Ouch, My Aching Back!!!

My lower back issues began in 1991 when two friends and I decided to skip Senior Prom and enjoy an adventure in northern Michigan. Unfortunately, my adventure ended with a horse back riding accident at the Caple’s Ranch. Ever since, I struggle with regular lower back issues, at times requiring over a week of bed rest. Over the years, I have tried many remedies, some helpful, some not so much. Below are a few regular treatments/life habits with which I found success:

A Relaxing Night’s Sleep: How many times have you started the day with a sore back? Is your bed the cause? 1/3 of your life is spent in bed. Make an investment in a supportive mattress and pillow. Sleeping with a pillow between the knees also takes pressure off the lower back.

Hourly Movement: Do you spend most of the day sitting? Does standing up cause pain? If so, commit to getting up every hour during the day and walking for a few minutes. We aren’t meant to sit all day (Yes, that includes sitting at home watching TV). Hourly movement can reduce soreness.

Acupuncture: I’ve received acupuncture for over 15 years. A traditional 45 minute treatment relaxes and refreshes the entire body. I also found relief in placebo needle placement. Several times, my acupuncturist inserted needles where I had pain, greatly relieving the tenderness.

Ice/Heat: 20 minutes of icing the lower back, immediately followed by 20 minutes on the heating pad works wonders.

Flexibility and Core Work: Commit several times per week to leg and back stretches and core strengthening. You may find this website a helpful start.

Donut Pillow: While a bit embarrassing at first, the donut pillow places extra pressure on the glutes, relieving lower back tension. I keep one in my car and at home. Here’s a more discreet covered pillow.

Massage: Massage can ease tight muscles. Request extra work on the IT Band. Many lower back issues can be linked to tight or weak hips.

Resistance Bands: Speaking of hip issues, utilizing resistance bands can calm the IT Band and strengthen the hips. An appointment with a physical therapist often includes resistance bands to take home and a set of hip strengthening exercises. Make those exercises part of your regular routine!

Remember to use caution and keep in contact with your health care provider when adding a new activity into your regimen.

Thanks for reading!


A Girl and her Horse

High school and college football near completion, and the last of the garden harvest at Cairn Hill Farms continues (We ended up with more butternut squash than expected. Despite giving away much of it, we still have enough to dominate dinners for the next six months!!).

In addition, harvesting brussel sprouts over the past few days reminds me of my experience making pies from scratch, not worth the time! Since the garden is Chad’s “baby,” I hope he rethinks next year’s planting line-up.

MK also continues work with her Haflinger, Larken. This stout and sassy 13 year old mare was not ridden for the previous 18 months before joining our farm, so MK and her trainer, Jenn, developed a training regimen.


While horses were an important part of my life, watching MKs journey into training, observing, and interacting with equine behavior has been a learning experience. The past year provided many positive adventures. Witnessing her passionate pursuit even inspired a bit of micro poetry:

Four legs,
Long face,
Beginning smile,
Saving grace.

As fall enters its final act, take the time to enjoy the vibrant colors, crisp days, and tastes of the harvest. Thanks for reading!


(My elderly pony, Goldy)

A New, yet Traditional Adventure

This past weekend brought back many memories. My daughter entered her first dressage show. While my knowledge in this sport is more historical, the experience did stir up equine memories. I first learned about the art of dressage from my mother. She explained how her Uncle Billy, along with any men with horse experience, were recruited during WWII to train for the invasion of Italy, as motorized vehicles could not maneuver the rocky terrain. Uncle Billy and all those other “Cowboys” prepared to infiltrate and ultimately fight using horses and mules. Much of this training can be traced to modern day dressage.

Growing up a city girl, Mom and Dad found a way to provide the “horse experience.” My primary horse knowledge involves a western saddle, upon Dad’s insistence (Probably because of his childhood in the Colorado mountains).
However, one day when Mom was making the daily jaunt to the barn, she surprised me, “I picked up a used English saddle. Give it a try.” And proceeded to tell me about Uncle Billy’s experience during the war.

Back to recent events…three weeks ago, MKs trainer, Jenn, suggested she try a dressage show. MK primarily studies behavioral/training issues, not show preparation. While I was hesitant, Jenn assured me that Mary had a firm foundation, and with a bit of focus, she could learn the needed information.

So for the past three weeks, she immersed herself in videos and lessons while I attempted to throw together an outfit. After a trip to Goodwill, I found a suitable coat (with a few minor alterations), and thanks to some borrowed tack, she was good to go! Her choice of pin brought me tears, the unicorn pin Mom gave her last year (shortly before passing).
Horse shows are an exciting and nerve wracking time (for mothers and daughters). The mental focus is only amplified when also preparing the perfect 3-4 minute routine partnered with a 1,000-1500 lb. animal. Though horse shows provide the perfect, final perk, the down time, just being there, relaxing in the midst of the glorious chaos.

While not the finest cinematography (In my defense, I apparently have potential as a show mom;), much of the day is here. Enjoy!

Dressage 2016


Cairn Hill Farms Summer 2016

We have had a busy spring, hatching chicks, harvesting nettles, learning to grow fodder, another graduation, and preparing for the 2016 season at the Hastings and Middleville Farmer’s Market. Included are a few pictures of the fun times on the farm:

Last month, Chad loaned me a pair of chemist gloves, and I set out in the nettle patches, collecting the healthy plant to dry for tea and fresh nettles for pesto.  While the pesto sold out within a few days, I’m excited to offer some tea at the Farmer’s Market this year.


MK working with Reuban and Rosie…

Some of our new layers, hatched on the farm in March…  


You may also enjoy reading our 2016 Summer Newsletter.

This season we will carry beeswax lip balm, goat’s milk soap, nettle tea, lavender or citrus spray, body butter, eggs, fresh veggies, and some other treats. Hope to see you at the Farmer’s Market!

Middleville, Friday 8-1

Hastings, Saturday 9-1

You can also find our products at the Farm Store.

Spring Break: Horses, Bourbon, and the End of the Wilderness Road


Several months ago, I realized that the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing was this May. While I had visited the small cemetery south of Louisville to see where he was buried, I never saw his headstone. Chad and I wondered if we should spend a long weekend in the area. At this point you must be thinking, “Touring cemeteries, what a fun filled vacation!” To be honest, I had the same thought and wondered if we should postpone the trip. Then I researched all the interesting activities to do in Kentucky. We ended up planning the following long weekend:

Shepherdsville, Kentucky, is home to the longest go-cart track in America. This was the perfect place to start our adventure! Chad and George raced the Indy style carts while MK and I were quite content with the slower versions.

Many indoor activities were available, too. While all the latest video games were available, Chad and I enjoyed a Centipede tournament and showed our kids some of the other “old school” video games from our youth.

Later, we headed further south to visit Dad’s grave. He is buried in one of the oldest cemeteries west of the Alleghenies. Donning my teacher’s cap, I attempted to explain the value of wandering a cemetery for historical purposes, examining common local names, noting Civil War, WWI, WWII, and other soldiers, wondering what the oldest, illegible stones had etched in them, etc. We even found an oddly placed stone near a tree. Some time was spent guessing the age of the tree. Perhaps it was planted when the individual passed in 1859.

Next, we toured Maker’s Mark Distillery. Even though we aren’t bourbon fans, Chad and I enjoyed the tour, learning about the special water in the area, the owner’s passion for making a smooth bourbon, and his wife’s wisdom in marketing, a perfect combination for a product enjoyed around the world.

While waiting for the tour to start, we sampled bourbon flavored coffee. I was examining the map, looking at all the other stops on the Bourbon Trail, and an older man came up to me and offered assistance finding our next location. I was informed later that it was the owner of the company on his daily walk around the distillery.

After leaving Maker’s Mark, we drove to Bardstown and toured the Bourbon Heritage Center. I loved reading about Daniel Boone (a favorite historical figure). The museum did a fantastic job combining the grit, courage, and wisdom of the early explorer and frontiersman and how settling “Caintuck” was possible because of Boone’s Wilderness Road and that popular drink. Bourbon wasn’t just a spirit to be enjoyed, it was currency, a vital part of Kentucky’s economic system.

If you want to tour the nine stops on the Bourbon Trail, plan on spending at least 90 minutes at each location. You must pay for a tour if you want a tasting. We asked if we could just pay for a tasting at a second location, but apparently the process is not similar to the wine industry.

On our final day, we visited Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. MK and I love horses! In fact, Dad and I attended the Rolex 3-Day Event at Kentucky Horse Park in the late 80s. Some of my fondest memories were seeing John Henry, the famous race horse, and listening to Dad complain endlessly how cross country jumping was cruel to the horses.

Here we toured the International Museum of the Horse, wandered the many barns, watched the Breed presentation (see the Chincoteague pony below) and watched two different events at the park: A Hunter/Jumper Competition and The USMGA Mounted Games.

Just as Bourbon helped settle this great state, so did these beautiful animals who carried their owners across the Wilderness Road, offering a chance for a better life. While our vacations are not the usual destinations to tropical climates, I hope our kids look back on our semi-educational adventures fondly.

Photo of the Month: Richland Park Horse Trials

horse photo


This past weekend, a local gem was discovered! Every third weekend in August, a local field lined with corn becomes a horse lover’s paradise. Richland Park, located in southwest Michigan, hosts a yearly three day event. Competitors from novice to the Olympic level make their way here from all over the world.

A three day event consists of dressage, cross country jumping, and show jumping. The Richland Horse Trials are quite affordable for spectators, a day pass only costing $10 for a car load. Visitors can wander the grounds, view the barns, and even walk much of the cross country course.

One funny, put foot in mouth, moment was when we wandered to the classifieds wall, filled with postings for high end equestrian equipment and beautiful eventing horses. I saw a gorgeous sorrel thoroughbred and asked how much they were asking for her.

A lady standing nearby said 25,000. I couldn’t help myself and replied: “25,000…dollars?! I’ve never even paid that much for a car!” My daughter just rolled her eyes and shook her head.

These horses are obviously much more valuable than the $300 pony from my youth (seen below).


If you are looking for a unique sporting event that’s affordable for the whole family, check out the Richland Park Horse Trials!