Back In The Saddle Again
After many months of winter and then recovery from knee surgery, "I'm Back In The Saddle Again"...quoting the old cowboy song. Come along for a springtime ride on the Plains.
This is the road that leads to the corrals...
At long last, I've got my feet in the stirrups again! For my first ride after surgery, I chose to ride The Best Horse In The Universe, "Dolly". She and I both had birthdays in April - me, double nickels (55) and she, double deuces (22). I think we're about even in age at this point in our lives. Morgan Horses generally have a little more longevity working for them than other breeds (except for ponies). We've both earned the label 'vintage cowgirls'. Many of the photos I'll be sharing in this article were taken via the 'Dolly-cam'. Well, if I wasn't actually on her, she was often next to me grazing. For this article, pictures are going to be the storytellers, I'll offer a few details for an assist. Like all of you, I'm smitten with being OUTSIDE again!
I love to walk in the pasture early in the mornings - below: the Sorrel is blooming and it is as red as it looks. The leaves are very good in salads - they look kind of like an arrowhead and have a mild vinegar flavor. I take the dogs and away we go...me in my Boggs boots & nightgown...plus a cup of coffee or my camera. Quite a fashion statement. I suppose I could get dressed beforehand, but I can't stand to wait! This morning, the dew was heavy. Above, "Ribbon"s muzzle was wet with dew from grazing, as were the wildflowers. Oh, it smelled divine. The Mountain Bluebirds were flitting about looking for bugs to take back to their week old babies. Even though I mounted six official bluebird houses here & there, they insist on making their home in the end of an iron pipe on our corral. Ingrates :o) The Tree Swallows siezed the opportunity and are still sitting on their nest in the house near my studio window. I wired an old dead cedar on the post to give them a few more places to land. Now the photos...
Above: Penstemmon, Wild Sweet Peas, Lupine.
Below: The swallow's house and nest. The front of the birdhouse has a slider clasp so that you can flip the front piece down and clean it out; (which also let me take a photo of the nest for you). Not to worry, the parents waited patiently for me and it took only a moment for me to snap the picture while I stood on a footstool.
I reduced the photo above so that the eggs would be the exact size they are in real life. I was somewhat surprised that there are seven eggs and they're actually quite large for such tiny birds. Below: Mama and Papa.
The creek is high in the spring, but after it goes down, there is a lot of old grass left behind. It is mostly very small pieces - just right for the birds to make good use of for nest building. The other day, I noticed a little ground squirrel skitter across the driveway with a heaping mouthful of it. I'm sure she was headed for her burrow to prepare a nest of her own. While on the subject of nests, did you know that if you collect chicken down feathers (for those that have chickens), if you toss them up in the air on a breezy day, Tree Swallows will dive down and snatch them and then take the prize to their nests for that last layer of softness? Barn Swallows really like horse mane or tail hair; the birds work it free from where they find it snagged on fence wire.
My garden is coming along nicely. We've had a cold, wet spring and consequently green life is a little behind, but oh is it beautiful. This ought to be a bumper crop year for hay. Driving the swather will be my job in the very near future. I'll take you for the ride when we get to that place in time.
My Buckeye pullets are almost feathered out now and old enough to enjoy life as free rangers.
So many things are in bloom...trees, shrubs, wildflowers...both domestic and wild Iris. The Honeysuckle above was in bloom near a friend's corral. The Lilacs are about done. That has to be one of the most divine fragrances there is. And, the Stocks that I planted around the rim of my garden tank did not disappoint, I can smell their sweet scent as I open the garden gate.
I'll have to look up in my wildflower book what these fuzzy little darlings are. UPDATE: A farmgirl friend just old me that these are called Pussy Toes -- perfect name. Thanks Terry W!
My garden junk collection continues to grow! Rusted out pots make great wind protectors for newly planted tomatoes.
Last night, the moon was full and it seemed to be brighter than usual and eager to get on with casting a silvery glow over all the world. Dark colored horses are impossible to see in the dark of the moon and even when there is moonlight, but Ribbon is like a firefly :o)
I'm still working on transforming a spare bedroom into my studio sweatshop and this little cupboard will hold craft supplies. But first, I think I'll sand her down some and soften & warm up that electric hue of yellow with some walnut stain. She's just too bright now that I see her inside. Any ideas for possibly embellishing the door? Or should I just leave it alone?
Ok, that was enough of being inside! Back to the great outdoors. We went to a branding the other day (to help friends). Here are the photos...
The photo at the very top of this page was taken while we were gathering the herd. In this photo, the cattle were in the corrals and then the business of seperating calves from cows began. The cows receive a vaccination and are "poured" with a dose of liquid that rids them of parasites. The calves are usually given "7 Way" vaccine, steers castrated, all branded. Our branding took place 2 weeks ago. I wasn't there since my job was in the kitchen cooking for the branding crew. In the past, my job at the branding was vaccinating - sometimes with 2 guns with 2 different vaccines. In recent years, however, I morphed into photographer since there is usually a LOT of help. Later, I give the folks photo CDs of their branding. I want to think it will mean more to them years from now since it is an annual family & friends event. Brandings is where I first acquired my shutterbug hobby.
Above: My husband was about to tie his horse up for awhile after the gather was made. It was a chilly morning. We all wore layers! You might wonder where this cowboy's cowboy hat is. Well, in our part of the country, WIND is a big factor in the spring and you can tighten a baseball cap so that it won't blow off.
My brother-in-law's horse was tied up prior to the branding while cows & calves were being worked apart. He (Earl) is below manning the branding stove. He is also my Christmas tree hunting pardner.
Above: The branding officially begins! There are generally about three ropers roping the calves (by two hind feet). Every age of human being is present and most have a job. The very young watch and learn, the elderly just enjoy being outside and watching the young people do what they did for so many years.
The younger kids learn to wrestle with an adult and they wait to do that with some of the smaller calves. Men and women alike rope. Some of the other jobs include ear-tagging, vaccinating, "nut bucket" and spraying the sack with antiseptic.
Little cowgirls and cowboys play or ride their horses near the branding site.
Sometimes you have a wardrobe mishap and have to call for help...
Not all angels have wings, some of them have pointy ears...like this saintly old mare who is a 10 on the patient meter :o) She is worth her weight in gold. If there are horses in Heaven, she'll one day wear a halo. Look at the ittybitty saddle on her back. It now serves the grand-daughter of a friend I went to school with. He once rode in this same saddle, as did his father.
Above & below: "His & Mine"...as in my husband's horse, "Chevis" and my beloved Dolly. They were just hangin' out while the branding was going on. Lynn roped a little, but spent most of the branding with an iron in his hand. The photo below is one of my very favorite photos that I've ever taken. It captures the empathic friendship between horses that know each other well. Chevis (left), Dolly (right). Its a December/June romance...he's ten years younger than her ;o)
The branding was over & done with just about lunch-time and after enjoying a wonderful meal provided by the ranch owners, we all headed home. Time to hang up my bridle until another day. I hope you enjoyed your visit here and can maybe even smell the sage from where you're sittin'.