Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Story

Howdy Friends,

I wrote this little story as a thank you and Christmas present to all our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends a few years ago. I figured it might be a sweet tradition to share each Christmas. I hope you'll enjoy readin' it to your youngin's and grandbabies. Ravishin' Robbie and I, and all our critters wish you all a love filled and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
A Christmas Story

With a piece of kindling, Sarah scratched ice from inside the lone cabin window. Cupping hands against her face she squinted through the tiny pane to see blowing, swirling snow. Nothing new to see, except the darkness moving in. She shook her head. "Can't even see the barn now."

If he wasn't getting home tonight, and her hopes were fading, she'd better bundle up and tend the animals in the barn. Jed had been sure to load the wood box before leaving the day before. Load the box? She chuckled at the heavily laden box with wood stacked halfway up the wall. "Wood enough for a week," she remembered him assuring her, even though he was planning on being gone only a day.

This would be the first visit to the orphanage she'd missed since they'd wed three years ago. But this year, with a month old daughter of their own, and the threatening skies, Sarah thought it best Jed make the ten mile ride without them. So he'd set out in the shadows of early morning alone.

She bent over the black kettle filled nearly to the brim with simmering duck stew. Stirred it thoroughly and swung the black arm out from the fire to hold the kettle just near enough to the hot coals and gentle flames to keep the stew at the perfect temperature. She'd have a Christmas feast waiting for him when he returned.

The orphanage sat way outside of town, on a little farm well off the beaten path. Out of sight. Out of mind. Run by old widow Martha Bowman, and two ancient broken down ex-cow pokes, Jake and Shorty. Jed had grown up there. "Poor kids." Jed told her once. "Not only don't they have families of their own, but most town folks don't even want to see 'em. They'd just as soon forget 'em."

Jed never forgot them. Each Christmas he'd visit and carry a feed sack of toys to share with the children, usually numbering around ten. Toy horses, he'd whittle, a fishing pole or two, and dolls Sara would sew. Of course a few scarves and mittens too.

Not being able to see the children this Christmas Eve had Sarah's heart a little heavy. She'd grown so used to the singing, laughing and playing. And the happy faces. Even the old cow pokes would join right in and sing along. Jed had a way of really throwing a lively Christmas Eve party.

Sarah tended to the fireplace, wrapped the baby in their warmest blanket, grabbed the milk pail, the coal oil lantern and started for the door. Forcing the door into the wind took all her strength. The gale hit her full on, slamming the door closed behind her, nearly sucking the very breath from her lungs. Leaning low she sheltered the baby, pushed into the wind and hurried for the sheltering barn. Tiny frozen flakes pelting her cheeks like stinging bees. It was a journey of only fifty feet, but tonight it seemed a mile. The snow wasn't deep, but the wind halted her every step.

Cold, full hands made sliding the barn door latch nearly impossible. She could set nothing down for fear it blow away. Struggling with an elbow and the back of her hand she managed to pull back the thick, black, frozen metal latch. Fierce wind ripped the door from her grasp slamming it wide open. She hurried to the far corner, past the cows, the horse and chicken coop.

Inside was a different world. Jed had labored a full summer four years ago to build the barn out of logs instead of boards. "Harder to be burnt out that way," he'd explained. They'd lived in the barn a full year after that while together they finished their one room cabin. She settled the baby snugly in a bed of hay. "There now," Sarah soothed the sweet girl, "you sleep easy, Jessica, while I milk the cows, and I'll bet Daddy will be home before I'm through."

She battled the raging wind to pull shut and latch the heavy door, hung the lantern on its crooked peg in the center of the barn and paused a moment to look around. Three cows and a horse make plenty of heat inside a barn as tight as this one. The wind howled and raged but could find no way in. She settled down on the milking stool and started milking the first cow. Snug as they were in the sturdy barn, her mind was on Jed. The first streams of milk rang out on the pail side. She tried to time the ringing sound of milk hitting the metal bucket to "Silent Night" as she squeezed in rhythm to the hymn she hummed.

"Why isn't Jed home yet?" Worry began to creep into her thoughts.

Only two cows in milk right now, so milking didn't take very long, or give even half a pail. Clover, the youngest was due to calve any day, and her milk would surely be welcome.

Milking finished and still no sign of Jed. Sarah checked on Jessica all snug in her nest of hay, then busied herself giving hay to the cows and horse. The chickens hardly stirred, few even pulled their heads from under their wings.

Worry kept her busy. Finished the feeding, Sarah found cloth and strained the milk, a job usually done on the tiny table in the cabin, but she dreaded the trip back through the wind and biting ice crystals, so she did it right there in the barn. Besides, somehow the barn seemed a better place to be tonight, Christmas Eve. Her mind kept busy fretting over Jed. Was he lying in the bitter cold somewhere, hurt? Or worse? She began to build a plan to go search the vast openness that lay between them and the orphanage. That would have to wait for daylight. But wouldn't his horse have found its way back to the barn? Jed's horse, Scout was a big, powerful horse and very smart. Surely had something happened to Jed, Scout would have come home?

Nervously she nursed baby Jessica, to the unsettling sound of relentlessly raging wind tearing at the walls of the tight barn. Gathering Jessica she moved closer to the cows so the sounds of them peacefully chewing might sooth her worried heart. She nestled into the straw next to Clover and rocked gently. The barn was a peaceful place but tonight even its warmth and embrace could do little to sooth her. The ride to the orphanage and back, even with a first class Christmas party should only have taken Jed and Scout about six hours. He should have been home well before dark.

Weary with worry, Sarah almost drifted off.

Her horse pacing and nickering in its stall roused her. "It's okay, Goldie, the wind can't get us in here."

Knowing she must check the fire and the stew in the house, she carefully tucked tiny Jessica safely back in her nest of hay. "I'll be right back, you sleep tight." She kissed her cheek, and wiped a tear from her own. Turning to the cows and Goldie she said, "You all watch over her while I'm gone."

She snatched the lantern from its peg and made the dash from barn to cabin, the never-ending wind at her back. Inside she found the fire nearly out, but the stew still delightfully warm. Building the fire back up, stirring the stew and gathering another blanket to swaddle Jessica took only moments, and through the bitter, blinding darkness she ran for the barn, shielding her face from the stinging snow.

Fighting the wind to pull closed the heavy door, for an instant the wind's roar was blocked. Was that a bell? Did she hear ringing bells? Or were her ears simply ringing in the wail of the wind? She strained her eyes in the direction of what she imagined was the ringing bells. Is that a light? Could that be a light? But what could there be out there moving in this horrible wind? It didn't appear to be a horse and rider, so her hopes sank as quickly as they'd soared. The bells stopped and the light vanished. Sarah pulled tight the door, made fast the latch, then hurried to Jessica to add the extra blanket.

Clover mooed, Goldie stomped and whinnied. Before Sarah could react, from the outside, above the wind, came an answering whinny. “Scout?” Sarah yelled, tears streaming her face. Terrified of the possible answer she yelled, “Scout, is that you? Is Jed with you?” Bells, did she hear bells again? With wings on her feet she flew to the door, only to have the latch yanked from her grasp.

Stunned she starred into darkness, and there stood Jed flashing an ice covered smile as wide as the mountains themselves, holding Scout's rope. Behind Scout stood two horses harnessed to a wagon with canvas stretched over it. “Brought ya a few Christmas visitors Sarah!” Jed waved a hand toward the wagon. Sarah's knees melted, she crumbled to the ground.

“Hey now,” Jed scooped her up with a hearty laugh. “We can't have this, we have us a Christmas Eve party to put on for the young 'ins!”

Jed, Shorty and Jake fought the wind to swing open the big barn door, Martha led Scout and the team right into the barn. Every hand worked together to pull the door closed behind the wagon. Martha flipped down the wagon tail gate, and one by one giggling and laughing children slid out.

Sarah's knees went weak again, she grabbed onto Jed. He could see the love, relief and questions in her eyes.

“Well,” Jed started, “When I rode up to Martha's the wind already yanked the roof off that old shed they call home. Jake, Shorty and me didn't take too long to figure out there was no fixin' that rickety old building. Nobody knew what to do next, not only did they all need a place to live, but heck Sarah, this is Christmas Eve and we got songs to sing and presents to open … so we hatched a plan to stretch this canvas over the wagon, nail 'er down with boards and haul the entire outfit right here.”

With a grin and tip of his hat, Shorty yanked the sack of presents from the wagon seat, and held it high.

The children had settled down in a circle holding hands, except for little Jane, who had discovered baby Jessica. "Look Miss Martha, it's just like the story of baby Jesus, lying in the manger with all his friends in the barn."

Gitty Up and Merry Christmas ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, October 24, 2016

Horses Want to be Happy ...

Howdy Friends!

"Just like us, horses want to be happy. They have a desire to please. And they think a lot. They are better than most folks at noticing things—things they want investigate, things they love, things they worry about. We have a responsibility as owners, caregivers and partners to be there for our horses. When they ask a question that’s important to them, it should be important to us as well,..." EXCERPT from my book, "It's for the Horses: An advocate's musings about their their needs, spirit, gifts and care" ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"A visit from Bob"

Howdy Friends!

I hadn’t thought of my friend Bob for a while. Perhaps he just wanted to sit together again, like we used to.
Bob & me and Jack, on the couch ... A gathering of his many friends for Bob's 70th birthday. Soon after that he was gone. But he still visits me.

 Saturday, Kessy and I were enjoying Coffee Clutch. This morning Bob, and our many visits occupied my thoughts. Bob was taken from us too soon, a few years back. A Viet Nam vet, agent orange and cancer eventually won. Sitting with Kessy something took me to Bob’s big shop where his tools, collectables and motorcycles lived. Often on a visit to his farm he’d steer us to that place he called his sanctuary. We’d sit in the old, worn chairs, between his bikes and wood stove, sip on coffee and swap stories. Mostly he’d have the stories, Ol’ Bob was indeed a master storyteller. Often though, we’d simply sit together—in the summer doors flung, wide fans whirring—in the winter all tucked in, wood stove blaring ... Friends don’t always need words. I felt Bob join me this morning, no words, just a visit. Perhaps he just wanted to sit together again, like we used to. 
Bob at his 70th birthday ... A gathering of friends did indeed give him a great send off.

 ~ Gitty Up, Dutch Henry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Build Your Own Hay Steamer

Howdy Folks,

Many horses, like my Kessy, have breathing issues, and should never have moldy, or slightly moldy, or even dusty hay (And horses with no issues can develop them eating dusty, or moldy hay). My research proved to me that soaking is not good enough, research and my own trials. Mold spores don’t die if soaked, but they do die at temperatures above 130 degrees, and steam of course occurs above 210. I checked the temps in my steamer, inside flakes of hay, it is consistent at 180. 
My homemade hay steamer I built for about $100.00. Big plastic tote, wallpaper steamer, a little cpvc pipe and fittings. I put the carpenter clamps on the lid to be sure the lid it seals while steaming. You can see here the tub, the steamer and hose.

I built my first hay steamer from plans I found on the internet over a year ago, so credit them. I’d been soaking Kessy’s hay, and that worked, sort of. But she got worse over time, so I built the steamer. Note here, even on the steamed hay eventually she developed full blown heaves ... with management practice adjustments, and help from Dr Thomas’ Chinese Herbs (Read that story HERE) she is totally recovered. I point all this out because addressing all aspects is sometimes what it takes. Another note—whether we see it or not, most hay has some mold in it, of course sometimes we actually see and smell it.

I just had to rebuild my hay steamer, the tub eventually breaks down. I steam Kessy’s hay 2 hours morning and night.

So here is a very simple way to build your own steamer for about $100.00.

I start with a big storage tote found everywhere. I like the largest I can find, mine is 36 inches by 20 and 20 inches high. Kessy is my only horse, she gets 10 pounds of hay, in slow hay feed nets, morning and evening—and the 2 bags of 5 pounds each fit nicely in this tote. I like to steam in the net, much easier and neater. The steam is produced by a Wagner Wallpaper Steamer I bought at Lowes for $59.00. I have mine set on a timer to steam just before I feed morning and night for 2 hours, so it’s always fresh and always ready. Note—you must use a heavy duty timer or it’ll burn out the steamer, I learned the hard way.
Inside the tote you see the steam manifold laying on the bottom. 36"of 1" cpvc pipe with 1/4" holes every 4". Note the tee, And the fitting through the wall. You'll need adapters for that fitting. You must measure the hose on the steamer you buy and with adapters bring it to the 1" size of the manifold. I do that with the pass-through connectors.
My steam manifold, which lays on the bottom, is made of 36 inches of 1 inch CPVC pipe (you need to buy 48 inches to make the tee you see in the picture). Important to use CPVC as regular pvc can’t take the heat (my first manifold I made that mistake and my manifold fell apart quickly). You’ll also need the tee, and end caps for the pipe, and CPVC nut to attach to pass through adapter you see in the picture. On the 36 inch piece of CPVC I drilled ¼ inch holes every 4 inches for steam flow.
Here is the outside of the pass-through hole. Look closely to see the fittings and the steamer hose cut to length and clamped on fitting. This took several pieces, the nipple to clamp the hose onto, the adapter to bring it up to 1", and the big sealing nuts and washers.
Drill a 1 inch hole in the side for the steamer hose to pass through, as pictured, and I used heat tolerant plastic fittings and washers to make the pass-through completely sealed. You can find what you need at any hardware store. You just need to adapt (with an easy to buy adapter/reducer fitting. It’ll take a few pieces to get it from ½ inch to 1 inch) from the small ½ inch hose (which you’ll cut to about 3 feet) attached to the steamer manifold which is 1 inch.
I used the Wagner Power Steamer, which I found at Lowes for $59.00.
Inside the lid I put smooth weather-stripping around the flange to cause a seal. Remember to wipe off the lid with rubbing alcohol so it will stick.

Attach the hose from the steamer to the pass through adapter (I cut it at 3 feet length), and you’re ready to steam. Steaming time can vary, should not be less than 45 minutes, I like 2 hours—my provider bales REALLY tight bales and less than 2 hours did not always steam all the way through good enough.
Kessy's hay in slow hay feed bags ready to steam. I put 5 pounds in each bag each am & pm.
As I mentioned I like to steam in the bags, easier and neater. When I feed, I always dump the water out of the steamer. There will be a few cups of water in the bottom, and it’s best to dump out each steaming.

There ya go, an easy to build, easy to use hay steamer. Personally with all I’ve read about the benefits of steamed hay, I’d feed it now even if my horse had no issues. Hope this helps you!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Pryor Mustangs and Custer Battlefield"

Howdy Friends!

 Sadly I just read Ginger’s latest newsletter for the Cloud Foundation. Her newsletters are always beautiful, and she indeed tries so hard to be upbeat, but the sadness sometimes comes through. A few years ago the Forest Service erected indestructible fences locking the Pryor Mountain Horses from the grasses of the Custer Battlefield. Preferring the cattle graze it. This land and grass has for a very long time been life sustaining for the Pryor Herd. They need it to feed up in preparation for the fierce winter. I’ll share here a few excerpts from Ginger’s newsletter.
Photo at Custer's Battlefield fence, From "Cloud Foundation" newsletter 7-26-16

 ... “Despite the dry conditions, ranchers are unloading their cows and calves that will graze in the Custer National Forest where the horses are banned.” And “Then the big fence comes into view—the Forest Service barrier which robs the horses of their late summer grazing, forage vital for them to bulk up for the coming long winter. Please click here and sign our petition to allow the herds to access this area during the late summer/fall months.” 
At Custer's Battlefield from "Cloud Foundation newsletter 7-26-16

The petition is backed with researched and proven facts how the grasslands of Custer’s Battlefield were indeed better served with the horses grazing on it. “Well-beaten horse trails have been present for decades indicating the historic use of FS lands by wild horses as reported by BLM employee Ron Hall in the early 1970s.” ... “It is the belief of professional range conservationists that targeted, seasonal grazing as proposed will improve wildlife habitat, expand plant diversity, and protect against a catastrophic fire in the Custer National Forest lands in the area in question. A lightening caused fire was quickly extinguished several years ago but after 5 years of no grazing there is a buildup of dead vegetation.” ... “On Page 128 Coughenour state in his Ecosystem Modeling that: “Horse condition was also slightly lower then USFS access was disallowed.” The model predicts what we are currently seeing as far as lower body scores.” ... Thank you Ginger Kathryns for you undying support for those with no voice without ours. 

~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Annabel’s Glade

Howdy Friends! 

This beauty goes on for a long stretch in the valley by the big stream.
Yesterday’s ride took us through the big stream and into Annabel’s Glade. named this hidden treasure in honor of my dear friend Annabelle Byrd. I always think of Annabelle each time I ride through this lovely untouched garden. The day I first discovered this patch of Heaven wrapped in serenity, a bird flushed from behind a rotting log. It let go a “peep” and flew to cover providing me only a glimpse, enough to see its basic color and shape, and enough to understand I didn’t recognize it. Back at the house I called Annabelle and after a series of questions she identified my mystery bird as a Wood Cock, a first sighting for me. Since that first sighting I’ve seen several more wood cocks while riding near there. Annabelle was one of my dearest friends, for decades we birded together. She was one of my mentors in birding and nature. She’s gone to Heaven a few years back, but her memory rides and birds with me still ... She would positively adore Annabelle’s Glade. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

You can read more about Annabelle Here ~