Saturday, July 9, 2011

Elements of Tranquility

The yearling fillies, Pinoteia (left) and Tocara, frolic in the summer grass at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

When the East Bluff awakens with green growth and the winds blowing over it become fragrant and pleasurable, it used to be that all the horses of Ravenseyrie would revel in their smorgasbord of grazing and browsing delights. They would for long, bountiful months be virtually on a "self-maintenance" regime--slacking their thirsts in the pond, creek or lake, finding shady groves and breezy knolls, with the pinch of hunger easily satisfied at any time of their own choosing. These relatively gentler periods of the year have provided Kevin and me a much needed respite from the daunting winter feeding chores and with the additional daylight, allowed us to pursue other activities, many of which were carefree and restorative. Though summertime on the island means my studio and gallery are open longer hours and I am much more tired at the end of my shift after catering to tourists from 11am to 5pm, it was always a relief to come home and just unwind any which way the wind might be blowing.

[I should note here that at this time next week the 17th Annual Manitoulin Art Tour will be under way, with Ravenseyrie Studio hosting two guest artists (Xenia Merez and Rua Lupa)...a very busy time, indeed!]

Dee, peers through the corral fence, counting the days until she will once again be free to roam the range.

This year it is very different--there is little time for dawdling along the beach, hiking through the forests for mushrooms or spending long hours immersed in melding into the mellow meanderings of the horses over the lovely landscape. With Animado, Encantara and Segura (awaiting transport to Cheyenne, Wyoming) and Dee, Doll and Jerry (the draft mules lending their calming presence) sequestered in the holding pasture on the southeast side of the house and Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre now in their "attack free" pasture southwest of the house and yard, we now have two separate areas that require certain duties of us. These new responsibilities keep us busy throughout our waking hours, and leave us feeling definitely weary when night falls. How spoiled I had been, when the horses were fewer in number and basically lived as one big happy family with the big wide open spaces available to everyone!

While out picking up some fresh cut grass from the range, I was given this beautiful sunset to admire.

Zorita is due to deliver her foal a little later this summer.

Though we went though a period of stress and chaos this spring and early summer, once the horses were separated into their particular temporary regions, dynamics settled down and as I have been tending to the additional chores, I began to notice within these very labours there were many elements of tranquility. I have taken some photos of those moments, but first, I thought I would share images of the separate spaces we've had to fence in and the extra work this has created.

Here are some scenes from the holding pasture to the southeast of the house:

Uncle he looking wistfully out to the open range?


Animado, a.k.a "Cool Dude" (left) and Encantara

We erected the fences in such a way as to crate a buffer that the horses on either side are not able to make mischief with each other.

In order to lessen the displeasure the "captive" group must feel as they watch from their holding pasture (now over-grazed of course) while their former herd mates still have free roam of all the open grassland areas, Kevin and I feed them green "hay" along with their cured hay, which we spread out over their space five times a day, to mimic the moving around they would do if they could graze in the big wide open. Periodically we also bring them a variety of twigs, bark and herbs that they can choose to supplement their meals with if they need to.

We have a walk-behind sickle-bar mower which Kevin takes out to different areas in the open grassland where the rocks are few and he cuts enough for the day's needs:

Then we each go out at different times of the day to pick up the hay and bring it back to the "Captives":

One of these days, I'm going to document the different grasses growing here and devote an entire journal entry for them and the other plants that the horses savour. These grasses are the life blood of the bluff, I believe!

Animado and Encantara invariably are waiting for me at the gate when I come through with my cartload of summer grasses. Animado even watches when we are out gathering up these grasses and will whinny for us to hurry up! He does the same thing just before dawn--there is no such thing as sleeping in (not that we do this anyhow as all the animals are anxious for their breakfasts at first light). With the extended daylight this time of year, we have morning feed chores completed by 6am. Only then do we head back inside to enjoy our own breakfast.

Kevin picks up manure twice daily from the holding pasture and whistles a tune while he works, because he is building a mountain of "gold", which he will use to improve his market garden. Rich in clay, the soil up here on the bluff is terrific for growing grazing forage, but is shallow and nutrient poor for growing vegetables. We also get very dry in the summer and most of the seasonal water sources up on the table land disappear. In especially droughty years, even our well for the house water runs dry. To offset this, we have a holding tank that Kevin had our neighbor build a special trailer for. Kevin uses his big Kubota tractor to take this water tank down the bluff to the beach and pumps a bit of Lake Huron's chilly water into it and brings it back up the bluff for watering the plants (and flushing the toilet, when our well runs dry.) Since we now are supplying water to two separated groups of horses, Kevin makes this trip to fetch water from the lake twice a week.

Here are some scenes of Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre (the "Amigos") in their separate space:

So far, the Amigos haven't overgrazed their ten acres, and there just might be enough grazing for them to last through the summer. Unfortunately, most of it is further to the west which for certain periods of the day is ruled by swarms of deer flies and mosquitoes. The Amigos prefer to stand in the open near the electric fence, where there is usually a good breeze and they only have to cope with horse flies when the sun is out and there is no wind. At those times, we apply insect repellent on them to help give some relief. I've noticed that the Captives also prefer to stand in a group in the open, rather than go under the shade shelter in their corral. Even the two groups still out on the open range (the Family Band and the Tribe) have been spending more time standing in the open breeze in full sun than going to the forest. I think this may be because this year we have really had a longer and more intense period of mosquitoes, making many of their usual loafing areas in the forest uncomfortable during certain times of the day.

Here the "Amigos" (Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre) on one side of the fence and the "Tribe" (Interessado, Fada, Destemido, Pinoteia, Tocara and Levada) on the otherside are dozing in the sun and swishing at flies on a summer afternoon.

The next assortment of photos I'm including to give you a visual of some of the elements of tranquility that make all the extra work seem like a pleasant gift.

The Family Band
Now consisting of Altamiro, Bella, Belina, Zorita, Esperanda and Altavida

The testosterone levels in Altamiro and his colts seems to have settled down now that spring has yielded to summer and the boys are now all once again gentle and sweet with their herd mates. Here Bella and Altamiro have a soft conversation.

Esperanda and Altavida enjoying some mutual grooming.

Five times Tocara put her leg in my hay cart while I was taking some photos of the Tribe, and five times, I went over to assist her in getting it back out. A silly, unsafe game that she was engaging in, I think!

Finally, Destemido is beginning to slough off his baby fur. How much cooler he will be when this thick pelt finally sheds off!

Tocara and Interessado head out to graze in the misty fields after finishing breakfast oats

Occasionally, Altamiro comes over and lets the Family band mingle a little with the Tribe. Quite a change from all the chaos among the groups this past spring. After Interessado and Silvestre are gelded, we may try turning the Amigos back out with everyone else. I have a feeling the strange attacks made on those guys by Altamiro, Animado and Interessado will not occur once we are back to just one stallion on the loose.



Yours truly


How very consistent is the Sorraia phenotype among Altamiro's offspring! Here, Pinoteia and Tocara look like sisters to the Sorraias in the Vale de Zebro.

The Tribe


Sheri Olson (of Soul of Sorraia) and her friend, Isa Kirk (of Plenty Star Ranch) are scheduled on July 11th to begin their almost coast to coast eastward journey to pick up Animado, Encantara and Segura . This will be a very exciting and emotional time! After the youngsters are on their way, we will turn the mules back out on the range (how relieved they will be!) and a huge bulk of chores will be over. No doubt there will be plenty of summer left to recuperate and engage in some of my favorite carefree pastimes. Until then, the rarefied moments such as you see captured in my photos work their magic, keep me grounded in "the now" and believing that goodness (arising from love) is prevailing.

Himself: Altamiro, in a pensive mood


June said...

thank you for the lovely update! The photos are wonderful, and I'm glad things are settling down a bit.

I have a question for you - what are your feelings about gelding? I ask this not to challenge you, but because the idea makes me feel a bit off, and I'm sure you're a somewhat ambivalent too. Maybe you have some reassuring thoughts for me?!

Lynne Gerard said...

June wrote: "I have a question for you - what are your feelings about gelding?"

Thank you for this question, June--its a hugely important one, and I'd like to devote a separate entry in the Journal of Ravenseyrie for my reply.

I must beg for patience on this, however, as I'm sure not to find a quiet time for it until next week.

I appreciate your consistent reading and your good questions, June.

In the meantime, if you didn't happen to receive notice that there was a new comment posted to the "Ask the Expert" entry this past March, you might want to check it out to read what Paulette from Australia shared after hosting a two week event with Imke down under.

June said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June said...

Thanks, Lynne - I went to look at Paulette's comments on the March entry. I'm jealous! I want Imke to come to Pennsylvania!

I especially liked what Paulette said about "open space." Yesterday evening when I was hanging out with the horses, Bridget wanted to take my arm in her mouth, and despite conveying a bit of nervousness, I tried to relax and go with it (bearing in mind the open space), and it definitely wasn't a bite, or even a nip - it was very soft. So I'm glad I didn't "block" that particular "space" that Bridget wanted to "move" into. A few minutes later, George came up and very delicately pinched my finger with his teeth. I think they're ganging up on me.

(I removed last comment cos of weird grammar mix-up.)