The Morning After, and Dave Stamey

I almost wrote this entry into my handwritten journal, which I take such great pleasure in since I bought an el cheapo fountain pen off Amazon and some luxurious ink. For whatever reason, I felt like I wanted to share these thoughts with you today. They’re not profound or particularly interesting, but they’re in my head, and in a few minutes, they will be out in the world.

It’s a warm and fuzzy sort of morning. I’m still in my pyjamas, wearing slippers that a friend gifted me for my birthday, one of the Cowboy’s old shirts for warmth, and I’m tucked under a blanket in my favourite chair. Outside, it is raining, and the relief that comes with it is powerful. The summer has been uncharacteristically hot and dry this year, leaving our pastures bare and dusty and the fire risk utterly overwhelming. It is not just here in Washington. Continue reading

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Musical Therapy

On a whim, and in a bid to smother the noise from Cowboy’s boxing game on the TV, I put on my Beats headphones and I clicked on an album in my iTunes that I haven’t listened to in quite some time. It was Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Kanye is my guilty pleasure (one of many). He might not be the most authentic hip hop artist out there, but I do see some talent in his poetry, and the beats are always good. I resolved to let the album run, without skipping ahead. It’s been a throwback. Continue reading

Sunday Morning

It isn’t even 8am yet, and I have somehow found myself out of bed, dressed (albeit in my finest of mens’ trackies/sweatpants and a holey jumper), almost-upright on the sofa, having already been outside and across the yard to open the door for the chickens. Only one hen, Two-Eyed Jim, was smart enough to find her way outside while I was there, but the others may follow soon enough.

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I’ve been leaving an alarm set for 7am this week, so that even on days when I don’t have a reason to get out of bed, I do at least get my sleep disrupted. Richard has been helping to motivate me in the mornings, and between the cat, the alarm and my habit of drinking too much tea before bed, I am slowly getting out of bed earlier and earlier. The dog is appreciative of his earlier breakfast time, and it has meant that I get to see some of the finer things about living in the Pacific Northwest in the autumn.

The dew is heavy, thick like a blanket on the grass every morning. The grass has been growing rapidly since we started getting rain again, and the whole lawn starts sparkling as the sun hits it. The infamous Fall colours are starting to appear in the trees along our west border, and yes, they are lovely.

At home, I have finally repainting the living room from the gloomy purple into a scrumptious golden sandy colour, and now my furniture doesn’t clash with the walls and I can sleep at night. Cowboy made me a beautiful shelf out of old cedar boards from the old barn, and it looks divine, except on the back where I experimented with homemade beeswax and oil wood finish and changed the colour…

I washed and rehung the curtains, except for the one pair that I ruined…

Now I just have the clear the dining table of junk, find a home for all of the junk under the dining table, attack the mountain of clean laundry that just won’t put itself away, and perhaps get a grip on some kind of routine. The routine is close, beginning to form itself, and I expect it will be overturned by something unexpected just as I get settled in to it. My life just goes that way.

Still going!

Oh, look. I’m not dead after all. I felt a little close to it, as I battled some kind of cold that set in about two weeks ago and has only just moved on. It started as a sore throat, then moved into a phlegm river gushing out of my nose, and then mutated into my sinuses being blocked 80% of the time, and a good chesty cough. To be fair, I haven’t been ill like this in a long time, and the fact that I can now relax enough to be ill is really quite positive.

I’m back at home after a long stint away. I was with my family in the UK for about a month, flying straight out from Seattle after getting my diploma from school (woohoo, finally completed something!), and I spent almost the whole month dealing with preparations and executions of our second “wedding” – a blessing service and second reception for all of my friends and family in the UK. Suffice to say, the day was glorious, beautiful, fun, and everything we wanted it to be, and I look at the photographs of it all and wonder if we were really so lucky – or was it just a fabulous dream?

So, September has snuck in, and the weather is quietly beginning to turn. After the spate of wildfires that have hit Washington this summer with so much sunshine and so little rain, when the heavens finally opened over the last few days, it was a relief to everybody. Of course, it had to be accompanied by some high winds which have ripped down trees and knocked out the power across the county. Our power went out for about twelve hours on Saturday, which was when we realised we had no candles, no backup plan for cooking, and only a handful of bottled water – when your well and your cooker rely on electricity, and your power might be out for a few days, it’s best to be a little better prepared than that…

Walmart saved us, and we equipped ourselves with some essentials (my preferred essential being some UHT milk so I could at least still have some tea if the milk in the fridge went bad. Priorities, people). We now have a little propane camping stove that I can cook on, some candles, headlamps, an extra case of bottled water, and three cartons of UHT milk. There’ll be no shortage of tea in our next power outage!

We were lucky to have our power back over night, and other people around the county are still waiting for their power to be restored. Everybody is grateful for the work being done to put life back to normal.

Here on the homestead, I’m grappling with finding “normal”. In a fit of productivity, I began painting the living room the other day, but the prospect of moving all of the book shelves and furniture in order to get around the whole room is rather daunting, and now I’m floating about in painting limbo. I finally tidied up the spare room only to fill it with junk again. I had to tear apart most of the kitchen in order to deal with a fruit fly infestation, and have only just put it back together again. I’m trying to find a routine, but for some reason, it is just not happening. I’m consoling myself with the thought that balance will come eventually, just sometimes it takes quite a bit of swinging from one thing to another before everything comes to rest just so.

One day at a time. And if I can remember and find the rhythm again, one blog at a time.

Sunshine and Mr T – some parting thoughts

The title sounds more ominous than it is – I’m not saying goodbye to Mr T forever, I’m merely going to be away for over a month, during which time they will probably loll about in the pasture and enjoy the summertime. Sunshine might get a bit of work, but Mr T probably won’t get much.

I’m thinking about my horsemanship, my horses, and their training. Although I am married to a man who makes a living turning horses from broncs into bridle horses, he is very much about letting me learn how to train and make my own horse. He’ll let me go out and do my thing, and then when I have questions or issues, he’s on hand to give me some pointers.

For example, I rode Sunshine on Sunday night. She is getting over a muscle spasm in her neck, and she’s still a little bound up here and there. We could spin to the left pretty nicely, once I got her put together just right. To the right, she was cheating me by stepping around with her hip as well as her shoulders, so she was spinning without pivoting on a back foot. I was frustrated and perplexed. My beloved watched us once, then showed me a drill that I could do, using his own exquisitely capable horse. Then he watched us try the drill. Like magic, Sunshine finally found her pivot, and I was happy to call it a day with her then and there.

Well, there’s more to this training lark than drills in the arena. When I think back to when Mr T arrived, and his transformation into the horse he is now, I realise I have put in more training than I think. Every time I go out to the pasture to catch him for whatever reason, I’m training him – teaching him that I can come into his space, that he can put his head down for the halter, that he needs to be mindful of my personal space. Whenever I groom him, I’m training him – reminding him how to pick up and hold his feet, how to tolerate me in his space, how to endure the horrors of fly spray and baths (he doesn’t really mind, he’s just grumpy sometimes). Whenever I leave him standing tied somewhere, I am training him – to be self-soothing and calm, to be patient, to be respectful of pressure, and learning that squealing and pawing and banging around doesn’t result in attention. I’m teaching him to be away from his friends and that he survives the ordeal.

The amount of groundwork that I put in with him wasn’t extraordinary. He is a well-broke horse, after all, and has had a rich and varied life under saddle already. All I needed to do was remind him that I was important to him, and that he needed to be attentive to me. I needed to show him that I could be around his body and touch him if I wanted to. Training in these particular things was a subtle art. It didn’t happen when I was actively “training” him. It was in the quieter moments, like opening and closing a gate with him, or going to get something with him in tow, or running up the hill with him to put him out and expecting him to trot with me when I ran, and to stop with me when I stopped. He was very good at this, by the way, and getting better all the time.

I’ve only ridden Mr T twice, so some might look at us and say I haven’t worked with him at all. How can you be training if you don’t ride? Here’s how: it doesn’t all happen in the arena.

This weekend I finally hopped up there and we got a feel for each other. Fun!

Very often, when I go to work with Sunshine, I notice little things that she does, and I am grateful and usually a little teary-eyed when I consider the work that Cowboy put in to her that makes her such a solid horse. The unseen training is what sets her apart. She will put her nose in to the halter or the bridle, and pick up the bit if we are working with one. She knows how to get through a gate without banging herself or me. She is mindful of my space, and attentive to me. If I pick up the reins or the lead rope, whether I am in the saddle or on the ground, she is ready and willing to see what I need from her. She reads me, trying to be in sync with my intentions. She is correct about 95% of the time. It’s her training that made her this way.

I hope to foster this same attentiveness in Mr T, and it is already beginning to come out in him. Where he used to hit the end of the lead rope as we went through a gate, because he wasn’t mindful of where I am, he is now softening and staying with me. He is happy to see me in the pasture, and comes over to me most of the time. He is pretty good at reading where I am going next and being ready to come with me. He is polite about being haltered. This stuff didn’t happen in the arena. This happened because I had things to do and I needed him to do them with me.

I’m thinking about how to move forwards with Mr T when I get home, and indeed with Sunshine. They need such different things from me. Mr T needs fitness boot camp, and to learn how to work with me in the bosal. I need a plan for him beyond that, but I don’t have the answer yet. Am I going to try to learn the Californios and vaquero tradition and turn him into a real bridle horse? Or am I going to turn him into the solid all-around horse who can take care of our friends, visitors and students? What do I do with him to take him down either of these paths? What’s next in his unseen training?

I have an idea of a few things already. He doesn’t like the sound of ropes in the air, or to have them swung around near him. The first time Cowboy and I went out and swung a few loops in the pasture, Mr T came over to see what was going on, and once he saw and heard the rope, he just noped right on out of there. I’ve worked on swinging things about near him. I often idly twirl the end of my mecate or lead line to amuse myself, and it’s important that he learns when it applies to him and when it doesn’t. To watch us, you wouldn’t think I was training him, but it’s happening. It doesn’t look any different to when I stand and twirl things around Sunshine, except that I know she doesn’t care. Her training in this regard has already happened.

The other thing we need to address eventually is water. I’ve heard Mr T learned to jump water rather than walk through it, and that’s not an attractive trait to me. I’ll need to find ways to work with him on this. Sunshine can also be a bit funny about it, but she is getting better.

Then there will be cows to sort in the winter time, when ranch sorting begins again. I have no idea how Mr T feels about cows. But the only way to find out and work with him on it is to show up and do a job with cows. It won’t look like training, but it’ll be happening.

Through this process, I am learning just how much work goes in to making a good horse. Saddling and riding is just a fraction of the work, and a fraction of what you need from a good horse. The rest is less obvious, and far more valuable. The rest is what you pay a good trainer for.

An Audit

We spent several business management classes at school discussing how best to avoid a dreaded audit from the IRS (like the Inland Revenue) every year when we file our endless and absurd taxes that don’t even provide a national health service.

I’m sorry, I must have slipped on to my soapbox there. Let me hop down again.

An audit would mean having to find all of the documents that support what your taxes are saying. Receipts, invoices, reports, statements, pay slips, that scribbled note from somebody who promised they’d trade you a massage for a custom belt. It means somebody taking a good look at the picture you’ve painted of your life and making sure that you aren’t fibbing to everybody.

I’m sitting in Panera Bread (I have a problem, they put crack in the scones, I’m certain), about to open my text books and do my homework. This in itself is unusual – I am a die-hard last minute homework doer, and this homework isn’t due in for two whole days. I could do it tomorrow, but I’m oddly keen to get it out of the way today. Over the weekend, I finished my homework in the more traditional fashion: late on Sunday night. Except for I finished without rushing, with time to spare before I panicked about going to bed. This included the time it took to dick around with the printer and make it work, which was a solid forty minutes of going back and forth, sighing, and of course tutting. Continue reading

10 (Financial) Thoughts on Emigrating

I just got stung by my own disorganisation. This happened in two ways.

The first way is that I forgot to pack clean underwear and clean socks for the week. I survived today using the trusty “inside-out” technique, but that isn’t entirely savoury these days, and isn’t going to get me through another two days. I will be off to the mall shortly to find some kind of bargain basement knicker supply.

The next way arrived while I sat in the mall car park waiting for a hail storm to pass. It came in the form of an email from the bank telling me that we had overdrawn on our account.

I said some expletive things, checked the account activity, and saw a recurring international payment to Amazon listed. I called Cowboy, certain that we were the victims of fraud and theft and other terrible things. As I expected, he had nothing to do with it. What dreadful person had poached my information and used it to buy an Amazon Prime subscription in another country, of all things?

Well… me, it turned out. I had attached my US debit card to my UK Amazon account some time ago, and hadn’t thought anything else of it, and my binge-watching of Nashville last summer had been supplied through an Amazon Prime subscription on my UK Amazon account. I hadn’t even imagined that it would renew by helping itself to my US dollars. Of course, the US bank slapped us with a fee or two for the privilege.

To Amazon’s credit, I could cancel my UK subscription service with just a click of a couple of links, and they will even be refunding the fee in full because I hadn’t used any of the services since paying. Thank you for not being bastards, Amazon, it is very much appreciated. The whole incident prompted me to make some thoughts about emigrating to the USA, and all the stupid stuff you don’t even think about in the throes of romance. Continue reading