“Become dust - & they will throw thee in the air; Become stone - & they will throw thee on glass." Muhammad Iqbal *Beyond the bushes, boiling with dust, is 4Shoes West boundary road.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Santa has Sent Us Some Spirit!

Remember that rare & wonderful winter that, just 10 days ago, I was riding along in on a daily basis? & wearing just my jeans, a sweatshirt & a vest no less.
Whelp, that's all over now.
WINTER arrived in the True North Strong & Free yesterday.
 Tiny flakes you could barely see started to fall just around dawn; the flakes got bigger, & thicker, & Mr Shoes had to bust out the plow. He cleaned the barnyard, then the drive & the lane. Then he plowed the gravel mile out to the market road so that Boot could get to work last night; we are one of only 2 places on a 2 mile stretch of road so the grader doesn't get around to us til last. At each end of the 2 miles stretch is a market road that the graders must always try to keep clear before starting on any of the cross roads.
The 4Shoes is in 4 wheel drive country, yo. Serious. 
So pretty right? But a little bit Bah Humbug too.
 Boot arrived home this morning to report that the highway had been 'gnarly going' last night & that the grader is out now but it had blocked access to our road with a huge ridge of snow. He had to go up another 2 miles to find a place wide enough to turn around, then backtrack out to the highway, go up that way a piece & turn onto another market road to access our road from the other side; it was a fight all the way for his little car to power through the drifts, but he made it & only had to go 9 miles out of his way to get home. Phew.
Guess Mr Shoes will be out on the plow again today - this time clearing all 2 miles of RM road.
Don't feel sorry for him; like most boys, at least the first few times he 'gets to' drive his plow each year he is almost gleeful. Coffee in hand & a toque set jauntily back on his head, he heads out to the shop with a goofy smile on his face.
God love him, because I surely do.
It's a good thing I just laundered Manic's clothes because that crazy little bitch* thought it was cold a week ago.  *It's not swearing when it's a technical term.
Now we're really getting into the Christmas spirit alright!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Seat of Power

Linda over @ Beautiful Mustang has written a really great post & I encourage you to pop over & give it a read. Even if most of it is just a matter of refreshing your memory, your body (& your horse) will thank you for the effort.
Beautiful Mustang

Saturday, 12 December 2015

I'm Just her Laundry Lady

Have you ever had to do laundry because your dog's favourite clothes were dirty?
Manic waiting patiently for the dryer....  Even a mild winter is chilly to a nearly naked MinPin.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Rare & Wonderful Winter

4pm - Enjoying a brisk 6 mile jog, mane EVERYwhere, the low sun setting off the fire in the Morgan's coat.

We're currently enjoying an unseasonably warm December & you won't catch me complaining. There is far less snow than usual; seeing grassy patches is rare for this time of year, especially in this part of the country. We've been taking full advantage of the clear skies & mild afternoons to ride; I think my chestnut's coat looks just stunning in the lazy brilliance of the late sun.
A mile further on, now headed North, the sun traces our horseback outline against the standing brush.
I should be Christmas shopping, or baking, or folding clothes... but I'd much rather throw a leg over a good horse & feel some wind in my face as we rock along the roadside, & I doubt I'm alone in that. Here's hoping that you too are able to enjoy some invigorating winter riding, wherever you are!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Do You See What I See?

"Let us love Winter, for it is the Spring of Genius." ~ Pietro Aretino

"The Cat is a Puzzle for which there is no Solution." ~ Hazel Nicholson

"The Horse, through all its trials, has preserved the sweetness of paradise in its blood." ~ Johannes Jensen

"God made the Cat in order that Man may have the pleasure of caressing the Lion." ~ Fernand Mery

"Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." ~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull

"Horse, Thou are truly a creature without equal, for Thou fliest without Wings & Conquerest without Sword." ~ The Koran

"When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator."
~  Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, 30 November 2015

DIY Kahlua ~ Holiday Traditions

December first is traditionally the opening day of our Christmas Holiday Season at the 4Shoes. Aside from specialty baking, every Christmas I also make a huge batch of hootch to carry us over & into the New Year. One of our perennial favourites is 4Shoes Homemade Irish Cream, because who doesn't love alcohol that you can hide from any party poopers in your coffee? 
When all of our kids were small & there were close to 30 of us packed into a 14x20 kitchen/dining/family room combo, a good mug of Irish really used to help keep the Holiday Mellow going strong amongst the craziness.  (Really? Just keep the cup full, please.) 
One thing you need to make good Irish is a good coffee liqueur to build upon; my family recipe for coffee liqueur takes about 4 to 6 weeks to age & mellow the flavours. Get started as soon as possible if you want to use this batch of java juice for an Irish Christmas. 
Ingredient List:
  • 1 lb good coffee beans
  • 3 vanilla pods
  • 40oz Smirnoff Vodka + 2 empty bottles
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 4 C water
  • 4 C sugar
  • 3 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Split the coffee beans into 3 even piles; add 1 Tbsp of cocoa nibs to each pile. Then, using a paper funnel, pour 1 pile into each bottle & then remove the funnel. 
Split each vanilla bean lengthwise & poke down into a bottle. 
Using a plastic funnel this time, divide the vodka equally between the 3 bottles & finger tighten caps back onto bottle-tops.
Lay the bottles on their sides in a cool, dark spot of the pantry. Each day rotate all of the bottles a quarter of a turn to the right (or left, but be sure to rotate in the same direction each time). Repeat daily for 21-28 days.The vodka will deepen into a rich coffee colour during the aging process; the longer you leave the bottles in the pantry, the deeper & richer the colour & flavour will be. 

In a stock pot on the stove, add the water, sugar, molasses & salt. Over medium-high heat bring this mixture just to a boil & immediately reduce heat. Allow mix to simmer gently for about 45 minutes until it has reduced & thickened to a thin to medium syrup. Let cool til warm.

Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth (to catch the spent vanilla pods & any bits of bean or nibs) & strain the contents of the bottles through the sieve into the warm syrup mixture. Discard the spent pods & beans into your compost bucket. Stir the contents of the pot gently until all is well combined. Taste. Yum. Now stop tasting already. Allow to cool completely.
Ladle your homemade coffee booze into a pitcher with a pour spout; don't spill any of this liquid gold. Now carefully pour your hootch into the bottles, finger tighten the caps, & squirrel it away somewhere safe until it's time to make the Irish. 
I should mention that, really, only full bottles qualify for storing, & you are pretty much obligated to "sample" any overages later that night, after the chores are done, (4Shoes style) cuddled up with your Sweetheart in front of a roaring fire.
This delicious concoction will store in your liquor cabinet for up to a year, but good luck keeping it that long. 
Happy Brewing!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Marijuana Munching Mutt

Remember the 60s? Me neither.
Probably because I was barely a toddler... but, not the point.  
Has your dog ever eaten marijuana?
Mine have not, but if yours ever does, please get it to the vet asap!
When you get home, find a better spot for your stash.
In the meantime, this video has seriously cracked me up.

p.s. On a serious note though, THC toxicity is no joke - your pet could die from it! If you love your pet & you suspect ingestion, there is no time to go all *"follow the labrador, man".
*If you don't 'get' this reference, you must not remember the 70s either...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

DIY Sweetened Condensed Milk

Christmas is coming! Not to rush it, but for the busy farm wife it's none too soon to start thinking about getting the baking started. Having a couple of containers of squares or loafs in the freezer means never having to serve store bought cookies!
So, in happy anticipation of the upcoming holiday seasons, today I crack open the 4Shoes cookbook to share with you a tested & true homemade version of a must have ingredient that is just too pricey in the store. Make sure to write this one down as it will surely come in handy for many of the more decadent dessert recipes of the year.

Homemade is always more satisfying!!
Ingredient list:
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 1/4 C butter or margarine
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 C powdered milk

Pour boiling water into a small saucepan, add butter & sugar & stir gently over low heat until butter & sugar are completely dissolved.
Add the powdered milk, 1/4 C @ a time, stirring constantly until it is completely dissolved & the mixture is silky smooth.
Your homemade version should be stored in an airtight jar & will keep very well in the fridge for a month to 5 weeks.
1+3/4 C of the homemade version = 1 can of the pre-made grocery store product.

Happy Baking!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Children Deserve BOTH Parents

I'm going rogue @ the 4Shoes today & broaching a controversial topic -- parental rights. Not much of a hook, you say? How about if the parents are a legally married homosexual couple? Are you less or more inclined to curiosity?

I am going to admit that, when a friend sent this GoFundMe campaign to me, my curiosity was piqued as to what inspired my friend to want to spread the word about little Kaydance -- why this case for parental rights is remarkable when there are so many non-custodial parents who struggle for the right to be present & active in the lives of their children every day? 

Kaydance is a little Canadian girl who was planned, conceived, & birthed  together by her 2 mothers. In a twist worthy of an intrigue novel plot, Canadian Mother T. was influenced to allow her name to be removed from Kaydance's birth certificate to avoid persecution in the United Arab Emirates where (Mother L. was raised &) homosexuality is illegal. 

If your interest is piqued about why a homosexual family would ever consider the risk of living in the U.A.E....
If you believe that a child deserves to be allowed the love of both  parents & their extended families... If you believe that  parenting is a joint endeavour & that it is wrong for one parent to make a unilateral decision to relocate with the child without the knowledge or consent  of the other parent...
then I invite you to click over to read more details & updates on the fight for Kaydance. 
There is absolutely no obligation to donate a dime, but I am certain that words of encouragement would be very welcomed.

Mother T's legal case to be re-instated on Kaydance's birth certificate & to prevent Mother L. from moving the child out of reach is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court of Canada in November of 2015. 

*If this is a topic that you found interesting, or if you are sympathetic to this cause, please help Kaydance by spreading the word of Mother T's fight by re-posting her campaign to your social media.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Glorious Fall @ The 4Shoes

"Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile."  [Indian Summer]
 ~ William Cullen Bryant
Some mornings the dew has lightly frosted over; but those tiny crystal prisms are yet still easily seared away by the earliest kiss of dawn, lingering just long enough in those slimmest of rays to reflect a single wink of refracted light & then gone.

The wind has busily stripped most of the larger trees almost bare, save for stubborn patchy garlands of orange & yellow stragglers; but the smaller trees & bushes still proudly boast thick ribbons & clusters of fluttering scarlet & neon gold edged in somewhat sketchy shades of green. 

The Hummingbirds are departed from here quite some time ago, but soon the Bluejays & the Chickadees will be here, thick as thieves. Daily now, fat Canada Geese land in our hayfields by the hundreds to rest a short while & to bolt down as much food as they can hold before The Saint charges into their midst, barking joyfully & sending them up in raucously protesting waves to flap away south overhead in their signature arrowhead formations. 

The vegetable gardens are harvested & cleaned, save for the chives which the family appreciates snipped into garlic mashed potatoes at suppertime served alongside the last of the sweet, fresh carrots & a roast of our own mouth-watering home-raised meat.

The succulent watermelon vines & Bleeding Hearts, being so tender as they are, have succumbed to the cold & lay lifeless & withered in their beds, just waiting until the Sedum stops its' happy, oblivious blooming & all the other assorted greenery to signal me that they have stored enough energy to tide them over winter by wilting & yellowing. 

Before I know it, the time will have come to stow the naturally artsy chunks of driftwood, the ornamental sculptures, the trellis' & the windchimes away in the old house, & to shield the flowerbeds with their customized lattice caps that remind stir-crazy barncats that they may not shortcut through the gardens even though they lay dormant these next several months.

The pigs have gone to butcher; their pen & wooden shelter so quiet now, though Manic greedily sniffs in all the stories they oinked to each other all summer long while she was forbidden to enter the sanctuary lest she harass them; or they decide to stomp her brazen little head into their muddy wallow. There will be another pair or 3 oinking jokers to love & fuss over come next spring - for now, our big freezer is stuffed tight with meat that is in a whole 'nother taste category than the commercially bred pork available in the grocery stores.

The horses' still slick forms gleam in the sunlight now, but it won't be long before their undercoats begin to grow in & they will more resemble horse-shaped puffballs. 
For now they graze lazily, hardly bothered by the last sluggish flies of the season. I've dropped the wire at the mouth of the hayfield to give the horses access to the small bounty that has sprouted up since the final cutting - they are gleefully & systematically mowing it to the ground, putting on a few extra pounds for what will inevitably come. 
The days of great & lustily blown snorts & plumes of steam that momentarily transform horses to dragon-steeds are coming... but slowly, I hope, slowly. 

Here's wishing that you will all have the chance to linger in & enjoy this last but loveliest smile of 2015 for as long as Mother Nature chooses to favour us with her charms.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Analyzing the Fall....

*In this piece when I reference 'falling off', I am talking about falling off a horse at a low speed. I am not talking about being bucked off, slung off, knocked off or thrown over a horse's head; just. falling.
Today I received a letter from friends who now own one of my retired racehorses, Andy. Before we agreed that Andy could go home with them for an initial trial period, their 14 year old daughter attended riding lessons & then came to stay with us at the 4Shoes for a spell while attending an intensive, immersion-style lesson program at a professional training stable nearby.
The mother related to me how Meilla had recently fallen* off her mare - not thrown, fallen off when (at a walk) the mare zigged while the kid zagged. The young lady was not at all hurt, but she was angry with herself & a little confused. 
Talking to her dad afterwards, she had said, "Mrs Shoes said that 99% of the time that you fall* off, it is your own fault & not the horse; but I don't know what I did wrong." 
The father, who had witnessed the fall, gently told her, "I know what you did wrong Honey - you weren't paying attention." 
Meilla is a novice determined to become a good rider; I was so pleased to hear that her first instinct after taking a fall was to try to analyze what she might have done or not done - looking for the lesson she could take from the experience. I was already impressed with this young girl's attitude, but that story raised her (& her dad) even higher in my esteem.
Picturing in my mind this little girl cheesed off but not discouraged put me in mind of this 4Shoes story...
When our daughter, Slipper, was in high school she had a little grade mare that she called Venus. Slipper did not care to ride out on her own or want to take lessons, but she was a competent enough rider & we did quite a lot of riding together which made for treasured family memories.

One crisp fall evening we had saddled up & headed out, looking forward to a nice ride, but we hadn't gotten out of the driveway before Slipper was having some trouble. Venus was balking & fractious -- despite her nature being pretty co-operative & laid back - many of the horses I've known in my lifetime (both as former hired groom & as a horsewoman) have very occasionally had 'one of those days'. 
Venus grabbed onto the bit & ran right through it, pulling an impressive roll back & whistling briskly back to the barn, ignoring Slipper who was trying her best to be firm & pro-active. 
Venus ducked around the corner & into the barn so quickly that she dragged Slipper's whole leg against the door & I could see the saddle begin to slip. 
At that point I lit out after them, jumping from a stand-still straight into a gallop. My gelding slid to a stop outside the barn door like the very best of reiners, sitting firmly back on his haunches, planting his forelegs & leaving a 6 foot skid mark. I was about to throw myself off running when I saw her... 
There was my girl -- not hurt, not crying, not discouraged or putting her horse away as I had half expected to see.
What I did see was that she was MAD as a hornet & not about to let that mare get away with that crap. Slipper had Venus snugged up to a post & she was re-saddling as she gave her horse a firm talking to. She popped the knot on that lead rope & slung it over her saddle horn, picking up her reins & mounting from the ground with no hint of hesitation, more confident & with more purpose than I'd ever seen her be with her horse. My girl was so intent on what she was doing that she didn't even notice me & my gelding standing there watching until she turned her horse towards the door.
Slipper didn't waste any more time questioning what happened or offering any explanations or excuses; instead she was darn sure about to redefine that day's ride for Venus & for herself. 
Kicking her now contrite looking mare into a trot, Slipper passed me on the fly & called back over her shoulder, "Are we riding today or what?"
I almost swallowed a fly, my mouth was open that wide.
That day is a long time past now & our little girl is a young woman in her 5th year of university. Slipper has given us many, many proud moments as parents; but, as a horsewoman, that memory will remain one of my very favourites.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

My Thanksgiving is Perpetual

Wishing a Happy Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday from The 4Shoes to You & Yours.  October 12, 2015

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Like Dust, I Will Rise

"You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lines. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I'll rise." ~ Maya Angelou

Monday, 20 July 2015

Magic is WORK

To preface this post I'll say that, for me, it's always been about horses. I grew up riding anything that I could catch, often with nothing but a couple lengths of binder twine tied to the halter ring as make-shift reins. Bareback & leaning low over necks with clumps of mane weaved through my fingers, hurdling over square bales in fields of stubble at speeds that only the bravery of youth could ever think wise. 
As a young woman, I found the racetrack... as soon as my boots crossed into the backstretch, I knew I was home. It was a long & deeply rewarding career & I was sad to retire, but life moves ever forward & now my husband & I have a small farm in a whole different part of the country. Outside my windows I gaze, still with wonder & exhilaration, out on the 3 gorgeous horses that will likely be my last in this lifetime... & I am so grateful for it all!! 

Over the years I have been fortunate to have had a few horses who made life easy; they were well trained & experienced enough in their respective disciplines that they knew their jobs & did them well. Qualities those particular horses shared were no-drama personalities & honest try that made them admirable on all fronts. Make no mistake though, horses such as those commanded appropriately high dollar price tags!

Conversely, I've also felt lucky to have had a few horses who did not leap to bond with me, took a ton more work than I imagined they would, made me question myself & seek new ways to communicate, tested me sorely before trusting, & made me work harder than ever to be a better rider/leader/partner to them.

You will not be surprised to learn that each one of those hard cayuses eventually proved worth more than their weights in gold. 
Connecting on the deepest level with those really talented but tough horses who required that I prove myself to them has been my absolutely most rewarding human/animal experience. I forged such solid partnerships with those horse precisely because they refused to dumb down their performances, because the required me to up my game on all levels, & because - once the understanding was reached - they leaned into the traces with me & we became fearless, together.
If you just want a dependable, sweet-natured packer that will do every possible thing to keep his rider safe (even at his own expense), there's not a thing wrong with that, so long as you keep in mind that all credit is due the horse who makes you look good. Write up your shopping list, do your homework, ride lots of prospects, & be prepared to pay for all the work that someone else put into making that horse your agreeable dream unicorn. 

But if you want a true partner up under your butt, that's a different kind of commitment to the cause. I'm talking about the kind of partner who always meets the challenge, who never lets you down, who you have 110% faith in, who will ford a raging river without hesitation, or face off with a snorty bull without backing down an inch, a horse who uses his brain, his body, & his heart, a horse who would leap through a wall of fire for YOU... That relationship cannot be bought, my friend. 
That kind of partnership is the result of clear communication between you & your horse, hard work, long days, & wet saddle pads. It cannot be paid for in cash, it takes time to build, it must be nourished & validated, & it must survive being tested before it can truly flourish. 
This article was originally, & still is, intended as encouragement & support for anyone who may find their journey to partnership with a new horse is less than 'easy'. Sometimes the higher the fruit, the sweeter the juice.

Thank you for reading.
Getting a new horse is like starting a new romantic relationship; you have to go in with an open heart, but you cannot be foolish or you are in for a big hurt. An open heart holds hands gently & starts out with a kiss on the cheek; a foolish heart gives out his passwords, his bank card, & the keys to his home before you know his middle name. 

Horses are not fools. Horses are hardwired, first & foremost, to protect themselves. A
"I want to understand you. You are safe with me."
new human is an unknown; understandably some of the horse's defenses are going to go up!

In a new relationship, the rider cannot afford to be a fool either; taking it too far, too fast is rude & it can get you hurt. Not talking about a broken heart here either.
You must take the time to learn ABOUT your new horse FROM your new horse. You need to make the sincere effort to learn about your new horse through observation, slow progression, & application of gentle pressure to first find the sensitive spots (both physically & emotionally) of your horse. Once you've really taken the time to get to know him, then you can begin to mold your relationship, gently, as a artist molds clay into pottery on a wheel.

"Let's start out Slow & steady. Cool & Calm."
There is no rushing this process! As soon as you are too rough or move too fast, the clay may refuse your touch & collapse on the wheel. Similarly, as soon as your approach becomes rough or impatient, the horse may refuse your leadership & collapse in his own way - it might be balking, or bucking, or simply a mental shut down. 
If you have caused your horse to collapse away from you in any way, how you handle yourself in the moment & how you address the problem is critical. If you blame the horse, any significant progress is blocked & the relationship is jeopardized entirely due to your temper & lack of commitment to your goal. Make no mistake, horses cannot be fooled by a false smile or sweet words; they can read your underlying body language & know your heart better than you do - FACT. Foolish attempts to trick your horse will not inspire trust & respect.
It's not always easy, because sometimes your horse is going to act like a butthead in spite of  himself; do him & you a favour & always look first for a legitimate cause of the attitude (pain, confusion, fatigue). You'll likely find that most problems start & end with you. 
If you cannot calm yourself & re-engage properly, you are better off to give him one thing that you know he can do, let him do that thing one time, then appreciate it, reward him for the try, & turn him out to pasture until tomorrow. Positive energy is an invaluable tool in working with horses; don't ever make the mistake of forgetting that your mindset is the biggest factor in the results you are getting on any given day. That said, when you have developed a real partnership with the horse, he is likely to forgive you the odd shouted curse so long as you can take a breath & get right back to the same level of performance that you are asking of him.

Sometimes you might find yourself in a little over your head - that's not a bad thing because it affords you the opportunity to learn more than you already know. The fact is, there is always more to learn, there are always ways to grow & improve. Consult with other horse people whose judgement you trust & who you respect; sometimes what you really need is someone to shake up your perspective & help you get back into a positive frame of mind & moving in a productive direction. 
A word to the wise, when it comes to 1000lbs of horseflesh, if you ARE in over your head - get good, experienced professional help SOONER rather than later. Recognizing that you are out of your depth can save you a lot of trouble & heartbreak. More importantly, for your horse, YOU getting that help that you need could mean the difference between a harmonious riding partnership in the future, or that poor horse someday riding in a packed, stuffy cattle-liner on the way to slaughter.
If you find yourself discouraged & feeling as though the horse is deliberately trying your patience, remind yourself that horses don't really have the capacity to plan out being a giant pain in the ass. It is far more likely that he either does not understand what you want from him, he is in pain or fatigued, or that you have not inspired enough trust for him to freely give what you are asking.  

From the viewpoint of the horse - how can he surrender his perfectly natural fearful instincts until you have repeatedly demonstrated that you will calmly & consistently work to earn that from him? You cannot expect your horse to substitute your judgement for his own in moments of doubt until he believes deep down in his heart that you are a capable, wise, & fair leader!

Honest interaction, clarity of understanding, patience & fairness, in addition to real dedication & persistence in achieving the lofty goal of true partnership all play equal parts in your success on any given day & also in the long run.
If you can just enjoy the initial honeymoon period, engage fully in the mutual getting-to-know-you phase, & stick out the inevitable testing the boundaries period with a positive, consistent, & committed attitude, THEN

  • You begin to understand the individual thinking process of your new horse
  • You feel the tenuous trust beginning to form 
  • You strengthen the bond by consistent, fair, & reasonable leadership
It's a wonderful thing to come to that point with your horse when you truly appreciate him as a unique, & possibly quirky, but absolute individual who gives freely what you ask of him because he has placed his trust in you at last. Never doubt that there may be moments of backsliding; even my most trusted partner occasionally has opinions that differ from mine. He is allowed to call me on my shit because I'm not perfect either & may need some transgression or another called to my attention for correction, & I know that we've put in the work that ensures we always end up on the same page. 
In the face of all that work, from the outside looking at us, we are MAGIC. 

~Joining up with AIM link party today~

Cool Beans ~ Many Thanks!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

DIY Two-Tone Wooden Garden Path

Sounds a lot more hoopla than it is really. "Herd sire' only sounds vaguely impressive on the surface, but realistically(?) Does a bull with a harem of two to maybe four heifers get a spot on the podium so early in the game? Happy? No doubt. Famous? Not so much.
Everything seemed slow - I blame the weather, obviously.
Up my Garden Path SE
What do you think of the new two-tone "boardwalk" style garden path that Mr Shoes built from free pallet wood*?  Red Green always says, "If the women don't find you handsome, at least they should find you handy."?
Mr Shoes gets a 'green thumbs up" on both counts.
Little does Mr Shoes realize, I like the boardwalk SO much that he will soon be adding on...

July 12... Down my Garden Path NW 

 DIY A 2-Tone Boardwalk Path

1.  To build a charming two-tone boardwalk-style wooden Garden Path like ours, work smart, not hard. Constructed from reclaimed pallet wood, the path is made in 4' sections, which makes the path both versatile & easily reconfigured. Sections also afford ease of access to hoses or pipes, etc laid underneath the path.
2.  To start, choose good, strong, newer pallets with clean boards. Using a power sander, give all the sides & the topside a light sanding til just smooth so that the path is more comfortable for bare feet. You will save yourself a lot of work & cursing by not breaking down the pallets.
3.  Level the ground for path way. Do not skip this step; your boardwalk will not be stable, it will shift & move & it will not look right.
4.  Cover the ground with multiple layers of wet newspaper; cover the newspaper with heavy *paper* (such as cut open stock feedbags), cut & fit to size - this is your weed barrier so don't skimp & don't use plastic because paper will actually work better, longer.
5.  Lay the pallet sections tightly together on top of your weed barrier, customizing where necessary (such as around the vegetable bed) so that the walkway is solid & fits tightly into the space & up against flowerbed edging & raised beds.
6.  At this point I stained the boardwalk with a grey semi-transparent wood stain to match the garden bed & the flowerbed edging.
7.  Now for the fiddly part! With a metal blade on his reciprocating saw, Mr Shoes ripped down some pallets & harvested & sanded the nicest boards.
8.   Painstakingly measuring each gap between the stained boards, he cut each filler board individually to fit. It was a lot more work than sanding the whole pallets but it takes the path from rustic to 4Shoes chic.
9.  When Mr Shoes pronounced the walkway complete, I gave the whole thing 2 coats of water sealer.
*The fence around the garden bed is also made from pallet wood; however, the Strawberry Tower, the flowerbed edging, & the base of the raised bed is not.*
             Mr Shoes says that's a big one. I don't know if it's so big. Do you think it's big? Or is that man-math?              *Update: It's 9" long. 9" is not just man-math - 9" is a BIG one! Yummy yum yum.*

July 12... Cucumber, mesclun, radish & green onion salad was on the menu & the first whole "dish" where all of the ingredients had come out of my own garden! Mr Shoes said it was the tastiest cucumber he'd had in years.
Now that I understand the actual space requirements of cucumbers & zucchinni, I have put in my formal requisition for a second raised bed next year. True understanding, you feel me?
Rather than, say, believing the assurances of a circa 1970's square foot gardening guide, maybe, y'know, just as a "FER instance". Because NOone can grow 2 of each in 4 square feet without a lot of twine & an absolute willingness to wield scissors or shears.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

How to Protect Yourself from a Rapist

 This is a re-blog in the interest of public safety.
~Mrs Shoes
FYI - Through a rapist’s eyes! A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:
1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.
3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.
4] The number one place women are abducted from / attacked at is grocery store parking lots.
5] Number two is office parking lots/garages.
6] Number three is public restrooms.
7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught.
8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it because it will be time-consuming.
9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.
10] Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you’re not worth it.
1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: "Can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter." Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.
2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.
3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.
4] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh - HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.
5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.
6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.
7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.
I know you are smart enough to know these pointers but there will be some, where you will go “hmm I must remember that” After reading forward it to someone you care about, never hurts to be careful in this crazy world we live in.
1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.
2. Learned this from a tourist guide to New Orleans: if a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you…. chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!
3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON’T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS , LEAVE.
 5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:
   a. Be aware: look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side , peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. (DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB) .
   b. If you! u are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
   c. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)
 6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).
7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!
8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.
  Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it and it’s better safe than sorry.

So please re-blog this…. Your one re-blog can Help to spread this information & maybe save one vulnerable woman.

 (Source: itssofluffy-im-gonna-die)

Friday, 10 July 2015

Funnel Cloud is just another name for Tornado

I do not want any part of this shit!
The Weathercasters can call them funnel clouds all they want, but what I hear is TORNADO.
I posted about our recent spate of shite weather - turns out I didn't know the half of it.
We were just lucky that the feeder being struck, flipped & thrown was all the trouble that we really had @ the 4Shoes on Saturday past!
The power in the area was out for 5+ hours due to a lightning strike on a transformer; without power the 4Shoes has no telephone so we were really in the dark (literally). Archaic, you say? I know; most of the time archaic is the way I like it.
Our immediate area recorded 5 1/2 inches of rain in 5 hours; in case you are not sure, that is a lot.
All the neighbours around here with basements were flooded;  they were bailing water out in buckets while Young Boot & I obliviously played marbles by candlelight & scarfed down barbeque-baked pizza.
We also had no idea that 2 1/4 miles from us, a 'funnel cloud' touched down (making it officially a gatdang tornado) & completely took out a row of old maples. I'm kind of glad I didn't know about that; I probably would have crapped my pants.
We do have a tornado shelter (of sorts); it's a dirt-walled root cellar attached to the 100 year old original homestead house across the yard. Yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.
Tornado or no, you are not likely to catch me down there amongst the spiders & the tiny little frogs... If I do see a funnel cloud, I'm much more likely to hide out in the bathtub here in my cozy little decade old home. Besides, the root cellar was probably flooded.
Some of our hay was cut down today; I say 'some' because the ground is too wet to even get at most of it. We had been hoping to dry bale the hay this year, but it may need to be packaged as silage for cattle. *sigh* 
Guess what they've just forecast for the upcoming Sunday?
If you guessed 'rain', you're a winner!