Sunday, May 30, 2010

I love long-ears!

I love mules. They're highly intelligent, mentally stable-- almost imperturbable really-- hardworking, sure-footed and generally kind. Mules are also masters of self preservation and won't do things such as overwork themselves or work while injured. I don't wonder if that trait is a reason they've gotten a reputation as being stubborn. A mule will definitely stand its ground in that way!

I shared a picture of my mule Ida in an earlier post. I was always crazy about horses when I was a girl, although I didn't get to ride until I got older. When I was about fourteen- so this would have been the early eighties-- Smithsonian magazine did a story on mules, picturing two blond sorrels on its cover. After reading the article I decided that if I was ever in a position to buy a horse I would try and find a blond sorrel mule instead.

When I was in my early twenties I became a farrier's apprentice. One of our client's hobbies was carriage driving and they had a mule on the farm that was used for driving and riding-- Ida. In fact one of the grooms on this farm would ride Ida in the hunt (fox hunt, that is). After I bought her, I rode her bareback around town and to the local park all the time. I couldn't afford a saddle so bareback was all there was! She came with me when I left New Jersey for Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1993, but I had to sell her when my son was born in 1995. I simply didn't have the money to care for her anymore. I sold her to the barn where I kept her, and they used her for children's camps and things like that as she was so very gentle and good-natured. I miss her!

So-- these mules are from the farm with the baby. They were shading themselves under those trees when I came by, but being the inquisitive creatures that they are, a couple came over to check out me and my camera. I love their expressive faces! I still haven't been able to get a good shot of the baby; here's the only half-decent one:

Baby was curious but mom was cautious and they walked to the other side of the hill where I couldn't see them!

These two live on the same Amish farm as Sunshine the cow. In fact I think this is a picture of them working.

The one on the right was a little bit shy but the one on the left came right up and practically posed for pictures.

Looks like he works out, doesn't it?

Now he's letting his inner sweetheart show-- click on the picture to really see his expression:

And then suddenly he was intense again-- I love this guy:
As of right now I have no clients on Memorial Day, so maybe I'll try again to get some pictures of the baby. He's going to be big before you know it!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Annoyed, irritated, inconvenienced and indignant. It was just that kind of day...

Before I say anything else, let me say that it has been a day. An annoying day full of rude people and tiresome adventures.

So let's get started. Notice anything wrong in this picture?

I had a flat. Woo. Hoo. And look-- there's something even more wrong in this picture:

Yes. I had a flat at Oregon Dairy! And nothing I needed to make even the most rudimentary repairs...

But before I even got to Oregon Dairy I met a couple of buffoons on the road. Generally when I'm out on my bike other riders are friendly and we exchange waves or greetings. Sometimes they initiate it, sometimes I do. So I saw these two guys coming towards me on the other side of the road, we made eye contact, and I said, "Hello there!" They didn't return the sentiment-- as they passed my line of sight one of them said, "Get a real bike!" Sigh.

Anyway, I wanted to try and get some new pictures of the baby mule I saw last week, so decided why not stop at Oregon Dairy for lunch and then head over to where the baby lives. Lunch was delicious-- chicken and waffles again-- but when I got outside there was my bike sitting there with a flat tire! I usually carry a portable pump and some fix-a-flat foamy stuff with me just in case something happens. I really should have a regular repair kit, but since I've not actually fixed a flat before I bring that stuff.

At any rate, even if I had a repair kit I wouldn't have been able to fix the flat there in the parking lot. You can't just pop the back tire off; you have to take the whole enclosed gear thingy apart (and don't ask me the proper name of the "gear thingy," because I don't know it, lol).

Luckily my mom has a bike rack for her car AND she was home. She picked me up and we brought my bike to a local bike shop for a quick repair. Now I know that my bike is not quite like most other bikes around, but it's not some kind of strange alien transport, either. The counter guy at the bike shop couldn't seem to find anything nice to say about it, though.

"What is it?" Um... it's a bike? I'd be interested in a fender and a rack for the back if you have any.

"You can't put a fender on there. Or a rack. There's no room for it with that seat like that. It's completely impractical." I love it, though. It's so comfortable!

"I bet it's comfortable. But it's like a chopper."

What the heck-- is this insult my bike day??? It wasn't that he called my bike a chopper. It's that he called my bike a chopper. The tone was so condescending.

Or maybe I was just overly sensitive and bristling from the "real bike" comment earlier in the day.

Whatever! The mechanic did a lovely job fixing up my tire and I rode home. Later I went out for a quick eight mile ride and so ended the day on an up note.

I took a bunch of pictures but I'll have to leave them for another day. Here's a picture of the caterpillar living in my dill plant. Look how much it's grown and changed in just two days-- it's now about an inch long:
Hopefully tomorrow will be less eventful... or at least let the events be positive ones...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

They're back! Plus my first ride with the bike club...

Caterpillars are finally back!
Can you see it there? It's maybe half an inch long-- maybe. It's a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar. The past few years I've been planting parsley for them-- they show up as these tiny little things and then over the course of a few days they strip the parley bare and grow to be a few inches long with green and black stripes. Then they disappear. I've never seen a cocoon, but I do see the butterflies.

Last year, though, I had hardly any caterpillars, and there seemed to be less butterflies about, too. As it turned out there WAS a butterfly shortage last year due to the cold and rainy spring. I guess it set back butterfly reproduction enough to make a noticeable difference. So I'm glad to see the caterpillars again. What I didn't know is that they also like dill:
Last night I went on my first ride with the Lancaster Bicycle Club. It was an ice cream ride, so the pace was mellow and the route wasn't hilly. And there was ice cream, of course! We rode about ten miles all together and I really had fun. In fact I can't wait to do it again! I'm actually a pretty shy person, so I was something of a basket case riding over to the start point. I did already know the people who were leading the ride so that helped, but everyone was super friendly and I felt great. And I kept up just fine, too! The only negative was the beastly hotness of the air, lol.

I've gone for a ride already this morning and it was almost worse than last night. Nine o'clock in the morning and it's already over eighty degrees. In May! That's disgusting! I may go for a ride later tonight if it cools off some. Today I get to see some friends that I haven't seen in a long time so that should be awesome!

To end, here are some wheat pictures-- at least I think it's wheat:

And a close up:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Did someone say crazy windy rainstorm rolling in?

Yeah-- me! It's been cloudy on and off the past few days and we've had some sprinkles, but nothing major. I decided to go out for a quick ride around 5:30 and the sky was blue with some fluffy white clouds. As I was taking pictures, though, I noticed that the sky was getting darker and darker...And all of a sudden it started POURING! No thunder or lightning, which was my main concern, but I got soaked! I stopped at my friend Eugie's house to see if I could hang out there until everything blew over, but she wasn't there-- she was out on HER bike, lol. Her husband was there, though, and we chatted for a few minutes until the rain slowed down and then I headed back out. I was already drenched, so stopping didn't really help me all that much anyway!You might recognize this spot from an earlier post... it's the Lancaster County Stonehenge, only now it's covered in clover and all kinds of other plants (and look at the sky-- yikes). I love clover because it's purple, smells sweet, and you can eat it, lol.Mulberries! When we were kids there was a mulberry tree up the street and we used to go pick a bunch and put them in a bowl with milk and sugar. Yum!And raspberries! Raspberries and blackberries also grew in the woods around our house, but they were never as plentiful as the mulberries.Obviously neither the mulberries nor the raspberries are ripe yet. The question is-- can I get a few berries before the birds do?? These past few years they've picked everything clean before I even get a chance at them, the stinkers!

One more thing-- despite the rainstorm, there wasn't a rainbow to be found. Boo! Maybe next time...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beautiful day for a bike ride!

Well, not really. It was way too hot and humid for me. I did go out about 5pm-ish and it was quite pleasant, though.

My first stop was the Cozy Crop House here in Lititz, where I do massage on many weekends. If you're a scrapper you should definitely check out the link! Awesome space, delicious food, scrapping classes AND a store on site, plus you can even get a massage from me!

I was awfully hungry as I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I decided to ride over to Oregon Dairy for chicken and waffles. If you haven't had chicken and waffles before you should probably try it right away. It's one of my favorite foods! Pulled chicken and gravy over a waffle... what could be better? Maybe corn on the cob or my grandma's pickles, but not much else.

Oregon Dairy is an interesting place and something of a Lancaster County landmark. It's a grocery store, ice cream shop, restaurant and gift shop all rolled into one. It's also an actual working dairy farm. And there'a a playground there. But one of the things I love about Oregon Dairy is this:

The bike rack! I try to ride my bike everywhere-- to work, for fun, downtown, to the grocery and so on and I can't think of another grocery that has a bike rack. It's much easier to use your bike for everyday errands and trips when you have a safe place to leave it while you're going about your business.

I ate at the counter and while I was there one of my clients stopped by to say hello, and I met someone who is related to two of my other clients. It's one of the things I love about living in a small community-- the interconnectedness of people. And it's funny; when I was moving up here I heard over and over again that the people of Lancaster County are standoffish and even unfriendly. I haven't found that to be the case at all. Is there a certain reservation? By some people and at some times, yes. But isn't that true everywhere?

Now it is true that I have heard Lancaster County natives complaining about people moving in from other places, particularly New York and New Jersey. As someone who grew up in New Jersey, I know the state gets a bad rap and there are many negative stereotypes about the people that live there. It does sort of hurt my feelings when I hear that kind of talk, but I'll usually chime in with "Hey! I'm from New Jersey!" and the answer is usually something along the lines of "Oh but you're different." The town I grew up in was very much like the town I live in out here. A bit less charming, but similar in many other ways. But to make the point about stereotypes, one time I told a lifelong Lancaster Countian that I was from north Jersey and they replied, "Oh? Are you Italian?" Hahahahaha! I think they watched too many episodes of The Sopranos!

I have a long day tomorrow, so I'll wrap up with this picture of a mule baby and its mother. The baby is blurry because it was wiggling all over the place. I'll be riding down that way again, though, and will hopefully get some better pictures.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spooky house-- now with flowers! And cows!

So I decided to do the Spooky House ride, only in the opposite direction. I'm such a rebel. Imagine my surprise, though, when I saw cows in the pasture at Spooky House Farm. Now, there is another house on the property that isn't nearly as dilapidated as this one, so I'm guessing people live there. But all the outbuildings are falling apart--- they don't seem "animal-worthy" to me. But what do I know?

What's not surprising is that the cows at Spooky House Farm have horns!! A perfect fit with their surroundings. It gives them something of a mischievous look don't you think? Although I don't think I'd like to meet her in a dark alley...

Or her...

Right across the road was a soft place to rest and keep your eye on those cows if you were so inclined... and you could even take it with you-- for free!

I did see some wild strawberries that had fruited, but I couldn't work up the courage to eat one. When I was a kid we used to eat all kinds of stuff we saw in the woods or growing along the road or on trees. Now that I know how many different kinds of poisonous plants there are out there I feel kind of lucky to have made it to adulthood! The strawberry had a dry feel to it and it was also kind of hard-- not at all juicy. Also, the seeds (I think they're seeds) rubbed right off when I was touching it, giving an even greater impression of dryness.

All told I rode about seventeen miles today. Not bad, and I even tried to go out again after dinner, but we had some thunderstorms roll in and that put the kibosh on that. Tomorrow I have appointments in the morning and early afternoon but as long as the weather isn't dangerous I'll be able to go out later in the day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I made a few new friends yesterday

I rode down by the meadow reclamation area yesterday. My plan was to head out to Newport Road to check on the wild strawberries I photographed last week and if they were bearing fruit maybe get brave and eat one. Along the way I met some interesting creatures!

The cutie above is Boomer, and obviously a bulldog! He was so wiggly and friendly that I had to take about twenty pictures before getting this one. Boomer was out for a walk with his two young owners and their aunt. One of the boys wanted to show me a "secret path" into Lititz, but when I saw it I wasn't allowed to photograph it, else it wouldn't be a secret path anymore, would it?

So I continue down the (non-secret) path and I see this:
and I thought, "What the heck?" or something like that, lol. I thought it was a dead possum at first. But as I got closer it was obviously a turtle:

I'm pretty sure he (or maybe she) was a snapping turtle... he certainly liked clicking his jaws at me!

I know-- it looks like he's smiling. But he's actually thinking how awesome it would be to bite my leg off...

This turtle definitely had a 'Go ahead. Make my day' attitude:

A cute (?) butt:

And some rather large claws-- or maybe they're talons?

And here he looks rather statesman like, I think:

And finally, a Red Admiral butterfly. I love them because they seem curious; they may flutter away but always come back and land nearby.

Whew. That's a lot of pictures. I also went for a long ride today, but will leave that for another post!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


So I got my wish-- we've had tons of chilly weather this past week. I don't mind riding in the cold. After all, I rode all winter-- even when it was only ten degrees outside with a windchill of minus one. But the wind! It's been so, so windy that I haven't had the energy to get out there.

A couple of weeks ago I went for a long ride in an area I hadn't visited before. Along the way I saw a red-haired, red-bearded Amishman driving a team of two white mules. Now that's something you don't see every day, even in Lancaster county! Of course I don't have any pictures but hopefully I can get some photos of the mules in the coming weeks.

Most mules I see around here are blond sorrels. Here's a photo of my mule Ida, who is a nice example of that coloring:
Doesn't she have a kind face? And yes, that's me-- about 17 years ago! Please ignore my horrible seat position and posture, too, lol. I was just sitting around waiting for my neighbor to get her horse ready so we could go for a ride. Ida spoiled horses for me; if I ever get a chance to own again I will definitely be getting a mule!

At any rate, this Amish farm apparently has a pair of white mules as well as these dark bays. And a very picturesque setting, too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ugh-- it feels like summer out there!

And I'm not a big fan of summer. Too hot, too humid, too miserable. Blech. We went from downright chilly to unbearably hot in like two days. Bring back the cold weather!

Do you love this picture as much as I do? I think it looks like an entrance into a fairyland. So green and mysterious.

And why do people hate dandelions so much? Look at all the white fluffiness!

I have my 25 year high school reunion coming up at the end of June. Last September I posted a message on the reunion facebook page saying I would be willing to lead a bike ride sometime during the weekend if anyone was interested. I never heard anything, so I figured nobody wanted to ride. Well, I just heard that people ARE interested! Uh oh, lol. The problem is that I've never led a bike ride in my life-- what in the heck was I thinking when I volunteered myself!?

So now I need to buckle down and get myself ready to do this ride. Right now I'm averaging 15-20 miles a day. I don't think the reunion ride would be longer than that, but going those distances isn't always easy for me. There's plenty of stopping and picture-taking going on that gives me plenty of rest time. So my goal in the next two months is too increase my stamina to regularly ride 25 miles over somewhat hilly terrain. That should put me in good shape for the end of June.

Getting back to today's ride, I found wild strawberries growing on the side of the road this morning-- it's actually a fairly busy road:

According to my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, they are edible. Here's what it says:

"This plant produces the finest, sweetest, wild strawberry. The edible portion of the strawberry s actually the central portion of the flower (receptacle) which enlarges greatly with maturity and is covered with the embedded, dried, seed-like fruit."

And finally, I got a picture of a bluebird down at the meadow reclamation area-- and he caught me in the act! It's kind of blurry because I had to use the crummy zoom feature on my camera.