2/24/19: New Wonders 

Last week I told you about the 8” ice scraper, which, by the way, went up one dollar, to $19.95, right after the column was published- (maybe because they had a sudden flurry of orders?) But still, for just under twenty bucks, it’s a good deal.  

That site again on Google:     

SSD7500 8-inch snow and ice scraper with D-grip handle

Now, let me frighten you a little. I related that my husband fell on the icy, but snow-covered cement at the bottom of our wooden stairs seconds after he told me to walk very carefully there, and to place each foot straight down so as not to slip. Exactly then, he slipped, fell, and lay flat on his back in the deep snow for about 5 minutes, groaning, in intense pain! Turns out he’d fractured 4 ribs! Four! This should spur folks to eliminate the ice where one walks before disaster happens. Stock up on salt and one of these ice choppers, then park the tools by the door and keep up with weather conditions.  
There is nothing to be done about fractured ribs that aren’t splintered. Simply adapt to the situation, find relief in OTC pain meds, and wait. Doctors have long abandoned rib binding. The body manages just fine without that dubious assistance.  
He’s still working a full schedule, trying not to sneeze, and bearing up fairly well. Ibuprofen has helped. But he’s very careful not to overuse that medication.   

On a more cheery note- I was at the Bay City dog park watching Bryn folic and chatting with a nice fellow who mentioned that his wife “usually takes our dog to this park, but she’s having a riding lesson today, as a slot was open; and so here I am.” 

Riding??? I immediately asked him for details, and he put me onto Sunshine Farms, about ten minutes away. (Ohboyohboy!) Bryn and I made our careful, shivering way to the car to tell Joe. He perked up. “Let’s investigate that place!” (Living away from Traverse City I’ve been unable to ride for the last couple of weeks.  Joe will need my assistance for a while to come, and I’m happy to stay close, but oh, I’ve missed riding.) 

We drove straight there. (This stable, I mused, might offer a good downstate teacher, and maybe even schooled horses. I always welcome a different perspective.) 

The big barn was full of curious equines- at least 25- who poked their heads from their stalls to take us in. The Farm’s owner, operator and seasoned citizen, a petite woman named Robin, who has a wonderful smile, showed us around.  
I took in the special scent of horse barn and leather as we stepped into the connected indoor area, which had fences set at different heights. A teen was practicing her jumping skills atop a handsome mare. Robin, noticing our shivering, led us into the big glass-fronted tack room, where we were enveloped in a blanket of soft, fragrant heat emanating from a very large, glowing bear of a wood stove positioned toward the back of the generous room. Ummmm...!  
Three sleek tabby cats greeted us. I eventually noticed more, nested above very high wooden cupboards in snug, mussed blanket nests. Another oozed out of an overturned box. 
“How many cats live here?” 
She tipped her head to the side, looking pensive. “You know, I actually don’t have any idea.”  
Wow. These sleek mousers were earning their keep, I thought.   

And- in this room, seeing all the tack, I grasped the true measure of this place.  Saddles, bridles, halters, pads, breastplates, martingales, cinches and huge horse blankets were tidily placed just so, and everything was Clean.  
This was the ultimate testimonial to the sort of woman The Boss is.  
I wanted to be part of Sunshine Farms. 

She introduced us to her attractive, cheerful daughter, Nancy, who’s also an expert rider and teacher. (A back room is loaded with award ribbons.) Robin left us to thaw, as she needed to supervise a student, so Nancy took up the conversation. 
“Mom taught me everything I know. She evaluates and teaches the new students and eventually passes them on to me for more advanced training. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and will draw out and polish your best qualities. Plus, we have some darn good hunter-jumpers here- ribbon winners, who are patient with novices!” 

I booked a lesson with Robin for the next day. There’d be 10-degree temps, but I’d never notice-- until I dismounted to discover my feet were frozen. 

Uh-oh... I’d be riding English saddles. Hmmm. Then, that unnerved feeling evolved to ‘Good.’ I must learn to ride with both. English saddles have no pommel or horn to grab, just in case.  
I’ll be ‘in the wind.’  
Yeah, but then I’ll truly learn balance. 

There were more visual delights. A very small, very fat goat stood inside the last stall by the big barn door, where a huge jet-black Percheron lives. (Percherons are enormous, glorious horses that pull heavy carts or beer wagons.) Sir Goat apparently enters any stall he fancies, and the resident horse and he share the hay. (An aside: As I left the stable yesterday that same good-natured Percheron reached out, took my fatly fringed burgundy/gold Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf into his giant mouth and proceed to gather it in! I felt a tug, looked back and realized what was happening. He made small, mischievous noises as he munched, and as I carefully extracted my treasure I found myself laughing so much I could hardly get my breath. 
By the way, the scarf, though a bit damp, still looks splendid after its weird adventure.) 

And then, the next day, another surprise. Frieda, a gorgeous, solidly copper-colored hen with a bright red comb to set it off, also has the run of the place. She’d found herself lowest in the pecking order in the henhouse out back; the other hens had ruthlessly tried to dispatch her, so Robin snatched her up and brought her into the barn. She’s recovered from the attacks and now clucks contentedly while hunting for horse grain, or the remains of chocolate donuts, or tiny bits of sandwich bread that might be sprinkled onto the floor of the central aisle by stable staff during their breaks. 

Chickens are resilient -in every way. For well over half a century I’ve kept a large photo I snipped from Life Magazine in the early 60s of a rooster who had been decapitated- he was to be dinner for the family- but who subsequently ran about for months afterward in the barnyard. The fascinated farmer used an eyedropper to feed him. The photo shows him posing jauntily on a large stump. I’m still full of wonder about that magazine’s most famous photo. 
‘...running about like a chicken with its head cut off...’ has some basis in fact- but for so LONG?  

Anyway, as we led Blake down the big aisle to be saddled we nearly ran over the little copper/red hen. Robin asked Frieda to move aside. She looked up, cocked her head and clucked disapprovingly, before obediently veering away to let us pass.  
Frieda mutters most of the time, maybe to notify these huge horses that she’s underfoot so they won’t inadvertently step on her. She lays eggs (nearly 200 a year!) in the most unlikely places. Staff finds them tucked under horse blankets, or nestled into loose hay, or between a crate’s slats, or plunked between the cleaning crew’s winter coats or boots. 

Yesterday after my lesson, Robin and I unsaddled my ride, a big thoroughbred gelding named Blake. After blanketing him we led him into his stall- and found a perfect light brown egg perched atop his fresh hay ration. Frieda, who’d invited herself in, in his absence, clucked over it, but Blake, not amused, unceremoniously nosed her out. He likes his home to remain unencumbered by bold, brassy visitors. The goat gets his goat, too. (Blake won’t live in any other stall. This particular patch of real estate is all his. And so there.) 
Grinning, Robin slipped the fresh egg into her pocket. 

There is also a quiet, elderly, plump little short-haired dog who sniffs visitors in a desultory way before wandering off. 

Sunshine Farms lives up to its name. Every sort of animal- even the many sparrows who whizz through the barn foraging for grain- is cared about and respected.  
Robin’s unconditionally love for them all is plain to see. She and Nancy have rescued more than a few ‘throwaways’ over the years. Under their tutelage, those grateful horses and ponies have gone on to win important ribbons.   

The special ambience that radiates from their barn will draw me there frequently. And oh, the stories I’ll hear! ...And pass on to you...

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