Thursday, August 28, 2014

Percheron Horse Show

During my recent visit to Des Moines Iowa and the State Fair, I got an eye-full of beautiful Percheron horses.

This year our state fair hosted the National Percheron Show.  I am a Percheron horse owner and a big fan of the breed, so it was right up my alley.  I took so many pictures, it may take several blogs to share them all.
Most of the preparations for this event are done way before show week.  All year long horses are on special diets, they are trained, and carefully shod to give them the best chance at success in the show ring.

In fair week, everything goes into beautifying mode.  Manes and tails are braided, coats are sometimes dyed, hooves are perfectly shod and then painted, and everyone gets a good bath.

There are black and dapple-gray Percheron horses. I can't decide which are my favorite but since Coke and Karma are blacks, I'll go with that.

Someone may say, "These aren't Amish horses are they?"  Actually, quite a few of these horses have been raised by Amish families.  You may also be surprised if you knew how many of the big horse hitches are driven by someone who grew up Amish.

Many of these horses have been trained by Amish and ex-Amish handlers.

When I first got interested in draft horses, there were a lot of old-timers around, who grew up farming with horses.  There are a few of those folks still around but most of the people with experience farming with horses, nowadays, grew up Amish.

The gal in the picture above is a horse chiropractor; I watched her work on this horse for a while.  I'm sure the goal was to get all four legs moving freely and ready for the big show ring.

I hope you enjoyed my pictures.  I highly recommend making a trip out to your own state fair, to take in some of these sights for yourself.  These horses are even more impressive in real life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Horse named Fire

 Last week I had a chance to go to the Iowa State Fair.  I had a perfect day enjoying the National Percheron Show, that happened to be held on my day off from the Post Office.  I will share pictures of that in an upcoming blog post about Percheron show horses.  The Budweiser eight-horse-hitch makes a yearly appearance out our state fair.  As the old movie song goes, (movie titled, "State Fair") "Our state fair is a great state fair... it's the best state fair in our state."

These Clydesdale horses are breathtakingly beautiful.  I watched them prance perfectly through a crowd, complete with yells and screams coming from a nearby midway, and a band playing rock-n-roll at the bandstand.

I took pictures of the process of un-hitching this team and a video of the Dalmatian being helped off the big wagon.

Yes, this is me! I took a "selfie" because I happened to have on a red shirt and it looked like I was part of the crew. I wish!

 I took a lovely video of these horses parading back to their home-base horse stall area.  You can view this video by clicking the link below. You may need to have a Facebook account to view it.
 I love the feathering on the fetlocks of Clydesdale horses, as seen here. You won't find many of this breed of horses on an Amish farm, mainly because of this feathering.  Imagine what they look like after getting into a cockle-burr patch.

Clydesdale horses were "bred up" over the years as a carriage horse, with long legs for transporting loaded wagons quickly.  Belgians and Percheron horses were traditionally bred with shorter, heavy boned legs for strength in pulling plows and doing field work.
 Nowadays, you will find many Percheron and Belgian horses have evolved (selective breeding) into "Hitch Horses" with long slender legs, ideal for the show ring.  I'll show some pictures of that in my next blog post.

My own Percheron team is more the old-fashioned type of thick-bodied heavy-legged horses made for pulling a plow.  I prefer the old style but don't get me wrong, I love to go see these amazing creatures at the State Fair.

 While I was watching, snapping pictures and taking videos, I overheard a young couple talking to their children beside me. They were very friendly people and had three cute daughters. I heard them telling their little girls that the big horse nearest me was raised by their grandfather.

I told them politely, that I'm sorry to be eaves-dropping but did I hear you say that your dad raised this beautiful horse.  The woman said, "Yes, my dad raises Clydesdale horses and sold this horse named "Fire" to Budweiser.
 I asked if I could snap a photo of her and Fire for my blog, and she was happy to oblige. Fire is one of the "Wheel Horses" the team closest to the wagon and the biggest.  She told me that although her dad doesn't live in Iowa, she and her husband live here.  They came to the fair not knowing they would see their family horse, Fire, but were pleasantly surprised when they recognized him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Under the Heavens (in pictures)

 Here are a few pictures that provide a glimpse of the world Lenny enters in my novel, Under the Heavens.  One of my main goals for putting together this blog, was to share pictures that would help those who are reading the book to visualize what they are reading about.

 Lenny takes plenty of buggy rides along quiet country roads, heading to Church, Singings and volley-ball games.

He also spend a lot of time making hay with his cousins.  He enjoys looking at the cathedral type space in a hay-mow as well as the glory of the sky out in the open fields, Under the Heavens.

 This picture of Lenny seated on a "fore-cart" was taken the same day as the cover photo.  As you can see, Leah has just climbed the fence to go visit with her new-found-friend and of course... to pet Tug and Train.

 I took a picture of this farm house above, when at Amish Acres, in Nappanee Illinois.  It seems like the proverbial "perfect" Amish home, very much the way I visualized Uncle Alvin and Aunt Lydia's place.
 If you're going to spend all day in your garden, it might as well be made beautiful with plenty of flowers.  This is a "Grandpa House" like the one Lenny's grandpa and grandma live in.  There is a large Amish home next to it and happens to be a few miles from my place, in the very area where the novel is set.

 Harness hanging on a wall behind a large black Percheron.

Lenny spends the first part of everyday walking down to a creek to gather in Alvin's dairy cows.  These cows here are actually standing in a little pond trying to cool off in the heat of an August afternoon, but it reminds me of Lenny's trips to the creek.
Yoder Towers
This is the actual feed mill I had in mind, while writing Under the Heavens.
This grain elevator/feed company used to be named, Yoder Feeds, and these elevator towers are still called Yoder Towers by locals to this day. There used to be a giant Y in the white painted area, on the highest tower, just as described in the book.

To find out more, click on this link below.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fly By

 Crop dusters fly over the Nye homestead.
We had a fly by spaying the other day.  I was out cutting weeds in the pasture and all at once a low flying plane came out of nowhere.  I enjoyed watching it and took a few pictures before the smell got the best of me.  I headed inside with my grandsons, until it got quite outside again. In the evening, my wife and I decided that it would be a great time for a campfire/smores fest.

 Our grandsons, Alex and Ezra totally agreed!  The boys wanted to sit up on Karm and Coke first.  We noticed that no flies were bothering the horses.  Very unusual. 
 Ezra suggested that grandpa ought to get up on Karm too.  I climbed on a concrete block to get on my Percheron mare, which was fine until I jumped down and caught the corner of the block with my shin.  Ouch!

While enjoying the campfire, my wife commented that it was a perfect evening, with no flies or bugs.  It didn't occur to us until later that the fly by, spray-plane had killed off all the bugs in our area.

Fortunately, fire-flies were unaffected.  My grandsons spent over an hour catching and storing them in a jar they used as a nightlight at bedtime.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Amish Life 101

I passed an Amish farm on my way to work one morning and got this photo of their barns.

Amish life 101, begins with horses

Working with horses is second nature to an Amish child.  Hardly a day goes by that they don't need to handle a horse.  They can't get frustrated and give up if they have troubles, they have to find a way to work through horse problems and come out the other side, somehow.  Most modern Americans have little experience with horses and try to handle them like a dog, and they fail.  When things don't go well they say things like, "I don't like horses." or "Stupid horse."  The reality is that if you depended on horses for transportation you would find a way.  You would soon figure out that horses function as predictably as mathematics; if you have trouble balancing your checkbook, it's your mistake, not math's.  (disclaimer: Some horses have already been ruined by previous poor handling. In those situations, if you have problems, it's not your mistake.)

Some math is complicated and takes some figuring to come to a solution to solve problems.  Same thing is true of horses.  But in the end, I'm convinced that it is true that horses are very predictable to those that use them regularly, thus the success Amish have with horses.

This is one of my favorite pictures I've taken so far.

I'm always impressed by what all these girls can get done while barefoot! 

How many teenage girls, these days, have to hitch up a horse if they want to go somewhere.  If they did, I doubt they would head out barefoot to get that job done.  I have been stepped on my own horses and was glad that I had some shoe leather between me and that big foot.

My wife and I were guests in an Amish home one evening.  Another Amish couple were also invited for supper but arrived quite a bit later than expected.  When they got there, the wife said, "Henry was milking and I was going to get the horse and buggy ready, but I couldn't catch our horse."  She seemed worn out and exasperated and made a statement, "I bet those fancy ladies in town wouldn't make as many shopping trips, if they had to catch a horse before they went!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grandpa Horse

Yep, I'm a grandpa and I love it!  My little grandchildren love horses, like me, and want me to be the horse at times.  My old knees aren't having as much fun as Lyla and Kinley are.  You can see my little granddaughters have the concept of hitching up a team of horses by the picture below.  They hitched a team to this wagon, which by the way is a load of more horses.

 These blond horses were my first draft team.  I bought a pair of sisters that were Palomino/Belgians from an Amishman in our community and started raising colts with them. One of the mares had a bad hip and was soon replaced by her own daughter. They were Lucy and Sally originally then after Lucy passed on, her daughter Babe became Sal's teammate.  Babe had her own colts that became my horse grandchildren.
My daughter Bethany is riding double on Sal, with my son Dallas. (Picture taken about 17 years ago) This photo was shot only a few weeks after the other and you can see how fast this colt was growing.  I sold these colts at the sale barn and a few years later I saw them all grown up at the county fair.  I think they recognized me... well, I recognized them anyway!

 My current team of draft mares are related also, Karma is Coke's aunt.  The Amishman I bought Karma from still has Coke's mom, Kerry.  Kerry used to be Karma's teammate but was much shorter, so, Coke makes a better teammate for Karm.  You can see what a great match they are.
Karma (on right) is an aunt to Coke

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

After the Storm

Karm and Coke, glistening wet after a torrential downpour.

There is a song that I love, in the Mennonite Hymnal, The Storm is Passing Over.  Every time a really bad storm hits, and then passes, I think of that song.

We had a really powerful storm here in the Kalona area about a week ago.  It brought torrential rains and flooding. Which is an interesting coincidence, because the novel I'm working on now, is about a flood in the fictitious community of Bull Town.

There is nothing fun or beautiful about floods.  I do find some storms amazing even if they are frightening, as you well know if you have read my novel, Under the Heavens.  Although, I will say that my favorite part of a storm is the peaceful aftermath.
These pictures were taken after that kind of powerful, yet amazing storm.  I didn't touch them up at all.  This is exactly the way my cell phone, and my family found the scene.
A huge double-rainbow appeared and of course we had to remember the youtube video, Wow, double rainbow. 
My picture, of the rainbow, doesn't show the double part, but I love the rays of light, beaming out of the Heavens.