Winter is tough on the old

We have among our herd a couple of seniors – Terry a fearless old trail blazing Morgan who looks at you with deep brown eyes that have seen it all. He has been beloved of his owner for more than 20 years and is a secret favourite of mine. His very presence can calm my boy Romy down when we’re out in a forest and a rock they have passed a hundred times suddenly looks suspicious. Those of you who know horses understand what inexplicable terror this may strike into their big hearts.

Fearless Terry

Fearless Terry

A grand old dame named Lily and a little he-monster called Pegliaro (Pegs for short) are two four legged friends I’ve had the honour to hang out with at our co-op barn. Lily is fully blind and Pegs has lost one of his eyes and they hang out together to share the one remaining good eye between them. Lily was the mainstay lesson horse every stable wants – she carefully looked after every young charge on her back for generations, until her eyesight failed and she was retired. It’s too dangerous for her to be with other full size horses now but she’s queen of the paddock with her 3 mini companions – Pegs being her shadow.

Lily and Pegs - Happy days

You get immersed in the more basic concerns of life while working around animals and I feel blessed to experience that at our communal barn. As you may have read here before Northern winters bring a lot of challenges to caring for horses and especially older ones like Terry and Lily.

Over the summer we do our best to fatten them up to prepare them for the cold months. They have pasture and hay on demand and as you can see Lily loves her hay! A thousand pound horse really should add a hundred to their weight to be ready for what’s ahead.

Lily loves her food

Try as we might though sometimes you can’t do enough. Terry left us Christmas Day although the vet and my friend, his heartbroken owner, did their best to keep him here. And Lily left us this week…her inflamed hooves and swollen joints wouldn’t carry her any longer. They both have lost their fight with winter and old age.

In a society that farms sentient animals like them for meat it may seem silly to some to be sentimental since they really have been among the more fortunate. But they worked with us, played with us, they’ve had their stories, their joys and challenges and a few of us will mourn the passing of these two sweet old creatures.

 

Posted in Horses, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Winter | 55 Comments

Got snow? Make ice…

determination 2

I know it’s not as snappy as ‘got lemons, make lemonade’ but I thought there just had to be some equivalent catchy phrase as I watched these two determined young guys clearing skating space on the pond out back.

Determination

Making the best of a bad situation is something I’ve long admired in others and I hope I’ve practiced it myself on occasion. With the ‘twitter President’ about to be sworn in, sabres being rattled around the world and the climate getting angrier at us by the minute I think this may be a good theme for a motto for 2017.

That doesn’t let us off the hook however for rejecting outright whatever is happening and not trying to change it…hmm may need a motto change already to encompass the whole of the new year ahead! Suggestions gratefully accepted.

Posted in Environment, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , | 52 Comments

Moral dilemma

As if life isn’t perplexing enough these days, here I was presented with a moral dilemma in my actual back yard! I love the Autumn season and besides the colours it’s the migration of birds that I often find spellbinding. The sound of hundreds of geese flying overhead can reduce me to tears as I rejoice in the wonder of this twice annual marvel.

I’m lucky enough to see a lot of these comings and goings in the parkland out of our back window and never tire of observing who’s visiting.

migrating gbh

Great Blue Herons, cormorants and mergansers all mingle with the more common geese and duck species.

migrating cormorant

For songbirds, I put out seed to help them along their way…and that’s where today’s dilemma began! With the snow driving sideways reminding us of the winter to come, I spied a visitor I hadn’t noticed before. With the wet, cold sleet swirling she looked a little sad for a moment…

Chilly falcon

But for just a moment and then her expression changed to something a little less pathetic. This Peregrine, whose name means traveler in Latin, noticed my bird feeder and came in for a closer look…

Spying on lunch

Now I was in fact, thrilled to see her since these magnificent birds of prey were nearly wiped out by DDT – one of the problems with being top of the food chain! They have enough problems in life since 70% of them don’t survive their 1st year because the little ones are favourite food themselves for eagles and owls.

Should I warn those gentle songbirds that they were being considered for lunch? Should I scare her out of the tree or leave well alone? She sat out there for a long time watching… I opted to let nature run it’s course and it seems she was just sheltering from the storm. The songbirds get to live another day.

 

 

Posted in Environment, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , | 42 Comments

Bear with me!

There are some fears, rational or otherwise, that intrude into even the most pleasant of experiences. We’re back on the Bruce Trail again in our quest to complete the full, just under 1,000 kms, length. My hiking partner Cheryl and I are relishing it over 4 years… which is just another way of saying that we’re not speed hikers. It also means that this is our 3rd Spring with all the fantastic, re-emerging life that we get to witness. The rocky escarpment floor and naked deciduous trees, just before they sprout leaves, have a stark beauty all their own.

Where are we??

Now this is forested Ontario so that includes great big bears and Cheryl is always on the lookout for them. She declares every crevice or cave we pass probably houses one…

Another bear cave

We’ve been known to blow whistles, carry bells or just talk loudly so we don’t surprise a sleepy, hungry, just awakening bear along the way.

Here I’m descending yet another ladder but more importantly, can you see what that is peaking out of my backpack?

another ladder

 

Guess what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who guessed bear spray – full marks…Although apparently you have to get in really close and spray in the eyes for it to do any good so I think it just makes us feel better.

For the record, talking loudly and a lot, seems to be what we excel at and so far we haven’t met a bear!

We’ve seen interesting signs of other creatures from square shaped holes left by woodpeckers, to tree bark chewed by hungry winter deer.

Woodpecker holes

Teeth marks

We’ve seen bear scat and heard odd grunts, that didn’t come from either of us, but so far at least the trail has been bear free. But we know they’re there and, of course, now that we’re getting further north… Our heartfelt wish however, is to complete this trail without seeing a single one.

On a more serious note, our Province has inexplicably authorized a spring bear hunt for the first time since 1999. Even many hunters are opposed to killing bears at a time when they’re having cubs. This statement on the side of a shed I’ve passed for years, explains just how I feel about that idea!

Bear as hunter

Posted in Environment, Hiking, Humour, Photography, Thoughts, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 69 Comments

Simple solutions and happy dances

This is my fault because I had my snow tyres removed, I thought as I watched the freezing rain through the window!

Iced trees

There is a savage beauty to this scary stuff and the way it coats everything and it can fell even the strongest tree. My thoughts usually turn to birds and making sure the feeder is topped up because it will be impossible for them to find food, until the ice thaws.

Icy seedheads

The power in our town went out for six hours but that was okay because it was night time and you could easily get cosy under the covers. We had a major storm in 2013 that took weeks to recover from, so this was not so bad I thought as we went to bed.

Ah yes, but things had changed in my life and while our power came back on by the following morning there was no power at the co-op barn…so no pump for the water well and 12 horses and 4 minis who had to stay in their stalls because it was treacherous underfoot and branches were falling everywhere…yikes!

door and ice

Iced tree

A water brigade was formed and we painstakingly brought water from all our homes and we made do but 36 hours later and no power yet in sight, things were looking a little bleak. It started to thaw and mid-day today I had the pleasure of letting the herd out. I wish I’d taken photos but I was too busy laughing as they each did their happy dances. Racing around, kicking up heels, rolling and bucking – joyful to be out in the world again.

And the water? Still no power but as I listened to the melt all around me, I grabbed all the buckets and lined them up under the disappearing icicles and happily watched them fill with water – a simple solution for sure but I can tell you it gave me a sense of enormous satisfaction.

bucket brigade

Posted in Environment, Horses, Life, Photography, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , , | 50 Comments

Body heat and other winter thoughts

I can understand why medieval farmers slept with their animals – in the same building I mean…a thought that occurred to me quite often as I’ve been mucking out the stalls, hauling water and stuffing hay bags this winter. Let me tell you just how I got to be a stable hand.

DSC_0092

March 2nd, 2016

You may recall last fall I posted about how I had moved my boy Romy because our stable had become a co-operative venture and I was reluctant to take on barn work for 14 horses. Well if ever a non verbal creature could communicate his annoyance, Romy certainly left no doubt he was unhappy at the new place. He refused to be led, pushed me around, wouldn’t stand still to be groomed, was challenging when I was in the saddle and was just generally uncooperative and need it be added with a 1,000 lb animal – a little intimidating. Everyone in the new barn had advice usually involving showing him who’s boss with a crop or a nose chain – not my style at all.

Romy's hay bag

Stuffed with pride by your truly

Thinking about how happy he had been with his old herd I revised my opinion of manual labour and back we went to the co-operative barn. Most of the hard work is in winter and how long can that last? Romy immediately fell back in with his old crowd, including some nice mares, and his mellow old self returned.

Winter Romy

Happy again!

I think of his happiness at 7am when I look down at the temperature…not including windchill

Dashboard 1

0r when I’m out breaking the ice from the water trough because the heater can’t keep up.

Frozen trough

Keeping the water open

I think of him as I slip and slide up the manure pile with yet another wheelbarrow  full. Did I expect to be doing this in my retirement from a job that never involved physical labour? Not exactly but he’s happy and it’s cheaper and more fun than the gym and Ivy gets to come along too!

snowy Ivy

Oh yes, sleeping in the same building as livestock? At least their body heat usually keeps it above zero!

Posted in Horses, Humour, Life, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Pass the popcorn, please.

psiff_0

You know there are star ratings, thumbs up or down ratings and rotten tomatoes ratings to help you gauge how good a movie really is but after our Palm Springs International Film Festival vacation, I’ve added one more personal one.
The ‘how long does it take my hubby to nod off?‘rating!

psiff16_smallflatart (1)

The festival itself is a delight and being located in the mostly sunny desert town of Palm Springs, just down the highway from Hollywood, is a real kick. Along with two dear friends we poured over descriptions for the many films on offer. One of our friends is a Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) veteran and even she was impressed – just look at this schedule for only three of the days:

PSIFF schedule

The offerings included lots of young, enthusiastic new filmmakers and given the timing of this festival the Academy Award nominees for best foreign film were all here – what a choice we had.

So 15 films later – brilliant stories and documentaries from Iceland, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey, Estonia, Belgium, Israel to name a few we were hard pressed to pronounce on some of our favourites. We’ve already booked for next year!

Hubby? He only snoozed through one and I let him happily since it was a stinker. If you have time, take a look at some of these trailers, you won’t be sorry:

 

 

Posted in Humour, Life, Thoughts, Travel | Tagged , , , | 57 Comments