Posts Tagged ‘horses’


I apologize to my readers for not being around much this summer. I’ve been a little busy, and my depression has been kicking my butt. Between the two, I just never made it on here to post anything.

My depression is actually part of my interest in food, gardening, and nutrition. I have been working with a book called The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. Her basic premise is that a large number of our mental and emotional health problems are actually due to being malnourished. Our brains aren’t being given the amino acids, among other things, that they need to function correctly. The explosive increase in problems is linked to the increasingly un-nourishing food we eat. It sounds silly to say that Americans are malnourished, considering how large we have gotten. In fact, Colorado (the thinnest state) is now fatter than Mississippi (the fattest state) was in the early ’90s. However, obesity is also linked to malnourishment. A body will eat until it gets what it needs to maintain itself. What it needs is more than the almost pure calories that so much of our food has become. If it only needs 2,000 calories worth of food to get the necessary macro and micronutrients, it will be able to stop there. If it can’t get the nutrition without eating 10,000 calories worth of food, then it will remain hungry until it gets them.

I feel confident saying that without supporting links, because in my own n=1 experiment, the more nourishing my food, the less I eat. The more I adhere to the eating guidelines and supplementation from The Mood Cure, the more balanced I am. “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Hippocrates, 400 B.C. For some reason, the medical profession has forgotten this little gem. Can we drug it? Can we cut it? Can we tell the patient that they’re imagining things? If one or more of those work, why would the food they ingest even be considered? Granted, there are mental and emotional (and physical) problems that do require the intervention of drugs and surgery. However, drugs and surgery should be used for what they are- treatments for acute and severe dis-ease. They were not designed for (and often don’t work well for) the management of chronic or mild problems. Of course, there would be much less money to be made in the medical industry if patients could manage and cure their own problems by changing what they bought at the grocery store or picked out of their gardens.

On a lighter note- here is a brief overview of what I’ve been up to this summer:

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I went to the local ranch rodeo. Real cowboys doing the sort of things they do in their daily lives. The other rodeo, Pikes Peak or Bust, is pretty cool- but not as cool as this one.

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A pirate and a cowboy. Game over. He wins.

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Yep- I get to live here. This was from a hike on the West side of Pikes Peak.

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I did some weeding for a client.

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It gave me a whole lot of time to think. And to realize that having Hotel California stuck in your head is a major bummer when you don’t know the whole thing. I can’t wait to see what it looks like, though, when the grass finishes filling in.

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Lastly, I’ve been spending time at Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue. This is Mack making sure we don’t forget his noon meal. He’s more accurate than the clock.

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These two, Olive and Olivia, went to their new home on Labor Day. Olivia took forever to be born, but she was pretty independant from the moment she hit the ground.

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Also- chaps and wranglers.

National Western Stock Show: Part 3

I have a tendency at these sort of things to wander through animal housing, so visiting the stockyards was just part of my wandering.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one that does so. The path was divided into the part for animals and the part for people.

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It’s too bad they don’t build them like this any more. Just because it’s a stock yard doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive.

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The walkway made it easy to see into lots of pens at a time.

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Naturally, lots of cattle. (I’m afraid that I only recognize the really distinctive breeds, so I have no idea what these are.)

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I do recognize buffalo, though! (Technically, American Bison.)

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Aren’t the little ones cute?

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Yaks are a lot smaller than I expected.

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This one just struck me as beautiful. Possibly clipped for a class?

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Then there were longhorns.

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Check out the rack on . . . her? It’s the steers (castrated males) and the cows that have the massive horns, not the bulls.

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His name is Henry. Named after Henry VIII because he rules. So said the sign on his pen.

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I love draft horses. Passing trains don’t even excite them.

National Western Stock Show: Part 2

I apologize for the posting delay. This is part two from my day at the National Western Stock Show: Horses.

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Getting used to the arena for the Western Dressage Clinic with Cliff Swanson.

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Mom, Dad- I know what I want for Christmas. (One of these decades this will work. I just know it.)

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Is that a girl over there?!

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No, not the human ones . . .

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Of course, when I met him in his stall, all he wanted was attention. (Morgan stallions. Love ’em.)

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Four very different horses and riders showing us what dressage training can look like with a western flair.

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Apparently these critters, Norwegian Fjords, made the passage in Viking longboats when they invaded Scotland.

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Is it me, or is that a huge mule?

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I almost passed out when I saw this. Someone applied logic to the fact that horses can be dangerous? I’m used to Maryland where no such logic is applied, despite the strong horse culture in the area.

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Seven months old.

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Older, but not fully grown.

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The fully grown Shires don’t fit quite as well. However, you probably could fit a full community of hobbits in one of those.

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The Percherons don’t fit so well, either.

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The Clydesdales came in two types. Super, duper, shiny, show critters and . . .

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Real horses! Who happen to be more laid back.

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Meet the biggest donkey, and the biggest ears, I have ever seen in my life. If you were wondering, this is what a giant jack ass looks like.

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My camera didn’t have a prayer at capturing the Evening With Dancing Horses, but I heartily recommend it if you’re in Denver next year. I thought it was very cool that they had a meet-and-greet afterward with the stars. And their handlers.

Stock Show Parade

This past Thursday was the parade that opened the National Western Stock Show in Denver. To celebrate the history of the city, it opens with 1,000 head of longhorns being driven through downtown from Union Station to the fairgrounds. Naturally, I had to go check it out.

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Mr. Denver. The bull, not the cowboys.

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How cute are they?

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I was wondering if they were the ones that would supply the longhorns.

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I need to work on picking my spots for photography.

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There were lots of cowboys and cowgirls to keep the critters moving.

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I thought about being a mounted police officer once upon a time.

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Can you have a parade without a stagecoach? Not out here!

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When I heard “floats” I assumed they’d be pulled by tractors or trucks. Belgians are so much cooler.

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The glitz begins . . .

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A 1929 six-speed special, as the vanity plate proclaims. Looks like new!

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Now that’s a get-up.

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Is it bad that I forgot who he was, just that he was someone important?

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Here’s the beer! Oh, it’s more people.

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It ain’t a parade without a firetruck. (The little girl in front of me was waving to everybody. They were all waving back.)

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My favorites in the draft world. Percherons.

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I’m starting to think everyone around here owns a horse.

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I’m not sure who they were, but there were about a gazillion of them.

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They’re just like teddy bears! Evil, adorable, teddy bears.

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The cavalry even made it.

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With their chuck wagon. You know, between the two of them, those mules had an ear for each direction.

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Need we say more?

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen sleigh bells on a horse before?

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Now this part of the parade I recognize from growing up in farm country.

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A necessity after driving 1,000 head of cattle and at least 2,000 head of horses down city streets.

I hope you folks enjoyed the parade as much as I did! Hopefully I’ll get up to the stock show to get some pictures of that, too.

P.S. I might obsess a little over horses, but they were also 90% of the parade, so that many horse pictures isn’t totally my fault.

Heirloom Gardens: Super Big Dig

Just a little garden.

After playing in the Ranch Community Garden on Saturday, I trotted up to Denver to spend another Sunday afternoon with Heirloom Gardens digging over a plot. It is a brand new plot and a mere 19,000 square feet. The call had gone out some time ago for everybody to show up, bring a friend, and bring extra tools. There were between 20 and 25 people, including at least a few shanghaied significant others, and the pile of available tools made it clear that I wasn’t the only one to borrow extras from friends that couldn’t be there in person. The dig was scheduled for four hours, and it took the entire time.

Our society has been industrial for a while now. Enough generations have passed that when the average person looks at a plot that is nearly half an acre in size, the assumption is that it needs to be handled with some sort of machinery. After all, we invent this stuff so that we don’t have to do physical labor, right? The newest, greatest, coolest gadget is one more labor-saving device. Maps were invented and refined so that we didn’t have to keep the geography of an area in our head and gave us the ability to share that information with others without having to actually walk through the area to learn it. Now we have GPS units that tell us where to go so we don’t even have to read the maps ourselves. I don’t own a GPS unit yet, but I will when I start getting serious about hiking. It makes sense to have one for safety. As

Tools to spare

awesome as they are, however, there is a lot of information that a GPS unit can’t give me. If I’m out hiking and I run out of water, it can’t tell me about the spring right over the next ridge. If it starts raining out of nowhere, it can’t tell me there’s shelter 100 yards off the path to my right. Someone who has the geography of the place in their head could probably tell me both of those things.

We did have a little mechanical help with this plot. One rototiller. Other than that, we had rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, and muscle. Because I, and I am sure the rest of the volunteers can say this, spent four hours digging out weeds and removing rocks to ease the way for the tiller, I know that land in a way that I could never have understood it if I had instead spent the one hour or so that it might have taken to turn the land from the seat of a tractor. I don’t know what the weed is, but there is something growing there that has a surprisingly large and tenacious root considering that the above-ground part is totally non-woody. The area had clearly been either glacial or a river at one time considering that the rocks were almost all water-rounded. The bricks we dug up may indicate that it had also been a dumping ground during a construction project. I would have seen none of this even from the height of the seat of a lawn tractor.

Less than 25 people and four hours later. Impressive, isn’t it?

I work for a company, I imagine most people do, so I am used to having someone in charge of a project and lots of other people taking care of the various steps along the way. We had someone measuring and plotting each long row. Two people were in charge of the strings between the measured stakes showing us where to weed and spread the horse manure. They had to be moved when the tiller came through and replaced to delineate the beds when they’re ready to be planted. Some people were filling wheelbarrows with the manure for others to take out to each row and still others to rake out. Most of us were tackling the weeds and rocks. What I’m not used to is that once you were assigned a job, you were allowed to do it more or less in your own way. If you saw a job that needed to be done, you could switch over to that one because, well, it needed to be done. One person was in charge of timing when the weeders needed to move to the next row, and occasionally there was a request for more people to do a particular job. Other than that, things were done as the individual assigned to the job felt it should be done.

After the workday was done, it occurred to me that my New England family ties probably stood me in good stead. There is a decidedly independent streak in the people I was working with, and a willingness to work hard to be independent. This house had chickens, while the

So that’s what you do with canning jars outside of canning season. I’m tucking that away for future reference.

neighbors had a flock of ducks. It was also not an unfamiliar concept to be pulling as many rocks out of the ground as plants. I think I understand, now, why they use rocks as mulch out here. There are enough of them.

In the end, we didn’t quite finish the entire area. There was some compromise also on leaving the paths to be weedwhacked instead of dug over as is their preference. However, by the end of the weekend, I was really, really impressed with people. Between the number of beds we set on Saturday, and the massive amount of land we cleared for a garden on Sunday, it is amazing what we are able to do when we put down our gadgets and go do it.

Dirty Minds

I may have overestimated how much we needed.

Wait- is this a family-friendly blog? What can I say, I’ve had dirt on the brain recently. It’s probably because I had too much fun playing with manure over the weekend.

Unless you are dealing with hydroponics, you have to think about your soil. Even the water lilies that float on the top of a pond have their roots in soil. Without good soil, it is difficult to impossible to grow good vegetables. At least not the vegetables we tend to think of as “standard.” I believe yucca would be pretty ok with just being plopped in the ground out here.

What makes good soil? At the moment, I still only know the basics, but basically: the sand or clay base, organic material, and things to break down the organic material for use. Preferably, you are looking for a pretty good balance between clay and sand. Clay packs tight, so it can hold water, but it can also inhibit drainage and pack into a hard surface. Sand doesn’t really pack at all, so it helps drainage, the water slipping easily between the large granules. However, that can also mean that the water doesn’t stick around long enough for your plants to use it. I have heard some thoughts on both sides of adding clay or sand to balance the soil you have. I will need to look further into that before I address it here.


Whether you have clay or sand soil or a pretty mix of both, organic material can improve it. It loosens clay, allowing it to drain better and keeping it from baking as hard. It helps sand hold water better and helps it pack a little better to support plants. Compost is the epitome of your organic material. It helps the texture of the soil and offers a bioavailable source of nutrients. Manure is right up there, too. Different ones need slightly different treatments. Hot manures like horse, which is what we are using on Showcase 1, and chicken need to be composted so you don’t burn your plants when you apply it. Cool manures like alpaca or goat can actually be applied directly. Other options, like peat, offer soil improvements, but not so much of the nutritional improvements.

The one that often gets overlooked is what breaks down the organic material so that your plants can use it. We probably miss them mostly because we don’t see them. I was reading a book about Rocky Mountain gardening at one point. It was one of the first specifically for this part of the country. It is old, but it still has a lot of valid information. It also has some that made me chuckle. Like that you should purchase a “lady-sized” shovel to encourage the wife to get out in the fresh air. Also, it told you how to kill earthworms because the casings they leave behind are so unsightly. I believe it was the same day I read that information that I saw bagged worm casings for sale in a garden store.

Worms are one of the more visible decomposers. They not only eat fine materials and excrete some of the best fertilizer you can find, they also aerate the soil in their underground journeys. However, being big enough to see means that they can navigate in and out of your garden more easily than some of the others. This means that if you don’t create an environment they like, including lots of delicious organic material in worm-bite-size pieces, then they don’t have a reason to stick around. Assuming they have enough around to eat, bacteria are a little easier to keep corralled. Manure can offer a good inoculation to a new or barren garden. So can a scoop of soil from your neighbor that just seems to be able to grow anything.

When you are setting up your soil for gardening, however, you need to bear in mind what you are growing. If you are growing plants that originated in Europe or the East Coast, meaning most “vegetable garden” vegetables, you need to build the kind of soil they have. If you are growing plants that are native to this area, less preparation is necessary. I have a friend in Maryland who’s property is incredibly lush. I have never seen land with so many earth worms. In fact, her struggle tends to be that too many things grow. Except for lavender. Neither of us had any idea why this one plant just refused to grow. It turns out that lavender, being from the Mediterranean, prefers soil that is stony, sparse, and well-drained. Who knew that moving out here would actually be preferred by some plants?

Prettiest dirt I'd seen since I moved out here.

Do you notice the soil around you? Or is it just dirt? Some days it is more apparent than others that I come from a family that gardens. My parents take pictures of flowers. I took a picture of dirt. I had been driving up through northern Colorado and Wyoming for hours at this point, seeing little more than sandy, arid, poor soil and the occasional surprisingly blue body of water. All of a sudden I came across the prettiest soil I’d seen since I moved out here. It was in the middle of Shoshone National Forest just pushed to the side during the road construction. I’ve gotten the impression that Wyoming is considered to be a pretty barren state by most. The question is, how did an arid, barren state produce such rich soil? The answer is that it is in a National Forest. That means that instead of being subjected to various forms of human interference, nature is more or less allowed to do what it has been doing for, well, a very long time. That means that generations of trees have fallen to be eaten by even more generations of earthworms. The available nutrients are then used by the younger trees that will then eventually die to feed the younger worms.

The pertinent question, of course, is how to get soil that is that good-looking in your garden. Unless you are building some sort of a bed that you will fill with an ideal mix of soil, a part of the answer is still time. First-year garden beds are seldom as rich and biodiverse as more mature beds. However, we don’t have to move at the same speed as a forest. We can kick-start the process by adding ingredients to our gardens that will encourage worms and other decomposers to move in and stick around. Once they are established, all you need to do is keep them fed and safe. Luckily, that doesn’t include setting out a fresh bowl of food each day like you do with your pets. As long as you are adding fairly regular doses of organic material in the form of compost or manure and you are using little to no pesticides, organic or otherwise, a healthy population should be pretty well able to care for itself. As far as the worms and bacteria are concerned, the benefits to your garden are really just the result of a happy home.


Who doesn't like perky ears in the morning?

I have been struggling lately with priorities. The obvious definition of your priorities is what you do. After all, why would you do whatever it is if it’s not important for some reason? My struggle has been that my intellectual and emotional priorities haven’t been borne out by my action priorities. Coming home and eating dinner in front of a movie doesn’t get gardening books read or walks taken. It doesn’t get stories written and I can rarely even claim I’m watching them as research for any of my various projects. I’m getting better about working on my beading project or redesigning my garden spaces while I’m watching, but even with that, I can’t pretend that I’m actually putting my time to good use.

I’m not alone in this, though. After all, look around. What are the priorities, or actions, of so many other people? Eating dinner in front of the TV is hardly exclusive to me. Nor is eating easy, convenient, frequently microwaved foods. When many people go home after work, the first thing on their to-do list is rarely to work on their novel or go out in the wood-shed to see if the coat of varnish on their hand-built table is dry yet. Their priority, my priority, is to be entertained. We consume, we are entertained, we are passive. We don’t create, we don’t entertain, we don’t do. Believe me, my finger is pointed at myself on this one. I am just mentioning that I might not be the only person who should be doing that.

My intellectual and emotional priorities are more and more strongly telling me that I really need to be doing. Learning, creating, moving- it doesn’t matter what, really, as long as it’s doing. I’m happier that way, and more productive. The struggle is, how do I get the intellectual and emotional priorities to become action priorities? Like so many people, I have a day job. It’s easier than some, it’s harder than others, but it eats up 40 hours of my week and more than its fair share of brain cells. By the end of the day I’m tired. Like most people. I don’t have a permanent answer for this question, but I hope I will soon.

In an effort to find that answer, I have been expanding my blog-reading. Today, I stumbled across A Brief Guide to World Domination. It is written with a sense of humor, but it is also something that I intend to go back and read again. Several times. There was one part, though, that is currently sticking in my head. It’s the Ideal World exercise.

The short summary is that you think through your idealized, perfect day in great detail, beginning from what time you get up and what you have for breakfast all the way through what you do for each hour of the day and who you talk to. Then you begin to make plans to adjust your life to get closer to the perfect day you’ve designed for yourself.

As I was reading the summary about what you do when you get out of bed in the morning, a picture flashed though my mind. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t make it up, so I have to believe that it has at least a fair amount of truth to it. I saw myself rolling out of bed and into jeans so I could shuffle out and feed the chickens. (The mental picture was later amended to include feeding the horses. There will be horses.) Some people would probably see themselves rolling out of a bed with silk sheets in a mansion, or dressing in Armani, or even opening up their e-mail from a kid who could finally go to college. Me, I want chickens.

One of the other exercises is to immediately write down three things you can do now to work toward your goals. 1- Write to you. After all, part of being independent is to have your priorities in order. Maybe someone else can benefit from the musings in this post. 2- Dinner will be eaten with a gardening book instead of a movie. 3- Dinner will also be well-made and delicious. Intellectual priorities realized as action priorities.

What are your priorities? How well do your actions match what you want them to be? How do you go about getting them closer together?