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.
This morning I am sitting in a warm house with coffee and homemade pumpkin bread after feeding and mucking out the barn. A perfect time to talk with you, dear readers!
Say peace out to 2020! Say it all you like if that is what brings you joy. I won’t lie and say it does not bring me joy.
But, today is a day just like any other though, and many things in this earthly world we live in do not exist within our human schedules and boundaries. A new year in itself, this new year or any other, or a new day for that matter, does not guarantee change on its own or forgiveness from the very life we live. Forgiveness from its hardships or its joy. Its light. Its peace.
That my dear readers, is up to you.
Every day you have a choice. A choice to see and be good or not. A choice to love. A choice to see the joy. A choice to be happy. It is that simple. That is the AHAmoment. One of those keys to life.
Be the change you want to see. If you want greater change of any kind beyond yourself, look within your very person first.
Live the life you wish to see.
Be grateful for every morning you wake.
New Year’s Day or any day that I wake up and am able to breathe and see the sunrise, is a blessed day.
I thank Him for it.
Be grateful for the cleansing and growing rain. For the warming and invigorating sun. Both that give us life. Being happy in it and all the gifts of life like this dog. Even if it means wearing rubber boots more than not, trudging through the mud scooping up horse poop. Really, it could be worse! It could be flooding, for instance. Or burning.
I thank Him for it. The gifts of rain, sun, and my Merle. And yes, the poop too!
Oh to be happy like a dog! That is our ultimate goal!
Be grateful for your very life. Take time for yourself and do not be selfish. You can do you while still showing up for your people. Considering them. Be grateful for the people in your life and be grateful for the things in your people’s lives! Each of us in on a unique walk together to the same place. You are not meant to go through exactly what someone else is. Embrace and enjoy it! Community and fellowship is a big part of what makes this life what it is all about.
I thank Him for the people and animals in my life. To be able to do what I love with people I love is one of the greatest blessings!
Slow down and enjoy the little things. Build your life around what brings you joy. Ride more horses. Fish more waters. Hike more paths. Drive more roads.
Lay in the leaves with your dog. When was the last time you played in the leaves??? Inspire the kid within you!
Take more pictures of your actual life. Your actual view. Or draw. Or paint. Or play.
Take the time to hand graze your horse and have quality time. Have quality time with your people. Linger over your coffee. Slow down and enjoy the meal. Count all the colors you see.
Be grateful for your perspective. You are unique and uniquely made for a reason and a purpose!
I thank Him for it!
Do what makes you happy. Be with who makes you happy. Brings you joy. Sparks inspiration. Sees the best in you. Does not take you away from what is good and right. Supports you. Sees life the way you do. Does not shrink from challenges.
You only get one life. A life made up of days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Do not waste a single one. You don’t get any of them back. You might not have tomorrow.
And just like that, ‘fall’ has blown in from the north all the way down here to Texas. The horses are getting fuzzy and the pecan trees are turning and losing their leaves. The sunrises over the pastures and moonlit nights are spectacular.
And, um…that means…
We are almost in November?
I mean, what? Indeed where has the time gone?
I find as each year passes that question is ever more on my mind. Anyway, that is a thought for another day.
Not that I am going to lie, I am more than happy to welcome my favorite time of year, even if it feels a little different this year than years past.
Take heart though, not everything has been or will be different. Just look out the window and see the seasons change. Feel it. THAT is not different. That my dear readers is comfort.
I sat and watched the most recent front push through on Monday evening.
It left us with clear and cool nights that are ‘here to stay.’ I mean, we are still in south central Texas, so it is not like we get ‘real’ winters by many standards.
You can not see the rain of pecan leaves, but trust me it is there.
That is our fall expression here. It is interesting, I always notice it, that change of fall, in the exact same place. Right there in the same place as these pictures. It is always in the moment that I am walking out to the horses or riding under this very pecan tree. It is generally the first moment I bother to wear a sweater. The pecan leaves are always falling and beginning to roll across the ground. I did not think of that until just now.
Anyway, you know that sound of the wind through the drying, falling, bumbling leaves. That feel of the chilling air. Think of that when looking at these pics.
The horses had already gotten all their frisky, first chill energy bursts out.
The last time I wrote to y’all I was asked two questions by a dear reader and I figured I would answer them here.
Back in the office or spending more time at the farm?
Am I back in the office or spending more time at the farm? Both?
You see, I am in the office at my new job (now a few months old) about four days a week and I am also able to spend more time at the farm in both a professional and a personal capacity. Quite the door that opened up I dare say! Life sure is interesting and keeps us on our toes.
Song of the moment?
What is my song of the moment? Goodness. This is always a difficult question for me, but it is certainly easier than the ‘what is my favorite song’ question. My song of the moment has definitely been Who Am I by Needtobreathe. There are other gems on this album, so go treat yourself to a listen.
Seriously. That lyric. All the lyrics. Truth does not even touch the feeling. It gets right down in your soul and just rocks you. You’re welcome. My kind of gospel right there.
What about you dear readers? Are you back in the office at all? What is your song of the moment to share?
OK, fine. How about more than two questions? What is the extraordinary in your ordinary life?
These indeed are trying times for all, in more ways than just this ‘rona business.
Hey, gotta keep it light and positive. It is what we do here!
In all seriousness though, we all got down to the basics pretty dang quick. Writing got shoved to the back burner and then right off the back of the stove all together.
Certainly not because I did not want to write to you!
We packed up food and other necessities and went to our safe place, the farm. I have been living here now with my family for over two weeks. Logging in remotely and working (which has been frustrating). Crossing farm chores and projects off the list (feels amazing). Cooking and baking. And, of course, soaking up all the horse time and riding I can.
I will not get into everything that Covid-19 entails or the politics or anything that everyone is talking about. All the things that have been right in front of us for weeks. It is very likely that I, along with many others, will be without my job soon because of the oil prices. I do not think there is anyone who is not feeling the weight of this in some way or another (hey howdy, you’re not alone!!!). I know I have not been immune to it. It is all just heavy no matter what. We have been taking periodic breaks from it all by turning off the news, not getting onto social media, and doing farm things. Only checking in and updating every couple of days. I have gotten into the habit of just leaving my phone and not being available (liberating).
Even still, I feel even more blessed for the beauty all around me. It makes it easy to celebrate every day. All I have to do is look up. And you know what, it is the same for you! Just look up…or out.
Mother Nature and the change of seasons. We got a bunch of rain on Saturday (praise the Lord! For this and many other things!) which will grow some good grass for the stock and get a good start on our vegetable garden. The wildflowers. The birds frolicking. Our home bred heifers and their first calves. Family time. Being conscious to live simply. My horses, of course, because a horse is a horse of course!
Want to see just what I have been up to when I am not working? Well, have a look. Get a dose. Take a breath. Get some inspiration, dear readers!
Our lovely heart hole oak tree has its heart hole again! This is my favorite tree. I know I might have said that about some other trees before, but this is really and truly my favorite. Did you miss why? Well, you can find out here.
You want to see what else? If you look off in the distance past the heart hole by the pond, you can see the pecan trees starting to get their leaves (and progressively through all these photos). Like I said, they always get their leaves. This year seems early, but spring as a whole did come early. Every year is its own.
We have had many many caterpillars. So cool.
More walks with Lito, I tell you, are good for everything.
Rides on my Cheetah are also good for everything. With or without wildflowers.
New mammas and babies.
The lush river bottom. Just look at those baby blues and that light. This is such a special place and holds so many memories for all of us. We would spend hours down here as kids. I used to ride my childhood mare, Fresca down here on hot summer afternoons. I would let her eat all her favorites. A little walk down here the other day with Pops and Cousin W turned into a couple of hours talking about trees and grasses and wildlife. Good for everything.
Lots of baking! These are my special chocolate chip cookies. I have also made molasses cookies and raspberry crumble muffins. Mamma has been making muffins and cookies (and so much other good food in addition to everyone else). Sister K has also made muffins! It is only a matter of time before pumpkin and banana bread are made.
Having Petunia snuggles.
Projects and chores and more! This implement has been here since we bought the place, 22 years ago! It was the last remaining thing from the previous owners. There used to be a tree living in the middle of it. The tree finally died and we finally cleared enough brush from around and within it to get it hauled out. Quite a thing really!
We watched weather and spring unfold. Keep watching those pecan trees!
This is usually my view from my ‘remote office.’
Just look at those pecan tree leaves.
Do you recognize that specific tree?
If you do recognize it, you should, for you have seen it before! I guess it is my second favorite tree. Certainly my most favorite pecan tree!
More wildflowers! We get some bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes along the road here but we get a lot of these all around our place.
More caterpillars! A Monarch!
More weather. This was an early morning walk with coffee before sitting down on the computer to work.
Of course, more sunrises.
Wondering where my Merle man is? Fear not, he has been off at hunting camp learning. Just have a look. I miss him terribly and the last few weeks without him have been very difficult, but I am so proud of him and he has been doing very well. I am counting down the days till he is back home where he belongs.
So much to celebrate, dear readers, even in these, dare I say, uncertain times. Look up, stay positive, be a light. Keep the faith.
Share what you have been up to!
Walk in love, dear readers. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for some past AHAmoments uplifting reads!
Winter. There is a ton of symbolism in the season. Whether it be the actual weather and Mother Nature or a very real reflection of a season in your life.
I have a wise friend who wrote some great winter words that I wanted to share with you.
“I will be honest, there’s a lot I don’t get right now about a lot of things & the more I work on it, the more frustrated I feel. I literally post something similar to this every single season because I am forever stubborn and continuously forget the basics of God & faith.
That said, I am all the more thankful that the consistency of seasons is a reflection of God and the steadiness of His character. If you stop and really “consider the lilies,” you can’t escape how Creation reflects the detail oriented nature of God. It shows how He created us to see Him & find Him not just in religion, but in snails, twigs, monarch butterfly migrations, and sunflowers that tilt upward so they can face the sun.
I took a bunch of pictures on a walk through Camp Allen this last weekend at my church’s women’s retreat. I made my friend stop every 3 minutes of our walk because I was distracted by how oddly beautiful dead-looking things become when light shines on them. Romans 1:20 talks about how seeing the visible helps us understand the invisible. What appears to be dead actually isn’t dead, it’s just winter. Winter doesn’t last forever – it stays awhile & through the shorter days, lack of color & seemingly barren/exposed trees all contrasted with light, winter reminds me how paradoxical God is- how my weakness is actually His strength.”
Like I have said before, take comfort in the consistency of the seasons. Of the sunrises and sunsets. No matter what, they show up to party every time. They go on over and over without fail. Whether or not you can see them!
There truly is beauty in all things, even and especially in winter.
Take pecan trees for instance, because we all know how I love them, with or without a Merle man in the frame.
Many on first glance may think they are dead in the winter. They are the first to lose their leaves and they are the very last to get them come spring. Even I start to wonder if they ever will get their leaves as spring might start to feel like summer.
Even still, I can never stop being amazed at the raw beauty in the bareness of their branches in winter. Against a sunrise. Or backed by the strong, bright, and grass growing winter sun. Or reflected in the sunset’s light on the pond. There is beauty even on the dreariest of gray winter days.
Indeed they make an inspiring frame for a sunset of any kind!
Dead pecan tree among the live oaks? Nope. A beautiful and unique one, standing strong waiting out winter for its bloom.
And you know what? They always do get their leaves. Every spring. And I am just as amazed every time.
The same happens for us when winter comes to a close and spring starts to bloom. It may likely feel as if you are wandering aimless in this winter. Trust me, I know. Your feeling of wandering is not without reason or purpose. It is your winter season of waiting. Preparing you for your spring. Take your time and be patient. Have faith. Rest. Be ready. Remember what you are fighting for and hang on tight. Keep your focus on the light.
When your world’s of madness
And you’re burned at both ends
Your walls are closin’ in
Won’t you remember?
Open up your heart
Let yourself unwind
Find peace of mind
Among the wandering
Step into the unknown
Where your path rewinds
See if you can find out
What you came here for
Roll one from the green vine
Disregard the time
Find your peace of mind
Among the wandering
Don’t fear the vendors
Dreams can’t be bought
As long as you don’t sell
What you’ve been fighting for
As long as you don’t sell
What you’ve been fighting for
If your heart’s of anger
And you’re helpless in the end
Won’t you let your friends
Help you remember?
With every box of poison
There’s a ribbon tied
Don’t believe them eyes
When they deceive you
Take a look inside
If you’re so inclined
Just leave some time
For the wandering
Find your peace of mind
Among the wandering
Where do I even begin. I truly am not even sure. The Monday blues were real and hardcore on the struggle bus yesterday.
Years 1, 2, and 3 were all so different and this year was, well, no different! It was indeed the best year in my estimation and I believe in several others’ as well.
I suppose starting at the beginning is the natural way of things. It just seems so long ago!
I was able to skip town pretty early on Friday. I already had my things packed and Merle with me at the office. All I had to do was drop him off (more on that later) and I was off scot-free! Well, as scot-free as one can be in Friday traffic, but hey, I was on my way!
There were only a few stops I needed to make on the way for necessary long road trip things. Shavings for Ronan and Lito in the trailer and breakfast kolaches (both sausage and fruit) to go and nacks (that is ‘snacks’ for all you people without a cute niece) for R and me.
R and Ro made it to the farm Friday evening with just enough time to get Ro settled and for us to get into town for a Mexican food dinner. We were both starving and decided loading all of my stuff could wait till the morning.
Morning came quick enough, as it does, and there was plenty left to do before we could leave, but we got it all done in not much time or having to rush too badly. After loading Ro and Lito and before pulling out, R warmed up the sausage kolaches while I turned the rest of the horses out.
Our farm cat, clearly a bit miffed that he was going to be missing out on the fun and the kolaches, decided he would take matters into his own paws by snagging and eating our fruit kolaches off of the truck dash. He clearly enjoyed them! After having a good laugh, the first of many, we were on the road by around 10 AM.
The drive was going smoothly enough.
Long time horse people never actually think that thought though because it is just a matter of when something will happen, not a matter of if.
Is that not so subtle foreshadowing you read?
Spoiler alert, there were incidents.
This was the first incident. Blown tire.
Doesn’t that just look like a party?
There are several great things about this incident. Both the horses and us were just fine. We had all the things we needed to change the tire. AND, go figure this, a friend just up the road to help. We were on the road in very little time at all. By all accounts, this part really could not have gone any better.
That was the first part.
Once we got to the next town about 45 minutes down the road, we spent the next hour trying to find someone to check the rest of the tires and replace the blown one. After trying three places, we finally got the others checked and decided to get on down the road. We started the drive with two spare tires and knew we would have better luck replacing the one in a bigger town or come Monday morning.
Feeling pretty alright about our good fortune, but still someone shaken, we drove on.
I will spare you some of the details of what happens next, but we almost got in a bad wreck…Like slam on the breaks and horn and basically come to a stop on a major freeway bad. And feel the horses get smacked around in the trailer behind us bad. All because someone was not paying attention and was entering the freeway incorrectly! (Let us all make a pact to help educate people on driving the road with horse trailers, OK? Thanks). It could have been much, much worse. I do not want to focus on that.
The point is, we were and are still OK.
I can tell you one thing, we were praising the Lord during and after this drive.
Us humans were pretty shaken by the day’s events and we have never been so happy to unload horses in our lives. Oh, and bless these two boys of ours. They unloaded calmly and seemed to comfort us and not the other way around! I think at that point we would have been happy to never leave that hilltop ranch. At the end of the day, the drive took about twice as long as it should have.
We put the horses in their pens to settle and went to settle ourselves. That later on included an evening stroll with the horses before dinner with some of the other early arrivals.
The Sunday sunrise the following morning was stunning as per usual. R and I climbed on top of the trailer with our coffee for a better view. This basically set up the rest of the day.
I stayed in my pajamas until 11 AM. This will likely not be a shock for you to learn, but I never do that. Ever. It was glorious. I probably had four cups of coffee too.
Later on, in real clothes, we went for a much needed ride.
We then watched the sunset before heading down the hill for dinner in town with friends.
At dinner, our great friend and hostess read that day’s devotional aloud.
Boy howdy, if that did not speak right to me, I do not know what does.
It was a great evening and we all awoke on Monday morning rested and ready to make it to our final destination for the main event! …Sans incidents!
However, R and I first needed to replace our blown tire which took some time. This was actually kind of nice because we got to have a nice breakfast in town while we waited. Once that chore was finished, we went back to the ranch, loaded up (again, I praise these boys that loaded very well despite how their last trip went!), and headed out!
I am happy to report that we made it without any problems and got our ponies all settled for the week of fun!
And fun we did have in a big way.
Fun. Fellowship. Sisterhood. All with our horses. I can not share too terribly much because it is all, you know, secret and stuff, but here is a little taste of what went on.
Just look at my cute boy. He looks happy, yes? He had this face on pretty much the whole week.
We enjoyed a movie out on the lawn after dinner the first night, complete with popcorn and candy…under the full moon! It took me right back to childhood and camp. We watched The Man From Snowy River. Great movie if you have never seen it!
I had late night and early morning hangouts with my guy.
Lito striking a pose while looking for the strange animal that made a scary noise.
We rode the hills together.
Those are my friends R and H. And Lito’s friends Ronan and Chica.
We crossed a lot of water and we loved it.
We rode through the shady, idyllic groves.
We hung out in the river and watched the fish.
Lito took many naps. I did not. I did not sleep much all week!
We saw, experienced, and felt God’s creation from the back of God’s gift to us. It could not have been any better.
We caught the sunrise each morning and the sunset each evening.
I felt transported to a different place at times. Which was much needed.
I do believe my Lito had as good of a time as I did.
My horse. My Lito man. He was amazing and seemed to be very happy (even if he did get bored and frustrated when we were going too slow or stopping too much). He wanted to be friends with everyone. I could not be more proud of him. He is not the horse for everyone, but he is for me. We have our own thing.
I lost count of how many times I laughed until I cried with my fellowship and horsemanship sisters. My stomach and my eyes hurt! Y’all have no idea how much I needed that. How much we all needed and still need that.
We rode together. We prayed together. We laughed together. We cried together. That is what it is and was all about. That is what IT is all about. AHAmoment. They call the Hill Country God’s Country and it sure did feel that way!
Now I can not share any more about that! BUT. I do have one more thing for y’all.
Did you wonder about my Merle while we were away? Well, wonder no more. He was in excellent care. I had to board him because all of my people were busy or out of town. He did not seem to mind and clearly had fun! Does he look like he is practicing his face for Halloween, missing baby teeth and all?!
By the time we got back to the farm and unloaded, I wished R a good safe rest of her drive, took a much needed bath, and then took a two hour nap (another thing I do not do).
I still have not caught up on sleep! We are all happy to be safely home even though we were not quite sure we wanted the trip to be over. This week is major catch up and now I just want to go back!