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.
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...