Sunday, February 26, 2017

Just a Ball in a Pachinko Machine

It's been a bit of a wild weekend with us being at the mercy of the overpopulation gods.  We had lots of plans for my husbands' birthday, but too many people visiting our town thwarted most of them.

I've had the chance to do some traveling around the state of Arizona over the past five years mostly due to photography classes and photography jobs, but my husband's job has kept him at home, so he wanted to get out and experience some place different.  We planned to go to an arboretum on Friday, then to a pizza place and a "star party" on Saturday.  However, when I realized that the pizza place was on the way to the arboretum and that we'd have a better chance of getting served on a Friday for lunch rather than a Saturday for dinner, I suggested that we get our pizza before going to the arboretum.  Big mistake.

Though we did get the last table available right away, there was only one server, one bartender, and one cook on duty.  It took us nearly two hours to get our menus, order, get our meal, eat, get our bill and pay.  The old couple next to us was complaining bitterly about being there for over an hour, because they couldn't get the server's attention to bring a box for their leftovers.  My husband suggested that they take the pizza to the bartender and ask for a box, but they just got more irritated and sat there.  They wanted to be served and were going to continue to sit there for another hour until someone brought them a box.  I wanted to tell them that's not Arizona style.  You have to take the initiative and take care of yourself.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten up and walked into a kitchen area to help myself to utensils, napkins, water, and coffee because the staff was too busy to help the customers.

I would swear that the server was being more attentive to us than to the old couple on purpose, because we were kind and had a good attitude.  By the time we got out of there, we still had half a large pizza leftover in a box, and I knew we couldn't leave it sitting in the car for several more hours while we drove to and hiked around the arboretum, so we headed back home to put the pizza in the fridge.  By then everyone was too tired to hike, and I doubted we'd have enough time to tour the arboretum before closing time, so we skipped it.

Since the rodeo and carnival were kicking off, I suggested that we do our grocery shopping at night, because the population has been getting so bad lately that we have to fight for a parking spot, fight for a shopping cart, fight for space to get up and down the aisles in the market, and fight for the last items on the shelves.  Also, most of the products we like are usually picked clean.  Last weekend we went grocery shopping in a completely different city, and still didn't get what we needed, and several weekends before that we've had to go grocery shopping at two stores just to get half of what we needed.

A few weeks ago I was telling my neighbor that I'm homesick for my old hometown in Nevada because everything was so easy there.  You just drove a short distance to the market, and there were three markets in a row, so you took your pick, got in and out in half an hour with a cart full of food that lasted your family a week, and not one single person touched or bumped into you or your truck along the way.  Here in Arizona in the winter, you just have way too many bodies crammed into one space pushing and shoving to get around each other.  I feel like an ant on an ant hill.

Anyway, he suggested that I only do my marketing at night, because most of the types of people I want to avoid are in bed once the sun sets.  So, we went grocery shopping Friday night, and it was heavenly.  Not only were the shelves stocked with everything we need, but we had the space to go our own pace, and I was actually able to spend some time perusing the baking section, which is an aisle I usually can't even get down at all.  I've been eating mostly frozen foods, because that's the one aisle that most people of the retired generation skip.  It's nice to get some real, fresh food for a change.  Oh yeah, and we had our pick of parking spaces and were able to get one closer than ever to the front of the store.  We were in and out in half an hour.  I also discovered that they put their faster staff on duty at night, so our checker and bagger were flying.  We also didn't have to wait for traffic to clear to get out of the parking lot onto the highway.  Usually, the cars are backed up at red lights for an entire block, and we have to wait for the light to turn green just to get a car-length of space so we can turn and cut somebody off.

After experiencing getting a little bit of space, I realized that I've been under a lot of stress because of the population problems here.  I'm constantly having to take in my surroundings, speed up, slow down, swerve, stop, and whatnot to avoid collisions with other people and vehicles.  It eats away at you after a while.  I am not a city person.  Add in that all of these people are from different worlds from you, and have different sensibilities.  Anticipating what others are thinking and are going to do is nearly impossible.  I'm continually astounded by the stupid choices that people make.  It's downright dangerous out there.  While we were driving home from the market, my eye was pulled to the side where someone was waving a flashlight around.  It turned out to be a man riding a horse in the dark with a flashlight.  He was coming out of a restaurant/bar parking lot, and there were cars swarming all around him.  Holy crap, he must have an awesome horse.

The next day I hoped to try going to the arboretum again, but my husband was having coughing fits and I doubted he'd make it.  There was plenty in bloom, and it was a long hike.  He said he'd rather spend his birthday taking care of things at home, so I took my own hike out in the desert in front of our house because I needed my exercise.  I wanted to do something for his birthday, so I offered to take him out to dinner.  Sigh.  What was I thinking?

The restaurant he picked had people waiting out the door, and it wasn't even 4:30 PM yet.  Most of the booths were empty and the hostess was warning everyone that they only had two cooks and two servers on staff, when they usually had four cooks and five servers.  Everyone was grumbling that someone in management didn't plan very well with this being the busiest weekend of the year in our community.  So, the hostess started telling people that they had several employees quit with no warning.  It was painful watching person after person come in and point out to the hostess that there were dozens of customers waiting around, and at least a dozen tables with no one sitting at them.  I guess they thought she was blind.  She had to keep repeating that there weren't enough servers and cooks, so they had to close off one section of the restaurant until someone else came on duty.

Another cook showed up in a baseball uniform, and he was all dirty and sweaty.  He obviously got yanked out of a game to rescue his employer.  He went straight back into the kitchen and I hoped he would at least wash his hands.  I thought things were looking up since a third cook had arrived, but then the hostess told everyone that was actually the second cook.  The whole time we'd been standing around, there was actually only one cook in the kitchen.

The waiting situation was getting uncomfortable because both my husband and I have arthritis and bad backs, but because we were younger than everyone else, we had to keep giving up our seats to people who could barely walk.  At one point, most everyone who clearly needed to sit had a bench, so I continued to sit in the waiting area to give my knees a break, and the lady next to me shot me an annoyed look because her husband wanted to sit down, but there wasn't room.  I heard her say to her husband, "She's young.  I don't know why she can't give you her seat."

Believe me, just because someone is "young" doesn't mean they aren't in as much pain standing around as the older crowd.  You can't judge a book by its cover.  Yes, I can hike with the help of a walking stick, but that's actually a lot easier than standing still for half an hour.  The other thing is that this couple had just arrived.  I'd been waiting for about 20 minutes at that point.  They knew they had potentially an hour wait, so they could have sat in their car or gone to a different restaurant.  A man showed up with three little boys, and he allowed them to lie down and play on a bench in the waiting area, taking up more space than anyone needed, while all these crippled people were standing around waiting for a chance to sit.  I knew people were pissed at him after the "young" comment I experienced.  Then he got up and went to his car, leaving his kids alone.  One lady swooped in and crumpled into his seat next to his kids, which forced him to make the kids take up less space to make room for him when he returned.

We had to wait until after 5:00 PM to be seated, but we got a fresh server who just came on duty.  She was super attentive and on the ball, but it was still a long process, and by the time we got out, my husband was too tired to go to the star party.

When we got home, our next door neighbor was having his annual rodeo party, which we had been invited to.  We hadn't planned on going since we were going to the star party, but now we just wanted to go to sleep.  Every year, his party guests spill out onto his covered porch and backyard, and when I walk outside to do barn chores or to take the dogs out to do their business, I attract everyone's attention, and whatever I'm doing quickly becomes the main topic of conversation.  Everyone is drunk, so they don't realize how loud they are speaking.  I can hear everything.  I've had people sing "Rawhide" when I've been rolling my wagon around cleaning up manure, because the wheels on my wagon squeak and creak and make a lot of noise.  Stewie always barks at all the people, which gets them squealing about puppies.  I've heard people say things like, "Why is she taking those dogs out again?  She just did it a few minutes ago."

Welcome to my life.  Until you've owned two diabetic, decrepit dogs at the same time, you just can't relate.  And yes, Scrappy is starting to get diabetic like Midge.  He's drinking and peeing excessively.  All of my dogs got that way in the last few weeks/months of their lives.  That's the indicator that tells me the end is near.  I'm going to put him down before it gets to the point where I have to give him insulin shots, though.  He can barely walk, and he falls over when I put his diaper on and take it off.

I didn't want to deal with all the drunken party-goers insensitive comments this year, so I cleaned up all the manure, fed the horses, and filled all the water troughs before the party started.  I also took the dogs out front instead of into the dog yard to do their business, so that we could have a little privacy.  I'm looking forward to the return of normalcy, and regaining some space for myself.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Go West, Young Horse

My friend and I planned to meet up on the trails for a ride again today just like last week.  I'm usually early and she's usually late, so I always plan to warm my horse up out there while waiting.  However, Rock was getting impatient going in circles.  He didn't know we were meeting his buddy, so he didn't see the point in going round and round on the same trails.  He kept pulling toward home.

I wore my fitness watch to track my distance and path.  Since we were going to be out a while, I didn't wear my  heart rate monitor, because it gets uncomfortable digging into my rib cage after a while.  I knew I turned it on at 10 minutes to our meeting time, and the watch showed that I'd been warming up for half an hour.  My friend was about 20 minutes late.  That wasn't unusual.

However, when I'd been out riding for 45 minutes, my hips started hurting and I wondered if I'd be able to ride much further once she did arrive.  I was beginning to worry, and I wanted to check for messages on my phone, since I turn off the volume when I ride.  However, I don't ride with my reading glasses, so I would have to go back to the house to see if there were any messages.

At the same time, Rock was acting funny about one of his front legs and I wondered if I should get off and pick out his hooves.  Then the UPS truck drove up the street, and I knew I was expecting two packages containing gifts for my husband's birthday.  I didn't want someone to get to them before me, so I just made the decision to go home.

No messages, plus being 45 minutes late, really had me worried.  I was just about to text her to see if she was okay, when she came riding down the driveway.  She had some trouble at the fairgrounds.  As soon as she said that, I thought, "Oh crap!  I meant to warn her that the rodeo is in town."

Some men were setting up for the rodeo, pounding poles into the ground for carnival tents, and they spooked her horse.  He spooked so bad that his boots flew off his hooves, so she had to get off and put them back on.  She said her horse was also moving a lot slower today than usual.  I always worry about her riding alone for an hour to get to my part of the desert.  She has to cross several busy roads along the way.  When she leaves my place, I tell her to text me when she gets home, so that I know she made it safe.  She planned to take a different route home to avoid the carnival mess.

Bombay was completely obsessed with her gelding.

Her horse doesn't show any interest in my horses at all.  He always behaves like a gentleman.  She said he knows the way to my house now and he just takes her there without her having to direct him.

A military helicopter flew overhead as we were crossing the street, which prevented us from being able to hear cars coming.  For some reason, that happens to me a lot, and I'd swear that most of these helicopter pilots purposefully turn to fly right over me when I'm riding my horse.

Rock was acting weird whenever her horse got in front of him or beside him.  At first, Rock hung back and everything was fine, but we couldn't hear each other talk, so we had to ride closer.  I pulled hard on the outside rein to keep him from biting my friend's horse.  Then both horses were trying to push each other off the trail.

Then Rock got super irritable and was fighting me so that he could run up on her horse's rump and take a bite out of him.  Riding stopped being fun for me at that point, so I told her what was going on, and she let me pass.  Once Rock was out in front, his ears went forward again and he was happy.

I wish he were more responsive to the reins and bit, because simply turning him to circle him when he gets aggressive like that is difficult and painful for me.  My shoulders and back hurt from all the pulling.  Being out in front gave my muscles some much-needed relief.  He's not good about moving off my leg either, so I may have to go back to wearing spurs.  Right now the only crutch I've got is a quirt that hangs around my saddle horn, which only works for getting him to speed up.  I don't have much help in getting him to slow down or move over.

It's embarrassing having a rude horse.  I guess he has to go on a few trail rides with other horses before he'll learn the boundaries I've set up for him.  No biting.  No shoving.  No kicking.  No chasing.  No racing.  In other words, be respectful.

When I tied him to the trailer, but before I could remove his saddle, he peed a river.  Rock and I had been out riding for an hour and a half overall.  If he was holding it all that time, that would explain why he was rushing home.  I guess he doesn't feel comfortable peeing with a rider on his back.

This time I fed my friend some lunch, because last time I thought she'd be home in an hour, but it took her something like two to three hours to ride home because she took the scenic route and got lost.  I didn't want her to be stranded in the desert and starving.  At least this way, since I fed her lunch, she'd only be stranded.  Ha ha!  We agreed that next time she'll just ride to my house so that I don't wear out my hips warming up waiting for her.  I can also leave my phone volume on and have my reading glasses within reach so she can send messages if she's in trouble.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Third Camera Down

I thought I was done with finding camera batteries dead after charging all of them, but somehow my GoPro helmet cam died after just a few shots on my trail ride today.  I was bummed, because I "took" some really great photos along the way, none of which recorded because the battery had died, which I didn't know because the camera was on my forehead where I couldn't see it.  I'm starting to think that we had some kind of electromagnetic blast that drained all of the camera batteries simultaneously.  I'm really good about always charging each camera battery after downloading photos.

So, here's the story of my ride:  On the way out, Rock snatched a snack off a bush and got a stick wrapped around his bit.  I had to pull his head around and lean forward to grab it, and the little stinker chewed the stick to the far side of his mouth.  So, I had to pull his head around to the other side and lean forward to try to grab it there...

...and he managed to spit it out.

When we got further up this trail...

...we could no longer find it because there was a carpet of green grass for as far as we could see.  Rock was so happy to be in a meadow.  I took a bunch of pictures to show how green it was, but...

At one point Rock stopped and threw his head up.  I looked where he was looking, but saw nothing.  Then I heard something behind us and looked over my shoulder, but saw nothing.  I knew something was coming, but I couldn't see it.  I urged Rock to keep moving, but he refused.  He was like, "Uh uh.  Not until we figure out what that noise is."

It got louder and louder and it was coming up from behind us fast, but we still couldn't see anything.  Suddenly, this older couple on two gaited horses appeared on the trail next to us.  A tree and a bunch of tall bushes were blocking our view previously.  They acted like they didn't even see me.  Their horses' hoof beats were so loud that they probably didn't hear me exclaim to Rock, "Oh!  There they are."

They passed us so fast that we felt a wind.  Rock was super excited.  I thought he was going to take off after them and try to bite those horses on the butt.  However, he was a good boy and he just stood still and watched in amazement.  I took a ton of invisible pictures of them, none of which we will get to see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Skipped a Year, But the G.M. is Back

I'm so excited.  After searching high and low for a Gila Monster and not having a single sighting in 2016, I finally saw one today!  I should have known better.  It was the first hot day after a rainstorm, and that usually flushes all kinds of creatures out of their dens.  Still, I went outside without a camera or even a mobile phone, and I ran into him when pulling a wagon full of manure to the round pen.  He was crawling out from underneath my horse trailer, which meant that he was probably under my haystack.

He waddled over to a bush, and I figured he'd be down a hole and gone by the time I ran back to the house to get a camera.  But, at the last second, he veered off away from the bush and it would be a good minute before he reached the next bush, so I ran into my house and retrieved my now fully charged camera with zoom lens.

He was walking away from me into my neighbor's backyard.

I tried zooming in from my yard, but that definitely wasn't the money shot.  You know how I feel about trespassing, so I didn't want to go into my neighbor's yard.  So, I moved around to another vantage point right at the property line, and wouldn't you know it, my neighbor drove into his backyard right then.  This is the same guy who walked up on me when I was photographing a hawk on his roof.  He must really think I'm a creeper now.

Last I talked with him, he hadn't seen a Gila Monster in years, so I wanted to get his attention and let him know there was one in his yard right then, but he had his engine running, and I would have had to run right up to him for him to hear me.  In the time it would have taken to do that, I would have lost the G.M.

Who can resist a face like that?

Of course, I made the selfish choice to keep taking pictures.  I'll explain myself to my neighbor later and send him some photos.

The G.M. decided he had enough of the paparazzi for one day and tried to jam himself into a bush.

Just look at those little tootsies.

Missing video of the horses playing and pictures of a rainbow in front of the mountains in order to discover that all my camera batteries were dead was so worth it in order to get these Gila Monster shots.

Call Me Mud

It rained throughout most of the three-day holiday weekend, so the horses were locked up in their stalls.  Gabbrielle is bad about kicking the boys out of the barn when it rains.  I think it's an odd behavior, because not only is there plenty of room for all four horses under the barn roof, but she lets them hang out in the barn when it is not raining.  So, why would she kick them out when it is raining?

I've tried letting everyone out except Gabbrielle, but then the other horses unlatch her gate and let her out, and next thing I know, the boys are standing out in the rain soaking wet and shivering.  Anyway, once we got a break in the rain, I let all four horses out to stretch their legs, and they ended up getting the fitz.  They were chasing each other around, doing all kinds of amazing acrobatics, splattering mud everywhere.

I grabbed my camera, ran out onto the porch, pushed the ON button, only to have the battery immediately die.  Huh?  Didn't I just charge this?  Oh well, it must not have had a good connection.  I ran back indoors and plugged it in to charge it again, and was about to grab my other camera, but the horses stopped their shenanigans and were staring up at a group of four people on the hillside.  The thundering hooves had attracted an audience that included a child yelling, "Look at the horsies!"

People can ruin a good photo shoot every time.  Several hours later, a rainbow formed across the front of the mountains.  This was highly unusual.  Most rainbows form over the mountains.  I had to get some pictures.  I grabbed my charging camera, pushed the ON button only to have it immediately die again.  WTH?  I tossed it down and ran for my professional camera, which I knew had all two of its batteries freshly charged.  I pushed the ON button and nothing happened.  Both batteries were dead!  Apparently, when I put my camera away after charging the batteries, the switch got flipped to ON and drained them.  How unlucky can one get?  I ran for my mobile phone in desperation, but by the time I got back outdoors, the rainbow was gone.

It turned out that my point-and-shoot camera wouldn't charge when it was plugged into the wall, but it would charge when it was plugged into a computer using the same cable.  Go figure.  However, I had to change all the power settings on my computer, because each time it started charging the camera, the computer would go to sleep and the camera would turn off.  Simple things are going to be the death of me.

Anyway, everything is officially charged up now, so hopefully I will have new photos in the future for the blog.

This is the busiest week of the year for my community between the three day weekend and the upcoming annual events happening all over the valley.  We've been struggling to find the kinds of food we like to eat at our local markets.  We often have to go to both markets in one week, because the shelves are depleted by all the tourists.  This past weekend we drove into the next city to use their grocery store, and we still couldn't get half of what we needed.  Even though it was the same store, just going to a different branch resulted in a completely different selection from what we are used to, and the organization of the store was completely different as well.  It didn't help our cause when we kept getting fly-by gassed by a mentally challenged, overweight woman in pajamas who was running around the store with a fresh load in her pants.  We just wanted to get the hell out of there.  I leave the house for an hour thinking that I'm going to get a break from all the dog feces and urine, only to have to deal with human smells.  Nauseating.

I'm hoping that all the rain we've been getting will make some people think twice about coming back next year.  I need to eat.  We're considering paying extra to order food online and have it shipped to us.  Some stores allow you to order online and pick up your groceries, but our local stores don't participate in those programs.  I guess it doesn't matter since they rarely have anything in stock anyway.  I'm thinking that if I ever move again in the future, I'm going to move somewhere boring where no one would ever want to visit on their vacation.  I keep finding these awesome rural locations with incredible views only to have everyone else and his brother discover them simultaneously or shortly thereafter.  It seems that my time to enjoy them is getting shorter and shorter due to the information highway getting the word out faster.

It would be nice if there were some truth to Yogi Berra's words:  "No one goes there anymore.  It's too crowded."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Riding with Company

I was going to title this "Riding Sans Solo", but apparently, Sans Solo is a porn star.

A friend and I had been trying to schedule a trail ride together for a while, and as is the case when you get multiple humans and horses together with ever-changing weather, there were a couple of postponements.  We thought perhaps the third time would be the charm.

While I was cleaning the paddock, I heard a vehicle pull up in front of my house, heard a door slam, and heard two chirps from the horn, meaning that the person was locking his vehicle and was planning on staying a while.  I looked up the driveway and saw that it was a large truck parked at the entrance to the bridle trails.  It wasn't blocking the gate, so all I had to worry about was making sure that the driver didn't fire up his engine and take off right while I was riding my horse past.

My friend texted me and said she'd be half an hour late due to an unexpected setback with another one of her horses.  I felt relieved, because that would buy me some time for the truck to be moved.  By now a second vehicle was pulling into my neighbor's driveway, so I knew these were house hunters meeting with a real estate agent.  Most people don't spend more than 15 or 20 minutes viewing a home.  However, when I saw who the house hunters were, I knew was in for a long wait.  This was the same couple who spent half the day scouring the property last Friday, and also came by on the ATV to hike around at the back of the property for a long time the day before that.  They sure like to take their time.

When I bought the home I'm in now, I toured it in five minutes and put an offer on it within a few days.  I was in a hurry to move.  These people seem to not be able to pull the trigger.  They're obviously interested, because they keep coming back.  I guess they want to make sure they are comfortable there and that they didn't miss anything on the first couple of walkthroughs.

I kept hoping they'd leave, but they were out touring the back yard again by the time I needed to saddle up.  Fortunately, they didn't call me over to the fence to chat, because I didn't have the time.  It embarrasses me when I promise to meet another horseback rider somewhere, and I'm running late, so the other horseback rider has to ride all the way to my house.

Their truck was still by the gate to the trails when I rode out.  Rock saw it, balked, and stood like a statue staring at it.  I let him look, and then made him get down to business and pass it.  I first made sure that no one was in the driver's seat about to turn the key in the ignition.  Rock was so obnoxious about burying his face in bushes all the way out.  You'd think I'd been starving him.  I rode around in the area of our meeting place, but didn't see my friend anywhere.  I watched Rock to see if he detected anything.  At one point he alerted in the direction she was coming from, but it turned out that the fire station was doing some training drills and someone was talking over a loud speaker.

I didn't see another soul on the trails.  I think I rode for about half an hour before I finally spotted a horseback rider.  Rock didn't see her.  I didn't think it was my friend, but then she waved so I waited.  Then I realized that for her to get to me, she would have to ride through a cholla field, so I turned Rock around and headed down the trail further away from the cholla, but he was so enamored with the other horse, that he kept trying to turn his head to look at him, and his tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth in the process.  He looked like he was making silly faces at my friend's horse.  It turned out that my friend was running behind schedule even more than predicted because she got stopped by her neighbor to chat -- the very thing that I was worried would happen to me and make me late.

We took turns leading, and rode side by side when the trail was wide enough, and both horses did pretty well.  I found a balance between ignoring some of Rock's posturing behaviors, while correcting others.  I wanted him to relax, and I knew that constantly correcting him wasn't going to help, so I limited my corrections to when he was thinking about hurting the other horse.  Since my friend's horse is gaited and likes to lead, there were a few times when he tried to pass us.  Rock, like most jerk-wad drivers on the road, suddenly sped up to try to stay ahead of her horse and he even sometimes went so far as to try to block him from passing with his body or tried to run him off the trail.  When her horse got going too fast, she'd circle him away from us, and Rock would try to nip him on the rump.  I never let him.  You know you have a good connection with your horse when you know what he is thinking before he acts out the thought, and you can stop him.

Eventually, both horses settled down and we got into a good rhythm with Rock in front moving faster than his usual pace, and her horse in back moving slower than his usual pace.  Each horse needed to improve in those directions.  My friend said that her horse had its face buried in Rock's tail, and Rock was handling it well.  At first, he had his ears flicked back, but I think that once he realized that the other horse wasn't going to bite him, he accepted being snowplowed from behind.  Gabbrielle and Bombay used to cling to his rump too when they were feeling insecure.  In this case, my friend's horse just wanted to go faster.

Rock was good about not running uphill again.  I've been consistently praising and petting him for that, so I think he's got the message.  He still needs a little work on rushing home, but having another horse on his mind did distract him from totally taking off on me.

It was a very successful ride.  We were able to talk and get caught up with what's been going on without having to constantly worry about behavior problems, and we had the trails to ourselves, so we didn't have to worry about what other people and animals were going to do.  We rode back to my house, and the house hunters were gone by then.  We drank ice water and talked while her horse stood quietly tied to my hitching post.  Both of our horses worked up a good sweat.  We're going to try it again next week if the weather allows.

The dogs weren't able to keep their bodily functions under control for the two hours I was gone, so there was poop on the floor and pee in a diaper.  Sometimes I've just got to go for a ride and tell myself that it is what it is, and I'll deal with the mess when I get home.  There was the usual dog chaos when I opened the door with everyone running around on the porch, not able to decide whether to jump on our guest or run down to the dirt to relieve themselves.  I do wish my dogs had better manners, but it's kind of hard to train them now with two of them being mostly deaf and me having a bad back that makes it difficult to bend down to touch them as a way of communication.

Speaking of dogs, it's time to go take them outside again...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In The Pursuit of Shade

I don't ride my horses much in my round pen, but I do lunge and do other groundwork exercises there.  Things started getting dicey when my snowbird neighbors who live above the round pen began extending their stays from weeks to months to half the year, and they were hiking down in the arroyo on my property, which often spooked my horses and caused accidents.  It was a struggle of stubborn wills, but I did get one man from that house to stop trespassing underneath my round pen and arena.  He's still trespassing on my property, but at least he's doing it away from my horses.

The last couple of summers have been tough, because the heat was beyond ridiculous.  It seemed to go on forever without any relief, and because these neighbors were in that house right up until the heat set in, I hardly got to use my round pen at all.  If they were on their porch above the round pen, I couldn't get my horses to focus on me, and if they were in the arroyo beneath the round pen, I found myself being knocked ten-feet through the air by a stampeding horse.

Then Gabbrielle began needing some anger management in the heat.  She'd get so irritable that she'd beat up on the geldings regularly.  I had to separate her from the herd, but the only place we have shade is the barn, so I had to keep her locked up in a stall all summer, which wasn't fair to her, because she needed exercise.  I tried selling her a to new home, but failed.  I kept thinking that I needed to figure out some way to get shade in the round pen, so that I can make it Gabbrielle's summer home.

The thing is that my round pen stands between two of my neighbor's mountain views, so I didn't want to put up a huge canopy that would ruin their views.  I also didn't want to invest in anymore construction, because Gabbrielle is already costing us plenty in feed bills, training bills, and vet bills for a horse I can't ride.  I thought about maybe installing a temporary umbrella-like structure in the center of the round pen, and then I would have to walk around the pole while lunging, and take it down in high winds, but the whole idea seemed more complicated than I was willing to tolerate.  I only have so much energy in the heat, and my current routine uses up all of it.

Then one day the Palo Verde tree that has been growing naturally on my property grew tall and wide enough to cast a shadow across one corner of the round pen for one month during the summer, and I noticed that it felt like it was twenty degrees cooler in that shade than in the direct sunlight.  After that, I wanted to plant trees around the pen for shade.

At the beginning of last summer, we planted three fast-growing saplings.  I put one due east to provide shade in the morning and to provide a little privacy from people looking down on us from the hill.  I put another one to the southwest to allow some privacy for when the snowbirds are sitting on their porch.  The third one was more toward the west and was supposed to cast a shadow across the round pen in the afternoon, but that never really happened.  It's only good for casting a tiny shadow in the winter afternoons, because the sun is in the southern sky in the winter, and in the northern sky in the summer.  So, that tree is going to have to really spread out and thicken before it will serve its purpose.

So, this winter I began digging a hole where I thought a tree needed to go in order to cast a shadow in the round pen on a summer afternoon.  My husband suggested that we just buy an adult tree and have the nursery install it, so that we can have shade now.  It was a bit of a struggle to pick out a tree, because most of them had been trimmed to death to make room for other trees on the nursery lot, and because they weren't as thick as they could be due to winter frost causing the loss of leaves.  I finally settled on a Tipu that had a lot of branches, promising to provide a lot of leaves.

We set up a date for the delivery and were told that they would arrive sometime within a four hour window.  I had two people at the nursery assure me that the crew supervisor would call me when he was on his way.  After having two plumbers show up on my doorstep without calling ahead, and me having to wrangle my dogs into a back room, and having one dog pee on himself in the process, I sure hoped they would call ahead, because I was in no mood for dog trouble.  My goal was that when they called, I would take the dogs out to relieve themselves, and lock them up so that they wouldn't hear the truck, get excited, and pee all over the house.

I also needed to forewarn the truck driver about the low hanging power lines at the end of our driveway, so that he could make sure that his load would clear them.  The other point of communication that was important was that I did not plant the flag exactly where I wanted the hole dug.  I had already dug a hole, but decided that it was still too far south for the northern summer sun, so I wanted them to just expand the existing hole to the north.  I tried planting the flag there, but the ground was too hard.  There was no point putting the flag in the hole, because they wouldn't see it, so I just stuck it in the pile of loose dirt, which was to the southwest of the hole, further away from the pen and the summer sun.  My plan was to tell the caller not to dig until I show him exactly where.

My husband took off the day from his job at the office and had been out working on the sprinkler system, and the dogs kept barking whenever Stewie would hear him pounding or whenever he walked past a window, so when the dogs started barking, I just figured they were barking at him again.  Then I realized that the helicopter sound I'd been hearing was still awfully close to the house, and I got up to investigate.  The tree delivery truck was here and the men were already digging.  I double-checked my phone, which had been attached to my hip all day with the volume cranked up, and sure enough, no one had called!

I went down to the dig site and found that they were digging where I stuck the flag, and they were already several feet deep.  My heart sank.  These guys were working so hard.  I did not want to tell them to fill in that hole and dig to the northeast.  But if this tree does not cast shade in the round pen during the summer months, then all that money will be a waste.  So, I explained to them that I set that flag in the general location, but I needed the tree to cast shade in the round pen during the summer months, yet to not be so close to the railings that the horses can eat it.  They assured me the location where they were digging would work, and said that maybe in a year it would canopy over the railing.  I thought that if it was going to grow that fast, perhaps where they had it was best.  I really needed to see the tree set up before they dug to be sure, but it was too late.

I told my husband the situation with me not planting the flag where I wanted the hole dug, and he said that he told them to dig where I put the flag, and that I should have stopped them.  At that point, I was in a "let go and let God" frame of mind, figuring that all these miscommunications had to have happened for a reason.  Maybe where they are planting it will eventually turn out to be a better spot, and even if it doesn't work out, I can always move the round pen closer to the tree.

I asked the supervisor if he tried to call me, thinking that perhaps someone transposed a couple of numbers, and he sighed heavily in a frustrated manner and said that he didn't have any cell reception until he was five minutes away, and he didn't think there was any reason to call if he was going to be here in five minutes.  Ugh!  I had three good reasons for him to call, even with only five minutes advance notice, but it's human nature to only see things from your own perspective.  I should have explained that to him, but I was in the frame of mind that what was done was done, so what's the point in hassling him?

I wanted to see them crack the crate open, but I had to take the dogs outside since they didn't call ahead.  My husband was there when they did it, and he said a bunch of scorpions scattered that were living in the soil of the crate.  I hope they don't find their way into our house.  We've been fortunate to not have much of a scorpion problem in recent years.

The supervisor handed me a piece of paper and asked me to sign it.  This is what I hate about going blind.  When people give me legal paperwork to sign, I need to be in a lighted room with a magnifying glass, reading glasses, peace and quiet, and some time.  However, all these guys were piling into the truck to leave, no one had time for me to review the paperwork, so I just signed, hoping I was signing on the line because I couldn't see anything.

Then I got in the house and read it.  The guy checked off this list of tasks claiming his crew did them all, and I signed, agreeing that all of those tasks were done.  However, he checked off that he called ahead, when he knew he didn't.  He also checked off that he came to the door and asked for permission to enter the property.  He probably considered talking to my husband out front to cover that, but my husband didn't know what was going on with that flag, which led to the miscommunication on where to dig.  I wish I just didn't put that damn flag out at all, but I specifically gave them my phone number so that they would call me and I could communicate where I wanted the tree to be planted.  It just astounds me how hard it is to get the simplest things done without misunderstandings.  I think in the future any time that I do business with delivery and service people, I will make them sign my own contract that if they do not call before arrival, then our business is null and void, and they are to return all money to me.

When I went out in the late afternoon, the shadow of the tree was cast along the length of the northern end of the round pen.  That means that by September, the shadow should be cast along the southern end.  That's the logic, but I won't know until we go through this upcoming summer.  I hope it will work out.  The hard part was positioning the tree so that it would eventually canopy over and create some shade at high noon, but not so that the lower branches would stick over the railing for the horses to eat.  I know that some people just plant trees inside their corrals for constant shade, but since this is a round pen, I can't be having ropes getting wrapped around tree trunks.

The summer sun comes from the direction of the house, which is how the Palo Verde tree on the right was able to cast a shadow in the corner.  Technically, the perfect place for a tree is right by the gate, but we have to be able to get in and out of the gate.  I've considered moving the gate, but that would mean no longer having a straight shot from the barn, and having to make a new trail that is out of the way.

Once the truck left, I needed to run into town to pick up some items, and I had an interesting thing happen.  You know how I always say that the only reason why anyone ever calls me or approaches me is to take something from me, be it time, energy or money?  Well, I parked way at the back of a lot because I like to have enough space to get in and out without having to maneuver around other vehicles and pedestrians.  I can walk faster to and from my truck at the back of the lot than it takes for me to wait for all the other people to move out of my way while I'm trying to get into or out of a parking space up close.  So, here I was getting out of my truck, and these three women started walking toward me.  A little voice told me that they were going to approach me, but this time I should let them, instead of brushing them off.  See, usually when people hit me up in a parking lots, it's because they are begging for money or handing out advertisements or trying to sell me junk or trying to convert me to their religion or just plain crazy and telling me that I should be wearing a tin foil hat like they are...

Anyway, sure enough, this lady said, "Excuse me.  Hi!"

I smiled at her and said hello, trusting what my gut was telling me about her.  She reached out and said, "I want to give you something."

I raised an eyebrow.  Really?  You want to give me something?  I extended my palm, half expecting her to drop a sample of something she wanted me to buy into my hand, but she dropped something in and said, "Have a happy Valentine's Day and be blessed."

I looked in my hand and there were two Hershey's Kisses.  She smiled and walked off without asking for anything more, and I thanked her.  I love it when people make an effort to improve a stranger's a day.

When I drove into town, I noticed that there was a new vehicle parked next to the snowbirds' house, and I got the sense that this new occupant would start causing me trouble.  While I was cleaning the paddock, Bombay alerted on something.  I thought he was looking at a low flying helicopter, but he was still on edge after it left.  I looked a little harder to see what he was seeing.

There's this clearing between my barn and the snowbirds' house, and there was a woman bending over behind a bush.  She remained bent over there for a long time, and the way she was bobbing up and down, I figured she was "weeding".  I put "weeding" in quotes, because we have a gazillion weeds here, and there's no point in trying to pull each one up out of the ground with your hands, yet that's what these people in this house keep doing when they first arrive for their vacation.  I find it to be such bizarre behavior.  I used to try to spray poison on weeds, but that was all in vain.  The only way to really get rid of them is to bring in a bulldozer.

Anyway, I went about my business, and then the woman popped upright, and suddenly all four horses turned toward each other, crashed into each other, bounced off each other, and came stampeding right at me.  Of course, they were in the barn and I was standing at the end of the barn aisle, so I had nowhere to go to get out of the way.  I jumped as far as I could to the side, and the horses managed to squeeze together to get past me without knocking me down, but I was sure to let out a scream so this lady would be aware that I nearly got trampled.  I doubt she made any connection between the fact that she was popping in and out of bushes as being the trigger to the incident, but I wanted to call her attention to it in case I have to have a talk with her in the future about trespassing.  Her relative denied that he was causing my horses to spook and stampede, and I didn't want her to do the same.

Now that the sun is staying out a little longer each evening, I was able to take a mile hike out in the desert between feeding the horses their dinner and sunset.  I was hoping to get some sunset photos, but the battery on my camera died before then.  But here are a few photos I did get before that happened...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Attempting to Sniff Out the Source of the Stench

If Arizona has taught me anything, it's that I have to learn to be flexible.  Things are constantly changing and each day is loaded with unexpected obstacles.  It's a far cry from the lifestyles I had in California and Nevada where I could plan out my days and execute them as planned without some unrelenting negative force coming out from left field to thwart my plans.  I used to keep scheduling books with slot for every half hour, but now I just keep a whiteboard for appointments and a To Do List with no deadlines.  What I can and can't do often revolves around the weather, the wildlife, random people who interfere, natural disasters, the health of my pets, my own health, and the cooperation of inanimate objects.

My daughter came over to go out to brunch with us this weekend, and right before she arrived, we got slapped in the face with the worst stench our house has emitted yet.  Sometimes our house smells like a garbage disposal, sometimes it smells like urine, sometimes it smells like grease, but on this day it reeked of fresh, hot, smoldering, rancid diarrhea.  My husband and I were each throwing open all the windows and doors, pointing at each other asking, "Did you...?"

No.  This was a smell that was emanating up from the floor while the washing machine was running.  This stench problem has been going on since Christmas of 2015.  That first Christmas we dealt with it by pumping our septic tank, only to get hit with it again right before guests arrived for the Christmas of 2016.  That time we called the septic company out again, and since the tank didn't need pumping, they just cleaned the filter.  However, within a few days of that cleaning, the smell kept coming back.  So, I followed instructions from the Internet on how to clean our dishwasher and washing machine, and that did nothing to improve the problem.  We've been tolerating it for well over a month.

We've tried doing our own sleuthing, but there isn't a strong pattern other than that the stench seems to arrive right before company does, which is when we tend to use a lot of water to clean house.  We run the dishwasher and the washing machine more than usual.  The smell most often congregates around the dishwasher, but the dishwasher usually isn't even running when that happens.  This weekend the smell was next to our refrigerator just outside of the laundry room.

My trail ride that got canceled last week had to get canceled again today because of the weather.  There was a potential for rain, which did clear up before sunrise, but the rain was a thunderstorm during the night, which kept the dogs and their anxiety awake, which in turn kept me awake, so when morning came, all I wanted to do was sleep.  Of course, the horses wouldn't let me sleep because they were hungry and banging on their gates, so I fed them and tried to go back to sleep.

I decided to use the day to set up appointments to solve various problems that have been plaguing me for a while, which included the mysterious stench.   I've been trying to avoid appointments so that I could go trail riding, but other things just keep getting in the way of the trail riding, so now I'm back to setting up appointments just because I want to get something -- anything -- done.  I need progress.  I hate being stuck in the same old ruts.

So, I called a plumber.  I was hesitant on which one to call, because every time I find a good one, the next time I call him out I get somebody different who is totally incompetent.  I thought I had deleted all the plumbers I didn't like off my contact list, so I called the one that was still on it, knowing that he did something last time that bothered me, but I couldn't remember what.  The receptionist told me that someone would be out in a couple of hours, and he would call me to let me know when he was on the way.

So, I took a two-minute shower, got dressed, took two of my three dogs outside, came back in the house, and DING DONG!  The dogs went nuts, running for the door and barking.  Midge and Scrappy actually can't hear anything, but they see Stewie charging the door and they know something is up.  I opened it a crack and told the guy he'd have to wait a minute while I locked up the dogs.  Oh yeah, that was why I didn't like this plumbing company anymore.  They always promised to call ahead, and never did.

You can bet that by the time the plumber left, the one dog I wasn't able to get outside ended up peeing in his diaper.  I tell everyone to give me a 15 minute heads up before they show up on my doorstep, because I need that time to take all the dogs outside to relieve themselves, and then I have to lock them in a room with some water.  Once someone is on the doorstep, it's really difficult for me to catch the dogs and lock them in a room.  It hurts my back to have to bend over, pick them up, carry them, or bend over to grab their collars and hook up a leash to a moving object.  But an even bigger problem is that they get so excited that they pee all over themselves and the floor.  That's why I have to take them out within 15 minutes of someone coming into the house.

Anyway, I gave the plumber a ton of information regarding this mysterious stench, and right off the bat, he looked under my kitchen sink and offered to install a vent.  I was skeptical over how he could come up with that solution without further examination.  At the very least, I wanted him to get up on a ladder to check to see if our existing vents were clear, but he acted like he'd never seen those types of vents before and doubted that they could have any issues that required repair.  I asked him how much experience he had as a plumber.  I didn't mean to be rude, but he was saying "I don't know" to most of my questions, and my skeptic alarm was going off, and this was just too serious of a problem for me to waste my time on wild guesses.

As it turned out, he didn't have much experience.  He offered to have his boss come out to give a second opinion, and I accepted.  I think I surprised him by agreeing to meet with his boss, but I wanted all the help I could get on the diagnosis of the stench.  Most of the stories I read on the Internet involved plumbers coming out multiple times and doing thousands of dollars in repairs, yet never getting rid of the smell.

When the boss showed up, he didn't call ahead even though the previous plumber warned him that he needed to do so.  I had to chase the dogs around the house and make them wait.  When I opened the door, the guy pointed at his partner and said, "It was his fault.  I told him we should call."

So, these two guys came in and didn't even let me explain the history of the problem and the troubleshooting we've already done, so right off the bat I was skeptical again.  How can you solve a problem if you're so busy talking that you can't listen to what the problem entails?  But he did bring up one topic that I had not considered, which is that you have to flush water down all your drains occasionally, because dry drains can become an outlet for septic smells.  I remember my neighbors telling me to run water through their drains and flush toilets while they weren't living in the house so that they could avoid letting septic gasses leak into the house.  We do have one full bath/shower that only gets used when we have overnight guests.  It's not anywhere near the locations of the stench, but perhaps that tub drain is belching gasses and they are floating through the house, getting trapped in the same general location.

These guys checked under my washing machine and dryer for floor drains, because sometimes gasses come up through there, but it turned out that we didn't have any.  They didn't find the source, but I was happy that they tried as opposed to just tossing some recommendation out without doing a serious inspection.

He was talking to me and asking me questions when someone else came to the door.  I kept telling him to hang on, because I had to get the door, but he was basically yelling over me from another room and couldn't hear me, so I missed most of what he was saying.  It turned out to be the original plumber at the door, so now I had three plumbers all helping me.  They were able to eliminate a few possibilities, and all concluded that I should flush out the pipes overnight with a solution that I pour down the drain.

I'm still skeptical, because from what I've read, those products are just a waste of money, and I vaguely remember someone telling me to never allow a plumber to pour any chemicals down our drains for some reason, but they said there is a very good chance that this will fix the problem, and if it doesn't they can install a P-trap to my main line to the septic tank and that fixes the problem 99% of the time while requiring cleaning maintenance.

At first, the boss said that you should flush out your pipes with this solution once every ten years.  Then he told me that he has to do it for some restaurants every week.  Since it's costing me $240 to flush out my pipes just this one time, I definitely do not want to do it on a weekly basis.  We have some of weirdest problems with this house that we never had to tolerate at any of the other houses we've lived in.  Just the maintenance alone is mind boggling.  I've never had to clean or change so many different filters in my life.  Everything comes with a filter.

The only other options are for them to tear up the walls of our house and run smoke through the lines in search of leaks, and having them tear up the floor of our house to replace the septic lines.  I had hoped they'd have more advanced, less invasive methods to detect leaks by now, but I guess not.  They doubted this was a case of leaks, though, because the house isn't very old and the materials are good quality.

It seems like the main choice that most people with septic tanks that emit stinky gasses have is to either install a P-trap onto their main line and not have to deal with smells, but then as a trade off, they have to clean the P-trap constantly or they will get clogs.  It doesn't sound like a very good choice.  I could tolerate the occasional stench as long as it doesn't make an appearance right before house guests arrive, but it seems that it prefers to rear its ugly head at those times, and if it isn't the septic gasses acting up, it's the dogs getting sick.  I'm at a point where I don't even want people coming to my house anymore.  I'd rather set up some neutral location where we can meet.

My sign on the door tells people to call ahead so that I can lock up the dogs for their safety.  I put it up in part to scare off burglars.  When the plumber saw my dogs, he said, "Oh, you have little ones."  I could see he was confused over how they could hurt him.  It's complicated -- definitely more complicated than I can address on a door sign.  They might bite someone, but more likely they would jump on the person, and in the case of my 80-year-old friend, knock her down.  They could also escape out into the desert when I open the door to let someone in.  Two of my dogs are deaf, so they can't hear me telling them to sit and stay.  It's just easier on me if people call ahead, regardless of how small and harmless my dogs seem to be.  It's easier for me to put leashes on them when they are lying still, and to lead them into a back room and quietly shut the door without all the excitement of someone standing on the porch ringing the bell.  It also allows me to avoid having to wash doggie diapers and scrub stains out of carpets.

In other news, my husband relocated the rattlesnake that was nesting in our sprinkler control box.  He fashioned his own snake hook, avoided getting struck while lifting it into a trash can, and then ran it out into the desert.  I missed it.  He purposefully didn't tell me that he was doing that, because he didn't want me to distract him or get in the way.  I was horrified when he told me he didn't have a lid on the trash can.  It was one of those tall plastic kitchen cans.  He said the snake was rattling and pretty pissed.  So, he's been busy replacing parts for the sprinkler system so that we won't have anymore problems with shut off valves not shutting off and running our well dry.  I really hope that we can get a break from all the well and septic problems for a while.

I always tell myself that if these types of troubles keep up, I'm going to move into a motel room.  The only problem with that logic is that I'd still have to go home every half an hour to take the dogs outside.  I can't do motels that accept pets, because I'm allergic to cat dander.  As these septic and well problems persist, my old house back in Nevada is starting to look pretty good as far as dwellings go.  I'm tempted to kick the renters out and move the dogs and horses back there despite the problem neighbors.  I check the status of those neighbors and their house online every once in a while, hoping that they sold it or naturally reached the end of their lives in the obituary section of the local paper, so that I can move back there some day, or at least, sell the house.  No one would buy the house from us because those dang neighbors turned their property into a junk yard and they always came running over to stare at prospective buyers who came to view my house, so we got stuck having to rent it.

I'm actually happy that we've been renting it, because we've made a little money that has allowed me to stay at home to take care of the animals, and we still have the house in our possession, even though the bank technically owns it until we make our last payment.  I miss having a dog yard and living in a small town in an uncomplicated house that always has water and clean air.

But from what I read in the news, that area is having too much water.  The county has deemed itself a disaster zone due to repeated flooding.  The main highway had to be shut down, people had to be rescued, and there were 100 mph winds at my house.  We're expecting to be notified that my barn roof blew off, because it only can withstand 90 mph winds, and no one has been tightening down the bolts on the roof each year like my husband did.  Also, we had to deal with a lot of power outages at the old house due to the high winds.  We have high winds during monsoon season here, but the power company seems to be on the ball and can usually restore power within an hour.  I suppose it's easier dealing with the technical difficulties of this house than it would be having to deal with Mother Nature at the old place.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Bird's Eye View

Stewie is feeling better and eating now, as opposed to running away from his food and asking to go outside every few seconds.

The home shopper who stood on the hill behind my house for half an hour pointing at stuff in my yard came back the following day and spent the entire morning scouring the grounds of my neighbor's place with a real estate agent.  He leaned against the fence and pointed at stuff in my back yard while discussing it with his agent for quite some time.  I think his wife was embarrassed, because she kept sneaking peeks into the windows of my house trying to see if anyone was watching, which I was.

My husband had gone out to talk to them before the real estate agent arrived, and he found out that they are ranchers from Arkansas and looking for just a winter home.  I was like, "Hallelujah!" because if they bought the place, it would be empty half the year, so I could have my peace and quiet and privacy restored.  Of course, I'm sure I would probably get wrangled into taking care of the property while they are away.  I was also happy because I've never met anyone from Arkansas I didn't like.

Anyway, I said to my husband, "Why are they looking at our place?  It's not for sale."

He said, "Because they like our place better than the one that is up for sale.  I wouldn't be surprised if they made us an offer.  He said our property is beautiful."

That made me feel better.  I never know if people are pointing at my manure pile saying, "That's illegal.  It's too close to x, y and z."  Or if they're complaining that the sand from my arena will blow into their house.  Or, worse yet, they could be saying that I don't take good enough care of my horses.

Anyway, he said that they have three horses, but didn't say anything about dogs.  I'm hoping that people who have horses will move in minus the dogs, unless they are quiet dogs that stay on their own property.  I'm not happy that they have an ATV, but they don't strike me at the type to race it in circles or up and down the street for hours on end.  I think they just have it for utility purposes.

I don't know if they're making an offer on the house or not.  They must have a lot of money to be looking at such a generous winter home.

I took Bombay for a quick walk out in the desert just to relieve his boredom, and he jigged and barged all the way out.  I dealt with it by stopping and letting him jig circles around me until he snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah.  I'm supposed to be paying attention to you."

He was such a great hiking partner in years past.  I don't know what got up his butt to make him so nervous.  I guess it was those loose dogs that charged us a few weeks ago.  Lostine and Gabbrielle are also nervous wrecks when I take them anywhere.  It gets tiring having such neurotic horses.

I stopped at the mailbox on the way in, and while I was getting the mail, Bombay jumped back, puffed himself up, and looked like he was about to explode.  I looked over and saw my husband walking toward us.  Seriously?  My husband walks toward the horses all the time, but I guess because we were in the front yard rather than the back yard, it was a totally terrifying experience for Bombay.  Behavior like that makes me want to just focus on riding Rock and not waste anymore time on the Arabs.  Every year I have to start over from square one with their training, and I just don't have the time or patience for it anymore.  I had been paying horse trainers to get the Arabs over that hump each winter, but I'm just not willing to put money into it anymore either.  What's so sad about it is that Bombay has had such extensive training that he'd be the perfect horse if he were fearless, but his fear makes him useless.

This guy was perched on my neighbor's roof the other night...

I was moving around trying to find better light and less background noise, and my neighbor came around the corner of his house, saw me acting like a creeper, and he ducked back inside.  Oops.  I keep hoping to run into him so that I can explain that I was taking pictures of a hawk on his roof, and not pictures of him or his house.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thwarted Thursday

I was trying to get ready to go for another trail ride this morning, but Stewie and Midge kept pestering me to take them out every few seconds.  Stewie had such an upset stomach that he was crying.  He didn't eat his breakfast this morning, and wanted to keep going out to eat grass.  I took him and Midge out to the kennel so that I could get other things taken care of without having them attached to me via leashes.  There were two large weeds growing in the kennel that I didn't want Stewie to eat, so I donned some gloves and pulled them, which was easier said than done.  As I was looking at another weed that was growing through the kennel chain-link, Stewie barked at something behind me.

I turned around to come face-to-face with one of those Pit Bulls that growled at me and chased me into my house the other night.  I think I would have preferred to run into Bigfoot.  My heart sank.  It was standing between me and the house, so I couldn't run for the house.  I had stepped outside for just a minute, so I didn't bring my mobile phone to call for help.  Then I thought about running and locking myself in the kennel, but my dogs could then slip through my legs and get out while I'm trying to get in.  The Pit Bull stared me down and then lifted its leg and pissed on this ice plant that has been a huge distraction for my dogs these past few weeks.  Every time I take my dogs out, they have to waste several minutes of my day sniffing the same spot on that plant over and over.  Now I knew why.  Apparently, those dogs make a habit of coming into my backyard to relieve themselves and mark their territory every morning.

The Pit Bull was now focusing on Stewie and trotting toward him.  It could bite Stewie's nose off through the chain-link.  I got into protective mother mode and ran at the Pit Bull waving my arms while screaming, "Get out of here!  Go home!"

It stopped and regarded me like I was just a curiosity.  I continued to lurch forward at it while yelling.  It thought better of approaching my dogs, and turned to trot away.  I saw that it was an intact male.  It stopped one more time to piss on my stone wall.  I yelled, "Stop peeing on everything and get out of here!"

I chased it around the corner and ran into the other dog, which I originally thought was a Pit Bull too, but now in the light of day and up close, I could see that it was just some black and white mutt that was about the size of a Pit Bull.  It ran off with the other dog.  I ran back to my dogs in the kennel and saw that our unwelcome visitors were now coming around the other side of the house to get to my dogs.

I charged them again while yelling, and they ran into my neighbor's yard.  I ran after them, hoping they'd lead me to their home so I could have a talk with their irresponsible owners, but the dogs just disappeared into thin air.  I couldn't find them anywhere.  Then I began worrying that maybe they went out into the desert.  I didn't want to go trail riding if they were out there.  I think these were the same two dogs that have chased my horses in the past.

I went back to the house, brought my dogs in, and then attempted to research who to call to catch these loose dogs.  I couldn't believe how complicated it was.  When the dogs were on my property, they were in the county, so I'm supposed to call the County Animal Control, but they are two hours away.  It's a big county.  However, if the dogs did cross the street, they'd be in the city, so I'd have to call City Animal Control, and their office wasn't open for another hour.  By the time anyone got here either way, the dogs would be long gone.  Calling the police would just be a waste of time, because they'd send a patrol car to my house to take my report first, and then they'd call Animal Control.  Anyway, it was clear that there isn't anyone who can help me with this problem, so I'll have to take matters into my own hands.

This was unfortunate timing, because my plan to catch these dogs was to lure them into the kennel with food, and then lock them up and call Animal Control to come get them.  However, since my dogs were already in the kennel, I couldn't do that.

Once I got done dealing with the dogs, I hesitantly started getting ready for my trail ride again, but this time the horses were alerting on something.  There were five horseback riders going back and forth between each end of my driveway looking into my backyard, trying to figure out how they could cut through my property.  I would think by now, even the snowbirds would know that our property is no longer a public route, but every year, a group of them shows up and tries to ride through anyway.  Thankfully, the gate my husband just installed across the alley persuaded them to turn around and go back the way they came.

But first they had to gather in front of my house and sit around talking for 45 minutes.  I was waiting for them to leave so that I could ride out without distractions.  Of course, by the time they did leave, the dogs needed to go out again, and that led to something else, which led to something else...  and I didn't get out for my ride.

I was supposed to meet a friend for a trail ride this morning, but she had to cancel.  I thought it was probably a good thing since all of this happened with the dogs and the horseback riders right around the time she and I were supposed to meet up.

Once I took care of all the stuff that kept popping up and robbing me of my riding time, it was afternoon.  I decided to skip the trail ride and just ride Bombay in the arena.  I tried sneaking out the door while the dogs were sleeping, but first I had to use the restroom.  When I came out, all three dogs were wide awake and waiting for me to take them outside.  In the time that it took me to gather their leashes, Scrappy peed in his diaper, and I had just washed all the diapers.  Argh!  Oh well, at least he kept his diaper on and I didn't have to scrub the carpet.

I made a second attempt at going outside to ride Bombay when I saw the horses alerting on something on the hill.  Someone had pulled an ATV up to my backyard and was hiking around in the bushes.  Damn it!  Why the heck can't people stay off my property?  I'd swear I live in Grand Central Station.

It was an old farmer looking type and younger woman carrying paperwork.  I realized that it was another home shopper with a real estate agent approaching my neighbor's property from the rear, but trespassing in my backyard in the process.  I've asked my neighbor to tell real estate agents to not do that.  There are clear property line markers up there.  They walked back and forth along the hillside staring at the neighbor's house for about half an hour.  The man was gesticulating in such a way that I could tell he didn't like the place.  He was probably complaining that two of the five acres were unusable since they had the arroyo running through them.  I had to wait for them to leave, because they were distracting my horses.

They finally got back on their ATV, but instead of leaving, they drove it over closer to my place, the real estate agent got out, and hiked down the hill to read my No Trespassing sign.  She kind of hesitantly leaned forward to read it, and then jumped and scurried back to the ATV.  Then they sat up there pointing at stuff around in my backyard, and I wanted so bad to go outside and yell, "MY property is NOT for sale!  Keep your eyes next door."

I'm always astounded by how many home shoppers spend more time checking out my place than the place next door that is actually on the market.  Do they like my place better?  Or are they concerned that my property is too close to the house they want to buy?

In retrospect, I wondered what spooked the lady about my sign, so after they left, I hiked up there to see if someone tagged it again.  It was fine, but I had forgotten that I also posted a sign that said, "Smile.  You're on camera."  That's probably why she jumped and ran off.  Then they were pointing around, trying to figure out where the cameras were located.  It's amazing how everything I do just makes my situation worse.  Now people will probably be sneaking onto my property at night searching for my cameras, which don't exist.

I knew that while I was checking my sign on the hill, the nosy, trespassing neighbor was probably watching me from his house.  Sure enough, a few minutes after I returned to my house, he showed up on the hill to read my sign, probably trying to figure out what I was doing to it.  It's none of his business.  It's not his sign and it's not his property.  Trying to convince him of that is another matter.

It's that time of year when our community has a bunch of special events for tourists, so people are flooding in like crazy.  We've got a big rodeo, a marathon, a renaissance fair, arts fairs, and whatnot.  I always know the tourists are here because the train toots its horn all day.

Needless to say, I gave up on riding a horse today.  I think the combination of us suddenly having a clear day with 82 degree weather and with all the community activities ramping up, I just got hit from all angles with unwanted visitors -- both two legged and four legged.  I just checked the weather forecast, and what was previously clear skies for the next two weeks is now three days of rain, three days of none, three days of more rain...

I may as well move to Oregon with weather like that.  The other day I saw a window sticker that said, "Orezona".  We're definitely seeing a lot more Oregon license plates in Arizona in the winter now.  I would have never considered Oregon to be a place where people would want to escape, because I've visited there a few times and have very fond memories of it.  But I can understand that the rain gets old.  Too much of anything blinds a person to beauty.  Every time I'm suffering through five or six months straight of triple digit temps, I have to remind myself what an incredible view I have of the mountains and sunsets.  I think knowing that soon we will be back to trying to survive a slew of hundred degree days is what makes losing this winter to so much rain so painful.  After a while, you just feel trapped indoors.