Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I "Heart" Ice

Photo taken Saturday, Dec. 27, in my driveway from the house to the workshop/tack room.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Calico Cat

Last week, when we were having the very cold and wet weather, Hestia decided that she no longer wanted to stay in the extra bedroom at night. When a determined cat decides something, the human must obey and so out she came. Since then, she has been sleeping with me every night. The two Maine Coons sometimes join us and sometimes not. Hestia's preferred sleeping place is on my sternum. When I turn over onto my side, she just sorts of rolls with me and then sleeps on my upper side. She rolls back with me when I turn again onto my back. Since she weighs only about 7.5 pounds, it is much more comfortable having her on top of me then having Summer, who weighs 18 pounds. She makes a very nice sleeping companion.
The photos show her playing with her purple ribbon. She is a very energetic and playful cat and likes to get the ribbon, pull it to her and then to disembowel it with her hind claws. Has me laughing every time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Strange Encounter

It is Friday morning and I am running a bit late, but not too badly. I am eating my second breakfast when I hear a horn honk right by the house. What?! My gate is shut, albeit not locked as I was supposed to have a propane delivery yesterday (that is another story, which is still in progress) and I did not lock the gate last night. I go over to the window and yell out at the guy in the truck. He asks is this *certain* address. I reply no and then ask him why he thought that coming through a closed gate was the thing to do. He asks me what my address is and I now get more snarly and tell him he is being rude, that coming through a closed gate is beyond rude and he had better to elsewhere right away. He then says that he is looking for that address because the bank now owns that house and he is the service that takes over the house. I tell him that he is still rude and that address is down the road a ways and to get off my place. He does. As I am leaving, stopping at the bottom of my driveway to lock my gate, I see him coming back down the road. Oh goody, I get to snarl at him some more. I wait until he is close & go over to this truck. I ask him what he would have done if I had not been home and he said he would have verified the address before doing anything. I told him that is good because if I ever come home to find a new lock on my gate, my animals removed and my house closed down, all hell will would erupt. He does look a bit taken aback at that, as if he has never considered that a mistake could be made. He then said that the GPS said that my place was the right address. I laughed and told him he needs a legal description out here, not an address as the addresses are not in numerical order much and that while his address should be where he was now coming from, it might not be. He then tells me the person's name (is this unprofessional or what) and the address again. I took some pity on him and told him to go back to the bank and get a legal description, then check with the county tax assessors office to find out where the place is actually located. And I'm thinking that once again I am telling someone else how to do their job,just using some sense.
However, yesterday afternoon, I repainted the numbers on my sign on my gate. Because a person never knows when the next idiot will be coming along looking to foreclose a house.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Lot of Rain & A Little Snow

Yes, those are roses in the snow. The other photo is a native Californian, Sugarbush.

Finally, after days of wrong forecasts, there was some snow here. Not much, but enough to look great. The rain started overnight Sunday, took a break Tuesday during the day, and continued off and on until last night sometime. There was a total of 4 inches in my rain gauge. Because the ground was so dry, most of it soaked in so that there was very little run-off here.

I took the horses into the barn Sunday night. They are always happy to go into the barn but are even more happy to get back out. Each stall has a small pen attached to it and one lucky horse gets the alcove at the end of the aisle way that opens to the arena. Because I have hay in three stalls this year, two horses were in the aisle. Only Autumn Wind is rain phobic; he absolutely will not leave his stall if rain is coming down. He also keeps a perfectly clean stall, holding until there is a break in the rain to go out into his pen. The others will be wet to one degree or another, although none of them were outside during the heaviest pounding rain that we had yesterday.

Moving horses this morning was more interesting because rain had gotten into locks and gate clips and then frozen. My key could not go into the tack room lock but there are two doors into the tack room and one was wind/rain protected this time. I rounded up two of the mares and led them out with Beans trailing along. However, the gate clip was frozen, so while three impatient horses waited, I had to rub the clip until the ice melted enough to let me open it up. Warmed up the clip but chilled down my hands. Then I moved one single horse and then two pairs. I am too lazy to move them all individually and the pairing works well--sort of. Snubbers had to do some on-line bucking and Autumn Wind added some airs above the ground for my entertainment. Autumn is careful to not endanger me at all but Snubbers dwells within her own world and any human around her needs to watch out because she does not. But everyone got moved and then had a good roll in the wet sand.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fun With Cats

I was watching Cats 101 on Animal Planet last night and was amazed to see a segment showing, at a cat show, a cat agility competition. I had no idea that such a thing existed. It seems to be based on dog agility but the jumps are poles on the ground, the tunnel is shorter, the course is much shorter, and the handler uses a cat toy to entice the cat around the course. But it sure looks like a fun thing to do if you have a cat that wants to do this. I am guessing that training starts with behavior capture, then shaping the behavior, and finally putting it all together. Of course, if the cat does not want to do this, the only thing you can do is laugh and try again another time.
This is not something I'll ever be doing with my two Maine Coon guys. They hardly play; a play session of 5 minutes is a major feat and much of that time is lying there watching the toy. Summer prefers a ribbon and Sky prefers to chase a feather toy, but both prefer the red laser light toy and will actually get wild for a brief time.
Hestia, the calico, has a much higher play drive. She will play with most anything and her attention span is sometimes longer then mine. She really runs after the red laser light but has figured out the source of it is in my hand and has taken to looking at that instead of the red dot on the floor.
And just how does a cat perceive that laser light dot? We humans see a red dot but what do they see? I sure don't think it is a red dot since there is no reason for them to be so interested in a red dot. So what is it they see??

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spirit Seeker on the Road

A 1996 gelding, Spirit Seeker is a quietly handsome fellow with deep and soulful eyes. He has been one of my heart horses and I have many stories of him, but for today, just this one.

These photos were taken out on the roads in 1999. At that time, and still true today, there was very little traffic on the roads near me since there were only two full-time households down here, so it was safe to take him out and turn him loose to run. And run he did. He would race way ahead of me, then turn and race back, sometimes stopping near me and other times racing back past me to turn again and come back with me. He never got very far from me and always knew exactly how far he wanted to go. He also never just turned and went home.

When he reached an intersection of the roads, I would yell and point “left” or “right” or “straight” and he almost always got it right which was amazing as I had never taught him those things. How did he know? I never understood it but decided to just enjoy the gift of whatever it was we had going. To see him racing down the road coming to an intersection, then make a sharp turn at my direction was really something. Sometimes, I would tell him “your choice” and he would actually look around and decide.

It wasn’t all running around though. There were times we walked peacefully side by side, both enjoying the view and the companionship. Sometimes there were distractions, like the day we came across a surveyor’s truck off to the side of the road. He homed in on that and started finding all the neat toys it provided, checking out everything he could get his nose and mouth onto. I had to go and rescue the truck from him by putting the lead back onto his halter and dragging him away.

As self-contained and self-confident as he seemed, there were little clues that he carried some worry and lack of confidence. One day, we were going down the creek bed and he took a jaunt up the bank to walk along the top of the bank. I could see that he would run out of a place to walk up there and saw a place he could come back down. It was steep and had loose sandy ground. He started down, felt the ground move a bit and froze in place. I had to scramble up the bank, put my hand under his jaw to lead him down, hoof by careful hoof. He needed my confidence that he could do that.

Alas, when starting him under saddle, I just did not know as much then as I do now, over 10 years later, and I blew through some of his clues to me about his confidence level. I did not do a horrible job, but I did not do the best job. When he left here to his new home, he was not a solid riding horse. I only let him go at the time, being overwhelmed and thinking it best for him. Sometimes in life, one gets a second chance. And so it has been for us, for he is back with me now. There is a health issue to resolve before any riding, but I will have a chance to do a good re-start with him. Having him back home has returned something to me. I knew I missed him but until he was back here, I did not know just how much. Welcome Home, Spirit Seeker; we will have fun together again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Calico Cat

Hestia Twilight has been here just a short while. She is from a shelter, was declawed, and is 7 years old. Weighing in at somewhat less then eight pounds, she seems a midget compared to the two Maine Coons. Her name came from her color as she has the colors of a stormy twilight. Hestia is the Greed goddess of hearth and home.

She had been very sick at the shelter so she was in quarantine here for two weeks in the spare bedroom where she had a bed to hide under and later to sleep upon, a window to look out of, and safety from the other cats who were not at all pleased to have another cat in their house. Summer would stand at the closed door and hiss loudly before stalking off with his dignity offended. Sky would stand and stare at the closed door.

Finally, the letting out day arrived. I let her out and she started to explore. The other two were on a kitchen chair and both became rigidly at attention when she walked into their view. Their heads swiveled as she moved on by and when she moved out of sight, Summer jumped off to stalk her. Staying a discreet distance behind her, he followed her everywhere, finally cornering her under the computer table. Or so he thought. She hissed, spit and batted him in the face and ran. He regrouped and resumed the stalk. Anytime he got too close, she hissed and batted at him. After a while, he tired of this and found a place to go back to sleep. After all, a Maine Coon can’t be expected to expend too much energy.

Currently, we seem to have achieved an armed stand-off. He still stalks her when he can summon enough energy to do so. Anytime she is near him, she hisses and spits loudly and will take a swat at him. Sometimes she will box him with both front paws, which he will usually ignore unless she is especially irritating and then he will clobber her once with one of his front paws which causes her to run off and hide. He has also discovered her litter box and makes sure he uses it once a day to mark it as being within his territory.

I still shut her into her bedroom at night so that she can relax without being stalked. She also takes most of the night to finish her food as she is a grazer rather then a gulper. It also allows the other two a peaceful night without her. And it allows me a peaceful night’s sleep with the two guys, uninterrupted by any hissing, spitting, or chasing. During the day she is out and, when possible, in my lap.

It will be interesting to see how the cats’ relationships continue to evolve and what happens next.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



Crackers has lived here for about 15 years now. He belonged to a woman who was living on a neighbor’s property. I could walk off the back of my place right onto the neighboring property and into her little compound. It was about ½ mile to get there winding around by the roads. I had been feeding her beasties on several occasions when she was gone, walking there twice a day to tend the birds, dogs, horses, and pigs. It was fun to visit the birds.

Then she needed to stash the birds somewhere else for a while so she trucked them up here in their cages and we put them under the overhang of the tack room. I now had a pair of African Greys in a 4 x 8 foot cage, several Macaws in cages of various sizes and Crackers, the only Amazon, in his 3 x 3 foot cage. Eventually, she was able to move the birds to new homes but she left me Crackers as a “Thank You”—ahh, well, that was some Thank You. She had gotten him free because he was not tame and would bite. I think she dumped him on me because he was not tame and would bite. And to this day, he is not tame and he will bite.

I moved him, inside his cage, up by the house, right outside the door near the kitchen window. This allows me to have “conversations” with him when I go outside or when the window is open. I use the word conversations very loosely. He has a limited vocabulary which consists of a bunch of unrecognizable mutterings and a few distinct words. He says his name, Crackers, sometime he says Graham Cracker Good. He can say Hi, Joe; since my handyman is Joe, that works well. And his most famous is something that sounds like “Rucka Rucka Rucka” which can have a different interpretation in a different manner, especially when he says it in a low threatening voice.

When I had dogs, he enjoyed making them howl. He would get going with a high-pitched, rapid fire squawk, over and over until they howled. He would then puff up his feathers and march along most proudly. He could really keep them going too. He never met a dog that he could not cow, striking at the cage when a dog nose got too close. My own dogs were wary of him and any stray coming by soon learned to avoid that cage.

Over the years, I have been able to add further cages to his original cage, creating quite a nice mansion for him. All the cages are outdoors aviaries that are 6 feet tall. To his original 3 x 3 foot cage, I first added a 4 x 4 foot cage. Next came two 4 x 4 foot cages tied together to make one that was 4 x 8. Finally, this fall after my last cockatiel died, I added their 4 x 6 foot cage complete with fancy roof. He does very well outdoors here since he acclimatized so long ago. The 4 x 4 cage has a complete roof and two enclosed sides which gives him wind and rain shelter. He climbs and flies from one end to the other and has several favorite perching spots. The perches are mostly manzanita wood which is hard, to resist chewing. There are some soft wood chew toys for him inside as well as some other toys.

Since he will attack and bite (he got me once years ago and once latched on to my finger had to be shaken off), we have a feed time routine. I go to a cage away from his feed dish and lure him over there. He knows that if he wants food, he has to move away from the feed dish. Then I move back to the feed door and pull his crock and put in fresh seed mix, put it back fast as he now flies at me squawking. He always eats all the peanuts first.

I have no idea how old he is, but hope to have him a long time yet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Rock Garden

Wait, you mean that rock gardens should have plants too? How about that!

These are rocks collected from the creek, which is not only seasonal but needs lots of rain to actually have water in it.

I haven't had time to write for this blog but hope to do so soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Maine Coon Cats--Mr. Dominant

Sky and Summer came to me as a “bonded pair” and like the typical bonded pair of cats, they have had their moments of beating up on each other, chasing each other around, hissing and growling. However, it was always obvious that Summer was the dominant one.
This is a photo of Mr. Dominant being dominant. Sky will get cozy on the chair and be settled in for the day. Mr. Dominant will come along and look for awhile and then decide he wants that chair. That there is another chair on the other side of the table, a chair that is exactly like this one, means nothing to him. He wants *this* chair. So he will jump up on the chair, stomp around in the tiny space not occupied by Sky and then carefully lie down in the tiny space and on top of Sky. He then just stays there until Sky gives up and moves. He then gets himself cozy and stays for the day. It works every time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Maine Coon Cats

These two guys have lived with me for nearly 2 ½ years now. I could not have cats while I was married as my husband was allergic to them and outside cats up here become coyote food very quickly. Then, by June 2006, the husband was successfully re-homed and I could have a cat.
My sister was staying with me at the time and it was she who reminded me I could have a cat now. That was on a Sunday and I wanted to do it right away so I called the local animal shelter and verified that they were open on Sundays. We had lunch, went to Petco to get cat stuff and then off to the shelter. I had decided that I wanted a Maine Coon, not because I knew a lot about them but because I had read a mystery book years before in which the main character had a Maine Coon and it seemed a really cool cat. My sister, the family cat expert, felt that a Maine Coon would be a good choice for me as they are laid-back, easy going cats.
At the shelter, we went into the very full cat room and started to look. There were so many good cats there and lots of them were labeled as Maine Coons although certainly some were large domestic long-hairs. In the back of the room, where the light was not so good, there were two Maine Coons together in a cage. There were my cats, waiting for me. We just looked at each other and knew. I pulled their paperwork from the cage and we went back out front to wait in line for processing. While waiting, I read that these two were males, brothers, turned in because the owner was moving, had come in badly matted and overweight, and were 3 years old. The one with white was named Socks and the other was Tank. Tank was the smaller one and, for sure, those names were going to be changed. They had been in the shelter for two months, waiting for me to show up.
It turned out that the shelter was having a cat special month, in which adoptions were half price, so I got two for the cost of one. Finally, we were processed and headed home. At home, we opened the boxes and waited on them to emerge. And that is when we discovered that “Socks” was horribly matted, his rear covered with dingleberries, and that he was obese. “Tank” had some mats, but far less, and he also was way overweight.
They disappeared under the bed, standard procedure for cats in new places, but came out for dinner. The next morning, we called and found a groomer who got us in that day. She had to shave Socks, giving him a lion cut, but was able to groom out Tank. Both also had baths which did not go over well. Socks enjoyed his shave, purring loudly and looking happy.
The next morning I got up, discovered that one window had the screen knocked off and that I was missing a cat. I grabbed a can of tuna and headed out to find Tank heading up the hill back towards the house. Who knows how long he had been out and where he went. Later that night, I was in bed, when my sister came flying out of her room & tore outside to grab Tank, who had knocked a screen off another window and was heading out .She had heard the screen hitting the ground. The next morning, we pulled screens and took them to a window/screen place to get pet screens, which are heavier, and then called my handyman to come put them in place. Joe got our new screens put up with extra hardware to hold them in place better and there have been no further cat escapes.
So within the first week, the bargain cats had cost grooming fees, complete new screens for all the windows and Joe’s pay to put them up more securely. Sounds normal! Later, I had Joe and my other handyman, Mike, build a fully enclosed cat patio with a cat door in the window. That entailed pouring concrete, building a fence from ground to patio roof, and fixing up a cat door in the window. The cats and I all love the cat patio.
We had a visit to the vet for a general health check and to talk about a diet for Socks who was obese enough to go Insulin Resistant any day. He weighed in at 23 pounds and really needed to get down to around 16-18 lbs. Tank was about 18 lbs and needed to go down to 14 or so. Socks got Purina Diabetics Management canned food for about 9 months to get his weight down. The weight came off slowly, which was the preferred method, but surely. Tank’s weight also came down with careful feeding.
And within the first week, Socks became Summer Clouds and Tank became Sky Dancer. Summer and Sky have been wonderful companions for me and we have a great thing going which will be future stories.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Car

The bumper sticker says it all.
This car undergoing a scientific dirt test"

The joys of dirt roads...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Who Says There is No Fall Color in Southern California

These are the two liquidambar trees at one of my neighbor’s (neighbor, as in “they are on the same road but about 1.5 mile down that road from me.”). They really stand out against the backdrop of the native oak trees along the ravine on the edge of their place. The liquidambar is one of our truly reliable fall color trees, even in lower elevations. They come in many colors, from yellow to golden to shades of red and a few that are maroon. Almost all the other trees that turn color here do so in shades of yellows and golds. Right now the native sycamores are turning their particular shade of brownish—golden—yellow. The Texas Umbrella trees which are very popular in the Hemet area are doing a glorious bright yellow now. The cottonwoods are just starting to show some turning. In town, the Modesto Ash are going deep yellow. My own Gingko tree is a lovely golden yellow now. Our falls may not be as spectacular as some places, but we do very well indeed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cool Beans

I love that phrase—Cool Beans—and I get the giggles every time I hear that. It’s not that it is such a funny phrase on its own; nope, it is that I have a horse named Beans, and he is cool.
Beans does have an actual registered name, but he has been Beans (yes, I used those two words in a row on purpose) nearly since birth. He was scarcely 12 hours old when that name became his. But he was lucky to have any name at all as he nearly died at birth.
It was 1988 and we were waiting for the foals to arrive. The mare who was second due had foaled. The mare who was first to foal was showing no signs of impending birth. This dark brown mare was out of Dave’s favorite mare. She was bred to our handsome bay stallion. Dave was expecting a bay filly. Finally, nearly 6 weeks overdue, she laid down and gave birth to a chestnut colt. Dave had only a short time to be disappointed as it was quickly apparent that this little guy was in trouble. He was breathing but that was all he was doing. Well, that and a heart rate so elevated that I could not count the beats. I rushed up to the house to call our vet while Dave remained in the stall. When I got back about 15 minutes later to report the vet was on his way, I was surprised to see Dave up on his feet, holding the colt & walking/dragging him around the stall. Dave said that the colt had given up so Dave started moving him and the colt started to try to live again.
By the time the vet arrived, the colt was at least into sternal recumbrancy instead of flat on his side. He did have a nursing reflex, so we picked him up and held him in position at the mare’s udder so he could nurse. We also milked her out into a bottle to supplement him. The vet did his thing and left. Dave went off to bed and I spent the night picking up the colt every hour to nurse and then laying him back down.
In the morning the colt could stand on his own and nurse with only some light support holding him in place. I was still laying him down as nature told him to stay on his feet since he could not get up. I fed the other horses and had my own breakfast. Dave, upon awakening, asked “How is Beanyard this morning?” Later, I get back to the barn to find Dave sitting in the stall, holding Beanyard in his lap; guess he got over his disappointment at a chestnut colt. So Beans he became.
By evening, he was getting up and nursing on his own and lying back down on his own also. He was still obviously dysmature (carried to term, but essentially premature) with his general weakness and lack of normal foal behaviors. This was the one the vet said that his being so late was “nature’s effort to get him fully baked.” Hmmm—baked beans.
For the first five days of life, he had no face expression or personality. He just ate and slept. But on day 6, wowsa!—a fully baked colt had finally arrived. I knew this when he reared on me when I went into the pen. And he had evil on his face too. While I did have to explain to him that rearing on humans was unacceptable, I was laughing with joy to see him acting like a normal colt. As he grew he certainly developed lots of personality, but those are future stories.
I get the giggles when ever any sort of beans are mentioned—green beans, string beans, kidney beans, white beans, soy beans, chili beans, Mr. Beans, The Bean. I am, no doubt, quite hopeless.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday morning, shortly after 4:30 am and I am not quite asleep but not quite awake when there is ^noise^. The ^noise^ increases and I am more awake and aware that it is an earthquake. Things start shaking some, then some more, then a good sharp jolt followed by lessening shaking. I make a mental note to check the USGS website later and see if this was what I think it was—a small quake close by.
Later, shortly after 9:30 am, I am about to close down the computer as I have an appointment and need to go do the daily first aid on one horse. Then, ^noise^, followed by some minor shaking and one short sharp jolt and that quake is done. Oh yeah, go to the USGS site, I am now reminded.
The first quake was 3.8 and about 6 miles away to the south. The second quake was also located there. Later, talking with a friend who is in Hemet, she said that the second quake felt stronger to her then the first. She was at home for the first one, on higher ground to the east of Hemet, and in Hemet proper for the second one, so the perception of the second one being stronger may have been from the different types of ground she was on.
Back last spring, there was a fair size quake based in San Diego County someplace. I was at my bookstore talking on the phone with my dad who lives in Borrego Springs, in the desert. First I heard ^noise^ then the shaking and I said there was an earthquake happening. About 10 seconds later, my dad felt it too.
We can enjoy the small ones while waiting for the big one to finally happen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Welcome to Sage; you won’t find it on most maps, but we are perched up here on the flank of Red Mountain at 3000’ elevation, SE of Hemet & NE of Temecula (two towns you can find on the maps). It is 14 miles to the south edge of Hemet and the business I own, Curt’s Books. Temecula is further in another direction but has such attractions as Trader Joe’s and Costco.
I’ve been up here since May 1983, which makes me one of the old-timers here. My handyman, Joe, has been here since the late 1970’s. There will be more about him in future posts, and also the story of how I came to be here
I have lots of stories about my life here and the beasties who have shared with me. Future posts will be telling those stories as well as musings and whatever comes to my keyboard. There are horse stories, dog stories, cat stories and much more. I hope you will join the journey; comments are always welcome. I wish I could promise an entry a day, but if I have writer’s block, I have it and will have to wait until unblocked. Time is also a definite factor also and some days I just don’t have time to even log onto the computer.
Well, nice introduction, now I have to go write some stories.