Winter-Polcolypse?

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.

Walk in love, dear readers.

More Than Pie

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Well, I guess that would be a happy belated Thanksgiving, but who is counting? Not me. It is the season, you know?!

I just wish we had more days to bask in it.

Oh well. In all seriousness, I have so much to be grateful for. I can barely count them all.

I am obviously thankful for this guy. He was worn out before Thanksgiving even started!

All of our holidays, not just Thanksgiving, mean a lot of cooking. It is something we all love to do and…to enjoy! Everyone brings something when we all gather together. I am thankful for that! And the simple fact that we can be gathered together. I am also thankful that I can do my part and that I can share my creations with everyone.

This year for Thanksgiving, I was on point for cranberry sauce and dessert.

A good cranberry sauce, to me, looks like a party in a bowl.

Cranberries. Apples. Green chili pepper. Orange juice and zest…Grand Marnier. Sage. Noms.

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I told you, a party! You will not have much left after the meal.

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We took a break from the cooking to play. It is hard work for a puppy!

Then it was time for pie. Chocolate pecan pie, to be precise. Made Thanksgiving morning. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love to make a dessert the morning of a holiday in my pajamas. It is more fun. It brings it more meaning to me. Gives it the proper perspective of doing it unto Him for my loved ones. Made with joy and love. It makes the unveiling and enjoying that much sweeter to me.

Anyway, I digress. This pie. I have never really made a pie before (I know, this is surprising to me too), but this one is a total winner. I even made my own pie crust. That is worth it if you were wondering. Just saying. Next time I think I will freeze the butter and shortening. I also think I might do a slight pre-bake of the crust before adding the filling for baking.

I am not the biggest fan of the salted caramel on this pie though. I think it was the added lemon. Not sure why you would do that, but I suppose the point is to keep it from being too sweet? Anyway, I did not really care for it when I tried it and did not really notice it much on the pie itself. I much prefer this one I made for a different dessert. I could eat it all by itself.

I followed the recipe mostly. I used a mixture of molasses and honey in place of the corn syrup. I do not keep corn syrup around and prefer not to use it if I do not have to. There are substitute options out there if you are like me. I also could not help it and added coconut to the fulling. Whoops. What can I say??? I am shameless. I think I also baked it for longer than stated in the recipe.

The filling is divine right off the spoon! If you are not licking the spoon and or bowl, you a’int no baker! It is the only way.

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Fortification for pie baking. There is a little known life fact that coffee, well all beverages, taste best out of a fun and festive vessel. I know. I know. You are so glad to learn that. You can count on me for those little life secrets. 

The finished pie sprinkled with flaked salt!

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My mouth is watering now. Too bad there were not any leftovers. That is a sign of a good pie I guess!

After our Thanksgiving lunch, I quite literally sneaked out in a mad dash, grabbed Merle, and made to the farm before dark. I sure am thankful for the farm. Our horses. And that I have the ability to be mobile! To see different things and visit different people!

I woke up early on Friday and had a lovely foggy ride on Chance before hitting the road with Merle again for more Thanksgiving fun with M. 

We all went for a drive around the property and Merle just could not contain himself. He clearly loves driving around! And hey, who doesn’t?!

The face of a happy dog. He is all boy, this one.

This is quickly becoming his signature look.

The weather was cloudy, windy, and drizzly, but that did not dampen our spirits whatsoever.

Merle was so tired, he could barely keep his eyes open past 6 PM. A tired dog is a happy dog! Catching some z’s is hard for a pup when his mom does not sit still for very long. Poor guy!

Who knows, maybe Merle will start moonlighting as a model.

He sure is handsome. I am not biased at all.

I am thankful for the eyes to see the joy in this pup. And how serious he takes his fetch. 

In case y’all did not know, pure and utter luxury is going for an early morning swim, in the drizzle, in the wee hours before the sun is ready to play. Or anyone else for that matter, human or canine.

And moving so fast the camera can not catch you.

Maybe this is his artistic expression for his modeling portfolio. Ghost dog.

He swam about five times before anyone else was awake. I had two cups of coffee. We like to wake up early.

It was only a quick twenty four hour visit, but we sure had the best time. It was fun and relaxing. No agenda. No pressure. Just good company and fellowship. And dogs (four in total! Merle had a blast)!

It did not matter that the weather was rather gloomy. We were just out and enjoying everything. Giving thanks for it all. That we could. Why we could. How we got here. For family, friends, loved ones. For country and dogs. For food. For comfortable, warm, dry places to rest. For horses!

The next day brought the blue skies out in full force while I rode my Cheetah girl down the road. Merle and I had zero desire to go back to town.

I hope each and every one of y’all had a great Thanksgiving. Did you count your blessings? What are you grateful for?

Look around you. There is so much to be grateful for. Not just this time of year. All year. Yes, it is the reason for the season, but it also too is the reason for all the seasons. For this very life.

Now we are in full on Christmas season! My decorations are out and I have planned what I will be making for our gatherings! You will have to wait for those though. To tide you, you can check out last year’s creations!

I have some fun things to share soon to help get you in the spirit, so there is a lot to look forward to. Check back soon!

Walk in love, dear readers!

 

Alright

You know what it is going to be? Alright. Everything is going to be alright.

I used to hate it when sister K would say that. Mostly because she would say, “you know what it is going to be?! Fine.” Something about that ‘fine’ word would just…stick…stick in my craw, you know? Still does as a matter of fact.

Maybe you don’t know what I mean, but I do. Trust me.

Do you need to hear that everything is going to be alright right now? I have been, so I am going to tell you. I know I am not alone and neither are you!

Let me tell you how and why I know everything is going to be alright.

I could go on and on with a multitude of reasons, but I will just limit it to the reasons my eyes have been shown as of late.

So today (it would be today, such a Monday thing to do), pretty much just now, I started some laundry. Do you feel the bad omen? One of my sets of bed sheets if you must know. Also if you must know, they have been sitting on my bedroom floor acting as a play mat for Merle covered in toys (his doing, not mine) waiting to be washed for a week (some good adulting right there, let me tell you), but let us not speak of that.

Back to the story. Said sheets are now in the machine. We, Merle and I, are going about our business about to go on a walk when I walk in to the kitchen (that is where my washing machines live) and I see suds streaming down the face of the washer onto the tile floor. I told you there was a bad omen. Apparently I got overzealous with the soap. Admittedly, this is not the first time this has happened.

I curse myself for not being more careful AGAIN and stomp off to the front door with Merle confused (after trying to lick up the aforementioned soap suds) and running after me. We left the sorted mess to be dealt with later. After our walk and after I run an extra rinse cycle.

Let us admire all that color and the way he sprawls out…and my pink socked toes…

I opened the door and it was hot and humid and so very muggy. I roll my eyes and just start walking. Eventually at some point down the street I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow. Not bold and distinct and in your face like you might think, but subtle and quiet and soft, just like its message (hardy har har). A, “hey, you, yes you. Open your eyes and see. Forget about all that other stuff and see all your blessings.”

I could not help but smile. Then I started to notice the after rain blue sky. The green green grass as a result of all these rains. The beauty in the aftermath.

I took a deep breath and knew it was all alright.

Every day I come home to this (as in that. That puppy up there with the toys) little orange and white puppy named Merle. This little Merle just explodes with unconditional love the second he sees me. A kind of love us mere humans can barely fathom or even hope to express. His tail wags so fast I can not even see it. He has his own smile and language. He tries so hard not to use his teeth on me because he knows he is not supposed to, even though he still does sometimes. I love this little pup and he makes my heart smile even if I still shed tears at the slight passing thought of my Darcy girl.

I stumbled upon these pictures of her the other day and just could not keep it together.

I can not.

I can not EVEN.

I got angry and down right mad to be honest. Then that little mighty Merle came and plopped himself in my lap and looked up at me with those dark, soulful eyes as deep as the biggest ocean while he pressed his body and head against me. Just like Darcy would sometimes do.

I knew in that moment Merle was meant to be mine at this time and that everything was going to be alright.

This cuddle bug.

This guy…

Even if I am not over Darcy (which. I do not think I ever really will fully be). Even if Merle is a slower learner. Even if he is worlds beyond smarter than me. Even if he is into and chewing everything. He is a puppy and that is what they do! And you want to know what? He loves my travel bag, just like Darcy. And he loves to sleep on my feet, just like Darcy.

He lets me know everything is going to be alright.

Two weekends ago Lito and I went to ride with friends. I woke up early to feed, load, and hit the road not too long after sunrise to beat the coming heat. We were greeted with a full moon and a clear, starry sky. There was a slight ‘chill’ in the air. I could see the fog not too long off down the valley and the way it reflected the moonlight. I could see the long moonlit shadows of the pecan and oak trees. I could smell the distant aroma of the previous night’s cooking fire.

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The sights and smells stirred up a lot of feelings and emotions. Excitement for the day to come with my boy. Joy and anticipation in the change of seasons. The end of summer and the beginning of fall. The excitement and promise of the future and things to come. The small feelings of that moment and how they reflect the bigger picture of life.

I knew in that moment, walking to the barn to feed with Merle at my feet that everything was going to be alright.

Then there is this guy. This guy right here. I am not sure I can even find the words to express the feelings and emotions and I do not even know what. The gratitude and the love. The pride.

Look at that face and proud stance. He marches right up into that trailer now. We were listening to a Ken Burns interview on his Country Music Docuseries before going out to ride with friends.

He is my love bug.

I have written some about our struggles over the last year and a half. The difficulties and set backs and trials. The ‘phase’ my Lito has been in. I just stopped writing about it after a while, just trying to give it time to play out and for him to come around. Giving him his time and not putting more energy into the situation. And because honestly, I did not understand it. I raised this horse. He was a consummate professional from the minute he was born until this whole thing started. It was not ‘supposed’ to be like this.

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It is hot and humid here. We all sweat.

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Pecan trees offer nice shade and the sun offers nice shadows and reflections.

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Any time is a good Lito nap time.

I do not think understanding it is the point. I think the point was and is to let it go (go figure that one there!). To just accept him where he is and the situation and let it be. Give him his time and work through it and allow our relationship to be better than it was before. And I really think it is. I am not going to say we are completely over it, but man oh man, we have come so far. And getting even better every day.

Just being in his presence lets me know everything is going to be alright.

That is a lot of words for tonight, especially after my prolonged silence. I suppose that is the natural way of things! There has been a lot going on and yet, at the same time, not much going on.

I know I have already said thank you, but I really do appreciate y’all. More than anything, I want each and every one of y’all to know everything is going to be alright. This I know.

Sometimes life just is not fair and we do not understand it. Stuff happens. Or does not happen. No matter what, everything is going to be alright. AHAmoment. Trust me. Take a very deep breath and hold it. Have faith. Pause. Have faith. Then slowly, very slowly let it out. Have faith. Being completely aware of every molecule and how your body reacts. Have faith. Where those molecules go. Have faith. Rinse and repeat.

Then see and count your blessings. Blessing number one is the fact that you are awake and breathing. Open your eyes and see and feel the rest. There are so many.

Everything is going to be alright.

Tell me, how do you know everything is going to be alright?

Walk in love, dear readers.

 

 

August 14th.

August 14th.

I was outside with Merle after I got home from work yesterday when I heard what I thought was distant thunder roll. I looked up at the sky to some gray clouds and then down at the patch of grass Merle was standing in. I thought to myself not for the first time how crunchy and dry it looked. How it felt under my bare feet. How it might feel on Merle’s puppy paws, without the wear and tear of running and dog life, all brand new and soft.

We really needed some rain. I might have said as much out loud as Merle took care of his business, likely looking at me with a cocked glance as only a dog can do.

It made me think on how wet this past fall and winter were. All the grass growth we got because of that. How things have seemed to change so much since then. I shut the door behind us as the first drop of blessed rain fell from the sky on the hot, concrete walk that leads to my front door. I sure hate when good rain is wasted on concrete.

I turned around to look out the window and watched as more drops came down. Then the sky opened up on that dry grass. A smile sneaked up on my face even if I did not want it to be there, and not just because the weather now seemingly matched my mood. It was a doozey of a day that smacked and whacked me around a bit in a lot of ways.


My girl would have been six years old today.

You know how you avoid certain days on the calendar, even though you believe that every day is just a day like any other? Yesterday was one of those days. I tried to avoid it like the plague. Try as I might to stop time, it came rolling on by, as it does.

I miss her like I would miss, oh I don’t know, my arm? Something more than significant. I really and truly do not have the words. It is still a punch in the gut when I think about it. Which, I try not to. I still get mad about it, the whole thing.

But, you know what? I have this little guy.

Kisses for Tuners.

Cheetah back there was jealous or something.

Lito loves Merle and Merle loves Lito.

Loving his first farm visit.

These are my favorite shots of these funny dogs.

He is obsessed with my bag. Also, how is he already so big?!

I also have his big brother. And his big brother’s mother.

They make everything all OK. No matter what. They are always there with unconditional love. They are my blessings.


8:30 AM rolled on in on time while I was working. My phone rang. It was my horse vet. They were scheduled to be out there to give some vaccines and check teeth. It was too early for a call, but I knew what it was about.

Apache.

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It was his time. I had been waiting for it. Watching its glacial pace, giving him his time. I told him goodbye the evening before, like I have been doing the past several weeks. I thanked him. I told him that it was OK, that he could go if he was ready.

He was down when my vet got there. We decided it was best to help him on his way. Certainly a hard thing to do, but it is also too the easiest thing to do.

He was the last of the originals. The third horse we ever got. It is the end of an era it feels.

Funny how it seems certain days seem to really stack on the things. Mix in some more life things in there and it can get pretty heavy. Lay it on me if you’ve got it.


After that much needed evening rain storm passed, a full rainbow shone against the dark sky in full glory. They say we will have a break from triple digit temperatures the next few days.

Red wine and chocolate pie, anyone?

Today is a new day, as they say. AHA moment. Start fresh and clean, like the rainbow shining above your head. Look up. Take a breath or ten, and make them deep. Make them count. Say a prayer. If you messed up yesterday, it is OK. Make it right today and tomorrow. See the blessings around you. They are there and they are plenty.

Walk in love, dear readers.

In All Seriousness.

Just an average Thursday over here, do not mind me.

So, do you remember how back in September I told you how I get reflective at the beginning of fall? Well, once we hit November 1, I reach a whole new level. Ya, news flash, I know. Alert the media. What media? Never mind.

Anyway, every time November rolls around I want to do something serious here in this space. Serious. Meaningful. Something to express the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas as we come into the season. You know, the real reason for the season. That always seems like a very large task. How does one tackle something so grand? Something with such gravity and brevity?

Typical me taking everything so seriously and making it such.

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Here is the deal. The AHAmoment in it all.

It is not really all that complicated. It is very simple and basic. Something everyone can grasp if you allow yourself. Open your eyes. Remember that whole KISS rule your teachers taught you way back when? Spoiler alert. That one is for life too. Keep. It. Simple. Silly. Go figure. It also has nothing to do with the season or time of year. That is just a happy convenient reminder. To get you intentional about it. It is something to be lived every day and carried on throughout the year.

What it all boils down to is being thankful. Experiencing the gratitude and the blessings and where they come from. Seeing them. Feeling them. All around you. They are there all around us. It is us who have a hard time seeing what is right there in front of our faces. Feeling it as we would feel the ever present wind against our skin.

We all live very complicated, intertwined, and busy lives. Surrounded by distractions. Going through life with not only blinders on, but with blindfolds on. Thinking we are getting somewhere without actually seeing.

What it is all about is the journey. Walking your path. Seeing, experiencing, and enjoying all that is around you.


“Lord, give me the eyes to see
Exactly what it’s worth
And I will be the richest man on earth”

Being grateful for today and celebrating it. For the very life in your veins. The food in your belly. The sun shining outside. The rain that reinvigorates the earth. The people around you. The family you create, blood or not. Those that are with us, both physically and spiritually.

Being grateful for your past because it has made you who you are today and brought you to where you stand this very minute. A step in front of yesterday. To be built up by the struggle. For the journey. YOUR path.

Being grateful for a wet dog nose or a soft, velvety horse muzzle against your skin. For green pastures with enough grass for the horses and cows. A full pond. For being able to see the sunrise and sunset. For getting to the beginning of November without yet having a frost and blanketing temperatures like last year. For a functioning manure spreader. Being able to share my love with fun desserts to serve my family. To laugh and share with people you love.

Being grateful for feeling time slow down, during a time of year when time does nothing but rush past, when you can see just one of your many blessings.

I could go on.


“That is what this time of year, the holiday season, is all about. Seeing and feeling your many blessings. Being grateful and thankful for them. Doing things for others. That and The Reason for The Season. Giving God the glory. Doing your best to carry that attitude through the rest of the year.”
~Avery~

Serious, I know. But in all seriousness. Life, man. It is a beautiful life and we are all blessed to live it. See and feel your many blessings so you can be a blessing to those around you.

The most interesting thing about all of this is when you start to see, those around you catch a glimmer too and start to see a little for themselves.

Just some things to stir around in your pot of thoughts on this fine Thursday. Clearer than mud, I hope? Too early? Well, at least I am not sharing Christmas music yet!

I think this is going to be a great month. Are there any anvils and pianos over my head?

Walk in love, dear readers!

P.S. I am grateful for y’all. Yes! Each and everyone of YOU that comes here to AHAmoments. For allowing my to share my thoughts. For engaging in conversation. For sharing your story. For making this a great place to be.

Blessings

I hope each and every one of you and yours had a very merry and happy Christmas.

I will say basically the same thing as I did last year because the same is true today.


May the many blessings of our Lord shower upon you. Peace, love, and joy. Keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long.


Despite having a bad head cold, I had a very merry Christmas myself. Lots of family. Lots of cooking and eating. Laughter and joy. Togetherness and fellowship. I did not want it to end.

The weather ended up not being as bad as predicted which is great for me. Makes my life a whole lot simpler to not have to run back and forth from the farm during a busy holiday.

I made a quick trip out to the farm the Saturday before Christmas to see everyone and feed. Unfortunately for me and probably everyone else, I did not have time to ride, but even just seeing them is worth it.

Real life ’round here for ranch horses. Mud and hay on our faces and in our hair. And a barn full of muck. Thanks, guys.

Hey, hi. How are ya? They sure make it hard to get a photo when they are all up in your business.

Also real life…holes in our hay nets.

Didn’t get enough horse muzzles in your face? Me either.

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How about a donkey muzzle?

Because everyone loves a gaggle of babies…

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Remember the whole mud in our hair bit? Ya. Worst part is, I did not do a single thing about it. It looks like this season’s latest updo trend.

The minute I got back to town, the cooking and festivities began. Middle Sister K and Bro-in-law T got in Saturday afternoon. The three of us had dinner with my parents and then went off to bed.

Christmas Eve I made an apple cranberry pie with a pecan shortbread crust. Lawd. Go make this now. Worth every bit of effort. Seriously. I have made this several times before and each time I am blown away. In fact, I made it for thanksgiving last year. Anyway, we all went to the kid Christmas Eve service at church and then came back to Oldest Sister A’s house to exchange gifts and have dinner with family and friends.

So, so good. The pie and the evening.

Then Christmas morning I woke up early to make this pomegranate cake for our big Christmas Day lunch with my Mom’s side of the family. This is another one I have made several times. I guess I am going to have to shake things up for next year and do something different, but they are so good!

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Sadly, Middle Sister K and Husband T had to go back home early Christmas Day. No rest for the weary. I do not even want to write this because I know K is reading, but we all hung out together until dinner time.

The day after Christmas, I did my most favorite thing to do after Christmas. Go to the farm, duh. I know what you are thinking. “Man, I sure wish I had another horse muzzle in my face.”

Your wish, my command.

Boop.

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I do what I can just for you.

It was cold and raining. The ground was slick and by the looks of the barn, the horses have not been out much. Another barn full of muck. Yay.

So, no riding for me again. Slightly fair weathered of me? Yes, but I am also coughing up a lung every few minutes, so I thought it best not to get cold and wet. And it was my Sunday and had major post holiday blues. And nobody has been ridden in a few weeks between the weather and holiday festivities.

Excuses? Maybe. Probably. Who is this person?

Anyway.

Is it me, or has Lito grown MORE?

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Even when he is wet he is cute.

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So you know how I showed you Cheetah’s mane tangled with clumped mud and confessed to not doing anything about it? Well, I still didn’t do anything about it. But, who cares, just listen to them eat hay. She doesn’t mind her mane.

I have always found the week between Christmas and New Year odd. Maybe odd is the wrong word. It is very slow. Things get quiet and not much is going on. It is a very reflective time for many, and I am no different.
I reflect on the real reason for the season and my many blessings. How I can keep hold of the joy of the season, the feeling.
I reflect on the past year. What has happened, changed, or stayed the same. The good, the bad, the ugly.
I think about what the next year will bring. What His plan is for me. The desires of my heart. What I want to change.
So I will be over here, reflecting and postulating. Tap tap. Anyone still there?
Walk in love, dear readers!