Endurance develops strength of character in us~ Romans 5:4 NLT

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On The Road Again~

Finally!  A day to ride, trails were again closed due to yesterday morning's thunderstorm.  Roxi invited me over & I was more than ready to get in a ride.  Farah was fine when I picked her up - but when we'd been by on Sunday - the face flies were out in force.  I bought a second fly mask, she's wearing it full time.  The Shoofly leggings are working GREAT!
A new pond~
 Roxi was riding Copper & he was all business - as all Roxi's horses are.  Farah was just full of herself - I guess a week off when she's this fit was too long...  We weren't out more than maybe a mile when she suddenly shied left - upon which I lost my seat & then started bucking!  All of this - as she went into a gallop.  I heard Roxi say; "Hang ON!" & boy howdy was I!  Roxi said she was surprised, since up until now, she hadn't seen this side of Farah's personality :-)
The corn is growing!
 Grabbing mane & cussing her at the same time!  The absolute last thing I wanted to do was to come off & land on that gravel!  There is no way you could hit it & not be torn to shreds...
The ears say it all~
 So fine, just fine - I let her go & she did Go...  Yes - I kept telling myself - forward motion!  She did get a serious chastising as we blasted along.  We hit 19.5 on my Garmin & she was still pulling for more rein, one step away from run-a-way...
Roxi on Coppers Eclipse
 I felt Great Relief when Roxi turned off into the field above & the dirt footing felt so soft after the hard packed road.  It must have been a relief to the horses too, I'm sure.  Typically a trail is mowed along the Nishnabotna River river, but it hadn't been done yet & the grass was chest high on the horses.  A ditch between us & the river & it was wet down there.  It would be fun to see if we could find a place to get to the water - but it's difficult here - the rivers are so full of silt.
A field of Soy Beans on our other side~
Farah finally settled down on our return trip.  During her bucking episode, the zipper on my camera must have come loose, because when I pulled her up to take a photo - the camera was gone.  (My smartphone had to fill in.)  It's traveled a whole lot of miles with us & this was a first.  We found it laying in the middle of the road on our way back.  A few nasty scratches, but not broken & still working!
Part of our route~
I know that Roxi's training route is 20-miles, but I was feeling the workout & my right side was sore.  We were already over 8-miles out.  By the time we'd returned to the farm - we'd done fifteen-miles in under two-hours.  We washed both horses down, then went in to enjoy the Watermelon Roxi had cut up before we left.  A little salt & I think we must have inhaled it!  We're ready for a 50 - now - if Butch can get the time & we can find the right ride.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Handling Heat~

Since last week was a bust as far as riding went, with the heat, storm & a full schedule.  (Yesterday, I attended my first Garden Club tour!)  Today, the forecast changed - to a day back in the 90's.  I decided to go to Waubonsie & at least get in a loop.
Black-eyed Susan
 I didn't even think to call to see if the trails were open - we'd had almost three days of dry weather.  So, when we pulled in & the trails closed sign was up - I was surprised.  I called the Park Ranger - no answer - so left a message that I was going out & if it was bad - would turn back.
Top of a tree Across the trail~
 The trails were dry - just enough moisture on the surface to stop the dust.  There were other shod hoof prints too.  At least as far as the mess above, where those hoof prints turned back.  I tied Farah, got out my hand saw & started in.  Since it was fresh wood, I couldn't believe how much effort it took to saw through the two biggest branches.  I was soaked in sweat & the bugs were attacking us in force.   I decided that Farah could make it over what was left & she did.  Now I'll have to go back & finish it off on a cooler day!
On the Trail~
 It was as beautiful as ever out there - the humidity was supposed to be low today - but it was high in the woods & the bugs were relentless...  If we even thought about stopping - they surrounded us in hoards.  We were both covered with bug spray - but it wasn't enough.
Farah with a mouthful~
It may look lush, but there's actually very little grass.  Farah knows where the good spots are now!  We did some trotting & galloped up a couple hills, but certainly a slower pace than last week.
More lushness~
 It was obvious that the park had received heavy rains, huge washouts were in the middle of all the hills.  Some over a foot deep.  They'll be no more fast going on these trails for a while!  Waterbars would be a huge help - but I'm not sure if they would even hold in this type of soil.  I'm going to ask a friend who's familiar with these soils.
One of the Washouts~
 At the bottomlands as I'm calling them now, all the dirt from the hills had been washed to the low spots.  It's such sandy, loamy soil that it moves easily.  It even sounds like the hard packed sand on the Oregon coast.
Soils deposited by the rains~
 I really wanted a decent photo of the Maidenhair ferns & this time the camera cooperated, except for the sunspot I found when I downloaded the images :-)
Hillside of Maidenhair Ferns~
 We were almost out when I remembered my stick - it wasn't in my hand - so I thought I'd left it on the ground when I was cutting the branches...  That meant that we'd be riding out again.  It was getting hotter by the minute & we were both covered in sweat.  Back at the trailer - here was my stick - still on the fender of the trailer!   Sweet relief!  I stripped the tack from Farah, got the buckets & washed her down.  For whatever reason, the bugs weren't as bad in camp.
 My phone rang & it was one of the Park volunteers, returning my call.  She explained that the Ranger had been on vacation & hadn't been there to remove the closed trail sign.  I admitted my transgression & we discussed some of the issues facing this park.  One has to hope that they will be resolved - since without this horseman's haven - there are no other parks of this quality in the entire area...
Farah grazing in the shade
I've been told that originally this was a Boy Scout Camp.  Another camp, near Farah's stable, was sold to a private party after it was closed.  What a shame is all I can say - it would have been great to have that resource within riding distance of the barn.

Our Mills County Trails meeting was cancelled this month - but Butch & I are now volunteering to help with the Blue's & Brews Festival over the Fourth-of-July.  Keg Creek Brewing provides the craft beer, with proceeds from the event donated to our local trails!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat!

It seems that yet another circle has been completed with the Home Place now receiving Certification as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation!  It's hard to believe that it's been eighteen-years since we certified the Homestead Woods as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
Our new sign~
 The program - which began in 1973 - as of 2006 - had certified over 60,000 yards!  Things have changed over the years that we've been members.  The sign now incorporates Ranger Rick & is more colorful.  The term Backyard is no longer part of the designation.   Otherwise, the goal is the same, homeowners working together to make their little corner of the world friendly toward wildlife.  To provide cover, food, water, places to raise young & use sustainable practices.
 Since we've seen a fox, woodchuck, several deer etc., we know the corridor along Tinkle Branch Creek gets used by the local wildlife.  We put the sign out near the front - where it can be read when people walk by.  Hopefully questions will be asked & I'll be able to promote the program here.
Downstream, Tinkle Branch Creek
 We really didn't think that the creek ever carried much of a flow, until after a large rain storm, when a few days later Butch saw where it had almost crested the bank.  Our side is the lowest by several feet, as you can see in the photo above.
Upstream ~
 I've been told that this will dry up mid-summer - we'll see.  I'd forgotten how much fun the first year on a new place can be.  Watching as the month's go by & what each season brings.
Late afternoon sun through the trees~
 After our storm on Friday - Saturday dawned clear & so clean!  The air was fresh - as though it had been re-charged by the storm!  We did have some light rain late in the day - but it was one of the coolest days we've had in weeks & one of the most beautiful of Spring.
Saturday evenings Rainbow~
As dusk fell, there was such a silky softness to the darkening sky.  The Lightning Bugs were Everywhere!  Even flying near us as we sat on the deck & how fun to see then up close as they glowed green!
Forest Spirit Face~
 Once it was completely dark, the stars were brilliant, with the Milky Way directly overhead.  Tomorrow, is the Garden Club's annual garden tour - where we visit some of the gardens of our members.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I know will be some totally stunning flowers & garden displays!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Our First Weather "Event"!

We were sitting out, a little later than normal.  I mentioned to Butch that it seemed to be getting dark early.  It was quiet, no wind - but we were expecting rain & thunderstorms.  We were just cleaning up from dinner - when our phones went off with a screech!  The first time we'd heard a weather warning alert & within another second - the emergency sirens in town were going off.

Within minutes the storm Hit!  We stood in the living room, looking out the windows & watching as the wind drove the rain in blowing sheets across the landscape!  The thunder was booming, with lightening strikes moving sideways across the entire skyline.  Video below was after the storm moved off.  You can just hear the three "all-clear" signals at the very end~

I texted both daughters & was on the phone with Courtney, so didn't think to take video.  We watched as the big Walnut tree started loosing branches!  Courtney stuck it out with me - it was good to have her on the other end of the line :-)  Just this morning we'd been talking with Sharon, who said that she never worried unless the sky turned green.  Well, the next thing I heard - was Butch saying;  "The sky's green."  Sure enough it was...  We heard a transformer blow & the power went out.  We both said some prayers & it was a great relief when the storm finally moved away.
It wasn't long before our local Facebook page was getting posts & photos of what damage the town & surrounding area has sustained.  The campground is out at the intersection of I-29 & I-34.  It was one we had considered staying at when we first arrived.
RV's tossed everywhere~
It's out in the wide-open, the Harley Davidson Dealership on the other side of I-29 lost it's roof.  (Thank you to the local photographers who took these photos!)
Old Antique Building~
I think most of the debris along the highway came from here.
Along I-29
The power stayed out - the temperature had dropped rapidly from the high 80's, down into the 70's as the storm passed, but muggy didn't even describe it!  A neighbor called after 10 p.m. asking Butch to come help a lady who was trapped in her electric chair.  By the time they got there - the emergency personnel arrived & extracted her.  We went to bed & boy did I ever realize how much difference the ceiling fans make!
Great Minds :-)
We didn't even think of leaving when the storm was at it's worst.  This morning when Linus called we both laughed at ourselves, since he & Kay have a finished basement where we could have gone :-)  We drove to the Gathering Place, Butch wanted to check out the damage to the the sign.  I posted the last photo of it intact to Facebook just yesterday afternoon.
Tree on the roof~
Almost half of town is still without power - with the NW corner taking the brunt of the storm.  Many trees were either down or had lost huge limbs everywhere.  It seemed like everyone  in town was out & about this morning, chain saws, rakes, trucks full of limbs - all headed to the ball field where the city is collecting the debris.
Shattered tree~
As we drove around, it was really amazing that as many huge trees as there are - most missed the houses.  I think the Loess Hills act as something of a wind break for the town.  The campground is out to the west, in the open.  So far we haven't heard reports of anyone being seriously hurt.  I'm hoping that this is the last time I see that green sky!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Blastin' Along & Havin' A Blast!

Well...  I knew it was going to be WARM... I'm using the term warm - because I know the temperatures are supposed to climb & I'll need to use that other word - that starts with H sooner or later!  Roxi invited Renee to ride with us today & what Fun we had!
Roxi & Connie
Mentioning something about being used to riding with kids...  I told Renee that our fearless leader must be insinuating that we are more mature :-)  With Roxi taking the lead & moving like a bat out of you-know-where, I didn't even have time to be warm...
An Owl!
As we rounded a corner - I saw a very large bird take wing right across the trail.  Thank heaven Renee wanted to adjust her stirrups & I got a good look at this owl.  Even though Farah didn't think we needed to get a picture - I managed one!
The first time out we did the two-loops at an average pace of over 12-mph - the horses worked Hard & were dripping sweat by the time we came in.   After a very short break & sponging them down, we went out again, this time only averaging 7-mph.
Does this horse make my butt look Fast?
I loved Roxi's t-shirt!  Way better than another version I've seen - of course it's blurred, since the horses were in a very competitive mood.  I was happy that I'd had Farah out once already this week, she's becoming so fit - I've got to hope for cooler temperatures eventually - so we can make it to at least one ride.
Renee, enjoyed her ride on Sovereign!
This team was hot on our heels the entire way!  Farah likes Sovereign - thankfully - he made a move to pass & she just gave him a look.  Once back from our final loops, we hosed the horses down.  A lady who'd set up camp next to where I'd parked came over & said;  "I think you met my parents earlier this week - they mentioned a beautiful horse with a sliver tail!"  Of course - the couple I'd met on Tue.  The next question was about our tights.  Here - if you wear tights - you are a sure-nuf endurance rider.  :-)  Her question was as to whether they were cooler than jeans - normal riding attire.
Making friends~
I had a few nuts & cherries, Farah rolled & grazed a while before we started back.  I called my friend Rebecca - who's horses I'd visited last week & asked if she wanted to meet us at the park.  It wasn't long before we drew a small crowd :-)  I don't know if a horse has ever been at the park - but there's always a first time!  Farah was great, everyone enjoyed seeing her & we did our best to encourage a few more future horsewomen!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


  There's something about Iowa, a richness you can almost taste...   An earthiness that feels so totally different from the logged wastelands of the foothills I was so familiar with in Western, WA.  You can smell it of an evening - when the heat is lifting off the land.  Even under cultivation forever - it has somehow retained it's soul~

Today was forecast to be the coolest of the week, I couldn't let that pass me by, after the last days that soared into the 90's.  Farah very happy to see me.  She had a nasty, crusty thing the size of a dime under her jaw & the fly's are now out in full force.
On the lush green trail~
After a quick grooming & lots of bug spray we were on our way to what has become our usual hangout - Waubonsie.  It was a surprise to see one couple there, sitting in the shade & getting ready to leave.  Another gentleman pulled in & they all spoke of the heat, so I didn't feel like such a wimp.
Pawpaw Trees~
We were quickly on the trail & into the most welcome shade.  Farah seems to enjoy our time together, as much as I do.  I think we both appreciate the other more - now that we don't see each other every day.  That has been one of the many things we've both had to adapt to.  Just the out & back to the stable is a 15-mile round-trip & I'm lucky she's that close.  Add the 25-mile trip south, once I'm out on Hwy 29 to Waubonsie & riding has become an expensive hobby.
Small slide along a Waubonsie Trail
Looking at this little slide today - it reminded me of the area on the Whitehorse Trail.  The Loess Hills being comprised of wind-blown silt from the glaciers.  The Western, WA soils, volcanic.  Each of different composition, but both unstable when the rains come.   Here, the trails become so slick as to be unridable.
Slide on the Whitehorse Trail, Jan. 19, 2015
We did our first set of loops - what's become our usual direction, it was so beautiful & cool in the woods.  I saw a very large Wild Grape vine, that had wrapped itself up this very tall tree.  I'm so glad I got them all cut away from our trees & shrubs along the creek.
Grape Vine~
After going back to camp for our lunch break, I decided that we'd do the loops in the reverse.  This was the first way I'd ridden the trails here & soon realized that it's the way the signage directs & most riders go.  You do have plenty of hill work either direction, but going with the signage gives more downhill.  I had a new acquaintance tell me the other day, that she felt the hills here are too difficult for a lot of the horses.
Warning sign~
It is steep, no doubt about it, the short ups & downs so different from the very long downs & very long up's of our old favorite place to ride, Victoria.  There, in just two-more miles, we only had 1,482 in elevation gain, compared with 1,717 today.  It seems a lot more fun with more change in the topography & Farah loves it.
In the greens~
Here, most people call the woodlands, Timber.  The same term used in Western, WA by logging companies to describe an area that they plan to clear-cut.  Cedars, Douglas Fir, Hemlock etc.  The Iowa DNR- uses the word for the same purpose.  A description of what they harvest to; "Meet forest management objectives."  I have to wonder what the objectives are to bring back even a portion of our native forest lands that been lost nation wide.
Maidenhair Ferns~
Forget what I said about the ferns not being up!  This hillside covered with Maidenhair ferns was just stunningly beautiful - my camera didn't want to focus on them for whatever reason.  I'll have to try again!
Shell Bark Hickory~
Neither of us thought the loops were as fun this direction, but our pace was faster than our last visit & it was very warm.  By the time we were back at the trailer & as I started to unsaddle, Farah's belly was dripping sweat.  She again hadn't drank during our lunch break, but emptied two small buckets on our return!
Tail on the move~

Another bath - for us both!  The fly's are horrible now, they swarm the trailer the minute we pull in.  Even spraying inside the trailer didn't deter them.  I've probably spent a fortune on fly spray now & have three different brands. 

Once back at the stable, I used Equi-spot this time & asked how to turn the fan on in Farah's stall.  I'd also bought Shoofly horse leggings long before we left WA.  I got them out - they were supposed to have been smalls - but no - they were large & she walked out of them...  I don't even remember where I ordered them.  A trip to Council Bluffs to buy more - soon!  Yes, we had annoying pests in WA - but not like here.   Farah - who has never liked bugs & been a prima-donna up to now - is learning to adapt too...

Butch & I decided to bring Farah & go through a year - before making any further decisions.  She's my horse-of-a-lifetime, but here, horses stand more than they're used & I now see why.  Riding as much as I was used to - has not happened.  (Most horse people here, take summer horse camping trips to other nearby states.)  With Butch working & the projects we have at home, our priorities have changed.  Realistically - riding in cooking hot summer temperatures & freezing cold winter ones - even if there is any place open within 50-miles to ride - isn't something that I enjoy...  I wonder now what further adaptations we may have ahead... 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On Our Own~

I woke late, not that I've ever been a morning person...  But - I was determined to get Farah out.  Even with the later than usual start - we were on the road for Waubonsie before 1 p.m.  Traffic was as light & fast moving as usual on I-29.
Hot Sun to cool shade!
After last Friday's jaunt to Indian Caves, Waubonsie seemed close.  I'd called to see if the trails were open, not sure if they would be after the weekend rain.  No one was there when we pulled in.  The trails were perfect, dry without dust, but the day was very warm.
Heading down~
Very Warm for me is probably 80's - the humidity wasn't heavy at all. With most of the ride in the woods, I was thankful for the shade.   I decided to let Farah set the pace.  She was walking along at 4 mph. before we came to the first of the hills.
We slid on the down hill & galloped up!  Farah remembered the steep hills & attacked them full on.  I'm thankful that there are these few places with enough hills that she can enjoy.  The climbs are almost effortless for her now.  Ms. Farah who up until this time has had total distain for any type of berry - today tried to bite off a clump of green ones!
More down~
We followed Roxi's directions & recognized the turns from her training loops.  After driving so far - I always feel like we need to get in what miles we can to justify the trip.  
Tree cut out of the trail~
Finally, the log that had been blocking this trail was cut away!  Volunteers aren't allowed out on the trails with power equipment.  We're trying to schedule a chainsaw safety class for our BCH group.  A requirement to use the equipment in the park.
Too hazy for the view~
We finished the first set of two loops in 1-1/2 hours.  Pretty slow, stopping to graze & take photos, but pleasant.  The Jack-in-the-Pulpit below is the largest I've seen to date!  It had to be over a foot tall!  There were many along certain sections of the trail.  I didn't see any ferns yet though.
Back in camp, Farah drank a full bucket of water & I finished off the few nuts I'd brought.  I filled my water bottle, took another electrolyte & away we went again.   Being out on our own, we finally got the feel of the trails, were warmed up & moving out.  We spooked a doe with a brand new fawn.  The doe took off into the woods, but the fawn ran as fast as he could up the trail!  All spindly legs :-)
The way out~
The second 5-mile set of loops we cut the time in half.  We had fun!   It's still amazing to me that we did 1,700+ in elevation gain in that ten-miles!  If someone had to design a ten-mile endurance training track - this would be it.  No water crossings though :-)
A good roll!
I'd brought shampoo & everything I needed to give Farah a decent bath - her first in forever...  I got soaked & it felt so good :-)  Next in our usual routine - grazing time.  After that - the roll - 1,100 lbs. of muscle mare - who flipped herself back & forth three times!  
Right side up!
I actually felt really decent after our ride.  Farah is getting now, what I'd wanted her to have for the past few years, the opportunity to condition with other fast horses.  The miles & miles on our own gave her an amazing base, but I've always liked to toss in some speed work & competition too.  Having a riding partner is such a help if you want to build an athlete.  It's great for the rider too!