Is winter over yet? I thought it was with the last cold front, but apparently that is not the case. I jinxed it when I went so far as to say, “winter is over! This is it!.” You would think I would know better by now. Yet, here we are in another freeze.
That is not really the point of this post though. In truth, today I do not really have a point. This time of year I am just so ready for the cold to be over that my brain does not really move on to much else. I think if you have been around here for a little while, I think this time of year is when I post the least. I am so ready for sun, warmth, daylight, and more riding. I will not say anything more about whether or not winter is locking up for the season, but I do know it is really starting to green up and the daylight changes tonight!
All of that said, you might find it funny that I am currently sitting on the patio of a restaurant, by a river, in 33 deg F weather. I have a problem. It is just so pretty. I almost can not feel my fingertips as I write. There is a slight breeze with ducks playing in the water. The sun is just breaching around the buildings. The sky is blue and the high is supposed to be above 60 today. However this is a vacation of sorts. I am out of town with my family for my little cousin’s wedding. It may be cold, but it will be stunning.
It reminds me of a breakfast on a patio I had in Paris, France, watching the passers by.
Coffee and a mimosa brunch are in order for sure. I just poured a fresh, steaming cup. In the natural way of things, I have been up for over an hour waiting for my family to wake up and get moving. This is normally my favorite time to write to you! Since they are related to me, I just got a message that half of them are up and coming down, so I might have to leave for a minute.
Anyway, I just want to remind everyone to take a breath and love themselves. Forgive yourself and those around you.
It is interesting being out in public. Especially driving. People are all in such a rush and a hurry with seemingly no regard for anyone or anything else. Slow down. Take a breath. Try not to cut people off in your haste and hurry. That is how you hurt people and damage things. Dramatic, I know, but it is truth.
I am just reminding myself and all of you, dear readers, to slow down. Take a breath and smell the roses! Life is so very short. You will get there when you get there. Try to brighten the world with the steps you take. Smile at people. Wave when you change lanes.
We have forgotten how to be neighbors. I think that is the point.
We are all together in this world. If you are late, you’re late, that is OK. You will get there when you get there, but don’t make others late.
I think that is all for today. I had much more to say, but in another natural way of things, they have all left me as I enjoy the beauty around me. Be happy dear readers. Enjoy who is around you and what you have today.
As always, walk in love, dear readers. I will be back soon!
…Or, ‘That Time My Photos Almost Broke The Blog.’ This one is pretty apt as it has taken quite a bit of time to get all of these up and I was worried I was going to lose the draft from crashing! As in, it did crash at one point.
If you follow all the goings-ons on Instagram and Facebook, you probably saw (a little while ago now) some of the play by play action of our trip, but I did not show everything! It has been crazy busy over here ever since I got back…so here we are looking back at my amazing trip. Texas is currently doing crazy winter things down here and I am sitting here with my second cup of coffee trying to get warm after feeding, watering, and mucking. We had frozen in shards falling from the sky yesterday and it is still stuck to the ground, fences, and deck. I am not going to lie, I have been having flash backs to last year’s winter-pocalypse. Anyway, enough of that. Let us dream of a tropical paradise by horseback, shall we?
Here is the thing. I know I have shared this before, but life is about taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way. You have no way of knowing what will still be available or what will happen tomorrow, in a week, next year, or five years from now. I have been kicking myself ever since Cousin A and R moved back to the states from Germany. Lost opportunity!
I love to travel and want to do more of that and experience local life, food, drink, and music. I love to ride horses and I want to not only do more of that, but I want to do it everywhere I go.
So, when Aunt M said to me, “Hey, I am going to visit K and B and go whale watching, you should come,” I quickly found myself saying, “You know what, I really should. Let us do it.” That is how the ‘plenty more huger’ Hawaiian adventure was hatched.
You see, K and B live on Maui and have for many years. K and B are my Uncle K and Aunt B, Aunt M and my Pops‘ Brother and Sister in Law. I had been to Hawaii once before many years ago as a kid with my family to visit and I basically only remember bits and pieces. They have always been so generous in always having their home open to family and friends for a visit. They also have this very close friend, L, who has horses on the island. Over the last few years hearing about K and B’s niece that loves to ride horses, L has told them several times that if I ever make it out for a visit, she would take me riding. Now, people say that kind of stuff all the time. I won’t lie, I have found myself doing it too. People do not always mean it, but every time I would talk with K and B, they would tell me about L and her horses and how she will take me riding.
I got to thinking, how many times does not only the offer of a place to stay, but also the offer to ride have to be made and not taken advantage of for me to come out the dummy? No more times, that is the answer! Once I committed, I quickly went and sent L a Facebook message so we could get to planning.
That is basically the back story. I wanted to ride and, well, do all the things and Aunt M wanted to see whales and the volcano. So, we planned for all of that!
We will skip over the Covid frenzy part of traveling and move straight on to the fun. While it may appear that fun was had all the way from conception to the time we landed upon our return, I will not lie and say that I was still very concerned and reserved until the moment we were on the last leg of our journey from Honolulu to Maui. I was very worried about not being granted entrance to Hawaii because of Covid. Blessedly, all that worry was for not….what is that I have said many times before about worrying for not? Something about a bunch of wasted energy?! Yes, that.
Anyway, I worried for not and enjoyed a mimosa with my breakfast while Aunt M and I waited to board the plane departing Houston.
After we boarded the plane, we then turn ourselves around and deplaned to keep things interesting. They said there was some mechanical problem. There was also a large connecting flight from somewhere that was delayed. And, I suppose, there is also Covid. This gave me time for another mimosa back in the airport! We ended up getting a new plane and were finally on our way.
With all the ‘keeping things interesting’ in our flights, we ended up being quite delayed. I do not even remember when we were originally supposed to land, I think 4 PM, but we did not get to K and B’s house until close to midnight.
All was quickly forgotten with local takeout at home followed by the first sunrise, a hot cup of coffee on the deck, and the first ride of the trip later that morning.
So, ya, the first ride. Um. I had never met L in person. We became Facebook friends when I knew I was coming. We messaged some back and forth about scheduling and experience, etc. I met her that morning when B dropped me at the driveway of her house.
But. She took me riding at Peahi. Just, you know, to casually view Jaws from up on the cliff horseback. No. Big. Deal.
Epic does not even touch the experience. Pictures also do not do it justice.
I mean. “Welcome to Hawaii,” L said with a big smile. I mean, is that Hawaiian for, “Hold my beer?”
I rode a lovely bay paint mare named Dreamer and she seemed to have as much fun as me. I felt somewhat like a kid in a candy store. I had already had this idea that I want to build all my travel around riding, and this ride just pretty much cemented that. If you can not ride there, I am just not so sure I want to go there. Horses are pretty cool in that way though, they are entrenched in society and human history, they are almost everywhere!
The waves were up and the pictures just do not show it. We could literally see the little ant sized surfers on the crazy waves.
To say L and I got on well would be an understatement. We are just two crazy little horse girls on the inside. The age difference meant nothing. When M and K picked me up after riding, M said we were both just beaming and I am not one bit surprised.
Driving around after the ride, I was just so struck by how scenic and dynamic this place is. Both the landscape and the weather. I was fascinated.
The crazy thing is, many views made me think of Ireland. My next place to go is either Ireland or New Zealand.
We all cooked dinner together at the house a lot so we could enjoy the sunsets on the deck. One does not have to twist my arm to do and enjoy that.
The arc of the sun this time of year from the house is amazing as it rises and sets symmetrically over the mountain.
For the second ride, L wanted me to try her young horse Carino, which means sweetheart. A super cute four year old bay, polo bred gelding. We just had a relaxed time doing horse things. Grooming, talking, riding. It was off and on raining while we were playing and it did not matter. We were just enjoying being able to ride and enjoy each other and horses and the scenery. I swear, you can see the ocean from pretty much everywhere. I suppose logically, that is not really a surprise, but it was kind of a surprise to me. Or, maybe just more fascination.
We had picnic lunches on the beach with wine while the whales blew in the distance.
We went on a Humpback whale watch boat with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Stop now if you are looking for a picture of a whale and just go google it or something. While we did see many whales, we chose not to waste our watching trying to take pictures of them. The pictures are in my memory! In real life, most of the whale action was far enough away to just not be worth the shutter click. We just did not want to miss anything and take away from the experience by trying to catch it on the camera. It really was super exciting though. We were in the moment and all had fun. It was fun to see kids and adults alike act like kids, me included, the minute we saw a whale. And, goodness, the views. I did snap some pics of the view. That evening’s sunset was enjoyed on the boat surrounded by whales.
They do call it the rainbow state and I did see one little piece of a rainbow. Better than none!
On another ride L took me to ride with one of her friends at this sustainable farm. Again with the ocean view! We also saw a couple NeNe, the Hawaiian state bird. It is some level of endangered or was? They have one mate and breed for life. Anyway, it is apparently a big deal to see one. On this day we saw two! I rode Carino again and L said she wanted me to ride him the rest of my visit!
We went on a dinner cruise with Champaign and cocktails being serenaded by whales, you know, no big deal. The whales were literally right by the boat.
Uncle K and I hiked some of the crater together…and we saw A WHOLE FAMILY OF NENE. An adult breeding pair and two very small goslings. You can not really see the babies in the pictures, but trust me, they were there.
After the hike, we picked up Aunt M and enjoyed a wine flight tasting at the vineyard. Then L and I had another relaxed horse afternoon. It is just a jungle everywhere!
Another beautiful sunrise. Sitting on the deck watching the sun never got old. That will never change no matter where I am.
I am not really quite sure what I loved most about this trip. Well, obviously the riding, but our day trip to the big island to visit the volcano was pretty dang, um, epic. What other word is there? It was a bucket list item for Aunt M. We hopped on a commuter plane for a day trip. It was a long day, but boy it was something. We could see whales playing from the sky. We saw the steam and vents. We drove the crater and all the way to the coast through the old lava flows. We saw another breeding pair of NeNe! We watched the sunset and the reflection of the lava on the steam with cocktails and dinner. No big deal. The red glow in the darkness around the last of the sunset reminded me of a pit fire here in Texas.
I tried to take pictures of our flight back to Maui that night, but they did not turn out. The moon was almost full and you could see the waves on the shore of Maui as we were flying.
We went to a luau in Lahaina and watched the sun set there.
On our last ride, we rode the pineapple fields. I was being silly apparently and did not take an actual picture of said pineapples in the fields. Oops. I was distracted because it smelled like pineapples and of the view up ahead.
We went for a lovely dinner out on the water in Kihei. Afterwards, I went to the moonlit beach to stick my feet in the water. I went to bed with sand still on my toes. Judge me if you wish!
We watched the moon set and the sun rise on our last full day morning.
We went up the hill to enjoy the view and watch the parasailers and then went to the lavender farm.
We had a little hike to some waterfalls where the young and old alike were having grand times.
We had my new Aunt L over for our last sunset and her birthday dinner. I baked a pomegranate cheesecake to celebrate her birthday and as a little thank you for all of her generosity in taking me riding almost every day. We got to ride so much, I did not even take pictures every time. I do not think I could do anything to thank her enough.
A welcome back to stateside with the moon over San Francisco. It was a long ride back!
E hele aloha e na makamaka heluhelu.
Walk in love, dear readers!
I am out of words and pictures for this trip. I think that is a blessing!
Well, not so much as a tale tale but a Merry Christmas everyone!
Just a few days late…
It has been rather hot down here in Texas and Christmas day was north of 80 degrees F I believe. My horses were sweating on Sunday just grazing. I think we are supposed to get a cold snap here this weekend, but it does not generally feel very winterey to me. I for one and perfectly OK with that after last year. I know there are many that feel the same and we are all praying that we do not have the same experience this coming year.
Even still, I attempted to create a little winter with my Christmas desserts. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Or something like that?
I present to you a gilded Christmas, winter forest in the form of a chocolate cheesecake cake complete with decorated trees. Two rich, dark chocolate cake layers with a creamy and sinful cheesecake layer in the middle, all wrapped in cream cheese frosting.
This cake was actually for a party the weekend before Christmas. I figured, so long as the inside is good, it does not much matter what the outside looks like. Just do it! I think it turned out pretty well! It is abstract, OK?! If you don’t bid, you don’t win. I think I won.
Christmas morning brought a cookie for the Merley before completing my next cake.
The ultimate Christmas morning scene in the form of a cheesecake (my friend blamed me for the cream cheese shortage…). A spiced cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, glazed in white chocolate ganache, and decorated with homemade gingerbread cookies.
It was all worth it in the end, even if I was cursing myself by the time Christmas morning actually did roll around. I baked the cheesecake and prepared the gingerbread dough on Thursday evening. Merle and I danced and listened to music in the kitchen while I went about the mixing and baking.
Then on Friday, it was gingerbread cookie central. They are worth it, take my word for it, but man! Rolling and cutting cookies…and then decorating said cookies is so much work! It took all morning and then I had to wrap the presents! Luckily for me, it was not too many and I was able to get them all quite quickly. I do not often make cut out cookies for the simple reason that it takes so long. I forgot apparently when I saw the cover of Southern Living and came up with this plan. I remembered about the time I had two trays left to bake and realized how much decorating I needed to do. Anyhow, for a first time attempt at gingerbread cookies and royal icing, I think they turned out pretty great! I am glad I did it. It was fun and it all tasted delicious.
What is a dreamy Christmas morning without horses under the tree?
I really wanted to put an ice skater on top of that white chocolate ganache.
I hope you enjoyed! Did you make or do anything fun this year for Christmas??? Fun fact, I actually have a couple cakes to make for people because of these cakes!
Or, ‘The Friday Night Bubbles.’ You choose. Brace yourselves for an evening post…and a Friday night post at that!
I am normally a morning poster. Sue me, I am a morning person, it is my time of day, but the mood struck so here we are. One must capitalize on the mood, right?! That is what it is all about. I remember when I first started this blog, I did a bunch of research on how to create a successful ‘site.’ Much of the advice centered around making sure you post at the most opportune time to get the click traffic. This is decidedly not that time! There is quite a bit of advice I did not follow! Enough about all of that.
I have been baking this fine Friday evening for a Christmas party tomorrow night. A chocolate cheesecake cake with cream cheese frosting. Say that five times fast, I dare you. It will be ‘abstractly’ decorated like a winter forest. You know, since we do not have white Christmases down here. More on the cake later.
This has historically been a very festive and fun weekend to stay in town with all the parties, especially when the weather will be less than agreeable (you know I will make it out the farm at some point or…points, do not worry). I almost wrote about a Texas Christmas because of our very Texas weather, can you imagine?! How boring. Except, really, our weather is very Texas-ey this month). On December 1st I had intentions of posting almost every day with joyful Christmassy things to make everyone happy and joyful. I got as far as a couple fun and festive photo shoots and the rest just did not happen. Sigh. Life happens, what can I say? I apologize for the let down!
These are the only new pictures I have. This is real life. The real faces of Christmas ponies. Covered in molasses protein tub…and a human shadow…
Yes, you see Twinkle Toes glitter. Judge me. I dare you.
You really can not not love a molasses covered horse face.
Anyway, I have been baking and dancing in the kitchen with my Merle while the music plays. I would like to say that we are jamming to Christmas music (which I am sure all of you would have guessed), but in truth, we are listening to music from my ‘college days’ (lawd, so good. I swear, it is still the best music I have ever listened to). That seems a strange statement as university seems like only yesterday…it has been about ten years since I graduated. That is very strange. Again, not the point.
Get on with it. Ya, sorry.
OK, there are a couple of things.
As I sit here sipping some bubbley while the chocolate cake layers cool (the cheesecake layer is already baked, cooled, and in the refrigerator), there are a multitude of things that get my memories and thoughts flowing…and, er, bubbling.
Blame it, all of this, on the bubbley. It would not be the first time the bubbley was blamed for something.
It occurred to me at some point today that I have purchased almost zero presents. Yikes. Although, these days we have generally all agreed to only really get gifts for the kids, but those are the most important ones! I have a couple of things that I purchased months ago, but that does not cover the need. I have some work to do! It reminds me of my Pops’ approach to purchasing gifts. He always seems to buy ALL of his gifts the week of Christmas. Yes, I know. I do not know how he does it either. Do not ask. I have always wondered, do other fathers do this? I think this is just a man thing?
When I was younger, there were times I would go with him that very week of Christmas to purchase and then deliver his gifts after I wrapped them. It was a marvel to me, and I wondered if all dads did that. One time, I was with him when he purchased my Christmas gift. It was most likely all three of our gifts. We were at REI and he pulled several high quality wool socks of the shelf and had me carry them as we shopped and then checked out. After we got home, he had me wrap them, as per usual. All of them. Side note, I have always liked to wrap gifts. Cousin H and I used to wrap all of my Grandmother’s gifts for her. We discovered that she would unwrap my cousin’s wrapped presents and have me rewrap them because I was better at it. Anyway, back to the story, I am not quite sure how I never realized it, but my Pops had me wrapping my own present! I remember myself laughing so hard when I opened that present and then Pops having a good chuckle. I have always liked the socks he got me. They have certainly come in handy over the years. I have always thought that a dad should buy their children good wool socks because you just never know when you will need them. I have needed them quite a bit. He gave me more when I went off to college. One birthday while I was away at school he messaged me to tell me happy birthday. I thanked him and told him I was wearing a pair of the socks he gave me. He said he was happy I was warm.
My Eldest Sister A has done this too, except I did not have to wrap this one. She was purchasing Breyer model horses for me and for a barn kid she was babysitting. She took me along when she was shopping to try and get a feel for which one I would like best. Well, I remember that Breyer pony she ended up giving me quite well to this day. She was a pony. A very refined and fine boned specimen. She possibly had some Arabian blood. You could tell by the profile of her head. All my Breyers are packed away in a closet upstairs, but she was like a greying, flea bitten chestnut in color. So loved by me, at least one of her legs had to be glued back on, likely two legs. You did not love your Breyer horses unless you broke a leg or two.
I digress. I am clearly following in the footsteps of my forebearers and utilizing the dad approach in the present buying. I have some work to do!
What really has all the memories and thoughts flowing is that I was smacked in the face today when I got home. I love this time of year getting Christmas cards in the mail. One of the cards I got today took my breath away before I even took it out of the mailbox. The handwriting on it looked just like H’s. I just stared at it for a long while and could not breathe for a bit. I almost swore that it was her until I saw the return address label which actually caused some great confusion in my brain. I took a deep breath and snagged my mail like a thief before a neighbor thought something was amiss. The card was obviously not from H, but she would always send a Christmas card with their Border Collies on it. I just loved that she did that and that I always got one from her and M. She was also so good at sending people cards in the mail in general, whether or not it was a special occasion. Just because. She had reason to hate this time of year, but she did not. This was H’s time of year and she brought us all such joy. I also used to talk to her while I baked or cleaned. I do not have anything else to say about that other than I just miss her. Still. Always will. I look forward to when I see something like that and I just smile.
Thanks for being here for me and for reading to the end of this Friday night holiday ramble. What is this holiday season bringing to your mind?
Walk in love, dear readers. Have some holiday fun this weekend!
I do not know about y’all, but this 2021 year is trying to finish out worse than that other year. So, I have decided to just not let it be that way. December does not have a choice. With your help, we are going to make this a rockin’ awesome December! Trust me, we can gang up on it and make it so! Check back here all month for happy things! We are going to use this month to solidify our Christmas spirit so we can take it with us into the new year 2022. (Yikes, that sounds funny! 2022! How did we already get there?!)
So, just for you, on this first day of this joyous month, I am dragging out the tried and true.
Yes, I know I share these every year, but they are so dang cute and happy. I am just gearing you up for this year’s pictures! Besides, how do these not make you joyous?!
Walk in love, dear readers, have a great Wednesday and an even better December 2021!
If you have anything happy and joyous to share, share it with me!
Here is a VERY long story about the saddest Thanksgiving made incredibly short.
You will thank me later.
Once upon a time in the year 2021, my family celebrated Thanksgiving by gathering at the farm for the whole week.
All were excited as groceries were stuffed into the refrigerator and pantry. Plans were made. Activities were scheduled.
Tuesday rolled around and…
Avery got sick.
The world felt like it stopped, but spoiler alert, it did not. Thanksgiving came and went as I slept the week away. It was the gift that nobody wanted!
There was no cooking, no baking, and no eating. Or drinking. No riding. No music listening. No fire sitting.
Well, not about the sick part. I was that. Very sick. I am still not one hundred percent, but I am getting there.
The ‘end’ part, that is what I am talking about. It was and is not the end! Is that not a relief?!
Dear readers, today is a new day! The actual day of Thanksgiving may have been a bust, but that does not mean you can not have the gratefulness and gratitude all year long. Or the food and togetherness. AHA moment. You heard it here first, y’all.
It is like embodying the Christmas spirit all year long. It is the same with Thanksgiving!
What are you grateful for? Remember and do not forget or take it for granted.
And speaking of Christmas…
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! All year long! Get ready!
Walk in love, dear readers, and have a grateful Tuesday! Get your coffee or tea down and get ‘er done!
What words does one find and use for a man that stepped up when he didn’t have to? There really are none. Sometimes I really do wish I was an animal so I wouldn’t have use such a measly form of expression. I have been wracking my brain and avoiding this ever since I was asked to put some words down. The truth is, my Grandmother would not have chosen a different man. Harry was that man. Harry was my Grandfather. He was our Grandfather even if blood did not make it so.
My Grandfather Harry went to his Heavenly home last week after a long and blessed life. He was almost 99 years old. It was not that long ago that he was still mobile and independent and his mind was his pretty much until the end. He is now whole and free. There is no more of the pain and suffering.
He lived quite a life. He was a decorated war veteran. He was a career man. There is much that can be said, but more importantly than all of that, he was a family man. A Son, a Brother, a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, a Great Grandfather.
We were blessed with and by him. He was ours and we were his. I always felt this. Sometimes when I would call them and he would answer the phone, he would immediately say, “Hold on, I’ll go get her.” My response would always be, “Harry, I want to talk to you too.”
There is a picture somewhere of him that shows him. Him. Who he was to the core to all of us, if I can be so bold as to speak for others in my family. It is somewhere and I can not find it. It wasn’t staged or posed. He wasn’t wearing a suit or a uniform dressed with medals. He wasn’t alone. He didn’t have a young man’s head of hair. Although, he always had good hair. It was that beautiful white gray. Oddly enough I do not think my Grandmother was even in the picture, which is crazy because they were always together! She might have been behind the camera. She is always taking pictures.
It was at a long ago birthday party of ours at some big venue I think. There were kids everywhere, visible even in the tight frame. They were not the focus of the photo. It was one man and one birthday kid. Full of smiles and love and life and color. Vital. He was always smiling.
Man that just smacks me right in the chest right now and has fresh, solitary tears streaming down my cheeks.
I can’t even find the photo.
It seems almost a wonder that the photo was even snapped and caught because in my memory it was somewhat blurry and out of focus with faint streaks of light across it. Taken in a quick flash in low lighting. I think there was even a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The photographer trying to enjoy the moment and create a lasting memory at the same time.
There was a big slide wherever this party was being held and right there in the middle of it, sliding down the slide like a kid himself, was Harry with one of us three girls in his lap. Both smiling in delight. I don’t even think you’re supposed to do that with kids these days. Something about ripping their arms and legs off. I think kids are supposed to wear harnesses and seatbelts now. Anyway.
I can’t find the picture.
My Grandmother used to always have freezer waffles for me in the mornings when I would sleep over as a kid. Nobody could prepare them like her and it could not be recreated at home. At some point in time, and I do not know why, Harry started making waffles and I never gave another thought to freezer waffles. Every time after that when I would sleep over, we would have Harry’s waffles. He made the world’s best waffles. We all loved his waffles. He whipped the egg whites by hand to fold into the batter. That made them light, and airy in texture on the inside, but they also had a lovely crisp on the outside.
They loved to go out to breakfast as a couple. When I stopped sleeping over at their house, I started to join them for breakfast sometimes. Harry found the best waffles at Le Peep and that came to be the only place we would go as the three of us so Harry and I could get waffles. I still think they are the best waffles if you can not have Harry’s waffles. They used to also have a standing date with a big table at a local Tex-Mex restaurant on Sunday evenings. It was almost like a revolving door dinner in my mind, even if I did say I was crashing their dinner when I would invite myself to come. Whoever wanted to come could come. Like when he would go to breakfast, he generally ordered the same things for dinner there too.
Harry knew that I liked to cook and bake and experiment in the kitchen. At some point before he married my Grandmother he had collected recipes and organized them in a recipe box. Every time he saw an interesting recipe, he would just store it away. He told me that he had not even looked at them since he married my Grandmother. He gave me his box of recipes that he had held on to for all those years. I loved to get Harry’s feedback on my desserts at our family gatherings. He was always very thoughtful and honest. He was a great listener and not just of words.
He always did the dishes. I don’t ever remember not having an awareness of him doing the dishes. It was his thing. There was nothing to ‘get’ or understand about it. It was his thing. The first time I tried to help him, he all but shooed me out of the kitchen. It was his domain after a meal was prepared. I don’t know if it was his little quiet in our family craziness or just what he did. He finally did let me help after my insistence, but we had to do it his way. So we did. He taught me how to use the disposal. I always wondered how he did the dishes so quickly!
When my Grandparents would come to the farm, Harry would always take time for a walk down the lane. Before he would bring a cane, he would find a sturdy and straight stick of pecan wood to use as a walking stick. Sometimes others would join him on his walk and sometimes he would go by himself, but he would always come back with a gathering of pecans. I think the pecans he gathered on one of his last walks a few years ago entertained my cousin’s daughter, L, for a good long while after we taught her how to use a nut cracker.
At my Grandmother’s birthday celebration last year, we gathered in their back yard to have sandwiches and cupcakes. You see they have one of the best yards. Harry meticulously cared for their yard and flower beds for as long as I can remember. There was always something beautiful to look at and, man, their lawn! It is a great lawn. We had many great Easter egg hunts in that yard. I think all of us cousins look at a yard and think what it would be like to have an Easter egg hunt there because of our memories there. Anyway, we celebrated my Grandmother’s birthday out there. Covid gave us an excuse to. My cousins were there with their kids and I was there with Merle. Harry came over to me in his wheelchair and told me to go shut the driveway gate so I could let my pup off the leash. He wanted him to play with the kids in the yard and on the lawn. To be free, like the kids in that way of kids. I do not really even know if he was really a dog man, but he always was happy to let me go on about my animals. I gladly did as he asked and shut the gate. As the two of us watched kids and dog play in the yard he said to me, “Your Grandmother and I always dreamed of having all the kids play in this yard.” I do not think his smile ever looked so big and bright. I wonder if that is why he always kept it just so.
Well, Harry, your dream came true. At least in my eyes.
Ever faithful. Ever constant. Ever present.
He was a presence in our lives.
I remember him like he was in this video. He was 91 in this video. What a man! What a life!
Walk in love, dear readers.
Go be with your loved ones. Share your love and memories.
Happy Friday, dear readers! As I promised, we are back to our regular scheduled programming. Are not you happy?!
Yes, yes, I know you are!
If you are new around here, our regular programming includes adventuring musings starring one or two lineback dun horses and a certain rambling, mongrel bird dog!
Many of our adventures are set in the hill country of Texas. It can be quite difficult to express the true feeling of being there if you have never experienced it for yourself. It has such feeling and the pictures very rarely ever do it justice. The sights. The smells. The feeling. Many here in the state call it God’s Country. Really, I feel that way about the whole state. But, we sure do like riding the hill country as long time readers can attest to. We travel there at least once a year and I really enjoy sharing our rides there with you, even if to just share a change in scenery through my horses’ ears.
Lito’s first time to travel there was to a ranch in the heart of the hill country that my family and I used to spend quite some time on when I was younger. We went with our best friends and my Darcy girl. We actually went there a couple of months ago, just me, my Lito, and Merley, for a weekend with family. I shared some photos of that trip the last time I wrote to you. I did not take very many pictures on that trip, but the three of us had a lovely time. The feeling was…I just do not know…as if we three had been traveling the world and riding trails alone our whole lives. Lito and Merle really have each other figured out, use each other out on the trail, and seem to gain confidence from each other. Lito felt very grown up.
Then of course there are our bigger group rides once a year that take place in a more southern area of the hill country. The first year I went, I took Ike. I took Lito the last three years and each time it was an even better ride. Unfortunately, the 2020 ride was canceled (which is how we ended up going to Lake Sam Rayburn to ride), go figure that! We have been sending up all the prayers for a 2021 ride!
For our most recent adventure a couple of weeks ago, Lito, Merle, and I went to a new to us part of the hill country. We went with some of our good riding friends to Parrie Haynes Ranch Equestrian Center outside of Killeen, Texas. This group has been here several times and it is open to the public! This place has cabins, electrical hook ups, water, and nice horse pens. There are many trails that are pretty well marked and there are some challenging places! I think we did some of the more difficult riding I have ever done there.
Man, we just had a great time!
Merle came along just to hang out, as there are not many horses that are used to his antics and energy, but he seemed to have just as much fun as everyone else. Both Lito and Merle settled right into camp on Thursday evening.
We rode. We ate (very well). We drank. We laughed (a lot). We shared. We watched the rain. Felt the sun and the wind. I could have stayed! I can not wait to go back and ride the places we could not because of the rain.
I took pictures when I could. The hill country has the best blue skies.
For a lot of it I wish I had a GoPro! Climbing hills and rocks does not allow for taking pictures while riding.
We had one afternoon of rain, but other than that, the weather was stunning. Especially on Sunday.
Lito and I led the way most of the time, which is funny since we had never been before. Lito has taken to prefer the front with his big walk.
There is this one open field dotted with beautiful oak trees and tall, golden, waving grass speckled with bluebonnets. It was pure magic. I am telling you the pictures do not do it justice!
All of this adventuring really makes me want to travel even more to different places!
Have you been on any fun adventures? With or without horses? Or read of any good ones recently? Tell me!
I surely do not know what else to call it. It has been one heck of a week and we are not even finished seeing the results of it yet.
If you did not know, Texas and much of the central and United States have just been majorly smacked around by Old Man Winter. In a BIG way. Lives of all kinds have been lost. There is much to be said on this whole situation from many different places and perspectives, but for now, I have my experience to share. Having animals, and any kind of livestock in particular, is a lot of work in normal circumstances. It is much more work in times like these.
I do not know how people up north handle it! Other than the fact that they are just more prepared for it and are used to it. This last week has felt like a whole three month long season and yet, at the same time, I am dazed at how it was only a week and somehow became the last week of February with the sun shining and temperatures rising to the 70s? What is that? Where did the month go? It is still going to take me some time to decompress from all of this. And to thaw out. I swear I am still cold. At 70 degrees.
I do not even think I really knew winter storms had names. To me, storms with names are tropical! Hurricanes! However, winter storms do have names and we got hit by not only one, but I think we got hit by two named winter storms in one week. Winter storms Uri and Viola. It is not that we have not had winter ‘storms’ or even snow before. We have! It snowed actually in 2017 not long after Hurricane Harvey. In 2018 we had many freezes in one week where I was farm bound. That was the first time I really heard the term Polar Vortex. It just was not as cold. Or windy. Maybe this is what we are getting after having such an active tropical season. I have already heard that this year’s tropical season is going to be the same, so maybe we need to prepare for next winter! Just a thought, you know. However, we need to get through this one first and I am not so sure it is finished.
There is a saying that goes something like this, “if it thunders in February, it will freeze in April.” It thundered the Thursday and Friday before this! I have also heard something like, “if it thunders in December, it will be a very cold winter.” I am sure we had thunder in December! Prepare now. You heard it here first.
Anyhow, enough of that. I am no meteorologist. Let us get on with it.
I suppose the beginning is as good of a place as any to start, as with any story. Day by day? Yikes, they all started to run together very early on.
Get yourself a whole pot of coffee or tea.
This long winter’s tale begins a couple of weeks ago when the forecast for last week continued to not change. Almost as if it was set in stone. So set in stone that it was even worse than they anticipated.
At the beginning I thought to myself (and then later on, not so much to just myself!), “Eek. Surely that can not be right. There is no way. Lows well below 20? Snow? Freezing rain? Surely not.” Then it got worse as forecasts began to predict a low of 5 degrees F on Monday night and Tuesday morning and persisting winds and deadly wind chill and freezing rain before and after that. And, and, and!
I very quickly prepared to head to the farm the afternoon of the 11th, that would be last Thursday, after preparing my home in Houston. Luckily for me, taking care of my townhouse is not all that much involved. I set my central heating, closed the blinds, opened by sink cabinets, turned off the water supply to the house, drained the lines, and insulated the external exposures. Then I said a prayer for the best (I will go ahead and tell you that my house is just fine! I feel very blessed).
I got to the farm before dark and made my plans and lists to go to town Friday morning to stock up on feed for the animals and groceries for myself. I knew it was very likely that I would not be able to leave much at all during this and I wanted to be prepared for that no matter what happened.
Friday afternoon through Sunday morning were spent with Pops preparing. (Please also make note that it is cold and windy this whole time by our standards already..it only gets worse!). Making sure all external water line exposures on the property (to the houses, water troughs, and various water line risers) were as covered and insulated as possible. Virtually every towel, blanket, piece of cardboard, and big tub bucket (and anything else we could find) was utilized. Making sure the access holes on the old pier and beam farm house were not only covered, but would not get blown open. Putting round bales out for the cows. Draining hoses and putting them inside. Setting up heaters in the well houses. Getting the barn mucked out and clean, stocked with water and hay, and setting out every single horse blanket I have. Literally! Filling up the bathtubs and every horse bucket left and any other receptacle to know we would have enough water for not only us, but for all the animals as well.
Sunday morning I stepped out confidently to continue on in our efforts after feeding the horses, but our porch was already covered in a layer of ice. Ice that I did not see or notice. That is until I slipped on it one or two steps in and almost fell and broke my face! Luckily I somehow kept from falling, but my back was already screaming before I even got back inside. Poor Merle, who somehow escaped all calamities going out of the house that morning, had a similar experience to mine and almost completely blew out on his way back to the door! When he regained his balance he looked back and forth from me to the ice, dumbfounded, expressing great confusion all over his sweet face. He then smartly watched me carefully side step on a protected edge that was ice free and proceeded to trace my steps to get inside safely. Each morning he was a little less exuberant to head out until he evaluated the footing!
By Sunday late afternoon/early evening we had done as much as we could to prepare. Except for emptying the manure spreader. The freezing rain came sooner that afternoon than expected. I was going to do that at the last minute after I mucked again. Oops. Spoiler alert, I will not let that happen again. That would be a problem. It was full. I naively thought it would not be a problem and that I could do it the next day.
Before dinner, I went out to the barn (the horses had already spent most all of the weekend up in the barn by this point because the weather had already been so poor) and brushed the horses down, got their blankets on (2 each! They all had on some combination of a turnout sheet, light to med weight turnout blanket, and a fleece or cooler liner), fed them their dinner with added probiotics and electrolytes (I kept these going for days), and put out extra hay in the slow feeder nets.
They all knew the atmosphere was amiss. Merle did not seem to care all that much besides being clingy, but Lito very much cared. Here we were on night one and he would barely eat his dinner. We were in for a long, long week.
By this point all the trees were covered in a veil ice and being shoved angrily about by the wind.
You know what I do not like? The sound of ice in the trees. Ice screeching and scratching and breaking. Lito said he did not like it either.
I also do not like the howling wind from inside the house for that matter.
I was short one horse blanket to double up on Ike so he got to wear the big cooler under his medium turnout blanket. Not what it was designed for, but it worked in a pinch for the night times. Petunia comes ready made with a heavy coat and a tough as nails constitution. I have no idea how she makes it through summer. I trace clipped her last summer because I felt bad for her.
After dinner, I topped off the barn buckets, drained the hose, put the hose away in the heated well house, and mucked out the stalls again. We then turned off the water for the duration, drained the lines, and said our prayers.
I left all the horses except Lito in their stalls Sunday night as that was to be the ‘wettest’ (and most icy and snowiest) night and I wanted to make sure Ike was kept warm and dry. He is the lowest ranked in the herd and I did not want him kicked out of the barn. I left Lito’s stall open so he could wander as he was very bothered by it all and I figured it was likely I would find him not where I left him come morning. That may or may not have happened once or twice in the past. I also left the bottom chain on the other three stalls open so Petunia could get in wherever she wanted to to stay warm.
After my final barn check I was able to catch our cat, Luke Boots, and bring him in for the night. I set him up in Merle’s crate with a towel, food, and water. Boy, he was thirsty! It had been so cold and windy, I do not think he had ventured out of the garage at all, not even for water! I brought him almost every night.
I enjoyed a couple glasses of rose champagne for Valentine’s Day that I picked up for myself on Friday (I also picked up chocolates, because again, why not!) and watched a little bit of television. At some point I made myself go to bed knowing how tired I was and was going to be even if I did not feel ready to sleep.
Going to bed was quite futile. My mind almost felt like the air outside. It was blowing like crazy and it was so loud in the house. I was just plain worried about the horses. And the cows. And the cayotes were very vocal and as close as I have ever heard them. Everything! And it was only the beginning. I could not get comfortable thanks to my back and I kept getting up to look out the window to see how the horses looked.
By the time 5 AM rolled around I was ready to get suited up and start feeding and hauling water out to the barn.
Lito (black blanket) spent almost the whole night right there in front of Chance’s stall and Petunia spent pretty much the whole night in Lito’s stall next to Cheetah. I have never been more grateful for this barn (and the lights) in the whole time that we have had it. Of course to be able to see them from the house, but the wind was just going absolutely crazy. I have never felt anything like those temperatures. Goodness, and that wind chill. The barn was the next best place to the house to be. It really makes you realize how important a shelter of any kind is and really makes you look at your house differently.
I will say, it is pretty. That is the upside to the hard and harsh. The yield is very pretty. As are the sunrises. I do not need anymore snow pictures now! We are good for a WHILE. Spring is welcome!
It is hard to tell how much snow we actually got because of how windy it was all night. It was very blown and on a bed of ice. I do not think we got as much ice as they thought we were going to get, but ice is ice in my book. In places it almost seemed bare of snow and in other places it was five or six inches deep. It was not light and fluffy.
They all seemed to drink well in the night before breaking the ice themselves was no longer possible, but they were also grateful for and drank up the water I brought from the house. They all also seemed pretty dang comfortable. Nobody was shivering and their spirits seemed bright and light. I know they were grateful for the barn too. This really was a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to be able to see and appreciate the beauty. I mucked out the barn (and filled the last bit of space in the manure spreader…which there really was not any space. It just spilled over the side.) and broke ice as the horses ate. Lito was more relaxed come sunrise and even ate his breakfast well before the sun was even up. I am very happy that he ate well the rest of the week. I was very worried when Sunday evening he did not finish his feed.
Merle was the most excited about it all and had a big time. Light on his paws, shall we say! I make no apologies for the amount of pictures. I was feeding off of his joy.
Once they were finished eating, I went ahead and let them all out of their stalls to move around since the wind had quieted down finally and the sun was coming out.
You can take some time now to laugh at and be prepared to laugh even more at my pipe coverings. I have already shown you some, but there are more to come. PVC does not handle extremes very well, so I wanted them as covered as possible even if they were drained. You can spot blankets, feed bags, cardboard, and A LOT of duct tape. You have to do what you have to do. Underneath all of that is even more. Towels. Actual pipe coverings. Even more duct tape! Some hay twine because nothing is complete without hay twine. Most of my work lasted, some did not, but I do think it all helped.
Yes, he is playing with frozen poop. It is apparently better than regular poop?
Look! Not only the sun, but blue skies!
After the horses and the barn were squared away for the time being, I went and started my car (I am still surprised I could get it open with all the ice) and fixed myself a cup of coffee to-go so Merle and I could go count and feed the cows and break ice on their troughs.
This time as we were leaving the house there was a stunned bird sitting on the iced over porch. Just sitting, motionless. Merle went straight to him and the bird tried to fly away, but he did not have the strength. I quickly called Merle off so he would not use the poor little guy as a play thing and picked him up in my gloved hands. After some deliberation with the little bird stock still, but alert in my hands, I tucked him into a protected cubby in the garage for him to recover. I said a little prayer and hoped Luke Boots would not find him. While I am pleased to report I am pretty sure this bird survived as I saw what looked like the same bird flying around the garage, I saw many many dead birds over the next couple of days. I have never seen anything like it. Merle was quite pleased with himself as he retrieved one such carcass to me. I praised him for his effort all the while being sad for the reason. However, I could still hear birds singing. Another blessing.
The cows were very happy to see me and seemed to be doing ok. They emerged out of their protected pasture next to the river without encouragement, covered in snow and ice, happy to have a bag of cubes. All the cows, calves, including a calf from next door, and our very old longhorn steer were accounted for! I was very worried about old Chacho. Those longhorns are tough. He is teaching these young girls to be tough.
We have the smallest herd we have had in years, and this is one of those times I am grateful for it. Each morning I drove out there to feed, count, and break ice. The calves on the ground are old enough to not be overly vulnerable even in these extreme conditions. My heart really goes out to all farmers and ranchers with much bigger operations than ours with many more animals to care for. Many do not have the same news to report as me.
I stopped back in at the barn on the way back to check waters and scoop more poop. As you can likely guess, the spreader is more than overflowing at this point. My goal was to just scoop every time I was out to try and stay on top of it. To keep the barn habitable to keep the horses as comfortable in the barn as possible to stay warm and dry. Even though the sun was out and they did step out some when the sun was out, they spent the majority of the week in the barn. It was just that cold and windy. Their gate was open for them to go out in their pasture when I did not have to change blankets.
I kept looking up at the sun in amazement every time it came out. Yes, that tree is covered in ice if you look close enough. I was just so glad that the sun was finally out, even if it was only for a little bit of time. Monday did not get even close to above freezing and we were due to have even lower lows and more freezing rain.
In between putting layers on (yikes! so so many layers), feeding, scooping poop, toting water from the house to the barn, scooping poop, breaking ice, scooping even more poop, and stripping off all the layers, we warmed up inside and got what rest we could. We reached out to our people to make sure everyone was doing ok. Logged on and did some work work. I tried at one point to spread and empty the manure spreader. Ha. That was more futile than sleeping! It was completely frozen! Wheels did not turn. That could really be a problem, but at that point, I just shrugged and said oh well. What can you do?! It is not broken like that one time. I just piled it around and when everything thaws I will either pick it all up or spread it around? At least frozen poop is easier to scoop and it does not really smell.
This is basically how the whole week went. Rinse and repeat! I carried water out to the barn, two buckets or one boiling pot at a time, two or three times a day, with multiple trips each time. Horses drink a lot of water. I would have had to do it more if I did not have the water trough and was keeping them locked in their stalls. Adding boiling water helps to keep the buckets from freezing so quickly and some horses do not drink cold water very well. It also helps to get rid of some if not all of the ice already there. In this particular case, it was only some of the ice. Luckily, our horses are mostly very good drinkers of cold water. My arms got very sore. I am still feeling a little bit of that today. They started to feel like noodles. My back stopped screaming at some point, but it was still nagging. I just shrugged it off.
Some of my people were not ok. Most of them had no power or water. There was nothing I could do to help but offer support, motivation, and prayers. But they kept on. One step at a time. One friend had to haul her colicing horse to the vet in the ice and everything else that was falling from the sky. The vet did not have power or running water at the clinic, but they were able to treat her and get the mare back home safely. I had another friend who’s horse tied up during the worst of the storms with no way to get him to the vet or to get a vet there. She just kept injecting him with banamine and ace to try to help him relax and get comfortable. At one point she just sat in the snow and cried. She had her moment and felt her feelings, but do you know what she did then? She stood up, dusted the snow off of her bum, and marched on to do the next thing. There is always something. You just have to do one thing at a time.
My grandparents did not have power or water. I am so very grateful that they were not alone and were able to keep warm. I am thankful for wood burning fireplaces and space heaters. For gas grills if there is not a gas stove. For their spirits of seeing the blessings and just being plain tough. Not one complaining word came out of their mouths. “What can you do,” they said with a chuckle, “it can be worse, many have it worse.” Apparently it takes a child of the depression to see past the bad. To not complain.
The horses did have some fun for those small times they ventured out. We even got some melting in such low temperatures. The power of the sun. Never underestimate it! I was grateful for it even though I knew that would just mean more ice.
I had to break ice several times a day to keep them drinking. I have never seen water freeze back so quickly.
I upped the ante Monday night after it was all said and done. A margarita. I cheered myself and I cheered everyone else that was out there doing what I was doing. To those doing it times 10. I cheered my friends who were out there struggling, but keeping at it.
My work to keep drinkable water in the barn as long as possible was likely for not, but it was worth a shot. It is always worth the shot.
Tuesday dawned our coldest morning. With blessed stillness in the air.
Cold sunrises are always the prettiest. Just another blessing to see and feel. My animals were surviving. We had shelter to be in. Water to drink. Food to eat. Ways to make heat. And. Eyes to see these sunrises.
That is ice covering the pond. I have never seen that. There were ducks standing on it before I took this picture!
The livestock were not the only ones that needed water.
It is just so pretty and that sun was getting to work quick.
Ike was enjoying being spoiled in a stall and being comfortable to laydown and take a nap after feedings. He also was not drinking as well as everyone else and seemed the most eager when I was carrying water out. I allowed him to have the first drinks.