Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Childhood Dream

Well, if you were riding with me, and decided to take a picture during the ride, naturally you'd get my back and Dink's roany rear end.

Dink's had a rough winter, but is on the mend, or at least as much of a mend as a horse who will be 23 this year can have. He's put on some weight, and regained his need to be The Horse, out in front, leading everyone else.

Eddie, on the right, carrying Cathy the Mad Horsewoman, has learned from walking beside Dink that it's better to lag a little behind; when he gets up too close to the side of Dink, Dink will occasionally flatten his ears at Eddie, which is Horse language for "Push your luck and I will knock the shit right out of you." Eddie is too smart to push his luck.

We rode Woodward Reservoir yesterday, reveling in the lack of campers and dog trainers and goose hunters. The dirt roads are getting grassy with winter, the hills green with new grass. The reservoir itself has been half-drained, exposing sandy beaches. The resultant green land, clean yellow beaches, and brilliantly blue water makes me think of an exotic beach location, maybe a lush island, maybe the Riviera. Maybe Madagascar.

We rode on the roads on the way out, but on the way back, I led the way onto the exposed sandy expanses. At times it was like riding through a desert, with the soil/sand cracked and dried by the sun; but then, as we neared our camp, it was like riding on the beach, with the sandstone and sand challenging our horses, the wind blasting us and raising whitecaps on the remnants of the lake.


After being raked, hoed, and pounded by the wind, sitting down to eat our sandwiches and chips and drinks felt like true luxury, even though the wind was so cold we couldn't take our coats off, and had to sit on saddle blankets at the cement picnic table to keep from freezing our butts off.

Being The Chuck Wagon as well as being the Woman on the Horse that Has To Be Out in Front, I made the grub. Sandwiches were semi-subs of seasoned turkey, bologna, salami, and cheese, or chicken with stuffing-seasoned mayonnaise. There were potato chips, and oranges, and bottled water or diet soda. (I brought wine for myself, a cheap but tasty pinot grigio decanted into an empty plastic water bottle. Classy, no?)

That's Dink on the left, tied to the trailer behind Cathy the Mad's glitzy new truck, and Eddie on the right, both of them watching us eat sandwiches with envy. Don't pity them -- we let them graze on the reservoir's land's rich green grass before we ever sat down.

If I had seen this adventure when I was seven, I would have said, "Yes! That's what I want to do when I grow up! I could never have enough of that!" I tried to remember that feeling as I oozed up the home sidewalk afterward, every muscle feeling like worn-out jelly.

We had a wonderful ride, and I hope the horses are rested because tomorrow, Thursday, we're riding out again at Camanche Reservoir.

Our friend Nikki took these pictures; I'm hoping tomorrow that I can take a few of my own.

Monday, February 11, 2013


This week in the Piker Press, Michael Price has a story, "The Health Club Gallery Tour."

I did this picture for the cover, but my intention is to add to it as I get the other pictures done. Some will be simple, some not so.

This marks my first foray into colored pencils in about seven years, if not more. I was inspired -- bewitched -- by Alex's use of colored pencils on her blog, Zombie Mommy.

Maybe "inflamed" is a better word.

Anyway, I started out with small pieces of bristol, and a quick pencil sketch, then added permanent lines with a Pilot Precise V5, and then had at it with the colored pencils.

The work took longer than I thought it would, but that was fine, because I was really enjoying it. I did not care to go back in the warm house (the studio is perfect today) so I worked on the second of nine images that will eventually grace Michael's story. (I use the term "grace" very liberally.)

I even studied Picasso paintings for a different feel.

Different, and delightful.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Just Say No

Wednesday was Horseshoeing Day.

I'd taken the shoer's call the day before (he has us on an 8-week schedule) and planned on being out there an hour before he was to arrive, so as to clean out Dink's paddock (a necessary job) and let Dink blow off some steam if he wanted to. My plan was to be the first out there, my horse ready, get my horse shod and get the hell home. Two hours, tops, maybe less, because Rodger Gordon the shoer doesn't piss around.

I had moved only a few horse patties when one of the other two folks who were having their horses shod showed up. "We have to have the mare done first, because her owner isn't going to be here, and he wants me to hold her, and I have to leave for an appointment in not too long."

In other words, "We both have shit to do, and know that you don't, so you won't mind wrapping things up, right?"

In point of fact, I didn't have pressing things to do, if you don't count working on the Piker Press (haha, funny, yes?) or cooking the midday meal in time to avoid the Heartburn Train that rolls in early these days. Or laundry, or dog-walking (which is more important than it sounds), or writing, or painting ...

The request wasn't unreasonable, and so I just cleaned up Dink's paddock, clipped a lead line to the mare's halter after luring her to her gate ("Oh, you're doing that already?") and when the shoer pulled in, handed off the mare. We got the gelding tied up and started as well, and I went and got Dink, and brought him out to the yard and tied him. The shoeing of all three horses went well, but I made a decision, having spent more than two hours more time than I intended at the ranch.

Time to say NO.

Yesterday morning, I got up, fed the dogs, said my morning prayers, and picked up the phone. "No, I am not going for a trail ride today. I'm tired, and I'm going to go back to bed." Saying no to eight hours of prep, saddle, and waiting around for other people to get their horses ready gave me a whole day to do some really necessary shopping, almost all the laundry, the cooking of a complicated and luscious midday meal, and some Press work, too. And when that was done, I had the sweet pleasure of sitting in the sunset light with my husband and admiring the blossoms on the eucalyptus tree, and how the sunbeams hit them just so ... had I gone on the trail ride, I'd be just dragging in, exhausted by the exertion and the stress of knowing there was so much at home that needed to be done.

I also said NO to continuing the writing challenge. Some days I'm just too tired, and some days I spend more time on art work, or nitpicky culinary feats. When I write, I rarely write for only 15 minutes, and when I don't want to write ... I really DON'T want to write.

In addition, I've firmed up my decision to say NO to letting this lady's kid ride my horse. He thinks Dink is wonderful, and that's cool. When I gave the lad a ride early last year, I wasn't riding 20 hours a week, and didn't have a new grandbaby in the house to spend time with. Also the kid's mom thinks she can get away with something. If the boy is horse-crazy, she needs to get him some lessons with a competent instructor. I told her that. "I'm sure he'd much rather have you teach him," was her reply. What do they call that, a passive-aggressive response? If she did her homework, she'd know that a good instructor charges $50/hr. Yes, I'm also sure that she would rather have her kid taught to ride by someone who would obviously do such out of the goodness of her heart rather than for money.

Anyway, I have no idea how many days Dink has in his horsey heart, and I don't want to spend them on some kid hauling on him, and I'll add to that by saying if Dink gets fed up with a stranger hauling on him, I don't honestly know what Dink will do. He might just stop and stand; he might bite the shit out of the kid, and then where am I?

No. No. No. No. No.

Oh, yeah, I also said no to Cathy the Mad Horsewoman, who wanted a trail ride at the reservoir tomorrow. "No," I told her, "I want to do some arena work with Dink." Arena work will be about 40 minutes, and then I can send him back to his breakfast, and me to the next issue of the Press.

Will I walk with Howie tomorrow?


Tuesday, February 05, 2013


After three years of bare cement, this year we should be able to address the lack of cement floor covering, and this is a hint of what is to come.

We've chosen a porcelain tile with a color profile that ranges from gray to red, in 12-inch tiles and 6-inch tiles, and this pattern will predominate throughout. We bought these sample tiles today.

Bernie and I intend to do the installation ourselves -- the cost of hiring someone to put the tile down for us is insanely prohibitive for us, and frankly, I'm so sick of bare concrete that I'm willing to endure yet another learning experience if I can have a floor that doesn't have slab cracks and dings in it, and isn't cement gray throughout.

This tile is about as close to the colors of natural slate that we could find, and won't have the need-to-seal issues and the ohmigod-the-dogs'-toenails-are-scratching-it issues that natural slate would have.

A scary project, though. The layout of the tiles alone is going to be epic.

Monday, February 04, 2013

WTF Blogger?

I have been working with the 15-minute blocs of writing -- indeed, I have written a movie review, an additional batch of words for the Aser Murder Mystery, and I'm going to count this blog entry, too, when it's done. I didn't try to write yesterday, it being Super Bowl Day, and me being required to advise both Harbaugh brothers on how to coach their teams. A Harbaugh coach's team won the Super Bowl, and I can't say whether or not it was due to my advice. I did what I could.

Nevertheless, I was going to post what I had written for "Murder Mystery" but Blogger, when I copied and pasted the paragraphs from Word, made the text appear in two different types -- annoyingly different types. And today, when I opened Blogger to post a new bit, I'm finding a really, REALLY basic version. WTF?

Is it me, or is it Memorex?

Aside from the blog wreck, I had a great day today. A trail ride through Central Valley orchards with a chatty companion was delightful, although a bit longer than I'd planned for. The chatty companion held forth on orchard irrigation options (flood vs drip) and grower-end problems of farming, and owl-box management. Coolness!

And Dink is improving, gaining some weight back, and has LOTS of energy back.

There, 15 minutes, I'm done.