New friend

I came across an unexpected companion just now. I was picking up rubbish outside, because I can’t help myself from caring, even though it isn’t my rubbish and we are moving in a week, and had ventured into a pasture that we haven’t used in a while. There is a piece of what looks like felt or a wool blanket piled in one corner. I went to pick it up when I noticed I was being watched.


Oh, hi friend! I didn’t see you there!


I felt confident about taking pictures because a) there are no poisonous snakes this side of the Cascades, and b) this snake was about as big as a pencil and didn’t seem very interested in starting a fight of any kind. He was mostly concerned with getting back into a nice sunny spot.

Google informs me that he is just a garter snake, so I have no cause for alarm. I like to stay positive about various critters that I’m encountering – my new snake friend will be helpful in keeping down the population of pests, and is likely to keep himself to himself (or herself… I didn’t ask). There are plenty of less desirable critters out there, who aren’t nearly so polite.


I took my pictures and left him to go about his snakey day. I also let him keep the blanket. It wasn’t really in anybody’s way anyway.

The Latest Report on Sir Richard’s death toll

Sir Richard the Destroyer is a killing machine. He has a spot out in front of the barn, where the septic mound’s long grass folds over the mesh of fence panel and makes a lovely tunnel for rodents, and here he sits, watching these little holes. He waits.

IMG_5343He doesn’t need to hide. He can sit in the long grass and barely be seen, a ninja. Often, I will catch a glimpse of him leaping from one spot to another, or just see the black tip of his tail twitching while he pokes around in the grass for whatever he is tormenting now.

About three weeks ago, he brought us his first Dead Rodent Gift. We came home from running errands to find him sitting at the bottom of the house steps, proudly displaying his mauled victim at his feet.

I showered him with praise and affection in return. He doesn’t know that DRGs are not the best gifts for humans. He had gone to all that effort to catch and kill the thing, and then he had decided that he wouldn’t keep it for himself. Sharing is caring, after all. That, and I want him to be motivated to hunt. We live in the countryside, in a nation where it is normal to have space under your house for things to live, and if he can keep the population down, that would be smashing.

It would also be good to keep the mouse and bird levels in our barns to a minimum, so Richard’s hunting skills are always met with love and adoration from me.

Then a few days later, he brought me another DRG. This one actually made it into the house with him, as he tricked me into opening the door for him before I realised he had it. He took it to the spare bathroom, where I feed him. I wondered what on earth he was messing with for a moment, before I heard – before I heard the little rodent corpse explode. When I went to investigate, already despairing at what I would find, he looked up at me cheerfully. He batted at the body a couple of times as if to demonstrate what a good killer he is.

“Yes, good kitten,” I said, trying not to vomit at the smell of rodent bile. To show my appreciation, I wrapped the corpse in paper and threw it out, and then bleached everything.

IMG_6051Richard brought three or four DRGs back last week. Cowboy sent me a photo of the first one, and updated the death toll when I got home a few days later.

Nowhere was safe. When I went to the bathroom, a toy mouse would be shoved under the door to entertain me while I flossed. The dog’s bed was decorated with Walmart cat toys – tiny, luminous coloured mice that have been chewed and thrown about so much that they just look like neon blobs now. Richard mapped out the best spots in the house to survey both the interior and exterior landscape for potential prey.

Inevitably, he would resume his little outpost by the septic mound fence. His patience is enviable. I can’t spend that much time focusing on one thing without losing a piece of my mind in the process. Most human beings these days can’t sit for that long without checking Facebook at least eighteen times. Richard would just wait.

Last weekend he upped his DRG game. He brought his treasure to the door and knocked. He literally knocks on the door when he wants to come inside. I peered through the glass to see what he was doing. He knocks a little differently when he has a DRG. My suspicions were confirmed: we had a body.

I didn’t open the door. We were heading out to the barn and I decided dealing with the ritual of praise would wait a moment longer. I faffed about, and finally was ready to go outside. I informed Cowboy about the fatality in the porch.

“Are you sure? It’s not there now.” He looked around, shaking his head. “I don’t see it. Sure it was dead?”

“Quite sure,” I said. I checked for myself, but the DRG had vanished. Perhaps Richard had eaten it. I pulled on my left boot. I went to pull on my right boot. My foot touched something small and soft and still slightly warm. I said “OH AHAHAHA EEWWnnnnnngh… Nooooo…”

“Mouse?” Cowboy said, grinning. I tipped my boot up.  *whomp*

IMG_6140It landed on the mat. I sighed. “Yes, good kitten…” The body was disposed of again. I uttered several phrases of disbelief that Richard had gone to the trouble of putting it in my boot. The boot is taller than him. He would have had to deliberately pick it up, stand up on his hind feet, and drop it into the boot.

Well, this evening I checked in with Cowboy on the phone. We covered the usual stuff, and I listened as he threatened Richard with death for chewing on his phone cable. Then he remembered the important news.

“You might want to get new Muck Boots,” he said.

“Me? They’re new. What happened?”

“I’ve pulled out a few more dead things from them the last couple of days. You’d better check ’em when you go to put them on this weekend.”

I feel so loved.

Friday Night Feeling

It’s Friday night! I’m on the sofa with the cat and Cowboy has gone out to play poker with the boys. Living the dream.

Earlier this week, I came down with a strange headache thing that meant I missed a day of school. This is very sad to me, because school is much more fun than it used to be when I was eleven.

I finally got our thank you notes for our wedding gifts in to the post and they are on their way to the lovely people who showered us with kindness several weeks ago.

Sir Richard found a new cubby hole today.Sir Richard is getting ridiculously big, and now when he sleeps on my chest in the mornings, it’s less adorable and more suffocating. I still can’t help being utterly besotted with him. I am powerless in the presence of his little face.

He continues to tear things up, climb on things he shouldn’t, and shove his paws under the bathroom door and cry every time I go for a wee.

Occasionally he pushes a toy mouse under the door and we play instead. We have that kind of relationship.

Today, Cowboy pestered me into riding Sunshine for the first time in over week. We’ve had a lot on our plate, and I hadn’t felt up to doing much in recent days. Sunshine has been out in the pasture with Beau, getting as much good grass as possible as the winter closes in.

Well, I brushed her off and saddled her today (ok, Cowboy threw the saddle for me… I’m puny…), and we went out to the round pen to see how we would do.

Bill Dorrance writes about feeling for the horse; true horsemanship comes through feel. I’ve been working hard to put aside my frustrations at my lacking horsemanship, and to leave behind my annoyance when I step into the barn. I’ve been focusing on putting out a good feeling whenever I am around Sunshine, and keeping in mind that she is my partner in this work.

We’ve worked on little things on the ground as I’ve brought her in and out from the pasture – she’s stopped being pushy and impatient and has begun to feel for me when I’m leading her. When I’m brushing her down, I try not to be brusque about it, but to feel for her response to the work and to give her the sense that I’m there to help. She has stopped dancing about while I’m grooming now. She watches me with one eye.

Today, the weather was cold and damp, and both of us were feeling a little stiff and sore. I made an effort to tack her up quietly and gently, and to invite her with me to the round pen. We both stretched out a little bit. We both heaved a sigh as if to say “Goodness, I am out of shape for this sort of thing.” That’s entirely true…

We stretched out, we moved, we got as loose as we could, and I thought all the time about how she felt. She felt stiff, tight, unfit, but willing enough. She did everything that I asked without a fight, but she couldn’t offer me the flexible, pretty thing. That was ok. I could feel her trying. I could feel her feeling for me.

I love it when a plan comes together. She and I are finally starting to get each other figured out.

“OK,” she said, dropping her head and trying to round, “I hear what you want. I’ll give it a shot. This is all I can manage today. Is that OK?”
It was more than OK. She and I have got ourselves into battles before. Finally we’re learning to talk to each other without yelling. We’re learning to meet in the middle.

It was possibly the best ride we’ve ever had together.

I’m going to go and throw hay at her now.

Things that happened today

I lay in bed for over an hour after the alarm went off and asked Cowboy if I could stay and hide in bed all day. He said no. He’s cruel sometimes.

The cat managed to lick me right on the eyelid, even though I’ve been trying to make him understand that I don’t like it when he licks my face. The licky little ninja.

I went outside and discovered Sunshine being the perfect horse for a two year old girl. She really is pretty special to let a small child lead her all over the field without batting an eyelid.

We went to the ocean and I collected sea glass for some unknown reason. What will I do with sea glass?

I finally met a number of Cowboy’s family members whose names I know but whose faces were brand new to me. They were full of kind and positive things.

Enough people came to my house at one time that they used all of my mugs. My house is not big enough for this many people, but it happened somehow.

We switched the heating on. Winter is coming.

My brother and sister arrived in town and we embarrassed my brother at a Mexican restaurant. It involved a sombrero and singing Happy Birthday, loudly.

My good friend from Minneapolis arrived in town and we realised we haven’t really spoken in about two years, and it was so awesome to see each other again.

The cat got in to a tin that I hadn’t washed out yet and now his face smells like food.

I think Cowboy has been abducted.

When the Cowboy is away, mice will… clean.

Cowboy is away for the weekend with the caballos, and I am staying at home with the cat and the dog and my cold medication. I’m attempting to use these three days of relative quiet to reorganise our haphazard little home and try to establish some kind of order to the place.

When Cowboy moved in, without me, he pretty much just camped wherever his stuff landed. When I came to visit, I stashed most things in the cupboard nearest to wherever they had landed. This means I have a whole cupboard dedicated to plastic bags, bookshelves covered in tools, and a closet full of junk.

The first thing I’ve done is to go through the box of small change from our bedroom. I’ve made $80 this weekend! Hooray!

I do love the days when I can find the best part of $80 in change and singles. This is a small haul compared to previous change-sorting missions.I’ve learned how to fold a fitted sheet courtesy of Youtube, and folded all of my fitted sheets. It’s the little victories that make my day worthwhile.

I ate more of my weird soup that I made the other day, and it has only improved with age. The spice has really ramped up. Mmmm…

Blue Dog after a bath

I emptied out our walk-in closet in the bedroom and found all of Cowboy’s guitar picks (he is always complaining he can’t find any). I also found more money. Hooray again!

Then I gave Blue Dog a bath, because he smelled horrific and I couldn’t stand it any longer.

He took it well. His old trick of lying on the ground like a dead weight beside the bathtub didn’t work for him. Since I became Amazonian and strong, I can now lift him. He decided to get in the tub of his own accord after I manhandled him a couple of times, and that made the whole experience more pleasant for both of us.

Once he was sweet-smelling and no longer a menace to society, he was very keen to go outside. He promptly ran to the back field and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

… and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

… and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

I didn’t think he was going to stop…

Blue Dog after a bath

Eventually he was satisfied and we came back inside, where I managed to make more mess than I had tidied up in the closet. I abandoned the project midway through.

I finally put away my suitcases in the shed, and rearranged a few things in there so that it is actually accessible and no longer a minefield. While I was outside, I pulled up a weed or two that I could see, thinking I’d head back inside and finish the closet.

Two hours later, I was still ripping out weeds. I would still be ripping out weeds if my 90 gallon garden waste bin wasn’t completely full, and it wasn’t dark. I have a lot of weeds. I grew them myself.

Tomorrow: I finish the closet project, and the living room project. We might be getting somewhere.

13 days in

I’ve been in the US for 13 days. I have finally got a US phone number, and waved a sad goodbye to the phone number that I have had since my very first phone, the trusty Nokia 5110 with the changeable covers…

I’ve cleaned all the things – most things more than once, and the dirt keeps coming. It doesn’t help that we have a juvenile feline who likes to shred anything he can get his adorable little paws on. We invested in a laser pointer in the last few days, just to keep him busy.

Cowboy and kitten ❤️Sometimes we can wear him out, just for a moment.

I’ve started to learn where everything lives in the supermarkets. I’ve learned that you can’t get anything for a good price without giving up your personal information and getting the store club card.

I have a pile of recycling in my kitchen and my shed because I haven’t yet deciphered the recycling system. It involves crates with very similar contents listed on them. How exactly do “scrap paper” and “newspaper” differ in any significant way? Why is there no crate for plastic? It is mystifying.

I have fed Cowboy some real food and he has repaid me with some manual labour, heavy lifting and getting up early to get the horses in while I snooze for another hour or two.

The horses have been a joyous challenge to me. Sunshine is teaching me about how to say “I mean it!” and our new addition, Beau, is teaching me about lightness. Sunshine has been so desensitised that you could do just about anything with her and she barely blinks, which is wonderful for keeping people safe, but it also means she needs a louder cue. Beau is so light and responsive to anything and everything that just thinking something seems to be enough for him.

His little quirk is that he has spent so much of his 4 years in the arena, he has no idea how to pick up his feet. So we spent some time teaching him the other night.

After a good ride on Sunshine this evening, I got to sit and watch the sunset, and look at Mount Baker, the moon, and these two figuring things out.It took him a few goes to catch on.

There is something magical about watching this little horse think something through for the first time. He tries so hard. He wants the right answer, and when he understands the question properly, he is ready for anything.

It was a beautiful evening, and it reminded me why I came here. Me, the cowboy, horses and the fresh air. I am so lucky.

Early days

I moved to a new country on Wednesday. It is now Saturday, and I have spent the last two days cleaning my house, stocking up my cupboards at Costco, befriending the kitten (including believing I had lost the kitten out of a window, crying in the garden thinking I would be dumped for being a negligent girlfriend, finding said kitten inside the house after all – hiding in the recliner), and attempting to get my head around the gargantuan to-do list. It’s early days in the New Life.

I have also succeeded in eating badly, sleeping badly, overreacting, panicking, and my personal favourite: sitting in a stupor.

Cowboy is hiding from me this morning, while I scowl at the computer. Who knew it would be so difficult to find affordable, relatively nice furniture in an actual shop where I could go in and just get the furniture? I didn’t realise how important it would be to me to have furniture. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for weeks now. It was fine while I was waiting to move, but now I’m here, I want to plunge some roots down and feel like I have a home.

It’s becoming an ordeal. If I could hide from myself, I would.

On the flip side, things that I thought would be horrible, terrible, insurmountable issues as part of the move have turned out to be nothings, and the relief is overwhelming.

Yesterday I played with the horses in the rain, and began to see how good life is going to be. If I could only get some furniture…


I have a headache. It might be because I’ve neglected to wear my glasses for the last few weeks, but have simultaneously upped my computer usage while I try to negotiate the Big Move. Might be because I’ve had a bit too much sugar and caffeine today.

Might be fatigue, might be muscle spasm, might be a virus.

Might be my poor brain trying to understand whether or not my UK iPhone will work in the USA, and if so, how do I get a good deal on a mobile contract? I pay £6 per month, and so far the cheapest option I’ve found over there for something remotely comparable is over $40 per month. I’m not even certain that my UK phone (unlocked, bought from the Apple shop, and destined to be used until it dies) will be recognised by the US networks, which seem to have a will of their own.

Might be my brain trying to figure out how to pay the bills. Might be the fierce desperation that I have to suddenly and inexplicably win the lottery, so that I can suddenly and inexplicably buy a homestead of my own. The nesting instinct is powerful these days.

Might be the sadness that is starting to set in, as I begin to understand that I am moving far away from my closest friends, from my close-knit family, and from everything that is familiar to me.

Might be the many hours spent at the sewing machine today, making bunting.

I think I’ve lost my mind…

Last minute

It is rapidly becoming the last minute. I am down to last minute meetings, last minute socialising, last minute packing, last minute shopping, last minute panicking, etc etc.

Today has mostly been about last minute hair dye, as I realised it must be almost a year since my mother slapped henna (I use Caca Rouge from Lush, and have done so for over ten years) all over my head and I propped myself up for several hours while the mud did its miracle thing on my hair.

With what feels like several tonnes of goop and clingfilm on my head at the moment, my neck is rather sore. That may have something to do with the killer upper body workout that Mark the Magician made me do this morning. His trainers matched the walls of the gym today. I was rather impressed, but I don’t think it was intentional.

“Rather than mess about with more reps,” he said, as I sipped water in a recovery break between push presses, “how about we just build up this weight to about that of a saddle?” This man has paid close attention to my goals, and I love him for it.

If I can now push 60lbs over my head three times, without dying immediately, hopefully I can avoid the shame of flinging Cowboy’s saddle, forcefully and enthusiastically, into the side of my horse instead of over her back.

I’ve also ended up doing some last minute bonding with this little monster, who has spent the last nine months completely ignoring me.

She has finally realised that I will scratch her ears, rub her belly and bump heads with her at her every whim.

I’ll even feed her. I’m that kind of cat person.



I think she might be a little sad when I leave, if she even notices, of course.

MarmiteI’m not really going to miss her needle sharp claws being dug (with love) into my legs, arms, neck, feet, fingers, etc.

She can be a little over zealous with her affection.

She also likes to dribble on me when she’s really enjoying the bonding session. Then she likes to shake her head and spray the dribble all over me, and whatever it is I’ve been doing whilst petting her. Thanks, Marmite…

You love her or you hate her. Her name really is appropriate.