Post 3: Slip on those boots

Now that the first week has passed I can feel myself settling into a routine, which makes this all seem more real.  At the begginning no propane meant no hot water and no stove to cook on.  2in x 4in x 2in blocks of reuse lumber make for reasonable cooking coals and an iron pan ideal for grilling veg.  An unidentified leak in the water line meant little water use, though without the propane there would only be cold shower in a box barely tall enough to fit my 6’2″ frame.  Of course the refrigerator also runs on propane, so I found myself walking aimlessly across the ranch in the dark for those midnight munchies to another cooler where I temporarily kept my rations.  And yes, in these conditions food becomes rations.

Waiting for the coals to build

Waiting for the coals to build

Now, the propane is full and with it I can now cook food instead of rations on a stove instead of coals.  And munchies now only require slipping out of my sleeping bag and across the room instead of across the ranch.  The water is to be fixed in the next couple days and at last I will be able to take a warm shower, as cramped as it may be.

Mornings before work I sit by the window in a coffee shoppe on Main St. in Half Moon Bay, a block from the feed store.  Here, I enjoy my Sumatra Blend at McCoffee as I slowly acquaint myself with the locals as they begin to recognize my face and my unhealthy consumption of caffine, at least two refills of the Sumatra.

With each visit I see a woman talking to the owner, who nods to her ramblings with a forced smile.  Later she rumages through the recycled newspapers with loose sense of intent.  Occasionally while at work or waiting for the bus I see her wondering around with recycled newsprint overfilling her large purse.

Yesterday, I completed my traing by demonstrating that I can manage to operate the forklift without toppling pallets of feed and hay.  There is not much to the training at the feed store other than learning the various feeds and their appropriate uses.  I must say, though, it seems with each rancher I discuss feed with I am given a differing opinion from the last.  Nan told me from the start that every horseman has an opinion on every equine topic…and everyone of them is right.  So, I’ve simply settled on spouting off alfalfa, oat, mollasses, etc portions to each question related to feed.  This feed comes in the form of pellets and is only intended to be a supplement to the traditional feed.  At the ranch most of the horses are content with grass hay in the morning and oat hay in the evening.  For the horses that need a little extra protein we toss in a half to full flake of alfalfa.

For the first week my feet were constantly damp and I found myself changing socks throughout the day.  My hiking shoes are not exactly ideal for this line of work and yesterday I purchased a pair of boots and my feet are now dry.  It feels a bit strange to walk around with boots on my feet, especially with the extra 2″ it adds to my height, while at the same time it is comforting.  When I put on my boots this morning it became part of my routine, and with each crunching step on the gravel I feel more at home on the ranch.

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Post 2: Steping Foot in the Arena

After several days of unrelenting fog it finally lifted and revealed the sunny beauty of the Half Moon Bay (HMB) area.  Tourists and locals are out in swarms to enjoy Main St. Half Moon Bay and the sandy beaches at Montara Beach, Moss Beach, and Half Moon Bay.

As the fog wallows around Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

Jan kindly lent me her cruiser bike, though terribly small, still rolls as a bike should.  The ride from the ranch to HMB is a spirit-lifting 7.5 miles along the coast on bike trails that parallel CA-1 or “The 1.”  No surprise, my trailer doesn’t feature any laundry facilities, so I strapped my pack on with laundry and computer inside with room left for groceries, and headed to HMB.  The local laundromat cost $3.00 just to wash a load of laundry…absolutely insane!  I think I might just put up a clothes line and wash select articles by hand or I may fork over the 12 quarters this time to save the hassle.

Yesterday I almost sent myself home with 6 new chicks, of the Rhode Island Red variety, but luckily held back the urge.  Robin, the one male who boards at Morning Star Ranch (MSR), offered not only to lend me the materials necessary to raise chicks, but also offered to purchase them as well in exchange for fresh eggs once they start laying.  The hens should start laying once they’re 5-6 months old, but it seems like such a long time to wait for those wonderfully fresh free-range eggs.  In the meantime I will have to perfect my ranching skills.

This morning I learned how to run the ranch tractor through the arena to help level it out.  The who process only took about 15 minutes, but it was very rewarding to know that I’ve begun to contribute to the ranch.  After I put the tractor back in its stall, Nan took me over to the pasture to grab Mud, a beautiful brown mare.  For about an hour Nan, Mud, and me worked on “horsemanship 101” which included how pick up a horses leg to clean their shoes, how to install (not the correct terminology, I know) a halter, and most importantly where not to stand as not to get kicked or stepped on.  We ended the session with 30 minutes of me leading and directing Mud around the arena with hand gestures and occasional encouragement with a whip.  Nan was pleasantly surprised by how well I was able to work with Mud my first day out.  I can’t help but anxiously await when I get to finally toss on the saddle and go for a ride.  There’s a large hill/small mountain just to the east of the ranch that has some good equestrian trails that I’m dying to check out.  In the mean time, feeding and walking the horses will have to suffice.

I think I’ll head over to grab some groceries, see a few people in town, and then head back to the ranch.