Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's growing, you ask?

Lots! I thought it was high time for a garden update.

The garden has been doing well this year and now that we've had several days of hot, HOT, weather, everything is maturing well and ripening up. Almost everything was started from seed except for a few pepper and tomato transplants. The seeds I started myself were much stronger plants right from the start :)

Without further ado, enjoy the tour!

First up, the root vegetable and cucumber bed.
Cucumbers are angled toward the house on a trellis at the top of the photo. From left to right - carrots, golden beets, garlic, red beets. I've been harvesting cucumbers for a few weeks and have a big pot of them in brine for pickling tomorrow. Why does it seem I need to pickle in the hottest weather?

 Close-up of carrots. I will try harvesting a few this weekend and checking their flavour. Last year I found them bitter early in the season but they improved later. Some of them are so huge I'd like to give the cucumber vines that are growing into the bed some space. I will also pull some beets this weekend. Yum!

Next up, the pepper bed. I'm growing a variety called crimson red from seeds I saved from my favorite pepper guy at the market. They are supposed to be medium-hot but the first one I ate was pretty darn spicy. I am getting lots of peppers although they aren't huge. That's perfect for me because it's just me here so I can throw a whole one on a salad and eat them at their freshest. I also have another long variety called Carmen and love it because of how early it ripens.

Just starting to ripen.

Ready to eat! This is a made for a spicy salad.

From the other side of the row of three raised beds, we can see the tomato bed. I overplanted this bed even though I knew better. But I had the plants and in the early spring it's hard to remember how much they'll fill in. Not planting seedlings feels like murder...I'm not kidding, you should see me trying to thin the beets and carrots once the seeds get going - I agonize over it!  On the left you can see the cucumbers spilling over the trellis. You can also see what a jungle my yard looks smaller here than in person.

This was the first tomato to ripen (long since eaten), a delicious golden cherry.

Here is a close-up of the hydrangea on the far side of the yard.It's about 2.5m square.

We made a new raised bed next to the shed this year. It has our hot peppers (jalepeno, big bomb and serrano), a massive parsley plant, kale, and some beans.


"Big Bomb"

"Explosive Ember" serrano pepper.

Kale and beans.

 I have a bunch of stuff scattered throughout the rest of the yard. I haven't included photos of everything but here's a taste.

 Pear tree.  A new addition this year.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Last Straw, the Tipping Point…whatever you call it, I’m done.

I gave notice on my lease today. 

If you think you are surprised, especially based on my last few posts, I am doubly so.  Well, I’m both surprised and not surprised. 

Brumby has had behaviour issues the entire time I’ve been leasing him. I’ve mentioned them several times in previous posts, like this post, for example. I’m too tired emotionally, mentally and physically to recap here. Suffice it to say that in the last 2 years I have put a tremendous amount of time and money, not to mention effort, into helping improve this horse.

I haven’t posted about him much in months because it was much of the same…I describe it as a rollercoaster, lots of ups and downs. That is normal to some extent but the particular issues I’ve dealt with are beyond normal, in my opinion. In March of this year, I was almost ready to throw in the towel for good.

Then, as it typically happens, I start to get huge improvements. It’s been a very nice progression since then.  I still occasionally battle behaviour issues, especially when his owner has been riding more frequently. I don’t mean that to be egotistical, it’s just the way it is. When I comment to my coach that his owner hasn’t been out in x number of days she quietly tells me that’s actually a good thing when it comes to making progress with him (she coaches us both).  Other boarders comment to me on how much better behaved he is with me, they say they are afraid to pass him in the aisle when it’s not me with him. The difference?  She doesn’t give him any boundaries or discipline. The kicker is that it’s not like I have to be especially harsh with him. I simply prefer to correct with an effective amount of intensity so that I can be nice most of the time. I’m consistent. There is a very clear line and on one side I am soft and gentle but if he crosses the line I remind him who calls the shots. 

An example: One of his favourite things to do is try to pin you against the wall with his body.  I discovered this early on, so when he would try it I would bend my arm, elbow towards him, and when his ribcage hit my elbow I would wiggle it quite firmly between his ribs. It wasn’t nice but it certainly wasn’t going to truly hurt him. He got the message and stopped the behaviour, allowing me to show him kindness. I am told his owner allows him to pin her. I can always tell when he’s gotten away with it the last time she was out because he will try it once with me. Fortunately, it takes a lot less to remind him. 

Back to the last few months. It’s been pretty amazing. When we first started jumping in our grass jump ring, the scary tree line was the new issue du jour.  I started only allowing him to hand graze next to the trees and would give him carrots periodically whenever he was relaxed. It took about a week (so 3 days, since I have him 3 days a week) for this to become almost a non-issue. While riding, he would try to cut the corners or rush the long side.  So I worked on leg-yielding into the corners and at first doing lots of turn on the haunches along the long side. Recently, all I’ve had to do is be a little stronger with my inside leg in the corners and give occasional half-halts on the long side.  The course work has been improving steadily and it’s been a lot of fun to ride him.

Friday, we had another good lesson. He was a little strong at times but we rode several full courses and felt good about the session. Saturday, I got a message from his owner that she had a terrible lesson, he reared more than 10 times, was completely stressed etc etc. So I knew I’d have to do some damage control on Sunday.

This is part of the recount I sent to our coach and his owner (with minor variations):

It took me a good 30 min to get him to relax on the cross ties for saddling. I’m amazed I managed to keep him from ripping them out of the wall and that the saddle didn’t fall to the ground before I got the girth done – it was close a couple times. He was all over the place, striking out etc.  I tried to balance calming him with correcting the behaviour and eventually he was standing quietly with the saddle on. I gave him some nice neck scratches and carrots and he stayed quiet. 

The “ride” was a complete disaster. I will try to spare you the finer details but give you the general idea. He was rearing before we even got to the gymnastic line, let alone the jump field. So I made him do some trot work in the dressage ring, which was ok, he wasn’t always relaxed but he seemed comfortable and was responsive. I walked him along the outside of the dressage ring toward the jump field (road side) and as soon as we got to the first red & white jump, he reared.  I walked him up and down that line and he was jigging and stressed the whole time, and threw in a few rears now and then. Worse rears than anything I’ve ever experienced with him…and that says a lot!  We weren’t getting anywhere so I figured I would lead him around for a while. He reared while I was leading him and almost ran me down several times. 

Since I didn’t feel like getting hurt, I led him back to the barn and even though we were heading back he was trying to bash into me, drag me etc. I couldn’t take his bridle off without putting him in his stall because every time I touched a buckle he would try to bolt out the door.  I had to circle in the aisle several times. Once in the stall I finally managed to take the bridle off but I had to jump out of his stall as he spun around and then rushed at the door. He circled and circled in there – still with the saddle on.  

I wouldn’t have been able to take the saddle off in his stall without getting hurt, the way he was acting. I managed to get the halter and lead on with chain over his nose and took him back in the aisle. He was still trying to drag me out the door so I couldn’t put him on the crossties. I’m positive that would have been a disaster.  I had to face him away from the door and finally managed to get one side of the saddle undone and off.  I gave him a super quick hosing and scrape, which was scary and horrible, and threw him back out.
All I felt was relief to be rid of him and that somehow I didn’t get hurt.  I would say he was absolutely reckless – he didn’t care about hurting me or himself. The whole experience was dangerous and upsetting. It all sounds very dramatic but if anything this description is less dramatic than the actual events.

I just can’t understand what is going on with him.  After all the progress we’ve made, how can he be so different a day later?  I can’t show him if he’s being like this at home – never mind shows, I don’t even want to ride him on Wednesday. I never want to go through anything like that again. Ever. 
I continued on to say I was terminating our lease and some details around that. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. My coach has been fully supportive; in fact she’s been telling his owner he isn’t the right horse for her for a long time. 

So there you go. I will be horseless as soon as I possibly can and depending on what I can arrange with Brumby’s owner.

I’m in shock but I know I’m doing the right thing. It just really, really sucks in so many ways.

So there it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Best Laid Plans.

"The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go often askew"
~Robert Burns

This week, I grappled with a few schedule changes for our upcoming show...with my coach, Brumby's owner, and my mom (who would be helping me out with Hazel Saturday and Sunday). Add in the shoe Brumby tossed on Tuesday and I was begining to wonder if all this was worth it. All week, I just told myself that the show day itself would tell me if it was worth it or not. I don't mean whether we were in the ribbons or not, that is not the main goal for the time being (though of course I'd be there to do my best and hope my best was competetive). But the real test is whether I had fun, learned something, and gave Brumby a good schooling experience.

The shoe was replaced, the schedules were finalized, and entries were sent.

Entries were due Thursday by 9pm. About 30 min later I was browsing our local horsie forum, thinking I would do a little dream shopping before bed. Instead, I discovered the show I had so carefully prepared for was canceled. There were not enough entries.

I knew this show tended to be more quite than most others on the circuit, but to cancel altogether?? BOO!  From what I've learned, there are apparently some other, uh, personality factors, that keep people away. Plus there is a rated show just about every weekend all summer around here, so many people choose to take this weekend off, for various reasons.

Net result: no show for me!  At least this weekend. I will go to the one next weekend or the one after.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Horse Rules.

Rule #1 – The horse will lose shoes.

1.a. The horse will lose a shoe immediately following the most expensive resets.

1.b. The horse will lose a shoe any time it is: too wet, or, too dry. Perfect footing isn’t great either as that leads to wanton galloping around the field.

1.c. The horse will lose a shoe when he is: underworked and therefore playful in turnout, worked regularly and therefore wears them faster (?) or gets lazy with his feet, or overworked and…I don’t know, the horse does not get overworked.

1.d. The horse will most definitely lose a shoe the week before any major show, clinic, or event.

We exeprienced 1d today. We were very fortunate that the barn's regular farrier (who is not the farrier we use) was able to reset it today. Now, let's hope it stays on until Sunday! Sometimes I understand why people practically bubble-wrap their show-horses!

Bubbled Brumby
Note: Although I have posted some "sketches" in the past, I have been reading old posts from the Hyperbole and a Half blog lately and do not want to seem like I am ripping off Allie's idea. She is WAY better and WAY funnier, so I doubt my stuff would be taken seriously as a rip off...but I still wanted to acknowledge the goddess of paint art. Nobody like likes a copycat, least of all me (and this issue is actually coming up in my real life!) However, my examples are limited to some garden cartoons last year, which was well before I read Allie's hyerbole, and my boogey men. It's just fun to do and I'm bored and lonely. Bubble horse made me giggle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gettin' my "game face" on.

I've decided my first show will be next weekend, July 17. I am feeling pretty good about the riding part but I'm a little overwhelmed with the other details. Silly, right? I hope that once I get a few under my belt it won't seem like such a mystery to me. There are so many details - setting up my online account so I can register, organizing trailering, getting my clothes etc ready, making arrangements for Hazel (dogs are not allowed at this show at all, boo!), then getting Gumby ready (his owner is helping, yay!). I'm so glad I decided not to do the one this weekend - it's just too nuts. And work is pretty much madness at this point. My tiny area needs at least 2 more researchers. Or, you know, support staff so that us researchers aren't also doing all the admin work! But I digress...

SO yes, the riding. I haven't been this happy with my progress or Brumby's progress in a very long time. It really is all coming together. Are our rounds flawless? Not by a long shot. But they are solid and if any of my recent courses had been in a show, I wouldn't be embarassed by them. I'd say our biggest "things" are that he loses that nice hunter rhythm when jumping the line next to the tree line boogey-men by getting a touch fast. But we still get the striding nicely and, more importantly, he comes back to me! That alone puts a smile on my face. The other issue is the right lead change. If I am able to think ahead enough, we usually get it on the landing. But if we don't get it on landing, he often has to buck to get it. We've made lots of progress on getting smooth changes to the right but it's still a bit of a wild card.

There is one more thing I'd like to "game face." Literally. I have the worst jumping faces!! Before my husband left, he came to the barn with me a couple times and took some photos and video. I haven't been quite brave enough to share either on the blog but tonight I decided what the heck, I'll share one photo.

Go ahead, laugh it up ;-)
Honestly, how do I fix that face?? Yes, I know my shoulders are too rounded - but that I can work on. My facial expressions, however, seem to just happen. I think Brumby has good form and my contact is nice. It's like all the tension I could have elsewhere, I've forced into my face, lol. I'd like some pretty show pictures (well, as pretty as they can be with me in them)...any suggestions for relaxing my expression a little?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Catching Up.

Ok, so I'm a day late in posting this...

Happy Canada Day everyone! I am not out partying, or joining the over 300,000 at Parliament hill to see Will & Kate or the fireworks. In fact, fireworks are a large part of why I'm home. Not that I would have wanted to go downtown, but I might have done something. After last year's earthquake and Canada Day one week later, Hazel has been terrified of fireworks, storms, and loud popping noises of any kind.

Tonight, we are hanging out together, testing out her new thundershirt.

I'm finding that it's working pretty well. It doesn't completely take away her dislike for the noise but does seem to help her deal with her anxiety. During the worst of it, she wasn't panting or moving from room to room or stuck to my side, like usual. She did shake a little bit but she would take a deep breath once in awhile and calm down. It seems to help her deal with the anxiety herself, which is great because I certainly can't help her.

Life in the last week or so has been a little upside down. Alex left a week and a half ago, so I've been adjusting to the summer routine. I hate the summer routine! I hate missing my husband and being lonely on top of all the regular household responsibilities, which of course are multiplied in the summer.

I am happy to report that I got my laptop back a couple days ago which will mean I can post more readily. I have a desktop but don't particularly like sitting in my home office, so I've only been on the computer briefly each day. Come to think of it, that was probably a good thing!