Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Birthday boy Halawa Moon

Who is that scruffy looking gelding? Harley turned 12 on Sunday, although he may never age into a mellow guy. It doesn't seem like I've had him that long, yet we've covered a lot of territory over the years.

We had another blustery day with winds gusting towards late afternoon. This always perks the horses up--rattling and creaking branches, leaves blowing, barn creaking--an excuse to spook! Any of the melting that occurred on Saturday iced over by Sunday evening. John and I attempted to ride up the power line. Bare ground on the west-facing slope quickly turned to hock-high snow where it had drifted into the hollow all winter. We turned back and checked out the Orris Falls trail. The soft snow from the previous day had turned to ice making for treacherous riding. So we opted for the road.  A couple collecting sap into a tank on their truck bed offered interesting ogling for Harley. We asked them how the season was going since it's been too cold for the sap to run. They said the run was finally beginning! I think maple syrup will have a premium price tag this year with the wonky weather we've had this March.

Spring seems a long way off when looking at all the snow still out in the woods. Yes, there are bare patches, and melting has spring freshets running, but every night, the mercury plummets, yet again.
The foot traffic through Orris Falls all winter compacted the snow so much that it will remain icy for some time, especially under the hemlocks.

This time of year, everything looks moth-eaten; the snow, the horses, my clothes...all ready for a fresh breeze to melt away the grainy, dirty snow, and carry away the loose hair in the horses' coats. It's time for me to wash the winter togs and hang 'em on the line.

As the snowbanks recede, roadside trash appears, broken bits of cars, knocked loose, bouncing over the frost-heaved pavement. Dead branches, blown down in the winter winds litter the trails and roadsides--what I call "kindling from heaven". Manure piles appear from under the many layers of snow, telling me it's time to get out there with a pitchfork and clean up the paddocks! Layers of sand over ice over shavings need to be raked up from the barnyard. And the horses need non-stop brushing as they shed their winter fuzz. I'm looking forward to seeing my sleek shiny boy after he gets his first bath of the year!

The hard winter took its toll on the wildlife this year. We had some severely cold temperatures that surely stressed any old or sick deer. Riding through Orris Falls, I saw this partially cleaned deer leg up in a tree. I'm not sure if a hiker's dog got it, and they put it up there; or did an agile fisher cat possibly drag it up into the tree? I'm sure the crows will have it pecked to bare bone soon.

As the ice lets loose in the waterways, brooks begin to jump their banks and melt even more of the snow and ice away. Vernal pools are in the making as low spots fill with water and rivulets pour into every crevice. As these "crevasses" open in the ice, the horses stop and peer into these black holes, snorting with surprise. And if the ice shelf gives way...grab mane!

Spring is coming at a reluctant pace this year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Nantucket sleigh ride

A brisk wind, spring in the air, and soft snowy footing all added up to a couple of interesting solo rides with Mr. Prancypants.

All the icy snow has hemmed in the horses, leaving them with a few areas and paths tromped out where they can hang out without plunge-stepping through the crust. So of course, they have all sorts of pent-up energy; they are ex-racehorses after all, and they just want to run and kick up their heels.

So I tried taking Harley up Boyd's Corner Road (much as I hate road riding--the snowbanks are still too high) on Sunday, figuring I could re-trace the short ride John and I did on Friday. We got as far as the barking dogs. I dismounted, deciding to save us both from any trouble. Once I reached Tatnic Road, I found a nice solid snowbank to stand on and remounted. The roads all sound hollow this time of year. With each hoof beat, an echo reverberates under foot where the pavement has heaved from the frost. Harley was good the rest of the ride until we turned back and had to pass the dogs again. He just reacts, doesn't think, a dangerous combination with drivers that are clueless. So once again, I dismounted until we were back on Thurrell Rd. We pranced down the road until Hank and Lili pulled up in their car for a quick chat. Before Harley knocked the mirror off the car, dancing around, I dismounted once again. This was a ride for perfecting the flying dismount!

Monday's ride was a repeat, only in the other direction, down to Orris Falls. Things were going fine until we happened upon two people with 2 large barking dogs. That was it--Harley tried to turn for home and no amount of turning him back would change things. He just gets grumpy and upset. Yes, time for another dismount! I walked him past the dogs and finally found a remount spot. And this is what slays me--how well he stands while I get back on. But once I was in the saddle he was off--prancing and jogging. He just leaned down on that bridle and pulled, hell-bent for home. I thought, o.k., I'll let him trot rather than trying to make him walk. The trot evolved into a very stiff, sideways canter with a lot of head shaking and the potential for a Nantucket sleigh ride. I bridged my reins and held his pace. I'm very glad there's a big farm gate at the end of the trail!

Back at the barn, I kicked the Jolly Ball around for the gang. Rolex thinks it's fun, Ruffy thinks it's interesting, and Harley, well who knows what he's thinking! They have all approached and sniffed it, even licked snow off it, but Rolex is the only one to actually pick it up. Here's the South Berwick Soccer League, waiting for me to give it another kick!

Rolex, enjoying the bright sunshine at 5 o'clock at night!

And here's Ruffy coming up to me, looking for a treat.

And 'ole Buster, back from his hair-raising ride, safe with his girls.

Another storm to weather--spring IS coming!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Nothing Runs Like a Deere...

...Or so the John Deere company slogan states. But I'm beginning to have my doubts. The big green behemoth living below Ruffy's stall has spent most of this year idle with either hydraulic leaks, dead batteries, and lastly, a broken mower.

Now, with the manure pile threatening to creep beyond the fence boundaries, I'm envisioning myself shoveling the heap from now until May. Something has to give, and it may be my bank account when I go to buy two new batteries for the tractor--yes, it takes two batteries.

We spent all of Sunday, poring over the tangle of wires in the cold, dank barn cellar. Our friends Hank and Lili helped out, buying a new relay, and spending hours testing batter voltage and wires. They even called in their mechanic friend Jason--all to no avail. He felt it needed new batteries. There it sits, dead.

Here's a ditty that sums up Sunday's tractor woes (to the tune of I've Been Working On the Railroad):

  We've been working on the tractor
  All the livelong day.
  We've been working on the tractor
  And I've spent all last week's pay.
  Can't you see the snowdrifts piling
  Right up till the first of May?
  Still can't get the dang thing running,
  Guess I'd better start to pray!

  Tractor won't you go,
  Tractor won't you go,
  Tractor won't you work today!

So, what to do when it's too icy to ride and you can't get the tractor running? Go skiing! I had an awesome time on my telemark skis, which have been idle for too long. I carved turns on the pasture slopes while the horses watched. The hard-packed snow, solid enough to hold even the snowmoblile, begged for me to get on the skis and "tele like helly". I ferried some fence repair equipment in a bucket and practiced without ski poles. I got in quite a few runs--not too bad for an old bat who has not been on those skis for a number of years! I'm thinking I may just have to fork over $5 (if I can find it) for a day of skiing on our local Powderhouse Hill if we get some more snow this week.

The camera died this weekend, so until I can fix it, or save up to buy a new one, pictures may be few and far between in upcoming posts.