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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Winter Riding

Winter Riding

After having a warm fall--and a long one, too, winter has arrived.  We had 2 good winters in a row, so it was unlikely that we would get a third, and so far, it has been crummy.  The temperatures have had highs in the teens and lows in the single digits, and there is no end in sight.  In this kind of weather, it is even hard to ride the horses in the indoor arena!

But we do.  Cole has settle down to work, and he seems to be not far off from where we were went we quit riding in the arena last spring.  I still get a little nervous in there, at times, but I keep reminding myself that he is 11, now.  He has grown up.  Overall, he has been living up to being 11, too.  

Dante is Mr. Reliable in the indoor arena.  Where I try to settle Cole down, Ellen tries to liven Dante up.  He has performed remarkably, and he has been very consistent, too.  Ellen has to find new things to tackle to keep things interesting for both of them.  With Cole, just trying to ride his arena trot is usually a big enough challenge for me.  I keep trying to extend the distance between the transition and losing my seat.  As I improve, his trot becomes loftier--and then I have to try to improve, again.  At least he keeps me entertained--and very warm.

Since Kevin doesn’t ride in the arena, he is more limited.  He has taken Starry down the hill a few times.  I joined him on Christmas Eve, and we were able to trot back and forth on the bottom--in the snow.  Since then, it has been so cold that I decided to stay inside.  He has continued to ride on the hill.  I think he likes to get his money’s worth out of his snow pads.

The river had thawed when we had a week of warmer weather, but it is freezing up again--and may stay that way until spring.  This is a hard time of year for us trail riders.

Book Review: "The Small House at Allington" by Anthony Trollope - 1864

Another of the Barchester series, and for the most part I liked it.  It is a story of romance--and not just one romance, but quite a few.  There are plots and subplots and everything gets messed up--only to be fixed again.

After a while, I started to get frustrated with the characters--they kept making dumb decisions.  How could they be so thoughtless?  At one point of the novel, it was one bad decision after the next.  I began to lose patience with them.  I know they weren't real, but they sure weren't being smart.

Finally, the novel came to an end, and all the good guys were happy and the bad guys were not.  I think I may take a break from Trollope for a while.  I liked the story, but I want a character that acts a little less impulsively.  Sometimes we have to be practical in life.

Riding the Loop

Riding the Loop

Winter is here.  Trail riding becomes difficult because just a quarter mile down the trail we have to cross the river.  Once the river starts to freeze, as it did earlier in the month, all we can do is ride up and down the hill if we want to go on a trail ride.

That used to suffice in years past, but this year, the hill is a miserable place to ride.  The park decided to fix it, but they made it worse.  One good section, in the middle of the hill, they thought the could improve.  They got a bunch of clay and they spread it over the trail.  In doing that, they completely covered the drainage ditch that runs alongside it, and filled in the culvert that drained the water away.  Now, when it rains, the water drains right onto the trail; creating a little pond--that freezes, of course.  Also, the clay is thick mud.  The horse hooves chop it all up--and that freezes, too.  It is no place we want to ride.

That leaves us the loop behind the barn as our only good outdoor riding spot.  Cole is pretty good back there, now.  When I used to work and had to ride at night, I would ride him there on the mild nights.  Ellen used to ride Dante back there when I worked, and she didn’t have anyone to ride with.  She introduced him to it, and right away he was great.

That leaves Starry.  Kevin never spent much time back there.  He always preferred riding up and down the hill.  I did, too, until the park tried to fix it.  He was hesitant to come out and ride the loop with us, but we were finally able to convince him.

Because it is within eyesight of the barn and goes along our outdoor arena, which often has horses turned out in it and the neighbor’s pasture, it can be a tricky place to ride.  It is only about a quarter mile, so that means that we want to do it more than once.  Each time they come around the corner that faces home, they would just as soon keep going.  We also see a lot of deer and turkeys in the woods alongside it.  (Sometimes even a fox!)

I must have ridden Cole there a dozen time before he settled down--and he does get a bit antsy on it when we haven’t done it for a while.  I don’t think Ellen had much trouble with Dante in the early days, but Ranger was a challenge.  Cruiser did pretty good, but that is mostly because I spent so many days walking him back there when we were doing his physical therapy for his bowed tendon.

Over the years, Kevin did take Starry back there occasionally, but not with much success.  He had a reason to be reluctant.

Now, you are probably bracing yourself for a long, drawn out story on how we taught Starry to behave.  Don't’ worry, he was great the first time out.

It was a case of setting Starry up for success.  To begin with, Kevin free lounged him for 10 minutes before he went outside.  That way, he was in the right frame of mind.  Then, we made sure he--not only wasn’t alone--he was with his two best friends!  

We figured that Starry would be happy to just follow Dante, but as soon as Kevin mounted, he marched right out in the lead.  He was very excited to be out on the loop.  It took less than a lap, and he settle right down to follow Dante.  

We have gone out there a few times, and he has been good.  Only once, when he joined Ellen as she led Ranger, did he act up.  Kevin had to bring him back the the barn.  The next time he was with Ranger, he was fine.

The hill may be inhospitable, but it is still nice that I can go out and a “trail ride” with my best friends when we can’t cross the river.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: "Stick" by Elmore Leonard

Not one of his best.  The characters were rather shallow and the plot moved slowly.  The women were particularly one dimensional.  That being said, it got quite good about 75% through--and I liked the ending.  So, it was worth it, but I felt he could have done better.

The main character, Stick, is from one of his previous novels, but I can't remember the title.  In the last novel, he ended up in jail.  This story continues from the time he got out.  He ends up in Florida without a plan and nearly gets killed by some drug dealers.  He escapes, but they still want to kill him.  the story is about how he tries to beat them at their game.

Thunder the Delightful

Thunder the Delightful

I came home, today, and Thunder greeted me, of course.  He wanted all my attention.  I wanted supper.  I stuck my meal in the microwave, and he still wanted attention.  I tried to get him to eat his supper, but that isn't what he wanted.

I had 3 minutes until my meal was ready, so I followed him around and told him how beautiful he is.  I tried to get him to eat, and he still refused.  I followed him around some more while he purred and showed me his scratching post, his other scratching post, his pad, his pedestal, his other pad...

This is how it always is with him.  After a while, he was ready to eat, and I was able to get my supper, too.  He is one of those cats who is truly, truly happy to see me--and isn't just happy that I am home to feed him.  He makes me feel very loved.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Brenda Goes Flying

Brenda Goes Flying

It was a beautiful December afternoon for a ride.  Brenda joined Kevin and me on a trail ride.  Her horse is Archie, a huge Quarter Horse gelding.  We have ridden with Brenda plenty of times, but I seldom mention her because Archie is a pretty good horse.  He does have the slow Quarter Horse gaits, so he has trouble keeping up with us.  If we trot, he needs to canter.  Well, it is a Quarter Horse lope.  Unfortunately, if he has a lot of energy, he will throw in a buck now and then.

We crossed the river and started trotting on the other side.  That didn't last long because we saw Paula and Chris on their way home.  We slowed down and exchanged greetings.  Once we passed, we began to trot, again.  Kevin was in the lead, followed by me.  Brenda, with the slower horse, was behind us.  After only about 30 seconds of trotting, we heard Brenda yell, so we immediately stopped and turned around.

I was the first one to see Brenda on the ground; motionless.  Archie was galloping down the adjacent paved bike path--going away from home.  We both leapt off our horses and headed for Brenda.

Do you know how it is when you are in a crisis situation and time slows down?  Well, I think that is just what happened.  Though we couldn’t have been 50 feet away, it seemed to take about an hour to get to Brenda.  We were calling and calling her name, but there was no answer.  I thought she was dead.  Archie came cantering back down the bike trail, turned and went towards Brenda.  He saw that she was useless and turned towards us, but he didn’t go on the trail.  He trotted through the underbrush and ended up stuck on a pile of logs--with a sapling wedged along his neck.  Being a smart horse, he decided to stay still until someone came to help him.  I stopped Cole by Archie to keep him quiet and Kevin continued the long trek towards Brenda.

Time isn’t the only thing that slowed down--so did Starry.  I have never seen him walk so slow--ever.  We continued to call to Brenda.  I saw her leg move--she was alive!  Kevin kept dragging Starry to Brenda.

A couple cars saw there was a problem and stopped.  We now had some help!  One man called 911.  The other man asked us what he could do.  I asked him to hold Cole while I untangled Archie.  Kevin finally got to Brenda, and she was unconscious.  

I carefully maneuvered Archie out of his predicament.  I glanced back at Cole, and he was bowing.  With Archie safe, I thanked the man; relieved that Archie wouldn’t be running towards home.

I could hear Kevin telling Brenda not to stand up.  That was a good sign!  While I was untangling Archie, she came back to consciousness and was becoming feisty.  I held the 2 horses, still at a distance from them.  The man who called 911 was now by Kevin.  They were both trying to convince Brenda to stay down, but she had enough of lying in the mud and slowly got to her feet--and nearly fell right over.  They caught her and held her up as she swayed back and forth.  She was in really bad shape.

I managed to get the horses over to her.  She wanted to go home.  We wanted her to stay until help came.  She was talking slowly and slightly slurred.  The emergency responders called us back and asked for further directions.  They weren’t far away.  Brenda took Archie and started walking away.  She just wouldn’t listen.

I got back on Cole because he kept bowing to get my attention.  At least if I was on his back, he wouldn’t bow.  Well, that didn’t last long--here came a huge firetruck with its light flashing!  The part of the trail that were were at was right by a fence that separated the paved bike path--which was right by the street.  The truck was coming right to us.  I hopped off--only to see an ambulance and ranger’s car heading our way, too, with their lights flashing.  I am so glad they didn’t have the sirens going, too.  

I am glad to say that all 3 horses didn’t care in the least.  Brenda just kept walking away.  The driver of the fire truck asked me if I was all right.  His truck was very loud, so I shouted to him it wasn’t me, and pointed to Brenda and said she was getting away.

He backed up his truck and intercepted her.    They were talking when I caught up to them and pulled out the stretcher.  Now that the professionals were there,  we could work on the problem of Archie.  It was getting dark, and we had to get Archie home.  I quickly ran the options through my head.  I have never used Cole for ponying, so that wasn’t the greatest idea.  We had to cross the river to get home.  It would be hard to lead 2 horses across--the greatest risk would be for the leader slipping on the slate bottom and falling--not to mention the water was cold.  

Since we weren't that far from the barn, I volunteered to ride Cole home and get my car, drive to the park and ride Archie home.  I geve Archie to the ranger to hold.  Kevin stayed with them, too.  I trotted Cole off, crossed the river and headed up the hill.  Once across, I tried to trot.  He got all excited, and I realized I would be safer to walk up the hill fast than to trot.  Cole did go very, very fast up the hill at a walk, and we were home in no time.

I saw Chris in her car, and the lightbulb went off in my head.  I asked her to give me a ride down to the park.  That way, I wouldn’t have to leave my car--and it might be good to have another person to help out.  She was glad to do us the favor, and it turned out to be a great thing.  When I got back down there, the ranger gave me Archie and asked Chris to stay.  Brenda was refusing to go to the hospital and would need a ride back to the barn.  They certainly didn’t want her to ride Archie back.

Kevin and I walked the horses to the river.  I didn’t want to bother adjusting the stirrups on the western saddle, and since Archie is so tall--and Brenda is so short---I couldn’t mount from the ground. There is a log there that we intended to use as a mounting block.

As soon as I got on, I realized that Archie was trained much different than my horses!  He was trained as a proper western horse, and had a curb bit.  The lightest contact made him back up.  I accidently neck reined him to the left--and then to the right.  Ooops!  Immediately, I knew that I was only going to ride him across the river and then lead up the hill.  I was a fish out of water on his back--and with no stirrups!  I had Kevin go down the river bank first, and I asked Archie to follow.  He was fine.  I hopped off as soon as I got through the muddy river bank on the other side and led him home.

Brenda was back at the barn when we got back.  She still seemed out of it, but she was walking around.  Bending was impossible.  Her hip seemed to be bothering her.  We didn’t want her to drive home, but there was no stopping her.  We had her promise to call us when she got home, so we would know she was safe.

She kept her promise.  By then, her hip was so bad that she decided to go to the hospital to get it xrayed.  Turned out nothing was broken.  She did have a concussion, of course, but they checked and there was no bleeding on the brain, so that was good news.  She is very, very sore, though.  I was just happy she wasn’t dead--because there was a minute there that I thought she was.

She fell because Archie bucked as she tried to keep up with us at a canter.  She wasn’t that far away, so I think it was caused by high spirits on Archie’s part.  Brenda didn’t want me to write about the experience because she was embarrassed by it, but there isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.  Accidents happen, and it could have been so much worse.  She also said there wasn’t anything anyone could learn from this--but there was.  She did one thing right--she fell in the mud.  At least she had a little cushion when she hit the ground.

So, if you are going to fall, aim for the mud.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Starry is a Superstar

Starry is a Superstar

Starry, the only horse in the world named Starry with a blaze, has come so far.  Over the last month, he has become a reluctant leader.

It hasn’t been easy.  We tried a lot of things--and kept the ones that seemed to help.  Clicker training worked well to help him pass, but Kevin didn’t want to give him a treat every time he passed a horse, so Starry would revert, after a while.  

It did backfire. In a way.  Kevin would say “Good boy,” click and then treat.  Starry started to stop whenever Kevin just said “Good boy.”  He changed it to “Good job.” It worked.  Kevin had a way to praise him when he was good.

We avoided even trying in the places that Starry was particularly reluctant to take the lead.  Turning around to go home was simply impossible.  We would wait until we got down the trail to ask him to lead.  

We tried to avoid conflict when making him the leader.  Certain places were easier to put Starry in the lead.  A good time to do it was when we were crossing a river.  We used that to get him in the lead without a fuss and leave him there.

As we chipped away at his resistance, things just started to get easier.  If we were trotting along and he slammed on his breaks to get Cole to pass, I just turned Cole away and left him.  When he saw that Cole, not only wasn’t passing him--but leaving him--he would start walking, again.  As soon as I saw that, I would turn Cole back around.  In a short while, Cole only had to go a step or two away.

Of course, the heart of the problem was passing Dante.  I now try to guide Starry with Cole leading him by Dante.  Kevin tells him, “Good job,” and we lead him down the trail for a little bit.  Then, I can pull Cole off to the side of the trail to let Starry pass.  If he doesn't pass willingly, I bring Cole behind Starry and away he goes.

In the beginning, this didn't always work.  In the last few rides, it has worked marvelously.  We are now a well-choreographed team.  He will even take the lead when we turn around to go home--which was impossible, before.

We are so proud of Kevin and Starry for solving the problem.  We know there are still going to be moments when Starry acts up, but we know what to do to help him through.  Starry is a Superstar.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review: "Doctor Thorne" by Anthony Trollope - 1858

This is the third of a series of books that I have read by Trollope that take place in Barsetshire.  There is very little overlap from the first book, but it was consistent in the quality of storytelling--and that is what counts. 

Mary is the illegitimate daughter of "unknown" ancestry that is taken in and raised by Doctor Thorne.  She falls in love with the son of the local squire who loves her equally--but must marry for money to save his family estate.

I enjoyed this book completely, and I am sure it won't be the last Trollope on my list.  I liked how he built the characters and the neighborhood--which I am already so familiar with.  The romance was compelling and it also dealt with many other issues of the day.

Book Review: "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

Another wonderful classic by the man who is credited with inventing the detective story.  A mysterious large diamond is bequeathed to a young lady.  It disappears the very same night.  Was it the suspicious Indians who have been trying to steal back their jewel for many years?  Or was it someone else? 

Like "The Woman in White," it is narrated by different characters throughout the novel.  The story is clever and very entertaining.  There is romance, adventure and good detecting.  I loved it from start to finish. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Surprise

I just got back from my Thanksgiving ride with Ellen--and a wonderful one it was.  After a quick lunch, I thought I would make some cookies to bring to Kevin's for the feast.  As I was gathering the ingredients, Thunder called me into the dining room.  I looked out the window and saw a half a dozen robins digging around in the oak leaves on the ground.  That was neat.  I like robins.

Soon, there were at least a dozen robins.  They were hard to count because they were moving around so much.  I decided to watch from the kitchen so I could continue mixing the cookie dough.

Much to my glee, a blue jay joined the action.  I love blue jays.  More robins showed up and they started wandering closer and closer to the house.  A couple juncos hopped into the feeder.  I had put a little bread in it in the morning.  Then, there were more juncos, some tufted titmouse's and nuthatches.  The nuthatches were crawling on the tree trunks. 

Then and red-bellied woodpecker visited the bird feeder.  That has happened before, but it is still a treat for me to see them.  I love red-bellied woodpeckers.

As I was staring at him, a couple more blue jays appeared and more robins.  I tried to count--there were more than 20.  The juncos seemed to have multiplied and now there seemed to be nuthatches all over the place.

Some of the birds were moving around so fast that I couldn't tell what they were.

I glanced over to the bulb garden, and there was a bright red cardinal poking around.  I love cardinals.  I looked back to the bird feeder--and there was a pilliated woodpecker on the post!  A first in the land of Daly.  They are rare around hear, and I have never seen one close to the house.  I could barely take my eyes off him--when I noticed another good sized woodpecker of some sort walking up a truck--that I have never seen before.  I could only see his back, so I have no clue what it was.

The pilliated woodpecker flew over to a tree trunk and pecked around for a while until he disappeared.  The robins slowly traveled away in search of more food, elsewhere, and soon we were alone, again.  For about 10 minutes, I got to watch the most spectacular bird show I have ever seen in my yard.  It was a wonderful surprise.



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ellen Tackles the Loop

Ellen Tackles the Loop

We have had a terrific year of trail riding--which has kept us away from riding at the barn.  Now, as the season winds up, we are adjusting to it by integrating arena riding and loop riding.

The loop is in the back of the property.  It is about a quarter mile.  Riding it is a combination of challenging and boring.  It may seems contradictory, but that’s how it works out.  The horses can be difficult at times because we are so close to the barn--it lures them like a magnet.  Once we work out that, it gets fairly boring--just going around and around.  Still, it gives us an option other than the indoor arena.

The loop is great if your are riding at dusk--or even in the dark.  I used to do that alot.  We now have another reason to ride the loop.  The park tried to fix our trail on the hill down to the river, but they didn’t finish it.  They put down a bunch of clay, that has turned into nasty mud, and in doing that--covered the culverts--causing flooding.  The water has started running right down the center of the trail, and eroded it down to the base stone where it isn’t mud.  In other words, it isn’t much fun to ride on--and it is hard on their hooves.

The loop now looks better than the hill if we can’t cross the river.

Cole is good on the loop because I did it so much when I was still working and didn’t have enough daylight to ride on the trail.  Ellen works different hours, so she can go on the trail most of the time.  Years ago, when she didn’t have anyone to trail ride with, she rode the loop a lot with Dante, and he was very good--but that was a long time ago.

But there is a problem with Dante.  If he hasn’t done something  for a while, he can be very, very bad the first time.  Last year, I tried to ride Dante on the loop when Ellen wasn't’ there.  I didn’t make it very far.  He felt like he was going to explode.  I dismounted--and then he exploded.  He leapt up in the air, jumped about and stomped the ground in a temper tantrum.  The rest of the ride was spent leading him as his tantrums diminished.  It was simply no fun at all for either of us.

I didn’t have an opportunity to try it again, though I am certain that if I did, he would have been much better.  That’s just the way Dante is.

One morning, had a rain storm the left us with two and a half inches of rain--there was no way we could cross the river.  Since the hill was such a mess and it was likely that we could get more rain, any minute, Ellen opted to ride in the arena.  I joined her with Cole, but when she finished with Dante and brought him to his stall, I took Cole out on the loop.  Ellen walked with us.

The next day, we knew the river would still be too high.  This time, Ellen decided to brave the loop.  She knew that Cole would be an angel since she saw how good he was the day before.  We hoped that since Dante is used to going along with Cole on the trail, he will just transfer his behavior to the loop.  It is just a trail, after all.

As we started out, Dante was tossing his head all over the place, but his feet behaved.  Ellen was nervous, and said she didn’t think she would make too many laps.  Whenever she got nervous, we stopped.  I made sure that Cole didn’t get too far ahead.  

Dante had one slow motion protest after the first lap, but it didn't surprise Ellen, and she just dealt with it.  At one point, there was some noisy construction equipment a few doors down.  That made Ellen nervous, but Dante was just fine.

With each lap, Dante relaxed more and Ellen lost a little of her nervousness.  We did six laps at a walk, and Ellen was in the saddle the whole time.  She was so happy that she succeeded in her goal.  I was very proud of her and Dante for doing so well.  We now have another option for the rainy days when we don’t want to go down the hill.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: "The Captain and the Enemy" by Graham Greene

This wasn't one of Greene's masterpieces, but I liked it.  It started out really good with a young boy being won in a Chess game from his neglecting father by a mysterious man and brought to the man's girlfriend to raise.  This man is called "The Captain," and the story is about how the boy tries to find out who this man is as he grows up.  The mystery keeps you reading, but that's about it.  Worth reading--but don't expect too much.

Why I Love to Ride in November

Why I Love to Ride in November

Here in northeast Ohio, November ushers in cold and miserable weather--but not every day is like that.  To Ellen, Kevin and me, the trail riding doesn’t stop when we turn over the October calendar page.

If it is above freezing--and not raining--there is a good chance you will see us out there.  Most of the leaves are off the trees, right now.  Our beautiful trails aren’t that beautiful anymore--but that is an advantage.  Gone are all the sightseers.  The only people out there are the diehards like us.  No more loud motorcycles or hotrods.  In fact, there are hardly any people on the trail except us!  It is wonderful.

There are no bugs!  No bug spray that doesn’t work, anyway!  That does slow Starry down, though.  Just a couple bugs flying around him will make him toss his head around and go faster.  Now, he leisurely plods down the trail.

Our trails are rather hard and dry most of the time.  We don’t have much mud to deal with, which is nice, but that also means they are very hard in the summer.  We get enough rain this time of year, that the trails have some give to them.  The horses appreciate it, and we do, too.

Since there are few leaves on the trees, we can see around the corners.  That way, we know what is ahead of us on the trail.  Also, some horses get upset if their friends go around a corner and then they can’t see them.  That doesn't happen this time of year.  There is also less temptation to reach out and grab a branch.

We don’t have to worry so much that the horses get too hot--meaning we can trot much more when we are close to home.  That helps us keep warm, too.

We do get more days that are rained out or the river is too high to cross.  There is also a chance that snow will keep horses off the trail if they still have shoes, but that doesn’t happen too often.  Sometimes, it is so cold that the trail is frozen--and then we just walk--and freeze.  Most of the time, we still feel it is better than riding in the indoor arena.  We have all winter for that.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: "Barchester Towers" - 1857 by Anthony Trollope

This was the sequel to "The Warden."  It was just as good.  I liked how the characters were portrayed,  I really liked Mr. Harding, and I was rooting for his success the whole way.  It was back to who should be the new warden. There is a new bishop in town, and he is battling for power--with his wife.  Poor Mr. Harding is in the middle of it all, again.  Throw in a romance in his newly widowed daughter's life, and all sides are pulling all directions.  It was a well-written, entertaining and fun novel that had well-developed characters and, if you read carefully, you will discover and undertone of humor, too.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Same Old Trails

The Same Old Trails

We don't have a horse trailer.  We don't have a truck to pull a horse trailer.  We are stuck riding on the same old trails, ride after ride.

Actually, I’m not complaining.  It may not be as exciting as exploring the world at large, but we do explore the small world around us.  We ride in the Cleveland MetroParks, and we are so grateful to have them.  Here we live in a large urban area--and we can go trail riding whenever we like!  It is awesome.

We never know what we might encounter.  Sometimes, we see nothing of note, at all.  Other times, we can see wild turkeys!  We love the turkeys.  They aren’t much afraid of horses, so we can get pretty close to them.  They are so beautiful.  If we are lucky, we will see them fly up into the trees or across the river.  Usually, they just walk on by.

We see deer all the time, so they are nothing special.  I prefer watching the squirrels more than the deer.  I think squirrels are adorable.  They come in black, gray or red.  We also have fox squirrels.  My favorite are the red squirrels.  The are more skittish than the rest and run so fast that we call them the speed squirrels.

We have a fox that we see on the hill, occasionally.  A few months ago, we followed him up the hill, until he stopped at the side of the trail to let us pass.  There was a pair of foxes that grew up in a horse pasture a few doors down.  We think this might be one of them.  He simply has no fear of horses, at all.

We do see a coyote, now and then.  They seem to make the horses a little nervous.  We know there are plenty out there, but they are rather elusive.

Once or twice a year, we may be lucky enough to see a mink.

Of course, we see lots of birds.  On a good day, we will see one of the bald eagles that live in the area.  There are a lot of Great Blue Herons along the river.  Sometimes we see, but more often hear, a barred owl.  Wood ducks, mallard ducks and geese are always in the river.  They have been known to spook the horses when they splash down.

We will see turtles now and then.  Kevin loves turtles.  One time, Ellen placed a fake turtle close to the trail by a wetlands.  As we rode by, she pointed to it and said to Kevin, “There’s a turtle.”  We have never seen him leap off Starry so fast.  We all had a good laugh when he realized the turtle wasn’t real.

A few weeks ago, we were crossing a river.  I was in the lead, and I saw a dark creature swimming down the center of the river--low in the water.  I pointed it out.  At first, I thought it was a big fish.  My second thought was that it was a snapping turtle.  Kevin had seen one there, recently.  As it got closer--I realized it was a beaver!  It was so cool to see him go by.  We have beavers in the nearby wetlands, but we have never seen one swimming by us in the river.  We watched him as he swam away…

So, though we may be riding the same old trails, there is always a chance of seeing something wonderful.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: "The Warden" by Anthony Trollope - 1855

This was an enjoyable book that is about a good-hearted man, Mr. Harding, that is getting a fine living taking care of 12 indigent men in retirement.  The money comes from a fund that was created in a man's will many years before for just this purpose.  Over time, the invested money grew, so the living for Mr. Harding was very generous.

Mr. Bold questioned it, saying more money should go to the old men.  It ends up involving a lawsuit--and it all sends poor Mr. Harding into a moral crisis.  To complicate matters, Mr. Bold is courting Mr. Harding's daughter.

Mr. Bold just wants to do what is right--and he is in great anguish.

I liked this book because I loved how the characters and the conflict seemed so real.

I am now reading the sequel, "Barchester Towers."   It is just and interesting.

Book Review: "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Sarah said this was a wonderful book, and she was so right.  I didn't want it to end.  It has a whole host of characters, and they are all complex and very interesting.  Throughout the book, you see them grow and change.  I have never read a book that explored the many complications of being in love.  It seems most stories are just about boy meets girl and ends up in marriage.  This book goes much beyond that.  Love is complex, and it isn't always easy.  There is all kinds of love in this book, too.  There is love of family, friends and children.

Beyond love and romance, the book gives a wonderful view of the world of Russia at this time--a time of much change.  I loved learning about the agriculture and problems with labor.  I enjoyed the politics, too.

Of course, the central character is Anna Karenina.  She is married and falls in love with another man.  Her marriage falls apart, and she runs off with her lover.  We know it will be doomed, but it didn't have to be.  Her fate is very sad.

The other characters do a little better.  Just as in life, problems arise--and they somehow get through them.  The beauty of this book is how Tolstoy portrays their emotions as they work though the problems.

There is so much too this book--the best thing I could say is to just read it and find out for yourself.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: "Their Silver Wedding Journey" by William Dean Howells (1899)

Once again, Howells brings us the story of the March's.  The travel to Europe to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

I don't think this is one of his best books.  There is too much description of the traveling and not enough story.  Where there is story, the story is entertaining.  It is not about the March's, but about the people they befriended on the voyage over--through their eyes.  I loved the dialogue between them, as they discussed their friend's romances.

My advice, skip the travel descriptions and read the rest.

Book Review: "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court" by Sandra Day O' Connor

The title says it all.  I have always been fascinated by the Supreme Court, and I wanted to learn more about it.  Who better to do that but from a former Supreme Court Justice.

I really liked this book.  It was easy to read--even though I don't have a background in law.  It explains how the court works, its history on how it got where it is today and some entertaining stories from the court.

It filled in a lot of gaps on my knowledge of the court and made that learning an enjoyable experience.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: "All Under Heaven" by Pearl S. Buck - 1973

I love Ms. Buck's books that are about China, but I never read any of her other ones.  This one was only 50 cents, so I thought I would give it a try.  It didn't sound all that interesting, and it was definitely not the kind of book I would pick out if it wasn't bu a favorite author.

It's about a man who worked for our embassy in China for 25 years, who is forced to come home with his Russian wife and 2 children when the Communists took over China. n They decide to try to live in the US--basically a foreign land for all of them.

Nothing really happened that was interesting to this single woman with no children until the last few chapters.  The man decides to write about his experiences in China as a warning to us, here.  He wanted to promote the possibility of peace--if we chose it.

When his book was finished, he went on a book tour.  All along the way, he kept encountering those who would say, "Just nuke them." and the rest of the people who were silent.  When he got home, he was so discouraged from what he saw.

Within the last few pages, Ms. Buck wrote:

"I have come back realizing that history and facts mean nothing here.  To our people everything is a matter of feeling and emotion, a curious mixed sort of idealism that is powerful because in some ways it is very sound.  Bur it is unrelated to the facts of the world.  The problem is much more severe than I thought.  People cannot learn by hearing,  because there is no foundation of knowledge.  They do not read history.  They read only newspapers, which deal with today's events, but these events are the result of yesterday's and it is necessary to know those which come first."

Ms. Buck, in the epilogue, explains that she wrote this due ti China opening her doors to us.  She wanted us to try to understand each other.  Things haven't changed, though.  We have managed to keep the peace with China, but it is questionable whether the average American knows or cares anything about them.  It is also questionable whether the average American knows or cares about much of anything at all--let alone our history.  Her words still apply, today, sadly.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: "The Comedians" by Graham Greene - 1966

This is not a comedy.  The title refers to people playing a part in life.  It is a good book, but not his best.  It takes place in Haiti a few years after the dictator, Baby Doc, took over the country.  Our main character, Mr. Brown, is a hotel owner that is suffering from the lack of tourists.  He meets up with Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones.  What follows next is violence, political intrigue, secret police encounters, rebels and secret love.  I liked this book for the story, but I liked it even more for bringing me into the world of Haiti under its dictatorship.  One of the best part of good fiction is that it can bring a different time and place to life.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tickseed Sunflower



These are my favorite wild sunflowers.  They grow profusely in Parma, so a few years ago, I gathered up some seeds and spread them around my yard.  Would you believe--the deer leave them alone everywhere but in my yard!  Enough of them survived that I have a few in my garden.  One year, I put them in containers on my patio, and that is what is pictured.  They do great in the pots.

The only problem with the is the tickseeds.  The seeds have little antennas that stick to your clothing.  It is a small price to pay for such lovely flowers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wingstem



I love flowers in my yard, and so do the deer.  I have a huge deer problem.  My options for landscaping are limited, so that is shy I allow wingstem to take over, in places.  It is a common native wildflower in Ohio.  They are a hardy perennial that grow taller than me.  If you don't want them that tall, you can just cut them down in the spring.  They will regrow, but a shorter.

They are in full bloom right now.  The deer don't like them, but the bees sure do.  When they are done blooming, I will chop them all down, so they don't go to seed. They spread readily.

As you can see, they are resistant to drought, too.  They are wilty in the garden I don't water, but they still bloom and thrive.  With a little rain, they will perk right up.

They are far from my favorite flower, but they work well.

Book Review: "Collision Bend" by Les Roberts

I found this one on the sales rack at the library for only 50 cents.  Who can resist that?  Les Roberts is Cleveland's own detective book author.  I've read a number of his books and enjoyed them all.  They are lovely junk food for the reader's soul.  Totally enjoyable, well-written mysteries that take place in Cleveland.

I loved the Cleveland references in the beginning, but by the end, I was so wrapped up in the story that I thought they slowed the pace down.  I don't need to know about the Lorain Carnegie bridge--I need to know who dun it.

This one was unpredictable and fun.  The ending had a particularly Cleveland flavor to it. The story was fast paced, unpredictable and creative.  Great book for those who like detective stories whether you live in Cleveland or not.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: "Burmese Days" by George Orwell - 1934

I found this one and Half Price Books, so I took a gamble.  It was a good gamble, too.  The story takes place in the British colony in Burma.  Our main character is British, but he likes the natives.  His friends disagree with him, and that sets the tone for the whole story.  It is about race relations, loneliness, desperation and what some people would call love.  I wouldn't.  They thought they were in love, but there were other factors driving their actions--like loneliness and desperation.

It is a very sad story with a sad, but appropriate ending.  I liked how Orwell aptly described the life in Burma at the time--both the culture and the political atmosphere.  (He had lived there for a while.)  He didn't get all caught up in the description, but wove it into the story in an artistic way.  He brought Burma to life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Garden Update

I really don't expect anyone to read these garden updates.  I really just do them for myself.  That being said, it has been a pretty good garden this year.

My tomatoes have blight, but I have still been picking plenty, and it looks like they will survive and give me at a small but steady supply until the frost.  I have made plenty of salsa, and I just love it.  Also, the cherry tomatoes make great sun dried tomatoes, and that is what I have been doing with them.  I just put them in the food dehydrator with...

My green beans. I used to freeze them, but I have a smaller freezer, now.  I prefer to freeze my salsa and freezer pickles.  Though most of my green bean plants were killed upon sprouting, I got a fair amount of very strong pole beans that have been furnishing me plenty.

My cukes and definitely slowing down, and some of the plants appear to be dead.  I had a great harvest of them, and the bulk ended up as the above mentioned freezer pickles.  I will be enjoying them for months to come.

My ground cherries are scrumptious and I have been getting about a handful a day.  Most of them I eat right in the garden.

I have had so many peppers!  Whatever I don't use right away in salsa and such go right to the food dehydrator.  They are another thing I used to freeze, but they are just as good dried.

I haven't harvested any tomatillos, yet, but they are loaded with blossoms and fruit.  I have a feeling I will have plenty of them, in spite of not having many plants.

I started harvesting my dry beans, and there are still lots on the plants that are still growing.

The zukes are mediocre, but since I have enough plants, that isn't a problem.

I will have some impressive winter squash, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Salsa Recipe

I decided that I would make salsa this year.  Actually, I decided it last year, but I didn't have enough tomatoes.  Though many of my tomatoes have blight, I do have enough for salsa.  This is the first year I have ever tried it.  Here is the recipe.  It is based on one I found online, but I made a lot of changes to it to suit my taste.

4 cups diced tomatoes (about 5 large)
2 diced green peppers
1 diced onion
Diced hot peppers to your taste
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Garlic (powder or fresh) to taste
Salt to taste

Mix everything in sauce pan.
Bring to boil.
Simmer 40 minutes
Freeze or eat fresh

Book Review: "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevskyn - 1866

When I saw my niece home from college for her summer break, I told her I was reading this book.  Would you believe, so was she?  Now, what kind of coincidence is that?  Maybe it is a case of great minds travelling parallel paths...

This is my first venture into Russian literature, and I guarantee, it won't be my last.  I loved this book for so many reasons.  The story is a complex psychological murder drama that kept me wanting to turn every single page.  Though I wanted to see how it ended, I didn't want it to end.  There are scenes that are so vivid and tense, that I swear I was holding my breath.

Our main character plans and executes a murder and robbery of an old woman who is a pawnbroker.  His reason for doing it was not due to his poverty, but to prove a theory he had.  He then suffers a physical and mental breakdown.  He is being investigated by a very wily detective-which puts so much pressure on him that he starts to fall to pieces, page by page.  It was fascinating to read.  Other characters in the book have their own problems that are intertwined with his.

There is love, action, suspense and more.  There is nothing formulatic about this book, at all.  If all Russian novels are like this, I am going to have some terrific reading in my future.

The author paints a vivid picture of the poverty and social circumstances of St. Petersburg at the time--without making it preachy.

The ending was very, very satisfying.  So often, an ending is a disappointment, but this one was terrific.

I had trouble with the names.  There are so many complicated names to be learned for each character.  I can't pronounce any of them, either.  That is my only complaint--but what can you expect from a Russian novel, English names?

A must read.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Turn Your Overabundance of Cherry Tomatoes into Sun-dried Tomatoes!

You won't believe how easy it is.  All you need is a food dehydrator.  I know a lot of people who have them and never thought of making this delicious treat.  I have been making them for years.

Today, I started my first batch of the year.  All you need to do is cut your cherry tomatoes in half and place them face up (so the skin is on the bottom) on the trays.  In a couple days, you will have a gormet treat that will keep for months.  If I get enough tomatoes, I will make them in the hundreds--and I never get tired of them.

You can use  bigger tomatoes, but if you don't place them with the skin on the bottom, they will stick to the tray.  Also, if you cut the pieces too big, sometimes they will get moldy before the dry--not good.

I like tossing them into canned cream corn for a quick and tasty soup.  Dad and I used to fry potatoes with peppers and sun-dried tomatoes.  They were so good that way, that this year, since I have a lot of peppers, I might do that, again.  They taste good in pasta dishes and are good plain, too.

If you have a dehydrator and some cherry tomatoes, you just have to try it.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sand Run Metroparks in Akron, OH

Kevin and I are running out of new trails by our houses, so we ventured down south to do some exploring.  We started out at the Seiberling Nature Realm.  I love flowers, and I could look at them all day.  Kevin and I thoroughly explored it, one day.  I was so impressed by how pretty it was.  I loved the idea of building a greenhouse out of 2 liter bottles!  In the herb garden, not only did they label the herbs, but they labeled the big boulders, too,  There was one section of weeping trees, several pretty ponds, meadows, rhododendroms that must have been gorgeous when they were blooming and enough trails to keep us busy.

The next visit, we went into Sand Run and hiked the Mingo trail.  It was certainly rugged with some very steep hills.  We took the extension and ended up on a trail that is made just for joggers and walkers.  We walked that a while, but then turned around and headed up the really steep hill to get back onto the Mingo trail.  The trail was all shady and well-maintained, but you have to be ready to hike hills.

Since we didn't have enough hills, the next time, we went on the Dogwood trail.  It was similar to the Mingo trail, but shorter.  Just the 1.9 miles of that trail was quite a workout, but of course, that wasn't enough for us.  On the way back, we saw a trail that was closed and decided to explore that one, too.  It was washed out in several places, so I could see why they closed it. I hope it is just temporary because it was a very pretty trail.  There were hills, but they weren't as bad.  At the end of it, we found the jogging trail and took that back to the car.

There was still one more trail to tackle in Sand Run, and that was the Valley Connector Trail.  It was rated as moderate, and most of it was--but at the end, there was another one of the huge hills that this park seems to have everywhere.  The trail was really pretty, mostly shady and well maintained.  It was 2.8 miles, each way.  It was a hot day, and we sweat buckets.  Kevin packed a dinner, and we ate at Sieberling, again.  There, he saw an old friend of his, and we toured some of the gardens with him.  I can never see enough flowers!

As always, I have to complain about one thing about Akron--they have terrible street signage!  I have gotten lost so many times down there, that I hesitate to visit it.  We only got lost the first time, so that wasn't too bad.  We are looking forward to exploring some of the other reservations in the future.

Book Review: "Corrupted" by Lisa Scottoline

This is one of my contemporary books by an author that is still alive.  I read another of her books and liked it, so when I found this in the bargain bin at Half Price Books, I grabbed it.

She writes legal thrillers.  This one tells two stories; one of a boy who is bullied, gets into a fight and ends in jail--the other years later when he gets in a fight with the same man who is later found dead and he is accused of murder.

The two tails are intertwined and a romance complicates things.

A real page turner; once again, from Lisa Scottoline.

Book Review: "Peony" by Pearl S. Buck

Not the first Buck book I have read about China, and certainly not the last.  She brings China to life like nothing else.

Persecuted Jews traveled to China over many centuries ago, and they were greeted with much kindness, so they stayed.  They tried to hold on to their heritage, but as they assimulated and intermarried into the Chinese culture, that became more and more difficult.

This story takes place at towards the end of their era.  A Jewish mother decides that her son should marry the rabbi's daughter to to perpetuate their faith.  The son has his eye on a Chinese girl, instead.

Peony is a servant in the household that was raised with the son--and has fallen in love with him. She knows her place in the world, and feels she would be content with just staying in his household the rest of her life.  If he marries the Jewish girl, that seems unlikely.  Peony does what she can to encourage a Chinese marriage.

The story explores the two cultures as the son is torn between them.  It takes some unexpected turns that totally shocked me.

Once again, Ms. Buck hits it out of the park.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Garden Update


Garden Update

We have had so much rain that my garden has turned into a swamp.  So far, there doesn’t seem to be any damage except the lower leaves of my tomato plants are turning yellow.  That could become a big problem if things don’t dry out.  It may even be too late.  Still, I should get enough tomatoes because I planted so many of them.

I did pick my first one, yesterday.  It is an orange cherry tomato. I am going to make a salad with it, today.

My peppers look fantastic.  I thought the overabundance of rain would hurt them, but so far, they don’t mind.

I am excited about my ground cherries.  I tried growing them, last year, and they had a terrible germination rate.  To make matters worse, I had them with the rest of the tomatillos, and they were too crowded.  I only got a handful of them, but that was enough for me to know that I like them; alot.  

This year, I tried starting them in the house.  I still got a horrible germination rate--but it yielded 7 healthy plants.  They transplanted in the garden beautifully.  I gave them their own section and spaced them out correctly.  They are now blooming and soon, they will fall to the ground--hence the name.  That is how you know when they are ready to pick--or I should say--pick up.  I am looking forward to eating them, soon.

My tomatillos are blooming, too.  They are related to ground cherries, but are much bigger plants and get much bigger fruit.

The cukes and zukes are blooming.  I don’t see any female blossoms, yet.  The few bush beans I have are blooming, and I bet I will be picking in about a week.  The pole beans are looking particularly healthy, though they haven’t begun to bloom, yet.

Overall, things are progressing well.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Year of Retirement

One Year of Retirement

All I can say is, this is the best thing I have ever done for myself.  I just love not working.  Sure, I still work with the horses, work in the garden, work in the house and work taking care of my ever so demanding cat, Thunder, but this is work that I want to do.  I didn’t want to work for anybody else, anymore, unless they have 4 legs.

I haven’t done anything spectacular with my time, and that is just what I expected in retirement.  It is about the day to day living, not the big events.  I take long walks with my dog--that’s not exciting--but when I find a new dragonfly or flower, it is exciting for me.  

Of course, I ride nearly every day.  I have to make a conscious effort to give Cole a day off.  Most days, the rides aren’t long, but they are always fun.  I contemplate getting a second horse, but that’s as far as it gets.  I do help my sister take care of her retiree, Ranger, so it is almost like having a second horse when she isn’t there.  I just take him on walks.  He is a good walking companion--something I missed when Cruiser died.  I mostly walked him the last year of his life, too.  

I joke about it, but there is a lot of truth when I say that I retired so I could take better care of Thunder.  We formed a mutual admiration society.  My day isn’t complete if I don’t get to spend a lot of time with him.  I don’t know how I managed on those busy work days when I went right to the barn after dinner and right to bed after the barn.  He wants me with him all the time.  I am so glad to say that he never seems to get tired of me being around.

I get along much better with my dog, Maggie, now that I can spend more time with her, too.  Sounds odd, but she just needed more attention and longer walks.  Now, I hardly ever call her Dumb Dog, anymore.  She is a fun little dog to be around.

I can finally get enough time in the garden without thinking I should be doing something else at the time.  I try to time it during Thunder’s naps.  My veggies are doing well, so far.  If I get any bumper crops of anything, I have all kinds of new things I can try with them.  Right now, it looks like I will have more peppers than I have had in years!

Of course, I spend lots of time with Kevin, too.  I think he is as happy as I am that I retired.  He rides with Ellen and I quite often.  We hike all the time.  Now and then, we go on excursions--but not as often as he’d like.  I have a hard time taking time away from Thunder...We watch a lot of DVDs, too.  Both of us get them from the library, of course.

Retirement has brought me to a very contented state of mind.  I seldom feel like I am in a hurry--something I always felt when I was working.  I was very depressed after my dad died, and that lasted so long.  I truly didn’t shake it off until I did retire.  Sometimes I still feel a little down about “whatever” but I don’t feel the black cloud enveloping me, anymore.

Oddly, I don’t worry about money half as much as I used to, even though I get no paycheck or pension.  If my investments go south, I will just have to deal with it.  After weathering the great recession, I feel like I can get through anything besides a huge disaster.  I can’t predict the future, so I no longer worry about it.  

So retirement has meant more time and less stress.  I recommend anyone who can afford to retire early--should.  Life should be about enjoying it while we can.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review: "What Maisie Knew" by Henry James - 1897

I swore I would never read anything by James, again, but I got tempted, and I am glad I did.  His work can get so bogged down in language, sometimes I just don't know what is going on--and sometimes nothing is going on at all!

Not much went on in this one, but it was still a fascinating story.  It is about a young girl whose parents divorce.  They start with sharing custody, and eventually don't seem to want her at all.  That is where the step parents step in with the help of a governess.

The morals of the day as far as divorce and such were very different, then.  That caused a lot of conflict and uncomfortableness in the story.

It kept my interest and I enjoyed it.  I won't completely write off Henry James, anymore.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Garden Update--Thank Goodness for Volunteers

Volunteer Tomatillos, that is.  This is the third year that I planted them.  The first was on a whim.  The second, I gave them more room.  This year, I gave them special treatment.  I didn't just scatter seeds, I planted carefully--and got terrible germination.

I was very upset about it, and then I found a volunteer--then another one.  Every few days, I find one.  They are in all different spots--a few are nowhere near where they were growing last year.  I think I have about a dozen, but there may be more.  They are thriving, too.

It will be interesting to see where they grow the best and with what plants.  Will the one with the peppers grow as well as the one in the cucumbers?  How will they get along with beans and eggplant?

I also have volunteer winter squash. At least that is what I think they are.  I ate my big winter squash in March and tossed the seeds in that area.  It was a good squash, so I am pleased I will have more.  It is possible there are some pumpkins mixed in, but right now, nothing is looking like a vine.

I even have a few volunteer tomatoes.  Since they happen to be where the tomatillos are supposed to me, that worked out well.

 The peppers look better than they have for years, and the tomatoes look awesome.  I didn't have the best germination with my beans and limas, but I replanted the areas with dried beans, which I had an abundance of seeds.
Of course, I have volunteer basil, I always do.  Good thing, since I got poor germination from the basil I planted.

The cukes and zukes look great, too.

This might be a fantastic year, but I won't get my hopes up.  Usually, something goes wrong, somewhere...