Tuesday, October 21, 2014

field work

Late afternoons, my daughter often heads out for a ride. I follow, my son’s tripod in one hand, my camera bag (i.e. old cosmetic bag thingy that I lifted from my bro’s house) slung over my shoulder. I set up mid-field, facing into the setting sun.

It’s quiet out there. My daughter’s voice floats across the field. She keeps up a constant chatter with Isaac, alternating between heated scoldings and enthusiastic praise.

She’s constantly on the lookout for Isaac Triggers: galloping horses in the adjoining field, groundhog holes, dogs on the loose. (My husband told me that he was watching when a dog wandered into the field. My daughter was immediately off Isaac and standing by his head, holding tight to the reins...or whatever it is that you hold at the head.) She’s completely fearless and deeply cautious. It’s a sound combination.

Once as she came cantering by, she was laughing hysterically. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but when she got to the bottom of the hill, she told me that Isaac was almost galloping.

If you can’t control the situation, laugh. It’s a good motto.

Periodically, Isaac tries to buck her off. This doesn’t frighten her. It just makes her irritated. “He’s being a jerk,” she says.

A couple days ago, I read how to handle bucking horses in Jeanette Walls’ book Half Broke Horses, information which I then shared with my daughter. You’re supposed to yank back on the reins to pull the head up—the horse has to lower his head in order to kick with his back feet—and then whack him on the rump to make him move forward.

“Yep, that’s what I do,” she said.

So okay, then. Guess we got that covered.

At one point, she simply sat on Isaac’s back for an extended time, just looking around. I finally called, “Are you scared?”

“No,” she yelled back. “Just thinking!”

On one of her passes by me, she parked Isaac directly in front of me and launched into a horse story complete with dramatic interpretation. I didn't hear much of what she said; I was having too much fun watching her.

When I head back to the house, my daughter enjoys following me on Isaac. But she doesn't just follow behind—she follows right behind. You know that my-ankles-are-vulnerable-so-kick-your-feet-forward-and-jump panicky feeling you get when you're being followed by a too-fast, too-close shopping cart? Being followed by a horse is worse. Way worse. Especially when that horse that is frothing green at the mouth, breathing heavily, and has a giddy rider.

This same time, years previous: the reading week, a pie party!, moments of silence, classic cheesecake, pumpkin-sausage cream sauce, rhubarb cake, and love, the Tooth Fairy.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

the quotidian (10.20.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Breakfast? Breakfast? Is it time for breakfast?


Fresh cider by the bucketful.

Generous neighbors! 
(And a photobombing cat.)

This photo from the recent Bon Appetit was in stark contrast to 
the typical sleek, pristine kitchens flaunted in foodie mags. 
I could stare at it for hours.

The perks of having grandparents only three miles away.

Birthday chocolates: MINE.

Puttzing along.

The week of rain got to all of us.

But we made it through. 

This same time, years previous: the adjustment, grab and go: help wanted, the quotidian (10.15.12), rich, autumn walk, that thing we do, no special skills, would you come?, how to have a donut party, part III, sweet onion corn bake, apple cake, Italian cream cake, the stash, deprivation, and keeping my hands in the toilet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a list

It’s yet another rainy day, sigh. The skies have pressed down dark and unyielding for days now. Saturday afternoon I caved under the pressure and took to the sofa where I languished away the hours. Each day since has been a battle in which I struggle to think up meaningful activities and then do them in hopes of Making It Through.

They’re calling for sun on Friday. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.


Pre-lunch, we watched the first episode of Cosmos, a TV series that a friend from church loaned to us. It's a well-done series (though I supposed I should withhold judgement until I actually see the whole series). My youngest was actually moved to tears over the mistreatment of Bruno, and all the children got their minds sufficiently blown. Afterwards, when I asked the kids if they wanted boiled potatoes mixed in with their tuna salad and then got mad at them for their rudely-voiced opinions, my older son said, “Mom, in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?”


We won the lice war. At least, she’s been clear for nearly a week. Once the sun comes out, I'll do one more round of washing of sheets and blankets, yet another head check, and call it good.

It was the weirdest thing, though. She had a pretty fierce case—I’m not even going to tell you how many lice I pulled out of her head and stuck on masking tape because you would be very, very disturbed—but no one else in our family had them. We share hairbrushes, towels, bedding, hats, everything, and yet the rest of us remained perfectly clear. If lice are supposed to be so contagious, what’s up with that?

Also, we still don’t know how she got them. Best we can guess, she contracted them at camp several months ago.


I ate rice for breakfast (and then I ate it again for lunch). It’s just sausage links that I sliced open to make bulk sausage that I then fried up in bacon grease with onions and peppers before adding leftover brown and white rice and some cooked peas. I ate it while standing at the kitchen sink watching my daughter canter Isaac in the upper pasture.

In other food, we finished up the chocolate peanut butter cake leftover from the birthday party at the barn. I have a big bowl of cut up butternuts waiting to go into the oven once the granola finishes baking. This pumpkin pie-that-isn’t is calling my name. But where to find maple cookies for the crust?

Also, the donut party is this weekend. Or it will be, if it ever stops raining.


Ha. You didn’t think we’d make it through a whole blog post without a picture of a horse did you?

Here's the thing. I find it exhilarating to watch my older daughter fly through the field on the back of a horse. The pounding hooves and streaming tail: there’s something both primal and magical about it. Freedom and power and speed...

I don’t know. Whatever it is, it makes me happy.


I finished Still Alice, a book about a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer's. It’s eye-opening and terrifying. What a horrible disease. Now I’m reading Half Broke Horses, the sequel to The Glass Castle.

And we finished up yet another family read aloud: The Giver. Not sure what to start next. Any suggestions?

This same time, years previous: three vignettes: my husband, puzzling it out, and going up.

Monday, October 13, 2014

the quotidian (10.13.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Ruined clothes: after a day of mucking stalls and riding.

At the foot of my deck steps: there really is a horse in my yard.

He has the sweetest personality.

A coat for Charlotte, fashioned after a horse blanket, naturally.

Post-op: she's fixed.

Attempting some black-(purple?)-smithing.

The internet moochers.

He goes upstairs to tuck her in and then everything gets waaaay too quiet.

Birthday party at the neighbors' red barn.

This same time, years previous: roasted red pepper soup, old-fashioned brown sugar cookies, the dogwood wild runner, my answer, why it ain't happening, anticipating the mothballs, and potential.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

the boarder

This is Isaac. He will be living with us for the winter.

Normally, Isaac lives and works at a camp for disabled people, which happens to be the same camp that my daughter volunteers for. This is the same camp where she was volunteering when she got hooked up with the farm where she now works. So, first she gleaned a job and now a horse. Moral of story: volunteering pays!

Actually, that’s not the moral. There is no moral. It’s just a story.

Anyway, a month or so ago, our neighbor (and one of the lead volunteers at the camp) stopped me as I was passing her house on my way home from my morning run. We have this horse at the camp and he’s getting sick of going in circles around the ring, she said. He needs someone to ride him. Would your daughter like to take him and ride him this winter?

Privately, my husband and I discussed the factors: electric fence installment, sufficient pasture space, large animal on the property. Within minutes (if not seconds) we agreed it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity. We told our daughter. She hit the roof.

Somehow, in all the conversation about Isaac, I got the idea that he was old, as in almost-dead old. I pictured him as a crotchety, rundown horse, slow moving and placid. So when my daughter walked him into the yard last night, I was caught off-guard.

Isaac was clearly not old, run-down, or placid. He was gorgeous and enormous. When I expressed my surprise to my neighbor, she said, “Oh, no. Isaac’s not old. He’s in his prime!”

After walking him around the perimeter of the field—a home-tour, if you will—my daughter removed the halter. Isaac tore around the pasture, kicking his heels and freaking me out because it looked like he’d run straight into the fence.

Because he belongs to the camp, they provide his feed, vet and farrier services, and tack. Our children can ride him (we’ve signed the paperwork) but not anyone else. And actually, only my older daughter has complete access to Isaac. She’ll teach the other children to ride, sure, but Isaac is her responsibility and privilege.

Last night before bed, I stepped out on the deck. I shone a flashlight down through the field. Isaac’s eyes glowed green. I shut the light off. He snorted and stamped. In the thick dark, the horse noises seemed quite close.

There’s a horse in our yard, people. This is weird.

This same time, years previous: home, party on, the quotidian (10.10.11). what we came up with, green soup with ginger, and happy pappy-style cornbread.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

up and over

Before heading off to work, my daughter always tells me if she has a jumping lesson scheduled for that day and what time it will be. She’s forever hopeful that I will come watch.

Days she is at work, I hold in the back of my mind an awareness that she’s working with horses and accidents might happen. When she’s jumping, my awareness is heightened. I’m not fretting and worrying, and most of the time I’m not even aware of my awareness, but when the phone rings, I get a slight ping of what-if panic, a little kick of adrenaline.

A couple weeks ago the phone rang. It was my daughter. She was supposed to be in the middle of a jumping lesson. Cue the adrenaline rush.

Her (at least it was my daughter and not the instructor, whew): Hi, Mom. It finally happened.

Me: Yes...?

Her: I fell off.

Me: Are you okay?

Her: Yeah, I’m fine. My mouth still has sand in it, but I’m going to go get another drink of water.

Then she filled me in about how the horse was going over the jump and did some weird wiggle thing mid-air and she went flying, landing ten feet away. Her shoulder and hip were sore, but otherwise she was just fine.

Her: I’m going to finish the lesson now. I just wanted to tell you.

She called again after the lesson was over. “It was the best lesson ever!” she said. “Now I know what falling off is like!” She made it sound like such fun that I wished I'd been there to see the drama firsthand.

Last week, at her behest, I showed up for a jumping lesson, camera in hand. I find her lessons super confusing because horse-speak is a completely different language. But it's interesting, too. I always learn bunches.

For example:

*My daughter is doing “gymnastic jumping.” It’s called this because the horse is doing two consecutive jumps—he goes over, down, and over again. VoilĂ , gymnastic jumping.
*It seems like the lesson is as much for the horse as it is for my daughter. The horse is like a second person, opinionated and moody with a mind of his own. The instructor is forever asking, Did you start that canter or was that the horse? And the entire lesson centers around warming the horse up and then getting him in a good frame of mind for listening. It’s fascinating.
*The instructor can tell when the horse “has a poop in him” and whether or not he can wait to go. (!)

First jump.

Between jumps.

Coming off the second jump.

No mishaps occurred while I was there, though there was one point where the horse nearly went down.

It was over in a second and no big to-do was made, except for the instructor scolding the horse for being “sloppy.”

The barn is dark and there’s lots to watch, so it wasn’t till I got home and had a chance to study my photos that I saw even more of what is happening. Like how my daughter always chews her lip before taking the horse over the jump.

Also, I got to admire her makeshift riding boots: my old ankle boots with the mismatched laces. Classy.

This same time, years previous: clouds and apple pie.