Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Little Christmas Helper, Minka, Morning Becomes Electra Then Falco, A Dressage Christmas Carol

Another Christmas for Dolly at Windflower

      Dolly Decked Out For Christmas                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Minka, Our Very Own Christmas Elf

       For those of you new to my blog, Minka is our calico kitty that we adopted from the MSPCA at Nevins Farm little over half a year ago.   She'd been found wandering around outside the shelter.  (People often abandon animals at shelters during non-business hours to avoid paying a surrender fee.)   When found she was wearing a collar and smelled of perfume.  Perhaps the person who abandoned her held her during the car ride.  Minka is a calico, and though I've heard from a number of sources that calicoes can be quite nasty, Minka is a love.  She is also the most psychologically secure cat we've ever owned.  She's interested in anything and everything that I, Jim, or the dogs happen to be doing, and is more than happy to introduce what she, no doubt, believes to be a better project or game.

       Here's but one example:  years and years ago Jim's uncle built a beautiful wooden play wagon for Jim and his brother when they were little boys.   After it had served its childhood duties, it was put away,  only to return to Jim years later.  I had a glass cover made
for it, and we now use it as a coffee table.  For each major holiday or season I remove the glass and decorate the interior.   This fall, for example, pumpkins, gourds, and miniature Indian corn were bedded down in hay requisitioned from the barn. 

       For Christmas I decided to fill it with artificial snow and a mirror serving as a frozen pond for skating.  Of course, while I turned away to collect figurines and the mirror, little Miss Minka decided to fill the wagon with . . . herself:

     Minka in the Christmas wagon                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Adding figurines met with additional interference:

   Minka demolishing the fence that keeps Frosty           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013
    from wandering onto my mirror pond. 

        Elf Minka                                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Yielding to Minka's determined sense of play, I pulled the wagon a few feet, sure that she, made nervous by motion, would hop out.  Au contraire, she loved it, and so I spent nearly twenty minutes giving her a wagon ride around and around the house.  Eventually the glass top went on and Ms. Kitty was decidedly put out.  She furiously scratched at the glass, hoping to banish it so she could get back in to demolish a few more figurines, or perhaps catch another ride.  The glass would not yield.  I'm keeping my eye out for a Minka-sized doll carriage so she can be wheeled around the house in a manner befitting a royal member, in fact, the only royal member, of our household.

Morning Becomes Electra

       Last week we had our first real snow, and by "real" I mean deep enough to trot or gallop my horses through the woods and not worry about their hooves whacking New England rocks.  I wish I had pictures to show you, but you can't be a jockey and a photographer at the same time.  That lesson I learned over ten years ago while riding Tica in the ocean at Crane Beach.  I was determined to take a shot of the shadow cast by her head on the churning surf.  Quite stupidly, I was leaning over to get a better angle when a sizable wave spooked Tica.  I went flying off head first.  Cold water (it was November) and bubbles everywhere!  When I surfaced I had a hard time staying on my two feet with the waves rolling in.  My shoulder felt like a hot poker was being repeatedly jabbed into it.  After a two-mile ride over bumpy sand in the rescue jeep, followed by a couple of hundred feet of bone rattling on a small gurney--broken bones rattle more--the ambulance ride was sublime.   While apologizing to the nurse for dumping a couple of pounds of sand in the ER when they got me out of my sopping wet clothes, Tica and beloved Amada were being trailered back to Acton.  Jim was en route to the hospital.

       So, no riding shots this time, but lots of pasture ones of the horses and dogs the morning just after the winter storm named "Electra" exited stage northeast:

Dolly breaking hay with Logan:

   Dolly and Logan                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


Sweet Dolly almost always comes running when I call:

Now Off!


Bella and Clem take refuge in the barn: 

And, finally, Juliane's horse Logan's special Christmas wish:


        "Logan, she really is taking you.  Just hang in there, buddy, only one more storm to go--and it's named 'Falco'!"

       However, between the storms Electra and Falco I took a quick run up to the Costco store in Nashua, New Hampshire, to order some eyeglasses.  There was a customer with her young son ahead of me.  While the technician placed her order we had  the following brief exchange:

       Customer:  Snowstorms are  tough when you've got to deal with four cars in your driveway.

       Me:  And it's tough when you've got to feed and water your horses, too.

       Technician:  You've got horses?  I love horses.

       Customer (with great animation):   You're a rider, right?

       The only thing equestrian about me were riding tights and the coat I wear out to the barn.  But perhaps I was emanating some sort of classy equestrian vibe.

        Me:  Why yes, I am.

        Customer:  I knew there had to be a reason you were dirty!

       Some of you may remember the story I told in my entry about taking Elementa to the University of New Hampshire dressage show (http://windflowerfarmweekly.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-young-horse-elementa-and-her-first.html).  A volunteer at the Show Secretary's table said that she had read my novel Trophies over twenty years earlier.  She said her mother read it first and blacked out all the sex scenes with a magic marker.  She then said, "And that's why I remember your book!"

              So, my novel was remembered for over twenty years because of marked out "dirty" sex scenes, and now I'm identified as a rider, because I had a swipe of dirt across my winter riding tights.  What can I say other than I now feel a great deal of empathy with the Peanuts character Pigpen.

Snowstorm Falco

              So now we had a total of fifteen inches on the ground.  Then the temperature went up to a balmy thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 Celsius):

Logan breakfasting with Elementa

Dolly and Firefly decide to have a race

Dolly  (I used some Photoshop filters on this)

  Here are Juliane and Elementa enjoying a snow ride:

       We did manage to keep our lesson program going.   Zoey (pictured below) is one of the ones I call our "Intrepids," students who ride through the winter.  She came inside to wait for her father and to warm up.  She did this with loving help from Minka and Clem.

Juliane and Logan To Florida

      This past week a huge horse trailer pulled into our cul-de-sac and picked up Logan, Juliane's horse.  His Christmas wish came true, and he is now in Florida.  Juliane will follow him down after the Christmas.  She will be a working student for a dressage trainer near Wellington.  It is a fabulous opportunity for her.  Many top dressage trainers and riders--a number are Olympians--migrate to the sunshine state where they enter first-rate competitions.  I'm sure Juliane will advance quickly in this sport, to which she plans to dedicate her life.  She won't be back until May.  Her students and I will miss her acutely.

       Finally, I want to leave you with some lyrics I wrote to be sung to the music of The Twelve Days of Christmas:

        A Dressage Christmas Carol
                         Lyrics by Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013
(To be sung to the music of the Twelve Days of Christmas)

The first show this season was not the best for me:
It rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The second show this season was not the best for me:
My horse lost two front shoes,
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The third show this season was not the best for me:
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes,
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The fourth show this season was not the best for me:
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The fifth show this season was not the best for me:
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The sixth show this season was not the best for me.
My horse was a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse threw two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The seventh show this season was not the best for me.
The judges all were sleeping.
My horse was a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The eighth show this season was not the best for me.
 The judges now are sleeping
My horse was a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The ninth show this season was not the best for me.
Fifties we keep scoring
The judges now are weeping ,
My horse was a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The tenth show this season was not the best for me.
Debts are a-soaring.
Fifties we keep scoring,
Judges now are weeping,
My horse is a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The eleventh show this season was not the best for me.
Dressage I am deploring,
Debts are a-soaring.
Fifties we keep scoring.
The judges now are weeping.
My horse is a-leaping.
Where are my gloves?
My stock tie came undone.
Was that the judge’s bell?
My horse lost two front shoes.
And it rained so hard we couldn’t even see.

The twelfth show this season marked a change for me.
Now we are passag-ing,
So well it is alarming.
Leads are a-changing.
Extensions are amazing.
Piaffe is beguiling.
Judges clearly smiling.
We are the best!
I can’t believe we won.
It was so much fun.
My horse was such a dear.
And we can’t wait to show next year!

    Dolly and me                                                                James Engell copyright 2013

       Have a wonderful holiday and Merry Christmas!
            Ainslie, Dolly and all the critters at Windflower Farm.

       Thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly.  See you soon.




Wednesday, October 30, 2013



             Deer Haven Rescue                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

              When a Paradise Valley highway led us here I was sure these horses had to be owned by a Hollywood Star.  They are legion in Montana--Bill Pullman, Kevin Spacey, Jane Fonda, Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, to name a few.   If not someone among the rich glitterati, then at the least some cowboy breeder of million-dollar Quarter Horses.  Please remember that it's hard to shake years of metro west Boston's real estate prices out of my head.  When I returned to Massachusetts, I hopped on the Internet and learned that the animals at Deer Haven Farm are not equine superstars, and that their owners are neither Hollywood Walk-Of-Famers nor prosperous Montanans.  In fact, the horses in the photo above are rescues, and their owners a warmhearted couple from the northeast.  In a former life Al Feldstein was editor of Mad Magazine for thirty-five years, and Michelle was a race car driver and hospital administrator.

       Deer Haven is a retirement home but not just for horses.  A variety of elderly or injured animals otherwise sent to slaughter have found refuge there.  And from what I read, the level of care the residents enjoy is superior to some of the places our human seniors find themselves.  Michelle kindly gave me permission to write about her farm and provided an update on the current rescue population.  Deer Haven is home to ninety-three horses, five of whom are blind; eight donkeys; twenty llamas; four alpacas; fifteen sheep; twenty-three goats; three flightless ducks; thirty dogs; and thirty cats.  The Feldsteins foot what must be an astronomical bill themselves.  They also rent out a guest house on the property.   The  money from this enterprise helps defray costs, as do Al's lovely paintings.  Michelle has invited me for a tour, so on my next visit to Big Sky that guest house is where I'm hoping to hang my hat.

         I can't resist relaying a touching Deer Haven story.  Blind, fifteen-year-old mare Sissy and friends, five goats and five sheep, arrived when the rescue where they'd previously been went under.
Sadly, in these recent, tough economic times this has been the case with many rescues, equine and others.  When the animals were turned out in a pasture, the Feldsteins witnessed something extraordinary.  Animals we normally associate being shepherded--the goats and sheep--became shepherds.  They placed themselves in full charge of Sissy, directed her to hay and water, and angled her into her run-in shelter when the weather turned bad.  One could argue, I think, that these ruminants were morally superior to human shepherds:  they had neither profit nor meat consumption as the motive for their care. 

      Please check the sources and websites listed at the end of this entry to learn more about Deer Haven and to view Al Feldsteins's  paintings.

               Deer Haven                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Space in Montana?
Just Ask This Bozeman Gentleman

    Jim, Kezia, Alec, Loren and Evelyn Acton                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Pictured from left to right are my husband Jim, Kezia, my son Alec's stunning lady friend, Alec, and Loren and Evelyn Acton.  How did Jim and I come to find ourselves at the home of this wonderful couple?  The answer is in the center--our son Alec, who, as I mentioned, is studying for his doctorate in solar physics at Montana State University (MSU).  

       Loren Acton is a solar physicist who, in addition to being a revered member of the MSU faculty emeritus (and who helped found the solar physics program), is a former NASA astronaut.  He flew as a payload specialist in Spacelab 2--housed in the Shuttle spacecraft--in 1978 and 1985.  Dr. Acton's work involved observing and analyzing our nearest star, the Sun, as well as other celestial objects.  (I really want to say "beings" rather than "objects" but then you might think NASA had gone over to Age of Aquarius, which would be highly misleading.)    

        In just under eight days--both trips included--Dr. Acton orbited the earth one hundred and twenty-six times.  It took nearly twice that time for the Yugoslav freighter I booked passage on in 1974 to travel from Yokohama, Japan, to Vancouver, British Columbia!  (Well, to be fair, our freighter Korotan's progress had been impeded by the crew whose May Day celebrations devolved into what Russia's President Putin would call hooliganism.  (We were somewhere just south of the Aleutian Islands.) 

        We remember where we were on important, often traumatic, dates.  When John F. Kennedy was shot, I was in my ninth-grade Earth Science class.  When the infamous New York blackout occurred, I was in New York cantering a horse in a lighted outdoor arena that suddenly went dark.  The day the Challenger shuttle went down, I was drafting a political scenario for a war game at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.  Dr. Acton, who had traveled on that same shuttle just months earlier, stood on a stage in front seven hundred students in the auditorium of a Wyoming middle school, just about to give his talk on what being an astronaut is all about, when a member of the faculty whispered in his ear that Challenger had just exploded.  

       Both Montana natives, the Actons are very involved with church, community, and local schools.  Their daily life, their house and surrounding land, are living testaments to that fact.  The interior of their house is home to a marvelous collection of bird art--paintings, photographs, and carvings.  Over coffee and a delicious home-backed plum cake, I asked Evelyn if she'd  ever seen a mountain lion.

       "Why yes," she said, pointing through one of the large-paned windows, "Just last week I saw one chase a fox into that draw."  

        For those of you who didn't grow up reading Zane Grey--my brothers did but I didn't--nor watching Roy Rogers--my brothers didn't but I did--a "draw" is a small ravine or gully.  Though I harbor twin sympathies for both predators and prey animals, in this case they tipped in favor of the fox.  I was relieved to hear from Evelyn that he'd gotten away, and I hoped that the hungry cougar soon happened upon a deer, preferably one already dead. 

      The Actons also mentioned the church to which they belong.  I wondered what they, a couple of both faith and science, thought about creationism.   We were soon expected in the nearby town of Livingston, so there was no time for that of discussion.

        On our return home, however, I once again turned to the internet.  Here is a YouTube of Loren Acton speaking on evolution and God.  In addition to commenting on creationism, he proves that Joni Mitchell is correct when she asserts in her song Woodstock:

       "We are stardust, we are golden"


The Bozeman Symphony

         Much our time in Montana was  spent in the company of our son's friend Kezia, beautiful in all sorts of ways.  For one thing she is a talented bassist in the Bozeman and other Montana symphony orchestras.  Jim and I attended a performance of the Bozeman Symphony, truly extraordinary, especially for a city that size.  The program featured works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and a composer I'd not known, Tomas Svoboda, a Czech-American born in 1936.  The orchestra played his Overture of the Season, opus 89.  I was transported!  I'd hoped to find at least a sample of it on YouTube so you could hear it too, but sorry to say, I couldn't find it, not even on iTunes, though iTunes has other music by him.  But if you get a chance to hear it I hope you will enjoy the rhythmical rounds of  chimes, cymbals, strings, woodwinds, and tympani as much as I did.
        Sadly, I just learned that Mr. Svoboda suffered a stroke in December 2012.  His right leg and arm remain paralyzed, his speech impaired, and he has difficulty remembering the compositions he wrote.  However, on a recent visit, a friend noticed Mr. Svovoda moving the fingers of his left hand along a coverlet, not feebly picking at it but as if playing the piano.  
        "What are you doing?" asked  the friend. 
        "I'm hearing music," he replied slowly.
        "What kind of music?" asked the friend.
        "My next composition," he replied. 

         I very much want to hear it.

Of Wolves and Wasps

       Citing decreasing numbers of elk as well as threats to humans and livestock, Montana has increased the length of wolf hunting season.  The number of wolves hunters are permitted to "harvest" -- a disgusting word, I think -- has been increased to five.  And the permit fee has been lowered to fifteen dollars.  Trap lines may now be set for a period of two and a half months.  If a hunter sets five traps he could possibly get five wolves in one day.  As I said in an earlier blog (http://windflowerfarmweekly.blogspot.com/2013/09/elementa-part-ii.html), traps are often preferred to guns in order to keep the pelt undamaged.  If the wolf is still alive, the preferred method of kill is simply to bash his head in.  You and he might get a little messy, but the the blood can be rinsed off later.  

       Hunters are now permitted to use electronic calls to summon wolves by mimicking the call of a lonely wolf, a wolf in distress, or wolf pups in distress.  They are all odious, and I hate to imagine how the devices that carry recorded calls of live wolves may have been made.   The worst of the worst would be if captured pups were hurt in any way to make a recording of them in distress. 

       Wolf packs love their pups.   The entire pack helps in the raising of them so an entire pack may come running if it hears pups in distress.  Coyotes don't form packs but live in family groups and will likewise respond to the distress call of one of their pups.  .  This is not fair chase but a disgusting means of seduction.

       There are a number of pro-wolf individuals who take to the woods in order to prevent this carnage.  They follow hunters' tracks in the snow, sound horns, and set off any traps they find.   They also undertake the dangerous job of freeing wolves who are still alive from their traps.   There is a pamphlet which details this on the Internet, and it's listed in the sources at the end of this entry.

       While we were in Livingston, Kez took us into a shop where wolf skins hung in the corner.  They were, indeed, beautiful, but as I stroked the fur, I could only imagine how magnificent the original wearer had been.   Prices ranged from three to six hundred dollars.

     It's interesting to note that in the past year wasps and bees have caused fifty-three human deaths in the United States.   Wolves, many of whom are being actively pursued by hunters with guns or bows, not one.

A Walk Where the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and the  Chippewa Roamed

    Former Native American Lands                                         Ainslie  Sheridan copyright 2013

                       Kezia                                 Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013 

       Here again and up close is beautiful Kezia whose high cheekbones reflect those of some of her ancestors--the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and ChippewasA lover of animals both wild and domestic, Kez vigorously opposes the hunting of wolves.  

       She has also taken our son Alec's Staffordshire terrier Digby into her heart as has her own dog Max:

           Digby and Max      Alec Engell/Kezia Vernon copyright 2013

                     Alec and Digby                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013


          A Thousand Pound Pit Bull?!

    Digby has spotted a herd of Black Angus and doesn't know what to make of them.  They are rather on the large size to be a 
fellow Staffie.   But he's determined to meet one:  Alec picks him up so that Digby doesn't put a strain on his leash:

    Alec and Digby                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

        Then Dibgy is laid down and encouraged to relax:
      Laying on of the hands                                                              Ainslie  Sheridan copyright 2013

       Reassured and told all is well:

                   A Loving Hand                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Montana and Pit Bulls
       Engaging in pit bull fighting with dogs that you own or harbor or maintaining a kennel for the purpose of engaging in such activity is a felony offense in all fifty states.  Attending a pit bull fight is a crime in every state except Montana and Hawaii.  There have been attempts to make spectating illegal, but to date all legislation has failed to pass.  There is a strong contingent working to bring Montana in line with the other forty-eight states, and I hope it happens soon.  It will not eliminate dog fighting--it hasn't anywhere else--but it will reduce attendance and betting.  I find it odd, don't you, that when police in Montana raid a fight there is usually no one who admits to owning a single pit bull on the premises.  Hmmm, I know.  These dogs so love to fight that the Montana pit bull population has developed the ability to communicate state-wide telepathically.  They send around an extra-sensory invite to each other, directions included, and call upon St. Francis, patron saint of animals, to let slip the battleship chains from their necks, so that they may become the dogs of war that they are dying--literally--to be.

      By the way, this week I will release a short entry with an update on Quarterback Michael Vick, who now legally may own a dog.
And he does.  He just bought a female puppy named Angel.  (She'll need to be one!)  Details soon.

Fall At Windflower

       Yes, autumn has arrived and, while some of the colored leaves still cling to branches, most have fallen and are doing a good job  insulating my rye grass seeds against frost.  Others have already turned into dessicated skeletons skidding and rattling along roads and pavement.  It was a pretty fall, and the red, yellow, and orange leaves, despite the winds, lasted longer than usual.  The horses detect the seasonal change in the lengthening of shadows, the chill in the air,  and the absence of flies and mosquitoes.  The horses are more energetic than usual, and I need to take care that they're well warmed up before we head out on the trails.

       Here are some pictures taken this past week here at Windflower which I hope you will like:

                    Firefly at Windflower                                            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Firefly                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

              Firefly                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 213

            Elementa and Firefly                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

      Elementa                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013   

         Dolly at Sunset                                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

    Dolly's Trot                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

    Dolly                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013                        

                    Dolly                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

                       Dolly  Nagog Pond                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

          Firefly at Sunset                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2013

       Here's to a beautiful fall and, hopefully, a moderate winter.

       See you soon and thank you for reading The Windflower       

                    --- Ainslie 

Links you may find interesting or helpful 





To view wolf hunt sabotage pdf please google:  "The Earth First Wolf Hunt Sabotage Manual"