Thursday, September 30, 2010

Boyfriend in His Infinite Wisdom

Today I thought I'd share some of dear Boyfriend's words. He, in all his infinite wisdom, rotundity, and belovedness, is sort of my Horse counterpart. If you haven't met him yet, you must go visit him at  Here's an excerpt from a recent blog post, found in its entirety at this link. You must click the button to see Boyfriend's animation of his dream, and do remember that you're to imagine a robust dappled gray on the phone with Aunt Nancy!

" Mother used to laugh at me because I was very nervous of the weight tape. Saddle? No problem. Weight tape? CREEPY! Mother said I looked like Bugs Bunny figuring out he was getting measured for the stock pot.

That's not a very nice thing to say. That sort of thing can happen. I don't want it to happen to me!

I had the strangest dream the other night... Is it because Mother has been neglecting me? Anyway, I found a way to re-enact for my readers. Click this button, but I recommend you just listen and not watch, because the video isn't really me. Oh, for backgound information, Mr. Smothers is Mother's cat. He and Aunt Nancy discussed some of the dangers of the world outside the house... "snake bite, dog attack, or vehicular felinicide".

And one last qualifier. I am a good horse. But Aunt Nancy oh-so-very-occasionally uses bad language. This re-enactment is exactly how the dream happened, so it is verbatim. My apologies to any young impression-ables."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Goat

My goat is doing better. She walks like a drunken sailor, but she walks—with a little help from her friends.

Keep braying!


Apologies for my last post

It occurs to me now that I let my inner muse get ahead of my common sense, which tells me that those among my readership who are not facebook users will not be aware of the facts concerning the illness of Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches.

Here they are: Missy went down sometime between Monday bedtime and Tuesday breakfast. I wish I'd noted exactly when, because then I could have told the humans and not left them wondering, but as it stands now Missy has been unable to rise for 28 hours and counting. She has reduced sensation (but some) in her hind legs, but no strength or motor control. She cannot turn or shift herself, and is being rolled over, cleaned, and massaged by the humans at each check. Her bloodwork is off the charts in several areas, including indications of some liver disfunction and elevated protein levels. She is evacuating normally, is eating and chewing her cud, and is staying hydrated with IV fluids every two hours round the clock. She was examined at the vet hospital yesterday morning and has been given antibiotics and banamine. FarmWife is very busy googling various possible explanations. Tumors and/or abcesses on the spine, Meningial deerworm (apparently not common in our region), selenium deficiency or toxicity—these have all crossed FarmWife's mind, and are being researched accordingly.

We're told not to hope tooo much, but expecting disappointment is not something we mules are good at. We cannot help but look eagerly to the future, and so it is with an ancestral heritage of optimism that I bray for Missy's speedy and full recovery.

Ears to you,

Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches

We passed a misty, moonish night with Missy lit up in the light of FarmWife's giant flashlight every hour or two. 

She's down, but feeling rather bright—she bleating, eating, acting quite content considering that she cannot move.

I didn't mean to write a poem, but these words came and FarmWife wrote 'em—rhymish, with a bumping, lilting groove.

It comes from getting little sleep—we both a vigil had to keep! We're loopy, so would you a nap approve?

Missy with Jasper Jules on the day of his birth—April 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Bold and the Brayful, Episode 1

The Bold and the Brayful

A column by Fenway Bartholomule

First published in The BRAYER, July 2010. Reprinted with permission from the ADMS.

My friend Marnie Jones—I call her FarmWife—is lucky, happy, and totally fulfilled. I am particularly qualified to say so, I think. This because, first of all, I am her very best friend in the whole wide world with possible exception to her dear husband, and second of all because I am a mule. As you surely know, mules are insightful, sensitive, and observant. I am capable of plumbing the depths of FarmWife's spirit and touching the deep recesses of her most private feelings. I can understand, for instance, when she is feeling like feeding some delicious hay. Something about her carriage as she walks to the feed shed . . . something about the nobility of purpose with which she boldly strides towards the delectable bales. I can also understand when she is feeling lively—when she asks me to canter, for instance, and shouts "wooohoo!" into the wind at my frolicsome eagerness. She's easy to read. 

I know FarmWife and love her, and one of the things I love most is her mulish optimism. She is always willing to assume the best about someone. Take her old Volvo, for instance—It has been dead in the driveway for three weeks, but she refuses to give up. She thinks it just needs a few weeks of rest and then it will be back in action, making hay runs and delivering children to their playdates once more. I, for one, think we should trade it in on a harness and carriage. I will travel any distance for a bale of hay, and something tells me that the delivery-via-station wagon option is permanently unavailable. 

FarmWife is going to be 31 this week—in human years, which makes her younger than my 15 mule years. It's old enough to be a grownup about things, though, and nearly two years ago FarmWife decided that the way to be grownup about her favorite hobby (riding) was to admit that her fancy dressage horse, with his expensive boarding stable and high-maintenance attitude, was not working for her budget, her skill level, or her family. What she wanted was a friend, a trusted family mount who could carry her down the trail whilst she sang a happy tune. She sold Mr. Fancypants and ended up with me. 

FarmWife didn't know what she was getting when she bought me from the man next door. I had lived in the neighbors' field for long enough that she knew a few facts: that I was handsome, for instance, and that I played well with others. That I had incredible feet, a lovely temperament, a great respect for fences of any description, and sensitive skin with a tendency towards insect-induced hives. Otherwise, she thought I was basically a horse with long ears.

I am not. I am half horse, half ass, and proud of it. My donkey father gave me a tremendous capacity for Assessing the Situation. This is my favorite hobby, after eating, rolling, and braying, and I have passed more happy hours in careful Assessment than you can imagine. Stand, feet planted. Gaze, with eagle-eyed scrutiny. Inhale. Analyze. Ponder. My horse mother, on the other hand, gave me great athleticism, which comes in very handy when I am asked to carry FarmWife up precipitous slopes, for instance, or over tremendous obstacles. I am intrepid. I am just shy of 14.1 hands tall, and she is a gangly 5 foot 10. Her mass is not to be trifled with, but I manage to carry her with nimble grace. This is part of the magic of mules.

FarmWife has never spent a single second regretting the change from sport-horse to half-horse, and her warmblood dreams have been permanently replaced with visions of mules dancing in her head. She wants me, only me, and when I'm old she wants another mule just like me. I will mentor him, when that time comes, and teach him how to snuffle her cheek just so and press his closed eyes against her chest in a tender embrace of complete trust.

I am good for FarmWife. When she gets distracted, lost in matters of little paychecks and big bills, or tall weeds and small vegetables, I remind her that she has all that she really needs. Her health. Her home. Her family. Her mule. When she needs to get her mind off of fussing children and dead Volvos, I take her out. I carry her to the scenic vistas of our beautiful corner of the world, down the meandering trails by which we discover new places. There's no worry in the world that the steady rhythm of a loved mule's hoofbeats can't drown out. 

I am good for FarmWife, and I am good in general. I babysit our little goats, who can't weigh more than my tail on a rainy day, and make sure they get their share of the hay pile. I look after the chickens, herding them under the gate with tender care when they dare to commit the crime of laying in the goat shed. I give muleback rides to the city children who come to see me, letting their love for me carry them through an otherwise dark time of urban petlessness. 

Knowing, as I do, how FarmWife's life was changed for the better by my arrival, and how her husband and their three daughters have benefited from my kind and majestic presence on Bent Barrow Farm, I decided in December to extend the hoof of friendship beyond the borders of our one green acre. I established my own website,, as a place where all of the citizens of the world could access and learn from my Muleness. I've made many online friends, and one thing they've taught me is that The Muleness is not unique to me, nor even to mules. I've now met horses, donkeys, ponies, and even humans with it. It is many things. Perserverence. Good sense. Honesty. Patience. Intelligence. Strength. Beauty. Stamina. Determination. Perception. It can be inborn, or it can be cultivated. Find it in yourself, and you will lead a life worth living. I'm helping FarmWife find it now.
Your friend,
Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, September 27, 2010

Whether the weather is cold

 . . . or whether the weather is hot, we'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.

Here is my blanket, washed and patched in preparation for the Long Wetness. It has a poem in it, which makes it very special indeed. My heart has a song in it, which makes IT special, and my tummy has a flake of hay in it, which makes IT special. My step has a spring, my eye has a twinkle. Life is good.

Love, FB

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A very sad calculator.

Number of animals killed in the world by the meat, dairy and egg industries, since you opened this webpage. This does not include the billions of fish and other aquatic animals killed annually.

Based on 2007 statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas.

Get this counter »

Goin' to the Dogs

The humans went to River Park in Burlington yesterday, ostensibly to see a pumpkin-toss. The trebuchets were interesting, the pumpkins were flying, and the children's fair was wonderful, but as I hear it the single biggest attraction was the teeming throng of leashed dogs. My humans departed the parking lot in a wagon, pulled by the lovely Ben (near) and Rocky (off), and arrived to the sight of a canine extravaganza. The stories they brought back compelled me to compose this little jingle, best sung to the tune of "Raindrops on Roses."

Three-legged boxers and splotchy gray schnoodles,
Wee mini dachshunds and tall standard poodles,
Happy French bulldogs with strange, screeching barks,
These are few of the dogs from the park.

Teeny chihuahuas on wee little leashes, 
Fat labradoodles with coats like sheep's fleeces,
Boisterous puppies with teeth like a shark's,
These are a few of the dogs at the park.

When I'm left home . . . when my peeps go . . . when I'm all alone, 
I ask them to note for me every dog, and they bring such tales back home! 

FarmWife went out and she took her whole family,
Every human abandoned and left me.
They rode in wagons with puppies galore, 
Pulled behind drafties to see even more . . . 

When they arrived they stepped out of the wagon,
There they found canines with long tails a-waggin', 
Spaniels and greyhounds and cute mongrel pups,
Great big lab-mixes and fat little pugs.

When I'm left home . . . when my peeps go . . . when I'm all alone, 
I ask them to note for me every dog, and they bring such tales back home! 


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Old Computers and Old Friends

So there was the old computer—covered in hoofprints, banged up beyond recognition, glitchy, and prone to overheating. And then there was the new computer, in which we placed our trust and our data. Unfortunately, the new computer has a hardware problem of some sort, and I PROMISE it was not hoof-related. In any case, it's back at the factory getting fixed and I'm here with the old one, attempting to blog before it overheats and crashes.

The nice thing about this old computer is that it still stores many of our old photos: this gem, for instance, which shows young FW with Panda, a horse with Muleness. I think I may have shared it with you before—I would have, because Panda was important. He taught FarmWife to jump, to gallop, and to ride with a pelham and it's many reins.

Here's another nice old photo: this is Maggie, or rather Trampas Margaret McCracken—a dog with Muleness, or at least a dog the size of a mule. She pushed 9 hands,  which is small for a wolfhound but big compared to just about anything else at the dogpark. She was not the most fearless, and she was not the most clever, but she was the most kind dog one could meet.

And here, of course, is Mirri. A dog with muleness, in many senses. Stubborn? Yes. Self-preserving? No. Preserving of her master? Yes. Adoring? Insistant? Brilliantly smart? All of these. She was a balloholic, a fierce defender of justice, a biddable companion, a stoic friend, and a tough old bird. I would have liked to have met her.

Mirri's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and FarmWife always finds October 11th to be a bit melancholy and a bit nostalgic. I'll take her out riding, and I'll listen to her tales of this One Best Dog like only her One Best Mule can do.

Ears to you,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delivering Magazines to the Center of the Known Universe

I have a raging cold, a looming deadline, a tired child, a failing laptop, a messy house, and a soggy yard. I also have an incredible sense of awe and wonderment at this world around me: how can I possibly have been so lucky as to have landed here in this Edenic valley? How is it that every drive I take reveals places even more beautiful? How is it possible that a region can be this majestic? And, especially, how on Earth can a woman this stuffy be compelled to feelings this wonderful? By the sight of fog rolling down off the hills of eastern Skagit county; by a glimpse of mist-shrouded elk grazing alongside Highway 20; by the act of delivering Grow Northwest magazines to the blue-green, warm-wet wonderment of Concrete, Washington.

Not quite sure if I'm loopy from the Sudafed or high on life, I'll opt for the latter.

Did I  mention how I love this place?


I am a Shoulder to Cry On; A Listening Ear.

Fenway advises a good friend on how to secure the presence of one's human:

Ears to you, Boyfriend! Ears to you!

Are You Man, Mule, or Goat?

Sometimes, in these close friendships, two individuals will spend so much time together that their identities mesh; their personalities converge; the lines become blurred. Has this happened to you and your riding partner? Have you lost track of who's who in your herd? This handy quiz will sort you out in no time. Just choose the most appropriate answer from each of the options below.

1) Do you have thumbs?

2) Which of the following is most likely to kill you?

3) When faced with a large pile of dried vegetative matter, you—

4) After exercising, you smell—

5) Your favorite treat comes—

6) Your clothing is—
a-XXS, XS, M, L, XL, XL, 2XL, OR 3XL

7) The non-food item most likely to be found in your mouth is—

8) To show affection, you—

9) Your footwear choices include—

10) The thing that excites you the most is—

There! You're done! Now, tally your answers. If you chose mostly B, you can be proud. You're a mule! Now, go find some hay. If you chose mostly A, you're lucky! You're a human—and you may ride a mule. Go find one! If you chose mostly C, you're a goat. Keep striving for excellence, and please sutdy the behavior of your nearest equine that you may learn and grow.

If you offered a variety of answers, please seek advice from the nearest board-certified psychiatrist.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And, in the spirit of parody lyrics . . .

A favorite song of mine:

You may find yourself living in a wooden shack
You may find yourself with friends all over the world
You may find yourself towed behind a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful field, with a beautiful goat
You may ask yourself: "Well, what can I eat here?"

Eating the grass and hay/eating some little plants
Eating the grass and hay/grass is growing under
Onto the trail again/after the hay is gone
Morning and evening/hay and grass thereunder

You may ask yourself
How do I work this?
You may ask yourself
Where's that electric gate handle?
You may tell yourself
This cannot be all of the grass!
You may tell yourself
I must get to the good, greener grass!

Eating the grass and hay/eating some little plants
Eating the grass and hay/grass is growing under
Onto the trail again/after the hay is gone
Once every weekend/once when Thursday comes round

Great as I ever was . . . Great as I ever was . . . 
Great as I ever was . . . Great as I ever was . . . 
Great as I ever was . . . Great as I ever was . . . 
Great as I ever was . . . Great as I ever was . . . 

Salt block dissolving . . . rain water removing
Here is FarmWife . . . moving it under the shed roof
Out of the water,
Ears to the water,
But do move the salt block under the shed roof. 

Eating the grass and hay/eating some little plants
Eating the grass and hay/grass is growing under
Onto the trail again/after the hay is gone
Once every weekend/once when each Thursday comes round

Onto the trail again, on to the scenic paths
Over the rocks and stones, across wet and sandy ground, 
Letting the miles go by, crossing rushing water,
Twice every week, now, we ride 'cross this ground

And you may ask yourself,  
How dare that beautiful goat?
And you may ask yourself 
Where does that new trail go?
And you may ask yourself? 
Am I right? Of course I am! 
And you may bray out loud,
FarmWife, my HAY IS GONE! 

Eating the grass and hay/eating some little plants
Eating the grass and hay/grass is growing under
Onto the trail again/after the hay is gone
Once every weekend/once when each Thursday comes round

Onto the trail again, on to the scenic paths
Over the rocks and stones, 'cross wet and sandy ground, 
Letting the miles go by, crossing rushing water,
Twice every week, now, we ride 'cross this ground

Eating the grass and hay . . . 
Eating the grass and hay . . . 
Eating the grass and hay . . . 
Trail riding twice a week . . . . 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Bovine Shall be Permitted Without These Conditions Being Met.

Painting by Mark Tansey
The FarmWife thinks she would like a cow or a steer. The FarmHusband thinks he would like a cow or a steer. Neither of them thinks that now, when vet bills are mounting high and schedules are already overfilled, is a good time for a cow or a steer. This is good, because I, Fenway Bartholomule, have some conditions that must be met before I will accept said cow or steer into my heart and home. 

1) This cow or steer must not be allowed to defile my shed with his or her watery poops. The stools of a bovine are too much to bear. We must have a three-stall barn: one for me, one for the goats, and one for the  cow or steer and his or her watery poops. 

2) This cow or steer must humble him or herself to work. I am Fenway, Fine Harness Mule. In our future, perfect world, I shall pull our future, perfect carriage and the bovine shall pull logs out of our future, perfect woodlot.

3) This cow or steer must not eat alfalfa in my presence. He or she shall have no food more delicious than my own. It is already a humiliation that the dairy goat gets grain and I do not.

4) This cow or steer must vow never to gore me upon his or her horns, should he or she be in possession of such.

5) This cow or steer must submit to being directed hither and thither by me, Fenway Bartholomule. My proud quarter-horse ancestry reveals itself in my ambition to drive bovines this way and that, this way and that. What fun it will be!

6) This cow or steer must vow never to salivate upon me with his or her excessively moist and flexible tongue, nor to lay upon me any moisture produced near, on, or by his or her excessively moist nose. Nor shall she or he be permitted to place his or her excessively moist and flexible tongue into or upon his or her excessively moist nostrils in the presence of me, Fenway Bartholomule.

Now, we must await a) the readyness of the humans—of their budgets and schedules; b) the construction of a barn; c) the acquisition of additional pasture and/or a woodlot; d) the signing of a contract, by said bovine, that lays out these conditions detailed above. The bovine, lacking opposable thumbs, may use his or her flexible tongue to sign said document.

Ears to you, and ears to the bovines of the world.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Contest Winners Announced!

Pants the Mule. Photo by Hazel Ray Photography.
The winners of our "How Well Do You Know Fenway Bartholomule" contest have been determined and, wouldn't you know it, first place goes to one of the world's best mules. Give it up for the splendid, the unequalled, the muliferously orange PANTS! Pants was our only contestant to catch the secret bonus answer; a AND d were both correct responses to question 11, and her bonus point made up for her one and only mistake to give her a perfect score of 15 points!

Here, for your edification and amusement, are the correct answers: Pruning the fruit trees is not one of the seven responsibilities. I wear Easyboots (Epics on front, Gloves on back). I know no equine named Mr. Brownie, though I do fraternize with a lovely horse by the name of Mr. Blondie. I would eat an apple last, after enjoying the superior taste and texture of the plum, carrot, and blackberry.  My human's minimules are named Harriet and B. My fame began with a youtube video. I live with Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches. I own five humans (FarmHusband, FarmWife, Weanling Human, and Larval Humans 1 and 2). I was a gift from FarmWife's mother, purchased from a neighbor. I was born in Ohio, the buckeye state. My rope halter and crupper are both handmade. I have a column in the Brayer. I fear pulling tires. My theme song begins, ♬♫Oh Mister Fenway Bartholomule . . . ♬♪. Finally, I wish for you that your hay should be fresh and abundant, your trails should be smooth and scenic, and that your friends should be as nice as me—Fenway Bartholomule.

Now, down to business: Pants, I owe you one T-shirt! What do you wear—a 72? I'm not sure we can accommodate you, so if you would please pass your prize on to Liz we'd be obliged. We'll mail you a bumper sticker, too, that you might spread the Muleness across your fair Kingdom. (Email size preference to fenway at brays of our lives dot com. ) Runners-up: You're all just too wonderful to leave out. Blue Page, with just two small mistakes you're in second place! Your bumper sticker is on the way, and we'll throw in a bumper magnet for good measure. Sian, you've taken third! Five postcards, coming up. We'll throw in a bumper sticker, just because. Lori and Buddy: Thanks for participating. You get bumper stickers too!

Winners, if you'd be so kind as to email your addresses to fenway at brays of our lives dot com, I'd be obliged. I do have some on file, but we're better safe than sorry!

All the best, and EARS TO YOU!

Fenway Bartholomule

Rick Roll'd?

Surely, if you've spent enough time on these interwebs, you've been Rick Roll'd. It doesn't have to be a humiliating experience, friends. No—I, Fenway Bartholomule, have invented a way for you to keep your dignity and your Muleness when you're plunged into the corridors of '80s pop. 

Next time you're Rick Roll'd, simply sing along using these handy alternative lyrics. May the Muleness be with you!

"We're no strangers to love,
You feed me hay, I give you rides . . . 
A lovely ear rub's what I'm thinking of, 
And don't you give this to any other guy! 

I just wanna bray 'bout how I'm feeling,
Gotta make you understand! 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

We've known each other for so long, 
You're hay's abundant
And you're itching to share it. 
Inside the feedroom, there's so much to eat,
I know it's tasty, so bring it! 

And if you ask me if I'm too full
Don't tell me you're too blind to see . . . 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

Eat that hay. Eat that hay.
Eat that hay. Eat that hay.
Always gonna eat, 
Always gonna eat, eat that hay.
Always gonna eat,
Always gonna eat, eat that hay.

You've fed me daily for so long, 
Show up like clockwork, 
And you know I like it, 
I take you riding, cause we both know,
There's nothing I won't do for more hay! 

I just wanna bray 'bout how I'm feeling,
Gotta make you understand! 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

Always gonna eat that hay,
Wanna see you throw it down,
Gonna eat it, every bite, gonna want dessert, too.
Never gonna get it wet, 
Never gonna waste it, no,
Cause I know it keeps me plump, and cute too . . . 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing things from the internet

Image Copyright Allie Bosch
Now, you may or may not know that my FarmWife kind of likes the internet. Kind of loves it, even, and uses it to excess during moments of wavering willpower. As much as she loves me, her husband and children, her farm and friends, her real life . . . there is something about surfing the world wide web that just soothes her like nothing else.

Here, illustrated by the talented Allie of Hyperbole and a Half, is a description of where FarmWife would go if it were not for the moderating influences of her human and animal family.

But, friends, look what the internet has done for her! It has . . .

a) made her mule famous, and who deserves fame more than me, Fenway Bartholomule? No one, that's who.

b) allowed for the flow of files too and from her computer, that she might earn money from home as a writer, editor, and graphic designer. Yay, money! It doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow on the internet.

c) introduced her to the work of many talented artists, not the least of whom are Sue Kroll (see link at right) who painted Yours Truly and Alison Fennell ( with whom FarmWife is publishing a picture book. Just today, FarmWife discovered this talented artist on facebook, proof that the internet is still full of surprises to uncover.

d) helped her obtain the lovely B, a minimule of unparalleled adorability, and helped her rehome Story, a dog of tremendous neediness. Now B is beloved here in Wickersham and Story is beloved in her new, dog-centric family.

e) facilitated our getting to know you, dear readers—a world of mulish friends!

I could go on—there are an F through a Z just waiting to be typed—but, as great as the internet is, real life is better. We're goin' riding.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, September 17, 2010

I.P. Freely has left the building

Image from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons-
not demonstrative of the actual quantity removed from my poor Jasper Jules. 
So here's the thing—it turns out that whoever invented goat penises was really not thinking. Without traumatizing you with all the gory details, I'll tell you this: My Jasper Jules found himself, on Wednesday evening, unable to pee. He stretched, he pushed, he strained, he worked—he stood parked like a Tennessee Walker for some duration—and eventually, without a drop, he conceded failure. "Maaaaaa!" he cried. "Maaaaaa! Take me to the vet, Ma!" It was after hours, of course. What veterinary emergency isn't?

It turns out (men and geldings, you might want to close your eyes for this) that the solution to a blocked urethra in goats is to fish about in the sheath with forceps; to to forcibly rend the penis out of the body; and to rip the end off. This happened, thankfully, while Jasper was under heavy sedation. Even more thankfully, it happened when I was miles away, holding vigil at home.

Jasper's blockage—a handful of copper-colored BBs, manufactured in his bladder of all places—was cleared, and he has been peeing a sad and steady stream ever since. Now, JJ, let me tell you: these little pebbles you make, they're very pretty. It's quite a skill, really. But making them in your BLADDER? What, my dear, were you thinking? There is only one exit from its confines, and it's not quite as generous an exit as you might hope.

Now, FarmWife says we need to make JJ eat loads of salt that he might drink loads of water and end up with diluted, and less mineralized, urine. I say she should give him root beer floats and mango lassis, Shirley Temples and peach smoothies. Humans—if you want we livestock to drink more, you need to rethink your whole approach.

Now, I haven't forgotten the "How Well do you know Fenway Bartholomule" quiz, and I thank you for your participation! Results to be revealed on Monday, after a busy and hectic weekend. You may hear from me before then, pending FarmWife's availability, but until you do—bray for Jasper's full recovery, and ears to you.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Arachnophobes, do not scroll down.
There—now that THEY'VE left, lets talk about spiders.

Anyone who's spent September in rural Western Washington will know our good friend the wolf spider—weaver of webs, catcher of flies, obstructor of bridlepaths. I rode this week through a good 80 or 90 webs, I'm sure, and it's not through any lack of respect for the careful builders who made them. It's just that they're RIGHT there, strung across the trail like finish ribbons marking every meter successfully traveled.

I'm told that many spiders build a new web daily, and so I try not to lose sleep. After all, if it's something they're good at, and something they enjoy, perhaps making a new web because the neighborhood mule went and trashed their old one is their spidery idea of a good time. Perhaps it's the arachnid equivalent of a nice roll in the pasture. What does bother me, though, is stealing their bagged groceries. Leaving the webs in tatters, and the residents scrambling into the shrubbery for dear life, is one thing. Making off with their prepared meals, each one an intombed insect as carefully packaged as a take-out burrito—now that's just mean. I can't help it, though, if spiderfood is sticky. Much as FarmWife goes to work with hay on her sweater, in her hair, and under her collar, I come home with mummified mosquitos under my breastplate, swaddled gnats on my knees, and well-wrapped wasps across my breast.  It is not my fault.

Spiders don't give me the heeby-jeebies, in case you hadn't guessed, and FarmWife rather likes them, too. Neither of us, thought, are wild about mosquitos and flies, and FarmWife has a particular fear of maggots. Maggots in numbers, in fact, can make her jump up and down and scream like a little girl.

I'll bet a wolf spider would eat a maggot if he could.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cleaning House

I've always loved list making, as if writing things down will get them done (it doesn't). Now I have an iPod touch, so I can write things down without wasting paper (they still don't always get done, but now they beep at me when neglected). I love scraps of paper, though, and old letters, and the torn-off return-address corners of incoming envelopes. This is how my address book functions.

I started college 13 years ago this month, and it wasn't until last week that I dealt with the hideous snarl that was the filing system of my early adulthood. I shredded, recycled, and burned a great heap of crap—hoarded letters, old invoices, receipts documenting my slide from veganism (an ice cream sundae, purchased with cash in 1998), but as I did I took a little stroll down memory lane. 

The friends who were cherished then—whose letters were hard to part with, or which I even retained—are still with me now. I'll see one at her house for lunch this Sunday. Another lives in Sweden, and is married with a child himself. We're growing up, but not apart. The things that made them special then have lasted. 

I found a few gems—a cute-yet-indecipherable picture, drawn by my now high school-aged cousin at age four, captioned "Marnie Riding a Horna-Worna with M still in her tummy." A lot of photos of now-dead dogs. A lot of lists.

I found lists of things to do—things to become—things to pursue. "Write more." "Volunteer." "Save up for riding lessons." "Plant a garden." "Become a midwife." "Apply to vet school." "Kayak more." "Learn to knit." 

I am not a vet, but I knit well. I write more. I have a garden. I'm still saving up for riding lessons.

I haven't done everything on my old lists, but at least they aren't beeping at me. 


A Small Betrayal

FarmWife is presently looking after cattle whilst their humans are away. This involves touching the gate, touching the feedroom latch, touching the hose, and touching the hay. It should not involve touching the cattle. It should not involve coming home covered in cattle, covered in cattle dandruff and cattle hair and eau de cattle from head to toe. Smelling her from a block away, I got to thinking that perhaps FarmWife was being a little friendlier with those cattle than I had anticipated, and I became worried. I already share her with Paisley and Jasper Jules and Harriet and Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches, and B and Desmond and Townes and Chanticleer and Feather and Raspberry and Strawberry and Blueberry and Victoria and Viola and Ada and Daphne and Flower and Daisy and Sister and Thing One and Thing Two and Bar Code II and the other hen whose name no one can ever remember. Not to mention the humans. I don't think I should have to share her too many more ways.

So we had a little sit-down talk, FarmWife and I, and it turns out that this big-eyed cow, Dahlia, likes to have her back scratched. LOVES to have her back scratched, in fact. Gallops gleefully up for a back scratch, closes her eyes in blissful contentment, stretches her bovine bulk into a sinewy conduit of pure tactile pleasure for a back scratch. I, on the other hand, tolerate light currying out of obligation and wrinkle my nose at any sort of vigorous massage south of the ears.

So, in the morning, off she'll go again to the cow pasture. She'll come home with hair on her shirt, dirt under her fingernails, and the unmistakable air of a woman who just made some animal very, very happy. I will accept her back, and love her anyway, because it is the bigness of her heart that makes her do it.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

His Minions Abound

Friends, you may recall my run-in with Satan's Chicken last winter. I am lucky to have escaped alive from the encounter—though, thankfully, the Bird of Evil (Exhibit A) was so astounded by my long-eared handsomeness that he was transfixed with amazement as I passed, it was a close call and a terrifying event.

Exhibit A: Satan's Chicken
Yesterday, my FarmWife directed me to summit yonder hill. I did so, passing rather near to the bush where Satan's Chicken dwells. I was, as you can imagine, all watchful vigilance! And for good reason, for who should emerge from said bush but Satan's Goat?? (Exhibit B)

Exhibit B: Satan's Goat
FarmWife tried to tell me that a) it was a deer and that b) it was just as frightened of me as I was of it. I was not listening. I was performing the second Terrible Spook of my career with FarmWife, during which I wheeled and leapt for five panicked, heedless strides into the tall grass and mounded, spongy earth of the trail-side.

When it comes to spooking strategies, we mules have horse-brain moments (in which we attempt to Flee) and donkey-brain moments (in which we attempt to Examine). It was not even a horse-brain moment. I, Fenway the Humble, will confess that it was a moron-brain moment. FarmWife, keeping her seat and her wits, shouted WHOA in such a tone that my donkey-brain was reactivated and I was able to compose myself. Being a mule, I never slipped! For this, we are thankful.

So, the deer question. FarmWife insists that Satan's Goat was no such thing, but I am sure she is wrong. I have seen deer (exhibit C). This was no deer. 

Exhibit C: Deer
Luckily, FarmWife and I mended fences rather quickly. I made up for my terrible moron-spook by striding boldly through every puddle along the remainder of the trail, something that I usually only do under duress. Just my way of saying "sorry." When that wasn't enough to earn her full forgiveness, I offered to write off having heard her refer to me as "Fatty McFatterson" when she thought I wasn't listening. At this, she accepted my olive branch and offered full forgiveness and a fresh start. 

We're all safe in Wickersham—at least until Satan's Guinea Pig (Exhibit D) rears it's ugly head.

Exhibit D: Satan's Guinea Pig

Ears to you,

Monday, September 13, 2010


Did I ever boast to you about R? My youngest child—the third of three contraceptive failures—came at a time when I particularly didn't want to get pregnant, and when Mat and I were particularly ill-prepared, financially, emotionally, and practically, for another child. We went ahead, of course, and had her. And here's the thing: she is WONDERFUL. She is AMAZING! She is the jelly in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of life. Sweet as can be. Everyone's favorite.

R is an endearing girl—precocious, silly, and wise beyond her years. At three and a half years of age, she still likes running around naked—still likes wearing her underwear on her head—still likes squirreling things away; hiding heaps of macadamia nuts, abandoned salt shakers, old saltines and stolen fruit-tins under the stairs in the dark recesses that are hers and hers alone; but she is wise. She has her own language (Mosheeka—"I love you"—has been a part of our family vocabulary for a year now), her own interests (salt, rabbits, dirt, building, and the color yellow), her own future already in sight. At two, R told me she would like to be "a builder, a fixer, and a cooker" when she grew up. Several months later, with the appropriate terminology acquired, she revised her list. "I wanna be a carpenter, a mechanic, and a CHEF!" She works with her hands—making, building, mending, creating. She helps her dad in the wood shop. She helps her Grandpa under the hood of his vintage International dump truck. She gets dusty. She gets greasy. She grabs life by the horns—mucks paddocks, cleans cages, washes dishes. Sometimes I think R does more work around here than any of us but her father, the original hardest worker.

R is almost always cheery, and R is almost always kind, but R certainly doesn't take crap from anybody. As the little sister, she has a well-developed defense system. No one steals from R without risking a  furious retaliation, but no one is as likely as R to mend fences. No one knows like R how to give a well-timed hug, a sincere apology, an honest compliment. No one is as good as R at defusing an argument, compromising, or making amends. Steal from R, and you unleash an animal. Ask nicely, and without exception R will indulge you: "Of course you may use my toy/share my ice cream/draw in my coloring book. I don't mind a bit!" Or even, "of course I accept your apology." R doesn't hold grudges. R is gracious. R is perfect for us. R is loved.

Driving lesson update

(special thanks to John Henry and Agnes de Mule for the hunting mule photo.

Budweiser Mule Team ~ Chicago, 1953

Surely there are those among you who remember how my FarmWife celebrated her birthday in June 2010—with the arrival of a brand new mule harness to share with me, Fenway Bartholomule! And if you don't remember, then . . .


In April of 2010 I announced, right here on Brays of Our Lives, that FarmWife wanted a harness. That she wanted to add driving to my list of diverse skills and accomplishments, and that I liked nothing so much as the idea of helping make her driving dreams come true. I am but a simple mule of humble means, and to have afforded a quality harness was, at that time, a wild fantasy. I crossed my hooves and posted a Paypal button, and the rest is history!

Readers, you worked a miracle. Between your generous donations in the amount of $675 and a significant discount from dear Janie of Chimacum Tack, a vendor with muleness, we were able to present FarmWife with the harness of her heart's desire by the beginning of summer. She was touched, and I was moved. Moved straight to the arena for driving training, that is! 

Hunting mules
Huntin' mules
I've been teaching FarmWife to handle the lines since late 2009, and ground-driving and lunging skills have been in place since the beginning of this year. You may recall that I was a simple huntin' mule (as opposed to a hunting mule—contrast illustrated above) before FarmWife got me, so learning to lunge was more my challenge than hers. It's something she had done before. Now, I ground drive, lunge, pull rattley things, pull tires, and pull a travois. The latter is the thing I do best: I can walk with it, trot with it, turn with it, stop with it. I whoa on a dime, and stand like a statue. I can be abandoned to the whims of FarmWife's "stand" command without moving a muscle, which she says is good practice for standing to be hitched. Now, FarmWife and my human Grandpa Tim are working on making me a sturdy, safe training vehicle in which FarmWife may trundle along. Next year, a meadowbrook? A marathon carriage in 2013? We shall see! 

I, Fenway Bartholomule, am very nearly a driving mule. I have you, dear readers, to thank, and I do thank you most whole-heartedly. And, remember—it is a noble and capacious heart. 

Ears to you,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On the Bit

or Behind it?

Normally, the former is preferable. If you're talking BLOGS, though, Behind the Bit is right where you should be. A big bray for Stacey, the BTB proprietor, for

A) allowing our adaptation and reuse of her "horses get good grass mileage" phrase,

B) blogging daily on diverse subjects of interest to horse- (and mule-people like my FarmWife, and

C) carrying the Muleness forth through her occasional mule-oriented posts and her vehicle bumper, upon which she proudly displays one of my own half-ass bumper stickers!

Stacey, thanks—and EARS TO YOU!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Win Prizes! Amaze Your Friends!

How well do you know Fenway Bartholomule? Respondants with the most correct answers will be entered into a prize drawing. First place prize—an IOU for a t-shirt, to be honored when they arrive this autumn. Second place prize—a bumper sticker. Third place prize—five "Brays of Our Lives" post cards to keep or send. Winner will be selected one week from contest start. Please use the following answer format: 16-A 17-B 18-C 19-D etcetera. Good luck, and watch out for trick questions! We mules are a cunning lot.

1) Which answer below is NOT one of the seven responsibilities of Fenway Bartholomule?
a) Monitoring the Perimeter
b) Crying the News
c) Pruning the Fruit Trees
d) Guiding the Goats

2) Which brand of hoof boots do I use and recommend?
a) Easyboot
b) Renegade
c) Cavallo
d) I don't wear boots; I have hooves of steel!

3) Which name does not belong to one of my closest equine e-friends?
a) Pants
b) Beasley
c) Mr. Brownie
d) Boyfriend

4) Which fruit or vegetable would I eat LAST from the following list?
a) Carrot
b) Apple
c) Blackberry
d) Plum

5) What are the names of FarmWife's two minimules?
a) Linus and Beatrice
b) B and Harriet
c) Emily and Harriet
d) Beatrice and Alice

6) With what did my celebrity first begin?
a) A win at a horseshow
b) A youtube video
c) A facebook fanpage
d) A blog

7) With whom do I share a paddock?
a) Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches
b) Missy, Milking Jersey
c) Jasper Jules, Miniature Donkey
d) Jasper Jules, Retired Eventer

8) How many humans do I own?
a) 3
b) 4
c) 5
d) 6

9) I was purchased for FarmWife as a gift by her:
a) husband
b) neighbor
c) mother
d) boss

10) I was born in:
a) Wickersham
b) Sedro-Woolley
c) Ohio
d) Oklahoma

11) My ________ is homemade:
a) halter
b) saddle-pad
c) harness
d) crupper

12) I have a regular column in which magazine?
a) Western Mule
b) Mules and More
c) The Brayer
d) The Foothills Gazette

13) I fear which of the following activities:
a) pulling tires
b) loading in the trailer
c) summiting precipitous slopes
d) pulling a travois

14) My theme song begins thus:
a) "♬♪Oh, say can you see his two marvelous ears . . . ♬♪"
b) "♬♪Oh, Mister Fenway Bartholomule, you're fine and good . . . ♬♪"
c) "♬♪Have you seen a mule as dear as darling Fenway is to me . . . ♬♪"
d) "♬♪You've never seen a horse can do the things been done by my dear mule . . . ♬♪"

15) My wish for you is that . . .
a) Your trails shall be smooth and scenic
b) Your hay may be fresh and abundant
c) Your friends shall be as nice as me, Fenway Bartholomule
d) all of the above


Quotable Quotes

I've always loved clever or insightful quotes—so much, in fact, that my first truck (a sky-blue Chevy LUV) was covered bumper-to-bumper in them, written upon with Sharpie markers so densely that its appearance from some distance was charcoal gray.  Some were witty, some were wise; some classic, others obscure; some classy, some (because I was, after all, a high-schooler) crude. "Lost in time," read my inside-passenger door. "Surrounded by evil. Low on gas." Wherever I went, the truck attracted attention, admiration, comment, and creative expression. I duct-taped pens on ropes to every corner, and often returned to my parking spot to find a new quote or two. 

 . . . to be continued . . . 

Bumper stickers!

Bumper stickers! Get your fresh hot bumper stickers!

I, Fenway Bartholomule, encourage you to order one for everyone on your Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or Holiday list. They're about as cheap as your average greeting card, but MUCH more mulish.

As for shirts and calendars, they're coming along. Thank you for bringing my dream of being the world's most beloved hooved merchandiser a little closer to reality!

In the meantime, my Cafepress shop is still up and running. There are offerings there that you can't get here, and offerings here that you can't get there, and so both stores shall remain.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fenway's Guide to Common Fruits, Grains, Vegetables and Legumes.

Carrots: Nature's miracle. Perfect crunch, delicate sweetness, lacy green tops of tender fragrant goodness.

Strawberries: Passable morsels. Great size, lousy texture. Wet, a bit tart. Will do in a pinch.

Apples: Suspiciously waxy. Unpleasant in appearance. Usually pink or red in the manner of a sunburned pig.

Plums: Acceptable. Excellent flavor, easily extracted pits. I am cute when I spit these out. FarmWife and I harvest plums together—I stand under the trees, she stands on tip-toe upon my hips and reaches for the fruits. I am obliged to eat by the extent of her labor.

Blackberries: Delicious. The great flavor more than makes up for their smallness and their damp consistency. Lousy cooked.

Alfalfa: The holy grail of foods. I am denied it. They say it is for hard-keepers, a demographic of which I am clearly not a member. A tragedy.

Omelene: Again, off-limits. It is a toothsome brown substance composed of little itty-bitty chunks of heaven rolled in some nectar of the gods.

Black oil sunflower seeds—very good. The yummiest black food I can think of, drier than blackberries and vastly superior to that terrible poison the humans call licorice.

Beets, parsnips, cabbage, broccoli, bush beans: not worth a taste. I can tell that I hate them already.

Lettuce, celery: about as yummy as last year's grass hay; that is, edible in a pinch.

Pop-tarts: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!♪ (That's a heavenly choir singing.) The pinnacle of human invention. They cannot be unpackaged without opposable thumbs. These clever primates think of everything!

Bon appétit,


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm Honored, Madam.

One clear distinction between mules and the lower lifeforms of the farm is our varying responses to having our manure managed. Here, in a few brief words, are our thoughts on the matter:

Little tigers (you call them "cats"): "What compels you vile humans?"

Dog: "PlayplayPLAYplayPlayplayPlayplayPLAY?"

Minimules (you call them "rabbits"): "Man, why you gotta go messin' around with my stuff?!"

Goats: "I'm a-gonna stand on your 'barrow, I'm a-gonna nibble on your rake. I'm a-gonna chew on your shirt sleeves, gonna make all the trouble I can make . . ."

Chickens: "DRrrrrrrrrr? Blurbleblurblebreoccckkk." (I never did quite master their peculiar dialect.)

Me, Fenway Bartholomule: "I am honored by your attention to the rearrangement of my leavings. May they bless your garden soil."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bucket List

Reza Keremi's "Horse Farm in Putnam County"
I used to have a to-do list like this:

Obtain Advanced Degrees from Ivy-League Institutions.
Get Rich.
Event at Advanced Levels.
Own a Sprawling Farm.
Build a Covered Arena.
Have as Many Dogs as I Damned Well Please.
Breed Gorgeous Warmbloods.

Now I have one like this:

Trail ride more.
Build, get, or find a cart for my mule.
Increase date-night frequency from 1x per year to 3x per year.
Plant fall crops.
Paint upstairs.
Sew new rabbit harnesses.

The difference between teenager-Marnie and grownup-Marnie might be that I have realized it's not the scope of what I do that makes me happy—it's what I do that makes me happy. I like trail-riding, schooling 21-meter irregular polygons in my pasture-flat-spot "dressage court," and popping over 18-inch logs. It does not correspond that I would like competing in the Tevis Cup, schooling one-tempis, and tackling an advanced-level Normandy bank better. I like working, and having professional respect, and being a contributing member of society, but it doesn't correspond that I would like working on the 35th floor of the Hancock building with an MBA from Harvard better. I like my dog, but I'm not sure that having an Irish wolfhound, a Staffordshire bull terrier, a border terrier, a standard poodle, a corgi, an old English sheepdog, and a French bulldog in addition would enrich my enjoyment of him. And, I like horses—but I'm not sure a fancy warmblood suits me. In fact, I'd rather enjoy my mule.

I still have dreams, don't get me wrong—I still look forward to improving as an equestrian, beautifying my home, increasing my earnings, learning and growing. It's just that I've let go of my fantasy picture of where that will put me. I no longer need it, and I no longer want it. I want this.


An Open Letter to the United States Eventing Association

Photo borrowed with thanks from
To Whom it May Concern:

It may have come to your attention that the mule, a hybrid equine with his mother's athleticism and his father's sense, is now allowed under United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) rules to compete in competitive trail rides, endurance competitions, combined driving (since 2000) and dressage (since 2004, except in championships which determine qualification for international competition). This reflects the growing appreciation for our merits as sporting mounts and athletes in society at large.

As I understand it—and, being a mule, I understand well—it is the USEF's failure to acknowledge mules' right to event that dictates the USEA rule against our participation in recognized events. There are only two reasons I, Fenway Bartholomule, can think of for banning my people from competition, and neither reason is very compelling.

The first possible objection, and the one most often raised, is that mules pose a distraction and a safety threat at eventing competitions. Let me pose a hypothetical question: what is more unnatural and distracting: the appearance of a distant cousin in a crowd, or the appearance of a brightly-painted wooden construct in an artificial lake—the latter surrounded by flags, windmills, dogs, lawn chairs, cameras, umbrellas, and applauding spectators?

The second objection may be that mules have an unusual gift for jumping or, on the flip side, an unconventional and "ineffective" jumping style. Will you, then, ban the participation of the Selle Français as a penalty for his genetic tendency toward athletic jumping and the Friesian for his background as a non-jumping harness animal? 

Entreaties have been made to the USEF to include us in ALL competitions, but efforts have been fruitless. It lies with you, USEA members, to effect change through continued persuasive efforts.  

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

p.s. Just in case you were wondering—I, personally, have no desire to event. I ain't jumping over no brightly-painted wooden construct into no artificial lake surrounded by flags, windmills, dogs, lawn chairs, cameras, umbrellas, and applauding spectators. I just think I ought to have been allowed to if I HAD wanted to, that's all.