Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Down by 14, remaining steady on 3 and 4

It seems our excitement about 14 new mouths to feed was premature.... Our ducklings are all gone! One day they were here, then they were gone.

Wayne had seen them waddle up to the 'feeding area' with the parents one day and then they were never seen again. We thought they might have moved away cause the mothers were out of sight as well. But then the mothers returned... without ducklings.

Wayne saw one little guy swimming on the dam, right up against the reeds. We figure now he was trying to stay invisible. The general consensus around here is that the crows or hawks got the ducklings.

We're devastated.

On a positive note, everyone else is doing fine. The crows haven't got them!

Dancer is turning into a very affectionate little girl. She comes up to greet us when we get home after work and always wants a pat and her butt scratched. Incidentally, that butt is getting bigger!

The boys are both hanging around for attention in the afternoons too. Ben seems to be recognising me as his person now, unless there's food involved, in which case he'll just follow the closest bucket. We spend a bit of time together most afternoons, either just hanging out in the paddock giving eachother kisses (ok, ok, I confess, its mostly me giving him kisses!) or working together in the half-done round yard or at the box.

Did I mention I have box in the middle of the paddock? Its my 'mounting block' and my job has been to get him used to it so that when the time comes to use it to mount him he wont freak out. So I take out a brush and stand on the box and brush him, leaning over his back, walk up to and over the box, jump off it in front of him, make noise on it, etc. I think he's come to think of that box as his safe place! Yesterday he got away from Wayne when they were working without a rope and he headed off to the box where he stopped and looked at me as if to say "Mommy, come save me!"

Turns out I'm good at handling, loving up and desensitising animals to things. After all, I'm good at grooming reluctant dogs. What I'm not good at is handling rope, whips or getting a horse to lunge. I'm forever getting tangled up in rope (trying Wayne's patience) and Ben is forever testing me out cause he just doesn't seem to take me seriously when its time to work.

The dogs are all great. Montana and Romeo look incredible in their short trims, more like twins than mother and son. I love looking at them. Barney is a little brat, he's through a door before you even know he's in the vicinity. Sometimes he's so fast going through any open door that he ends up locked up in sheds. Stupid dog. Mischa is still hesitating at the door. "Are you sure I can come in? Really?"

Other than that, all is going well. Wayne's finished the floor in the casita. We can walk across it now without having to balance on joists. Now I think it needs a coat of primer/undercoat and a topcoat of something water resistant. I can't wait to clean out and deck out my workshop part of the casita. I have so many projects in my head I want to get on with.

The garden is starting to come together. Not so much the actual garden... rather my potted plants. I've repotted the 21 lavenders into larger pots till I have the ground ready for them to go in. I have started the spots for the hydrangeas but according to advice, I need to put them a bit further from the wall of the house than I'd originally planned. So it will be a couple of weeks till I have the time to prepare a wider bed for them.

I've chosen the colour I want to paint the house. I saw a house in the city which I just love. Mind you, the style of house is gorgeous where ours is a plain farmhouse, but the colour is just what I wanted for here. So I put a note in their letterbox asking what colour they'd used and they emailed me. How great is that? I now have sample pots of those colours and another I saw when I was searching. I just need to find the time to paint one window frame in Antique White USA and then paint sample swatches around it to make a choice on the timber colour. Then I'm all set to paint the house! :) Just don't hold your breath. Its a BIG job.

Its all a matter of slowly working on things and one day this place will be gorgeous. I mean, its already home and we love it, but one day it will be pretty to look at as well!

Its been a very long, hot and tiring day. I'm glad I'm home, surrounded by my family. Now if only the TV would work properly...


Monday, 21 November 2011

Snot rags

What is it with country blokes and their hankies?*

(Translation for you non-aussies out there: What is it with country men and their handkerchiefs?)

I mean really... What is it about a bloke that makes him want to keep his snot, carrying it in his pocket with him everywhere?

Do they have a good blow, look at it and think "Ooh, thats a goodie. Think I'll hold on to that one"?

Ok... I do understand that a guy working out in the fields can't carry a whole box of tissues with him and that livestock might laugh at him if he carried a man-bag. But how about stuffing all available pockets with handfuls of tissues and keeping a box (or five) in the ute (truck) for extra snot requirements?

Some people say its like cloth nappies (diapers)... its good for the environment to recycle stuff. I say bollocks (bullsh#t).Tissues are, from what I know, veritably biodegradable, so littering the countryside with them won't really harm the environment in a lasting way the way beer cans and cigarette butts do... and quite a few blokes have no trouble tossing them out. So why not use tissues?

I've heard the arguement (won't say where, but the name begins with 'W' and ends with 'ayne') that tissues fall apart and you end up sticking your fingers into the mess. 

Well, they make tougher 'man sized' tissues these days. Tough enough to handle a manly amount of snot.

I think the whole idea of the hankie is disgusting. I go to do a wash and find bunched up, crunchy snot rags in pockets. I pull them out by the teeniest corner, careful not to touch the things any more than I need to, then toss them in the wash.

Then I think "Ewww. I dont want to wash my clothes with snot" so I divide the washing into delicates, whites, coloureds and filthies. You can guess where the hankies go!



We have ducklings! On Saturday morning Wayne went onto the front porch to drink his coffee (he loves sitting there looking over the dam and the view) and he rushed back inside to get me. There was a flotilla of ducklings on the dam! They're tiny cute little fluffballs. A few dark ones and a few light ones.

We were thinking they were all part of one batch given that we knew one duck was sitting on eggs near the dam. However yesterday I went out to have another look and there were 8 ducklings in the dam with one duck and another 6 on the embankment with another duck!

There are currently12 new additions to the dam population.

I know you cant really see them in the photo, without a good zoom its hard to get up close enough to them to get decent photos. They are the specks in the water.

Things have been quiet at WindDancer Farm.

The boys are doing well. Wally is now officially fat. Wayne's at a loss. He's had horses all his life, but being in South Australia, he's never had the problem of TOO MUCH grass. He's always had to worry about hard feeding horses cause there was no grass.

Ben has gained weight too, losing the ribby look he had when we got him. He's also rounding off a bit around his butt which was all angles. When you look at Wally and Ben in the paddock, trotting side by side, its incredible how different they look. They're put together entirely differently. Wally is a quarter horse x thoroughbred and is pretty well rounded at the rear. Ben has the square butt of a standardbred and a shorter back.

Here we have grass up to our eyeballs. We're more concerned about the horses getting too much green and foundering. A totally new concept for a South Australian.

I've been working with Ben almost every day. Mostly its a mix of things like round yard work, lifting his legs (for my benefit, not his), messing around with his nose which he doesn't like much, grooming him and teaching him small things like 'stand' and 'come up' and stuff like that.

The saddle's been in to be fixed. When Wayne took it off a couple of weeks ago he didn't have to undo the girth. The points had snapped on one side. It now has all new points, stock double points. (Thats the straps which are on the saddle to which you buckle the girth - thats the strap that goes around the horse's stomach. I can see Diane going cross-eyed at this point).

Anyway, we got the saddle back, bought a 30in girth and got home all excited... And the girth was too small! Since the guy we got the girth from (a saddler) didn't have any bigger girths he's making us one. Thats put a stop to working on backing Ben. (putting weight on his back for you non-horse people).

All I can say is I'm glad I wasn't on Ben's back when the point snapped!

I've been getting Ben used to walking up to and standing next to a big box in the paddock. Its there for 2 reasons: to allow us to stand up alongside Ben and lean over him, to allow us to get onto him first time without bouncing around on the stirrups, and to allow me to get onto a horse I have to look up to.

He sure feels bigger now, the closer I get to getting onto his back!

I always wanted a big horse, didn't I? Don't they say be careful what you wish for or you might get it?

Dancer is going well. She came up to me the other day and nuzzled me and let me touch her for quite a while. She's so pretty, very elegant on the move.

Isn't it funny... I realised the other day that my posts are now more about horses than about poodles! The poodles are still a HUGE part of my life. I clipped Montana and Romeo this weekend and gave them a wash and I love them clean and bright white. I love the look of two white standard poodles together. They are such beautiful dogs. I can't get enough of watching them, looking at them and touching them. When I sit down I feel like my hands seek them out, its like a security blanket or a sensory addiction.

So, though I may write about chickens, horses, ducks and pumps, trust me. The poodles are the centre of my universe.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Thistle breath does it again

We've had a pretty action-packed week. It all started when I went to water the vegie patch and found the taps were dry.

Now, let me explain. We're on rainwater here, but we're lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on which way you look at it) to be sitting on top of an underground spring. Our dam is spring fed so it never runs dry, we have a bore to pump water into a tank for watering stock and plants, and our lawn never entirely dries out cause the spring seems to run directly underneath it.

So, when the bore water tank turned out to be dry my first thought was that Wayne had forgotten to fill it up on the weekend (long story... among all the pump/water challenges we've had, the bore water tank stop valve was malfunctioning so we decided to over-ride it and fill the tank by turning it on manually).

Anyway... naturally, being the caring sharing partner that I am, I instantly lay the blame on Wayne. Of course he swore he had filled the tank the day before. So where did all the water go?

He suggested it was Wally's fault. Ever since we got Dancer and put her in the paddock opposite, the boys have started to hang around near the water trough like any teenage boys hanging out on a corner trying to look cool. Other than staring longingly at the new girl, there's not much to do over there. They munch a bit of grass, they gnaw on some old bits of wood, posture trying to look tough, and they play with the float in the water trough.

I scoffed. No way could Wally's bouncing the float cause the entire tank to run dry!

So we filled it again and sure enough, next day it was dry again.


We filled it again, turned the tank tap off and checked next day. Yep, still full.

Ok. Time to get down to business.

Wayne got into CSI mode and went out to look at the tank. The float had taken a bashing but was still working. However, as he investigated things started to look bad. Very bad.

Somehow (and I blame Wally, Ben is entirely innocent) the horses had kicked the pipe going into the trough and broken it so that it no longer connected with the wall. In other words, water was going into the tank to replace the water the horses slopped over the edge when they splashed around... but it was also running down the outside and seeping into the soil. So it was pouring out in a steady stream.

Wayne locked the boys out of that paddock and was soon up to his shoulder in trough water, up to his knees in mud (again) and up to his neck with the whole pump/water/trough/horse ownership thing.

He worked on that thing all day on Saturday. The result is a tank that actually has water in it for longer than 24 hours, a trough which could give Alcatraz a run for its money, and two very confused horses who's toy has been taken away.

Two boys who were back in that paddock without either of us opening the gate. SOMEONE has learned to open gates...

Meanwhile, Dancer is coming along nicely. She still won't come to me and she's a bit too free and easy with her back legs for me to force my company on her. She'll come to me and sniff but won't stay if I reach out. So I don't reach out. I want her to want me to touch her.

Yesterday Wayne and I were looking at her tiny paddock thinking its time to give her a bit more space. An hour later she was in the big paddock.Turns out Wally and Ben aren't the hoodinis round here!

Ben is doing great. He's lunging well on both reins now, better for Wayne than for me of course. I just feel useless at times, but I persevere. Wayne's been building a round yard so things will be easier... I hope!

Yesterday was an eventful training session. We lunged him for a while, him testing me out and seeing what he could get away with with me and behaving well for Wayne. Then Wayne stood on an old barrel and I led Ben up to him so we could mess around with him in a different way.

Wayne swears he told me to 'step aside' cause he was going to jump off and Ben would no doubt startle... I heard 'step to his side'...

I stepped to Ben's side.

Wayne jumped.

Ben jumped.

Onto my foot.

I landed in a mass of thistles.

I had a bruised foot and thistles on my butt.

I put ice on my foot and indulged in some self pity, but I'm fine today. At least the foot's fine. Bruised and a bit sore to touch, but working as you'd expect a foot to work.

Ah. The joys of horse ownership!


Saturday, 12 November 2011

The new girl on the block

Our family is growing.

On Monday morning a new girl arrived at Wind Dancer Farm!

She's a 2 year old warmblood x anglo arab filly. She came with the name Dash but we've named her Dancer in honour of Darby, Wayne's heart horse. Hopefully she will win Wayne's heart in the same way Darby did.

Dancer has had a lot of bad luck in her short life. Her previous owner (Miss Nice) bought her from someone as a yearling. She was neglected and thin. Miss Nice loved her and cared for her, planning to train her as a jumper, but circumstances changed and she decided to sell her to someone who would give her love and training she'd need to reach her full potential. A friend of hers from work wanted to buy Dancer so she went there to live. Money didn't change hands at the time, but 6 months later when Miss Nice asked for payment, the friend said she'd changed her mind. She didn't want her any more.

Meanwhile Dancer had been neglected. Again. She had lice, she'd lost condition, she was spooked by children jumping at her, making her shy and nervous. It was heartbreaking to Miss Nice and to us. We went to see her anyway as Wayne was taken by the idea of her. He'd always said he wasn't interested in bringing along a new horse, but for the right one he'd consider it. I think Dancer is the right one.

When we went to see Dancer, Wayne worked with her a bit and I could see her respond to him. In my gut I believed we should have her. I think Wayne felt the same but wanted my support to commit to such a big, long term project.

Dancer is gorgeous. She's only small at the moment, more like a yearling than a 2yr old. She travelled well and arrived with a minimum of stress. She's currently in a small (very green) paddock and a small yard. She and the boys are spending all their time looking at each other over the fence.

Speaking of the boys... grrr. Yesterday afternoon Wayne went out to work Ben. I was at work till late. Well, he called the boys over, they came about halfway then turned around and went back to where they could see Dancer.

Come feeding time they ignored Wayne again. No dinner last night.

No breakfast this morning.

Its not like they'll starve. I think our paddocks could feed a herd of buffalo for a year right now. But its the principle of the thing! We need the boys to pay attention to US, not just moon over Dancer. Ben is still in training and he needs to be worked. We cant have him slacking off like this!

I'm glad we've got Dancer. I feel she home now, we'll love her and care for her and give her stability and discipline and teach her to be a companion, friend and good horse.

But I also wonder at why we can't leave well enough alone. Wally and Ben were going well, coming when called, doing their work... I was bonding with Ben, teaching him what I would and wouldn't put up with. Things were starting to fall into place. Routines were set.

Then we go and introduce a new horse. Another horse to work, another one to care for. Are we insane? Do we really need MORE to do?