Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sprucing Up the Empty Nest

I needed to take a break from the tedious task of formatting and editing my novel, and it was too hot to ride a horse, so I dove into a new mission called Project Hijack, in which my husband and I commandeer our kids' bedrooms.  We did warn them, or... err, get their permission to do this.  It just doesn't make sense for us to leave two whole rooms in the house unused simply because our kids occasionally move in with us over the summer.  In another few weeks, our youngest will have graduated from college and our oldest has no intention of going back to college, so the chances are low that they will return to the nest.  Of course, they are welcome to do so at any time, but until we have grandchildren who actually visit and stay overnight on a regular basis, we see no point in maintaining empty bedrooms. Visitors can stay on the roll-away couch in the living area.

My husband has been using the dining area as his office, and he is in the process of converting our daughter's bedroom into a real office with a real door that he can close so he can concentrate on his work.  I have an office with a door, but my fabric arts studio was whittled down to one corner of a room and one corner in the garage after we moved into a smaller house.  I haven't attempted to start piecing any new quilts together since we moved here, simply because I don't have a comfortable place to work.  So, I'm trying to convert my son's bedroom into a new fabric arts studio.

The first step was for me to find some nice storage containers for all the items I never unpacked from cardboard boxes when we moved two years ago.  Then I organized my fabric arts supplies better so that I could actually find things when I needed them.  Next I began tackling my son's bedroom.  I cleaned out his closet, happy to not find any spiders, rats, toads or scorpions in the process.

Then I noticed that his bed was a bit rumpled.  I'll just straighten it out really quick, I thought.  As I attempted to pull off the cover with one hand, the blanket, the top sheet, and the bottom sheet all slipped right off the mattress along with it.  I discovered that the elastic corners of the fitted sheet were rotted and could no longer cling to the mattress.  I threw the sheets and pillowcases in the washer and searched for a newer sheet set in better condition.  I found one, but could not find the matching pillowcases.  I decided to get back to that later and put a pad on the mattress.  Wouldn't you know it -- the pad I picked out disintegrated in my hands and I had to dump it in the trashcan on the driveway.

Mind you that the linen closet is all the way on the opposite end of the house from my son's bedroom, so each time I had to look for another item, I was getting a workout.  I found another pad, put it on the bed, followed by the sheets, and that's when I discovered that the blanket was covered in dog hair.  I quickly ran across the house, stopped the washer, and added it to the cycle.  I found another blanket, walked all the way back to the bedroom, only to discover that blanket had stains on it.  To heck with it.  I put it on the bed.  No one would notice, right?  At least they were blue stains and not yellow or brown.

That's when my shoe got caught on something and I discovered another pillow under the bed that had a poop stain on it.  One of the dogs must have done it, and my son probably got disgusted and shoved it under the bed instead of washing it.  So, I ran to the other side of the house, threw the pillowcase in the washer, considered the lumpy pillow, realized I could probably date it all the way back to the 1960's, and I promptly ran it outside to the trash can on the driveway.  How the heck did we manage to hang onto that for so ridiculously long?  I guess we were using it as padding in a box when we moved and it somehow wound up on a bed.

I returned to finish making the bed and discovered that the box spring was falling off the frame.  I ran to the garage and got a rubber mallet to beat the frame tighter.  Once that was fixed, I put the cover on the bed, but still hadn't found a pillowcase.  Before I could find one, the dogs needed to go outside.  Afterward, I was looking for any pillowcase, matching or not.  In the process of searching, I managed to pull all the towels and bed lines out of the closet onto the floor and had to fold them all up to fit them back into the closet.

I finally found a pillowcase in the linen closet, but it had a matching poop stain on it to the one I just threw in the washer.  Here we go again.  Seriously, people in my house do not wipe their butts with pillowcases.  It's the dogs.  Trust me.  Or maybe it's the toads.  Just when I was starting to think I was going to have to wait until the other pillowcases came out of the washer and dryer, I found one final pillowcase and was able to complete making my son's bed.

It only took me two hours to make one bed and another couple of hours doing laundry.  Progress can be painfully slow around here.  Now watch someone show up on my doorstep needing a place to sleep after all the work I did, just so that I can do it again when they leave.  It's like washing your car before a rainstorm.

The other ridiculous housekeeping story I have involves a liter bottle of soda I bought for my son's birthday gathering.  No one really wanted any of it, so one day I was super thirsty after working in the barn, and I pulled the bottle out of the fridge to pour myself a glass.  However, when I set it down on the counter, it was off balance, and it fell.  I tried to catch it, but the bottle hit the kitchen floor and exploded like a bomb.  The twist cap popped right off the top of it and in a blink of an eye, there was Dr. Pepper puddled all over the floor, splattered all over the kitchen cabinets and walls all the way down the hall into the master bedroom and bathroom, and dripping from the ceiling.  No exaggeration.

There was more soda splattered around my house than could have possibly even fit into that bottle.  It was bizarre.  I quickly grabbed a mop and wiped down the ceiling, walls, cabinets, appliances, and floor for hours on end and nothing I did got the stickiness out.  I mopped some more over the next few days, and ever since, we kept finding brown splatters and drops in the strangest places.  So, I spent some time today walking around the house with a Mr. Clean Eraser wiping down walls, door frames, cabinet handles, and even the insides of cabinets.  This is one project that will probably have no end.  Whoever moves into this house after us will be finding Dr. Pepper splatters in every nook and cranny, and she'll be scratching her head wondering what the heck went down at our place.  Must have been one wild party.

Nope.  Just one clumsy housewife with really lousy luck.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rock Gets a Brush Up

Because no one has been handling Rock much lately, he's been developing some bad habits like trying to steal other horses' grain rations, not letting me spray or wipe him down with fly spray, and evading getting caught to be haltered.  It's his way of saying that he has learned what it is like to have a lot of freedom and free time from work, and he likes it.  He's kicking up his heels, so to speak.

So, I've been rather stern with him, which is hard, because he's so dang cute.  Every time he turns and looks at me, I burst out laughing and want to hug him.  Anyway, we went for a trail ride this morning and I expected him to be resistant and rough around the edges at the very least, but he was fantastic!  He didn't run down or up any hills, or at least he listened when I ordered him not to, and we traversed more hills than usual.  He didn't balk much when in the lead, and he didn't push from behind.  Here are some pictures...

We approached a mud puddle and I discovered that Rock has the opposite problem of Bombay, Gabbrielle and Lostine, who all avoid puddles with a vengeance.  Rock bee-lined for it, but I knew he had a cut on his pastern and I didn't want him to walk through bacteria-ridden water.  Plus the mud looked pretty deep.  I had to fight to get him to go around the puddle instead of through it.  I'm sorry to whomever worked so hard to train him to go through water.



There was one hill in which I could feel him picking up speed once we hit bottom, so I turned him up the wash to shut him down.  He was on a winning streak and I didn't want him to sabotage his own success.  Then I tried backing him up to catch the trail at a walk, but he had to poop, and then he refused to step back into his poop, so we had to circle some bushes to get him pointed in the right direction again.

Here we stopped to investigate that saguaro off in the distance, because it had a huge bird's nest built in the cradle of its arms.  No bird, though.  We are going to make a point of passing it every time we come out to see if we can catch the bird when it is home.  It's gotta be one big ass bird.

I pushed Rock around the puddle again, but stopped to wait for P.S. to work on getting Gabbrielle to approach it.  The horses probably think we humans are all crazy, because I don't want the horses with open wounds on their legs to walk through puddles, P.S. wants Gabbrielle to be brave and approach the puddles, and the horse trainer wants the horses to push right through the middle of them.  Oh well, maybe it will be a good lesson for the horses to learn to just listen to whatever that particular rider wants at that particular time, and not try to anticipate their expectations.

The saddle pad fell off Rock when I removed the saddle, and he stepped on it.  My other horses would have blown sideways if that happened to them.  They'd be like, "Ahhhh!  What's that big black thing at my feet?"  Rock saw it and casually moved over so he could stand on it.  It probably felt good on his feet.  Soft and squishy.

My truck is still in the shop.  I've been patient with them because the problem of not getting the part was not their fault, but now I am getting a little peeved, because I told them I thought the problem was that a rodent had chewed through some wires.  They said they checked the wires and they were fine.  However, when they tested the alternator, it had some power problems.  So, they tried to order a new alternator, but none were available.  Then they found a refurbished alternator, but it was taking a long time in transit.

Today the refurbished alternator finally arrived, but when they took my old alternator out, they discovered that a rodent had chewed through the wires underneath it.  So, now they are replacing those.  I'm just annoyed, because had they checked the wires around the alternator like I originally requested last Tuesday, I'd have by truck back my now, but instead they lied and said that they checked all the wires and that wasn't the problem.  I need transportation so that I can get to the feed store to get more Hoof Alive.  The farrier is coming this week and she doesn't like it when my horses' hooves are hard on her tools.  Also, the storm blew the lid off my bucket of psyllium and got that all wet, so I have to use it before it gets moldy.  Fortunately, it was low anyways, but I'd still like to buy a fresh bucket of it soon.  The horses are also getting low on the high protein grain with probiotics.

The irony in all of this is that I used to own two cars and a truck, but last week I signed the titles of the two cars over to my two adult children, because my son was moving out of state and I wanted him to handle his own registration and insurance.   My daughter has a career now, so she should be covering that too.  Sure enough, as soon as I signed those cars away, my truck went into the shop, and now I only have horses for transportation.  I don't think any of them are ready to make a trek downtown yet, though.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blowing Around In a Storm Pocket

Our little town appears to be in a storm pocket being closest to a large mountain range.  Last night something terrible came through.  This was the only storm I've ever been in that seriously worried me.  I figured I'd be calling the insurance company with claims in the morning, if I survived.  I don't even know what to name this type of storm.  It was a freak of nature that began with the whole sky lighting up every few seconds with lightning bolts in between.  Then this horrific wind blew in that gusted at hurricane force, mixed in were funnels of swirling air like tornadoes.  The news is reporting "microbursts".

I went outside with my camera and tucked myself into a corner under an awning on the porch and just kept firing off the shutter release in hopes of catching a lightning flash.  I didn't bother with tripods and camera settings, because I was half asleep and didn't know how much time I had to get setup before it started raining.  The gusts of wind blew so hard that it was difficult to hold the camera still, and a few times I got blown right out of my nook across the porch.  As soon as I felt my hair standing on end and smelled ozone, I battled my way back into the house, but getting the door open was no easy feat.

I was afraid to sleep in my bed, because the head of the bed is right up against a window.  I worried that I might get struck by lightning.  The dogs, surprisingly, handled the storm pretty well.  Midge did have to be crated, but she didn't tear her teeth and toenails out on the bars.  Scrappy and Stewie just slept with me, totally unconcerned about all the thunder, lightning, and sounds of patio furniture crashing around outside.  I'd peek outside every once in a while to make sure that all the horses were staying in the barn and were still standing upright.  They were at risk of getting struck by lightning, but I didn't know what to do about it, because I didn't want to lock them in their stalls since the barn is metal.

What is scary is how fast the weather changes around here.  Just a few hours before this storm, P.S. and the horse trainer were out riding Bombay and Gabbrielle on the trails.  Could you imagine getting stuck in a storm like that while trail riding?  But they didn't get stuck in it, because the weather was fine at that point in time.  P.S. brought good news back from the ride.  She said she was able to lope Gabbrielle in a nice, relaxed, controlled manner in open spaces.

Also, the horse trainer pushed Bombay through a really deep puddle.  P.S. showed me a video, and his tail was floating behind him.  P.S. said that Bombay looked like he was going to try to buck the horse trainer off while resisting entering the puddle, but I guess he knew better than to try that stunt with him.  None of my Arabs have ever gone swimming before.  I wish they had morning appointments so I could join them, but they ride right when I've got to fix dinner for everyone and administer medications.  With a diabetic dog, I can't just jump on a horse, go riding, and feed and medicate hours later.  I've got to stick with a strict routine or Midge will have grand mal seizures.  Also, after hours of such intense heat, I may as well be deemed as brain dead.  I get so listless that I can't even carry on a conversation, none-the-less tack up a horse.

Here are some pictures I got during and after the storm.  This group of pictures were taken at night.  Lightning and porch lights were the only sources of light.




Here I used a flash to see what just happened.  A whirlwind picked up several chairs and threw them against the railings.  There's another chair just out of frame on its side.  I have no idea why that one white chair remained upright the whole time.

In the morning I found the horse trailer tack room door had been ripped open by the wind again...


The metal arm is soft as a string of boiled spaghetti now...

When I closed the door, the metal arm bent up on itself.  There's no point in taking my the trailer into the repair shop to get a new arm mechanism installed unless they can also fix the latch on the door.

This next picture is only odd to me.  I had placed some fly trap containers right side up in the hay barn to keep them from blowing away.  I didn't want to put them in the horse trailer or the garage, because they stunk.  Somehow the wind picked up one of them and turned it upside down in that tight spot...




The door mat used to be up by the railing.  I think it's odd how the mat blew around, but the empty dog bowls stayed in their usual spots.

My neighbor's flag got wrapped around the pole so that it looks like it is a half mast...

A tree branch broke off our Palo Verde tree...

I saw garbage and tarps strewn up and down the street.  One thing I really love about his house is that the previous owners designed it with curved solid walls to protect the trash cans and air conditioners from high winds, and the design works.  Our trash cans were still upright, while the neighbors' cans didn't fare so well.

The horses were fine in the morning.  They appear to have nerves of steel when it comes to dealing with Mother Nature's tirades.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Wind and Flood Damage




It's still raining and too dark to take pictures, but my husband says the arroyo flood waters are higher than we've ever seen them.  We have no satellite signal.  Hurray for NetFlix.

Friday Skies





Haboob passing through.  Now we are getting hit with heavy rain.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stewie's First Toenail Clipping

Oh, the horror...

Stewie had his toenails clipped while under anesthesia for his "fixing", but today I started working on clipping his toenails while he was awake.

Midge used to be really good about getting her toenails clipped, until she saw how traumatic it was for Scrappy.  Scrappy struggles and screams and bites, as if his life is in peril.  I was lucky to get one toenail clipped a day with him, so I started paying the vet's office to do it, but even they had issues with causing Scrappy that much stress.  The old guy has a weak heart.  So, now I only clip Scrappy's toenails when he is asleep, and I do just one or two before his panic can escalate to epic proportions.  I think having the vet's office do it was a mistake, because they had time constraints and would physically restrain him, which just added to his fear.

One prerequisite to toenail clipping is that Midge has to be locked in her crate, because otherwise, the second she hears the clink of me picking up the toenails clippers, she comes running and jumps nervously all over me, trying to stop me from "hurting" Scrappy.  All I can figure out is that someone must have cut Scrappy's nails past the quick and caused him pain at some point, because he has such an intense reaction to it, even though I have never hurt him during the process.

I was determined to let Stewie's first conscious toenail clipping be a positive experience.  I let him sniff the clippers, and then just dragged the instrument across his nails while petting him in my lap.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put Midge in her crate, so her nervousness rubbed off on Stewie and he kept trying to climb out of my lap to get away.  I already screwed up.  Oh well, may as well work on both Midge's attitude and Stewie's toenails at the same time.

The next big challenge was getting him to stop sticking his nose onto the clippers, because I didn't want to clip his whiskers.  I was trying to keep my energy low and relaxed, so that he wouldn't think the clippers were a toy, and start biting them.  As soon as he turned his nose away, I clipped off the very tip of the longest nail.  I didn't want to inadvertently twist the nail by attempting to clip a thick midsection.

At the sound of the clip, Stewie immediately inspected the remaining portion of his nail that was still attached to his paw, and he discovered that he enjoyed licking and biting it.  Soon he sniffed out the tip that had been clipped off and tried to eat it.  Mmmmm.  Good as bone.

I clipped a few more, praised and petted him, and then gave him a break.  I think it worked out well for Midge, because she discovered that not all dogs freak out when their toenails are clipped.  Hopefully, Stewie will continue to be good-natured about it, and Midge will learn to relax like she used to before Scrappy conditioned her to fear the clippers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks

My dog Stewie occasionally sits by the French doors to the patio growling.  There's a lot of wild animal activity out there, so I'm rarely concerned about what he is seeing.  I finally decided to stop what I was doing and investigate what it was that captured his attention on a daily basis.  I saw a one-legged bird hopping around on our deck.

A few days later I noticed a handful of sticks on the patio, and assumed the monsoon winds blew them there.  But day after day, more and more sticks appeared in a haphazard pile.

I finally caught the one-legged bird red-handed delivering sticks to the pile.  I'm not sure what it is trying to accomplish.  It is definitely a strange location to try to build a nest, and there is no place above this point where a nest could have fallen from.  I've been tossing old bread slices, buns and heels out over the railing of the patio, flinging them like Frisbees to the wildlife, and the slices are always gone within a few hours.  I guess my generosity has encouraged some birds to take up residence.

In other news... a major stick has been removed from my craw and I'm free!  I can now walk outside at any time of day or night into my backyard to do barn chores and not have eight big guard dogs barking at me, and I no longer have my neighbors' eyes persistently prodding me.  They have officially moved out, and it feels so liberating to finally have peace, quiet and privacy.

The last time the horse trainer was here giving a lesson in my arena, he had to yell over all the barking in order for us to hear his instructions.  I don't ride in my arena often, mainly because these neighbors were in the habit of coming outside with their dogs every time I came outside.  I rode on the trails to get a break from the ruckus.  Now I can actually ride on my own property, as you have seen in recent posts.

I can also sit on my own patio and enjoy the view or read a book without the unwanted company of both noisy dogs and noisy humans.  I can talk to my horses again and know that no one is on the other side of the fence eavesdropping.  I can curse at the hay for falling apart and collecting in my bra without someone clearing his throat a few feet away from me to let me know that he is in my air space and can hear everything.  I can train my horses without unwanted observations, assumptions, judgments and comments.

I knew there was no point in raising complaints about the barking dogs, because the previous owners of my home took that route and never got any results.  The dog owners insisted that the barking was all in their imaginations, or that they were hearing some other dogs in the neighborhood barking.  "Our dogs never bark," was one of the first forceful proclamations they made to us when we met.  I now realize that was more of a threat than a denial.

The dog owners had spread rumors about the people who filed noise complaints against them, insisting that they were nuts.  Apparently, the man who lived in my house before me was suffering from schizophrenia, but I have no doubt that living next door to so many persistently barking dogs for eight years straight did drive him bananas.  I'm pretty sure the barking was why they moved out and sold the house to us.  I remember overhearing the daughter say to her stepfather, "Dad, we're trying to get you out of here since this place drives you crazy."

The barking wasn't so bad when we first moved in, and I suspect I have the previous owners to thank for that.  However, as the neighbors collected more and more dogs over the past couple of years, the barking really got out of hand.  It didn't help that the neighbors encouraged the dogs to bark at people and chase them off whenever someone simply passed by their place.  The dogs also fought viciously with each other, but the neighbors insisted that they were "just playing".  I've had visitors come to my house and want to run over next door to break up dog fights because it sounded like the dogs were killing each other.  I'd try to calm my visitors down by assuring them that this was a daily occurrence and no dog ever got seriously injured.

At any rate, I survived and now that these neighbors and their dogs are gone, it is as if a spaceship somehow picked up the entire neighborhood and set it down gently in a completely different world where everything is calm, quiet and peaceful.

For a long time I wondered how the neighbors always knew when I walked into my backyard and could come outside so quickly once I was out there.  Then I saw pictures their real estate agent had taken of both the inside and the outside of their house, and I realized that my backyard is in clear view of their windows and patios.  One photo, which was taken to show the views, displays my entire backyard with all of my horses.  I know they are trying to make it look like my backyard is a part of their property, so I hope no one buys the place and thinks they are getting my barns and arenas.

My truck has been in the shop for the past couple of days, because the battery warning light went on and no one can figure out why.  When my husband checked under the hood, he found a bird's nest on top of the battery, but that has since been cleaned up and the battery has been tested and deemed as being in good condition.  I suspected a chewed or loose wire was the culprit since birds and ground squirrels have been getting up under the hood, but the mechanics can't find any problems with the wiring.

The truck is only a couple of years old, and this is the second time I've had to take it in because of a warning light not turning off.  The other time the air bag warning light was on because the man who installed my trailer braking monitor drilled right through some wires in the floorboard.  The mechanics have also tested my key fob, because sometimes that can cause warning lights to turn on, but there's no problem with it either.  I'm looking forward to getting this mystery solved so that I can get my truck back.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Testing Out the Listening Skills

It wasn't actually planned, but we gave the horses a good test of their listening skills this evening.  P.S. had a lesson scheduled, but the horse trainer couldn't come, so she asked if I wanted to go on a trail ride, and I didn't, but I told her to go ahead and do whatever she wanted, and I might catch up with her later in the arena.  It's hard for me to do much of anything after 5:00 PM, because I have to feed and medicate the dogs, take them out multiple times, and make dinner.

Once I got done with the dogs, I was tacking up Bombay while P.S. was riding Gabbrielle out to the trails alone, and Gabbrielle didn't want to leave without Bombay.  She pitched a little fit and tried to run back to him, but P.S. stopped her and made her listen.  She went on her trail ride while I worked Bombay in the round pen.  The horses were confused and anxious, because they always do the same thing together, but today they did different activities and had to listen to their riders.

When they returned from the trails, we rode in the sandy arena, but did different activities.  Each horse had to learn to go whatever pace its rider asked it to without being concerned about which pace the other horse was moving at.  It seems like such a basic thing to train a horse to do, but we've been in the habit of always doing the same thing at the same time with our horses, and they became attached at the hip as a result.

 We worked on sidepassing along the fence...

I haven't worked with Bombay on sidepassing in years, so I stopped the cues and petted him as soon as he took one step in the right direction with no forward or backward movement...


We worked on neck reining, but he's at a beginning stage with that.  I got best results by laying the outside rein against his neck and using slight direct rein on the inside along with some leg.

He does remember his slow jog, but I had to keep reining him in each time we turned toward the barn.  He wanted to run to his stall so he could get served his dinner.  At one point, P.S. led Gabbrielle out of the gate to go pick a rock out of her hoof and he broke gait to chase after them.  He got a big NO for that.  A couple of times he lost his footing and slipped, but caught himself before we went down.  I think it's ridiculous that he can gallop all over the place and do all kinds of advanced acrobatic maneuvers when he's playing with Rock, but he acts like the sand is too deep if I'm simply trying to sidepass him or ride him at the jog.

I petted Gabbrielle with my riding crop...

...in my Sun Devils T-shirt as the sun set.