Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Applies to Internet flamewars:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Roll of the Ben

I wanted to check on how Ben's hock arthritis is doing, so I turned him loose in the ring today, figuring he'd take advantage of the opportunity to roll, and I'd be able to see (a) how easily -- or not -- he got back up, and (b) if he was stiff at first afterwards. When the arthritis is bad, he has to make more than one heaving attempt to get up and his hind end seems almost paralyzed at first once he's up, until he works out of it bit by bit.

No problem! He dropped, rolled on one side, got right back up, dropped to the other side, rolled on that one, got up and moved off comfortably. (No, Ben never rolls all the way over like a normal horse.) He also trotted along the long side freely and walked with an easy stride, stepping well under himself. You'd almost think he was ridable!

Ben did, of course, wander off to a far corner of the ring to paw and sniff and paw till he'd found just the right spot -- so close to the wall that if he had gone over he'd have been in a fair way to get cast. He always does that, the silly boy. I asked him, as I always do, "With all the ring to choose from, why there?" He answered, as he always does, "Cookie?"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today at the Barn

So today was warm and sunny, and I began the long hard process of cleaning Ben and Dora's paddock of the layers upon layers of manure and waste hay that built up over the winter. I took out five wheelbarrow loads, filled about three-quarters full since I'm not all that strong, and that stuff is wet and heavy thanks to the continuing meltwater runoff from the snow mounds along the barnside -- greatly diminished from their roof-lapping heights but still not gone. My hour of toil got down to bare ground in an area that must have been all of six, maybe seven square feet! Sigh. But I was working near the gate, where the worst of it is; once I've cleared about a 20x20 foot area, the rest won't be as bad.

When I'd had enough of that I took Ben into the fourstall and groomed him. Ran a stiff brush over him to knock off the upper layer of dust and shavings; dug deeper with the rubber currycomb, lifting mass quantities of loose fur; ran the medium brush over him to clean that off; took the Furminator in hand next and removed another layer of shed; and finished him with the soft brush. By then he was putty in my hands. I brushed and combed his long thick tangled mane and forelock till all the shavings flakes and knots were out, then girded my mental loins and began on his tail.

Now, Ben's tail, after a winter of blanket-wearing that causes him to fail to raise his tail very high when he relieves himself, is a mess you don't want to examine too closely. Or at all, really. It also likes to dreadlock itself if not combed out regularly, something I haven't done this winter. So working through it, level by level from the bottom up, handful of strands by handful of strands, with my special detangling brush was neither swift nor pleasant, but I did it; finished the exercise with a generous application of Cowboy Magic detangler/shine-imparter; and stood back to admire the glorious results of my hour's labor.

Then I turned him back out into his muddy paddock so he could roll and destroy all my handiwork.

He didn't, though, at least while I was there; no, there was lunch hay waiting for him, and so he set to it, far enough from his lady Dora that she wasn't likely to come attitude him off it, at least for a while. They munched companionably till a brouhaha over by the middle paddocks erupted. Dora rushed to the gate and watched, quivering, as things got sorted out. Ben looked up, decided it had nothing to do with him, and kept eating.


Five days later: Ben's paddock is clean! I've been pecking away at it for several days, clawing up the layers upon layers of ancient manure and waste hay, raking them into little piles, forking the piles into a wheelbarrow, and trundling them off to the manure container. Each day's labor saw several more square feet of cleared ground, and I figured if I kept at it and the weather held, I could get done in a week, maybe less.

Imagine my delight when I arrived at the barn yesterday to find Karen hard at work in the paddock, having taken over for Hilly, and a good three-quarters at least of what had been left to do already cleaned out! She took out one last big load, then had to leave, and I took over the job. With an hour or so of work, I forked the last load into my little wheelbarrow (I used a half-sized one so as not to overburden my feeble self) and trundled it off to dump.

And it was done! Oh, there are a few small spots where I want to tidy things up further, and there may be a bit more still hidden under the pathetic little strip of snow remaining along the wall where the giant slope once reared up to the barn eaves, but the paddock has been cleared of the horrible mess the melting revealed.

Thanks so much, Hilly and Karen! Couldn't have done it nearly so fast without you!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Memory of Belmont Past.

My word, as often as I've watched this, I STILL choke up every time! Screamed my throat raw when I watched it live. Secretariat was... Secretariat. The master of his era.

I used to think, how grand it would be if Secretariat could run a match race with Man O' War. But now I think they should each be the unique colossus of their own time, never to meet their equal, for in their own times there never was one worthy to claim that honor. Affirmed had his Alydar; these horses had no peer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ben's Choppers

Poor Ben, now he's got dental issues.

I got a call from the vet this morning, who'd just floated Ben's teeth and wanted me to know he'd found an upper molar cracked, partially missing, and a lower molar that was loose. Neither tooth appeared to be actively painful, and he's not having any problems eating his hay, in fact he gets extra and cleans up every bit, so we're not taking out either tooth just yet.

We'll have to keep alert for signs of trouble developing: not finishing his hay or eating in a way that indicates it's uncomfortable for him; dropping weight. Bacteria could travel up the crack in his upper tooth and brew an infection in his sinus, so a discharge from the nostril on that side would be another red alert. In any case, we'll have his teeth floated again in another six months or so and check on the problem teeth then.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finally warm enough for this!

Ben and I had a lovely time today. I hauled him out of his stall, put him on the crossties, pulled his blanket off, and went at him with curry comb, brush, and Furminator shedding tool. It’s been so long since I groomed the poor boy, his bridle path was grown out a good three inches. He was so ecstatic at being curried and brushed he didn’t even mug me for cookies, or object too much as I dragged the rake-comb through his tangled mane and forelock. Didn’t even try to deal with his tail; didn't have the strength, patience, and all afternoon.

I put him out in a paddock naked while I dug out the wet area in his stall and picked the worst of the manure. Nobody got turned out today (forecast of rain by late morning? Hilly went home sick? Dunno) and only one other boarder was there. She finished her stall and brought her horse in from an adjoining paddock before I was done, so I had to listen to Ben bellow piteously about being abandoned, but he was a good boy and didn't bounce around when I finally did rescue him. He’d only rolled on one freshly groomed side, and in snow, not the manure packed on top of it, so the refilthifying wasn't too bad.

I left him bare (and one-sided damp) in his stall. If he gets his midweight blanket put back on tonight, great; if not, he’s got enough fur despite today’s shedding adventure, not to mention a healthy layer of blubber, to keep him comfortable.

I'm sure he can't wait to roll in fresh spring mud.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Same Compost, Different Day

Into my second week on the composting program, and how do I like it so far?

Very, very much. I'd already been getting the cat litter into composting via the barn's manure collector container, but seeing it accumulate in my own little 12.5-gallon bin brought home just how much even one week's worth is -- most of the bin, in fact. Add another couple of food scrap bags' worth from the kitchen and the thing was stuffed full for its first pickup. Granted, I'd been dumping some outdated stuff in the scraps, which bulked that up somewhat, but this week's collector bag is almost full enough to go to the bin and I'll need to start a second one with three days to go before putting the bin out again.

Smell? No problem. The bin's in the garage and there's no odors escaping except when I lift the lid to dump the day's gleanings in. The kitchen scrap bag also doesn't smell, except for a slight whiff, not all that bad, when I lift the lid on the bag-holding container.

Replacement bags for the starters the folks at Public Works gave me? Those Bag To Earth kraft paper bags, alas, can't be found at any US retailer, but there are several suppliers of BPI-certified "plastic" bags. I now have a sleek plastic container on my kitchen shelf from Full Circle that works great and looks elegantly simple (in the grey and white, not that virulent green). I tried a 13-gallon bag in my bin but it wasn't wide enough at the top to hook over the rim, so I've Amazon-ordered a small box each of half a dozen different brands of 30/33-gallon trash/lawn and leaf BPI bags to see which I prefer. Yes, they'll be oversized, but at least I'll be able to drape the tops over the rim rather than having to reach down inside to unfold a smaller bag each time I want to dump something. Could leave the bin unlined, of course, but then I'd have to wash it out after each week's collection.

The folks running the town's program have sent me helpful emails with lots of good information, including yesterday's blast email to everyone about what can go into supermarket plastic bag collection bins -- not just grocery bags, but also bread bags, food/snack storage bags, shrinkwrap, produce bags, deflated packing air pillows, paper towel/toilet paper wrappings, dry cleaning bags -- it's just amazing how much can come out of the trash stream! Even before composting I had my trash disposal down to one bag every other week; I'm thinking now once every three weeks looks doable, with only my recycles going out every week.

And here's a tip: Those annoying packing peanuts? Hold one under running water; if it dissolves, it's compostable and can go into your compost bin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Compost Happens

Compost happens! It's a happening thing! Right here in Chez Graf!

I recycle, of course, all the usual stuff in the weekly green bin collection. Have been for many years, and the trash burden is down to one bag every other week, usually. But still it wasn’t enough. All those food scraps – salad trimmings down the garbage disposal, banana peels and coffee grounds in the trash along with used paper napkins – it seems like such a waste. Also there’s the cat litter. It’s all natural, corn or wheat or walnut shell based and compostable. I’ve been disposing of it in the manure trailer at the barn, but that has its own drawbacks, not least having to transport it there in my car in the hot season.

So I checked out my town’s composting program, found it good, and signed up. For a fee of $1.30 week ($68/year, prorated for when you join the program) you get a free 12-gallon collecting bin with a locking lid, a comprehensive information sheet, a couple of sample liner bags for the bin and some sample food scrap bags for the kitchen counter. The program takes a lot of stuff beyond food scraps, too:

The sample bags are a brand called Bag To Earth. That company makes a variety of composting bags, and if the samples I got are any indication, they do a terrific job. The tall skinny bag pictured is the bin liner I got.

I’ve been doing the composting collection for a couple of days now and my only question is, why did I wait so long to sign up? The scrap bag is already almost full, but that’s partly because I’ve tossed in a bunch of stuff I’d been meaning to do something about but let slide. The locking lid really does seal in the odors for the collecting bin, which in any case lives in my garage rather in the house. The kitchen scrap bag, a heavy kraft paper with a waxy paper liner that does not leak liquids, also keeps odors confined despite being sealed by no more than folding over and chip-clipping. I’ve already ordered a scrap container and BPI-certified liner bags (a different, easily available brand) for when the sample kitchen bags run out.

But. The one problem I have is liner bags for the bin. The samples fit the tall skinny bin perfectly. They’re also kraft paper and have the same fluid-resistant lining as the kitchen bags. But they’re made in Ontario, Canada, and so far are not available in my neck of the woods, in fact I don’t think any retailer in the United States is carrying them yet.

The friendly folks at Public Works suggested newspapers for lining the bin, but I don’t buy the newspaper any more; or paper grocery bags, which I do use for recycling anyway, but they don’t rise high enough in the bin. I picked up a pack of tall leaf collection kraft bags from the local hardware store, but while tall enough they’re too wide.

I’m going to email Bag To Earth and beg them to open up a source in the United States. And then there’s this friend I have in Canada, in Ontario, in fact....

Yo, Tina?

Sunday, March 8, 2015


It's been a horrible last month-plus of winter. Just awful. Haven't felt like writing here at all. Finally, there's some slow-melting relief in sight.

To hell with slow -- throw another bucket of water on that wicked winter witch!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Done -- But at What Price?

The massive mound on my second floor deck is no more. Given the forecast for rain on Sunday, I couldn't leave it un-dealt-with any longer. So as I slid the door open I braced cardboard in the opening to stop any mini-avalanche (though it's packed down enough not to be much of a threat that way, anyway) and after knocking down a multitude of icicles with my trusty snow shovel began attacking the chin-high drift.

I worked slowly, with frequent brief rest stops, for about half an hour and got a lot of it on one side over/through/under the railings. Then I went and lay down on my bed for a while, then went downstairs to finish the morning cat chores. The felines, I found, were mildly freaked out by the snowfalls I'd been creating.

After a bit I went back upstairs and resumed the attack. I could only get the slider partway open, and couldn't go out on the deck itself to work since I was still in my fuzzy mukluk slippers, but by stretching from the doorway I was able to clear all but a final rimwall from the far side of the deck -- well, for a certain value of "clear"; there's still around half a packed foot on the deck surface, but I've gotten off at least 75 percent of what had been out there. So now I shouldn't have to worry about the deck collapsing.

I may collapse, though. Never mind waking up tomorrow stiff and sore; I've got immediate aches in my bad ankle and my phony hip. My lower back is grumbling. My brachial plexus has some rather bitter things to say too. We'll see whether the ibuprofen can settle them down; if not, I do have a small stash of oxycodone left over from the surgery recovery. Don't want to use it; haven't needed to for over a year; but if I'm in real pain after I run the daily errands and don't have to go out and drive again, well....

And then, next week, there'll be ice. Dear Merciless God, there'll be ice. I'm going to check out Peapod.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Another Problem Solved

So I dodged an icy bullet today.

I've been worrying about one of the icicles growing ever downward from the eaves above my deck, the massively menacing one that pointed down into the gap between the deck and the privacy fence. Down, ever down, till it stretched from the second-floor eave to halfway down the first story. Down toward the gas pipe feeding my home, entering the basement wall a good foot-plus above ground level.

That pipe runs along the edge of the pit I've cleared around the dryer vent and furnace air intake, close to the privacy fence and partially covered with a steep snow slope -- but if the icicle fell it would crash right into the exposed part of the pipe. What would happen if it broke I'd rather not contemplate, not least because a gigantic drift has buried the pipe and the meter just past the exposed part, and beyond the meter there's also the air conditioner compressor and a large bush blocking access underneath the snow. And that's not even considering how the hell a gas repair crew would get access to the rear of the condo complex to begin with.


So this afternoon I dragged a six-foot aluminum folding ladder up from the basement, along with a snow shovel and a hay bale tote bag. The cats took one horrified look and fled. Having maneuvered everything out into the tiny cleared path snaking from the slider to the deck rail along the head-high deck drift, I leaned over the railing, cleared some snow from the edge of the pit, then wrestled the ladder over the rail and got its top propped against the privacy fence, sloping down over the pipe, and jammed its legs into the snow alongside the deck. Then I draped the flattened hay bale tote over the ladder to cover the gaps between the ladder sides and treads.

I looked up at the menacing icicle. It dripped menacingly at me. I reached out and up with the shovel and tapped it a few inches from its menacingly dripping tip.

Instantly the entire menacing monster broke loose and smashed down onto my makeshift shield. Large menacing chunks of menacingly drippy ice flew in all directions -- but the pipe protection held firm!

I did then have to plant the shovel in the snow to support myself as I leaned precariously down over the rail to clear away some still menacing chunks that had jammed between the pipe shield and the dryer vent flaps, but that was swiftly done and I was able to retreat back inside, scattering random clumps of snow on the carpet and brandishing my shovel. No cats, alas, were on hand to witness my triumphant return.

I'll have to keep an eye on things out there, make sure any future accumulations (like what's forecast for this weekend, sob) don't block the air access around the sides of the shield, but I feel ever so much safer now.

For those of you who don't know, here's a picture of a hay bale bag. It's about four feet long. If I feel sufficiently ambitious tomorrow, I'll take a picture of my handiwork.

Flying Cat

Many years ago I was lying in a clawfoot bathtub, quietly soaking, with the bathroom door open. Beastie came hurtling in, intent on leaping into the bathtub to hide, wildeyed, from whoever was pursuing her at the time -- a favorite game in the feline tribe. She zoomed in, bounded hugely onto the edge of the tub....

.. saw in one shocked and horrified instant that she was about to plunge into water....

... changed her trajectory to leap OVER me, hit the wall on the other side of the tub with all four feet, sproing off it, land back on the tub edge, and race out of the bathroom.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adventures on a post-blizzard deck

So we've been walloped twice in less than a week with mass quantities of snow -- first, over two feet's worth in the blizzard last week, then another 17 inches on Monday. My deck is buried in a drift that peaks over four feet.

That bit of black bar is the top of a metal deck chair. And those furrows along the top of the snow... whatever could they be?

From the mound on the deck the tunneling proceeds down the snow slope in the gap between the railing and the privacy fence:

Down, down, all the way to the pit where my digging and the hot air blast from the dryer and water heater have excavated a pit in the snow:

And those shots were how it looked yesterday. Today, whatever has been tracking and tunneling through the snow had expanded its realm; yesterday's tunnels have been enlarged and improved upon. See that dark triangle to the right of the post?

Let's take a closer look. Yup, the tunnel runs right along the deck planter, no doubt emerging at the outer rail of the deck.

Yes, that's the planter that's sitting on the top rail of the deck. That's how deep the snow drifted -- all 17 inches on top of the two-plus feet from the blizzard. Whatever's been digging through there has constructed an impressive highway.

There are lots of squirrels around here; my thinking during the day has been those rascals were/are responsible for the byway-building.

But wait! I'll be darned!

May not have been squirrels making those tunnels in the snow after all!

Just now, I was sitting in the living room and saw first Schooner, then Peanut hurry to the slider to the deck and stare out, entranced. I got up and came to see what they found so fascinating.

There, sitting in the snow, its wee nose right up against the glass, was....

A rabbit!

A little brown wild rabbit, looking in at the cats looking at it, and not in the least dismayed into flight at my appearance. It twitched its nose a couple of times, then calmly turned and hopped in a loop back to the top of the snow mound and paused.

I rushed to the dining room table -- no camera. I'd put it back in the car. When I came back to the living room the bunny was gone, though the cats still sat staring out into the snowy darkness.

And so ends another adventure in the exurban wilderness.... For now. Who knows what other surprises are lurking out there?

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's the little things....

Attention to detail. Gotta love it.

As part of having my bathroom repainted, I bought new cover plates for the light switches and electrical outlets. The painter put those on in the course of finishing up the job.

This evening I happened to take a closer look at them and realized that, of the four screws holding on one plate and two screws holding on the other, every single one had its screwdriver slot vertical. Only one was even slightly out of plumb.

Now, that's good workmanship.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Curses! Foiled again!

So I'm peeling and sectioning a blood orange -- my first time trying one, by the way; unfortunate name for a decently tasty fruit -- and Peanut, he of the ever-raging appetite, stands below me in the kitchen, looking hopeful, while Schooner, the cat who does not grasp the concept of boundaries, comes up along the sink to me to see what I'm fixing.

I offer both a whiff of half-peeled orange. They shrink back, wrinkling their whiskery noses in distaste.

I take the bowl to my recliner in the living room, sit down, and begin eating as I proofread. The ever-raging appetite and the boundaryless one observe this and lock radar on the bowl. "Food? You eat, we eat. Yes?"

I hold the bowl down toward them as they close on my chair. They sniff, pull back in dismay, and stare bewildered at me. I'm eating it; it must be good; they should get some; what has gone wrong? Surely if they stare hard enough at me I will relent and produce the good stuff that must be in that bowl?

I offer it again. It is, alas, still not good stuff. They wander away, disconsolate.

I am a hardhearted woman, and not at all a good mom. I chuckle.

Addendum: Every few minutes Peanut comes back to check: "Has the icky stuff turned into FUD? For ME?" Bowl proffered. Cat repelled. Again.


Update on Peanut: Yesterday he was cruelly disappointed when the bowl I was eating from proved to contain icky orange slices rather than FUD! he'd like.

Today, however, his luck had turned. When I'd finished my snack of chips and dip I offered him the dip bowl to see if he'd like the scanty remnants, and he did.

He licked up every minuscule bit of mashed avocado coloring the bowl.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Report

I'm currently racing to the finish of Philippa Gregory's "The Red Queen", set in pre-Tudor England during the War of the Roses, and it's quite the tour de force: Told in the first person by what has to be the most remarkably nasty, bitter, vain, spiteful, envious, self-righteous, cold-hearted, holier-than-thou, hateful protagonist I have ever encountered -- and it's a gripping, engrossing page-turner.

It's chronologically the second book in her Cousins' War historical novel series about the pre-Tudor era, but fortunately I started with "The White Queen" (number 3), then went back to "The Lady of the Rivers" before "The Red Queen" -- these books all overlap a lot, timewise, you're seeing many of the same events from wildly different perspectives, and if I'd read the current novel before "The White Queen" (which in fact was written first) I'd have missed a lot of what makes this one so deliciously enjoyable despite the truly dreadful persona of the protagonist. Next up: "The Kingmaker's Daughter", then "The White Princess", then "The King's Curse".

This is the author of "The Other Boleyn Girl" and "The Queen's Fool", both part of her series of novels set in the Tudor era, which I'd read some years ago. I'm tempted, when I'm done with the Cousins' War series, to go back to them and wallow in all six books in her Tudor Court series.

Her website, for more info if you're interested:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ben is a bad boy

Caught in the act! And no, Ben, it wasn't Winston who yanked off Dora's halter and then tossed it over the fence; and you aren't merely trying to put it back on her.

You are a very mischievous boy.

A delightful surprise

How wicked cool is this?

I ordered a bunch of stamps from the USPS online and when they arrived, I unsleeved them from their protective wrap and backing. When I got to the sheet of Janis Joplin commemoratives, I got a pleasant surprise!

Online you just see the image of the stamp itself. On the actual sheet, what you'll find is this: on the back, it's all a photo of Janis in full joyous belt against a backdrop of funky psychedelic lettering. On the stamp side, the block on stamps lies on what looks like an album paper jacket, complete with the worn-down outline of the platter within, and with the edge of the record just peeking out of the top.

Well done, USPS!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I would not have expected this

Ben is funny.

A few days ago Hilly happened to be eating a clementine nearby his paddock. He hung at the fence, making his "Please please please" puppy dog face till she handed him a slice, not really expecting him to do anything except lip it and drop it into the mud.

He inhaled it.

So today, just for the heck of it, I offered Ben a kumquat. That's right, one of those silly little grape-sized citrus thingies. He sniffed it, took it tentatively, and chewed it in the front of his mouth, presumably ready to spit it out if it turned out to be icky.

It was, as it turns out, not icky. He swallowed the tiny treat and accepted a second and a third kumquat with cheerful greed, and would have taken more if I'd offered them. I refrained, not wanting to overload his belly with something so outre compared to his usual diet.

Ben is funny.


Update, a few days later: Alas, Ben's brief infatuation with kumquats has ended. First day: intrigue, inhalation. Second day: happy gobbling. Third day: sniffing, ambivalent acceptance. Fourth day: sniffed, slowly taken, chewed once, spat out.

But horse cookies are cheerfully accepted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Getting an Edge

Status: Exhausted, much depleted of invective inventory, and pleased.

The Gazelle Edge exercise thingie arrived today, yippee! Further yippee: The young delivery man who toted its heavy boxed immensity up my ten front stairs was kind enough to then haul it inside and all the way to its future home in the living room. Where it sat while I got some rush work out of the way.

That done, I set about unboxing and sorting the contents, with a first set of imprecations to warm up for what lay ahead. The picture-and-word instructions were reasonably clear; all parts were present and accounted for; the sequence itself was not too involved; so it only took me about an hour and a few fucktons of curses to get it finished.

The first time mounting the beast was kinda scary; those footrests swing easily and you have GOT to hold the side bars, NOT the handles, to get aboard safely. But I did it!

And by golly, it works. It's easy to master the motion, it's not overly hard to do; yet I could feel enough effort being expended to believe that it will in fact do me some good to work out on it. It does take up some of my limited floor space, but not too much, and it will fold up. Best of all, my wonky joints didn't complain a bit.

The cats, natch, were horrified at the intruder who hauled it in; emerged from hiding to sniff cautiously at the box, then try their claws on it; fled the assembly cursing and played in the cast-aside packaging; and are now clumped around the edges of the Edge, no doubt annoyed because it's sitting right where several of them like to congregate in the hour before supper trying to guilt me into serving an early meal.

I hope I'm around to see it when one of them tries getting on one of the swinging footrests.


Next morning update:

The Gazelle Edge -- so far, so good. I'm so deconditioned that it really does tire me out after a few minutes of not-that-hard work, so I've been using it in short bursts, as frequently as I can find occasions for. I did feel a little bit of "Hey, you've been making us work!" muscle ache this morning when I got up, nothing the usual morning activities couldn't warm me out of.

You do have to pay attention to some degree, as it's possible to get your right-left glides out of sync, or one leg working harder than the other. But you can still watch TV while gliding along.

It's primarily a lower-body exerciser, but it works better to tighten your gut muscles, and there is a small upper-body component that can't hurt, might help.

All in all, I do believe I've made the right choice for a home exercise contraption.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Tiny Triumph

I rode today!

No, not Ben; he's retired for good. Nope, I rode a calm, steady little Haflinger schoolie -- the guy Hilly gives lessons to beginner little girls on, but who's up to my weight, even in my Aussie saddle.

With Hilly offering occasional advice and otherwise chatting with me on this and that, we walked and we trotted, which was fun once I got used to the very different feel of his short stride compared to my spider-legged TB. Royal was in his bitless bridle, the one he wears for beginners, to spare his mouth from unsteady hands hauling on it. This, combined with his somewhat lackadaisical attitude toward leg aids, made him rather less steerable than sensitive Ben, though I was able to send him in circles and across the diagonal without much trouble. Hilly tells me he's more responsive when he's in a bitted bridle -- "Oops, not a beginner I can tune out; I better listen up now" -- and we'll probably put that on him next time.

Yes! Though I only managed 15 minutes today before my body said "That's enough for now, thankyouverymuch," I am greatly encouraged at how I blew past all my fear issues and physical limitations and had FUN. Solid, sensible, lower-to-the-ground Royal was just what I needed to get back into riding. He's such a good doobie.

Of course, we'll see what my body has to say about it after I've sat here and set up for a while, and when I crawl out of bed tomorrow morning. The hip, yes, is sore now; we'll see if an ibuprofen can quiet it down.

Update: I rode Royal again a day or two later, and this time we remembered to take photos! So here we are in all our glory:

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Useful Exercise

The horses are in today, thanks to the rain. I put Ben out just long enough to clean his stall, since it had dwindled to drizzle and light showers by the time I arrived. It took him a while (he's not the sharpest pencil in the box) to realize he was out ALL ALONE and bellow pitifully for rescue.

Meanwhile, I tackled his large stall. His large filthy stall. His large filthy stall where he, a big eater and even bigger drinker, had been free to pee and poop from suppertime yesterday to midday today. I took out three (or was it four?) level wheelbarrow loads, sodden and stinking, and could have taken out more if I'd chosen to be fanatical about it. Then I brought the pathetically relieved big guy back inside.

It was (a) satisfying to give him a clean stall; (b) some useful exercise; and (c) a good reminder of just why I've given up doing rough board.

Now I have to go change. And wash my hands again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Oh, right, like I needed this

Well, this sucks.

As if it weren't bad enough that I'm having ongoing lower back pain and stiffness; discomfort I thought was just the passing result of some heavy lifting two weeks ago, except that, instead of getting better, in the last few days it's got markedly worse. So much so that I wake up in the morning with a real problem moving; so much so that last night I had to abandon my bed and sleep in the recliner -- which helped the back but had its own not so great effect on my hips.

Yeh, hips, plural. The replaced one can be mildly achy off and on, though nowhere near as bad as before the operation. But now the right hip is getting grumpy; for the past few months it's been treating me to low-level but frequent hot-feeling discomfort. I'm nowhere near needing to think about getting that one replaced -- yet -- but that's another cloud on my horizon.

The knees, fortunately, while still niggling at me aren't too much of a problem, though they're not normal strength. The right Achilles tendon, for a wonder, is actually getting better though it too still can bother me if I walk too much. But the lower back pain and stiffness have me wondering whether there might be a disc problem. I'll be seeing my physical therapist tomorrow and will see what if anything he can do to help. If the back still sucks next week I'll go see my doctor.

So, anyway, I've been dealing with all this frustrating debility, wondering how much more decrepitude lies ahead, and now? Now, on top of all that?

Another damned tooth just broke while I was eating. Not really surprising, given how generally crappy my fangs are, not to mention the ratio of filling to enamel in the pathetic bit of dentition that I spat into my hand. And at least the remaining stub isn't hurting.


But I did not need this. Especially on my preferred chewing side.

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Friday late-day update:

Some reasonably good news: my physical therapist doesn't believe the back pain's from a disc problem; apparently I'd be having pain radiating down my leg it it were.

So, a strain. He's given me a couple of gentle stretches to help, plus things I can do with pillows to relieve stress on the area while sleeping, since it's worst right out of bed. Or I'll sleep in the recliner for a few nights to given my back some relief from what's bothering it. Also, both heat and ice packs can be useful.

I am now sitting fairly comfortably in my recliner, enveloped in Ben-Gay fumes.


Saturday morning update:

Another night in the recliner, and progress!

It's not the most restful place to sleep; it bothers my bad Achilles tendon, in fact, given where the edge of the footrest lands; but it sure does make my lower back happier. I got up for one of the usual bathroom runs around 6:30 and decided to go upstairs to my bed, see if the therapist-suggested pillow arrangements would work. Turns out sleeping on my side, no matter how I prop myself, makes lumbar-me unhappy, surprisingly quickly. Turning onto my back, with under-knee pillowing, is much better, other than exposing my torso to the crushing weight of a cat or two. Still, it will probably take another night or so in the recliner to settle things down enough for me to resume my bed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wetlands deadwood

The Miles River runs between Hamilton and Ipswich, Massachusetts. Where Gardner Street becomes Sagamore Road a causeway runs across the river's broad wetlands, and from there one has a sweeping view up and down river of the drowned lands. Much of it must have been dry once; in riding my horse on trails nearby I've found traces of old cart paths leading into what's now wetlands, and the skeletal trees sticking up from the reeds bear mute witness to the past.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

W're All Gonna DIE!!!!!!!

Oh, for fuck's sake -- has the world gone mad? Madder even than usual? Behold, the craziness infecting the salt of the earth in Maine: "Maine school board puts teacher on leave after she traveled to Dallas"

That's right, a teacher goes to a conference in Dallas, ten miles from the hospital where Mr. Duncan died, and terrified parents are convinced a wave of The Dread Pirate Ebola is about to sweep through their school. And the school board gives in to the idiocy. My favorite comment on the article by one Andrew Schaefer: "This is like blowing up your house because you saw a cockroach in your kitchen, and then napalming the entire neighborhood just to be sure, and then pouring ten feet of cement over all of it."