the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worming Horses - and Making it Taste Good!

This is never my favorite job, but for the health of my horses, I can't put it off.  I use different wormers at different times of the year.  This particular paste is effective against large and small strongyles, pinworms, and large roundworms.  And to entice the horses, it's apple flavored.  Yum! know how some children's medicine is supposed to be cherry flavored, but even when the poor kid holds his nose, he still makes a horrible face after he swallows?  Worming paste is like that, only much, much worse.  And a thousand-pound animal can protest a lot more effectively than a forty-pound kid.  The object is to shoot the contents of this syringe  - about 3600 mg - into the back of the horse's mouth:
Big surprise - they hate it.  And they know why you're putting their halters on and unwrapping that crinkly paper cover.  I go through a good amount of apples and carrots in bribery and rewards.

Except with Fritz - he LOVES worming day.  That's because he's the only horse smart enough to take it in a more pleasant way.  I cook up an oatmeal mash (one cup whole Quaker oats, 2 cups water, and about one-quarter cup brown sugar), cool, squeeze the whole tube of wormer into it, mix with grain until thick, then scoop big globs of it into the feeder.  All my horses have been suspicious of that soft, gooey feel of the mixture and refused to eat it.  But not Fritz.  He knickers as soon as he sees me coming with the pan of oatmeal, and doesn't stop until he can dive into the sticky mess and lick up every last bit.  I don't feed my horses sugar cubes or peppermint candy, so it's the only time he gets to OD on sugar.  He can't wait.

If anyone has any other good ideas for making worming more pleasant, I'd like to hear them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Disguise

New author photo!  I'm either dressed to rob a bank or do barn chores in December:

It's a wonder I don't scare the horses.  But they don't care who feeds them - as long as I scoop grain into their feeders, they don't care what I look like.  Cats are more particular.  When they come outside to meet me and I'm all wrapped up, they'll stop and wait until I talk to them, and they recognize my voice.  There's no way they're going near a stranger who looks like that.  Proof of superior intelligence!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snowy Dirt Roads

Not quite the same as that summer picture I posted here, but it still has the same calming effect on me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

After the Snow

If anyone wants to know why the next book I'm writing takes place in mid-summer, it's because I'm writing the full synopsis for it today.  When I took this picture at 9:15 AM it was 4 degrees with a wind chill far below zero.   

The horses were outside this morning, soaking up the sun, so that's where they got their morning hay.  They were even frisking around in the snow later; clearly their winter coats are warmer than mine.  I don't think the chickens are quite so happy.  I'm not sure they can even see the sun through all the snow clinging to the wire over and around their yard.

Despite all the cold and the work involved in digging out, I love winter in Michigan.  If only for today, I have conquered the elements!  Admitedly, there's also this.  Without it, forget summer, my next book would take place in a tropical jungle!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Winter has come gradually this year, with no sudden blast of snow and arctic cold.  But it's finally here.  This morning we were in the early stages of a winter storm, with a couple inches on the ground and temperatures barely at freezing, so the horses still ate outside.  Code Red and Remi, below:

By night it was a different story, with six and a half inches of blowing snow and temperatures in the teens.  The horses have access to their stalls and were waiting for me inside, which I took as a strong hint that they didn't care to dine outdoors tonight.

Fortunately, I hadn't planned to write today, because I couldn't if I'd wanted to.  We spent most of the day plowing the 900 feet from the barn to the road, then doing it over again after it drifted over.  We'll probably do it again tomorrow, since it's still blowing hard outside.  But I'll have to write, too.  Mondays are work days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alpha Males

I wish I had a picture for this one, but the reason for the post is the reason for not having the picture...

Romance books are littered with alpha heroes, the men who fight off the bad guys with amazing skill, stopping only to kiss the heroine into a swooning puddle of mush.  They've never been tied to just one woman.  Beta heroes are out there too.  They're the guys more inclined to use brain power to win their battles, attracting women almost by accident with their quiet competence.  Think Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.  (Who knew watching Star Trek would be more useful to my future career than that English degree?)

I have an alpha male living in my barn.  Not the human kind - but wouldn't that be handy?  Freddie is a cat, named for Freddie Mercury.  Remember Queen's song, "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy?"  That's Freddie in his swoonable, loving mode.  A shameless lover boy.  Intact, as they say; Freddie never took that life-altering trip to the vet.  He came to me that way, and since there are no un-spayed females on the farm, I put off that little traumatizing vet visit (along with the tramatizing bill.)  Meanwhile, in between all the stroking and cooing he begged for, he would disappear for a few days of debauchery with some other woman, and indulge his testosterone-driven side by fighting with the stray tom cat who sneaks into the barn.  (A true alpha has to keep the Klingons at bay.)  But last week Gray must have landed a lucky punch, because Freddie had a few scratches and a badly inflamed inner eye lid, swollen and oozing blood.  He was miserable, and I couldn't put off a vet visit any longer.  They pumped him full of antibiotics, pain killers, and steroids, plus a broad-spectrum wormer to boot.  No neutering - he was too sick for surgery.  Freddie purred at the nice vet techs through his pain, because that's what alpha males do.  (Did injury ever hamper Capt. Kirk's desire?  Heck no!)  And he purred again when I deposited him back in the barn, his condition greatly improved.

Then he left me!

The little so-and-so disappeared that afternoon on one of his secret "trips" and hasn't been back since.  Since Gray moved in to fill the vacancy, I suspect another woman.  That's the loyalty you get from your typical alpha male - love 'em and leave 'em.  If this were a romance book, Freddie would finally find the one female who can tame his wild side.  Guess that's not me.  And it's not the two other barn cats, Sophie and Zoe.

Is there a moral here?  Not really.  Just the thought that I'm glad most human males are neither alpha nor beta, but a mix of both.  They can defend home and hearth and do good deeds without continually fighting and tom-catting around.  These are the stable, wonderful guys we marry.  But just like the romance readers who understand the attraction of the "bad boy" hero, I have a soft spot in my heart for Freddie.  And when he shows up at the barn - as he undoubedly will - I'll love him until he leaves me again. 

But next time I'll get a picture of his handsome, studly self.  Until then, you can look at my book cover for THIEVES LIKE US in the sidebar, because that guy has a lot of drool-worthy alpha goin' on!