Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Whoa, D@#* It!"

Speaking of wild rides, I had one last Thursday night that could have ended in disaster.

The trail ride didn’t start out well from the beginning. Scottie just wouldn’t stand still while I got both feet in the stirrups (my right ankle is partially frozen, and it’s difficult to catch that right stirrup). He just wasn’t listening to me, and I admit to shouting a few angry words to him like “Whoa, Dammit!” You know the feeling,  right? It’s hard to be horse whisperers at times like that. 

As usual, everyone else was waiting outside the barn for us, and I guess he was eager to join them.

The weather was perfect for a trail ride with temps in the low 70’s and a nice breeze blowing. All of the horses were feeling particularly frisky including Bard (remember the Peppermint Kid?), and we did a lot of trotting and cantering as we made the big loop back to the barn. We even practiced puddle walking with Scottie showing the other horses that puddles don’t swallow horses. This is a new fear he’s overcome this year, and I’m very proud of him.

We were riding up a sand road about a mile and a half from the barn, and all the horses were eager to get home. Ann and Carolyn had trotted on ahead while I waited for Bard and Anne to catch up. Scottie broke into a trot, then a canter and then a gallop to catch up. Then it happened. He stumbled and threw me off balance to the left. With every stride I went further sideways, but Scottie kept going. I grabbed for his neck but couldn’t reach it, and then the inevitable happened. I fell off. As I was coming down in front of him, I wondered if Scottie would step on me (he didn’t), and then I hit the ground, flat on my back, and my head hit pretty hard, and I slid in the grass for a little ways. Briefly I felt like I might pass out. The feeling passed, and then I lay there to do the post-fall assessment. Do I hurt anywhere? Is anything broken? Can I move? Can I stand up?

As I was staggering to my feet I heard Carolyn and Ann yelling at Scottie who had abandoned me and was heading for home. Then Carolyn and Anne both rushed up from different directions asking if I was okay. I was unhurt except for small cuts from my glasses that the helmet made as it pushed forward on my head. To my amazement, I had no soreness anywhere; not even a headache, although I was a bit unsteady on my feet.

The three of us walked toward home until Ann came back with Scottie in hand. He had stopped to graze. My feelings at that point were anger at myself for falling off and anger at Scottie for abandoning me. I asked him how he could possibly do that to me, but he didn’t have anything to say for himself; just acted oblivious to any wrongdoing on his part. He seemed to be wondering, “what’s all this fuss about?”.

I spotted a big downed tree on the edge of the woods and managed to clamber ungracefully up on it. From there I was able to remount, and we walked back home with no further incident. No way was I going to let Scottie get away with dumping his rider and going home! No way was I going to allow myself time to develop a fear of riding on the  trails again.

When we got back, I had Scott canter both directions in the arena before dismounting. I needed to do that for myself. Once in the cross ties, he hung his head and seemed to have figured out that he’d done something wrong. I sponged him off, turned him out and went home, still feeling no pain anywhere and feeling very lucky.

I WAS very lucky! I was wearing my riding helmet. If I hadn’t been, there’s no doubt I would have been knocked unconscious at the very least. I think this incident scared my riding pals more than it did me. They were wonderful to me, making sure I was all right and reassuring me that “we’ve all been there”. I’m very grateful to them.

I hope this incident will cause them to consider wearing riding helmets themselves from now on because you never know what might happen, no matter how well trained and quiet your horse is. This happened because Scottie stumbled; not because he ran away with me or bucked me off or spooked at a deer.

Tomorrow he and I will have a long talk before the trail ride. I’ll apologize for getting short with him and ask him to please take better care of both of us. And I will do the same by not allowing him to tire himself out too much.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, I’ve been busy mulching all of the flower beds, and do they ever look nice! There is just a little more to do and the job will be done. Below I’m sharing some photos of the new and old beds and plants. They don’t look like much this year, but by next year they should be wonderful! By then those lopsided shrubs will be properly pruned and tamed, too.
 Here is the new flower bed area; from the near shrub to the corner of the fence.

Where the yellow flags are is where the old driveway was. This area hasn't been mulched yet. Eventually, we'll put a tree ring around the maple; this summer, I hope.

 One of my new plants, a yellow Shasta Daisy.

The view from the road of the new flower bed area.

Red Volunteer Daylily. First bloom this year.

Spirea, foxglove and garden wagon.

Those lovely Asiatic lilies again next to my Annabelle hydrangea. Everything is blooming early this year because of the early heat we've had and the abundant rain lately.

This lime green shrub looks very pretty against the old garage wall. Those are Blue Star junipers on either side.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What I've Been Up To

At last some art to share! I did this sketch at our family getaway over the weekend while my husband was doing some welding. I’ve long wanted to paint this old maple and decided to see what I could do with some pastel pencils that I keep over there. I would really like to have gotten more done on it, but the flies were driving me “buggy”, and I couldn’t find any Off to deter them. Finally, they won, and I went inside to read an art magazine.

The days and weeks have been very busy this month, mostly with gardening and two trail rides per week. My husband helped to dig out new flower beds so that we now have flower beds extending the whole length of the fence along the road. He also helped immensely by digging out a section along the fence where there had once been a driveway. It was hard-packed gravel and not suitable for planting and had been a bare spot in the flower beds for several years.

                                               Above is our new Purple Leaf SandCherry

Before planting the new perennials, I moved some of the old ones which had ended up in bad spots. It’s been a lot of trial and error as I learn the growing habits of my different plants. The catmint, for instance, spread out and up and completely took over the areas where it was planted and hid one of my cone flowers and a gayfeather. I moved my two catmints to areas where they will not cover up less boisterous plants and can live in harmony with the sweet peas and iris. Or, fight it out, as the case may be.

                                              I just love these lovely magenta Asiatic Lilies!

                                                   I couldn't resist these lovely dianthus

The final step is to mulch all the beds, and that’s what I’ve been working on lately. So far this summer, gardening has been my creative outlet. Deciding where best to plant each new perennial is definitely an exercise in good design and color balance.

Last Friday was Farrier day at the barn, a much welcome visit as Scottie’s feet had become very long. Fortunately, they stayed fairly balanced front to back so weren’t putting an added strain on his torn flexor tendon. It was a hot day, and Shelley set up the sprinkler in the arena to cool the horses. She also set up two fans for the farrier. When Scottie was all done, I turned him out in the arena, and he walked back and forth at the edge of its range getting squirted each time it went around. I think he was looking for the spot where it would spray on him continually. This is the horse who doesn’t like baths and hates being sprayed in the face! He could easily have moved out of range but clearly chose not to do so.
To my great relief, Scottie has been doing wonderfully on our trail rides and hasn’t shown any signs of lameness after the rides. He seems to enjoy them as much as I do although he definitely speeds up when he knows we’re on our way back to the barn. On one recent ride, I let him pick his own direction when we came to another trail off of the one we were on. We’ve never been on that trail before, but he seemed interested and left the other horses to find out where it went. We went quite a ways before I stopped him and turned him back. He did it again when we came to another trail. One of these days I’ll let him go and see how long it takes him to realize that he’s all by himself without the herd to protect him. I might be in for a wild ride after that!

  A new shady area plant; brunera  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Busy Summer Ahead

Well, I don’t have any art to show you yet, but I do have a bit of exciting news to share.

Last week I was asked to be one of the artists in a studio tour to be held in July and sponsored by the Parkside Arts Council. I’ve wanted to do one of these things for a long time, but there’s never been one in our area. After getting the okay from my husband (because my studio is in our home) I agreed to do it. I’m very excited about this although it will mean a lot of work and preparation: paintings and drawings to finish, mat and frame and new works to begin and hopefully finish. My display walls and other display equipment will augment our meager wall space for hanging prints and originals, but I’m wondering how much sprucing up of the house I need to do. The walls need painting, and the carpet needs replacing, but those things may have to wait.

It’s summer after all, and that means busy times ahead. Horse Shows By The Bay will take up all of July, and there are plenty of gardening chores to be done yet. And, I don’t intend to miss many trail ride opportunities this summer and sketching sessions at the barn. Plein air painting sessions are also on the summer agenda even if that means not venturing any farther than our yard.

To begin the summer, we celebrated the Memorial Day weekend at home with good food and the company of our two grown “kids”. I was able to talk my husband into cleaning out the old garage but not able to talk him into getting rid of much of anything, but at least it’s now cleaner and better organized than it was.

This morning I spent a couple of hours tackling the weeds in the flower beds and got a great deal done. I was sad to learn of the demise of my lovely delphinium, but the shasta daisies and foxglove are doing well. I must get more foxglove. At least the deer don’t bother them. Now that it’s June 1st, it’s safe to put in the annuals and that means a trip to the nursery to buy the plants. I also have three salvia to get in the ground, and who knows what else I’ll bring home from the nursery? Everything is so tempting but hard on the budget!

I’ve been thrilled to see that there are dozens of lilac shoots coming up from the ground where we had to cut down the old lilac bushes after the drunk driver went through our fence last summer. I’m going to put some small fences around a few of them so that they don’t get accidentally mowed down. They are the old fashioned dark purple lilacs that are hard to find anymore. My friend and neighbor will come and dig up some of the other ones and give them good homes.

On my agenda for today is an inventory of artwork for the studio tour to see what needs to be finished and what needs to be framed or matted. This is just the shove I need to finally finish Easy Rider and maybe even do the pony and child painting that’s been waiting to be put to canvas for the past several years. Most important, I will tackle melting the beeswax and combining it with turpentine for the medium my mentor wants me to use on the still life. That could be tricky!

Later on will be a trail ride with the girls. Ta Ta for now! The busy summer has begun!

PS I forgot to mention that one of my poppies bloomed for the first time this year! Last year it had a bud but the deer got it. You can see the bloom above.