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.
That is what I said to R at some point in May when she asked if I wanted to go to Wyoming and ride the Tetons and Yellowstone.
Life is about saying YES, remember?! It is too short not to. One day is today.
I could try to describe this trip, but I really do not think I could do the beauty of God’s artwork justice. If the pictures can not, how on earth could words? All I can say is, like I am pretty sure I have said before, is that mountains, like storms, have a way of reminding you of your place here on earth.
It was a full spectrum trip that involved the luxury of Jackson, Wyoming and the ruggedness of the crunch of frosty mountain meadow grass underfoot when you first step out of your tent in the morning.
We flew in and out of Jackson and spent those two bookend nights there in two different nice hotels. We enjoyed two of the most fabulous meals at a steak house and an Italian restaurant. We definitely said yes on our two nights here. No holding back and it was worth it!
We spent the middle two days and nights riding and camping in the mountains. We rode three different horses each. Most of the horses were of at least some draft blood and we loved it. We rode all day. We ate outside. We made smores. We got in the cold rivers and creeks in addition to the hot springs. We drank champagne in the water and red wine with dinner. We soaked in the scenery.
Enjoy our trip to Wyoming through pictures.
Walk in love, dear readers! I hope you enjoyed the view!
And you will not be able to convince me otherwise.
You know that spark of terror that comes when you see a skunk and you have a dog running loose?
You see, I was just saying to myself…
You know how you do…
After seeing a baby of what I can only assume is a family of skunks around our barn several times…That I am pretty sure live under our barn if you ask Merle…If you can get him so stop paroling every hole that goes underneath said barn long enough…
Anyway, like I said, I was just saying, “Man, I can not believe Merle has not gotten skunked by that baby skunk yet. It must be some kind of miracle for a dog as into everything as he is. What a wonder.”
Off I went on my day.
Merle has not only now been skunked, and quite properly I might add, he has now been skunked twice in as many months.
Now that has got to be the real wonder!
Never fear! I am an expert now.
If you ever find yourself in this same boat, I have some information that will really help you. A home remedy that will actually do the trick.
It only takes three common household ingredients.
The recipe goes something like this…depending on how desperate or frantic you are. The quicker you do this, the better.
~Some liquid dish soap…somewhere between a teaspoon or two and two big fat Tablespoon squirts. ~Some baking soda…about a 1/4 Cup or a fist full or a dumping. ~Some hydrogen peroxide…a whole Quart bottle. Take stock of your resources to make sure you have enough in case you need to do this a second time!
Mix together in a bucket or bowl or bottle. Whatever you have! Cover the effected areas…or the whole dog…in the foamy mixture, let it sit for about 10 minutes, say ‘I am sorry’ to your dog’s coat, and thoroughly rinse everything out. An ‘I’m sorry’ to your dog for practically water boarding him might be beneficial as well if they get sprayed right in the mouth and nose. Both times.
You are welcome! Write it down in that secret book that contains the keys to life.
Luckily the second incident from Sunday morning was not quite as bad as the one a month ago.
I have to tell you that a house without a dog in it is a really quiet house, and not in a good way.
I knew this already, but I kinda forgot. Not sure how. That is what brought me Merle, that quiet after Darcy.
I just recently went a on an adventure trip with R (Weee! More on that later) and returned home on Sunday.
Yes, yes, that IS exciting! But back to the point.
The bad part about this trip was that my Merle could not come along. That could all be fine and good because he does like it at his kennel where he is boarded, but the kennel does not do pickups on Sunday because they are technically closed. You know, Sunday and all.
So I had to wait until yesterday to go pick him up.
A WHOLE DAY.
That is a long time to be in an empty, quiet house. And I do not mind being the only person, seemingly alone. You could turn the volume up as loud as you wanted on the television or the music and it would still be quiet. And it brought back that awful, empty quiet that you want to forget.
You see, a dog has a certain energy that they exude. Even if they are just sleeping in their bed, not even at your feet, their energy just fills a room. Then it is the lack of jingling collar tags. That one is a real heartbreaker. No little boop of a cold nose. No moaning and groaning and talking back in protest. No, well, I do not know if I can even describe it. It is like there is no feel or reciprocation of energy.
It is similar to that feeling you get when someone is watching you, you know? And you just feel it and turn to that feel to find who is looking at you? It is like that. When they are there, you can just feel them. When they are not, you feel that loss or empty and you find yourself looking around for them. Like they should be there but they are not.
Does anyone else ever feel that way?
Before I dropped Merle off at the kennel on Wednesday, we went to the farm to check on the horses and had an early birthday game of fetch in the pond.
He turned two years old on Thursday the 17th!
I figured if he could not come along with us, then he deserved some extra fun for his birthday!
I think he enjoyed that extra fun!
I mean. Just look at him.
Walk in love, dear readers, and stay tuned to hear about our trip!
Or a reminder for how old you are? No, forget about that, let us get back to the pick-me-up part!
I have just what you need. This will surely do it.
It is Thursday after all and we all know how I like alliteration, even if it is a social media thing…it is Transformation Thursday!
April, May, and June are an animal birthday trifecta over here! It just occurred to me. So much to celebrate!
My Lito turned eight (WHAT?) in April.
Cheetah girl will turn seventeen (again, huh?) here in five days.
Merley bob will be a big fat two on June 17th.
Where has the time gone? This is more than just a time warp.
Get some more coffee or tea and enjoy. The work will be there when your break is over.
Let us begin.
My Lito man.
I first saw Lito about thirty minutes after he was born. I about fainted when I first saw him.
He has really grown up! He was big from the start and he has not stopped being big!
He hated that birthday hat, so do not ask him about it. He hated it so much in fact, I could not even bring myself to post the pictures on his birthday.
He has grown into his legs, but he is decidedly tall at about 16.3 hh! I do think he is still getting wider. At least I really hope so. He is a slow developer, so we will see!
My Cheetah girl.
I started riding Cheetah when she was in her four year old year and she became mine at some point during that year. These are the earliest photos I have of her from her three year old year. At one point, my friend T found some foal pics of her, but unfortunately they are lost on an old computer of mine that I long ago lost entry to. Those pics were at an ugly duckling phase to say the least, so I am not too upset about it! Now her three year old pictures, well, that was decidedly not an ugly duckling phase.
She looks the same to me now as she did then.
This was her yesterday. It is a terrible picture, yes I know, but I do not care. She was dirty and hot and bothered by the mosquitos. She is out of shape as she has been out of work for months.
She may have some arthritis that plagues her and she may have some gray over here eyes and on her legs, but she is still my girl. My queen. She has given me so much and she continues to give. She has carried me through so much. She may not get as much of the spotlight these days because of Lito, but she will always and forever be my number one. We are still working through her arthritis/lameness issues and I do hope to have some news to share soon. My prayer is that we can get her comfortable and sound without having to give regular medication. It is a process.
Does that photo look familiar?
That would be because we have done this photo before!
Clearly at different times of year though! Same dog, same tree. Different year, different sunset.
I bet he will be a firecracker for years to come! I just hope he does not give me too many gray hairs. I am pretty sure he has already given me a few. That however, is a story for another day.
Do not forget to smile and breathe today. Forgive and have grace.
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 was not sure if I was going to post this or not. I feel like I should ask for forgiveness or offer an apology for this post now.
Has it been ten years?
It feels like it has been ten years. That I have been out of town for ten years.
That is what this last year has felt like.
Is that what was intended?
Do you remember the time in between? I think I do, but honestly it is somewhat hard.
It has felt like a time warp. Does anyone else feel the same way? I know many people who do feel the same way. Just the other day I was talking with a friend who’s husband was celebrating a birthday. “Wait, didn’t he just have a birthday?” I asked. “Yes, he did just have a birthday, it is the covid time warp.” “Must be,” as I pondered in reply. Except that it was a whole year ago!
I was talking with my riding friends about a conversation we had with another friend. Or maybe it was about when the last time we had seen this other friend. Anyway. “Just the other day,” I swore it was. “That was over a year ago,” they said with a sweet chuckle and a gentle shake of the head. “I suppose it was,” I mused as I tried to brush off that nagging feeling. Was it really over a year ago? It felt like just a few weeks ago. Although, I will admit, I am prone to those ‘just the other day’ feelings anyway. I get it from Pops.
Then there was Easter. Easter was even more strange. We finally were at the point where everyone was comfortable enough in some capacity to gather. We did not celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other holiday together this year. That is where I really felt like I was an ‘out of towner.’ An outside family member. One that moved away long ago and does not make it back often enough. Strange to the point where I almost did not know how to act. It was somewhat stiff and not quite comfortable. Very different than our usual.
Yes, it was strange because it had been a while, sure. We ‘normally’ all gather at every holiday. We are not used to that. Not gathering. At least I am not, I did not care for it one bit. But, really, it was that very question of why. Why did we not? Why did we voluntarily forfeit such precious time and moments? Memories? Love? We are not promised time. Ours or theirs. We are not promised tomorrow. How can such a vital and important truth be so easily forgotten even now? Especially now? After all of this? What if they were not here tomorrow?
I do not mean to make light of a serious situation. I really do not. But does it not make you wonder if it is worth it? Giving up your precious gift of time and everything that means? Not seeing the people you love when you might not see them tomorrow? Or similarly not doing what you love? Many people read right over those questions and just not go there. Go there. Really think about it. Which situation is more serious?
As I drive in the traffic again that has built to almost its pre-covid levels here in the big city, to and from work with everyone else, I feel as though I have forgotten what that too was like. The traffic and the hustle and bustle and fast pace. That one singular thought of ‘progress’ above all else or any one at any cost. As I yet again get sped around by an irate person laying on their horn and flipping me the bird for not driving over the speed limit to then slam on my brakes at a backed up line of bright red tail lights stopped at yet another red light. Just for them to get one car ahead and skidder to a stop. I always wonder if people feel better after behaving in such a manner. Does that make their day better? Make their problems go away? Bring their time and energy back? I do not know how it would, but I hope it does.
Or maybe it is rather, that I have a much lower tolerance for it now than I did before. Years ago or even just before covid. Which, admittedly, before my tolerance was pretty low for a person that grew up here.
Again I question why. Questions that plagued my mind before, are ever present in my mind as the days go on.
Why is it that I live here? How much more of my precious gift of time will be wasted sitting here in traffic? Fighting someone else’s fight to get…where? How much time has already been lost? And yet, here we all are, sitting here wasting more? Or anything else that we give our time to. It is not lending. We do not get it back. Worrying about things that can not change. Giving to people that do not give back. Doing anything that is not additive to your life.
That is why I talk with family and friends on the phone while driving. Or listen to uplifting music and podcasts. Or mind broadening books. Even if they are romance novels!
I live here now, but I can tell you I will not forever. I am dreaming and planning. Formulating the adventure. Planning on less time wasted.
Why say no?
That is why I say yes. Carpe diem now more than ever before. People say that lightly all the time, It is my prayer that it will become a truth for more people. Say yes. This is your time to spend. It is a gift not to be wasted. Go ride. Get the horse or dog. Go be with friends. Travel. See all that you can. Enjoy the journey. The adventure. The experience. And. Create the memory to share. Spark joy within your heart and the hearts of those around you. Adjust the priority. That is up to you. You are the banker of your time.
Dream the dream. Plan the adventure. Work towards that shared sunset and a tall grass turnout for your ride or die. Each step and each day you have made it. You have already won.
Think about what you are fighting for every day. Are you happy? Is it sparking joy? Is it actually getting you where you want to go? Why? Is it giving you more time with your family? Time to do what you love?
Every post I begin to pen becomes so overwhelming and heavy that I can no longer write it. I feel it even now. I am practically paralyzed to even put another letter down. Blogging has become hard. In part to having difficulty in just putting the right words around my thoughts, but in truth, the other part is that I am scared of people’s reactions. It is too hard to avoid this. I might lose readers for saying these things, but that is not what I created AHAmoments for.
I wrote a whole post after the freeze about perspective after seeing so much complaining. Granted, there were things to complain about, I will not lie about that even if I will not go into that because that is more of a political matter. And this, my dear readers, is still no place for that. But back to the topic at hand, the majority of the complaining was coming from blessed people in their homes with many layers and groceries to eat. How many farmers and ranchers were outside day and night fighting to keep their animals and operations alive to provide those groceries? How many people were alone or without a home or layers to be in? It is all about perspective. It could always be worse. Somehow, people still do not get it.
Should not this be a turning point? A grabbing and shaking of the shoulders for all man kind. A slap to the face. To wake up. To open eyes.
At a time when we are all so seemingly desperate to get back to the basics and foundation, to what is really important and what makes this life worth living and meaningful, what has changed? I hear people express this sentiment with ever more increasing frequency and yet, they do nothing. After all of this. After all that has been taken. I fear in reality nothing has really changed. Have we learned nothing from this past year? Are we just going to go right back to the way things were?
I am not.
I have spoken here a lot about saying yes and living your life for you. I am doing it and working towards being able to do more of it. I feel like part of what I am here on this earth to do is to remind you and myself of that. So here I am. Reminding you, should you need that reminder. Look out for my boot, it is coming for your backside and friend, it is covered in mud. Do not think you are alone in wading through it.
Make the changes. Do the work and do it for yourself. Get back to the basics. It is your time and nobody is promised any of it.
Do not let fear govern your life. ESPECIALLY after all of this. Make this past year count for something good. You can handle anything. It is hard. If you really think about it, we let fear make a bunch of decisions. That is how we have gotten where we are today.
Spend your time like it is going out of style because it is.
Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me my mini rant. As always, walk in love. Remember those around you and keep perspective. Say yes and go live your life. Do not waste your time. Back to our regularly scheduled programing later.
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.
Merle and I took a walk down to the pond when the horses ventured out into the pasture Tuesday. The sun was really warming things up even at 30 degrees F. I was even able to get the ice blocks out of the stall buckets after I put them out into the sun.
There were more blocks of ice in another bucket. I wanted to save the ice for when it melted in case we could not get the water flowing again.
They were all over it! Their faces said it all. Even Merle was getting there. I think his paws were getting tender on the ice.
Wednesday the sun went back into hiding, but the temperature rose above freezing for a little while, even as the wind picked back up, so we took the opportunity to say a prayer and turn the water on to shower, clean, and fill all the tubs and buckets again. Thankfully, this went off without a hitch and we were able to do everything we needed to do. We turned the water off again and drained the lines after dinner for the second storm. I am so happy that we were able to get more water in the paddock water trough. All my goldfish were surviving some how and if I could not have gotten water in that trough, they would have frozen for sure. We also got more hay out for the cows.
Getting clean does a person wonders. It felt so good to get completely good and clean, after days. Showering every day is a luxury! I even put earrings and lipstick on after because, well, why the heck not?! Bet you do not have reason to tell me not to. It got me thinking how excited I am to give these horses a full bath.
Many of my friends discovered broken pips in their homes and barns on this day when the ice started to thaw and water started to flow, or rather spew and spray, everywhere. Sister K had a river of water falling down her ceiling and walls and through her house. Another friend had at least six broken pipes in her home. Grandmother A had her ceilings literally caving in and falling down around her mattress in the den by the fireplace. But not on her mattress! All of this with no plumbing supplies to be found for many as they had all already been purchased. All plumbers already booked up for months and frantically trying to fix everything that was broken with anything they can find. My friend who’s horse tied up? Now that he was doing better, she went to fixing her pipes with radiator hoses and clamps.
This second storm was not as bad as as the first in theory. The lows Thursday and Friday night were in the low twenties (as opposed to the once forecasted teens) I think and still windy, but it was all compounded on top of the previous days. The animals continued to do well and these final days had a beauty all their own.
By Saturday, the sun was out and the temperatures were rising quickly into the forties. We were once again able to get the water turned on and flowing. We had a couple of broken external pipes, but nothing that can not be fixed in time. All of the horses and cows took extended long sun bathing naps. At one point I was worried that they were sick after all of that because they were down for so long! Thankfully, they all eventually got up and back to grazing.
Many farmers and ranchers did not make it out as well as we did. Some could not get to their animals because of the ice on the roads. Some had no way to get water to them. Many had calves and foals dropping in the middle of the storm. Some of the babies could not be found. Could not be warmed up and revived. Many ranchers were out at all hours trying to get all the animals fed and ice broken for them to drink and count all their cows praying they were all accounted for all the while taking care of their kids from pasture to pasture. They were out there rescuing animals that had fallen into icy waters when they stepped out onto ice covered ponds. I can not even imagine how the crops are.
The wildlife also suffered. Birds dead everywhere. Stunned deer laying exposed in the middle of pastures. We placed a blanket over one praying it would make it. The fish in our coastal waters are being washed up on every shore. Stunned fish are helplessly floating, just trying to survive.
It is going to take time for our resources to recover. This is only the beginning.
Welp. This post turned as long as these two storms over this week! I am even more tired! I have more to share, but this is more than enough for now. Say your prayers for everyone down here. For the farmers and ranchers. For the wildlife. For all the linemen and plumbers. For our suppliers and truckers. Hug your people. Hug your animals. Be grateful for what you have. Many have much, much less.
I have heard some say that not only have I been somewhat absent (sorry!), but so has my main gal, Cheetah! In my defense (in truth this is not much of a defense, so just go with it), I was exposed to the ‘rona and I still have no idea how I did not contract it. Everything just came to a stop for a couple of weeks while I quarantined it out. I can not complain much about that though as Merle and I just camped out at the farm. Even with all the rain, mud, and cold, I can not complain about it. At least my manure spreader was working!
Anyway, I shall tell you where exactly Cheetah has been.
First, she gets the heat of the summer off every year because, well, she deserves it. That and the fact that she breaks out in hives when I ride her under tack in the heat of the summer ever since I bred her. So she gets to spend the summers frolicking and grazing and getting stuffed with treats while being groomed.
Then, I mentioned a while back that she was experiencing some on and off lameness in addition to a soft tissue issue (hey look, I am a poet!) that popped up some time during the summer. We tackled this check ligament issue first as we could see it. The remaining lameness that presented was somewhat odd and perplexing (well not really, in the end, go figure) and did not go away with time come the end of our prolonged Texas summer.
I then called my vet back in for a full lameness evaluation. I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was after some time to observe (hey, actually using my brain), the lameness presentation itself, and her age. He performed the lameness evaluation (on a terribly cold and almost wet day, sorry no pictures!) including a couple of blocks and some x-rays to ensure we were correctly and completely targeting the issue. This was all a first for me after a whole life of having and riding horses.
All of that to say, my girl is finally starting to feel her age! At almost 17 years young. She has arthritis in her front coffin joints. In the end, I think the check ligament issue on her right front was caused by her compensating for the arthritis in her left front being more painful than the right. Once the diagnosis was made, we quickly made a plan with both my vet and farrier to help make her feel more comfortable.
The first step was getting her coffin joints injected. Another first for me! And let me tell you, it is pretty creepy how easily the needle goes in. The came on Christmas Eve morning. Merry Christmas, Cheetah! Christmas Eve was another very cold and windy day, but luckily, my vet’s clinic is not far from the farm.
After being shaved and thoroughly scrubbed clean, her joints were successfully injected and bandaged.
She was happily back home and resting in her cozy stall by 8:40 AM.
Middle sister K and I proceeded to have way too much of a good time that night and stayed up till 2 in the morning! Even still, we were up early to tend to our charges. A toddler for her and animals for me! After feeding, I took Cheetah’s bandages off and took her out to hand graze in the yard.
Then a couple weeks after her injections, we decided to put her in a slight wedge shoe to improve her angles and to help relieve some of that pressure on the joint. My farrier and I had actually been independently thinking of putting her in a wedge even before this.
I am happy to report that she is no longer feeling her ‘age’! She is back to moving like a million bucks. Therefore, we can start her slowly getting back into shape and getting back to adventures. Woohoo!
Given how long she has been out of work, her age, and the resulting issues, we decided to go for another new thing! A couple weeks at a rehab center! I wanted her to have a low impact, strength building start back to make sure to not over work anything too quickly in addition to hopefully knocking the edge off before I actually start riding her again. I have more hope in the former!
Anyway, AquaPlus Equine Center is a new, state of the art hydrotherapy facility with an aquapacer, CET saltwater spa, pool, and exerciser walker. They are professional, open in communication, and good horsewomen. I was very impressed. Cheetah seemed to settle right in.
Cheetah has enjoyed two weeks there building her core back up. We opted not to swim her in the pool to keep her from hyperextending, but I could see a change in her top line and hindquarters even within the first week.
I pick her up tomorrow and I am so glad to have my girl back and feeling herself. We are officially ready to rock and roll! Tentatively. Scratch that. Knock on wood. Cross all the fingers. And toes.
How about the rest of the crew you say? What have they been up to?
Well, Lito and I go on many little adventures followed by margaritas and Mexican food when we are not riding at home. I am currently bit shopping. I know there has to be a bit out there that he likes better than what I am using or have used before. It is proving to be a little tricky as he has a big tongue and a low, soft palate. I have a few different ideas of what I would like to try, but if anyone has any thoughts or ideas for us, let me know! He also gets many treats.
Merle is wondering when his trip to the spa will be or when he is getting another treat. Most likely the latter.
No matter how goofy he is, he is just so cute and handsome. He gets the pleasure of coming most places with me still and I love it. He is currently at day camp with my Aunt M because my HOA is tearing down and rebuilding a brick wall attached to my townhouse. He loves this as he gets a big yard to play in, cousin dogs to play with, and lots of attention. More attention than I can give him while in the office working.
The rest of the herd is doing well too and seemingly have been enjoying all the extra attention they have been getting all year. A positive thing to come out of this strange season!
Well, enough for now. Go get another cup of coffee and have a lovely day!