Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Busy, busy times

I know... it's been quiet on the blog. But I haven't heard any clamoring for posts, so I've allowed my energy to be directed elsewhere. SO much going on here, and I suspect this upward trend in activity will only continue for the next, oh, decade.

So, what's up with us?

E is dancing several hours per week now thanks to our change from her old dance academy to the local community college offering. She's in beginning pointe now, no shoes but strengthening, preparing and learning the skills she'll need when she finally grows strong enough to wear those torture specialty slippers. She's also still taking Latin, and piano. is enrolled in a theater workshop, and has begun crafting with some other girls her age. Last week: knitting. Next gathering: who knows?

This morning, E wrapped up work on the porcelain doll she's been making for a 4H project. She started by selecting a doll, then returned to the studio to find her greenware ready for scraping and detailing. The head, arms and legs, once prepped by her, were then fired again to harden. The following week she tinted the legs, arms and head and added color to the cheeks and lips. One lesson was dedicated entirely to adding the eyebrows. I thought she'd taken an EXTREMELY long time at 45 minutes to perfect one eyebrow. The instructor informed me, however, that she's had adult students spend as much as 2 1/2 hours on making a pair of eyebrows! The eyeball selection week was a hoot for me. (Imagine: a bin full of eyeballs...I sure hope those photos turned out well...we shall see as soon as we get the hard drive/computer compatibility issue solved.) Today, the body stuffing was completed and the flexible armature in place, so arms, legs and head were attached. She selected a wig she'd like, and it should be in next week. I'll try to get the photo issue resolved by then so we can share the final result.

E and I will soon sing in regional competition with Sweet Adelines International's TriCity Sound Chorus. She looks so cute on that front row. I wish I could be in the audience to see her shine, but feel so honored to have this opportunity to share the stage with her.

E & V and I have all been enjoying our Saturdays at docent training at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc. E has been wanting to volunteer there for about four years now, but she was always too young. No kids, they said. But this winter we received an invitation to take part and the girls, especially, are having a fantastic time. One Saturday, I had to promote books at a kids' fair in Santa Barbara. The girls had the option to join me there (and play in any of the more than 100 vendor activity areas) or go to docent training. They're unanimous response, "We want to go to docent training because it's really fun!" Volunteers Shelley and Ed have been fantastic with the kids. I've enjoyed my adult training, too, but I didn't get to mash adobe with my feet or ring the bells or work with pottery or any number of other super fun hands-on projects they've enjoyed in the kids' program.

V is cruising along, going with the flow. Her interest is still in animals. She's been entertaining us all with her tortoise, Leo, and helping to take care of our other animals. She enjoys collecting the eggs our hen, Flo, began laying while we were all out of town skiing in February. It seems she needed a little lock-down time to finally get the eggs going - or maybe it was the longer, warmer days. Hey, whatever works. V is also having a great time riding horses weekly, and playing out at the ranch with E and the other horsey kids while I work with our Mattie.

Speaking of Mattie - we've had some valuable lessons recently.

Lesson One: carry an extra cinch in your trailer/gear - When we arrived at the trailhead for the 4H horse group trail ride last month, E's cinch was missing. We didn't have an extra one with us, so she was almost out the ride. But her group leader opted to ride bareback so E could borrow the leader's cinch. THANK you, Brenda!

Lesson Two: carry an extra halter - I finally purchased the leather trailer halter that was on my list. It seems people haul with leather so that if there's an accident, the horse doesn't hang herself on a rope or nylon halter. The leather headpiece breaks away. Sounds better than hangin', but seems less than ideal to me...then you have an unrestrained horse. Still, I did what seemed right.

For this month's 4H horse group meeting, I agreed to take another little girl and her horse in our trailer with our horse. The horses didn't know each other, but did well with the center divider providing enough protection from each other (and their mellow personalities) that they made the short drive without incident. But while the horses were tied up for tacking, hers jumped, then Mattie spooked, the other horse spooked at it was ON. Mattie pulled back to the end of her rope.

When a horse hits the end of the rope, they don't back off...they pull harder. She tugged until she was sitting on her haunches. Then the leather broke. She skipped away a couple of body lengths before standing still to assess the situation. There she was, no halter, no rope. Just standing naked in the parking lot at the arena. Fortunately, I was able to reach under her neck, grab her mane on the other side, and lead her back that way. Then we just tacked her up for the group meeting/ride.

Another fortunate thing is that the leather is easy to manipulate. Since she was on the tightest settings for this head piece, I just adjusted the remaining half down to the lowest hole, then pierced a new hole on the other end. It's not pretty, but it worked to get her home. Now...back to the tack store. (And, of course no tack store within 50 miles has the replacement piece. SIGH!)

Lesson Three: when introducing new gear, do so in a round pen or arena - Yesterday's was the most exciting lesson of all. We want to use Mattie for packing our gear when we hike (camp). I finally gathered the packing gear we'll need. I did so months in advance of our propose first trip because I knew I'd have to work with her and the gear before hitting the trail. Yesterday we had lots of time on our hands, and it was a beautiful day to spend at the ranch. So...

I put on the first pannier and she was a bit leery of the big orange bag sticking out her side. She walked sideways with it for awhile before settling in and ultimately taking a snooze at the hitching post with it still on her side. So, I added the second pannier. She gave it a sideways look, but seemed to settle in with the idea. So, I released her from the hitching post (she wasn't actually tied there, but her rope was looped to give her the illusion of restraint). When we started walking away from the post, she swung her but around so that she hit the pannier against the post. Of course it made an odd (to her) noise, and it was ON! She spooked, tried to run away from the panniers which were chasing her on BOTH sides now, hit the end of the rope I was holding, pulled back even HARDER because now, as mentioned before, she was at the end of the rope, then bolted.

The property where we keep Mattie is fenced on four sides, but there is a healthy opening on one side and, of course, she ran straight for it, then through it, then out of sight. With the help of other horsefolk who were there we were able to find her within minutes, panniers still attached. She was standing, grazing, as if nothing had ever happened.

Sometimes it's good to have a single-minded horse - if that single mindedness involves food.

And finally, I thought I'd post some photos here of Mattie's travel rig. I'm pretty happy with it, though I did find a spot that could use some work...after I wrap up this second edition of "Best Family Adventures: San Luis Obispo County," and get next month's school activities planned, and, and, and...


  1. It's good to hear from you! I'm glad things turned out fine with the most recent 'learning-experiences'.
    Out at Grandpa & Grandma's farm (A LONG time ago) I remember riding on Skylark behind you once, and I remember my butt hitting the dirt!
    Still a fun memory though!

  2. I savored every word of this post, Missed it but of course never said a thing, thinking you were just too busy, Which sounds to be so true. Sounds as tho you have been doing and learning as usual, and then some. Never a dull moment at the Best house. Fresh eggs sound so good.

  3. All that horse drama! I couldn't handle it. Sounds like you have had some scares, along with your learning experiences. Keep up the blogging, when you find the time, we really do love reading about all the Best adventures.


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