Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In which a book inspires me, and everything looks nicer with pumpkins

The weather today is wet and blustery, so it's good that we took advantage
of calmer climes last weekend to harvest the pumpkins!

Floofs and gourds

I've always absurdly loved pumpkins, and have been known to pull the truck off the road to photograph pumpkin fields, piles of pumpkins at roadside stands, and even the contents of pumpkin boxes at the grocery store.

The Jack O'Lanterns got huge this year, but many of them stayed green

 I got hooked on growing Giant Pumpkins after reading a teen book:  Squashed  by Joan Bauer.  

Monica's JRT Ripley poses with the largest punk.
Photo by M. Bretherton

The book's plot sounds kind of silly:  a young teen girl would like to have a boyfriend, but she's pretty sure that nobody will ever understand her enthusiasm for growing Giant Pumpkins*

Roll-o-Dex leaves his wheelchair behind for a moment
to enjoy the view from the top of the pumpkin pile.
Photo by M. Bretherton

The reader is pretty sure that Ellie will never find romance too...until she goes to a birthday party and meets a boy obsessed with growing hybrid corn.    Courtship ensues.

Monica's "city punks" 

 It's a cute book, and after reading it, I decided to try growing the enormous variety of my favorite vegetables.

*There's pumpkins, and then there's Giant Pumpkins.
Dill's Atlantic Giant seeds produce the world-breaker squashes
(they are not true pumpkins, but they are truly enormous).  

Some years, the produce is more spectacular than others.  Our first year on the farm, the whole garden was puny, including the "Giant" pumpkins.

This year, we got several truck-loads of big squash!

"The Dawgs," a grunge rock band.  We'll use this as the cover photo
if they ever release an album.

It was handy to have Dex's wheelchair ramp to use as a loading tool!

The medium-sized pumpkins needed two people to move them--
it took all three of us to move the biggest.

Some of the pumpkins were delivered to neighbors.  "Reverse Trick-or-Treating" is one of my favorite games.

My neighbors weren't home when I delivered this, so I
posted the photo on Facebook and tagged them. 

Of course, we didn't give them ALL away!  

A pretty tableau under the maple tree in the front yard...but it's missing something

It's important to keep a few punks here at home, too!

Pretty dogs, pretty pumpkins

Friday, October 17, 2014

In which there's treasure and good news and Fiddle is patient, as always

Fiddle can't believe we're doing it again.

"Didn't you pick enough of those last week?"

But I can't help myself.
View from the mushroom patch

Fee and I went out on a solo ramble to stretch out our brains for a few hours.  This is now officially the "off season," so we can kick back for a few months and relax.

Biggify the photo to see the treasure right in front of the Dragon's ears.
We were also out as a sort of a celebration:  Santa Jim and I met with my surgeon yesterday to discuss the possibility of replacing my remaining (right) hip.

After studying x-rays from last February and April, and comparing them with x-rays taken this week, the surgeon concluded that my right hip isn't changing much.  It shows arthritis, certainly--the same arthritis that has been noted on x-rays for 20+ years.  However, in 8 months, even while my organic hip did more work while my titanium hip healed up, it didn't get worse.

We didn't have to leave the trail to find treasure today!
This indicates that my right hip will probably not crash and burn quickly, the way my left hip did in 2013.

And that was my major fear:  that I would once again go rapidly from comfortably riding 50's to barely able to walk across the parking lot.

It's possible, still.  Most everything is possible.

Jump in my saddle packs, you lovely things

Given what we can see in the pictures, sudden disaster isn't very likely.


"I can't help noticing that you would have more more room
 in your packs if  you emptied out all the horse cookies..."

Which means there is a whole lot more riding in front of me this winter. 

Spring is coming!  Let's go!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In which one of the Usual Suspects smells particularly nice

Today we have a guest blogger!

Betsey at the Bare Bones Endurance ridecamp

Betsey is one of the Usual Suspects, and like so many of us, she is fun, fascinating, and full of information.  In addition to her day-job in the high tech industry, she is working on becoming a Certified Aromatherapist.  We haven't quite got her convinced that she needs to ride endurance, but she definitely helps all of us crazy endurance riders do what we do!

On a training ride with Hana

Betsey has spent her life with animals (dogs, cats, horses, lizards and birds), and currently volunteers as a foster home and a "Fur and Feathers" blogger for the Everett Animal Shelter. 

Betsey's friend and hiking buddy Jasmine, who weighs
less than 10 pounds but knows that she is a big dog

Betsey says:
I have always thought of Essential Oils as kind of “out there.” Since I have a background in science, I needed to understand the science behind how the oils work and why certain oils have the effect they do before I completely bought into the use of them despite the obviously beneficial effect they were having on me.  David Stewart’s “The Chemistry of Essential Oils” is a good reference for anyone who wants to get into the science behind the chemical properties of essential oils and how they work. You need to be sure that the oils you use are pure (no herbicides, pesticides, additives or synthetic oils), and are a therapeutic grade. Oils must be harvested at the right time, distilled correctly, and tested to ensure all of the oil’s compounds are present in the correct percentages for maximum effectiveness. I use Young Living Essential Oils because I believe in their quality control.   

What is the science behind what you do?  How do you know it’s not just a placebo effect that smells nice?
Since you mentioned smell, I will start with that. Fragrances are made up of “odor molecules”. These odor molecules fit into receptor sites in your olfactory membranes and stimulate the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is directly connected to the parts of the brain that control things like heart rate, breathing (very important), memory (remember to breathe), stress levels (remember breathing& heart rate?), and hormones (think thyroid & sertonin). Some essential oils can be ingested (lemon or peppermint in a glass of water) and are absorbed through the stomach. Others are applied topically and are absorbed through the skin. Have you ever handled DMSO and accidentally gotten some on your skin? Suddenly you were tasting it – right? Essential oils work the same way – they have a lipid-soluble structure that is very similar to the structure of our cell membranes, which gives them a unique ability to penetrate the cell membranes and diffuse through the blood and tissues. Because of this, no matter where you apply the oils they will diffuse throughout the body in a matter of minutes.   

How can essential oils help equestrians, specifically endurance riders?  Let's take a few scenarios:
The day before a big event, your riders are squirrelly—their attention is scattered, they aren’t paying attention to details, they show low-level anxiety about the ride.  Any ideas?
Besides a baseball bat?   :-)
My “go-to” oils for this would be Stress-Away (copaiba, cedarwood, lavender, ocotea, vanilla & lime) or Peace & Calming (blue tansy, patchouli, tangerine, orange, ylang ylang) to calm the mind and Peppermint, Lemon, or Clarity (Peppermint, Jasmine, Lemon, Cardamom, Rosemary& others) to help with focus. I would apply the blends topically (neck, temples) as well as having the riders apply the blends or singles to the palms of their hands and breathe them in. This also provides a few minutes of breathing which will help calm them.

The morning of the event, one of your riders is really nervous.  She can’t eat, her hands are a little shaky, and her horse is picking up the tension and making it worse.  Do you have anything to help?
Again, Stress Away or Peace & Calming would be good, although I might try Vetiver (grounding and stabilizing) or Rose (uplifting) topically, and a little ginger, ocotea or peppermint in water or weak tea if her stomach won’t settle. Calming the rider will calm the horse, and the horse will pick up the essential oils through breathing them.
Not a nervous rider...anymore
After 15 miles on a cool, fast trail, a horse and rider team arrives at a vet check. The horse is being a knucklehead and the rider is lame.  The horse is prancing in place, looking around to see the other horses, and not eating and drinking as he should in a vet check.  The rider is weary from dealing with this nitwit horse, and describes moderate muscle cramping in the lower back and shoulders, and discomfort in the muscles and tendons surrounding a previous major surgery site.  This is a 30-minute hold; you still need to vet the horse and get the rider back on top (and avoid prohibited substances for the horse).  Thoughts? 
(AARENE'S NOTE: the "imaginary" lame rider is me, but the knuckleheaded horse is not Fiddle!  This is a theoretical question!!)
NOT a knucklehead
Since I understand lavender is a banned substance (yes, lavender is banned, see the complete list of banned substances HERE), I would lean towards Vetiver (aromatherapy) for the horse. The person walking the horse could use some Vetiver on their wrists or place a drop on the headband or nose band of the horse. Besides the normal advice for the rider – hydration, electrolytes, potassium, protein, sunscreen – I would suggest Aroma Siez for the muscle discomfort, and Deep Relief or Pan Away for the surgery site. For mental clarity, I would use Lemon or Clarity, and En-R-Gee or Valor to support sustained effort.  

Early in the ride, rider’s horse stumbled and hit the ground, and the rider went down too.  The horse is fine, but the rider took an ambulance ride to a nearby hospital, where her face was stitched back up under general anesthesia. She’s back in camp in the late afternoon, with a lot of heavy-duty prescription meds on board, and still very puffy and sore.  She looks at you and asks for help.  What have you got for her?

Ouch - lots of sympathy. You may think this odd, but I would start with her feet. In reflexology, the bottom of the feet are connected to every part of the body. I would start with Valor along the bottom inside edge of the feet (corresponds to the spine), and on the toes and balls of the feet (head, brain, shoulders, lungs & heart). As I noted before, Valor is energetically balancing, and with a trauma the body is knocked out of balance. I would use Frankincense to support the immune system and Trauma Life to support releasing the negative muscle memories from the trauma. All of this work is done on the feet first.
This one isn't a theoretical question.  Notice Patty's bare feet!
Then I would move to the neck and shoulder area, working gently along the spinal column since the rider may have suffered some whiplash effect from the fall. The spinal column is also connected through the nerves to virtually everywhere in the body, so working on the spinal column helps diffuse the oils quickly throughout the body. I would use the same protocol there, also layering some Deep Relief on the neck and shoulders. As a top layer, I would add peppermint since it is cooling. Since the rider should be applying ice and may have other topical products on her around the area of trauma, I would probably not apply oils directly to this area until the following day.     

At the 50-mile finish line, the rider is euphoric, but clearly suffering from DIMR*  (*Distance Induced Mental Retardation).  You know that she still needs to feed her horse and set him up for a restful night, and she also needs to take care of some details around camp before it’s Miller Time.  What might help here?

If she still has good energy, I would suggest a little Lemon, Peppermint, or Clarity to help her gather her scattered thoughts and focus on what still needs to be done. To keep her from crashing, I would suggest an ounce or two of NingXia Red with Peppermint, Lemon and Frankincense.
Betsey trotting out the Dragon at the Jubilee Endurance Ride
Can people contact you to learn more about this?
Absolutely. I can be reached at: or on facebook at Wind Dancer Oils.

If a rider couldn’t afford to spend more than $50 for oils, what products do you think would be most useful?
I would start with the basics: Lavender and Peppermint. I understand that lavender is a prohibited substance to use on your horse. Riders should check to see what other oils may be prohibited. However, the horse will benefit from the rider being calm and from the aromatherapy of the rider using the oils. The next oils I would suggest as she builds her collection are Valor, Lemon, Thieves, and Frankincense. If he or she has a lot of muscle soreness, they may want to get Aroma Siez or Deep Relief as their next oils.

Where can folks learn more? 
There are a lot of resources – the Young Living website has excellent information. Besides Dr. Stewart’s book for the science nerds like me, there are a number of books on aromatherapy and herbals people can look at for reference. Or if they want a real person to talk to, they can contact me.
Betsey's little bag o'magic
Where can they order products?
 I suggest they contact me ( so we can talk about what they are looking for and make sure they are getting what they need in the best (most economical) way possible.  

What else would you like people to know?
Whenever you use a natural product, only your body knows what it needs. You can try one thing& if you don't get the results you want, try something else. Sometimes you have to mix & match to determine what works best for you. Your body will tell you. YL oils and oil-infused products don't cure disease, they strengthen the systems of the body. With the right nutrients/products, the body knows what to do.

There are a few cautions and notes I would add:
  • Citrus oils (such as Lemon) should be used with caution in full sun as they can make the skin more sensitive (think sunburn). For this reason, I tend to use Peppermint more than Lemon.
  • Each person will react differently to the oils. Some oils will be more effective than others, and this can change over time for each person. As with anything new, riders should experiment using the oils at home and during training rides before relying on them during a ride.
  • If your skin reacts (redness, itching or burning) to an oil, use a carrier oil (vegetable oil, coconut oil) to dilute the essential oil and to calm down the area. Do not apply water as that will simply spread the oil over a larger area.
  • Essential Oils can be used on your animals (dogs, horses, even cats) with a few precautions, and can help your horse’s recovery time. Talk to me or to your veterinarian if you are interested in learning more.

Monday, October 13, 2014

In which "time off" does not mean "we stay home"...and it's all about the food

Rest time is important following an endurance ride,
and even more so at the end of the competition season.

But that doesn't mean we stay off the trails!

NOT the cast of "The Walking Dead"

A bunch of riders (and a few civilians) met up at our usual time and place and headed out down the trail with a mission:

Find more mushrooms!

Not this one.  This one is Certain Death.

Why do we do this?
'Cuz Chanterelle's a fun guy (fungi).

Underside of the False Chanterelle / "Certain Death."
Why don't we stay home?
'Cuz there's not much room (mushroom).

Giant Pacific Tree Octopus Egg / "Certain Death"

Totoro's Umbrella / "Certain Death"

Those are the only mushroom jokes I know, courtesy of 13-year-old Henry.

If you know more, the comment box is wide open.

Cow Plop / "Certain Death"

Cartoon Mushroom / "Certain Death"

We found plenty of poison...but we also found food!

Real chanterelle / FOOD!

Fistful of FOOD!

Finding plenty of FOOD.

Less enthused, but still participating.  Cuz hey.  Food!

Megan always wants to know the science of it:
"What trees nearby?  What plants underfoot?
How much light?

Mushroom hunting is a good task to keep us busy while we recover from last weekend's excitement.

Patty no longer looks like a barroom brawler, but she hasn't entirely recovered from her gravity check.  But hey:  she found plenty of FOOD!

The recent rains repopulated some of our newly-discovered treasure spots.

Emerging from the duff: food!

While wandering around, we found more than just mushrooms.  We also found a geocache!

The paper was damp and the pencil was broken, so we didn't sign the log

...and a Doorway.
I walked through and ended up someplace amazing.
Then, I came back.
Roo is learning to be a mushroom hunting dog.  She doesn't approve when we go off-trail, but she has learned to stick close and let us find the path.  And she's always willing to wag her tail when we discover a patch of chanterelles!

Luna is too fragile for long walks now, so she helped me in the garden later.


Jim and I (mostly Jim) are building a permanent Chicken Palace in Garden 2.0

Leveling the ground

Post holes dug, posts not leveled or set yet

While Jim worked on the post-holes, I did some digging of my own:

Monster potato
Our potato crop wasn't nearly as awkward as last year, but the early yields are encouraging.

a peck of potatoes

This potato is dinner for two!
The garden is also still yielding beans for shelling

Duana and Jason brought seeds from Italy for our garden

Combined with corn and chunks of chicken, these beans will make an
awesome soup this week!

And of course, my autumn garden would never be complete without pumpkins.

Giant pumpkins, almost ready for harvest

They are beautiful...and delicious...

The turkeys prefer their Pumpkin Spice Latte without spice...or coffee a lot of things around here this time of year!