Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eight years ago today,

I was flying over the East Coast, my soul sinking at the sight of brown. Such a deadening color.

I had left Ireland some hours before and had watched their green coast line disappear behind me, somehow fooling myself into believing that the world I was re-entering was going to be as beautiful, as open, and as exciting. I was flying back to Utah. It was not as beautiful, open, or exciting.

I had gone to Ireland as an apprentice in the Communicating for Agriculture Exchange Program (they're now the Communicating for America program - they really shook things up with their name change). The program was such an incredible opportunity. They took care of matching you up with some possible apprentice opportunities (my choice was horse stables in England or Ireland - I ended up choosing Ireland from four choices they gave me, the other three were in England) and handled the working visa paperwork, you took care of the rest. Your employer gave you room and board and a small stipend in exchange for you working your ass off for them. It was a sweet deal for a college-age American who was horse-crazy. If we're ever in a position to host an intern from another country through this program, we're doing it.

(sorry for the blurriness of the photos that follow - they are pictures of pictures. haven't figured scanning out yet)

I landed a position with Carrickmines Equestrian Centre near Dublin. They were very generous. I worked for five days a week, from dawn to dark (except for in the winter when I worked from dark to dark), got one free riding lesson a day, a 100 pound stipend per week, and a flat to share with other stable hands - I was the only American. EU workers came cheaper, I think.

It was a really good deal for me. I got to learn to jump - something that was outside of my means in America - and I got to travel anywhere within a few hours distance (most of Ireland) on the weekends.

This one's for my sister-in-law - we were discussing Irish hot chocolate the other day. It's an experience.

I met a lot of people there who changed my life - the way I looked at America, the world, myself, others. It was an enlightening, if sometimes painful, experience. Tony and Hillary, a very kind - and fun - couple who played polocrosse at the stable, were very influential. I remember that when I first met Tony, it was two days before I could understand a word he said. He was from the west coast of Ireland. By the time I left, six months later, I could tell you where someone was from in Ireland, and even parts of Wales, by their accent.

Then there was Simone. Simone Fottrell. Or Simone Fotrell. Or Simone Fottrel. I'm sure it's the first spelling, but I've got to cover all my bases. I lost track of her and can't find her information. Simone Fottrell. Maybe she'll get bored and google her name, my blog will pop up, and we can reunite. Simone Fottrell. Like a made for tv movie about friendship. A very sappy movie. Simone Fottrell. Maybe someone from Carrickmines will follow the link back to my blog and know somebody who knows her and let her know she's being looked for. Simone Fottrell. How many times does the name have to appear for it to come up first in a google search, hmmm??? Simone. Fottrell.

Anyway, Simone was the best friend I had over there. She worked for a wealthy young jumper (named Sarah also) as her stable manager. They rented a small side-stable at Carrickmines. Simone was a great jumper in her own right, a good horse trainer, a great riding instructor, and she really cared for those animals. She was the one who dragged my prissy LDS behind into Irish culture, pell mell, no holds barred. Well, some holds barred - I never drank. But I did go to pubs and dance clubs with her and a group of girlfriends. We both got something out of it. She got a loyal 'designated driver' (which in Ireland means a member of the group who doesn't drink so that they can keep all the rest of the girls in the group who are getting drunk off their trees from going off with random men) and I got to learn to let loose and have fun. I also got to meet some great Irish jumpers, get some kick-ass jumping lessons, meet some really fun guys.

So, Simone, if you read this - contact me. Pretty please.

When I left Carrickmines and flew back into the States, I knew I wouldn't be going abroad again for a very long time. It's been eight years and with finances tight and young children, I really don't know when I'll get the chance to travel again. And travelling, while fun, is just not the same as *living* there and working there.

Maybe that's why every year at this time, I remember the brown coast coming into view and I get sad.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We have a beautiful view.

We really do.

About two weeks ago I looked out our front window and saw this.

That's a lot of sheep. Judging by the number of marker sheep in the herd, there were at least eight hundred. They spread from one edge of my camera lens to the other.

I took this picture as they were being moved from one of our neighbor's fields to another, right past our house. A few of them decided to come visit my husband's small flock of sheep. The herder had to come push them back onto the field.

This is the herder and two of his working dogs. He was moving constantly to stay warm in that cold and wind.

His sheep camp was set up in one of the fields and he stayed there for almost two weeks moving the sheep from field to field.

There is one large sheep buyer in this area. He buys up thousands upon thousands of lambs from around Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. He rents fields from farmers and puts the sheep out there to glean. He was lucky with these fields - they had new green barley on them. Most of the fields don't have so much food on them. On those fields, he buys the junk sugar beets from our local sugar beet factory, trucks them out, dumps them in the field in rows, and lets the lambs finish on those.

And the sheep industry wonders why people don't like to eat lamb these days. Our lamb is delicious. Our lamb isn't finished on rotting sugar beets.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The weather and a chicken question.

So we've gotten some snow lately.

Not near as much as the Oregonians (Oregonese? Oregonans? Oregonish?) have gotten, not by a long shot.

For example, we can still make it to the bathroom.

It's been a lot, but no more - so far - than usual. *And* it looks to melt within the next few days so that we won't have to pack the next storm on top of this one, which makes getting out of our 1/2 mile (more or less - I really don't have a clue) driveway easier.

Here's one of the kids heading out to chore with her dad. She doesn't leave his side when he's home.

Now for the chicken question.

I have this problem. I've moved the chickens into our shed to protect them from the wind as much as possible. I don't think I've mentioned anywhere on this blog how much wind we get. We get some wind.

So every morning I walk in to water and feed, and every afternoon I walk in to water and gather eggs. And every dad-blame-gum time, I'm tripping over chickens. I don't have that many chickens! Yet every time I walk in, I have chickens run up to me, turn around and act like they're either pooping or laying an egg. Yet they're doing neither. Every dad-blame-gum time.

Can anyone explain this behavior to me? Please?

I'm starting to feel like they think I'm more handsome than I am.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No matter how many times I read this, I still laugh hysterically every time. Tears-rolling-down-my-face-sides-hurting-"You've-got-to-read-this" laughter.

So here you go. You've *got* to read this.

"I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it.

The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it.After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up — 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me.

I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it…it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and then received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope. That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt.
A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer– no chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only up side is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.

I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.

Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn’t want the deer to have it suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder - a little trap I had set before hand…kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite?

They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist.

Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head –almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now) tricked it.

While I kept it busy tearing the bejesus out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose. That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day. Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp.

I learned a long time ago that, when an animal — like a horse -strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape. This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work.
In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy.

I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.

The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.

I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope. It is so that they can be somewhat equal to the prey."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hello? *tap tap*

Didn't mean to duck out on you like that... due to my husband's suddenly changing work schedule, I've been single parenting it for the last two weeks and will be for the foreseeable future. Add to that caring for 20 sheep, 9 goats, a pony and 21 chickens in the snatches of pre-children-awake/naptime/after-children-are-asleep time, and I've had to let this blog drop and go to nearly all scheduled posts on my other blog. There's no way I can take my youngest two out in this biting, freezing wind. My dad tried to tell me I could early last spring. I think he even called me a wimp. Told me it would be good for my kids and went out himself to work in it. He called it a 'bracing' wind. That bracing wind sent him scuttling back in twenty minutes later saying that I should never take my kids out when the temperatures were that low and the wind that strong.

If it makes you feel any better, I let the laundry go before I let this blog go.

I feel more like my feet are back under me now, so you may see me around a bit more regularly.

In the meantime, enjoy these videos of my little cowgirl. Was she ever that little? That was only two years ago. I'm going to be a sobbing mess looking back at these when she's 18.