The horse's pasture to the East...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I don't think there's a horse person I know, at least personally, who doesn't have a dog too. And, occasionally, there's a nut case like me who has two or three. I have three, all old friends. Gypsy and Newman are both 16 years old. Crazy Joe Cocker is thirteen. John says that they're all staying here with us because they're already in heaven. My guess is that they would agree with that assessment.

We live on 120 acres of rolling hills, about 1/3 wooded. It's destined to be a wild life preserve one day, so there are places here that haven't been farmed or touched in more than 16 years. The 'wild ones' know it too, so we have deer that stop to look in the back door at us with no fear at all. There are raccoons that live up the hill from us in a little holler. They're the reason our vegetable gardens have to be fenced with 7 foot high fencing. And I never begrudge them a sneak attack on the gardens either. I love to watch them, especially in the late Summer when they bring the babies out to teach them all about how to climb high fences to get at all the booty.

We have three ponds full of frogs, fish, turtles, snakes and all kinds of lovely scummy things just made for hot dogs to swim through. Nothing like showing up at the front door covered in green scum. Makes Mom get out the water hose to spray them down every single time. And if the green pond scum thing doesn't work, there's always little dead things to roll in. And then there's the piece de resistance...THE COMPOST PILE. What dog doesn't love giant mountains of horse poop? You can roll in it, eat it, carry it around, bury it (in the other compost pile, of course) and take naps on top of it when it's cold. Our compost piles get pretty warm in the Winter, steaming hot in fact, at least until they break down.

And then there's the horses themselves. There's a little game they all play with each other. It's a territorial thing. Willow, fierce bad donkey that she is, does not like dogs in her paddocks or pastures. Absolutely NO DOGS ALLOWED! And she'll give em a lick or two if they break that rule. (Although she's always pulls her punches. She's never actually struck any of them.) So, when they were a bit younger, all of them would take turns running past Willow. It was a free for all that I learned early on was not serious, so I always left them to it. And besides, if they were going to get clocked I wanted it to be by Willow rather than one of the horses. They were more likely to survive the experience.

Lucky's favorite game is to lean way over the gate and tag Gypsy. It's a game they've been playing since I brought them home five years ago. Lucky is tall and has a long neck, long enough to be able to reach Gypsy's back. Actually, I think he might be trying to groom her 'whithers'. He smells Gypsy on me and vice versa. Both of them see us as a herd, on Lucky's side, and as a pack, on Gypsy's side. Gypsy grumbles at him, but I've noticed she always goes back to the same place so he can reach her again too.

Joe is my Sam-Wise Ganges, like Bilbo's constant companion in the Lord of the Rings. He's always at my side no matter what. He walks into the paddocks, the pastures, the stalls when I'm there. He's very brave about it as long as he has me to stand behind. He and Apache play games together with Joe running between Apache's legs and under his belly. The two of them race back and forth across the pasture. Of course Apache always wins the race, but he pulls his punches too. The most I've ever seen him do is to catch Joe when his hair is too long and give him a little tug.

Newman is my half coyote/half dog. He's quite aloof. He has a job. He goes out to mark all territory surrounding the area that he considers our home turf. After performing his duty solemnly, he takes up a prominent spot under a bush or in the long grass where you can't see him, but he can see you. Horse games are beneath him unless other coyotes try to come on to his land. He is the outer guard to Willow's inner guard, even as old as he is. I've always thought that one day Newman will just run right out of his skin when it's time to depart this world. All I'll find is a bit of blond coyote ruff blowing across a field, or maybe stuck in the tops of the grasses.

Tonight I'm going to give you my recipe for homemade dog food. I've been making it for my dogs for more than thirty years, since our first dogs ... Rosey and Lightfoot (Golden Retrievers) ... lived with us. There a thousand variations on a theme, but this will get you started. By the way, all three of my dogs weigh over 50 pounds, so living as long as they have is something I attribute to good food, exercise and fresh air and love...lots of that! Rosey lived to be fourteen. Lightfoot lived to be sixteen too.


1. Things you'll need : one big old fashioned canning pot with a lid, the kind that is dark blue with white spots. I bought mine at a garage sale. About sixteen 1 quart containers that can be frozen. I reuse yogurt containers. They'll last for quite a while and since we eat lots of yogurt, there's a never ending supply of them around here. A big soup ladle and a big slotted spoon. It's going to take several hours of cooking to make this, although you won't have to be there to attend to it much. So this is one of those "take the time it takes" projects. It will make enough for about two weeks depending on the kind of dogs you have and how much they eat.

2. Things to buy at the store : one large chicken or two smaller chickens (variations: two big packs of chicken thighs, two halves of a salmon. I get those when they're on sale for being almost too old. A smallish turkey when it's on sale at Thanksgiving time.) 2 or 3 two pound packages of whole brown rice, 3 to 5 packages of whole wheat egg noodles. I also keep on hand sea weed, sea salt, garlic, and whatever left over vegetables we have in the fridge (green beans, green peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, get the picture)

3. Fill the canning pot with water. While it's filling, put in the chicken...the whole thing. Later you'll fish out the biggest bones to grind in a blender if your dogs are old. But it will cook for so long that the bones are going to be pretty mushy, so it probably won't be a big deal if you don't grind them. I do for my guys. You're going to fill it up to the bottom of the ledge, about 3 inches below the rim. Put it on top of the stove and turn it up high to get it boiling. When it's boiling, turn it down to medium and put the lid on.
It's going to boil for about 3 to 4 hours. You might have to add water to bring it back up to the ledge again part way through. The idea is to make a really rich broth.

4. About 2 to 3 hours into the process, add several chopped up carrots, a couple of chopped sweet potatoes, a couple of handfuls of either peas or green beans, lots of chopped garlic or dried garlic (helps to keep fleas and ticks off), a couple of handfuls of dried, shredded sea weed, a tbls or 2 or 3 of sea salt. It's a big pot. Put the lid back on and let it continue to simmer/boil for another hour or so.

5. After it's thoroughly cooked and the broth is rich and greasy, take your slotted spoon and use it to break up the meat into small pieces. It will be so soft, it should pretty much just fall apart. Then add your brown rice and whole wheat egg noodles. Give it a real good stir, turn off the heat, put the lid on and leave it for a half an hour. Come back and stir it again really well then(the rice will fall to the bottom. You want it mixed up.) put the lid on and leave it again. In another half hour, come back to stir it again.
By now the whole pot will be full to the brim. Stir it again and put the lid on, leaving it for at least another half an hour. I repeat this several times, at least four.

6. Fill your's going to be hot, so be careful... to within 1 inch of the top, snap on the lids and freeze until you're ready to use. I get out one container every evening and let it thaw overnight.
I add this to an equal amount of really expensive, no grains added, kibble about half and half. It's called Origens (Orijens?). Gosh awful expensive stuff, but they thrive on it. My fifty pound dogs get 1/2 cup kibble mixed with about 1/2 cup of their homemade food morning and evening.

The dog bowls around here are licked clean every time they have a meal. I vary ingredients every time I make this stuff, so it's always different for them. Your dogs are going to absolutely adore you for making this for them. It's good for filling teen-aged boys too, but that's another story!

I am ever yours, Nancy, surrounded by happy snoring dogs, all smiling in their sleep

Monday, November 29, 2010


My Grandfather was the one who brought me to horses. He had a farm in the next county over from where we live now...a family homestead that was started in 1860 by his Grandfather. My Grandpa managed to keep his family land through the Depression with the help of a pair of Belgian Draft horses. When others around him were loosing their farms because of debt, he had put away his machinery and went back to farming the way he did when he was a boy, without tractors and without assistance from any banks.

Years later, when I was just four years old, I met them. Instead of sending them to auction the way most farmers do when an animal can no longer work, he retired them. I can still remember him telling me that they had become his friends and that no man would give up on his friends.

They were old, but still glossy with health and, from my point of view, great lovely mountains of golden hair and muscle with huge brown eyes, who saw me. I've always valued that in all of the animals that I've lived with. They have no pretensions, never lie. They see people as they are, not as people like to think they are. They could see me even though I was only four years old and small too boot.

I had a lot of cousins, as did most of us Boomers. We all took turns staying with Grandma and Grandpa in the Summer. And, when we were old enough, then we got to go out to the farm to help with REAL chores. It's one of my earliest memories, that ride out to the farm with my Grandpa. We drove out in his old farm truck with horrible, hard bench seats. The truck bounced all over the road and I was pretty bruised up by the time we got there, but there was no way I was going to complain. I was the only little girl in a family of boys. If they could take it, I could too. And I was so proud!

I had on my first real pair of overalls and a beat up, tiny cowboy hat that all the boy cousins had worn before me, to keep off the sun. I had a real lunch box with sandwiches, apples, carrots and cookies in it made just for me. I had work boots that had been mended and mended and my very own, real work gloves that no one else had ever used. Grandma had bought them for me.

Before we left, Grandma made it clear that Grandpa was not to let me anywhere near the hog pens. I was precious cargo. Grandpa just smiled, kissed her on the cheek and swung me up onto the seat beside him. I was going through a right of passage and he was going to make a "man" of me.

I've gone back to find the homestead. The land belongs to another family now. My Grandpa sold it in the late sixties because his sons had fought over who would inherit it. He was mad, so he sold it and spent the money before he died. I was the only one that cried when he told them. I was in high school by then. I'd loved that old farm and now it was gone. When we drove out to see it a few years ago, the house was gone and the barn and other outbuildings had fallen in from disrepair. I knew I wasn't supposed to go on to the property, but I climbed the fences and trespassed anyway. I had to go see the inside of the barn where I'd helped to take care of Penny and Sun, my first horses.

It was still the same to me. I didn't see the collapsed building. I saw my Grandfather's barn, huge and red with the sun coming up behind it, like a cathedral. When we went inside that first day, we were greeted by Penny and Sun. Grandpa did the same thing with his horses that I do today. The doors were left open and the stalls were for them to come and go from at liberty. They had the run of the farm.

They called to my Grandad and he waited for them to come to him. They looked just about as big as the mountains I described them as, and they smelled so good! I don't know which one of them it was who leaned down to look at me, but she was very gentle, exchanging breath with me and touching me on the top of my head with her great huge nose. I was in love! It was like the Gods had come down to me. I felt like a Princess in a fairy tale, anointed with slobber and grass.

My first chore was to clean and fill their water trough while he gave them grain and fresh hay. I took my job very seriously. I was now a farmer and had a job to do. I still remember reaching out the first time to touch one of them when they came to my spanking clean water trough to drink water. Her hooves were huge, bigger than Grandma's blue and white dinner plates. And her legs were like tree trunks to me, only warm and sweet smelling. She stood quietly while I ran my hands down her legs. I guess she knew I was "precious cargo" too, because my Grandpa came to get me for more chores and found me sitting between her front hooves, hugging her.

I worked hard that day. I brought in eggs and cleaned out the chicken house. I came to the not too surprising conclusion that chickens were funny and kind of pretty, but I didn't care much for the way their house smelled. And I also helped to pick caterpillars off the tomato plants. They didn't have a name for it then, but now my Grandpa would have been called an Organic Farmer. He never saw any use for chemicals when the animals provided everything he needed for his fields. It was much cheaper to pick caterpillars than to spray them, especially when he had helpers as willing as me!

When we stopped for lunch, Grandpa told me that it was OK to share with Penny and Sun if I wanted to. I asked him if they like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. He said " No. But they do like carrots and apples. You can give them each a bite if you want to. They've earned all the carrots they ask for, for the rest of their lives." So he handed me his pocket knife, a treasure I had never been allowed to touch before, and showed me how to open it and how to cut the carrots in to pieces for them. It was a knife that he made. One of my brothers has it now.

I stood there with those great, lovely horses eating all of my lunch from my hands. It turns out that horses do like peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches because they ate that too. Grandpa shared his lunch with me and I shared mine with the horses. It was the beginning of a love affair and he knew it.

They're all gone now, but just for a moment when I stood there in the shadow of that fallen in barn, I could feel a touch on the top of my head. They remembered me too.

Today I'm going to share my Grandma's recipe for Snickerdoodles. Those were the cookies she always made for me to take when we went to the farm to see Penny and Sun, my first horses. They liked the Snickerdoodles too.


1. Mix together thoroughly : 2 sticks softened, real butter (Grandma used lard), 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, 2 big, fresh country eggs. I sometimes substitute demera or turbinado sugar for Grandma's white sugar. Gives them a slightly crisper texture and a deeper caramel taste.

2. Add : 2 and 3/4 cups flour. Grandma used white flour. I use unbleached and, sometimes, make it 1 cup whole oat and 1 and 3/4 cup unbleached. Gives it a slightly nutty flavor to compliment the caramel taste of the darker sugar. 2 tsp. Cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp sea salt. It you use the whole oat flour, again be gentle with the mixing. It's going to make a sticky dough.

3. Chill the dough for several hours. Nice part about this is you can make the dough a day ahead if you want to. Grandma always kept some in the refrigerator so she could make hot, fresh cookies when we came to visit.

4. Mix up some cinnamon and sugar in a wide, flat bowl (about 4 tbls sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon). Roll the dough in to small walnut sized rounds and roll in the sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and cook for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees. In my oven they take about 8 and 1/2 minutes. The cookies will be light brown and kind of puffy looking when you take them out, but will get crinkly on top as they cool.

5. Serve hot from the oven with cold milk or hot tea to dunk them in. If you're trying to sell your house, bake these right before you have someone come to look at the house. Works every time! Nothing like the smell of hot, fresh snickerdoodles to make a place smell like home.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and remembering shining golden horses and the beginning of a life long love affair.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Wind...wind...wind. It's been rockin' and rollin' here today in OZ. Winds have been thirty to fifty miles an hour all day long, no let up at all. That's Kansas. I love it when it's calm, but I think I might get bored living in a climate where it rarely blows.

I wanted to play with Lucky today, but it's kind of hard to do when my coat keeps blowing up over my head and my hat comes off. So we opted on letting them OUTSIDE (I use caps to write it that way because it's so exciting for the horses when we do that. I put up ropes to keep them away from the drive and the road and let them OUTSIDE the fences...where the grass is always greener.). Generally, on a windy day, they don't go too far from the barn. Things are banging and flopping around. Trees are thrashing and there's tiny white caps on the ponds. Lots of changes for them to deal with. Today was no exception.

Every time the wind would gust and something would flap or whap, in they'd come to check with me. "How about it Ma? Everything OK? You still on look out?" I'd stop whatever I'm doing, rub whithers and breath deep, smile at them and say " It's alright. I've got your back." I love the response I get. Lucky usually takes a deep breath, licks a little and goes back to eating. Apache sighs and sometimes nickers to me in his lovely, deep base voice and then goes back out to move Willow around. I think he's probably one of those horses the cowboys around here would say has a lot of cow in him. Parelli people would say he's a Left Brain Extrovert who loves to move himself and loves to play games.

After chores I went out with the camera to see if I could get any good shots of them. I love it when the wind is blowing. Their manes and tails are always flying up in the air. It makes them look so dramatic. I call those type of photos "bodice rippers" ... kind of Gothic and romantic. My guys are so mellow most of the time now that dramatic photography is not the norm. Usually they spend most of their time grazing, grooming each other, rolling in the mud at the edge of the pond and sleeping in the sun. Not a bad life!

When I went out, they did too. It's easier to be brave when all the herd members are out together. All of us, John and Apache, Lucky, Willow and myself walked down the path and out into the tall grasses. The colors were beautiful today! The grass heads are all that early Winter deep golden brown and orange with some areas verging on purple. As the Winter goes on they'll fade until it's all silvers and faded browns in February. I don't think I've gone out my front door even one time since we moved out here without looking around me in awe. It changes from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. For the first time I understand Andrew Wyeth's quote " I think I could paint a hill every day of my life."

We walked around, stood around, sat around and turned around that East pasture of ours for a good hour. I did take pictures...lots and lots of pictures. But I still can't post them yet, unfortunately. I've bought my new photo shop program, but it's in the mail and won't be here until next week. It's another lesson in patience for me, something I'm not always very good at. But here's the exciting part for me. I've learned to just hang out with my horses on their time line, matching their energy and going where they want to go. John's getting the hang of it too. It's amazing how much it relaxes you when you do nothing except just be. I highly recommend it to everyone as often as they can. Just between you and me, you don't really need a horse to do it either (although I think they enhance the experience for me in ways I don't have words for.).
#5 TIME, 7 Keys to Success and #2 RESPECT, Qualities of a Horseman

Since it's been a mellow, albeit windy, day I thought I would share my all time favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with you. They're great with a mug of hot tea on crisp, cold, November days.


1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees, set out your cookie racks for cooling and butter your cookie sheets (I use the paper from the sticks of butter. There's just enough butter left to grease up one sheet perfectly.)

2. Mix together with a fork : 2 sticks real butter, 3/4 cup turbinado OR demera sugar (organic if possible) , 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tsp sea salt until nice and creamy.

3. Add to that mixture 2 nice big, rich country eggs and a tsp or 2 of real vanilla and beat it until it's fluffy.

4. To that add : 1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup whole oat flour OR 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 tsp baking soda and mix it in SOFTLY, GENTLY just until moistened. If you've read any of my other recipes, than you've already heard me say that you have to be gentle with whole grain flours or the cookies get tough and dry pretty quickly. If you "put your heart in your hands", then you're doing things right.

5. Add a bag of chocolate chips (about two cups), and if you're feeling fancy add some chopped nuts (a couple of handfuls) and maybe some chopped candied ginger, the real deal (again, try to buy organic if you can) Mix gently until things are folded in nicely.

6. Use a teaspoon to dip out generous portions on your cookie sheet, placing them a good inch or two apart so the cookies won't spread in to each other while baking. The mounds should be about the size of a large walnut.

7. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes according to your oven. In my oven it takes nine minutes. Your cookies should be a rich, deep, golden brown. I cook one sheet at a time, but if you have a convection oven you can do two sheets at a time.

8. Slide the cookies off the sheet right away on to your racks to cool, after you take them out of the oven (duh Nancy!). Be prepared to have legions of hungry children and spouses knocking each other out of the way to get to the first ones. They're delicious any time, but in the "totally awesome" category when they're hot from the oven. Oh, and if you have a half coyote/half dog living with you, DON'T LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED. You'll come back to find absolutely nothing left on the counter...every crumb licked off along with spoons, bowls, cookie sheets and spatula. And you'll clean up the aftermath for two days afterwards too!

Today is my youngest son's birthday. These were his favorites when he was a boy...and a man too! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEN!

It's almost December. I love this time of year! Enjoy the cookies and pass the recipe on. It's meant to be shared.

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling REALLY BIG TIME, mellowed out on horses and chocolate.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I love the little room I have set up here as my 'office'. There's a set of double sliding glass doors looking out to the west right next to my desk, so I never feel closed in or claustrophobic. I have two walls that my desk snugs in to in an L shape with cork board that I've attached to the walls (but not without some very funny accidents with things falling down, since I cheaped out on the system to get them up there. )up above the desk. I use those to hang whatever Patterns chart I'm working on filling with Lucky and Apache, things that inspire me to paint or write, old photos, and usually a piece of work that I've finished...I think. Sometimes I have to stare at something for a while to be able to let it go later.

It's my Comfort Zone. My dream is to have the fencing changed so the side of the house is included in that pasture. My herd could come right up to the door and step in for a visit, if they wanted to. We live in an old converted barn, so it's not like horses, goats, cattle, chickens, swallows, barn cats and dogs haven't been in here in years past! I like the idea of retro fitting it to take it back a bit to what it was before.

One of my favorite design projects several years back was for a local Veterinarian and her family. They'd rebuilt the inside of their barn, putting in these amazing cedar lined stalls and an apartment that was also lined with cedar, a lot of it harvested from their property. The only changes I made to it were some windows where old loft doors used to be, up above in the old hay loft, now their apartment, and nice big run-outs for the horses. And then I put in some of the fancy, shmancy stuff like furniture, light fixtures and tile work in the bath and kitchen. It was hard to leave that project. I was in love with the place and in love with the horses too (you knew I was going to say that, didn't you?). It was their Comfort Zone. Later it was their daughter's apartment when she came home from college in the Summers. It was my idea of heaven!

Do you remember the old Level Two packs with the book, "MOVE CLOSER, STAY LONGER" by Dr. Stephanie Burns, included in it? In both the Level One pack and the Level Two pack from that series they talk about the COMFORT ZONE. The idea is that you're not really learning until you push yourself, just a bit, outside your Comfort Zone. It's one of those things I use on myself all the time. I do my own Approach and Retreat when I move in to new territory. John, my lovely patient husband, is my simulation partner. He becomes my 'horse' or I become his 'horse' when I need to learn a new Pattern or how to use a new piece of equipment. Right now we're learning a WHOLE lot about how to get tangled up in a 45 foot line! Sooner or later that will translate in to actually working with Lucky, but not until I've got things as tattooed as possible to the back of my eyelids. (At this point I could say something funny about getting tangled with John, but this is not supposed to be a kinky BLOG, so I'll skip over that part. *big grin here* )

I get being outside the Comfort Zone. I've spent most of my adult life like that. It's part of my work ethic as an artist and designer. I learn new techniques, practice them, then I let it go and experiment. The rules go out the window and I turn off the 'thinker' side of myself and make mistakes, trip around, get tangled and untangled. That's when I find the flow. (See why I say I was 'Parelli' before I was Parelli?) I do the same thing with Lucky and when it works, time moves differently, and so do Lucky and I. We dance! It's not always that perfect, but now I laugh even when it isn't. And, at the risk of sounding like I'm anthropomorphizing here, so does he! 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS, # 1. ATTITUDE and # 6. IMAGINATION Funny how that happens.

With that in mind, I'm going to give you one of my favorite biscuit recipes. It's taken a lot of experimenting and hockey puck like biscuits to get this one down, so it's your chance to go outside the Comfort Zone when you try them too. Don't worry if they don't work the first time you use this recipe. Your dog will absolutely love them too! And if I get the instructions written clearly enough for you, they'll come out light and flaky. What does Pat Parelli say? You'll amaze your friends and blow the socks off your relatives? I think I need to go look that one up again. I love learning good quotes.


1. Heat your oven to 450 degrees...really hot!

2. Mix the dry stuff together with a spoon or fork. Use your favorite ceramic bowl, the one your Grandma used to use.
DRY STUFF: 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup whole oat flour (Here's where you can experiment. You can also use 1 cup unbleached OR make it 2 cups of whole wheat instead OR use 1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut flour in place of some of the whole oat or unbleached OR add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup soy flour, same as get the idea! All it has to do is to equal two cups.), 3 tsp's baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt I should mention here that, if you can, use all organic ingredients. It really does make a difference in the flavor and it never hurts to keep the chemicals out of your diet.

3. Cut in 1/2 cup REAL butter until it's pea sized pieces. The butter can be not quite room temperature...a little cold is OK. You can use it straight from the fridge, but it's a bit more work if you do. Use a pastry cutter or two knives or rub it gently between your hands. When I'm feeling particularly are-tees-tic and flamboyant, I use my hands, but make sure you take off your rings...another funny, family story. 1/2 cup butter is one stick. (Forgot to tell you, these are really rich!)

4. Make a well in the center of your buttered flours and crack open two rich, organic, country eggs and add 1/2 cup whole milk. Carefully, GENTLY, break and mix that mixture INSIDE the well and then CAREFULLY, GENTLY mix it in to the flour and butter just until it's moistened. This is the tricky part because you're working all with whole grains. If you mix to much, it turns in to hockey pucks when you cook it. (And, whatever you do, don't brag about these biscuits when your Mother in Law is visiting. That's a sure road to failure, but it also makes for a very funny family story years later.)

5. Gently, carefully, roll or pat with your hands, the sticky dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, folding it over BUT NOT PUNCHING it, just five to ten times. Then roll or spread it out with your hands, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, and cut it with a biscuit cutter. You'll get between 8 and 12 biscuits. You can take the last wee bit of dough and shape it into a biscuit with your hands, but be gentle. Make believe you're running your hands down your horses neck. Put your heart in to your hands!

6. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on your stove. They should come out between an inch and an inch and a half high, light and flaky.

7. Serve them HOT...right away. I promise you, there will be no left overs when you serve these at breakfast. They're excellent with sausage gravy or jelly and butter.

Variations on a theme. Add some sugar (I use Demera or Turbinado , organic), about 1/4 to 1/2 cup in to the dry stuff. It makes wonderful short cake for Strawberries and Shortcake. You'll have to experiment with this. Just remember to be gentle, easy, when working with whole grain flours. If you "put your heart into your hands", you'll get it right!

I am ever yours, Nancy, outside the Comfort Zone, laughing!

PS. I'm buying a new photo program today, so photos will be posted as soon as I get how to use it...tattooed to the back of my eyelids!

Friday, November 26, 2010

PATTERNS AND RECIPES (and don't forget the wiffle)

Yesterday, while at a Thanksgiving celebration at my brother's house, I started thinking about patterns. I've been watching the Patterns discs again, getting ready to start back up with Lucky. When I can't move forward with him, I move forward in myself. Later that translates back to moving with him again, kind of like a dance. Practice, then practice again. After that throw out the rules and do what comes natural. But I wanted to talk about Patterns. (Don't worry. I'll connect all of this later.)

Patterns repeat themselves through the generations. Sooner or later you find yourself saying and doing some of the same things your parents did. " I can't believe I just said that! I sound like my Mother." And we always say that with shock too, don't we? I know I did. I can still remember looking at my hand holding on to my son's hand and remembering what it was like when I was little and had such confidence in my Mom when she led me. The world was big, but she was bigger, so I always felt safe. And then there I was, a young Mom without my Mom to help. She was dead, much too soon in her life, and I was alone without her. So, I repeated the Pattern that I remembered. I tried to be bigger than the world was.

I've been telling friends for years now that I was "Parelli" before I found Parelli. That's why it resonates so well for me. Pat and Linda Parelli have created a systematic approach to working with horses in a sane, thoughtful, positive way. They practice what they "preach" too. The "talk" and the "walk" match. The dignity of the horse is carefully preserved and protected, as well as the human. Between you and me, I hope this is one of those Patterns that begins to bleed over in to the rest of the world too. I know it's integrated in to the other parts of my life. More Patterns. See how this works?

There are bad Patterns too. I watched my brother with his younger son, yesterday, and saw some of the behaviors that I saw with him and my Mom (I'm the oldest sibling in my family). But I've also watched him repeat a Pattern with his oldest son that is exactly like the one he had with our Father. He has rejected his son and our Father had rejected him at the same age! It's frightening when you see things like that start over a generation later. And it's sad too. It's one of those situations where I don't know whether to say anything or not, so I choose not (for now anyway). It must be something they have to work out during this lifetime. My impulse is to bonk him up side the head though. BONK...BONK! "Can't you see what you're doing? Be "bigger than the world" and take the first steps back to healing this."

Sometimes I teach the wrong Pattern to Lucky too. For a while he learned that he could pull out of my hands, so he did. He didn't go anywhere. In fact, he always came back to me. But it was still a form of bolting. It was dominate behavior that had to be curbed. It took a while too, trying to untangle things and find out where I made the mess. It wasn't was mine. I made it with poor timing, a goal oriented attitude and by putting myself and my timeline first. He made it very clear that I was no longer his ideal leader. Oh boy. That one hurt.

So, I tried to be "bigger than the world" with him. I wanted his confidence and respect and regard back and I had to earn it too. It took a thousand baby steps to get us back together again. Which brings me back around to making my own Patterns in the world that are worth repeating. If I remember to place another's dignity in front of me, reminding myself to preserve it and to show respect to their feelings and ideas, it becomes easier for me to be a partner that others want to be with.

With that in mind, I've decided to start a new Pattern. I've been trying to think of a way to share gifts with my friends without proselytizing or spending money. It is the season for giving, and I always feel good when I have a gift for friends. I'm going to write everyday on my BLOG from now until the end of the year. And I'm going to put one of my favorite recipes on here. I love to cook. It's one of those things I do to "go to the zone". It relaxes me and rewards me at the same time. I love to watch people eat my food and really enjoy it, spending time together talking and laughing while we eat. It's always a win-win situation for me.

Since I can't be with everyone, I can at least share the recipes. And since it's a BLOG, it's easy for people to read or ignore. It's even less intrusive than email is. I love that! It becomes a kind of accidental gift. People happen in to it, try a recipe if they want to and I get to share. Sounds like a winning Pattern to me!

I'm going to start with my favorite muffin recipe. It's easy, fast and packed with real food. I cook with whole grains and unprocessed foods, all organic unless there isn't any other choice. It's a recipe that you can change too, using other types of flours and extra ingredients (like fruits and nuts, spices and so on). In other words, NOW you get to throw out the rules and be creative. And don't forget to put the "wiffle" in them. The "wiffle" is all the good things you think about while you cook. If you add love, the energy becomes an important ingredient, making the food even better.


1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Grease your muffin tins with olive oil. ( I always use Organic First Press Olive Oil)

3. Get out your favorite mixing bowl and mix all the wet stuff together, beating it lightly.
Wet stuff : 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 fresh organic farm egg, 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk (We buy ours from a local dairy in a big glass bottle. It always has a cream plug at the top...the real deal.), 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey (again, if you can, buy local unfiltered honey)

4. Add the dry stuff and GENTLY mix it together. The secret of cooking with whole grains is to mix it just enough, not too much, more like folding it in. If you mix it too hard or to thoroughly it gets tough.
Dry stuff : 1 cup whole wheat flour (we buy ours from a Great Harvest Bakery. They mill it for you while you wait! Awesome flour. Tastes like nuts, sort of.), 1 cup whole oat flour, 1/2 tsp salt (I've been experimenting with fresh ground pink sea salt from the Himalaya's), 2 tsp's of baking powder, a couple of handfuls of dried fruit (I like raisins, cranberries, dried apricots, dried pears) and another couple of handfuls of nuts (pecans or walnuts are nice, raw) and, if you want to, add some ginger or cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla.

5. Ladle it into your muffin tins right away and pop it into the oven. They should take about 20 minutes to cook. A muffin stirred just right and cooked without moving it around or opening the oven should have a peak in the middle, like a tiny mountain.

6. Take a knife and run it around the edge of the muffin cups and pop the muffins up on their sides, then carefully put them in to a basket lined with an old, clean cloth napkin or flour sacking.

7. Serve it with lots of REAL butter (organic, of course) and your favorite jelly, jam or honey and a pot of hot tea!

Experiment. Have fun. and I'll be there with you, in my heart, enjoying too.

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling with muffin crumbs around my mouth and jelly on my fingers

Monday, November 15, 2010


He did it! He did it! He really, really did it. Yes...he really did it!

I know. Over the top. But last night, my gaited Missouri Foxtrotter just three, almost four years out from a near death experience with laminitis did two...COUNT THEM! TWO! ... flying lead changes in a row. My lovely sorrel horsey hero DID IT! I'm still completely blown away, all circuits shot, jumping up and down ala junior high school with a squeal EXCITED!

Here's what happened. ( My creative writing professor is probably turning over in her grave at this point, but all writing skills are out the window with this one.)

We went out to play for the first time in three weeks. It was a pretty big deal for me. I've missed being with him, especially since we've worked so hard the past year and a half to get him back into "fighting" form. It's taken a thousand tiny baby steps, starting with just five minutes a day and working up to hill work and an hour and a half without him struggling. In fact, the whole idea was to NOT have him exhausted. So I've erred on the side of caution and taken it nice and easy. This time, though, it was me who had to limit my time. John timed me so I wouldn't loose track. I go into the "zone" and time flows in a different way for me, when I'm with Lucky.

I'd forgotten how much the landscape changes around here this time of year. Last time I took him OUTSIDE to play, the wildflower gardens were still blooming, packed with late season flowers. The cows were still in their field. The ponds still had lotus in them and the trees had leaves. For a horse, that's a lot of change.

He was just a bit nervous with all the differences in his landscape...lots of little I took it easy. We started with Friendly game, at least five minutes of it. Being a Left Brained Introvert with more whoa than go, Lucky was easy with that. Nothing like late season, cool weather grasses to give a horse something to do while his person massages him. I kept going until he was soft all over, no tension anywhere. Then I changed my energy, lifted his rope and off we went.

We played games with the barrels and cones I had set up in the yard and down the drive, taking it easy and doing whatever his energy told me he was ready for. I wanted to direct his energy, not make him go. I'd decided that my goal for the evening was to build on the deeper connections we'd made while I was in my "Yoda Stick" phase and all we could do was to stand around together in the pasture. My draw improved over those weeks. I wanted to keep that momentum going.

We managed to play all Seven Games with some Figure Eight's and Weaving in the mix. Lucky loves Weaving. It's going forward, so it makes sense to him. Figure Eight's are a bit more challenging, so I broke those down into half figure eights...stop...then the other half. It was kind of like doing a Million Transitions, but around two cones with a pause, then back around again. When I added in straight lines with transitions, that began to make sense to him, so his energy came up.

It's not easy to get Lucky's energy up. He'd just a soon cock a leg and go to sleep. Give that horse some sunshine, green grass and cool, clean water and he's done for the day. Going? Not high on his priority list. So getting him to begin to offer to walk faster and even gait was enough for me. I was going to stop there and go back to the barn. And John had told me we were at thirty minutes too.

But as we came back around the end of his shed, he decided that the grass over at the base of the propane tank looked especially nice. I thought that was fine too. We've played around that tank nearly every time we come out because it was his "big scary thing", so I wanted it to become his "nice place to rest" place. But when he leaned down to get an especially nice, crunchy bite of grass, his rope got caught on the loop of metal (John told me tanks have those so they can be carried to and dropped in to place, using those loops on either end of the top of the tank) and made this weird " KKKKklllannnnnnnngoingungungun!" noise.

Shazamm! We were off! Talk about your nano second flip from the left side to the right side of the brain. WOW! (And I do have to admit the sound was strange, probably because we'd just had it filled a few days before). He went backwards and up so fast, he was on his back legs and hopping and shaking his head to get away from the pressure. At that point I was very glad that I'd decided to work on the ground.

I ran to the side, away from his backwards hop and rear, and put some pull to his side, trying to bring his butt around and away from the tank. It worked too. All of that simulation time with John made it much easier to bring Lucky back down. Thank you Parelli's for teaching us how to do that...and thank you John for spending all of those patient hours with me as my "horse" and as my "human partner"! I was able to disengage Lucky and move him away from a totally unexpected situation (aren't they all?) safely and effectively.

But his levels of adrenalin and excitement were way up. I decided to see if I could turn the need to disengage in to a Falling Leaf pattern. He wanted to go, so we went, but in a way that was directed. First I ran away from him, moving him in big, sweeping arcs towards me. That didn't quite work the way I wanted it to. What he really needed was to be disengaged. The arcs were adding energy, not dissipating it. So as he came back towards me and went past, I leaned over and disengaged him. I had to put a bit of pressure on his head, zone one, using it like a lever to move his butt away from me. He was really moving by then! It turned into a circle, or more like a spin. We had some real energy going by this time.

I accidentally did one of those spins where I stand still and ask him to move by putting pressure on his Zone One, then his Zone Four. Cool, but he was still wired. It did get him to stop though.His head was up and he was snorting. Where was my nice, lazy Left Brain Introvert? We were going through the whole alphabet of personality changes faster than I could respond. Now what?

I wasn't sure of how to proceed, so I turned to the side and took off ALL of the pressure and tried to match my breathing to his. He snorted...I snorted. He was panting, so I was too. Wasn't hard to do. I was out of breath, just like he was. I could feel how rigid he was, so I tightened up my back and neck and matched him. I didn't move either until I heard him sigh. At first it was a ragged, broken kind of sigh. Then it lengthened out into a deeper " Whew!" kind of sigh. We were both relieved that was over!

When I turned to look at him, to run my hands down his neck (so I could feel what his muscles were like), he looked at me with his eyes still sort of buggy. I waited, using my stick and string over his back, and then my hand on his whithers. And then he just let it go. Like that, his tension was gone. That was when I realized I'd let it go too when I was rubbing his neck. He trusted me enough to follow my lead! That was an unexpected breakthrough for us, maybe because of all the "Yoda stick" time in the pasture?

My goals had changed. All I wanted to do was to get us back inside, letting the evening end on a good note. I'd watched one of the Discs about how to use Falling Leaf going away and towards to build respect and confidence, so I decided to use some nice, big, soft sweeping arcs towards the barn, then turn him and have him arc from side to side as I walked away from him backwards. He knows there's carrots in the barn waiting, so it was one of those "makes sense to me" Games for Lucky. We had a goal we were going towards.

We didn't do too many of the Falling Leaf away . He still has a tendency to want to be too close to me ( or maybe I'm putting too much pull on the line and don't know it? not sure), so after doing four of those I turned and walked away from him while he arced from one side to the other. It's a nice place to do it because there's soft hills going down to the barn. That lets us get a little hill work in too. I was half jogging backwards while Lucky came towards me, further and further out and THEN IT HAPPENED!

LUCKY DID A FLYING LEAD CHANGE TO MY RIGHT (his left) AND THEN TO MY LEFT! I had to write that in caps because that's the way I see it in my head. It was that exciting! My cross firing, pacing sometimes, gaiting sometimes, cantering on the wrong lead horse DID IT. And not only did he do two flying lead changes, but he was balanced and graceful too.

I stopped right there and cried!

You go through all kinds of inner dialogs when you have a sick or injured horse, saying things like " It's going to be OK. We can get through this. I'll love him anyway he comes, healthy or not. " And you do the work too. All of the special trims, special shoes, gentle exercises always at his pace, liniments, poultices, supplements, reiki, anything you can think of to keep yourself and him moving forward, getting better. You talk to experts, spend more money than you have, read, study, pray and wait. So, when your horse does something as wonderful and exciting as a flying lead change (and I wasn't even trying to get him to do that either!) you do what any sane, logical person would do. You cry!

Lucky went back to eating grass. It wasn't that big a deal to him. He changed leads. Happens all the time. I stood there, leaned on him, and cried. Big scary propane tank blow up, recovery from that and then BANG! He's offering to do flying lead changes in a lovely, slow, easy canter JUST LIKE THE BIG GUYS DO IT! Of course I cried. My horse wasn't just back, obviously healthy. He was a whole different horse!

I gave him extra carrots to celebrate. And I gave myself some extra, super duper 85% dark chocolate for dessert...Green and Black's, no less. I'd bought it as a gift for a friend's birthday. I'll have to buy her another bar. It was as close as I could come to champagne on a moment's notice.

My Lucky horse is back!

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling at you through a smeary, chocolate face.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Some days are made for hot cocoa, good books and a blanket to snuggle in. Like today, for instance. It's 45, dark and raining outside...classic November weather. I have the lights on here in my study to cheer me up. And the weeping willow outside my door, next to the pond, is bright yellow. It's the last tree to hold on to it's leaves out here except for the oaks.

I'm practicing my "thank you!"s today, trying to retrain my brain. If it's something I can't change, move on and work on the things I can. I've cleaned the house and the inside of the barn, read some of my books, called a friend and it's not quite 4PM. Time to clean the studio and get it ready for another round of paintings, I guess.

While I work, I've been listening to the rain. Since eliminating the TV from our lives several years ago, I've learned to really appreciate the quiet. All I can hear is the rain on the roof, my dogs as they sleep and the hum of the computer. No radio or music for now. It's nice to just be quiet sometimes.

This past week, while my back is on the mend, I've been glutting myself with old Savvy Discs. I know lots of people sell theirs since they can watch them as reruns later on the Savvy Club website, but I like to keep them in notebooks on my bookshelf. I see them as part of my reference library. They're like old friends, ready to tell me a good story when I need to hear one.

The disc I watched last night was from September of 2007, Issue 28. In it Linda Parelli works with a Left Brain Introvert named Beau. Talk about a challenge! He's Lucky magnified times 3. Beau is pushy, dominant and sees people as something to buck off and step on. He's gorgeous too. Several times, while watching Linda work with him, I laughed. That kind of horse can be very charming while he's thinking his wicked thoughts. There's several minutes of him exploring, chewing on and ripping up a tarp while Linda stands and talks to the audience. In Beau's mind, he's completely dominating the tarp, but he's also a clown while he does it.

When I pull out discs to rewatch, I'm usually pretty intuitive about it. Where ever my hand lands is the one I choose. Funny how my hand went to the one with the LBI who displays some of the same behaviors Lucky does. How interesting! It's just the one I needed to see too. Lucky isn't as extreme as Beau. But he is enough like him that watching Linda play with him was very helpful, at least with my visualizing, since I can't actually do much for right now. I think I'm going to add in some buckskin lace to my imaginary leggings and work harder at "walking in Linda's shoes" when I'm seeing myself playing with Lucky. Little details sometimes make all the difference.

I'm also rereading Robert Miller's book THE REVOLUTION IN HORSEMANSHIP. John's just finished it, so now it's my turn to put sticky fingerprints on the pages. It's a wonderful mix of history, technique and an excellent resource for finding out more about many of the Natural Horsemanship trainers. The book is chock full of good advice. I can find something worth quoting on nearly every page. One of my favorites is " Think right down to the ground.", Ray Hunt. I interpreted that phrase as "Think with your whole body."

So I guess you could call me a busy little bee. But that's also part of the problem. I'm a BUSY bee. I kind of feel like I'm caught in the greenhouse and bashing myself on the windows. It's given me some idea of what confinement is like for a horse, when they're recovering from an illness or injury. My claustrophobic side begins to come out. I need to move my feet! Must be the extrovert in me.

I have nothing profound to say, no amazing discoveries except that I'm getting better at being in the "middles" with Lucky, on our journey together. It's OK to take tiny baby steps, even if some of them are sideways. Pat Parelli says that a horse can only go six ways "Forwards, backwards, right, left, up and down." so I guess practicing my Sideways game, even in my head, is still another way of going forward.

I am ever yours, the middle

Monday, November 8, 2010


Well Rats-a-Rama! I blew out my computer and back in the same week. Hmmm...wonder if that has some kind of cosmic meaning? Just got the computer tower back on Friday and it turns out that when they saved things to reload, all they saved were the personal files and pictures, not the programs. AAAACK! (head back, mouth open, major grimace). And I don't have discs to replace them because it was one of those ordered computers with programs in place. Sometimes I despise the learning curve.

You're wondering why I'm going on a rant about this? I'm tired of my pictures on here. I wanted to put some new ones in. These are all from last Winter. ** low grumble** and **teeth grinding** So John is going to pick up the programs we need to reenter on the way home from work today. In the meantime, no new pictures. (New saddle first, then a computer. Patience is a virtue.)

So, on to other things. I'm still not supposed to be working with Lucky yet. I did last week and blew things out again. Bad Nancy! Seems that being a rule breaker isn't always in my best interest. Lesson learned again. I have been going out with them every day and just hanging out. I love that. Nothing like warm, grassy breath blown into my face for making me feel better.

While I've been standing around looking like a philosopher in the field, I've been doing "mental training"...visualizing. I have a well honed imagination, so I put in as many details as I can right down to stopping to tie my boot laces. And I've been adding in fanciful things too, like orchestras in the tree lines and Wolf Kahn talking to me about color theory and horsenality. Yup. No stops on this kiddo's head.

And I've been reading. Some of the books are total bubble gum that I use to stop my head when it's time to go to bed. But the other's all have to do with relationships, motivation and horsemanship. The local librarians love me! I'm taking the books home that usually sit on shelves, at least around here, and get dusty. Someone's got great taste in aquisitions though.

Two that we bought to add to our personal collections are : ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN, by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, and THE REVOLUTION IN HORSEMANSHIP AND WHAT IT MEANS TO MANKIND, by Robert Miller, DVM and Rick Lamb. Excellent books! Definitely worth adding to any personal library. If I were teaching in either High School or College, I would have these on my reading list for the students...required reading!

The other two books (I always read in multiples. I'm kind of ADD about that. From my point of view, you can never stuff your head too full!) are : CARROTS AND STICKS, by Ian Ayres and THE TWISTED SISTERHOOD, UNRAVELING THE DARK LEGACY OF FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS, by Kelly Valen. Interesting combination, don't you think?

CARROTS AND STICKS is about building incentives to keep yourself going, motivation and persistence ( interesting!). I've just begun that one this morning. My style of reading drives my husband nuts. I read in circles...back, middle, front and then front, middle, back. He was an English Major, so reading the back of a book is kind of like practicing literature mayhem and murder. " Honey, you just can't do that! It's against the rules!" ah me. He gets so distressed when he says that too.

My reply is "What rules?" **big grin here**

THE TWISTED SISTERHOOD is an odd choice, you're thinking...yes? An explanation is in order here. My past isn't relevant to this except as a reason for the kinds of relationships I have with my girlfriends, the types of people I've been attracted to. My roll models were difficult (and that's being kind) in my childhood.

If you go back to the first paragraph (and previous postings), it's obvious that it sometimes takes hitting my head on hard walls more than once for me to learn and change. The women I've had friendships with in the past have been domineering, angry, verging on sadistic on their part and masochistic on my part. In other words I've put up with a lot of sh!t over the years, thinking it was the right thing to do because I believe in unconditional love. Love people the way they are. Don't try to change them.

The last part is still true for me. Unconditional love is important. But now I practice it because I'm honoring who people are and celebrating our differences. Vive la difference (you have to say that with a French accent, through your nose**another big grin here**)! Spending concentrated time with my herd has taught me the importance of being honest with myself at a deeper level. And that means admitting that I don't like feeling bad. Most of my past relationships were based on that. They made me feel bad. I wanted to change them (the people) , couldn't, so I tried to change myself.

Now there's nothing wrong with making changes in yourself. That's how you grow and mature. But the women from my past didn't want those changes to be in a direction that made me stronger, happier or more self reliant. In fact, I found that when you do learn how to defend your personal space it begins to shine a bright light on what those relationships were really based on. They were practicing CONDITIONAL love. If I was the way they wanted me to be, they were my very best friend(s). But when I made the polite request to back off, or I disagreed with their point(s) of view, lord love a duck and please pass the pickles! You had better duck and run because it became a free for all and I was the target. Viciousness is a pretty word for what they did to me while trying to maintain control.

I should tell you that this simply separated out the chaff from the grain. The grains or seeds were the friends who were real, who wanted to help me grow. Nice metaphor, don't you think? When I saw THE TWISTED SISTERHOOD on the shelf, the title leaped out at me. It was in a stack of brand new books just being added to the new titles shelf. I asked the librarian if it was ready to be checked out. Good thing for me, it was. But I've just started it, so I'll have to wait to tell you what I think about it.

I love the new directions my life with my herd is taking me. I'm poor as a church mouse and happier than I've been in a very long time, all the way back to having babies (still my all time favorite part of my life!). I can't even remember why all the other things I thought I was supposed to want were ever an issue. Maybe that means I'm really letting the old goop go? I guess I'll let Lucky, Apache and Willow tell me.

#7 Horses teach humans and humans teach horses. , Eight Principals of Horsemanship, Pat Parelli

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the way things go...and reading!