Solar Power All Over

horse see breathWAHOO!  I rode Stormy on the trail yesterday with my friend Mindy.  It has been a month since I have been in the saddle.

The cold reality is…. it’s COLD out there. It topped out at 37 degrees.  Yet I went, bundled up from head to toe. And still despite the bundling… my fingertips got numb and my toes were cold.  My legs felt chilled although they warmed up once I was mounted and Stormy’s body heat emanated up through the saddle.

Stormy wasn’t all that thrilled when I slipped the cold bit into his mouth.  He chewed and chewed …and chewed… on it.

OK, so these solar pants aren't so beautiful...

OK, so these solar pants aren’t so beautiful…

Will someone please invent a solar-powered bit?  One that stores a charge when you put it in the sun or bright light, and then you push a tiny button right before you put on the bridle and VOILA!  A warm bit and a happy horse.

Next I want a solar powered pair of pants.  Solar panels on the thighs which store energy until you need it… push a button in the waistband and VOILA!  A warm and happy rider.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

Next the boots. Sewn-in solar panels on the tops of your get the point…. VOILA! Warm toes.

And what about a solar-paneled horse blanket?  Lots of surface on those blankets for the solar panels.

Hey, “electronic wearables” are all the rage now.  The computer in a watch, Google glasses… Tech industry — don’t forget the equestrians.

power-purse-solarI just found a purse (available online) with built-in solar panels, and a USB charger inside, so I can charge my phone or tablet while walking around with the purse.  Is that cool or what?

But cool is not what i want when riding in the winter.  I want WARM.  The good news is, my horse is naturally solar powered.  Give him sun (and hay) and he warms up without pushing a button. Low tech but still cute as a button, that’s my Stormy.

Horse gains weight, I gain weight

There it is. Winter’s reality.  If my horse is getting fatter, so am I.  He’s an Easy Keeper, and so am I.  Does that mean I can blame it all on him?  NO???  Darn.

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

My only real exercise regimen is to ride Stormy, my horse.  But something happens (I say this as if I am purely a victim of course; surely it is not MY fault!)… the weather turns nasty, cold, and rainy.  Looking down at the barn sitting under a low cloud of dull grey, a spit of rain and a ground cover of mud, I lose my motivation to ride.

And so I stay in the house, all warm and toasty, but burning ZERO calories.

Stormy watches me from his muddy paddock, hoping at least to see a human face for something to eat.  Of course, I go down to feed him breakfast, or dinner… but in between, I am a self-imposed prisoner of the house.

The good stuff must be at the bottom.

The good stuff must be at the bottom. the house. I am a face in a window to him, not an attachment to his back.

So he gets no exercise, but keeps eating anyway.  I get no exercise but keep eating anyway.

The guilt sets in. (Well, it sets in for me; I don’t think horses know what guilt is, those lucky creatures.)

Actually, when I bundle up, it is not too bad to be outside. The hardest part, just like the first step of a 1,000 mile journey, is the first step outside.

Starting the long journey.

Starting the long journey.

But isn’t that so true in so much we do?  It’s not the work that is the problem, it’s the STARTING of the work that is the problem.  I’m trying to solve that problem for myself, by tackling those tasks which I’ve procrastinated on,  for “just 15 minutes”.  I figure I can do just about anything for 15 minutes. Then, once I get “into” it, I keep going and often finish the whole thing without thinking much about it.  So the 15-minute approach seems to work for me.

But the 15 minute psychology doesn’t work for riding horses.  Heck, it takes you 15 minutes just to put on all your winter clothes, walk down to the barn, bring the horse in and start grooming the mud off of him.  I need a completely different approach to this winter laziness.

Sometimes I think, “OK, I’ll just go down and clean him off, or muck out the stall.” That’s at least a 45 minute commitment.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

And I do it.  But getting the saddle and bridle out, and actually mounting…. not so much progress there!

If anyone knows of something, I can try, PLEASE let me know.  The added weight on both of us (me AND the horse) might get ugly by the end of January.  ARRRGHHHH!

Went hiking, missed my horse

Last week, my husband and I ventured into the Great Smoky National Park to hike.   It was a beautiful clear fall day, cool but not cold, crunchy leaves underfoot, a crystal blue sky and on the mountaintop, a view of 75 miles to distant peaks.

But while hiking…. I missed my horse.

Those of you who don’t ride horses probably think that this is because I didn’t want to work that hard to hike on my own two legs.  But it wasn’t that — I am pretty fit and my legs are in good shape from riding, so I was able to cover some distance without getting tired.

I still missed my horse.  It is hard to explain.

When I am riding my horse, the partnership between us creates a different experience than walking.  Underneath me is this 1,000 lb. animal, whose rhythm of the four footed walk creates a gentle lullaby.  I hear the footfalls through the dry leaves, 1-2-3-4, a gentle music of movement. The heat of the horse’s body comes up through my seat and legs. If I close my eyes, I feel like we are one being.  My body sways to the movement of his feet.

The views of the forest from 8 feet off the ground provide a panoramic sight. I can see further and higher than when on foot.

The horse experiences the ride differently than I do, and his perspective adds to my human outlook. His ears are pricked forward, looking left and right.  He is alert to possible dangers, or searches for others of his kind. His sense of smell and sight are much more acute than mine, so when he looks intently in one direction, I also look that way, trying to see what he sees.  Sometimes I do, but most often I don’t.

If he gets tense and skitters a bit, with nothing obvious to skitter about, I know it is a smell he is reacting to.  There is something close by which is “not-horse, not-human”. He doesn’t skitter for deer, but he does for cows and pigs. And I suppose bears, but we have not encountered them.

His experience joins with my experience of the forest, and together it is greater than either of the two.  I depend on him, and he on me. He warns me of possible danger, and I reassure him when it is  something we do not need to be concerned with. He strides boldly through creeks and gullies, keeping me safe and dry on his back. We go further than I could go on my own two legs, but it does not tire him.

Hiking is enjoyable, but riding in the forest is so much more so. When friends ask about my riding, I say “I just trail ride” as if it were an apology.  But if they knew what I knew, and experienced what I experience while on the trail, there would be no apology.

Myself as an Idiot

Just recently, a condensed version of one of my blogs (about riding my first endurance ride) was published in the national Endurance Ride magazine.  At first, it is an honor to see yourself in print in a national magazine.  But as I read over the article again, which was written to be a humourous piece, I realized I sounded like a total idiot.

Village_Idiot3I’ve been an idiot many times.  I’ve been treated like an idiot times when I am not, and at times treated seriously when I was behaving like an idiot.  So I am very much used to feeling like an idiot.  It seems to be a frequent way of life for me.

But what I got to thinking about this time was:  Should it bother me that I’m an idiot?

In any moment, you take all of your experiences, emotions, past memories and a bit of logic… mix them together in a mush, and then ACT.  (or in most cases TALK).  Then why, why, why, assuming you have a reasonable amount of intelligence, does the mush still come out as if it came from an idiot?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  If I did, I’d stop doing it…and get a bumper sticker  that says “IDIOT NO MORE”.

idiot2Since I can’t seem to stop it, I’ll use some Buddhism training to accept it.  Buddhism says to accept reality as it is, rather than live in a dream of what could (or should) be.  So rather than dreaming as if I will do and say all kinds of WISE things, I will accept that most likely I will continue to do and say IDIOT things… and stop beating myself up about it.

And I will practice saying, “Boy, I was being such an idiot when I said (or did) that.”

I’ll practice my humanity, idiocy and all.

Now if I can just get all these OTHER IDIOTS in my world to go away, I’d be much happier.


Lettuce Give Thanks

Whoever coined the term “Let us give thanks for our daily bread” hasn’t been to my house lately.

A. I don’t eat much bread (since I learned about the effects on your body of the new genetically modified wheat…!  If you haven’t read up on it… please do!)

B. They haven’t seen my lettuce patch.

Real picture of my garden: One HALF of lettuce section

Real picture of my garden

I am AWASH in lettuce. Every day I can pick a big “Kroger bag” full of leaves.

When I planted the seeds in February, nothing sounded better than fresh lettuce.  So as usual I went overboard.  I nursed those babies all through this frigid winter; the nursery was on a large table in the corner of our living room.

What better decor than seedlings in your living room?  Ask Martha Stewart, she’ll agree.  Well, no — Martha would have you build (by hand) a greenhouse where you could grow all your herbs, veggies and flowers….  MAYBE next year a small greenhouse…?

But the good side is:  Lettuce is a great ice-breaker.

“Here, take my lettuce.  No, PLEASE, take my lettuce!”

On the other hand, the chickens are on strike so I am NOT awash in eggs.  From four hens we get one measly egg a day!  They must have formed a union. “Anything over one egg a day, and we demand overtime pay!”  HA!   This is Kentucky, chickens.  We don’t need no stinkin’ unions. (especially in the coal mines…)

LG&E Seeks to Dump Coal Waste into Ohio River

LG&E Seeks to Dump Coal Waste into Ohio River

Speaking of coal mines, how about that “War on Coal” EPA stuff, huh? Yes, we’d rather keep some jobs (read: Coal Companies profit) here in Kentucky rather than try to help the planet from collapsing into a ball of heat.  We’d rather breathe the noxious gas rather than re-train coal miners.  We’d rather pollute mountain town water rather than even THINK about solar or hydro.

Which is why I plant lettuce (NOTE: THIS IS THE SEGUE BETWEEN COAL AND LETTUCE.  DID YOU SEE IT COMING?  NEITHER DID I.).  I figure when California runs out of water  (OH,  you say it already has?)  and Mexico can’t ship veggies across the border since fuel prices will skyrocket (OH, you say they already have??)  and migrant workers can’t come pick the Florida produce due to the Great Wall of China the US will build on the U.S.-Mexican border (OH, we started that wall but ran out of money).. then I will need lettuce.

AWWWW... Could  you eat this little one?  Bring me another plate of lettuce.

AWWWW… Could you eat this little one? Bring me another plate of lettuce.


Anyone have an extra heifer I can buy?

Homeboy Food

coopersburgI live 500 miles from the town where I grew up.  The hamlet of Coopersburg (and our house was 4 miles from the hamlet!) is in Southeast Pennsylvania, just 10 miles from the Delaware River which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  Yes, Kentuckians, I am a Damn Yankee!

There are two things I return to PA for:  visits with family and the FOOD.

This is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I am  descended from Pennsylvania Dutch people.  Dutch does not mean from Holland (they are Dutch) but from Germany (they are Deutsch).  As Americans often do, the “Deutsche” was Americanized to Dutch, and so all my ancestors were German. (which accounts for my introverted stoic nature, but that’s another story)

There are three German foods that I ALWAYS have when returning to PA – if at all possible:


scrappleScrapple is top on my list.  If you don’t know what Scrapple is, think a poor man’s sausage.  You take all the parts of a pig that no one would normally eat, cook it and grind it up real fine, add cornmeal to stretch it, and spices (mostly pepper). Pour it into a square mold and let it congeal. It is one of those foods that you don’t want to see made, or you would never eat it.

But slice it thin, fry it til crispy in a little oil, smother with ketchup and VOILA!  A taste treat that only Pennsylvania Dutch people would appreciate. (My sister reminded me that true Penna. Dutch style is to smother it in Applebutter… she’s right, but I AM more a fan of the ketchup approach.)

So I ate half a pound myself in two meals (well, I think my Mom had one piece). My annual quota for Scrapple has been fulfilled.

shoofly pieMom also made a Shoofly Pie while I was visiting. Without going into the details, it is a wet-bottom cake-like pastry in a pie shell that uses lots of molasses for the wet bottom, plus crumbs on top.  If you don’t like molasses, you won’t like Shoofly Pie.  But all Pennsylvania Dutchers were raised with molasses, and so we love it.

Girl climbing a tree

When I close my eyes and eat Scrapple and Shoofly Pie, it brings back memories of being ten years old, wearing Keds and ankle socks, and having the whole summer free to play outside all day.  Mud pies, treehouses and forts, climbing trees, and running through the orchard. Ah, give me Scrapple every day just to conjure up those memories.

The Zen of Weeds

monks2There is a Zen monastery somewhere in the Himalayas which required its novices to go door to door in the village, offering to clean the villagers toilets. They believe that cleaning toilets day after day strengthens the values of  compassion, service and humility.  The other Buddhist value this service highlights is that no task, no matter how menial or dirty, is of sacred value if approached with dignity and attention. (Wouldn’t you like to have these guys come to your door and offer to clean your toilet?  More welcome than the Mormon guys, I’d say.  And their robes are cool too.)

I have spent the last few (beautiful, sunny) days weeding our flower gardens.  I say “flower gardens” symbolically, since there are no flowers currently blooming; the tulips and daffodils experienced a short life this spring with the late cold snap.  All of the others beauties are slow to come up… after having seen what happened to their brethren who bloomed “on time” in a frigid early April.  So the rest of the plants stayed underground a bit longer in a defiant act of self-preservation.

yellow woodBut I diverge.   (No, that’s not the right word, that’s what roads do in the yellow wood. A reference for you literary readers.)


I am practicing my Zen values by weeding hour upon hour, carefully pulling all those little buggers up by the roots, digging under them with a trowel until they surrender.  There are thousands. The work is tedious, hot, and brainless. But oddly satisfying.

This is NOT me.  I don't wear a hat and have a MUCH better tan.

The Zen Masters say that while practicing work – in this case weeding – you must empty your mind of distracting thoughts so that you are totally present in the moment.  You must consider each weed and each clump of damp earth, contemplating your existence and your role in changing this cycle of life. (Yes, contemplate that you are the Grim Reaper of Weeds.)

To which I say — POPPYCOCK.

To empty your mind while weeding is to throw away an opportunity for all kinds of distracting thoughts.  Creative ideas.  Gratitude for friends.  Anticipation of trail rides to come.  Plans for farm improvement. Consideration of what color dress to get for son’s upcoming wedding. Achy knees and that getting old sucks. What to name the new chicken. (Marilyn).

distraughtOkay, okay…. I didn’t think a SINGLE MOMENT about world hunger, the tragedy of the stolen girls in Nigeria, the Syrian war, the impending environmental collapse, the political dysfunction in Washington….I reserve those thoughts for a limited amount of time in the day, or I might kill myself.

But the Zen of weeding allowed me, hour after sweaty hour, to consider my existence as a 60-something, small farm, retired, outdoor-loving, introverted but socially-acceptable woman, examining the minutiae that make a life. Perhaps you might say these nuts-and-bolts incidentals are insignificant in the scheme of things.  Perhaps. But perhaps these life details are all we have.

And DARN, my flower beds look GREAT!





I Burned the Christmas Tree

burning treeYes, here it is MAY, and I finally burned the Christmas tree.  Watching it burst into flames (it was kinda dry, do ya think?), there was a strange feeling that I got which burning any other tree would not have caused. What is it about Christmas, and Christmas trees, that on a warm beautiful May morning, it is so touching to watch one burn?

Let me explain.  Each year we cut our own tree at a local tree farm.  Traditionally we do this the weekend after Thanksgiving. Often it stis in our living room un-decorated for a number of weeks… just seeing the green and smelling the pine smell is enough.

Eventually I decorate it (and as the years go by, the decorations get more and more minimalist).

xmas treeWe take it down AFTER January 1st (we are not those Take Down the Tree December 26 kind of folks).  One year I actually left it up until Valentine’s Day, but that’s another story.  After it’s down, we put it out on our back patio for the winter because the birds like it there… they sit on it, occasionally build a nest in it in the spring, and we put bird food out around it.  We can see it from our living room so it is something fun to watch.

Then, sometime in the spring – Usually March, we have a major BURNING party… well, not a party but you get the gist.  I am the pyromaniac in the family so it gives me a thrill to set the tree and other assorted downed branches on fire.

This year, the burning party didn’t take place til last week.  Very late.  The grass was green, the trees in bud, the spring flowers out.  And I was feeding a roaring hot fire. The last thing to go on the fire was the Christmas tree.

burning treeAs I watched it crackle and flame, I felt the anticipation, joy, and sacredness of the Christmas season come back just for a few minutes. The tree was “giving up its life” for our pleasure, but seemed to do so with pride and joy and beauty. It was beautiful even as it burned, and it’s shape stood out among the other odd shaped limbs and branches.  It stayed on the top of the burning, never rolling over, like a candle lit facing the sky.

I love spring. And can’t wait to get our Christmas tree again in December. The cycle of life.

The Outside People

I went to church yesterday morning.  With a bit of regret, I have to confess.

UUCLBannerSmallIt’s not that I don’t like our church.. I do!  I like the services, I like the minister, I like the topics of the sermons and I like the friends I have there.  I truly am glad that such a church exists.

The problem with Sunday morning church is….. It’s INSIDE.

The sanctuary is dim compared to the brilliant sun of the spring morning.  Small windows tease you with the robin’s-egg-blue sky, the emerald green grass, the golden air infused with sun. I watched the windows as music and talking surrounded me, wishing I were outside.

So to the list of what makes all of us unique, add this one:  INSIDE OR OUTSIDE person?

If it isn’t already totally obvious, I’m an outside person. Happiest and most at peace when working on something — anything — that keeps me outside.  Choice of hobbies — those that keep me outside.  Horseback riding, hiking, mowing (is that a hobby?), gardening, even cleaning stalls. I can even take most winters outoutsideside if dressed right.  Well, OK, this winter’s sub-freezing temps DID make me glad we had a heated house and a woodburning stove.  The outside urge in me quit for a long stretch of days.

Of all animal species, why are humans the only ones who build huge, square shelters we call homes? What is it about flat floors, flat walls and flat ceilings that make us feel safe?  Boxes.  Homes made of box-rooms stacked next to each other or on top of each other. You know the straight line is not one from nature.  Human beings created the straight line. No tree, no plant, no river, no mountain is formed in straight lines.  From what deep sense of humanity did we start surrounding ourselves with straight lines, when nature tells us otherwise?straightlines

I ponder these things as I look straight ahead at our straight bookshelves filled with straight sided books, wedged between two straight walls sitting on a straight floor. While outside the (straight) windows, trees curve and bend in the morning breeze.

bending tree woman

Solitude Matters

Once again I read that phrase “WORK HARD, PLAY HARD” as a command to readers to Grab Life By the Tail and “Just Do It”!

Boy, I am tired of that whole mentality.  It is just SO American to encourage us (especially those working for a corporation) to be busy-busy-busy all the time.  When you stop working at your office (or orchard or retail store or…) then you need to jump into some sports clothing and ..

Hit the Slopes!get-up-you-lazy-bum-2

Grab the Bike!

Saddle the Horse!

Snatch the Tennis Racket!

Dig out the Baseball Glove!

Ad infinitum..

What ever happened to the value assigned to

quiet contemplation?

Of closing your eyes and resting them from the glare of the computer screen?spider-web-79920

Of examining a spider web in all its glory?

Of sipping coffee while imagining life after death?

Of writing a letter to a long lost friend?

Americans are so GO GO GO all the time.  It’s killing us, everyone complains of being too busy, stress is creating health problems…. yet we cannot let go of that thought that if you are not DOING SOMETHING PHYSICAL (and preferably competitive) you are wasting your life.

OK, I admit it…. deep down I’m lazy.  I say, let’s create a LAZY CLUB and never have a meeting!  Homework assignment:  Sit for at least 30 minutes and don’t do ANYTHING. (Don’t even write a blog….)

Let’s hear it for muscles that are NOT stretched and taut.garfield

Let’s hear it for dirty houses and unmowed lawns.

Let’s hear it for the quiet sound of:

Tennis rackets sitting in the corner

Bike wheels still as a mouse

Girths untightened and saddles resting on their racks

Sneakers hiding in the dark closet

ContemplationBooks whose pages aren’t turning

The un-rustle of newspapers gathering dust on the coffee table

Dishes sitting in the sink

Now that’s my kind of quiet. Take a deep breath. Hear your heart beat. Think of old times. Picture your loved ones. Pet your cat. Exercise your eyebrows if you must. Up down, up down….

And maybe if you are feeling particularly unsettled at all this quiet…smell a flower loudly.  It will give you a false sense of doing something.. yet it is a truly and wonderfully lazy activity.


Take back life.