Monday, March 27, 2017

Com Down

"Com Down" is my play on "calm down" and "communications down".  It's looking like I may have to "break" my phone and not buy a new one for at least a month.  That will be my story and I will be sticking to it.

But first, the back story.  This weekend I hiked some really nice trails that are set aside for hikers, bikers and horseback riders in my area.  Despite being a Saturday, we didn't see another soul.  There were some people loading up horses into horse trailers in the parking lot, and I thought, "I could do that.  I could trailer Rock out here and ride.  I can take back roads and don't have to hassle with going through town or driving on freeways, so it should be a low stress experience."

I liked the trails because they were not overgrown with cholla, and there were choices between wide, well maintained trails and narrow, winding, more private trails.  The washes were wide and sandy, loaded with hoof prints, so I knew it was a popular place to ride.  When I got home I looked at the trails from satellite view and realized that they were just down the street from my horseback riding buddy's house, so I could meet her out there and we could ride together.  I was feeling good about the plan until I got hit with one of my pesky health problems and remembered that it is so rare for me to have a day where I even feel well enough to go hiking, so my chances of feeling well enough to trailer a horse out and ride are pretty slim.  I'd probably be too exhausted or in too much pain to mount after trailering and tacking up.

I passed out on the couch after the hike, only to be woken by my husband announcing that he needed my help because there were "animals everywhere."


I staggered outside to find Midge squatting down taking a dump.  My husband said, "Grab a dog!"


He had just herded the other two dogs into the house, and Midge wasn't going anywhere.  What's the big emergency?

Then I looked up and saw that all four horses were out of the paddock grazing on that poisonous grass that gave the boys tummy aches last week, which prevented me from being able to ride.  Damn.  It.

As if that wasn't enough of a disappointing shock, my husband then told me that Midge had poop stuck to her butt and I would need to find a stick to get it off before taking her into the house.  I swear, that dog always gets poop stuck to her butt in emergency situations.  Pack of coyotes stalking the dogs?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Rattlesnake in the dog's yard?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Big truck driving way too fast down my driveway right at my dogs?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Lightning striking the ground right beside us?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  And before some genius suggests that I shave her butt -- I do that.  Constantly.

I'll skip past the chase and just say that we got all dogs and horses back to their rightful spots.  I tried making up for the sleep I missed, but then Gabbrielle woke me by banging the metal gate against the metal fence panel.  I had to climb out of bed and fling a rock at the aluminum roof to chase her off and shut her up.  I tried to sleep again after doing chores and feeding all the animals, but then Midge woke me up by pacing and barking because she had to go to the bathroom.

As you can imagine, I was in a pretty grumpy mood after having my sleep disturbed repeatedly by animals.  I was composing a FOR SALE ad in my head for Gabbrielle, titling it, "Free Alarm Clock".  Every spring, Gabbrielle becomes a lot of trouble for me between constantly waking me up with her banging, and beating up on the geldings and injuring them so that I can't ride them.  I planted trees around the round pen to make that her new home this spring and then two of the trees lost all their leaves, so there's no shade available.  I thought the trees were dying or dead, but it turns out that they are semi-deciduous and it is normal for them to be leafless for a couple of weeks in March each year.  Had I known that, I would have chosen a different type of tree.  That defeats the whole purpose of me getting those trees.  March is right about the time that Gabbrielle needs to be sent to Exile Island.  I remember having that question of whether Tipuanas lose their leaves on the tip of my tongue at the time we were going to buy that big one, but someone interrupted and distracted me, so the question never got asked or answered... until now.

I started playing Skyrim since I knew that no one would let me sleep, and then my phone rang.  It was my ex-neighbor, the one who promised me that she would kick those squatters off our properties and out of the neighborhood.  She said, "Do you have a minute?  I have to tell you something."

Well, first off, nothing she says ever takes a minute.  She's a non-stop talker.  Secondly, she never calls just to tell me something.  She always has something she wants me to do for her.  I knew this was just another one of her manipulative ploys, but I listened.

It turns out that she did not kick those obnoxious people off our properties, but she instead accepted their second low-ball offer to buy her house.  This means that nosy man who leans on fences and stares into my backyard for hours pointing at stuff around my place -- that annoying man who drives several super loud off-road vehicles, is going to be my neighbor.  God help me.  I'm getting both a nosy and a noisy neighbor.  That's my worst nightmare.

Anyway, it's bad enough that the very people who I wanted to go away and stop disrupting my horseback rides are the very same people who will be moving in next door, but then to have my ex-neighbor asking me to participate in the process really puts things over the top.  Sure enough, she didn't call just to tell me something, but to ask me to do something for her.  I swear to God, my own relatives don't ask me to do as many favors for them as this ex-neighbor does.  She wanted to know if there was a lock on her gate, because she has a bunch of businesses and home inspectors who need to drive their trucks down her driveway into her backyard over the next couple of weeks.

I knew that what she really was asking was for me to let all those people onto her property and supervise them to make sure they do their jobs, but there was no way I was going to get involved in all that crap, especially after that woman ate up all my decent horseback riding days last spring with this same type of nonsense.  I told her that yes, there was a lock on her gate.  She didn't believe me and told me to go check.

Really?  I told her I wasn't even dressed, so I'd text her when I had time to go check.  She said I'd have to call her back, because she doesn't have good reception for text messages.  Say what?  No!  Just no!  Absolutely not!  She wanted me to call her back so that she could suck up another hour of my day.  Fortunately, her husband grabbed the phone away from her and gave me his number and said I could text him.  All the while, she was protesting.  He ruined her efforts to bend my ear a little longer.

I'm pretty sure that she just was buying more time to try to manipulate me into handling those appointments on her behalf, because she told me she wouldn't be able to come out until closing day to pick up her stuff, and she was questioning me extensively on how I was "feeling" and what the weather was like.  She only does that when she has some physical labor she's planning on dropping into my lap.  In the past, I've said no to doing jobs for her because it was too hot and because I was struggling with one of my health problems.  She doesn't seem to get it that when the weather is super nice and I'm feeling good, I don't want to spend it doing her favors.  I want to be out riding my horses.  I don't mean to be selfish.  It's just that my time to be physically active and to enjoy riding my horses is coming to a close between my failing health and triple digit temperatures looming on the horizon, not to mention new neighbors next door who will most likely being doing all kinds of disruptive things when they move in and get everything reorganized to their liking.

Once I got her off the phone and texted her husband about the gate situation, I tried to resume playing Skyrim.  Normally, when I pause it, I save.  However, her phone call distracted me from my regular routine, so when my character and her horse got killed by a giant, I discovered that I lost all the progress I had made since several hours before because I didn't save.  One more reason to turn off my phone.  I'm letting everyone I care about know that if they want to contact me in the next month, use email.

I lunged three of the horses Sunday afternoon, and performed an experiment in which I tried to control their speed and direction from a chair in the center of the round pen.  Normally, I stand in the center with a long whip, but my leg was killing me, so I sat.  Bombay and I were doing a good job working out the subtleties of lunging from a chair until he came to a screeching halt and pointed up to something on the hill behind me.  I turned around to see some guy standing up there watching us.  When will this end?  Why are there always people standing on that cliff staring into my backyard?

I decided not to give him anything to see.  I picked up my chair and moved behind a tree where he couldn't see me, and I let Bombay stare back at him.  I figured that Bombay would let me know when the guy left, but Bombay stared for a really long time.  I looked back and saw that the guy had moved further down the cliff to a location where he could see me.  He was leaning on the fence looking down at me, so I picked up my chair and moved again behind another tree.  He still did not leave.

I got up to go confront him and saw that he was now climbing down the hill into my backyard.  Another trespasser!  I watched him, and saw him grab something and then run back up the hill.  I realized that this was one of my neighbor's grand sons, and he was driving a remote controlled car around.  He was making it go over jumps and had apparently jumped it right off the cliff into my backyard.  I had kicked him off my property in the past for shooting rabbits and quail, so he was watching me, because he didn't want to get into trouble for getting his car.  I didn't care if he got his car.  I just didn't want him standing up there watching me, invading my privacy, and distracting my horses while I was trying to train them.  If I took my horses to a public livestock arena and an audience gathered around to watch, I wouldn't mind one bit, but I expect to be left alone when I am working with horses in my own backyard.

I finished lunging Bombay and swapped him out with Gabbrielle, and she was a ball of nerves with that guy up on the cliff making a whirring noise.  I tried making her responsible for maintaining the gait I ask for until I cued her to switch to a different gait.  She did a pretty good job, so I halted her and walked up to her to pet and praise her.  Just as I was reaching out to stroke her face, she jerked her head to the left and then to the right, and jumped forward right into me.

One of my pet peeves about spooky horses is that they jump on top of me when they spook.  I hate that, and in that moment I decided that I was going to make it abundantly clear that this horse was to never, ever do that again.  I'm an old lady with brittle bones and I don't need an 800-pound horse jumping into my lap because she's imagining that the Boogie Man is coming up from behind her.  She ended up seeing the painful end of the lead rope.

Then we played a game called "Look at Me or Get Smacked and Backed".  I'd approach her to give her a cue, and every single time, she'd jerk her head around in a panic, and jump.  I suspect that transitioning from one activity to the next was giving her a few seconds to pay attention to what was going on around us and find something to spook at.  But after getting smacked by the lead rope and backed up several yards for spooking or thinking of spooking, she quickly learned to keep her eyes on me.  Normally, she jumps left and right and tries to drag me from the round pen to the barn after one of our sessions, but this time she was very well behaved and focusing on staying at my side going my pace and giving me my space.

After I released her and walked behind her to latch the gate, she kicked out at a fly, so I had to smack her on the legs with the lead rope to teach her not to kick when I am in the vicinity.  When I say "smack", I seriously doubt she felt much more than startled.  The popping noise was probably worse than the sting.  It's nothing compared to what a horse's hooves could do to me should they connect with my kneecap or head.

She can get quite sassy with me, sometimes smacking me in the face with her tail on purpose and sometimes doing warning kicks.  She's so full of herself in her herd, bullying the boys into submission and whatnot, that sometimes she forgets that her reign does not extend to the human race.  There are a lot of things about Gabbrielle's behavior that irritate me including the way she chases all the horses out of the barn and stands in the entrance to block them from getting back inside when it is raining.  She also attacks horses when they simply try to get a drink out of a water trough.  She acts like she suddenly decided that she had to drink that water and they were in her way.  She chases horses into corners and then turns her butt toward them and kicks them repeatedly.  She's not a nice horse, and every once in a while it is necessary to give her an attitude adjustment before someone gets hurt.

Then there's Lostine.  Sweet, sweet Lostine.  Lunging her from a chair was no problem.  She even walked right up to me when we finished and let me stroke her and play with her forelock.  I miss the days when she was Queen who reigned over the herd.  She was a kind leader.  I hoped her example would leave an impression in Gabbrielle, but none of us were that lucky.

Later that evening when I pulled the manure wagon up the barn aisle, Rock walked over to greet me.  I petted him and then turned to do something, and Gabbrielle charged him, pushing him into me and knocking me sideways.  Rock jumped off me with a horrified expression, worried that he hurt me, and I chucked the manure fork at Gabbrielle, chasing her out of the barn.  Then I grabbed the long whip from the tack room and kept it with me, but I didn't have to use it because she kept her distance after that.  If I don't set boundaries with that mare, she's going to kill me one of these days.  When she pins her ears at another horse, she's so zoned in, and the menacing look in her eyes is merciless.  It's hard to break her out of that murderous mindset.

It may be time to just keep her locked up in a stall except for a few hours of turnout by herself like I did last year.  I don't know what it is about spring and summer that make her so bitchy, because she gets along with everyone pretty well in the fall and winter.  It's probably a hormonal thing.  I'll run it by my vet when she comes out to do vaccinations and dental work.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Skyrim Silliness

Both of my geldings got over their tummy aches by supper, and they are kicking up their heels again.  However, with it being a rainy/muddy day, I thought I'd do a silly non-horsey post on a different subject all together.  In my downtime I like to play the video game called Skyrim.  I posted previously about the horses you can ride in the game.  Toward the end of my first play-through, I discovered that I could build a home, furnish it, hire a steward to take care of the place, marry a spouse, and adopt children.  I had quite a little happy family going there, which included a wife who met me at the door and always said in a loving, warm tone, "Welcome home, dear.  Is there anything I can do for you?"

On my second play-through of the game, I decided to build a home and furnish it right off the bat.  I assigned a steward to the home to take care of it while I was away fighting battles.  Then I found a couple of little boys to adopt.  When I returned to my home to see how the steward was faring with the boys, I found the boys running around unsupervised, and the house was a mess.  I was then handed a letter of inheritance by a courier.  Someone had murdered my steward, and he left what little coin he had to me.

So, off I went to find a spouse to care for the kids.  In my first game, I played a female cat character, and I accidentally agreed to marry a female elf, so I wound up in an unintentional same-sex marriage.  The lady was kind and good with the kids, so it worked out fine.  However, my goal for the second game was to marry the best looking guy with the nicest voice that I could find in all of Skyrim.  If a character has a voice or an attitude that rubs you the wrong way, it's tough dealing with them every time you go home.

The thing is that a lot of characters in Skyrim are already married, so you just have to wait until you have a conversation with someone who shows an interest in you before you can marry.  I ran around for hours talking to every man I found, and no one was interested in me.  I double checked that I was wearing the Amulet of Mara, which lets people know you are available, and I was.  Then I looked at my own character's face and realized that I wasn't exactly a prize.  I was an Orc, which is a boar-like creature with big lower teeth that look like tusks.

When a man finally showed an interest in me, he was twice my age and had an annoying voice.  He was also an inn keeper who I needed to stay an inn keeper so that he could continue to give me missions.  I denied any mutual interest.  I searched high and low for someone else and was about to give up when two miners showed an interest in me at the same time.  I agreed to marry an Orc like me, but as we were standing at the alter, his large, sharp teeth and red, glowing eyes were creeping me out, and I thought twice about going home to him every night.  I left him at the alter and went back for the other guy.  When I met the other guy, we were in a dark room.  Once we got outside into sunlight, I saw that he was covered in soot and blood.  Nope.  Not going to look at that dirty face for the rest of the game.  I moved on.

In the meantime, those kids were messing up my house more and more.  Items were scattered all over the floor.  I began getting really desperate for either a steward or a husband.  I decided to go to a location where there were a lot of strong, hunky Nordic men with deep voices.  I just kept talking to people until someone showed an interest in me.  The first guy to do so was a bum at a bar.  I wasn't keen on marrying an alcoholic, but he did kind of resemble my real-life husband in appearance, so I agreed to marry him.  Someone had to be home to take care of those kids and clean up the house, right?

Well, the first time I arrived home after our marriage ceremony, I expected my new husband to greet me at the door and for the kids to tell me that Daddy took them to the market and they had a great time, but the kids were still running around unsupervised, the house was still a mess, and my new husband was passed out in bed.  Ugh.  I had married someone who was useless.  I woke him up and asked that he make some food for me, and he basically said, "Shouldn't I be asking you to do that?"

So, I pulled out my laptop and searched the Internet to see if I could marry someone else.  I thought perhaps there was a divorcee or widow option, but unfortunately you have to reprogram the game to trick it into believing that you never used your one chance at marriage, which I can't do from the console I own.  I was stuck with the lazy, no good bum.  Technically, I could have gone back to an earlier save before I married him, but I would have lost a lot of other progress.

I left on a few more missions and returned home with a horse I had to go through hell and high water to get.  Right off the bat, my new horse took off to fight a bandit, and the bandit killed it.  Then the bandit notified me that her chief had kidnapped my new husband and was having her way with him!  I guess I'm supposed to go rescue him, but I'm not so sure I want to.  I'm thinking at this point I will just find another steward.  In the meantime, my adopted children are still shredding my beautiful home.

You gotta love game coders with a sense of humor.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Best Days are Always Taken

The best days for me to ride my horses are the day or two right before a storm moves in, because it's cooler, cloudy, breezy, just like after a storm but without all the mud.  Today is one of those days, and of course I have an appointment scheduled in the early afternoon.  I figured I could still make it out for a ride if I got an early start in the morning, as soon as the horses finished their breakfasts.  However, local numbers kept calling my phone.  I opted not to answer, because I figured it was someone trying to reschedule my appointment to the morning or calling to set up some other appointment that I'm due for, and I didn't want to make myself available for any of that.  I've learned that the worst thing I can do to thwart my plans to trail ride is to answer the phone.  The snowbirds start leaving right about now and the local businesses get desperate for clients, so they start making cold calls, saying, "You are due for this or that..."  I was determined to ride.

However, upon entering Rock's stall with a halter I discovered that he hadn't eaten hardly any of his hay.  He was sick, most likely with an upset stomach.  I got him to ingest various tummy remedies and put the halter away.  I couldn't ride Bombay, because he somehow got a bloody gash right where the cinch sits, I can't ride Lostine because of her arthritis, and I didn't have the time necessary to work with Gabbrielle.  I've learned that just to get one half hour ride on her around the arena, I need at least three hours to deal with all of her quirks.  She requires a tremendous amount preparatory training before I can even set foot in the stirrup, and usually as soon as I do that, she sucks in and lets the saddle slide down her side while I fall on my butt.

As I was heading back to the house feeling bummed that once again I can't ride a horse on one of these rare, better days of the year, I looked over and saw that Bombay also had not eaten most of his hay.  Huh?  What's up with that?  I checked on the mares, and they had eaten everything.  So, what was going on that would just affect the geldings?

Then I remembered that when I brought Rock home from his ride yesterday, I allowed him to graze on the wild grass growing in the yard.  Later, I bathed Bombay, and let him graze on the wild grass while he air dried.  The grass has tassels on the end, which makes it rich with seeds.  That must have done the trick.  I gave Bombay some stuff to help with his stomach too, and gave up on riding today.  No more grass for them.  They had been grazing on that grass for weeks and it never bothered their stomachs until now, so I know it has to do with where the grass is in its life cycle, or possibly weeds that are growing now amongst the grass that the horses picked up along the way.

In other news, one of these couples who has scoured the grounds of the house next door nearly a dozen times, both with and without the supervision of a real estate agent, finally made an offer on the house...  only it was a complete joke.  The asking price is several hundred thousand dollars below the appraised value, as well as below what the owners paid for it, and these buyers offered $100,000 less than what the sellers were asking for the 3 acre parcel, and they wanted the full 5 acres and provided a list of other demands that included things they wanted the sellers to pay for.  In other words, they expected to get essentially about $400,000 for free.  The sellers were pissed.

The most outrageous part of the contract offer was that these people demanded that escrow close in 15 days when they spent two whole months hemming and hawing about whether to buy the house or not.  The banks can't even process all that paperwork and the inspections and other requirements can't get done in that short of a time.  Their mentality kind of reminds me of people who take their sweet time shopping, and then as soon as they get in line to pay for their purchases, they suddenly are in a hurry and pressure everyone around them to speed things up for their convenience.

The home sellers called me to tell me what was going on and asked me to notify them if those home shoppers show up on their property again.  They said that the buyers have already wasted enough of everyone's time, and they were going to ask them to move along.  I didn't say anything, but those particular home shoppers have been a pain in my butt for the past two months, because I have had to postpone or cancel several trail and arena rides due to their activities next door.  How many times do they have to look at that house and the land it comes on to get the information they need to make a decision?  Even the real estate agent was complaining that they've wasted a lot of his time.

Anyway, it didn't take long for them to return after the sellers rejected their ridiculous offer.  They drove up in one of those loud, obnoxious off road vehicles and sat in the driveway idling and staring at the house.  Of course, that got my dogs barking -- one of the many disruptions they cause when they come around.  Then they drove down to the lot the sellers have for sale and stared at it a while.  Then they drove around the block to the back of my house, parked on my property line and hiked through my and various neighbors' back yards going down into the arroyo.  My horses were a nervous wreck with these people popping in and out bushes for half an hour down there.  I don't even know why they keep going down there.  You can't build anything in an arroyo.  It floods every time it rains.  Maybe these people don't know that.  Maybe they think they can fill the wash with dirt and build something there.

The man was pointing at various things and throwing his hands in the air angrily.  He seemed to be gesticulating about the lay of the land.  Maybe he understands that most of the land can't be built on, and he doesn't want to pay for it if that's the case.  The sellers are being perfectly reasonable by asking that people pay for the land that can't be built on, because it still serves the purpose of keeping distance between your own house and other people's houses.  My attitude is that if he can't see the value in having space for the sake of privacy, then he can move on.  He certainly hasn't offered me any privacy, because he's spent hours staring at my back yard and my house, pointing at things around my property when my property isn't the one up for sale.  I definitely don't want him as a neighbor.  I can't stand people who stare, and he's one of those.

I have no doubt that he will not allow me one ounce of privacy if he becomes my new neighbor.  He's obviously retired, so he has a lot of time on his hands to get all up in my business.  He also leaves a bad taste in my mouth because he trespasses without permission.  It doesn't matter that the house next door is up for sale.  The owners want all home viewers to have an appointment and be accompanied by a licensed real estate agent when they look at the property, and this guy doesn't care.  He's almost crossing the line of becoming a squatter, because he spends hours each week hanging out in their back yard without permission to do so.  I've told the sellers that, and they said that if he doesn't make a reasonable offer soon, they're going to tell him that he's trespassing and put pressure on him to move along.

The sellers do have sympathy for all the crap I've had to go through with their house being up for sale for nearly three years, and they don't even know the half of it.  Ever since they dropped the price, it's been affecting me on a daily basis.  Most days I can't even go to the mailbox or down to the barn to shovel manure without people approaching me to ask questions about the house for sale.  I try to hide from them, but sometimes I'm running out of daylight and if I see that they have a real estate agent with them to answer their questions, I'll still go out to get my chores done, and then I have deal with the real estate agent shooting daggers at me with his or her eyes telling me to go back in my house.  Agents are fearful that I might do or say something that will turn off their buyers, but I've got to get my chores done.  If they mind their own business, I'll mind mine.  The problem is that most people don't mind their own business, and stare at me the entire time I do my barn chores.

Anyway, the sellers understand that I don't enjoy being creeped on constantly.  Hopefully, with their help, I will be rid of one of my regular pests soon and be able to resume riding horses in my own back yard safely without people popping in and out of bushes in the arroyo.  It's just amazing how I work so hard to get rid of one habitual trespasser only to have new ones show up right away.  I don't even get a short break from playing security guard around here.  Maybe the snakes will scare all of them off.  This time of year, when I see strangers poking around in the arroyo, I kind of expect them to go in, and not come out.  These out-of-staters don't seem to realize that they are playing with venom by snooping around down there.  Actually, they don't even have to go down to the arroyo to get bit by rattlesnakes.  They can just walk up the steps to my patio.  Ha ha.

I keep a rubber rattlesnake on my front porch to send a clear message to people to stay away.  It's funny watching people jump and scream when they see it.  I figure it's better for them to have a run in with a fake snake before reality strikes.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Startling Morning

I finally put two brain cells together and figured out that another reason why my leg has been in so much pain lately is because I haven't been taking my medication exactly 12 hours apart.  What's been happening is that the effectiveness of the anti-inflammatory has run its course by the time I do barn chores at sunrise and sunset, so I have been doing my chores on one leg, dragging the other behind me.  I adjusted the times I take my meds so that they won't stop working right when I start working.  I had been taking my pill with breakfast and dinner, and I was eating those meals right after doing my chores.  Since I have to take the pills with food, I've just changed the times I take them, but I take them with snacks instead of meals.

I felt well enough to go for a trail ride this morning.  Rock was the first to finish his breakfast, so I took him out while the other horses were still eating.  I tied him to the trailer and walked back and forth between the tack room and the trailer multiple times while grooming him and tacking him up.

Ever since I ran into that rattlesnake at the bottom of the back steps, I've been watching the ground all around me before proceeding further.  I dug up all the grass along the rock walls where I take the dogs to relieve themselves so that I can see a snake if it is hiding there.  They tend to press their bodies against walls as they move.

I always check along the walls of the tack room before approaching it, and I didn't see anything there.  On my final trip out of the tack room, I shut the door, looked down, and saw this at my feet...

Do you see it just above the head of my shadow?  Here's a close up...

I swear it wasn't there all those times I walked in and out of the tack room door.  It looked like it was injured and stuck.  I wasn't about to try to help it, so I mounted up and rode off.  Rock went back to snacking along the trail, so we got into a couple of scuffles.  I was making progress with him until I tried to turn him due west away from home and he refused.  He turned all the way around to face the house and wouldn't budge.  I looked around to see if there was anything nearby that would cause him to behave that way, but I saw nothing, so I cranked him back in the other direction and smacked him hard with the quirt on the shoulder.  He wasn't expecting that and gave a start, popping his hind end up into the air and throwing me forward in the saddle.  I don't think it was an intentional crow hop.  I think he was just shocked.  But I didn't have any problems with him following directions after that, so it was worth it.

You can see by his ears here that he had one ear on where I was putting my attention (the flowering cactus), and one ear on the bush he really, really, really wanted to eat.

Rock was going at a decent pace on the way home.  We had a red Cardinal flying right next to us for a short while.  He was walking as fast as the bird was flying, which is a miracle for him.

While we were riding down the street, some neighbors were walking in front of us and Rock didn't pay any attention to them, which was surprising.  He usually can't focus at all if there are people around.  I guess it helped that they were walking away from us.

When we got back to the tack room, the rattlesnake was still there in the same position and I could see that the wound on its tail was decomposing, so it either was dead or dying when I first spotted it.  The pictures above were actually from when I got back from the ride.  The wound on the tail wasn't as pronounced when I first saw it.  If some wild animal doesn't pull it out of there and eat it, I will have to pull it out myself so that it doesn't stink up the tack room.

Of course, I had a dozen scenarios running through my head on the story behind the rattlesnake.  Maybe it hibernated down there, and then came out, ate a few meals, and got too fat to get back into its nest.  Or maybe it was in the tack room the whole time I was grabbing tack, and it bailed on its first chance, going out the door and trying to squeeze through that hole before I spotted it.  It got stuck and died while I was out trail riding.  Or maybe it got attacked by some predator and was trying to get away, but died before it could get to a safe spot.  Perhaps a hawk dropped it.

I put the Rock away and headed back to the house, only to stop dead in my tracks because of this...

Do you see it?  No?  How about now?

At least this one isn't venomous.

But they sure do like to hang out on and around that bottom step.  It's a different snake every time.  I think they like to eat the lizards, rats and squirrels that live in the cracks of the stone wall.  Hopefully, the snakes will take care of our desert rat problem.  The rats get in the walls and scratch, which gets our dogs barking, and then we can't sleep at night.  I'm so glad I finished the job of shoveling up the grass directly next to the stone wall this morning.  My timing couldn't have been better.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Unexpect the Expected

With the temperatures jumping up into the 90s after a lot of winter rain, our yard has exploded with wild grasses, blossoms, allergens, and just bushiness everywhere.  Our plans were to try to cut back and clean up as much as possible so that we wouldn't step on a rattlesnake.  Only my leg still isn't working for me, so my husband has been having to do all the work.  I gimped around trying to clean up manure for the farrier while he moved from stall to stall in an effort to follow the shade while he trimmed hooves.  Then I bathed the dogs and took each of them one by one out onto the porch to air dry.

Midge had to go to the bathroom, so I put a leash on her and walked her down the back steps.  We wandered until she found the perfect spots to do her business, and when we turned around to go back up the steps to the porch, we found ourselves blocked by a three and a half foot long Western Diamondback.  Crap.

This happens to me every spring!  I waltz down the stairs with a dog and pass just inches from a rattlesnake head.  I see it on the way back to the steps, and learn my lesson.  Then I spend the next 11 months leaning down at the bottom of the steps to make sure there isn't a snake hunkered down by the wall before stepping off the last stair.  But, by the 12th month I get comfortable because there never is another snake in that location, so I just walk right on down without checking, and viola!  There's a snake.

So, I walked Midge around the side of the house away from the snake and waved to my husband through his office window.  He came to the front door and I told him that a rattlesnake was blocking us from getting up the steps to the back door.  He got his homemade snake hook and a tall trash can and caught it to relocate it.

Only it wasn't that easy.  I still couldn't leave a wet dog in the house, so I took Midge back out onto the patio and hooked her up to the leash that is attached to the railing.  Then I wandered over to the steps to check on the snake, thinking that it was in the same spot up against the wall, but no -- here it was coming up the steps straight toward me.  I jumped back and screamed a little.  It was moving fast.  Usually, when I see rattlesnakes, they are moving sluggishly, but this was coming at me at a speed that rivaled my worst snake nightmares.  Only it's usually the really big snakes like anacondas in my nightmares.

It went left and I went right, and then it tried to curl up and hide under a bush next to my porch.  I was frantically trying to get Midge unhooked from her leash and get her in the house before the rattlesnake decided to come up on the porch, and the dang clasp wouldn't come undone.  I was cursing, finally yanked it off, scooped the dog up in my arms, and hopped into the house.

While my husband was out there, my other two dogs needed to pee too.  I decided to take them out front, but it was too late for Scrappy.  He already peed on the floor.  In the snake mayhem, I didn't have time to put Scrappy's diaper back on after his bath.  While my husband was carrying the snake in a trash can out into the desert, I was scrubbing the carpet.  Between the urine and wet dog smell, I was glad we had the ceiling fans running full force.

First thing he said when he got back into the house was, "It smells bad in here."

Yup.  Spring is in the air.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One-Legged Weather

You may remember that it was last spring that I began struggling to dismount my horses and noticed a pain in my right leg that eventually needed the assistance of a cane in order to walk.  The doctor diagnosed it as arthritis, a common deterioration of the joints that comes with age.  Even with the help of anti-inflammatory medications, the pain was great enough that I figured this was my last year of riding horses.

You may have also noticed that I've been riding a lot and haven't mentioned any leg pain in a while.  That's because I didn't have any.  I figured the whole arthritis thing was just a temporary inconvenience, and it was safe for me to resume life as usual.  However, this week my leg pain returned with a vengeance and I found myself struggling just to walk a few feet.  Yesterday, I was feeling panicked because I couldn't even take the dogs out without nearly collapsing.

My doctor said to not take any additional medications for inflammation and pain because they would "just ruin my stomach".  I decided to test that out and took two additional Ibuprofen.  As soon as I ate something, I threw up.  Okay.  The doctor was right.  To top it all off, I was so sleepy from being drugged up that I couldn't do anything anyway, and the whole reason why I was trying to keep the pain at bay was so I could ride a horse.

I thought things through and made the connection that my arthritis is exacerbated by hot weather.  That's why I'm always a cripple in the spring and summer.  We've had temps in the 50s and 60s all winter, and that's why I wasn't feeling any pain.  This week we skipped right past the 70s and 80s, and have been hovering in the 90s.  I think the extreme jump in temperature kind of sent my body into shock.

I usually don't stop riding horses until May.  I should have three more months before my summer hibernation begins.  I needed a game plan to work around my pain, but couldn't take more medication.  I knew that if I went to the doctor and asked for a different medication, I'd probably become a vegetable who sleeps all the time.  So, I decided to work around the heat instead of working around the pain since my energy is such a precious resource.

Normally, I feed my horses before sunrise and they eat until noon.  Then I ride.  However, now it is too hot by noon for my leg to behave.  So, I gave the horses half of their breakfast rations, and rode at 9:00 to 10:00 AM.  That did the trick.  I definitely found myself racing against the sun and several other factors, and I kept making mistakes like getting the cinch stuck under the saddle and crossing the reins.  It was trash pick-up day, so I was racing to get out into the desert before the trash truck arrived.  The driver always parks in front of the gate I need to ride through, and sits there with his engine idling for a long time.  A lot of business people have found that turnout to the bridle trails to be a good place to pull over and to call in communications to headquarters, but it's frustrating for me, because they are in my way when they do that.

My other big obstacle is the home shoppers.  They always show up in mass right between 9:00 and 10:00 AM every morning, and they either park by the gate to the bridle trails or stand around out in front of the house and distract and spook my horses.  I want to avoid them all together, especially if they have little kids who want to run up to pet the horsey, or if they want to pick my brain for information about the house and neighborhood.  No.  That's my riding time.  Nobody takes my riding time away from me.  It's hard to explain to people that I've only got so much energy and so much time before I lose the use of my leg, so I need them to get out of my way and let me go while I've got the chance.

Lately, there's been a man on a motorcycle driving past the house multiple times a day.  His engine is so loud that when he is simply idling at a stand still, not accelerating at all, I can feel the vibration through my house, and can't hear anything over the noise.  He toured the house for about an hour yesterday morning, and returned today with another man on the back of the motorcycle.  Instead of just turning off his engine and showing the guy around, he idled in front of the house and the two of them yelled back and forth to each other.  I heard them talking about how far back the property goes.  When you consider how quiet our neighborhood normally is, having that motorcycle buzzing our area several times a day is incredibly disruptive.

So, here I was trying to race out to the trails before motorcycle guy came back and the trash truck picked up our trash and the heat set in worse than it already had.  I got out into the desert and started hearing a hollow banging behind us.  It sounded like my horses kicking empty water troughs, only this was a rather frantic sound, like a horse had gotten its legs caught in the metal water trough and was struggling to escape.  I turned back, ready to cancel my ride in order to rescue some idiot horse back at the barn.  Then I saw the source of the noise.  A long dump truck was at my neighbor's house dumping something.  If it was that loud when I was out in the desert, I could only imagine how loud the dumping would have been if I were still at home.  I was so glad to get out before that thing showed up.

Rock totally impressed me on this ride.  He listened much better about the unwanted snacking along the trails.  I figured that since he only got half his breakfast, he'd be fighting me all the way for grass and branches, but he was pretty good.  He also kept a purposeful pace.  No lollygagging.  I think not having a full stomach helped him keep his energy up.  No food coma.  He was gawking a lot, but I didn't see or hear what he was seeing or hearing.  He can sense people and horses that are half a mile away.  He was also showing signs of becoming a seasoned trail horse, because once whoever was distracting him had moved on, he was paying attention to the ground, watching where he stepped, and choosing the wisest path around cactus, bushes and rocks.

I was paying close attention to the ground myself, because it was super snaky out there.  There was a news story last night about a fire department that had 60-something snake removal calls just in this week alone.  I suspect Rock picked up on where I was focusing my attention, so he too started watching the ground.  That helped me to relax a little.  I think we did walk past a handful of snakes in bushes, because I kept hearing sudden movements when we passed that were more along the lines of snaky movement than lizard or bird movement.  When you hear wildlife all the time, you learn subtle differences in sounds.

Oh yeah, that reminds me.  I spotted a baby bunny under my haystack last night.  I'm hoping to introduce myself to this litter when it is young enough that I can maybe have another wild rabbit friend to sit with me in the evenings.  I miss Charity.  Nobody comes when I call anymore.  All I see are ground squirrels gathering hay for their nests and swishing their tails at me as a warning to stay away.

Pink flower buds on a cactus.

While approaching the road on the way home, I tried listening for the trash truck, but planes kept flying overhead, drowning out any chance for me to hear the truck.  I took my chances and crossed the road.  Our trash never got picked up.  Perhaps the truck broke down.  Amazingly, no one was looking at the house next door either.

I did struggle to dismount.  My leg got stuck on Rock's rump again.  He wanted to lower his head to graze, and I was alternating between keeping his head up and trying to drag my leg the rest of the way over.  I swear, I couldn't ask for a more easygoing horse than Rock.  He'd let me use him as a jungle gym if I wanted.  He'd make a good drill team horse, because he can tolerate his rider hanging off of him and doing flips or whatever.  There have been plenty of times where I had to just fall off him and land on my rump because my leg couldn't hold me up, and he has no reaction whatsoever.  I totally adore this horse...

I was hopping on one leg by the time I did get off, but I still managed to make sure that everyone got the second half of their breakfast.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yoti's Brief Visit

I was just saying the other day that the coyotes seem to have moved on to new territory, because I hadn't seen nor heard hide nor hair out of any of them for a couple of weeks.  Then this one showed up at the barn...

...and the horses spooked it... rolling on their backs and kicking their legs in the air.  I couldn't have captured that horse expression if I tried.

What the...?

The coyote moved on to less weird pastures with a puzzled and cautious demeanor.

It disappeared into the sunset.

I finally finished another batch of rocks...

The round orange thing started out being a basketball, but it wasn't round enough to look like one, so I changed it into a pumpkin.  Wrong time of year, but I tried.  I know it doesn't even look like a pumpkin either.  I'm contemplating just slapping a couple of colors on each rock and calling it good.  A lot of people have their toddlers paint and plant rocks.  I'm not signing mine, so people who find my really ugly ones can just assume that a toddler painted them.  Ha ha.

I think I'll have more luck if I just paint a design on the rocks, as opposed to seeing what their shape reminds me of, and then trying to paint a recognizable object onto them.

The ladybugs are the smoothest rocks I've found yet, but I had to paint them multiple times because each time the paint dried, it wanted to stick to everything but the rock.  Unfortunately, I didn't get them done in time for the latest hunt.  The hunters took a picture of all the rocks they found, and none of my first batch were included.  Apparently, I hide my rocks really well.  Some people took pictures of rocks they found in the places where they found them, and I'm realizing that they are basically leaving them out in the open for someone to stumble upon as opposed to hiding them under a pile of unpainted rocks or underneath a bush.  Now that the temps are rising, the snakes are out, so I'll re-hide my first batch in less risky locations whenever I can get out to plant the second batch.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Keep De Face Outta Da Bushes

It's been another busy week in the neighborhood with another slew of home shoppers invading the property next door.  The same people keep coming back, but according to my neighbor, none of them are in negotiations.  Sometimes I wonder if people are just looking for an empty house they can hang out in for a few hours and keep cool by borrowing some else's air conditioning.  It was 91 degrees F while I was out riding.  A whole week in the 90s in mid-March is premature.  I'm hoping this isn't a sign that we are in for another summer from hell.  If this hotter and longer summer trend keeps up, I'm going to have to become a snowbird for survival's sake.

This persistent traffic next door is actually making me wish someone would just buy the place so that the dogs and horses and I can get used to one family's routine rather than having to work through the activities of a lot of strangers coming and going.  It was nice having the place quiet and still for nearly three years, but ever since the price dropped below the home value, my sleepy neighborhood has been jumping.  There have actually been loud trucks doing drive by viewings late at night.  I don't know what people expect to see in the dark.

The good news about the heat is that it tends to weed out those nosy people who just like to drive around looking at homes for sale so they can dream about them, but not actually buy them.  I'll admit that when our kids were little, we spent our weekends going to open houses for homes we could never afford.  It was a way to keep the kids busy and for us to learn about different neighborhoods and home designs so that when we were ready to buy, we'd have done our research.  The difference between us and some of these other people, though, is that we went to open houses, while these other people just keep doing surveillance on our neighborhood by cruising past multiple times a day, which makes people nervous.  What did they miss the first five times that they have to come back again?  I don't get it.

Despite all the Looky Loos, Rock and I got out for a nice trail ride.  It was hot enough by the time we left that we had the trails to ourselves.  The biggest challenge we had was to keep de face outta da bushes...

Nom nom nom...

Gots to eat.

Only ate twenty minutes ago, and dat meal only lasted four hours.  Hungry.

Look at all dat green grass.  Me graze now.  Get off my back, human!

Sadly, our new tree is in shock and has lost almost all of its leaves.  I suspect the soil in that location is not good, because we've been feeding and watering it properly.  It came with a 90-day guarantee, and I bought an extended warranty in which they will replace this tree with two of the same size trees if anything happens to this one, so we're covered.  It's not dead yet, but it's nice to know that we didn't throw a couple thousand dollars out the window buy purchasing it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Three Out of Six Ain't Bad

I've been noticing a lot of vehicles parked near a couple of gates that go out to the desert in my neighborhood, and I wondered what the attraction was since that particular part of the desert wasn't any better than the next, and the parking locations were rather inconvenient for drivers on the road.  Last night I was perusing the letterboxing and geocaching websites to see if anyone planted anything new near me, and lo and behold, six new-to-me geocaches were hidden near those two crowded gates to the desert.  My plans were to get out first thing in the morning before it got too hot and look for all six of them.

Unfortunately, I awoke with an upset stomach and had to let it settle out before I could leave.  I drove there instead of hiking to save time because it was already getting quite hot out.  I parked in a location that was less distracting for drivers along the road, and when I reached the site of the first geocache, before I could even hunt for it, I heard car doors slamming.  I looked up and realized that I was right by the road and right by one of those entrance gates to the trails.  What are the chances that other geocachers would show up to look for a geocache at the exact same time as me?  I wasn't sure what proper protocol is in a case like that, because the fun is in finding it yourself.  I didn't want them walking up, pointing it out to me, and making me wait while they signed it.  I wanted them to give me my space.

Just in case they weren't geocachers, I pretended to be busy looking at a lizard, and the people disappeared.  I found and signed the cache and headed off to look for the second one.  I walked past their truck and saw that they left their dog in the cab.  I didn't notice the license plate, but figured they had to be from a colder climate, because no one from Arizona would ever leave a pet in a vehicle on such hot day.  We can't even get in our cars without getting burned some days after our cars have been parked in direct sunlight.  We have to turn on the engine and air conditioner before climbing in, and wear oven mitts to steer.  I hoped they weren't hikers who planned to be out for a few hours, so I decided to check on the dog on my way back from the next geocache.

I hiked a little bit down the trail away from the truck, and here came the truck owners around the corner.  Now I was pretty sure that they were geocachers, because five minutes is not a very long hike.  Plus they were dressed up like they were going somewhere fancy --  not for a hike, and the woman had a wry smile on her face.  I wasn't so sure about the man, because he was trying to hold his pants up the entire time he was walking, as if I had caught him with his pants down and he didn't have the time to zip them up.  I suppose they could have been looking for a bush to pee behind, but I doubt it.

I found and signed the second geocache and had to backtrack to reach the third.  The truck with the dog in it was gone when I passed the location where it was previously parked.  I got a little wigged out when I was walking through a wash and came upon something that could have been a homeless camp.  I didn't want to stumble upon someone in a sleeping bag, so I went way around, found the third geocache and signed it.

The fourth geocache was a longer hike.  I dug around and around and could not find it.  Then I started sneezing.  I had to dig through bushes, and each time I touched a bush, pollen flew up into my face.  I dug around in my fanny pack for tissues, but had none.  To top it all off, the pollen was upsetting my stomach too, so I had to scurry back to my truck to get tissues and race home.  I looked down and saw yellow pollen dust all over my jeans and hiking boots.  Ugh.  I guess it's not the best time of year to be out hunting for geocaches.  I'll have to return to it another day.

My painted rock group has been getting a lot of requests to paint and hide rocks for people, and despite having about 250 members, only about 5 of us are actually givers.  The rest are takers.  Most people obviously signed up so that they can hunt for rocks, not so that they can make them and hide them for others.  A lot of people only give us one or two days' notice, which is frustrating since it can take a whole week to paint and label a batch of rocks.  I decided not to let it stress me out, and to just paint and hide when I can, and if that happens to coincide with someone's scheduled hunt, good for them.  I enjoy the painting part.  I got some glitter paints and neon paints this weekend, and they offer some interesting effects.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bombay's Day

Bombay has been standing at the gate all week begging me to spend time with him.  I kept promising to ride him and then forgot or get busy doing something else.  Today I remembered.  It's 85 degrees F.  The weather did what I was worried it might do.  It stayed wet and cold most of the winter and then suddenly jumped up into the 80s.  So, we are sweating like pigs and not yet acclimated to the heat.  The horses still have a lot of fur to shed.

I wanted to ride in the arena before my neighbors bring in their friends and gardeners to get rid of all the weeds in their yard, which is something they do every spring that takes several days.  Some years they bring in a bulldozer.  This year they are spraying poison.

I had to clean up all the manure out of the arena in order to ride there, and that tired me out right away.  I pushed through my exhaustion and wormed each of the horses.  Gabbrielle was being a stinker, undoing everything I was trying to do.  For instance, when I finished cleaning one end of the arena, I'd move to the opposite end to clean, and Gabbrielle would walk to the point furthest away from me and the manure wagon where I just cleaned and leave a fresh, steaming pile for me.  I was already melting, feeling like I couldn't take another step, and I'd have to walk all the way back to clean it up.  I was also locking horses in stalls as soon as they went inside, and Gabbrielle was coming up behind me, letting horses out of the stalls.  I thought I was never going to get to ride Bombay.

When I led him to the hitching post to groom him, he was breathing rapidly and looking around nervously.  I was like, "Seriously?  I just took you 20-feet away from the barn and you're freaking out already?"

So, I lunged him in the round pen until his nerves settled.  Then I rode in the arena.

I had to clean a dried up bird turd off the seat of the saddle.  I have no idea where that come from, because there shouldn't be any birds in my tack room.

Bombay spooked once when Gabbrielle grunted at Rock for biting her right when Bombay and I were riding past a bush that he was convinced had a mountain lion behind it.

It's so green outside of the arena that I considered buying a portable pen that I could move around and let the horses graze in.  However, with this heat, most of the grass will be dead in a few days.

Bombay and Lostine kissing...

See all that lush grass?  Despite pooping in all the places I cleaned right after I cleaned them, Gabbrielle still managed to dirty her stall faster that the other horses.

After our ride, I led Bombay to the front of the house to watch the windmill again...

He was like, "I'm okay with it, Mom.  I promised I won't spook anymore.  Look, I'll even help you pull weeds right next to it..."

Back to the barn...

It actually would have been a perfect day to bathe the horses, but I didn't think of it until I was in the saddle.  I only had the energy to do one or the other.

The other day I left Gabbrielle in the round pen after lunging her, because I wanted her to get used to being separated from the herd.  Once the heat sets in, she's going to start beating up the boys, so the round pen is going to be her new home.  I went down into the arroyo, called out her name and waved to her.  She flipped out and started running around with her tail up over her back, neck arched, nostrils flared, snorting and crashing into the railings.  I hoped my trespassing neighbor was sitting on his porch watching, because he claimed that he doesn't spook my horses when he's down in the arroyo.  Gabbrielle clearly knew it was me, because she could see me and hear me calling her name, and she was still freaked out.

Then I went up onto the porch of my house, which is the same distance away as where I stood in the arroyo, and I called her name and waved at her, and got no reaction at all.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the trespassing neighbor wasn't home to witness it.  He came home later and set off his car alarm right when I was leading Bombay past the back of his house.  I suspect he did it on purpose.  Now that I've told him that he spooks my horses when he trespasses in the arroyo, he's been trying to spook them on purpose.  Bombay didn't react at all to the car alarm, so the neighbor didn't get any satisfaction out of his actions.