Tag Archives: horses

I Can’t See You From Where I’m Standing

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I encountered a person yesterday with whom I *should* have common ground, but realized pretty quickly that I don’t. He had a team of Belgians in harness. Horse workers, horse people, the common ground here ought to be the horses. I met them, admired them, and mentioned that I’d done some work for the local draft-horse rescue/sanctuary.

“Those are trash horses” he said, immediately.
My eyebrows shot up into my hairline.
“They should all be at the kill pen.” he added.
The rest of the conversation went along the lines of what a waste of time it was that they have these horses who can’t work any longer, and how they ought to just be sent out for slaughter.

I got out of this conversation as soon as I possibly could, and went off to Ponder and Cogitate.

On a personal level, I take people where I find them.  I don’t often Judge, because even if someone has what I regard as an untenable position, it’s usually pretty easy to see how they might have arrived at this position, and why it makes sense. People are who people are.  This one, though, it really stuck in my craw.

Possibly because The Wonder Horse was obtained at an auction, and the other bidder was someone presumably there to collect future horse meat.  If my trainer hadn’t been there, hadn’t been paying attention, hadn’t been willing to take a chance, I wouldn’t be having any Wonder Horse.  The Wonder Horse would have been sent off in a trailer full of terrified, sick, old, lame horses to be penned up in a terrifying manner, and would have been slaughtered, with terror pouring through his brave heart.

Fuck that shit.

The more I thought about this guy and his perspective, the more I thought, and the more strongly I thought, exactly that:  Fuck that shit.  Fuck that asshole, and everyone like him.

I can understand having a professional relationship with horses.  I can understand not being able to afford to keep horses around that can’t help earn their keep.  Horses are expensive.  The only thing that is in their same league, as far as Pure Expensiveness, is kids.  They cost a bundle, and for someone who needs to earn their livelihood through the work of horses, I can totally understand that you can’t keep them if they can’t help pay.

But to state that at the point when they can no longer pay, they should be sent off and slaughtered, in fear and terror?  Fuck that shit.

What I wish I had the moxie to say to this guy is this:  Those horses give you everything. they. have. you asshole.  How dare you treat another living creature as if it was some kind of THING to use up, and then throw away when you’re tired of it, or it can’t give you any more.  It’s another being, with thoughts, and feelings, and a soul, and energy of its own.  A creature. Not a thing.  And you take everything they have, and when they can’t give you any more, you cast them off into the pit of hell.  Fuck that shit.

You can’t support an animal who has given you everything it had?  You find another home for it, you jerk.  And if you can’t find another home for it, it’s too damaged from your taking what it had to offer, or it’s too old, or too sick, you fucking get your vet out, and you fucking pay to have that animal euthanized in the security of its own home.  You don’t send it off to be frightened, and terrorized, and abused.  And you SURE as hell don’t talk a bunch of smack about people who are cleaning up after the mess you made by irresponsible treatment of your animals. Fuck that shit.

I don’t often judge, but after I thought about this guy, I realized I was more than happy to judge him and his ilk all the way down into the hands of satan.  If there is a satan.  You just don’t go around treating other living beings like trash.  I don’t give a damn what species they are.  You treat them with kindness, and sensitivity, and you treat them humanely.  You don’t throw them away when you’re done using them.  You don’t subject them to agony when they can’t make you happy any more.

There are words for this kind of behavior where I come from.  “Asshole” is the first one on the list, and it just goes downhill from there.  I don’t know that I’d actually be able to find enough words to reflect the degree of contempt and scorn I have for a subhuman life-form who could take this position.

Fuck that shit.

Hey Kids! Come Shoot Pool With The Viper!

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So we were in Denver last week for a conference.  The town is much improved beyond the last time I was there, about 25 years ago.  Now it is billing itself in some quarters, at least, as “The Napa Valley of Beer”.  At least, this is how it was advertised on the guided pub crawl we signed up for (itself, advertised as a “Walking Microbrewery Tour”).  We did get a fine introduction to ten different kinds of beers on the tour, as well as a decent introduction to places we might want to visit later – for the purposes of redeeming the “free pint” coupon that came with the tour, for example.

The place we chose to return to was the Wynkoop brew pub, which bills itself as the oldest brew pub in downtown Denver.  The concierge at our hotel billed the Wynkoop as the brew pub with the best food, and we’d already discovered a couple of their beers that we liked, so it sounded like a good idea.  I seized on the idea of ordering a flight, thinking that it would help me zero in on which beer I would like to get as my free pint.  Their offerings included one of the more…interesting and adventurous…beers I’ve encountered: a chili lager.  Now, I’ve had plenty of experience with lambics (cranberry, various other fruits) and I don’t like them.  Too much fruit flavor, too sweet, generally.  In recent months I’ve had a chance to try some of the newer fruit beers, which have typically been some kind of wheat (white) beer base with fruity essences laid on.  The 21st Amendment brewery has a SUPER watermelon wheat beer that I had courtesy of a very cool guy I met at the Mount Snow Winter Beer Festival in April.  The Salem Beer Works also has a terrific watermelon ale.  But the King of the group is unquestionably the Sea Dog Maine Blueberry beer.  We were in Maine last month with my friend Susan, who took one sip of that stuff and refused to drink any other beer for the rest of the week.  These fruit beers have a much lighter flavoring component, and one that plays a lot better with the underlying beer flavors, than do the lambics I’d experience before.

So my recent fruit-beer explorations favorably disposed me to the chili beer at Wynkoop, but still, I felt that I was not ready to commit to an entire pint.  The sample of that I received in my flight was enough to cause me to commit to a full pint, however.  It was absolutely delicious.  They have somehow managed to get all the flavor of the anchos and anaheims…without any of the heat.  Potent chili flavor without burning the tongue.  What a concept!

I was even more thrilled with the “logo” for the beer, and when I found out I could get it on a t-shirt, I just about went over the moon.  There isn’t a good rendition on the web – I wouldn’t make this available in the public domain, either, as it would certainly be stolen – but I think a verbal description will suffice.  Imagine a 40’s style pinup girl, with a curly blonde bob.  Now put her into a bright red cowgirl outfit consisting of hat, hot pants, long-sleeve shirt tied up over her belly, and cowboy boots.  Paste a Texas Beauty Queen smile on her face.  She’s riding something bareback, but it’s not a horse, it’s a big red chili pepper.  And she’s brandishing a whip over her head, but it’s a sheaf of wheat.  If you’re thinking “Sounds kind of cool, but I’m not sure it isn’t also extremely vulgar” you  have the right idea.  I loved it, and bought it, and I’d wear it out to the stable to ride in a flat second, except that Horse Camps are still going on, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of thing I ought to be showing to 10 year olds.

Speaking of camps, the table at the Wynkoop had a little card advertising upcoming events, mostly pool or billiards tournaments.  At my table, though, the back side of this card was turned to face the table…and what that side was advertising was Pool Camp, for kids.   Specifically, for ages 4-18.  You get your own pool cue, and the first hours of camp is spent decorating the cue.  It appears that the camp is being run by a woman whose professional moniker is “The Viper.”  Yes, you can send your grade-schooler off to  camp at the pub to learn how to shoot pool from The Viper.

This is not the kind of thing that one sees advertised in New England, and I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen anything like it advertised in Texas…and that’s saying a lot. I went off into Deep Thought about the sort of parent who would consider it a good thing to send their 10 year old to camp at the pub with The Viper.  What brought this to a stop was a mental vision of the Horse Camps.  I’ve been riding before Horse Camp all summer – I want to get in my lesson before the horses are utterly exhausted by the little girls – and I remember the first day of the first Horse Camp of the year.  I was cleaning my horse up, taking my time so I could check out the Horse Camp.  I never got to go.  I don’t even know if they had Horse Camp when I was a kid, but I do know if they had and I’d known about it, I would have been desperate to go.  Anyway, there’s my teacher standing in the ring hollering out instructions to the little girls on a variety of steeds. She was wearing a cowboy hat, a button-down shirt with the sleeves hacked off, a pair of shorts, and cowboy boots.  And I suddenly thought, what kind of parent sends their 10 year old to camp in a barn to get covered with manure and filth, to spend hours interacting with a living creature the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and notorious for having…somewhat unstable temperaments and prone to sudden and explosive reflex reactions to seemingly trivial and/or unidentifiable stimuli…guided by the kind of person who wears shorts with cowboy boots?  And yet, this all makes perfect sense to me.  I am sure, therefore, that there exists a population for whom Pool Camp with The Viper makes total sense.

All the same, I cannot resist imagining, with what delicious horror my New England friends would face such a prospect.

Here’s one of my absolutely favorite go-to recipes for August and early September. This one is adapted from the Rice Cooker Cookbook – an amazing treasure trove of things you can do with a rice cooker (available from Amazon, and totally recommended by  me):

2 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, chopped finely
6 ears of corn, kernels stripped from the cob
2 C of cold, cooked brown/wild rice blend
3 T of chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
a huge bunch of basil, chopped up (or if you are lazy, like me, cut into little strips with a pair of scissors)
salt and pepper

Heat the butter and olive oil in a whacking big skillet.  Saute the shallots until they start to soften.  Thrown in the corn kernels and saute until you can start to smell them, 5 or 6 minutes.  Add the rice and bust up any chunks, and saute another 5 minutes.  Dump in the sundried tomatoes and the basil, and heat everything through.  Salt and pepper it, and then go straight to heaven as you dine.

Sunset

While I'm thinking of the blueberry beer, here's a nice picture of Southwest Harbor in Maine. Yes, it really was that color.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring (and The Old Man Was Snoring all night long…)

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We are having what weather.com says is a “storm typically seen in the fall in New England”.  What this means, briefly, is that there is some cool front sliding across the area, and there is some low pressure zone off the coast, and these two things have combined to make days that are cool, damp, and very rainy.  It’s makes for a great atmosphere.  Get it?  A pun! Atmosphere!  hehehehehehe….

OK. Here are things I like about this kind of rain:

  • cooling things off.  That’s great because it had gotten bloody hot here for a good long while, and I say “bloody hot” as a Texan, not a local.  We were scoring highs above 100.  That’s nastier here than in Texas, because a lot of places don’t have air conditioning, and even more have, say, only one room of an entire house that is air conditioned.  It’s also nastier here because no one is acclimated – we didn’t get weeks of sticky 80s, followed by a month of ugly 90s, before hitting the triple digits.  Here it went right from a cool June, with highs in the 60s to blistering July, with heat indices well above 100.  The last nasty thing about high temps in this area is that no one knows what heat exhaustion looks like or how to deal with it.  Well, presumably the physicians do, but hardly anyone else does.  My riding teacher, for example, was well into her 3rd or 4th day of bad heat exhaustion, and thought she’d contracted a stomach bug or was having a hot flash.  People don’t recognize it.  They also, even if they understand that the heat can cause problems, figure that it is sufficient to drink lots of water.  I’m not going to argue with the idea that drinking lots of water is a good one, but at a certain point – and I know this from personal experience – it isn’t enough. Too much sweating and hydrating with nothing but water screws up your electrolytes or something.  I don’t know the exact physiology of this, but I do know that it is possible to get a very nasty case of heat exhaustion even while being heavily hydrated with H2O.  My personal rule after that very nasty experience was that if the heat exhaustion isn’t going away with water, or it’s going on for several days, you gotta switch to a sport drink.  Or salty coconut water, according to the New York Times, but only salty coconut water.  I think that educating people about heat exhaustion and heat stroke is why God kicks Texans out of Texas from time to time.
  • the things that have been cooled off are probably going to stay that way. I remember every summer in Texas people would fall victim, en masse, to the delusional hypothesis of The Rain That Cools Things Off.  It would be hotter than the pits of hell, and some cloud would make an effort to build up, and everyone would stare at it and start talking about how much they hoped for rain because it would Cool Things Off.  It was almost a hypnotic response.  And delusional, because I never met a summer rain in Texas that did anything other than make the pavement smell like iron and jack up the relative humidity by another 10%.  The only Rain That Cools Things Off in Texas of which I am aware is the stinging, pelting, hail-infested rain that comes from supercells that are boiling up as the advance unit of a Blue Norther.  Those things definitely Cool Things Off, probably a little too fast and a little too much…but Texas is SOL on that account for another 6 weeks, by  my reckoning.  And even then it won’t be a sure thing.  Here, on the other hand, I am reasonably confident that this spell of rainy weather means the end of the blistering heat, at least until next July.  It may get toasty warm again…for a day or two.  But not more than that.
  • the sound it makes on the roofline outside my window.  I didn’t get to experience that this time because it’s just a little too humid for me this time – it’s not hot, but there is a Limit to my willingness to have my feet stick to the hardwood floors as I walk…and to have to peel my exercise ball off the back of my legs when I stand up from working at the computer.  It does make a beautiful sound, and thanks to the bizarro Victorian rooflines of my house, I get to have that right outside the window instead of above my head.  It’s easier to hear when it’s right next to you.
  • it makes Buster spaz out.  He doesn’t do this with the Garden Variety Summer Cloudburst (unless it’s a real doozy, the kind the weather service issues alerts over).  But he reliably does it for big spring and autumn storm systems.  This weather causes him, for some reason, to shoot around the house at high speeds while making a noise like a fog horn.  The part I like the best is when he rockets full blast down the stairs from the third floor and tries to make a 90 degree turn into my study without slowing down.  There’s a throw rug on that landing, and he (I think) has developed enough of an understanding of physics to use the rug to slow his velocity and to assist in his change in trajectory.  This process leaves the rug wadded up in big ripples on the floor.  It is easy to identify his point of impact, and to reconstruct whether he tried to shoot down the stairs and turn, or whether he tried to rocket straight along the landing and whip the hairpin turn up the stairs.  Either way, it’s pretty funny.
  • the green color everything gets.  Except for the crabgrass, I don’t like it when the rain makes that turn green.
  • free carwash.  My wheels had become entirely filthy.  My very best efforts nothwithstanding, I am unable to keep the stable out of the car.  And I sure as heck am unable to keep the stable off of the car.

Here are the things that I do not like about the rain:

  • it’s not in Texas.  I hate it that my homeland is suffering in the grip of the worst drought this century.  I remember the horrible drought we had in 1998 when the farmers couldn’t make hay, and the pastures died, and the ranchers tried to feed bought hay, but it ran out, and then we all got to watch the cattle starve in the pastures.  I really, really hated that.  That affected absolutely everyone, too, even if you weren’t a rancher.  Forget trying to grow your own vegetables.  Forget having any flowers.  Forget cheap food.  It was awful.  And this year, I understand, it’s worse.  We flew to Denver for a conference last week and changed planes in Dallas.  It was a thoroughly depressing sight from the air – depressing enough that I hardly noticed getting smacked with temps over 106 on the jetbridge.  Everything was brown.  You could really see the lakes drying up.  Even the golf courses were brown – and when those get brown, you really know things are bad!  Getting rain here reminds me of the drought at home.
  • what it does to the tomatoes. We had a minor drought of short duration this summer, which is one reason I will only get 6 tomatoes from my Green Zebra plant this year.  The Sungolds have been going nuts (I almost shudder to think what those do when the weather is good for tomatoes…) even with the drought…which means that this sudden influx of rain (we had some last week while we were gone too) makes the tomatoes grow too fast and then they split open.  Which means they don’t last for long, and have a tendency to manufacture fruit flies if I bring them in.  I have dealt with this issue so far by simply eating them right off the plant as I find ripe ones.  I know, poor pitiful me…
  • it interrupts my Horse Time.  Horse Time is my favorite time (until winter, when it fights for ascendancy with Ski Time). Since I don’t have my own horse yet, Horse Time for me involves cleaning up someone else’s horse really well, then riding it with my teacher on the ground providing feedback, and then cleaning it up and putting it away.  I can’t do this when it’s too wet, because 1) it’s bad for the horse (slippery) and 2) it’s bad for the tack (leather).  So lots of steady rain puts a cramp in that.  If I had my own horse, I would probably go anyway and watch it eat.  There is a surprisingly gratifying charm in being in a barn that is full of horses that are chomping their breakfast, with rain on the roof.  Horses make an impressive amount of noise when they chew.  I would not be pleased if, say, my husband made that quantity of noise chewing – or even relatively that quantity – but as with so many things like dirt, muck, farts, and bad behavior, it’s different when it’s a horse doing it.  Fortunately for me, my teacher is a pretty flexible individual, so my Horse Time got moved to tomorrow afternoon, when this weather is supposed to be gone.
  • it makes me want to go back to bed, but I have to put in some work.  I’ve got a paper to review and some other administrivia to handle.  School is going to be starting soon, boo-hoo.  I like my students, I enjoy my job, but really, the main effect that taking time off has on me is to make me want more time off. I console myself with the knowledge that school starting means that I am only 3 1/2 months from getting to ski.  And the knowledge that Horse Time in the fall is probably going to be superb. Also, I have the corn mazes and the peak farm stand action of the year awaiting me after school starts.

Here’s another terrific soup recipe to celebrate the peak of the tomato season, happening right now (however “peaky” it may be). As usual, the provenance of this recipe is lost in the mists of time:

Tomato and Basil Soup
2 T olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
a bunch of fresh thyme leaves (be very generous with this)
2 T minced garlic
1 bay leaf
3 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled (I used heirloom tomatoes from the market, red ones, yellow ones, green zebras, orange ones, it make a beautiful effect!)
1¾ C chicken stock
1 C light cream
at least 4 T chopped fresh basil (I’m growing lemon basil this year, and the soup was insanely good with it!)

The way to peel tomatoes is to boil a pot of water – make it a small pot and work in batches, it saves time – and cut an X in the bottom of the skin of each tomato. When the water boils, drop one or two tomatoes in the pot. Stand by with a bowl of cool water. When you can see the skin split up to the top of the tomato, use a slotted spoon to pull it out and drop it into the cool water. Rub it, just a little, with your fingers and the skin will float right off. Don’t cook the tomatoes too long or they will, well, cook. This process is just to get the skins off.

Also, I find it saves a ton of time all the way around if I send those veg through my Cuisinart with the slicing blade, then drop in the chopping blade and pulverize everything into bits. Takes less time to cook, and WAY less time to puree later, and you get a WAY better consistency with the final product.

Heat olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat.  Add chopped vegetables; saute until beginning to soften (if you’ve pulverized things like I do, this is about 5 minutes worth of cooking). If you’ve chopped by hand and have bigger bits, it will take longer. Check the carrots to be sure.  Mix in the thyme, garlic, and bay leaf.  Add tomatoes, basil, and stock;  simmer 30 minutes or until all the tomatoes fall apart when you press them with your spoon.  Working in batches, puree soup thoroughly in blender.  Stir the cream into the pureed soup and season with salt and pepper (if you need any – a lot of time I don’t with this dish). Can serve this hot or cold.

Serves 8.

Jacuzzi

Sonoma