Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Saying goodbye to our equine friends

WOW! doesn't time fly!  I have a lot of catching up to do.

Since I last blogged, we've sold our house and horses, bought a caravan - two actually - travelled a bit and resettled in South Australia.

Selling the horses was the hardest.  Dear Mr Ned went to live with a lovely young family... eventually. I sold him a few times before he chose who he wanted to go with.

He was never much of a floater but he flatly refused to leave us!  People would come out to meet him and we'd all chat and have a ride and all was well 'cause he was the most awesome old man.  No-one could fall off this horse, Mr Ned always looked after you.  They decided he was the best and would return to pick him up and he just would not go on the float.  This calm, quiet and cooperative horse would backup, rear, and generally dig his heals in.  Now we're not all unaware of floating issues but nothing would convince Mr Ned to leave - he just knew what he wanted.

Eventually, on our fourth attempt, the young family and I had been working to get him on their float for quite some time and he continued to rear and reverse.  we had tried all sorts of tactics but nothing was working.  We were just about to give up but decided to give it one last go.  I gave him a big hug and had a little chat about the realities and then walked him to the float.  I was expecting what had become the usual carryon and he stopped, looked at me and then just walked onto the float and stood there.

We couldn't believe it.  He had obviously just made the decision that he had to go.  It was so heart-breaking.  The Generous Performer, The Littlest Horse Whisperer and I had tears flowing as we waved goodbye to our beautiful friend.

Pokey also found a fabulous home with a little girl - a very little girl.  I loved that she was little because it is a hard life for ponies.  Their riders grow up and they are often sold to buy a bigger pony. Pokey had years with this lovely little character and home was horse heaven with rolling green hills and lots of horsey company.

Johnny, the young Standardbred, was in for a lively time which is just the way he liked it!  The lady who bought him rounded up dairy cattle in the wee small hours of the morning on horseback.  Now that's the way to start a day :)  His departure was pretty amusing too.  They arrived to pick him up with a cattle trailer.  That's right, a trailer with high fenced sides, no roof, no ramp and a sliding gate at the rear.  I was suitably surprised and wondered if he would even get on.  The rear gate was not very wide and he had to step up into the trailer.  He was such a laid back fellow and always trusting and eager to please.  I walked him up and I got on first and he just jumped in and stood there.  He was up for an adventure obviously!

We all felt very sad without the horses in the back yard - we still do.  They bring such joy and friendship.  The Littlest Horse Whisperer does have a new equine friend now.  His name is Monty, a 15hh thoroughbred who is teaching her a lot about horse training and consistency.  Unfortunately he is agisted as we are now in suburbia and the back yard is too small.  He's not too far away though so she's with him a lot.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

How to save money on your power bill

Three months ago I got a power bill for $1000 - say what!!!!!!  The bill statistics said we used more than a six person household.  I have never had a bill so high and it really was not payable but with a little help I got through it.  We have since made some changes and the latest bill was only $300 and the statistics say we have used less then a one person household.

When the horrible bill arrived we had a family meeting and some discussion on lifestyle choices.  We all agreed to make some changes :)

We spent some time going through all the electricity that we use and deciding which we could do without and which we couldn't.  I refused to give up my washing machine!  We were going to switch off the fridge but The Generous Performer did some research and discovered our fridge, freezer and washing machine were actually very power efficient and didn't cost much to run - Yay.  A large portion of that horrible bill would have been heating.  WE had problems with the wood fire and had to use electrical heating for our large breezy house.  I did attempt to contain the heating to a couple of rooms but obviously it was still an expensive option.

The first change we made was to not use lights unless absolutely necessary.  I thought we would use oil lamps but instead found some solar powered LEDs.  They use AAA rechargeable batteries that apparently should last at least a year.  Whilst they do not light a whole room, they do light a defined area so I have set them up in specific work areas and we are really happy with them.  I hang them outside on hooks on the verandah post to recharge each day.  I am looking into solar powered outdoor lighting to use indoors too.

We also decided to reduce the amount of television use.  We only watch DVDs and occasionally play Playstation anyway but less is better.  So we turned the lounge room into the storage room but left the TV in there with one couch.  This means it is not an inviting area to be.  You really have to want to watch something to use that room.  The new rule is to also turn everything off at the powerpoint when not in use.

A big change that we made was in the kitchen.  We 'live' in the kitchen - most daily activity is centred in the kitchen around the dining table.  The problem with this is that this particular kitchen is very dark and needs lights on the whole time.  So we would turn the kitchen lights on in the morning and they would stay on until we went to bed at night.  Now the whole house already had energy efficient light globes but they still cost something to run.  The solution was to move our activity to a room with more light.  The main living room is the old school house original building and has a 5m ceiling with huge tall windows - lots of light :)  So the dining table went in there and two couches.

After rearranging some furniture and getting in the habit of NOT turning on light switches and making sure the solar lights are charged each day we have a much smaller bill.

We do use the ceiling fans when it gets hot and I will turn on the air conditioner when it becomes unbearable - like the 46 degree day we had last week - so I expect the next bill will be about the $300 mark too but hopefully we can get it even lower once autumn hits and the wood fire is operational again for the winter.

How to learn to ride in one hour

After watching and helping the girls through the learning to ride process and spending hours and hours walking around the bush with them, I have decided it is time I had a horse too.

I had my first riding lesson this week and was cantering by the end of it.  So I can now explain to you how you too can learn to ride in one hour.

Firstly you need a really good riding instructor.  One who can explain all the little details really well before you try anything.  You must have complete faith in your instructor.  I am very lucky to have The Savvy Sage of Horsemanship.

Secondly you must have a horse to ride that you can trust to stop, or at least slow down EVERY time you ask 'em to.

Luckily for me, I had both :)

1.   climb on your horse with as much confidence and finesse as you can muster.  Sit up straight and let your instructor push, pull and poke you around until you are supposedly in the right position with good horse riding posture.  If you are doing what you have been told this new positioning and posture should actually feel more comfortable and stable than when you first got on :)

2.   do everything your instructor tells you as they attempt to give you the skills to have some sort of control at a walk without falling off and without hurting the horses mouth.  This means remembering what to do with your head, hands, elbows, legs, ankles, toes and butt all at the same time.

3.   time to speed up - now for the trot.  This means that whilst remembering to have 'soft' hands on the reins you have to stand up and sit down rhythmically with the horse's trotting pace.  At this point you are now going faster, remembering more things all at once and purposefully taking your butt out of the seat.  Remember - the aim is to stay on the horse!

Right about now, your horse is trying really hard to figure out what you want.  The poor thing thinks all humans know what they're doing and at the moment the signals from the human are hard to follow so it is possible your horse will do other things besides trotting.  My horse decided to canter.  All is well though, I have a horse that slows down the minute I ask him too.  Woo hoo - I didn't fall off.

4.   Seeing as it has been proven in a millisecond that it is possible to stay on the horse at a canter, you may as well do it on purpose :)  It is advisable to get some more instructions from your riding instructor when she has stopped laughing at you.

Here comes the practice part - start your horse at a walk, ask him to trot and see what you get.  Sometimes I had a pace and sometimes a trot and then he'd throw in a canter and back to a trot.  Obviously I was not very good at giving the right signals with my body parts but I had friends on the sidelines who would call out which gait I was in so I could attempt to rise or sit as required.  By the end of it I began to feel which gait I was riding and almost had some semblance of control.  This means he trotted when I asked and cantered when I asked and he always stopped when I asked.

It has been one hour and you can now walk, trot and canter on your horse, albeit with little finesse or control but you CAN  do it - barrel racing here we come :)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

no more lice :)

I am happy to say that after spraying Mr. Ned, Samilla and Little Sioux twice with the pyrethrum based product for lice and washing all the saddle blankets, rugs, saddles, girths and the rest and then spraying all that lot too, we appear to be lice free.  Mr. Ned isn't spending all his time scratching on trees and wiping out the trees! Thank goodness.

I also read a book by Pat Coleby called Natural Horse Care.  VERY informative and, as a person who likes natural methodology (some call me alternative, hippy, feral, etc :), this book was a very welcome resource.  Pat Coleby talked about the need for an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals in a horses diet and the problems that can occur when this is not met.  Apparently lice can infest a horse if there is a lack of sulphur.  So we fed the ponies sulphur as well for a while and added a vitamin and mineral supplement, Equilibrium, to their diet as a permanent thing.  Mr. Ned is looking so much better than when he first arrived.  There are different ways of getting sulphur into your horse.  There is a yellow powder and a product called MSM which many use for arthritis in horses and dogs.  As usual, different people have different ideas about which to use so I'll let you do your own research (wouldn't want to spoil the fun :) and make your own decision.

Mr. Ned also had his wormer which he obviously hadn't had in a while and is looking a lot better.  He is certainly happier under saddle.

The Generous Performer has bought a dressage saddle from The Lady of Many Horses.  It fits Mr. Ned beautifully (until some expert takes a look and tells us differently) and The Generous Performer says it is very comfy.

My darling daughter has come such a long way with her riding.  In only a few months she has gone from being terrified, only riding on a lead rope even out on trail rides  and only riding in a western saddle so she's got something to hold onto, to riding in a dressage saddle out on the trail by herself all the time.  I'm very proud of her resilience, determination and effort.  These qualities will take her a long way :)

Before ….
After :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

growing a garden in sand

nothing but sand
Here's how I have decided to grow things when all I have is sand - to the centre of the earth, I'm sure.

First I dig a big hole - way bigger than the plant needs in width and up to my knees in depth (just under 2 foot).  This hole is for a small garden that is under the verandah and the hole is about 4 foot x 2 1/2 foot.  I planted a hibiscus in here about six months ago, gave it plenty of water and seasol and it hasn't grown one new leaf.  It hasn't died either but I want it to get bigger - I love hibiscus flowers :)

Once the hole is dug - this one took so long I needed a coffee break - pour seasol water in.  I used about 40 litres in the bottom.  Then fill it almost to the top with horse poo.  It's good if the horse poo is a little bit old but not completely necessary.  Just make sure the poo is below where the roots of the plant will be.  Add more water with the poo.

For the top 6 inches I mixed some fairly decomposed horse poo with the sand I had removed and more seasol water.  All up I used 4 full wheelbarrows of horse poo and 160 litres of water in 20 litre buckets from the rainwater tank - should give it a good start.  The idea is to encourage the roots to go down and the horse poo to decompose.

Now plant!  add more water and mulch, mulch, mulch!

This whole process took me about 2 1/2 hours and hopefully I shall be able to sit back and watch my little hibiscus sprout madly :)

my little hibiscus :)