Friday, February 24, 2017

some days

Some days the mud wins. And your horse just gets to eat grass and stand around dirty.

Some days, after five inches of rain, the trails are just too wet to venture out.

this is my apple-chewing concentration face!

And some days there is just enough time before the next storm. The fallen trees have been cleared, the mud is minimal, and the trail stretches before you like lost hope.

And the rain clouds loom. But refrain from adding to the morass, and ferns explode, and we stretch into a trot we haven't done for months.

clouds reflect on Avery Pond

ferns on moss on rocks

I hope for more of those days.

windshield ice feathers

finally a clear sunrise

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Major is not always so crafty. Trying to get across the small ditch between the arena and his pasture was first impossible, now only daunting: requiring a giant leap (wish I could get a picture of that!), after which he is so proud of himself he gallops up the hill. Every. Single. Time. Sigh.

I however love to do crafty projects, when given the time. This rainy winter there has been too much time! There is only so much rainy-day hiking I can do before I am wet and cold and want to be inside, but even then a good book isn't enough to keep me entertained.

First I made a new saddle cover. After holiday sale fleece fabric and some elastic, done. And spray painted a mash bucket, it lasts for awhile and is certainly noticeable!

saddle cover and orange bucket, everyone knows my stuff!

But what else to make...a new stall sign! Major's cheap blackboard has seen better days. I found a photo to trace and selected a bold "Major" typeface. I am lucky enough to be able to use graphics software to do this, but tracing a photocopied photo would work just as well.

pick a good photo (wild west 2015)

wood tracing

I traced the artwork onto a piece of poplar wood (from the clearance section at the home improvement store). I took some liberties with his mane and tail, reality was too sad/boring! After that I traced all the lines over again with my cheap craft-store woodburning tool. Some lines are a bit rough, where the tool burns in really quickly, but it is a craft project, not a perfect specimen! (I'm too impatient for perfect.)

beginning wood burning
practice makes imperfect!

almost done

I practiced with paint and stain, I wanted the wood to show through a bit. I used stain for his body and orange (of course) for the type. I sprayed the whole thing with a clear outdoor sealant. After a couple eye screw and zip ties, it is a worthy addition to Major's pasture shelter (even if I am a bit concerned that it may become a play toy).

hanging from Major's shelter

what's this Mom?

Now they're forecasting another week of rain, including the now infamous "atmospheric river." I have a paint-by-number and a few other project ideas. I could also clean the craft closet, which is an erupting disaster, but where's the fun in that? I'll close the door and begin a new project. Or walk my horse in between rain drops…

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

what's this?!

What's this glowing orb in the sky? This lovely color above us? Blue sky!

It was lovely to get a break in the storms that have been hitting Northern California hard this year. And while trails are still muddy, we needed to get out and explore. Major spent one evening walk as a snorting dragon on the end of my lead rope, I was anticipating a horrible ride.

trails disappears into the lake

muddy lake, but green grass

But I think the slippery trails mollified him. Even he isn't usually stupid in deep mud. There were a couple tiny trotting places, though our lake trail is completely underwater. But the green grass is a good consolation prize. Our ride was shortened by too many downed trees, and muddy trails we did not want to damage further. It was still worth getting out.

girth is evidence of a muddy ride

But the next hike I left the horse at home. My trailer is still stuck in a solid driveway of mud, but the sun was still out, and trails were ready to explore. The parking area was packed, but far above the canyon and No Hands bridge very few hikers make the trek. I explored the aptly named Flood Trail.

above No Hands and the muddy American River
I hadn't hiked this trail before. In summer it is too hot, but a sunny, winter day was perfect. Remnants of old homesteads, nature great and small, and a view that couldn't be matched. In a few places the trail was a rutted or muddy mess, but the top of a mountain drains pretty quickly!

nature large: epic oak

nature small: trapdoor spider web covered in dew

a lovely old wall
More rain is forecast. We got out while we could. I'm trying to remind myself that there is time enough when Spring arrives. Until then there is green grass and puddles to splash through. And more light at the end of each day. Spring is coming.

time to graze is time enough

Friday, January 20, 2017

enough already

Atmospheric river. Pineapple express. Deluge. Flood. Rain.

Whatever you call it, I'm done. Does Northern California have no concept of moderation? I know we were in a terrible drought, but this is overdoing it.

I managed to sneak out between storms and "ride" the lake trail. Really I slip-slided between debris piles, then argued with Major the whole way home. Ten slow miles does not take the edge off a fit, bored horse.

there is a trail under the debris

And a quick hike with Major yesterday in the mucky forest made me very proud of myself for not falling in the inches-deep muck. I did not take his suggestion to go home down the steep, slippery hill trail. I took the longer but flatter way home. I'm so smart! Until rock hopping across the water, slipping with my muddy shoes, and ending up IN the creek. I think Major just laughed. I walk/squished my way back to the stable.

Major: I'm not laughing at my drenched human...I'm not...

I'm happy the reservoirs are filling. I'm happy the mountains are covered in snow. I'm happy that maybe our Spring grasses will last longer. But with at least three more days of rain on the radar, I'm gritting my teeth (that may still have mud in them) and settling in for a long winter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

bridging troubled waters

The muddy, churning water rushes by. And No Hands Bridge watches. It’s not the tallest (that would be the Foresthill Bridge, at 730 feet ), it doesn’t carry cars home every day (two other nondescript bridges complete that task), and it no longer carries railroad cars, just hikers and horses. It isn’t even straight: angling across the river from bank to bank.

lake No Hands!

But it has lasted. Built in 1912, officially the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge. At the time the longest concrete railroad bridge in the world. It is old (for California). This state is so new to permanent structures. And has so many ways to destroy them: earthquake and fire, flood and heat. Beneath this water rest the bones of other bridges, concrete and rebar, twisted and broken.

old bridge abutment
It has lasted through an upstream dam breech in 1964. Through countless storms, including the floods of 1986 that covered the bridge and swept away a downstream dam. It has seen droughts and drownings, and of course, Tevis (both directions even!)

full confluence
The American River confluence is full for the first time in ten years. Rain has finally arrived. But this rushing water is barely a test. Even 105-year-old old cement can handle this. There will be a day when it crumbles, and is deemed unsafe, and we will mourn its graceful lines.

But until then No Hands Bridge looks down on the muddy waters, remembers its reflection, and stands tall.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

rain delay

Start the year off as you want to continue: I did a short, uneventful New Year's Day ride, the best kind.

But I don't know if it has stopped raining since then. Major stands forlornly, looking out at the wet. He has chosen to remodel his shelter during the rain! Guess he was bored because he chewed and pulled off all the protective corrugated pipe around the posts. He has to stay under the shelter: didn't you know he will melt out in the pasture? Sigh.

not a scary bag since it always carries goodies!

A blue bag of alfalfa and a new orange grain pan keep him occupied for a little bit. An afternoon hike yesterday was cut short by threatening clouds opening up and dumping on us!
The adventures of Captain Major and his orange feed pan

Since the riding trails are a slippery mess, (and Major would melt anyway) I managed to get out and do a short hike. The river was rising quickly, and everyone else was hiding inside.

lovely path

rushing: South Fork of the American River

gray and wet and lovely

But it was so gray and green and lovely. The mossy rocks are happy with all this rain, and the muddy river sped by. 

stick and raindrop still life

tiny mushrooms grow on a mossy rock

The trail I hiked is now under the rising water. I think I'll stay inside and watch the cat.

Jack on his throne

Saturday, December 31, 2016

the story 2016

Again I have no summary of 2016. And no definitive plans for 2017. I have read and admire everyone else's though! I felt like a slacker, and even more guilt as my mileage tracker app sent me daily email reminders that the year was ending. 

Fine, I give in. I took a look at the tally for 2016: 605 miles, 62,365 feet elevation climb, 128 hours in the saddle. There are even more stats provided, but it's a bit much: number of rides and when, average distance, etc. 

But those numbers don't tell the story for me. There is no account of all the time tacking up, untacking and taking care of Major. Of feed and shoveling and trailering. Of grooming and hanging out, hiking and grazing walks. 

And the ears tell the rest of story. 

So I finished the year as I started: looking through those two black-tipped brown ears, and all the attitude between them, through some of my favorite views.

Miles. Time. Carrots. However you measure, it's the ears that count. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

conversation with major: gift

Hey, you're here! But it's dinnertime? And already dark?!
I know, sorry I'm so late.
I ate my mash.
I see that.
Now I have hay!
You always have hay in your net.
This is NEW hay. It's better.
Ok. But do you want to leave dinner and go for a walk? (hold up halter, jingle of halter tags)
Yeah, lets go!

I had a very long day at work Major.
I played bite face with my neighbor Drummer.
Well, I had to meet with the company president and a big committee.
Then I ate more hay, and took a nap in the mud.
I see that.
My stuff was more fun.
I agree.

Dark grass is extra good.
Dark grass?
It's dark. I'm eating grass. Dark grass.
 I can only see your blaze and one white foot.
I can see for both of us.
Not sure if I trust you on that one.
Is that why you have the sharp bright?
The what?…Oh, my flashlight?
Too bright!
Ok, no flashlight. The clouds are covering the moon, but it is enough.
Over here. More grass.

So, what do you want for a holiday present Major?
What holiday?
Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Hanukkah…whatever you celebrate.
More than dark grass? And mash? And new hay? And mud naps?
Well yeah, I could buy you a present.
More than that?
Well, yes.
Do you have a carrot in your pocket?
Then I'm good. Grass mash hay naps carrot. I don't need anything.
You're right Major. You're right.

Happy Solstice everyone. May your days be lighter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

dark, rain…stars

On the days when it hasn't been too dark after work, it's been raining. I fit in one short weekend ride, where Major got to see his un-friend Tux, before more rain came. We need the rain, the lake is rising. But the trails are super slick. I could maneuver about a mile of snot-slick trail down to the sandy lake trail, if it would stop raining long enough!

I'm trying to ignore that guy Tux… (photo by H.S.)

Major is enjoying his evening walks in the swiftly fading light. A little too much. Anxiously bouncing on the end of his lead rope…even last week when recovering from injury (three-legged lame to recovered in four days=abscess/bruise?). Limp...trot! Limp...trot! Ridiculous.

really, soaking is dumb, I'm good Mom, let's go!

meadow in creeping darkness

And I'm almost as anxious as Major is. We do a bit of hiking, four horse feet and two human feet walking are more stable on the slippery trails (if Major could keep from prancing along behind me). It's almost winter, the downtime is good resting time, right? Major and I both need the reminder to slow down sometimes.


sunset over Major

Because it's good too. A quickly setting sun over the back of my grazing horse. Lovely sky on an evening walk. Today the meadow began filling with ground fog and the moon rose on our way back to pasture and waiting dinner.

Major watching the fog roll in

ground fog rising, 4:45pm

The stars come out. A cold, crisp night before more rain is forecast. Warm mash. Extra hay. Breathe. Repeat.

moonrise over Major