Monday, November 29, 2010

Well. Almost 7 months.

No it's not what you think!

I haven't smoked a cigarette since April 30th.

And yesterday, November 28, was the first day I haven't wanted to smoke a butt.

It was really hard. I'd asked around. How long would it be before I'd go more than 20 minutes without wanting to smoke a butt? It's an awful habit. I never did get a good answer. It was

I guess it's different for everyone.

For me, it was just under 7 months before an entire day would pass and I wouldn't think about smoking a butt.

And it's not like I couldn't if I wanted to. I haven't dumped my stash yet. I have two packs in the car. If I smash the car up I'm gonna smoke a butt. I have a pack right on the table here. It even had some dust on it!

I was the last person in the world I thought would quit. I was the last person my friends would thought would quit. Really. I *like* to smoke. And the more the world at large made it harder to smoke the more determined I was to smoke. Cigarettes.

I'm not a crusader about this. But really. I'm convinced. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Now this is what I'm talkin' about

She really needed to do this.

Edit: Ok ok, that's not the most dramatic picture. But it was about the most becoming. This one here has less technical merit but it captures the mood a little better:

Once she got this out of her system she never felt better! She was willing and attentive, light, supple and all kinds of flexible. I remember when I started riding seriously I'd get a trip on my Quarter Horse B every now and then that was extra special. He had lift in his stride, a swing in his barrel, he was light in my hands and I could feel his hips push off with every stride.

I get a ride like that with L all the time.

We went out to lap the hay fields and came face to face with a *huge* doe in a little hollow. We were within just a few strides of her. My camera was in my shirt pocket and by the time I fished it out she flipped her tail and took off into the woods. Bummer! Would have been a beautiful picture.

There are a lot of reasons I do this. Well yes, it is just plain fun. But more than that, it brings me closer to the earth. I live in a world very far removed from natural things. Hanging out with horses helps bring me some balance and perspective.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The other Autumn

Ride now?

L usually enjoys our rides. But I'll have to lunge her today. She was awfully frisky yesterday! She really wanted to cut loose and I had to hold her back. I like her to be careful when we're going bareback and while I would like to have had us charge around like a couple of nutbags - careful is a good habit for her to have!

I made it up to her. When we were done riding I led her off to hand graze the best grass I could find. She really enjoyed that!

It's actually just as well. I saw two chuck holes out there right where we like to charge. I'll have to mark them. I don't think I would have seen them at warp speed. Shouldn't the chucks be asleep for the winter by now?!

When we think of Autumn, of course, here in New England anyway, we think of the brilliant colors we're famous for. And apples! It's harvest season and we go get squash and pumpkins and make pies and drink cider. I really hate the wintertime but I love comfort food!

But as the season wears on it gets more like this:

We ride out here and this time of year, especially when it's overcast, the wooded paths look like something out of a creepy fairy tale. I could have sworn I left a trail of bread crumbs out here.

There are miles of trails in the woods but getting out there is a challenge. It really does look like this:

We have to bushwhack our way through a couple of acres of brush to get out there. The footing is quite good but winding our way around can be a little dicey.

And then here, look at the contrast. This is basically the same picture as this one, from a slightly different angle.

I didn't plan that. What I mean is I didn't go out of my way - it just struck me as a way to see the change within the season. The same place a few weeks apart.

No surprise here. Yes Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another anniversary? An issue?

From December 2003:

I have 3 notable dates with L. There's October 26th. Then there's the day before Thanksgiving. Which, in 2003, was November 19th. That was the day we brought L home. We had to import L and clearing the paperwork and all took a month. And the day before Thanksgiving was perfect! We had a nice long holiday weekend to get acquainted. And no matter how many times you do it I think bringing home a horse is *really* exciting. Getting a horse is a huge thing.

But then I have a dilemma. Well not really. You see, is this anniversary November 19th it the day before Thanksgiving? I think both are kind of special and well, yes, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I mean really, take not one, but *two* days That's just *brilliant*.

So, strictly speaking, L came home 7 years ago today. And I had *no* idea what I was in for!

An issue? An issue? Not with L. With G.

December 2007

A couple weeks ago I treated G for a nasty case of thrush in her right front foot. Then a little over a week ago she colicked. But not really. She wasn't herself and she wasn't eating or drinking like she should. No change in her hay or anything. So I treated it like colic. I didn't dose her but I walked her some and banamine gave her some relief and she liked having a mash.

She still hasn't been quite right but it's not colic. No fever. She doesn't seem to be in any pain. But the vet's coming to look at her next week. One day though her hind end seemed off, like she was weak and uncertain. Unfortunately..I know what a neurological problem looks like. Yesterday she was having difficulty balancing and she had some real trouble putting her hind feet where she wanted.

I'll see what the vet has to say about this..

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ceux-ci ├ętaient si awesome!

Mes escargots:

The bread was homemade French bread - very good but a little more dense than I like. And I was so excited about my escargots that I just plain forgot to rub on a little garlic or at least brush on some olive oil.

They were delicious!

Florentine escargots is my favorite but it was more work than I felt like doing. So I combined my escargots with some butter, chopped garlic and a splash of cognac in a baking dish. I put them in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. I pinched in some Herbs de Provence when they were done but frankly I think I like them with parsley better.

No matter how you look at it though these were just delicious!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A treat in November

How's this for a treat on November 13th? It made it into the 60s during the afternoon!

And I enjoyed a perfectly lovely ride with L. Lungeing her on Friday helped. She had a lot of energy on Friday and I lunged her before going off to the Equine Affaire. She charged around like a complete nutbag. So much so she even landed in a heap on one lap. Pretty funny stuff. She gets this "whoa what the hell?" look on her face when she does that. It's especially funny when she's trying to be cool.

Saturday afternoon she was just sensational.

Which was nice. My paint mare G had a case of thrush in her right front foot that needed to be trimmed out and I spent a good hour soaking and wrapping that. I felt pretty bad about that. She's chronically lame on that right foot otherwise I would have been on it much sooner. She's a perfect stinker but she's a good patient. And then...she colics late on Wednesday and I swear that one makes me feel like I'm paying for my sins sometimes.

This is not hard to do! Porcini risotto. This was just *delicious*!

I soaked some dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water for 5 or 10 minutes.

Dry the mushrooms on some paper towel. Reserve the liquid. I like to splash some of the mushroom water into the risotto. I chopped up the mushrooms.

Typically you'll want to use one part rice to 3 parts liquid. I usually have 4 parts liquid going in case I need more liquid. For a half a cup of rice I got about 2 cups of water going in a saucepan with a chicken bouillon cube. Yes. A chicken bouillon cube. It's important your liquid is hot! Your rice will stop cooking if you add liquid that isn't hot. It doesn't have to be boiling.

Now this is all about technique and while it looks hard and complicated, it isn't, and I really don't know why people are so intimidated by risotto. This is Italian home cooking.
  • Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot skillet
  • Add the rice to the skillet. Now, think Rice-A-Roni here. Scatter it around, I let it get a little brown and toasty.
  • Add a third of a cup of finely chopped yellow onion
  • When the onion starts to get soft and translucent splash in a half a cup of white wine. I used chardonnay.
  • When the wine if just about gone, ladle in some liquid from the saucepan
  • Stir and shake, leave it be. Repeat.
  • As the liquid cooks off and is absorbed by the rice, ladle in more, stir and shake. Adjust the heat if you need to - if the liquid seems to cook off really fast, turn down the heat, if it's going too slowly, turn the heat up. There's a lot of feels right and looks right to the technique here. I think that's what some people find hard. It's kind of like that "cook it until it's done" way of cooking.
  • By the time you get to that 3 parts liquid to one part rice you're almost done
  • Splash in some of the liquid that you used for soaking the mushrooms
  • Start giving it a taste, might need the tiniest pinch of salt, remember, it's going to be finished with parmesan cheese so go light on the salt. The bouillon is salty too and it might not need any at all.
  • Put the mushrooms in
  • Add some broth, very small amounts at a time, stir and shake until the rice is done to your liking
  • Finish with some grated parmesan cheese. Not a lot. Third of a cup maybe.
This whole thing took maybe 20 minutes. I wasn't paying much attention.

To a large extent risotto is a personal thing. I had some risotto once at a Michelin Star restaurant and I thought it was just awful. I like my rice to be a little bit al dente against a nice creamy background.

I serve it with a little parsley and the only thing that disappointed me about this one was the fact I finished my wine while I was making it and didn't have any left to go with it. I couldn't help myself!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Equine Affaire

The Equine Affaire was last weekend at the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield. Massachusetts. The Equine Affaire is the event of the season. An equine trade show. It's huge. It's the largest multi breed showcase pretty much anywhere.

Canadian Horses were in the house!

L's breeder, Normand Litjens (Ferme Litjens), Canadream Farm and Dream Horse Canadians had set up in barn C to both promote and sell Canadian Horses. Good job!

Normand opened Pfizer Fantasia with Ranch-l Xabon Arlequin in harness. Very exciting for fans of the Canadian Horse.

It was nice to see people we only see once or twice a year and I brought home a pretty new halter for L. That nice shiny nameplate didn't last long. One good roll and no more pretty nameplate. No mind. I just want her to have a leather turnout halter. Might as well be a nice one!

Here's another contender for Summer 2010. It's basically the same as this picture here but a different angle.

I don't remember exactly when I took this picture. I can look it up next time I mount my archive disk. It was this year. It makes me a little sad. This (old) gate opens into an abandoned pasture. I remember using that pasture for my Quarter Horse B years ago. Now the fences are gone and it's all overgrown and that gate hasn't swung in who knows how many years. It makes me acutely aware however of the passage of time and how poorly the property has been maintained. This would probably be a really good black and white picture.

Update November 25: This picture was taken sometime in July 2010.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good human

This picture has nothing to do with what's on my mind. I can't help but wonder who is looking at whom here:

I try to be a good horseman and I think most people will tell you I do right by my horses. They're living beings and I've never thought of myself as their "owner" but rather their "guardian". And there's no reason for them to be without anything they need.

And I've always felt their (my?) training should be enjoyable for them. Oh of course issues arise and we've had fleeting moments of unpleasantness. But I do this for fun and I'm not going to have fun if they're not having fun. When you do it right they're just hanging out with the herd. Which is what horses want out of life.

I try to be better at this all the time. The better I do it the easier it is for them to do what I ask. And why on earth would I want anything to be harder than it has to be?

To a large extent I try to make it up to them. I've done some really stupid things and thankfully nobody's been hurt. Not badly anyway.

And this time of year, after some hard work and a nice ride I really like one of these:

And before I forget the recipe, here's my take on Chicken Normandy:

Look closely - those are finely chopped mint leaves on the green beans. That was really very good.

  • Chicken thighs or quarters
  • Some butter
  • One apple. I used McIntosh. Cored. Slice into wedges. Maybe 8 to 12 wedges.
  • One onion. Slice it into wedges. However you like.
  • Seasoned flour
  • Bourbon. 1/3 cup.
  • Apple cider. 2 cups.
  • Some salt, cracked pepper. To taste. Always.
This is less work than it appears at first glance. I don't do anything that's difficult or takes a lot of work!

Get a tablespoon of butter going in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. When it's hot and the foam has subsided toss in wedges from your cored apple. You can peel it if you want. I like "rustic" so I didn't. I think a Cortland apple would probably be pretty good. All I had was McIntosh. So I used McIntosh.

Dredge your chicken in some seasoned flour.

When the edges of the apple wedges are browned, take them out and drain them. Add another tablespoon of butter to your pan and brown the chicken. Both sides. Take the chicken pieces out and put them on a plate.

Now add onion wedges to the pan and cook them until they're browned. There's going to be browned and burnt looking stuff in your pan from the floured chicken. That's ok, that's flavor. When the onion is well browned crank up the heat. As soon as the pan begins to smoke just a tiny bit...

Put in (your favorite) bourbon. I use what I drink. If you're at a loss I think Maker's Mark is pretty good.

When the bourbon is almost gone put the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and pour in the cider. Do not cover the chicken with cider.

Now put this in a 350 degree oven.

After 30 minutes take it out and put it on a medium high burner, remove and set aside the chicken. Put the drained apple wedges in the liquid and reduce to about half. Crack some pepper into it.

Turn off the heat and whisk in a pat of butter until it looks shiny and silky. Put your chicken on a platter and spread that over the chicken and serve.

This is seriously good.

Oh and I was actually a little surprised. I'd had a half a bottle of merlot sitting around and it was really good with my Chicken Normandy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Summer 2010

Good candidates for my "Picture of Summer, 2010".

This was June 16th. It's late in the day.

And a storm coming in from the southwest on July 10th. This is a classic. You can almost hear the distant thunder. And we did. But this storm actually passed us by!

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