February 28, 2010

Well, darn!

I fell off my horse again. Buggsy, this time. On Friday afternoon. Cindy and I have been having a great time riding on the 400 acres behind her house. It has good footing and we were moving along quite nicely when Buggs and I came to a bush where a decision had to be made: do we go right or left? I should have made the decision, because we were not in sync. Buggs went right and I went left.

I tried to grab mane, or his neck, but Buggsy is a pretty fast guy and left me. This is when I hurt myself. I did a face plant, but no damage done there. Meanwhile, Cindy, on Sophie, is in hot pursuit of Buggs, who came to a stop at the end of the fence. He sure looked handsome trotting off ...

I admit I did not feel very well, and I should know by now that if I feel like I am going to pass out, I am hurt. We took the horses back to the road, where Dan came to meet us. (This is one time when cellphones are great). I drove home and Dan rode Buggs back.

Last time I broke my wrist I was in considerable pain, so I thought this might just be a bad sprain, but it was not getting any better so we went to the emergency room this morning. Verdict: a non-displacement fracture, and my wrist in a splint. I am to see the ortho guy this week for a cast (hopefully), because this splint is a bit restrictive. Typing for one is a drag. Besides, there is my life to be lived: horses to ride, and gardening season will be upon us soon.


The forecast said there was 100% chance of precipitation for today. 100%? Come now, I have not seen that here in AZ. I got up last night at midnight and the full moon was out; 100%?, yeah, right. But when we got up the wind was howling, the ground was soft and wet, and there was snow in the mountains. Another 0.3 inches of rain fell, and we will continue to have squalls all day long.

The hummingbird came to feed again this morning; I think we must be his dependable cold-weather food supply. There are a lot of quail in the yard, and the goldfinch feeder is continually occupado. The flower seedlings are undoubtedly shivering in the cold frame. It is above freezing though, and they need the light.

It will be a good day to hole up and spend time on the couch with some mags and books.

February 26, 2010

Winter chores

Much as I enjoy the riding and hiking, I enjoy putzing around the ranch too. It is wonderful not to have the pressure of having to get things done "right now", because you are working and there are only 24 hours in the day, or because the weather happens to be decent enough on a weekend that you'd better take advantage of it as you may not have another opportunity in the next month or so.

I have been spreading old manure on some of the empty garden beds already, and today I decided to clean out the brussels sprouts and broccoli that never produced this winter because I started them too late. Note to self: start seedlings in August. But even though they did not produce for us, they were nice plants and the hens had a hay day with them.

Dan was nice enough to continue to replace the irrigation valves in the garden. The sun is murder on plastic, and some of them broke off when they were turned on. So, this next generation is metal valves. We are learning ...

The weather is gorgeous today and I noticed the both the apple trees are thinking spring: they are leafing out. Let's hope that there is no more frost. The trees are so small though that I can easily throw some protection over them should that be necessary.

February 25, 2010

Running water!

Dan complained yesterday, after his hike around Blacktail, that he could feel he had not been hiking lately. So he suggested we tackle the Stronghold today as that is our ultimate conditioning hike that is close-by. I was a little concerned about the condition of the trail with all the moisture we have had lately, but mud is water soluble. As it turned out, the Forest Service had done a lot of work to divert the water off the trail.

We were already surprised to have to cross water coming into the Stronghold as the road crosses the creek in several spots which are usually dry, but when we got out of the car you could hear the water running. It was almost a river.

The trail follows the creek for more than a mile and it was wonderful to see that the vegetation had already perked up from all that rain: the oaks were fresh and green, the desert plants turgid. Everything looked happy, and the sound of the water over the rocks and the little waterfalls was enchanting.

When we got to Half Moon Tank, it was full and overflowing. We have never seen so much water in it. Lately it had been bone dry, and I remember a small, muddy pool in better times. Emma, being a happy Lab, immediately plunged in and brought a branch to shore that apparently needed to be retrieved.

We do wonder whether the Stronghold was in the national news lately: we have never seen so many people on our hike. And that on a Thursday!

February 23, 2010

Why I love Arizona

One of the reasons anyway. We had a nasty day yesterday with lots of wind and rain. More than 0.25 inches fell, and some of it in the form of snow after dark. I must admit that we are getting a bit tired of this kind of weather: we want to be outside and play! But, and here is the reason, today it is gorgeous again.

So far we have had more than 5 inches of precipitation for the year, and this is such a good thing after the dry years that we have had.

February 21, 2010

Pottery class 3

After being cold yesterday, I thought I was better prepared for the weather this morning, but the wind was even colder today. More rain/snow in the forecast for the next couple of days. We are over 4.5" of rain for the year!

It was amazing to see the fire pit this morning. All the wood had been totally consumed, and the metal "saggers" had gotten pretty hot. The good news was that none of the pots blew up, and in the process damaged other ones, but 2 of the larger pots had cracked. This was probably due to us rushing the heat-buildup process because of the snow storm.

Tim and Pam went over crack repair and finishing this morning, but neither Dan nor I felt our pottery were worthy of more work. I wished the weather had not been so good last week so I would have been more motivated to do the homework. Perhaps I will have a go at it tomorrow, if I have to stay inside. There is talk of a follow-up class for trashcan firing, or working with the local clay, and I think that would be fun.

February 20, 2010

Pottery class 2

This was the second day of our pottery class: the day of the firing of our treasures. Some people had done some great homework and produced wonderful pots; Dan and I were not among them ...

The weather started out nice enough and we were scoffing at the weather forecast of 40% chance of rain: it was perfectly clear and sunny, but that would change. Tim instructed some of the guys to build the fire pit to specifications. He then added saltillo tiles to the floor and loaded the pots in a specific sequence. Everything was then covered, and four fires were lit after we put all our positive energy into the impending firing process.

Then the task was one of carefully tending the fire as it could not get too hot initially: the pots had to increase in temperature gradually or they would blow up. As the fire got hotter, the weather got colder and nastier until in the afternoon we were in a full blown storm in which 0.25 inches of rain and snow fell. Tim saw the squall coming and we all rushed to put the majority of the remaining wood on the fire for the final "soak". It was an out-and-out bonfire which kept burning for a long time before the snow finally did it in.

We came home well-smoked and cold, but a hot shower took care of that. Tomorrow we get to uncover the pots ...

February 17, 2010

Itchy fingers

What a gorgeous day it was today! Clear skies and temperatures almost reaching 70 degrees. This gets my gardening juices flowing, although it is way too early to plant in the garden. My thoughts did turn to working the soil and adding manure, but Dan was on the tractor working up the arena with the disk we bought from a friend. And a great addition this tool is to the WD!

It is even a bit early to start tomatoes and peppers indoors, but in looking at all the flower seeds I bought this year, this is a good time to get them going. Besides, I don't have the room for starting more than 2 flats on the heating pads, so by the time the flower seeds have sprouted and can be put in the cold frame, it will be time to start those summer veggies.

I am amazed at the different type of seeds. There are the tiniest round ones (echinacea), little brushes (bachelor buttons), stamen look alikes (cosmos), little worm-looking ones (calendula). And all those will be gorgeous plants sometime this year. It's magic.

To top off this marvelous day, Dan and I joined Cindy in another bone-finding expedition on the 400 acres next door to her house. We had a splendid time with energized, and sometimes fractious, horses, running around the pasture at speed. We even found a number of new items to add to Cindy's collection.

February 15, 2010


Cindy has given our "find bones" activity a name: boning. We are even thinking about a logo for t-shirts. Yesterday we went out on horseback bonin'. It is easier to spot treasures from the higher elevation, and we are able to cover a large piece of ground. The drawback is that we cannot take home our finds. At least we are getting smart enough to mark the spots with surveyor tape.

Today we went back on foot to collect the bones with my small daypack and Cindy's large duffel. It was amazing how difficult it was to find our yellow ribbons. All the mesquites look about the same and there is at least 400 acres to cover. But we found the most precious find, the cow skull, and managed to pick up some of the other bones we had marked. I know there are still some out there that we missed.

This is our cache to date. Cindy is planning to make cow skeleton, or some other sculpture, from the bones.

First class digs

The stall remodel is finished! The drainage rock and the stall mats appear to be working out well in Bueno's and Cody's stalls, so today we added dirt to the back of the stalls and provided better drainage for the water buckets. Although we use automatic waterers, the horses have made it clear that they prefer the bigger buckets, so we relented and reinstalled them.

We built up the soil with sand and drainage rock where it puddles because it is lower there, and in doing so disturbed two spadefoot toads in hibernation. I thought one of the them was dead and was about to bury him when thankfully he showed signs of life so I put him back in a sandy, wet hole. The other toad was more alert, and I was able to get a picture of him.

We planted a self-fruitful pecan tree in the unused triangle between the big roundpen and the stalls. It will need a lot of water and will benefit from having horse buckets emptied in its basin on a regular basis. Hopefully we will see pecans in our life time. We also added new wire to Buggsy's stall to control his cribbing addiction and added a equine scratch pad as a treat. Are these lucky horses or what?

February 13, 2010

Pottery class 1

Our neighbor Diane had met ceramicists Tim and Pam Ballingham at a party over the holidays and was intrigued by their work and their knowledge of the way the native Americans worked clay. Rather than going to a workshop in Tucson, she decided to get some of her friends together for a personalized one at her and Jim's home.

Dan and I signed up, and today was the first day of a 2 1/2 day pottery event. I learned a lot, and my head is a bit aswim because I am not familiar with clay or pottery at all. We used two techniques, pinch and coil, to make two projects that we dried out on the veranda in the beautiful weather.

In the afternoon we also learned burnishing and working with slips (colored, diluted clays) to decorate. We brought home 3 different kinds of clay (white, red and chocolate brown) to make additional projects during the week that we will bring back next Saturday to be fired in a pit in the Brower's old horse corral, the way the Indians used to do it and the way it is still done in Mata Ortiz in Mexico.

It was fun to work with clay, in spite of the fact that things never turn out the way I intended them to be. The pot I made will be great accompaniment to the 1958 ashtray Dan made in Cub Scouts. But some people did turn out some very nice projects. Perhaps I need more practice.

February 12, 2010

Sparkle Ridge

Due to the wet weather that we have been having, our hiking has taken a bit of a back seat. When the weather is dry we feel compelled to work on the projects around the ranch. It is easy to lose momentum, and then the projects that started out as fun become drudgery. The stall remodel is starting to feel that way but the end is in sight.

It looks like we are in for some fine weather over the next week so we decided that play is as important as work and we needed to get out. Cindy is always ready for a bit of exercise so she joined us for the hike to and up Sparkle Ridge.

It is an easy hike, but on the longer side (more than 6 miles round trip), and it is all the way up and then all the way down. The views along the way are spectacular. I must say though that not the entire ridge sparkles, it is just one spot where the rock is different and where the quartz crystals abound in all sizes. It is hard to decide which rocks to take home, so we spent some time deciding while snacking on some homemade energy bars.

February 8, 2010

Stall remodel

This must be one of the longest small projects that we have had around here, and all that because of wet weather. Both Bueno and Cody have over the years dug substantial holes in their stalls, particularly around the feeders. Quick and cheap fixes of course never last, so we had a dump truck of drainage gravel delivered to fill the holes. Thankfully John Deere helped out in getting the gravel distributed again: we would be sunk without that tractor. Meanwhile I drove to our nearest feed store, 30 miles away, and bought 6 stall mats for each stall. The horses were sprawled out while all this was going on.

We tried the best we could to pack down the gravel and make a level base with the tractor, and installed the mats. It looks great, and best of all, it looks like it might work and keep the horses from standing in holes, as well as make daily cleanup easier.

I wonder if Buggsy is going to be jealous ...

February 7, 2010

Beating the rain

More moisture in the forecast, so Dan and I decided to do a quick hike around Blacktail Hill before it was due here. The weather map showed the rain had already arrived in Tucson.

As always preceding rain here, there was a lot of wind, but at least part of the time the trail is sheltered from most of it. We got home just in time to clean stalls, and to see the clouds come swooping down the mountains.

All in all, it looks like we are just on the southern edge and there will not be a lot of measurable precip. Good afternoon to do some baking.

February 6, 2010

Looking for cows

Cindy's husband, Casey, is here for a few days from Vermont. It was the hope that the house would be finished and that they would be moving in this weekend, but this is unfortunately not the case. Casey is not one to sit around however, so he made himself immensely popular by going to Tucson and adding a gate into the cow pasture, with the permission of the cows' owner.

To inaugurate the new access, Cindy invited us to go with her and look for cows. Being allowed back into this pasture opens up all kinds of lovely riding possibilities. The cows are grazing on 400 acres of grassy, flat valley land, with a few washes and some mesquite: good footing, great views, and even some wildlife other than the cows. We saw a javalina today.

It was a great ride. We covered a lot more than 400 acres, ended up at the corner of Cochise Stronghold Road and Ironwood Road, but found no cows until we were almost back to our starting point. They were at their water source, which is not far from Cindy's paddocks. Helena Rubenstar, the mustang mare that Cindy has been feeding like royalty, was waiting for her dinner and met our boys and managed to even kick up her heels.