Just a Western Girl in a Hunter World

As I lay here this morning plagued by sore muscles that are seriously impeding my ability to start my day I can’t help but wonder if I have completely lost my ever loving mind.  You see, I’m no quitter.  I’ve never been a quitter.  When I set my mind to something nothing can deter me from my goal.  But today, lucky to be able to move my fingers enough to type I can’t help but wonder if my stubborn will to succeed will be my undoing.

Nearly two years ago I purchased Keno to be my show horse.  I already had a horse, so I was able to pull off the second horse by convincing my husband that “he needed a horse so we could ride together.”  You see, he likes the horses…ok, so maybe he merely tolerates them.  He simply does not understand what drives a otherwise normal person to sacrifice so much time and money for a giant bag of hair that does nothing but drain the bank account.  Even though he does not understand why, he does know that they fill a spot in my soul that has otherwise been vacant since saying good bye to horses when I left the ranch so many years ago.  Even though he saw right through my “you need a horse too” scam, he agreed that Keno should join our family and my two spotties became a little herd.

Keno was a challenge from the start.  He was very insecure and at times overwhelmingly scared of life.  I picked him a trainer I thought could see us through to the show ring while making him “husband safe”.  Long story short, after 10 months of training, Keno was not ready for the show ring any more than he was husband safe.  I took him to Melinda Corigliano, owner of Dream Meadow Arabians, a show trainer who had done wonders with my daughter in hopes that she could teach me to ride this horse whom I had placed all my Western Pleasure hopes and dreams.

It didn’t take real long to realize that my hopes and dreams with Keno as I knew them would have to change.  He was not a western horse.  Keno is very forward and “go-ey”.  Not exactly a quality among those who do well in western pleasure.  I had a decision to make.  Keep Keno and school him as the hunter he is, sell him, or relagate him to the ranks of pasture pet that gets ridden occasionally.

It was not a decision that I took lightly, and frankly it wasn’t a decision I wanted to make at all.  Why couldn’t he just be trained to carry himself western?  Couldn’t I just learn to ride that big floaty trot and make it look like a western jog? 

Aside from not being the western horse I had hoped he would be, he also has a big giant personality.  He is so funny and quirky.  It is really hard not to love him…most of the time.  But then there is what I call his assaloosa side.  He isn’t dangerous, but he is a jerk.  He is smart as a whip and figures things out very quickly.  But, unlike many smart horses who learn so they can be left alone, Keno learns so that he can then try to figure out his own way of doing things. 

We have been with our new trainer for a year now.  In that time Keno went from a stressed out mess who was so unpredictable under saddle that he was scary to a Keno who is so predictable it is scary.  Our typical day with Keno involves him fighting through his warm up (a series of exercises to warm up his body and get his mind right for the lesson ahead), about 10 to 15 minutes of NO.  If you have much experience with Appaloosa’s then you know how expressive their eyes are, Keno’s eyes during this time are basically flipping off the world.  He goes through a few minutes of screw you just about every day.  Once he is warmed up and his screw you switch is turned off then you can get to the task at hand for the day.  

Knowing this about him makes the idea of riding hunt seat all the more terrifying! I mean, I am reasonably secure and balanced in the safety of a big old western saddle with a nice horn to hang on to if his “screw you” takes a drastic turn.  A hunt saddle is nothing more than few small pieces of leather sewn together over a bit of padding.  There are two stirrups (called irons…don’t call them stirrups English riders are always quick to correct you on that mistake) that are attached to the sewn together leather by a small strap of leather.

If I know the peril that I face in making the transition from western to English on a horse who is predictably a jerk for 20-30 minutes of each ride then why in the hell would I, a relitively sane person, put themselves into that position.  I have always said that horse people are a very special brand of crazy and I am no exception.  You see, I had plans for Keno.  I bamboozled my husband to get him.  I dreamed of all the blue ribbons we would win.  And like I said in the very beginning, I am no quitter!

So, here I am.  A western girl trying desperately to find her way in an english world.  I have to admit that the obligatory attitude that Keno has to work through at the beginning of every ride has made for some serious nerves.  I am not necessarily afraid of him.  You see, his attitude is just that….attitude.  He isn’t dangerous or unpredictable.  He does what is asked of him.  He just needs to check your level of commitment to being his leader.  He likes being the leader and each time he hopes that you will decided that today is the day that he gets to make all the decisions.  Sadly, that day has never come for Keno and if I have anything to do with it, it never will.  He may be my partner, but I will always be in charge.

While I know that I am in charge, I do admit that the idea of going toe to toe with him in an English saddle is enough to make me lose sleep!  How can I school him in those moments of “screw you I am doing this my way” when I feel like I can barely keep him between me and the ground.  

Have you ever been in the grocery store with your child and they begin to throw a temper tantrum?  Did you immediately feel as though you couldn’t actually discipline them for their completely outrageous behavior because you didn’t want to be judged by your fellow shoppers?  So instead you try and reason with the unreasonable human you created when what you really want to do is scoop them up and give them a big swat on the behind?  Well, Keno is that unreasonable child and my English saddle is the judgy fellow shoppers.  The thing stopping me from setting firm boundaries with my temper tantrum throwing toddler.

I am not sure if it was the single beer I drank before stepping foot into those irons, or the fact that I was already tired from a long day or that I am finally finding balance and confidence in that teeny tiny little saddle. No matter what the reason, last night I scooped up my rotten toddler and whooped him right on the bare ass….metaphorically speaking of course!  

While I was trying my best to find the correct diagonal and control his direction and speed, I became increasingly frustrated.  Why does he do so good with the trainer and then acts like I am speaking to him in a foreign language?  It was 5 little words that I have heard over and over, but last night I actually “heard them”.  He’s taking advantage of you. Wait, it isn’t that he doesn’t know what I am asking…he is actively avoiding doing it?  That bastard!!  I thought we had this relationship of you take care of me and I’ll be sweet to you?  Just like the toddler in the grocery store knows that mom won’t blister his hide in front of witnesses.  Keno knew that as long as I was unsure of my ability to handle the twists and turns that come from schooling a horse who wants to make his own rules in an English saddle that he could basically do what he wanted and I was along for the ride no matter how frustrated I was…he was in charge.

When it sunk in that he was actively defying me, I decided right then and there that riding this horse with all his quirks meant that I had to buck up.  I had to realize that each ride in that little piece of leather is better than the last.  I had to take comfort in the fact that I didn’t nearly fall off one time…yet.  I had to decide.  I can either find a way to get comfortable schooling Mr. Tantrum Throwing Toddler or I needed to find a horse who could at least meet me half way in this journey to be a better rider.

Have I mentioned that I am no quitter?  Nope, all it took was to realize that just like my toddlers throwing a public temper tantrum thinking they can get away with it, Keno was going to meet a new confident rider in me that night.  The schooling was on.  I’d ask for softness and collection and then I would expect that he keep it.  If he couldn’t keep it then we would circle until he would soften and then back on the rail.  It was a very long process of mere moments of beauty followed by a lot of rounding and softening.  The one thing I can say about this big spotted toddler is that he doesn’t like to give up a fight!  He and I continued in this dance until I was cramped from my lower back to the tips of my toes!  

When we were done, he had a complete change of attitude.  He was soft and relaxed and it was a great time to call it a night.  I don’t for a second believe that this one time will change his approach to arena work, but I certainly know that he will no longer be taking advantage of me in my English saddle!

They say, “Some horse will test you, some horses will teach you and some horses will bring out the best in you.”  I believe Keno is the horse to do all three.  He is not an easy horse, he often won’t even meet his rider half way, he has to have an opinion about every single thing, but he is a great horse.  I believe with all that I have that one day I will look back on how far we have come and know that it was all worth it.  I don’t know if we will win any blue ribbons, or if we will just be content to hack out on the trail (see that fancy English riding term I used there?). What ever the future hold for Keno and me, I know that I am up to the challenge and because he isn’t one to back down from a challenge either I know we will make it.

There’s No Crying in Horse Shows

It is unusual for me to write two blogs in one day, but I felt compelled to do so because each subject needed to be explored and addressed independent of each other.  My last post was pretty much me-centric but with this post I want to talk about that person behind the scenes who does her best to hold the shit show that is my show career together while working her tail off so that I don’t embarrass myself in the quest for a fifty cent ribbon.  Even though this is about my trainer, I am sure that this applies to all show trainers out there.  

As you may or may not know, I am a real estate agent.  My job is to sell houses.  My job is not baby sitter, emotional counselor, fortune teller, or sorcerer capable of making people love your home, yet these are often the expectations.  The part I struggle with most are the basket cases that are on the phone the second a buyer has left their home asking if I have received feedback.  “Of course I haven’t gotten feedback, psycho, they haven’t left your driveway yet” is what I desperately want to say.  Instead I grab a shot of fireball and say, “Not yet dear, but honestly how can they not love your home?  I will certainly let you know the second I get feedback.”  While I fully understand the stress that leads normal people to become insecure, impatient, and demanding emotional wrecks, I really struggle dealing with irrational emotional psychosis.  I tell you that not to slam my clients, but to admit that I am not much different.

I am very new to having a “show trainer”, in fact I was perfectly happy on my big barely broke spotty tooling around the show ring coming in last and extatic on those rare occasions we actually beat someone…..so excited!!  Our biggest accomplishment was winning the Non-Pro Walk Trot High Point at the local Appaloosa Breed and Open Show.  As it turns out, thanks to a tangle with a barbed wire fence my big spotty is now permanently retired.  

It was my little spotty that lead me to this show trainer thing.  He was in training because a previous trainer had made him all but impossible to ride and I wanted him in the show ring especially since my big guy was done.  I had no idea that a show team was even a thing, but I figured if I was paying for professional show training then it might be a good idea to have some kind of guidance at the shows as well.

So, here we are a year later and with horse that is trying his level best to be that show horse I wanted.  It was our breed show last weekend that made me take good long look at myself.  

You see, being a horse trainer is not all that different from being a real estate agent.  The job is to make unrideable horses rideable in as short of time possible.  In the case of a show trainer those once unrideable horses are also expected to bring home prizes and blue ribbons.  Seems easy enough, right? I mean like real estate agents, horse trainers are way overpaid and are doing something anyone can do…right?  

Like real estate, training horses involves dealing with people, and for lack of a better discription…people are crazy.  Horse people are a very special brand of crazy.  Like in real estate, you can’t really call your crazy clients out on their crazy.   The reality is that in most cases the crazy is situationally induced.  

I know this because I have now been on both sides of this crazy teeter totter.  Here are a couple things I have learned.

1) Hug your trainer….and I mean hug them tight.  They have to put up with your crazy ass in the frantic moments before the show when you are screaming and stressed and mad at the whole world.  Those moments when you realize that showing horses is the single dumbest thing you have ever done and it is most certainly your trainers fault and you want to make them pay!  Because that very same person you screamed at, or wanted to scream at depending on your level of fear of your particular trainer (I am not ashamed to admit that my trainer terrifies me a little) is the first one at the out gate with a huge smile and a high five for a class well done!  Believe me, they really want to smash your face into the dirty stall bedding before your class yet they can forget the horrible way you treated them before you walked into that ring.  So, when you aren’t being a hot mess, hug your trainer!

2) They don’t do it for the money.  I am not sure what you pay your trainer, but my monthly fee includes training and board.  If you add up the hours they spend training your horse, giving you lessons on your horse, holding your horse for the farrier, filling out show entries, helping you clean your show tack, creating lists of things you and your horse need and feeding your horse, I can tell you that they make less than the kids in China making Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line.  No, my guess is that they are just crazy enough to do this idiotic job for the love of the horses and yes the love of the people.  The very same people who become raving lunatics at horse shows!

3) They are loyal to you, stay loyal to them.  They are not analyzing your every move and shopping around for a “better client”.  If you don’t get along with your trainer or they are abusing your horse then for sure you need to find someone that fits you and your horse better.  But, if you and your trainer are on the same page with your goals and you are still shopping around, don’t.  That is a jerk move and believe me they already put up with you at your worst, shopping trainers only makes you look bad.  Around here it is a pretty small and tight horse community and if you get the reputation of being that person who goes from trainer to trainer then word will get out and you won’t be able to find anyone who is any good that will want to work with you.  Loyalty is the cornerstone of any good client/trainer relationship.  Plus, no one wants to be a trainer hopper….you stand out in a crowd and people will think you are crazy!

4) Whether you like it or not, your trainer is right.  When your trainer tells you to drop your hands, it is because your hands are too high.  When your trainer tells you that your horse whom you have placed all your western pleasure dreams is actually a hunter, they are right.  When your trainer tells you to take your horse into a circle to get them soft then they expect to actually see a circle not a trapezoid with round corners.  When they tell you that you are doing a good job they are also right!  When you come out of a class and they say that it was your best one yet, believe them.  You don’t pay them to needlessly pick on you, but you don’t pay them to lie to you either.  If you sucked ass in your class they will tell you so…even if you managed to walk out with a blue.  Conversely, if you walk out dead last in a class that you and your horse put your best effort forth and gave all you had they will tell you how great you did!

5) When the dust settles and the ribbons have been collected, your trainer may have what I call HSEIE (Horse Show End Induced Euphoria).  They survived yet another weekend with your crazy ass and they didn’t kill you once!  Don’t get me wrong, they probably have a voodoo doll that looks like you hidden in the trailer that they take great pleasure in stabbing with pins.  Funny how right after the last class clients can breathe again and are no longer acting like 2007 Brittany Spears.  Your trainer may begin to randomly giggle and start singing wildly inappropriate songs.  Don’t judge them for they have put up with you all weekend long.  Just try and pretend not to notice when they start singing “Rappin’ for Jesus” even though it is very impressive that they know the song word for word, don’t judge.  On second thought, it might be best to learn the words for yourself so that you can sing it as a round!  

6) Apologize.  When you are the nightmare client, admit your faults and apologize to your trainer.  Pulling them aside and giving a heartfelt apology for being the exact brand of crazy client that you yourself cannot stand to deal with is sufficient.  If you were a class A crazy bitch of a client then you must do something really grand.  My brand of apology should really match my brand of crazy so I shall go big, like dedicating a whole blog post to them in hopes that when my new English saddle arrives she doesn’t immediately take away my stirrups in retaliation!

Thank you Melinda for putting up with my special brand of show crazy!  Thank you for not firing me, punching me in the face or taking away my stirrups when my saddle arrives!  Our whole family is very grateful for all your time and hard work and rap you sing songs along the way.  I will try to be a better client, but I will not learn the words to Rappin’ for Jesus so that we can do a post show duet….nobody wants to hear that!

Thank You for Not Killing Me

I sit here this morning with a pounding head, my muscles ache, I am completely dehydrated and   overcome with feelings of “why do I keep doing this to myself”?  You see, I have a particularly bad hangover this morning.  I tied one on pretty good over the last couple days and now I am paying the price.  Like all hangovers this one was self inflicted.  But unlike most hangovers, I can’t wait to do this to myself all over again!  You see, it isn’t alcohol that made me feel this way.  It’s a horse show hangover and in my opinion the best kind there is!

It is a particularly warm Sunday morning as I sit here and try to collect my thoughts enough to recount the events of the Appaloosa club’s Fist Full of Silver Appaloosa and All Breed Horse show.  It was once again a great show with some beautiful horses and as both a lover of all things Appaloosa and a member of the sponsoring club it was great to have a nice turnout for the breed.

This show started off like nearly all the other shows.  We got there really late, it was stressful getting moved in and the horses settled.  I could feel myself starting to succumb to the stress of the day.  To add to that stress, I had to leave in the evening to show a house and I was praying that I would make it back in time to do the trail class that I had signed up for.  

The day moved along at a snails pace and somehow managed to make it through my showing and back in time for my class.  This is where it really went to hell.  My show bridle was not in the trailer, the bridle and reins that were did not fit Keno.  He was none too happy to have the ill fitting bit and too short reins.  At this point I was either going to curl up in the fetal position or sob my way through the entire course.  

After being yelled at for my tack mishap which caused a gate hold by the gate attendant, we were on the course!  Did I mention that Keno has only ever seen these obstacles one other time in a trail in hand class?  We managed to complete the course even though there were terrifying cones, horse eating geese, a bridge of death, oh and a side pass that Keno decided immediately that he was going to do “his way”. We got disqualified even though Keno’s way of doing that course was, in his opinion, the correct way.  The judges disagreed and our entry fee became a donation to our show committee.

Day two was exciting in so many other ways.  Keno and I gave our best attempt to complete the Hunter in Hand course.  For those of you who are not familiar, two triangles…one you walk and one you RUN!  Keno had exactly 2 days of work on this event and I only one.  Mostly because working on HIH involves running and well…I don’t run.   Not only do I not run, but running in the thick footing of the arena is a disaster waiting to happen.  

As I entered the arena, I was far less concerned with how Keno was going to handle the class and far more concerned with not taking a wrong step and falling flat on my face.  

We greeted the judges while they walked around us, then we were off.  We killed the walk!  I walked as fast as my short fat legs could walk and he kept a nice pace beside me.  Then it was time to run!  Running a straight line is hard enough, but running in a large triangle with its severe angles and turns is enough to bring any big girl down!  We managed and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and Keno…well let’s just say that Keno didn’t have to struggle to keep up with me.  I didn’t fall and he didn’t break gate!  It was a success and we took home 3rd in a pretty big class of Non Pro Hunter in Hand competitors!  Our day had started off with a bang!

We managed a 3rd and 4th in Non Pro Halter in a big class. In showmanship he was his best yet.  We got 8th from one judge and nothing from the other but the success for me was that Keno had a great attitude and did what was asked of him.

We only had 1 class left for the day…Non Pro Walk Trot Hunter Under Saddle…the scariest of all classes.  The one that I forced myself to sign up for.  The one I really didn’t want to do.  The one that I was completely unprepared for.  The one that would prove that we have something to work for or the one that permanently relegates me to the ranks of show mom and not show competitor.

The preparation for the class was a day long event in itself.  You see, I don’t have a hunt coat that fits me well so I have to do some cheating to get into it.  I only share the details of the preparation with you because looking back on it all I can do is laugh.  

It is funny that I own two body shapers that will allow my transition from western showmanship to hunt seat to be seamless and easy.  Could I find either of them?  Nope…no idea where they are!  So, I used the next best thing, my swimsuit!

You see, the reason that my jacket doesn’t fit is because I am a bit top heavy.  And by a bit, I mean VERY!  Do you see many busty broads going over fences?  Not often. Even though we are not jumping, we need to look like we could. What is one to do with the girls when they are the reason you can’t button your coat?  Well, spread them out of course!

Spread them out?  Yes!  I wriggled into my speedo and smashed those girls down so much that the reached from my belly button to my chin.  They were hiding under my arms and nearly tucked into my breeches!   I couldn’t get my sweaty arms into the satin lined jacket so vet wrap to the rescue.  With arms wrapped and boobs smashed I was ready to try on my coat.  It was a team effort and the more we tried the more I sweated the harder it was to get on! Eventually, it was on and even though it looked like I was hiding a couple woopie cushions under my jacket I was ready to ride!

I threw my old saddle (the one that makes him sore) and hoped that we would both survive the 3 minute class.  We had all of 5 minutes to warm up and Keno was making darn sure that I knew he was not enjoying the atmosphere of the warm up.  They called my number and in we went.

“Trot your horses” was the first thing I heard upon entering the arena at the walk.  I asked for a trot and he obliged.  He was nervous and had no rhythm.  I would pick up the correct diagonal and within seconds he had bumped me off it.  We were giving a class in “what the judge doesn’t want to see”.  I was floundering around on top of him and he was floundering around underneath me.  I said a silent prayer, “please God let us just get through this class”.  No sooner did I think that and Keno spooked at something proped up outside the arena.  He stopped and spun and as I was collecting myself and him the announcer asked for a change of direction.

We were waking away from the thing that wanted to eat him and I was able to better get a handle on his face and he was listening to me.  They asked for a trot and I took a second to squeeze him up and gently asked for a trot and he went into a nice trot!  I picked up the correct diagonal and we had found our rhythm.  One, two, one, two….we were doing it.  I was posting, he was listening, we had rhythm…this class was a success!!

As we rounded the corner I see a horse in front of me spook and go straight into the air!  I mean Roy Rogers and Trigger style!  My initial thought was, “oh shit, Darlene’s in real trouble!” It looked like her horse was coming back on top of her!  

I had enough time to be concerned and in a split second the horse directly in front of me spooked and then my concern was far more self centered.  I am not sure what happened but the next thing I knew I had mane in my mouth and my helmet was on the ground. It felt like an eternity that I was there helpless, struggling to keep from hitting the dirt but wondering if it was my only option.  I really didn’t know how far out of the saddle I was or what Keno’s next move would be.  All I knew in that moment was, hang on! So I did. Keno seemed to freeze when he realized that I had been unseated and that allowed me to regain my balance without an unscheduled dismount.  When I was able to collect my thoughts and look around I realized that Darlene appeared to be ok, she had bailed and was standing there with her reins in her hand and Trigger (aka Truffles) by her side.

I am not sure why in that moment I began to laugh and said, “this is my best class yet!!” In a way I wasn’t lying!  You see, I often find trust difficult when it comes to horses and horses with big personalities are even harder.  Keno has a big personality and that makes trust real hard for me.  

A wise man once posted on Facebook about trusting your horse…always trust your horse to be a horse.  Of course I am paraphrasing, but he was right.  The reality is that trusting them to be a horse is the only thing we can do.  Keno acted like a horse when he was spooked by the two horses in front of him.  But, his training and his trust in me allowed him to look to me for his next move.  He had to wait for me to get back into my saddle for that direction, but in the end he made the right choice for both of us.  We came out of that ring in second place and knowing that we could handle a worst case scenario if it arises.

I thanked my little spotty for not killing me and climbed off.  He was still pretty well rattled from the whole ordeal but made it back to his stall in one piece.

Getting out of my hunt coat was as much of a challenge as getting into it!  You see, between sweat, satin and vet wrap it created some kind of bond that was nearly unbreakable!  I got it off with a few tears, cuss words and some good old fashioned try.  Then wriggled out of my swim suit which was now dreanched with sweat (did I mention it was nearly 100* and we were in the outdoor arena).  I went and collected my red ribbons and got to watch Kodee take second in her English Pleasure green horse class.

All in all, it was a very successful show.  We had some big successes and we know things we need to improve for next time.  No one got hurt and we all shared a few laughs and a few tears as well!

Dear Horse Crazy Show Kid

Dear Horse Crazy Kiddo,

When I was your age, I too was horse crazy.  My persnickety mare and I were the same age and she was my best friend.  I cried in her mane more times than I could count.  She knew all my secrets, fears, goals and dreams. She and I won a whole wall full of ribbons.  At the ripe old age of 13, she was my world.  

When my parents divorced and my dad refused to let my mare stay on the ranch, so I had to sell her.  My hands shook as I wrote out that bill of sale to a man whom I thought was going to give my best friend a leisurely life toting around grandkids.  When his check bounced my girl was gone and I would never find out what became of her.  To this day that haunts me.  

And now here we are, I am no longer 13, but you my beautiful daughter are.  You are the same horse crazy kid I once was.  You have a beautiful mare that has become your dearest friend and confidant.  She, like Missy, takes amazing care of you and is willing to do things out of her comfort zone simply because you are asking her to.

It is time that I get to the point of this letter.  At your age, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to say goodbye to horses all together.  It was more than 20 years before I was able to have a horse to call my own.  I don’t want that to happen to you.

Sadly for you, you were not born into a wealthy family.  We struggle for everything we have and it isn’t much.  Horses put a huge strain on our finances as well as our personal lives. You know, you’ve see us struggle to keep this dream alive.

There are a few things I want you to know.

1) I see you.  I see you working your fanny off to pay for your training.  I see you pushing yourself to be a better rider.  I see you growing as a horse woman.  I see that there are kids out there who don’t have to work for their keep.  I see that there are kids in the show ring with show clothes covered in Swvarsky crystals, on horses who have been groomed by payed grooms while you are responsible for grooming your own horse and you are wearing a borrowed show shirt.  I see it.

2) I understand.  I understand that you wish this wasn’t so much work.  After all, you see kids who do nothing with their horses and walk into the show ring and clean up.  I understand that there are days that you might think this is more work than it is worth.  I understand that you might wish that you were among the lucky few who get a new saddle because it doesn’t shine like it once did, while you are riding in a borrowed saddle.  I understand and a big part of me wishes it were different.

3) I am sorry.  I am sorry that this horse thing is so expensive that we cannot make it happen without considerable sacrifices made by every member of our family (including your very resentful father).  I am sorry that you have to work in exchange for your training. I am sorry that “your horse” is actually a leased horse and not really yours.  I am sorry that you don’t ride into the ring covered in crystals on a world champion mount.  I am sorry that you are having to work so hard at such a young age.  But, mostly I am sorry that you have to watch us struggle so much to make sure the horses get to stick around.

4) I’m not sorry.  I am not sorry that I haven’t just given you everything you ever wanted.  I have seen those children, the ones who were mad that the won an “ugly trophy” when they “already have so many”, I have seen the kids who exit the show ring placing below where they’d hoped and jump off their horse while screaming at mom about how horrible their horse was while throwing her the reins so little Miss Entitled can stomp off because she didn’t win.  (I’d like to add a side note here…the first time that happens will be the last time I take you to a show…just so we are crystal clear). I am not sorry that you are learning from an early age that you have to work for what you want.  I am not sorry that you are having to work for your training.  You have an amazing trainer and she has taught you more about horsemanship, care,  grooming and responsibility than little Miss Entitled will ever know.  I am not sorry that you are in the ring in borrowed clothes and borrowed tack on a borrowed horse, I know that when you get your own they will be very special to you and you will take great care of them.  And mostly, I am not sorry for any of the struggles you have had along the way.  These struggles are what will make you a strong and independent woman.  These experiences you have now will stay with you a lifetime and I am not a bit sorry for the sacrifices we have made as a family to ensure that you can follow your dreams.

In closing, my sweet girl, keep plugging along.  I will continue to remind your dad that horses keep you away from boys.  Please do me a favor and always love them more than boys…the right boy will understand that he will always play second fiddle to your equine love, and your dad won’t complain so much about the expense!  Keep following your dreams and your dad and I will make sure that the path is always visible.

Good luck at the show!  We will be there to cheer you on!

Love Always,

Your Broke Mom

I’ve Fallen for Another

I’ve got this boyfriend. He is a big handsome feller and I really like him. It was one of those romantic stories where I saw him across the way and decided that he must be mine. I admit that I am a bit superficial in that way, he was sexy and that was all that mattered. I was told by people who knew him best that he was a super nice guy, so I set my mind up to make him mine.  
It took a couple months but I was able to carry out my plan and make him my boyfriend. It is probably not best to just jump into a relationship with a guy you don’t really know, but I am a risk taker and decided that we could just get to know each other through the process of forming a relationship.  
It was a rather rocky start and I realized that while he had a quirky sense of humor, he had a real pissy side as well. He was prone to childlike outbursts and at times I feared that our relationship was not very healthy and would probably be best if he moved on to another girl more suited for his emotional instability.  
We sought professional help for our relationship and things started to look up for my boyfriend and I. We started to enjoy each other’s company, and find common ground. Through this process I began to realize that this boyfriend of mine was really a great friend. A friend with whom I could do fun things, and enjoy our time together…maybe share a laugh or two. I realized that I was growing to love this boyfriend of mine, but not in a soul mate, buy-a-house-and-have-babies kind of way…more of a, let’s grab a drink and laugh about old times when you wanted to kill me but chose not to kind of friend. I was content with the friendship we had formed even though our therapist felt as though the relationship we had was not going to be one that would be mutually beneficial to either of us long term. We just had different goals, dreams and abilities. Not one to back away from a challenge, I decided that I would change my goals a bit to ensure that he was still relatively happy in our relationship. Changing my goals involved a big step outside my box, but I love this boyfriend of mine so I decided that I could be happy if he was happy.
Then one day I was perusing Facebook and happened across a guy who was the total package. He loves all the things I love, and under the right circumstances he can even support himself (something that my current boyfriend seems unable to do…I don’t hold it against him though). Yes, I am a bit shallow, and I will admit that it was his looks that grabbed me right off the bat! He is one good looking fella!  
Learning my lesson from the last time that I fell for someone based on looks alone, I decided to try and get to know this guy a little more before I let my heart override my brain. I have been able to get to know him a little through talks with people who know him best. I have seen videos of him in action and I must say, I like his heart and his mind.
Here is my dilemma…do I ditch my current boyfriend in favor of this internet love affair? Do I throw away all of the hard work and time that I have put into cultivating this great friendship with my current beau? If I am honest with myself, I know that I do not have time for two boyfriends and especially one who is unable to earn his own keep. My therapist is confident that she can help me to build a great foundation with Mr. Internet from the start so I don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations that I went through with Mr. Freeloader.
But, the age old questions remain. What if I ditch my current love for a new one and he and I don’t click in the way my old love and I have learned to click? What if I find my current love a new love and she isn’t good to him? What if I am not good enough for the new guy and he hates me once he gets to know me?

In a perfect world, I should just be able to keep my current boyfriend until I know if the new boyfriend is soul mate material. My current boyfriend would probably be happy to be put on the back burner for a bit while I figure out where my affections lie. I know people who are able to maintain multiple relationships smoothly, but I am not sure that I have the energy to properly maintain two love affairs. Especially where the new guy does all the stuff the current guy does and he loves the stuff that my current guy hates.
For some people, this is a no brainer…take the leap and ditch the old guy in favor of the new guy (after all, he is younger and in better shape physically, plus he has a good job which is a plus).
I am just so torn! Tell me what you would do. Here are pictures of my old boyfriend and my potential new boyfriend! Should I ditch one in favor of the other or see if I can manage to keep two boyfriends happy??
My Current Boyfriend:


My new love interest:


#horsegirlproblems

Frozen Poop Don’t Stink…


It has been a while since I have had the courage to “put pen to paper” so to speak and write a new blog post.  I really want my blogs to be a light hearted view of this crazy adventure I have taken my family on, and honestly the last couple months have been rough…real rough.  I mean, after all, how do I call myself the Humorous Homesteader and then write a blog that will drive a person to drink?  So, with the sun shining and the snow melting, I can feel the laughter in my heart once again and feel the need to share (hopefully in an enjoyable way) some of the observations from our first winter here on the homestead.  

Due to the fact that I either consciously or subconsciously blocked out the first snow as it was the realization that I had failed my goal of having a house before winter.  I don’t remember the exact date that the world here at Lucky Spot Ranch (oh yes, we have a name now…I love ironic names) turned white, but I was told that we have had snow on the ground since before Thanksgiving and it seems about right so I am going to go with that as fact.  

I love the snow, it brings peace to my soul.  There are rarely images more beautiful than a snow covered landscape so it didn’t wreck me to see the snow on the ground, but I was sad that we hadn’t met our goal.  Needless to say, we were unprepared for winter.  The 5th wheel was not skirted or drained or prepared in any way.  But, winter came anyway, and boy she came with a fury I have not seen since I was a child in Wyoming.  

I went into winter with the same enthusiasm that I have toward every single stupid thing I have ever done.  I was excited to haul water to the horses and trek through the freshly fallen snow.  I love the look of my big spotty horse with his chestnut neck and white bottom against the snow covered backdrop.  I LOVED it!  I knew that like every winter before, the snow would come and the snow would go.  We rarely get to have a blanket of snow for long, so I was ok with the yen and yang of winter in Eastern Washington.  


Then something happened, something tragic and unexpected, something that brought me to the depths of terror and despair.  It got cold!  And I mean cold!  So cold in fact that we had to break waters multiple times a day, make sure the horses had salt to ensure they would drink before it froze over again.  So cold that all I wanted to do was cry but so was afraid my tears would freeze my eyes shut!  

The outside part was bad when it got cold, but the inside is where my mental state took the biggest hit.  Do you know what happens when it is below zero for long periods of time while living in a glorified tent made specifically for summer recreation??  Do you?  Well, I do!  Shit freezes…and I mean solid!  Ice begins to grow on the walls and windows, the closets grew a half inch of ice on the floor.   You can no longer use the toilet or the water because there is no way to keep it from freezing!  The floor is so cold that you don’t dare put a bare foot on it as it might just freeze in place!  Thank goodness for the heating system, at least it kept us from freezing.  Oh wait, there is another thing…about that heating system.  Do you know what produces that heat?  Propane.  Do you know what happens to propane when it gets that cold?  It effing freezes!  And I mean blow frigid cold air into a glorified tent will no actual insulation to protect itself from the elements out side, freezing!! Frozen propane, frozen walls, frozen tears, frozen floors, frozen waters, frozen chickens, frozen horses…what else could freeze?


I will probably never forget the first night I had to get up in the middle of the night to use the POC (Port O Crapper).  I am a warm sleeper so a tank top and shorts is enough to keep me toasty even with a bed frozen to the wall.  I climbed out of my nice warm bed, threw on some boots and a jacket and ventured out onto the frozen tundra.  It is important to note that I did not want old POC near the camper because I did not want the smell to somehow permeate the paper thin camper walls so I put it about 30 feet from our home.  Did you know that 30 feet might as well be 30 miles when it is below zero with a wind chill and spitting snow in your face?  Yes, bare legs being pelted with little bits of frozen water trudging through 4 feet of snow to climb into a plastic box who’s vents had allowed for a considerable amount of snow to accumulate on the lid and around the seat.  It was dark so I didn’t really know what I was in for while quickly plopping my darierre down to empty a bladder that was ready to explode.  As soon as my cheeks make contact with the frozen plastic I felt an instant sense of pain!  Oh my hell!  Freeze brand, my butt had been branded by that seat!  I instantly felt bad for all those baby calves getting their freeze brands as I was fully confident that I now had a toilet shaped brand on my ass!  It felt like an eternity, but was able to make it back to the camper and into my frozen bed while the burning on my butt cheeks continued until long after I fell asleep!

For me, this was the beginning of the end.  The cold began to take a toll on my emotional well being.  The sheer act of peeling my frozen clothes from the wall of my closet every morning took a piece of my soul.  Trudging hay and water though a sea of snow became a chore that made me question my loyalty to these huge freeloading soul suckers.  My car was no longer able to climb the steep ascent to my drive so it was a choice of leave it at the barn or have Todd hook me up and tow me home every night.  That was not his favorite thing to do while it was well below zero.  The little thing became big things and I had the mental stability of a rabid dog.  It was a crap shoot…was mom going to lose her shit and start screaming profanities at everyone around her or lay down in a puddle and sob uncontrollably?  Honestly, some days it was minute by minute.

So, there we were…a steep, icy drive that was nearly impossible even for 4 wheel drive, blowing wind in already sub zero temperatures, frozen…well everything…it was all frozen…solid…a block of ice!  By now it had been a few weeks since the “Pooper Guy” had been able to get up our drive to clean out the POC.  Because of my severely diminished mental capacity, I began to make the strangest observations.  Like, for instance, frozen poo doesn’t stink!  You would think that a plastic box full of human waste that had not been attended to for weeks would begin to smell so foul that entrance into said box would bring even the toughest dude to the brink of vomiting.  Nope, no smell at all.  Which was good because if Mount Shit, as we less than affectionately referred to the growing pile of feces, were to stink as bad as it looked then life as I knew it would be over!  We couldn’t use the camper toilet for risk of breaking the probably already frozen black water tank (refer to our not poperly preparing for winter at the beginning of this blog…I wasn’t kidding…there is still shit in there…literally), so what would we do if we in fact filled the POC to capacity or over flowing? 


My husband is a problem solver…and generally a pretty good one.  Mount Shit had climbed its way to nearly level with the toilet seat and that was just a disgusting event waiting to happen.  Mr Problem Solver went right to work to bring down Mount Shit and save the day!  He grabbed a stick and headed into the plastic box with a sense of purpose.  I heard some grunting and groaning and a couple loud bangs…not uncommon sounds when Mr Marcotte locks himself in that box, but today was different.  Today, he was solving a problem not adding to it.  As confident as he usually is, he emerged from the POC, stick in hand and smiled.  “I have taken down Mount Shit”.  Well, he didn’t actually take it down, more like moved it over to make room for a new mountain.  

I have shared more than I really should on the subject of our toilet troubles, so let’s just say that Mount Shit had to be brought down 3 more times in the course of the 5 weeks that the Pooper Guy was unable to come and service the POC.  Did you know that they can’t even suck it out if it is frozen?  Frozen poo don’t stink, but is also doesn’t go anywhere!!  

It was below freezing nearly daily from the end of December to the middle of January.  We are finally experiencing a bit of a warm up and that has been a very welcomed thing.  Not only are the walls, propane, horse waters, and floors no longer frozen, but Mount Shit  had finally began to melt!  I wasn’t sure what was more of an inconvenience, a frozen mountain of excrement or a stinky pond of it.  Then it happened, yesterday I heard a sound that I had long forgotten…the sound of the stinky truck!  The Pooper Guy had come to save the day!!  The warm weather had done its job and suddenly my hero was a strange man who doesn’t mind the overpowering stench of a truck load of poo!  It took him a good 20 minutes to suck up Poo Pond, but he did it!  In that time 5 weeks of waste from 4 adult size people was gone!  Just in the nik of time.  It was a plastic box with pretty blue water and for the life of me, I don’t know that I have ever truly been more excited about something so gross in all my life!

You see, the Pooper Guy didn’t just take away the grossness of this adventure we are on, but he gave me a sense that it is all going to be ok.  I couldn’t quite see beyond Mount Shit.  Mount Shit became a metaphor for my life these days.  Shit just kept piling up with no relief.  No refuge from the people and events that seem to want to mess with my mental stability.  You could move it around and make room for more shit, but eventually it would be full and there would be no more room!  That is where I was…no more room.  Sadly, the Pooper Guy didn’t come in and suck away all the other problems we are having here at the Lucky Spot Ranch, but in some small way not having to worry about Mount Shit has given me a sense of optimism that I will make it out the other side of this stupid, stupid adventure and maybe even be better off for it.
This seems to sum it all up…


And I forgot My Fitbit!

I don’t trail ride, no really…a horse, a very large prey animal, out in the woods with…you know…preditors…seems a bit like smoking while pumping gas.  Knowing that trail riding is akin to bungee jumping off a rickety bridge, I decided that I should face that fear and take my Keno horse for his very first organized trail ride.  Maybe there would be safety in numbers…right?

Well, the day started with a bad battery cable in the truck which I quickly fixed, but not quick enough that we would not make the 10am ride out time.  We finally made it to the the redevioux point after everyone had left.  

Keno hopped out of the trailer a bundle of nerves!  Oh crap, I don’t need his nerves to deal with, I have my own I cannot even control.  It was a quick saddle and pay for the ride and we were off!

C’mon Keno, let’s have a nice and uneventful ride!  If you have ever ridden with me then you know that I am prone to non-stop chatter…but, to be clear…I was talking to my horse…and no, I am not crazy!  Really, I am not.

Either way, we started out on a gravel road in the middle of the pack.  “I can do this” I thought to myself….”we can do this”.  Our ride was a nice mixture of gravel road, logging road and game trail.  I can do gravel road and logging road…game trail…well, that is just terifying!

You see, for all the time I have had Keno, I have only ridden a handful of times and only once out on the trail.  And because it started so easy, I was lulled into believeing that this would be a nice meandering ride over the mountain.  The first actual hill we encountered was up…not terrifying…not terifying at all…nope.  Ok, maybe I did want to cry a little.  But, Keno got his rear in gear and pulled us both up the hill.  We survived!  

We spent the first half of the ride mostly up.  While I felt bad for my little spotty that he had to haul me up the hill, I was so impressed with his stamina and willingness.  But, you know what they say..what goes up must come down.

Down…wait…like we have to go back down what we just came up?? No? Thank goodness!!  Apparently, I spoke too soon!  We did have to go back down, but down the other side…oh Lord!

It was the half way point that Keno had his fill of hauling my big butt all over the mountain side and his head tossing and foot stomping was very clear that he was OVER this trail horse thing.  I am sure that he was probably also done listening to me whine about the hills and him not picking up his feet.

But he and I both knew that down meant done and we were both ready to be done.  And, down started on a logging road so I stupidly assumed that it would be and easy meander back down the hill.  I was right for a while and suddenly my worst fears were realized!

The wide road almost suddenly gave way to a narrow one horse trail.  We came around a bend to a black riderless horse.  The rider was trying her best to get her horse through what was arguably the most terrifying spot on the entire trail.  Narrow, rather steep decent into a small creek bed followed by a narrow steep ascent out of the creek bed.  Her horse was not about to face certain death and in an instant I knew that I was totally on the horses side in this one.  What unfolded was absolutely terifying!

An older woman with a previously broken leg standing before the Creek of Death in front of her horse and her younger riding companion on the other side with her horse.  I looked at the scene in horror.  There was just no way that my very green horse was going to safely get his plus sized and completely terrified rider across this horrifying obsticle. 

The younger woman tied her horse and the when to the aid of the older woman.  The older woman handed her horse off to the younger woman and climbed to safety.  Then the young woman coerced the big black horse across the pit of death.  In an instant, that woman was knocked down by the terrified horse and it stepped on the back of her thigh ripping her jeans!  The horse came to a stop pretty much on top of the girl!  In unison we asked if she was ok.  That tough little cookie jumped up with her jeans ripped and the two of them were off on the trail in the blink of an eye!

“I AM NOT DOING THIS!” I screamed!  Melinda calmly said over her shoulder, “well, you don’t really have a choice…”.  In my heart I knew that this would be the end of my time on earth.  I mean, I have seen Keno lose his shit over a folding chair…this thing is front of me was genuinely terrifying!  

I began to just mutter over and over and over, “I can’t do this”.  I watched as Melinda got her scaredy cat across with just a little coaxing…and true to his Arab spirit chose to scale the rock face because trails are for common horses.  

Then it was Eli and Escapade.  She was darling…and the two of them walked across with little issue.  

Then it was my turn.  I could feel the tears, my heart was pounding and I way praying for the rapture in that second so I would not have to endure the sure hell that I was facing.

Well, Jesus didn’t come back and there I was standing next to my horse on the edge of what was the most horrific thing that he and I have encountered together.  Knees shaking, I may or may not have made a pact with God that if he got me through this unscathed then I would never trail ride ever again.  Then I took a breath and began to walk down the embankment.

Keno was an absolute trooper.  It was scary for him, he had never seen anything like that.  With his nose down investigating the abyss, he inched forward.  Snorting that “don’t mess with me scary thing” snort, he summed up his surroundings and then slowly walked right through the pit of death and then up the other side!

He did not panic like the black horse and run us over, he took a minute to size up the situation and then put one foot in front of the other until he was no longer in that scary place.

I don’t know how many times he needs to prove to me that I can trust him, but I know with 100% certainty that had I of stayed on he would have safely gotten us through the death pit and much more safely than trying to lead him through.  But, I was panicked and I did not want to get us both killed!

The Kathy, Dillon and Tim made it through and there we were…all on the right side of the pit and none of us were worse for wear!  

As the adrenalin began to subside, real panic set in.  Oh crap!!  I am ON THE GROUND!  My horse is about 16 hands tall and I am short and fat!  I committed the ultimate short-fat-girl-with-a-tall-horse trail sin!  I was on the ground and I needed to be in the saddle!  I had no idea if we were 5 minutes or 5 hours from “home” and I needed to get back in the saddle.  

I found a burm on the side of the trail and positioned my trusty steed next to it, one foot way up in the stirrup and bounce…1,2,3 up!  Well, that is how it is supposed to work.  The reality is that bounce, push, no where near getting in the saddle. On the third attempt, I went to put my free foot onto the burm and missed it and there I was…under my horse!  For those of you keeping track…that is 2 times in one week that I ended up on my back under my horse!

I laid there laughing at myself and instead of getting up, I took my right foot and gave Keno a big belly rub for being such a patient boy!  I think it is clear that he would rather me be under him than on top of him because he barely even notices when I am laying under him…THANK GOODNESS!

Still laughing, I rolled over and pulled myself out from under my horse using him back legs at a hand hold.  He was still not even moving a muscle!  Seriously, there is a special place in heaven for this guy!  He definitely got the short end of the stick when he got me. 

It was a bit of a hike to find a higher step, completely out of breath from the hike, I mustered one last push and I was in the saddle again!!  It was a relief because I really didn’t want our group waiting for me to walk my horse off the mountain!

I praised Keno all the way down the logging road, until we saw it!  The gravel road!!  We are almost home!  I can see the road!  No more scary spots!  Wait, that is a gate!  How do we get past that gate?

Then I see Melinda dive off the trail straight up a hill!  “NO!!” I cried!!  Please, for the love of all that is good and Holy!!!  NO MORE HILLS!!

Melinda, who I am sure was ready to strangle me in that moment, explained that we just have one more up and down.  In fact, it think there will be a Patti Marcotte clause in her contracts in the future where whining or crying on a horse will result in a fine…but for now she puts up with me for some unknown reason.

Ok, that up isn’t horrible…I can do this.  Once at the top, I realized that the down looked simply terrifying!  It wasn’t long, but it was steep!  Oh lord it was really steep!  There I was on Mr Trips Over His Own Feet, 4 hours into an exhausting ride and I was going to ask him to be mindful of his feet while keeping the two of us upright….ya right!  Panic set in, but instinct took over. 

“Ok buddy, I am going to give you the rein, I expect you to keep your feet under you and walk…nice and slow…walk”. I let the rein loose and clucked.  He put his head down and began to inch down the embankment.  It was loose footing so it was one step, slid a little, one step, watch his feet…just like an old pro!  We were both spent, but we made it to level ground!

It was about 10 minutes on the gravel and we were back!  I quickly unsaddled to find that he was drenched with sweat, his back legs cut up from the rocks and sticks and brush, the breast collar had rubbed two large sores on his chest, simply…he looked like he had been in a battle!  

I was exhausted, but felt so accomplished that I had survived something that scares me so.  I can promise that I will never be a trail rider, and I know that I will be most happy on wide flat logging roads with no obsticles.  But, Keno and I learned a lot about each other.  I learned once again that I can count of him when the chips are down…and that is more important than anything.  And, he learned that I am as comfortable underneath him as I am on top of him!

4 and a half hours in the saddle and Lord knows how many vertical feet we pulled, and hiking up the hill with my horse in tow…and I forgot my damn Fitbit!  Damn if none of that counted!!  

Day 76

Good evening from the Marcotte Homestead.  It amazes me how quickly the summer has gone and we did not head the advice of the pioneers before us and spend our days preparing for the winter.  It feels like just yesterday that we left the conveniences of city life with all of the latest amenities like water that flows into the house, lectricity, indoor outhouses, and the general store that is only a short buggie ride away.  But, we decided to blaze our own trail and put down some roots in the wild blue yonder.

Elk, Washington is now where we call home.  It isn’t so much a town as a watering hole for soldiers coming back from war and a Pony Express.  It is nice to be able to connect with the outside world and it sure make it handy to have the Pony Express so near by.  I plan to make a trip soon to drop off all the letters I have pinned with my fancy new quill and ink that I purchased on our last trip to town for supplies.

I have to say, homestead life is much more difficult than I ever imagined.  You read books and hear stories about the pioneers who have done this and it doesn’t seem so bad.  The land, while rugged and largely untamed is stunning.  Our first few nights in the homestead we were raided and they took much of our supplies and tools needed to compete the cabin before winter.  It was probably those rotten beaver traders…they just seem shifty to me.

Our animals have acclimated to the homestead life well.  We finished the chicken coop to protect them from the preditors that seem to be so prevelent.  They continue to lay eggs and provide us with much needed protein.  Our horses on the other hand have made life a little more difficult on us.  Keno had to go to boarding school to become a better and more responsible member of our homestead and has been gone for much of our stay here.  Cash, decided to take his own journey and got tangled up in barbed wire.  The local doctor said we best just eat him as he will likely be a liability over the winter.  While the protein will come in handy, I am most certain that I could never eat the old boy…so he is off at a local healer and we are hoping that she can make him better.  Pa says that if he can’t plow the fields come spring then he will have to go to auction.  I am praying that the healer can fix him right up so he can go back to earning his keep around here.


The homestead life is so much more different than city life.  We sleep when the sun goes down and raise when it come up.  Cold nights seem to be the longest.  Pa and I try to stay close for warmth, but something has to be done about his snoring!  We have been working non stop around here and the cabin is no where near ready to move in to, and I am worried about staying in the wagon over the winter.

I never realized how dirty I would be.  It seems that my petticoat is always filthy and even after a good washing, what once was sparkling white is nearly brown.  We are having to haul in water on the buckboard and the horses seem to drink most of it immediately.  

A gentleman from the area brought a new “water findin” machine and put a pipe in the dirt and up came water!   We were so excited, but it turns out that you need some kind of pump to be able to extract the water.

As I write this letter, Pa and Dillon are hard at work digging a ditch to bring the water from the pipe to the cabin.  I pray that we can soon have a seemingly endless supply of the clear stuff!  For now, we are filthy and  our clothes are filthy.  

As we are now in September, the days are getting shorter to prepare for the winter. The root cellar is empty, we don’t have any meat, and have not chopped a single piece of firewood to keep us warm this winter!

It seems as though Pa and I spend a lot of our time yelling at one another and not accomplishing much.  It has been much more stressful than I ever imagined when we decided to leave the comforts of city life.  

I pray that by the time I am able to write again that the cabin is ready for the winter.  I am told that the Farmer’s Almanac is saying that it is going to a severe winter.  

Well, the sun has set on day 76.  The coyotes will soon be howling and I had best get tucked into the bed in the wagon just in case the beaver traders come back for more of our supplies!

Until next time.
Pioneer Patti

False Alarm

As many of you know, our part of the state is currently in a state of fire emergency.  There is fire and smoke throughout the region.  We have been on high alert for a couple days and even hook up the horse trailer and hang halters next to the horses on the fence for a quick get away of need be.  This afternoon we began to see a break in the smoke and much appreciate blue skies.  Breathing a big sigh of relief, we decided to relax a bit and throw some salmon on the grill.  

There we were, enjoying the cool of the late afternoon while quinoa was bubbling on the stove and salmon roasting on a cedar plank in the grill.  In a second it felt like my whole world changed.  I heard the DNR trucks rolling down the road with what sounded like evacuation orders!  “What???” I screamed!  “Oh shit!  How close is the fire?  Oh my God, the horses and chickens!!”  As I was hysterically trying to assess the situation, I pulled out my phone and opened the pulse point app. This is what I see:


You see that blue dot?  Yup, that would be me!  You see the little bubble with a tree? That means fire!  “Oh Lord!  There is a fire right here!  How in the hell are we going to get our horses and chickens out alive??”  Then I clicked on that little bubble and it brings up an address…my address!  I see my address just as the DNR trucks pull into my drive!  I look and Todd and say, “It’s us!  Oh my God we are on fire!!”  As if I wasn’t already panicked enough…I was in full fight or flight!  There I was in flip flops wondering how quickly I could get two horses and 8 chickens loaded up and out of there because we were on fire!  Wait, WE are on fire?  I began to look around.  Todd not being the alarmist that I am slowly walked down the drive to see what was actually going on.  

I was walking down the drive and then it hit me…the gate is locked and the keys are in the truck!  I run back to the truck (let’s face it, I walked sort of fast because I don’t actually run…even when faced with certain death!)…grab the keys and head down the drive to find out where this fire is and why is says that we are on fire!  

I make it to the locked gate slightly out of breath from my sort of fast walking which I will blame on my poor choice of footwear….and Todd is hamming it up with the firefighters.  “Wait, they are laughing?  Maybe this isn’t the end of the world.” I whisper to myself.  

“It’s the BBQ, someone called in that we were burning our trash!”  Todd says to me with a smile!  I just laughed and said, “well, I don’t have a lot of salmon, but I am certainly happy to feed you all!” They laughed and thanked us.  I told them that it is funny that one of our oh-so-concerned neighbors took the time to call in a trash fire while we were making dinner but couldn’t be bothered to report the box van backed up to our shop door the other night!

It was about that time I see a vehicle flying down the road and screech to a halt at the end of the driveway in the road.  A little ball of fire (pun intended), comes stomping up our driveway wagging her finger and saying, “well, I am glad you are all laughing!  I don’t find burning trash at all funny!  What were you thinking?  I own almost all the land around here and I don’t find it a bit funny!”  I said, “well, I don’t think it is funny either since we were not burning trash, we were making dinner!”  She began to calm slightly, and Todd said, “it’s really nice to know that we have such observant neighbors who call in for us cooking dinner but not when we got robbed!”  It was then an exchange about how many other people have been robbed up here and that it is the people moving into the area who are doing the robbing…no offense…  I just laughed it off, but knew with 100% certainty that she was absolutely right.  Small towns are often ruined by outsiders…I grew up in such a town.  But, since we clearly didn’t rob ourselves and while I am not the greatest cook in the world, I was certainly not burning my dinner to the point that it should have been misconstrued as a trash fire!  I guess the old adage, “good fences make good neighbors” is true, our fence line is in a serious state of disrepair and it is time to build a nice big fence….preferably one that keeps nosy neighbors who want to jump to conclusions with out so much as asking before assuming or God forbid if we were on fire offering to help, out of sight!

If I learned one thing tonight it is that I would totally rock an emergency situation…the way I froze in place incoherently muttering “we’re on fire”, the fast walk (I pulled a hammy) to get the keys and the way I had the entire evacuation plan all ready in my head, while I totally forgot the keys to unlock the gate…yup, emergency situation…I got this!

Thank God it was a false alarm!

Patti’s Book of Wrong

If you have been one of the concerned citizens who has approached me and asked “How’s Homesteading going??” I am sure you noticed the hesitation in my voice, an audible lump in my throat and a choked back, “it’s grrrreat…when things aren’t going wrong, it’s wonderful”. The truth is that it is wonderful and everything has gone wrong…everything.  In my last post I spoke of the early tragedies we have faced so we won’t rehash the past.  I will however share some of the new things gone wrong.

If you follow me on Pinterest you will see that I have an entire board dedicated to outside spaces.  It is almost as if I was destined to live this outside life.  One of the things I had always dreamed of was an outdoor shower.  I am not an exhibitionist by any means but secretly love the way the sun kisses my skin and always wished to enjoy that feeling in the spots normally covered by clothes.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this new life of mine is not going to evolve into a new membership at the local nudist ranch, but I am happy to secretly flaunt my assets behind the confines of the beautiful outside shower that we built.  

My first shower was so exciting.  It was tantalizing and nerve wracking all wrapped up into one.  I loved the feel of the sun and simultaneously knew that the nuns from Catholic school of my youth were condemning me to hell for being so immodest.  Either way, there I was, in my birthday suite enjoying the cool water on my warm skin.  Suddenly, a sense of dread came over me as I looked to the open sky.  Is that an airplane?  Oh my gosh!  That is probably an airplane!  I suddenly remembered that our place is directly under the approach of the local airfield!  Oh my GAWD!!  Here I am naked as a jay bird in a space with no roof!  They will absolutely be able to see me.  I tried to move over toward the corner and cower whilst doing my best to achieve my goal of being in the outside shower in the first place…to get clean!  Frantically scanning the sky above me while doing my best clean as fast as I  can, while hiding in the corner in hopes that the pilot and passenger of a plane that was sure to pass over any minute would not notice my nakedness and do a low altitude fly-by!  Suddenly, all of my joy of being naked and free in the great outdoors turned into an ordeal that I certainly hadn’t anticipated.  In an instant I was clean even though it seem to take an enternity, I dried off in record time and was dressed faster than a fireman!  With a sigh and a feeling of accomplishment I emerged from my little oasis turned exhibition chamber with relief that the plane had not yet made it across our path.  A little shaken and out of breath I looked across the way only to realize that it wasn’t a plane I heard, it was a swather cutting hay in the neighboring field!  Needless to say, I felt like a total idiot, but I continue to shower in record speed…you just never know when a lonely pilot might see something he may never forget!

I wish I could say that my outdoor shower mishap was the end of my list of things I’ve done wrong as a homesteader, but sadly it isn’t!

We thought we were being all cool putting in our very first mail box on our very first homestead.  We measured out the required height and distance from the road and dug a hole and placed our box!  It was so cool that we were the ones to put in the mailbox!  After all, how many people can say that they are the ones who put in their own box?  We can!  But, then again maybe we shouldn’t be so proud of that accomplishment!  Last week Avista came out and mark where our power pole and lines will be run.  They called for a utilities locate and one morning we woke up to spray paint all over the road and road side in front of our property.  One in particular stood out.  You see there was a bright orange arrow right along the side of the road that went right through the middle of our mailbox!  Yes, the contractor and his wife forgot the #1 rule of digging….CALL FIRST!!  How we didn’t hit what ever was buried there is beyond me, but we didn’t!  And now our friendly local Avista guys know that we are complete idiots.  They were so kind as to point out what kind of idiots they think we are by the way that they drew the lines.  Check out this handy work!


If that isn’t a, “there was a buried cable right where you put your pole, dumbasses” I don’t know what is??

That is not the end of my wrongs…here are a few more.  I have driven off and not realized that my dogs were running after the car, I have left the propane coffee pot running for over an hour while it burned the coffee to a crisp, I have forgotten appointments and I have cried in the porto-John…I have done it all!  But aside from all the wrong, the well is being dug on Monday so at least I won’t have to worry about conserving water while trying to stay out of the line of sight of the local Cessna pilots!
I would like to say that this is the end of my book of wrong, but sadly this is me and I am bound to mess up even bigger and better in the future…until then…stay tuned 🙂