Drew’s Growing

It’s been a while since I updated you on my teen horse Drew. (Teen in horse years; he’s 4.5.) I was worried that he wasn’t going to do very well, since between weather, travel, and illness, he hasn’t done much work.

That’s okay. I just want food and Mabel to run with. That’s his food he spilled on the ground.

Today was the first time I’d had an in-person lesson in a long time. I just took Drew, because I knew preparing two horses to go would tax my breathing. Luckily, he was so good that I ended up enjoying grooming all his shedding hair off and I didn’t cough much.

I got him all shiny.

I was looking at him and noticed he’s getting more muscles in his neck and chest. His tail has grown, too. And he’s mentally better as well. He handled trailering well today.

Stopping on a dime.

As you can see, Tarrin rode him a lot, but I was able to do his ground work except when she had a little chat with him about keeping his head down and being in control. Wow. When he paid attention his footwork was beautiful.


He worked very hard, even though he mostly walked. He was walking with good form, which takes energy. He was breathing hard and looked so sweet. He really tries.

I’m trying in more ways than one

I did get to ride, though, and it was so good to have some coaching and affirmation that I’m doing the right things with him. Tarrin even said he’s improved in some ways!

Must I turn?

He even leg yielded well for me. I was pleased that I held up long enough to accomplish things, and managed not to get sunburned, too. I’m glad I remembered to wear a shirt with sleeves.

Good boy.

Like I said, getting confirmation that I’m on the right track was really helpful. I got the same for my health issues, too, when one of my friends who happens to be trained as a physician’s assistant offered to go over my symptoms and share some things she found about bird-related illnesses.

This, and Fiona, cheered me up.

She pointed out how rare the chicken-related illnesses are, and that my lack of fever helps tule them out. Her guess is that what I inhaled triggered an asthma-like reaction in my lungs, which may not deteriorate since I got the antibiotics in. She also told me how to most effectively use the inhaler, which no one had done before. All in all, I feel less worried. It sure is nice when people offer to help like that!

Speaking of chicken issues, either Henley or Billie laid a dud egg today!

I do plan to wear dust masks around chicken poop and hay, for sure. But I feel less concerned.

Now I’ll move on to my next concern, which is job related. I’ll be fine no matter what happens.

Spring Can Be Sickening

Spring is in the air, at last. The weather is becoming warmer (perhaps too warm for February, but never mind – it’s nice for riding horses), birds are migrating north, and the days are getting longer. All those things are welcome to everyone who had to deal with the harsh surprises the ice storm brought.

I was happy to see that the cranes are now back in the skies, going the other way, and the killdeer have come back. Meadowlarks are also making themselves very well known.

All the tiny spring flowers are blooming, which you can see if you do “belly botany” like my botanist friend always recommended. It’s so good to see them.

While uploading some of the photos I took to iNaturalist, I took the time to see if one of my theories about what’s growing on our grassy areas was true. Sure enough, chickweed is so named because it’s used as chicken feed. It’s even grown as a crop in some places! Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) is darned interesting for a “weed.”

 It is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout the world. This species is used as a cooling herbal remedy, and grown as a vegetable crop and ground cover for both human and poultry consumption.
Stellaria media is edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads. It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku.


I feel a lot better, because for the past few weeks I’d been feeding it to the chickens along with the henbit I’d read was good for them to eat (and whatever else comes up when I pull it up). They eat it like crazy.

This is some good stuff.

Speaking of the hens, they also know it’s spring. Everyone has grown all their feathers back nicely, even Blondie, who had been bald on her back from the rooster’s attentions. And Betsy, the one who lays blue eggs, has ramped up production again. I think half the chickens are laying now (at least two of them are old enough that I don’t think they’ll lay at all). For a while I was just getting one or two a day, a white and a tan, but now I’m getting three…maybe up to five with the coming of spring.

The other great thing about spring coming is that the days are getting longer. That means I can get rides in on both horses after I finish work, which may help out with the fact that I’m not feeling very confident lately, especially with Drew, who is needing a lot of “firm corrections” as Tarrin calls them (he rushes rather than walking beside me when he sees grass, and just seems irritable). I am glad I can spend more time with my equine buddies, nonetheless.

So, why do I say spring is sickening? It turns out that I made myself sick when I was cleaning out the henhouse last week.

Let this be a lesson to you all: when you are sweeping up bits of hay and straw filled with chicken poop, wear a mask. I did not.

Thanks to that error in judgment, I now seem to have some kind of lung infection. I found myself wheezing and gurgling when lying down a couple of days ago, and since then, my lungs seem to be filled with fluid. At first it was clear, so I wasn’t too worried, but it’s getting worse, so I have an appointment to get my lungs looked at. Since I have NO other symptoms of illness (COVID negative, before you ask), all I can figure is I inhaled things that displeased my bronchial tubes.

Now, I live in Milam County, Texas, land of few medical services. I had an appointment for this morning, but it turns out the Internet is down at the local office. That’s so Cameron. I might be able to get in today in the next town over if my PA goes over there; otherwise, I have to cram an appointment with the other provider in tomorrow (my busiest day of the week), amid getting my spouse to the chiropractor for his messed up back, taking him to his Rotary meeting, and grabbing lunch with my friends. I predict all of that won’t happen.

So, readers: wear a mask when working in a dusty, enclosed environment like a chicken house. Or don’t ever clean it (not a good idea, since it gets stinky).

Animals, Accidents, etc.

Today was fun until it wasn’t. I mostly practiced Tunisian crochet, thanks to a little book called Tunisian Crochet Workshop that I found on Kindle for free. It has good photos and clear instructions, so I was able to get through a bunch of different stitches on a sampler.

Left to right, Tunisian double crochet, extended stitch, mesh stitch, reverse stitch, knit stitch, purl stitch, and simple stitch.

Simple stitch is the standard. The other ones I liked were knit, mesh, and extended. Reverse is icky. Good thing purl is similar. Anyway, now I know some stitches.

Woof woof.

I spent some time today enjoying the dogs. I always hear them in the backyard barking. I realized they were barking at cows, but today I got proof that it’s fun for all involved.

Those cattle are having fun!

The dogs bark, the mamas paw the ground, and the calves bounce up and down, trying to play. It’s so much fun to watch!

Alfred didn’t want me too close to the scary cows. When he realized I was approaching, he got between me and the action and herded me back. What a sweetie.

Ima keep you safe.

I wish Alfred had been there to protect me later. I’m having a lot of awkward moments. Yesterday I hurt my shoulder tossing saddles around. Today Drew and I got entangled in a rope and both fell down! That could have been a lot worse. He got clover stains and I hit my head and hand. No one bled.

No photos of the accident, so here are my cute Black History Month nails.

I managed to get Drew saddled and we did all our stuff just fine, so I guess we weren’t hurt too badly. But when he was free, he sure rolled a lot. Thankfully, Apache is still calm and cool, so I managed to do fine with him. I’m so grateful for him. And glad Drew is forgiving.

Tomorrow I shall spend time in the hot tub. I need it.

Playing Tourist and Reconnecting

I enjoyed hanging out with my friends last night, and was up bright and early for some Saturday morning fun. Lynn and Don took me to breakfast at a pretty and sophisticated place called Stella, with farm-to-table deliciousness. The grits and biscuits were great, as was the pecan coffee. I took photos of the decor to show to our rustic renovators in the family.

After the food fortified us, my friends took me over to Texas A&M University, a place I’d never really seen, even though I’ve lived nearby for years and even renovated a house in College Station. First we visited the very fancy Brookshire Brothers grocery store near the football stadium. This was not at all like the sad place in Cameron.

It has beer on tap and a coffee bar. Plus there’s a stage! There was nicer food, too. I got some wine and a weirdly delicious strawberries and cream Dr Pepper.

Everything in this place says 12 or Aggie. They are fond of the 12th Man. It’s a tradition.

Well, I am incapable of describing this school, its fans, or its lore, but I can describe excellent gardens. I was so happy that the next stop on my tour was a teaching garden that’s being developed on campus. This place is worth a visit if you’re ever nearby. It was fun discovering signs of spring in the series of different theme areas.

I spotted so many wildflowers growing that I could just imagine how this place will look in a few weeks. So many bluebonnets! But I found blooming trees and other plants hiding in nooks and crannies. All the pansy blossoms were a bonus!

I want to go back here and bring more friends.

Next I got a tour of the campus, which features many, many state-of-the-art athletic facilities, as you’d expect from an SEC university. Athletics rule. I also got to see some of the interesting older buildings hiding among the bland 70s buildings and a gorgeous new central campus park. It’s good to drive around a school on a weekend! I got no photos because I was busy looking.

I got out here, though.

Our final stop was the Bush Library, where Don volunteers. We didn’t go in, but I’ll go back later (been meaning to). There are always interesting exhibits. My favorite part of the grounds is this statue of horses breaking down the Berlin Wall. I’m not sure why there are horses, but the wall is cool. It has graffiti copied from the real wall. A moving tribute to some of the contributions George HW Bush made.

I appreciated this tour! I now feel like I know the area much better. But I needed to go home and visit my precious animals.

We are precious.

I’m relieved to say things are getting better with the horses after a rough re-entry. I’m slowly getting them back into their routine. Drew was a little squirrelly earlier, but today he got down to business after I made it clear he needs to focus.

I’m taking advantage of my teen status.

Apache, in the other hand, has become so consistent! I’m so proud of him. He pays attention to what I ask and just seems like he is having fun with me.

I’m relieved I’m feeling better about these guys, though I don’t think either is ready for a virtual show this quarter. Drew and I sucked last time and I still haven’t had any experience or guidance doing dressage with Apache. I think I’ll work on next quarter and take my time with my equine boys.

I’m not sure what I can do with Mabel. She is sweet but doesn’t like contact. I hope someday the decorations on her mane will fall off! I’d love to groom her but don’t want to stress her out. We will see.

Let’s also see if I can get back into my rhythm. I started a new craft, so that’s a good sign. Here’s the first Tunisian crochet I ever did correctly.

Welcome Routine

Today was the first “normal” day back at the Hermits’ Rest. It felt so good to do my normal things in the normal order. I think the animals are equally happy to be back to the routine, though I really appreciate the work my son did caregiving the ungrateful chickens and horses (he was challenged by escaping horses and hens who wouldn’t get off their eggs.

I have treated the chickens to delicious spring plants like henbit, chickweed, and this, corn gromwell, which is a great source of nutrients.

Last night it was pretty late when I got back from buying horse food (they’d run out and no one had been able to get more), so I’d quickly fed them. Today I got to enjoy the normal routine. It’s so nice to see them quietly go into their pens and wait. They were not such model citizens while I was gone. Escaping and kicking occurred. Sigh.

And I’m a bit stiff.

I’m happy to see they are dirty but ok. Once I found the bottoms of Apache’s feet, it didn’t look too bad. Sara was worried he would have thrush from the damp. No, he’s just a bit stiff.

He looks better here. I took a video to check with Tarrin, and these are screenshots. I’m lazy.

Note that you can see ribs on Apache above. It doesn’t take long to lose weight. Mabel really looks thin again, but I’ll get her full of oil and coconut again.

The horses know the days are getting longer, because they’ve started to shed. The chickens know, too, because they’re giving three eggs a day (not bad for older hens). As a reward I cleaned the henhouse. The poop and straw I cleaned out will be great composted for Sara’s garden.

Hey, we have new hay.

I had swept all the old stuff into a pile this morning, planning to sweep it out later. By the time I got back, they’d re-spread it! So, when I put hay on the clean floor, I didn’t bother to smooth it out. I knew the hens would take care of it.

Look, Billie Idyll, hay! Let’s scratch!

As I was leaving and the henhouse door was shut, I walked by and heard pecking and kicking. They were arranging the floor their way! Ah. Glad to be home.

Yup, Horses Make You Feel Good

I had a pretty free Saturday, so I split it between fun with yarn and fun with horses. The yarn post will be tomorrow. Today is my day to bask in my relationship with the horses.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Apache this week, mostly just hanging out with him. It really pays off, I think, because he’s so much more relaxed, yet interested in doing things lately.

Looking at his friends, but happy with me.

He seems to look forward to jumping and cantering. He seems practically athletic when we do groundwork. He looks strong and fit, not chubby and weak. I’m so happy for that.

Let’s go!!

Riding was fun. He informed me in his horsey way that my new square setup is too close to the trailer. When he stopped, I saw that he had noticed our reflection in the shiny part of the trailer front. Well, I had to agree he had a point. That looked weird.

That other horse and human look funny.

I finally, finally can relax when I ride and just focus on what we’re doing. It makes such a difference! My legs are relaxed. My arms are relaxed. I’m giving easy signals and Apache responds. He’s also relaxed, as you can see.

A relaxed horse and his cone. He stopped right there and didn’t move.

After we rode, I must have spent ten minutes just petting and talking to him, and he seemed to want to stay. Eventually Fiona indicated she was hungry, so we went in.

I got to hang out with the calves!

Drew hinted that he wanted to do something so I lunged him. He wasn’t at all into it. That was odd. I think he’s in some discomfort from playing too hard with Fiona and Dusty. Fiona had blood on a cut and Drew had some (of hers) on his neck. There is much kicking going on. So I relaxed and just spent time doing what he wanted to do, which was get his itchy head scratched. It was quite cute.

These guys wanted attention, too. It’s a new batch of young cattle.

I was all warm and fuzzy by the time we had some visitors. It was fun watching Sara’s granddaughter enjoy Fiona and Vlassic while we discussed hooves. Then the guest got to see all the dogs, which delighted her. What an animal lover she is!

I’m sure glad I had the chance to follow the leads of my horses and relax today. Oh, and by the way, no one has touched yesterday’s scary hay. I love my equine buddies.

Well, Today Was Good for Making an Arena

Too bad I had so much work that I didn’t have time to take photos or put together deep thoughts. But it’s fine. Stuff got done, I enjoyed lunch with friends, and bought myself a big ole tape measure.

It rained a bit, which made for a lovely mist that rose over the henbit that’s feeding all the bees.

Why did I buy a hundred-foot tape measure? Because I had a plan! I missed my horse lesson yesterday, so I conspired with Tarrin to do a FaceTime lesson in which we turned one of my small pens into a dressage arena!

Anticlimactic photo featuring a big pile of poop

It’s not quite regulation width, but not too small, and the length is 120 feet (thank you, tape measure). The interesting part was measuring the correct places to put the cones with letters on them (note to self, look up why the letters they use appear random; it must be a French thing).

Tarrin told me I’d get a lot of walking in. I did. There was a lot of moving tape, fetching cones, and measuring. Tarrin ended up watching bugs in the sky when I’d throw the phone down. At one point I put her in a cone. She was so patient as I dropped things and coped with weeds.

I did at least have some clever innovations. I marked the fence where the cones and corners should go with bright red duct tape. I know Fiona and Drew will play with the cones. But the tape on the fences will withstand amusing animals and weather both. I hope. Do cows and calves eat tape? That’s what’s on the other side of one edge. Only Cone A will need a rock or something to mark it. Cone A is in the center. It’s doomed.

Here’s what the cones say and how they are positioned By the way, D, C, and G aren’t labeled on the arena.

Why on Earth did I do this? It’s because the Working Horse Central shows’ functionality tests use standard dressage arenas. You’re supposed to turn, make circles, move sideways, and such at certain points. I used the nice one Sara made at her house for filming last year, but I know I’ll practice a lot more with an arena closer to home.

The FaceTime meeting was fun. Neither of us had done it before, but it worked. But now, after even more work meetings, I’m tired. So is the family!

My preciouses

PS I tried looking up what those letters mean. Apparently not much.

Rolling with Changes

Oh you never know what’s going to happen around here. So today’s agenda changed, but it’s all good!

Since I needed to skip Drew’s lesson today, I just worked with him a few minutes, which made it clear I needed to rearrange my obstacle area, or horse playground. So I moved a lot of barrels, cones, posts, and other objects around to make more riding options.

Tomorrow Tarrin will help me figure this stuff out better and set up a slightly off-sized dressage arena wannabe space to practice for this year’s shows. I just hope I can found one of our many giant tape measures that usually are in plain sight but are now hiding. I may have to run to the hardware store to get one!

Oh I forgot I had this fine sunrise image from this morning

And, as always, I used nature to take my mind off unexpected events. Look at this beauty!

Mmm. Nectar.

And I scared everyone on Facebook by posting what I thought was just a fun photo of a boho bird nest. I didn’t provide enough details so folks thought we were gonna burn the house down.

The lights are disconnected. Sparrows and hermits are safe.

I’m any case, I’m interested to see what tomorrow brings. I’ll be outside at sunset again but not going an hour away in yet another direction. Today we went west, rolling down the highway!

Come on changes! I can take it! I’m flexible!

Happiness Is Birds and Beasts

This is an interesting part of my life. Outside of me, things are challenging. Inside of me, I’m feeling better than I ever have. I wish I’d learned to focus on what I can influence and let other stuff go much earlier in life. But I think only experience teaches us how important this is and helps us do it.

Vlassic is a great role model. Really lives in the moment!

I had a lovely day. Birds made me so happy, just watching them. I watched the resident great blue heron looking for food in the new pond and wondered if there are fish in there now.

Then I just watched our sparrows traveling from tree to tree, and was really impressed at how many bugs a mockingbird got while I was getting the mail. That bird was busy, and it seemed very pleased with itself.

The beast that made my day happy was Apache. We had quite a productive day. We’ve been working on cantering after jumping and in the round pen. He’s really improved since our last lesson. He was a jumping fiend today and did his cantering exercise in the round pen the best he’s done so far. He has figured out what I want him to do, and he actually seems proud of himself.

I’ve got skills.

And we had a fun ride, too, with improved skills and encouraging calmness when we went out to ride around. Things that used to be hard are getting easier, and his demeanor is so much calmer. Y’all, I keep saying this, but I’m still blown away at how much better things are getting between us. We’re a team!

See how calm I am. I’m tired from all that cantering.

I know I’m feeling good when I get goofy. For the past few days I’ve been doing arts and crafts at the horse pens. I’m making a decorative weaving with the strings that hold hay bales together. Well, that’s re-using a waste product, right?

So far, it’s mostly warp.

I’ll need more string soon, but that’s okay, since they need more hay.

Sure, some grass is here, but it’s winter, Mom!

You know, having a calm and peaceful part of my life took a lot of work. So I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it.

something poetic

(formerly The Lost Kerryman)

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