Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Hee-Haw Gang is heading to Florida

The USA Beach Volleyball Junior National Finals tournament is turning into an excuse for my family to descend upon the Sunshine State at the end of this month. Me, Tim, Logan, Tyler, Grandma Rose, Poppy, great-niece Courtney, sister Joanie with her boyfriend Michael, niece Erin and boyfriend Ronnie, and I'm in the process of convincing Luke to leave camp a little early and join us. His brother's in the Junior National Finals, for crying out loud. Luke needs to be there leading the cheering section.

Logan is working out like a madman.

We are excited.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The passing of Grand today feels like the end of the era where my kids and the neighbor kids were little and the horses in our pastures were dog-like pets and best friends.

It was the best of times.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Our flower beds are abuzz with butterflies, hummingbirds, and a variety of bees.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tee Shirts

My neighbor girl told me her mom has this tee shirt:
REHAB is for quitters.

Another one I like:
Mess with me, mess with the whole trailer park.

Got any other good ones?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Loading Darby on the trailer today: Failed.

I had been loading him nearly every day since the last show because loading him after that show became a humiliating fiasco. Many nice strangers helped me with that, especially a lovely dark-haired woman who introduced herself, mid-struggle, as Martina. About the time I was ready to give up and try again later, a woman stuck her head around the corner of the trailer and said, "Can I help?" Martina said to me, "Now we'll get him loaded." I wondered, who is this person?

The new arrival said, "I'm going to take him away from the trailer and work with him for a minute." I turned the lead-rope over to her. She led Darby a little way out behind the trailer and began walking and stopping him. She carried a dressage whip and when he did not respond to her, she tapped him with it. Tap, tap, tap, until she received the response she wanted. Then she led him to the trailer and handed me the end of the lead rope. I was in the trailer, she behind, still tapping with the whip.

I'm not going to say Darby walked right in--there was constant tapping and a couple of times where he ran backwards until he hit the end of the lead rope and had to be urged forward again. But within five minutes he was on the trailer with the door closed behind him. I ducked out the people door at the front of the trailer.

"Thank you so much," I said to my savior. I stuck out my hand and told her my name. "Sue Black," she said in response, shaking my hand. She shook her head. "Two-year-old stallions," she said. "You got to get in their heads and convince them that you're the leader."

So since that day, a little over a month ago, I have been feeding Darby his breakfast on the trailer and last week we went to our second show and came home with no problem. Then Tim needed the truck over the weekend so I haven't loaded Darby for four days and this morning he wasn't having any of it. I tried to begin where we had left off, with him going in the trailer without me going in first. Why am I so stupid? He kept backing up. So then I began go with that program and shanked him backward. Then we get to the place where he won't even walk up to the trailer and I realize we have really gone backward, in space and in training, and I'm thinking Oh shit how could I be so stupid.

So I ease Darby up to the trailer, thankful that I have taught him to target on my hand. One tentative step at a time he works with me and I am so grateful that he is giving me this and that I haven't totally screwed him up. We get up to the door of the trailer and I walk in, up to where his breakfast is. I stand next to his bowl and lean toward him, putting out my hand for him to target on. He leans forward and touches my hand, then puts one front foot in the trailer, then two, target again, then the left hind leg, then the right. He takes a bite of his grain then backs off the trailer.

We do it again, target, walk, target, walk, back to basics. He gets on and off the trailer four times, the last time his bowl is empty and I pick it up and carry it off the trailer with us. We return to the barn. I am contrite and humbled. I put Darby in cross-ties and begin brushing him. He loves being brushed more than any horse I've worked with; he stands very still except for leaning into the brushing. I brush for a long time, working for his forgiveness which he gives much too easily.

When will I learn? Basics, stupid, basics. When you get in trouble you have to go back to the basics.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Darby's First Show

(Photo by Bob Tarr Photography)

Darby went to his first breed show last week. He was the Grand Champion Colt/Gelding and the Reserve Champion Young Horse.

Most important, he behaved himself admirably in the show ring and effortlessly exhibited his lovely trot. Strangers kept coming up to me and asking about him and complimenting his beauty and conformation.

It is so cool to finally have my dream horse after struggling all those years with an off-the-track Thoroughbred. It's as if the horse-gods held a meeting at which they decided to quit screwing with me and said, "Yeah, let's send her an easy horse this time."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vegetable Serendipity

Lest I squirm here under false pretenses, let me begin by saying that I am the world's laziest gardener. Once I chuck a plant into the ground, it's on its own to grow and thrive and bloom or get yanked out. I don't put up with dawdlers or divas. So imagine my surprise, as a recent convert to growing vegetables, to find out that edibles are the hands down easiest group of plants to grow of anything I've ever grown. These plants are determined to live, determined to bear fruit and scatter the seeds of the next generation.

Here's what no-one told me about growing vegetables: Many of them come back the next year.

I've been harvesting leaf lettuce for more than a month now. However, I didn't plant lettuce this year. Or last year. Two years ago, in March, I sprinkled a packet of leaf lettuce seeds into a bare spot in one of my flower beds. In about two weeks I had a little salad. And for the next six or eight weeks, I had more lettuce than I knew what to do with (luckily, we love salad at my house). Then spring turned to summer and the lettuce went to seed. Being the lazy gardener I am, I pulled up the lettuce plants and laid them where they grew so they could decompose and go back to being dirt. The following spring, Voila! as soon as the snow melted, there was lettuce. This year, same thing. We are living on salad right now and it is good.

Last year, where I had onions, I have onions again. I don't know what's happening below ground but I've been cutting the green onion tops for about six weeks and using them to flavor everything. I have carrots I wasn't expecting; tomato plants, bean plants, and several plants that could be either pumpkin, cucumber, or cantelope that have come back with no help from me. Last year I had broccoli come back but haven't seen any yet this year.

I expected the asparagus and was not disappointed. The roses in the photo are just for showing off. We are having English weather this spring and the roses are phenomenal.

I used to be intimidated by growing a garden. All the gardens I saw were meticulous with their lines made straight with string and their littles mounds for certain plants and all this lore that did not get passed down to me. But then I started, one or two seed packets at a time, most of them scattered among my perennial flower beds.
Since then, it's been vegetable serendipity.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


So we arrived at the Jimmy Buffett concert on a damp chilly evening:

Yeah, a little straight-laced group of domesticated Parrotheads. Notice, especially, Logan:

Not quite so tame as the rest of us, Joanie and Erin were looking dorgeous and getting their tropical groove on:

So we're just standing around, people watching all the over-the-top Parrotheads and the wastoids and jamming with Jimmy and then this twenty-something-year-old girl ran past us. She pushed in between me and Tim, hopped over the coat heaped on the ground without breaking stride and raced up the hill behind us.

She was followed by a distraught drunk who shoved me out of his way as he chased her, tripped over the coat and lost his grass skirt, his awesome parrothead hat, and apparently his underwear, because as he scrabbled away on all fours, all we could see of him was his bare butt. After he fled away and we quit laughing, we picked up his skirt and his hat, and thus Logan was initiated into Parrotheaddom:

Logan, me, at end of concert:

A good time was had by most.

(Dude, we've got your stuff!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Litany of Learning

Our weather has been perfect for working with horses and Darby and I have been busy. There are so many things a young horse has to learn, such as:

Standing in crossties
Picking up his feet for me.
Picking up his feet for the farrier (seems like this would be the same, but it is not.)
Loading on the trailer.
Being okay with Buckles going away from the barn.
Being okay with going away from Buckles.
Leading at the walk. And whoa. Whoa is good.
Leading at the trot without dancing on the leader.
Having someone stand on a chair next to you.
Having someone stand on a chair and band your mane.
Having someone stand on a chair and lay across your back.
Having someone jump from chair up onto your back.
Wearing a saddle.
Wearing a saddle and discovering that putting your head down to eat grass makes the girth tighten around belly.
Discovering that crow-hopping does not help tight girth problem.
Discovering that grass is too good to worry very long.
Learning hoses are not snakes.
Learning baths are annoying but not painful.
Learning baths while eating grass are worth it.
Finding out crossties are good for holding your head while sleeping.
Realizing ribbons seem scary at first:

But finding once again that Mr. Buckles can make it all better:

Darby goes to his first breed show next Thursday. He will be shown in-hand at the walk and trot and judged on his conformation and his movement. I am thinking positive and thus fully expect him to be the grand champion and be festoomed with a ribbon such as my home-made version that we have been practicing with. Can you tell it's Christmas ribbon?

We have done a lot of neat things and a lot of learning has taken place. Most days I forget who is the teacher and who is the student. He is so smart and willing and he eats up attention and every day I learn how easy it is to teach a horse who was bred to be smart and who has been well-handled since birth and not only trusts but genuinely likes people.

I'm writing all this today because I want to remember that today was the day I first hopped all the way up on to Darby's back, swung my other leg over, and sat astraddle him. For two weeks or so, I've been getting him used to the chair in his stall, then me standing on the chair, then me leaning over his back, and then me hopping a little onto his back so my weight was on him. Every step of the way he has been curious but calm so today I just hopped up, swung my leg over, and sat there petting him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and slid down. I did this four times, two from the right, two from the left. It did not bother him at all.

He is awesome.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Luke posted this as his status on Facebook the other day: "Nothing has ever seemed bigger, more interesting, more challenging, or more exciting than music does to me right now."

Logan's Facebook is peppered with the word volleyball followed by several exclamation points.

We had a weekend in which we saw Luke sing and play the piano in a terrific concert at Miami University on Saturday.

On Sunday we watched Logan play volleyball with some A and Open players. He looked like he belonged there, and he won his games.

Luke and Logan were raised in the same house, with the same piano and the same volleyball court. Luke plays a little volleyball but he is passionate about music. Logan plays a little music on the piano (and guitar and bass) but he is passionate about volleyball.

Clearly, passion is a prerequisitie to excelling at something. But where does passion come from? What makes one kid passionate about one thing and another kid passionate about something else, even though they had the same opportunity?

I'm still thinking about those questions but here is one thing I know for sure: throwing themselves whole-heartedly into their passions is a source of great happiness and satisfaction for both of my sons.

And watching them throw themselves into their passions is amazing for me and Tim. It is the best thing we could have ever wished for them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birds of a Feather

My Uncle Larry and Aunt Alice recently retired to Panama. They are Jehovah's Witnesses; they moved to a place in the mountains of Panama where there is a Kingdom Hall and an active community of other Witnesses. But they were home last week so we met up for lunch.
Alice, my cousin Shawn, Larry, me, Mom, Poppy

Uncle Larry and Aunt Alice (for Luke and Logan: Larry is G. Rose's brother.)

After lunch, Logan and I headed to the Raptor Center at Yellow Springs to meet up with my brother who was picking up 'his' owl. Two weeks ago, my brother and this owl "hit each other" (as my brother says) and the owl suffered a broken wing. Michael contacted the Raptor Center and they took the bird in and rehabbed him and needed Michael to release him where he found him because the owl knew that territory and probably had a mate there.

The friendly staff at the Raptor Center removed the owl from his box for a photo session.

A full-grown screech owl. His eyes look funny because they are not made for bright sun.

The Raptor Center is at Glen Helen Preserve just outside the village of Yellow Springs. A very small, very cool place. All the birds on the premises were injured in some fashion. The goal is to rehab and release but some birds are too seriously injured to ever return to the wild. This is a red-tailed hawk sitting on three eggs. Her mate was perched above her in the pen.

A bald eagle at the Raptor Center.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Easter Queen

Only a week late posting these photos from Easter. Mom and Poppy returned home from Florida just in time for Easter so we had dinner at my house. Mom made me a belated birthday cake and brought out the Birthday Tiara for me. So I was the Easter Queen:

Mom and Poppy:

Tim had his new toy all spiffed up and parked in the yard. He couldn't wait to show it to Poppy:

Logan and the hole he dug for himself:

We didn't make Logan dig ditches on Easter but this is how he spent the day before Easter. He dug out the pipe between the water hydrant and the horse's automatic waterer to try to find the leak so I can have water at the barn again. And glory be, he found it and repairs will be undertaken soon.

Whatever writing time I have I end up spending on my book (page 222!) instead of my blog, but life rolls on at the Piddler's.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Walking machine

The very best thing about the laptop computer Tim got me for Christmas is the shelf he built across the treadmill so I can walk while I mess around on-line and write my book. I am a walking machine.

I have walked about five miles a day nearly every day since my shelf was built (two days after Christmas). I was reading about other Office Walkers and they all say they walk about 1 MPH. I started out thinking I was going to walk very slowly but when I walk that slow, it makes me feel as if I am pushing the treadmill and my knees begin to hurt. I find I don't have any trouble typing when I walk up to 3 MPH so I am usually in that range (and a little faster if I am just cruisin' the internet).

Click here to go to the site that inspired me to have a treadmill desk and to see photos of a wide variety of treadmill desk designs.

Here's one more photo of my shelf to show how simple it is - just a board we had in the barn, cut to fit across the arms of the treadmill. The shelf is attached on both sides with a U-bolt (my jar is leaning against the uprights of the U) and there is a small strip of trim across the front of the shelf to keep my stuff from sliding off the front (because the shelf leans a little to the front). Extremely simple, terrifically useful.
(Oh, and check out my horse butt boxers from my fellow horse-nut friend, Sue. It's obvious I did not get myself dolled up for this photo shoot.)