Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby 10 Year Anniversary Party at Ruidoso Downs…Bird Looking Good in the NM Mountains!

By NM-GRL

On Saturday, July 13, I drove up to Ruidoso Downs to see Mine That Bird. The track appearance was to celebrate his Kentucky Derby victory 10 years ago!  The previous evening Bird was inducted into the Ruidoso Racehorse Hall of Fame.  Bird was making an appearance on behalf of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund to raise funds for this worthy cause.  While Bird is a gelding and can’t produce offspring, he still is out there raising money for charities such as Wounded Warriors, the PDJF, cancer charities, etc.

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I donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund again…this time I got poster but we also go our pictures taken with Bird! I could have gotten a cap but went for the poster since I don’t wear hats, but now I have to find a place for this poster…it is HUGE!!

Three years ago in May, I went up to Roswell to meet Bird at the Double Eagle Ranch. At that time, my friend and I celebrated Bird’s birthday with a card, carrots, and singing “Happy Birthday.”  Dr. Blach, his co-owner and vet, gave us a tour of his office full of memorabilia including the blanket of roses that was draped on Bird’s whithers.  At the track, I reconnected with Dr. Blach, and also met co-owner Mark Allen for the first time.

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Bird looks INCREDIBLE, almost better than when I saw him 3 years ago in May.  He is now 13 years old!  He was so patient, standing for 1 1/2 hours to have pictures taken.  I got some great ones as I hung around.  I got to stroke his nose and look into his eyes and talk sweetly to him. I am in LOVE! Many people came very long distances, out of state to stay a few days just to meet him!

Then I had my poster signed (Mark actually did include my name and started to sing GLORIA, that old song spelling it out!)

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Dr. B was wearing his Derby ring so I was able to take a picture of that close-up. Nice chunk of gold, there!

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Dr. B also did a little Q and A ….I found out that Bird eats rolled oats 2x a day and alfalfa for roughage.  He is no longer going out for trail rides;  he is just hanging out with a small pony for company.  He said that most of the events in the movie “50 to 1” were actually true…the problem with getting the license, the pre-race party…hanging in the  tap room because they were basically ignored…He did talk about how jockey Calvin Borel really hit that rail (I have recently seen a photo showing the paint dust flying off!) and he said that while Calvin spotted the hole, it is true that Bird, who is VERY SMART, picked up on it and knew exactly what to do!

Between races 5 and 6, Bird and Mark Allen paraded to the cheers of the big crowd.

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Then, he exited the track to go home to Roswell, about 2 hours away….

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As I was waiting to meet Bird again, I had a nice chat with a trainer who looked exactly like a cowboy…grizzled face, black hat, with a slow drawl.  He was there to run his 8-year-old mare named No Mires a La Luna ( Translation: Do Not Look at the Moon) who came in second in race 2) and he said he considers his horses to be his babies. When they are born, he immediately hugs them close and from then on, they have little fear. He said after they retire, they become cattle horses….they are quarter horses, built for that sort of thing!

The first races were quarter horse trial races (440 yards) which were then followed by thoroughbred races of 5 or 5.5 furlongs …..a great combination for a fun day!

Here at Ruidoso Downs, our lead ponies definitely do not look like what you see at Churchill Downs or Ascot!

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But we do have glorious scenery and delightful weather, about 20 degrees cooler than where I live 3,000 feet lower in the desert…

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It’s a 226 mile round trip up to Ruidoso from my house, but it’s a gorgeous ride up from the desert floor up into the cool mountains.  Can’t wait to go up again!

 

 

 

WINX…THE MIGHTY MARE RETIRES WITH 33 CONSECUTIVE WINS

By NM-GRL…

Winx after Cox Plate 2018 after swim

Winx at the ocean Put on a show girl on more day

WINX by NM-GRL

She walked on the sand and gazed out at the sea
She faced infinity before her, felt the waves at her feet
She arrived at the course time after time
With the sea in her heart, she skimmed the ground
The waves of sound from the stands filled her soul
A sea of emotions carried her on
…She gazed at infinity, she brought us along….

Thank you, Winx

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In 1973, the times were dark.  Then came along a horse named Secretariat, who lifted the nation’s spirits.

George Plimpton commented at the time:  “He was the only honest thing in the country at the time, this huge magnificent animal that wasn’t tied up in scandal and money.”

As others said:  “Secretariat restored our faith in humanity.”

We have just witnessed the last race of Winx, the Australian super mare.  The statistics are easy to find, but she also has given us light during difficult times.

It is fitting that the 2018 Vox Populi Award, which was created by Secretariat’s owner, the late Penny Chenery,  was awarded to Winx.  This award “annually recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the general public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing. Winx was the top choice among U.S. voters as well as international fans representing a record 60 countries.”

She never raced here, but she touched the hearts of legions of fans who stayed up late many Friday nights to see her race on all those Saturday afternoons in Australia.

She retired sound, strong, and at her peak …You could say that she also had  “TWICE THE HEART….”

Born September 14, 2011; Retired at 7 + sound;  NO MEDICATIONS

Final Race: April 13, 2019 at Royal Randwick, Sydney, Australia

See:

Winx wins like a queen to complete career that was so much more than numbers

Youtube:  Winx Farewell Race – 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Weekend King Racing…     Full Race Coverage/Telecast from Channel 7 pre-and post-race

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Visit www.secretariat.com

https://twitter.com/winx_horse

http://winxhorse.com.au/

https://twitter.com/DKepitis

https://www.facebook.com/pg/winxchriswallerracing/posts/

January 20, 2019 Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse…from Southern New Mexico

By NM-GRL

We were lucky down here in my neck of the woods in southern New Mexico.  I don’t have a tripod but I have a porch with a convenient post that I could lean on.  It was cold…like dry heat, there is dry cold and when you’re at 4600+ feet above sea level, that cold is biting even though it may be in the high 40’s.

I caught the start, the peak, and the move out from totality..Top right is entry, bottom right is exit…Enjoy!

Happy 2019! New Horizons Has Flown Past Ultima Thule and I’m Still Onboard…4 Billion Miles Away

by NM-GRL

Three years ago I recounted how I managed to be aboard the New Horizons mission to Pluto…Well, a billion miles further out, this incredible mission has just completed the flyby of Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt…

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Artist’s Rendition From NASA…see About Ultima Thule

I’m now more than 4 billion miles away, a billion past Pluto.  The discoverer of Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh lived here, co-founded the Unitarian Church in town, and some of his ashes are on that spacecraft. I cheered along this morning when they received the signals confirming the checklist of all the instruments and we found out that all  are working fine,  just like I cheered when they first got the “call in”  and then during the flyby just at the start of the new year at about 12:30 AM ET, January 1, 2019.  It will take 20 months to download all the data and the clearest pictures from the closest distance/the actual flyby will be coming in February, the same month I was born. It’s SO FAR and it takes so long for that signal to come back to Earth. Another briefing will be tomorrow (2-3 pm ET, January 2) and some first pictures from the approach will be shown and these will confirm the shape of this little world.

Watch on Youtube at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory channel and NASA TV. (NASA was off the air when New Horizons first called in due to the government shutdown but was streaming today’s “checklist” confirmation coverage, so hopefully it will streaming again tomorrow).

Below is a re-post about the original Pluto mission’s first success.

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I’m Aboard the New Horizons Mission’s Final Approach to PLUTO Happening NOW!!

Originally published on January 19, 2015 at sister site…

By InsightAnalytical

UPDATE: To keep up to date with New Horizons Mission’s approach, these are the sites with all the info!  Both sites have countdown clocks to the time of the closest approach which will be at 7:49:59 a.m. EDT (11:49:59 UTC) on July 14, 2015.  The Johns Hopkins countdown also includes the elapsed time of the mission as well as a countdown to when the start of the close encounter operations begin,  12 April 2015, 00:00:00 UTC.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/New Horizons website  — scroll down to sign up for their email newsletter for the latest updates, including tracking the craft’s location in the solar system.

NASA New Horizons Mission website  — latest news, Tweets, pictures and other information!

***

I’ve always been fascinated by space.  I cherish books which I’ve had since childhood.  Published around 1957, these well-worn treasures are always in view in my office bookcase. So, winding up living in Southern New Mexico near the White Sands Missile Range has been a happy coincidence since it’s a hotbed of all things astronomy and space!   Post-World War II, Werner Von Braun was brought here to test rockets for the U.S. Army and captured V-2 rockets carried hundreds of  payloads.

 

Childood Space Books

Childhood Space Books

What Space Exploration Would be like in the 1970's--Werner Von Braun from Chapter in "Outer Space"

Werner Von Braun’s vision of space exploration in the 1970’s–from chapter in “Outer Space”

NASA’s  White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH), was the primary training area for space shuttle pilots flying practice approaches and landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and served as a backup landing site (Shuttle Columbia landed here on March 30, 1982). And I was able to witness the final flyover of the space shuttle Endeavour on its way it’s final home in California on September 20, 2012.  NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which has supported many missions, is a few miles from my home.   I watched as Endeavour circled over White Sands and the NASA facilities on Route 70 in a final goodbye, swung back over the assisted-living facility where my mother was at the time and then flew right over me as I stood on the dam and then turned toward the west.   I had tears in my eyes as I simply loved the space shuttle era! And this haunting video of the flyover brings tears to my eyes now!   I met Alan Hale, of Hale-Bopp Comet fame at the local co-op one day and had lunch with him on his next visit to Las Cruces from his home in Cloudcroft.  Who could have imagined that when I viewed the comet back in 1997 in New Jersey I would someday chatting with one of the discoverers! I also built a 4.5″ Dobsonian reflector telescope telescope one summer at a class sponsored by the Astronomical Society…and later had my scope signed by John Dobson himself when he visited the club!  And, the Spaceport which is waiting for Richard Branson’s commercial edge of space flights to become operable, is just a short distance away.

But even more important now is the fact that Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto,  lived and passed away here…and some of his ashes are aboard the New Horizons spacecraft! See Clyde Tombaugh: Astronomer Who Discovered Pluto, from Space.com.

Tombaugh was a founder of the local Unitarian Church and he is memorialized in a stunning stained glass window in the Tombaugh Gallery,  which houses a variety art exhibitions.

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It was quite by accident (or was it synchronicity?) that I’ve reconnected with this Pluto mission. I’ve been clearing out a lot of old stuff lately…clothes, files, and all sorts of stray papers. Recently, I rediscovered a lost printout that I promptly restored to a prominent place in my office.

This single piece of paper reads:

NEW HORIZONS MISSION

Shedding Light on Frontier Worlds

Participation Certificate

Presented to

***********My Name************

On August 30, 2005

Thank you for joining the first mission to the last planet! A compact

disc bearing your name will be included on the New Horizons spacecraft,

set for the first voyage to a new class of planets on the solar system’s

farthest frontier.

Come with us as we complete the reconnaissance of the solar system and unlock

the secrets of Pluto, its moon, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt.

Certificate No. 277229

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  On December 6, 2014, NASA posted this update on the mission entitled “On Pluto’s Doorstep, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter.”  (http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/on-plutos-doorstep-new-horizons-spacecraft-awakens-for-encounter/#.VLWz3HuW6oN)

After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation today for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., confirmed at 9:53 p.m. (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

“This is a watershed event that signals the end of New Horizons crossing of a vast ocean of space to the very frontier of our solar system, and the beginning of the mission’s primary objective: the exploration of Pluto and its many moons in 2015,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

With a seven-instrument science payload that includes advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolored camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers and a space-dust detector, New Horizons will begin observing the Pluto system on Jan. 15.

New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto will occur on July 14, but plenty of highlights are expected before then, including, by mid-May, views of the Pluto system better than what the mighty Hubble Space Telescope can provide of the dwarf planet and its moons.

“New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we’ve never seen, in a place we’ve never been before,” says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of APL. “For decades we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it’s really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them.”

January 15th!  With very little fanfare, New Horizons is going places where no spacecraft has gone before! It is happening right now!

In a January 5th article in Time Magazine entitled “ Hello Pluto! NASA’s Visit to the Mystery World Begins,” Alan Stern who has led the project writes:

It’s not exactly top secret, but it is too little known: this month, a small, robot spacecraft—built, launched and guided by a team of over 2,500 Americans—will begin the exploration of far-away Pluto and its five known moons. Lasting from January through July, this epic journey is very much the Everest of planetary exploration.

New Horizons already set records when it was launched in 2006 by becoming the fastest spacecraft to leave the Earth—reaching the orbit of the moon in just nine hours, about 10 times more quickly than the Apollo spacecraft did. Now, after traveling for nine straight years at an average speed of 39,000 m.p.h. (59,000 km/h)—equivalent to L.A. to New York in four minutes—it is at last approaching its historic rendezvous. No spacecraft has ever ventured farther—3 billion miles (4.8 billion km)—to reach its primary target.

At its closest approach, New Horizons will pass Pluto at a distance of just 6,000 miles (9,700 km). It will send back images at resolutions so high that if it were flying over New York City at the same altitude, it could count wharves on the Hudson River and ponds in Central Park. It will also take measurements of Pluto’s composition and atmosphere, study its moons, and more.

In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences ranked visiting the Pluto system at the very top of NASA’s exploration priorities. Why? Because in the 1990s, planetary astronomers discovered a vast structure in our solar system, a previously unknown disk of comets and small planets out beyond Neptune, called the Kuiper Belt. Pluto was the first of many small planets discovered out there, and it is still both the brightest and the largest one known.

The Kuiper Belt is the largest mapped structure in our planetary system, three times as big as all the territory from the sun out to Neptune’s orbit. The comets and small planets that make it up are valuable because they represent the astronomical equivalent of an archeological dig, reaching back to the era of planet formation, 4.6 billion years ago.

Nothing like the exploration that New Horizons is about to undertake has happened in a generation, and nothing like it is planned or even contemplated to happen again. It is likely the last time in our lifetimes that a new planet will be explored. This is more than scientifically important—though it certainly is that. It’s also a reminder of what American technology, culture and daring, on its game, can do.

So… my name and certificate number on a disc that is on a small craft…and the most amazing space mission to date!

To the edge of our solar system…and beyond!

My Horse Pilgrimage…Part 2: On the Trail of “My Inner Secretariat”

By NM-GRL

A year has gone by since my first post about “my horse pilgrimage.”  (Scroll down for Part I…).  It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but a series of  “hoof” issues kept me from focusing on doing it! Well, a year later….

So, now it is a little over 2 years ago since I’ve completed my pilgrimage, but the memories remain fresh and inspiring!

***

December, 2015.  It was very dreary and my mood was just as depleted. My mother was in hospice and there were clearer signals as to when she would pass on.   My days were full of  errands, visits and keeping up a cheery demeanor for her.  At night, I would be exhausted, physically and emotionally, and it was hard to settle down and get to bed.

For some reason I will never know…one night/morning at about 2 A.M., just before Christmas,  I went to Youtube and typed in the search box …”Secretariat.” To this day, I do not know why.

The first thing I came upon was a video of the 1973 Belmont, a grainy video with music (from Secetariat–the movie) posted by wyocalboy:

I watched it. I watched it again. And again. And, suddenly I was crying.*  Was it over the time that had disappeared, or was it because the magnificent power of that horse?

Over the following nights, I watched this video every night, multiple times each night.  And I began to realize that it renewed my spirit.  I began to talking to myself in terms of being carried forward by “my inner Secretariat.”   Secretariat came to embody endurance, strength, and the spiritual.  Secretariat became The Source.

***

My mother passed in early February 2016 a few days after my birthday. She passed at 4:18 P.M. and the wind passing through the pine trees outside of her window must have been her spirit. My father died at 4:18 P.M.  I was born at 4:18 P.M.

My mother was only a couple of months older than Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, who would pass in September 2017.  Shortly after my mother died, a “new” video of the 1973 Belmont appeared on Youtube. The NYRA (New York Racing Association) had FINALLY released a full-color version of the race! It was a like a new day was dawning!!

After finishing up a lot of estate work and catching my breath, I decided to return to the East Coast for the first time in 16 years.  I was on the road for about a month and it was an epic trip!

I went up to Saratoga, New York just after the close of the season and enjoyed the National Horse Museum and a kind guard allowed me to take some pictures of the track from inside the gates. I trekked down to Monmouth Racetrack and was treated to a tour of the entire facility by a staff member. What a beautiful place!

IMG_7663 Saratoga Racetrack

IMG_8040 Monmouth Park

Then, came the biggest part of the trip…

I braved the traffic down I-95 to Doswell, Virginia the day after the State Fair of Virginia  closed.  It was rather bittersweet to see The Meadows turned into a carnival site.  Through the disarray, I toured the grounds with Leanne Ladin, the author of
Secretariat’s Meadow….she had even kept the life-size banner of Big Red up for me…and, he WAS big (for reference, I am 5’5” tall). The day I was there at his birthplace was actually the day when Secretariat passed, October 4. That realization literally gave me the chills.

IMG_8518“Twice the Heart”…

A few days later I was at Secretariat’s grave at Claiborne Farm, weeping unabashedly. As the group left, I lingered and the guide patiently listened to my story about my mom and what Secretariat meant to me. He took a rose from the bouquet lying on the gravestone and gave it to me…and I got it safely home. And I also shed a tear for Riva Ridge, who deserves credit for saving The Meadows, a fact that most people forget.

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After the Claiborne tour, I dashed down the Paris Pike to Gainesway Farm. I had made an appointment to visit privately because I could not make it to their tour in time from Claiborne.  Of course, I saw Tapit…but my actual goal was to see the now unheralded Birdstone, who won the 2004 Belmont, robbing Smarty Jones of that year’s Triple Crown.  Birdstone…the sire of Mine That Bird! (another story about him coming!)

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Of course, I visited many other places around Lexington, Kentucky:  Keeneland Racetrack, Old Friends Equine for retired horses, WinStar Farm, Kenny McPeek’s Magdalena Farm, and The Kentucky Horse Park. The Kentucky Horse Park has a special place there which I will muse on in the future. Pictured below is Tinners Way at Old Friends, the last colt from Secretariat’s final crop…Sadly, he passed away in July 2017. I was so lucky to meet him as he enjoyed what would be his last fall.

IMG_8930Tinners Way

And then came the two and a half day trip home. And, along the way I stopped in Ruidoso, New Mexico, home of Ruidoso Downs and the All-American Futurity, the  “richest race for 2-year-olds in North America, regardless of breed.” (!!)

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I toured the fascinating Hubbard Museum of the West (formerly the Museum of the Horse) which is next door to the track.  And right outside, there is one of the largest sculpture installations of horses in the world, consisting of  eight horses, one and a half life-size, representing seven horse breeds — the Standardbred, Morgan, Arabian, Paint (mare and foal), Appaloosa, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred — as they gallop over the landscape.

Free Spirits at Noisy Water by Dave McGary

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One year after I was on the road visiting the places where Secretariat and Riva Ridge lived, ran, and are laid to rest,  Penny Chenery passed away on September 16, 2017.

I am fortunate that Penny was still signing pictures and other memorabilia at the time I  started collecting and which I cherish today. My house has become a shrine to Secretariat, Penny, Riva, Tinners Way, and my beloved Mine that Bird, who, yes, has a bit of Secretariat in his blood.

And, now, happily, I have horses in my blood again…

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*That grainy video with the evocative soundtrack still makes me cry.

My Horse Pilgrimage…Part 1: Kelso, Carry Back and Sunrise County, My Childhood “Crushes”

By  NM-GRL

About one year ago at this time,  I had just arrived home from an epic trip that took me back to New Jersey for the first time in 16 years.  I saw family, of course, but a big part of my time was spent on my “horse pilgrimage.”

But this post is about where it all began…in the early 60’s when I was about 10 years old.

As a child, I never owned or rode a horse.  I was just a kid in the NYC suburbs in love with horses.  One time as I lay in bed sick, I learned to draw horses by tracing a small model over and over. I was very good at drawing the heads of horses.  At some point, we had a class assignment to create a travel poster and I chose Argentina as my destination.  The text read “Come to Argentina…and See the Gauchos!”  I drew a running horse with a gaucho with his hat and poncho moving in the wind which was quite good! I probably found a picture and sketched my gaucho from that example.

And then, something happened. I lost touch with horses.  I don’t remember if it was because the races weren’t on TV or I just got older and more involved with activities and school.

Fast forward about 55 years…yes, about 55 years or so…as I started to remember my horses from way back when.

As a kid, I remember sitting on Saturday afternoons glued to the old B & W Philco as my mom vacuumed around me. I wasn’t watching cartoons…I was watching racing from Aqueduct Racetrack.  I was devoted to the great Kelso, Carry Back, and a less famous competitor named Sunrise County.

Kelso

Kelso with Eddie Arcaro onboard

What can you say about Kelso?  Five times Horse of the Year. 2 mile races? 8 seasons of racing, 63 races, and post-retirement, a second career as a jumper and dressage horse! Stamina, to say the least!

And Carry Back…won the Derby and the Preakness but came up short of the Belmont back in 1961. Carry Back “the little brown colt from the wrong side of the tracks” was a one of those horses who you thought was so far back he could never catch up…but, well watch for yourselves! As a three year old, the Associated Press described him as being a “scrawny, little horse” and weighing no more that 970 pounds…Maybe, but he ran 61 times and was called the “People’s Choice.”

Carry Back

Carry Back

Sunrise County never had the fame and mystique of Kelso and Carry Back,  but he is still etched in my mind.  Hard to find anything on him, except for a video or two…below the 1962 Wood Memorial, where he earned a foul and was put back to 2nd place…and later in the Derby, he doesn’t show up in the video in contention.  Sunrise County ran 41 times, with 10 wins, 10 places and 9 shows.  Not famous, but one of those horses who worked hard and showed up and did his job!

So, through the decades, these are the horses that are still with me.

Enjoy the videos…Go back to the early 1960’s and pretend you are a kid on a Saturday afternoon watching the races!  Just turn off the cell phone…after all, we didn’t get interrupted by them back then…

Coming soon:  The next steps in my return to the horses…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Sun Oven Season: Solar Cooking Revs Up!

By NM-GRL

At the Jersey Shore, Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kick-off of the summer season.  Here in southern New Mexico,  we ease into summer early, usually during May. And that’s when my solar cooking kicks into high gear!

The great thing about living in the Southwest is that I can use my Sun Oven all year long. In more northern climates the winter gray will curtail its use.  But, temperatures won’t stop you–so on a clear, sunny winter day, you can cook!

Here during the summer, when the sun shines down from high in the sky and the days are longer, I can use it to cook several meals in one day.  And, it costs nothing and doesn’t heat up the kitchen and make the A/C run like crazy.

I’ve had my Sun Oven for about a year and it’s fantastic. I bought it for “self-sufficiency.” This simple but well-engineered oven uses no electricity or gas and can cook, dehydrate, and pasteurize water.  Just the thing to have around if things get dicey if and when the dollar collapses under the weight of our national debt.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying it for its own sake.  I have to say that this thing makes the BEST sweet potatoes (yams) that I have ever tasted! No need to candy them with extra sugar–they candy themselves.  So much better than baking in a regular oven, microwave or boiling them!!   In fact, all foods taste wonderful.  Seriously, for this alone the Sun Oven is worth having!

Side view of the oven

I bought my oven after attending a talk at our co-op given by the president of the company that makes them.  They are carefully designed and are so well insulated (with non-toxic materials) that they are able to keep food warm after cooking is completed, something most solar ovens can’t do.  The company has worked with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and governments to fulfill their mission:

Our Mission

SUN OVENS International, Inc. is striving to develop and implement comprehensive solar cooking programs that will radically decrease the developing world’s dependence on fuel wood and dung as the primary cooking fuels while benefiting the environment, raising the standard of living and improving the health of the poor worldwide.

From ice fishermen in Minnesota baking their catch on a frozen lake to desert dwellers in Kuwait baking lamb,
SUN OVENS® are helping people everywhere!

“Everywhere” includes the following countries (click on the the links to find out the details about these efforts):

You can get all the details on how the ovens are built and operate at the Sun Ovens International site.

Here are some more pics of the oven:

Reflectors fully opened...

The oven is easy to carry when closed up...

Since the oven weighs only 21 pounds, it’s easy to carry and set up anywhere!  And yet, it’s big enough to roast whole chickens and a decent- sized turkey! There are loads of recipes here at the Sun Oven International site…but it’s easy to create your own and adjust them to cooking solar.

Aside from cooking the best yams ever, I like using my oven to make casseroles. I put some elbow macaroni in the bottom of a blue Pyrex baking dish that I’ve sprayed with cooking spray, add vegetables, and pour over diced tomatoes or broth.  After the oven is preheated (usually to about 350 degrees or even higher on extreme sun days), I pop the dish into the oven and walk away, except to check on where the sun is every half hour or so and move the oven slightly to catch the maximum light.   If I start a dish for dinner at about 3:30 p.m. I’m ready to eat by 5 or so and if I eat later, the food is still warm.  If I want to cook during the noon hour, cooking time goes way down…often to cooking times similar to those of a conventional oven.  You can even put your food in the oven before going to work and come home to a fully cooked meal!

Solar-cooked foods are extremely healthy, too, because you can cook without any oil.  Natural juices are retained and food is delectable!

The oven comes with a dark enamel pot and lid which  maximizes heat retention. But, if I want to check on the progress of a dish, a dark glass dish (red or blue) will do fine (especially for casseroles–see above).    It’s easy to tell when a dish is starting to cook…food smells begin to waft out of the oven and once condensation starts to form on the glass, you know that some serious cooking is underway!  If the dogs are out, they start to sniff the good smells, too!

Here’ are some pics of a dish I made the other day for dinner:  eggplant with onions, garlic and tomatoes over pasta.

Ready to start cooking...

Within 45 minutes, cooking is progressing nicely.

Serious cooking underway, lovely smells wafting...

Even though clouds cut into the sunlight later in the afternoon, the temperature in the oven stayed high enough to complete the cooking.

In addition to baking potatoes and making casseroles, I’ve baked bread and made pasta (warm up uncooked pasta in one container while water is being boiled, then dump the pasta into the hot water and continue cooking…).  It gives me a real kick to cook food “off the grid.”

As I write this, I have some yams cooking in the dark enamel pot. Here’s a pic of them nestled in, before being covered. I wash them and no extra water needs to be added. I use 4 binder clips to make the cover fit tightly, which helps them cook even faster. I don’t even prick them with a fork. Once done, they will be incredibly melt-in-your-mouth soft and sweet.  I have them at breakfast every day. Yummy! And the dogs LOVE them…

Yams ready to go...

I’m seriously thinking of getting another oven so I can cook and either bake, boil or dehydrate at the same time.  That way, if things get crazy and there’s a disruption of services, I’ll be able to put a meal on the table without a problem!

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More info on worldwide use of solar ovens, testing various ovens, etc. at The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air site…