Monday, August 28, 2023

Trails and Trials

I accomplished a major goal I had set for myself last year, climbing up Schweitzer Mt.

When I chose that as my goal, we immediately set out walking and hiking, no matter the weather: wind, rain, ice, or snow. The intention was to keep moving during the bad months in order to be fit enough for the climb by early summer. Though it started out as my goal, my husband is such an intimate partner & friend, my goal became his goal. It morphed into our goal.

But life got in the way, our world was turned upside down, and the structure of our walks and hikes, completely broken up with supporting our daughter through her very painful divorce, all but disappeared. 

We poured our energy into helping her, and our grandson, and it left very little energy, or time, for climbing mountains. Now that I think about it, we were climbing mountains, but emotional ones, rather than physical ones. 

To be honest, I'd forgotten about my goal. It had been subsumed with this other, bigger, need. But my daughter had taken time off for what would have been her 8th wedding anniversary, and she decided to go on an adventure. She loaded up her son and she drove to the coast for the week, all by herself. She wanted to experience the healing power of the ocean and escape, just for a small time, the place, the city, where all the chaos was happening. Her departure left us with a free week. 

When I remembered my our goal, and saw the opening to attain it, I also realized we hadn't been walking and hiking as much as we had hoped to prepare for it. However, I figured, worst case scenario, we could abandon the climb and go back down. We at least needed to try.

So, we packed up and headed to Schweitzer to tackle the 2,000 foot ascent in 2 1/2 miles. It was very doable, training or not, but I wanted it to also be fun and not torture.

Well, the first part of the hike up was, indeed, torture.

We had taken a wrong path and it went straight up the mountain. My head got light. Muscles fatigued. And my Apple watch recorded my heart rate at SLOW THE HELL DOWN!

We stopped and rested to catch our breath, which gave me a moment to open the All Trails App. It showed the nature path we should have been on versus our present location, way off the nature path. The only way to get back onto it was straight up even further.

At that point, I wanted to take plan B, go back down the mountain and quit. Hadn't my summer been hard enough without adding the hike from hell onto it, too? Wasn't my goal to make it fun? This wasn't fun. This was suicide by heart attack.

My husband encouraged me to keep going, which only pissed me off and made me want to quit even more. But then he used reverse psychology and told me we SHOULD quit, and that he wanted to turn around, right then and there, and go back. 

That stopped me in my tracks. How dare he try and keep me from my year long goal! The nerve of the man! 

That's all it took, and I was charging up the hill like a wild thing, (Apple watch be damned!) trying to make my way back to the nature path that winds a bit gentler up metaphor mountain.

Once on the nature trail (photos above) it was all, Happy Days Are Here Again.

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let's sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again
All together shout it now
There's no one
Who can doubt it now
So let's tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again
Your cares and troubles are gone
There'll be no more from now on
From now on

There were huckleberries to eat along the way.

And a lucky penny!

There was even a smiley face before our last and hardest ascent.

And at the top, wine and cheers.

A selfie at the summit.

If you climb up the mountain, as a bonus, you get a free ride down on the ski lift.

I had gone to the mountain that day praying for wisdom about our current trials and wanting to see God, like my own dad had said he did on one of our hikes together when he was still alive and about my age now. 

I came back with answers about both, about why my dad was able to see God's hand so powerfully in nature, and about how these major life trials are like those difficult mountain trails. 

Look at how similar those two words are--trails and trials. Not much separates them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Wild Fires & Miracles

Several fires swept down on us last Friday. We were surrounded by them, and they were devastating. 

My brother's house was threatened, so he took refuge at our house with his family and animals. He had been out shopping with his wife, about 20 miles away from home, when they came out of a store and saw the smoke.  My husband had been working in the barn, and he called me to look outside. The smoke was dark and massive.  My brother's daughter, my niece, was at their home, and she texted them that a Level 2 evacuation had been ordered. 

We had 35 mph winds that day and extremely low humidity, so the fire swept quickly into the town of Medical Lake (about ten miles from us), which houses a very large state hospital (it's the hospital my husband worked at when we first moved to Spokane) My brother's community is on the outskirts of Medical Lake, (about 7 miles East) next to Silver Lake. Because of the wind direction, the fire made its way quickly through the town, and to the area of my brother's house, wiping out almost everything in its path. As he evacuated with his dog, cats, wife and daughter, they saw lines of cars backed up trying to get to safety on other roads. It reminded us all of the Maui fire because it had moved so swiftly, with so little time to react.

The last I heard, 200 homes and structures were destroyed and one person died. Some animals were trapped in the homes and also died, but I haven't seen how many. My daughter's friend lost her home, and she had two dogs that perished. They lost everything, even the cars parked outside.

My brother's house was saved by two miraculous events. The first was his neighbor, a Mennonite man. We had seen video of him out plowing a fire line around his farm with a wall of fire and smoke heading directly for him. Well, he also plowed a fire line around my brother's neighborhood, and the flames came right up to that line, but went no further.

The second thing that saved his house, which continued to be threatened from flying hot embers as big as your hand, was that USAA sent their own fire truck to his neighborhood. It is a military retirement community, and many of the homeowners had USAA insurance. That fire truck and crew battled the embers all night and saved the homes there. They remained on duty until the threat lifted, many days later. 

I guess there is a third thing, an unexpected heavy rain in August, which is very rare for our area. The rain came through yesterday, which allowed all the evacuations to be lifted and my brother and family to return home.

That was called the Gray Fire, but there were two others burning at the same time. One of them was North of us, the Oregon Rd Fire in Elk, WA. I have a good friend with a breeding operation in Elk. She has two stallions and a number of brood mares and foals--20 in all. She and her husband had built a thriving farm and her daughter, husband, and grandchildren lived there, too. They were able to evacuate all the humans and animals with the help of their community, but lost their home and barns.

Their escape was harrowing. Two of the horses wouldn't load and my friend had to walk one out, and to safety at 11:45 pm, in the dark, with a fire behind her. Her daughter and son-in-law followed her and the horse, Dash, to make sure they weren't hit by a car. The cameras at their house went dead at 12:30 am, just 45 minutes after they left. My friend walked that horse 7 miles to safety. A couple days later they found the other horse they'd left safe in a pasture that by miracle had remained unburned.

While the rest of the country has experienced extreme heat this year, we have had a mild summer, but we were in a patch of days that were hovering around 100 degrees. I will be interested to know what started these fires and if any of them were a result of an arsonist.

On another note, I worked with Tweed on the new breezeway today. He was cautious walking onto it, but then walked nicely to his stall and went in. I don't have to take him down the breezeway to access his stall, but I do want him to get used to it.

I've been keeping the brick clean with my new handy-dandy leaf blower. My husband bought me a little one, but I replaced it with a bigger one that gets the job done much faster. 

The weather has turned mild--highs in the 70's--and it's as if we never even had raging fires surrounding us. We had been completely smoked in, the worst air quality in the US and low visibility, but now the skies are clear. 

To say this has been a crazy summer would be an understatement. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

More Progress, and On to the Next Phase

The wood has been placed into the stall fronts, feeders attached (I LOVE them!!), and the hay doors installed. 

The main stall doors have a top portion that swings down, which is nice if you like to pet your horses and interact with them, like I do. They are tall enough that I don't think a horse would try to jump out, but I still wouldn't leave them open at night with Epona or Tweed (especially Little Miss Jumping Jack Flash Epona.)

The hay doors are convenient. I swing them all open at the same time, feed, then shut them at the same time.

Yesterday was the first day they were allowed into them.

Tumbleweed did NOT trust the new floors, but I eventually went into the stall and encouraged him little by little until he felt secure on them. 

When I went out to clean them today, I could tell who felt the most comfortable by the amount of manure in the stalls, and Epona won that contest by a lot! She made sure to poop in every corner, and every nook and cranny.

I will say, cleaning the stalls was MUCH easier, and I think wood shavings will last a lot longer.

I said I love the feeders, and I am not kidding. They are built to last and have two small pockets for supplements on the sides of the larger bin for hay. The stalls seem much bigger with them in it, and I don't need grain buckets.

Here are some photos of the Stall Grazers, and it gives you a perspective of how roomy the stalls still feel.

1st stall

2nd stall

We're shifting our sights to the tack room now. We need two doors, one to the room from the outside, and the other to the breezeway. We're also installing a window to look out on the breezeway.

That's the loveseat and table I purchased at Farm Chicks two months ago. We like to sit in there and imagine it's already done.

The measurement for the room is 12' X 18', which isn't huge, basically like a stall and half, but it will be cozy.  We split the difference with the existing stall so that it could be used for foaling or for a horse that needs more room.

We went to our local door and window store, and started to get ideas about what we might want so that we can start to sketch out a plan.


Thursday, August 17, 2023

Progress On the Barn : Stall Fronts Installation


The barn project continues, and everything except the tack room should be done today. Woot! Woot!

I have a question about fans and lights for all the barn experts! We want to put fans over the stalls, but we also need lights, and we don't want to have to turn on the fans to turn on the lights. Is there a system for this?

Last night we had a mother / daughter evening staining the boards that they will cut and place in the stall fronts today.

Oh, this has been a hard summer, but our scars are what make us beautiful. It's hard to watch your child go through the process, even when you know that there will be a stronger, more vibrant woman, on the other side.

I continue to have my lessons on Fridays, but it has been too hot to do much in between them. We're working on vertical flexion at the walk and trot. It has been fun to see Tumbleweed figure it out and not try to stop moving forward--mistaking that little bit of pressure as a whoa signal. Regina likes for me to give him room to figure it out, and having her eyes on the ground really helps me to know when to hold steady or release. My cues are all over the place, but when she keeps me honest, we make really great progress.

An update on the barn floors. They are really beautiful, and they have a little grit (it feels like sandpaper) that was added onto them for traction, but they might not be as grippy as brushed concrete. 

We had the farrier out today, and Tumbleweed hadn't been on the new floors. He pulled back and slipped as he was walking into the barn, just a little, but it was enough to scare him. We trimmed and shod him in the first stall on the mats. The farrier said that if we want to shoe them in the breezeway, we will need to put down mats there. I think we will continue to do it in the stalls though. It works out better. I'm going to add tie rings in their stalls, too.

Cowgirl and Foxy walked onto the breezeway, barefoot, and they didn't have any issues. Of course, they were calm. 

The stall fronts were put in two days ago, and that only gave us two days to stain the spruce boards that he left for them. I went with a golden oak stain (Varathane at Home Depot) because I didn't want more red, as in red oak stain. I want them to contrast with the red in the brick concrete. It will be interesting to see how that looks today against the brick. The stall dividers that we've had in for 16 years have weathered to a similar color, so it does give me an idea of what I wanted to try and match.

The fronts are beautiful. Extremely well made. The stalls doors have an amazing rolling system from the top. The windows in the doors swing down so that the horses can put their heads out. There will also be doors on the hay windows when they're done. I think the design allows for enough air to circulate while keeping the shavings in and the horse's legs safe.

Custom Barns in Spokane made the stall fronts, and they gave us a smoking deal at $15,000 for everything : 5 custom sized fronts, 1 extra front for the large stall (no door), spruce, tongue-and-groove boards, heavy duty powder coating, heavy duty feeders, and full installation, including the cutting and installing of the boards today. (The concrete work, with the stamping for breezeway, tack room, 4' skirt, and patio, and preparation of 6 stalls for the mats, which required digging them out and then filling them with gravel and sand layers) was about $24,000 + taxes.)

I'll share an update as soon as it's finished! Yay!

Friday, August 4, 2023

Time to Brag About Tweed

I had a lesson planned with Tweed on Wednesday, but when we showed up to it at the park, there was a Sherriff helicopter circling us over and over. We found out that there had been an attempted double homicide near us and they were looking for the two people who had done it.

Needless to say, we all loaded back up and rescheduled.

Today was the day we met again. 

It had been over 3 weeks since Tweed was last rode, due to his injury.  The park was full of riders, whizzing around here and there and everywhere. A group of joggers even surprised us as we came around the trailer. Tweed looked concerned about everything, but he kept his cool. We followed the joggers after they passed so that Tweed could think he was running them off.

During the lesson, it was as if Tweed hadn't missed a beat, and we worked more on lateral flexion at the walk and trot. Tweed's trot is starting to feel very floaty. He was giving it a lot of try and it felt beautiful. Regina is such an amazing trainer. She gave me my homework and we're going to start meeting on a weekly basis to keep it up.

Tumbleweed is maturing into such a wonderful partner. He is happy to be caught, load into the trailer, and go off with me on these adventures. He just gets softer and softer. Regina observed that raising him up from a baby had created a special connection. I would agree that it is definitely a perk. 

Exciting news! We are having a big baby shower here this weekend for our up and coming grandson--yet to be born. We have another granddaughter ready to be born any day! Yes, life does go on!