Sunday, August 26, 2012

Here's a picture a friend took at the Meerkerk Bluegrass Festival Saturday the 25th, the last performance of Bayview Sound before my move to the coast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making a new home

I've been here in my new digs (temporarily) since Sunday but don't yet have internet service, so I'm writing blog posts in rtf. docs and saving them for when the cable guy/gal comes to hook me up to the web, the TV, and the phone system.

My bandmates gave me quite a send-off party last Saturday night; lots of music and food and drinkables, but the best part was the wonderful company.  I'm really going to miss singing with this group of folks.  Not just the band but all the musicians who have been my primary social group while I've been living on the island.

I moved here in March of 2006 and found out about an acoustic jam group that met weekly on Thursday nights at a local cafe.  I attended off and on but didn't really get attached until we began meeting in a place more conducive to group singing.  It was then that I made connections; my voice and ability to harmonize accurately and hold a true pitch made me a welcome addition to a fairly motley crew which mainly dinked around on instruments and did little actual singing.

Before long, a few of us realized that we had a nice sound and when our jam group was invited to sing a few songs for a local charity, five of us worked up a few songs and sallied forth.  We did mostly benefits in return for free food, but gradually we got a few paying gigs here and there.

Now we have had enough paying gigs that we actually have a bank account and an LLC.  The band is trying to decide how to replace me and they haven't made any decisions.  They say I'm irreplaceable and have even said embarrassing things like "Kit has the best set of pipes on the island".  That's nice to hear, but it isn't anywhere near true.  I do have a good singing voice and I have learned to stay on pitch, but I lack the vocal virtuosity that a jazz or pop singer would have.  I just sing things straight with very few embellishments or improvisations.  I do like to use facial expressions and hand movements to spice things up, and I can because I don't have to hold an instrument. 

I would like them to find another singer who can play an instrument like the banjo or dobro, which we don't currently have.  Then they could really do the bluegrass which they love.  I think they would be fine without me.


I'll be heading back to Whidbey tomorrow morning for three more days, topped off with our final gig together as a band.  Bayview Sound (that's us) will be opening for the Meerkerk Bluegrass Festival at noon on Saturday the 25th.  I'll probably hang around long enough to hear the other bands and schmooze with other attendees, maybe check out the Meerkerk grounds---it's a beautiful rhododendron garden and nursery, beautiful all year round.  They put on a summertime show and we've opened the show for them before.  It's the reason I've stayed all summer on Whidbey.

But after the gig, I'm free to go.  The plan is to get the car packed after the show and Sunday morning head south with the cats.  I hope they're good travelers, but I fear that Lily will not be.  She has been no farther than from Vashon Island to Seattle and then from Seattle to Whidbey, years ago.  Oh well, toots, you're a North Coast cat now!

Lots of things got done today----new TV bought and cable/internet/phone installed, new laundry appliances, more unpacking and squaring away.  Even the guest room is set up for guests.

When I return on Sunday, it will feel like a true home.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going from 30 to 60 to 80 and then back down to 30

It sounds like a highway related moment, but it also describes the animal related events of the past week or two, here on Harrington Hill.

Faithful readers will recall that certain mysteries were bedeviling me:  "thin" places in the fencing system, disappearance of vital life-sustaining pellets, "diva" behavior on the part of one mare, that sort of thing.  Those mysteries have not all been solved, but in a few, clarity has evolved.

Before I go on, I would like to say that this has been a generally clarifying experience, these two months of animal husbandry on the Harrington Hill spread.  I am extremely glad to have been invited to act as caretaker during my friends' fishing stint up north because I've learned some things about myself and about caring for animals---particularly other people's animals.  And it has had similarities to my experience in ministry.

Going from full-speed-ahead ministry (even though it was ostensibly half-time) to no-speed-at-all retirement would not have been easy.  Going from ministry at top speed to horse and dog wrangler atop a hill overlooking Saratoga Passage and Mt. Baker was like going from 60 to 30 overnight.  Animal care has shaped my days:  up at 5 (no, that hasn't changed even though I don't have my cats with me), catch up on the email, feed the dogs, check on the horses, have breakfast, more horse care, 6-8 walks with the dogs during the course of the day, slotting my own activities in and around my duties to the animals.  This has all been fine, easy, and leisurely, at least for the first four weeks.

I should have known, when "diva mare" and her BFF mysteriously moved from pasture to pasture without human intervention, that more was in the works.  That the diva had discovered something interesting:  the electric fence was no longer working.  And since the entire property is electrically-protected, this was going to be a problem.  I didn't know this yet, but I was about to learn.

A week ago, I moved the horses from pasture 3 to pasture 4.  The grass is getting a little sparse because it's the dry season, but pasture 4 is expansive and it looked like it would be fine.  The plan was that I would continue to move them back and forth from the paddock where they are fed and spend the night into pasture 4 every morning.  But early last week I went out to move them and discovered that they had kicked out a section of fence in the paddock, making it unusable.  Phone call to Alaska ensues.

Plan B:  keep them in pasture 4 continually and feed them hay and pellets there at night.  Okay.  At least until I caught one of the geldings (presumably at the command of Diva Mare) working on the slats of an old wooden gate and splintering and dislodging one of its boards.

Plan C:  I find an old unused metal gate not far away and, using duct tape, bungee cords, and hayrope, affix it to the wooden gate so they can't do any more damage OR break out into the yard.  Later that day, I discover that another old wooden gate has been damaged enough that all five of the horses have managed to get into a piece of pastureland that is not well-fenced.  My suspicions are confirmed:  the electric fence is disabled for some reason and is not guarding the perimeters. 

Plan D:  I find a second old unused metal gate on the property and, using 200 feet of rope, just in case, lash it into the gap where the old wooden gate used to be.  I lure all five horses back into pasture 4 and make another emergency phone call to Alaska, from whence relief is summoned in the form of a local horse family.  The Kellers come to the ranch, re-electrify the fence, check on the perimeter, and save my bacon.

Since then, all has been quiet on the HH front.  The horses are getting a great deal of attention from me; it's hay in the morning, hay in the noonday sun, hay in the evening, a dose of pellets midmorning, and carrots or apples whenever I think of it.  I want these horses to stay happy!  Because if they're happy, I can sleep at night.

Plan F:  if necessary, there are two small paddocks which are tightly fenced with both metal and heavy wood slats where the five can be imprisoned temporarily.  I don't think we will have to do this to them, but at least it's an option.

Saving grace:  Paula, one of the owners, will be home on Wednesday night.  The hardest part of all of this has been doing it alone, as the neighbors who were willing and able to help have just not been  available when I needed them.  One of the hazards of working with volunteers!

But here's what has been so valuable about the whole experience:  I've discovered coping qualities in myself that I've never had to use before.  Fixing fences and gates with baling twine, ropes, and bungee cords?  Nope.  Comforting a dog who has just had a seizure?  Nope.  Protecting a scapegoat mare from a diva mare?  Nope.  Understanding that fences have to be secure or animals are not safe?  Not for a long, long time.  Having full responsibility for eight beautiful, valuable, beloved animals who belong to somebody else and who have needs that I don't fully "get"?  Nope, not that either.  Being willing to do it anyway and learn what I need to know "on the hoof", as it were?  Yep, that one I've always had and that's the one that has bailed me out in this situation:  my commitment to doing what needs to be done, to the best of my ability.

It's been a little bit like my early days in ministry, when I was learning things they couldn't teach in seminary:  how to coax powerful personalities into cooperation when they weren't sure they wanted to cooperate with me; offering sustenance to a wide variety of needs without giving up my own needs completely; doing the best I could with the resources I had and not kicking myself if I goofed up; finding the lesson in the crisis rather than just the anger and worry.

I've loved this experience.  I'm so glad to have had it, even with the crises.  And, as I told Paula recently in one of our advice-filled phone conversations, now, if I ever want to revamp my resume, I can put "horse and dog wrangler" down as a job skill.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Ah, the mysteries of ranch life...

have bedeviled me now for the past week or so.  Nothing too drastic, just small mysteries that wrinkle my (already-somewhat-wrinkled) brow, cause me to request advice from faraway fisherwoman owner, and ask myself "what next?"

How did Smarty and Ellie (two of the horses, Ellie being the boarding horse) get from pasture 3 to pasture 2 without human intervention, since all the fences appear intact?  How did they later get from pasture 2 to pasture 1?  Oh wait, I know the answer to that one:  they tore down the electric gate.  So, okay, how did they do that without getting a shock? 

Why does the dapply-white mare occupy the low end of the pecking order?  And why is she the one most bugged by the bugs?  Why do all the others chase her away when she comes near? 

Why do I no longer have any desire to ride horses?  I enjoy being around them but I feel no urge to saddle up and ride out, even with other riders.

Where did all the dog food go?  I just emptied a 40 pound bag of pellets into the storage bin.  It should have lasted longer than a couple of weeks.  I'm pretty sure the dogs haven't been into it; they would have a hard time concealing their thievery.

Where did all the horse pellets go?  One week ago, I emptied a 50 pound bag of pellets into the storage bin (with help from bandmate Lynn, hunky guy).  Methinks somebody has "borrowed" some for other horses, but there is no proof of this.

Where did three of the horses go one day?  Why doesn't anyone let me know when they take three of the horses out for a ride?  It's okay with the owner that they ride the horses, so that's not the mystery.  I would just like to know when they do it.

Where did all the dogs go for hours on end?  Are they with the riders?  Are their collars impaled on some branch in the woods?  Did the mama dog have another seizure out there where I can't see?  Is that where the boy dog ran into whatever made his eye swell up and start itching?

All small mysteries, few of them with major consequences, but they give meaning to the cliche "inquiring minds want to know".  I probably don't need to know, but I would like to.