Monday, September 17, 2007

And another week flies by…

Tom did his work assessment at the end of the week, and decided that while he didn’t do everything on his list for the week, he did a few extra things and consequently he was happy with what was done. Tom bought more black pipe for the clamps in Spanish Lookout on Thursday, so on Friday he and Selwyn finished the deck for the porch and put up the porch rafters. Over the weekend, Tom built the rest of the vertical supports, and put the rails on two sides. This morning, he and Selwyn put up the nailers and nailed up the zinc, and finished most of the railing. Now they’re on to moving the 1000 gallon water tank where we collect water to pump up the hill from under the lime tree to behind the shop so we can collect rainwater from the shop roof rather than relying on the pipe water.

Last Thursday while Tom was in Spanish Lookout, Selwyn and I had a horse day. First thing in the morning, we saddled up Tony and Glinda and did a short loop through our back lot with me ponying Elphie from Tony. Tom and I have both been doing some ground work with Elphie, and she’s pretty happy to be lead just about anywhere. I’ve taken her on walks through the jungle where she has to go through, over, or around things, and not much bothers her, even blue tarps. I’ve “saddled” her with the saddle bags, and she doesn’t mind having something on her back. So, we decided it was time to take her out in the jungle with the big horses, and she was a trooper. She walked next to Tony on the wide trails and the road, and followed on the narrower trails. Of course it helped that Selwyn was behind us with Glinda, which kept her moving forward, and while Tony isn’t as good of a pony horse as Randy was with Patrick, he does his job and is even pretty good about nipping at her if she tries to cross in front of him. She got used to me putting my foot on her back, and didn’t even twitch her ears when I ran my whip over her sides. We’ll be taking her on short rides for a while until she gets a little fitter, and then we’ll start taking her on longer rides through the jungle.

When we got back from that ride, we decided to take the two big horses up the hill. When riding to Sapodilla Falls with Tim and Kelli and Matt and Steph, Selwyn had noticed a calabash tree with fruit. The calabash fruit is like a gourd; it has a hard, round, wood-like outside with a soft center. Mayans traditionally make bowls from the gourd by cutting it in half, hollowing it out, and slowly heating it to cure it. Selwyn’s mother, Petranela, has a calabash bowl that was handed down to her by her mother, and it’s very old and still serviceable. Petranela knows how to make the bowls, and had told Selwyn that if he found some gourds, she would make some bowls. So, we returned to where Selwyn had seen the calabash in July, and while the gourds had fallen from the tree, Selwyn found them on the ground and they were still in good shape. We packed them home, and Selwyn has handed them off to Petranela to start the curing process.

As we were heading down the hill, we took the Vista trail in the opposite direction from how I usually go. I wanted to show Selwyn where I’d seen the puma, so as we were riding along I was looking up to get my bearings and to find the spot on the trail where I’d seen the puma cross. Suddenly Selwyn held up his hand, stopped, and told me to stop. He told me to look down, and right under Tony’s feet were large cat tracks in the sand. Each track was about three inches in diameter; it could have fit into the print created by Tony’s hoof, but barely. Selwyn said they could be either jaguar tracks or puma tracks, but either way it convinced us that I hadn’t been imagining things when I reported my puma sighting last week. On Friday I took the camera and rode back up to the spot where we found the tracks, but it had rained enough Thursday night and Friday morning that the tracks were gone.

My Friday ride on Esmerelda was, um, interesting. Es is getting in better shape and is getting more confident, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because she’s very athletic, loves to go, and is a really fun ride, but it’s a bad thing because she’s getting even more opinionated, and as she gets stronger and fitter it’s a little more difficult for me to make her do what I want her to do. I seem to be developing a love/hate relationship with her much like I had with my old horse Ricky, and for a lot of the same reasons. I love her when we’re doing a good business-like walk or trot along the trails when the other horses would be lolly-gagging along. I hate her when we get to a spot where she was spooked by a peccary a few weeks ago and she absolutely refuses to go past the spot, rearing, wheeling, spinning, and trying to run in the opposite direction despite the fact that I keep kicking and whipping her to go forward, and every time she rears and wheels I pull her around so she ends up in the same position. I love her when we’re cantering along a sandy trail in the Pine Ridge with lots of downed pines, and she canters through all the poles, adjusting her stride no matter what the distances are, and never breaks her stride or her rhythm. I hate her when we approach a slightly higher log that she needs to jump, and instead of listening to me and sitting back when I ask, she tosses her head up to get away from the bit (and me), but then jumps flawlessly anyway. I hate her when I ask her to walk down a very long, very muddy, very root-filled bank before a stream crossing, and instead of walking she launches herself from eight or ten feet up, right towards one of the trees on the stream bank – but then I love her when she does a 45 degree turn in mid-air, and lands right where I wanted her to go, in the middle of the stream. No issues for jumping into water for this horse! I’m finally going to make use of the poles Tom cut for me months and months ago, and do some work with her in the pasture so she and I can learn to jump together, rather than her telling me to just get out of her way and let her do her job when we’re out on the trails.

The only problem we’re having with the horses right now is a lack of hay. Even though it hasn’t been raining all that much, we’ve had enough rain at least every couple of days that the farmers haven’t been able to get out and cut their fields, and even if they’ve managed to cut it, much of it has been ruined by getting wet before it’s baled. We’ve done a lot of work in our three pastures, but we haven’t had time for any real grass to grow for grazing, so we’ve been relying on at least a flake or two a day for each of the horses. A few weeks ago, the farmers ran out of bluestem and star grass, which are the hays horses like down here, and we tried feeding them MG5 and black eyed pea tops. They didn’t do much with the MG5 and blacked eyed pea tops besides chew them and move the hay around, but at least it kept them busy. Now we can’t even get that, so they’re eating stuff out of the pasture that they wouldn’t usually eat, and all five of them are starting to lose weight. We’re now doing something I swore I’d never do, and giving them lunch as well as breakfast and dinner every day, but even that is barely maintaining their weight. So, we’re hoping for a few nice days in a row so the farmers can bale some horse hay and we can lay up a good stock for our horses.

We now have four chickens. Well, three chickens and a chick, which you can barely see to the left of the white hen in this picture because it’s a little black chick which we call La Negrita, the little black one, because the rest of her siblings are all yellow. We acquired her (or him, too early to tell, but possibly El Negrito) the week before last. When we feed the horses, all the neighbors’ chickens come to share their grain. When it was three or four chickens it was no big deal, but it’s now closer to probably 15 or 20 chickens, so whoever feeds usually stands out there and shoos the chickens away. Sometimes we just kick at them, sometimes we wave sticks around, and sometimes we toss little rocks at them, depending on where they are in relation to the horses. Anyway, one morning Tom was using the rock tossing method, and he accidentally hit the little black chick and hurt its leg. It wouldn’t use the leg at all, and when the hen and the rest of the chicks ran off, La Negrita was left in the horse’s feed pan. Tom picked it up and brought it into the house to ask me what we should do. After years of constantly saying “It’s just a chicken” to our old neighbor Diane as she nursed chickens through the night, my first temptation was to tell Tom to put it on the ground so I could see what was wrong, knowing that Nock or Lou would make short work of it. But, I couldn’t do that, so we made it a little bed in the other side of the chicken hutch from the big chickens, and nursed the little thing while its leg healed enough that it could start to hop around. We told Olmi, the hen’s owner, what had happened, and that we would put the chick back with its mother when it was better. By the end of last week, La Negrita was getting around pretty well, so we turned her out with our other three chickens, and she follows them all around. Olmi came over and I tried to give the chick back to her, but she smiled and said we should just keep it since she thought it would be a good misfit addition to Moonracer Farm. La Negrita is very attached to the other chickens, and we can now tell when they’ve gone to roost at night because she’s still unable to get up into the hutch, so as soon as the other three are up, she sits at the base of the ladder and goes “PEEP, PEEP, PEEP, PEEP” so loudly and incessantly that one of us goes out to lift her in and lock the chickens up for the night. The only other chicken news (if anything relating to chickens can be called news) is that the brown hen has finally started to lay eggs. We don’t know if it’s coincidence or not that it happened when we put La Negrita in with them, but in any case we’re getting an egg a day.

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