Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye, 2008

It does seem as if the past year has flown by, truly.

It has been a year of change and challenges, heartbreak and happiness. I do think this is true of every year, but our perspectives change also and our ability to meet these "speed bumps on the path of life" grow hand in hand with them.

To recap the last day of the year here, I have four horses at the barn. All are in blankets and weathering the -20 degree temperatures with ease. The stock tank heaters are working perfectly, I have plenty of hay on hand, and I am not overly worried about any of them. The Princess has been sequestered in her own little space due to a sore hip, but she's perky and whickering for her meals. (Although at these temps they are fed free choice of course) Today I will be checking under blankets for rubs and wear, but for the most part the blankets fit well and the horses are enjoying their hot mashes. Even at -20 degrees, I got my usual display of bucking and dashing about when I went up for morning feeding :)

I turned into a chicken wrangler last night. The cold has been pretty brutal on my five chickens, although I don't seem to have lost any combs on the roos. With the generous loan of a large wire crate, I now have the five inside my garage. Yep, you read that right. Live chickens in the house, haha! At six when I fed at the barn, it was -5, and the birds seemed okay on their roost (keeping in mind it's fully dark by six pm here) but by 9:30 it had dropped to -13 and I knew I would lose them if I didn't get them in the house. So I rousted out my son, we put on our cold weather gear, found a tote, and made two trips getting them to the house. They were fairly lethargic last night but I was confident that they would be okay. This morning they noisily greeted the lights coming on, and are otherwise quietly enjoying their water and feed. They aren't real happy to be crammed into the crate, but they'll manage I am sure. We have about five more days of this severe cold and then they can go back up where they belong. Oh, and great handy hint, you can really cut down on odor if you put a layer of kitty litter down! (Should you ever be forced to bring a chicken into the house to save it's life, lol)

At the first of this year, I had rescued a young Appaloosa gelding (the story is here on the blog) whose companion was humanely euthanized. The gelding recovered in fine style, and is now the pampered pony of a wonderfully generous horse owner. Pepper has turned out to be.....well, peppery;) Thanks to everyone who assisted with his rescue and recovery (Joey, Jamie, staff at AESAH Clinic, Molly, Gisela, Becky and her husband)

Thanks also to my neighbor Kathy, who has come through twice this year, with emergency loan of her horse trailer-not to mention providing a sounding board for all my dreams and schemes this year-you're awesome!

In February of this year, came two abused and starved horses into my care. They left late this summer, blooming in great health and weight, and I thank Jake for having confidence in my recovery skills. Two very nice young horses who have a committed owner, how cool is that?

In March, I learned about Wingnut (also featured on the blog here) who came back into my life, nearly dead from starvation. She too, left this fall in very healthy weight. It is because of what happened to this horse that I went to court a number of times, hoping for at least a chance to inform the court about her recovery to full health.

The growing season proved to be espcially challenging, with just a couple days above 70 degrees. It was a cool, cloudy growing season, and I had plenty of gardening failures like everyone else here. Some things did surprisingly well, and the bounty of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage is safely put up for us to enjoy over the winter months. My own personal gardening triumph was a beautiful pumpkin-also harvested. It's all a learning curve for me, but I surely enjoy it. This coming year, I will be expanding my growing space and I am hoping to double or triple the number of flats of veggies.

In May, another mare left my care, to go home with her owner. This poor horse ended up bounced around as the owner has had a terrible series of personal crises this year. Last I heard, the mare is safe with another horse person and still loved and coddled like she should be. The owner struggles, but is determined to keep her many of us.

In between the comings and goings at my place, I turned down a total of 7 free horses (so far this winter) before actually purchasing one myself. Reba joined my care in October and so far, I love her to pieces. She has a ton of character (rather like Wingnut, only not so destructive, haha), is firmly on the road to soundness, and I am so very much looking forward to riding her this spring.

Also this spring, an unfortunate misconception cost me a friendship I had truly treasured. Oh well, there is nothing to be done and that's that. Too bad really, as I had expected more maturity from this person. That's okay, it opened doors for other friends and has allowed me to reconnect with people from my past. But I still miss chatting with my buddy :(

The hay business continues, and is full of its own unique challenges. The above mentioned buddy hasn't helped matters on local groups, but I persist. I certainly do not do this hay stuff to make money. I do it for the horses. Screw the egos, the bruised feelings, the rumors-they won't feed horses, now will they? Nope. So the vans continue to come, and people are still grateful to get premium quality hay at a price that is hundreds less than the feed stores. I am still handing out bales to people in distress, scrambling to find certain cuttings/varieties, and upending my own life to meet people when it's convenient for them to pick it up. But that's okay-the horses are my priority above all. Which is why I have done five vans in something like three months, with another due to land here any day.....and there goes another two weekends offloading it, too.

The horse community continues to be a fractured mess of outright lies, towering egos, and general silliness. For example, Flo Pitcher verbally attacking me at a local bar. Or Mark Figelski who is so stupid he won't advertise in the Alaska Horse Journal because the publisher of the magazine brought up a van of hay (once!) and sold the excess, haha Boy talk about shooting yourself in the foot, heehee That's okay, no one knows where they are located anyhow. Since, you know, they don't advertise or anything-except CL of course. This is the same guy that is very busy bad mouthing a nice local lady who sells affordable tack-and how tacky is that?

And oh yes, the local Craigslist. Source of constant amazement and amusement. Hardly anything can be posted there without it being flagged down. I have one ad there, the first in months and months, but nearly every ad for hay (no matter the source!) gets flagged off. In other areas of the country, any ag related tiny operation can post without trouble-but not here in Alaska. I just recently found out that some local hay guys think I am busy flagging off their ads. Um, nope, why would I? Heck I refer people to them, who either can't use, or can't afford the hay I bring in. Anyone with livestock needs hay, we are all in the same boat here, true? The local CL is where Flo Pitcher occasionally takes stabs at me personally, presumably for a "community service" or some such drivel. Sigh, another challenge-weathering the perpetual rumor engine.

Onward into the New Year, I say.

Considering what's happened to our country this past year, we have plenty of "speed bumps" to weather over the coming months. These little spats mean nothing in the course of our lives, and I just refuse to be brought down by it. Have confidence in yourselves, in the economy, in the country as a whole, and things will improve. Honest :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Begone, 2008! And take the weather with you!

Oh my gosh, the weather has turned off just nasty here in the Mat Su Valley. Depending on where you live, and the surrounding terrain, you could have maybe five to ten degrees above with winds gusting to 75. Or, it could be dead calm and -20!

At my place, I am right now at 5 degrees above. Winds are moderate, I hear no really big gusts just this moment. I would estimate the winds at 10 to 20, roughly, enough to drop down into the negative category on wind chills, but bearable. In other areas, temps are just dropping like a stone, with -20 degree readings in some places.

You can go to and type in 99629 or 99654 and once that page loads, scroll down to the bottom for a list of weather stations and current conditions around the area. If you live here, and think the weather is bad, just type in "Fairbanks, Alaska" and see just how bad our northern neighbors have it :(

Yesterday, knowing this was coming, I snagged my cousin and we went to my shop to load up on munchie hay. I always try to buy 100+ bales of this hay, which I prefer to be mixed grasses, barely fertilized, just dry and clean. I had quite a bit stuffed into the storage container there, so we loaded up another ten bales, to augment what I had on hand at the barn. Wow, the wind was howling across the Palmer Wasilla Highway and it was terrible! We also tossed on some of the imported hay as I haven't been able to get bundles home due to broken brakes on the forklift. Last night, I fed out nearly a whole bale of the munchie hay, in addition to regular rations. They've been eating this munchie hay for a while now, just a little bit-just in case. This morning, they weren't exactly hungry, which is always good.

We also loaded up firewood the day before yesterday, and brought more to the house yesterday afternoon. When it gets to be -20 plus, it's just miserable doing outside chores and I know this deep cold is coming in a day or two. In preparation for that, today I will be suiting up and topping the stock tanks again. Everyone gets a hot mash when the conditions are like this, and I drop all concentrates and add extra salt instead. Can't run the risk of impaction colic at these temps!

Today I also have a few chores in town, and I am not looking forward to that! I also have to arrange the repair on the forklift, without which I am totally out of business there at work. Since I have this week off, I am hoping to just hunker down here at home, and take care of the horses as best I can.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

I just had to share this gem, which showed up on our local Craigslist :)

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the barn,
All the creatures were sleeping, all safe, snug and warm.
The feed pails were hung by the stall doors with care,
In the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The ponies were nestled all warm in their beds,
While visions of carrot cakes danced through their heads.
The Arabs, the Thoroughbreds and even the Apps,
The jumpers and hunters were all taking naps.
When out in the paddock there arose such a clatter,
I awoke in my stall to see what was the matter.
I moved to the window, quick as I should,
To see where the noise came from, if I could.
The sight I beheld as I gazed out that night,
Was a beautiful horse, all whiter than white.
He wore a red blanket, so nice to behold,
His hooves how they sparkled, all glittery-gold.
With swift certain motions to our barn he came,
And silvery moonlight danced from his mane.
More rapid than racers, his hoofbeats they came,
And he neighed and he snorted, and called us by name.
He was our Christmas, a ghost-horse of white,
Who has come to all horses since that one special night.
To remind us of horses who served man so well,
Especially those with whom a baby did dwell.
For those special horses who shared stable and stall,
To give comfort and warmth to the Savior of us all.
Now thinking of them, he entered the door,
To distribute among us, his gifts and more.
Down the aisle he came, his hoofbeats so light,
And he stopped by each stall in our stable that night.
Gifts he did give to all in our barn,
More heart or more courage, or to be free from harm.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And he filled all the feed pails, then turned with a jerk.
On gold hooves so bright,
And giving a nod, he went into the night

And I heard him neigh as he went out of sight,


(author unknown)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paying it forward

In the spirit of my earlier idea, I have decided to "pay it forward" a little bit, to a person in our small horse community.

My wonderful hub knows a retired gentleman who is on a fixed income. The man has two horses, and can only purchase small quantities of hay at a time. I have asked my hub to load up a half ton of hay, and haul it over to the man. Nope, I have no idea where he lives, but I am sure my hub can find out from someone. Since we are having such a miserably long cold snap, I am sure those two horses are needing extra hay, wouldn't you think? And I will have him take a good look around and see what else he might be needing.....I have some other supplies to spare-blankets, stock tank heaters and the like.

For some reason, the idea of giving to someone I don't know at all, seems appropriate.

Giving to others by paying it forward -

I can't think of a better thing to do for Christmas, can you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today, politics

Since I can't seem to find my Christmas spirit anywhere, allow me to take a swat at local politics instead :)

First and foremost, our Governor. Or Governator, depending on your point of view. To many, she can do no wrong, make no mistakes, or say anything that can possibly be misconstrued. To some, she is the Alaska version of the Anti-Christ and is as rotten an administrator as she was a mayor. To the rest of us.....well, let's just be nice, shall we?

I think about the course of events since Sarah Palin took office. With political capital to squander (approval ratings in the 90's-wow, that's never happened before!) she first trotted out ACES.

At the time, oil companies were enjoying some of the highest profits on record, period. The general feeling was: We ain't getting our fair share! She proposed a change in the tax structure, and the legislature (in what appeared to be a misguided attempt to garner brownie points with her) went even further with ACES. The end result is that the State of Alaska has the highest tax structure in the world. Think about that-the entire stinking world! I heard that it approaches 87 percent. You can read an awful lot about that tax structure on local blogs, just do a simple google search. If that doesn't work, you can also read the Governor's spin on it, right from the state's own website. So a lesson was learned by those companies who are already invested in the state leases and development activities: The state can punish your operations at a whim-and will. Just how this encourages production, I have no idea.

Then a while after, came AGIA. Man, it sounded so good at the beginning, really. Get a company on board whose expertise is building pipelines-and if we have a pipeline, the oil companies will drill and ship-yippee, all future budget problems resolved! So the Governor turns down anyone local, gets a foreign company to bid and hands them half a billion dollars to boot. I have a hunch the seeds of this boondoggle lie in former Governor Murkowski's "behind closed doors" meetings which resulted in a plan which would have tied up the favorable tax structure for forty five years. People probably would have been mostly behind that plan if he hadn't done it in secret, and there had been clear provisions to revisit the tax incentives as markets changed. But oh well, we got AGIA, giddily passed at warp speed by the sycophants in Juneau that we sent down there to represent us.

During the AGIA process, we had Troopergate, the investigations, and the results of that. Then of course the Governor's inclusion on the 2008 Presidential ticket, and all of that hoopla. And also the corruption invenstigations which has lead to convictions for some of our representatives, resulted in Don Young being stripped of any power, and of course, allowing Mark Begich to win against Ted Stevens, who was convicted of failing to report.....well, you get the drift. Bad times to be in Alaska politics.

Meanwhile, Comissioner Tom Irwin was a loose cannon-and still is. First, they vacated the Pt Thomson leases up at Prudhoe. Now, I am conflicted over this: Yes, they did not do what they said they would for 20 umpteen years-but honestly, it wouldn't have mattered because the place is too far from pipelines to move it anyway. But once the price of oil was way up, it made more economic sense to go forward. And they wanted to renew the lease. But no the state cancelled the lease, and now there is a law suit over it which will no doubt tie it up for a long time. (If Exxon can drag out the Valdez settlement for nearly 20 years....well, you can imagine) Next up is another lease, which they have refused to renew even though the two companies have said it will take 18 months to two years just get the drilling rig up to the Slope. Ah, nope that is not good enough for Mr Irwin who apparantly feels that even just building an ice road for exploration is not acceptable either.

So here I am, once a proud Wasilla area resident-a person who has met Sarah Palin, who spoke at city council meetings and who was excited about someone coming in to "clean house" down there in Juneau.

And what did I get for my expectations? An entire administration who seems determined to undermine development at every turn, who hands out union contracts like candy at Halloween, who has acted to stop investment in this state, etc. Then, to top it all off, she trots out a new budget this week.

I swear I do not know what in heck they are smoking down there in Juneau. A six percent reduction, but not across the board. And based on what appears to be an astronomically high price for oil. With what is happening around the globe with the economy, I personally think that $74 oil is another pipe dream the administration is trying to shove down our throats.

Sad part is, it will pass. People are too afraid to stand up to the Palin machine and her popularity. She has surrounded herself with people who cannot think beyond what is politically expedient, who are poor advisors at best, and a crowd of "yes" men and women who jump to do her bidding. I am beyond disappointed that this person, who I originally believed to be conservative, has turned out to be just another tax and spend nightmare :(

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Whoa baby, it's cold out there!

Oh my gosh, never ever complain about snow, ice, or winds. The bottom has dropped out here the past few days! This morning I had -9 :( It's -4 right now and of course will drop overnight too.

Horses are good, they are all full of themselves, anxious for meals and blowing off excess energy. I suppose it says something about my Alaska horsekeeping skills when I go to the barn and 50% of the horses (okay, there is only four there right now, lol) go bat poo nutso on me....running, bucking hard, charging around, flinging their heads and snorting. Add in the squeal, spin and kick out and you get the idea you have a barn full of rank horses-but nope, they are just happy to see the "Food Goddess" arrive.

That would be me. With sizeable beet pulp mash in my hands.

Of course, I weenie-ed out and actually drove the 400 feet to the barn tonight, instead of using shank's mare like normal ;) Good boots, check. Beaver hat, check. Fancy schmancy North Slope type coat, check. Insulated bandit headgear for face-check. Super duper insulated gloves, check.

Over 80 pounds of hay put out tonight, doubled salt in the mash that everyone got-you just have to do this sort of stuff when it gets cold. My hub asked-do we need to go put on blankets? (Which are buried in an unlikely location and difficult to get to without daylight) and I said nope, not a one of them is shivering. Not a one has a clamped tail. Not a one has a hunched back.

No, they aren't cold if they are playing around, being horses at feeding time. A warm mash (taken out of house at 150 degrees but cooled by the time the feed pans are served), extra salt, and lots and lots of hay-that's what makes for the plump horses I have up there.

Of course, any wind at below zero temps and they'd ALL have blankets on-I won't tolerate a horse being miserable.

I am sure thankful I have the "munchie" hay on hand that I doesn't weigh much on a per bale or flake basis, but that's okay.........I can put out a quarter to half a baleand not worry about it. It's low protien, mixed grasses....a perfect mix to feed out when the temps get severe.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh boy, challenging is right!

So, have I mentioned the weather in detail lately?

Entirely too often for most, I bet, haha Anyhow, so over the weekend as I am trying to get hay unloaded and co-ordinate pick ups with people, we had freezing rain and fog. It was so slick at the shop you could hardly stand up on Saturday. So we put down some salt and that helped a bunch. On Sunday, it wasn't too bad but the roads were pretty nasty-either sloppy with lots of spray or getting pretty icy with the sprinkles.

Then this morning I was woke up around 4:15. The winds arrived in full force. I laid there a few minutes and listened to my (very heavy, mind you) wind chime create it's own melody. I drifted back to sleep and was roused about 5:45 when a gust came through that sounded like a combination of a freight train and a turbine on a jet. Seriously.

When I got up, I could hear things rattling a little....the normal things that make noise at my place when it's windy. I bundled up and stepped out the side door and nearly had my breath taken away-WOW! Noisy noisy, strong winds with some good gusts even it seemed fairly warm out. Up at the barn, I picked up a few lighter items that had been blown over, but it looks like my nice pedestal fan is probably broken for good now. The barn had been scoured clean of loose bits of hay, the tarp alongside the chicken pen was making a racket, I chased down the bucket that had blown off the hydrant, and moved a few items in danger of sliding away. The horses seemed relatively calm and resigned, a bit anxious for breakfast. The chickens, on the other hand, were a totally different matter altogether. Talk about upset! Oh my goodness, what a racket they were making too! Since they weren't able to roost, I put out some corn to keep them busy for the day, after checking to make sure they hadn't hurt each other.

My poor Jethro had a bit of a time of it up there, he has his routine in the mornings, poor little thing....he doesn't weigh enough to handle big winds, lol So back at the house I secured a few things and then it's off and running on the rest of the morning routine. On the drive in, traffic was really slow-slower than road conditions would normally warrant due to the winds. It's 28 degrees here and blowing a gale, pretty much, and there is no way I can safely open the gates here, and I won't be opening the overhead door either, if I can avoid it. I've seen it worse, but not often. Thankfully, this is supposed to die down later today-whew!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December is challenging

Oh, it's not just for us Alaska horse owners-well into our third month of winter horsekeeping. Nope, it is the depressing financial news, the challenge of balancing our Christmas wants with needs, the press of family issues, the pushing and shoving of retailers to force/guilt us into purchases-the whole shebang. Add in high energy costs (yeah, like we are ever going to see gas down around a buck fifty any time soon.....) the uncertain economic times for our state and repeated missteps by the administration-well, it isn't shaping up to be a very happy time of year for many of us.

For myself, I am trying to head into this time of year on a relatively even keel. I won't go overboard with presents and we'll concentrate on our son instead. With so many van loads of hay arriving this fall, my own barn is stuffed full and I have enough for months on hand-always a very good feeling :) I had already stocked up on a variety of grains and sups-again, months ahead on those too. Pantry is acceptable, freezers adequate-we are in better shape than a great many Americans this holiday season-a blessing I will not take for granted.

The horses at my place are good....I have two actually on a diet (and boy they aren't happy about that) and the Princess got her mash bumped up a bit. Footing is decent, if the weather isn't (32 degrees and sprinkling here just now) and everyone is healthy-I am still getting eggs from my laying hens too. In all, life is good.

I'd love to see the horse community get behind a gift tag tree for horse owners here who are struggling.....a sack of feed, a bale of hay, a few items for the barn, could make a real difference to those in need locally. Unfortunately, we are so fragmented, so determined to be right instead of friendly and helpful, so impossibly judgemental, that this will never happen. Sad, isn't it? That we are so far removed from the Christmas spirit when it comes to those who share our love for horses, that we cannot set aside our feelings to help one another.

So as you go forward into the holiday season, I hope you will take a moment to think of other horse owners less fortunate than yourself-and bring them a little joy too-whatever you can afford. I know I plan to do the same.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The joke's on us!

Like some great cosmic joke, Mother Nature has been leading us into complacency, that comfortable slide into conlcuding "Hey, this winter has not been bad at all"

Ha! Granted, we did not have 23 days of high winds like last November-we all remember that I am sure, it was downright miserable. We've been fortunate to have relatively mild temperatures, with little snowfall to complain about. A bit of fog here and there, but honestly, it's been great-mild, decent footing for horses, not too cold.

So last week we had a small snow storm move through. It dropped maybe three or four inches at my place but almost nothing here at work. This last Friday and Saturday (and Sunday too) we got one of our bigger snowfalls. I got about eight inches at home, with nearly a foot at work, and reports vary from several feet to three inches elsewhere-depending on the whims of Mother Nature. Yesterday afternoon my snow plowing guy showed up....I knew there was no way I was going to try to plow using the four wheeler-too wet (which makes for too heavy) and too deep. I would have been out there for hours, wallowing around on that, just too much work for the wheeler. It took the plow guy two hours (two hours!!!) to clean up the driveways, parking spots, around the barn, the arena, the trailers. Normally this is an hour, hour and ten minutes job. As he was finishing, it was still snowing. Only yesterday afternoon what was falling was very powdery.

Sure enough, when I checked the thermometer, it was just 13 degrees around 4 pm. This morning, it was -3. It is -6 here at work. And we are slated for even colder tonight. Last night, I fed out extra hay of course, and this morning too. And even more this evening, with lots of munchie hay to keep them warm and busy overnight. And of course everyone will enjoy a warm mash. Not a hint of shivers from anyone either, for which I am thankful.

To recap-we went from temps in the mid 30s, to heavy snow, to cold. In four days. To mangle a phrase from an old commercial: It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.....but it isn't nice for Mother Nature to fool with us, lol!