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A Valentine Story

Gina McKnight 

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A Valentine Story

There is a lot to be said about wintertime — it’s cold, driving can be a challenge, sledding is fun, ice skating is more fun, and snow angels are the best. But, when you have animals in below-freezing temperatures, the challenge is more real. To be responsible for an animal that is outside in the elements is a daily chore to provide adequate comfort and warmth.

Mac, my gray quarter horse gelding, is an amazing animal. He is kind, considerate, and always willing. Zubedia, my paint mare, is just as amazing. She is happy, content, and ready for anything. Mac and Zubedia are trail buddies, happy to have their stalls close together and upset if they can’t see one another.

I am picky about what I feed my horses. They get the best, high-quality grain, exceptional hay (part alfalfa and meadow grass), are free to come in and out of the barn at all times, with access to rolling pasture and fresh well water. They are loved and receive the very best care.

Several weeks ago, on the coldest day of winter so far, I was putting new bags of grain in the feed bin. The rattle of the feed bags was more than Mac could take. I made the error of not feeding the horses before taking the time unload the new feed. Mac went into a feeding frenzy. The horses were in the corral, waiting to come in.

If you are savvy with animals, you know that you don’t mess with animals and their supper — especially when the temperature is below freezing and it’s all you can do to keep moving to stay warm. In an instance, Mac attacked Zubebia, bitting her on the chest. He nipped her enough to remove the hide, but the skin did not break — no blood, just a raw 3-inch square of hairless hide.

Mac, who is normally collected and calm, was hungry. So hungry, he thought Zubedia would get her grain before he did, so he went to great lengths to make sure that I fed him first. And I did. He got my attention. After a “What did you do, Mac?” chastising, I placed grain in his stall and he enjoyed every mouthful. Then Zubedia came into her stall and I saw her wound, and thought Wow. It was so cold that I knew any ointment would freeze. After talking with my veterinarian, we decided to leave the wound open to the air for several days, and then apply medicinal ointment (Corona is my choice).

Now, several weeks later, Zubedia’s scab has fallen off and she is fine. Her feelings are a little hurt from the incident; she is shy of Mac now and doesn’t get in the way when it’s suppertime.

The picture above was taken before Mac bit Zubedia. I suppose she loved him then, and I suppose she loves him still. They are valentines.

View photos of Mac and Zubedia on instagram. Gina McKnight is an author, freelance writer, and publisher from Ohio USA. gmcknight.com mondaycreekpublishing.com

A Country Thanksgiving

Gina McKnight

Thanksgiving at Monday Creek Stables

It’s almost Thanksgiving and all my neighbors are decorating for Christmas. Seems a little early to me, but with the marketplace full of Christmas items, it’s difficult to avoid the spirit of Christmas. Thanksgiving brings not only holiday decorations, but holiday cookies, party buffets, and seasonal galas. It’s difficult to avoid the pitfalls of enticing and delectable holiday offerings.

There are many tips, tricks, and strategies to avoid temptation. Some are tried and true; others offer nothing but empty resounding words that will not keep you from having an extra piece of grandma’s famous chocolate cream-filled holiday cake.

No matter where you live — city, country, or in-between, we all need to avoid overindulgence. Here are some ideas to help you stay healthy this holiday season.

#1 Decorate your water bottle. Yes, you read that right. Create or purchase a sleeve that fits over an ordinary water bottle that you can carry with you. Place your favorite motivational quotes and pictures on the sleeve to remind you to keep hydrated, while inspiring you to avoid overeating. Keeping hydrated will help you feel full. Decorate the bottle with something seasonal — a small piece of tinsel, or holiday scene — to remind you that the holiday will soon be over, but that extra piece of fruitcake will linger.

#2 Sip. Sip. Sip. Alcohol seems to freely flow around the holidays and it is easy to pack on pounds without overeating; those extra cocktails will gladly give you a hug around your mid-section that lasts until spring. Avoid over-drinking. You don’t have to avoid alcohol completely; in fact socializing is an important part of the holiday experience. Just don’t overdo. Sip your cocktail instead of following the crowd and downing too much holiday cheer. You will thank yourself when swimsuit season arrives. Repeat three times while sipping that holiday margarita, "swimsuit, swimsuit, swimsuit."

#3 Be a vegetarian or vegan in December. OK, so you like meat and you are really tempted by mom’s holiday beef roast. The meaty aroma wafts across the room and is calling out to you. But, stop. You don’t need those extra protein calories. Announce that you are vegan. People will not tempt you to try the hearty meat-fortified casserole dripping with seasoned fat and extra butter. They will respect your new lifestyle and you will not have to worry about those extra calories. After all, you may decide to remain vegan after the holidays.

#4 Tighten that belt. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a tight waistband; you know — the one that makes an unseemly muffin top. We certainly want you to look your best in your holiday attire, but tightening your belt just a little will detour you from the pastry table. A smidgen of being uncomfortable is well worth the calories you will avoid. After the party, when you arrive home, you can remove your belt and feel proud that you did not overindulge.

#5 Stick to the basics. This is really not new advice, just a twist on an old favorite. When filling up your plate, select items that fill you up rather than weigh you down. Choose raw, organic fruits and vegetables. Insist that your fruits and vegetables are from the local farmers market. Oh, that may seem a little snooty, but it’s your health and your body. Maybe you will entice a friend or relative to insist on organic and sustainable food choices. We all need to change the world, one step at a time.

There is a ton of good advice available and, remember, knowledge is power. Dive into all the information you can about staying healthy, not just on the holidays, but all through the year.

From our farmhouse to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio, USA. gmcknight.com