I forgot

what it feels like when it’s below zero.

SO COLD

This was entirely unexpected. The forecast low was in the high teens, and we usually run up to 10 degrees colder out here in the valley, so I was expecting low teens. Not -1 at 7:30. My poor critters – I’d have thrown them an extra flake last night, and I’d have gotten up and fed them when I first woke up at 5:30.

It was really luxurious to sleep in this morning :)

I have lost all sense of what temperature it is in the house. I guess it’s because of the wood stove – the den is hot, and the other rooms are usually cold. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the 50s in the den right now, as I try to get the fire roaring again.

I did have one story I wanted to tell yall. You know I’m big on clicker training – I don’t see any negative aspects to working a little clicker training in to your ground work. (Unless you inadvertently teach the horse to paw. Don’t do that. It gets old fast.) One of the really neat things about c/t is that you don’t have to have clicker sessions with the animal very frequently – they never seem to forget this stuff. You have to be consistent while you’ve got the clicker and the treats, but it doesn’t matter if you train once a day or once a month.

Wednesday I wanted to touch up Dixie’s feet before the weekend snowstorm. I clipped her haybag to the feeding area to give her something to munch on, and I got three feet rolled. Then she acted like a cow about her right rear – yanked it out of my hands, sidepassed as far away from me as possible. I moved her back into place, told her to quit being a fool, and asked her to pick it up again. She sidepassed away again so I yanked the lead untied, backed her up about 5 steps, and made her move her butt away from me. Then I decided we should go get the mail. We walked down the driveway, got the mail (hello Schneider’s!) and I noticed the trash bin. The garbage had run that day and I needed to wheel the bin back to the house.

Dixie used to flee in terror from big green wheelie bins. The first time I tried to ride her past one, she backed up a 100′ driveway in a panic. Eventually we got over the fear of that bin, but all other bins on the road were met with equal suspicion. She’d skitter wildly across the road to get away from one. So I clicker trained her. I’d hand-walk her to the trash bin and c/t for thinking about touching it. Then I’d make her touch the bin with her nose – I think wheelie bins are the first thing I taught her to “touch it!” with. It’s also one of the few things I c/t for under saddle – Wednesdays in the fall of ’09 we’d work our way down a mile of country road, zigzagging along touching every trash bin on the street.

So she’s had a dramatic relationship with trash bins. I had absolutely nothing to use as a treat with me. I decided to pretend like this was no big deal and we did it all the time. I grabbed the bin and tipped it back onto its wheels, paused just a second so she could see it moving, and dragged it up the gravel driveway to the house. Dixie alternated between skittering at the end of her lead, rolling her eyes at it, and coming up and touching it with her “curious” ears on. When we got the bin back to the house, I told her she was a good horse, thumped her on the neck, and led her back to her feeding area. She ate some more hay and held up that last foot like a perfect angel.

The point of this story is that clicker training “sticks” as well as conventional training. She hasn’t gotten a c/t for touching a trash bin in months, and we haven’t done a real session re: trash bins in over a year. In the past, I had flapped the lids on them and made her touch them, but I’d never shown her that they move.

Yes, it went so well partially because we have a good relationship now. But it’s also proof that clicker training sticks with them. I didn’t ask Dixie to interact with the trash bin, just to stay with me as I dragged the bin up the driveway. On her own, she kept “touching it” because she remembers she sometimes gets a treat for touching big scary noisy trash bins.

One of the things I was scared of when I started clicker training was that I’d end up with a spoiled horse who would only perform if she knew I had treats. (Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I don’t do very much clicker under saddle. That, and poor coordination.) You really do need to reinforce a behavior with a lot of treats at first, but once you get a behavior down, you don’t have to have treats.

edit
I haven’t had enough coffee yet. I had this written out better in my head yesterday, but of course it didn’t come out as smoothly as I’d like this morning. Cheyenne was the first to comment, and I started to write this as a comment but decided to just add it to the main post instead.

Chey, my problem with c/t is that a lot of people seem to treat it like it’s a goal unto itself. Kinda like a lot of natural horsemanship people end up just perfecting their NH games and never actually riding the horse? But my point is that it is a good adjunct to your normal horse activities, too. If you want to do lots of clicker training, more power to you – but if you just want to c/t that one tiny problem you have and then go back to your normal pressure/release training, it still works just fine. Can’t get the horse to back up smoothly? Or maybe she rushes through a dressage cue? Or you want him to stand up perfectly square for a show but he likes to cock a back leg? Stuff like that is where clicker training really shines.

And it makes you a better trainer, too. You will get, errr, unexpected results if your timing isn’t absolutely perfect. Clicker training definitely made me a better “regular” trainer – I am much sharper at rewarding the try now.

I also wanted to point yall to Aarene’s old post about Story and the helicopter. When Dixie boldly planted her nose on the bin as I was dragging it over the rocks and stared at me, I thought of Aarene’s story. :)

The hardest test I’ve ever seen

I’m pretty smart. I have a pretty broad and deep base of useless trivia. I am a big-league history nerd. And I’d totally fail this test. Go have a look!

I could partially answer 29 of the 50 questions. Most of them are Googleable. Some of them would require a librarian (hi AareneX!)

This was an eighth grade test. Even accounting for the differences in what knowledge we teach kids today, I don’t think I knew that much stuff in the 8th grade.

Now! For the one I think I’d nail:

A cite to a website will probably give you a failing grade. A happy dog is a sight for sore eyes. I think “fain” means something like “want,” but I’m not sure. I could feign a definition for fane, but it’d be a lie. Nevada breezes would blow away a cheap weathervane. As you get older the veins on your hands start to stand out. Loggers who clearcut raze forests. Who wouldn’t like a pay raise? The rays of the sun were really lovely the other day.

And the one I’m most intrigued by right now – why is the Atlantic so much colder than the Pacific at the same latitude? My completely uneducated guess is “something to do with the Gulf Stream.” Anybody know the answer… or any of the answers? No cheating til you guess here!

edit: dammit, snopes! Oh well, it’s still a cool test. Siiigh.

The hardest test I’ve ever seen

I’m pretty smart. I have a pretty broad and deep base of useless trivia. I am a big-league history nerd. And I’d totally fail this test. Go have a look!

I could partially answer 29 of the 50 questions. Most of them are Googleable. Some of them would require a librarian (hi AareneX!)

This was an eighth grade test. Even accounting for the differences in what knowledge we teach kids today, I don’t think I knew that much stuff in the 8th grade.

Now! For the one I think I’d nail:

A cite to a website will probably give you a failing grade. A happy dog is a sight for sore eyes. I think “fain” means something like “want,” but I’m not sure. I could feign a definition for fane, but it’d be a lie. Nevada breezes would blow away a cheap weathervane. As you get older the veins on your hands start to stand out. Loggers who clearcut raze forests. Who wouldn’t like a pay raise? The rays of the sun were really lovely the other day.

And the one I’m most intrigued by right now – why is the Atlantic so much colder than the Pacific at the same latitude? My completely uneducated guess is “something to do with the Gulf Stream.” Anybody know the answer… or any of the answers? No cheating til you guess here!

edit: dammit, snopes! Oh well, it’s still a cool test. Siiigh.

Wood you?

(God, I’m sorry, I just had to.)

Hey woodburning friends, let’s talk! I got another cord of mixed almond and black walnut delivered this morning, and I just got in from stacking it. Last time I got wood, it was a cord or two of hard and a cord of soft, and I segregated the hard from the soft but other than that I just stacked things as I picked them up. It worked out ok – over the course of a day, I’d bring in a couple loads of wood and end up with some small limbs and some medium splits and one or two absolutely huge monster logs. Sometimes I use a medium log and some little pieces to cram the stove full at night, or sometimes I use a monster log – just depends on what I have in the house and how big my bed of ash and coals is.

This time, I tried something different. All the thin splits and limbs are in one stack of their own – I can grab small pieces from one area of the pile and big pieces from another. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a huge PITA when the pile is tarped and bungee’d town and covered in snow. We’ll see.

Anyway, it’s 35 degrees and everything’s slowly melting. Of course I scraped all the snow off the pallets before I stacked the new wood, but the wood got dumped in the snow and it’s damp. I figure I will leave it untarped as long as I can – til the next possible storm comes in at the end of the week. And if I pull snowy wood, I leave it by the fire to dry out before I burn it, that seems to work well. Any other words of wisdom?

Part of me really likes the idea of being self-sufficient. It’s awesome having my own egg supply, and one day I’ll breed the lil goats and have fantastically good milk, and I’m looking forward to trying a garden this summer. But part of me really loves capitalism. I could get a (very inexpensive) BLM permit, a chainsaw, and a flatbed trailer and go cut my own wood, then saw it, split it, and season it… or I could just give some cash to a nice professional. I still get the “fun” of stacking it and splitting kindling :)

Speaking of “fun” – there is nothing more deeply satisfying than stacking wood or hay. If you don’t have livestock or a woodstove (and I think those two categories cover 95% of my readers), you probably think it sounds awful – but it’s really deeply satisfying to make a giant stack of consumables. I suppose more normal people hoard toilet paper or something, but I sure like having a woodpile.

The wood didn’t take all day so I suppose I’ll go work on the bathroom some more.

It’s melting!

You will note in the following pictures that I am still a lazy southerner. I had to shovel the gate to the paddock, but other than that, I firmly believe snow will melt faster than I can shovel it.

Look at how beautiful this place is when it’s not actively snowing!
Peavine

And how gloomy it is when it’s overcast at dawn :(
IMG_2539

Some little critter lives under my deck
Critter under the deck

Maybe a rabbit? I’m not good with snow prints.
Maybe a rabbit?

Cersei thinks snow is awesome. She lives her life in all caps with three exclamation marks.
Looking for the ball!

WHERE’S THE BALL!!! The camera couldn’t handle all the white – the sky is actually bright blue.
Where is the ball!

HERE IT IS! IT’S GOT SNOW ON IT!!!
A ball dog!

Here’s a snow dog video :)

Snow dog! from Funder on Vimeo.