Friday, June 26, 2009

"Sunshine on Petunias and Whiskers on Old Barn Cats..."

"These are a few of my favorite things." Or, something like that. (My apologies to the Baroness von Trapp.)

Indy knows a lovely bunch of petunias when he sees them.

And...if they hold still long enough, they're good for a scratch!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barn Building 101

Listen up class! I'm gonna teach you the best way to build the best barn and have fun doing it, plain 'n simple. find the most absolutely fantastic folks in the barn building business, namely Earl (love ya, Earl) and Laura "The Barn Diva" Johnson. They own Pine River Construction in Capitan, NM and are the New Mexico reps for MD Barns and last year's recipient of the "Top Gun Award" from MD. Whoo Hoo! That means they seriously kick some barn butt down there.

You sit down with Earl and tell 'em what you want and he nods. Then you sit down with Laura and her computer. The mighty computer that designs barns lickity split and makes sense, real sense out of what you think you want.

You look at the finished design, check the cost and say, "...uh, back to the drawing board. That was the budget for the house!" I have to admit, I do get a little a head of myself when I plan "the perfect this" or "the ideal that". The 1600 miles between me, with the ideas, and Laura with the finished drawings was never, ever, a handicap. Laura handled it all in stride and had more ideas when I ran out of my own. You see, our barn was tiny and Laura has designed race track barns, lots of them, so she doesn't bat an eye at design changes.

Dozens and dozens of emails later and a couple of hours on the phone and VIOLA -- the barn is ordered! Now we wait for it to be built in California and delivered to New Mexico to be assembled on site. Waay cool! Almost a year of me deciding what I wanted and what I could afford....built and shipped....and assembled in just 2 (TWO) work days.

Here ya go! (Pay attention, there may be a quiz later.)

The barn arrives, ala IKEA style.....hmm...."some assembly required". Noooo problem.

First, lay it out like a house of cards. Here's the walls, there's the doors.

Allow siesta time for Supervisor "Birdy". She's put up with lowly 2-legged intelligence since dawn.

Some more assembly and you have a back door, a big horse stall, carriage and hay storage.

Just before the end of the first day start to assemble the cutest damn miniature horse stalls in the world!

Add a roof and plenty of cross ventilation....

Assure a wide aisle way so horses and carriages can move safely and freely about the barn.

Add crusher fines to the floor so you can try your hand at laying "pavers" in the aisle and on the front porch some day soon. Have a roomy saddling/harnessing area and a place for friends to sit and chat and wash the dust down.

Earl's most important task came at the end of the second day. He entered our half-completed house. He stood in the kitchen and faced east. He carefully tore the plastic covering from my new kitchen window, the one above the sink. The window I would be looking through many, many times every day. He aimed his camera carefully and took one final picture.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


On a bleak day in January 2004 I met a blue-eyed gal who would change my life. She didn't live in a fancy place. Actually the place was a dump, but I could see everyone was cared for with love and cost-consciousness. The labor was cheap so the tenants reaped the rewards from the greater quantities of time and lesser amounts of money spent on them. The place, just down the road from Emerald Downs, had a deep quarter mile track that had seen years of use and very little repair.

Her name was "Trooper Blue" and she was a bright bay lady, a granddaughter of the famous "Trooper Seven". The senior Trooper had written the book when it came to excellence in Thoroughbred racing in Washington State, winning the famed Longacre Mile (Grade 3) not one year, but two. In his career he'd garnered earnings in access of $371,000. That wasn't too shabby back in the early '80s. His real talent, though, was passing his speed to his offspring.

She stood before me, my first racehorse. Pretty suiting everyone thought, me being a cop and she being a "Trooper". I didn't care what her name was, she was mine. She was the answer to a dream.

There wasn't "fire" in her eyes and she was a finger nibbler. She knew a good scratch when she got one and she insisted they be paired with snacks, mostly carrots.

Sheepishly, the agent told me it might be hard to get exercise riders or jockeys for her because of a tiny superstition. What? The superstition said racehorses with blue eyes couldn't see well and since her right eye was blue --- it would be hard for her to keep track of competition coming up on her right side. Horse-pucky! We'll get riders and we'll get jocks. Once they see how well she does they'll be begging for a chance to ride my filly.

She shipped over to eastern Washington late that spring for training at a private race stable. I got a call from the manager after she arrived. During the trip, she had kicked the van wall so hard she had injured herself. A hairline fracture of her back right leg would end her racing career before it had begun. She'd be sold and retired. Retired to do what fillies do if they can't race --- carry on the genes. The genes of her prepotent grand sire.

In time "Trooper Blue" apparently had other ideas of what retirement was all about. Strangely enough, she moved to New Mexico, the same state I had chosen for retirement. It was there, in the spring of 2006, "Trooper Blue" broke her maiden (won her first race)! She continued to race, soundly. Last I heard of her she had run 3rd in the 9th race at Albuquerque Downs on May 20, 2006 -- paying $4.20 on a $2 bet.

That finger-nibbling blue eyed gal introduced me to horse racing. Not as a spectator, but as an owner. The thrill, although brief, was her pay off to me. I will always, always be indebted to her.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bye, Bye Bungalow

Saturday our 5th wheel travel trailer left for her new home. She was a great friend with many duties and talents.

She was the guesthouse when folks stayed overnight on the farm. She was an apartment for daughter, Jennifer, when she came home from Australia. She was a place to cook a meal when the power was out in the house during a storm. She was a gathering place for friends, whether under her awning in the summer months, or inside and toasty when the winds blew.

So, so many memories from camping trips. From the Pacific Ocean:

To the Inland Empire of Washington State:

We hear she is headed for Michigan now.

Bye, bye bungalow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Babes in the Barn

For the last ten years or so we've had the pleasure of welcoming barn swallows to our farm. Yeah, yeah, they poop on the floor, but their antics and their family ethic is worth the clean-up. The same nest has been in the corner of the barn ceiling since the start. New tenants spruce up the place every couple years with a feather or two, more mud and the designer touch --- a few strands of horse hair.

A couple weeks ago the parents moved in, working hard to make the mud cupped nest suitable to raise a family. Six days later we heard the first "peeps". Before long the chicks were demanding more and more chow. "Hey, over here!"

"We're hungry! C'mon, can we get some service here?"

Flies make up about 70% of the grub for the little ones with Dad and Mom sharing equally in the chore of feeding.

Providing for the chicks requires almost non-stop attention from the parents.

The swallows provide dinner for their chicks and entertainment for us. The farm benefits from a greener approach to pest control. It's obvious --- a happy chick is one with it's mouth closed!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smart Ass

Hey! I may be the oldest one around here and I know I have the lowest seniority....but, by golly, I still have my self esteem to think of!

I mean, I let you call me names. I let you make fun of the glorious sound I make. But this is just too, too much!

And, my ears. They aren't huge! Your ears are tiny, almost insignificant. How do you hear anything with those pitiful little things?

So, to get my point across, let me reiterate. I am DONKEY, hear me bray! (Or bite, or whatever.)

Oh, geesh....the apologies of a hundred of my ancestors! Why didn't you tell me you were a horse? I would have understood completely if I'd known you weren't a smart ass.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Missin' the Blue Sky

We have a beautiful new home in New Mexico. And a barn. We still live here in Washington State because of the...grrrr...economy. I won't whine. Retirement will come some day soon and we'll move!

But I really miss the blue sky of New Mexico. That's one of the reasons we picked New Mexico, the sky. I started going through some of my pictures of the house today to find that gorgeous sky. I found it in the oddest places.

Here it is in January. Even in a cold month it's set off by the snowfall.

The sky shines into the house through our front door.

Ahhhh....and there it is, framing the corbels on our patio!

I feel better now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Original "Hummer" Was a Bird

Hummingbirds are few and far between this year. I know my hardware store feeder can't compete with the salmon berry blossoms, but I finally had a visitor. He (we'll just call him that) stopped by Sunday morning while I was sipping my breakfast. I grabbed the camera, shot through the sliding glass door and got him. They're nothing The National Geographic will beat my door down to publish, but, they're my first (fuzzy) hummingbird pictures.

Hovering like a miniature Sikorsky he's sizing up the feeder...

This might be worth checking out. He closes in...

Yum...I smell cotton candy!

Hmmm...whadda sweeeet "all you can eat"...

Ahhh...not a salmon berry blossom, but it'll do!

Come again soon, little "hummer"!

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