I’m still alive and still a slacker.
I promise a more complete update is on the horizon, but here are some teasers:
– I’m a published writer
– I have a grownup job
– I’m moving
– I grew a tomato
– My chickens are rockstars
– I love my ponies
For the past four years, this is the time I’d be gearing up for summer season at the ranch. If things had worked out differently, I’d probably be all packed up and mountain bound tomorrow.
Instead, I’m packing a lunch for my first day at my internship and debating which blouse/slacks combo I should wear.
I’m gonna roll with it and make it work.
But I’m going to miss the hell out of being at the ranch…
It’s over. I just turned in the last paper of my graduate career. No more teachers, schools, or books…
I feel like I should be arriving at some poignant epiphany or summation of my last two years. Or at least celebrating and enjoying cathartic release. Burning my old papers perhaps? Going to the bar and purging every thought about Derrida, Butler, literary theory, and the proper use of semi colons from my brain? Writing heartfelt thank-yous to my professors and advisers? Nope. I’m going to browse Craigslist and check out what’s on Hulu. So much for major life changes.
Right now, what I mostly feel is relief. The past two years were hard. Not as hard as they could, or probably should have been, but I’m very happy that my days of stress, student center lunches, and library living have come to an end. I finally have free time to garden, run, hike,cook, read for pleasure, and ride my pony. I’m so SO looking forward to all of those things.
Will I eventually experience an existential crisis and freak out about not being a student? Yes, probably. But in the meantime, I’m quite content to have school in my rear view mirror.
For the past two weeks I’ve been barn sitting for a friend out in the country. Waaay out in the country. Nothing but cornfields and cows type country. No internet, cable, or cell phone coverage country.
And I absolutely loved it. Life without technological distractions and intrusions was infinitely more relaxing and productive. Without the siren song of Hulu, Facebook, and Dreamhorse, I was able to catch up on my reading, riding, and sleep. Life revolved around chores, animals, daily jogs, pleasure reading, and the occasional dog cuddle.
I could have done it forever.
Fortifying my desire for self-imposed country exile was A Very Small Farm, a lovely little tome I read on the sun-bathed front porch of my friend’s farmhouse.
In the style of Walden, A Very Small Farm chronicles the daily miracles of farm life in simple, elegant prose.
After receiving his degree, author William Paul Winchester knew that the traditional trajectory of corporate career climbing wasn’t meant for him. Instead, he chose to pursue something more personally fulfilling, and opted to make a life for himself in the countryside. Quite literally, the man hand-made his life, starting with his house. It’s really humbling to realize that Winchester had planned and constructed a house, by himself when he was my age or even younger. Heck, I can’t even fix the chicken coop…
Following the house came the requisite garden, chickens, dairy cows, and honey bees, and the book is topically divided into chapters that reflect and muse on simple pleasures of these things and how they contribute to the quality of life.
This little book is not a homesteading how-to. Rather, it explicates the why. Why are we compelled to do this; plant gardens, churn butter, milk cows, eat straight from the earth, remove ourselves from the company of people, bake bread when it can be bought far cheaper at the grocery store? Winchester eloquently answers these questions by articulating how deeply impactful and beautiful the simple life can be. I think this book will resonate with any homesteader, farmer, or window-sill gardener. I highly recommend this quick read, and I guarantee it will make you want to build a house in the middle of nowhere, stare at the clouds, bake some bread, and start a garden journal.
It can be purchased on Amazon for $10.
Any other homesteading memoir recommendations?
So now that more than a week has passed, I’m finally writing about the clinic I attended last weekend. Me? Writing a week late? Neglecting the blog? Shocker!
- Squish never had a meltdown, even though she had every excuse to; poor Pony hadn’t been ridden in about a month, and I was asking her to behave herself for eight hours of hard word and harder thinking each day. She was a rock star though. Nary a spook, bolt, or buck. She really is a lot more of a solid citizen than I give her credit for.
- No major ear pinning at the lope! This is the mare that would put her ears flat back on her head and gnash her teeth if you so much as grazed her side with your leg. Gradually, the angry mare face has disappeared from all the time to just at the faster gaits, to just at the lope, to not even then.
- We picked up our right lead! For both of us, our right side is weaker, so trying to get the right lead has often lead to us being sweaty, frustrated messes. We got our right lead twice!
- No dirty stopping! This mare learned that if she slams on the brakes (literally, she will drop her hocks in the sand), the immediate and unexpected stop in momentum will pop you out the of the saddle and she’ll get a minute rest and reprieve as you reorient yourself. She didn’t even try it this time. There were a few moments when I could tell she was thinking about it, but she thought better of it and kept going.
- She’s always been really good about her turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand, but she really aced them this time; they were fluid, soft, and tight.
- We braved the teeter-toter! The teeter-totter is a trail obstacle that looks like this (image not mine): It moves as the horse shifts weight from one side to the other, which is understandably scary. Squish didn’t even blink an eye. Brave little pony!
- Round pen is for work. It is not a time for letting Pony buck the sillies out of her system. We used the round pen to work on her transitions to the lope, which have been pretty ugly under saddle. In the beginning, she exhibited a lot of resistance which she demonstrated through head tossing, turning her butt towards me, and pinning her ears. None of this was because she was in pain or confused, she just plain. didn’t. want. to work. Her mare ‘tude got responded to with emphatic whip threatening, and once she realized I meant business, she settled down and the transitions started to get softer and easier.
- Drive, don’t pull.
- The one rein stop is my friend. I actually use it as a bit of a warm-up when I first hop on. I just pull one rein toward my hip until Pony bends, softens, and stops bracing. This makes her stop, flex, focus, and mentally regroup.
- Keep her engaged; ride, ride, ride! Once she gets bored, Pony tries to make her own excitement.
- Transitions within the gait will ultimately help us with our transitions between gaits. Pony is super sensitive to seat aids, and will happily speed or slow down to match your seat rhythm. Our collected walk and extended walk are a-w-e-s-o-m-e, and we’re getting there with the trot. When I long trot her, she rolls nicely up into the lope, which is fine for now. I want loping to represent the easy, happy choice. Even though I’m not necessarily asking her to lope, the fact that she’s choosing to lope is fantastic.
- For now, she really needs right rein support to pick up the right lead. It also helps when I sit straight and don’t ride like a drunk scarecrow.
- I’m allowed to pull rank and be the boss-mare. I’ve been afraid of getting after Angel because I didn’t want to lose the hard-earned trust I’ve finally achieved. Turns out, she won’t hate me if I make my demands known. In fact, she’s shown me that she’s more comfortable once I clearly explain what I want and expect from her. She doesn’t consider (reasonable) negative feedback as punishment; for her, it’s just communication.
- Angel’s reactions are not borne from uncertainty, pain, or confusion, as I had previously thought. Though that might have been true in the beginning, Angel’s hijinks are now simply the manifestation of three-year-old mare ‘tude.
- I have a bold little pony.
- Riding takes courage; you have to ride out the stupids and sillies. Yes, it’s scary, but not as scary as riding the horse who has learned to act up in order to get his way.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to put all the we learned and practiced to the test on April 29th- our first showing debut!!!
After a few months off from any real riding, Squish Pony and I are jumping right back in with a two day clinic. I’m a little worried about Pony having a melt down, since she’s pretty physically and emotionally unfit right now, but I think a lot of the clinic will focus on ground work, so hopefully it won’t be too taxing. If she starts getting grumpy, we’ll just break and I’ll audit for a bit.
In terms of general goals for the clinic, I’d like to get her going happily (yeesh, how vague is that?). She’s generally obedient, but its the obedience of a kid who cleans their room even though they don’t want to, and they stomp around just so you know how MISERABLE you’re making them. Because she’s so sensitive and easily offended, she’s an easy mare to spoil. I don’t want to let her get away with crap, but I also doing want to ruin the hard-won trust I’ve earned. I tend to err on the side of not asking enough for fear of asking her to do too much, and she’s starting to learn that if she throws a fit, I won’t push the issue.
Specifically, I’d like to get a nice lope out of her. Her MO is to do a witchy dirty stop that just impales my breastbone on the saddle horn. I’d also like smoother downward transitions; she tends to slam the brakes on her front feet and gets all wadded up behind.
As for personal goals, I need to remind myself that this is a learning opportunity, not a time to show off what I already know.
Crossing my fingers for good things this weekend!