C. S. Lewis

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Number 122

On one of those glorious days it wasn't raining, I looked out the window at my in-laws to watch the cows. There was a calf who crested the hill with its mother and made a very deliberate beeline for the fence.

A rare chance to get out in fresh air coincided with the ability to get close to an animal--I wasn't about to pass that up. So I wandered out there.

I know nothing about cows. I know just enough to know that I don't know much. But, being herd animals, and prey, I figured I'd mind my equestrian manners. Also bearing in mind these aren't tame creatures, I tried to be as obvious, unsurprising, and nonthreatening as possible. (Does anyone else think about this when they go to see unknown animals, or is it just me?)

Anyway. Most of them ignored me. There was one group of cows that got a little freaked when the saw me and started power walking away. I left them--not wanting to wish stampeding cattle on any rancher--and worked my way back along the fence-line to the indifferent Herefords.


And then there was little 122. So cute and brazen, sticking its little head through the barbed wire to eat the green leaves off the vines on the other side. The green vines (if you look hard, you can see them) must have been what tempted the little thing over.

It wasn't overly brazen, though, turned those big brown eyes on me and watched very carefully. I'm sure if I'd stuck around long enough curiosity might have built up enough for us to get closer--but the hedge of vines and an introvert's personal space prevented much of that.


Also, there was this pretty black cow, who was clearly the mother of the green-o-vore calf. She was keeping a very close eye on me. Not very concerned, but not indifferent enough to keep eating!

I told her that she and her calf were quite lovely, and let them be to enjoy the beautiful clear skies.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

of Christmas trees

I'm going to apologize right now because I do not have a picture of our Christmas tree all decorated. I have no idea why, but I don't.

It's been raining quite a bit here, but Zorro and I managed to find a day when it was only sort of raining, and the trees weren't too terrifically wet, and we ran out after work to find a tree.

Only the little garden center we usually buy from was closed. Plus, I didn't see a single tree behind the fence. So, we made a loop around the shopping center and found a temporary stand raising money for a local church--and they had Fraser Firs!


But all the trees were bundled. We walked through confuzzled about how you choose a tree in a straight jacket, so obviously I picked the tree that wasn't in a straight jacket--even though there were some gaps.



We used my shiny new little hatchback to bring the tree home. It definitely felt less overtaxed than my poor corolla.

Once we got home, though, we discovered that they hole they drilled for our tree stand wasn't wide enough. So after some thought and trying a few different things, Zorro used a rubber mallet to drive the stand into the tree.

Getting it off is going to be a bear.

But for now, the tree is standing straight and secure and looks great. You're just going to have to take my word for it.


While I don't have pictures of decorating our tree, I do have pictures of decorating the family's tree.


Whoops, that's not it. Try this one:


The gang was all there for an evening cracking bad jokes, listening to the Trans Siberian Orchestra, drinking Bailey's and hanging ornaments while discussing childhood fights over specific ornaments. All my ornaments were angels growing up, and most of my life I had no competition over hanging them, so it was quite a foreign idea to me! Usually I was happy if I could get someone to join me decorating. I guess that's the difference between being the youngest of 3 and the oldest of 6.


I love Christmas. I love the comfortable rhythm of traditions, the focus on joy, wonder, and the miracle of Christ. Yes, there is a commercial chaos, a hedonistic madness which descends on the western world (or, the U.S.), but I ignore that. It's not really Christmas, it's not what I'm celebrating.


It's the time of year cops pull people over to give them gifts, neighbors give each other cookies, friends go caroling in forgotten neighborhoods and people suddenly wake up to the world around them--if only for a little while.




Look at the lovely tree...not at the ladder for putting the angel on top.


It took another week but now my house is decorated for Christmas, too. No pictures yet, sorry. This whole "it's dark when I get up, dark all day, and dark when I get home" thing really puts a damper on things--(get it? rain? damper?) and there is so much to do!

It's a beautiful time of year, and I'm trying to soak it all in. In spite of the rain. har har.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

million dollars

My friend, Abigail, and I were discussing the effects winning a million dollars had on the couples in the Amazing Race--I've never watched the show, but it's fascinating just how bad windfall money can be for a person.

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Though, of course, I then started to ponder what I would do with a million dollars--presuming, of course, that you actually GOT a million dollars after taxes. The more money you have the less you want to part with it. Makes me sort of glad we're not going to win a million dollars. Although if we ever did, probably the best thing to do with it would be to give it all away (and pay debts).

I hope I would pay off debts, save, invest, and donate (how many wells could you dig with that?). And then there is that Surface Pro I've been wanting.

If we really wanted to go crazy we could put in a patio and resurface the wood floors.

It's not like we need much. Mostly it would be nice to get a head start on savings and have some extra for traveling the world.

What about you? What would you do with a million dollars?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

why the one rein stop is great

We've pretty well mastered the one-rein stop, as taught by Clinton Anderson in his Down Under Horsemanship green book. This spring/summer I rode him through the fields doing the one-rein stop every 10 steps or so in order to 1) learn the thing, 2) not be bolted with. The effects have been astounding.

To review, the one-rein stop consists of reaching about halfway down one rein, then in a smooth (not abrupt) motion, drawing your hand back to your hip.  This draws the horse's head around to his shoulder. The other rein is hanging completely loose. The instant the horse yields (by bringing his nose closer to you than the rein requires, thereby removing the pressure of the rein) and stops his feet, you drop the rein as a reward. (The exercise taught before this one is just the yield while standing still, so the horse already understands how to yield before you incorporate stopping).

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Oddly, the one-rein stop is a very soothing exercise. It's hard to say if it soothes the horse or rider first, but there is a calming rhythm and familiarity to it. The rider is suddenly aware that he or she can stop the horse easily and without conflict, and the horse likewise realizes that the rider won't grab or be harsh, and it knows what to do to release the pressure. Everyone knows what to expect, and that's very soothing.

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The net result is not only a horse who can be stopped (no small matter when you ride a horse who bolts) but a confident rider. Both the Padawan and the Ham have had the opportunity to stop bolts with the one-rein stop over the past several months. The last one the Ham rode by himself out of voice-shot and handled it perfectly, and continued with the ride as if nothing had happened. Both horse and rider in a good mental state.

I'm completely delighted at the prospect of bolts being non-events rather than ride-defining moments. This should make them even more rare occurrences.

The one-rein stop has also opened up the door for riding on a loose rein (because you realize you don't need a short rein to stop the horse before they get far in a bolt), which has opened the door to me finally understanding more about contact, rein length, and sitting up straight. It has also led to the horse not abusing the long rein, because the horse has learned that a long rein is not permission nor abdication of leadership.

I've been actively working to sit taller (fighting those years of hunt seat equitation), tuck my seat under, and when I have to pull on the reins or half halt, the action comes from the elbow and shoulder rather than just the hands. I'm also riding on a longer rein--but not, interestingly, with a loop in the rein.

This has resulted in a sort of revolution for Midas and I.

Finally we achieve the fabled "push him into your hands" head lowering as a way of life. Also, the longer rein has suddenly enabled us to canter. It's embarrassing, but I couldn't get him to canter much in the ring, and it was hard work to hold him balanced when we did canter. Turns out, I was holding his head too high with a too-short rein and he was having to work his tail off to stay balanced. On the longer rein (with my elbows and shoulders back and my seat tucked under) he reached of his own accord into the contact, and I use my legs and seat to keep his weight back and balanced.

This concept would have, I think, made at least one school horse I rode in high school a much, much happier horse if I could have learned it then!

It meant that the one time this season it worked out for us to hunt, I was able to control him, even without snatching up a super short rein or bridging the reins. We went without Ace. Granted, he tried to bolt every single time we picked up pace (even when he was exhausted) but he didn't succeed or even try all that hard once we were underway (no one-rein stop ever implemented--except at the very very beginning of the ride when we had to start off by walking down a steep hill to a crowd of people).

The next day my shoulders were extremely sore, my hands were swollen and I thought I'd re-injured my finger, but the point is that the ride went well! I had no idea that my body had to work so hard on that ride. I need to get back into the habit of lifting weights, apparently.


All that to say, the confidence of the one-rein stop opened the door to mastering other horsemanship skills. And I'm pretty stoked about it.

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This is Midas's post-hunt-so-tired-please-can-we-stay-with-the-hounds? face. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


So I have this mime/dancer brother who lives in England. It's OK to be jealous. He and his lovely wife came to stay for ten days at the beginning of November.

Hence quiet blog. I know, I'm full of excuses. But I'm full of life, too, and that's a good thing.

We had a really wonderful time--you'd think from the pictures that we spent all our time walking around outside, which isn't strictly true, but I was busy restraining myself from being pesky taking those awkward "and here we are sitting on the couch" pictures, and also, busy just living.

There was a decent amount of color left to enjoy, even though it was November.

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And I'm not just talking about the company:

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One night we walked to a local coffee shop I'd been wanting to try--several of the tables were printed with checkerboards, so my brother and my father purloined all our drinks for a round of checkers.

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Dan and Mel came to see Midas, he gave them short rides.

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We made the trek into D.C. to see the monuments--it was a pristinely perfect day for trekking around a big city. Just the right temperature for being comfortable while walking or taking in the sights.

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I was struck, as usual, with how beautiful the different memorials are.

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There is nothing like going to war memorials with former military:

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We also had Thanksgiving early so that Mel could learn how to cook a turkey. It's such a special experience, stuffing a freezing cold turkey carcass for the first time:

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But it's worth it, good food, good company:

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I made green bean casserole from scratch this year. I am never going back to canned cream of mushroom soup or old paprika.

Outside again:

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We had a wonderful time, played games, talked, ate, shopped, walked around outside in scenic places. It is good to be friends and family.

The obligatory group selfie, which always ends up being one of my favorite pictures:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Corn Chowder visual recipe

When I want to cook something new, I usually look up a couple different recipes for it. Sometimes I end up picking just one recipe, other times I combine a couple different recipes.

If I am combining, and if I'm particularly organized that day, I will take time to write down what I'm actually going to do.

I made corn chowder last weekend for the first time ever. I combined two recipes, then paused to admire how clear and simple this scribbled recipe is.

To me, at least.

You don't have to read much to figure out what needs to be chopped first, or what goes in the pot when.

I guess it doesn't work if you need to be taught the basics of making soup (like what ingredients need to be heated more slowly) but I'm quite enamored with the whole squiggle based directions things...

Oh... and the chowder came out really well. I did, however, skip the thyme and put in a dash of red pepper instead. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


These pictures are So Old. Look at the green grass and the t-shirts! I had intended to write a thoughtful and translated-to-English post on jumping position and the struggles of getting the right stirrup length (we usually ride long, which is great for everything but jumping).

In lieu of a long, thoughtful, got-it-all-figured-out post, here are these pictures I've been holding out on posting.

Jumping is a fun, practical application of all the hard work on bending and softness. It makes Midas happy.

I'm still trying to figure out how to teach jumping, and how to set up lines and such.

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These pictures are from July/August, before we figured out we needed to shorten stirrups a bit to allow for proper balance in half-seat.

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The poor Ham, his stirrups are way too long for this.

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But look how happy Midas is:

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I have more recent pictures of me jumping Midas (you know....like...September), it is interesting to see how my effort to improve actually showed results.

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This is me working very hard to push my hands forward over the jump in an automatic release and also to wait for the jump, rather than jumping ahead.

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Needs work, still :P

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But jumping has been a fun addition. We haven't gotten to multiple fences yet, but we'll get there. Midas is pretty psyched to have this new fun thing to do.
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