Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interesting Times

Yesterday, we had a bit of excitement.  Apparently one of the horses in the field, Buck, decided he liked the molassas mineral lick a bit too much.  Too much molassas has the unfotunate side effect of causing constipation.  In humans, this may not be a big deal, but in horses it can be life threatening.  As a result, we got to walk Buck around the arena for 2 hours while we waited for the liquid parafin to kick in.  Liquid parafin is used over here rather than caster oil for these types of problems.  We kept him walking to make sure he didn't roll and twist his gut, giving himself colic which can be fatal.

Turns out, my random herb knowledge may be useful after all.  We are out in the middle of no where.  It took us a few days to get someone into a town big enough to have a store with cough syrup for Jennifer.  She was having a hard time sleeping until I remembered that Elder Berries can be used as a cough suppressant.  It isn't as effective as cough syrup, but Jennifer ate a few handfuls of the berries before bed and was able to get a good night's sleep.  It makes me wish I had thought to bring along my herb books.  There are so many things that grow over here.  I know that some of them have medicinal properties, but I can't remember all of them.  I wish I could, especially since it seems I may be catching what ever she's got.`

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tough Days

The past few days have been really tough. Gia returned to Sweden on Tuesday, leaving just me and Jennifer. Then, Jennifer got sick. So, for the past couple of days I have been doing what is normally a two person full-time job (we haven't had time for riding since Gia left). In addition to the normal everyday things, we are getting ready for winter. Today, we pulled out blankets, dewormed a bunch of the horses. and moved rocks to add stability to the muddy areas. One of the horses, Santana, also decided to work on the wall dividing her stall from another of the horses, Bonita. Therefore, we got to patch and shore up the cement wall and find Santana another stall while we wait for the cement patch to harden.

All this work and no play may be making me a little grumpy. Between that and conflicting advice on what I'm doing wrong, I decided to try to figure out what I am good at. What is my unique contribution? I may not be as experienced with horses as everyone else around here, but I think I am the best at customer service. Not the easy little "please hold the line" phone call customer service, no I'm talking about "oops customers, gotta keep them happy while we figure out where the boss went". Gia was the old hand who knew how things worked here, Jennifer is the best with the stallions, and I can distract the people who pay for the whole thing. That may not sound like much, but sometimes, it's the little things that get you through the tough times.

It other news, I finally figured out how to get a temporary phone here in Ireland! Better late than never. Apparently you need to get a phone that you can put a chip into, a sim chip, and credits for the chip. In addition, because the system can't be that easy, out here in the country, each of these three things has to be purchased in different stores in different villages. So, yesterday felt like a really bad treasure hunt. But, I finally got it working and figured out how to make an international call to the States. Last night was the first night I got to talk to my mother since landing in Ireland. I also got to hear my nephew; the boy has lungs! It's all the little things.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Busy Weekend

Well, this was an exciting weekend.  First, there was a horse clinic that Derek and his younger son Andrew attended.  It was a clinic on Western Horsemanship given by Bob Mayhew.  They took Elka and both of the other interns wih them, leaving me manning the fort all by myself.  The first time I stayed alone at the barn, I thought it was a coincidence that Bozo, the half spaniel half border collie, stayed close to me all day.  He did it again on Saturday.  I think he knows what a klutz I am and he's waiting for his opportunity to pull off a Lassie-esque rescue.

Sunday, the three of us interns went to a horse fair in Banaher.  That was an experience.  It was the first horse fair I've ever been to.  It was really sad and occationally scary.  The town closed it's main street and filled it with horses people were trying to sell.  It was pandemonium waiting to happen.  There were some horses that hadn't been handled almost at all in the middle of a packed crowd of horses and people moving around.  They all looked more or less taken care of, no starving or half dead nags, but some of them could have used a proper grooming.  Many of the foals were wandering without halters.  Some of the stories people told about their horses made us laugh.  One thing I noticed, everyone carried sticks.  They looked like walking sticks for the most part, but many of them were too skinny to actually be used as walking sticks.  These appeared to have two purposes.  The first, and apparently primary intended, use was to help direct the horses.  This could be either using it as a guide or as a form of rather forceful motivation.  However, about halfway through our tour, we found out the second use for the sticks.

We managed to find ourselves in the middle of a street brawl.  We were right there, but I still couldn't tell you what started it.  Some guy started singing and that got a group of men really really mad.  There was lots of shouting and the Garda were unable to keep the two groups (singer guy had friends) apart.  The second use for the sticks was demonstrated when two of the guys got within swinging distance of each other and each started to beat at the other with these ~3ft wooden canes.  During the chaos that ensued, some horses broke loose.  I think that more than anything was what finally ended the fight.  We were caught in the middle of these two groups and sought refuge along the side of the road, right along the back ends of the horses who were tied shoulder to shoulder along that section of road.  I'm just very grateful that they were calm horses who didn't start to panic when the shouting and running started.  We finished touring the fair and came back to the barn in time to finish the evening chores.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Interns Cook

Yesterday, Jennifer, Gia, and I picked blackberries from the fence lines on our way to and from the mail drop box. Mail is apparently delivered to the box in the front gate but only picked up at the box on the main road, about a 10 minute walk away. I love the habit of the Irish to grow plants to reinforce their fences, especially plants with edible fruit. At this point, I recognize blackberries and elderberries. Stinging nettles are edible and frequently found along fences as well, but I hardly think that is intentional.

So this afternoon, just before lunch, Gia and Jennifer made about 20 blackberry muffins. Yes, they were fabulous. Since Gia is leaving soon, and Jennifer and I had both promised to teach her how to cook a dish we ate at home. Jennifer taught Gia how to cook a pork Indonesian dish a few nights ago. Tonight it was my turn. I taught Gia how to make meatloaf, the way my mother makes it, which is never the same twice. Gia taught me how to make mashed potatoes, without a potato masher since it turns out our host doesn't have one. Our assorted cooking attempts have thus far been mostly successful (a few burnt muffins and lumpy mashed potatoes).

A fair amount of this time in the kitchen has happened mostly because the past few days have been extremely wet. One of my favorite lines from the first season of Dr. Who calls England a 'damp little island'. I love the line, but whoever wrote it must never have visited Ireland. Even after more than a week of wind and sunshine, there were multiple wet and muddy spots around the farm. Now, with a few days of torrential downpours, we have had to move where some of the horses are kept until the water level drops and some of the paddocks are no longer hock deep in mud. Hopefully, next time I write we will have more sunshine.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Returning to Normal

The Game Fair concluded on Sunday, allowing life to go back to some semblence of normal.  The Fair was fun though.  It was a lot like the summer festivals I went to in North Dakota.  There were booths and games, our stable put on a demonstration of western horsemanship.  There was a group of historical re-enactors, Picts I think.  I wish I could have seen more, but one of the horses we brought needed constatn supervision once the crowds came through.

Other than that, things are pretty good.  We are settling back into what I consider to be the normal routine: feeding and mucking and riding.  We had the farrier come out to work on a few more horses.  We also had my first set of visitors for a trek.  I stayed and kept working on the stables as the two more experienced riders of the interns, Gia and Jennifer, took them out on a several hours long trail ride.

I have also adopted a pet project.  One of the horses, Mariposa, needs some serious hands on time.  She is a two year old palimino filly who currently objects to humans. She runs away from everyone.  The few times I have gotten close, she nearly panics when I reach out to touch her.  My project is to turn her into a model prospect for when she starts properly training.  That is my goal.