Monday, April 26, 2010

Garden Plans

This past weekend I spent a lot of time doing yard work. We had wonderful weather - sunny and clear with a cool breeze. It was perfect. We had a ton of garden soil delivered during the week - 10 cubic yards, to be precise. 10 cu.yrds is A LOT of dirt. My husband did the calculations for how much we would need and somehow he over-estimated...we would have been fine with about 6 or 7! Sasha said that as he watched the dump trunk bed raise and start to empty the dirt he thought, "uh-oh." I can't believe I didn't take a picture.

We (ok, ok, Sasha did that while I was at work) filled the raised beds and I ended up building another one out of some big limestone flag stones that we found under the shed when we moved it. That used a little more than half of the soil. So I decided to level the garden in front...which used maybe one more wheelbarrow full. We had intended, at some point, to level the front yard a little better as we have some large valleys on the lawn. It appeared the time was now, so we filled in the lows, raked some soil over the whole thing, and re-seeded. Whew!

On the weekend, we took the plunge and planted some seed outside! It is still quite early to be planting most things but with the mild spring we've had I couldn't resist taking a chance at some early crops. Oooh, I just got a thrill, thinking about "crops". Tee hee.

We planted red and golden beets, carrots, and multi-coloured swiss chard. The seedlings (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and ground cherries) spent some time outside too.

I was compelled to draw up some plans, so I had some fun playing around on the computer. It's not to scale but I had fun "drawing" the veggies. They were all done free form, so don't laugh!
Click to see the image larger, 
you might even want to zoom in.

I personally love my little veggie drawings. My husband says he can tell by the carrots that the earth wasn't tilled enough before planting because they grew all wonky. Smart ass!

We actually only planted one row of red and one row of golden beets so that I could stagger the growing. I will be alone for most of the summer, so I don't want everything early or I won't be able to keep up with it all. What can I say, it's an experimental year!

The big decision now is what to do with the rest of the bed next to the shed. I had originally planned to plant corn there but I have too many tomato and pepper plants, so I'm undecided.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Getting it Together.

Since I last posted about my frustration with riding, the rides have been great! It figures, just when I finally am frustrated enough to start complaining on the blog. His canter last night was more like scenic passenger train than freight train...still lots of power but also much more "pretty". Of course, "pretty" translates into uphill, rhythmic, controllable, AND I had breaks. The ride before was pretty good too.

I am hoping that this isn't just the "up" swing of the rollercoaster but that it's here to stay, more or less. I know, I know, there are always ups and downs, I'm referring to the major re-think-everything ones. Sometimes I think that if horses were men, a whole lot of them could be labeled "emotionally abusive" if not physically! Good thing they lack intent, as far as we

So what happened? I'm not 100% sure, actually. As with most things, I think it was a combination of factors.

I met the farrier, which I found very insightful. He was great - taught me a few things and answered my questions happily. I love that kind of thing! I also learned about some of the challenges he's been having with Brumby. It gave me better perspective. It also made me realize that some of the issues I've been having is that I find it hard to be so "hands off" as a leaser. I think I just naturally want to be informed and involved and I'm just learning how to make this work in a lease situation. In any case, Brumby was perfectly sound after a trim and reset, and I had a good ride. (woo hoo!!)

Second, I just rode. Sometimes I get too caught up with the details of position etc., that I lose the feel. I think I have pretty good feel, but a lousy memory for piece-meal parameters, so I really need to not fall into the trap of believing I can ride better by doing steps 1, 2, 3.

Third, Horse of Course left me some comments a few posts ago on improving the downward transitions. I've been pondering them ever since, so perhaps that has helped. I seem to still be working out when to use seat versus legs because it still seems odd to me to stop with my legs instead of my seat. I mean, they are always there to keep the 'forward' in the down transition...but no seat?? I don't think I know how to do that, yet.

It's all 'clear as sausage water'. My new favorite saying, sure beats 'clear as mud' that we use here ;)

Fourth, I went back and watched some videos from the end of January, right before the abscess. Huh, you know, we don't look half bad! It gave me a little confidence boost. After all, if I got there with him once, I will again. He likely needs more strength and stamina after time off. It's possible he's tired from the jumping and that is making my rides more challenging. I'm not trying to excuse it, just explain it!!

Fifth, I rode outside!! Last night I managed to make it to the barn early enough to walk outside for about 15 minutes before we ran out of light and went inside to work. He was hesitant a few times, and thought about rearing, but he didn't and was pretty good about it. It helped having another horse out there - someone who just came. She is from my old lesson barn and I'm really glad to see her and her horse, maybe I will finally have a pleasure riding partner!

Sixth, I am warming up longer. I have to say that I am very conscientious about warming up, always. But the temperatures have been all over the place since spring has sprung, so it's been hard to gauge how much is enough. I've increased the time but I also do more interesting things at a walk. I think this is helping a lot, actually.

So naturally I'm no closer to a decision as the end of the month rolls near and I reach my decision date. Ah well, might as well see how things go in May, right? Sorry for the lack of pictures.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This is lame.

Webster's dictionary has this to say about lameness:

Lame. 1 a : having a body part and especially a limb so disabled as to impair freedom of movement b : marked by stiffness and soreness
4 a : inferior b : contemptible, nasty

Both of these definitions are relevant to my life at the moment. Brumby is lame again and I feel completely lame (i.e., inferior) as a rider and just in general. I was working through some thoughts from my last riding post and was seeing where the improvements were going. I admit, things have not been going well and I've been debating all weekend whether to stop my lease. I am just getting tired of the up and down roller-coaster ride this horse is. Just when I post about making progress, we are back to curling in worse than ever and a canter that is like riding a freight train. For no apparent reason. On the other hand, I hear his owner is having a lot of success jumping him and they are doing very well. I just don't know whether that makes me hopeful, or more discouraged than ever. Actually, I do. It makes me feel really, really bad. There. I said it.

So I was going to wait until after my lesson today to post about the last little while. I didn' t want to post all these problems if it was really just a couple bad rides, you know? Then yesterday I got a message from Brumby's owner that he had lost a shoe and the clamp dug into the outside of his hoof but not deep and he was fine. She had her lesson on him yesterday with no problem, apparently.

Today when bringing him in from turnout, I could tell he wasn't walking completely normally. I wasn't very surprised since he just lost a shoe and I hoped that he was just a little short on uneven ground. Unfortunately, he was not sound at the trot. I had half a hope he would get better with extended warm-up, I knew it wasn't likely to help but my instructor was on her way so I figured I might as well get eyes on the ground confirmation.

So now I'm back to the place I was in during the winter - contemplating whether I want to continue this lease but now that the horse is lame I'm kinda stuck with him because otherwise I look like a jerk.

On a more postitive note, some progress was made in the garden.

We have some neat tulips in bloom.

I rubbed linseed oil into the wood for my vegetable beds and we set them down over the areas my husband cleared.

I couldn't stand the wonky angles of the beds, so I made Sasha help me straighten them. I hated to mention it, he had done so much work already...but it turns out he knew I would want them straightened.

I guess he knows me well, and so he should! This weekend marks our 3rd wedding anniversary and our 11th year together! I guess if he didn't know and love my crazy aspects we wouldn't have made it this long.

There was a little champagne flowing today
and I admit it went straight to my head! Oops :)

So we moved the beds ever so slightly so the tops would align a little better. It's so nice to have someone who understands your quirks, even though I still think it's probably silly of me to care about a slight difference either way.

But see, I don't need it to be perfect.
They are still a little off, lol!

Then, of course, they just looked too fun. So I made use of them to jump Hazel! Probably not a good idea considering our veggies are going in there soon!
Check out the bounces! The video might
appear black, just click the play button.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Grilled Bison and King Oyster Mushrooms with Green Beans and Carrots.

Oh yes! My fabulous husband decided to stop by our favorite butcher the other day and pick up something nice. This butcher carries a lot of local meat which I really appreciate. Including this glorious bison.

For the bison, I mixed fresh rosemary and thyme with a touch of whole grain dijon mustard and olive oil. The bison is great on it's own, so my aim is not to flavour so much as give a hint of support for it. I rub the herb mixture on and then add fresh cracked pepper and a touch of kosher salt. I like my meat medium-rare to rare and I wouldn't recommend cooking something like this more than medium at the most.

One thing that makes a huge difference with meat, especially red meat, is letting it come to room temperature before cooking. This helps the meat "relax" a little (I believe) but mostly helps you cook the meat more precisely. You just can't cook a refrigerator-cold piece of meat properly all the way through because the outside will warm up but the center will still be cold. Yuck! So let it warm up for awhile! The time depends on many things such as size of cut and ambient room temperature. My house is typically around 18C until the middle of summer and I will leave it out for as long as an hour but usually 30 minutes or so. For chicken I would do 20 minutes at most, just because I'm paranoid (and can't often get local chicken, oddly).

But I digress! Those beautiful mushrooms are from a local mushroom farm and they arrive in my weekly produce deliveries. These are King Oyster or King Eryngii (pleurotus eryngii) and they are one of my favorites now. They have fantastic flavour and are quite "meaty". We like to simply cook them in a pan with a bit of butter (unsalted) and lightly salt and pepper them. As with most things this good, we prefer to let the natural flavours be centre stage.

The carrots and green beans were also cooked simply in a frying pan on moderate-high heat.  More fresh thyme and rosemary were sprinkled over the mushrooms and veggies. 


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ah, Spring.

Spring has arrived rather early this year. Last weekend, we enjoyed temperatures up to 30C/86F.  Of course, it's been quite a bit colder this past week and rainy but everything is green and growin'! 

I mentioned we built a new base for the shed and moved it but I also got a good start on building the raised beds for the vegetable garden.

I've done 3 4'x8' beds so far. 
We'll see if that's enough! 

We've been struggling with deciding where they should be. It's funny - now that we have this (relatively) huge yard I feel greedy about the space and want to use every inch wisely. I know, those of you with actual property/farms will find my little piece of earth tiny but it's really a huge lot for being in the city.
See? Still lots of space.
So I think that's where those beds will stay. We can always move them next year if it doesn't work out. Plus I will have some things growing in other locations. I'm going to try corn and hope the racoons leave some for us!

More signs of spring:
Forsythia - this was taken last weekend and it's already much more filled in.

I don't know what these are but they are SO cute. We get this colour and a really pretty purpleish-blue one.

Tonka (the cat) has been enjoying his outdoor time too. 
I just hope he doesn't start picking fights with the neighbour cats!

So we have a fair amount of space but Hazel's favorite spot is in the dirt.  Gotta love dogs!
I disturbed her nap! 
Note the tulips in the background - 
the flowers are now just about to open.
Spring makes everything feel possible, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What I say; what I do.

I am feeling somewhat frustrated today and can’t keep my mind on work. Probably not the best time to write a blog post, but what the heck.
I’ve been dwelling on the difficulty I have explaining riding issues on my blog. I think I get the general ideas out well enough, but it’s the details that I’m often a little quick to either throw in or omit, without much regard. And riding is all about the details. For example, in my last post I mentioned how I was trying different things to encourage Brumby not to curl behind the vertical. I re-read part of the post last night and got hung up where I said something about “driving” him forward for those first few strides. Did I really mean “driving”? To what extent? Will readers think I’m pumping like crazy when the poor horse is trying to do what he thinks he’s supposed to do and needs more physical development before he can support himself properly anyway? I wanted to edit it to explain further what I meant…or change it to “actively support” or some such thing (hmm, now that I think about it ‘actively support’ really just means riding, doesn’t it ;) ). I thought about the discrepancy between what I say, the particular words I use to describe an action or thought, and what I’m actually doing or thinking. Word choice can be extremely important since readers know me only through the words I choose to put together.

Of course it was late and I was just winding down after being at the barn all night, so I left it as-is in favour of a shower and sleep.

Sometimes I think I should forget about blogging. I figure if I can’t take the time to properly flesh out an issue, or be careful in my words, than what is the point? But I want to keep posting, most of the time. I just wish I had the time or energy to do it better. Almost every time I post about horses or riding I think that anyone who reads it will think I’m an idiot. Is that weird? Does anyone else experience a degree of blogging anxiety? I know, it’s ridiculous.

What’s my point? No point, really. Just spewing some words, thinking “aloud.” And I guess that’s just fine.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Progress: In riding and living.

It has been a glorious weekend! I’m not sure why but no one in my family organized an Easter dinner this year. I didn't since we had everyone over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. With everything that has happened since then, I just wasn’t up for hosting. Well, neither was anyone else, which was just perfect because it meant we got a LOT of stuff done around the house. I mean that literally since most of it was outside.

First, and most importantly, Brumby is back in work full-force. We seem to be progressing even faster than before, almost like the time off was good for either one or both of us. My two recurrent issues are the lack of good canter-to-trot transitions and Brumby curling in when first asking for a canter. I am so thrilled that in the last week I seem to have made some real progress on both these issues. For the curling, I have been focusing on driving him forward for those first few canter strides, really getting him between my leg and hand. I can worry about the pace and rhythm later. That, so far, has seemed to really help and my instructor agrees it’s much better. He will still curl, especially to the left, but by the second or third stride he is nicely vertical. I will also assist this with raised hands but it’s hard to describe when and how, it’s a ‘feel’ thing for me at this point.

With the down transitions from canter to trot, where I was occasionally having issues, I realized I am not relaxed enough in my seat (still!) for my seat signals to be clear.  I haven’t felt tense in my seat but I think I have been and that is why it’s unclear to Brumby when I ask for the down transition. The major “reason” for this is he is a huge, powerful warmblood and it is simply harder to stay with him than other horses. This results in me being more tense in my seat to stay with him than I intend to be. It’s funny because I actually don’t need to do it to stay with him, it just happens unless I pay attention to relaxing my seat. It doesn’t help if my back is sore, of course. Once I am cantering with a truly following seat I can ask for the down transition and get it almost right away with just my seat. This is a HUGE breakthrough for me.

I need new riding pictures
but until then, Brumby says “Hi”
Garden/house work
I’m thinking this blog might turn into “food, life, garden” for a few months. But then I guess that is still just food and life…

My husband also worked hard to build a new foundation for our backyard shed and move it about 5 feet from it’s previous location. You may remember that I painted it last fall. Well, I finally finished the sides you couldn’t see and gave it a second coat of red, too. Much better! The base was new, so we had to paint that also. 
Demolition of the original, rotten, base.

The new foundation

Inside, before painting.

Inside, after.

Meanwhile, I built the first of the raised beds for our vegetable garden! We moved into this house in mid-July last year, so there was not enough time for a vegetable garden. Well, this year we are changing all that! More on this to come.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Golubtsy, Golubki (Cabbage Rolls)

These are one of my favorite make-ahead meals.  It looks long but it's really easy. I promise!!  Admittedly, I made these months ago and have worked my way through all but one of the frozen portions. The weather isn't exactly conducive to this type of meal anymore but if I don't post it now, I never will!

2 x 14 oz cans Tomato - If you use whole tomatoes I would break them up first
Onion, garlic, herbs

I use good quality pureed tomatoes or canned whole tomatoes that I process slightly with a hand blender. If you have whole tomatoes, reserve some of the juice for the filling.  Add a little olive oil to a sauce pan. Add your onion, cook a minute or two, stirring. Add the garlic and keep it moving for another minute, then add herbs, toss, and add the tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes. *Put a large pot of water on for you cabbage now.

Ground meat - beef, pork, veal or any combination of the above. I've used a chicken/beef mix to keep it lean and it's delicious! (~2 lbs total)
Rice - white or basmati work well, uncooked (palmful, about 1/2 cup)
herbs - dill, oregano, basil (I like fresh dill but dried basil & oregano. It's your choice)

onion - very finelt chopped (~1/2 cup)
garlic -minced (1-2 cloves)
tomato juice - enough to make the filling quite moist
salt & pepper

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm not one for specific quantities. I really do cook most things by "feel". In fact, if I had half the talent for "feel" in the riding realm as I do in the kitchen, I'd be a happy woman. In any case, the measurements in brackets are approximate. It's ok, you can't go wrong with this. Ask questions too, I'll answer!!  Use a little tomato juice from the canned tomatoes for the sauce to make the filling moist. If you only had a thicker tomato puree, you can use a bit of that plus beef stock or even a bit of sherry, wine, or beer.

Once your filling is mixed and the sauce is pretty much ready, drop the head of cabbage into the boiling water. I do this in stages. Boil a few minutes then remove onto a cookie sheet. Use tongs to remove as many leaves as possible. Return to pot and repeat process until leaves start to get too small to make a good size roll or you think you have enough. I often have left over filling and I just make meatballs out of it and tuck it around the rolls.

Remove the thick end of the cabbage leaf spine. I wish I had a picture of this, but I basically cut a long triangle on either side of the stem end, removing the thickest part to make rolling easier. Add filling and roll. You will figure out the method that works.

Feel free to ask questions, I'll answer and post follow-up pictures if I can.

This is what I ended up with. The large pot was for that day. You can see the extra meat was made into meatballs which I place around the golubtsy.I froze the three smaller dishes as is and just add some tomato sauce on top when I bake them. The large dish I added extra tomato sauce and some beef stock. I bake at around 350F for 40 minutes or so.