Sunday, September 29, 2013

Signs That You Don't Live in Seattle Anymore...

Quite literally, these are signs that indicate you don't live in the city anymore.

In Seattle you just see signs saying you
can't bring your dog, cat, or potbellied pig
onto the playground.
If you miss the bears, don't worry;
there may be a cougar around the corner.
You may not be able to fool a bear or a cougar,
but apparently beavers can be duped.
Which makes me wonder: Are gulls gullible?
Why in heck fire doesn't the city of Seattle
have signs like this? Golly, there'd be no crime at all. 
No. Really. There IS water over the roadway. Happens every time
there's a heavy rain. We have to detour a whole 3 minutes out of our
way to get to the grocery store when it happens. Life's rugged here.
I'm not a horsewoman, yet even I know
it would be foolish to ride your horse
on this rickety little bridge in the woods.
Apparently some riders did not.
Oh, and don't bring your horses here, either.

Or here.
And as for the main street in downtown Woodinville, that's out, too.
If your horse can't read, perhaps Fido can.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seeing Someone Buy Your Book: This Never Gets Old

So I was at the local horse-product store this morning, purchasing worming paste in a syringe and hoof-strengthening supplements (the sort of thing you routinely pick up while running errands after a hayburner has plodded into your life; it goes along with finding yourself saying things like "Why is your stud chain in the bathroom?" without thinking it strange).

As the cashier rang up my purchase, I glanced to my right and saw someone else's items on the counter: a bag of brightly colored socks spotted with little horse images--and a copy of For Horse-Crazy Girls Only.

Two little girls were darting around the store, now that they'd finished trying on new jodhpurs.

"Excuse me," I said to the cashier. " somebody buying that book or is it just, like, on the counter?"

"They're buying it," she replied, indicating the girls and their mom.

Inwardly I waffled a bit, being a Rather Hesitant sort of person, but finally allowed that, if they'd like, well, I kind of sort of wrote that book, and would be happy to sign it.

Yes, please! they said, providing a name to put in it. Hannah it was...double points for the day because not only did this lovely coincidence occur, but also the recipient of the book has a palindrome for a name.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Signs That You Suddenly Own a Horse

1. The back of your car is filled with large sacks of grain-based products, out of which trickle multitudes of compressed pellets that find their way into every nook and cranny. (Here the Bags of Unusual Size lounge next to the old toy barn, which harks back to the days when small plastic horses were enough to satisfy the Resident Child's equine dreams; it was en route to another young horse-crazy girl and so the Subaru's cargo bay unwittingly became a symbol of Past, Present, and Future.)

2. Your stock pot periodically disappears, then reappears with a lining of bran mash cemented to its interior. Fortunately, at a critical moment you were able to prevent its being employed as a bucket to soak a bruised hoof.

3. Half of the refrigerator is occupied by massive bags of carrots.

4. The size of your bank account is inversely proportional to the size of the bags of carrots.


5. When you do have the temerity to buy food for the humans in the household, there is nowhere to place said food on the table because the table is full of bits and bobs of horse tack.

6. Laundry does not get done, but by golly halters and bridles are buffed and shined and hung on the hooks where laundry should go.

7. You find the legs of tables, chairs, and the piano bound with fleecy cloth because Somebody is practicing how to do polo wraps on a horse's legs.


8. As a result of parking near the stable on hot days with the windows open, so many flies frolic inside your car that one day you find a spider making a web on the interior rear-view mirror.

9. Horse-crazy girls other than the Resident Teen leave various and sundry bizarre horse-related items in the car, such as a pink rake used for scratching the back of a horse and a faux-jaguar-furred fly mask.

10. You discover that a pair of shoes for a horse cost more than you spend on a pair of shoes for yourself. And he needs two pairs at a time. Every six weeks or so.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tiny Tots on Pint-Sized Ponies

Beautiful horses, dapper riders, and skilled horsemanship abound at a horse show like the Evergreen Classic in Carnation, Washington.

But one of my favorite events is the lead-line class for the smallest riders, the ones whose legs are still so short they can do little more than perch atop their ponies.

In a lead-line class, the person holding the pony's lead line is in control. The rider's job is to concentrate on having good riding form and exhibiting a certain amount of poise.

Each rider is asked a few questions, generally simple questions such as "what's your name," "how old are you," "what's your pony's name," and the like.

The child is interviewed while the pony's standing still and then demonstrates sitting at a walk while the handler leads it back and forth or in a circle.

They're terribly cute, and, being so young, often surprise the interviewer with their responses.

One little girl, for example, upon being complimented on her purple coat and the purple ribbons in her hair, announced cheerfully to the world that her underwear was purple, too.

Another girl, asked what kind of a class she would like to ride in when she's a grown-up, replied, "A BIG lead-line class."

(I love the idea of a bunch of adults on giant horses being led into an arena for a "big grown-up" lead-line class.)

One child, asked if she knew her ABCs, proceeded to sing them heartily.

This inspired the next few tots to recite their ABCs, too, including one girl whose version had something of the hesitant, breathy quality of Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "Happy Birthday" for President Kennedy due to the microphone's amplification of her breathing.

One chipper little lass, so ebullient as she entered the ring and awaited her turn, abruptly burst into tears upon being interviewed (a visiting-Santa-Claus reaction that has no doubt occurred in many a lead-line class worldwide).

Nearly half of the kids either looked off into the distance and said not a word, or giggled into their shirt collars. The baby below had a very good reason for not answering: She was only 18 months old.

It's hard to believe that someday they could be galloping around on giant horses and leaping over fences more than 4 feet tall, though of course I never thought my own child would one day be big enough even to ride a bus all by herself. They surprise you that way.

Unknown competitor on what looks like a mount with some draft horse in his background, Evergreen Classic

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fuzzy-Wuzzy and Fully Woolly

The birch in its fall glory
It's hard to leave behind a garden that you've cultivated for nearly two decades. One can't help but feel sort of parental about living things carefully tended for years and years. 
So it felt very sad to say good-bye to the birch tree planted the year before my child's birth, the vine maple bought at a farm stand as a spindly sapling now grown to three-trunked splendor, the vibernum and dogwood shrubs framing the living-room window, and the perennials that faithfully reemerged every spring like good friends who travel far and wide but always stop by while in town.
The garden at our new home is still terra incognita as our first priority has been unpacking all those wretched boxes and moving furniture around. 
A professional landscaper created the space, aiming for an easy-care garden of shrubs and small trees, with one small densely planted flower garden. So it's got some structure...and appears to be just begging for the cottage-garden treatment, when time and budget permit.
In the meantime, I did some poking around in the flower bed to see what was there, and came across this fellow hanging out on a dock leaf.

The caterpillar, nearly two inches in length, was exceedingly fuzzy and exceedingly placid. It scarcely budged even as I turned the leaf over to observe it from all angles. 
After some research online and in books, I'm guessing it's a caterpillar of the Virginia tiger moth, commonly known as a yellow woolly-bear. This makes it a cousin of the more familiar brown-and-black-banded caterpillar of the Isabella tiger moth, called just woolly-bear and known in folklore for predicting how severe winter will be by the ratio of brown and black on its fuzzy body.
It took a while to find its head.
Yellow woolly-bears range in color from black to a yellow so pale it's nearly white. Golden yellow is the most common hue. This one's vivid orange-red is a variation often seen. I don't know if certain shades are linked with different areas of the country.
Virginia tiger moths are a widespread species, found across most of the temperate United States and Canada. 
In the Pacific Northwest, they're abundant at lower elevations and are found in habitats ranging from coastal rainforests to meadows and farmlands. And, as you can see, Cottage Lake back yards.

Caterpillar feet

There are two or three generations of caterpillars each year, and the last generation overwinters as a pupa.
This one will surely be looking for a safe place to settle down , if it hasn't already done so by the time I hit "publish" on this. It will spend the soggy season as a glossy, dark pupa cloaked in a cocoon made of its own bristles.
I couldn't find anything particularly fascinating or noteworthy about this particular species in any of my books or online, but it does have some pretty cool relatives in the tiger-moth family. 
Adult moth, from Wikipedia

One species, for example, is able to make ultrasonic clicking noises with a set of membranes, called tymbals, on its thorax at a rate of up to 4,500 clicks per second for the purpose of jamming the sonar of bats and thus avoiding being a bat's midnight snack.
When our resident woolly-bear grows up, it'll emerge in springtime as a fuzzy white moth fringed antennae and a row of orange and black dots on its abdomen. How long it will be until spring, and how harsh our winter will be, is not in the skill set of this woolly-bear...but after last night's furious rain, thunder, and lightning, I hope it's found a place to live that has a sump-pump, french drains, and clean gutters.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Trailer of Doom

You can lead a horse to a trailer, but you can't make it get in.

That is what we neophyte horse parents learned the other day when we confidently rolled up to the barn to transport Avi to his new home in a borrowed trailer. Nothing, not even offers of apples, carrots, and peppermints, could induce him to step into this vehicle, which he seemed to think was some dreadful tumbril about to transport him to certain death.

Never mind that he'd ridden in trailers of various sorts since he was a little one. This van was Different, and therefore it was Dangerous.

"he won't load it's a no go" came the text message from the Resident Teen, which I received as I sat waiting patiently for an hour or so at the new barn, watching for the trailer's arrival.

The big event would have to wait another day or so while we looked for a larger trailer, one with a ramp that would make it a cakewalk for Avi to stroll aboard.

And so on Friday, determined to move the horse even if it required a winch, we rolled up bright and early to Avi's barn, where four horse-girls were already busy wrapping Avi's legs in polo wraps to protect them on the ride.

An hour before, he'd also received a dose of Quietex, a pasty concoction that was supposed to help settle any jitters and calm his nerves. 

All doozied up, Avi strode unsuspectingly out of the barn and into the lovely morning sunlight of a beautiful summer day.

The horse-girls disappeared along a track through the forest that led to a quiet area where we'd parked the truck and trailer. Tony followed them, schlepping a net full of hay that would go into the van to induce Avi to step inside for a little snack.

At first Avi approached the trailer like a pro.

But then he noticed that although it looked like an innocent horse trailer, it was actually a tunnel straight into the fiery pit of Hades. "Not going,"  he said.

A half hour of standing with forefeet on the ramp and hind feet off to the side commenced, broken up by occasional walking-in-circle episodes and lots of proddings on the rump. (And yes, that is a sign of his disgust with the proceedings in the corner of the picture.) We wondered if they made a product called Cooperatex.

Finally, most likely through sheer boredom, Avi suddenly plodded aboard. The horse-girl team and Tony immediately swung into action, along with help from two stable workers who'd happened by. Whump went the butt bar (which is exactly what it sounds like--a padded bar that is locked in place behind the horse's backside). Slam, went the ramp. Avi lifted his tail and produced some more evidence of his disdain for us all. Slam, slam went the two top doors. WHAM! WHAM! went Avi's hooves as he kicked the lower door in irritation.

Ten minutes later, Operation Stubborn Mule pulled up at the new barn. The horses in the paddocks neighed shrilly to welcome the newcomer--or rather, to warn him that they knew what was in the horse-box and that they all had sturdy teeth and hooves. Avi emitted a weird mooing sort of neigh in response and lustily kicked the walls of his trailer some more.

After all that fuss, however, he tiptoed out of the trailer and into his new digs at the barn. "Cool," he said as he nosed around in the bedding (a material made out of pine chips that works basically like a horse-sized version of clumping kitty litter).

Then he noticed the hay. There and then he decided this was definitely a 5-star establishment.