the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Crashing Thaw

The only part I don't like about my barn is the roof.  Metal roofs amplify raindrops until a light shower sounds like a pounding rainstorm inside the barn.  An actual rainstorm is a deafening roar.  And then there's the snow...

As soon as temperatures rise, snow slides off the metal roof.  The underside next to the metal warms to near melting and carries whatever is above it to the edge - where it hits cold air and freezes again.  It hangs there, hesitating, while more snow piles up behind the mini-glacier, edging it toward the big jump.  This is how it looks:

You can already see a mound on the ground where the first part of the snow sheet broke off.  When it falls, the icy weight of the bottom layer hits the side of the barn with a bang.  Surprisingly, the horses are used to this sudden thunderous noise inside and rarely react. 

In the pasture, it's a different story.  The snow that slides off on that side is scary - they never know when it's coming, and seeing a big white thing crash to the ground is enough to send them running.  By nature, horses are still prey animals, and any sudden movement nearby is cause for alarm.  Run first, ask questions later, because you never know when it might be a cougar pouncing on your back.  And even after the tenth time, when you're pretty sure it's more of that harmless white stuff, it's kind of fun to pretend it's a ravenous cougar.  So for the next couple days, we will be having mock cougar attacks in the pasture until all the snow is off the roof. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sick of Winter?

Houses get sick of snow too.  Sick to the point of throwing up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kissing and What It Has in Common with Dead Trucks

My fictional heroine was just kissed by the hero, an eye-opening event for them both since she's on a date and he's not the one she came with.  Uh-oh.  So should I allow her to be dazed as she returns to her date, or should I have that poor schmuck catch them in the act?  Definitely catch them!  Rule One in writing a romance - if anything worse can possibly go wrong, make it happen.  It keeps the story interesting, and makes the reader root for your characters.  Like real life, but worse. 

Like as soon as your lame horse is better, the dog develops an eye infection, and the truck decides that it might not start today.  After it's already taken you to the store.  My trusty truck pulled one of those today, catching and dying and catching and dying as I thought with a sinking feeling about the 18 degree weather and how long it would take a tow truck to get there.  Then the ignition caught and held.  I believe I have been warned.  The truck will go see the truck doctor tomorrow.

And to whatever Fate is writing my life - I hope we don't subscribe to the same theory of writing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Together Again

Code Red's foot is all better, and he and his good buddy, Remi, are back together.  They spent a lot of time hanging around together today, indulging in their favorite game of nipping at each other's faces.  All kinds of fun if you're a horse.  So exciting, in fact, that Remi occasionally reared, pawing the air.  I wanted a picture of it, but every time I go outside with the camera they stop what they're doing becuase, hey, there's the food lady and she might have something for us.  So I used a long zoom and took this from the house.  Remi was just coming down from a rear, and lowered his back end down first, so from the back he looks like he's sitting up and begging.  The goofball.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Veterinary Medicine - Duct Tape and a Baggie

When I went out to feed the horses this morning, Code Red was limping, keeping his weight off his back foot as much as possible.  This is probably the most common vet problem I see - sudden lameness from an abscess inside the hoof.  Imagine an infection throbbing beneath your toenail, except the nail goes all the way around your toe and the irritated tissue has no way to expand.  That's the pain Code Red was feeling.

My vet came out a few hours later, located the tender spot, and began scraping away layers of hoof on the underside until he exposed a small black spot.  A couple more scrapes and a trickle of blood and pus drained out.  A poultice will soften the hoof and allow the infection to drain over the next three days.  This is as low tech as it gets - the vet slips a plastic baggie over the hoof with the poultice inside.  To protect the bag from breaking, he wraps it in a heavier plastic, then covers that with self-sticking vet wrap (green in the photo.)  To keep it all in place, he wraps it with duct tape, or in this case, the even stronger gorilla tape.   If you look closely at the bottom photo, you can see the top of the baggie sticking up above the wrap.

Code Red has to hobble on this bulbous make-shift boot for the next three days.  He's not going far -  the improvised boot would wear off in a day if we let him walk around the pasture.  He's confined to his stall, which is a bit like confining a toddler to a car seat for a three-day trip.  Neither one likes losing his freedom.  To keep him from going into a mindless horse panic by being left alone while his buddies go outside, I locked Fritz in the next stall.  Now I have two pissed off horses.  To make it worse, Code Red's grain ration is cut in half while he's confined.  It's safe to say he's frustrated.  Over the next three days I'll alternate locking Fritz and Remi inside while the other is free to go, but the fact is, with two horses inside, the third one will hang right by the barn door most of the time, if not inside the barn itself. 

We'll remove the boot on Saturday, and if the foot is sound, we'll apply a smaller boot - more like a footie - that will keep iodine against the bottom of the hoof for a couple days to toughen it up before we finally let Code Red go outside again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Deer of a Different Color

In my current WIP (work in progress), the heroine is most comfortable in business suits.  Naturally, the hero is strictly cowboy boots and jeans.  Without telling you anything about them, you have an idea of their personalities, because the outside reflects the inside.

Sometimes.  And other times it's just a crazy mistake!  This deer is part of a herd that visits my neighbor's yard daily.  She snapped the picture on her phone.
I looked it up - the coloring is called piebald, the same term used for horses.  They're just as rare as you'd think.  She's pretty well camoflaged now, but I'm worried about when the snow is gone.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How Kindle Is Making Me Work Harder

Yes, I've been lax with my blogs.  I have broken the unwritten promise of delivering new Dirt Road nuggets on a regular basis.  I accept your verbal abuse.  I would promise to do better, but the thing is, I'm trying to figure out how to make more work for myself despite the fact that my creativity has obviously hit a wall or I would have been posting here. 

My possibly-insane desire to create more work stems from a lunch this week with several other published authors and an industry professional.  We were discussing the impact of e-books on an industry in a serious state of flux, and how we could best position ourselves to survive.  (Did you yawn?  This lunch was definitely a tax-deductible business expense.)  Cutting to the basics: e-readers (Kindle, Nook, etc.) are growing fast in popularity.  Owners of e-readers often skip the $7.99 downloads (i.e., our books) in favor of discounted or free books.  To lure readers into springing for the bigger buy, authors are putting together short stories and novellas that tie in to their new releases, and offering them for 99-cents, or even free.  If readers like it enough, they'll buy the full-length novels.  Which means I need to come up with more fun plots so I can write some clever novellas that connect to my next series of books, and put them out there for little or no money in the hope of attracting new readers.  But my deadlines don't change - I have to write those novels, too.  So, more work in less time.  In my possibly-addled state, I believe this is a good idea.

All that is to say it was a busier-than-usual week.  It may turn into a busier life.  And I thought it already was.  So...tying this back to my humble farm life (didn't think I could, did you?), I vote with Fritz.  Time for a nap.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hello, Latvia!

Fun with statistics (and you'll never hear that phrase come out of my mouth again): seeing the various countries where readers look at this blog.  For instance, this past week, people who stopped by Dirt Road Diaries were from the United States, Russia, Latvia, Germany, Canada, Denmark, and France.  I've also seen Japan and Korea come up frequently. 

Latvia was a new one this week ... which means my first book, LIE TO ME, was finally released in Latvian!  So here's a shout out to any Latvians who can also read English, along with readers in France and Japan, who can also buy LIE TO ME in their own language. 

Here's the part that fascinates me - each foreign publisher chooses its own cover.  It's all about marketing and creating a "brand" for the author.  Simon and Schuster sees my books as fun, flirty, and sexy, and they do their best to show that on the cover.  Other countries seem to see me differently.
LIE TO ME in France  (here this would look like an Inspirational romance)


LIE TO ME in Japan (that chandelier hints at a little more excitement)

LIE TO ME in the United States, Canada, Australia
I haven't seen the Latvian version yet, darn it, but I know it's out there! 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Paths in the Snow

You know that saying, "What goes in, must come out?"  That applies here.                                                                                I wrote about clearing a wide drive out to the barn, but didn't show the shoveling I had to do on the other end of the barn.  Because what goes in, has to come out - in more ways than one.  I feed the horses, and they give back manure.  It has to end up in the manure pile, which is behind the barn.  I fill a twenty-gallon tub at least twice each day and pull it through the snow to the manure pile.  Works way better than trying to push a wheelbarrow through snow.  But it doesn't slide gracefully through deep snow - I have to dig a path.  So the first thing I do after a snow is shovel a path from the back door of the barn past the chicken coop to the manure pile.  That's my handiwork on the right, looking from just inside the back door.
I'm not the only one who uses the path.  Little Zoe, the cat who sleeps with the chickens every night, spends most of every day in there, too, when it's this cold.  It's her own private apartment.  I leave the door cracked during the day so she can come and go for her potty trips.  Yesterday she heard me outside and came out to say hello.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Plowing Snow

If I wrote this scene in one of my books, the woman would probably be my heroine.  Unfortunately, her husband would not be the hero.

The Prologue:  According to - and we all know if it's online it must be true - our town got 13.5 inches of snow.  Enough to require some major shoveling.  My little tractor can't pile it high enough, so for big snows I hire a lady with a big plow on her pickup.

Chapter One:  I love this woman - she's careful, and a perfectionist.  She plows nearly a thousand feet of driveway, and does a good job.  But by the time she got to my house yesterday, she'd been plowing all day and her husband came to relieve her.  Turns out he's not so careful - she told him to plow straight back to the barn, but he turned sideways about twenty feet in front of it and ran into the culvert, getting stuck in the drift.  After watching him shovel around the truck from my nice warm house and seeing that he was still spinning his wheels, I walked out there.  I told him I could use my truck to pull his out.  The only problem was it was still in the garage with a 2-foot drift in front of it.  So I pitched in and we hand shoveled a path for the truck (kind of what I was trying to avoid doing when I called them, but oh, well.)  Then I backed up to his truck, he connected a tow line to each hitch, and as he floored the accelorator, I gently pulled.  No movement.  He urged me to give it a good jerk, so I backed up to put some slack in the line, then gunned it forward.  He revved the engine and his tires slipped and slid, but couldn't hold.  He urged me to give it an even harder tug.  I did, knowing exactly what would happen - the tow line snapped.  Not defeated, I pulled out my own tow rope and we hooked up again.  Another rev and a big tug.  This time the truck broke free and I pulled him out.  He thanked me, rather tersely, not happy about the whole experience.  (Ford F-150, one; Dodge Ram, zero.  Props to my tow rope, too.)

I'd like to say he went on to do a good job plowing me out, but that wouldn't be true.  He seemed afraid of the unknown dangers lurking close to my driveway and plowed a very narrow path to the road - not nearly the nice wide path his wife does for me.  And being afraid of the culvert, he left a wall of snow in front of my barn door.  Also, two minutes after I pointed out where a boulder was covered by snow, he ran his plow right into and over it, rearranging my landscaping with a loud scraping noise.  The windows were down and I heard his wife say, "She told you it was there!"  I have a feeling there was more conversation about the rock after they left. 

If I need the driveway plowed out again, I'll specify that I want the wife, not the husband.  I don't think he'd agree to come, anyway.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More Power, Scotty!

Storms mean power outages.  Power outages mean no water, since pumping it out of the ground requires electricity.  No water means no toilets - now, there's a major irritation.  So preparing for a storm like the one pounding us right now means checking the water supply.  I keep six full 2-1/2 gallon jugs in the garage year round:
There are two more in the house, plus a few empty ones in the basement.  If the power goes out we start filling jugs until we drain the pipes.  With judicious use, that's a few days of washing up and flushing toilets.  Ah, sweet civilization!  In the summer, when a horse might drink 5 gallons of water a day, that's barely enough for one day, and forget the washing up. 

Power outages also mean no computer, which means I am reduced to writing the old fashioned way with a pen and paper - in my opinion, one step above a stone tablet and chisel.  To be prepared I usually print out the last 2 or 3 pages of my work in progress before the storm hits.  That way I can review and edit, which helps me slip back into the story.  My output suffers, but it's better than nothing.  I'm hoping that doesn't happen with this storm, but with a foot of snow pulling down tree limbs and power lines, I can't count on it. 

So... Water bottles are full.  Pages are printed.  Warp speed, Mr. Sulu, and keep those engines running, Scotty!