Monday, July 30, 2007

The Tale of the Prince and the Pea

My dressage show on Sunday was an education. Competing in dressage always is, of course, because it is just you and your horse dancing in front of the judge, who keeps his or her eye on you at all times while dictating comments and scores to a scribe. Afterwards you get the sheet with all those scores and comments recorded for you to learn from and improve upon. But Sunday's show was more than that; it was an education about my horse Special Majesty, better known as Russell.
Russell is not "built" for dressage, being a "downhill" breeding stock Paint instead of an "uphill" warmblood. But he has a surprising amount of talent in spite of that and is very willing, so we keep working our way up the levels of difficulty. (The higher you go in dressage, the more the horse is required to show collection and impulsion, which is all about lifting the back and shoulders and using the hindquarters for maximum carrying and thrusting power.)
The warm-up for our first test test went okay, although Russell seemed difficult to motivate. The test went well, I thought. But when I got my test sheet back and saw the results for the class, I was dismayed -- we finished dead last with the lowest score we've ever earned! My instructor, who came to watch, commented that he looked tight in his back, which we've struggled with before. I told her he didn't have as much padding under the saddle as he has when I school him, and she thought that was the likely reason for his lackluster performance -- that, and a judge who simply didn't like him. (There was specific evidence for that, too, but I won't go into that.) Since my two rides were spaced nearly five hours(!) apart, I had time to work as a volunteer AND scout through the vendors' booths looking for an additional cushy pad that would work with the show pad and sheepskin half-pad I was using. I finally found something that looked like it would work, got us both "dressed" to show again, and went back to the warm-up ring.

The difference was immediately evident. Russell moved much more freely; it was plain to those with me who were watching from the sidelines as well as to me in the saddle. Although Russell broke gait once in the test and I went "off course" once (each dressage test is a combination of different movements and gaits at prescribed locations), our score was 10 percentage points higher and we placed second in the class!
Horses put up with an amazing amount of stuff from us, and usually only give subtle indications when all is not right for them. Sunday I finally learned that Russell is a lot like that princess in the fairy tale, the one who can feel a single pea through a stack of feather mattresses. I get it now, Russell; I get it. I'm sorry it took me awhile; thanks for your long-suffering and patience. You're a prince!
That's it for now about the "neigh" at . . .

Sheep update; show photos to come

Russell and I will have some photos to share along with a report from our show yesterday, just as soon as I get them. A very generous friend came to help me groom, and her boyfriend took a LOT of photos on his fancy digital camera. I can't wait to see them!

Until I get those photos, here is a photoless sheep update. Last week we determined that Braveheart has a moderate load of coccidia, so today he and Brava (since they are penned together) started on a treatment course of Albon.

Last night after dark while I was working at my computer, I heard a commotion in the sheep fold. When it occurred again, I grabbed Rick's cattle cane and ran down to see if a predator had managed to jump in (insert mental image of Michelle beating off a cougar to save her darlings). The girls looked up at me from their hay feeder with mild curiousity -- but they WERE breathing a little hard. Hmmm. Well, this morning I think I figured out what was going on (warning: the following is rather shocking). I put the girls out with their grain and hay, and continued with other morning chores. As I finished and headed back to the house, I saw a commotion in the sheep pasture, so I stopped and watched. My sweet Valentine, who has never shown ANY aggression towards any creature in the 6+ months she's lived here, was chasing Bella round and ramming her from the side, from the rear, even head-on! I was shocked -- but I must admit, not too dismayed. Bella is often a "butt" (pardon the pun) to Valentine, and the other girls were pretty rough on her at the beginning. I guess she's decided not to be anyone's punching bag anymore, and part of me is glad to see her finally asserting herself.

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Happy Bloggiversary to me!

One year ago today I posted about the "genesis of Boulderneigh," and said I hoped to have many happy chapters to follow. I must say that blogging has exceeded my expectations, and I have you visitors to thank for that. Some of the people I have "met" through Shetland sheep and blogging have become real friends, with whom I exchange emails, phone calls, recipes, cards and gifts. Others have greatly expanded my knowledge of our little breed, or have given me many points to ponder by sharing their viewpoints. That's all on TOP of the satisfaction I get from having an outlet for my writing and photography!

So here's to you who visit my blog, read my drivel and look at my photos, and most especially to those of you who COMMENT (hint, hint!): you've helped make this a wonderful year of blogging!

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

Inspiration and preparation

One of my art professors in college used to remind us that "inspiration is 99% perspiration." That is true, but helps to rub elbows with greatness once in awhile. Russell (my equine dancing partner) and I compete this Sunday, but the dressage show we're entered in started with a kick-off party last night. Since Rick was one of the party's sponsors and I'm an exhibitor, we got a sitter for Brian and went.

The big news at this show is the presence of Debbie McDonald, one of our best-known Olympic equestian athletes, competing on Felix, one of her younger horses. But last night we found out that Brentina, Debbie's world-famous Olympic and World Cup partner, also made the trip with her for an exhibition ride. I won't be there for that, but we did walk through the stable and meet Debbie, her husband Bob, and both horses. Today I drove back up to watch her Grand Prix ride on Felix (below), and stayed to watch a few others compete.
I also got a massage at a vendor booth to help with a sore, cramped shoulder. Now I need to go ride my horse one last time before we compete, with lovely images of harmony and lightness in my mind for inspiration (click here for a beautiful example). Then I will give my horse a bath, clean my tack, and drop the work and pressure for 24 hours while enjoying a Sabbath rest.

Off to prepare for a dressage show at . . .

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Behold, the fingers of a happy shepherd! Today after schooling my horse I gave the lambies a bit more hay and sat in their pocket pasture with them. They wanted the hay enough to come fairly close, and I scootched a bit closer so I could reach out and touch them now and then. As usual, Braveheart stood his ground better; he's aptly named, I guess. I slowly and gently scratched him a bit here and there, until I finally found his "sweet spot" -- his chest, between and just in front of his front legs. When I scratched there, he stopped chewing, lifted his tail a bit, and "that look" came over his face. As I kept up my ministrations, the tail started wagging, and the eyelids started drooping. I let him rest his chin in my other hand. If I stopped, he went back to eating; if I started again, the trance returned.

In the meantime Brava kept eating all she could reach without getting too close to me, tolerating occasional scratching. Rubbing her chest brought no reaction. I kept searching. Then, when I was able to reach her belly, it happened. While she never wagged her tail, all the other manifestations of a blissful trance were present. I rejoiced in the breakthrough, knowing it will only get easier from here. Is there anything more satisfying than winning an animal's trust?

Oh, last night for dinner we had pasta tossed with onions, garlic, *zucchini, *yellow crookneck, *three kinds of basil, and *gold cherry tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with romano/parmesan cheese; deviled eggs; and homemade raspberry ice cream (*from the garden and pictured above). Summer's fine dining begins!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Here lamby, lamby

As I said, the lambs' halter-training is going well. The lambs are easy enough to catch in their little quarantine pen, but I do still have to CATCH them. They do not offer their sweet little heads for me to truss up in nylon. Both lambs will cautiously walk up to me and sniff my fingers to see if I have any goodies, but they don't stick around. Every morning now when I halter them to lead them out to their little pocket pasture, I scratch them where I hope they itch and tell them how good they are. Sometimes I sit with them in their pen and just talk to them; sometimes I catch one (Brava mostly) to hold and cuddle, hoping she will learn to love and seek out attention like my sweet Valentine does. So far, no dice. But at least their reticence gives me some photo opportunities.This photo gives a fair representation of their colors and a nice view of Braveheart's exemplary rear end and tail. The only things I can see to improve on this lamb (and I'm really reaching here!) would be to shrink his ears just a tad and set them slightly higher, and make his fleece as lustrous as Valentine's. I can hardly wait to see if he throws lambs as nice as he is!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Newly accessorized

The last two nights Rick has been kind enough to torture the lambs for me. Sunday night he gave them their second CD&T shots; last night he installed ear tags (yes, I'm an accessory to the crimes; I hold them). I don't willingly put holes in my own body, so I'm squeemish about having to do it to the lambs. But I was surprised at the lack of head-shaking or any other reaction after the initial poke.

By the way, both lambs are officially musket; it says so on the registration form winging its way to NASSA. Of course, my ewe lamb's obviously brown-factored dam is registered as a marlit emsket.... I guess "official" and "accurate" aren't necessarily synonyms! (I know. Duh.) Here is a photo of my sweet Valentine for a comparison of face color; she's much darker. (I know it's not the best "sheep portrait," but I love the obvious bliss on her face!)
Yesterday afternoon Brian and I picked blueberries at a big commercial operation owned by one of Rick's clients. Rick is lovingly tending his young blueberry plants at home, but they will probably never provide the quantity that we like to have in the freezer for use throughout the year. Brian is getting big enough to be a real help now; he picked two and a half of the 13+ pounds we brought home!
That's it for now at . . .

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lambs on leads, leads on weeds

I'm really pleased with how well my lambs are walking on their leads. This morning for the first time I took them out separately, and they STILL did well -- GOOD lambies! Of course, I was busy taking care of them and other morning chores so I didn't have my camera; you'll have to take my word for it. :-)

I just got off the phone with someone at the county Extension office regarding the noxious weeds in our area. As I suspected, not much can be done, especially at this point when the tansy can still go to seed even if it's sprayed, mowed, or pulled. About the only positive thing that came out of the conversation was mutual appreciation (me for the extension office, the agent for my efforts on our own property), and confirmation that I had labeled the thistles correctly as bull thistle and Canadian thistle. I have just a few more of the latter to dig in the upper pasture and that job will be done for the year.

Yesterday I picked the first two bell peppers from our garden. I think Brian and I will have them for lunch. There are little yellow crooknecks, zucchini, cucumbers and melons visible among the vines and bushes, and a literal tomato jungle, all promising good things to eat in the near future. Bon appetit!
That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wicked beauty

I just came in for a glass of cold water and a bit of a break from battling the thistle. My ammo? A long-handled spade for digging up the "bull" thistle (that's what I call the particularly spiny, tough, nasty character pictured above) and full-sized "Canadian" thistle (what I call the smaller, more-sticker-less-spine variety we have) and rubber-coated gloves for pulling up the smaller Canadian thistle. Although I've been tackling it on a regular basis, there is still a lot to do. I was waiting on the promised rain last week to soften the soil and make the job easier, but we got no more than a few sprinkles.

This seems to be a particularly "good" year for tansy ragwort, too. We've never had much of it on our place, but this year I'm having to eradicate quite a lot. There are acreages near us that are positively yellow with the poisonous stuff, preparing to send millions of seeds blowing in the wind throughout the county. Thanks a lot, Adam and Eve. If it weren't for your fatal choices, we wouldn't have to deal with this stuff!

Back to the battle at . . .

Friday, July 20, 2007


When I couldn't see lamb silhouettes in the pocket pasture as I drove in our driveway yesterday, I turned the car toward the barn with a knot in my stomach. There, laying next to the OUTSIDE wall of their quarantine shelter, were the lambies, peacefully chewing their cud. Seeing they were in no danger, I put the car in the garage, unloaded my farmers' market purchases, and headed back down with my camera.
Both lambs got up, and Brava walked the few steps to the sheep pasture fenceline to browse in the hay that spilled out of the pasture feeder. I'm sure she and Braveheart spent lots of time schmoozing through the fence with the older girls; so much for quarantine! Since they arrived at Boulderneigh nearly four weeks ago, no big deal, right? Confession time. This was not their first nose-to-nose contact with the girls. Twice before the GIRLS have gotten loose, roaming freely for some time before discovery. I'm sure they checked out the newcomers in the quarantine pen when they had the chance. Sigh. I am a BAAAD shepherd. Fortunately, no one is showing any ill effects.

Getting the lambs back in their quarantine quarters (I don't trust three of the big girls not to flatten them if I put them all together) was easy with a bit of grain.Can you see the little burrs in their fleeces? Both are just LOADED with them; must be Queen Anne's Lace, although I didn't think it had seeded out yet. What a mess. If I'm going to show them at OFFF, I've got a LOT of picking to do. I hope they have some wool left when I'm finished!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tapping feet equals knitting mistakes

Brian and I enjoyed another excellent Brown Bag concert today. The band was Bridgetown, the music traditional Irish (my photo does NOT do the adorable button accordian player justice :-) -- mostly jigs and reels to accommodate special guests, the Tir Eoighan Ce'ili dancers.
One young lady was quite accomplished, and a "kick" to watch!
I took along my knitting (another Baby Surprise Jacket, a gift for a new baby at our church), but ended up having to frog the rows I knitted there. The music was too good and the dancers too much fun to watch to concentrate like I needed to, obviously! If someone I knew besides Brian was there to watch my handbag, I would have joined the members of the audience who went forward to learn a few steps and dance with the troop. There's an Irish dancer buried deep within me that would just love to come out!
After running errands and dropping off Brian so he could ride with his daddy on the last two vet calls of the day, I headed home. When the animals are out, I always do a mental "head count" as I drive onto our place: Sammy and Oliver in the upper pasture - check. Russell in the middle pasture - check. Ewes in the sheep pasture - check. Lambs in the "pocket pasture" - uh oh -- no lambs in the pocket pasture!

To be continued tomorrow at . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Too many irons in the fire equals "mushroom" bread

Some blogs feature photos of beautiful food. Me, I show flops -- literally! Making bread has been on my to-do list this week, so when another cool, cloudy day presented itself, I set out to replenish our freezer and pantry. But with all the other things I was trying to juggle at the same time, I didn't keep track of the rising loaves like I should have. When I finally thought to look in the warming oven, the dough was spilling over the sides of the pans!
Although the texture might suffer a bit I know it will still taste good; my consternation comes from the fact that these overrisen loaves won't fit in my bread bags -- not to mention my toaster slots! And that, dear ones, is a problem. I could try grilling them like the giant Portobello mushroom caps they resemble, but I don't think they would turn out satisfactorily. (On the other hand, butter and garlic makes anything delicious, right?)

On to baking off a batch of cookies at . . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The smell of rain

We awoke up to the lovely aroma of rain this morning. Rain was in the forecast for the middle of this week, and thankfully, the weatherwoman was right. We probably won't get much, even though we need it. It is DRY. Our well provides delicious water, but with an output of seven gallons/minute or less, it's not big enough for irrigating, just providing for our household, animals and garden.

The garden, of course, likes the hot, dry weather. With the timely application of water, everything is looking good but the corn. All but one of the potato plants died, so Brian and Rick harvested a nice "mess" of new potatoes on Sunday. We're also getting a few cherry tomatoes, raspberries and blueberries (the berries aren't pictured).

Here, looking east, you can see our browning lawn in the foreground (with the edge of the deck on the right), the crispy pasture beyond. There is no food value left in the pastures to speak of, just room to move and something to chew on out of boredom. Soon Rick will mow them so they look a bit neater. The lambs are enjoying a bit of green in a little pocket pasture; I guess they're special. :-) They are walking politely on their leads to the pasture every morning, and following the grain can (my invisible halter :-) back to their quarantine pen in the evening. I need to take them out for individual halter lessons as well, or their training will have a big hole.

Yesterday the farrier was out to trim and reshoe the horses. Our next appointment is Sept. 10, and I've asked him to bring his sheep shears. Dinah will definitely be ready to give up a nice-sized fleece of clean, coated white wool; Valentine's and Bella's fleeces look like they will have plenty of staple length, too. Not only will I get a second crop of fleece to sell or spin, I won't have to buy bigger coats to get them through until spring. That's a good thing; right, Martha?

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rent is expensive at the coast... hang on to the real estate you have!

These orange and purple sea stars (often called starfish) were just thick when we were at the coast on Saturday. I've never seen them this crowded before; apparently rent has gone up there like everywhere else.

Glad to be paying on a fixed-rate mortgage at . . .

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Oceans away

Just 50 or so miles away is another world - the Oregon coast. That is one of the things I love about living here, likewise southern California where I lived as a kid. Drive an hour or few in one of several directions and you are in an altogether different place. I remember weekend getaways to Joshue Tree National Monument (Gila Monsters!) and Baja (dune-buggies!), driving up the mountains to tube down snowy slopes, playing on the beach, and occasionally visiting theme parks (Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland, SeaWorld) and Tijuana (kinda like a trashy theme park).

Yesterday after church and lunch, we packed a picnic supper, picked up a friend whose wife and daughter are out of town, and drove to Lincoln City. At the north end of town the beach ends in a rocky promitory with lots of tide pools, and we were in luck -- the tide was out.

Taking time to play in the water, we made our way down to the tide pools and explored the accessible sea life.
We even climbed around the point to a "pocket beach" full of little agates and other pebbles, something I've long wanted to do. Not a place you want to get caught in when the tide comes in....

Before heading back towards the car and our waiting supper, we noticed flowers clinging to the rock face of the point (the "cliff" shown in the top photo). I'll leave you to ponder the parable in that image.

That's it for now at . . .