Monday, June 15, 2015

Life on the Farm

We had some lovely, cool weather here in the Valley this Spring. Normally, that would make it an excellent time to get some riding lessons in. Unfortunately for me, the best weather coincided with obligations to work on Fridays or Saturdays, kind of obviating the lovely compressed work week I signed on to two years ago. Oh, well. We've been hiring something like 35 new instructors at the college and everyone who is certified as an equal employment opportunity officer had a heavy schedule. And it is a part of my job I enjoy.

In addition to that, there were several opportunities for training, which all seem to happen on Fridays. Early last month, it was an introduction to training trainers for cultural awareness. Later last month, it was a SafeZone Train-the-Trainer Certification workshop. Finally, there was a workshop for ADA electronic communication compliance. As the co-chair of the campus Diversity Committee, all of these programs were relevant and I learned a lot. But I had little doubt that the end of these obligations for a while meant the temperature would rapidly tick upwards and the Arab prince--no, really, it will just be me--would be sweltering on Friday mornings in Chatsworth this summer.

The temperature has hit triple digits this week. I don't mind, because I now have control over the temperature in my office, which makes things easier for me. I've been trying to spend a bit more time walking during the day ever since I got situated in an office at the center of the campus, rather than being located in the hinterlands. I love looking out of my window to see students walking by, or hearing them argue the finer points of DC v. Marvel through the thin walls. It took 10 years, but I believed I was on a college campus.

It's a big campus--420 acres or thereabouts, but most of the academic buildings are clustered on the northeast part of the land. More than half of the property is farm--a throwback to the days when it was founded after World War II as a mens' agricultural school. Having a huge chunk of undeveloped land in the middle of a city is amazing. The horses for the riding classes have gone back to their much harder lives as string-horses in the Sierra Nevada, and that always makes me sad, but the sheep, goats, and cows are still grazing on our rolling hills. I try to drive through the farm at least once a day, because it is so peaceful. (I didn't realize goats climbed trees until the day I saw this, below.)

Like much of the Valley, we've been plagued by bark beetles, and we are going through the process of cutting and replacing infected trees. As I look out my window, I can see a number of pines which are slated for removal. It will take time for the new trees to grow to these heights. The campus has been here for 67 years, and many of the trees must go back that far or longer. There's a new break of pepper trees along our northern boundary. They are, perhaps, two inches in diameter. The good news is they grow very quickly. Horses like mine love to nibble the clusters of pink peppercorns and the leaves. At his ranch, Ace does an excellent job of keeping two large pepper trees trimmed. (The day I quit eating beef, below.)

I barely noticed this campus for the first ten years I lived in the Valley, even though we lived less than half a mile away. One day, I read the mailer for the Extension/Community Service classes and everything changed. I took my first riding class here, and then signed up for a number of the classes in the Horse Science division of the agriculture program. My son graduated from high school and started classes here as well. I boarded my horse here for four years, until we were kicked out on a pretext, and now the beautiful barns are empty except for the occasional show or clinic, or more frequent evacuations during fire seasons. The school horses live in paddocks, six to each of three of them, quite happily. And the covered arena, which makes it 20 degrees cooler in the summer, is used for school riding classes. Most of the time, it simply isn't used. (Fire season 10 years ago, below.)

The horses have gone to the Sierras for their real jobs--taking tourists into the mountains. They will be back in September, but for now, it is sad to drive through the farm, past empty corrals. The cattle, goats and sheep are sometimes in fields adjacent to the road to the south, but the north is just lonely. (Some of the boys observing a training class during the academic year, below.)

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