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Friday, April 29, 2011

New Trailer

I might have mentioned that we have expanded from a two horse operation to a three horse operation. Part of that expansion requires that our two horse trailer be magically stretched into a three horse trailer. I tried one approach but that just bent the fender.

(Side Bar, Tangent, Butterfly chasing, whatever you want to call it: There is a piece of angle iron that the front of the fender attaches to that got bent in my little fender bender. I figured that I could straighten it by applying a little ingenuity. I took off the old fender and the tires and backed the tractor with the back-hoe attached up next to the trailer. With close to 1500 pounds of break-out force generated by the bucket cylinder, I figured that I could straighten it out a bit. Nope. Pushed the trailer and the truck around a some, but the angle iron didn't move. I next attempted to coax it back to straight by applying some energetic blows with a sledge hammer. Nope. That is on stout piece of angle iron! The trailer is in the shop now. They have more (pronounced "proper") tools than I do so here's hoping they have better luck that I did.)

I thought about hooking a big chain to the back of the trailer and hooking the other end to a phone pole and seeing if I could stretch it into a three horse trailer that way. With is tough as that trailer is and with my luck being what it is, I probably would have pulled the phone pole over so I decided not to risk it. To much paper work if (when) something goes wrong.

Instead, I stopped by a local trailer dealer on the way home from work yesterday and came across the three horse trailer you see here. It was a trade in from somebody who took very good care of it. I ended up purchasing the trailer before they had even started cleaning it up before it was even listed as being available. It was such a good deal that I just couldn't risk losing it.

One of the more interesting features is the floor. The lady who used to own it transported some rather expensive horses so she had extra padding installed in the floor. It should be much more comfortable for our horses. Once they figure out it wont eat them. I am betting that the first time each of our horses sets a hoof on that floor they will back out immediately, possibly energetically. *sigh* Trailer training is always such fun.

I'm happy. The trailer will carry our three horses plus all the tack. It has two tack rooms.

My bride is happy. The price was such that we have enough money left to put some sliding glass doors in the back of Project House to take advantage of the view.

Thing 2 (the younger child) is happy because now we can actually take all three horses to places and go riding together.

Thing 1 (the older child) is very bummed. Its not a four horse trailer.

Hey, that's a 75% approval rating. Obama would kill for a 75% approval rating so I guess I'm doing pretty good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

At the end of the School Year

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, May 31st in fact. And all across America that means its time for the students to display their works of art and perform musical wonders for parents, siblings and grand parents.

We have art night which is always fun. All the hallways are decorated with works of art created by the kindergartners through the sixth graders. There is paper mache, pottery, paintings, chalk drawings, painted neck ties and more. It is fun to be there with your child as they take you around to see all the art they have created. Their eyes light up as their art work is admired and praised by us proud parents. It is also fun to see the other parents being dragged around by the hand by there very excited and proud children.

The sixth graders put on their traditional end of the year choir performance, "American Pop Forever". They sang songs from the 50's through the 90's. There were solos from "The Supremes," "Elvis," "Bon Jovi" and more. It was about what you would expect. And it was wonderful! The kids wore costumes from the various era's and pulled of a pretty good set of moves to the iconic "YMCA".

Kira is a flutist in the band. Last night was their final concert of the year for parents. I was very impressed with how far they have progressed since Christmas. At Christmas they were very mechanical and a bit off-key. For this concert they were enjoying the music more and less concerned about mechanics so they were much smoother. They played, "Don't Stop Believing" and you can tell they enjoyed that piece of music the most. They were loud and on beat and the music flowed. Here is a short clip of one of the songs. If you look closely, you can see Kira's forehead just above the music stand on the conductors left.

I have come to really enjoy the art nights and choir performances and band concerts. With all the troubles the world is facing right now, when I see the kids smiling and proud of what they have accomplished, all is right with the world. It seems to me that our future is in good hands.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Horses are Strange Critters

Saturday was, as always, a Westernaires weekend. The day was rather interesting from the beginning. We loaded Beamer and Ebony into the trailer and left Mariah home alone. For nearly eight hours. She did fine, better than the other two at any rate.

Kira is doing lessons with Carly on Ebony to help them come together. Kira has been riding a horse for just a couple of months and she is loping bare back. Comfortably and confidently. Kids are fearless. Ebony still tests her but Kira is patient and Carly coaches her until Ebony does what Kira asks. Its fun to watch because Kira's brow creased in frustration suddenly blossoms into a big bright smile. In one lesson Ebony would not pick up her right lead. She wouldn't even step up to a lope from a trot no matter how hard Kira kicker her. I got Kira a dressage whip from the trailer. Kira gave Ebony one pop with the whip and Ebony went right into the lope on the correct lead. Ebony's attitude changed from, "I'm not gona do it and you can't make me!" to. "Oh! You meant it. Why didn't you say so!!"

When we got to Carly's place for the lesson we unloaded Beamer without incident. Ebony is a bit trailer shy right now. She loads okay but she is very nervous while in the trailer. On Saturday when was backing out of the trailer and something spooked her. I did not have a good hold on the lead rope as I had just untied it from the hitching point. She spooked and shot out of the trailer backwards, stumbled and fell over backwards. It was a bit scary as I watched her rump hit the ground and she started to go over backwards and came down on her left side. Her shoulder hit and I watched as her head at the end of that long horse neck headed for the ground. Fortunately, her neck muscles are strong enough that her head did not hit the ground. She looked a bit surprised at finding her self on the ground and hopped right back up. I put her into the trailer a couple of times right away and she backed out of the trailer for slowly. I think she scared herself a bit because she was very careful and slow when backing out of the trailer.

After the lesson we loaded up and headed for Westernaires. Unloading at Westernaires went without incident, Ebony backed out slowly and calmly. And then things got interesting. First, you need to know that Beamer does not like Ebony. He chases her around the pasture and pushes her off her hay. Which is no problem since there are enough hay piles around at feeding time that she just finds another pile. Since it was our first time taking Ebony to Westernaires, we decided to walk her around the grounds to get her used to all the other horses and the activity all around. She was nervous and we worked a lot an getting her walk with her head even with whoever was leading her. She needs more lessons. The surprising part was Beamer. When Ebony walked away from the trailer he started winning and pacing. He did not want her walking away! What!? He doesn't like Ebony and now he can't stand to be separated from her!? I don't get it.

Later that day it was time for Kumi and Beamer to head to dressage class. I walked up with her to watch the class. About 5 minutes into the class my phone rings and its Kira. Now Ebony is having separation anxiety from her bully! She is pacing and pawing and just will not calm down and Kira is a bit nervous and not sure what to do. So I go down and do some more leading lessons with Ebony. She was better but there is still more work to be done. If I tied her at the trailer and stepped out of sight she immediately started pawing and whinnying for Beamer.

When Kumi got back we loaded up the horses and headed for home. The horses were unloaded without incident so we are hoping Ebony has learned a little lesson and trailering will be a bit easier for both her and us. (Besides, we absolutely do not want her shooting out of the trailer and falling over backwards again. No fun at all!) We were also hoping that Ebony and Beamer had discovered that they can actually get along. Nope. As soon as the halters came off and the hay came out, Beamer started pushing Ebony off the hay pile she had selected. Strange animals. But we love 'em anyway.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Busy Times

We have entered that time of year when time speeds up and there is never enough of it. It is the last four of five weeks of school and our schedules fill up until bursting and something has to give. Usually, we just run out of time for riding the horses. And that leads to a whole other set of demands on our time just deferred to a later date. Kira is preparing for a school trip to Washington D.C. (I have to have her at the air port by 4:15AM on Mothers Day). Her sixth grade class just performed their class musical, which was a blast. She is in honors choir so she has a few more performances and we have a bit extra work to do in math. Nothing major but it all adds up.

So, Kira has joined Lacrosse. They practice twice a week and have games on Saturdays. I got to go to here first game which they won 7 to 4. I did not get to go to her second game which they lost 13 to 8. Saturdays are Westernaires days so I have to take the horse(s) to the fair grounds. That makes it hard to get to her games. Fortunately, most of her games are very close to the fair grounds so I should be able slip over to watch. As soon as she gets her uniform I will post a picture of our Lacrosse star.

Kumi tried out for a spot on the White Grand Entry team for Westernaires and she won it. That means that at the beginning of every show Kumi and 17 other kids will present the colors and do a short routine. To get on the team the kids have to show a high level of horsemanship and control of their horses. They are expected to show a much higher level of coordination in there drill and they have to do their drill at a fast lope. She loves loping on her horse so she is having a grand time.

Kira did a lesson on Ebony last night and it was a good lesson. Ebony tested her and Kira was frustrated. But Carly talked her through it and in the end, Kira won. Ebony would not go into a lope no matter how hard Kira kicked her. So we got out a dressage crop. Horses are funny critters. Ebony ignored the kicks but when Kira popped once with the crop Ebony said, "Oh! You mean it!" and stepped up into a very nice lope. Kira's look of frustration turned into a smile pretty rapidly after that. Kira loves to lope as well and Ebony has a nice smooth lope.

I went for a ride on my horse last Sunday. It was crazy windy, the kind of wind that makes horses crazy. As I climbed up into the saddle I thought to myself, what am I doing? Mariah is a bit jumpy under the best of conditions and I am going to take her out into the open space where horse eating plastic bags and evil waving signs wait to devour her. So, being male with that gift all males have for ignoring common sense, off we went. We had a great ride. She was much more collected and controlled in her trot than ever before. I credit Carly for that. Carly told me in our last lesson that I need to expect more from Mariah and keep the pressure on until she does what I want. So I did. We did circles and figure eights for a while and she got the idea.

So off we went down the trail. The first small spook as at a plastic sign advertising a housing development. It was waving in the wind and she tried to side step it. I didn't let her and she knew what was coming next. She is not allowed to get past a scary thing until she puts her nose on it. She put her nose on it almost immediately so we proceeded down the trail that runs next to the ditch. The coyotes must travel along that trail pretty regularly because she was real jumpy the whole time. She didn't spook but I had to keep a short rein on her to keep her focused and calm. The next small spook was a steel sign with the name of the open space on it. It didn't wave in the wind but it is as tall as she is so it was obviously about to eat her. Again, she touched it with her nose with very little coaxing on my part but we spent about 20 minutes at that sign just trying to get her to stand quietly next to it. I will go back to that sign again for the practice.

The big blow up came in the place I least expected it. We were trotting along at a nice slow trot and all of the sudden we were side-passing at a lope. I am happy to report that my seat is sure enough that while I was unbalanced for a moment, I did not come off. Cool. So what spooked her? A dark spot on the trail where a puddle had been. There was no water, just dark mud. It took me five minutes to get her step over that horsey eating black-hole of death.

(Note regarding horse psychology. Horses look at the world by determining the answer to two questions. Question 1, will it eat me. They always assume that it will eat them until proven otherwise. Assuming the answer to question 1 is no, they ask the second question: Question 2, Can I eat it? It is amazing what horses will eat. The horses of people I know at Westernaires have eaten the following: Oreo's, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, live fish, cheese burgers and one likes Pepsi.)

We spent about two hours on the trail and working on some circles and figure eights and all of it was fun. It was so much fun I didn't even notice my knees were getting tired until I got off the horse and me knees almost buckled when I hit the ground. I held onto Mariah for a few steps until my knees remembered how they are supposed to work and then all was good. A good day of riding.

Project house has another project that is one step closer to completion. The new electric panel is set and some of the wires a terminated. This is the new wire waiting to be connected to the meter.
The board at the bottom of the pictures is just holding the conduit in place while the insulating foam cures. Once cured, that board will go away.

The next step will be to connect the new panel to the meter and then move the circuits from the old panel to the new. That will be an all day project so I am thinking Memorial day. Nori has to work, there is no Westernaires and no Lacrosse games so I will have the whole day. And I will need it. Moving those circuits from the old to the new means each one has to marked, a new piece of wire added to it and then connected to the new breaker. Its not hard, but it is very time consuming. And the price of wire doesn't help at all. I bought 50' of 12/2 romex wire (the kind of wire used for nearly all household wiring) and it was $62.00. $62.00!! That is over $1.00 a foot and that is just crazy! Ah, well... Such is life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Break

Last week was spring break for us. I took the week of and we had a bit of a stay-cation. I loved it but I think a few of the other family members felt a little cheated out of a trip. Sometimes its nice, REAL nice, to not have to worry about packing and driving and flying and activities that vacations usually entail. Sometimes its just nice to stay home and do not much of anything.

Monday was spent riding and dealing with the drama of pre-teen girls. My oh my. We had five girls of varying experience trying to ride two horses. It actually worked out pretty well. Beamer and Ebony were very well behaved and generally did what the rider wanted them to do. Mariah was a freak a usual but I didn't mind. She has really taught me balance. As to the drama, a sixth girl was invited but felt that she was invited out of order and was mad at everybody else. For the whole week. *sigh* That's all I think I'll say about that.

Tuesday was spent putting a new window in the bathroom. Just as winter was starting Kira went to open the window one night. We heard this terrible crash and ran into the bathroom to find Kira in the corner surrounded by broken glass. The windows are so old that when she went to open it the top of the pane fell out of its track and towards Kira. She tried to stop it but missed so she got out of the way. In accordance with long standing household rules regarding the breaking of glass, she did not get in trouble. It wasn't her fault and we were glad she was not hurt. Interestingly, it only broke the inside pane so we stuck the window back up and dealt with a cool bathroom for the winter. The new window is a vinyl frame and really brightens up the room. Plus, I was able to use the project to justify the purchase of a new tool (toy)!

I spent some time in my shop trying to unpack it and get it organized. It has been in boxes for nearly two years now so I am kind of excited to see it actually start to take shape. Mostly it was puttering with purpose.

We made three trips to the video store so we spent a lot of time being lazy and watching movies. We rented some good movies like "Inception" and a positively terrible movie "2010: Moby Dick". It was so bad it was fun.

I love watching bad monster movies. When Nori and I were first married we were living in a 350 square foot apartment that had a small video shop across the street. It featured a huge selection of fantasy titles of the ilk "Warrior Women from Mars". We were living on one income of $7.00 per hour and the movies were only $0.99 each which was about all we could afford. We played them a behemoth of a VCR that was a hand me down from Nori's cousin. We had the best time watching those movies. Good memories.

Anyway, Saturday was spent at Westernaries. 9am to 5pm. Kumi was selected for the White Grand Entry team which is limited to about 16 kids selected from about 30 or so that tried out. She was excited when she got the e-mail that she made it and I don't mind the extra time. There is so little of it left. She graduates in three years and then off to college. It was a beautiful day with a high of about 80°. I even got a but sunburned. (No mom. you may not scold me again!)

Sunday was a bit different. It snowed. Great big fluffy flakes. It was actually quite pretty and relaxing. As soon as the ground got wet enough to make some decent mud, down went all three of the horses for an extra long roll. So much for relaxing. Now we have mud to clean out of tails and manes and cheeks. Now, Kira was feeling a bit disappointed that we didn't go some place so she said all would be forgiven if I would take her to the pottery place. Pretty good hustle. So we went and painted pottery Sunday afternoon. We spent a couple of hours and just enjoyed painting and talking about nothing in particular. The results will be available on April 10th. If they look half way decent I will post a picture of what we made.

Since it snowed on Sunday it reminded me of a poem Kira wrote in 3rd or 4th grade. Its a bit out of season but here it is.