Monday, February 22, 2021
A fresh snowfall over all the frozen ice offered some more lovely skiing. Although it was a fluffy few inches, it freshened up our winter world. Once again, my determination to beat the crowds rewarded me with fresh snow, fresh tracks, and no other people.
I started shoveling the drive at the barn, but John insisted I stop (especially since it aggravates my tendonitis) and go skiing instead. He didn't have to insist too hard!
Blue wax, with a some blue extra to go, seemed to be the waxes for the day. I stocked my pack with camera, phone, spare mitts, spare shells, windbreaker, vest and water. The top of the pasture was tricky--frozen manure and exposed rocks--but I managed to maneover my way for a straight schuss down along the fenceline to the logging road. I floated over the new snow in the morning sun, just beginning to peak over the eastern ridge. The horses watched me glide by, Vance even making a move to follow me, but turned and cantered back to the gang.
I grinned and said, "YES!" as I approached the empty parking lot, knowing I would have fresh, unbroken snow and no pandemic hordes to ski around, forcing me to "mask up". I had my mask handy, in my pants pocket, but thankfully,did not need to pull it out.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
I beat the pandemic crowds at Orris Falls, skis waxed and ready to go by 8:30 a.m. The conditions were perfect for my favorite set of skis; the Epokes. Rub on the wax and they're ready to glide.
The climb up to Big Bump got the heart rate going. I enjoyed the peace and quiet broken only by a hairy woodpecker tap, tapping on an oak tree. If I wanted to see more wildlife, I should have gotten an earlier start.
The descent, down the two steep pitches provided thrills and only one spill. And once I hit the flats, I even got in some skate skiing!
A mixed bag of weather arrived a few days later, ruining the snow and turning everything to ice. Then a deep freeze locked the footing up solid. We'll have to wait for a fresh snowfall to blanket the wood before the next outing.
Monday, December 7, 2020
Horses are such amazing animals: full of power, grace, and beauty, yet fragile. We get on the back of a thousand pound animal and ask this creature to carry us, performing feats of atheleticism. Their fragility is incongruous to their size and strength. We humans do our damndest to keep them healthy and safe. But despite our dilligence, we still lose them to injury and illness.
The weight of holding Ruffy's head as she staggered from her stall left a bruise on my shoulder, and in my heart. This was my first experience euthanizing a horse---our horse, and the images imprinted on my brain resurface every night, sometimes just as I close my eyes, sometimes waking me at 2:30 in the dark, still room. Crying into my pillow, I relive those last days. Did we miss something? Did we wait too long to call the vet again? Could we have saved her?
Ruffy (known as This Chic's Got It by the Jockey Club), our big 16 hand off-track Thoroughbred, by Vicar, out of Miss Ella, spent her days as a pasture pet more than a riding horse due to physical limitations. She was only 13, with years ahead, I'd hoped. I'll always cherish my one ride on her--feeling her broad chest and powerful body under me. She passed her days as girlfriend to Vance Lustre, the old retired Standardbred who never returned that infatuation, or so I thought. But lately, he spends a number of hours standing by the gate into the field where she's buried. So maybe he does miss her.
Horses are like elephants; they remember. The herd knew one was missing the next day. Harley whinnied for her down in the pasture. They followed, like a funeral procession, as we laid her to rest. I think Harley is still checking for her at night. He walks down the barn aisle, sticks his head in her stall, then walks back to his stall, recognizing she's not there. They're a tight herd, just like a family, and they know one is gone.
Farewell, Ruffy. Run with the best, my good girl.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Friday, August 21, 2020
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Last week, John and I saddled up for an evening jaunt and spotted a fox at the forest edge along the power line. A few days ago, I came across a flock of turkeys, and a couple of deer. And there's the birdsong serenades that I use as training for bird identification.
Meandering along at the pace Harley chooses, I ride on the buckle, taking photos and videos of our adventures; what a life. I could do this all day, every day, if I didn't have to work. And John would do the same! Even working a little, or doing freelance, without the hassle of having to be somewhere by a certain time lessens the stress. And boy, I'd love to have a LOT less stress!
After 11 weeks working from home, attending online meetings, webinars, and computing on the laptop and phone, I really developed a taste for the freelance gig and no commuting. I multi-tasked to the max! Laundry while I worked on library stuff, bread baking while listening to a webinar...the list goes on. So, this is what life could be like if I was always working from home, or retired!
Someone else is slowing down, heading towards retirement too. My best boy, Halawa Moon, is now 18. It's hard to believe I've had him 10 years already! Arthritis in his knees limits the amount of time I go out, and the pace. Each ride is Harley's choice. "Where shall we go today, Harley?" An hour and a half is good when he's feeling sparky. If he's up for a little uphill canter, away we go! If it's just a walk, or occasional jog, that's fine too. Yesterday, I decided to jump off for the steep descent down the power line, giving his knees a rest from lugging me around. The trails through Orris Falls have eroded and packed down early this year due to the "pandemic traffic", with the exception of our Secret Trail. John has told me, it may be time to start transitioning to Rolex. She has spunk, and a lot of spring in her step, but we need to develop a partnership like I did with Harley.
Harley and I reached our Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program for Recreational Riding 25 hour milestone two years ago. Last year, we reached 100 hours. At this point, I don't plan to push him on for the next mark, 500 hours. We will take each day we get, and enjoy our time together, in, and out ,of the saddle. Watch out Rolex, I just may get a T.I.P. number for you!
|John passing out carrots, sneaky Harley stealing the bag!|
Friday, May 29, 2020
What I need to do, is carry my binoculars, but I also need Harley to stand still while I hone in on the bird I'm seeking. That could be a challenge; he's either ready to turn around and head home, or he's at the point of return and walking at a fast clip. Standing still is not an option!
On foot, my bird walks allow me to stop, listen, and observe. Riding allows for purely listening and sometimes, a brief glimpse. As the warbler numbers increase, so does my frenzy to get out there and memorize the various calls and songs. It's like learning a new language every spring, the language of birdsong.
The world of Orris Falls can be broken down into a number of micro-environments; the swamps, the deep conifer woods, the upland deciduous forest, and the open grassy shrub mix of the power line. Within each of these regions, I find different birds. Around the beaver ponds, and amid the swamplands, wood ducks, Canada geese, and veeries can be heard. In the dark hemlock groves, hermit and wood thrushes sing their beautiful, haunting songs coupled with the nasal nuthatch's call and the chickadee's cheery "chickadeedeedee". Up in the treetops of the deciduous woodlands, scarlet tanagers, black-throated green warblers, white-eyed vireos, chestnut-sided warblers, and wood peewees, fly from branch to branch. Every so often, I will hear the scream of a broad-winged hawk, or see its shadow as it flies overhead. In the alder and witch hazel shrubs, I hear ovenbirds, common yellowthroats, and black-throated blue warblers. Emerging from the forest onto the power line, I encounter the "zzziipppp" of the northern parula, the bright flash of the yellow warbler, and "Drink your tea" call of the rufous-sided towhee. Even riding home along the road, I'm serenaded by bluebirds, orioles, and song sparrows.
I followed the song of a northern parula one day, and only caught a few glimpses of him as he flew from tree to tree. But at home, I was able to study one closely, and, with the help of online photos and guidebooks, came up with this for my Mom's Mother's Day Card:
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
|Heading home with Harley|
So much for social distancing--the endless crowds of people on the trails is overwhelming! The lovely weekend weather has led to so many cars parked up and down the road at the trail head, that the town put up NO PARKING signs in a vain attempt to limit the numbers. If nothing, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced people outdoors to rediscover the natural world around them.
Harley has proven to be a champ this spring, going solo time and again, even into new territory. He's gained so much confidence over the years. Oh, there may be an occasional spook, but no serious meltdowns. Yesterday, he stopped and tried to turn around a few times, but with urging, he continued down the trail. I think he's missing the company of Rolex. With John's hip pain, riding isn't in the books. So I will try and pick up some extra hours with Rolex when I can, and preferably under John's tutelage. She's a feisty girl with a lot of spunk, and a seriously bad case of spring fever! Here are a few pictures of me riding her, after John longed her--note the safety vest! Now is not the time for an E.R. visit.
|Me aboard Rolex Girl|
|Rolex and I at one of our better moments.|
We're into week six of the library closure. Mondays, my department has Monday email meetings, and Fridays we have a library-wide Webex meeting. Last week, I had to go into the library for some website work; eerie best describes the sensation I felt. As we adjust week by week for working, I do the same at home, trying to keep a similar schedule so when we finally do go back, my rhythm won't change. Horses in the early morning, clock in and work, sometimes throwing in household chores as I walk around plugged into my phone, then back out to the barn in the evening for feeding and de-mudding. Yes, the horses have made some lovely wallows for scrubbing off their winter hair.
I admit to enjoying my time in the woods, whether on foot, or on Harley. Hiking offers more opportunities for taking pictures, although I admit regretting not having film for my old camera. I miss taking macro shots of critters, flowers, and nature's beauty in patterns. A few weeks ago, I came across a tree, struck by lightning not too long ago, possibly during the year's first thunderstorm back in March? I imagined what it would have been like to see and hear the crash, smell the burning, and watch that tree split and catch fire. The power of nature is truly amazing.
When we finally make it through this, and if life returns to some normalcy, I need to go visit my parents, quarantined in a senior living facility since March. Then, I need to make plans; plans to get ourselves and our horses onto the same piece of property, whether it's here in Maine, or hopefully, Vermont. Until then, I'll keep riding, keep hiking, and keep our lives moving forward with hope.
Monday, October 14, 2019
Over the past year, I've messed around with all kinds of hoof boots. We went from the Easyboot Backcountry to a short hiatus on Scoots, then ended up with Gloves, heavily modified!. I need something that will stay on through mud, water, and bushwhacking.
|Harley's Easy Scoots|