Friday, December 31, 2010


This is the emergency broadcast system. This is not a test.

I was going to entertain you with more haiku today, but something terrible has happened. I need your support.

Today was supposed to be a regular spa day—a nice little hoofie trim, a fresh mane roach, an ear massage, and a handful of sunflower seeds (for shine). Instead of merely taking care of my beauty routine, however, FarmWife spent a full hour in contemplation of and attention to my overall physique. The upshot? A revision of my condition from Plump to Obese. (Her actual words, upon removing my blanket for the first time in a few days, were "Oh my God! You've ballooned!") She has decided that my fatness has become a health risk, and has resolved to exercise me as often as possible.

It gets dark at 4:30. Her husband gets home at 5:30. She has small children and no sitter.

This, my friends, means that I will end up being longed. Longed at the end of a stupid, smelly old rope. Forced to walk and trot in stupid, boring, awful circles. Around and around and around.

FarmWife doesn't particularly like longing me, but she feels forced. I assured her that there is simply more of me to love, but she won't hear a word of it. She says I must get fit, and that if I can get a little extra exercise during the week it will mean all the more fun for us when we DO get out on the trail.

The worst of it? She has mentioned reducing my hay to 8 pounds a day, which in my opinion is about enough to sustain an average guinea pig.

Woe is me.

Ears to you,


(Fenway Bartholomule)
(Fatty Bigass)

p.s. FW knows that 8 pounds of hay a day is not much at all, and she doesn't want you to think that she would ever underfeed hay. It's important, she realizes, for gut function and for boredom control. She feels quite unsure as to how to make me thinner, though, as I am such a wonderfully easy keeper. She resolves to take it easy on the treats, though I already get less than a half a cup of various yummy things (apples, carrots, alfalfa pellets, or sunflower seeds as training treats) on any given day. She welcomes advice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just a Guess

It's too early to call it yet, but early predictions show that Clover the Chihuahua is poised to snatch the title of Best Dog Ever in her tiny, adorable little jaws.

I am swept off my feet! Every quality that a dog should have is here, and in spades. She's attentive, trainable, athletic, active outdoors, quiet indoors, mannerly, and social. She likes other dogs, welcomes my friends, and enjoys the company of men, women, children, cats, goats, mules, chickens, and rabbits. She barks little and growls less. Though she will defend the door against intruders, she's easily quieted with a word. She's clean, she's cuddly, and she's equally comfortable in a lap or on the floor.

In terms of more tangible features, she's my perfect dog: short-haired, glossy, full-tailed, well-conformed, prick-eared, muscular. The vacuum loves her—after the trauma of cleaning up after big, fluffy, white Paisley all these years, Clover is a breath of fresh air with her teeny black hairs.

It's early days, but I may be a chihuahua convert. I hope so . . . if this is my new favorite breed, the future kibble bills promise to be very manageable!


Bent Barrow Haiku (5 of 10)

A good sort, a dear—
I, Fenway Bartholomule,
Am really quite swell.

Jasper Jules, a tool?
Yes, rather—but a nice guy,
and a strapping one! 

B.G., dear loud girl—
chatty, insistent talker—
you ever shut up?

Missy, you're not tall!
How did these two monsters spring
From your little womb?

Braver than a goat,
Smaller than a rex rabbit.
Not a rat; Clover! 

Vacuums tremble at
Paisley's approach. Dust bunnies?
More like dust bison! 

Coming tomorrow: Harriet, B, Townes, Desmond, and the chickens!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Clicker Questions

My FarmWife owns a clicker. She owns a treat-apron, loaded with delectable morsels. She owns a food-motivated yet respectful mule—one who waits for a treat to be presented rather than going after it himself, that is. I have the manners and the inclination to become a real superstar in the clicker-trained-animal division, but FarmWife has a few questions. Experts? Feel free to chime in!

1) is it ok to allow me, Fenway Bartholomule, to see and hear her clicker-training Clover the chihuahua in my field of vision? Will I become confused if I witness such an outrage? Similarly, what if Clover witnesses me being reinforced with the clicker during her "loading" period, when she is supposed to get a treat immediately after each and every click? Won't she feel gypped?

2) Can FarmWife reinforce several things in one session, or is it better to keep it simple? For instance, if FarmWife wants my backing up on the ground to be priority one, is it also ok for her to click at me for doing something else nice? Can I get clicked at and rewarded for braying, for instance, if that's something she wants to hear more of, or would that confuse me since I'm supposed to be getting clicked at for backing?

3) Should FW clicker-train every day to keep the connection (sound=treat=yes!) fresh? Can she miss a few days and expect me to remember the concept? ("Of course you must never miss a day, and there must be carrots hourly," I tell her, but she won't take it from me).

Ears to you, and may you be clicked at for every good thing!


Monday, December 27, 2010

5 Projects that Aren't Happening

An example of a restored Herschell trojan jumper

FarmWife's Herschell trojan jumper
FarmWife has a handy little mental list of impending projects. Seeing as she can't even find time to ride her dear Fenway Bartholomule more than once per month, however, I think most of them fall more into the category of "dream" than "plan." Because dreams, however, are fun, and because you're a fun group to dream with, here are a few of her deferred projects* in no particular order:

1) Restore her carousel horse. The horse, a c. 1916 Allen Herschell outside row trojan jumper, is glorious in all his weathered beauty, but would look rather fine with new, repaired wood joinery, a nice seal brown paint job, and a smooth, shiny finish. Maybe someday! In the meantime, I am shiny enough for the both of us.

2) Pull stumps in the pasture. I am good at safely navigating the stumpish area, and I would rather live with stumps than be harnessed and forced to labor for their removal. I say they should stay.

3) Tend the maples. Is it a maple thing? All this dead wood? They look healthy enough, but for every living branch it seems there is another, dead one! We try not to stand under them too often. FarmWife would like to saw them down, but she is afraid of ladders and chainsaws, and especially the combination of ladders and chainsaws. That's something to work on.

4) De-rust the trailer. A paintjob would do my old Brawley good, but at the very least FarmWife should apply some of that handy rust-converter stuff. The trailer is soundly built and has a lovely new floor, but the rust on the roof is going to turn into a new skylight if we're not careful! I neither want nor need a skylight.

5) Clean the habitat. Someday.

In the meantime, FarmWife mucks my paddock daily. She feeds me morning and evening, and pops in with a carrot or an apple slice each afternoon. She updates my blog daily, manages to feed her children, and keeps the bunny litter fresh. I won't accuse her of being lazy if she doesn't master the arts of arboriculture and carousel carving in 2011, but she'd better not let my trailer rust through.

Ears to you,

*I am excluding from this list those projects that are either dependent on large influxes of cash (barn building, paddock graveling, house painting, arena making) or on FarmHusband's skill (cathedral making, window reframing, roof replacing). Those are posts for another day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A wildly busy week

Bad news: a wildly busy week means I haven't blogged (though Fenway somehow still manages HIS daily posts).

Good news: we've been busy with all sorts of fun. Paid work (always good) has wrested my time away from Puddle Run, and then there was Christmas. Along with it, Clover the Christmas Chihuahua (yo quiero figgy pudding?). HOLY AMAZING PRESENT, BATMAN! She is lovely, and there will surely be Clover stories to follow. Many heartfelt thanks to the Alternative Humane Society for the matchmaking, and to my husband for noticing that we were one dog short.

More posts to follow . . . and, as always, thanks for reading!


How FarmWife got a Christmas Puppy

How FarmWife got a Christmas puppy: An instructive story by Fenway Bartholomule.

1. FarmWife was approached by the potential puppy-giver (FarmHusband) several weeks in advance of the holiday. The subject was broached, FarmWife got her clapping and squealing out of the way, and a decision was made by all of the grownups in the household in concert. There would be a Christmas puppy.

2. Several breeds were considered. Each grownup expressed his or her preferences on the matter, and certain rules were established: Must be small (FH). No dachshunds (FH). No beagles (FW). No terriers (FW).

3. Internet searches were made to learn of the adoption procedures at various local shelters and rescue groups. Applications and Statements of Interest were filed where necessary. With thousands of lovely dogs sitting in local shelters and foster homes, there was no reason not to adopt.

4. Dogs were met, and shelter representatives were told about our household (active, rural, big). Must like MulesGoatsChickensChildrenMenDogsVisitorsRabbitsWomenCatsCarRidesLongWalksOnTheBeach etcetera.

5. A dog was selected who suited the preferences of all of the adults in the household and who would likely enjoy the children, to whom they were being presented as a gift. Humane Society staff were informed of the dog's intended role as Gift, and they agreed that it would be acceptable (and that the dog could go back into foster care if it turned out that she did not enjoy the children). FarmWife met the dog in advance of FarmHusband's bringing her home, and they got on swimmingly.

6. The Gift was presented by FarmHusband to his wife and children on an evening when nothing special was planned, when no trips were coming up, and when FW would be home for most of the ensuing days to look after training matters.

7. Joy filled the household, and FarmHusband's esteem grew in the eyes of his wife and children. All was good.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shhh! Don't tell!

Don't tell L. at SYA, but FarmWife opened our Christmas present early! It arrived in the mail today and she couldn't help herself. It is SPECTACULAR! A treat apron, bedecked with the stunning visage of yours truly, and perfectly suited to the task of delivering a constant flow of well-earned mule snacks. It could not have come at a more perfect time, as FarmWife had recently resolved to improve my ground manners (specifically, backing up) with carrots AND to reward her new Christmas puppy with frequent liver snacks. This apron has Left and Right pockets, and the Left side has been at least temporarily assigned to carnivore treat duty. (FarmWife hopes L. will not mind, as I am a generous mule and quite willing to share).  Best thing—a velcro pocket at top, just right for carrying my Brays of Our Lives business cards when we're out and about. Other best thing—the whole apron is darned BEAUTIFUL!! Not unlike me, Fenway Bartholomule.

Ears to you,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas at a show barn

Dedicated to my FarmWife, Marnie.
Sung to the tune of "The Christmas Song," aka "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire."

♬♩Chestnuts boasting of their famous sires, 
Rude dogs nipping at your nose,
Ringside gossip being spread by young riders,
And folks dressed up in pricey clothes.

Everybody knows Vespucci, Bates, or Stubben tack
Will serve to make a hunter shine.
Slender girls with their hair all pulled back
Will find their custom DerDaus nice. 

They know that springtime's on its way; 
The time to put the heavy Rambo rugs away.
And every amateur is going to find
That just a hundred grand will buy a lovely ride.

And so I'm offering this simple thanks,
That I am just a humble mule.
The show world is nice, but I wouldn't think twice—
I'd rather be here, home, with you. ♪♫

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Trail ridin' mule

I'm a trail ridin' mule. It appears at the top of my resume as a bullet point, right underneath "hay eater," "best friend," and "splendiferous brayer." It is one of the several hundred best things about me.

Unfortunately for FarmWife, who is the sole beneficiary of my wonderful trail skills, I have not been riding lately. Somehow there's always something else for my human to do: a big project, a social gathering, a heavy workload. FarmWife works outside the home on Sundays, as you know, and every Saturday since Thanksgiving has been full up with Important Matters.

FarmWife doesn't mind winter in these parts. She cares little for ice and snow, but a steady drizzle is OK in her book. She would ride in a torrential downpour, a whipping wind, or a stormy shower. She has ridden me through lightening, hail, and northerly gales. The weather is not the issue.

The amount of daylight? THAT'S the issue. Our regularly scheduled Tuesday night rides are out, and Sundays after work are not an option. On weeknights, FarmHusband gets home from work a full 30 minutes after the departure of the last speck of dwindling light, and FarmWife simply doesn't feel safe about riding me down the road in the deep, gloomy darkness. Attempts to book a babysitter have failed, and FarmWife has some strange repulsion to the idea of leaving the children safely enclosed by the electric fence.

Never fear! Spring is nearly sprung, my friends. Every day gets lighter, now, and in these parts we've just six or eight weeks to wait for the first crocuses and hyacinths. I'm not going to fret, and if FarmWife only rides me once a month in winter then at least she has the good sense to ride me lightly. She will not push me to great exertion until the light of summer returns, and then we will work back into a four-day per week schedule. We've our whole lives ahead of us, and many promised rides.

Ears to you,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tags from Fetching Tags/Collar from Blocky Dogs

All those sleepless nights spent lying awake worrying which article of tack to tag—halter? Collar? Snaffle bridle? Harness? In the end, the folks at Fetching Tags intuited my need and sent FOUR tags for yours truly! Amazing. They're spectactular, and while our photos lack pizazz (every goat wanted to be first), the tags certainly don't. Thanks, guys—you make me feel special!


Paisley—one sandwich short of a picnic (in a good way)

Jasper Jules—garden tool

B.G.—ma petite chatte

Missy—Empress of all the light touches

Fenway—ears to you!

Collar by BlockyDogs

Thanks, Fetching Tags™!


FB and Garyn, dressage trainer extraordinaire
My new reindeer, Dino. They brought him to me and then they took him away again. I cried.
Most of our carolers assembled in the drizzling rain. (♪♬. . . I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas . . . ♬♪)

Well, here's the caroling recap. I, Fenway Bartholomule, dressed up in my garlands, bells, Santa hat and pretty new collar. I welcomed a dozen or so guests to Bent Barrow Farm, and we caroled hither and thither through the picturesque hamlet of Wickersham. We sang for young and old, and a very merry time was had by all. Regrettably, there was not one photo taken of me in all of my resplendent glory, but FarmWife holds out hope that we'll have enough light for a second photo shoot today.

The humans had cookies, cider, eggnog, donuts, and appetizers.

The worst thing about the night, though, is that this reindeer that they had brought to me in the afternoon was taken away in the evening. I was under the impression that they were giving him to me as a Christmas present, when all along he was just a rental. Pooh, pooh.

Caroling 2011 still on?

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, December 17, 2010

Food Guilt

Unlike 90%* of American consumers, I think about what goes into the food I eat. I notice the mono and diglycerides, the modified corn starch, the sodium stearoyl lactylate, and the partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

As a fallen vegan, I notice animal products on the label. My informed children make their own choices on the marshmallow question—Dylann, at six, abstains ethical grounds, while Robin, at three, says they're "sad, but delicious." I drink milk and cream from the neighbor's cow and goat milk from my own two does. I also consume store-bought dairy products, but not without a moral burden. I realize that it's the wrong thing for me, with my position on animal welfare, to do. I would like to stop.

In a perfect world, I would like to cook from scratch. Grow my own. Avoid all animal products except those raised in my very own yard, produced by happy, healthy animals, and produced in a system where all male offspring of said animals could end up in happy pet homes. It's not a viable solution for many, but it could be within reach for me.

Parents, what do you do when you've gradually slid into the habit of feeding your children tinned peaches and Annie's mac 'n' cheese? How do you retrain palates that have been introduced to Krispy Kreme donuts and A&W floats? How do you convince your kids that eating with the seasons really does mean no strawberries in December? 

I still have dietary restrictions. I haven't eaten red meat since 1987, and I won't eat a bird again once I finish the sad obligation of eating the 20 home-grown chickens in my freezer. That was an experiment in meat-eating that failed, personally, for me. It just doesn't feel right. I don't eat produce from outside the US, save the occasional B.C. grown-tomato or imported avocado (my weakness). I praise my children for their vegetarianism, and feel grateful that my two littlest ones avoid (non-fish) meat completely.

I would like to say that I won't eat dairy again, unless it's produced by my own very happy goats. I would like to say that I will never touch a soy- or corn- byproduct with a ten foot pole, and that all of my food will be grown in or around this productive valley. I would like to say that my children, my animals and I will eat locally, sustainably, organically, seasonally, and ethically. From experience, I can tell you that those would be false promises. Perhaps, in this season of resolutions, I should say this: I will think about what I'm buying. I will think about it with less guilt and more self-empowerment—not in terms of blaming myself for each choice, but in terms of thanking myself for each choice. I will take credit, in my own mind, for what I do RIGHT. Perhaps my right choices will snowball, and I'll find myself eating without guilt. 


*not a real statistic—just pulled this one out of thin air

Two Flocks

Larval human #2: "Mama, may I please have two flocks of five olives?"

At left: the end result of her creative scheming.

FarmWife's overall impression: Flocks of olives? Cute. Two times five? Early math—this kid's going places.

Fenway to FarmWife: "May I please have ten flocks of five carrots?"


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ask Fenway: A question from Luther

 This question comes from Luther, a shiny brown mule and the equine proprietor of Fetching Tags.

Hearty Greeting Brays to you, Brother Fenway,

I am writing to seek your advice concerning an inconstancy of sorts.  As troubling as it is to me, never let it be said that this mule shies from a problem or prances around the truth:
My ladies have come home smelling of grain beverage & a strange half-mule.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a separatist mule by any means - my own mother was a half-mule and I graciously share my pasture with a few of them now.   (The half-mules certainly don't have the manners and, well, finesse of a mule - but I don't hold that against them & am proud to have the quarter type half in the roots of my own family tree.)  
When pressed, my ladies say "we just had a beer with him", but when they thought they were out of my long earshot, the one who rides me went on about "his big strong neck" and how "cute and tall" he was.  You should know, my own neck is quite strong and at 16.1 hands, I'm not exactly short.  I didn't speak to them for a week but I'm not sure they noticed as this tactic only produced a single apple.  I'm not sure if I should jump the fence and hunt down the long haired neigher or just graze hay and forget the whole affair.

(He is a stout fellow - please find photos attached.)  I await your wise words and I wish you warm sun & hay that smells of summer days.

Your brother, 


Dear Luther,

As strange and disconcerting as this situation is, we must remember the facts: 

A) a mule is a woman's greatest treasure
B) without horses, there would be no mules.

With these facts in mind, we must admit that horses have a place in human's lives. Whether this PARTICULAR horse has a place in these PARTICULAR women's lives, however, is another matter! 

If he were a mare, I would suspect your women of plotting to introduce an infant disciple to your herd. Being that she is a he, however, I would rest assured that this is a fleeting flirtation. Their beers may be his, but their hearts are still yours.

Luther, maintain a reserved distance and take comfort in these two points:

A) where there is a big stout horse to do a mule's work, then somewhere nearby there is a mule at leisure
B) where there is a beer, then somewhere nearby there are five more.

So, Luther, here's my advice: first, demand the other five specimens from your ladies' next six pack. Next, send your humans out to saddle that stout fella. Once they've taken leave, just crack open a cold one and sit back. As you do, remember all that makes you better—your disproportionate strength, your sleek good looks, your intelligence and stoicism. I can tell you from personal experience that a mule can pass many a happy hour in such thoughts. When your humans get to thinking along those same lines, they'll be back. I'm sure of it.

Ears to you, 

My new collar!

Look what the folks at Blocky Dogs have made for me! As you may know, I like to stroll home bitless after a ride. I always look forward tremendously to the removal of my bridle, and now FarmWife can be assured that I am safely and fashionably restrained. I'm also told that collars are the safest way to be highlined, so future camping opportunities loom!

Further photos to follow. For now, please enjoy this image, courtesy of Blocky Dogs.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Calendar update

Here's the deal, folks—I promised FarmWife I would sell all of my bumper stickers and magnets before the holidays. It was a condition of being allowed to drop some more dough on calendar printing, and unfortunately I did not meet my goal. Funds are tight at Bent Barrow Farm, and stocking calendar inventory has proven to be beyond our means this year.

HOWEVER, I have some gorgeous images and some very mulish design ideas—and I would still like very much to make a 2011 Brays of Our Lives calendar before the end of 2010. I can do so with Zazzle, an online company whose custom calendars are quite nice. The advantage to me with this method is that there is no upfront cost. The disadvantage is that I cannot afford to keep the 2-for-1 pricing promise that I made to those kind individuals who submitted calendar images.

I will spend the rest of this week tracking down these folks and inquiring as to their flexiblity on this matter. Once that's settled, I will polish my design and get it to Zazzle for printing. I promise a calendar link within 7 days.

Thanks for your understanding, and EARS TO YOU!


A copy of my letter to photographer Tim Flach

Dear Tim,

I just wanted to send you a note (one of millions, I'm sure) commending you on your exhilarating and unique work. Your animal photography, in particular, takes my breath away. I am a mule, and my heart girth measures about 70 inches. That's a lot of breath.

I promised my fans that I would grace you with the privilege of an invitation to photograph me, Fenway Bartholomule. I realize that you are a busy professional and a gifted genius, but I thought it might not hurt to ask.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

My portrait:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dog business

Allie at could not have more perfectly captured the facial expressions and thought processes of Paisley (left, with the grin) and and Story (right, with the anguish) if she had known them personally. So what if Paisley is a fluffy white shepherd and Story a little red heeler—the basic vibe is PERFECT. This illustration perfectly describes our former canine family.

As you may recall, we came to the decision to "rehome" Story after about 14 months of trials and tribulations. She was an unhappy dog—afraid of dogs, cats, rabbits, children, goats, mules, chickens, and men—and wasn't getting the focused, safe socialization that she so desperately needed in this busy home. We got a very happy update recently—her new mom, a trainer and devoted dog lover, has been helping Story grow by leaps and bounds. Story now enjoys the company of other dogs in a safe setting and participates in group sports and classes. She looks wonderful. Meanwhile, our home has been much happier without the submissive urination and defensive nipping.

In the meantime, I have come to love Paisley more than ever. He'll have been with us for nine years this spring, and in all that time he's never done a single cruel, short-tempered, or dangerous thing. Every mistake he's ever made has been what we call an "error of enthusiasm"—a rocketing leap, a vigorous greeting, a bounding rush. He's never made an enemy. He's never been unkind.

So what if Paisley's brain is full of numerals and bumblebees. I love him more for it.


Things everyone should see

First there was Hyperbole and a Half, and then there is the photography of Tim Flach. Most of us have seen these around the internet, but if you haven't yet you should. Google his name, I beg you. There is so much muleness in his work. 

This gets me to thinking—should I invite Mr. Flach to Bent Barrow Farm to photograph me, Fenway Bartholomule? Surely he would be honored and overcome by the invitation. Perhaps in June, when my shine is fully restored.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule


This is a blog for mules, about mules, and by mules. Today, however, I must share something dog-related. It is a work by Allie Brosh, and you can find more like it at As Allie states on her site, it is strictly enforced by the copyright monster (but reposting is allowed). Come on back to Brays of Our Lives when you're done reading, unless you've wet your pants laughing. In that case, go get cleaned up.

Ears to you,

Monday, December 13, 2010


FEMA (Fenway's Emergency Management Action).

Here's the deal, guys—my good friends the Chicken People are stranded on an island.

It is not unusual for Wickersham to get wet. In fact, it is not unusual for Wickersham to get so wet that vehicle traffic to, from, and within our hamlet is impacted for days or weeks. Today, as it happens, our friends down the road are closed in by extensive flooding in every direction. I, Fenway, propose a solution.

I have a harness. I have  an intrepid handler (FarmWife). I have access to a kayak. (So what if FarmHusband built it with his own two hands and would hate to see it get dinged up—anyone with opposable thumbs could do that!) I, Fenway Bartholomule, am standing ready to replenish their supplies! Using my short-but-still-adequate legs and my capacious strength and bravery, I propose to float emergency rations, medical supplies, dry bedding, and other necessities to my friends in need.

Meanwhile, the Chicken People assure me that they're well stocked and doing fine. Pish posh, I say! This is my chance to shine!

Fenway, Disaster Relief Coordinator, standing by.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blatant Sponsor Promotion

I can't help it. I know I already recommended Nicker Stickers to you last week—they're just plain great. I wasn't going to mention them again, but my decals are here and they're AWESOME! I could not believe the turnaround time. I was expecting a January arrival, as I knew Anine was busy with Christmas orders. I stand corrected—it is not too late for custom holiday gifts! On Tuesday, I discovered Nicker Stickers. On Tuesday evening, I came to an agreement with the proprietor about advertising on the blog, and ordered six decals of my own. On Wednesday, I viewed online proofs of my custom decals and approved their design. On Friday, I had them in my mailbox! You won't believe them. They're amazing. So, there it is. My wholehearted, stupendous, mulishly gigantic endorsement of Nicker Stickers. I'd be boasting even if they weren't kindly advertising on Brays Of Our Lives, but that's just the icing on the carrot cake.

I have the nicest friends and supporters. Ears to Anine, and ears to you!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Talkin' 'bout the weather

In a break from tradition, and in protest against the cold November and wet December we've had, I have strategically relocated my manure pile from outside the shed to inside. It is, of course, still a tidy pile—anything less would be unmulish! It does, however, complicate things a bit for dear FarmWife.

You see, in months of yore FarmWife had an easy chore. Once a week, or perhaps twice, she would enter the paddock, wheel her old barrow up to my careful arrangement of leavings, and remove them to the compost bins. They waited for her in untouched beauty—each pile carefully placed atop the next, a tower of as-yet undecomposed compost awaiting her gardening endeavors. Her chore was easy, and infrequent.

Now, FarmWife has to schlep her soggy, sorry ass out in the torrential rain and thundering hail every single day. My shed is not large, and if there is a mountain of mule poo in the middle it tends not to be comfortable. One has to eat, you know, and sleep, and loiter, and shift, and do all the other things one does to pass a dreary day in one's sacrifice paddock. If one cannot do these things in one's shed because one's shed is full of leavings, then one ends up very wet indeed. It is a sad state of affairs.

FarmWife has no objections to daily stall cleaning, except that this particular stall is infested with troublesome and inquisitive goats. This is their method: Jasper blocks her way with his capacious bulk. B.G. attempts to dash out the gate as the wheelbarrow grinds to a halt, whilst Missy makes a good effort to ingest the handles of FWs implements.

I, on the otherhand, stand politely away from the entrance. SOME people have manners.

Here's a brief clip from a longer conversation that FarmWife and I had about the weather yesterday. Unfortunately, it looks like more of the same today.

May your stall be dry, fresh, and thickly bedded.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

We all have our things

D, who never holds still, descending the staircase in an alternative fashion.
We all have our thing, don't we? Some thing we're great at, inspired by, or destined for? Something that charges us up, sets us straight, or fixes our woes? Animals are that thing for me, and I've never been in any doubt of that.

Each of my daughters has a very clear area of interest, and while I won't say these interests are their sole lives' destinies, I will guess that they'll remain significant for all their years.

R, at three, has loved building, fixing, making, stacking, and creating since the day she first grasped a block. She can spend hours with her legos, and can fill an entire summer afternoon with the construction of a scrap-wood metropolis. Duplo highrises, Lincoln log stables, and wood block palaces litter my office floor. The livingroom is a sea of outlying rural structures. She may not be destined for carpentry, like her father, but she is definitely someone with a good sense of spatial relationships, of engineering concepts, and of the process of visualizing and placing objects in a physical space. Whether it leads her into art, architecture, mechanics, or science is yet to be seen.

D, at six, is a physical being. She runs, climbs, wiggles, jiggles, dances, shimmies, and sashays. She cannot eat her dinner without doing the rhumba in her chair, and after a meal her table space looks like it just hosted a dozen toddlers. She dangles from the banister, leaps from the couch, walks on the coffee table, and jumps off the staircase. "The (fill in the blank) is not a jungle gym!" is our constant refrain, and "why dontcha build me one?" her sassy reply. She has other loves, of course—clothing, kittens, crayons, books—but I will bet my bottom dollar that this one will never enjoy a desk job. She needs to move.

M, now 10, has had a singleminded adoration of all things zoological since she first learned to crawl after the kitty. At three, she told me that she wanted to study old whale bones when she grew up. "What are those people called?" she asked. " "Marine paleontologists," I told her. At my next meeting with her preschool teacher, I was told that M intended to be "a marine paleontologist and the next Annie Lennox." M's interests haven't changed much . . . she still loves performing, and she's still fascinated with marine mammals. She sets her sights on aquatic veterinary medicine and amateur theatre. Her interim goal, intended as a means of support during college, is professional dog walking.

As for me? As I've mentioned, I always wanted to be a rider when I grew up. I imagined a towering stallion rather than a 14 hand mule, but then sometimes life surprises us with unexpected gifts. Fenway Bartholomule is one of them.


Dear Fenway

"Dear Fenway, 
Hi, it's me again, David 4D.  Thanks so much for your reply/advice on the mane issue.   I hear you might like to answer more questions.  Well, I do have comes up at this time of year, and is a point of discussion between me and my dearest friend, Blanche, who is a guinea.   You see, I tend to get a bit brayful about who is the Most Important Animal in The Nativity.   I mean, everyone knows....right?????  Well Blanche has it in her mind that there were guineas there on that holy night.   There have to have been, she argues, guineas and donkeys are best friends, always have been.   She says there was at least one guinea there, a whiteguinea, to be exact, and people saw the white wings and thought it was an angel.  From far away, mind you.    Among the real angels, who would notice a rather short one, anyway, if she held her wings just so?   And this guinea gave white down to make a soft warm lining upon the hay in that famous manger.   And so we have it, the question, could it be true?  Her kind does have a long history.  She says there are even drawings of guineas on the walls of the pyramids, but that's another story.  Anyway, everyone KNOWS about The Holy Donkey, but no one ever mentioned any poultry, did they??   (I won't tell her if the answer is no, I just wondered.)
Ears to you!
David 4D
Iantha, MO
PS Applelady says to mention that 3 of her facebook friends became your fans after reading your reply to me."

Dear Mr. 4D, 

Thank you kindly for this latest inquiry, and for your involvement in the astronomical growth of my fan club. Ears to you! 

As to this fowl question of yours, I believe it has merit. While I have little personal experience with guineafowl, I must confess to having been mistaken for a peahen more than once! Have you heard one bray? It is sort of a "GgggeeeeeyaaaaaaaawwwkkkkEEEEEEEEEEEE!" sound, with undertones of alarm and agony. Compared to the bray of a mule, which is more of a "HeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssAAAAAAAAAA!" sound, it is positively wretched. The voice of the peafowl brings to mind murder, torture, and suffering, whilst the voice of a mule reminds one of nothing so much as a choir of heavenly angels. 

With this guineafowl question, however, I think you have stumbled onto something big. Here, as exhibit A, I present your photo of your pet guinea. Exhibit B? A photo of Marlin, the mule ambassador of Save Your Ass Rescue.  What reason, I ask you, could Marlin possibly have for styling his head and neck in this denuded fashion except to pay tribute to a significant historical figure? It must be that Marlin inherited some primordial understanding from his father, and his father's father before him, of the role of a bareheaded bird in the welcoming of one young Prince. It must be, in fact, that Marlin wishes to share the glorious role of Nativity Leader with these birds, and found, in his wordless existence, one way of conveying this message. 

David, I cannot discredit your theory and I dare say I even tentatively support it. Even if the donkey WAS the central character in the nativity, it cannot be denied that poultry played a role: after all, any parasites within the Holy Stable would have been taken care of in short order by a guinea! Is it not written that manure doth happen? I know MY manure would be a messier sight if not for the sorting, picking, and rearrangement provided by my flock of chickens. 

May all your brays be answered this holiday season.

Ears to you,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A limerick

image from

There once was a mule in the West
Whose insight was simply the best.
He declared, "have a need?
"I can help, guaranteed!"
He doled out advice on request.

Have a burning question? A dilemma of etiquette or morality? I promise answers, and a compassionate ear. Well, two of them, really—they're quite extraordinary ears, if I do say so!

Email your questions to and I promise a fabulous answer, pronto. You won't be disappointed.

Ears to you,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A New Sponsor—Welcome Nicker Stickers!

Anine at Nicker Stickers is friendly, creative, and full of mulish good will. She's also the world's best vendor of customizable, unique mule decals! I fell head over heels for her products at first sight, and FarmWife rather fancies them too. We just had to approach Anine about advertising with Brays Of Our Lives, which she's graciously agreed to do.

The stickers at Nicker Stickers are great for mule lovers, but they're not just for mule lovers. There are stickers for cat people, stickers for goat people, stickers for cow people, stickers for horse people—every breed, discipline, sport, or philosophy you can think of. If you love an animal, you'll find the perfect sticker for you.

We've added Nicker Stickers to our list of Kind Sponsors (see link at right), and I hope you'll agree that they are worth every kind word I've brayed about them. We're going to get some very special stickers in the new year, and you should too!

Ears to you,


photo from
It has been decided, for a variety of reasons, that I will not be sitting in Santa's lap this year. For one thing, Santa is coming to my local feedstore this Saturday and it would be a shame if he were somehow mortally wounded just 14 days before Christmas. I'd be mortified if I were to accidentally to squish him! For another, my trailer tabs have expired and my truck is running poorly. Instead, the human children will sit in Santa's lap, and they will take Paisley Clouddog as well. I will let Paisley borrow my sleighbells and green garland, which seems like the right thing to do even though I am being left behind and abandoned.

FarmWife seriously considered trying to bring us all (well, maybe just one token chicken rather than all 15) but for the sake of her marriage she nixed the idea before presenting it to the Board. It's just as well . . . with nine mammals and a flock of birds in the family, we'd run a serious risk of winding up on

I will recover from this slight on Christmas eve—when Paisley is asleep in the house, deaf to the jingle-jing of the arriving reindeer, I will stand under the open skies and herald the arrival of jolly old Saint Nick! I will have first dibs on his sack of delights, and I will eat all of the herbacious edibles.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Eagley Day

Image from
I'm lucky to live in a place where wildlife blooms in abundance: where deer, bobcat, eagles, bear, and elk exist and flourish.

On a typical drive into town last week, D and I counted 14 eagles in two trees next to Lake Whatcom; on our return drive, there were 17. Several perched in low-lying branches, drying their massive wings a mere four or five yards from the roadside.  D's comment? "What an eagley sort of a day!" I agreed.

Tomorrow's forecast? Eagley with a chance of herons.


Problems for which there are no solutions.

There is no red-eye correction in the world that can handle a problem this big. 

There is no vacuum cleaner in the world that can make short work of this dog's hair. (And yes, we do own a Dyson and we do use The Furminator . . . they help, but not enough.)

There is no cure for the "aaaaaaaaws" that come with sweetness this extreme.