MIDNIGHT.”  Well, both the boys had their shelter from precipitation and it had been 70 all weekend, so things could only change so quickly.  Right?

Wolverine work truck
We did manage to wrap up the meeting around 2:30 pm so we could hightail it 2.5 hours home.  Our dubious entertainment was watching both whip antennas on Boss' work truck turn into icicles as the wipers’ Effective Clearing Radius shrank to a tiny rainbow of windshield.  The incredulous hilarity continued when we picked up my work truck in Durham and both of us chipped through solid ice with the corners of our scrapers so I could have a teeny patch of windshield to look through.  I was certain I’d break a window; even back home in the Ohio River valley, it was rare for the freeze to occur that hard, that fast.

By the time I arrived home, the roads had turned into skating rinks of flashing lights and crumpled metal.  So quick and unexpected had the severity of the storm been (it was LITERALLY 75 and sunny the day before), many people didn’t even have coats in their cars.

I’m certainly no stranger to winter horse care and have everything I need to do it comfortably, including my beloved heated watertub.  But none of it was set up, naturally, given that Sunday was summer.  Frantically, as the weak daylight disappeared, I threw out serendipitously pre-stacked hay as I curried icicles off the horses and dragged crunchy, frozen blankets over them, forcing frozen straps through buckles with fat glove fingers.

Plz no moar winterz
We finally got squared away though, and I spent the entire time mentally screaming gratitude for the wonderful Adult Rider friend who’d given us the cozy feed shed and brought her family over to help set it up, and to ACB for his tremendous assistance stacking hay, setting posts, moving pallets, and the gift of the beautifully blinding magnetic LED that lit up the whole shed and the curtain of lost blizzard that pushed its way around all three of us.

Tripping over my own boots as I took them off in the mudroom, and staggering to the nearest folding chair (hey, it has beer-holders), I caught my breath and tried to figure out when we’d been sucked out of the Carolinas and into some Midwestern version of hell. 

All I could hear was a sardonic voice in my head cackling, “Welcome home!”

February 25, 2014

Home At Last

Well, some of us.  In a flurry of superhuman attempts to beat the daylight all weekend, I did manage to get the boys onto that patch of grass, a match I have been pursuing since last May.  Can I really have done it?

They managed two steps before they dropped their heads in excitement over a long-lost green friend.  Definitely the most peaceful move-in I have ever experienced.

Approximately four seconds in
 When I can't ride anymore, I shall keep horses as long as I can hobble along with a bucket and wheelbarrow. When I can't hobble, I shall roll my wheelchair out by the fence of the field where my horses graze, and watch them.        ~Monica Dickens
Is this really for me??
And it was good.

February 21, 2014

Long May You Run

My 30th, Solo's 13th in 2009
I couldn't imagine a more fitting phrase for the birthday of my center of orbit, my sun, my Solaris.  Thanks, Neil Young (it was even inspired by his horse). 

I didn't know Solo's exact birthday when I brought him home.  From his Coggins, it appeared to be sometime in early spring, so I simply assigned him one that would be easy to remember:  mine.

While I often forget what day it is & rarely do much about my own aging, I always remember & celebrate not just Solo's day, but every day since he came into my life & irrevocably changed so many parts of it and me.

So here's to you, my very best friend, partner, & piece of my heart.  Even thinking about the insane adventures, ups & downs, glorious triumphs and the darkest of heartbreaks brings tears of both sorrow & gratitude of unimaginable depth.   

Seeing your head shoot up at the sound of my voice is still the best part of any day & even through my current exhaustion, the thought of seeing you at home is what keeps me going.  I cannot wait to present you with the farm that I built for us. 

Memorial Day 2006:  I brought him home
Our partnership would not exist but for the team of wonderful people that surrounds us &, most of all, the two who made it all possible along the way.   

Thank you, from both of us, although those words fail to encompass the emotion, to mum & Jim, the founding members of Team Flying Solo, for the gift of this extraordinary relationship that was & still is more powerful, more miraculous, and more intimate than I ever dreamed.

I revive, then, my inner 12-year-old girl and the Ridiculously Cheesy Solo Montage from a 2010 nighttime fit of boredom.  I love you, buddy.  Please resist your genetic drive to be a walking suicide machine for a while yet, ok?

The song is by Templeton Thompson, a very talented and very kind singer/songwriter and horsewoman 
I had the pleasure of meeting about five years ago at an Equine Affaire in Raleigh.

2011 Area II Indian Smurf Award:  For courage in the face of adversity
I hope we have many stories left to tell.  I WILL get you back in shape this year, I know you are bored and I am so sorry -- I know how much you have left to give, although you owe me nothing!

We have a fresh start with your younger chew toy brother, who entertains us both, & Awesome Crew B, who always lends a hand & a shoulder.

And we have you, my wonderful readers and friends.  You are part of our team too, & sharing our journey has enriched it even more.  It's hard to believe that there are over 200 of you on our feed now; I thank all of you for letting me share my shiny, stubborn, loyal, kind, & altogether remarkable flying Solo with you.      

As Neil Young so fittingly wrote:

We've been through some things together, 
with trunks of memories still to come.
We found things to do in stormy weather,
Long may you run.
Although these changes have come, 
With your chrome heart shining in the sun, 
long may you run. 

February 13, 2014

Winter Ridiculousness

My front yard right now
I lived in the Ohio River valley (Northern KY) from age 8 - 18.  So I learned to drive on snow and ice.  Mostly ice.  It's not rocket science.   But strange things can happen, so while our usual 1/2 of snow per year leaves me unperturbed, raining ice pellets & frozen sheets of slush with more snow on top makes the decision to stay in and work remotely an easy one. 

However.  I moved to North Carolina for a very specific reason.  My most hated task as a kid was shoveling snow and I would go to any lengths to avoid it.  I tried the whole Gulf coast thing, but discovered that was merely two years living in a flat, sweaty armpit from hell (aka Texas) and we lived out west when I was younger, so I knew I wanted to stay east of the Mississippi.  So I set my sights on the Carolina piedmont.  It has seasons, but winter is about 3 months of rain and cold wind in spurts (mostly January) with a week of 60 degree days in between.  It still makes me crabby by February, but hey, that's when spring starts!

Today there is over 3" of snow on the ground, coated in a layer of ice, quickly being covered by another layer of snow.  It is not only past noon, but it has been here SINCE YESTERDAY.  I want my money back.

I'd love to go visit the horses, but after watching the ice pellets fall for over an hour and the curtain of fat flakes out the window now, the thought of the bundling and driving and hiking and then driving again and thawing and unbundling, all without having some oblivious nut run into My Precious...cost-benefit ratio = negative.  If we were all at the farm?  Absolutely, I'd march out the back door and at least take some pictures despite my deep hatred of the white devil.

So I'll just keep tying up loose ends of the statewide fisheries conference I have to run next week, I've only been working on it, oh, since last August.  And in the meantime, I will let you enjoy the wonderful video I found yesterday of Swaps, the astonishingly tough and fast 1955 Ky Derby winner who was the great-great-grandsire of Encore's dam and the darling of the recently closed Hollywood Park (I wonder what they did with his statue?).  In July of 1955, he was Sports Illustrated's cover boy and the 1956 Horse of the Year

I see the spitting image of Encore in him in the beginning as he walks off the train with his big eyes and bright star -- right down to the surfer bangs!

PS:  It's STILL SNOWING.  I hate being cold.  I hate things that get in the way of my outdoor activities.  I hate snow related sports.  I hate ice.  JUST.  GO.  AWAY.   Because I just hate winter.  In case you wondered.

February 10, 2014

I'm A Real Boy, Er, Farmmmm!

But first, don't forget to vote for us and my completely ridiculous face in the Carolina International contest we are losing, LOL!  The prize is a coveted horse trial entry that I long to be able to do.  Thank you for all who have given their support, y'all rock!!

Now, to the topic at hand:

It is, ladies and gentlemen, real indeed.  I give thee...
Flying Solo Farm at dusk
Where I do not live.  Nor do my horses.  But hey, it's a process!  We started from here: 
Almost exactly the same vantage point last August

Things that do live there:
A feed shed!
A wonderful fellow Adult Rider has a farm nearby and the shed had been laying disassembled in her pasture, so she generously offered it to me and even brought her husband over to help put it back together!  Three cheers for no feed tubs in the laundry room!!
Finished fencelines
East side of main pasture opposite house
I have a couple gates to build, a battery for my fence charger to buy, and a few more buckets of dirt to move.  Oh yeah, and maybe put some gravel down in front of the house.  The grader still has some work to do and the factory still has to send a few parts and repairs for the house, but it's passed final inspection. 

If the atmosphere will just cooperate, in about two weeks, my boys will be able to watch this:
Sunset from the run-in site.