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If it's not one thing, it's another

9 December 2009
The lake is FROZEN

There are days that I think the pastoral view of the countryside is actually just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Seriously!!!!  Serene? Not me! I’m ready to blow a gasket after yesterday and today – or a pipe, as seems to be the fashion around Deer Park Farms.

That’s a duck sitting out there!

The edge of the lake

In all my busyness and in Jeffrey’s absence, a HUGE necessity went unnoticed: winterizing.  Yeah. And now, we’re screwed.  Honestly, even if I hadn’t been busy and Jeffrey had been here, neither of us would have done anything.  We’ve never had to prepare a house for winter – let alone 72 freaking acres: winters in Los Angeles just meant 3 days of rain here and there, and temperatures in the low 50s – and a shit ton of complaining from everyone about how incredibly cold it was. Yeah. That ain’t Oregon.  Reality is, neither of us have experience with this climate, so I doubt that we would have done much more than empty the solar panels for the pool heater.

The ground in the field outside the pool house

Re-read that, will you? I said WOULD HAVE emptied the solar panels; which means, we DIDN’T empty the solar panels.  Which means, come spring we’ll be forking out megabucks to fix the now burst solar heater panel.  It’s either that or just try to pretend to enjoy the cold water and have EG freeze while practicing her 4-beat freestyle stroke that’s going to take her to the Olympics. Hey, it’ll toughen her up!
We discovered the burst solar panel pipe after we realized that there was no running water in the house because our well pump had frozen.  After talking with the well pump guys (who are friends with the family who used to live here), we got that problem solved by putting a space heater close to the nipple that connects the indoor reserve tank to the pipe from the well.  Thank GOD the guy knows the place well enough to walk me through that over the phone.
“Do you have a space heater?”
“Yeah. It’s how we keep our daughter’s room warm.”
“Ok, take that out to the pump/utility garage in the pool house.”
“OK. Done.”
“Now plug it into the outlet that you see to the left of the door, under the panel.”
“Ok. Done.”
“Turn it on real low.”
“Go check the water inside.”
“OH WOW!!! CHECK THAT OUT! There’s water!”
Honestly, I feel like such a city girl, and I’m wondering what the HECK I’m doing out here pretending like I’m running a farm!  I talked to our neighbor Maribeth tonight.  Her parents owned DPF before us, and she knows the place inside and out, and has been my savior more than once!
“Did you turn off the valves for the outdoor spigots?”
“Ok. Open the cupboard…….”
Poor lady should be getting a salary for teaching me stupid shit I should already know.
The insanity that ensued today was just ridiculous. We also discovered that one of the sprinklers in the front had a leak, and had frozen and therefore broken.  Victor and I headed to Wilco to buy what we needed.  We had about an hour’s break, and then it got REALLY interesting.
Pain in the ass, but at least it looks cool!

I was downstairs trying to finish an order for 2 sets of place card holders, when I heard Victor’s voice:
“Melissa! We have a problem.”
Now, when Victor says we have a problem, you know it must be bad.  He’s the kind of guy who fixes whatever problem he sees as soon as he sees it; if he needs a part, he just says, “Hey, I don’t have this part; let’s go get it.”  But when he says, “We have a problem” it’s because we have a BIG PROBLEM.
Apparently, a valve in the shop broke and was causing a bit of an issue with water, freezing, and the associated complications that brings – but that wasn’t the big problem.  The issue arose when he went to try to turn off the water in order to FIX the water running out of the valve in the shop.  Turns out, the main shut-off valve to turn water off to the house is also broken – at least we THINK it’s broken.  We may just be turning the wrong shut-off valve.  We called all of our contacts who used to work here, have worked on the plumbing here, or have previously lived here, to see if they knew where to turn off the water to the shop and they all said, “It’s in the flower bed.” SO, CRAP.  It ain’t working.  I was so incredibly fed up with dealing with pipes and water and cold and complications, that I just looked at Victor and said, “We’re not dealing with this tonight.”  He gave me a blank look of complete disbelief, making me feel like even MORE of a city girl in the country, and then muttered something about ice and towels and tomorrow.  Seriously. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this!
Why can’t it warm up? I mean, let’s at least get above 18 degrees, please!
I spent the other part of my day dealing with the other big issue around here: the horses.  They both have been doing great.  Even Frank has settled down a bit; I think he just doesn’t want to move around in the cold!  Getting them drinkable water has been a huge, huge challenge.  Each morning, their waters usually have about an inch of ice covering them, and even after breaking the ice, they don’t want to drink it because it’s just so damn cold!

Cold, but pretty!

I’m worried about them not drinking enough, so every morning I load Ellie Graye into the suburban with her toast, her milk, her egg and her blanket, and tell her that she’s going to be in there a while!  I put a cooler in the back of the ‘Burb in a second larger container, and I fill it with the hottest tap water possible.  I then mix more hot water with their grain and let it soak in to make a nice hot mash for their breakfast.  I fill two more buckets up with hot water, place them in a larger container and then begin the drive over to the barn.

Doesn’t that look appetizing? hee hee
Sounds simple: drive to the barn. Yeah, well, if you have ever tried to drive dozens of gallons of water 1/2 mile over gravel and dirt road you’ll know why it ain’t so easy.  My goal is always to make it to the horse with at least 1/2 of the contents of each bucket. I’ve almost perfected my turns and learned how to navigate the bumps in the road so that I can make it there without losing more than 1/4 of the water!  The drive takes me about 10 minutes, but at least I know my horses will have something to drink!
Tomorrow things change. A lot.  I’m moving them to my neighbors’ barn.  The only other horses there belong to the girl who rents a house on their property, so I’ll pretty much have run of the place.  The owners aren’t “horse people” but rather bought the place because it’s beautiful.  They’re most recently from Southern California (though are ethnically Persian), and decided not to have an equestrian program at the facility.  For me, it’s only a few more minutes walking from where my horses are now, and I’ll have access to an indoor arena and pastures pretty much free-will.  The place is a little funky, and the stalls are tiny, but if I can turn the boys out every day, I think it’ll work for a while.  Most importantly – they have hot water!

that’s Mt. Hood in the background

That’s the indoor arena and indoor stalls

One of the pastures with stalls (cement floors, no stall mats, so the boys can’t stay there!)
I took Farah (our neighbor with the barn) a basket of goodies for the holidays and to as a Thank You for helping us out by letting us use her facility.  She liked it so much, she ordered a few things as a gift for a friend down in Los Angeles.
The candle holders really are cool…

Thankfully, Ellie Graye took a four hour nap today.  Yep. FOUR hours! I actually had a typical mommy moment and got worried enough to go check on her at about hour 3.  She was still breathing, so I just let her sleep as much as she needed to! It took so much stress off having her sleeping rather than awake.  She’s so active now, and communicating so much.  She’s definitely a “spirited” child, and while I love her energy, it can be trying when there are other things that need to be taken care of!

In the middle of all the craziness, I did have a moment where I stopped and just looked at where I was and what I was experiencing.  As I was driving up our driveway at one point, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a coyote.  The coyotes here are so much more robust than the ones that saunter around Los Angeles.  This guy wasn’t shy at all either.  I had time to grab my camera, roll down the window, and get a few photos!
Look how fat he is!

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