Sunday, January 31, 2010

For Littledog

I was pleased to see a goat related comment on my website this week, and I would like to give a brief description of a few common goat breeds for those who are interested in obtaining their own cloven-hooved companions.

Saanens: These are our sorts of goats. They are always white (though they can carry a recessive gene for color: colored offspring are registerable as Sables, in a seperate herdbook). They are famous for having abundant milk, large frames, and docile temperaments, but no one ever mentions their wonderful dancing ability* or the fact that their offspring look little angels from heaven, complete with wings and halos.

Toggenburgs: These handsome Swiss goats are robust and opinionated, and their milk is valued for cheesemaking. They have a wonderful brownish color scheme that would compliment almost any horse or mule color except possibly sorrel.

Oberhaslis: These medium-sized chamois colored dairy goats are very attractive, which is a silly reason to choose a pet but not necessarily a bad one. After all, my FarmWife fell in love with my dashing good looks long before she came to know my heart.

Angoras: These are the Farah Fawcetts of the goat world. In addition to eating hay with them, romping in the pasture with them, and making them haul your humans' firewood, you can spend your free time styling their luxurious locks into dreads, cornrows, and dressage knots. It is common for these goats to keep their horns, however, so if you do obtain one you will want to put a pair of t-post toppers on it.

Kikos: this is a vigorous meat breed, developed from feral stock, and known for their magnificent horns. I personally would not feel comfortable browsing alongside those disemboweling sabers, but that is just me.

Nigerian Dwarves: These delicate and beautiful creatures have very good milk production and high butterfat content, but they look about as sturdy as a siamese cat and I would not recommend playing roughly with one. If your owners do get you a Nigerian Dwarf as a present,  I recommend that you keep it in your tackbox for safekeeping so that it does not accidentally get knocked over and broken.

Pygmies: These goats are also very small, but built like little linebackers. They have almost exactly the same size, shape, and recommended uses as a Jolly Ball. If you leave them unattended for more than about five minutes, they will eat your tail, your blanket, your hay, your halter, and the hood ornament off of your human's car.

LaManchas: There is absolutely nothing unsavory about these lovely goats except that they have no ears. Case closed. Sorry, goaties.

Alpines: These goats, another of the Swiss dairy breeds, come in a rainbow of colors and are sort of like little plaid Saanens except perhaps not quite so serene. This is a funny thing that the humans say, because I have noticed that my Saanen goats are not really so serene at all. I would not like to see Jasper Jules on crack.

Boers: These are the cutest of the meat goat breeds, in my opinion. Humans love them because they make good sandwiches, but I love them because they have the body of a cremello and the head of a liver chestnut. I would get one if I could, and he would pull a float with Jasper Jules whilst I stood on top and waved at the crowds. (And, again with the horn thing—since meat goats are typically not disbudded in infancy, you will want to ask your humans to duct tape the heck out of your Boer companion before he puts those antlers anywhere near your delicate equine underbelly.)

Nubians: These Roman nosed Spaniards are like the Mandy Patinkins of the goat world: bold, sassy, and with an uncanny singing range. They don't shut up. I think they might, in fact, have the most muleness of all of the goat breeds, but they are also the goats most likely to get you sued by your neighborhood association.

Littledog, I appreciated your question about goats and I hope this will help you as you endeavor to convince your humans to get you a goat or two of your own. Whethers make lovely companions. You will need a velociraptor fence and a little bit of extra hay, but so long as you have those things you should go out today and get some goats of your own. Please tell your humans that additional information on goat husbandry can be found at this very nice website:, or by emailing any questions to me at

Fenway Bartholomule

*I see a little silhouetto of a goat. Jasper Jules! Jasper Jules! Watch him do the fandango!"

FenBar's Top Five Dream Jobs

FenBar's Top Five Dream Jobs for Mules and Other Equines:

5. Movie Star. 

I could handle some peanut butter on the palate and a piece of thread under my lip if it meant that, in my efforts to dislodge them, I was promoted to international stardom as a "talking" celebrity. I'd love the riches, dames (not that Katie Scarlett isn't woman enough for me!), telephone privileges, and getting to have a say in things like where to go on vacation and how to end the Iraq war. 

4. Livestock Guardian.

Assuming the presence of a responsible human herdsman to look after things like hoof care, proper nutrition, and administration of pop tarts and scritchy-scratchies, I would totally dig spending my days grazing in a pastoral meadow with a herd of adorably fluffy little cloud-creatures. Scarin' off a wolf now and then would just be the icing on the cake.  (Art by Thomas Sydney Cooper.)

3. Celebrity Blogger.

I'm getting there . . . I'm about 145 fans worth of famous . . . but I sure wouldn't mind kicking this fame thing up a notch. I'm talkin' private jet, $300,000 appearances, guest judging-on-American-Idol kinda famous. That would be swell, and maintaining my dignity through it all would be even sweller. Watch my star rise . . . and I promise you will NEVER catch me turning into some Perez Hilton-esque snark demon. 

2. Equine Therapist.

Hmm . . . spending a couple hours a day carrying excited, grateful, awesome people around and helping them gain, independence, capability, strength, and self-esteem in exchange for the priviledge of carrying excited, grateful, awesome people around and helping them gain, independence, capability, strength, and self-esteem . . . not too bad. Then there would be the other 22 hours a day, spent lounging around clean, attractive, safe facilities under the supervision of kind, competent equine professionals and caring volunteers.  If you can get in with a professionally run organization, I'd say this would be a career choice to envy. (pictured: Kleng, 2009 NARHA Horse of the Year and a personal friend of my FarmWife.)

1. Recreational Trail Mule/Family Pet. 

Lemme see . . . . thrice daily meal delivery? Check. Comfortable paddock and adequate companionship? Check. Loving affection from a beloved mistress? Check. Brain-expanding exercises like "give me your foot," "step up," and "scoot over"? Check. Regular grooming, a well-fitted wardrobe, and daily ear massages? Check. Twice- or thrice-weekly outings on beautiful and varied terrain with full consideration given to my lack of physical fitness? Check. Opportunities to Surmount Objects, investigate Mysterious Things, and nibble Tender Grasses? Check. Regular visitations by the helmeted larval children, the happy oompa-loompas of my little kingdom? Check. I think I like this life.

Fenway Bartholomule

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roach Clips (No, not that kind . . .)

Hello Fenway, my name is Doc and I’m an 8 year old john mule.  I recently selected a human named Gerry to be my caretaker and all around man servant. Gerry hasn’t required much retraining and I think I’ll keep him. However, Gerry, a male human btw, has been talking about a “roach clip” lately…and I don’t think he’s talking about something my mom’s human used to employ back in the day. (Mom was an Appy- that explains everything doesn’t it.) Anyway, I’m a little concerned about this roach clip talk as right now I have a mane of about 4-5 inches long. I will admit my coif isn’t very stylish, but I think it has a lovely wind blown, sexy look to it.  My human, is somewhat hair challenged and I’m concerned he wants to roach clip me so we look more alike- honestly what can he be thinking!  Anyway, I digress, what do you think of this roaching idea?  

Oh, I’m attaching a photo of myself, because I’m sure you’d like the opportunity to admire me, please ignore that my human managed to push his way into the photo as well.

Sincerely yours in all things mule,

Doc  in Delaware

Dear Doc in Delaware, 

I thank you for your question, and I appreciate your candid statements about your Appaloosa heritage and your unfortunate exposure to drug paraphernalia lingo. There is so much about our parents' generation that simply makes us shake our heads. 

Regarding hairstyles, Doc, all I can offer you is some photographic evidence of my own transformation. Here, view the before photos (taken during my first week at Bent Barrow Farm, before my first appointment with my stylist). Below that, I've shared some photos of human men wearing similar hairstyles; that is, thin but retaining some length.

For comparison, please scroll down for several images of me, Fenway Bartholomule, after getting a roach. I think you will agree that my topline is flattered by the trim look.

I conclude my argument (which by this point should have been revealed as pro-roach) with some images of human men sporting trim, close haircuts. I think you will agree that they compare favorably to the earlier examples. (That last fellow is particularly adorable and well-styled, I think . . . and look how he loves baby animals!)

Doc, you're a handsome mule in any case and I am sure that you good looks can only be enhanced by the addition of a snazzy roach job. Do consider sending us an after picture if you go ahead with the big trim, and remember . . . hair grows back.

Fenway Bartholomule

p.s. It almost goes without saying that women can look very ravishing with a little bit of length, and my guidelines (defined as "sparse hair must be shaved") do not apply to the females of the species'. A couple of examples as to why not are found below—notice that Winona Ryder, a human woman, and Katie Scarlett, my very own Valentine, make up in beauty what they lack in hair volume.

(photos, top to bottom: Fenway pre-roach, near side; Fenway pre-roach, off side; Human, pre-roach, top side; Human, pre-roach, off side; Fenway, post-roach, off side; Fenway, post-roach, near side; Heath Ledger, post-roach, image A; Heath Ledger, post-roach, image B; Denzel Washington, post-roach, image A; Denzel Washington, post-roach, image B; FarmHusband, post-roach, image A; FarmHusband, post-roach, image B; Winona Ryder, with short (but not roached) hair (cute on a girl, no?); Katie Scarlett, short (but not roached) mane, a mane which tangles it's many strands of silken beauty around my heart in an ever-tightening knot of adoration.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Raising Good Goats (or raising good anythings, really)

We raise good goats here at Bent Barrow Farm. I know, I know, Jasper Jules is a bit of a tool, but he and Missy, Empress of All that the Light Touches, really are sweet. It is not just the fact that they are my only hooved companions in this world that makes me say that, either.

The following advice can be applied to just about anything, really . . . larval humans, baby puppies, little tigers, mule foals, whatever. Raising goats are what we do best here at Bent Barrow Farm, though, excepting of course Blogging and Braying, and so that is where we shall begin.

1.Good stock.

Look for the nicest registered doe your humans can afford, with the traits you want (in this family, the humans' priorities are 1. good temperament, 1a. good mule companionship, 2. good health, 3. good milk flavor, 4. good conformation, 5. good bloodlines, and 6. good milk volume). Don't let them buy a buck, because bucks, like stallions and jacks, are a hassle to own unless you have exceptional facilities and resources. Additionally, the best bucks will be out of your humans' price range, whereas a good buck's breeding fee should be only about 10% of what the kids will sell for in their first summer. Additionally, bucks smell like a skunk and intentionally piss on themselves at every opportunity. Even we wallowing beasts of the hoof place some importance on good hygiene. We don't need that sort around.

2. Good pre- and postnatal health.

Once you've indicated your choice of very good doe, make sure she's in good health before the humans take her out for her big night on the town. They should feed her quality, clean, nutritious hay (no musty, weedy, stemmy garbage, please!) with plenty of browse, fresh water, and clean surroundings. If they do not provide her with adequate hay, share some of yours. After all, the ever-replentishing Volvo has got your needs covered. The humans should also have a fecal count done to determine your worming protocol, because the less nasty paste you have to eat, the better. Strangely enough, your new goat friends will actually LIKE to eat nasty paste, but for your own sake you should hope for the fecal count.

The humans should then arrange a date for your new doe with the best buck they can find. This, according to our dear friend Shona, will be your experience:

"When you notice your goat is in season you will have exactly 37 mins before she becomes a manhater again. Enroute to the breeder she will pee twice and attempt to drive. Once there a satanic looking creature, which can pee on its own front legs, will do the dirty on your doe. On the way home your goat will try to order a mocha - before peeing in your car again."

(Thanks, Shona!)

Wait 5 months, throw the baby shower, paint the shed pink (or blue . . . or yellow?), shop for cute onesies, etcetera, but in the meantime keep up the great doe care. In addition to blogging with you and maintaining your weekly grooming and exercise routine, the humans should join the American Dairy Goat Association, register a snazzy new herd name, and sign up for an inundation of emails via some sort of listserve peopled with those who know more than them. They'll be grateful for this network when it's 10:30 pm, their doe is bloated, the regular vet is not on call, the goat book says that the options are death or surgery, and their internet friends merely advise to force feed one dose of pepto-bismol and a tablespoon of baking soda (which, by the way, will work).

3. Good birth preparedness.

When the babies are born, your FarmWife must make like a good midwife and have a clean, well-stocked birthing kit ready. She should have a good relationship with a knowledgeable veterinarian, and be prepared to stay home with your goat on the day of delivery. Luckily for you, goats give birth at 3:00 in the afternoon on the sunniest day of spring 95% of the time. (Horses, we know, give birth at 3:00 in the morning on the stormiest night of the year four times out of five.) 

4. Compassionate care.

Once your baby goats are alive and kicking, you must ignore two pieces of conventional advice. The first is to separate them from their mothers. Dairy animals or not, mama goats love their babies just like you love yours, and they must want them very badly, Why else would they fornicate with a filthy troll? In any case, the only possible exception to this rule would be in the event that you have a disease such as Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis in your herd, which would necessitate the pasteurization of colostrum for your kids' protection. Otherwise, LET THE GOAT KEEP HER KIDS. If the humans attempt to borrow the kids for more than about a half an hour at a time, you must bray like you have never brayed before in defense of your goat's maternal rights. This should result in the return of her offspring or the production of another flake of hay by the humans, either of which is a good outcome.

The second bit of advice to ignore is the "kids don't feel pain like we do" bit of advice, which is generally used to defend the barbaric practices of disbudding (or cauterizing the horn buds) without anesthesia and neutering via rubber band (which any man, jack, or stallion will object to out of principle). If you are human, take your goat to a good, empathetic veterinarian who's professional and moral standards have risen above that of 16th century vivisectionists, and have these painful procedures done under gas anesthesia with a local painkiller and a shot of banamine for the next day's aches and pains. If you are a mule, give your humans the hairy eyeball if you see them approaching with a disbudding iron, a wooden box, and a bath towel. It's a dangerous combination. 

Now you've got healthy, happy kids who don't see humans as a torturer, which makes enjoying the next phase of goat rearing more enjoyable!

5. Socialization.

Spend time with your goats. If you are a mule, this won't be hard because you will live with them. They will be left with you for hours at a time while their mother is off galavanting about the pasture, getting high off blackberry leaves and generally living the life of Riley. If you are a human, this means getting out in the paddock and playing with them every day. Get your larval humans out there, too, and get your dogs and chickens to meet these little goatlings as well. Bring them in the yard, let them nibble your roses, bring them in the house, let them nibble your bagels, bring them in the car, let them nibble your key fob. They will enjoy the attention and you will enjoy noteriety in your neighborhood as that crazy goat lady with the two strapping goats in the passenger seat.

Take your goats places. Take them to your larval humans' preschool, where they will be photographed for the yearbook and where they will be allowed to pee on the carpet without consequence while enjoying the fawning attention of two dozen children and a handful of staff. Take them to a drive-through coffee stand, where they will be given a choice between a dog biscuit or a half a bagel (hold the cream cheese, please). You will be asked whether they are sheep or llamas, to which you can answer, "neither, they are goats," or "neither, they are alpacas," depending on your mood. Take them on a leash to the busy intersection near the public library, where you can tell the admiring public about your idyllic goat- and mule-farm in the country so that they might go home with little rural fantasies of their own.

At this point, you've got a pair of more than decent goatlings, and if they're coming on three months old then it's time to part ways. If you have a girl goat, a goaterina, you may now advertise her on Craigslist for sale to a nice family looking for a milker of their own. Your humans should expect to get about five times their stud fee back in recompense for this lovely critter with which you must now part, but she shouldn't be hard to sell with her good breeding, good health, and well-developed character. If you have a boy goat, a goateroo, you have the option of selling him for fifty dollars to an Armenian family looking for a special celebratory meal. They will want to remove him, alive, in a pillowcase in the trunk of their car. I strongly advise not going this route.

Here is where your bagel shop, library, and preschool fieldtrips come in handy. This is not a goat vindaloo you are selling, but a mannerly member of society who knows how to walk on a leash, order a double tall caramel macchiato, and fasten his own seatbelt. Have your humans hitch him to a wagon for a photoshoot (the light will be best in the early morning or late afternoon), and sell him as a driving prospect. If that doesn't work, tell your humans to flash some photos of this good goat napping in your very own hay pile, and they can sell him as an equine companion for some neurotic racehorse, lonely retiree, or freewheelin' mule out there.

Now give your humans a big frosty glass of goat's milk, and kick back with the Empress of All the Light Touches. She gets some time off before the next round of kids arrives, and you are, for the time being, done babysitting. Congratulations on some goats well raised!

Fenway Bartholomule
Trail Mule, Celebrity Blogger, and Goat Farmer Extraordinaire

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Breed Stereotype Haiku

An apology:
FarmWife has been quite busy,
transcriptionist tied up.

Desert sheik's steed—
Nostrils and eyes all agog,
Master of the spook.

Justin Morgan had
A horse to beat all horses
Foundation type, please!

Ich bin fancy horse
Ich cost such many dollars
Trainer rides me first

Cute as pie and strong
With a rockin' mohawk, dude
Don't call Fjords ponies.

Thin grade stud for sale
Homozygous cremello
Butt high but who cares?

Bought out of a field
Flown across the sea and bathed
Now poops gilded turds.

We fret and fuss, true.
We are honest, though, and brave
And our hearts are huge.

Breeding halter foals
Giant butts and tiny feet
Ruining good stock.

Shines in the showring
An American sporthorse?
Good brains, weird toplines.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pasture from Scratch: Tips from the FarmWife

Dear Readers,

You must know by now that I love Bent Barrow Farm and that my FarmWife does to. It has not been born overnight, believe you me, and it is not finished by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, coming along nicely and is a most suitable kingdom for a celebrity mule like me, Fenway Bartholomule.

I haven't lived at Bent Barrow Farm forever, and neither has the FarmWife. In fact, just a few years ago I lived in an adjacent pasture and could see nothing here next to this little green house but overgrown fields of weeds interspersed with heaps of twisted metal. Smoking barrels of putrid garbage, broken windows and mangled vehicles, and heaps of oysters (oysters!) littered the ground. It was not what I would have hoped for had I known it would be my future home, but to the Joneses it appeared as a diamond in the rough.

The FarmWife and Mr. Jones were, like most humans, shopping on a budget when they endeavored to find a farm of their own. They were happy to find this property, which came with seven (really, seven) tons of scrap metal and a handful of trash heaps, as well as a WONDERFUL neighborhood mule!  FarmWife is fortunate to have married a human man of mulelike persistance, endurance, and vision, and so it was not so long until Mr. Jones had done away with the seven tons of scrap metal and most of the trash heaps, giving the Joneses a property that looked a darn sight better than the dollars they'd paid for it.

There are expensive ways to do things and then there are affordable ways to do things, and here I would like to share with you the (relatively) affordable way to do things that FarmWife and Mr. Jones settled upon when they bought a rubbishy  patch of garbage and weeds three years ago. Keep in mind that affordable is a subjective term, and that this project would have been impossible had the FarmWife's husband been anything other than mulelike in his vastness of skills and energy.

The following applies in a situation where you have a piece of land that is not livestock-ready. If you already have gorgeous groomed paddocks, you can ignore this advice, get up from your computer, and go riding. If you don't have land at all, start shopping!

Now, you have your place and you need your mule space. Your husband has loaded the seven tons of scrap metal into a rented container, for which you will be reimbursed by the delighted scrapyard owner, and filled several dumpsters with all of the garbage he can load with his hands. Make him some strawberry shortcake and give him a back rub! Then, here's what to do next:

1: Envision your pasture. This is important. There is no point in having a farmlet if you do not have a place for your livestock to frolic, and it had better be pastoral for at least some portion of the year or you won't be able to get those great photos that you wanted of your own animals gamboling merrily throughout the Eden you've created.

2: Obtain the best weed whacker/string trimmer/ brush cutter you can afford. The FarmWife and Mr. Jones settled on a 2-stroke Husqvarna string trimmer with a brush cutter attachment. It could take your toes off.

3. Cut brush. This is best done in the winter, at least here in the wilds of Washington where the blackberry/triffid hybrid thrives on fertile soil and ample sunshine. Cut brush until your hands bleed and then cut some more.

4. Observe the several dozen additional Garbage objects that you have now uncovered. Enlist the help of your dad, a friend, or your long-suffering husband in getting them off to the dump.

5. Cut brush some more. At this point you should have reached the bottom layer of rotten plywood, mangled barbed wire fences, old metal hardware, cinder blocks, burn barrels and fiberglass boat hull sections. If you are tired of taking things to the dump, or if you have run out of funds for dumping, you can file these items according to flammability in what will later be referred to as "the habitat." This is a section of the property that will be allowed to return to a natural state, obscuring the items that are not a)burnable, or b)recyclable. Later, you will build a nice safe fence around "the habitat", and you will enjoy hearing the tap-tap-tap of the yellow-bellied sapsuckers and seeing the flutter of goldfinches hopping out of the underbrush and into the pasture through gaps in the woven wire.

6. When everything you can find and uncover has been disposed of, recycled, burned, dumped, removed, given away, hidden in "the habitat", or turned into yard art, take a very big magnet and sweep the area. You will find several hundred pounds of metal fasteners in various states of chemical transformation. Be thorough!

7. Obtain large swaths of heavy duty water-permeable landscaping fabric, and cover hoof-traffic corridors and any particularly troublesome areas (old burn piles, for instance) with this material. Top with as much 3/8" gravel (plus fines) as you can afford. It can be particularly helpful to make friends with any tractor-owning neighbors at this point. Make them pies with fresh whipped cream.

8. You've spent all of your money on gravel at this point, and so the time has come to economize on fencing. When you are 110% sure that there is no remaining garbage in your future pasture, and when your magneting endeavors come up dry, make another weed-whacking circuit of the perimeter. Establish your fence with four to five strands of electric wire, heavily flagged for visibility, on capped heavy-duty six foot T-posts. There is a reason for using four to five strands, so don't skimp.

8. Buy goats.

9. Put your new goats in your electric fence pasture before or during the spring growth season. They will obliterate all plant life, so I hope you didn't plant your prized Weeping Higan Cherry out there.

10. Check your four to five strand electric fence daily and check for breached areas. Sell whichever goat gets out most often, but preferably to a friend or neighbor who will cherish her and love her forever. Even escape-artists have feelings!

11. Pull up the exposed roots of any remaining blackberry plants by hand. The goats should have so weakened them with their constant browsing that this activity will take the same muscular effort as picking daisies. This is also a great time to remove tansy, thistles, buttercups, and other poisonous plants. Cut your thistles before they flower, please!

11a. Daydream about discing, harrowing, and reseeding the pasture, but don't forget that you've run out of money. If you're as lucky as FarmWife, you'll get grass without taking any of these steps by some miracle of vegetative propagation.

12. Observe that the goats have killed all of the blackberries but none of the miraculously recovered grass, and borrow some horses from your mother. They will manage the desireable things (clover and grass) while the goats continue the work on the blackberry front, rendering the acquisition of a field mower unnecessary. This is good, since you still have no remaining money after buying all that gravel. Do, however, pick poop and cut weeds. Unmowed doesn't have to equal unsavory! (Photo at left is a real, untouched image of a goat in our field that was totally blackberry-covered just two seasons prior.)

13. File your taxes. Working parent? Awesome. You should get a nice tax return, which you can spend on a thousand or so dollars worth of woven wire horse fence.

14. Give your mother's horses back to her, but not without telling your husband how much they'll be missed. It's winter now, and you're still out of money. No barn-building this year, but your handy husband should be able to whip up some magnificent and cozy goat accommodations out of scrap lumber and found objects! Make him a white chocolate raspberry fudge cake and give him another back rub.

15. Spring has sprung and your tax return is in the bank! Hurry to the store for more fencing materials! Get a come-along and some decent gloves, and work every evening until your have a very horse- and mule- and goat-proof pasture. It will be worth it.

16. Talk to your long-suffering husband about how nicely the neighbor's mule would fit in in this beautiful pasture you've finally ended up with, and mention how it just so happens that the "goat" fence you've built would be very suitable for equine containment. At this point, he should be very aware that you've had some sort of ulterior motive behind the year+ worth of expenditures and effort, and should be glad that you want a sensible mule and not an imported Holsteiner weanling. He should also be willing to acknowledge that the 16x16' goat shed that he fixed up really does include space for a third hoofbeast. This, of course, assumes that your husband is the kind of man that the FarmWife's husband is, which is to say perfect and adorably wonderful. (And here I thought that transcriptionists were just supposed to write what they were told.)

17. Bring your own Fenway home to live. Give your neighbor a dozen eggs and a raspberry pie, as well as whatever cash your mother will loan you. Tell him that this mule is the best thing since sliced bread. Thank him from the bottom of your heart for being willing to sell.

18. Save your pennies! You may be done making your pasture, but there's still that snug little barn you dream about . . . and an arena, and more footing for the sacrifice paddock . . . and of course, a trip for your mother to Australia (because after all she did help you get that mule you'd wanted) . . .

19. Acknowledge that your mule habit is going to be a lifelong financial burden unless you get thee a lucrative career, and apply at your local community college to obtain some sort of practical degree.

20. What? You already have a B.A. in English? I don't care, I said lucrative.

21. Family, farm, garden, home, husband, children, goats and mule . . . you have everything you've ever wanted, and the rest is just details. Go to school, go to work, go home, go riding. Love Your Life.

Fenway Bartholomule

Australia travel poster by James Northfield circa 1930

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brown Fenny

Brown Fenny 
By Fenway Bartholomule, with creative assistance from William Butler Yeats.
She whispered, 'I am too broke,'
And then, 'my mom can loan me dough';
Wherefore she bought a Fenny
Again that she might ride.
'Go and ride, go and ride, FarmWife,
If the mule be brave and smart.'
I'm Fenny, brown Fenny, brown Fenny,
She is looped in the loops of my heart.

O mules are the darnedest things,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in us.
FarmWife will be thinking of me
Till the stars have run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
I'm Fenny, brown Fenny, brown Fenny,
One cannot go riding too soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Wickersham did Mr. Jones
A stately mini-farm decree: 
Where trains along the steel tracks ran
Twice daily by the normal plan
Below the sunless scree. 
There, one green acre of fertile ground
with woven wire was girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous weeds,
where blossomed even an apple-bearing tree:
And here were forests logged upon the hills, 
Enfolding riding spots midst greenery.

But oh! That deep romantic bray which echoed
Across the green hills all fir and cedar covered!
A merry voice! As pretty and enchanting
As e'er beneath a waning moon was sounded
By horse or woman or donkey or another. 
So near this farmlet, with ceaseless gorgeous braying,
The neighbor's mule with his voice begged for haying, 
A mighty voice the wife of Mr. Jones heard,
and which compelled her to say, "dear, let's grow our herd."
And so began in intermittent bursts
huge daydreams of obtaining that half-horse
And o'er several years the FarmWife said 
unto her neighbor, "I would buy your steed."
Two years of wondering and looking,
Of admiring and stroking 
and of intermittent rides by neighbor's favor 
Turned into one most happy day when 
Fenway came unto the Farmlet as no stranger.
Beside the tracks, above the gravelled scree,
A mule moved two doors down to a new family. 

The shadows of the ears of Fenway
Fall now upon the Farmlet grounds
Where now resounds the brash beloved bray
of a mule so oft' admired that 
he is a miracle of coveted companionship,
A sunny pleasant chap with lovely voice!

A damsel with two little ears 
In a vision I once saw:
It was a quarter horse mare,
and beside her a brown mule foal played,
braying of sweet grasses.
I have revived within me
That vision and that foal,
And such deep delight it wins me
That with ears so fine and long,
I would be that colt all grown mature,
That handsome mule! That mule so nice!
And all who hear can see me here, 
And all can cry, "Those ears! Those ears!"
My warm brown eyes, my shining hair.
Place a saddle on me thus,
And close your eyes to any dread,
For I am Fenway Bartholomule
And we will ride through Paradise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Amazing Feats of Balance!

Art by Raymond L. Jordan

Dear Readers,

There is a handsome cattle baby in our garden this morning, and despite a strong urge to secret him away to a green pasture of lifelong contentment, my law-abiding FarmWife was forced to notify our carnivorous neighbors of his location this morning. The very sad thing is that, when we would like to make him into a friend, they would like to make him into a hot sandwich. They call him Burger, though my larval human friends have christened him Jeffrey. He answers better to the latter.

While we dwell upon the balance between the moral tug of our vegetarian philosophy and the neighborly obligation towards respectful behavior, I will take these moments to distract my poor empathetic FarmWife from the cute cattle baby on her lawn with some amazing balancing feats going on on elsewhere in the world.

I, Fenway Bartholomule, have witnessed our very own Failure Dog, Citizen #10 (this is an Australian Cattle Dog who is afraid of cattle, and of goats, and mules, and chickens, if you'll recall) performing her very own Feat of Balance by standing upon one . . . count them, one! . . . forepaw in order to do her business in the snow with the smallest possible amount of earthly contact. She is also fast and intelligent, or so says FarmWife, and would make a crazy agility dog if she were just a little less terrified of the universe. That, says our mistress, will just take time. We shall see. I, for one, do not sense any rising Muleness in her at present.

Since we do not have video footage of the Incredible Balancing Feat of Citizen #10, I present to you this incredible movie of a human citizen of the world doing his own balancing work with heavy bricks. It is really something, and I think that if he were a mule he would be most highly sought after for all sorts of equestrian pursuits, including but not limited to packing (for his strength), jumping (for his agility), dressage (for his precision), and talk-show hosting (for his obvious radness). Observe:

Now, for this next feat of balancing I offer the following disclaimer: Whenever there is a monkey riding a goat, I suspect enslavement by human people of their animal brethren. I, for this reason, would never patronize this strange act with any sort of tangible admission fee or ticket purchase—even if I had money, which I don't, or circus-going privileges, which I don't. But, friends, this is the internet. We can watch for free, and this Saanen-cousin is practically Jasper Jules' brother they are so alike! Just as JJ can balance on his hind legs for a handful of grain, this Saanen-cousin can walk across a tightrope and back with a mounted simian. It is all in the same family of behaviors, and it comes down to Mad Balancing Skillz. Observe:

Finally, for your edification and viewing enjoyment, I offer this pinnacle of human/equine partnership: Unicycling ground-drivers and their synchronized pony assistants! Or have I got that backwards? Ground-driven ponies and their synchronized unicycling assistants? In any case, think German Pony Club meets California Clown School. If nothing else, these guys get props for practicing! When it comes down to it, I could never do this. FarmWife would fall on her face before her wheel hit the footing. These kids do it better. Observe:

With that, I take my leave. I need a balanced meal of orchard grass hay, a few tender nibbles of pasture greenery, and a good lick on the ol' salt block.

Best Wishes,
Fenway Bartholomule