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Summer Rain

Gina McKnightOver the last month or more, our area has experienced torrential rains. As you know, living near a creek, river, or other water sources creates flooding. Thankfully, my family and I are high and dry, even though we live yards away from Monday Creek in southeastern Ohio, near Wayne National Forest. Monday Creek has reached record depths. We watch the flow (without getting too close) in amazement.

Keeping livestock away from the flow is easy enough with higher ground and adequate pastures. However, there are many who are not so fortunate and find their farm animals under water. Sometimes this happens quickly and without warning. When this happens, it can be a terrifying experience for both farmer and animals. Without a disaster plan in place, loss of animals can be detrimental to all.

My AQHA Gelding Charming 'n' Arrogant

According to the US Government, flooding is our #1 disaster. Follow the guidelines here — Make a Plan — to create your own procedures in case flooding happens to you. And don't think it can't happen to you. A few of my neighbors have never experienced flooding. Now, with the incredible rains, their basement, land, driveway, and sometimes home, are underwater! Don't be unprepared!

Keep your animals out of standing water. If you have horses and are in need of finding higher ground, here are a few suggestions:

  • Contact your local Humane Society.
  • Connect with local Horse Rescue who may have extra stables.
  • Call your Farrier and Veterinarian to make sure your horse is not at risk for water-related hoof illnesses.
  • Immunize your horse(s) against West Nile Virus and other diseases.
  • Check your horses(s) daily for rain-rot and fungus.

Sending best wishes from southeastern Ohio.


Gina is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA. You can find more from Gina by visiting her website: www.gmcknight.com.

Photo property of Gina McKnight.

Monday Creek

Gina McKnight

Living in a rural area is fun. If you're lucky to live near a creek, you're lucky enough. Monday Creek flows through our valley; a creek where Indians congregated, settlers cooled off after a hard day's work, and, finally, a scenic spot in my world. The horse pasture is just east of Monday Creek. It brings in the seasonal will-o-the-wisp, a heavy curtain of fog that rolls through the valley.

In the morning, you can walk out the door and see billowing clouds, deep blue skies, and a beautiful horizon. There are no skyscrapers or tall buildings blocking the view. The morning creek smells of loam and dew. A passing deer may stop for a drink, or a swallow may swoop down for a sip. The willows sway and bounce on the water's edge, branches tipping to the ripples.

Fog, Monday Creek, Creek, Ohio

The afternoon brings shade from the water birch and other native flora that line Monday Creek. Water sparkles as the sun hits the surface. When the weather is right, you can take off your shoes and squish your toes into the cool mud. You may find a crawdad, or two, and mammoth fishworms. Sometimes you can see minnows swimming for a spot in the shallows while four-leaf clover and crown vetch grace the creekbank.

The evening creek sings to the rising moon as the night fauna becomes louder. Coyotes and deer begin their ritual of searching for food — always on the move. An owl and peregrine falcon wait patiently for the sun to disappear. It's time to bed down, revere the whisper of the creek and the night creatures.

Each day I breathe fresh air and say hello to Mother Nature. Monday Creek flows through our farm, to the Ohio River, to the great Mississippi River, then to the sea. Monday Creek isn't very wide — maybe 40 feet wide, in some places. It has memories of childhood swimming holes, bath time for horses, skipping stones, or just quiet time listening to the water stream. If you're lucky to live near a creek, you're lucky enough.

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio, USA.

A Valentine Story

Gina McKnight 

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A Valentine Story

There is a lot to be said about wintertime — it’s cold, driving can be a challenge, sledding is fun, ice skating is more fun, and snow angels are the best. But, when you have animals in below-freezing temperatures, the challenge is more real. To be responsible for an animal that is outside in the elements is a daily chore to provide adequate comfort and warmth.

Mac, my gray quarter horse gelding, is an amazing animal. He is kind, considerate, and always willing. Zubedia, my paint mare, is just as amazing. She is happy, content, and ready for anything. Mac and Zubedia are trail buddies, happy to have their stalls close together and upset if they can’t see one another.

I am picky about what I feed my horses. They get the best, high-quality grain, exceptional hay (part alfalfa and meadow grass), are free to come in and out of the barn at all times, with access to rolling pasture and fresh well water. They are loved and receive the very best care.

Several weeks ago, on the coldest day of winter so far, I was putting new bags of grain in the feed bin. The rattle of the feed bags was more than Mac could take. I made the error of not feeding the horses before taking the time unload the new feed. Mac went into a feeding frenzy. The horses were in the corral, waiting to come in.

If you are savvy with animals, you know that you don’t mess with animals and their supper — especially when the temperature is below freezing and it’s all you can do to keep moving to stay warm. In an instance, Mac attacked Zubebia, bitting her on the chest. He nipped her enough to remove the hide, but the skin did not break — no blood, just a raw 3-inch square of hairless hide.

Mac, who is normally collected and calm, was hungry. So hungry, he thought Zubedia would get her grain before he did, so he went to great lengths to make sure that I fed him first. And I did. He got my attention. After a “What did you do, Mac?” chastising, I placed grain in his stall and he enjoyed every mouthful. Then Zubedia came into her stall and I saw her wound, and thought Wow. It was so cold that I knew any ointment would freeze. After talking with my veterinarian, we decided to leave the wound open to the air for several days, and then apply medicinal ointment (Corona is my choice).

Now, several weeks later, Zubedia’s scab has fallen off and she is fine. Her feelings are a little hurt from the incident; she is shy of Mac now and doesn’t get in the way when it’s suppertime.

The picture above was taken before Mac bit Zubedia. I suppose she loved him then, and I suppose she loves him still. They are valentines.

View photos of Mac and Zubedia on instagram. Gina McKnight is an author, freelance writer, and publisher from Ohio USA. gmcknight.com mondaycreekpublishing.com

A Country Thanksgiving

Gina McKnight

Thanksgiving at Monday Creek Stables

It’s almost Thanksgiving and all my neighbors are decorating for Christmas. Seems a little early to me, but with the marketplace full of Christmas items, it’s difficult to avoid the spirit of Christmas. Thanksgiving brings not only holiday decorations, but holiday cookies, party buffets, and seasonal galas. It’s difficult to avoid the pitfalls of enticing and delectable holiday offerings.

There are many tips, tricks, and strategies to avoid temptation. Some are tried and true; others offer nothing but empty resounding words that will not keep you from having an extra piece of grandma’s famous chocolate cream-filled holiday cake.

No matter where you live — city, country, or in-between, we all need to avoid overindulgence. Here are some ideas to help you stay healthy this holiday season.

#1 Decorate your water bottle. Yes, you read that right. Create or purchase a sleeve that fits over an ordinary water bottle that you can carry with you. Place your favorite motivational quotes and pictures on the sleeve to remind you to keep hydrated, while inspiring you to avoid overeating. Keeping hydrated will help you feel full. Decorate the bottle with something seasonal — a small piece of tinsel, or holiday scene — to remind you that the holiday will soon be over, but that extra piece of fruitcake will linger.

#2 Sip. Sip. Sip. Alcohol seems to freely flow around the holidays and it is easy to pack on pounds without overeating; those extra cocktails will gladly give you a hug around your mid-section that lasts until spring. Avoid over-drinking. You don’t have to avoid alcohol completely; in fact socializing is an important part of the holiday experience. Just don’t overdo. Sip your cocktail instead of following the crowd and downing too much holiday cheer. You will thank yourself when swimsuit season arrives. Repeat three times while sipping that holiday margarita, "swimsuit, swimsuit, swimsuit."

#3 Be a vegetarian or vegan in December. OK, so you like meat and you are really tempted by mom’s holiday beef roast. The meaty aroma wafts across the room and is calling out to you. But, stop. You don’t need those extra protein calories. Announce that you are vegan. People will not tempt you to try the hearty meat-fortified casserole dripping with seasoned fat and extra butter. They will respect your new lifestyle and you will not have to worry about those extra calories. After all, you may decide to remain vegan after the holidays.

#4 Tighten that belt. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a tight waistband; you know — the one that makes an unseemly muffin top. We certainly want you to look your best in your holiday attire, but tightening your belt just a little will detour you from the pastry table. A smidgen of being uncomfortable is well worth the calories you will avoid. After the party, when you arrive home, you can remove your belt and feel proud that you did not overindulge.

#5 Stick to the basics. This is really not new advice, just a twist on an old favorite. When filling up your plate, select items that fill you up rather than weigh you down. Choose raw, organic fruits and vegetables. Insist that your fruits and vegetables are from the local farmers market. Oh, that may seem a little snooty, but it’s your health and your body. Maybe you will entice a friend or relative to insist on organic and sustainable food choices. We all need to change the world, one step at a time.

There is a ton of good advice available and, remember, knowledge is power. Dive into all the information you can about staying healthy, not just on the holidays, but all through the year.

From our farmhouse to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio, USA. gmcknight.com

How to Build a Saddle Rack

Gina McKnight 

Every horse owner knows the importance of keeping tack clean, dry and easily accessible. A well-built saddle rack can be just as indispensable as good riding gear. It can hold all of your tack including halters, bridles, and brushes. It can be efficient without taking up a lot of stable space.

To build a sturdy saddle rack of standard size, you will need the following:

Materials

• (1) 24-inch log (pine or poplar), approximately 12 inches in diameter, debarked
• (3) 2-by-4s, 8 feet long
• (3) 1-by-8-inch boards, 8 feet long
• (1) 24-inch dowel pin, 1/2 inch in diameter
• Nails, hammer, saw, square, and marker

Step 1

Saw the log in half, longways. Remove the outer bark to create a smooth surface. This will be the saddle rest. A poplar log is recommended, but any other on-hand wood that is easily debarked can be used. This log can be purchased at a sawmill or from a person cutting and selling firewood.

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Step 2

To make the saddle rack frame, saw four 2-by-4s into the following lengths:

• (2) 12-inch 2-by-4s
• (2) 21-inch 2-by-4s

Nail the 2-by-4s together to make the rack frame as shown. Check the frame with the log to make sure it fits properly. If your log does not fit the frame exactly, shave it down for a perfect fit.

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Step 3

Next, saw four 2-by-4s to 36 inches in length for the saddle rack frame legs. Nail legs to the frame as shown. Trim off excess wood at the top of the legs.

Measure and mark 18 inches from the top of the frame down each leg. This mark will be used for the leg braces that will be assembled in Step 4.

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Step 4

Cut two 2-by-4s approximately 24 inches long for leg braces. Nail braces to legs as shown. Mark and cut the end (front and rear) braces and nail to legs. 

Next, place an 8-inch long 2-by-4 onto the end of the log and nail securely into place.

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Step 5

Cut one 1-by-8-inch board to 36 inches in length and nail vertically to the front of the log as shown. Drill two holes at a 45-degree angle, 1/2 inch in diameter, into the 1-by-8-inch board. Measure and cut two 8-inch dowel pins. Glue dowel pins into the 1/2-inch holes. Let glue dry completely.

 

Cut another 1-by-8-inch board to 30 inches in length and nail vertically to the rear of log. In this board, drill another hole using the same parameters explained above. Cut and glue an 8-inch dowel pin into place. Bridles, halters and lead ropes can find a resting place on these dowel pins, allowing easy accessibility to your tack. 28dsa

Additions

A bottom storage shelf can be added to the lower set of leg braces. This shelf can be used to store brushes and other grooming devices, including shampoo, fly spray, etc.

Your saddle rack is now complete!

A great way to keep your blanket dry after a ride is to place it upside down over your saddle, keeping your saddle clean while drying out your blanket. 

The saddle rack can be sized to fit any saddle — pony saddles, English, Western, etc.

 

Saddle racks can protect your riding equipment from dampness, dirt, and grime. Remember to always keep your tack in good condition and clean it often! Happy Trails!

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Keep the Faith

Gina McKnight15895413_1362135110484754_7293310919550356833_n

We find the old adage "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" in many memes and social groups. We can read the adage all we want, but if we don’t take action — if we don’t have faith in ourselves, in our abilities, or a higher power — we will never leave our comfort zone.

First we must determine exactly what our comfort zone is. Maybe it is getting up in the morning, going to work, staying in the cubicle, having little social contact with coworkers, coming home from work, eating dinner, watching TV, and then taking a bath before hitting the mattress. We all agree that work makes us tired both mentally and physically. But there may be a few precious hours to be tapped in the early morning before work or after leaving the workplace. Then, of course, depending upon your work schedule, there are always weekends. The point is we all need to find time to break out, leave anxiety behind, and stretch capabilities.

Have you always wanted to learn to dance, ski, paint, or scuba dive? Maybe there is something on your bucket list that you want to do, but you have not found the courage to step forward and take a chance. It's a new year. Keep the faith. Stepping out and taking risks is not easy, but can be rewarding in the end. Try these easy steps to get out of your comfort zone.

Look fear in the eye. We all have fears, whether it’s bugs, heights, water, or just life in general. It’s always good to be wary and know your limitations, but facing your fears and looking them straight in the eye sometimes can lead to excitement and adventure! For example, if you have always had a desire to learn to swim but are afraid of the water, seek out a skilled swimming instructor — one that will guide you slowly through the process and make you feel comfortable. It’s worth a try!

There’s no such thing as failure. Everyone has faced failure in some way or another. It is part of life and alright to experience letdown and dismay. It makes us grow into charismatic, courageous adults. So you tried something and failed. The fact that you tried and took a risk says a lot about your character and grit. You learned a life lesson. Tell everyone about your experience. They will learn from it, too, and everyone will enjoy the conversation. There’s no such thing as failure if you climb out of your comfort zone. It’s not considered failure. It’s considered a life experience.

It’s okay to be silly. So maybe you want to learn to dance, but you think you look silly on the dance floor with your two left feet. It’s okay to be silly. Ignore rude and disagreeable people. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can. In truth, dancing takes skill and talent. Get up off the couch, out of your comfort zone, find a professional dancing instructor, and dance! Chances are you will wow your friends with your newfound charm as you show them your new dance moves.

Find your niche. My own personal experience may help you. Recently I had the opportunity to facilitate a poetry group at a regional correctional facility that houses felons and criminals seeking social skills for entry back into society. My first response was a definite "No!" No one wants to go into an environment that is so far out of any comfort zone! After a lot of soul-searching and contemplation, I decided to take on the task. It is an unpaid position, totally volunteer on my part, requiring a lot of time and effort. Being a volunteer makes it even more uncomfortable. But the result of facilitating this poetry program has been phenomenal. I am so glad that I took the risk. All of the residents are kind and respectful. The program is in its third year, and we are in the process of compiling resident poetry for publication. It has been a great marketing opportunity for me as well as a way of helping others. Find your niche. Get out there; life doesn’t wait.

Stepping out and leaving your comfort zone can be scary and intimidating, but in the end you will realize your own potential and gain confidence to do the things that inspire you. Use extra hours to hone skills and enhance your life. Check out evening extracurricular classes that spark your interest. Learn to dance, ski, or scuba. Be safe, seek out professional guidance, and go for it! Go ahead. Give it a try. Find a new zone. Keep the faith.

Country Christmas Cards

Gina McKnightMy mother always makes a big deal about Christmas cards. Since we're a farm family, she likes to send a Christmas card with a red barn on it, similar to one of our own red barns. We love creating our own Country Christmas Cards — it's so much fun!

Of course, the first step in creating a Country Christmas Card is getting the family together ... or in my case, my horses. They are just like kids and only pose when they feel like it, hamming it up and wiggling around the corral. It takes pre-planning, decorating, and a lot of patience.

This year, the sun was just right, the sky was azure blue, and the clouds were gently holding their place, all in position for perfect pictures. Wreaths were placed intentionally on the white corral fence, the horses were in the corral, and then it was time to get the horses to cooperate. Treats always help. My gelding does not like apples, only sugar cubes; my mare loves apples and oatmeal cookies. Whatever it takes to get the perfect pose: a handful of sugar cubes and cookies in my pocket, a jingle of my keys, and the hopes of another treat, Zubie my mare, and Mac, my gelding, are ready. Manes combed, faces brushed, they look perfect. Just like kids, they begin to get impatient and prance back and forth, nibbling the greenery (*sigh*). Finally, an hour later and over 50 clicks, I am satisfied with the pictures. I think you will find the spirit of the season in my pictures of Zubie and Mac. They make me smile, and I hope you are smiling, too. Merry Christmas!

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