The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, June 18, 2012


When I was a girl, Summers always seemed to exist in a period of suspended animation. Everything moved slower, and sometimes it felt like nothing moved at all. There was no sound. It was hot and so humid you slurped the air in like a thick, hot broth. 

Ever so often a cricket would try to rub it's legs together or a bird would make a wobbly chirp from the top of the maple in the front yard. Sprinklers would run non stop, trying to keep the new turf alive,sending rainbows across the yard,and everything would stop in the afternoon when the sun was at it's height.

We didn't have air conditioning. Mom would try to create cool areas in the house with a floor fan that had wet washcloths draped across the front of it. Mostly that just added to the humidity. There was a constant supply of lemonade, Popsicles and iced sweet tea, anything to keep liquids in us.

There were no sun blocks, no neighborhood swimming pools, and in our area no ponds or lakes to swim in. Just the Kansas sun, field after field of wheat turning yellow and an occasional tractor going by on it's way to plant corn or soy beans. The dogs would go to sleep under the front porch and the cats would disappear where ever it is cats go when everyone hunkers down to wait out the passage of the intense Summer light.

My favorite place to spend my endless afternoons was under the maple, leaning against the trunk in a place that had split and healed years ago, forming a round dimple in the bark where my head fit like a pillow. I'd wiggle around until everything was just right and read a book from the library...or maybe a comic book stolen from one of my older cousins.My chores were done and no one was expected to work too hard when the temperature soared past 100 every day. 

Grandma would bring out glasses of lemonade and plates of cookies to keep me and Penny, her wonderful stinky old farm dog, company. Penny would get fat off of those cookies while I was there. I'd eat one, then give her one. She'd lay there, draped across my stomach sighing and, occasionally,drooling with contentment. I'd drink the lemonade and she'd lick the condensation off the outside of the glass. It was perfect, laying there in the shade and watching the late afternoon clouds slowly build out on the horizon. I thought it would never end.

But physics is inevitable. Turned out there was an end and time kept moving on. Sometimes time goes round in circles though. And it always happens when you're not looking.

This is one of those Summers, where the clouds are always hanging on the horizon, the heat is thick and the grass is crunchy. I don't like to turn on the air until July, maybe because of those wonderful sweaty memories from my childhood. Or it could be to keep the bills at a manageable level too. But I'm a romantic, so I'll go with the sweaty memories. It's going over 100 today, much earlier in the year than normal. The yard looks like August and I'm down to watering only the vegetable garden to keep it going. The flowers, except for the native wildflower garden, are fried. We're in a drought and the wind has been blowing straight out of the south for a couple of days now. The windows are open, curtains flapping, dogs under the deck and cats off to sleep in the barn where the fans are blowing to keep the hay from getting moldy.

But that's not why it feels like I'm in suspended animation today. Today my status changes from Mom, Wife, Artist and Horsewoman to Grandma! My youngest son, Ben, called to let us know that he and his wife, Lauren (my lovely daughter in law! I love having a daughter.) were on the way to the hospital. When I heard from him via texting a few minutes ago, he said that she's already 8cm's dilated and her contractions are 2 minutes apart! MY GRANDSON IS ON HIS WAY IN TO THE WORLD!

I can't seem to stay focused on anything except my memories of my Grandparents place in the Grandma's cookies and fresh made lemonade, pop cycle trucks and library books, even the smell of stinky Penny (that could be Joe adding in that little sensory note). Now I get to be the Grandma and our little converted barn/house will be the place he comes to visit. It will be my horses, dogs and barn cats providing the background and the frogs that sing at night who add in the sounds of our Summer symphony. 

Tomorrow will be his very first whole day and it will be mine as Grandma Nancy.

It's time for me to freshen up my bed time stories, my rocking chair skills and to do my best to give him some of the same timeless Summer heat and lemonade memories. 

Oh, the stories we'll tell. Let the laughter begin! 

I am, ever yours, Grandma Nancy, smiling so big and so hard my cheeks hurt!


Pulitzer Photo Mural, image taken while in DC at the Newseum                          

Monday, June 4, 2012


Lists... I use them all the time. My desk top is covered in old, dusty, curled up bits of paper with snippets of lists on them. There are lists of projects to start, people to contact, chores to be done and questions to look up on that wonderful tool called the Internet (love Google!).

I use lists to write a story, lists to garden with, lists to paint from. Sometimes I even glue into or smash on to a canvas one of my lists or parts of an old list that's floated to the surface.

It's an easy motivator for me, a habit I formed when my sons were little and I was in the "Super Mom" stage of my life. I went to school full time, worked part time at two jobs and was a Mom (and Wife!) 24/7. I'd end my day with a list for tomorrow and start the next one with a revised list. Then I'd go my own way, forgetting to check anything off and, somehow, I'd still manage to do most of the things on my list! The reward was finding that list a day or two later and reading it, discovering that I'd completed that set of tasks.

I've just finished a major project and I'm in that "waiting in between" place, where the new lists are being made and the juices are flowing. I love finishing something I've worked on for a long time, but even more I love the beginning. And part of the beginning is the lists and doodles on scraps of paper and envelopes, the backs (and sometimes the fronts!) of bills, that I make. I'm sitting here typing and stopping to make another list. It's my way of thinking out loud.

A professor I had in school started one of his lectures by saying " I can always tell who the graduate students are. They're the ones that, when I say 'Good morning!', their heads go down and the note taking begins. The undergrads are the ones who sit with their legs crossed, foot bobbing up and down, and their eyes glassy."That was one of those eye opening moments for me. By then I was in my twenties, back in school and I was personally and financially invested in my education. Every single minute spent in those classes was time away from my family so it all had to count, had to be worth my while if I was going to give up precious time with my sons. To keep myself organized, I started the LISTS.

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This morning when I was outside, cleaning the stalls and paddock, filling buckets and all of the other hundred and one things I do to have my horses here with me, an idea popped in to my head. While I'm here, in my "in betweens", I should make a list to share with you! It's a list of some of my favorite products that I've made up over the years, things that are taking us further from the corporate idea of what chemicals we're "supposed to have to be happy".

One of our goals for the past several years has been to put as little as possible in to the rubbish bins, to make do with what we have and be happy about it. Turns out that was a much harder goal to reach than I thought it was going to be. I was more hooked on commercial stuff than I thought I was. Keeping recyclables separated and getting them in to town is a job all on it's own. I'm not good with clutter, well except in my studio. I'll grant you I'm pretty messy in there, part of my creative process.

The more aware I am of what we don't really need to be happy, the more Zen my life becomes. So do my interactions with my herd, with people, and in my studio. Even my photos have taken a new direction, verging on the abstract with a new focus to the 'quiet' inside. Our meals are simpler, with the colors, textures and smells of raw food being the center of our table. And part of that is the things on my list that I want to share. This is not a complete list, just some of the things I know work consistently.

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1. Vinegar and Orange Peel spray.
I use a pint container and fill it about 3/4's full of plain white vinegar. I add the peels of several oranges over two or three days, about four. Put a cap on it and let it be for about two to three weeks. It will turn a pretty shade of pale orange.
I put that in an old Windex spray bottle and fill it up with water. It will be about a half and half mixture.
Voila! the best surface cleaner I've ever used. It smells good and cleans up everything! And it's all natural, no chemicals at all, you get to reuse an old plastic container over and over (recycle it when it breaks) and the ingredients are something you have in your house all the time and cheap to boot. Doesn't get any better than that!
2. Put white vinegar in your dish washer, about a cup or two, when you use it. We're also using an all natural, plant base dish washer soap called "Homesolv Citradish". (locally we buy it at the Community Mercantile in Lawrence). Weirdly enough, it's the cheapest stuff on the shelf too. Go figure! The dishwasher smells great, the dishes are sparkling more grungy stuff on the cups or grit stuck to dishes...and it's all natural, no chemicals.

1. "Herbal Armor" It's a lotion that is made of organic and all natural oils (cedar, geranium, lemon, etc) that keeps the bugs off. It isn't cheap, but it is definitely worth the money spent. It keeps the ticks, chiggers, flies and mosquitoes off of me and I smell good to boot!
2. Olive Oil and sea salt scrub : I make this. Super easy. Take a tea cup saucer and pour about a teaspoon of sea salt in it, add a teaspoon or two of organic extra virgin first press olive oil to it and use it to clean your face. I rinse my face first with warm water, pat it dry, then use a little bit of the salt/olive oil mixture on the ends of my fingers and rub it in circular motions on my face (avoid the delicate eye and temple area). After I've massaged, not scrubbed, for about a minute or two, I rinse it with warm water and pat my face dry. Leaves my skin super soft, taking the dead skin cells off along with any grime from the day. There's enough on your saucer (up end another saucer over it to keep it clean and, if you have a really big dog, to keep her from eating it!) for two or three days in a row. I like to use it in the evening before I go to bed. I do that every week or two. Again, it's stuff I have in the extra packaging or waste and all natural, no chemicals.

1. Horse spray. Recipe :
1/2 cup AVON Skin So Soft
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Repel X concentrate (made from carnations and other flower oils)
6 cups of garlic water (Boil 1/4 cup garlic granuals in 6 cups water for 10 minutes. Let it sit to cool. Strain out the garlic .. I put it around and on my apple trees to keep pests away ..)
I mix this in an old bleach bottle.( I know no one will accidentally drink from a bleach bottle.)and pour it into old spray bottles saved from years ago ... those suckers are tough!...that used to have the more toxic bug sprays for horses in them. I recycle when the bottle breaks. It's a win win for all of us. And it works too! You get about four hours of complete protection, keeping them comfortable. Really nice when you're work/playing with them. No jumping around when you're on top!
2. Hoof and Coat Supplement from Springtime for the horses. It's an all natural supplement made here in the US, processed here, and harvested here. The horses love it and their coats are super shiny all year long.
3. Bug Off Garlic, again from Springtime. I give this to them in low doses in the Winter and, when the Summer is like it is this year ... super buggy ... in double doses in the Summer. It stops ninety percent of the bugs, enough to make it much nicer for them. And I use it to make a paste when there's an abrasion or small wound. Keeps the flies away and speeds up healing. Super easy to use and all natural. Especially effective on my donkey. The flies never bite her and she used to be bloody with wounds all Summer long from pests biting her.

Last but never least, all things Parelli! Their learning system is set up to allow the human to mark off on a chart and on lists, things to do with your horse. And it's set up in a logical progression, taking you through from the very basics on the ground right on up through high level riding. I love my Parelli Lists! They let me know where the "holes" are in my game time with my herd and keep me moving forward, even when I'm feeling overwhelmed and out of that famous comfort zone they talk about, the place you need to be to learn new skills. I can always look at my checked off accomplishments, hone those skills a bit more to remind myself of where I've come from and then plunge in to new territory.

Doesn't get any better than that!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, making a list and checking it twice...smiling!

Keep it natural!