Meandering Thoughts

Meandering Thoughts

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Headin' Home From California

On our California or Bust trip back in 1989, you have read my posts regarding traveling with kids and horses.  Probably also read that we drove an old motor home and the problems we encountered.  Another memory comes to mind on the trip home. 

We had a pretty long day of driving, it was my turn at the wheel and it was after 11 PM.  We had been following the other driver, Doc, in his motor home and since he was leading, he was expected to find the place for our overnight sleep.  When you are out west, these choices are often far between one another.  No rest areas, no campgrounds, and no fairgrounds to be found.  I remember using the CB to tell Doc, "the longer we drive tonight, the later we sleep in the morning."  Hoping this would be enough to advise him that I was very tired!   Still he couldn't find anything. 

In the west an exit off the Interstate might only be an exit to a ranch that you couldn't even see from the highway.  It usually was an exit onto a dirt road that was some one's lane.  Sometimes there would be a big circle that looked as if it were a turn around for trucks before getting back on the Interstate.  It was decided that we would get off at the next exit and "camp" at the end of someones lane and in the circle turn around.

We finally were pulling into such a circle off the interstate and happy to think about sleep.   We "circled the wagons" for the night.   Since Richard and I were hauling an extra horse on the way home (one that had never been in a trailer before).  To give our mare, Trudy a chance to relax, we unloaded her, tied up a hay bag and tied her to the trailer. Trudy was on the inside of our "circled wagons".  This would give both horses space and Trudy was pretty wise, she was fine being tied outside the trailer. 

Everyone soon was into bed and off to dreamland.  When suddenly, out of nowhere, a train went flying by!
It was so loud and so close, I was sure we'd parked our rigs on the tracks!  If we didn't park on the tracks, this train surly went right between our "circled wagons"!  Scared us to death!!!! 

I got up to check our horse, she was happily munching hay, as if nothing at all happened.  So back to bed I went.  If another train passed, we never heard it.  When we awoke the next morning we found that a semi truck driver joined our "circled wagons".  He too needed sleep.  The worse part..... we never heard him come and park his rig.  We must have been tired, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Animals I Grew Up With

When you grow up on a farm as a child, you quickly learn that there are chores to be done every day.  We always had chickens, I loved being in the chicken house.  Watching the hens sit in nest boxes, waiting for a hen to lay an egg.  This was a miracle every time it happened, I never grew tired of this amazing event.  I would gather warm eggs, pet the hens that let me stroke them while they sat and waited for their egg to come.  Some hens would flee from the nest, did they think I was a predator?  They would leave with a squawk and all the hens would be alerted with fear.  Soon things would settle down and I'd go back to the chores of the hen house.  I had to feed and clean the water container and gather eggs.  It may have taken hours some days...........

We also had rabbits.  I loved those rabbits, they were soft to touch.  Their ears were very expressive.  Some rabbits loved to be petted and others were wild.  We got our first rabbit for Easter from my Grandmother Rankin in 1957.   It was a white rabbit and we soon got a black rabbit.  As you might imagine then we started having baby bunnies.  Colorful baby bunnies.....   I named one Freckles, he was a favorite.  We had to feed and water rabbits and in the summer time I gathered greens for them to eat in the cages.  One summer we had 52 baby bunnies!   My Dad was very inventive and he made a run for them in front of a hog house and they could eat grass.  This box was moved every few days. 

One day the bunnies discovered a hole and all escaped.  They were running everywhere.  Hiding in the garden, in the corn field or just out in the open.  We captured all but two of these rabbits.  Summer passed, and school started.  We were walking to the bus, down our long lane and saw the biggest rabbit we'd ever seen sitting on the lane.  He quickly went into the tile under our gravel driveway.  Knowing his hiding place made it easy to catch him, a burlap bag at one end and our little hunter dog, Teddie, sent into the open end.  We caught that rabbit, he was almost 20 pounds and very wild.

We often had baby pigs we bottle fed and raised.  Sometimes even a lamb would need to be bottle fed.  I remember our little dog Teddy and later there were other dogs.  Teddy was our first, he was all white and little and loved to hunt rodents.  But he thought chickens were rodents too and so he didn't get to run free like our dogs today.  I loved that little dog.

As I sit here thinking about the animals that were in my childhood, I also think about the responsibility that came with these critters.  My brother, Brian, my sister, Margaret and I learned to be responsible for the care of these animals.  We did it every day, rain or shine, winter or summer, no excuses.  It was expected.  I think kids today need to learn these same lessons.  Chores teach responsibility, something we all need to learn as we grow up and become responsibile adults.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Summer Evenings

When we were kids, I'm thinking it was before high school age.  Maybe we were in the pre-teen stage.   My brother and sister and I discovered our neighbors, they lived across the road.  We were all in 4-H and they showed dairy cattle.  Many evenings were spent watching them work with the animals, teaching them to walk with a halter on, to stand quietly while there feet were put in a precise place under themselves to look the most level and attractive to the judge.  Our County Fair was the biggest event of the summer, it always came the last week of July and into the first week of August.

Many nights after they finished working with the cattle, we'd get a good game of softball going.  It was usually at their house.  Living in the woods made it hard to have games at our house.  They had a great yard and it was three against three.  Sometimes it would be girls against boys and other times it would be family against family or we'd just mix it up.  I am sure we had our disputes, but it was always fun and we'd play until it was too dark to see the ball. 

Then we'd play hide and seek in the dark!  Oh my gosh, this was always so much fun.  Running around in the dark to keep from being found.  Hiding places were bushes or behind trees.   We always tried to get to base without being caught.  It seemed to go on for hours.    Those fun evenings of freedom, play and laughing, were certainly a highlight of summer. 

We'd always leave feeling good, talking and laughing as we rode our bikes home in the dark.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rhythm of Life

Have you seen the movie "August Rush"? It so beautifully explains that every sound is a rhythm. Everything has a beat, the beat of life is everywhere. Today I heard a beat that brings back a childhood memory.

I was taking a break, as I often do, not always because I especially tired, but more because I want to daydream a little. This little break found me swinging in the hammock on a summer day in August. I closed my eyes and listened, just listened to the songs of the afternoon. I could hear the hummingbirds in the flowers nearby, not only could I hear their wings fluttering, I could hear their chatter with each other. Not far away I heard my horses running to the barn, they are particularly bothered by those big black horseflies and run for cover. Then there was the gentle breeze that rustles the leaves above me, one of those big trees is holding my hammock off the ground.

Far off and very subtlety I heard the rhythm from my childhood. It was the sound of a piece of farm equipment........ a baler. At this time of year I know they are baling hay somewhere near our home. A baler picks up hay from rows on the ground, feeds it into a "stuffer" and compacts it into neat and tidy bales of hay that have string or wire holding them together. The stuffer has a rhythm, a beat that keeps time with the hay moving through the system. I have loved that sound all my life.

I grew up on a farm in Cedarville, Ohio. When summer came my brother and sister and I were often placed on a blanket with a few toys for entertainment. We were expected to stay on or around that blanket while my Mother drove the tractor and baler with a wagon attached, my Dad would then grab the hay (or straw) bales and stack them neatly on the wagon. I don't remember my age at the time but certainly old enough to know the rules! Stay on the blanket.

I remember sometimes laying on that blanket in the shade of the trees that bordered the field, watching the big fluffy clouds drift off in the blue sky. Remember "seeing" animals in those clouds? All the while the rhythm of the baler sang it's song, sometimes softly as it traveled away to the other end of the field. And then as it got closer the sound became greater again. A song with which your heart found the beat and kept time with the baler.

I miss the old way of doing things on the farm, that makes me sound old. The machines to farm with were smaller, fields had fence lines with trees and grasses for critters to hide and nest. I have seen farm fields opened up with big bulldozers removing trees and all other life from those fence lines, all for the sake of planting a few more acres. Removing life as if it means nothing to anyone or anything. Removing the living rhythm of another kind from it's place on Mother Earth. Because of "advancements" in farming we lost wooden fencepost's that woodpeckers made holes in and bluebirds and tree swallows later made nest in those holes. Folks complain they don't see pheasants and rabbits like they use to, those fencing's made perfect cover for critters as they ran away from farm machinery. It has change the rhythm of their life.

I think of all these things while I lay in my hammock today............. daydreaming and listening to the rhythm of a baler singing a song from my childhood.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Playing at Home, back in the day

Of course by know you know, I'm of the older generation.  Things were different when I was a kid.  I grew up in the country, actually back a long lane and in a woods.  We didn't have computers, or electronic games, heck, we had a little black and white TV that you had to get up and turn the channels.  There were maybe two or three channels.  Saturday mornings we got to watch some shows.  I also remember watching the Mickey Mouse Club. 

Mostly we spent our time playing outside. With three of us there were always ideas of things to do.   Because we had the long lane, we rode our bikes a lot.  We pretended they were our horses.  Even tied our bikes to trees so they wouldn't "get away".  We had horse names for our bikes too. 

We lived in a big woods, although today it might look smaller, our perspective changes when we grow up.
There were all kinds of things to do in the woods, we hiked around and explored the little creek.  Watch "things" move in the water, floated leaves and bark like boats.  We loved climbing the trees and just hang out awhile, another change in perspective, being up high. 

Sometimes we hiked out of the woods into foreign fields, as we got older, we explored further.  I don't ever remember anyone asking what we were doing or where had we been.   We always come home for the next meal, so I guess our parents didn't worry.  Could we do that today?   I guess if I still lived in that woods, it would be okay. 

We had a tree house and an amazing teeter totter that not only went up and down but around.  Our Dad built that for us, it had tractor seats on the end.  We also had a giant swing that hung on a branch of a tall oak tree.  The seat was wooden and could hold two little kids at the same time.  Hours I spent swinging.  We could easily stand on the seat and get going really good and then sit and enjoy the ride. 

Summers seemed to last forever, what happened to them lasting forever?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Leaves of Fall

Having grown up in a woods the leaves fell on the ground like a great heavy blanket.  As kids we were the ones who got to rake the leaves.  You have to understand, living in a woods means LOTS of leaves.  At first raking the leaves down the hill towards the other part of the woods was easy.  A row would be started and the three of us would continue to push it down hill.  It didn't take long to have a row of leaves that was knee deep and we were only half way finished!  They became heavier and harder to move with every yard of leaves we picked up.  They were no longer fluffy and light, these leaves were now broken and heavy.  We were easily distracted at this point and started playing around.  Maybe, we'd pretend it was a fence, meant to keep the horses in, but before long the horses (us) would be jumping the fence of leaves and running wild around the woods.  Our parents would remind us that supper would be waiting when we finished moving the leaves.  Again, we'd work on getting them down that hill to the edge of our path to the chicken house. Hours would pass since this job began.......  we were tired and hungry and we'd find ourselves resting in the leaves as if it were our beds.  The smell of those leaves is like nothing else, earthy and rich.  Getting finished was ever so hard.  If we were trying to beat a rain it was even worse.  You can't rake wet leaves.  We'd go inside and know that those leaves still had to be moved and now they were in a pile, a wet pile of leaves. 

We also raked leaves on the west side of the house.  This side of the house was not as difficult, fewer trees maybe.  We also raked these to the driveway and piled them high and burnt them.  We could do this side of the house in just a few short hours.  When we finished we'd jump in the leaves on the driveway, we jump over them to see who could jump the highest.  We'd hide in the leaves too.  But what I remember most was burning these leaves.  If you want to be sure fall is here, just smell burning leaves.  Of course, I know that you aren't suppose to burn leaves now, it is bad for the environment.  But just a little pile, just to smell that burning leaf smell again? 

To this day raking leaves is my least favorite job.  Sometimes I will do it and sometime I won't.  It never seems to matter now.   I don't live in a woods, although trees shade my house.  I don't have neighbors that complain that my leaves are blowing in their yard.  It always seems that come spring the leaves are gone, they have blown this way and that way, no longer a blanket on the grass.  The older I get the less I care.  We have many different ways of moving big piles now, I'll put them on a tarp and pull them with the four wheeler to the horse pasture.  Usually they are subject to escape on the way, leaving a little trail of leaves.
Like I said before, I really don't care anymore.  Richard also has a great leaf blower, his joy in life is finding "toys" to make work easier.  He will use this around the house to aid in raking, again I am the one who rakes.  For the most part I just rather let Mother Nature move the leaves in her own time.  It always seems to work out fine.  I perfer to sit and watch the leaves fall and know I don't have to rake them if I don't want to.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall is Coming

In the spring, I am eagerly looking for each new sign that spring is approaching.  I love watching the forest floor start to get green, and then the low bushes begin to sprout leaves, before long the forest trees leaf out and things begin to bloom and all is bright and new.

When fall comes I also notice the little changes, with much less eagerness.  I try not to notice the cooler nights and the poison ivy that is climbing the trees has turned scarlet red.  The sugar maples are turning yellow and orange, flowers are getting leggy and my horses are growing winter coats.  I'm not ready for summer to end, I long for more time to sit on the studio porch playing my flutes.  I love an afternoon nap in the hammock and the songs of the birds that live near our house. 

I've noticed the geese are strengthening their wings for a flight south, blackbirds gathering in small flocks now, later they will be giant migrating flocks.  I've seen woolly worms crossing the road, I try to remember what their color markings are suppose to tell us about the coming winter.  The milkweed and Queen Anne's lace is pretty much finished for the season.  Acorns are falling from my beautiful old oak tree and the bittersweet is beginning to berry.  These are just a few little signs....... they will become more dramatic as we move into October.  The trees will look like patchwork quilts and days are delightfully warm and the nights cool.  Air conditioning is turned off and windows opened.  We'll again be able to hear the owls hooting and coyotes howling, the crickets will sing us to sleep. 

All too soon I will be seeing the small signs that winter is coming.  Each season is necessary, needed and even wanted.   I am reminded to live each moment with joyfulness and gratitude.  Every season is a Blessing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Hilly Cow Pasture

Just the funniest horse story I have when it comes to conditioning horses in the Hilly Cow Pasture.  Although my friend still doesn't find the humor in it that I do!  Just thinking about this event, I am bursting with laughter.

My dear friend, hummm, should she remain nameless in this story, even when I plan to post a picture? Oh dear, do I have to get permission before posting this story or picture?  I'm sure I'll be hearing from my "dear friend" after putting this out there!

The two of us decided to head to the Hilly Cow Pasture for a conditioning ride on our horses one sunny summer afternoon.  For obvious reasons we named this pasture, first it was somewhat hilly and secondly there were cows pastured there.  Living in a rather flat area, this cow pasture was the closest thing we had to give the horses a little stress in their heart rates and hopefully help them to deal with a ride that was considered hilly.  We would race up and down the hillside from one end to the other.  Usually my horse led and the other horse followed. For some reason this day she is riding my horse, I don't know who I was riding.  It was very much like riding a single file trail and we even mowed the trail to ensure we stayed away from groundhog holes or other obstacles.

This particular day we were doing our thing and I hear my "dear friend" yelling something behind me.  When I turned around to see what she was yelling about, I was stunned and hardly recognized my friend or her horse.  It seems that my horse threw warm, thick, smelly cow paddies onto my friend as we raced up the hill.  I almost fell off my horse laughing at the site of them splattered in green slimy cow manure.  I'm not sure my "dear friend" ever got the pants clean, it would have been a major grass stain.  As you can see from the picture it was also on her face and shirt, the horse was also pretty well covered. 

Every once in while, my "dear friend" and I will get together and talk about our riding adventures.  I'm not sure she thinks this story is as funny as I do!! 

The Outhouse

The house I grew up in was built by my Father.  It was built back a long lane and in a woods.  When we first lived in the house it was just the basement with the backside open to a patio area.  For a long time that patio was made of big flat limestone slabs, a look that is very popular today in fact.  Sometime years later it became a concrete patio.  Nice for skates!

What I remember most was having to walk to the Outhouse.  We didn't have a indoor bathroom for several years, although I can't say how many.  It was a long walk after dark before bed.  It was a cold walk in the winter.  I remember being the one that had to take my little sister down if she need to go in the middle of the night.  This made sense because we share a bedroom and a double bed.   No way I could not take her!  The Outhouse was made of wavey roofing tin, nothing fancy, two holes, one bigger than the other.  There was always some reading material, I'm pretty sure it was for reading.

My Dad was a bit of a prankster and I remember the time my Grandmother came for a visit.  My Father thought it would be fun to shoot birdshot at the metal outhouse while my Grandmother was inside.  I can say for sure my Grandmother wasn't in there very long!  She was so mad at him!  Of course, it became one of those stories they liked to tell years later.  I think everyone laughed even my Grandmother.

Friday, September 18, 2009

California or Bust, Part Two

I remember on this trip to California our son Ryan was then sixteen.  He was pretty capable and had grown up doing farm things, this would include driving equipment.  When the driver of the other motor home, Doc, called us on the CB as we were driving in 6 lanes of traffic going through Salt Lake City, Utah and told me Ryan was driving his motor home, I nearly had a heart attack!  I didn't even want to watch driving  through Salt Lake City!  Ryan did a great job and he didn't seem phased.  

Traveling in motor homes is pretty fun, thankfully gas was still cheap then.  I'm sure we didn't get more than 10 miles to the gallon with that big old motor home we drove.   The trip was not without motor home problems.  We camped one night in Cheyenne, Wyoming at a county fairgrounds.  The next morning the motor home wouldn't start.   I don't recall why, but they fixed it and we were off with just a few hours delay.

Out west fairgrounds are perfect places to stay when you are hauling horses.  Horses are unloaded, moved around and they can relax without being in a trailer.   There were nights we also stayed in Rest Areas, mostly Iowa east.  Fairgrounds aren't as friendly in the mid-west.  Afraid of transient horses contaminating their race horses I suppose.   Today you can subscribe to a catalog of host homes across the US that are horse friendly for over night stays.

We had another serious breakdown on the way home with our motor home.  We were out in the middle of Nevada.   We were out there with our horses to do a ride at a place called Soldiers Meadows.  There was nothing but desert, wild horses, rattle snakes and supposedly a trail!  But that is another story. This ride was 50 miles from the last "town" which had a service station and a cafe, and maybe a house or two. This particular ride was 5day/50 miles each day.  Our friend wanted to ride 3 days of the 5day ride, I started the first day and had to come back, my horse was having metabolic problems.  So we (our motor home family) decided to move our "camp" to Reno, Nevada and have a little fun while our friend, Doc, was riding two more days.  We loaded everything up and the motor home wouldn't start!  Having no idea what the problems was there was only one thing to do, go back to "town" and talk with the service man.  Richard managed to get someone to take him back to Gerlock, he talked with the service man about the possibilities and came back.  It took three hours to travel that 50 miles one way!  The service man said he had no intention of coming out to look at our motor home!  All the suggestions he offered were not changing the problem, the motor home would not start.  We were ready to leave it and call it our summer home!

Doc made the decision not to ride the third day.  So this time he packed up camp, we all got into his motor home and made the trip back to Gerlock and the service man.  Meanwhile our rig, Ryan and my horse standing in Soldiers Meadows with the hope someone would be coming back.  The Service man took pity on our crusty crew, but would do nothing until he had breakfast.  He and Richard raided his junkyard and picked up parts and then went back to the motor home.  The rest of us headed to Reno and showers!  I now can't believe that we left them with the faith that all would be well and they would catch up with us in Reno!  We had to call the service station to let Richard know where we were staying in Reno, just in case they actually got the motor home going again.  I still can't believe we just left them,  but, that is what happened, the motor home was fixed by this man in Gerlock and many hours later we were all reunited at a casino in Reno.

I remember walking into this fancy looking casino, dusty and crusty.  All of us carrying our clothes in pillowcases from the motor home to our rooms.  The horses were at a stable nearby and we regrouped for a couple days before heading back toward Ohio. 

Other than the gas lines vapor locking as we went over the mountains into California, things went pretty smoothly with the old motor home.  We only had two trailer problems, one was a wheel bearing problem, that was "fixed" temporarily by tying a rope to the axle and taking it over the trailer to the other side to hold it up until we could drive to a place to get it fixed. The other problem could have been major, Doc's two horse trailer started coming apart at the seams from all the road vibrations.   We crossed our fingers it would make it home without littering the highway with parts falling off.  We lucked out, it got home with no parts lost.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

California or Bust, part one

We decided to go to California, a family vacation with horses.  Well, they are part of the family.  We drove the big old motor home and pulled a 16ft. horse trailer.  We took two horses, four kids and all the stuff you need to care for horses and kids for a month.  We traveled with a friend who also had a motor home and a two horse trailer, he was hauling one horse and bringing home two.  His son was also with him.  Total three horses (four horses coming home), five kids and three adults.  Sound fun?

We would stop at rest areas and unload horses, move them around a little and water them and then load them back up again.  Having the horses out was a little frightening, we were so close to interstate highways.  Our friend always allowed his 11 year old to hold his horse, this made me very nervous, I know how quickly things can happen to startle a horse.  So at one rest stop, for some reason, I got to hold this horse.  She was very relaxed and actually laid down to roll in the grass.  When she stood up and shook off I realized the lead strap was over her head.  I let go to reach up and pull it down.  She knew the instant I let go of that lead and took off running!!!  Away from all of us, just strutting around like she owned the world!  I kept saying to the other two holding horses, "hang on and don't let them go with her."  Horses are herd animals and if one is having fun, they will all want to have fun.  Beni (the loose horse) grazed and pranced and grazed some more.  No one could chase her, it would cause her to run more.  So we stood quietly watching.  As quickly as she left, she came back to us.  It probably only took few minutes for all of this to happen.  I have to say it seemed like a lifetime!!!!!   In fact, she was back with all of us before her owner came to join us.  I never questioned the 11 year old holding her again, he did a better job that I did holding that horse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remembering Patrick Swayze

I am sad at the passing of Patrick Swayze.  His movies are watched over and over in our house.  Ghost and Dirty Dancing were certainly favorites.  The first time I ever saw Patrick Swayze was in the TV series North and South.  He just stood out in that epic series.  Three years after this TV epic, my daughter Emily and I had a brief encounter with Patrick Swayze.

Emily was in sixth grade.  I took her out of school to spend a day at the Kentucky Horse Park.  We went to the Egyptian Extravaganza.  For you non horse readers, this is a major Arabian Horse Event.  There were several of us that went to this horse show and one friend was an outstanding horsewoman from Germany.  She had many connections in the Arabian horse world and this was a chance to see many beautiful horses. 

As we sat in on one of the Arabian halter classes, Emily nudges me and says, "isn't that Patrick Swayze down there?"  Sure enough it was.  My German friend was also having a lot to say, but in German.  I thought she might also have recognized Patrick Swayze showing a young horse.  No, she was looking at the same person Emily and I were watching, but she was upset that this man was in a show ring with gum in his mouth!  I said, "but that is Patrick Swayze!".   Did not matter to her who he was, he was chewing gum and that was unacceptable in the show ring.  At least she thought so.   By the way, Patrick won the class.

He was an avid horseman.  I remember seeing a poster of him and a beautiful horse standing in front of him.  Patrick's arms were outstretched, going from head to tail of the horse, profile of Patrick's face.  Oh, and he also had his shirt off........   a beautiful picture of man and horse.

We saw Patrick throughout the day at this event.  People didn't bother him, he was just like the rest of us, enjoying horses.  That evening a special Egyptian Stallion parade was the last event of the day.  Patrick Swayze pranced along side this beautiful stallion, making the horse strut his stuff.  After he finished showing this stallion, Patrick made an exit at the gate were were watching from.  As he passed us he stopped and talked to several people.  I got Emily to go near him so I could take their picture together, he was kind enough to shake her hand and talk with her while I took a video picture.  He truly was very kind and respectful of this shy little girl.  It was a moment we both will always remember with a smile.

I am glad he is free of pain now and I am sure he is somewhere riding a beautiful Arabian horse.  His light will shine on in our hearts.

Part two - September 2009

I did seem to have such a dilemma on my mind about what to do with the 10 acre pasture where the horses graze and the butterflies flutter.  It had grown all summer, providing cover for ground birds to nest, mice I am sure were thriving, rabbits could munch and hide from predators.

Do we mow the pasture?  Do we leave it looking a little untidy?   If we "bush hog" it to mow, it will not look tidy but eventually it would all breakdown and by spring look good again.  If we don't mow and leave it over winter it will look much like someone who got up in the morning and never brushed their hair.  It would become a tangle of grown up, mature plant life, with next year's grown intermingled.  If allowed to go back to the wild, you would most certainly start seeing little trees popping up.  It would no longer be a horse pasture.  Well, all of that is pretty extreme, it wouldn't happen for years............  but I still didn't know just what the answer was.

It was suggested to leave a strip of the summer growth for all the wildlife I'd like to nurture and cut the rest.
Hummm, that is certainly an excellent idea.  But when do we mow the rest?  That was the question that I "put out there".  Out of the blue my neighbor came to the rescue.  He called and ask if he could mow the pasture for hay to feed his cows.  Can you imagine my joy?  It was difficult to explain leaving a wide strip of the summer growth for the butterflies to a farmer who plants so close to my blue bird boxes that I can no longer check them. 
Our pasture has be mowed and baled, it looks nice and a little naked right now.  And I have toured the strip of pasture not mowed.  The butterflies are even more evident than before.  All is good in the horse/butterfly pasture.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recess at School

Ever watch kids play?  Just sitting back and watch how they work through things without being told what to do or how to do it.  They come up with their own ways of solving problems, adjusting where necessary and usually making it fair for each other.

I think about recess at school when I was a kid.  Oh my gosh, we had sooooooo much fun!  The swings were tall, allowing us to go high, we'd race to see who could go higher than the other.  And the teeter totters were so much fun. Oh, and I remember the "merry go round" and the "ocean wave".  The merry go round was a spinning thing that you'd ride standing on top of a platform that went around and around.  You rode until you were dizzy.  The ocean wave was my favorite.  You had to be a bigger kid to ride this, mostly because it was tall.  It was a circle frame that sat on the top of a pole, when you grabbed one side the other side went up in the air, it also went around in a circle.  You always had to balance sides with riders.  When a new person would jump on as it was going around,  the other side would be flung into the air your feet would go off the ground. The blisters we got from riding this ocean wave!   Oh, what a thrill this play equipment was!!!!  Of course there were monkey bars and great long slides too.  Were did they all go? 

I remember all the girls carried their jump ropes to school.  We jumped rope for entire recesses, saying little rhymes and taking turns turning the end and turns jumping.   There would be a long line of girls jumping in on one side of the rope, singing a rhyme and then going out the other side, then the next girl would come in.
It was all shared and fair.   We played that way because we learned if we didn't people wouldn't play with us.  Plus there were always boys playing baseball, they hardly ever let the girls play...... dumb boys!  We also had races and hula hoops.   I remember in first and second grade playing in a sandbox with trucks and stuff.

Today they have "safe" playground structures.  When ask once if I'd donate to the building of one of these playground structures with mulched tire bits on the ground for safer falls.  I said I could not support such a  venture.  When ask why, I ask them why build this when the recesses are all being eliminated?  Who will play on it?

Today and even when my children where in elementary school, they started taking recess away.  Why?  I questioned this to the principal.  Oh, they need more classroom time to get everything done was the answer I got.  Don't they understand the playground is as much a learning experience as sitting in a classroom?  It is teaching social skills they can't learn sitting behind a desk and being dictated to.  They don't learn to entertain themselves when everything has to be planned and organized.  Let the kids figure out what they want to do and with who they want to do it with.   Let the kids be allowed to run and jump and swing and play ball.  Let them yell and laugh and have fun.

We are raising a generation of little people that don't know how to entertain themselves.  They don't know how to play.  It makes me really sad for those kids.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Last evening the sky looked strange, it had been cloudy and we knew it could rain, but this sky was a strange light.  It seemed to be a dirty pink color.  I always know that something is coming, a change in weather is very near.  It wasn't long before the thunder and lightening began.  Our dog was looking for a place to hide, the wind pick up and soon it was really storming.  This storm was rather fierce, it came from the east, always worse from that direction.  We got almost 2 inches of rain from that storm that only lasted little more than an hour.

I like storms for the most part, I remember as a little kid playing in the rain.  We would run and laugh at the storm that was soaking us to the skin.  I also remember trying to get the hay up before a rain, being caught in the hayfield as the sky empties.  That wasn't as much fun as purposely playing in the rain. 

This summer, my grand daughters Cait and Lizzy, spent the night with me in the tipi.  At 5am I hear this little voice calling for me.  It was Lizzy, she said, "Grandma, there is lightening outside."  Yes, Lizzy, I told her all would be fine.  By this time Cait was awake and I knew we were not going back to sleep.  I really wasn't ready to get up, just a little more sleep.  Instead we got up and went outside to close the tipi flaps. This closes the top of the lodge to keep major rain out.  It still will come in, just where all the poles meet.  They were hoping we were going to the house.  I wasn't ready to leave the lodge just yet.

It wasn't long before the thunder and lightening was upon us.  The thunder was really loud and booming.
The girls and I just talked about things while we lay on our sleeping bags.  The comment that most pleases me came from Cait.  She said, during some major thunder booms, "Grandma, the ground vibrates when it thunders, just like when you feel the drum after you beat on it."  I call this really feeling the heart beat of Mother Earth.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Horse Memory

When I was very young, before the age of 5, we lived in a row of houses in Goes Station, Ohio.  The houses were doubles and we were renting.  It actually was a great place, all of these houses had back yards and a row of old trees in front of the row of houses.  In total there were maybe 5 of these houses.

We lived in the last house.  Being a little girl, I didn't venture far from my own yard.  But one day, clear at the other end, at the last house, a vision came to my eyes.  Someone had come to that house on a white horse.  I watched them for the longest time, they were giving all the little kids that came to see the horse a short ride.  Being very shy then, I slowly got the nerve up to walk all the way to the end house to see that horse.  They were still giving children rides and I waited and waited for them to finish.  When I finally got the nerve to ask for a ride on that beautiful white horse I was told, "The horse is tired and can't give anymore rides."  My heart was broken. 

During my horse career I never refused horse rides to anyone.  Horses don't get tired of giving small children rides.  But the person leading the horse might become tired.  We have always enjoyed the "pony rides" at our house.  I know the joy of sitting on a horse, feeling the horses warmth, being able to see the world from a different height.  It is to be shared with the little ones...........

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hummingbirds in my Gardens

I fear the Hummingbird season is over, it is September and I no longer hear their chatter as they chase one another around our arbor.  The arbor is laden with a giant trumpet vine, this year the blooms have lingered all summer long, even today there are blooms.  Alas, it isn't enough to keep the hummingbirds here, they know they must begin the long journey back to South America. 
They come in the spring, just about the time the coral bells begin to bloom.  These delicate little flowers are going to give the hummers their first nourishment from my gardens.  Did you know that different flowers have different calories?  I think these flowers must have lots of good nectar to greet our little hummingbirds.
I have loved hummingbirds since forever...........  they attract me with their aerial antics.  I have had the distinct honor to actually hold these little birds in my hands.  I told a friend this once and she said to me, "do you know how amazing that is?"  No, I tried to explain, it wasn't amazing at all, the little guy was in distress and I had to help... that is all.  No, she insisted, "people don't just catch hummingbirds!"  That is probably true, so now I know it was a gift to be able to help these birds.
The first couple came into my studio, as I often work with the doors open.  They somehow pop in and can't get back out.  They go to the nearest window and are trapped.  So I quickly scoop them up and offer them their freedom again.  Holding them is like holding a breath of air, a minute of time, or a bit of magic.  Another time one came into the studio, he went to the back window, in a space with boxes of "supplies".  I couldn't find him in the window.  I looked and looked.  Then I heard the fluttering of wings and he had slipped into a cardboard box of gourd pieces.  He would never have found a way out.  I rescued the little guy, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover him, he would have expired in there had I not found him.
Another time my daughter calls me to the house because there is something really big in the window, she thought it was a bee.  It was yet another lost hummingbird that I caught in my hand.  The other one that I captured was even more amazing than these however. 
It was well into November, the hummingbird feeders were still outside, but empty.  I went out the back door and there sat a little hummer near the feeder.  He looked quite dejected.  I walked right over and picked him up in my hand.  Brought him to the house and put him in one of my bird cages.  Some sugar water was made for him and he seemed to make a recovery.  I decided the next day to turn him loose again.  He was on his own journey, I wouldn't stand in his way.  I hope he made it to his home in South America. 

This summer to my delight, I found my second ever hummingbird nest.  Not an easy find!  They are so small.  I had been working in the Faerie Gardens and heard the wings of the hummingbird.  Because the coral bells were there, I thought perhaps I was interfering with a meal.  But a week later the same thing happened and I knew something else was going on.   I sat down just to watch the goings on with this little bird.  And my hunch was right, she went into the leaves of a maple tree and didn't come out.  I soon discovered the nest and her perched in the nest.  Their nests are made from lichen and cobwebs, a masterpiece!   I watched it for some time and then after 3 or 4 weeks I saw the tiniest beaks peeking out of the nest.  There were two baby hummers in that nest.  I would go out just to see what was happening and they grew.  I took friends out to see the nest and we all delighted in the find.  Then one day my grand daughter Cait and I went to look and there in the nest were two hummingbirds sitting at the top of the nest, they were big enough to fledge and indeed did the next day.  But not before I got the pictures you see in this blog.  I have been blessed by the hummingbirds, they are the gift of joy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I know that bluebirds come back and start looking at nest boxes as early as February.  I love bluebirds.  The color of this bird is pure joy.  They are known as the blue bird of happiness.  This works for me, they do make me very happy.  In my blue-birding days, I had a total of 50 bluebird boxes up around the country side.  I started making them in the early 90's.  I also knew to monitor these boxes weekly.  I had notebooks of things to check, nesting material indicated the type of bird trying to build a nest.  Bluebirds and tree swallows will share the same type of box, you might also have chickadee's, wrens, or the dreaded English sparrow!  Those had to be removed..........  English sparrows can nest anywhere, bluebirds and tree swallows have lost their usual habitat because of wooden fence posts not being used any longer.  They seemed to struggle at changing their instinctual nesting sites to another version, until we helped by building boxes.  I would also count the eggs and the date they would hatch and the day they fledged.  Each of my boxes were given a name of a female friend in my life.  I felt numbers were too impersonal and women being the Nester's, deserved nesting box names.  I would ride my three-wheeler around our fields and our neighbors fields checking and repairing boxes into late summer.  Successful bluebirds could have 3 nests a summer, fledgling 3 to 4 babies at each nesting.
I'd like to say the Bluebirds flourished, there were some good years..... but often I would find dead bluebirds in a box with sparrow nesting material built over it when they came in behind the bluebird and killed it for the box.  This always saddened me.  I could pull out a sparrow nest one week and come back to see another newly built nest and 5 eggs laid in a weeks time!  They are aggressive and proficient, finally the female would leave the box, the male would try to attract another mate and it would begin again.
Three springs ago we had early warm weather and the bluebirds began choosing boxes for their nest.  A sudden ice storm and a two week freeze took the lives of many bluebirds.  They couldn't keep warm and couldn't hunt insects during that freezing spring.  The numbers of bluebirds in all of Ohio and states east, south and west were also effected.  We were back to numbers of bluebirds in the 80's...... a major backwards step.  I have had a couple pair coming back now, joyfully I had one nest fledged 2 baby bluebirds. The tree swallows have never returned here.  I no longer monitor boxes, the greed of farmers tilling so close to the fences mean I can no longer get to the boxes.  Some of the fences that had boxes are gone and many of the boxes are old and falling apart.  I leave the project to the next generation and hopefully they well step up.........  they haven't yet.
I have learned that nature takes it's own course, with or without our help.  I do rejoice when I see bluebirds in my yard.  I always say a little prayer for them, hoping they will adjust and thrive so my grand children know the blue birds of happiness too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

September 2009

Well it seems to be that time of year again.  Fall is upon us, it is September.  The summer has gone by too quickly.  I only just got the tipi lodge up it seems, and even though it was late going up, it has be in my horse pasture for a month now. 

Several nights have been spent out there and more to come.  It sits in my horse pasture, it didn't get baled this year for some reason.  With a closer look, I began to notice it come alive with butterflies and dragonflies.  The birds had also used the grasses  for nesting.  Above, the barn swallows circled, catching insects in the air as we passed through.  Queen Anne's lace turned the field white, milkweed flourished, and clover bloomed.  It wasn't mowed like a well manicured yard this year.  Looks kind of "unkept" from the road.  But I know the secrets this field holds in the tangle of growth.  Some would say "it is a weedy field", others know it is a host  of plants for insects to thrive.  I suppose we will mow, after the frost or I could call it a natural prairie and leave it.  I still ponder what to do with my "butterfly pasture" now.  Did the rabbits move in and call it home?  I know there are field mice there, my dogs love hunting for them.  I wish I could decide what to do..........   any ideas?

I did mow out by the tipi today, I noticed the state of the Queen Anne's Lace, it is almost spent.  The milkweed has well eaten leaves that are now turning brown, but the pods ensure a fresh stand for next years pasture.  Butterflies are still flourishing, the field is alive with butterfly wings.  I'm happy we didn't mow this summer.

Tonight is September's full moon.  My good friend, Beth is coming to stay the night in the tipi with me. Under the full moon and with the glow of a campfire inside the lodge, we will talk into the night.  I'm pretty sure we'll hear the owl and probably the coyotes, the crickets are sure to be singing as well.  My dogs will also keep us company.  Jessie the lab is alert for any unusual sounds, running out to check and then coming back in when things are safe once again.  The little dogs snuggle close on these cool nights.  A nights sleep in the tipi is like sleeping nowhere else.  Sweet dreams all, under the light of the moon.

New Red Truck and an Endurance Ride

Richard just purchased a new red truck, a Ford, 4door diesel.  This is his pride and joy.  Often Richard went with us to these ride weekends, he came to enjoy the company of other non riders. Richard has always been willing to help with water buckets and holding a horse while a rider went off to eat something or run to the bathroom.  What a great pit crew he became for all of us!

This weekend he was unable to go.  It was my daughter-in-law, Tere and my friend, Beth and myself.  We were taking the brand new truck to it's first ride, it was only two weeks old.  The ride was in Mohican State Forest, about three hours from home.  The truck pulled the goose-neck trailer with three horses perfectly.  When we arrived to the site of the ride and had to pull the rig into a hayfield.  Sounds simple, but the entrance to the field was just after a curve in the road and when you pulled into the field it was long downward slope.  We circled the trucks and trailers that were already there and came up beside them, facing out.  Perfect spot, not far off the lane-way.  The field was rough as rocks, it was dry and bumpy.  I remember how difficult it was to put electric fence posts in the ground it was that hard.

Camp was set up, horses were happy and eating.  Vetting went well for two of the three horses, mine was slightly lame and not allow to participate.  We visited with friends, had a ride meeting and went to bed.  That is when it happened.  Far off we could hear thunder and soon we could see lightening.  Then the rain began.
It wasn't a gentle summer rain, it was a down pour........  Sometimes when you are inside a tent or trailer it is very pleasant to hear the rain overhead.  Not this night.  The dread of riding wet slippery trails is all you can think about.  Sleep was not easy. 
Getting up to saddle wet, cold horses in the rain is not fun.  Doing a 30 mile ride in the rain is not fun.  You'd think I'd have been glad not to be riding this day, but the truth is all I could do was worry about the riders out there.  What they must be going through.  I found out later that trees fell in the pine forest as they rode the wooded trail. The wind and rain continued the entire time they were riding.  I don't remember who won the ride or even how my two riders did.  I remember the rain, it rained 5 inches in 24 hours.  Not one rig was going to get out of that hayfield without being pulled out by a tractor!  Good grief, I had a brand new truck.......... what was I going to tell Richard when we returned with mud all over his precious truck? 

There was nothing to do but call him, he and Ryan came up that night to oversee the truck and trailer being pulled out the next morning.  I was so glad he came to witnesss this mess in the hayfield.
This event took place May 3 & 4th, 1997.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Traveling with Horses

Competitive and Endurance riding became such a passion in our family that we joined the Ohio Distance Trail Riding Assoc.  This meant if we participated in approved rides and finished the miles of the ride, our distance was computed and at the end of the year awards were given.  If you completed 300 miles on your horse and completed a mandatory ride each year, you could earn a blanket for your horse.

Once you commit to this program, it is like anything else, you must finish.  Rides were scheduled throughout Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.   We found ourselves camping with horses from April thru October. 

To travel with horses for a weekend, usually with all 3 kids and maybe another friend required the ability to
be prepared for anything.  Not only did you need horses and the required tack, you took extra tack because something will always break.  Plus grooming supplies, electrolytes, feed, hay, a million water buckets extra shoes (never know when a horse might lose one) sponges, blankets, fly spray, extra lead straps, halters and hay bags.  Duct tape was always on hand, I once taped a shoe back on to get to a place where a farrier could replace the nails and we could head on down the trail.  I have also see riders use duct tape to hold their on clothes in place, until they could change.

Then you have people things.  Clothes for hot rides, clothes for cold rides and often those were the same rides!  Clothes in case it rained and then one time we even took Arab costumes for a Halloween ride.  In case you are wondering, we rode Arabian Horses, hence the Arab costumes.  Then there were sleeping bags and pillows when we slept in tents or the back of the pick up truck.  We had boots, tennis shoes, and sandals.  Plus food, snacks, firewood, cook-stove, coffee pot, coolers and chairs.  What a production to go camping for a weekend with horses.

When we first started we drove a pickup truck with a shell over the back.  I learned to pull a 16ft stock trailer and I could back it anywhere, as long as a man wasn't giving me directions in the mirror.  If you don't know, men have a secret code for backing they won't share with women.  So give me a women to help me back a trailer, or better just let me do it alone.  I might have to get out to check how far back I will need to go so we have good space for the horses to unload but otherwise I could back a trailer.

As the sport of Endurance and Competitive riding got to be more of a passion, we purchase an huge used motorhome!  I drove this pulling that 16ft stock trailer that would haul 4 horses.  We were "styling"!  This made backing a little more of a challenge because I couldn't even see the trailer behind the motor home unless I had it jackknifed behind me when a man was trying to help me back into a camping spot.  But alas, if I had a woman friend to direct me, all went well!

We once took that motor home to California, hauling 3 horses and all the stuff that goes with them.  We rode a ride in Oakland Hills months before the big Oakland Hills raging fires.  It was the most amazing ride, I still have goosebumps when I remember the mountain views.  When we left California, we headed to Nevada.  A Endurance ride in Soldiers Meadows.......... 50 miles from the nearest anything.  Couldn't even get a radio station.  Dust on those roads never left the inside of the motor home, even after cleaning.  You could move a cushion and still smell the desert dust.  That trip to California was suppose to be a vacation, it turned into an adventure our children will never forget.

Our last mode of transportation was a big FORD diesel, 4door truck and a goose-neck trailer with primitive sleeping quarters in the front, it would haul 3 horses and had a tack room.  We still carried all the previous mentioned stuff, it was just arranged differently.  It worked well and we still have this arrangement, but now my son, Ryan and his wife Tere and Cait and Lizzy take it on weekend camping trips with their horses. 

Traveling with horse is lots of work....... but sooo much fun.

My Kids and Horses

Horses have been in my life since my youth.  My longest break from horses came when my three children were young.  As soon as they were old enough to start riding, I was looking for horses that were safe enough for them to learn to ride.  I remember putting Emily up on a horse and her feet couldn't reach the stirrups, but she stayed on and learned good balance, she was six years old.  Our Jubilee was a great "babysitter" for my youngsters to learn on.

4-H was probably the biggest reason we began to ride Competitive Trail rides.  It was a 4-H project that became totally out of control, much like other passions in my life.  Ryan was twelve the year we joined the Trail Blazers 4-H club.  We rode our first ride at the Caesarscreek Lake horse trails, it was a 20 mile ride and we had to do it in three and half hours, no more than four hours or you start loosing points.  Horses are checked before the ride for soundness, half way through the ride and at the end of the ride.  Points were deducted for any lameness, scratches, or high pulse and respiration's. The main objective was to take care of your horse, finish with a horse that could do it all again!  Our kids learned so much responsibility by taking care of their horses.

The responsibility started long before that 20 mile ride at Caesarcreek.  The horse needed to be conditioned months before the actual 20 mile ride,  That meant riding at least three times a week for an hour or more.  Horses had to be cared for every day.  This is a year round project of responsibility, they learned to groom, clean the horses feet, they learned to keep their tack clean.  They knew how to saddle and bridle their horse.  If the girth wasn't tight enough it wouldn't stay on the horse, if the chin strap broke, their horse wouldn't stop.  If blankets weren't clean it might rub a sore on the horses back.  Everyday the horses needed to be fed and watered.

It wasn't all work.....  we had so much fun riding across the country side, whooping it up, racing on wooded trails, jumping logs across the trail and even crossing water that was sometimes belly deep on our horse.  We often climbed hills that looked like mountains and came back down again. We rode in rain, snow, oppressive heat and humidity.  We got lost, we made lifelong friends, we camped in the back of pickup trucks, in a big old motor home and sometimes in tents.  Our horses camped right beside us, we could hear them munching hay during the night, we could hear them knicker to one another, we could hear them spill a bucket of water and knew we should get up and get them another.  We knew when the hay bags were empty because they started getting bored and getting into trouble with one another.

Campfires, creative cooking, getting up at 5am to start riding at 6am.  Most ride mornings it was dark as we saddled our horse and began to warm up.  Sometimes the fog would be so thick you couldn't see other rigs in the campgrounds.  The energy in the air on ride morning was so contagious, from rider to rider, from horse to horse, from rider to horse.  It was all thrilling and as I write this I remember the excitement and feel my adrenaline pumping.........  Oh, the stories I have to tell...........

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Finding A Horse

Long before I had my own horse I remember my Dad coming home and telling me that he'd found a horse and put it in the cow pasture.  Well he didn't have to mention it again because I was out the door.  I wonder now if he and my Mother were laughing........

This was the most beautiful horse in the whole world............... and it was in our pasture.  It was wearing a halter and easy to catch.  It was a matter of getting on, he was rather tall for a maybe twelve year old to get on.   I found some baling twine and fashioned a bridle by putting the twine in his mouth, crossing it under his chin and using the rest for reins.  Can you imagine how that twine must have felt in his mouth?

Then I managed to get him close enough to something that I could stand on and swing my leg over to be on his back.  It never entered my mind that this horse had maybe never been ridden.  I had a horse and I was going to ride! 

And ride I did, all over the horse pasture.  I was in heaven, this horse was a gift from the Creator, just for me!  I rode until I couldn't, my legs were not used to hanging onto a horse.  The results of that riding were well known to me the next day when I couldn't walk.  The inside thigh muscles were sooooo sore.

I also found out the next day, the owner of that horse claimed him and he was no longer mine to ride.  And I found out he was a trotter from the local race track, home resting for a spell.  Now you know why my legs hurt so bad.  No saddle, riding a trotter that pulls a cart......  I was clueless about these things, but I know I had a horse for a day and loved every minute, even the next day of pain.

Music for the Spirit

Many things I do now feed my Spirit. I am very lucky that I can say this and know how lucky I am. My wonderful husband, Richard, has always allowed me to be me. I have, of course, done things that were expected of me, not always because I wanted to, but then that is a part of life, part of growing up and it is fine. We have three wonderful children and expecting our sixth grandchild.  (Tatum Mary Adeline Reichert arrived August 31, 2009)

I cooked, sewed, helped on the farm, took care of critters and ran kids to 4-H events and to games at school. Loved every moment of those times, wouldn't change a thing. At this time in my life I can enjoy things I never even considered when the children were young.

I am a gourd artist, I have a passion for gourds, love their shape and color, I love the feel and the smell of gourds. I love drawing designs on them, carving them, and painting on them. Each one is special and I take care to give it a unique look from any other before it. Because this gourd passion was taking over my life and there was no longer enough room in the house.  I realized it would be necessary to start selling them. So off to art shows I went, selling my precious gourds. My gourds lead me to another passion. At one particular show, Lilyfest, I was introduced to the sound of the Native American style flute. Right in front of my booth, on a stage, a man played this flute with such haunting emotion, my heart all but burst. It filled me with something I'd never felt before, even today it is hard to describe. I can say for sure it filled something inside of me that I didn't know was empty. I have since heard the same description from someone else........ I know exactly what that means.
As time passed, I became friends with this musician of the Native American style flute. He is also an amazing flute maker. We sometimes found ourselves at the same art shows and yet, I never had the nerve to try a flute. Never learned to read music and cannot carry a tune. I can't chew gum and keep a beat at the same time. I had no plans to embarrass myself by trying to play one of his flutes!

After a couple years I found myself craving more and more of this music. Winter had come and it would be months until I found myself at an art show and hearing the sounds of the beautiful wooden flute. A friend and I decided to attend a local flute circle. Figured I could have a "flute fix" to carry me on until show season again. At that flute circle a student flute was place in my reluctant hands and I was shown how to get the fundamental note and then the scale. I was so hooked!

I immediately put a call out to my flute-maker/musician friend and ask him if he would make my first flute. The flute came and I practiced constantly............ three years have passed, I own six Mark Thunderwalker flutes, his music and flutes have opened up a door in my life that can never be closed. My Spirits soar with this music, need I say more?