June 1, 2010
Jeff had to go in to NOBTS early, but the rest of us relaxed around the house. Jordan wanted to go for a bike ride, so Jordan and Granddad headed out to explore around the waterway under I-59. After poking around there for a while, we decided go back across the track and explore northward since I had never been there. We explored Main St and Shinglemill Rd and found a path to the swamp that I can't find on the map.
In the morning on our bicycle exploration, we found this point of access to the swamp and decided to come back after lunch with the car and the camera.
There was an old concrete swimming pool across from here and a fallen-down building.
Jordan took her binoculars and I took the camera to look for things in the swamp.
To one side of us the water got shallower and there were lots of cypress knees as seen below. We decided to explore along the bank of the deeper water side.
After moving along the bank a few yards, Jordan asked "Granddad, will you go first?" She had seen a spider and didn't want to walk through the web. It was fine with me because I wanted to take pictures of the spiders.
We had caught sight of a turtle on a log some distance away and were trying to move quietly to get closer to him.
I pointed out a head moving across the water and told Jordan it was a swimming turtle and snapped a picture of it. I didn't know until I looked at the picture that it was actually a water snake swimming across. I only had a brief instant to snap the picture before it went under.
We were getting closer to the turtle, using as much stealth as we could along the steep muddy bank.
There were lots of fresh crayfish mounds, but we didn't see any crayfish. I've seen these mounds all my life but have never seen a crayfish in one.
Finally I was on the bank directly opposite the turtle, so I wasn't going to get a clearer shot than this. His head was up looking at us, but he was not yet alarmed enough to leave his nice sunning perch.
I put Jordan up to throwing some small things out toward to prompt him to bail off into the water. I had hoped to get a splash or something, but he just slid into the water.
He did hang around in the water close to his perch for a bit. No doubt he was cursing us for disturbing him, and hoping we would leave so he could regain his nice sunning spot. Which we did.
There were spots of beauty in the swampy area, like this carpet of blue flowers.
Jordan and I got to explore and tramp around the area, so I hope she enjoyed the time as much as I did.
Off to riding lessons.
We went along to the Ranch for Ashleigh's and Jordan's riding lessons with Mrs. Cookie. The first task was to groom and saddle the horse, and Ashleigh was very serious and careful about the grooming process. Elyse pitches in on the opposite side.
Jordan brings her horse to the barn under the direction of their riding instructor, Mrs. Cookie. The family holds Cookie in very high regard not only for her riding instruction but also for her general compassion and her patience with the kids. She operates a horse camp during the summer.
I understand that Darla taught all three of Cookie's daughters at Pearl River High School, so that's the kind of interconnects you get in a smaller community.
Grooming completed, it's now time for Ashleigh to saddle her horse. She is putting on an English saddle since she has chosen to train for jumping, and the jumping regimen follows the English protocol.
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Hmm! Maybe that cinch is a little tight if the horse is sticking its tongue out at you!
Actually, she doesn't even have the cinch tied yet, and cinch-up time would be the time you might expect some kind of protest from the horse.
Jordan gets her horse saddled, so they are about ready to enter the riding corral. Elyse gets a ride on Ashleigh's horse as Ashleigh leads him out to the riding area.
Ashleigh rides with her English rig. Cookie gets them to walk their horses for a couple of circles, and then advance to a canter.
Jordan is on a western rig on her horse because her choice is to develop the skill for barrell riding.
Ashleigh gets in some nice jumps. The barrier is set up so that she has a short distance to get the horse up to speed and then go over the jump.
Jordan gets to practice her turns around the barrels. It turns out to be quite technical - how to handle the foot in the stirrup on the barrel side, how to handle the rein, and how to switch everything when you go around the barrel the opposite direction.
We enjoyed watching the workout with both girls. Cookie gave them direction and gave them the opportunity to practice the specialty they had chosen. It was quite an interesting process.
Each of the girls washed down their horses after the ride, this being the last ride of the day for the horses. They had an interesting hose rig so that they could just spray down the horses and brush them. You kept being aware that the horses are pretty smart animals and they have their likes and dislikes. This they seemed to like.
They had quite a menagerie of animals on the farm, and I enjoyed that as much as the girls did. Above is a horsepen they had out beside the main barn with three regular sized horses and one tiny pony. The pony appeared fullgrown, but barely reached up to the third metal bar on the fence while the others reached the fourth. The pony is between the white and brown horses in the image above left, but you can barely see him.
They had this beautiful pony and a not-so-beautiful old donkey. The donkey let loose with some great brays while we were there - it's been a long time since I have heard a donkey bray like that.
There was quite an eclectic mixture of chickens, ducks and goats, and Ashleigh was right in the middle of them, feeding them.
Jordan seemed happy to get to hold a chicken, but the chicken appears to be somewhat ambivalent about the process.
They had two spectacular roosters, the one above left being regular sized and the one below left a bantam rooster. They were both beautifully formed, and were crowing lustily while we were there.
Cookie provided scoops of food for the animals and Ashleigh enjoys feeding one of the goats.
If the chickens weren't sure about this human presence, the goats were, and they proceeded to take full advantage of it.
We felt very privileged to get to meet Elvis and Einstein, two of the very active ducks. They really had a lot of personality.
Ashleigh became instantly popular with the duck brigade by cleaning their big pan and filling it with fresh water. They seemed delighted and headed for it immediately.
Cookie explained that the ducks loved the water pan, but that during the day it became very dirty and they wouldn't go into it.
The chickens were also interested in the water, but not with the passion of the ducks. The ducks immediately took charge and one of them climbed into the pan.
Stand back, chickens! We're in charge here!
A second duck climbs into the pan. Einstein seems to be supervising this process.
Hey, this is great stuff! A fresh clean pan of water to splash in! But now a third duck climbs in. Things are getting a bit crowded!
As we left this gripping story to go home for supper, Einstein had made his way into the pan, crowded as it was with two companions. But Elvis was still outside, and seemed to be assessing the possibility that the pan might hold four ducks!