Sunday, February 28, 2010

I. (On Raking the Volvo)

I cleaned my car not long ago. To some of you, this will bring to mind images of a lintless rag swept lovingly across a gleaming fender. To others, pictures of the ghostly shells of Starbucks half-caff, low fat, triple venti white chocolate mochas being  pulled from the floor into a waiting sack, or perhaps, if your taste runs more towards the proletarian, Micky Ds and Burger King sacks and cups and ketchup packets scooped up and discarded. If you are the owner of a pet or child, you may even imagine that there will be some vacuuming to be done. This, however, is Bent Barrow Farm, which means that when it comes to the messes made by pets and children we probably have you beat.  On this day it was not takeout containers or coffee cups that worried me, but rather, in reverse order from the top, the two old tarps, one muddy horse blanket, five flakes of straw, half-flake of Eastern Washington orchard grass hay, and several dozen or so partially composted leavings of our recently sold Saanen goat, Claire. Claire de Lune had gone to live with a new family, and due to the details of my custody arrangement I was loathe to pick up my oldest daughter without making a reduction in the evidence. Hence, I cleaned the car, or to rephrase, I raked the car in preparation for the next stage of cleaning, which will involve at least a roll of quarters and a half an hour at the local Arco. A new neighbor passed, and despite my welcoming gesticulations (the rake prevented a proper wave) she failed to smile. Thinking that perhaps her countenance reflected some concern about the loose equivalent of a bale of straw which I had just raked out of my station wagon and onto the public roadway, I wished she could have been there five minutes later to see me valiantly removing, in the rain, every stem to the compost pile. 
I can't complain about rain, by the way. Not only do I feel no need, but I believe it would put me at a strategic disadvantage in the complexity that is marriage. I like a steady drizzle . . . a warm mist invites a romantic mood . . . a summer downpour brings thanks to Mother Nature and a new shade of green to the already verdant valley. All that said, I really think that it comes down to preferring here to there (here being this South Fork valley, a home so beautiful and so beloved that it sometimes interferes with my breathing and gives me a lump in my throat; there being, generally, Anywhere Else, and specifically, Where He's From. Since most complaints about the weather meet with his, "yes, this IS a wretched place,"  I have learned to limit my commentary to the positive).
My husband I live here, in the South Fork valley of the Nooksack river,  with two point three children, all daughters, as well as a couple dozen pets. A mule, about whom you shall learn much; a pair of goats, morphing each spring into three or four through to the miracle of birth and reducing again to two at fall weaning; two strangely different dogs; two strangely similar cats; fifteen hens—five young, seven aging, three ancient; a rooster, ancient too; three tiny fish in one giant tank; a beloved and most indulged rabbit. We live on a parcel which is just barely big enough to do, while somehow at the same time being just barely small enough to keep up with. My fantasy home of the future, on 200 acres, is going to be hard to look after, though perhaps not with the kind assistance of my fantasy gardener, my fantasy groom, and my fantasy steward. Until such time as I can afford such assistance (read: never) I shall consider this home perfect. 
My oldest daughter, the point three, is behind this mucking out of the Volvo. I see her just one weekend per month during the school year, plus all summer and most school vacations. It's a long story, which from my perspective boils down to her dad X's having had more money for lawyers, but which has resolved in a situation which is, at least, acceptable. X is not a bad father, and in fact has become a better and better one over the years. His partner J is a good father too, and I eagerly await the day when their will and that of our nation collide to permit me to call J, with all legitimacy and legal recognition, her step-father. In the meantime, I call him that anyway. 
M suffers from mild asthma, serious hay fever, and manageable excema. My car, though of course unusually dirtied by this week's goat shipment, has never been immaculate. Twenty four years old, doubling as a farm truck, and often misused by me, my children, and my livestock, the station wagon bravely trundles on in a state which no one could call presentable. I try, for M's weekends, to make it into something closer to quaint than repulsive. At the least, a thorough vacuuming the day before means a comfortable ride home for M, a ride without sneezing. At the best, it means that her fathers in Seattle will get the impression that I am normal. 
M is, in many ways, fortunate to have three fathers and a mother who love her. She enjoys an almost comical variety between her two homes. Her Seattle home, a tidy condo, sits in trendy Fremont between a roaring arterial and a gentrified yippie hub of commerce. Her public school is the sort that parents dream about, move towards, enter lotteries for . . . orchestra, American Sign Language, foreign language, and accelerated science courses bolster a more than adequate core curriculum in a bright, new building full of new and expensive things. 
M's school takes pride in holding an annual "No-Bake Bake Sale," which means they will accept money from everyone, regardless of whether the donor wants a brownie or not. It also means that you don't get a brownie even if you DID want one, and also that most donations are not in the 25 cents range but rather closer to $2500.  Or so I assume, judging from the fact that their income from the event last year came to something more than the purchase price of our house. 
M enjoys ballet, swimming, ice skating, cello, drama, and Spanish lessons in Seattle—though not all at once. It is only slightly damaging to my pride to admit that I feel deeply grateful that she can have such things. My ability to afford the time and money for extracurricular activities petered out after she enjoyed three stellar riding lessons from our local dressage coach, and it has been with some degree of shame and worry that I have admitted to being unable to continue. She would have loved to go weekly, all summer, for years. 
M used to have a clam in Seattle, but the mollusk was discarded after several weeks of complete inactivity. My empathetic daughter still worries that the clam might not have been dead, after all, despite her father's assurance that the living produce bubbles. From what Google tells me, a terrible odor should have assured them of its deceasement, but it is not my place to act as coroner in the Fremont household.  There were also fish, at one point, but as M tells it they were flushed, living, down the toilet after being struck with some minor disorder of the scales. Restraining the rage of my inner animal rights activist, I console her by reminding her that not everyone is an animal person.  Her fastidious urban dads are not animal people, though they talk of a mythical chocolate lab of the future. This imagined someday dog, which I see as a bone thrown to placate M in her petless frustration, holds my daughter in eternal anticipation. I try to tell her that she has more than enough pets in the one household to make up for the lack in the other, but as a fellow animal lover I can empathize. She gets lonely. 
M never lacks for company here in Wickersham. Her first move upon arriving home is usually to run and check on the mule and goats. She, parroting her mother as children often will, calls them the hoofbeasts. It's nice to have a term that encapsulates the caprine and equine in just two syllables. Hay burners comes close, but then you run into the tricky business of the rabbit (who is, of course, a hay burner, but who by no means deserves classification with our pasture pets). M told her allergist, in response to a question about handling hay, that she did sometimes feed hay to the rabbit, washing her hands afterward, but that under no circumstances was she allowed to give hay to the hoofbeasts. I am sure that the comic effect of this statement would have been reduced had she said she liked to feed the lagomorph but not the ungulates, or the bunny but not the mule and goats. For that reason, if for no other, I am glad the term stuck. I enjoy comedy. 
After checking on the hoofbeasts, M usually convenes with her sisters to the house, where she receives the effusive greeting of our little red heeler, Story, and our big Australian Shepherd, Paisley. If she's not in the mood for such galumphing oafs, she might retire to the coop where our bedraggled hens, currently in moult, might present her with an egg or ten depending on the season. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Simply Do Not Know What to Think

There is no muleness whatsoever in this strange singer's demeanor, and yet somehow I am pulled in by his mysterious wiles. I am deeply unsettled, but irrestably drawn in. The music isn't half bad, actually, but there is something nightmarish about that vacant, lip-syncing smile. I am perplexed.

Wish me sweet dreams, dear readers. May they not be visited by the Trololo man.

Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, February 26, 2010

What I Meant to Say

This was going to be a story about a place. It was going to be about one small, green acre, but also about the world around Bent Barrow Farm: the halfway logged hills and the noisy wetlands, the slow moving trains and the scenic vista from which my mule, Fenway, once surprised me with three counties sprawled out under a most amazing sky. (I had never before realized what power lay in giving him his head!)

And then this looked in danger of becoming a story about Fenway, but also about how I am now that I know him, and who I am now that I live here. So maybe, after all, it is going to be a story about happiness.

The polls remain open, but . . .

 . . . . out of respect for the one third of early respondents who have advised me to ditch the fish, I have moved my scaly little friends to the bottom of the page. For those of you who enjoy their antics and their appetites, scroll down. For the rest of you, enjoy the newfound serenity of life sans poissons.

Four things that FarmWife will have to do without me

As you know, FarmWife and I go together like peas and carrots, and there is never a moment spent together that we don't mostly enjoy. (I will give exception to the annual freshening up of my nether-regions, which takes place in summer when the flies are about and which is quite the affront to my dignity.)

I love most of the activities for which FarmWife requests my company: pasture jogging, during which we cavort merrily together until her knee starts throbbing; trail riding, during which we surmount objects, explore ridges, locate scenic vistas, and skirt Satan's chickens; grooming, during which I ask FarmWife to pay particular attention to my ears and withers; road riding, during which we stick to the quiet byways and work on friendly, non-concussive things—things like lateral movements at the walk, stride adjustability at the walk, and improving our vocal range and intonation . . . . at the walk.

These are great activities, and they satisfy me to the fullest. FarmWife, on the other hand, has a few other equestrian goals with which I am afraid I cannot help.

1. Reining: FarmWife has never set her ass upon a western saddle, and for this very reason she has no business setting a western saddle upon her ass. Sure, riding is riding, but I don't want to witness the embarrassment as she tries to cinch a cinch, adjust her fenders, or dismount without hooking her bra on the horn. This is one secret fantasy she is going to have to indulge without me.

Eccentricities of equipment aside, reining looks exhausting. Really. I'm all for stopping, but do I seriously have to work myself into a hand gallop before I do it? And all that spinning business. When it comes to lateral movements, I consider a spookless sidestep over the double yellow lines on Innis Creek Road to be the pinnacle of success. Beyond that, my side-to-side functionality boils down to one choice: Left at the fork in the trail, or right at the fork in the trail?

2. Endurance riding: FarmWife imagines that one day, when her larvae are grown and gone, she will start trucking me to distant trailheads so that we might log hundreds of sweat-lathered, fresh air miles. I imagine that I would fully enjoy being trucked to the trailhead. Here's my offer: I will come along as waterboy, trailer-guardian, and companion animal for Al Hawa or Azraff or whatever she names the wiry little mount that she is going to have to obtain for this endeavor.

I will give FarmWife this—she knows that I am not fit, and she takes that into account when she limits our uphill travel to a moderate walk, and our trots and canters to about one minute in duration. Here's where her logic fails, though: she thinks fitness is all that stands between me and the Tevis Cup. I'd shake my head at this folly, but that would require exertion.

3. Working Equitation: This is a sport that I would certainly consider. On the one hoof, it requires a lot of cantering (not my strong suit). On the other, though, it involves the use of dapper period clothing, which I think I would wear well! Here's the big problem, though: I have been unable to find solid proof of my noble ancestry as a Pura Raza EspaƱola mule. Sad, I know. These Golega people are VERY exclusive, and unfortunately they refuse to accept my exemplary personal references and strong curriculum vitae in place of said proof of pedigree.

4. Dressage lessons: We've been over this. I'm happy to indulge farmwife in her little "forward, supple, straight" kick as we make our way from the paddock to the trailhead. When it comes to navigating a perfect 20 meter circle with the appropriate degree of schwung, however, she loses me. I just don't see how this is interesting.

Trot, trot, circle, circle, trot, trot, circle, circle, bend, bend, circle, circle, forward, forward, straighten, straighten, relax, relax, trot, trot, flex the jaw, flex the jaw, circle, circle, trot, trot, relax, relax, forward, forward, trot, trot, circle, circle . . . . .. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Fenway Bartholomule

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fenway Bartholomule's Other Best Hybrids

Ligers are bigger than lions or tigers, and mules carry more than their fathers or mothers. It is a fact that the world is just full of examples of how all these new hybrids rule. 

OK, enough with the loose rhymes. My point is this: there are a million wonderful things you can do with hybridization. You humans have tapped into something huge here, and it doesn't end with my mulishly tremendous stamina, the Prius's better fuel efficiency, or the long term storage potential of Elepano rice. 

Think of the potential! Scientists have recently discovered the existance of the wild squirrelocerous, which is easily domesticated and better than a locksmith for battering its way into small spaces. Lock your keys in the car? No problem! Let this little fella loose on your ride and he will pry his way in and scurry them right back to you in no time! 

For you apartment dwellers, there's now a way to bring the Savannah home to your living room. Always admired the strength, character, and robust vigor of the hippopotamus? Try the hippofrogamus, a pocket-sized version of everyone's favorite wallower. 

If you're wondering what to bring to your next vegetarian potluck, stay away from the handsome rhinocermelon. He's not as juicy as he looks, and almost impossible to breed in captivity due to the female watermelon's disinterest in sex.

Forget cockapoos. If you have allergies to doggie dander but can't escape the irrisistable charm of those puppy dog eyes, the chihuahuadoodledoo is the ideal pet for you.

If bird dander ruffles your feathers, too, you might be safer going with the dalmatiapillar. Guaranteed hypoallergenic, these lovely pets will satisfy your social cravings for up to six weeks before metamorphosing into a normal papillon. 

Now, fuel-efficient vehicles aside, I recommend letting nature have the final say in any genetic experiment. As long as the BLM continues to report the existance of wild mules on the western ranges, I will support jacks rights to cover mares, and as long as chihuahuadoodledoos continue to emerge, wide eyed and wondering, from the jungles of the South American continent, I will support their conscientious breeding. Forget genetically modified tomatoes, folks. Hybridization is the way to go. 

Fenway Bartholomule

Image credits: from top

The Song Title Interview

The objective: Answer the interview questions with song titles, by one artist. 

Pick Your Artist:

Are you male or female:
Soul Brother

Describe yourself:
The Hero

How do you feel about yourself:
Good Company

Describe where you currently live:
Made in Heaven

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Arboria (Planet of the Tree Men)

Your favorite form of transportation:
Ride the Wild Wind

Your best friend is:
Sweet Lady

Yur favorite color is:
My Melancholy Blues

What's the weather like:
It's a Beautiful Day

Favorite time of day:
Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
These are the Days of our Lives (Erm . . . make that Brays of our Lives)

What is life to you:
A Kind of Magic

What is the best advice you have to give:
Let Me Entertain You

If you could change your name, what would it be:
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

Your favorite food is:
Lily of the Valley

Thought for the Day:
Friends Will Be Friends

How I would like to die:
Who Wants to Live Forever

My soul's present condition:
Doing All Right

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When all you have is a little time, a little ride will do.

FarmWife and I just wrapped up a lovely little impromptu ride after Mr. J came home unexpectedly early. It was absolutely perfect. In the interest of saving time, we dispensed with my breeching, breastplate, boots, and bridle, going out instead in just a halter and saddle. Bareback riding is all well and good, but FarmWife wanted this opportunity to perfect my understanding (and her use) of of the seat aids, as they would function in full regalia. We went down yonder road and back, working all the while on our walk/halt/walk transitions and our port and starboard navigational systems. FarmWife dropped the reins, such as they were, and she practiced communicating with her butt. This, for the uninitiated, is a more graceful equestrian pursuit than it sounds.

We were only out for thirty minutes, but we saw our friend Bald Eagle standing sentry over the Samish headwaters, and watched the brisk, tumultuous rallying of tonight's rain clouds. We heard, over FarmWife's unquenchable singing, the trilling of a hundred red-winged blackbirds. In the foreground, she serenaded the neighborhood over the steady clip-clop of my unshod hooves: "Oh, Mr. Fenway Bartholomule, I wonder how many people hear me singing to you now. Oh don't you worry, Fenny, I don't mind if they hear, I will sing it loud and clear! Oh Mr. Fenway you're precious and they ought to know. I will sing your praises everywhere we go.  There is not a word I've said that isn't true, oh Fenway, I really love you!"*

*Sung to the tune of "Oh Mr. Fenway," as featured on Bent Barrow's youtube channel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


There has been some dispute as to whether this giant caterpillar, as posted on facebook last week, is actually a llama/caterpillar hybrid (scientific name llamapillarama glamaarctiidae). In researching the veracity of this claim, I observed photographic evidence of the wooly bear caterpillar/llama resemblance. I was unable to determine the true nature of the pictured specimen, but I did come to one rock-solid conclusion: llamas are silly, silly things.

Llamas combine the duel wizardry of fabulous ear length and blazing hot fashion sense. Not only are they good at choosing stylish accessories for every season, but they can be used to MAKE stylish accessories for winter and fall. My grasp of textile production is weak, but my understanding is that they produce threads instead of fur.

Llamas, like mules and caterpillars, eat vegetative matter. For this purpose, they have developed strong, masticating molars as well as strangely proturbant incisors. I think this may be a special evolutionary defense against difficult-to-remove pop-tart wrappers.
When llamas and their kin are not busy crossbreeding with insects, opening foil snack packets, and producing fiber for sassy knitwear, they enjoy styling their hair in the fashion of Foxxy Cleopatra.

Llamas are just one of several Seussian beasts in the camelid family, and are often confused with their smaller cousin, the alpacapoodle (not to be confused with the labradoodle, and much less likely to ruin your upholstery). 
I hope, dear readers, that you have the opportunity to meet a llama yourself in the not to distant future. Please report back. Are they real? Do they exist, or are they a product of the human imagination, to be shelved alongside the seven-hump-wump and the honorable push-me pull-you? Please post your opinion on this pressing matter in the comments form, or share photographic evidence of the elusive Llama on my facebook fan page.

Your own camelid fancier,
Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where's Her Babel Fish When She Needs It?

Sometimes FarmWife misunderstands me in the morning. Here's a sample conversation from breakfast today:

FarmWife: Good morning, my hungry hungry hippo!
Fenway: FarmWife!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm starving!!!!!!
FarmWife: Hello, my handsome lad. I love you too.
Fenway: I have bed head and my butt itches.
FarmWife: Did you know that you're the best in the world?
Fenway: Please scratch my butt.
FarmWife: Oh, your tail is tangly! We'd better comb that, hadn't we?
Fenway: My butt.
FarmWife: It's a beautiful day. What do you say we get your blankie off?
Fenway: Actually, prior to the removal of my turnout rug I would prefer that you check on the status of that monogrammed dress sheet that I had requested. 
FarmWife: There you go, Fenny. You'll be much more comfy naked.
Fenway: My dress sheet, please.
FarmWife: Aren't you handsome under there!
Fenway: Now I'm cold. Can I have a double tall half-caf  soy hazelnut latte, please? 
FarmWife: Let me top up your trough for you.
Fenway: Not hosewater again!
FarmWife: There you are, sweetpie. 
Fenway: Drip coffee would be fine.
FarmWife: Isn't that yummy!
Fenway: You smell like coffee. And maple syrup. Do you have any pancakes in your pocket?
FarmWife: Oh, thanks for the snuggles, Fenny. 
Fenway: You must have something tastier than this hay somewhere upon your person.
FarmWife: I love you too.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Art: Party Animal by Robert Burridge

One of the larval humans celebrated a birthday in the garden today, and as a result there were teeming throngs of snack-laden humans clustering alongside the fence. (I was quite the attraction, if I do say so, and more than one guest would have gladly taken me home as a party favor had I been on offer.) One of the party activities was the establishment of a strawberry bed near my paddock, promising as a source of future mule snacks.

The downside: FarmWife has been too busy to write with me today. The upside: I got a piece of birthday cake. No frosting, hold the ice cream.

Party On,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Shona

Art by G. de Voss
Poem by Ralph Witherspoon

"My home is a haven for one who enjoys 
The clamour of children and ear-splitting noise 
Froma number of dogs who are always about,
And who want to come in and, once in, to go out.
Whenever I settle to read by the fire, 

Some dog will develop an urge to retire, 
And I'm constantly opening and shutting the door 
For a dog to depart or as mentioned before, 
For a dog to arrive, who, politely admitted, 
Will make a bee-line for the chair I've just quitted. 
Our friends may be dumb, but my house is a riot, 
Where I can sit still and can never be quiet."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm Not Lazy, I'm Just at Peace.

FarmWife adores me. She really does, and there is never a moment that passes when I doubt the sincerity of that love. If she had one complaint with me, though . . . and it is not that she does have a complaint with me, because she doesn't . . . it would be that I am not quite so, how shall we say, forward as the invigorated sporthorses of her youth.

Now, I am not a kick-along sloth. I walk, trot, and canter without too much cajoling, and can even muster a hand-gallop for up to ten strides at a time when asked nicely. I have a reputation, in fact, for my lovely swinging walk, which is the envy of many a quarter horse rider on yonder trails. It is only when compared to the remembered mounts of yore that I tend to be judged too sedate.

I will freely admit that I cannot finish a cross country course ahead of Dor, the "you should go clean if you don't both die" appaloosa, and I do not take the bit in my teeth with the surging strength of Panda, the "perhaps we should try the kimberwicke" pinto. I will, however, safely carry your toddler to a tea-party at the neighbor's house, stand tied while you browse on the bookmobile, or hold your ribbon with my hoof when you run out of Scotch tape in mid-gift wrap.

There was a time in FarmWife's life when she wanted a competitive mount, and when her list of criteria appeared thus, in order of importance:

1) Sound
2) Athletic
3) Forward
4) Brave
5) Trained to 1st level dressage, novice level eventing
6) Tall
7) Fancy*
8) Sane*
9) Kind*


Now, as a busy mother of three, FarmWife cannot afford lessons, training, and entry fees. She cannot spare the time to "lunge the edge off," and the "needs regular work" set would go crazy under her two-rides-a-week regime. Her new priorities appear thus, in order of importance:



You will note that I satisfy all four of the above requirements, in addition to the having the bonus features of chiseled beauty, masculine charm and robust vigor. In addition, I am responsive. Intelligent. Funny. Charismatic. I am eager enough to see what's around the next bend on the trail, but I'm just as happy to stop and admire the view from here. I am serene. I don't worry, I stay happy, I am focused, I am willing. I am not in a hurry to get to anywhere because Here and Now is beautiful.

So yes, dear readers, perhaps it is so that I my brake is a little heavier than my accelerator. Perhaps my "take some time to smell the flowers" approach to life would not suit the Todds, Davidsons, and O'Connors of this world, but it darn well suits FarmWife. I remain, in all my serenity, her most faithful companion,


"Where there is Faith, there is Love; Where there is Love, there is Peace; Where there is Peace, there is Muleness; Where there is Muleness, there is Bliss."

Quote adapted from Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Art by Debbie Lund

Monday, February 15, 2010

This Mule's Got Thick Skin

On this lovely day after Valentine's day, I would like to nominate for honorary muleness this dear friend-of-a-friend, Attila the tortoise. The accompanying photo shows Attila in his role as ring bearer at the wedding of his human guardians, demonstrating that slow and steady brings the bling, charms the guests, and wins the race.

Tilly's got a problem, folks, and his problem is that his adoring and conscientious humans are planning a move abroad. Unfortunately, 80 pound tortoises can't fly coach. This decision, which was not made lightly, means that Attila is being offered for long term placement in only the most wonderful of homes. He needs hay, safe turnout, daily checks, clean water, and . . . well, basically all the things that any other mule needs, except on a smaller scale. Oh, and a heat lamp, because unlike a Clydesdale, he is truly cold-blooded. In exchange, he offers an abundance of reptilian intelligence, discerning character, slow-mo antics, and a radical shell that more than makes up for his sad lack of external ears. N. and L., his respective FarmWife and FarmHusband, are living in Western Washington and hope to help him get set up in a new home.

Attila's stoic confidence and charming demeanor qualify him, hooves down, for the title of Honorary Mule. It is with great pride and mulish affection that I present to you His Honorary Muleness, Attila the Tortoise.

(Clap hooves).

Fenway Bartholomule

Excerpted from Attila's Fan Page:   

"Atilla the Tortoise needs someone to look after him for the next 5 to10 years. He is a non-biting, 10-year-old, 80lb-and-growing Sulcata tortoise (also known as an African spurred thigh tortoise). We took him in a few years ago and have had a lot of fun getting to know this guy. As we're looking to make a big move- and possibly several more subsequently- we know that he'll be happier in a stable home. Our hope is to have him back with us at some point, so we're looking for some special folks to assume Attila Guardianship for a good length of time, with the knowledge they won't have to have him forever.

What he needs:
• A place to roam (solid fenced grass pasture of a half acre or more- we can help build the fence)
•His very own warm and toasty house (we will provide this)
•A constant supply of power to heat his house (so this means either a generator or the willingness AND ability to bring him inside the house when winter power outages occur ...)
•Someone to check on him every single night to make sure he is back inside before nightfall, that his house is warm and that everything is in order.
•The occasional bath in a wading pool outside
•Lots of chemical free grass, a bale of grass hay per year ,and treats every now and again
•An occasional vet visit

What does he offer?
•Lots of funny tortoise attitude, lawn mowing, the chance to just sloooow down to tortoise time, the guaranteed delight of every child (and, let's be honest, every adult) that comes your way, and the wonder of sharing your life with a being that, if he is properly taken care of, is going to outlive you. Plus, he loves playing dress-up.

If you ...
•Are really excited about the idea of a huge tortoise
•Have the physical means of lifting him
•Have the financial means to spend up to $500 per year on tortoise heating and other expenses
•Are able to commit to having him be checked on every single day of the year, without exception
•Are in a stable living situation for at least the next 5 years

… then you might be the special person for this particular tortoise, and we can't wait to talk to you!"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bartholomule's Rhapsody

(Brayed to the tune of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.)

Dedicated to my darling Valentine.

With love,
From Fenway

Sweet Katie Scarlett,
My darling Valentine, 
Each Facebook wall post 
goes straight from your heart to mine.
Open my eyes, look up to the skies and bray . . . . 
I'm just a lone mule, two goats for company,
my fame is easy come, easy go,
with these hooves, typing's slow,
Look at how the wind blows, carrying my kisses to thee, Katie. 

Katie—you lovely mule—
Oh I know we met online, but my darling, you're so fine.
Katie, now that you're my girl, there is no name in the world I'd rather bray. 
Katie . . . . Scarlett . . . I'm not gonna lie, 
I sometimes wish we lived a little closer, 
in a barn, side by side, 
'cause our love really matters . . . 

Good hay, my lunch has come, 
I'd share a flake sometime if our stalls were side by side,
My love, Katie Scarlett, you ought to know,
there nothing that I would not do for you.
Katie, oooh, you are oh so cute, 
I sometimes wish your photo hung in my stall.

(Bray solo)

I see a little silhouetto of a goat, 
Jasper Jules! Jasper Jules! Watch him do the fandango.
Thunderbolts are rumbling,
hear my tummy grumbling for hay!
(Katie Scarlett) Katie Scarlett! (Katie Scarlett) Katie Scarlett! Katie Scarlett likes hay too!
So do the go-o-o-oats . . .  

I'm such a glad mule, Miss Scarlett loves me, 
You're such a good mule, from a good family,
I'll spend my life blowing kisses to thee . . . .  

To New York, let us go, 
FarmWife, let me go . . .
I will not, no! We will not let you go. 
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let me go) Will not let you go
(Let me go) Will not let you go (Let me go) Ah
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(FarmWife, let me! FarmWife, let me!) Please, oh, FarmWife, let me go!
I hear Jet Blue has a ticket put aside for me, for me, for me . . . 

So, dear Kate, do you think that our sweet love will thrive?
Do you think that our Facebook affair can survive?
Oh, Katie, I am sure of it, Katie,
Just gotta go bray, just gotta go bray to the world. 

Online dating matters, Anyone can see,
Online dating matters,
Online dating matters to me!

Katie Scarlett sure knows . . . . 

Friday, February 12, 2010


Mules vs. goats vs. chickens—

A mule will open a gate if he wants to go through. A goat will knock you down at the gate if he wants to go through. A chicken will stare at the gate for four hours trying to figure out how to go through . . . even though it's open. 

Dogs vs. cats vs. mules—

Dogs roll in their poop. Cats bury their poop. Mules carefully classify their poop according to nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous content in order to facilitate composting expediency. 

Show people vs. trail people vs. mule people—

Show people carefully coordinate the hunter trim on their trunk with the hunter trim on the bag in which they store their Vespucci bridle. Trail people carefully calculate the total weight, the washability, and the anti-chafe qualities of their brown leather breeching, their orange nylon breastplate, their black synthetic saddle, and their blue beta reins. Mule people just stand back and say, "damn, them's some fine ears." 

Friday Funny-Click to View

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tax Time Lovelies

Well, folks—it's official. The tax return is filed, and FarmWife and Mr. J are getting a chunk of change back this year! Silly humans. They've already scrooged away every budgeted penny for bills and necessaries, but just in case Uncle Sam spontaneously kicks back a little extra cash for one of my dear readers, I thought I would present for your shopping pleasure the following Tax Time Lovelies from the giant sale barn that is the World Wide Web.

This Victor fellow might have long pasterns, methinks, but he looks like a jolly chap who just needs a lift out of snowy Ohio.

I think I showed you guys this one already. Can you tell I WUV him? I think he would make a very nice best (guy) friend, never of course usurping Katie's role as the other other BEST mule in the world, besides me and John Henry.

Is this guy the incredible hulk of the mule world, or does he just need a slimming diet and a better camera angle? I don't love his neck, but his color's hard to beat, he's cute and sturdy, and the icing on the cake is that he lives with that pretty fellow, Flat Track. I would guess that Joe-joe wears the pants in THAT family.

This is Jim Bob. You can't see his big picture anymore, but if you could you would note that he needs about a hundred pounds of flesh. Hopefully his owners are skimping on the photo renewal fee so they can save up for mule groceries! He sounds and looks like a dear soul, though, so if you're looking for an Intrepid Adventurer like me, Fenway Bartholomule, he may be just the ticket.

This is for those of you who can't talk your husband into a new trail mule. He is not a mule. He is not even a donkey. He is a dust bunny. If you have a white Australian Shepherd, as my FarmWife does, you can easily hide this guy under the couch among the other fluffballs when your husband is due home.

'Ears to you, and to your tax return!

Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Big Flowers, Big Riders

Welcome Flowers! FarmWife got her first round of seeds out in the garden yesterday, the greenhouse is prepped and ready for this week's transplants, and the mule hairs are flying.

The crocuses are feeling this global warming thing—they are pony-crushingly big this year. This bay gelding at left is about 12 hh, if you were wondering. I'm all for showy blooms, but this is getting ridiculous!

Speaking of pony crushing, the FarmWife was a bit taken aback when she saw how petite I looked in a recent photo. For comparison, how do you think she fares against these honest-to-goodness pony-crushers?

In my opinion, FarmWife is well within the Appropriate Cargo Guidelines for a mule of my robust vigor. Luckily for FarmWife, it is my opinion which matters the most. It is I, after all, who has to carry her. I think she can also take comfort in the fact that her screamingly yellow safety jacket has optically-distorting qualities, while I tend to recede in the subtle quiet of serene brown.

Happy Spring,
Fenway Bartholomule

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Operation Bluebird Delta

Dear Readers,

The National Security Act of 1947 ushered in a new world of data gathering, secret operations, and clandestine research in the United States, not the least of which projects was the MKULTRA program undertaken by the CIA in order to study and master mind control. I, Fenway Bartholomule, have discovered that this program is not dead. It did not get put to sleep with the end of the cold war; did not crash down with the Berlin Wall; and certainly did not end with the drying up of brain electrode research in the second half of the 20th century. No, my friends: Government-run Mind Control research is at work even now, and my own dear FarmWife is the unwitting subject.

Some of you may be familiar with the term "Bejeweled Blitz," describing a cutesy facebook application with glittering gems and exciting little explosions. You may not realize that this very program, in all of its confidentiality, was found on prematurely discarded CIA laptops at a Petaluma garage sale and distributed to the general public via the Interwebs long before it was identified as the hypnotically addictive brain addler that it is. Designed to lull users into an amnesiac state of hypnotic susceptibility, Bejeweled Blitz (or Bluebird Delta as it was called by its programmers) creates a post-hypnotic state in which the user can be forced into a condition of disinhibition and made to crash an airplane, split into multiple personalities, exhibit audio-stimulated aggression, let the phone go straight to voicemail, or neglect to wash or fold laundry for periods up to six days.

FarmWife, like most post-hypnotic amnesiacs, denies any knowledge of having been affected thus by Bejeweled Blitz, but luckily her love for me is so great that she has deigned to submit to a moratorium at my request. Despite being a skeptical Agnostic, dear FarmWife has agreed that Lent, which commences tomorrow, Wednesday, shall mark the beginning of her hopefully permanent Bejeweled Blitz abstinence. Let us pray that we may yet still save her.

 In the meantime, look out for the following signs of mind control in your own loved ones:

  • Prolonged screen time, during which the user moves the mouse in erratic lateral and horizontal gestures while being auditorily stimulated with the sound of, "Zing! Pow! Sizzle, Sizzle, Zing!"
  • A preoccupation with "The Leaderboard," a device which gives "players" the ability to monitor the status of other mind-control study subjects. 
  • A tendancy to mutter such phrases as, "detonator boost!" or "free multiplier!" in their sleep. These phrases may be hypnotically-programmed triggers for terrorist activity.
Be strong, my friends, and do not allow yourself to become a pawn in this secret agenda. Let us boycott Bejeweled Blitz, that the Muleness might prevail.

Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, February 8, 2010

In which I meet with disappointment but remain a Very Good Mule

Dear Readers,

Those among you who pay close attention will remember the excitement with which I anticipated my weekend trail ride, which was to have been a serene and scenic tour of the northwestern flank of Lyman Hill. It turned out not to be so.

The peculiarity of my Wickersham trails is that they are all, to a one, accessible by and only by logging roads. Logging roads in themselves offer no problem, especially since the acquisition of my lovely EasyBoots (for even the toughest of mule hooves, you see, can be made tender by 3 inch monster gravel from hell). It is the traffic on logging roads that usually gives us pause, and this was to be a day when such was the case.

Our ride began with the usual routine: meeting at the gate, a taste of something yummy from the FarmWife's pocket; heading to the trailer; another taste of something yummy; standing tied, being groomed, donning tack, offering hooves for cleaning and clothing; another taste of something yummy. One nice difference this weekend was that I officially commenced with the annual Spring Shed on Saturday, which meant that instead of coming out looking like this after fifteen minutes of currying,

FarmWife ended up looking a little bit more like this: 

Luckily for FarmWife, the weather is still cool enough to justify the use of her favorite brown sweatshirt, which she will wear for our daily grooming sessions these next six weeks. 

In any case, I was groomed and tacked up, less three ounces of hair, and away we went. Unfortunately, the Lyman Hill access road, which we shall refer to as Logging Road A (LRA), was clogged with vehicular traffic. LRA has the unique property of being sided by a deep ravine on the left and a sheer cliff on the right, and although I am confident in my ability to make it up the sheer cliff in a moment of extreme need, FarmWife opted out of putting my Summiting skills to the test. We proceeded down the paved road of Innis Creek, despite my conviction that vehicular traffic, blind curves, plummeting ravines and vertical rock faces present far less threat than the white and yellow Lines of Death. 

Anderson Montain's access, or Logging Road B, had been plastered with shiny new No Trespassing signs a week ago, so rather than hitting LRB, we proceeded a quarter mile down the main road to Logging Road C. Unfortunately, the very same signs appeared to thwart our progress!! I tried my best to convince the FarmWife that famous celebrity bloggers and their courteous riders were certainly not subject to the same anti-trespass laws as the general public, but was overruled by her sense of civil duty. We continued, therefore, to Logging Road D. LRD had a closed and locked gate, and one so thoroughly well defended that even an expert Surmounter such as myself could not find safe passage to either side. We returned to the paved road, momentarily thwarted. 

This is not the end of the story. Oh, no! I, Fenway Bartholomule, am a "Trail Mule." Riding the trails is my job, my reason for being. It is the justification of my presence at Bent Barrow Farm, even if everyone knows that 95% of the fun of having me is in merely enjoying my company. 

Since Trails were not an option on this fateful Saturday, FarmWife made the executive decision to give me a new job title. She promoted me to "Housesitting Mule," which meant that instead of hauling the FarmWife around the countryside for an hour and a half, I spent 30 minutes tied by my halter to a stout post in the yard of our dear friends, the Chicken People, who had awayed for the weekend. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that I was an unthwartably Good Mule. Not only did I stand still as a statue in the regal Napping Stance for that full period, but I did so with the majestic air of a true Working Mule. Standing, fully tacked, with my halter over my pelham bridle, I reminded myself of nothing more than a respected member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I think I would have served very well in that organization, had I been born in another place. It's only a shame that I speak not a word of Canadian. 

FarmWife was able to feed and water five dozen hens, look after a bustling throng of Saanen goats not unlike my own little herd, evacuate a trio of merry dogs from their house to the yard and back again, and generally bustle about in the manner of a Very Useful Housesitter, and we returned home satisfied after a job well done. It was not a wasted day, and I was not anything less than a Very Good Mule after all.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The new sport of Fenssage

I finally found that irregular polygon in a test. This could be the sport for me!

PeeWee level Test 1:

A    Enter under duress

X    Drift, slow, salute

       Proceed poky trot, rising

C   Spook left

E    Irregular polygon left 18-23m

Between K and A Haunches out of ring

B Careen left to centerline

C Halt, breathe, wipe brow

    Proceed, fussing jig

HXF Fussing jig, breaking to canter

F Disunited canter, either lead

Between A and F hand gallop; leap chain; exit arena