Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Crazy Storm

Last night we had a crazy storm.  I don't think the meteorologists predicted it, and when I turned on the TV, they didn't have accurate information.  All the reports said that the wind speed was around 7 mph with a few gusts here and there.  However, I thought my house was going to be blown down.  The doors and windows were shaking and patio furniture was flying everywhere.  I checked the radar and saw that we had a red and yellow cell right over us.  I closed all the blinds and turned up the TV hoping that Midge wouldn't hear the storm with her mostly deaf ears.  No such luck.

After the microbursts of wind, the sky opened up and dumped on us.  The raindrops were so big and coming in so fast at an angle that Midge heard them hitting the windows, and she went into panic mode.  I gave her a sedative and locked her in the kennel.  Lighting was flashing all around the house every few seconds, and at times the thunder just kept of rambling and would not stop.  I couldn't take the dogs out to do their business, nor could I let the horses out of their stalls, because everyone would be at risk of getting hit by lightning.  I figured that when the horses began kicking their water troughs, the neighbors would just think it is more thunder.

It seems awfully early to be getting monsoon storms, but I guess the season starts on June 15th.  I went back in my blog to see if we got these types of storms in June last year, and we did.  That was the time of year when our flimsy Rubbermaid shed, dog kennel, and plastic tool rack kept getting blown apart.  I read about how my neighbor had me running in circles to make repairs on her property every time there was storm damage, and I'm so glad that I washed my hands of that job.  Fixing everything that broke over there after each storm amounted to a lot of fruitless efforts, because my repairs were only temporary until the next storm hit.

The last two summers we had were unbearable, but people who lived in this area longer than I have told me that the summers didn't used to get that hot.  I've been hoping those last two summers were a fluke, and we'll go back to a normal Arizona summer.  So far, the heat hasn't been too bad, and we are almost all the way through June.  We did have some record breaking days as far as the temperature goes this summer, but those days were dry.  Now that the humidity has rolled in, it feels a lot hotter than it is.  The newscasters claim that everyone looks forward to monsoon season because the moisture and cloud cover cools everything down.  That may be true from a scientific standpoint, but I find that the humidity makes everything feel hotter, and it causes me to sweat, which means having to change my clothes several times a day and keep tissues in my pocket to wipe my forehead before the sweat drips into my eyes and burns them.

I found a post from last summer in which I was struggling to find a detangler for my hair because I couldn't get a comb through it.  I never really found a decent product.  I tried mousse, gels, creams, and sprays, but nothing worked, so I started borrowing the horses' detangler products.  In the end, what really helped was cutting off most of my hair.

Anyway, last weekend my husband stopped to get his hair cut while I perused the products that the salon had on display.  I found a couple of detangler products, but didn't know if they would work, so I asked my husband's stylist which product she would recommend.  She made a beeline for olive oil spray.  I shook my head.  "No spray."

She didn't understand why I wouldn't deal with sprays, so I'm guessing she's new to the area.  Spraying hair products on your hair in the summer months is useless, because the spray dissipates before it even reaches your hair, and if you do hold it close enough to get some on your hair, it dissipates off your head before you can pick up a comb.  I also refused to use olive oil, because it attracts bees.

So, another stylist stepped in and recommended cream that I can rub into my hair, and I bought it because coconut oil was its main ingredient, which I know does work well as a detangler and isn't as pungent as other scents.  The tube was so small, that I was going to buy two, but then I saw the price.  Ummm, that stuff was more expensive than horse care products.  So far, it's been helping me get a comb through my hair, but it does leave some residue that makes it difficult to get a comb through later on once it dries.

Since I can't ride the horses much over the summer, I try to write a new novel during that time.  However, all that sitting around comes back to bite me when we do get a few cooler days and I want to ride a horse.  On those days I find that I lost all my strength and coordination while I was in hibernation, so I'm making an effort to exercise every day, which I now can do thanks to my PA putting me on anti-inflammatory medication.  I just have to stick to using our indoor gym equipment, because it's not safe to be hiking and mountain biking in the heat.

I was thinking of putting together a little, humorous list called "Only in Arizona..."

Here's the first one, which I thought up yesterday afternoon before the storm:

Only in Arizona can a dust devil deposit a decapitated bird on my doorstep.

Yes, that actually happened.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Winning Some Battles for Now

The past few days have been pleasant with clouds and wind cutting into the heat.  We've managed to stay below 110 degrees.  I've been taking the horses for quick spins in the round pen just to keep their bodies and minds active.  Gabbrielle tends to kick the other horses less when she gets some exercise.

Bombay's hoof shaped cut on his foreleg below the shoulder from several weeks ago still has not healed, so I've been keeping a bucket filled with vet supplies on hand and have been cleaning and treating the wound every day.  The wound is too high up on his leg for me to wrap, so I have to stay on top of the fly situation.

I've also been treating his larvae infested sheath with Ivermectin (Thanks, Tish) and Swat, and the swelling is finally going down.  Surprisingly, he's been tolerant of me molesting him down there.  He used to need two or three doses of sedatives for anybody to touch his privates.  He still kicks, but he doesn't try to kick me.  He just stomps the ground to protest.  I think he has made the connection that the flies go away when I smear gunk on his junk.  He has also gotten better about not needing to be tied while I treat him.  He hates the water dripping down his leg when I wash his wound, but all he does is stomp.  He doesn't try to run away anymore.

I also am trying BugLyte, which is essentially garlic and thiamine in powder form (Thanks, Jen), for him to ingest as a fly deterrent.  It is supposedly going to help keep the flies off him and his manure after 10 to 14 days of doses.  I'm really frustrated with the high cost of these types of supplements, though.  If you get them in pellet form, one small bucket is $120 and it probably wouldn't last one horse more than a month.  I got a tiny jar of powder form, and was disgusted to see that the manufacturer only filled it halfway.  Then while I was scooping his dose out of the jar into his feed, he stuck his nose up to the jar, inhaled the garlic smell, and then snorted, blowing half the powder right out of the jar.  It blew away in the wind.  Now I know why the powder form is more affordable than the pellet form.  Buying it is like flushing your money down the toilet.

I also ordered new fly masks from Cut-N-Jump since my sale stash has run out and her custom made masks last longer than the store bought ones.  Most feed stores locally and online put fly masks on sale at the end of fly season, so I stock up then in order to save a few bucks.  I had tried a different brand and style because it was on sale, and Rock ripped it off Bombay's head and shredded it in less than 24 hours.  But you really can't go one day without fly masks in the summer here, or the flies will literally crawl into your horses' eye sockets and reproduce.  When I run out of fly masks, I spread Swat around their eyes, but then the ointment starts dripping in the heat, and the horses rub their eyes on the railings, and next thing I know, they have pesticides in their eyes.  Fly season is tough battle in this part of the country.

I had those stinky fly traps hanging around the barn for a few weeks, and they did catch quite a few flies, but I also believe that the stench from the dead flies, in addition to the fly attractant, actually causes flies to reproduce at a frenzied rate, and the number of new flies being born exceeds the number of dead flies building up in the traps, so I only use those traps when I get desperate.  Then when a bunch of flies congregate on the outside of the traps or in the manure-filled wagon, I spray them with Raid.

I also use Fly Predators and Fly Eliminators, which help to keep the fly population down, but all it takes is one fly to cause a horse to get summer sores.  I don't have enough flies in my barn for anyone to notice, but the ones that are there are super aggressive, particularly toward Bombay.  I have this theory that because he's an older gelding, his sheath sags, and the flies take advantage of the opening.  Rock is younger, and he doesn't have any problems with flies nesting in his sheath.  When Bombay's sheath was the most swollen, I found that he also had a huge lump on his belly from where he was kicking.  He kicked himself until he got a hematoma, so there's enough fluid hanging in his belly to fill an extra large frying pan.  When you see horses hurting themselves like that to keep the flies off, you'll try anything to help them be more comfortable in the summer months.

But Mom, I AM going as fast as I can.

Gabbrielle in the same gait as Rock, but covering five times as much ground.

Tail and mane action shot.
The three trees we transplanted last month are still alive despite the sales lady's prediction that the summer heat will kill them.  The Tipuana did go into shock, but I think it was more because the sales lady at the nursery had to cut one of its roots that had pushed through the bottom of the pot and dug its way into the ground.  We've been watering them twice a day and feeding them pulp from my juicer.

The aggressive male coyote and his femme fatale girlfriend seem to have hit the road and found a new neighborhood to harass.  The website where I read about hazing coyotes said they should be gone within a couple of days once you begin the hazing process, and it took about two days and one night to make an impression on them.  However, the coyote pups have made themselves at home, so I find them stalking bunnies and lizards in my back yard, leaving their poop everywhere, and dragging fresh manure out of the barn to play with or chew on.  I enjoy watching them in all their cuteness, but do need to start hazing them as well before they turn into nuisances.

So, while it seems that I am winning the fly, heat, and wildlife battles for now, I've still got my hands full with the human pest battles.  Yesterday evening I looked out the window to see all four horses spook and take off across the arena at a gallop.  I haven't seen them act that way in months.  I knew my husband was outside with the dogs, so I asked him what spooked the horses.  He said that it sounded like some motorcyclists had been parked in front of our house and started up their engines, then raced down the street.  I was like, "Dang it!  Those guys are up to no good, and I've been trying to catch them, but they always come around when I'm busy doing chores and making dinner."

So, we hiked across the street to follow their tire tracks and figure out where they came from and what they were doing.  They were definitely in the turnout to the bridle trails, but the tracks didn't go over the horse gate into the park.  I find it suspicious that they keep sneaking around here.  They don't know anybody on this residential street, so they shouldn't be here.  I don't know exactly what they are up to.  They could be interested in breaking into vacant houses, or looking for a new entrance where they can illegally ride around on the trails like I know they've been doing, or maybe they are doing drugs, or maybe the bushes in front of our house have become their hiding spot when the police are looking for them for doing something illegal somewhere else.  It may be time for me to mount a security camera on the front of my house and point it out toward the street.  Yay, more money down the drain while I try to fix yet another problem caused by pests.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Things That Go Grunt in the Night

So far, our coyote hazing efforts have been working fairly well during the day.  Every time I have gone out front to shag them out of the hedge, they haven't been there.  However, they did move to the back yard, so I had to start the process all over there.  Now I'm having problems running into the coyotes at night.

I've learned to turn on the remote controlled flood light as soon as I am within range, and then look at Gabbrielle, because she always points out trespassers.  She clearly feels that it is her responsibility to be on the look out for trouble.  She's one of these horses who I can look at and immediately know exactly what she is thinking and feeling.

Two nights ago I knew something was up.  Something very subtle about the horses' demeanor told me that someone or something was nearby, but all the horses were looking at me, and not pointing in any other direction.  I came around the wall of the well on my way to the barn and jumped sideways in surprise to find a coyote puppy sniffing around.  The horses had been pointing it out to me, but it looked like they were looking at me because I was almost on top of it.

I said some things out loud to the pup, and it totally ignored me.  I thought maybe it was deaf, so I shined the flashlight on it, and it just sweetly looked up toward me, and then began slowly moving away, continuing to sniff for whatever had left a trail.  I realized that coyote puppies are not born with a fear of humans.  They develop that over time.  I saw a litter of coyote pups a couple of years ago, and they did not run from me until the mother herded them away and barked at me.

Then last night as I was heading down to the barn, I knew something was up again.  Gabbrielle was pointing toward the end of the arena.  I shined the flashlight around, but didn't see anything.  I let Lostine out of her stall, then Bombay, and that's when the grunting started.  That dang aggressive male coyote was at the end of the arena aping me again.  I paused to try to get a visual on it, and saw it moving around.  I said, "Oh no!  You don't do that to me.  This is my place.  Not yours."

I took off running out of the barn and across the arena, charging it with as much aggression as I had in me.  It took off running, but only went so far, and then turned and continued to ape me.  I bent over to pick up a rock to chuck at it, but it turned out to be dried up horse poop, so it was totally ineffective.  I continued running around looking for rocks with my flashlight, picking them up and chucking them in the direction of the coyote, but it would only move to a different location and keep grunting at me.  When I hit the arena fence, I couldn't go any further and had to turn away from it to go back to the gate in order to get out and chase it further, but I knew that turning and moving away from it would just encourage it to be more aggressive.  I had no other choice.  I'm too old and stiff to climb fences.

It grunted even louder as I walked back to the barn.  I decided to ignore it, because in order to chase it away on the outside of the arena, I'd have to run over large rocks and risk spraining an ankle.  I just let the remaining horses out of their stalls and went indoors, got my pots and pans, went back outside, banged them a bit, then went to bed.

The really interesting part of it is that some time later I realized that the entire time I was chasing the coyote, a horse was running right along side of me.  Then when I stopped and bent over to pick up rocks, the horse stood over me as if guarding me.  I was so focused on chasing that coyote off that I didn't pay any attention to the horse.  I think it was Bombay.

Whenever the boys play fight and start trying to rip each other's fly masks off, I holler at them from the porch, and then Gabbrielle charges them with her ears pinned back.  She runs right in between them and they scatter.  Whenever Gabbrielle is misbehaving and I yell her name, Lostine chases her off and bites her on the butt, so the mares have always been good about backing me up in disciplining the other horses.  This was the first time in a while that a gelding backed me up.  One time while riding Bombay, I asked him to help me chase off a coyote that was stalking someone's dog on the trails, and he was happy to oblige.  I praised him so much that the experience must have left an impression on him, and now he feels it is his job to help me chase off coyotes.

My hero

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Coyote Saga Continues

Despite our best efforts to encourage the coyotes to move their den off our property, they are still hanging around and acting like they own the place.  Getting the mail has been a battle, because the boy coyote stands his ground and won't leave.  His grunts have progressed to outright barks, yips and howls.  He pitched a fit when I kept chasing him further and further off our property.  I think he was calling for back up.

Then my husband took the dogs out at 3:00 AM to do their business, and the coyote was running back and forth grunting too close for comfort.  My husband tried chasing it off, but it would only go as far as the street.  It kept turning to face him and grunt.  He looked into seeing what animal control could do to help, but apparently they won't relocate a coyote unless it actually bites someone or does property damage.  So, he researched ways to "haze" coyotes and get them off your property for good, as well as how to prevent more from coming around.

Normally, I am of the mindset that we have to share our space with the wildlife.  We should be able to coexist.  However, I do think that our dogs are at risk of being eaten even though we always keep them next to us on short leashes.  If that coyote is not afraid of us, what's to stop him for grabbing one of our dogs right out from under our noses?  My friend was horseback riding once with her large dog trotting beside her, and a pack of coyotes lured the dog away from her, probably with the intention of attacking and eating it.  There's a reason why Native Americans call coyotes tricksters and ghost dogs.  They are smart and deceitful.

Part of the prevention is removing food and water sources for the coyotes.  Now, I can't get all the rabbits, snakes and squirrels off my property, but I can remove the water bowls I set out for the rabbits in order to prevent them from chewing our drip system.  However, I doubted that would make much of a difference since the coyotes drink out of the horses' water troughs.  Obviously, that water for the horses has to stay.

The name of the game now is to use a different deterrent each day to chase off the coyotes.  Today is banging pots and pans day.  I went out to the two locations where the coyotes usually nest, banged the pots and pans, but they were not there.  Just a few minutes later I walked out front to put an outgoing bill payment in the mailbox, and a coyote jumped out of the bush in front of me.  I yelled at it and it looked off in the opposite direction.  It had heard noises, but hadn't seen me yet.  I realized that this was the nice, female coyote who is quiet and doesn't cause any problems.  I almost let her be, but then remembered that the worst thing I can do is ignore them.  In order to get the aggressive male off our property, I'd have to chase off his girlfriend too.  All it took was throwing my hands in the air, which was a good thing, because I didn't bring my pots and pans on that trip.

After putting the outgoing mail in the box, I went back indoors to look outside and see another coyote walking around in the barn.  The horses were tolerating and ignoring it.  While I appreciated the coyote desensitizing my horses to dog activity around their legs, I still had to chase it off.  I noticed that it was eating the fresh horse manure.  That's another food source that's going to be difficult to remove faster than the coyotes can eat it.  I ran out on the porch with my rock scoop and chucked a rock at it.  The coyote turned and looked at me, and then the rock hit the ground in front of it and sent the coyote flying down into the arroyo.  Then I instructed the horses to chase and kick any coyote that comes near them in the future.

Yes, I know horses don't speak English, but I know for a fact that if they witness me chasing off the coyotes regularly, they will start doing it too.  They trust my judgement, and if I don't want someone on our property, those horses will help me get them off.

I started thinking about the potential for a coyote who has been habituated to the horses to contract rabies and then bite my horses.  My horses have had their rabies vaccinations, but it's still better to just keep the coyotes out of the barn.  I'm also sick of them stealing the horses' toys and dragging them out into the desert, as well as digging up neighbors' buried pets and dragging their bones onto my property.

I finished cleaning up manure and dumped it in the big compose pile at that back of the property.  I was baffled by what I saw.  Last night I saw a horse's hoof prints going right through the big manure pile.  I wondered if someone's horse got loose or if someone rode their horse through my property.  There has been a full moon, and a lot of locals like to right at night under the full moon.  I immediately checked my tack room to make sure nothing was stolen.  However, this morning all the hoof prints were gone and the manure had been chewed down to little tiny morsels.  Something has been dining there all night.

As I was walking back to the house, some man in a little car pulled up next to my mailbox and opened it up.  I was like, "WTF???"

I charged up the driveway to try to stop him from stealing my bill payment out of the mailbox.  Some people take checks and have ways of erasing everything but your signature and then can address the checks to themselves.  I ran as fast as I could with my bum leg, and the guy drove off before I could get halfway there.  I kept running to try to get a license plate number, but he was gone, along with my bill payment.

However, the good news is that he put in incoming mail into my box.  This was a substitute mail carrier for USPS who came to my mailbox at an abnormal time of day in his personal vehicle.  I think it should be illegal for any delivery service to deliver mail and packages in an unmarked car.  But, I also know that the USPS has funding challenges, so I won't complain, because otherwise I'll be paying for it with another increase in postal prices or taxes.  It just would be nice to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Little shit.


Still aping me from across the road.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Horse Ownership Ramble

To follow up with the last post about the coyote couple that moved in, so far we've dealt with them by chasing them off, putting mothballs under the hedge where they like to sleep, and trimming the hedge up so that they can't hide there and take us by surprise.  The mothballs make a noxious fume that smells bad and makes the eyes water.  We used that technique in the past to ward off bunnies who were chewing our drip system under the hedge.  Last night I saw two coyote puppies drinking out of the sprinkler system we set up for our new trees around the round pen, so perhaps the couple already had their babies.  Puppies of even the wild kind are seriously cute.

I got the water tank float that Teresa recommended since I can't put in an automatic watering system at the barn.  I can hang it right over the side of a trough and go do something else while the trough fills, and the float prevents the water from overflowing.  I can't install it permanently for the same reasons why I can't install automatic waterers:  The horses will destroy it.  They have to play with everything they can get their teeth into.  I do have to close the gate to the stall where I'm filling the trough to keep the horses away from the float.

I had been storing the float in the tack room, but knew I would stop using it if I had to walk all those extra steps in the summer months, so I stuck it in a bucket with a lid next to the spigot.  I got a float with metal casing since it would last longer than plastic in the heat and if the horses got a hold of it, however the metal burns when it gets hot, so I have to keep it in a dark, enclosed space.

The other issue I'd been having, which is really only an issue in triple-digit temperatures, is that the hose to the barn had to be hooked up to the tree watering system most of the time, so whenever I needed to clean out and fill the water troughs, I had to hike over and detach the hose from the tree watering system.  Of course, that's minor compared to having to hand water each tree.  I'm thankful for the sprinkler system, but sometimes I need the hose to do a variety of tasks simultaneously.

I know that sounds lazy, but it truly is dangerous to be outdoors in this extreme heat.  Four hikers and mountain bikers have already died this week.  Heatwaves are supposedly a bigger factor in human deaths than any other weather-related phenomenon.  Your body can shut down before you even realize that you are dehydrated or suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Every step I have to take outside while doing barn chores in this heat is difficult, so it is important that I get my routine down to a science.

Things got really energy depleting when Gabbrielle took a chunk out of Bombay's leg and I had to hose him down each day, clean, and re-dress the wound.  The cut is too wide for stitches, so I've been doing first aid on a daily basis to try to prevent flies from burrowing into the wound.  I need a hose available for that, so my husband got a 4-way spigot adapter and more hoses.  Now I have one hose attached to the tree watering system, one for filling water troughs, and another for either filling a second water trough or for treating wounds or bathing horses.  Handy dandy.  Now I can multi-task instead of having to do things in single file, which means spending less time dying in the heat.  I've also been spraying down the horses with cool water on the really hot days.  They love it.

Bombay is having problems again this summer with flies burrowing into his sheath and laying larvae on his privates.  I can't stay ahead of it even with using fly spray under there twice a day.  My vet told me there are fly mesh jock straps available, but they are hard to find.  Has anybody used them?  Do they stay on or does the horse rip them off right away?

I've been trying to outsmart the crowds when it comes to getting all this health care crap handled.  I managed to hit the imaging lab during a lull, and got right in.  There were only three people ahead of me, but by the time I got out, there was standing room only.  Then when I drove home, I hit a green light at every intersection.   Someone was definitely on my side that day.

For the lab work, I decided to go in on the hottest day of the year, counting on the thought that other people would prefer to stay in their air conditioned homes rather than to venture out and get lab work done.  My strategy worked, and they got me right in, however the lab technician couldn't find my veins because I was so dehydrated from fasting.  She had to draw from my hand, which now hurts while I type.

But the really unlucky part of it was that the lab was kind of banking on a lot of people not coming in for services on the hottest day of the year too, and their office was in total chaos.  I went in on a day they were doing construction, so she had to draw blood in her office.  I'm sure it wasn't as clean as a medical examining room, but I should be okay.  It also turned out that they got a new computer system and were using it for the first time that morning.  Everyone was in training and it took four receptionists to scan my insurance card.  They also forewarned me that I will have to fill in all that paperwork and scan my insurance card again in two weeks when I have my follow up.  Yeah, I'm lucky like that.

I told the lab tech that because I own horses and have to do barn chores for an hour or so first thing when I roll out of bed, it's very difficult for me to hold my urine and fast for blood work.  I can't just roll out of bed into the truck and drive over to the lab like everyone else.  I have to do some hard physical labor which requires an empty bladder and fuel for my body.  She got excited and said that she wants to own horses some day.  I couldn't easily tell how old she was, but I'm guessing late 20's, early 30's.  I told her that even if it's a stretch for her financially to get a horse, she should get one while she is young and can ride.  Most people wait until their kids have flown the coop to own horses, and then something rotten happens with their body that cuts their riding time short.

She said that her father says that finances will always be a struggle in today's economy, so she should just have kids while she physically can instead of waiting until everything is financially stable.  I was tempted to take it a step further and tell her to get a horse before she has kids, because once she's busy with a job and a newborn, she definitely will struggle to find time to ride, but I refrained from furthering my bad influence upon her.

I started having physical challenges a few years ago when I was riding regularly with P.S., and I encouraged her to get herself set up for horse ownership before she got married and had kids.  I don't think I realized back then how determined she can be to make things happen, but it seems that in a blink of an eye, she bought herself a truck, then a horse, then a horse trailer, and now a second horse.  She is really dedicated to riding as much as possible.  You've got to admire someone who's got her priorities straight.  She strikes me as someone who simply has to be around horses.  It's not a choice.  It's an ingrained need, so it makes me happy to see that she got started early with her horse ownership and has her whole life ahead of her to ride.

I owned my first horse when my kids were little.  I bought him as a yearling, though, so I didn't ride him until four years after purchasing him.  I was busy working 60 to 80 hours a week and taking my kids to their extracurricular activities, so I only rarely got to ride.  Most of that time was spent in a round pen, because my horse was green and I just didn't have the spare time to be trailering out.  What got me trailering out was my obnoxious neighbors always doing stuff to spook my horses.   It was tough finding places to ride horses safely, because my county allowed motorized traffic on most of the trails.  I found one mountain trail where ATVs and motorcycles could not go, but then I started having problems with people letting dogs off leash hassle my horses, and I didn't enjoy riding there anymore.

Moving to an Arizona community where horseback safety is a priority is what finally got me out on the trails regularly.  I have a round pen and an awesome riding arena, but rarely use them because I love the trails.  Because this location is so perfect for horseback riding, we invested a lot of money into building the horse barn, the hay barn, the arena, the round pen, and most recently, the tack room.  However, I wish someone could have given me a glimpse of my future, because had I known my body would fall apart like it has been, I probably would have saved the money.  You only invest in that kind of project if you believe you are going to be riding horses the rest of your life.  It's a cruel reality that most of us don't have the money to own horses when we are young and able to ride, but we do get more financially secure as we age, and sometimes aging is what keeps us from riding.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Habituated

When I first moved into my current home, I visited with a local lady whose barn was carpeted with wild rabbits.  I remember feeling stunned over how comfortable those rabbits felt around humans and horses.  When we walked, the rabbits parted a path for us.  I've never had that many desert cottontails in my barn, but I've had more this year than ever.  I find that if I don't pay attention to them, they get used to my presence and eventually stop running away.

There is one bunny I've mentioned before that I've been calling "Baby Bunny", but it may actually be a runt because it hasn't been growing much.  The other rabbits chase it away from whatever hay and grain falls out of the horses' mouths, so it started paying attention to me and making connections.  It figured out that when I am carrying a yellow bucket, I am carrying pellets.  It also figured out that I was getting those pellets from the tack room.  It started coming out from under the hay barn as soon as it heard me.  Then it began following me around, observing my routine.

One day I left the tack room door open, and when I returned, I found Baby Bunny inside chowing down on Safe Choice Senior spillage.  I shut the door and sat on the floor, and it tried to hide from me.  Then it tried to get out the door, but discovered that it couldn't.  I reached out and petted it twice, then opened the door and set it free.  I thought it might be more wary of me after that, but it actually allowed me to get into closer proximity to it.  The only time it moves away is when it is afraid that I might step on it.

It has a little ditch that it dug in the ground between the hay barn and the tack room where it can lie in the shade to keep cool.

Bombay had to come investigate what I was taking pictures of...

You can see the bunny in the foreground, and my bone collection in between the bunny and the horses.  We had a deer skull with antlers come down the wash last summer, and it was still there this summer, so I added it to my other skulls and bones.  I like to think that the spirits of the animals are comforted by being around living animals.

It's weird how bones rise to the surface around here.  With the exception of dead bunnies, lizards and snakes, I rarely see carcasses.  I just find skulls and bones lying around.  I found a huge knee and tibia in my round pen the other day.  I'm pretty sure the coyotes dragged it in there.  I think it belonged to a horse.  Someone probably buried it, and the coyotes dug it up.  A few months ago I found what we think was bobcat jaws.

We're trying to keep our garage bays closed to keep the air conditioning in, which means taking the dogs into the back yard instead of the side yard.  We keep chasing off the coyote that sleeps under the bush just off our porch.  So, the coyote moved to the front yard and sleeps under the hedge with the other coyote.  They are always there on hot days.  I got a picture of them scattering as I came around the corner.

They stopped to look at me.  This one is a girl.  She's very big and has a beautiful lope and pretty face.  She never growls or barks at me.  I think she's got some dog in her.

The male is smaller and a little more difficult.  He barks and huffs at me.
I have to get aggressive to chase him off.  I needed to get mail out of my mailbox and he stood his ground making ape noises.  I told him to beat it.  He reluctantly moved deeper into the bushes, but wouldn't leave completely.

My husband brought up that they are probably mating, and the last thing we want is coyote pups in our hedge.  That will make the grown ups even bolder.  Also, I don't want them getting a hold of Baby Bunny, so we're doing what we can to encourage the coyote couple to find another home.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Jumble of Confusion

Today was weird and frustrating.  First, we were running out of cash and all these things kept happening to cause us to have to give up our cash including one item never making it to the conveyor belt after we purchased our groceries, and getting hit up by a pan handler in the parking lot who was carrying a baby and had three tiny kids.

Then we got home to find a jury summons for our daughter who is out of the country.  She will basically return from her trip all jet lagged from being in different time zones, get very little sleep, and then have to turn around and head straight to court within a few hours of returning to the states.  That sucks.  If she were actually out of the country at the time she needed to appear, she'd have an excuse, but needing to rest after a long trip is not a valid excuse.  Hopefully, the case will get settled and her presence won't be needed.

Then this spam catcher program that I installed on my new phone missed labeling a bunch of spam calls, but did label a legitimate call from my doctor's office as being spam.  Fortunately, I caught it.  I had to call a number to listen to a recorded message about the results of my x-rays.  The lady who recorded the message had a thick accent, so I had to replay the message about ten times.  She spoke so fast and did not enunciate, so I had to fill in the blanks on several phrases she used, but basically, my body is all messed up.  She rattled off a list of problems found on the x-rays.

They x-rayed my right knee, right hip, and lower spine.  I was going to tell the P.A. that an x-ray of the knee was not necessary, but apparently it was.  I have joint degeneration and fluid around the knee, and the same thing in several joints in my spine.  I was rather baffled by this, because it is mainly my hip that hurts.  It sounded like she said that the x-ray revealed an intact hip replacement, and I've never had a hip replacement!  I realized that they probably got my x-rays mixed up with someone else's, assuming that I heard her right.

Once again I am left asking, "What's the point?"

Seriously, why do I even bother getting health care when it is this bad?  Now I have a choice of calling them on Monday and informing them that someone screwed up, or I can just wait until my appointment next month to talk to my P.A., who speaks clearly without an accent.  I'm rather frustrated, though, because I really would like some resolution to this problem.  If we happen to have a nice day where I can ride a horse, I want to know that I can ride without having to worry about not being able to dismount, or worse, having to dismount in an emergency and not being able to walk home.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pests

Pests... the human kind.  I'm looking forward to it getting to be consistently above 110 degrees this weekend and beyond, so that the pests will go into hibernation.  But that's the only reason why I'm looking forward to those high temperatures.  Otherwise, I'm not looking forward to it at all.

This week we have been visited by quite a few suspicious strangers.  There are people who wait for all the winter visitors to leave, and then they case neighborhoods looking for opportunities to steal mail, yard decorations, and to break into vacant houses.  One day when I was on one of my short hikes with a horse, I saw a man on a motorcycle come cruising very slowly up the street checking out all the properties along the way.  I heard him stop somewhere around my house, so I turned around and headed back home to see what he was up to.  He left before I could reach him, but it appeared as if he had been tampering with my mailbox, because the flag was up.  I only leave it up if I have outgoing mail, and I hadn't had outgoing mail in days.  I checked with my husband, and he said he always takes outgoing mail to his office in order to guarantee that it won't be stolen before USPS picks it up.

Then last night I waited longer than usual to do my barn chores because I wanted the house to cast shadows over the barn before I started my work.  I heard motorbike engines coming up the street and stopped to see what was going on.  Two teenaged boys on dirt bikes came cruising slowly up the road as if they were trying to keep their engines quiet, and they were scoping out the neighborhood.  When they hit the dead end, they paused for a while, and then slowly drove back down the street.

My first thought was that they had better not be looking for a dead end road to drag race on.  I'm so sick of having to chase people off our street for doing that.  That's totally rude to the residents.

I heard their engines cut out just up the street, but couldn't see them.  It sounded like they had stopped at one of the gates to the bridle trails.  Then it hit me:  These were the guys who have been illegally racing their dirt bikes around on the bridle trails at night.  I can hear them, and I see their tracks in daylight.  There are some horseback riders who ride at night in the summer to avoid the heat, and those dirt bikes could spook the horses and cause a serious accident.  There are good reasons for why motorized vehicles are not allowed on those bridle trails, but some people refuse to obey the law since breaking the law doesn't hurt them in any way and they get to have fun while doing it.

For months, I have been trying to catch these guys.  If there is still a little bit of light out when I hear them racing around in the desert, I drop everything and rush out there on my mountain bike with my zoom camera to try to get a visual on them, so that I can call the police.  But I can never find them, because they either spot me or sense me coming before I reach them, and they leave the scene.  If they can spot me coming on a mountain bike, they can spot a police cruiser a lot easier, so I don't want to bother the police until I've got something to help them catch these guys -- something beyond me just hearing their engines and seeing their tracks.

Anyway, one of them must not have been able to get his bike through the horse gate, so he drove back up the street to the gate in front of my house.  I had some steely eye contact with him as he passed my house.  I guess he thought better of trying to get through the gate in front of a witness, so he took off going a lot faster than he was going when they were casing the neighborhood.  Of course, I didn't have any camera on me at the time.  They both were long gone before I could even get into the house to locate my phone.

While I was trying to deal with those two guys, a third guy on a dirt bike showed up on the cliff at the back of my property, and he looked like he was considering driving down the cliff into my back yard until he saw me, and then he turned around and raced off.  So, I got invaded from all directions simultaneously.  I figured it was a good thing that I postponed doing barn chores, because otherwise these guys would have gotten away with their illegal activities and probably would have returned several times to do it again.

What bugs me is that other neighbors are aware of what is going on, and they don't like it, but they are all a bunch of weenies.  They're too scared to come out of their houses to confront these people, so I'm always the one who has to do it by herself.  Sometimes if I get into a yelling match with someone, a neighbor will come out to support me, but I always have to make the first move.  Usually, all it takes is some eye contact to scare these people off, so it would be nice if other neighbors would at least come outside and stand on their driveways or in their yards to make their presence known.  Instead, they just hide in their houses, which makes the criminals think the houses are vacant, and then the trouble starts.

I have this one neighbor who asks me for a verbal report on all the suspicious activities that have been going on, because he knows I'm always chasing off strangers who are up to no good, but he never helps me out when there is a problem.  He just wants to know how I've been handling it, as if I'm the official neighborhood watch dog and it is my job and only my job.  Ahhh, one of these days, if the gods are kind to me, I will live out in the middle of nowhere, and I can just let the wild animals eat any strangers who come around to cause trouble.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just Wild

My guess that there are actually two coyotes sleeping around my house was correct.  I flushed two of them out at the same time from under the hedge...

This was at the front of the house, so I took my dogs out back on leashes to relieve themselves, but I had to drop the leashes right away because Gabbrielle was banging the iron gate really loud and I had to find a rock to chuck at her since she couldn't hear me yelling at her.  Once I got her attention and she stopped the noise pollution, I gathered up the dogs.  But Midge decided to take off running up the stone steps while Scrappy was squatting.  I didn't want to disrupt Scrappy's potty time, and Midge could get hurt falling on the hard stone when she hit the end of the leash, so I dropped her leash.  Then Stewie took off up the stairs after her and I had to drop his leash too.

When Scrappy was done, I led him up the stairs, because sometimes he needs help.  When we reached the top of the stairs where the other dogs were standing, I heard a ruckus in the Lantana bush.  I thought it was a rabbit that was stuck on a branch, but it turned out to be a black racer snake attacking a quail.  It was striking that poor bird over and over.

I knew that it was only a matter of less than a second before Stewie would be on top of that snake, so I spun around and reached down to grab him and his eye collided with my finger while he was lunging for the snake.  Poor guy, but I'm sure I did less damage than the snake would have done to him.  I grabbed all the leashes and dragged the dogs in the house.  The quail did get away, and so did the snake, so I didn't get any pictures of it.

That was the first time I've ever seen a snake actually catch its prey.  I've seen them stalking their prey, but never striking it.

I took Bombay for a short half mile hike this morning.  That was as far as I could make it before my leg started throbbing.  I tried calling to set up an appointment for x-rays, and every time the recorded message told me that it was a minimum one hour wait just to set up an appointment.  I'm not kidding when I say that Arizona has the crappiest health care I've experienced.  In one instance when I called, each time the computer interrupted the music to tell me how long it would be, the amount of time kept increasing instead of decreasing!  WTH?  Was the computer letting people cut in front of me over the phone?  I think next time I have a serious health problem, I'll just check into a hospital because I can see a doctor, get x-rays, and get all my lab work done in a couple of hours instead of being spread out over a month or so.

All the different medications I've been taking have been messing up my digestion, so I decided to just stop eating.  I bought a juicer and am on an all liquid diet.  I thought I'd have no energy without food, but fresh squeezed fruits and vegetables actually give me more energy.

I was looking forward to our saguaro blooms, but it looks like the birds are eating them all...

Geez.  I like to eat them too.  Save some for me.

The horses had another "first" this morning...

First time they've seen a building grow legs and walk down the street.  My neighbor had a huge shed delivered on a flatbed trailer.  I had to keep an eye on them to make sure they didn't set it down on our side of the property line.  This neighbor thinks he owns a section of our property at the top of the hill even though we have paperwork and measurements that prove otherwise.  We decided to not argue with him unless he tried building something there.  He let his grand kids build a treehouse in our tree, and we let that go.  Fortunately, they aren't interested in playing in the treehouse anymore, so we've regained our privacy.  It looks like he did set the shed down on his own land, so I think we're okay.  The other morning the guy woke us up before sunrise revving his race car engine.  Neighbors can be such a pain.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Functioning

Yesterday was the first day that my pain was manageable, so I went down to the barn around 5:00 AM and did not finish with chores until 7:00 AM.  You don't realize how much work it is to care for four horses and three dogs until you can't, and other people have to do it for you, and then you return to your regularly scheduled program and think, "I can't believe I imposed on my family and friends by asking them to do all this work for me when I couldn't do it for myself."

My husband told his boss that he's so exhausted that he needs a vacation.  What kills me is that the work around here never ends -- not even for a minute.  Every time I think I'm going to get to sit down for a spell, something happens that requires immediate action.  Here are a couple of examples:

1.  I'm trying to clear all the manure out of the barn so that I can drag the hose from water trough to water trough without spreading manure around, but the horses and pooping faster than I can clean, and I spend the majority of my time picking up manure instead of dumping, cleaning, and filling water troughs.

2.  I go inside the house to rest while a water trough is finally filling, and there's a dog doing a dance at the door because he needs to pee, so I take him outside only to have the water trough overflow while I'm waiting for the dog to decide on the best spot to relieve himself.  Then I have to look around for coyotes, because I have to make sure the coast is clear to ditch the dog and run to the hose spigot to turn it off.

The dogs have been a handful.  Since both Midge and Scrappy are going blind and deaf, I can no longer just yell, "Pee pee outside!" and have them all run to the back door where I attach their leashes and walk them out.  Now I have to hunt for each dog around the house and keep them gathered together while I herd them to the back door.  (There's always one dog that wanders off when I look away for a second.  They really need to have Silver Alerts for dogs as well as people.)

Sometimes I don't have it in me to hunt down and herd all three dogs, so I just take whatever dog is waiting at the door out, only to come in, turn off all the lights, shut the garage bay, and have another dog come wandering around the corner begging to go outside.  Their timing is always awful.  I'd swear that both Midge and Scrappy hide just around the corner and wait for me to close shop before showing themselves.

Right before and after each meal, I usually have to take them out anywhere between six and twelve times, because they go out and they pee, but forget to poo or vice versa.  A few minutes later they are begging me to take them out to do what they forgot.  This usually happens with really bad timing, one dog right after the other, so I have to go out three times in a row.  Our best TV shows air starting at 7:00 PM, but I rarely get to see a show all the way through.  Horses are so much easier.  Having dogs in this house is like having dogs in an apartment since I can't just open up the door and send them outside.

Summer brings out the worst problems with the dogs, because they get distracted so easily by all the animal scents.  I suspect that the heat fries their brains a bit, and that's part of why they forget to do their business once outside.  There have been times when Midge just collapsed into the dirt.  I figured the ground was burning the pads of her feet, so I tried to get her quickly back into the house, only to have her stop right at the edge of the back step or the edge of the garage to squat down and do whatever was needed.  The dogs never did start piddling and pooing in their outdoor kennel.  They just sit there and bark.  Then as soon as I take them out of the kennel, they get down to business.  The only thing the kennel is good for is putting a vomiting dog in there, since the dog can't control that and wait until it is in a preferable location.

Scrappy did recover from his latest illness, so I took him and the other dogs to the dog groomer to get their toenails clipped as soon as I was mobile.  When I was in pain, I kept taking drugs like NyQuil that would put me to sleep so that I could sleep through the worst of the pain, since no pain killers really helped all that much.  It's kind of like a drug-induced coma I give myself in order to avoid having a heart attack because the pain is putting too much stress on my heart.

Anyway, the dogs kept waking me up because their toenails were too long and I could hear them tap-tap-tapping on the tile every time they needed to go to the bathroom.  Midge also had a poorly timed panic attack while I was trying to sleep, running around the house crashing into things, and I had to get myself up to prevent her from destroying the house.  I have no idea what brought that on.  We didn't have any storms moving in at the time.  I suspect she's hearing sonic booms and jets rumbling like thunder.  The air traffic can get pretty obnoxious around here between military flights, commercial flights, search and rescue, police, fire fighters, recreational pilots, tours, and the movie industry.  Our area is getting to be pretty popular for filming a variety of productions.

I was walking with a cane off and on while my neighbor was here, and I'm sure she saw me.  I kind of resented that she kept asking me to do things for her, and never once offered to help me out when I was clearly struggling to do my barn chores.  Amazingly, the nice neighbor on the other side of me offered to help me out.  He said he'd take care of the dogs and horses if we wanted to go on vacation, or help out even if we are home and just need help.  I don't know if he saw me walking with the cane or if he just wants us to go away so that he can have the neighborhood to himself.  He's a bit of a hermit like me, so I'm sure he must feel annoyed that I'm always outside doing something within his line of sight.  I watched his place while he was on a trip and picked up his papers.  He seemed a bit shocked that we rarely take trips because of the animals, but the reality is that I'm a homebody.  I can take a trip to the most beautiful place in the world, but I'll always be looking forward to going home to my pets... just not all of their messes.

A coyote and I nearly had a collision when I walked around the corner of the hedge and it popped up out from underneath it just a couple of feet in front of me.  We both spooked, I screamed, and it took off running across the street.  Again, I didn't have my camera with me.  It's got some beautiful coloring in its coat -- some browns and reds and blacks, not just gray tones.  I almost wonder if it has some domestic dog in its genes.

My wild baby bunny took me by surprise when I walked around the hay barn to find it standing on its hind legs trying to figure out how to get into the tack room.  It had paid close enough attention to me to know that the couple of times I left a small pile of pellets for it on the ground, I got the pellets from the tack room.  It hopped aside and let me into the the tack room, but waited outside the door watching me.  I couldn't resist its cuteness, so I gave it another handful of pellets.  That's got to be like candy to a wild rabbit.

Bombay greeted me with a bloody gouge in his leg this morning.  Someone kicked him during the night.  It's hot enough outside that I'm limited in how long I can stay out, so I skipped cleaning up manure to clean, treat and dress his wound.  Normally, when horses start getting hurt, Gabbrielle automatically gets sent to Exile Island, but I suspect Rock might be involved this time.  I'm going to have to watch the horses more closely.  It's amazing how irritable and impatient they get with each other in the heat.  They are no different from me in that regard.