Finn… ish

After two tests in the past two days and a full day of rain today, I've been feeling pretty tired. But nothing could deter me from going out to the barn to meet the sheep I'll be showing in late April!

I actually have a ram lamb this year! At first I thought I would be disappointed if I didn't get a ewe, but I have already fallen for this hunk.

He's strong and spirited, just like any unbroken lamb, but he's also kind and somewhat polite. So, I decided to call him "Finn"- that's right, after Huck Finn. I think it suits him well.

Here's to hoping for a fun time and maybe even getting better than last place this year!

almost-april snow showers

This morning while I was running, I noticed a few white specks floating through the air. It actually took a moment for my mind to register that they were snowflakes!!

By the time I rode my bike to school, snow was pelting me in the eyes, and visibility was poor for this lowly cyclist.

I almost felt as if I should be baking gingerbread cookies and sipping hot chocolate. Now I wish it were Christmas again!

Even the cardinal looks a little cold!

cheesy about chicken

Today I made a real dinner. Not to say that Mac 'n Cheese isn't great, but sometimes it's nice to eat food that didn't come out of a box with a packet of powdered cheese.

My mom gave me a country-style cookbook that she didn't really want, and I was lured in by the Chicken Parmesan recipe. It was an easy way to make chicken irresistible! I also made Michael's mom's family rolls. I haven't quite mastered the aesthetic appeal of them yet, but they do taste good, so I think I win anyway.

While it is nice to have a home-cooked dish, I forgot how long it actually takes to do it! I really admire our moms for investing so much time and effort to feed their families throughout all these years.

Speaking of moms, I got a small taste of what it must be like to be one. On Friday night, Lelia and I were entrusted to keep an eye on the pregnant mares. We were up every couple of hours to check on them, so by the time I'd fall asleep, it was time to get up again. Exhausting, but worth it. We are still waiting on the foals to make their grand entrances!

crazy ball

Thursday night, before we gorged ourselves on the delectable cupcakes I talked about in my last post, we decided to get a tiny bit of exercise. Since we only have two catcher's mitts, one person was always left on the sidelines… so you can guess that I was out there taking pictures!

We play a pretty ridiculous-looking game.

Then again, I guess I'm the only one who looks like I'm dancing while throwing the ball.

Lelia and Michael play like normal people.

But I guess it doesn't matter how you play when your friends like you no matter what!

luck o’ the… cupcakes?

Yesterday was Saint Patrick's Day, so it's a bit late for me to wish you a good one. But hey, I hope it was great! Out of the many nationalities that make up my heritage, Irish is one of them, so it is a great time to reflect on where some of my ancestors came from. Almost two years ago, I was lucky enough to actually visit!

This was one of my favorite spots- the breathtaking Aran Islands!

Well, you can't go to Ireland every year, so you'll just have to look at some breathtaking holiday cupcakes instead! The night before we planned on making cupcakes, I found this great idea and made some homemade cake sprinkles for us to use.

Lelia and I made the softest, most decadent chocolate cupcakes ever. Then we covered them in buttercream icing and decorated away.

goofy ganders

Part of *spring* break should definitely include some outdoor activities, don’t you think? Well, we included a trip to the park in our weekly agenda. Too bad it really didn’t feel all that warm and “springy!”

So what do you do at the park on a dreary winter day during spring break? Spy on the waterfowl, of course!

Who, by the way, you are no longer allowed to feed. Environmentally, it makes sense. FUNmentally, it’s just boring. By the way, I have absolutely no idea what kind of bird this guy below is, so if you do, you should educate me!

Since I was taking pictures anyway, I figured I would try to get some good ones of Michael and I together, seeing as we really don’t have very many. My mom did great with the camera, but well… Michael didn’t do so well with the posing! Just look at these goofy faces! I guess that’s one reason I love him, though.

Here is the only serious shot we took…

Honestly, I hope we’re still this goofy in 60 years.

you’ve got to be pulling my…

Shoe?! Nope, and I'm not pulling your leg about that, either.

One of our assignments for the senior-level horse class I'm in is to "pull a shoe". You might think that sounds a little funny, but I'll tell you what- it sure does take a whole lot of pulling! "Taking off" a horse shoe just doesn't do the activity any justice.

Lelia let me come on over to the barn she works at so we could both learn to do this together. Thank goodness for an extremely patient farrier to teach us two crazy girls!

Can you guess what step one of the process is? Well, to pull a horse's shoe, you first need to catch the horse. Bet you never guessed that!

Poor little Spicy had no idea she was about to be subjected to some inexperienced shoe-pullers.

Before you can really start the job, you need to be sure you look the part (or really just protect your legs). Don't let my handsome apron go unnoticed!

The farrier told me that there are two ways to go about the task. The first way was to pop up the clinches (which go through the hoof wall to hold the shoe on) using a "clinch cutter" as a sort of wedge with force from the hammer. It was really hard and I don't think I even made any progress. A professional can get it done in a matter of seconds!

The other method is to file down each clinch using a "rasp", which basically looks like a giant fingernail file that you would NOT want to rub on your skin.

I successfully filed all the clinches! The last part was the actual pulling. I started at the heel and pulled toward the center of her foot, gradually working my way up the shoe on both sides.


 

I never thought holding up that horseshoe at the end would feel so liberating! (Although I'm sure Spicy was glad that her foot was "liberated" from my grasp…) I'm really grateful I had the opportunity to learn this, because realistically, it is something every horse person should know. If you feel inspired to try this after reading my post, please do it with a farrier! I've only done it once and just wanted to share my experience.

home[making] improvement

After many, many attempts at making bread-items, I finally realized that something was amiss: although everything I made tasted as it should, nothing was light and fluffy! Now, I'm not making fun of you if you happen to enjoy dense, heavy-as-a-brick bread. I'm just saying it isn't really my thing.

Not long ago I made some cinnamon-raisin bread… And sadly, it was more like one giant, flat cinnamon roll. The cinnamon at least made it enticing, so it didn't all go to waste. Here you see it before it was baked.

After my sorrowful sobs over my butchered bread, Michael said, "You know, I wonder if you are heating up the water too much." 

BOOM.

Everything made sense. I was actually killing my yeast by putting it in near-boiling water. Oops.

Happily, I've definitely remedied the problem. Look for yourself! (you might also want to laugh at reminisce about how my first pizza ever looked).

horsing around

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to take a field trip to our school's equine research center, where we learned about foaling and neonatal care. I was even more fortunate to be able to go with my best friend Lelia!

We had a very long seminar on how to care for and prepare your mare before she gives birth, how to detect when she's getting close to foaling, and then how to monitor the birth to be sure everything runs smoothly. I don't know if I really have any future in equine reproduction, but it definitely interests me. But who wouldn't love the end result? – a sweet baby foal! If nothing else, it will help me out when we're on foal watch in the middle of the night waiting for a baby.

We also got to perform a milk-calcium test, which is basically just what it sounds like- you milk the mare and measure the calcium level, and the higher it goes, the closer she is to foaling, generally speaking. Of course there mares who just don't follow all the rules!

We also saw an intact placenta. It was both amazing and strange! The most memorable thing had to be its veins- they were HUGE! Thinking about what an important role they have, it only makes sense.

One of the other cool things we saw were these preserved fetuses. They were 50 days old at the time of death, but look how distinguishable they are! You can definitely tell what they would have grown up to be!

And of course, I can't tell you all about horses without any pictures! So here are the two stallions they keep at the farm.

This is "Royal", a big old Hanoverian boy.

And here's "Innkeeper". He's a pretty old boy at the age of 23, but he's one of the last living sons of Secretariat! I practically met a celebrity horse. You're jealous, I know.