Friday, October 30, 2009

Peak Colors

(My attempt at creative photography-I put the camera on the tree trunk and shot the photo straight up...)

Here in Northwest Indiana, we had our peak colors of fall in the last two weeks. That is all over now, because it has been raining and the rain knocks all the leaves off the trees. I believe most people in the country don't think of Indiana as a beautiful state, if they think if Indiana at all...but actually it is really pretty here; and at different times of the year there are specific times where it is particularly striking. In the fall, people come from around the midwest to our state parks to see the colors at their peak.

That is one of the best times for horseback riding --in the fall at the peak of the colors. That is what I missed this season...but I do have some photos of scenes around where I live. Of course the pictures do not do it justice. We had a lot of golds and yellows this year. On my drive to work there are two spots I go through that I swear just glowed with the color.

So here we are, another fall season about know what comes next!! Snow!!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kiva -- Loans that Change Lives

When John and I started our real estate company, Dunewood Homes, we decided to do something when each deal closed. We feel very fortunate in our lives, and though things have not always run smoothly, we have a lot to be thankful for. So we decided that at each closing, we would give a monetary donation to a charity. At first we would send something to the local Humane Society and the battered women's shelter. In looking for other organizations to give to, we found the Unity Foundation. It is an organization in LaPorte County that sets up endowments and gives regular donations to a number of local charities. Then the war broke out in Serbia. John has relatives there. And while we could not send anything to Serbia while the war was on (our government put a ban on the postal service delivering there), after the war was over we were able to help his cousin. The country's economy was in shambles, and she is a single mother who really needed some help.

Recently, I saw an interview with Bill Clinton the PBS news program "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer." He was talking about microfinance and how it helps people in poor countries. One of the organizations is called "Kiva" and they make small loans to people who are struggling to get their small businesses to succeed. These people do not qualify for traditional loans thru banks because they are too small, have no start up capital, or things like that. Many times, these loans help people get started on a venture that lifts them out of poverty. I was really intrigued, and went to the website to find out more about it. I have a link to Kiva on the upper left corner of my blog here. I also put one of their banners at the bottom of the page. I think I am going to change to a different banner -- this one looks sort of lost there. For $25 you can help someone....

We had two closings recently (unbelievable -- the market may be beginning to pick up) so I selected four people to loan money to. It was hard to choose....I wanted to send something to an entrepreneur in Eastern Europe, but they were all funded. I also wanted to send something to someone in Vietnam because I believe we have a lot to live down in that country, but they were all funded too. But I did find 4 -- two in Asia (one in southeast), one in Dominican Republic, and one in Africa (because John wants to go there and I refuse).

I thought I might let all of you know so you can check it out for yourselves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Week Down. How Many Left to Go?

I have been out of commission with this sprained ankle for one week now. It is just making me crazy, because this is a really great time for riding in Northwest Indiana. Our trees are almost at peak color, and the temperatures are mild.

Sunday was particularly difficult -- it was really nice outside, and it was exactly the kind of day when we would have gone for a ride. I was in the kitchen cooking and I heard a friend's voice calling out a "hello" to me. Sure enough, it was Dolly, Tom and Terri stopping by for a visit. They had been out riding -- I was so envious!!! Here they are, on their horses getting ready to leave. Look at these pictures of them on their horses and enjoying a wonderful fall day....

Now look at this picture of me with this contraption on my foot, unable to ride.....Who do you think is having the better time????
You have to look up on the deck of the house to see me.....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Count Your Blessings

This happened about a week and a half ago. I cannot seem to get it out of my mind, so I thought I should post it.

I was driving to work, and stopped at a red light. The car in the lane next to me was a big, beautiful Mercedez Benz. I sat there looking at that car and thinking about the person driving it. I was thinking things like “Wow…it must be nice to be able to afford a car like that. This person must really have it made – no money worries or anything.” As I was thinking this, a small face appeared in the window of the backseat – it was the face of a child with Down’s Syndrome.

This hit me like a ton of bricks. I was reminded of something I already knew, which is – you never know what challenges people are facing in their lives. No matter how wonderful everything looks on the outside, we all have difficulties to deal with. I believe God put me at that red light to remind me of this. Perhaps lately I have not been as patient and compassionate as I should be, and I needed a wake-up call. I can tell you this – I got the message.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Horseback Riding Friends to the Rescue

I did it again...for the THIRD time I have screwed up an ankle! First time was when we were building our house -- I twisted my right ankle and broke a bone in my foot on an uneven stair step. Last summer I twisted the other ankle simply by stepping off a small retaining wall onto the driveway. Now Sunday I twisted my right ankle while stepping out of the barn with an armload of hay. All I did was take a step down onto the ground like normal, like I do at least twice a day every day....I heard a loud cracking sound, and then there was blinding pain, and I was on the ground. I knew immediatelyI was in trouble. And I was really TICKED OFF because we were going to go riding Sunday afternoon........

By the time I got in the house it looked like I had a baseball attached to the side of my ankle. Thankfully we had some Vocodin left over from when John had to have a root canal....

So I am sitting there, bummed out because I can't ride and because I know what I am in for over the next few weeks. The phone rings, and it is our horseback-riding-cell-phone-talking friend Dee. She and Dolly and Karen and Terri are out riding the woods near our house. Of course we told them to stop by. Thank goodness! Made me feel much better to see horses in my yard and be able to have a beer and some laughs with friends.

Here is Karen and Dee arriving on the scene.

The chickens came to visit Dee's horse.

Dolly's horse making friends with Zora and Misho.

Karen's horse -- He is a handsome guy, isn't he?
I should have gotten some photos of us around the table, but didn't think to do that (duh). I took a lot of other pictures, but they are too dark -- you know my photographer skills are not the best.
So I have been to the podiatrist, had is not broken, just a severe sprain. I won't be riding for a while (BUMMER!!!!). But at least he gave me a boot-type thing so I don't have to use the crutches anymore.
I hope it heals fast................

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Clean Barn is a Happy Barn

I took a couple of vacation days last week -- Friday and Monday -- so that I would have a long weekend. We were supposed to go to the Northwoods to help my brother, who just had back surgery, get his wood chopped and stacked for the winter. His wood delivery guy broke his foot, so there was no delivery. Here I was with four days off work!! First time I have had time off without being sick in a long time!! We decided to put it to good use.

We ordered our hay for the winter (150 bales to join the 100 or so we already have on hand) and figured this was as good a time as any for the annual barn cleaning. Here is John, blowing the dust off the rafters. As you can see, there is a mini-dust storm going on in our barn. It is going to be interesting to see if the barn stays a bit cleaner since we changed the stall floors from dirt/straw to crushed limestone/mats/pellets. It was a big job, but when we got finished that barn just sparkled!! Well worth the effort! I think the animals appreciated it, though it was difficult to tell. The goats just kept staring at me......

We got the hay delivery early one morning following a night out with friends....needless to say, it was a painful day of hoisting up and stacking bales. Our pasture area is a mud pit from all the recent rain, and the heavy tractor and trailer were sliding around a bit when our hay guy delivered. As a result, our outside hay feeder was a casualty -- the trailer slid into it when he was backing up, and just snapped those 4x4 poles like they were toothpicks. No big loss -- we have known for a long time that the feeder was in the wrong spot and needed to be moved. Misho could not resist climbing all the way to the top of the stack.

We took a couple of breaks during the job, and we got thru it. Feels good to be set for the winter. The animals had an "all you can eat buffet" while we were working on the stack. Even the chickens got into it. At one point every animal we have was somewhere on or around the hay trailer. Most impressive was Sonja, the princess kitty who is usually laying on a pillow someplace, exerted enough energy to climb on the haystack.
So that is two big winter jobs out of the way.
Two down, and who knows how many more to go!