Tag Archives: horsekeeping

Well. That was 2018.

This is going to be one of those yearly summary posts–some good, some bad, some whatever. 2018 has been another one of Those Years. You know, the sort where you’re flailing about at everything, trying to get things going and stuff just keeps happening…and happening…and happening. I made some book sales, found some cool new fans as well as kept up contacts with old fans, did stuff with the horse, and etc.

Not that it’s been a particularly bad year…it’s just been one of Those Years. Crappy moments and shining moments, all wrapped up together.

Part of the reason (besides politics which is absolutely horrific, horrible, crappy, ick, and I’m totally back in fretting about apocalyptic scenarios–well hey! I’m writing an apocalyptic book right now and the next fantasy book will also be apocalyptic in tone so I’m right on track here!) is that I think I really started kind of feeling my age this year. The area that has suffered the most has been this blog. Writing-wise, I’ve been chugging along, though not as faithfully as I would like. I think the sales of Pledges of Honor are finally slowing down…but I’m not going to gripe, because it has been selling steadily over the past three years, ever since I published it back in 2015. Sales still occasionally pop up for the Netwalk Sequence series, though no one really seems to go too far with it. I…have plans to do something about that.

Pledges did earn itself a Semifinalist position in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. I had hopes for higher, but c’est la vie. A review is supposed to come out for it next week from one of the reviewers.

So let’s look at Joyce’s Year in Writing, Horses, and Health.

Writing:

I published two books and edited an anthology, for starters.

Challenges of Honor, the second book in the Goddess’s Honor series, came out in the spring. It hasn’t sold as well as the first book, but you know, things can change.

Blurb and linkage for Amazon here.

Linkage for Books2Read here. (Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc)

Klone’s Stronghold, a contemporary fantasy featuring a mix of supernaturals, cryptids, and family issues in the isolated Bucket Mountains of NE Oregon, came out in the summer. It’s not done as well as I had hoped; nonetheless I’ve got some ideas for a sequel to it.

Blurb and linkage for Amazon here.

Linkage for Books2Read (Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc) here.

I’m currently working on a rewrite of a previously published novella, Seeking Shelter at the End of the World. The new title is Beating the Apocalypse. It’s not going to look much like the original. I’ve added two viewpoint characters, eliminated at least one and maybe two deaths in the course of the book (though I do kill others), am at about 20k additional words, and am making it a MUCH more complex book.

I also edited a themed anthology, Pulling Up Stakes, (includes my Oregon Country story “To Plant or Pull Up Stakes”) and am working on a second one, Whimsical Beasts (which will include my story “The Wisdom of Robins”).

Pulling Up Stakes Amazon details here.

Short stories also happened this year. I wrote the following Goddess’s Honor tie-in shorts:

Return to Wickmasa (post-Pledges of Honor) B2R (includes Amazon), Cleaning House (post Challenges of Honor) B2R (includes Amazon), and Unexpected Alliances, B2R (includes Amazon). I’ve decided not to mess with loading short stories directly to Kindle but will load them into Kindle via Draft2Digital.

I wrote Going Gently for the Netwalk Sequence universe. B2R (includes Amazon).

“The Cow at the End of the World” came out in Well, It’s Your Cow, edited by Frog Jones. Amazon.

I have two new stories in circulation (“A Quilter’s Stellar Sandwich” and “My Woman Left Me, My Dog Hates Me, and There Goes My Truck”). I’m also marketing a novella, Bearing Witness, which is a weird alt-Western set in a universe I’m now calling the Vortex Worlds. I was originally going to self-publish it but decided to try my luck with the trad pub market so far. I’m underwhelmed, so it may go on the publishing schedule this spring.

Then I started playing around with Medium. I’m not very diligent about posting essays there yet, but I do have a few up. I’m also toying with writing a poem a week and posting it on a separate blog page. I plan to switch hosts in this coming year, and have temporarily set up a site on wordpress.com. I’ll be transferring the whole domain at some point here. Just works better for me than what I’ve been doing.

Horse:

Mocha turned 18 this year, and is fully a mature, opinionated mare. But we achieved a bucket list goal by winning a show series buckle in the local show series in the Ranch Horse division. So I now sport a genuine, honestly-won, silver belt buckle.

She was pastured up by the east moraine of Wallowa Lake this summer, so we spent some time riding the moraine and doing Real Trail Horse stuff. She loves it. One day she was edgy and energetic so I sent her straight up the side of the moraine (actually a fairly steep climb), with plans to sidehill it if she encountered problems. She didn’t.

She went into the winter looking the best I’ve seen her in a long time, her back completely filled out around the spine and minimal sign of rib. Nonetheless, she’s getting up there in years so I’m not pushing her. She’s let me know that she really, really likes the idea of gaming as opposed to rail classes but OKAY WE WILL DEAL WITH STUPID RAIL STUFF IF THERE’S GAMING (keyhole and barrels are her favorites). As long as she enjoys the notion of “turn and burn” we’ll keep doing it. We did our first winter lope under saddle a couple of days ago (it’s been a not-so-good winter for riding outside) and she was full of energy, ready to go, and everything you want to feel with a mature horse living outside 24/7.

Health and Other Stuff:

This is the year that the teaching stuff has pretty much gone away. I substitute occasionally, and will be teaching a writing class in February, but otherwise–my long-term substitute gig abruptly ended at the end of the semester in January, and I’ve not been actively drumming up anything other than writing coaching business. I think it’s time to move away from K-12 teaching–I’m ready.

This year I feel like I’m really starting to get with it in quilting. I’ve made two small quilts and a bigger one as well as several small wall hangings. I think I will start working toward art quilt wall hangings for the science fiction and fantasy market. Other craft work is “meh”. I do have a few fans of my jewelry but not enough to put much energy into it outside of the occasional bazaar. Well…I might start trying the science fiction art show circuit again.

Health-wise, I had a real wakeup call in the fall of 2017 when I had problems hiking because my hips were too tight and I had issues. Plus I was having leg spasms bad enough that I could watch them go in waves down my right leg at their worst. Things were not good. I hurt a lot. Not the earth-shaking, major pain-killer pain, but that dragging soft-tissue coupled with arthritic pain that no traditional doctor takes seriously in a woman, especially if you can’t/won’t handle muscle-relaxants for the soft tissue stuff. And then there was the persistent shoulder issues.

Then I discovered a shiatsu massage pillow. That led to acupuncture and chiropractic work in addition to my regular massages because I realized part of the relief I was feeling came from adhesions getting broken loose. I also got smart about living in the world of ice/snow and bought hiking sticks and Yaktrak shoe chains to reduce the risk of falling (still happens but not as much). I started using a neck pillow for any drives over two hours. Additionally, I started using CBD and THC topicals, as well as oral CBD. Things aren’t perfect, but I can move again. There’s one troublesome spot in my right hip which has plagued me for thirty-eight-some years, thanks to a fall while jogging, but it’s much improved from what it’s been over the last ten years. What’s even more encouraging is that I have the urge to move again. I want to work out. My muscles are tight on a three-day cycle, but it is absolutely not the same sort of thing as I was experiencing before.

I’ve also gone back to using moisturizer and makeup. Part of it is that I have an excellent source of mineral-based makeup here in Enterprise–Wild Carrot Herbals has their company store here (as well as their warehouse/manufacturing headquarters) and they carry a nice line of makeup. I went back to my favorite Elizabeth Arden Ceramide-based moisturizers and foundation. It really does make a difference, and the moisturizer holds up to a lot of winter weather. I do need to find something different for hot summer days, though….

In any case, it’s been a year. I’m hoping to be more energized in 2019–if anything, that’s my goal for the year ahead. I want to advance my writing, perhaps expand my craft work into art shows, and otherwise.

I’ll probably put up another post about 2019 goals tomorrow. We’ll see.

 

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Another busy day

Whew. Still a little tired from the week of Orycon. A full week? Well, yes, given that we’re based in Enterprise. The drive down on Thursday, then three days of the con, then a quick run to Clatskanie which turned into an extra trip because our friend’s stuff got mixed up with ours…on what is now being called a totally crazy holiday driving day…I believe it! Then back to Enterprise on another heavy traffic day. It was an intense time. Orycon deserves its own post but not happening tonight.

Today was a bit of a laid back day. I got up, looked at the forecast, and realized I needed to hustle and get out to the ranch to ride before the deluge hit. So I did. Miss Mocha actually walked most of the way up to me instead of making me come to her. Guess she missed the week without grain or treats. The roan filly is attached to her pretty strongly and followed us throughout the ride with occasional plaintive whickers. When I took Mocha out of the field she kept crying for Mocha. Mocha wasn’t particularly fretful, though. I did catch her licking the salt block with the roan filly and another weanling, so I guess Miss Mocha and Marshall the gelding are taking over babysitter duties. Or something.

Then I went and set up the table for Jingle through Joseph. Books, crafts, and jewelry. Hoping to do well over the next two weekends.

Still tired and very, very grateful for the new back massager. One way or another I’m gonna beat some of this pain syndrome I’ve been fighting. I can tell it makes a difference, just in how balanced I feel on my feet. But damn, sure is time-consuming. Oh well. If it works….

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Riding into fall and getting into the writing mode again

If someone had told me as recently as three years ago that I would be galloping Mocha in a stubblefield with gopher holes scattered throughout, I’d have said they were nuts.

So guess what I was doing today? Well, besides galloping, we did a bit of schooling. Little mare was energetic and ready to go, and we not only galloped but did some regular schooling. She was having problems with left to right flying lead changes in midsummer in the arena. Once she moved back down to the ranch and into the stubblefield pasture, I started working on some of our old schooling moves, including inside and outside bend in circles at the walk, two-tracking, and serpentines at trot and canter. Over the course of the last month, she’s gotten smoother and better at those changes.

I’m still trying to figure out what is going on with her. At one point I thought she might have a metabolic syndrome. These days, I’m leaning more toward a long-term, chronic pain problem caused by improper angles in her front feet and her SI joint and her hocks fusing. Somehow, last November, all of a sudden some movements became easier for Mocha and she’s now running sound on a regular basis. She gained weight back in her topline and she is relaxed and happy. I think everything stopped fusing and she finally remodeled her muscles to fit the new angles–whatever it is, I’m grateful.

She doesn’t necessarily act like a 17-year-old mare, except for the way she responds to schooling. Otherwise, the energy levels remind me of Mocha as a younger horse. I’m the one who has to remember to cool her out and spend time warming up. Left to herself, I think she’d take off and be a real wild woman at speed.

I also spend time trying to figure out what her herd dynamics are. She seems to be a lower-level trickster, liking to get her friends moving and stirred up when she feels like it.

All in all, though, it’s fun.

The last two weeks have played havoc with a lot of my writing stuff, as well as my recording of the books I’ve read on Goodreads. I met my reading challenge over there–150 books. I think that’s a bit of a push for me, but we’ll see what my final count for the year will be.

I finally sat down today and started fixing some of the short story submission stuff that got mucked up in the SpiritOne debacle. Fortunately, it appears that I got a bunch of stories rejected before the old email went belly up, which is good. The remaining market is…swamped, so I think I can assume a rejection. Whew. That’s back to normal. But it’s still just seven stories, so at some point I need to sit down and write some spec stories to be sending out to markets. Then I need to work on the anthology, as well as put together the Learning in Space: Bess and Alex compilation. At one point I thought I’d have that book ready for Orycon, but really? I don’t do a lot of sales there. If I can get it ready for even the last part of Jingle thru Joseph, that would be good. Otherwise…

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Transitions, new promo banner, and trails on foot and horseback

The big transition news isn’t really news to people on Facebook and all. Like many others, I’m leaving LiveJournal for Dreamwidth. The new terms of service from the Russians are just over the top, especially for a writer person like me. I’d previously stayed on LJ in support of the Russian dissidents who use it as a platform, but this last bit….no, I couldn’t do it.  So I’ve been busily adding new people to my circle on DW, and hope that this means perhaps we’ll be seeing some more action there. I’m sad to leave LJ, but knew this was coming. I’d started crossposting from my main blog to DW, and had DW crosspost to LJ. This week I severed the DW/LJ link, then imported all my content to DW. In a few weeks I plan to delete my LJ account entirely, or perhaps just delete all my entries.

The banner news is more fun. This winter, I joined the Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild and started learning about making quilts. Up until a few days ago, though, my endeavors were limited to making the block of the month, with a vague sense that maybe I wanted to make a book advertising banner that I could have at readings, signings, craft shows, and what-have-you. But it wasn’t until I worked on the April blocks that I realized I had the perfect block pattern to make a quilted banner…and if I followed the basic concept of a table runner, I’d have a banner. I also had leftover space fabric from the curtains I made for the Enterprise bedroom as well as black and silver moon and stars fabric left over from pieces I’d gathered from an old job to help provide craft materials when I was a 4-H leader.

So here it is:

I used it today for a lightly-attended Grange author breakfast. Now I’m thinking about sf-related art quilt ideas….of the wall hanging size, using beads, and perhaps something to take to convention art shows. Have to think about it.

Hubby and I are starting to get out more and hike. Our first year here was full of moving and getting settled in. Last year, the sub testing job in Portland required that I spend at least a week testing students every month, along with working on my current online teaching job. Plus we were busily digging a lot of razor clams–a good thing as the domoic acid levels this winter and spring have kept us off the beach. It is looking now like the season may not open at all this spring/early summer. So this spring we are trying to get out and do more hiking. We’ve done three major hikes–one in Devil’s Gulch near Big Sheep Creek, another at the Chico Trailhead near Sled Springs, and the third with the horse on the Aneroid Lake trail.

All three hikes were fun, but the Aneroid Lake hike with Mocha left me smiling. I had been worried that she might be silly or weird, but instead, she marched right up the trail, was not worried about being with only her human herd, and showed lots of potential for being able to handle a longer hike on a non-icy trail (we ran into patches of packed snow and ice which made us turn back sooner than we might have otherwise). She picked up pretty quickly on the pacing of the husband staying on foot and was willing to stop and wait without fussing. I was worried that the steepness of the trail and some of the things she did to stay upright on the ice (kicking her toes into the ice to gain a foothold) might have made her sore, but no.

Of course, a few days later she was a total idiot on the roads, calling and calling and feeling like a coiled spring under me. But the weather was unsettled, with squalls blowing off of the Wallowas, and a couple of miles of long-trotting on a soft gravel/dirt road took some of the edge off. While we had wind here, it wasn’t as bad as it was further west in the Willamette Valley. All the same, we got hit with gusts that made me sway a little in the saddle. So I can’t blame her for being on the muscle and worried about her herd.

She has moved to a spring pasture with three other horses. It’s set up with two bigger chunks connected by a smaller corridor. I often find the four of them in the back, and bring her up front. What’s funny is she will then call and call until her friends come up front to join her, and then she settles. This is new behavior for her–but they will come. She also starts calling to them when we get close to the place, and they will answer–and come up to hang out until she goes back out with them.

I’m still just amazed about the difference that a couple of years makes. Two years ago, we were preparing to move her here. She was still struggling with the white line disease and I think was in pain from arthritic joints in the process of fusing. She was depressed and sad. The whole change completely upset her, but given all she had been going through the previous year, in retrospect it wasn’t a surprise. Now, as she prepares to enter her third summer in the Wallowas, she’s completely recovered. There aren’t many 17-year-old horses who feel like they’re seven years younger on a stormy day like yesterday energy-wise, and I’m thrilled to have it happen–I’ve ridden a number of horses her age in lessons, and she just doesn’t feel that old under saddle. Her topline has filled in. She still shows a little rib, but the vet has pronounced her as being in good weight.

Mentally, she’s much more independent than she used to be. That comes with running with a big, stable herd over a rough winter. I’m glad to see it because I notice that it seems to contribute to her being more confident on the roads and trails. I would not have dared take her out on the roads in conditions like yesterday last year. Everything would have made her nervous and worried.

So all that is going well.

I’m working slowly on the writing right now. I’m not sure why that is. I can get going in small pieces–I have a couple of short stories out there that will be circulating, and all, plus I am contemplating what Challenges to Honor will be about. I think part of the issue is that I’m not seeing a lot of sales and I just haven’t had it in me to get out there and do the promotional work. Perhaps the cold, harsh winter? Or just a need to recharge? I’m not certain. Part of it may just be that I am dedicating a lot of energy to defeating the myofascial pain syndrome that has been intensifying over the past year and a half. I think I’m on track for a solution, but I’ve thought that before. One problem is that no one solution works for very long. Whatever it is, though, it interferes significantly with my sleep.

On the other hand, perhaps just putting energy into building my community networks in Enterprise may be part of the situation. I don’t know. It may just be recharge and recovery from the intensity of the past few years. It may be recovering from being totally pissed off at being slammed back into the situations of the Reagan administration politically, with less competence at higher levels (and that’s a scary thing to consider). I do think that this last election has uncovered issues that have been festering since Watergate, and need to be dealt with. I really, really didn’t want to live through these sorts of time at my age–oh well, it is what it is.

I do know that I need to get a newsletter out soon. I need to blog more. I need to do many other things.

And maybe it’s just that I am finally settling in and giving myself space to do so. We shall see.

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Happy belated birthday, Mocha

For some reason I was thinking that Mocha turned 17 today. No, it was last Saturday. Still, she’s doing quite well with herself and is the picture of a content horse living outside 24/7 in a herd.

Three years ago, I wasn’t sure she was going to make it this far. The white line disease had affected her mentally, and she really didn’t start bouncing back from that until the fall of 2015, when we finally figured out what was wrong with her feet (mild long-term rotation which meant that the way she had been shod and trimmed up to that point had contributed to a quarter inch erosion of the tip of the coffin bone in both her forefeet). Even with that, she was still hurting and not completely over it until late last fall. Some of that had to do with moving her toe back and raising her heel a little, which is resulting in her feet getting a little bit bigger so that she will soon be a genuine 0 front shoe instead of a 00 in a 0 shoe in order to give her support. Another factor had to do with something fusing in her rear end besides her hocks–SI joint, stifles, something–so that she naturally stands upright in her hind end and doesn’t walk by placing one hind foot in front of the other (ropewalking). I had noticed late last fall that she wasn’t ropewalking any more. Then we had two and a half months of cold and snowy weather. When the weather cleared, I noticed that she was moving better, lining out bigger and faster in a bold, strong walk, and while she wasn’t spinning like she did as a young horse, neither was she resisting it like she had been for a while.

More than that, she grew a thick hair coat this winter and is shedding it out. What little I can see of the spring coat underneath has me hoping that she’s going to be sleek and shiny this year. She’s also had almost two years of some of the best grass and hay in the region, and it shows. I also upped her grain ration (mostly forage-based with alfalfa, beet pulp, and hay fiber) to 3 pounds from 1 1/2 pounds. She’s filled out and calmed down quite a bit, while still having a bit of spark and sting about her. That said, I have to feed the grain before and after a ride in 1 1/2 pound increments because she stops wanting to eat it after 1 1/2 lbs. But she’s doing well on only grain while being ridden.

She’s getting to the point where crossing the ditch is no big deal. I point her at it, she negotiates her way down, then leaps up the bank on the other side.

Meanwhile, we’ve been having nice riding sessions in the big pasture with long straight lopes and trots. Today I asked for flying changes on the straightaway and there was no fuss or bother about it.

We’re coming to an end for the pasture season, though. Soon it will become a grain field and we’ll be back to arena and road riding until October. This summer, we’re planning to take her out hiking with us–husband wants to walk while I ride, probably us riding ahead for fifteen minutes, then riding back. Guess I’d better put the strings back on her Western saddle so we can tie things to it. Right now, though, I’ve been riding her in English tack. For the first time in ages, the saddle seems to fit her and it’s nice for this stage of her conditioning. It’s time to move toward reestablishing her proper muscling. Not that I plan to get too crazy about it–at age 17, especially after she had some rough times, she’s mostly a hacking horse. But that doesn’t mean we might not decide to hit a show or two, either….

I’m hoping to get another seven years or so out of her as a saddle horse. It seems like changing her life from stall horse to pasture horse has given her a new lease on life. At least this spring, it’s been awfully sweet to have my good little saddle mare back, feeling her energy and forwardness underneath me. I’m also daydreaming about the possibility of riding her from the barn to town, hanging out around the house for a couple of hours, then riding her back. We’ll have to see if that works. It is a fun idea, anyway….

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A Mocha update

I’ve been postng bits and pieces over on Facebook about how Mocha’s been handling this winter, but today’s ride has kicked me into actually musing for a bit longer than a Facebook post. Despite a very cold and snowy winter, the little mare is thriving out on pasture. She’s maintaining her weight, hanging out with the herd, and appears to be content for the most part. This year her movement was more confined than last year due to snow depth and a couple of freezing rain spells which turned the snow into crusty stuff she had to posthole through. The barn owner hasn’t been able to feed as widely in the pasture as usual due to snow depth, and they’ve had to tamp down part of the snow to give the horses a chance to move about without having to fight the snow too much.

December and most of January, it was simply too cold to ride. I’d go out to the barn and bring her up for grooming, check on how she’s doing, and a feed of grain. The “grain” is more of a forage supplement, a senior feed with more pelleted grass, beet pulp, and other stuff rather than sweet feed to make her hot. Unlike last year, she’s not the farthest horse out, but is generally close in or in the middle of the herd. I’ve still not gotten her to come up to the gate but some of that is her own wish not to go by other, more dominant horses in the field. Once the way to me is clear, she’ll usually walk up to me. A big improvement over last year. However, there just wasn’t much to do, and she radiated the attitude that if we weren’t going to ride, she’d just as soon be back out with the herd.

A lot has changed from last year. She is overall happier in how she relates to everything. I don’t think she’s in pain any more; not sure if that’s a result of monthly Adequan shots or if that means between her feet finally getting to where they should be and something more than her hocks fusing or what. Her fore feet are getting wider–non-horsey husband noticed this yesterday when he came out to administer her shot. His comment was that “her feet look like horse feet should look now.” Even on wet ice she moves more confidently. Today she was doing a better job of keeping her footing than I was.

She has become more confident and independent-thinking. I’ve noticed that in how she observes things around her. She notices different things, but doesn’t get as fazed as she has been in the past. Oh, Mocha is still a good equine citizen. She respects human space; she hasn’t turned into a reactive idiot. But she has learned to fend for herself without human support and has become more of a horse over this past winter.

The other piece is that she still likes to work under saddle, and has been chafing at the restrictions ever since I started riding again at the end of January. Until this week, we were limited to the spaces cleared for feeding and a couple of tractor tracks through the snow. The arena was buried under deep snow, and the road was just too iffy to try riding. Even with riding the tractor tracks, any chance she had where the footing was semi-decent, she wanted to move into a trot. I did try doing some ground driving with her in January but gave it up because she made it clear that she really wasn’t into it, and wanted to do more. Oh, she was compliant, but I got a lot of disapproving grunts and sighs as we worked in the barnyard. It wasn’t what she wanted to do and she was quite vocal in that disapproval, complete with longing gazes toward the road. Throw a saddle on her back, though, and even with our restrictions, there were no grunts or sighs.

So. Today. The weather was cloudy with a sunbreak that promised some decent riding conditions when I headed out to the barn. Um, well, the weather was moving in a different direction, and it started sprinkling when I got there. But I was determined to get some saddle time, and had put on rain clothes to stay dry. There wasn’t any deep snow left in the pasture, but there were slick icy spots and I decided that nope, pasture ride wasn’t going to work. Especially since the last time I rode, she kept trying to break into a trot where she could. The arena was snowbound and had melted icy spots. That left the road.

Once I got up on Mocha and turned her toward the road, she was up on her toes. Not like a spooky horse looking for an excuse to bolt, but a winter-fatigued horse eager to get out of the pasture rut and someplace where she had solid footing that wasn’t ice and snow. She marched down the road at a pretty good walk, with the only catch coming when we passed the house with the big German Shepherd. That made her want to turn back, so I dismounted and led her by, then remounted. We got to the little gravel lane that ties into the road network I like to ride, and the moment her hooves hit that gravel, she wanted to prance and trot. Of course, at that corner is where a dude and pack string lives, and they were winter fatigued, bored with winter pasture, and very happy to talk to a visiting horse. We minced by that herd, and then she wanted to line out in a serious long trot. That would be fine, except after about 20 yards she started to try to slip a lope into the mix. Um, no, not at this phase of getting back under saddle. We settled on a nice little working trot, though I did have to stop her every now and then to let her settle. Again, not running away…just exuberant energy at being able to move without ice and snow.

I did make her walk a little, worrying about her overdoing. At least she wasn’t overheating because about halfway through, the skies opened up and we got pelted with cold rain and wind. That was probably a good thing because she did want to GO, and she still has a long coat. Due to her energy, there were comments along the lines of “WHOA, DAMNIT.” “QUIT, DAMNIT.” “Silly mare, stop being an idiot.” But I was grinning the whole time, simply because she’s sound, she chose to round up under me and use herself, and she had all that energy but was still listening.

I’ve got my good saddle mare back. YAY.

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The days are too freaking short

Yeah. I know, it’s wintertime. I live most of the time in a mountain valley that’s had a LOT of snow in it since early December or so. I should have lots and lots of time to write, do crafts, and blog, right? That was my plan.

Weeelll, instead it’s been OMG the social whirl! Part of this has been connected to dealing with the weather, of course. We got socked with serious subzero temps in December along with big dumps of snow and downright crappy weather outside of the valley (not that the valley was necessarily without winter). There were a number of December nights where I entertained myself by looking at the weather forecast on the smartphone that claimed the temps would go up 10 degrees in the next hour…only to see that hour pushed further and further out. When you are talking about the difference between -14 and 4 degrees F, well, that’s significant.

Then there was dealing with the snow. And cold. Even though things have warmed up, several weeks ago we got the warning that ground frost levels had dropped to the depth of the city water mains, and we needed to keep running water 24/7 to keep the mains from freezing. After having a brief flirtation with frozen pipes early in December, we took that warning seriously. Still, we’d get a drop of around 4 inches of snow, which meant we needed to dig out the driveway to keep things open. One thing we discovered about the first winter here was that ice tends to form right off of the bottom step out front. Well, it didn’t this year, possibly because we kept digging it out. All the same, days on end of subzero temps where the daytime temps might break single digits above zero…MIGHT…led to a certain amount of survival prioritizing.

First of all, the snow was too deep and it was too cold to safely ride. I spent a lot of time just going out to the barn (if the roads weren’t too bad) to give Mocha petting and grain. We sure didn’t do a lot of riding this winter as a result. But part of my going to the barn also meant checking the big trough for the pasture horses, because they were sucking it dry 2-3 times a day. The water trough is heated, and there’s not a lot of moisture in hay. They were eating 35 pounds of hay a day or more during the worst weather. Mocha went through it just fine. One day I brought her into the barn because it was icy, she had front shoes on, and between freezing rain and wind she was having problems staying on her feet. I took several blankets out to the barn, figuring I’d need to blanket her.

Um. Nope. Even though she had ice in her mane, ice on her back, ice in her tail…no shivering. And she made it clear that She Was Not Staying In Any Stinking Barn. In her past life as a stall princess, you could leave her stall door open and she’d stay put. Not now. I went to fetch her some grain and hubby went to get her more hay, leaving the door closed but not latched (it was a gate, not a sliding door). Little Miss pushed the gate open and marched out, heading for the pasture in spite of hay in the trough. I intercepted her, put her back in, and once she was done with her grain, she tried to push that gate open and leave once again. We ended up leaving her in the barn for the day, but by late afternoon she was ready to go back out. Hey, she’s holding her weight just fine, she’s sound, and today we went for a short ride in snow that’s still deep but not too deep for a short ride, especially with conditioning time coming up.

Secondly, just keeping the house warm and keeping ourselves warm could be interesting. We use wood heat with radiant oil backup, and have winterized the heck out of the place. The woodstove will hold a fire most of the night, especially with a pair of oldsters who wake up in the middle of the night and throw a log on. Still, when temps dropped to the subzero level, there would be a period where things got cold. Hubby and I got really coiled up together at that point. When it’s that cold outside, even insulated walls radiate the chill.

Thirdly, getting out and walking around, while doable, also required caution because of ice and slick spots, as well as burning calories in the cold.

But add to all that my getting involved in some local groups, and yeesh. I’m liking it, but I’m also finding that the community (as I already knew) had a lot of things going in the depth of winter.

Now things are getting warmer. Oh, temps in the high 30s still feel positively tropical. Mocha is having to relearn how to carry a rider in something other than a tractor track and that breaking through crusty snow does not mean she’s sinking into a deep morass. Grass and plants pop out green from under the snow. One of our local roads has turned into a roller coaster due to frost heaves over every culvert.

And now, suddenly, it seems to be easier to focus.

Interesting how that works.

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Wintertime, writing, new short story release up on Amazon, and other stuff

New fantasy short story release on Amazon with other sources (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, etc)  to follow! The Goddess’s Choice is more relevant to the next book in the Goddess’s Honor series than it is to any of the stories I’ve published in that universe so far. You’ll be seeing Vered there. In any case, here’s the cover, link, and blurb:

cover

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6IN53D

Vered desperately wants to become a Sorcerer-Captain so that she can command a ship free from the demands of her cousin, Emperor Chatain of the Miteal. But first she has to prove her worth to the Goddess Terat. Will she succeed?

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As for other things. This winter looks a lot more like the kind of winter I anticipated in Enterprise. We just went through a short period of sub-zero temps, including two nights of 20 below 0 (Fahrenheit) which led to our water meter freezing up as well as the place where the water line comes into the house. That meant yesterday was a bunch of excitement and drama, starting with the discovery of the problem at 5:30 am, the scavenging of water sources around the house, the pilgrimage to Safeway to buy more water when it opened, the calling of the plumber, the calling of the city public works emergency line, and lots and lots of the boiling of the hot water. Plus the buying of the small heater to thaw the link inside the house. Nevertheless, everything got thawed, the meter got more insulation, and we are taking other preventative measures. This was a blockage that had all the experts scratching their heads, but I’m just grateful we didn’t have to dig through a foot of snow to dig up the water line and thaw it that way (it’s all plastic, folks, which is actually more forgiving than metal but still…fewer thawing options). The freezing happened between midnight and 5:30, which did surprise us, but hey, it got fixed and all is good.

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Mocha mare is getting along just fine with the herd. The picture is her on one of those subzero days. I’d given her some grain mush and turned her back out, and she was in no hurry to move on, especially since the herd was close by. I thought about riding today since the temps are warmer than it’s been for a while, but I’m still tired from yesterday’s excitement and hey, this is the first day of my official school break. Plus my gut is kind of grouchy today, so I just decided that I would vege out inside for once.

Besides, I finished a short story yesterday and that drug on until 9 pm. It’s a ghost story set at a horse show, playing with the all-too-common tropes of sex, drugs, and horses. I approached it as more of an exercise–one of those picture prompt types of stories. The ghost story is hopefully enough for me to tweak for genre publication should it not be picked up at the first market. I might try a couple of more literary markets first, but we’ll see. I’m somewhat allergic to paying to submit electronically, especially since genre markets don’t charge in comparison to the small press literary market. No matter what, it’s an addition to my inventory, a good one to replace The Goddess’s Choice. I’m going to give myself a week or so before looking at it again. I’m just pleased with myself because I wrote it in four days. Go me.

I’m poking around at Klone’s Folly and it’s about time to get back into it full bore. Then it’ll be on to Challenges to Honor, the next book in the Goddess’s Honor series. After that, probably the Weird West book. It feels funny not to be thinking about a Netwalk Sequence book–this will be the first time in about ten years that I haven’t been writing something in the Sequence. But that’s the life of a writer. I do want to put out an omnibus edition of the Alex and Bess novelettes, and will do that as soon as I get around to it. I do have a followup SF series, but the Star Shepherds book is significantly far-future and will be different. It might be a series…it might not. I’m just thinking about it now and chewing at the idea.

Maybe it’s the Solstice thing. I just want to hang out and chill a bit, read a book or four or five….I have been reading a lot this year, and tracking my reads on Goodreads. It’ll be interesting to see how many more books I add before December 31. We’ll see what plays out.

Meanwhile, I feel an urge to go curl up by the fire and work on the current book…..

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Winter life

Zero degrees tonight. As the temperatures plunged this week, I suddenly remembered that these are the conditions I own a bunch of this cold-weather clothing for. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it until now, but sheesh, I had drug these heavier items–sweaters, cords, the heavier base layers–out earlier in the season when I was still teaching in Welches. I don’t remember using my winter clothing much last year, but then again, not only was I still half-organized here in Enterprise, but I think we were in Portland during the coldest temps last year, and came back just as the temperatures rose to the teens at night.

Of course, I have to remember that I taught in a cold room for eight years, with a door that opened only to the outside and I probably wore my heavier winter wear much more frequently than I do now. Welches may not get as cold as Enterprise does on a regular basis, but it did hit the 30s with damp and rain or snow pretty steadily from late November through February. So as a result I do have a nice stock of heavier clothing and things that go over light ski base layers and look good, just because I needed that functionality to be comfortable. Especially since I went to the barn several nights after work, and it was damp, cold, and near the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, which meant a lot more wind than up on the Mountain.

Single-digit and zero degree temps here in Enterprise don’t seem so bad after that. Without wet and wind, it’s possible to get outside and do things in these high mountain valleys. Today, hubby went off to cut wood for a local nonprofit that provides heating wood to people in need. I went out to the barn to do a short ride and give the horse some meds before the farrier appointment tomorrow morning. Mocha seems to appreciate the new life and she’s not as frantic in the pasture this year. Then again, last year winter pasture life was all new and she had bonded closely with one other horse, who was a bit of a stinker. This year, her friends are mannerly and she’s back to her mannerly habits, including coming up to me in pasture. I mixed in some warm water with her usual pellet feed and she slurped it right up, not rushing through it.

Then we headed out for our inspection of the fence. This winter, I’m riding Mocha in the pasture using a sidepull–a type of bitless bridle with a stiff leather noseband that is slightly snugger and sturdier than a halter, with a curb strap and extra ring so that the reins lie right. Despite her greater energy this year, I’m not too worried about her taking off with me because something startled her. For one, she doesn’t have her winter shoes on yet, so she’s not moving as fast and she’s having problems with ice buildup in her shoes. I counter that somewhat during our rides by spraying canola oil on her feet and shoes to supplement the rim pads she’ll get tomorrow–last year, I used WD-40, but the new spray nozzle on that stuff doesn’t work worth a hoot in wintertime. I had enough of wrestling with that darn nozzle on cold, snowy days last winter. I’m also hoping to get some borium or tungsten put on the shoes to help with the grip–the rim pads will help reduce ice buildup as well. So until then, we’ve been taking it rather easy.

I could tell in the cold of today that Mocha wasn’t wanting to move fast, which was fine by me. She clearly had energy from the way she moved, lining out in her usual big walk with a level head and ears forward, but she was also being a smart horse and not wanting to exert herself any harder than she had to in these conditions–temps in the low teens, if not single digits. I remembered why I want to be riding midday in wintertime–as the sun went behind Ruby Peak, I could look up to some of the high mountain ridges to see skiffs of snow blowing off the very tops. While there was a faint wisp of moving air in the field, that high-altitude wind reminded me of bitter cold days riding the lift up the Magic Mile, where I would bend over double to keep warm in the teeth of a sharp breeze.

I did see some cold weather oddities. As we first started out, I noticed shimmering heat waves over the neighboring alfalfa field. Now maybe that was over the irrigation ditch that is still in the process of freezing up. It’s hard to say. Further on, the pipes on one of the wheel lines (irrigation pipes on big metal wheels) vibrated, slowly at first and then more intensely. And yet the wheel line we rode next to wasn’t doing that.

Winter is here for certain.

 

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Not a Netwalking Space post…well, except for maybe the last paragraph

IMG_2109Actually, there has been other stuff going on this summer besides The Novel. We are painting house exteriors in Portland and in Enterprise; I’m helping with the big Portland project (ahem, when the temps and word count allow) while hubby is pretty much doing Enterprise on his own. Considering the Portland exterior is twice the size of the Enterprise exterior, well, that makes sense.

But more is going on other than the Novel, Painting, and Preserving/Gardening. Though Preserving/Gardening is a thing, and will be even more so as we progress through August into November.

Part of what is going on is that the prescription for Mocha this summer is lots and lots of road riding. Once I got her past the half-mile hangup in hacking out, we’ve been able to do a lot of exploring on the local gravel and blacktop roads. We’ve got the hoof issues under control, however the other piece is that she is still going through muscle adaptation to new hoof angles. That means a few consults with the equine bodyworker, and a lot of hacking out at a walk with occasional trots. When we’re not in Enterprise, she’s been going out to pasture with other horses. It’s clear she likes that part of the new regime. The Stall Princess is now a Pasture Queen. Granted, that has nothing to do with her status in the herd, which is toward the bottom.

When I’m in Enterprise, though, we’re hitting the roads. It’s an easy three-quarter mile to the gravel road that gives us access to some interesting loops. I can do a three, four, five, or seven mile road ride at (mostly) a walk with gentle hills. Most of the ride is by ag land, with occasional house clusters. We pass by entire sections of alfalfa, wheat, various hay mixes, canola, peas, and flax as well as grazing land for cattle herds and some horses on our different routes. There’s lots of whitetail deer and a fewer number of mule deer. One three-sided garage seems to be an attractive midday nap site for muley bucks; I’ve seen a four point and a forked horn lounging in that outbuilding.

Along with the crops are the wildlife. We spot feral cats bounding through the cultivated grasslands, shy and wary enough to survive coyotes, eagles, and other predators. I’ve lost track of how many California Quail coveys we spot on a daily basis. I know one covey has barely-fledged young (clearly a second hatch) while a covey that shares the same area has fledged young capable of short flight. But there’s still another covey with young that except for size look adult. Occasionally we encounter a China ringneck pheasant; fortunately, none have exploded out from under our feet. We’ve seen marmots, raptors from kestrels to eagles in size, ruffed grouse, and a distant coyote. And deer. Lots of deer. Last night, we encountered twin whitetail fawns hanging around the road. Big spotty fawns, no sign of mama. They didn’t take off until Mocha picked up a pricked-ear trot to check them out, and then they crashed through the canola fields, white tails flagging back and forth as they disappeared between leaps.

My horseback time is useful for learning the difference between whitetail and mule deer behavior. Muleys tend to freeze and look. Whitetails look, then run with their tails wagging and flashing high. If you hold, then the muley holds. The whitetail just plain takes off. They tend to run more blindly and their flight path follows predictable patterns–often right in front of us. If I were hunting whitetails, I think I can now predict the flight line they’ll take, because the terrain definitely seems to affect how they flee.

Deer don’t seem to faze Mocha. The closest incident we had was when the four point muley buck blew out of that garage almost on top of us. But even then it was a jump and freeze reaction on her part. She’s the steadiest road horse I’ve been on, in the sense that I have more confidence in her response to me than I ever did with Sparkle. Sparkle was a decent road horse, but she had an unpredictable bronc element that Mocha lacks. If things get really crazy with Mocha, I can dismount, walk a ways with her, then get back on and be confident she’s okay. Couldn’t do that with Sparkle. A definite difference in breeding and training, for sure. That said, I ride out with four reins on Mocha. Just a bit of power steering and power brakes, you might say. Most of the time, we’re marching along on the buckle. It’s those other moments when I need that little reminder. Sparkle was a bronc who might choose to react by bucking or rearing. Mocha is flat out reactive and possesses a bit of sting. But her reactivity is easily managed and that sting can be defused. She’s hotter than Sparkle ever dreamed of being but she has a lot more sense. However, both mares enjoy and enjoyed hacking out. The big difference is that Mocha might startle and maybe take a couple running strides, but Sparkle would run with a few bucks.

So this summer I’m throwing back to my childhood in the Mohawk Valley riding the small handful of gravel roads available to me from my parents’ place, only I have many more options. Plus the view on Alder Slope beats anything in the Mohawk hands down. I can look to the north and see the plateau country transitioning into the canyon country, or look to the east and see more plateau country leading to more canyon country and the Seven Devils. South, of course, are the Wallowas, especially Ruby Peak, Hurricane Creek, Chief Joseph, and Mt. Howard. Nothing like riding along on a good saddle mare with a big walk.

At the same time I’m pounding away on Netwalking Space. I passed the 30k mark today and I’m on target for getting dang close to 60K by September 1st if I can sustain this pace. It’s not the killer pace of Nano–I’m trying to average about 2500 words a day, every day, without doing the brutal 5k and 6500 word days I did during Nano. The highest word count day I have so far is 3500 words and I have a few 3100 days under my belt. I am going to be traveling a little bit in forthcoming days so I need to have a few overage days to hit my average. The other, good thing is that while the plot matrix has now become “plan? what plan? we don’t need no stinkin’ writing plans” to some extent, it still gives me enough guidance to provide some chapter outline work to give me a guide to where I’m going now. The other piece is that I think this story is going to come in at around 70k-80k words. I could be wrong, but we’ll see. I’ve hit some points at 30k that I thought would come later…on the other hand, I have two more big plot punches I can throw. So we’ll see what happens.

There you have it–a recent update that isn’t all Netwalking Space.

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