Tuesday, March 31, 2020


The forced slow down of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite a welcome change for me. For most of the last decade, I have excelled at over-committing myself and my time. In hindsight, it only increased my natural tendency to be anxious and resulted in a lot of undue stress and worry. I wanted to make a concerted effort this year to slow down and find better balance within my life with the hope that I could eliminate much of my anxiety for good.

I've been doing a great job slowing down since the start of the year. The majority of my weekends have been completely free of prior commitments/obligations, and I've been spending a significant portion of my time reading - oh, and taking naps! I've become a bit of a homebody and I don't hate it.

Sunrise rays hitting Canaan Mountain

In a lot of ways, I've been inadvertently prepping myself to be physically distanced from other humans. (I don't feel like "social" distancing is accurate, I'm plenty social still! It is all just digital.)

It helps immensely that I have a job I can do from home indefinitely, my horses are home with me, and I live in the middle of nowhere. My good fortune is not lost on me for one moment. I am so, so, so very grateful for each of these things, and I recognize that they each enable me to have infinitely less anxiety as a result of this whole ordeal.

I can't remember the last time Dave and I took a leisurely walk around the neighborhood together 

But all the same, I needed this slow down. I needed to be better at embracing my inner homebody. Better at taking time to myself instead of sharing it constantly. My mind is still busy, but not at the lightspeed pace it was forced to maintain for so long. And that is a most welcome change.

Now, I read all the time. I sit still and sip my morning tea. I putter around the house watering plants. I slowly muck the dry lot and stalls without hurrying through the task. And I am so very excited to start the seeds I collected from last summer's flowering plants this weekend.

I'm going to continue to do my best to embrace this homebody nature as the next month of physically distancing continues. These small tasks around home are things I can control amidst a world in chaos. And it feels good to do something in my control that gives me a little happiness.

Stay well, y'all. 💚

Friday, March 20, 2020

Gratitude in Uncertain Times (A Bloghop?)

My favorite weekly newsletter, Girls Night In, had a really wonderful quote in the intro of the newsletter today that struck a chord with me:

Small kindnesses build community, and we could all use some community right now, even as we're physically apart.

Social media is an absolute shitshow right now, and these words - and really, the whole newsletter with its various links and resources - were such a welcome relief compared to most of the kerfuffle going on. After reading the newsletter, I found myself smiling and full of gratitude for so many little things right now.

And so, in an effort to introduce a bit of positivity and happiness amidst uncertain times, I thought I would share some of my gratitude items here in the hopes that our lovely little community of bloggers will echo back with some of their own. It's been awhile since a blog hop has gone around, but perhaps our little group can come up with a suite of them in the coming weeks to ease us through these unknown times?


Things I'm grateful for amidst the uncertainties of this pandemic:

  • each of my animal companions - the simple routine of taking care of them and tending to them is such a solace right now
  • an internet connection to stay connected with friends and family near and far
  • also on that note, being a part of this little blogging community - your posts are always a highlight, but in the past week they've been an even brighter light in my day
  • Spotify. Because music and podcasts in their many forms helps liven up my home and give some more liveliness to tedious chores
  • the blessing of having my horses at home - ohmygoodness. <3
  • SPRING. More birds return every day and the amphibians are beginning to emerge, too. Hearing every returning species' song brings the biggest of smiles to my face. All of the returning flora is also wonderful. (Though, spring allergies are definitely going to be like the Salem witch trials....)
  • a husband who is really psyched to be a mandated hermit. Seriously. If he was more of an extrovert this whole ordeal would be so much more miserable. He's fun to hang out with and over-the-moon about getting to avoid people lol!
  • living in the middle of nowhere. It comes with its own share of costs, but right now, I'm really grateful for the benefits - it definitely makes social distancing easier.
  • spring chores. Hear me out, while these are often tedious I'm so happy to have something to busy myself with in the upcoming days and weeks. There is so much dusting to do, windows to clean, seasonal items to transition in and out of storage, yard work, etc. to do!
  • streaming services! Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, take your pick, I'm happy for all of them right now!
  • BOOKS! The opposite end of the spectrum from digital media, but there's never been a better time to get lost in a good, intense plotline.
  • online courses - I start my equine nutrition course with Dr. Kellon in a weekish. I'm really excited about it and super grateful that it's something that can continue without needing to be around people.

I could go on, but I think I'm going to head outside to putter around my property for a bit and start on some chores before the next bout of rain hits. ;-)

So what about you? Won't you share a list of small gratitudes during these chaotic times? I'd love to hear about what small things are making you happy right now.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Making Due

Today is my first day feeling mostly human in nearly a week. I contracted some sort of sickness last week for the first time all winter. I had naively gotten my hopes up that perhaps I would escape this winter without sickness. Alas, I had no such luck.

While my symptoms don't lead me to believe it was COVID-19, I'll never truly know because testing for the virus in West Virginia was very difficult to come by until yesterday. In fact, after developing a mild fever of 100°F on Sunday, I called my doctor's office to see about getting tested to rule things out, and they told me they could only test me for influenza, which based on my symptoms and their onset/length I most likely did not have.

Sunset canvas and our house's silhouette 

I had a suite of relatively-minor-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things symptoms that left me feeling just bad enough to be unable to do much of anything productive. While I am beyond thankful to have the horses home for this entire pandemic debacle, being sick myself left me in a pickle when it came to barn chores while I was down and out. I made due though, and while mucking wasn't performed with quite the regularity I normally exhibit, the horses were fed, watered, and sheltered in a more-than-adequate fashion.

20200130 Rime Ice Paradise_30
I can't remember if I ever shared this incredibly thoughtful gift to the blog. 

In the days prior to my sickness, I managed to get out and begin doing trailwork to create a some new routes on and around the mountain. With the cancellation of nearly everything I had planned outside of the area over the next two months, I anticipate I'll be racking up quite a few miles on these and other trails in the area. I've done a bit of map studying lately, too, and am cautiously optimistic that I've found a way to rack up 30-50 miles without having to trailer! How cool would that be?

Personal paradise complete with mostly-full moon & alpenglow

While my illness sidelined me from riding much for the last week, I am still very much on track for my annual goal of riding 600 miles. As of yesterday, my current annual tally sits at a very respectable 110 miles. I've got a solid 9 days of self-quarantine ahead of me and not a lot planned, so I anticipate lots more miles in my immediate future! And hopefully some blogging, too, now that I'm feeling human again.

Hope you all are well and hanging in there during these uncertain times.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Birthday Boy(s) + Kenai Update

Last week we celebrated Kenai's 10th birthday.

20200306 Kenai 10th_2
He's looking pretty good for 10!

This old man is feeling the best he has felt in literal years. We finally shipped over to DC to see a dermatologist about his skin woes after local vets continued to be perplexed and the medicines they prescribed ceased to benefit Kenai. He has been an absolute itchy mess despite multiple prescriptions over the past year. His skin was inflamed and itchy, his hair was coming out in large clumps, and he was generally miserable all of the time. It sucked.

The dermatologist we saw was wonderful and quickly diagnosed him with Alopecia X with an underlying secondary bacterial skin infection. She prescribed two new drugs and a follow up appointment to touch base 5 weeks later. The goal for the follow up was to have the lesions/inflamed skin resolved with the beginnings of hair regrowth in those areas.

Within 48 hours of the new meds, Kenai was a new dog  behaviorally; he went from constant biting/gnawing/scratching/pacing to simply chilling the fuck out. Neither Dave nor I realized just how miserable he had been until he simply wasn't. We knew he'd been itchy and had done all we could with what we had to resolve it, but damn. Our entire household is much calmer now, and I am so incredibly happy to see my best guy so calm and content again. He's even playing with Taiga more!

20200306 Kenai 10th_1
He wouldn't square up for his birthday photos. Or generally stand still and pose. So this awkward shot is the best I've got.
20200306 Kenai 10th
The odd, patchy hair on his truck is all regrowing. His caudal thighs, tail, and back of neck will very likely remain bald fo'ever.

Learning he has Alopecia X was a HUGE WEIGHT off my shoulders. I'd known it was an option based on how his symptoms were presenting, but I was never fully convinced he had it because it isn't as commonly seen in huskies as it is in other plush breeds. What this means is that he will likely never regrow the hair on his tail, caudal thighs, or back of neck. He may continue to have permanent hair loss on areas of his trunk for the rest of his life, but his legs and head should be spared.

I could care less that he has hair loss now that I know the cause of it. All this time, I was so worried it was something else. Something I overlooked. Something that was possibly wreaking more havoc on his body that I knew. Knowing now that it's just alopecia is the best answer possible. He's not in pain. He isn't reacting to some bizarre allergen I couldn't figure out. He's a happy 10 year old husky with weird hair...or lack thereof...that he could care less about.

Look at that happy old dog!

For Kenai's birthday, we went on a lovely 3-mile ride at his pace. With the gnarly arthritis in his stifles, he doesn't keep up like he used to on our rides. He also doesn't do super well for more than 3 miles on our local trails due to the nature of the terrain. So to treat him to a ride at his pace where he could keep up and/or lead for much of it was a thrill for him.

And miracle of miracles, as Kate and I were prepping to head out for the ride, Dave asked if he could join, too! He never wants to ride. In fact, when he asked he prefaced the request with, "So, you're not going to believe this, but..." I was over-the-moon that he wanted to come! It's always wonderful to be able to get all three horses out at the same time. Doubly so when I get to ride with my husband.

Dave laughing at something Kate said following our first sunset gallop
The last patch of snow had the sunlight shining on it so prettily. Even though I only had my cell phone, I made Dave and Kate gallop it for photos. Wish I'd had my DSLR to capture the snow spray and lighting better than this.
Look at those happy Staniel ears!
Taught Dave the best gallop position about 10 minutes before these photos by using skiing terminology lol

Dave's birthday is the day after Kenai's. So the ride ended up being a little mini celebration for both of them. Dave, of course, enjoyed more celebration the following day.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Making the Most of the Snow

I'm a member of the minority of folks who really enjoy winter and especially enjoy snow. There is just something about a landscape blanketed in snow, trees encrusted with it, and the way the light plays off of every frozen flake that makes me giddy inside.

This winter, while one of many bad winters in a row now, has been the worst Canaan Valley has seen since 1985. In fact, until the last two snow events, which exceeded predictions, there was a chance we were going to beat the former "worst snowfall" record for our area that was set in 1948. Fortunately, things are a little better than that winter, though not by much!

The happiest little dog.

I, and my entire snow-loving community, have been taking advantage of every snowfall we've received. While our recent snow events haven't been anything overly remarkable in the history of Canaan winters, they have been significant events for this winter. So while we have no true "base" for cross country skiing, we're still getting out there and racking up as many miles as we can, making the most of what we have.

Every snow event is made bigger and better in our neighborhood thanks to near-constant winds that cause the snow to form into impressive drifts. The snowfall two weeks ago brought the best snow drifts of the season! A beautiful, light, fluffy, champagne/blower powder.

The winds that make snow drifts require the addition of ski goggles, hats, and buffs to my riding attire.

I love the extra workout the snow provides for the horses. Walking for a few miles through snow really makes them concentrate and move with more purpose. Hoofing it through belly-high snow drifts especially! And when conditions are light and fluffy as they were two weeks back, it's so much fun gallop through. Riding through deep, light drifts like that is similar to riding a swimming horse - though definitely a gentler ride! I like to imagine it's similar to what riding a dolphin might be like?

The irregular shadowing of the snow in the video above is demonstrative of snow drifts. It builds up in peninsula-shaped formations due to the surrounding trees.

Neither Stan or Griffin were quite sure what to do with regard to moving through snow drifts at speed. Each of them jumped the first drift or two (we started with very small ones), but within moments, they each realized that it was just snow and didn't require a full jumping effort. After that, it felt sort of like what I imagine a lesser-gravity situation would feel like. The snow was so light and fluffy that it served to cushion their footfalls and movements a bit more than moving on clear ground. While Taiga was most definitely snow-swimming nearby, the horses porpoised gracefully forward through fluffy powder.

To better demonstrate just how light and fluffy the snow is, see the video of Q and I walking below. This was taken during another recent snowfall event as she and I approached home after a very lovely 3 mile walk around our mountain. (Yes, she has a fly mask on. The glare from the sun on the snow this day was so intense that it seemed unfair to ask her to walk about in it without some sort of "sunglasses".)

Extended forecasts are increasingly warm, so I doubt we'll see much more snow like this until next winter. I'm happy we've been able to make the most of it!

That said, I will definitely confess to being eager for the season change - especially considering my water hydrant in the barn broke during a snowstorm this past weekend! Fortunately, the replacement part should be here Wednesday, but it's still a bother made more complicated by freezing temperatures.

Happy Daylight Saving Time, y'all! Three cheers to longer daylight hours for horse pursuits.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Barn Cat Take II: Norah Jane

Let's try this cat thing again, shall we? Nymeria, much like her namesake, has disappeared into the wilds. Whether she's heading east to where she came from, is lurking hidden in the neighborhood, or has been eaten by a coyote, I'll probably never know. But one thing is certain, my barn rodent population was getting bolder and bolder with the absence of a cat. And so, on February 12 I brought a new one home.

Meet Norah Jane.


She's 3-4 years old, spayed, and domestic. So none of this running off BS. In fact, she even comes when called.

Why this name? I had just finished reading The Great Alone in the week prior to bringing her home and really liked the idea of the name Lenora. But Lenora was quickly shortened to Norah. And then, in my way of giving all animals lengthened nicknames it quickly became Norah J. Why J? I don't know, my brain isn't logical with these things. And from there, the easy progression to Norah Jane evolved.

Her legs/feet are ridiculous. She sat like this for a long while.

I kept her in the tack room exclusively for the first weekish she was here. She spent much of that time sleeping on a blanket under the couch, coming out every time I entered the tack room.

As she gained confidence in her new surroundings, I began finding her sleeping on the couch or on the saddle racks. And now, her most favorite sleep spot seems to be on the top racks.

A happy cat on her high perch. Glad someone can use that sheepskin cover!

She was incredibly interested in the goings-on in the greater barn by day 3 and would sit in front of the then-locked cat door watching everything that went on. Her own personal cat TV if you will! And so, after a week or so in the tack room, I unlocked the cat door and with very little encouragement on my part, she taught herself to use it to enter and exit the tack room in a matter of minutes. She may have had one at her previous residence, but I cannot be certain.

She wasted no time at all enjoying her newfound freedom and room to move about the barn. She quickly checked out the hay and the pallets it was stacked on, walked the partitions between the stalls, and even climbed up into the rafters and walked each individual one systematically before coming back down.

Barn leopard on the prowl

I have yet to see proof of her hunting abilities, but she is a omnipresent terror throughout all areas of the barn top to bottom Even if she doesn't kill many mice, she's definitely terrorizing them which will help discourage them from setting up shop.

Beyond her job as Terrorist to Rodents, she's been a surprising pleasure to have around. She understands that the barn is her realm and hasn't tried to wander up to the house at all. She also follows me all about as I do chores both inside and outside of the barn, taking it upon herself to investigate all the little cracks and crevices of the area I'm working in (presumably for bugs and rodents).

Norah is also surprisingly bold around dogs, which I seriously love. That trait isn't innate to all cats and is PERFECT for teaching Miss Taiga better cat boundaries.

I'm pretty sure my photography career has peaked with this photo. I also cannot stop laughing and hope you all receive the same joy.

If Taiga sticks her nose in the cat door while Norah is in the tack room, Norah will leave her perch just to fly across the room and smack Taiga's nose. Kenai, too, but he doesn't have the insatiable fascination with cats like Taiga does and has only poked his nose through that door a time or two (whereas Taiga would happily set up shop with her face in that door for the rest of time).

While I'm sad Nymeria didn't work out, I'm grateful for the chance to welcome Norah to Starlight Lane Farm! So far, Norah is a kickass barn cat and I am looking forward to footing room and board for her in exchange for her services for many years to come.