Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fun day at the barn!

I've been promising my lesson kids that we would have a "Pizza Fun Day" and we finally decided to have one on holiday monday last week. (It was Victoria Day here in Canada). I've been so busy that I've finally gotten around to doing a few posts!
We had all of the kids & their horses out to have a couple hours of pizza, cupcakes and games instead of their regular lesson. They had an absolute blast!

Mmmmm pizza!

Everybody getting warmed up, our little arena was FULL!

Explaining the rules of the "rotten tomato" game.... otherwise known as the "Egg & Spoon Race". I didn't have enough eggs, nor did I want to have smashed eggs all over the arena, so I improvised with some over-ripe rotten tomatoes I had sitting around.

Getting ready to play...

They were just doing too well, so I had to make it harder.... 2-point and don't drop your tomato!

And we did some "pole bending" relay races.

Musical stalls was the favorite game of the day! They absolutely loved this one!

And last but not least was the water glass race. I had to laugh how they all bunch up when they're concentrating on something else!

We'll definitely have to do another day of games!

I'm pretty impressed by the pictures my new camera takes inside the barn!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's branding time in Alberta!

With the spring weather & green grass it comes time to brand the new calves. A friend and her fiancee had their first crop of calves together this year and I thought it was pretty special so I tried to take lots of pictures.
The weather was miserable & raining but lots of people still turned out to help! It took us about 1.5 hrs to brand & vaccinate 75 calves. Normally we'd brand outside but due to the weather, we moved inside one of the big sheds on their farm. It worked out quite well and once everyone got to work wrestling calves, branding or giving vaccines, we warmed right up.

We had the calves on one side of the shed, the roper goes in to bring one out.

Under the watchful eye of their mama's standing outside.

These two were very interested and watching intently.

Two people hold the calf while it gets it's vaccines.

Just look at the size of that needle! Don't make her mad!

These are the branding irons being heated up.

And then in comes the branding iron.

We usually had two teams going at a time, one calf gets it's vaccinations while the other is branded and vice versa.

Even the little guys were helping out!

And making sure that spare horse didn't wander off.

Or just hanging out with dad watching.

There's the finished product. Branding is key to being able to keep track of your animals when they're out on pasture. Some community grazing associations have thousands of acres and thousands of cows on them. So you have to be able to quickly & easily identify which ones are yours.

And then out they go.

Back outside to find their mama's.

Once we were done it was time to head back to the trucks, take off our gear and head to the house for a big lunch.

Brandings are generally some hard work and a lot of fun. It's a great chance for friends, neighbors and family to get together and help each other out. Most are quite the social event!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What the HAIL!!!!

Well I'm glad that I haven't gotten too overzealous with planting yet because we had a pretty good hail storm this evening. There are piles of hail in the ditches and by the gutters of the house. :( Those pretty tulips I posted pictures of in my last post? Shredded to smithereens. I'm glad we got to enjoy them for a week anyways. The rest of my tulips are immature enough that their buds didn't get ruined. Some of the trees are missing leaves and luckily my peony's are sheltered enough they didn't get hit.

This is the un-fun part of gardening in Alberta. The weather can be so unpredictable. Our average "last day of frost" is May 23, I think I'm going to wait until June 1 at least to put my more tender stuff out.

And just in case of frost or more hail, I bought some heavy duty clear plastic to make a "lean-to" against the fence. The frost I can deal with but seeing your entire garden hailed out is so disheartening.

We usually don't get hail storms until August here. Today we had a really good thunderstorm that brought in the hail. 2 years ago we had such a bad storm there was tornados spotted and a huge portion of the Alberta farmer's had their crops absolutely smashed into the ground.

I hope this isn't a bad sign of how our summer is going to be!!

Progress & Flowers in the yard!!

We worked on building raised flower beds ALL last weekend and it took us a few nights this week to get them filled with soil. THREE loads of it and a LOT of shovelling!
My plan for this one is to put tomatoes here. I've started 4 different varieties of heritage tomatoes (Black Krim, Striped Paste, Ildi and Hawaiian Pineapple) to try this year. In past years I've only ever put tomatoes in pots on the deck, this year I'm upping the ante! This spot in the yard gets sun almost ALL day, so should be perfect. I've also got some gorgeous sunflowers & broom corn to plant along the back. Plus I'm going to put some nasturtiums and marigolds in and around the tomatoes.

This other bed is a bit more shaded in the afternoon but I think it will be good for lettuce, carrots, radish, cabbage and various other stuff. Plus I've got some really nice sweat peas that I'll put in the back for some extra color.
Very excited to get going on the gardening this weekend!

I also found some gorgeous hydrangeas. I've never seen them in these colors (I'm really not a fan of the blue ones). Aren't they pretty?

My tulips are finally blooming too. Well just a few at the moment. These are some new ones I planted last fall, I really like them.

And the viola's that I planted last year apparently re-seeded themselves and have gone a little crazy! They look pretty though (albeit a little messy). There are white lillies planted in there, so in the summer when they're blooming it should look quite nice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Uncertain times....

As many of you may have heard or may be experiencing in your area. In Alberta we are dealing with a case of "Neurologic Rhino" or EHV1 or Equine Herpes Virus. The "outbreak" started at a cutting show in Utah where several Alberta horses were present. They have no identified horses in Alberta & British Columbia that have tested positive for it and are under quarantine. I believe there is only ONE case in Alberta and TWO in BC.

Everyone is absolutely panic'ing about it and to be honest I'm a little fed up with all of the misinformation and half truths being spread around. A lot of people aren't really READING the information that's being put out, they're finding the worst case scenario tid bits and using to them to create mass hysteria.

After muddling through the information, here is what I know. EHV1 is normally a flu virus that presents itself as a runny nose/cough/fever. The vaccine prevents the respiratory version. However, in some horses the EHV1 is mutating and causing neurologic symptoms which *can* result in death. The vaccine doesn't protect against the neurologic strain.

A lot of people are peddling this virus as a guaranteed death sentance for horses if they get it, which is completely untrue. If you horse comes into contact with a horse that has EHV1, there is no guarantee that your horse will even get it in the first place. In the second place, if they do contract EHV1, there is no guarantee that it will mutate and cause neurologic symptoms. In the third place, if they *DO* get the neurologic symptoms, they can recover.

If your horse is not at a cutting or reining horse barn, you probably don't need to worry at all. I would say that if your horse is healthy and doesn't have a compromised immune system and has their regular vaccinations, you likely have even less to worry about.

Personally, I think the reason this disease is apparently so rampant & voracious is because a) It was at a national show with HUNDREDS of horses from across the continent and b) a lot of these horses are kept indoors 24/7/365, which IMHO is VERY unhealthy and can lead to a cough/COPD (ie compromised immune systems) from the ammonia build up in stuffy barns and are in heavy training so their bodies are stressed.

Some common sense will keep you safe. Stay at home if you are really worried. If you still want to show, have a look at the calendar before you go and see what other events the facility has held...anything with reiners or cutters, you may want to steer clear of for awhile. Take your own buckets, don't stable there if you don't have to and tie to your trailer vs. a common hitching rail. Don't hang out in between classes with other people/horses, take your's back to your trailer while you wait.

Thus far there are a LOT of barns here that are self quarantining for the next 3 weeks and a lot of shows are being cancelled or postponed. I say KUDOS to the barns/show officials for taking that precaution and having their priorities straight and trying to do their part to prevent the spread. Personally, I don't know what a 3 week quarantine will do, it doesn't seem like enough to really stop the "outbreak".

So I guess I may not get as much showing in as I had wanted to this summer, time will tell. I'm not too hurt about it because my pocket book will be happy! At the moment everyone is still unsure of the situation just yet, we will see what happens over the coming weeks. Perhaps Brigit will get kicked out for the summer at a friend's place to enjoy some grass again and I will spend more time in my garden. Either way, it will still be a good summer!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finally! Photos from our 1st Dressage show!

I hummed & I hawed about buying some photos of our first show, but since it was our 1st show sidesaddle, I should probably have some record of it! I wasn't sure about the photos because I'm not convinced I entirely like them, a) I really should have cleaned up Brigit's mane, b) I wish she wasn't so darn over-bent in so many of the photos. Oh well, she was relaxed, I'll take over-bent over "big-brown-giraffe"! LOL and c) I sure make some odd faces and am not the most photogenic when I'm concentrating (or out of breath for that matter! lol)

All rights to Briarwood Photography for taking the photos. You can see all of the photos here...

Here are the ones I chose to get. (If the links don't work - you may have to sign up to view, the photo numbers are 1045, 1049 and 1055)

I also am convinced my habit looks a little frumpy on me. Time to save my pennies for an upgrade!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's officially spring in Alberta when....

You see these beauties blooming on the native prairie. They're always the first wildflowers to bloom and this year they're really thriving! Some fields are absolutely purple with all of the flowers. They're called "Crocus" or "Pasque-flower".

I splurged and bought a new camera today. It's a Fujifilm Finepix S2950. Not quite an SLR but definitely a few steps above my little blurry point & shoot. I'm having so much fun learning all of the things it can do! It takes videos (Yay sidesaddle videos!), it can do panorama shots (wish I would have figured that out while I was looking at the field of crocus today!), it'll take a rapid series of photos (6 photos/second) which will also be handy for riding shots, it's good inside/outside/dark & light, has a stability feature and even has BLINK detection! How the camera figures out when someone is going to blink I'll never know! You can also choose your own ISO & Aperature but I'm a ways off from knowing how to work that. Thus far I'm super happy with it! It's been a fun day playing with it.

And the best part! It was on sale!

Monday, May 9, 2011

I found a......

stainless steel food mill at the local hardware shop of all places! Home made tomato sauce here I come!!!

Too many......PLANTS!

Aka... I got carried away when starting stuff this spring.

I started 2 types of pumpkins (4 of each) and 2 types of squash (6 of each) and now they're taking over my basement!

I guess I really expected a poorer germination percentage and that some plants wouldn't make it this far... I was wrong! Luckily other people have spoken for my "leftovers" and they'll all have homes.

I picked one of each pumpkin and one of each type of squash and put them in bigger planters so they'll be ready to head outside when the weather is finally ok to put vegetables outside (prob not till end of May).

Not to mention the cabbage and various other things I've got growing in the kitchen window.

Our house has really been taken over by plants (I think I need a plant intervention!) on the floor, on the kitchen table, a tray full of coleous (sp?) in the bathtub.... It's starting to resemble the enchanted forest! lol

I love spring!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yard projects - aka spring is finally here!

I pulled a LOT of weeds today. Urgh. The grassy weeds and lawn that tries to creep into my flower beds drives me nuts. But it sure was fun to see what's coming up, spring is definitely here!

Some little pansies are blooming already. Hardy little things they are!

Aside from tulips, these little iris' are my favorite in the spring.

And I can't get over how many tulips there are in the front bed this year! We separated & spaced them out in the fall but I wasn't sure how many would actually come up. It's going to be gorgeous when they all bloom!

I'm happy to see my peony's are coming back with vigor. As are the lupines which self seeded themselves last year; there will be LOTS this summer. This bed is really protected, almost too much so and it doesn't get as much moisture so I always worry about it drying out and the plants dying but these ones seem to do well and spruce up an otherwise boring corner of the house.

The back yard involved a LOT of sod pulling. We bought a hot tub (YAY!) and now we need somewhere to put it. We pulled up sod (now on my list of least favorite jobs! lol) and took the railing off the deck. The plan is to put the hot tub on the ground and build a bigger deck. It was exciting to get it started!

And this year I've decided I want to grow vegetables but as you can see from the pics, we live in town and don't have the hugest yard. A square vegetable patch isn't the best option so we're going to put raised beds along the fence. Originally we just had a flower bed in the corner of the yard.

On my wish list is a garden shed with a planting bench & a small lean-to greenhouse off the side... I think we'll worry about the deck and planters first! lol

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Too many.... TOMATOES! (never!)

Friday they were taking down the tomato vines in the college greenhouses and they were still chalk full of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. The tomato lover in me just couldn't see them go to waste..... So I asked if I could pick them.... Well me and my rubbermaid bin grabbed as many as I could carry.

Now to wait for them to ripen so I can try out the tomato sauce recipe from SmartAlex's blog!

I'm really looking forward to home made sauce! YUM! I've already eaten a fair share of the really ripe tomatoes and they are delish! (lucky for me, my SO hates raw tomatoes... more for me!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Mane Event 2011

I'm back and I survived! Actually I did more than just survive, I had a great time! But I'm not going to lie, I was exhaused last night!

Thursday evening involved a lot of this...
But our booth was looking pretty good when we were done. Now to wait for everyone else to arrive with their saddles.

Friday morning I got up good & early (watched a few royal wedding highlights of course!), went to the barn and decided against giving Brigit a full bath. It was ROTTEN outside, rain which turned to snow a little later on. Poor Brigit was soaked and shaking when I brought her in. So I just washed her legs with warm water and left her to dry in a stall with a nice pile of hay. Ran home to pack & finish ironing and then we were back to the barn to grab Brigit and my tack and we were off!

The Expo opened at 11:00 am so we had to be there before then to finish getting the booth set up. I was initially worried that we wouldn't have enough stuff for our booth but it ended up turning out really well, don't you think?
The two lovely ladies in this pic are Betty-Lynn and Amanda. I really don't think I could have pulled this off without them! Betty-Lynn makes sidesaddles and Amanda is a newcomer to the world of riding aside. We had saddles dating back to the 1700's.... Now that I think of it... Why didn't I take more photos of the saddles!! Darn.

Actually, after looking at the photos my camera took, I'm going to be purchasing a new camera very soon. This one seems to be wearing out and as you'll notice, most pictures are out of focus. How frustrating!

Anyways, we had a lot of fun answering questions and showing people what an apron was and how we wore it. It was great to have a saddle for people to try sitting in. We started a tally sheet on friday to count how many people tried sitting in the saddle. I believe we ended up with well over 200 people and probably 1/4 of those (ok maybe a tiny bit less) were men!

Friday involved a LOT of running around here and there to grab things we'd forgotten, man the booth and in the afternoon Betty-Lynn (who did the talking), Charis and I (we did the riding) had a demonstration in the round pen. I wasn't sure what Brigit would think of it but she did well.
On our way to the demo a friend of mine snapped this pic.

Betty-Lynn brought a bunch of saddles over to the round pen to use them in her talk about the progression of sidesaddles.
Then it was back to the barn to untack, change and man the booth some more. I have to say, I wish the hours weren't quite as late, we were exhausted by the end of each day. Friday the tradeshow ended at 9pm, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 6pm. All that time and we barely even got to do any shopping! (ok I did some... hellooooo plaid breeches! hehe). I think I watched maybe 5 minutes of the Greg Best clinic, wish I could have seen more!

Saturday was another busy day but we had reinforcements come in!
From left to right is Jim, me, Betty-Lynn, Lee, Karen and Caitlin. Missing from the photo is Matt (our picture taker), Charis and Holly.

There was so many people on saturday! I couldn't get over how busy it was. On one of my trips in and out, I walked by a booth that had gloves for 50% off. I've been looking for a pair of nice brown gloves for FOREVER and finally found some here! What a deal!

In the afternoon we had another demo but this time it was in the big ring. Lee had done a write up and she graciously read it while we rode. Betty-Lynn let me wear her black habit, isn't it nice?

Here we are, headed for our afternoon demo. Charis on Peppy, Caitlin on Eddie and me on Brigit.
Pardon the blurry pics, I'm so annoyed with my camera! I hope some better pics turn up.
Caitlin went in her western outfit.
Charis rode in her queen's outfit.
And me in the black formal habit.

We tried to add some humor to our demo, so Charis & I rode in, while Caitlin ran in on foot leading her horse. When she went to try to mount by herself, Lee said "Ladies never mount from the ground!", so Caitlin whistled and her boyfriend came running in to put her up. It was definitely a crowd pleaser! We had a lot of fun showing off (especially our leg yields and lead changes). It was so hot in there that we were all out of breath after 8 minutes of riding!

Saturday night we had another demonstration during the "Saturday Night Equine Experience" as they call it. They put on a big show about 1.5 hrs long to show off different horses and ways of riding etc and the stands & floor space is usually packed. There had to be over 1000 people there watching! This was our 3 minutes of fame! It was just Caitlin and I so we devised a bit of a pattern and rode to "The Twist" by Chubby Checker. Everyone was impressed by our flying lead changes and we really got the crowd going when we let our horses gallop around the ring. It was really neat to hear that many people cheering as we raced around!
Unfortunately ALL of the pictures from my camera our evening performance were blurry.

We had so many people come by the booth the next day and comment on how impressed they were and how much they enjoyed watching us ride! I think the funniest comment was from one lady who said "That was really neat to watch... They didn't even look scared!". LOL

I think we did incredibly well for this being our first time having a booth, it definitely caught people's eye and generated a lot of interest.

Sunday we got to sit back and just watch the booth and do a little bit of shopping here and there. It was nice not to have to ride, we were all tuckered right out.