It’s Hot (and how are your pets?)

I say pets, but in reality this is for everyone!  Water should be first and foremost.  I actually met a lady yesterday that said she does not like water and won’t drink it.  Hope she has a good liver and kidneys.  Stay hydrated.  Keep your pets hydrated as well. 

It is also important to keep the water as fresh as possible.  Keep in mind that mosquitos like any standing water they can find as well.  Mosquitos carry a numer of diseases, such as West Nile Virus.  Guess what enhances the virus’ ability to replicate itself faster?  Heat, such as the likes that we have been seeing lately.  If you have any standing water that is not benefiting anything, you might consider getting rid of it or changing it frequently. 

Of course, it goes without saying that shade is important for pets too.  If you must take your children or pet in a vehicle, please leave the windows down a bit, but in this heat it is better off for them that you don’t take them at all. 

I like to hose our animals (not the cats mind you) off when the temps are high.  The horses just love it.  A brief respite from the heat never hurt anyone.  You can just see them relax as if they are at a day spa!  To dry we put them in their stalls with all of the barn doors and windows open, and some sort of open air gate instead of the big solid stall doors to keep the air moving.  Throw in a flake of hay and a bucket of water and they will rest for hours.  When ours are turned out after a day at the spa, they are so refreshed, they thunder off to the pasture happy.

The dog doesn’t like the hose shower and fusses all through it, but once it is over, she is so happy and refreshed she can’t contain it.  A grape flavored popsicle seals the deal making it something she might consider letting you do again. 

I am sure you have heard plenty about alcohol and heat, but everything in moderation is your best bet.  You do not get water intake with alcohol, so don’t count that as your hydrating liquid.  Sorry to disappoint, but coffee doesn’t count either.  A good berry smoothie, iced tea, or just good ole plain water is great.

A lot of folks are hitting the water to beat the heat.  If you do, you cannot be told enough to wear a life jacket if you are boating or jet skiing, etc.   Last weekend there were at least four water related deaths in middle Tennessee.  If my facts are correct, none of them were wearing life jackets and every one of them would have had a chance if they had been. 

Please be safe out there, and take a couple of extra minutes to check on people and pets, change water, give water, make sure no one is left in vehicles, put a life jacket on, or whatever you can do to help make it a great summer, even if it is hot!

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More Ice, snow, and cabin fever

If you like winter weather, this past weekend was for you.  It started out Friday morning.  Within a half an hour, Columbia, Tn had been dumped on.  The roads immediately had over 4″ of snow, then it started sleeting with a touch of freezing rain.  Schools had already closed, and everything else closed quickly.  It took people an average of three hours or more to get from one end of town to the other.  It snowed all day, then turned to freezing rain again that evening.  Needless to say, everyone was snowed in. 

Some areas were without power, most not lasting a full day.  We had five inches or more of snow on the ground and about 1/2″ of ice on top of it.  The horse stayed in for three days, as the ice was sharp and cracked terribly.  The noise of the ice cracking did not impress him at all.  Cabin fever built up quickly in everyone, including the animals.  Upon opening the barn door each morning, the cat would run out the door and stand, mesmerized for a moment that with each day conditions had not improved.  Soon, a grimmace covered his face and back into the barn he went.  The ice and snow were tough on the dog’s arthritis, but we shoveled a few paths for her, making life tolerable again. 

Finally, the temps bumped up into the 30’s.  Melting had begun.  This did not make the cat’s day, as his highness does not like to get his toes wet.  More days in the barn.  The dog enjoyed each hour of sunlight, warming her dark coat and exposing more of her kingdom called the grassy yard around the house and barn.  The horse was finally turned out again.  Freedom!  He ran through the pasture kicking and bucking like a mad man.  It is at this time one has to be especailly cautious.  Do not get in his way! 

Even at the restaurant I work at families came in looking as though they could not take one more day cooped up with the kids.  Adults chit-chatted while the children around or talked and laughed.  Finally, some sense of normal life was beginning to return!

Ice, snow, and winter animal care

Old man winter has landed over the US.  And since the Lord is in control of any and all climate change, I do not pay much attention to the rest of the jibberish regarding that topic.  I love snow, but the ice on the roads is a different story.  I am actually able (for now) to get down off the ridge we live on to go to work.  Most of the roads are covered in ice and snow and the schools have been shut down for two days.  It isn’t any more than an inch of snow, but here in Tennessee it can really make the roads a skating rink.  It can also be challenging taking care of animals in the winter as well.

The animals seem to be taking it all in stride, although the cats and horses enjoy getting in out of the weather at night.  Our dog Cisco (aka Methusula because she is so old) has her own cubby in the garage complete with bed and nightlight.   She spends most of her time in there, only coming out to go outside, eat, check on the animals in the barn, and get the paper.  Yes, at 15 and 1/2 yrs of age, this Rottweiller/German Shephard mix still gets the paper at the end of the drive most mornings.  At her age, exercise is strictly a selective activity.  One day one might think she is going down hill fast.  The next morning, she is out happily walking the fence line. 

All of our animals have fresh water and plenty of food year round.  I would like to encourage everyone to do the same.  Fresh water in winter is just as important as food.  If you don’t have electric heaters to thaw the water, you must take time to chip the ice and replenish the water.  Whether or not you blanket your horse is up to you.  I feel they do better without, unless their health has been compromised or they are aged.  Cats and dogs do quite well out of the elements in a garage, barn, or shed with plenty of straw.  Straw is better than hay (and usually cheaper) because it is hollow inside and insulates much better.  Short haired animals should not be exposed to the extreme cold except to take care of business.  

If your horses have shoes, be watchful that they don’t get balls of ice built up on the bottom of their feet.  You can spray the bottom of the foot and shoe with Pam or put baby oil on them and this will help deter the ice buildup.  However, the oils can also lead to bacterial buidup if their stalls are not kept immaculate.  If horses are kept in, make sure the stalls are kept clean and the ammonia buildup in the air is kept to a minimum.  Fresh air, food, water, and bedding are always a must. 

I truly pray for a prosperous and peaceful New Year for each and every one of you.  If you have questions about animal care, please don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for more information.

What an end to 2008!

Well, 2008 is over.  It was shaping up to be a mediocre year business wise, and I thought with the state of the economy during the last quarter that sales for that quarter would probably be close to flat.  I was somewhat  surprised as by Nov. 1 I did not have a single order for portraits for the Christmas season.  I am usually very busy.  I thought this strange, but sometimes God knows when you need to be busy and when you don’t. 

 However, the week before Thanksgiving, it hit.  Three pastel portraits before Christmas!  Two were farm scenes with the animals, barns, etc. and the other was a donkey.  No problem, right?  The donkey got moved back to a birthday for January 12.  The farm scenes on the other hand, were rather interesting.  No one seemed to be able to decide on the compositions.  Finally, each party agreed on their piece, and I finished the first one the second week of December.  The second one was finalized one week before Christmas.  My husband was a nervous wreck byChristmas Eve, because we also had all of the usual Christmas gatherings, as well as preparations, gift buying, etc.  Plus, we also had the added excitement of the printer quitting in the early stages of trying to print out our Christmas cards.  Hence my excuse for not having posted anything on this blog for eons as well.

On Christmas Eve morning, the client came for final proofing.  They liked, I framed, and out the door it went!  I likewise finished the donkey in under a week.  (They are all viewable at the website, www.CustomPastelPortraits.com).      

The best thing about the entire experience is the fact that I learned many lessons from it.  First, I learned that I can deal with clients changing their minds (frequently, I might add) better than I thought I could.  Second, I am able to kick it into high gear when necessary and still produce the quality of art I am seeking.  Third, I am a more successful artist than I previously gave myself credit for. 

I am grateful for all of my clients, and the wonderful compositions they come up with.  I love that they push me farther than I might otherwise seek to take myself.  I love that with every painting I learn something new, as I will research what I need to complete the painting.  I am also looking forward to a fascinating 2009.  So many paintings and other wonderful things to do.  I wish you a splendid New Year and may God bless you in ways you never thought possible!

Unwanted

     Over the years we have all heard of unwanted or stray dogs and cats, many of which are dropped off on the side of the road, left to fend for themselves.  Sometimes they are just abandoned in a home when the owners move out.  However, there is a new problem that has popped up on the horizon in the past year or so.  It is unwanted horses.  Just a few years ago, one might hear of such a thing once in a great while.  Now, the frequency has increased dramatically.

     I have heard of numerous occasions where someone has gone to a horse auction, decided to leave without buying anything, and found their trailer loaded with horses.  There are also reports of horses being turned loose on state and federal lands, similar to the abandoned dog or cat.  As an animal lover, I have a difficult time with these situations.  I know that economics plays an important part, but there are a couple of other issues at hand as well.

       The first is the closing of the slaughter plants in the U. S.  While it is not pleasant to think about, unfortunately I guess they have their place in the checks and balances.  I am not condoning this, just making a statement.  I would rather humanely put my horse down than send it off to such a place.  It boils down to personal preference. 

      The other issue is that of overbreeding.  This holds true for the dogs and cats as well.  There can be too much of a good thing.  I love animals, but I also know how many I realistically have time and money for.  It does not do them or myself any good to go beyond that equation.  There have even been two horse rescue operations that had to be shut down and “rescued” themselves because they were bombarded with unwanted or neglected horses. 

      Pet ownership is not only fun and fulfilling, but it is also a responsibility.  Please spay, neuter, or geld your animals.  Many bloodlines have lost a great deal of good dispostion over the greed for numbers and confirmation.  Maybe if we slow down on the number of animals that we generate, it would make a tremendous difference in the long run.  If you would like to read more about the unwanted horse issue, you can visit the USA Today website at

                       http://blogs.usatoday.com:80/oped/2008/08/homeless-on-the.html.

Summer Gift

     Hello again!  Unfortunately, summer is almost half over.  I love the gifts summer has to offer.  Great painting opportunities, fresh fruits and veges, plus numerous happenings that can only happen in summer. 

     One of these are new fawns.  I love seeing a new fawn.  We had one show up in the pasture a couple of weeks ago.  We will see them frequently by themselves, although not far from the woods.  And you can be sure that the doe is not far away.  However, this particular one seemed orphaned.  Always by itself, and one morning lying in the gravel driveway to the barn.  It layed

fawn, actual distance, copyright 2008 Denny Martindale
fawn, actual distance, copyright 2008 Denny Martindale
fawn, close-up, copyright 2008 Denny Martindale
fawn, close-up, copyright 2008 Denny Martindale

 there for about an hour, just keeping an eye on us.  The dog and cats wandered around waiting for breakfast, and we were doing morning chores.  For about two weeks we saw only the fawn, no doe.  Finally, we saw it with two does, so at least it has company.  I would love to hear from anyone that has actually had an orphaned fawn.  Of course, this presents more painting opportunities!

God’s Little Miracle

     The Lord loves to show us miracles.  Last Sunday morning was just that.  We received a phone call from a neighbor about 6 am.  His wife and daughter were at a horse show, so caretaker of the 5 or so horses at the farm.  One of their boarders had a Quarter Horse mare in foal in the back pasture.  She wasn’t due for another month.  He awoke to their dog frantically wanting outside, so he let her out and went to get the morning chores in motion.  He noticed the mare down the fence at the back of the pasture, where it meets the woods then drops down into a ravine.  He walked out as she was pacing and calling out, as if there was another horse in the woods.  He arrived to find she had given birth right at the fence, which happens to seven strands of high tensile wire, not barbed or electric.  Suddenly, the foal cried out.  It was out there someplace in the woods!

      He phoned us to see if we could help find the foal.  We drove over and he called out from behind the house in the woods.  We met him and he had a beautiful brown filly in his arms.  Apparrently, after she was born she rolled under the fence.  When she stood up, she was on the wrong side, which also slopes heavily to the bottom of the ravine.  The ligh was probably not good at the time, and in her struggle to get out she crawled up the other side and ended up behind the house.  We started to carry her, but it was going to be quite a distance to get around the ravine, down the drive to the barn.  We decided to guide her, so the neighbor guided her back while I gently held and rubbed her neck.  My husband worked gates and moved branches.  Finally, we were back in the pasture.  She called to Mom, who came running full speed.  Miraculously, she did not have a scratch on her!  Thank you Lord!  The vet came out and did all the checks and there is now a new, healthy subject to paint.  Some photos have already been taken, more on the way, I’m sure.  Drawing, pastels, or should I try acrylics?