Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Winter is over!

HUGE thanks to everybody who came out to help with our spring cleaning today.  I am amazed by and hugely appreciative of the great turnout and all the hard work everybody did!

First one out was Amy, who fed and turned out before anybody else arrived!  She also spent several hours yesterday helping me strip the barn so it'd be ready for today's challenge.  Woohoo!

Rebecca was the next to arrive, super early as always :)   She and I started gutting stalls as the first task, which she continued at superwoman speed while I went and taught Rowan her lesson.  When Jennifer, Katlyn and Steph arrived they joined in and the barn was empty in record time.
Creating our new jumps
By the time Rowan was done riding, all the troops had arrived!  Olivia, Rowan and Selena took on panting duties (thanks to Susan for the paint and Mieke for the materials!)  Thanks to them we now have lots of fun new jumps :)   A brick wall, a toy chest (don't think it was intended to be such, but that's what it looks like to me), a zig-zag pattern, and coolest of all by far - a caterpillar!   So much fun!

A couple more of these sessions and our stadium ring will be a work of art!
While they were painting, Bryn was building!   Despite my many interruptions and requests for his skills elsewhere, he still pulled it off and we now have an exciting new xc jump!!!!  Woohoo :)   Now all we need is for the ground to dry up a little bit and we're set.  Fun pre-entry sized cabin.  Can't wait for Lexi to try it!  hahaha
Cabin XC Jump built by Bryn
Once the stalls were clear, Susan hooked up the pressure sprayer and went to work.  She tackled the entire barn on her own!  And it looks sooooooo much better now!  And when the sprayer needed a break, she doubled as photographer :)   Look for pics on FB whenever she sends them to me *g*    Also in the barn, Jennifer tackled the tack room, cleaning off all the lockers, decobwebbing, and cleaning the excessive number of picture frames.  Steph and Rebecca with some technical assistance from Bryn fixed the stall mats that had come up -- a no-fun job that they did a great job of, laughing all the while.   And while this was going on, mum single-handedly took on the viewing lounge and windows before going to procure lunch for all :)
Emptying the stalls
Outside several different missions were being tackled.  Dad, Darrell and Jeff were armed with chainsaws and spent all day taking care of the trees that came down in the ice storm -- chopping up and removing dead branches and checking the fences.  They got a TON accomplished!

Chelsea, Danielle and Katlyn took charge of relocating jumps and setting a course.  I drove the tractor for them, but they did all the work packing all the jumps up and then unloading them and deciding what to do with them in the sandring.  The course looks great and I'm really looking forward to riding it!   Ummmm hmmmm have I mentioned my horse isn't actually broke yet?  Nbd; I'm sure she can do it *g*

Setting the course in the sandring
Jennifer, Rebecca and Steph all finished up what they were working on inside and moved on to tackle outdoor jobs.  Jen made a good dent in cleaning up the hay outside the paddocks -- hopefully will let the grass grow there now!   Rebecca hauled all the school grooming gear outside and cleaned and sorted all the brushes and boxes.  Stephy meanwhile set up the floats for the outside waters -- I need some more washers, but once I have those my horses will be soooo happy because they'll be able to be out at night again.  And so will I :)

We had a short pizza lunch break and then everybody continued at it!  Those tackling the bigger jobs went right back to them while some of the shorter jobs were finished and all those people picked up new ones!  Lucy arrived and joined in, helping Steph roll blankets for the blanket lady to come pick up.  Victoria joined in as it was time to put it all back together again -- many many loads of shavings delivered.  Hay, grain and water to all the stalls, horses brought in, and a ton of sweeping!  Clean up the work area outside and the day was finally complete!
Reloading the stalls :)
And I?  I got to run around and do little bits of everything :)  Drive the tractor, turn on the fence, hold the board, dig dirt out of the mats (until Stephy, unfortunately minus Wolverine claws, took over.  I think the hanger made a reasonable substitute though.  Maybe you had to be there :), turn the water on, realize that was a very bad idea, turn the water off, clean the name signs, check on the horses who were none to sure about chainsaws.  Of course the hot chestnut TB couldn't care less.  The old schoolmaster otoh...  Sheesh.  Spent an exorbitant amount of time fighting with hoses both inside and out, but I have high hopes that now all I need is those washers and we'll be good to go.  Search for paint brushes (didn't find any other than the ones I already knew about), painter's tape (that I had!), duct tape (also had -- doesn't work so well on wet surfaces though), need a screwdriver - no not *that* type, the other kind!   Buckets, washers, screws, nails, broom (where *did* the other good broom end up?), shovels, hoses, electrical cord, lamp, and on and on.  It seems there's a lot of stuff we have that's location is hidden in my brain *g*   Since Stephy can read my mind, she can mostly find it too with very little discussion, but for everybody else it's easier if I just go get whatever it is.
I eventually won this battle!
Overall it was an amazing day.  I'm forever grateful to all of you for coming out and helping and being involved!  You're awesome :)

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.” ― Neil Gaiman

Haven't heard from me in a while eh?   Remember that story I was writing?  The disturbing one?   Right - well it kind of took over my life.  And since I'm hitting my first low-word count day in weeks, I figured I'd write here instead.  Doesn't *quite* count, but it still keeps the writing concept going.

So I started the story and the words were flowing super-fast.  I was a little disturbed by many of them, but the story was writing itself so I let it.  And I made a goal to myself that I'd do my own little nanowrimo:  50,000 words in 30 days.  Now I've succeeded at that a couple times in the past, but I've always had to fight for it and the results have always been, to put it bluntly, crap.

This writing was good.  I was really happy with it.  And it rapidly became apparent that 50k wasn't going to be a challenge.  Seriously -- I'm still stunned by that.  I was at about 25k at the time, so not sure it'd keep going, but instead I set a rather ambitious goal of 75k in 30 days.  I even set up a spreadsheet (yes, I'm a geek -- if you've been here more than a week or two, you should know that by now!)

And I thought the odds were not good, but hey, go hard or go home right?  The fact that the novel being published this month isn't even that length?  That I've *never* written anything that length?  Irrelevant.  75k in 30 days requires 2500 words per day.  Did I mention I still work ridiculous hours?  And am trying to get my young horse trained enough to pretend to compete at some point this summer?  And am hosting a clinic next weekend?

Now would be a good time to say a HUGE thanks to Steph who took over a ton of barn work, buying me writing hours :)   Thanks Stephy!

And now, for the first day since I started, I didn't make my word count.  Boooo.  In fact, I barely even wrote a paragraph.  Sheesh.  BUT - my count is currently sitting over 73K, and about six days ahead of schedule, so I'm letting it go tonight in favour of sleep.  Yes sleep - remember that concept?  My mc is very good at putting people to sleep >;-P    I have 2000 words left to my goal.  Tomorrow's going to be insane, so we'll see.   And I figure about 5-10k left to actually finish the story, realistically.  So the new goal is to have first draft done in the 30 days, which is right before our clinic next weekend.  hahaha cross your fingers for me!

I even have a plan of sorts.  I've never written with a plan before - I suspect that might be what's slowing me down now.  Three people still need to die, and sadly I've grown rather fond of one of them, so that's unfortunate.  But he did walk in uninvited so this only seems fair. The other two were brought into the story specifically to be killed, so no worries there.  They're not particularly nice people.  I've been keeping a list of random things Googled for this story -- it'll get its own blog post another night :)

****insert mini writing flash here****

YEAH!  Just knocked off another 1000 words :)  hahaha brief spurt of inspiration got the part written after the first two (including the one I liked) were dead and leading to the death of the third.  Sweet.  It's amazing how much better I feel now; I was *not* happy about losing a day so close to my goal.  I'm now less than 1k from 70,000 words!  Woohoo!

And on a completely unmuderous note -- this photo pretty much epitomizes everything I wish I could do on horseback.  Andrew Nicholson, currently in both first AND second place at Rolex, so easy and relaxed he could do it with a beer in one hand and not waste a drop.  Perfect balance, totally soft contact, seemingly relaxed.  And cool enough to be wearing sunglasses *g*  Mine'd fall off.  Guaranteed.   There's another one of him skipping over a massive brush fence that makes it look like he's riding a 2' hunter round.  In awe.  Completely and totally.

Haven't I met you somewhere before?

So as some of you may know, I'm writing a new book, and now that I'm through being creeped out by my mc, I'm actually quite enjoying it.  But I started to write a scene and was thinking I've written this before...   It's a situation where one character is teaching another techniques for essentially blocking their thoughts.  I looked back and found the flash I wrote *way* back when I first started writing flash and the scene was almost perfect.  The only thing is, point of view is from the teacher, whereas my current project requires the scene to be written in the student's pov.  Ok np, it'd still give me some ideas (I've deemed it's not plagerism when you steal from your own writing!  The copyright owner gave me permission :)

But what really gave me the shivers -- the name of the student in the first story is an alternate spelling of the name of the student in this story...   I wrote it in 2009 and don't think I've looked at it since.  It's not a name I use often.  Has that character really been floating around in my head since then?  I *really* didn't like her the first time around - she was too wimpy.  This one I still don't like, although she's more powerful than the first version.  In both stories the character is in a secondary but important role.

Just sort of amused me :)  Now to go out and play in the sun :)

You should learn something new every day.

So I learned something new today.  That, in itself, is not particularly exciting.  What was exciting was that it was a new way of doing something I mastered at the age of about 10.  hahaha  And it worked *really* well.

Topic in question?  Pulling mane.  I don't know what lead me to watch the youtube video; it's certainly not a topic I've ever watched before -- I've taught it enough times *g*.  Perhaps the link said something about it working on nervous horses?  Not sure, but for whatever reason (procrastination maybe?) I did.

And my skepticism radar went wild.  The hairs "just release".  I'm sorry, wtf?  She did make a point of saying it should be done when the horse was warmed up and it would take a long time.  Ok -- I almost always pull mane after the horse is ridden anyways so nbd.

So anyways - at the barn today, rode my horse (who was, btw, a superstar.  We had a couple "oh sh*t" moments *g* -- overjumping an x by more than 4' qualified.  hahaha but mostly she was brilliant).   Anyways, afterwards I had a few mins to kill so I decided to attempt the mane.  And while she's not *horrible* about it (having had one horse who needed to be tranqed to pull, I have since redefined horrible), she's definitely not happy about it.  So decided I may as well give video-lady's magical suggestion a try.  There was nothing but a minute or two to be lost by trying.  And I gave it a fair shot -- I followed the instructions exactly, even though I felt like a complete fool waiting the 30seconds or so it took to release.

And it WORKED.  Holy frig.  Apparently the look on my face was fairly amusing.  Especially as Amy, who I was talking to at the time, had no idea I was doing anything other than pulling mane as I always would :)  But it actually, really, truly, worked.  And Lexi didn't so much as blink.  Tried it again, same result.   Even up by her poll (where even combing is sometimes an issue) she was totally fine with it.  I found it took longer there -- the time seemed to shorten in the middle of the neck to a second or two, and lengthen by the poll and withers, but given that I have a sample set of exactly one horse at this point, I'm not saying that's usual.

So now I'm really curious to know the science behind it.  My grasp of anatomy and physiology of the mane is fairly minimal I admit.  My best guess is that the pores are open from the work out, and the tiny number of hairs mean that there's just less resistance.  It may be that it's the exact same move but since it's done so slowly the horse doesn't resent it as much.  I'm not sure.  But the end result is my horse completely accepted this with no drama.  It does feel different though; a little creepy actually.

Only down side - it takes several times longer than the usual method would.  It's a *slow* process.  Very slow.  I'm aiming for doing a bit after each ride till it's reasonable but it does take a ton of patience.

As I was doing it I had a vague feeling that somebody somewhere taught me this once before, but I don't recall it ever actually working.  I suspect I was probably a teenager and not interested in taking that long *g* And, to be fair, the horse I rode at that age had no objection to having her mane pulled.

So for the curious, I went and re-found the video...

Two Girls and a Hammer

So.  April.  We need to have a discussion.  Freezing rain and sub-zero temperatures are not appropriate.  They are February's game.  You - your responsibility is pretty flowers and bringing the birds home.  Please get on that soon.

Today was...  One of those days.  Turning out was all sorts of exciting with ice covered with a layer of water making for very slick footing and branches crashing from trees making for *very* nervous horses.  And the round bales were covered in ice, which made them terrifying   Not to mention that it was could and pouring rain, making it lots of fun.  Both Steph and I managed to lose a horse, both for valid reasons, but catching excited horses in that sort of weather is way less than fun -- thankfully they weren't lost at the same time!  And at least they were smart enough to stay on the grass where it wasn't slippery.  And then of course once getting to the paddocks was the fight with ice-covered gate latches which is always all sorts of fun.

So cold and wet at my place is usually solved with hot chocolate.  But sadly with the lack of power, hot chocolate wasn't an option.  Booo.

So while I rode my pony (who was remarkably good after yesterday's silliness.  Tired much?  hahaha)  Steph and my dad started tackling stalls.  In the dark.  At least this barn has lots of windows!  While I was untacking, Steph was making up lunch by flashlight and mentioned my mum was coming bringing light.  Ummm, Mum doesn't ride till five?  But sure enough, not two mins later, my mum walked in.  Dad had called for reinforcements :)  She had more flashlights and a lantern!  hahaha it's amazing how big a deal little things can be on a day like this.  That lantern made so much of a difference.

About now I called hydro for the first time.  "We have absolutely no idea when power will be restored.  Call back in a few hours."  The poor woman was polite and trying but just had nothing useful to say.  I imagine she was probably not having the best day.

I needed a bag of feed, so I called the feed store to see if they were operating.  Their power was flickering in and out, but they could take visa or cash regardless.  Yeah for old-school :)

So while chores actually went reasonably fast, Stephy and I were both cold and hungry -- and with no power, there was no microwave, and therefore no lunch!  So we decided to venture into Guelph in search of food -- and passed Ashley in the driveway.

Stopped to chat with her for a bit, giving the heads up on the power situation and the likeliness that horses would be stupid bringing in.  But overall Ash had things well under control.  By the time Steph and I got back from lunch/feed store run she was finishing stalls and ready to feed.

Ashley's bringing in experience was comparably undramatic, *but* she discovered a tree had brought down the fence in one of the paddocks *sigh*.  Ash hasn't been working at the barn as long as some of the others and as a result isn't as used to all the random extra life skills required.  hahaha so I told her where to find a hammer while I put wet gear back on and we trekked out to see the damage.  While it looked very impressive on first glance (a whole tree!) as we got closer, it really wasn't so bad.  Between the two of us we got the branches cleared easily.  Actually hammering the board up was more of a challenge.  The nails were seriously warped, making it harder than normal to straighten them.  But far more of a challenge was the tree kept throwing ice at us!  Seriously - I was afraid we'd rate a mention on 1000 Ways to Die by the end of this.  And then we had the added challenge of tool selection; Ashley (not knowing there were options) had picked the biggest hammer -- while neither she nor I are particularly large.  hahaha I get mocked for my "girl hammer", but I tell ya, I'm way more effective with that then trying to slam this thing around.  But eventually the Two Girls and a Hammer (the title of our soon-to-be reality show) managed to solve the problem.  Sasha helped too -- trying to catch every piece of ice before it hit the ground.  Hahaha the bounding puppy was fairly entertaining to watch.

Anyways the world was good with only a few chores left to do.  Another call to hydro revealed they still had no idea when power might be restored (as of 7, there's still none) so I made the call to cancel classes.  Sad because I know several of the riders were pretty disappointed, but at least they understand.  No lights and no water mean the horses are not going to work!  HUGE thanks to Katrina for doing night check for me, so I didn't have to hang out alone in the dark and the cold waiting to feed the horses their evening hay :)

Made up breakfast as Ashley swept and then we headed out.  Was sort of amused that the one thing I really wanted while driving home was a hot shower.  Combat being wet with a shower -- the logic of that always defies me.  hahaha but we *do* have power at home, and it sounds like both girls do too, so the story has a happy ending.  And I'm forever grateful for such great working students and my awesome Dad.  Because doing today all by myself would've been all-sorts of no fun.  But with them, manageable and even entertaining at times.

Ummmm about that whole write what you know thing? Uh oh....

So, in what I'd usually consider exceptionally lucky, I've had basically the opposite of writers block the last few days.  To the tune of 20,000 words in five days -- in my "free" time at that.  All good, right?  The only thing is, my mc is very definitely a sociopath and I'm fairly disturbed by the various murder, rape, and mayham going on in her little world.  I'm finding myself in the odd position of writing a book I'm pretty sure I'd never want to read.  But writing the characters gets them out of my head, so that alone makes it worth doing.  Cause let me tell you, mucking stalls leaves lots of time for your mind to wander *g*  Ah well - much as I'm rather horrified that this particular story is coming from my little brain, the writing is *good*.  hahaha and I'm pretty excited about that.  Pluses and minuses eh?

Having fun googling random things that I've never considered before.  For instance, what is the going rate for a hit man?  How does snake venom work?  Can airborn poisons be short-lived? hahaha they say you learn something every day, but somehow my education has missed these steps in the past *g*  Which, btw, if anybody around is an expert in snake behaviour - I'd love ten minutes of your time that'd prob save me several hours of googling :)  The killer aspects I've got, but some of the behavioural parts are a little iffy at the moment.

The riding, otoh.  Frig.  The other day had Rebecca ride Bella over those silly hay bales probably 50 times (to put this in perspective, half the time Bella walked over them; it wasn't a stressful exercise) before getting Lexi anywhere close.  And I was on the ground at the time -- this wasn't even mounted.  She managed to jump on a wicked angle a few times before we called it a day, but it took a crazy amount of drama to get there.  It doesn't help that her first reaction is *always* to break my only *real* rule -- namely do NOT run Lauren over.  Ah teenagers.  She's questioning all sorts of things, but starting to answer more consistently in the way I'd like her to.  Man does she ever have some impressive athleticism though.  Some day she's going to be a ton of fun :)

Competitor's meeting coming up on Sunday, so I've been sorting through all the details of show season.  It's going to be a fun summer.  Ridiculously busy on my part, but fun :)

Yeah for passing EC Rider Exams!

HUGE congrats to both Rebecca and Amy for passing their rider exams (5 and 6 respectively) today.

Both girls aced their written and stable management portions.

Amy had a bit of show-nerves and so didn't have her *best* ride ever.  The warm-up that we saw from the viewing lounge was looking good, but once we got in the ring it disintegrated a little.  Fortunately though even with less-than-perfect performance she was still at the level required and pulled off the pass!  Woohoo.  Her knowledge of how it *should* work and ability to evaluate also helped significantly.

Rebecca, otoh, put in one of the best rides I've ever seen her have.  Very impressive to watch :)   Woohoo!  Show season should be lots of fun :)

Awesome job girls!  Congrats!

Flash Fiction #59: Write what you know

Photo shamelessly stolen from Neil Gaiman
She sat in front of her keyboard waiting for divine inspiration; she supposed this would be more likely if she believed in the divine.

She rolled her eyes and typed a few words. Then she immediately deleted them. The screen remained blank.

“To be a writer, you have to write.” That’s what it said on the motivational poster on the wall. But the words that used to flow so easily, had been silent for months. Ever since… Well, no point thinking about what was. Now she had to write. Deadlines could be fatal.

She looked around the room. There had to be something here she could craft a story about. Hmmmm the paperclip? Nah, Microsoft had claimed that one as a help icon. Stickynotes? No – that too had already been done.

The cell phone buzzing was a welcome distraction. She’d sworn off the phone until the newest project was at least started, but it could be important. Seeing her best friend’s name on the screen let her know she shouldn't answer. But, maybe a break was what she needed? Maybe some time away from the white screen of emptiness would give her some ideas. Perhaps a coffee would create a flow of inspiration. Words would fill the page as they once had.

It was worth a try. She closed the laptop and escaped to the local coffee shop to meet her two closest friends. The girls gathered around their favourite table. One white hot chocolate, one espresso, and one chai tea. When they went for coffee it was accepted nobody would actually drink plain coffee. She said all the right things as the gossip flowed, held up her end of the conversation – freely blaming her friends for her complete lack of productivity; after all, that’s what friends are for. But when she smiled, it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She was quick to catch and interpret the brief look her friends gave each other. She knew they worried about her, but she couldn’t be strong for them. Not this time. She could barely be strong for herself. And so before the pause could become awkward, she pleaded too much work and tossed her cup in the garbage on her way out the door. She knew her friends watched her leave, but she never looked back.

When she got home the screen was still white, but this time, it wasn't intimidating. She knew it was time. The words would flow through her fingers once more. But where once they had come from laughter and dreams giving light tales of romance and fun, this one would come from tears and reality. She started to type.

“Six months ago, my life, as I knew it, ended. Tomorrow, it will start again. Today, I will complete the journey from death to life. You may join me, if you’re strong enough.”

She paused and considered for a moment. Her hands shook and a single tear crept, unnoticed, down her cheek. She knew, if she continued, that by the end she would be exhausted. She realized she would likely become a far better writer. And, she realized with a wry grin, she would be in need of a new market. As she contemplated the fallout to come and realized that maybe, just maybe, she was strong enough after all. And with that in mind, she let the words flow.