Wednesday, October 31, 2018

MARIA log day 59 November 20 Monday

Today's best moment: talking with our friend Nancy in Kalamazoo. Nancy has gone through several years of major health and medical issues. She and Elaine started the "Best Moments" movement to help Nancy focus on positive things when her world is so full of negative.

Well before the hurricane, Nancy sent me a hat that has "Life is Good" on it. Little did either of us know at the time how important that hat would become.

Every day since the hurricane, every time I go out, whether standing in line for gas or money or going to the grocery, I've worn that hat with that message. Life is Good! In some of the darker moments that hat is a reminder to me and--based on comments I've received--for others as well.

Today I got the chance to thank Nancy personally--even only by phone--for her great gift.

No rain today but cloudy all day.

Wipes. You know like baby butt wipes. Who besides parents of small kids knew how important they are?!

Since the hurricane, wipes have become an integral part of everyone's kit. Early on, when there was no water for showering, wipes were critical. We washed our hands, faces, armpits, necks, and other parts with wipes.

Now we don't know how we ever got along without them. We have them in the car, in the truck, next to the bed, in the kitchen, the bathroom, with the horse tack. I haven't been diving yet but I'm sure I'll find a reason to keep them in my dive gear tub.

Thank you to everyone who sent us wipes! You have no idea how useful they are.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

MARIA log, Day 58, November 19, Sunday

Sunday, November 19 day 58

Now 60 days without electricity.

Aye!Early morning rain--again! In fact it rained on and off all day.

In between raindrops I started rebuilding the wooden front fence, We not sure what we're going to do around the rest of the yard where the bamboo fence was before the hurricane. Anything is going to be expensive. For now we're putting up web construction-site fencing. Its not exactly secure but at least it marks limits.

We went to see Sprocket and Kiki and Kieshla today. Kiki is doing a great job with Sprocket. That boy just looks better and better! Kiki is actually riding him.

MARIA log, Day 57, November 18, Saturday

Saturday, November 18 day 57

Light but steady rain most of the morning. then grey all day.

The rain and the fact that today is the biggest cabalgata on the island made it a slow day at Helping Horses.

What's a cabagata you ask? In the simplest terms, think poker run or pub crawl on horseback. In a normal cabalgata 10 or 15 or so riders get together for an afternoon and/or evening of riding, drinking, partying, and fun.

On this weekend every year riders and horses from all over the island descend on Aguada, two tows south of us. They come in custom-made trailers and home-made trailers, in the backs of fancy pick-ups and POS pick-ups. Locals just ride their horses. In a good year 2500-3000 (no one know exactly how many) horses and riders pack the streets and back roads of Aquada. Whole streets and neighborhoods are closed by the horse traffic.

Most of the time the horses manage to find their way back to their trailers or stables. Which is good because a great number of riders are in no condition to navigate. They probably shouldn't be on horseback at all.

One of these years we're going to ride in the Aquada cabalgata. Or maybe just go watch from a bar.

MARIA log, Day 56, November 17, Friday

Friday, November 17, day 56

Woke up this morning to the sound of rain! Imagine that.

Fortunately today was just morning rain. This afternoon we got a big load of stuff for Helping Horses: 43 bales of compressed alfalfa, 23 bales of hay, bags of grain and alfalfa cubes. It wasn't raining when we unloaded all that.

Pizza night with Carole and Rolf. It was kind of a subdued pizza night.

NOW October 26, 2018

For me lately it's been all about the horses.

First it was the rush to get ready for Cass's arrival. Getting him here took a couple of days longer than we anticipated. He finally arrived safely, if a bit scraped up from his experience. He adapted pretty quickly to his new home.

After Cass got here, we had two weeks to get ready to move our other four horses. We had to build two more corrals, another pasture, and a training square pen. All of our corrals and pastures are fenced with electric fencing, not hard boards. For one thing, electric fencing is a lot less expensive than board fencing. It's easier to repair and it's easy to move or reconfigure. Normally  we use metal T-posts for the electric fences. Because most of our T-posts were already in use in the existing pastures, we decided to use "palos"--Puerto Rican cut-from-the-woods fence posts--for the corrals. Using special insulators, we can attach the fencing wire to the wood posts.

So what's with electric fence anyway? For those who aren't familiar, it is a fairly common fencing in the U.S. Here in PR, not so much. We use a poly rope with wire embedded in it for the line. An energizer--a source of electricity--is attached to the lines. We use solar-powered energizers. We don't need a connection to electrical service so we can put them anywhere, even in remote fields where there is no electricity. They can generate up to 7,000 volts. But--and here's the key--it is at very low amperage, less than one-half amp. If you touch the line it, will give you a jolt. but it won't hurt you. It startles and stings the horses. They don't want any part of it so they stay away from the fence.

The horses seem to know when the fence is on or off. I don't know if they feel it or hear it, but somehow they know. If it's on, once they've been "tagged," they don't challenge it. If it's off, well, they just might.

The one place we're not using wire is the training pen. That is all palos, both for the posts and for the rails. We're getting the for a little over $1 a piece. That's a whole lot less than $13 for 4"x4" posts and $5 for 2"x4" rails. And I really like the way it looks.

Our friend Moses has been amazing. He arranged to get the wooden palos for us. He put most in most of the palos in the corrals. He pretty much built the training square. Because so many of our T-posts are still in the old pastures, the new pasture is a mix of T-posts and palos. Moses put in all of those palos as well. I absolutely could not have completed this without him.

Last Sunday we moved our four horses to their new home. Elaine and Marie rode KTJ and Zip. We trailered Chocolate and Sprocket, They too seem to be settling into their new home.

We now have a routine to work the horses every day. This is the first time they have been consistently regularly worked since before the hurricane. They all need the exercise. We've ridden a couple of times this week. I'm kind of alternating between Chocolate and Cass. Choco is still gaining strength back in his leg after tendon pull so we're taking it slow with him. I'm grateful that I have another horse available to ride.

Since our horse are now here, we've taken down all the fences at the old place. Now I have T-posts and wire to start fencing new fields. 

There is a little bit of flashback to the months after the hurricane for me right now. I'm not shooting surf pictures any more, at least not for now. Between waves and bad visibility caused by rain, I haven't been diving in nearly two months. Add to that all the horse work and it feels like after the hurricane--all work and no play. I need to change that. My soul is crying for time in the water.

I thought about going diving today but Elaine and Marie are across the island evaluating horses. The two mounted police units on the island are disbanding. The Department of Public Security is planning to donate the horses to non-profits that work with their communities. Hmmmmm! So they are meeting with people from DPS and checking out more horses. She's sending me photos of horses as I type this. Oh. dear goddess--more pastures, more corrals.

Well, I think you're up to date now.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

MARIA log, Day 55, November 16, Thursday.

It's the raining season. It rains every day. Sometimes afternoons, some days mornings, sometimes overnight, some days all of the above.

Last night we had a huge storm. Okay, Maria was a huge storm!

Last night we had blasting bolts of lightning, huge shake-the-house-and-scare-the-dogs thunder claps, sideways rain driven by the wind.

But no flooding, no pieces of roof flying off. Just a good ol' fashioned tropical thunderstorm. Lying there listening to the storm, I couldn't help but think of people like our neighbor Robert, riding out this storm in a tent behind the remains of his house, destroyed by Maria.

Or the people still living under tarps instead of roofs. How did this storm have feel to them? Was it like deja vĂș?

We were safe in our intact house, under our solid roof. And we are incredibly grateful!

A NOW moment: We had a HUGE thunderstorm--lightning, wind, rain, THUNDER!--last night. Okay, not Maria huge, but big. I was reminded--again--how little lightning and thunder there were during the hurricane. I expected more.

Maria log, Day 54, November 15, Wednesday

Travel around the area has become a cha-cha--one step forward, two steps back, slide to the side, repeat.

FEMA-funded (we think) crews are everywhere picking up debris of the sides of roads. Electric crews are starting to show up as well  When the crews are out, roads are blocked, sometimes completely, sometimes for hours. Sometimes there are ways around the block, sometimes not.
We usually don't find out a road is blocked until we get to the actual work site, to the actual block.

Back up. Turn around. Look for another route to wherever it is you're trying to go. Often as not, that route is blocked as well. Back up. Turn around. Look for another route.

On the one hand it's frustrating and time consuming trying to get anywhere. On the other hand, "you must learn patience, Grasshopper." These are signs something is happening, that something is getting done.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Maria log, Day 53 November 13, Monday

Monday, November 13

We had our first complainer at Helping Horses. This guy was spreading all kinds of horse manure--that we weren't distributing the food properly, that we were selling grain "under the table," that we were keeping most of the grain for our own horses. He said he had pictures of "someone" loading 28 bags of grain in a truck behind the police station. It "had to be someone in cahoots" with the police taking the grain for themselves.

Yeah, he saw someone loading grain at the police station. Me! He apparently didin't see me and our friend and volunteer Ivan driving those 28 bags of grain to the Picadero and unloading them. Then coming back to the police for two more loads totaling 50 more bags. This was the grain the police brought from the race track, the load from when the truck broke down and we had to haul it the rest of the way.

The irony is this guy came the first day and got more aid than almost anyone else. He kept coming back asking for more.

Actually we did have one other person complain. He complained to Annie that we were only doing this in Isabela and not in Ponce. Hey, dude--you're welcome to come join the party in Isabela! Or feel free to start your own program in Ponce.

But stop f-ing complaining!

Caught up in the NOW, October 7

 Flashback to a year ago: Rolf's post-hurricane birthday. Carole wasn't sure she could get a carrot cake--Rolf's favorite--because the bakery in the grocery store wasn't  sure they had enough carrots. I didn't take any pictures this year because I was the cook, flipping pancakes by request.

It may be "now" and the hurricane may have been a year ago, but flashbacks continue.

Last night we celebrated our friend Rolf's 89th birthday. It was a flashback to a year ago: thunder, rainy and cloudy and gloomy all day (after the hurricane, it rained every day for a month; the sun barely showed it's face ). When we got to Carole and Rolf's house, we were serenaded by the neighborhood-wide song of generators. The power was out and had been all afternoon. So like a year ago, we made dinner and sat in semi-darkness, listening to the rain. And like a year ago, our "family" was all together, this year including Jeremy's wife Anna and their daughters Penny and Vivian, gathered around the table, and we celebrated another year of life!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Last week Michelle, one of our friends and colleagues from Rincon/Aguada, told us she has to return to her home in the UK for a few months. She asked us if she could board her horse Casanova (usually shortened to Cass) with us. We went down to Aguada to see him and--yeah, we'll take him. He's a quarter horse, bigger than Chocolate, not as big as Zip. Nice horse! He'll actually be a good horse for me to ride, especially as Chocolate is recovering from a leg injury.

But--she's leaving Monday and needs us to take him right away! So I've spent the last week putting up an electric fence corral for him and fencing the first pasture area. This is all stuff that needs to be done so we can bring our horses down to Castaways in a couple of weeks. The prospect of bringing Cass in just accelerated the timetable.

Cass was supposed to come Saturday. Unfortunately, Cass was in an accident in a trailer in June. with that memory, when they loaded him in the trailer Saturday morning, he freaked out when they closed the trailer door. His corral and pasture will be here when he gets here. We're hoping that will be tomorrow late morning.

Our other horses are still up the road where they've been for a little over a year. Their living (pasture) space is shrinking as we take down posts to fence in fields here at Castaways.

While all this is going on, Elaine is busy getting all the paperwork--leases, insurance, non-profit applications--in order for Horses of Hope. By the way, we were not chosen as a finalist in the Chipstarter thing. We have to start looking for another funding source to build a covered arena,

It could be January for all the looking forward to an exciting future but looking backward and remembering what was happening a year ago we're doing. (The month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god with two faces, one looking to the future, one looking to the past.) Exciting times!