Sunday, October 31, 2010

Touched by his Noodly Appendage

With no disrespect meant to the many additional deities that may or may not exist in this grand universe, I present me, the honorable Sir Fenway Bartholomule, as the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Captain Mosey attending).
Happy Halloween! May the noodles be with you.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

If you've ever loved a mule . . .

image from
If you've ever loved a mule, or if you've ever loved a horse—or a donkey, hinny, pony—or a zebra, I suppose—then you're in. You KNOW. You know and love that smell, our intoxicating fragrance (strongest and cleanest, by the way, in the little nook between our jowls). You know that our stools aren't icky; they're more akin to grass than dog $#!%, and no trouble at all when stepped in. You'll know that horse dirt underneath your fingernails isn't REALLY dirty, and you'll know that all that hay falling off your sweater during your morning meeting or professional symposium is merely a fond reminder . . . that the hair on your wool jacket is a medal of honor, earned through the noble work of grooming our itchiest places . . . that the clanging of our blanket hardware in the dryer during dinner is a worthwhile racket, and that a clean equine wardrobe is well worth the cost of a drowned-out conversation. You'll know that every vet bill, every feed bill, every trimmer bill, every board bill was a bill gladly paid, with money well spent. You'll know that, in the end, we're cheaper than therapy.

OK . . . better than therapy. Maybe not cheaper.

 If this sounds crazy, get thee to a barn! You have much to learn, and you're missing out on something big. Something profound. Something life changing. Something, or someone, special. Someone, perhaps, like me—Fenway Bartholomule.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fantasy Shopping—Mule mom edition

Photo from
Tell me, friends—if you were going to get a wee baby mule, which mare might you like to get him out of? 

FarmWife is certainly not in the market for a horse, but if she were she might be dreaming of a mare with style, breeding, character, class, and a show record a mile long. This sort of a mare, bred to the right sort of a jack, might produce a prodigy mule—a foal of the same unparalleled heart and intelligence as me, Fenway Bartholomule. 

Here is a quick list of mares that caught FarmWife's eye on today. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list; there are other mares which would do as nicely, but these ones are lovely enough to deserve mention. It is my hope that their breeders, owners and trainers will be flattered by my selection of them as worthy mule moms; you, dear reader, must understand this as the highest compliment.

Adelina—can't beat the baroque horses for style and class! This mare looks like a charmer.

Greta—temperament, temperament, temperament! FarmWife loves the big-bodied warmbloods but doesn't enjoy the fiery demeanor so often exhibited by talented athletes. A "thinking" warmblood, sound and stoic = the next best thing to a mule! 

Castiza—what is it with grays and chestnuts today? FarmWife would take a nice seal brown mare first, if she were choosing by color and color alone, but these mares are just too pretty to ignore—no matter what their color. This one's gorgeous, and the dapples are icing on the cake. 

Elektra—now here's nice bay mare . . . and for only a hundred grand. FarmWife could spend the first trimester schooling one tempis whilst awaiting her mule foal's arrival! (In her dreams.)

Charlotte—FarmWife generally likes a heavier horse, but this feminine beauty just can't be ignored. What a pretty little mare, and for a mere 50k! 

Now, tell me . . . what sort of mare would YOU breed if money were no object? Which mule mom do you like best? Take a moment to search or your favorite breeder websites, and tell me who you fancy. From whose womb shall spring the world's next Best Mule?


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The events of the day

The top four events of the day—enjoyable, every one.

1) Mucking the paddock. Terribly fun! Amazing how enjoyable a task like this can be. Reminds me what it is to be alive, and why it is I love this mule about whom I blog so much. No—not because he poops rather a lot, but because he keeps his poops in tidy piles, and because while I am mucking he visits me with respectful requests for edibles and with polite offerings of ears to rub. To remove his stools is a pleasure and a privilege.

2) Visiting with K. and O.  These two live down the road on a beautiful riverside parcel in Acme, and K. happens to be the perfect company for me—a like minded mother, a horse loving rider, a happy wife. Her daughter O. is the perfect company for little R.—a doll-loving preschooler, with a penchant for dressing up like Marilyn Monroe. As it happens, K's husband and mine are out and about on mountain bikes as we speak. This is why I love Wickersham.

3) Attending the end of the month assembly at Acme school. Somehow, this rural congregation of 200-odd public school students managed to produce a wildly good 4th grade dancer—a young man who channelled Michael Jackson today, to wonderful effect, in his own fabulous production of Thriller. The kid had mad moves, and the accompanying zombie dance troop earns an A for effort.

4) Procuring funds. It is absolutely delightful to have a blog from which I can somehow milk hay money, and today I did just that via a commission-paying sponsor of Brays of Our Lives. A very hearty thank you to each and every one of my—and Fenway's—sponsors, supporters, readers, and friends. You make this happen.



Little notes are hard to type with hooves as large as these . . . 

For every character I type, there's need to delete three!

Still, when I'm out adventuring or pausing 'side the trail,

There's something great in making wi-fi updates to my tales!

Sent from Fenway's iPod Touch. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Here's a little game: I will tell you something about myself, and you will guess what I am. (No, today I am not a mule. We're using our imaginations!)

We'll place twice, and I'll send a free bumper sticker to the first respondent with two correct answers!

Ready? Here goes:

1) I am the king of the desert. I am easily startled. I have very big eyes, and I can go for miles. Just don't ask me to go past a dropped glove or a garbage bag.

2) I am about the size of an English mastiff, I am about as hairy as Cousin It, and I will founder if you waft a handful of alfalfa beneath my nose.

Good luck, and ears to you!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What to get for everyone on your gift list

Wondering what to get for everyone on your gift list? Here are my very self-indulgent recommendations, based upon my appreciation for the hay-buying power of FarmWife's entrepreneurial efforts:

1) A custom poem from All income from orders placed between November 1st and Dec. 31st will be shared 50/50 with Save Your Ass Longears Rescue (their regular cut is 10%). $10 for a personalized poem and $20 for a poem set in a printable 8x10 decorative image. Satisfaction guaranteed. FarmWife writes these mostly on her own these days, though I help her a little here and there when she can't come up with just the right word.

2) A copy of In the Morning, a picture book from Fairy Rabbit Press. This collaboration between FarmWife and Welsh painter Alison Fennell is sure to delight readers of all ages. In the Morning will be available online and through select Washington state retailers by mid-November; pre-order your copy now for guaranteed delivery (and mention Brays of our Lives if you'd like an autographed copy)! More information available at

3) Something from one of my very kind sponsors! I love Janie at Chimacum Tack, Rebecca at Blocky Dogs, and Sue at Sue's Art (a mule a day)! Check them out via my sidebar . . . you'll love them too. While it's too late to guarantee Christmas delivery of a custom Blocky Dog collar, they're worth waiting for. I know I'm enjoying waiting for mine!

4) Ear Gear! We've got a couple of bumper magnets and stickers left (see the merchandise tab above) and my cafepress store is just bursting with muleness. I hear the "Fenway's Hay Fund" t-shirt is the hot "Gift for Him" this holiday season, and who doesn't love hydrating with a Fenway Bartholomule Sigg water bottle?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three things that make my heart sing

New England white pine floor—in progress.

I feel fortunate to have identified the great mood-lifter of my life—riding. It's not the only important thing in life or even the most important thing in life, but it is the single most reliable fix for every foul mood. Riding my mule mends my heart, and when I'm worried, irritated, discontent, or restless it is just the thing to set me straight. There's no easier way to Be Here Now than to view Here from between Fenway Bartholomule's two majestic ears. 

#2—Our 1901 Farmhouse

Among the many other joys in my fabulous life, there is my home. I love it. With the hard work and determination of my carpenter husband, it's finally coming around to a state in which others can love it too. Mat and I share a common vision—an appreciation for historic homes, and a shared taste for well built things from the Shaker and craftsman traditions. I'm glad I married a man with great taste and valuable skills, not to mention one who looks fine in a toolbelt!

#3—My husband

Have I mentioned he looks fine in a toolbelt? That's just the icing on the cake. Every Monday, I miss him anew. Thanks, Mat, for fixin' the floors, for bringin' home the bacon, and for everything else you do. I love you more than ever.


If I were a human . . .

I'd like to be a gardener.

I'd be great at it! The stereotypical gardener-for-hire is an athletic, handsome, hardworking fellows with an appreciation for the great outdoors and a decent understanding of plants, right?

I'm handsome. I'm strong. I know plants like nobody's business.

Mow a little over here, mow a little over there . . .

Trim this bush a bit, trim that bush a bit . . .

Prune this tree here, prune that tree there . . .

Take off this branch, take of that branch . . .

This branch . . . this succulent, delicious, divine young branch . . .

 That branch . . . the one with the tender, scrumptious little leaves.

And then? A nice glass of lemonade in the shade with a pretty lady, poolside.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Goat Missy

Worry no more, Missy! Upward and Onward!
You know the way animal-crazy wives will tell their husbands that they simply MUST get a puppy for Bowser in his old age, and that Bowser's decline will SURELY be halted by the arrival of a little, tumbling, pooping, peeing, biting brother? And then L'il Biscuit arrives, and Bowser leaps to his trembling legs and gambols about like a puppy again? 

Well, it happens in real life. When Missy was at her sickest several weeks ago, she couldn't rise, roll over, or move her hind legs an inch. One week ago, she was standing with effort, walking (or, rather, shuffling) with care, and remaining in isolation from Jasper Jules, who could cast her to the ground with one gentle headbutt. 

Wednesday, Missy's daughter B.G. came back to Bent Barrow Farm, and Thursday night Missy galloped. Not walked—she GALLOPED to the milking porch, sideways crab-style. She would not be left behind by this young upstart! Today, she insists on pasture freedom. She will not be confined, but paces at the gate to her shed; let loose, she canters in wild circles like a foal testing new legs. She trots into the paddock, browses with we herdmates, and goes at a flat-run to FarmWife's call. She has discovered her limitations—she cannot rear without collapsing, and she extracts herself with care from rough-and-tumble games, but 
she is a member of the herd again. 

Missy has been enjoying some turnout for several days now, and today she's enjoying more freedom than ever. Rather than tiring with the effort, she seems to improve by the hour! At breakfast, she hobbles from her bed. At lunch, she trots in from the field. By dinner, she's bounding hither and thither like a (nearly) healthy goat. 

I'll post video footage of this miracle on facebook tomorrow—in the meantime, rejoice. Your prayers and jingles have worked magic.


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Friday Morning Haiku

FarmWife leaves at dawn,
earns money, returns at dusk—
tired, promising hay.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

PDAs? Not my cup of tea, unless we're talking about a bit of public handholding with my own dear husband.

A public display of affection towards a hardworking horse—or four—who contributed talent and effort to your Olympic gold medal win, though? Classy. The above post, by the authors of the Glenshee Equestrian Center, drew my attention to a touching video that I too now recommend. It may be that many riders at this level experience this level of gratitude towards their mounts, but precious few of them show it to the viewing public. A little more time spent thanking the horse would serve this sport well, and this brief glimpse of Phillipe Le Jeune has cast him, for me, in a positive light. 

Now, I'm off to hug and kiss my own hoofbeasts. Excuse me!


Bent Barrow Gaia

Bent Barrow Gaia, formerly known as Ma Petite or Ma Petite Chatte, was born here at Bent Barrow Farm. She was a littermate of Jasper's, and was sold at three months of age to our dear friends The Chicken People. Upon learning the news of Missy's illness, which may yet resolve but which has compelled the humans to retire her from milking, The Chicken People kindly offered to return B.G. to the farm of her birth. She is home, and we are happy to have her. Jasper Jules, who seems to have forgotten that he's lost his jewels, is particularly happy. She is managing, with typical poise and grace, to maintain the dignity of a lady in the face of his lascivious affection.

B.G. still thinks I'm a little bit big and a little bit scary, but I think she's darling. We'll be solid friends in no time. 


This is B.G., shining like an angel of light and goodness.
This is me, Fenway Bartholomule, stranded in exile with Jasper Jules whilst B.G. settled in.
This is Jasper Jules, following B.G. like a lecherous monster.
These are the larval humans, who have always loved B.G. and who are quite tickled to have her back. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Repost

It's been a goatfully busy day and we haven't had a moment's time to blog. Here, then, is a repost. I am still banished from the orchard and yard, but I am happier than I was when this picture was taken—perhaps because today, it is not raining.

Originally posted on Sunday, May 23, 2010:

A Dozen Reasons Why it's Still OK to be Me

(Photo: this was the view from the kitchen sink before I was banished from the gardens for eating the plum trees. Their loss. Now there is no fun at all in washing dishes.)

I have had some setbacks lately, sure; a trip to Dr.—, banishment from the gardens and orchard for having eaten the plum trees and the raspberry canes, revokation of access to the precipitous slopes that I love to summit. At the end of the day, though, I am still a mule, and being a mule is a darn good thing. Here's why:

1. Mules are attractive, smart, and strong. Who doesn't want to be all those things? It's easy to like myself, with all those qualities, and good self-esteem is a key to a happy life.

2. Mules have a reputation for excellence and a documented natural superiority. This makes it easy to make friends, since everyone hopes it will rub off a little.

3. Mules have a great capacity for feeling, and we are great at expressing this with our lovely singing voices. This makes it easy to keep friends, since everyone likes feeling appreciated.

4. Mules find many things delicious. Where fussy horses might like only certain grasses and certain grains, mules like many vegetative culinary delights. Unlike the goats, who sample so many cuisines as to be indiscriminate, Mules eat only the most toothsome morsels of the many delectable plants in our pastoral realms. The mule's world is alive with fabulous flavors.

5. Mules are excellent judges of character. This usually keeps us out of trouble, so long as we heed our internal voices and not the voices of our human masters, who often lack a mulish perception.

6. Mules are excellent judges of footing. See 5, above. FarmWife still cannot understand the myriad dangers that threaten during the transition from the gravel verge to the asphalt lane, and I've told her again and again that it's bound to end badly.

7. Mules have lovely feet. This saves us the trouble of therapeutic farriery, most of the time, and also makes us intrepid trail partners for our happy humans.

8. Mules have just enough tail to make a useful fly switch without having enough tail to present a grooming challenge. Have you ever wondered how those poor Vanners feel with their butts weighed down like that?

9. Mules are strong, enduring, and heat tolerant. This will come in very handy during the long, hot hours of grazing that I anticipate suffering this summer.

10. Mules have big brown eyes, big furry ears, and big capacious nostrils. This makes us better than most people at sensing things, which contributes to our natural superiority, but it also makes us handsome, which contributes to our likability. Sort of a two-in-one deal.

11. Mules form lifelong friendships, and we never forget. This makes us excellent penpals and long-distance boyfriends, although come to think of it I HAVE forgotten when Katie Scarlett's birthday falls. I should look into rectifying that.

12. Mules, with a few feral exceptions, were bred by humans, for humans, and to the tastes of humans. When a mule finds a good one—human, that is—then all is right in the world. A Bond forms, which exceeds anything else. Next to delicious grasses, there is nothing in this world to compare to that partnership between a mule and his human.*

*Except maybe apple'n'oat treats, but then humans make those, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For FarmHusband, Who Thinks I'm a Bit of a Dandy

FarmWife's ol' man thinks a mule ought'r talk like a good ol' boy from up the road a piece in yonder Appalachie. As if I di'nt larn me no proper Inglish as a colt. As if my Mammy di'nt never larn me right. FarmHusband thinks I ought'r sit 'round sayin' "Gollll-eey!" and "well, I never," and that my sort ought'r eat b'iled peanuts an' collards an' such. I tell you what! I ain't never met no mule din't know more'n you people on just-bout ever'thin', and bein' a mule ain't never been no excuse for i'norance. We's smart people, and y'all best not be forgettin' it, y'hear? Uh-huh. 'At's right.


Monday, October 18, 2010


It will have been six months next week since I created Puddle Run—establishing this blog in response to my husband's and mother-in-law's requests for updates on something other than the mule. I have been only somewhat consistent in my posting, but you—my readers—have been consistent with your support and encouragement. I am grateful.

In these six months, not much has changed. I remain happy. My health and my harvests have been good. My children grow ever brighter, ever more curious and amazing. They are well. My husband has amazed me with a few more skillful construction projects, a few beautifying changes around the house. My mule has gone lame and returned to soundness. My goats have fallen ill and recovered. My chickens have molted. My lawn has expanded. My car has been fixed.

I have become all the more convinced that I am a writer—that this is my professional life. I have made valued acquaintances through blogging—an editor who welcomes my magazine articles, a painter who is excited about illustrating my first children's book, a designer and supporter whom I've never met but whom I've come to think of warmly—as a friend. I have become sure that this is my career—what I want to be when I grow up. I've new confidence in this old adage: do what you love, and the money will follow. I'm seeing it already—emails, phone calls, opening doors. It's not a 40 hour work week yet, but my children are yet small. I'm doing what I've time for. I'm loving every minute.


Trailhead Psychology

My FarmWife often encounters motorists entering at the logging gate which leads to our local trails, and when she does she goes out of her way to make polite conversation. First, "hello . . . may I pass by?" and then, "thanks—I think I'll hop off and lead my mule past. He can be a little nervous." This is sometimes true, and it doesn't offend me to hear it said out loud. I'd much rather have motorists think they're sharing the road with a reactive flibbertygibbet than a stoic hero, because they're likely going to take it easy when passing the former.

Next, FarmWife always offers this: "Will you be heading up the road? I'll keep an ear out for you." This is a joke, because FarmWife is more than half deaf and couldn't locate a freight train in a railroad tunnel. It does, however, usually elicit this response—"yes, and we'll keep an eye out for you." Good news! I, Fenway Bartholomule, would rather be approached by a driver who rounds the bend thinking, "where can that scaredy-mule have gotten to? He could be anywhere," than a driver who rounds the bend thinking, "yee-haw! Step on it!"

We equines can be reactionary, and even the most stoic among us may not stand up to a speeding vehicle. It is to our benefit when other trail users understand that we can be startled, and that vigilance is warranted when sharing a trail. I don't mind being the poster-boy for vulnerable equines, and I'd rather not be roadkill.

In addition to alerting motorists to our presence, and to our desire for a safe, slow approach, FarmWife likes to thank them for their sensitivity. If a motorcyclist slows, cuts his engine, or removes his helmet, she always offers effusive thanks. "It was SO kind of you to stop. Horses and mules can be frightened of dirt bikes, and it's wonderful for my mule to see that you're not going to hurt him. I really appreciate it!"

A dedicated, equines-only trail system would be nice—it would also be nice if I pooped golden coins. It ain't goin' to happen, though, and there's absolutely no point in arguing with other trail users. Here in Wickersham, we have a handful of mountain bikers, dirt bikers, ATV riders, loggers, and hunters who use the same access roads that FarmWife and I ride up every week. Many of them have come to know me, Fenway Bartholomule. Most of them know that I am a mule who can be startled, sometimes, and that I am a mule who appreciates a slow-and-wide approach. They also know that FarmWife appreciates their care, and that we think they're swell. Ears to them, and ears to you. May your trails be smooth, scenic, and safe.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Story with a Happy Ending

Last night, at midnight, FarmHusband heard plaintive bleating. I heard it too, and the both of us thought FarmWife had better have a look at Missy. "Maaaaaaaaaaaah!," she screamed into the night. "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

FarmWife, having heard from the neighbor that we'd had nine coyotes within twenty feet of the house not two nights earlier, was worried. Could Missy be trapped? Wounded? Turning, in her illness, for the worse? Could she be surrounded by predators? Broken? Bleeding?

FarmWife rushed to Missy's side, and found my goat standing at the gate. You may recall that Missy has been sick these three weeks, and that standing alone is a new and miraculous accomplishment for her. FarmWife went to open the gate, fearing that some terrible fright had compelled the goat to her feet. Missy barged through, wobbling and listing sideways, and ran, bleating, for the driveway. "I'd like," she said, "to get in the car." It was then that FarmWife realized: Missy had come into season, and was compelled by the pangs of lust to rise from her sickbed. Missy is a little tramp, and spent the rest of the night crying her lusty complaints into the darkness. "Take me," she called, "to a buck!"

We shan't, it turns out. FarmWife and FarmHusband have agreed that Missy deserves an early retirement as a milker, and shall stay on as a pet and a pet alone. They are in the market for a new milking doe, and so we shall have four hoofbeasts in the paddock at Bent Barrow Farm before too long. As far as romance goes, Missy is, and shall forever remain, unsatisfied.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Notes from Bent Barrow Farm

Four random little smiles from the farm:

1. Pretty new livingroom floor! New England white pine with traditional cut nails for that authentic old farmhouse vibe. It will have that authentic old farmhouse wear 'n' tear soon enough, too.

2. Silly bedraggled chicken. Confident in the knowledge that she will NEVER read this blog, I will let you join me in quietly laughing at poor moulting Thing Two. Then, slightly guilty, I will go back out to the coop, offer her a peanut, and tell her she looks beautiful. I'm guessing Thing Two cannot wait until her feathers grow back.

3. Stuffed squash. This was an emergency "nothing in the fridge, oh dear, whatever shall we eat?" kind of dinner. The meal turned out beautifully, and taught me a few things. A—you can mince fresh sage in a coffee grinder, and  B—you can get kids to eat sqash by telling them this: "She's pumpkin's baby cousin, and pumpkin would be very sad if he thought you didn't like her."

4. Grass. You don't get a lawn this green without a little rain—at least not on our zero-care, zero-irrigation, "mow it and leave it" lawn care strategy! I love this yard.

Tidying up

FarmWife just mowed my hallway, raked my kitchen, shoveled my bathroom, weedwhacked my living room, and fluffed my bedroom. Ears to you, FarmWife!

Nothing like a human who can cook, clean, AND ride.

Now, she's indoors—vacuuming the hallway, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the bathrooms, tidying the living room, and straightening the bedroom, perhaps! It remains to be seen if her place will end up as tidy as mine.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Fame! Fortune!

Well, fame anyway.

My goats are in a calendar!

Good ol' Margaret of Nanny Goats in Panties has seen fit to put Missy's sister, Spring, Jasper's littermate, Gaia (aka B.G.), and Jasper's cousin, Bumble, in her 2011 Nanny Goats in Panties calendar. B.G. and Bumble were born right here on Bent Barrow Farm, and all three goats live just down the road with my Dear Aunt Chicken Lady.

Look for a poser, too . . . somewhere in these pages (viewable online) lurks an impostor, and I will give a free bumper sticker to the first one who correctly identifies him or her in the comments field here at Brays of Our Lives.

Nanny Goat in Panties Calendar Enter PROMO code: FALLCALENDAR and get 25% off.

In other news, my fond little whicker at FarmWife last night literally brought a tear to her eye. I think she needs to get out more.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bad Apple

My husband and I bought a new computer at the end of this summer. It had problems. 

It was not a cheap computer, and they were not small problems. When it turned one of my most precious files—a children's picture book that I've been designing for months—into a series of endlessly repeating folders, we decided it need professional help.

With our very expensive extended warranty in hand, I went to the nearest Apple Store. The nearest Apple Store is nearly two hours away, and it's a crowded little hole in the wall. One step up from a mall kiosk. 

My appointment was scheduled for 1:30. I called at one. "I'm running late, can you let me know if it's OK for me to arrive at 1:35?" 

"Sure, we'll be expecting you!" 

"Can you please tell me what exit to take from I-5 South?"

"Take exit 184."

There was no exit 184. There was an exit 188, there was an exit 183, and there was an exit 182, but there was no exit 184. 

I found my way, and—by some miracle—jogged through the door (as predicted) at 1:35. "I'm sorry, ma'am, your appointment was scheduled for 1:30. It's already been cancelled. Can we help you at 4:30 this evening?"

I left the computer, and it was hardware tested. It was shipped to the factory for service, and it came back nearly two weeks later with a new logic board. When picking up my repaired computer, I reserved two back-to-back appointments as advised by a technician. We wanted to make sure it REALLY worked before making the hour-plus drive home, and that might take time. I brought a list of concerns—a handful of things that had been glitchy and stuff that had gone wrong. "No need! Never worry!" The man spent five minutes with me. "It boots up! Voila! Bon Voyage!"

 It has been home for less than a week.

Our newly refurbished Macbook Pro still reboots in hardware test mode at random, fails to recognize the existence of my iPod, and adjusts the screen brightness whenever I press 2, q, w, a, and sometimes s. The screen magnification changes when I type in capital letters on the right side of the keyboard.

I called the Apple store today. "I've been inconvenienced enough, I've spent six hours driving to and from my nearest Apple store, and I've lost two weeks of work. I would like to have this computer replaced." 

"Well, ma'am, in these situations we like to try to repair the computer." 

"You tried to repair the computer. It didn't work. I would like a new computer that doesn't have these issues to begin with." 

"Ma'am, I'll get you a technician who can speak with you about scheduling an appointment to repair your computer." 

"I want it replaced. I am a professional, this computer is my most important tool, and I am losing work, missing income, and inconveniencing clients because of these problems."

"I'll have a repair expert get back to you."

I'm waiting for the call back now. 

Riding Lessons: Part III of III

Human Auntie, who also visited from across the continent, rode me with a childish sense of wonder and amazement. (Auntie, if you are reading this please understand—I do not mean to say that you ARE childish, but just that your uncensored appreciation of me was most welcome and appreciated.) In borrowed boots, she was not limited by the stirrup-free handicap that was her husband's lot. She rode me hither and thither, both on the leadline and off, and I do say she was entranced by my strength, grace, obedience, and patience. "He's so nice to let us sit on him!," she exclaimed.

It was my pleasure—and yes, I am nice, Auntie. It is just one of the many wonderful things about me, Fenway Bartholomule.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Riding Lessons: Part II of III

Here is my Human Uncle, who came all the way from Massachusetts to ride me this weekend. I was well worth the 11 hour round trip plane ride! Poor Uncle, having brought sneakers and fitting into none of the available loaner boots, was not allowed to use the stirrups. He made do, and enjoyed his ride rather well. He thanked me wholeheartedly for my time and effort, as I thanked him for his. Graciousness is always appreciated.

Below, find a few photos of a little game we like to call "Follow the FarmWife," or in more technical terms, a demonstration of my "mule-to-master remotely guided piloting system."

Ears to you,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Riding Lessons: Part I of III

Here is FarmHusband, Natural Equestrian, in his fourth ride ever and his first ride on me. #1 was a guided trail tour in his adolescence; #2 was a brief longeline session on FarmWife's old gelding; #3 was an elegant and amazing performance in a roundpen, detailed here on FarmWife's blog. FarmHusband is unpracticed, but has a secure seat and sensitive hands by some miracle of birth. He rode me so well that I condescended to impress him with a lively little trot, which he sat with more grace and flexibility than your average riding student. 

If I may add that FarmHusband is a strapping human man of more than six feet, I hope you'll note that I carried him with robust vigor despite my shy 14.1 hand height. I am a sturdy mule.

Tomorrow, look for Riding Lessons with Human Uncle, who rode me with bold enjoyment despite being handicapped by FarmWife's strict "No boot heels, no stirrups" policy. 


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Embarrassment of Winter Head

My friend Bif wrote artfully on the subject of what we like to call "winter head"–an embarrassing and temporary condition wherein our tack no longer fits us as it should, and our heads have a grossly disproportionate appearance.

Here's FarmWife's sketch of the syndrome, showing the miniaturization of the halter by the overabundant fluff that is the Winter Coat. This "Embarrassment of Winter Head" is a curse upon all pastured equine, but I don't think I'd trade it for the blanketed, clipped, and well-lit luxury that is a show mule's life. After all, there's nothing in the world so satisfying as caking that over abundant hair in thick, cool, fresh, smooth mud.

I'm off to roll!


Were You Raised in a Barn??

Pauls Mill stud barn—
I was.

My transformation to barn living was gradual; as a young adolescent, I lived in the Oakland suburbs and commuted to the boarding stable daily with my horse-crazy mother. Between 6th grade and 7th, we moved to rural Washington state. We brought the horses home, built a barn and an outdoor arena, and watched our hoofbeasts blossom from three to eleven. At 14, I moved with my mom to a new property where she was faced with a hard financial reality: she could build a barn, or she could build a house, but she couldn't build both.

No brainer!

We lived in comfort, and over my remaining years at home my mother worked to gradually expand our amenities; first, insulation and windows; later, electricity and phone service; eventually, plumbing. By the time I went off to college, my bedroom was positively civilized, though it's since been retired to llama-housing. My mom, years later, finally has a house (though I suspect she still spends most of her time in the barn).

I would like to have a barn of my own, and I do dream of the day. I doodle barns when I can't sleep, and I have a mental list of my various go-to designs; there's the budget barn, a no-frills shed row number; there's the house-over-barn luxury model, with a classy and refined home for five above elegant equine accommodations; there's the if-we-move-to-somewhere-snowy barn, with an attached arena and covered turnout. My mule and I could ride the winter out in total comfort.

What I have—a 16x16-ft. shed, built as a carport by the former property owners, reinforced for safety by my dear husband, and bedded with gravel and straw—does the job. My mule just fits next to Jasper Jules' goat loft and the shed-in-a-shed where Missy spends the coldest days. I have hay storage in a separate building, and a set of saw horses where I might rest my saddle and harness. We have a milking stand on our covered porch, and room for a ton and a half of hay. Enough.

Still, though—it's fun to dream. On a wet day, when I tire of currying my mule under the dripping rhododendron, it's fun to dream of a rubber-matted, cross-tied grooming stall with wall-mounted lighting and an attached heated tack room.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

No Reason Not to Smile

Photo posted by Chai to the Chronicle of the Horse forums
I can't smile in the traditional fangs-flashing, lips-retracted fashion of the great apes, and I lack the curved-lip conformation of my caprine brethren, but I smile with the best of them in my heart of hearts. My smile starts in my stomach; aside from ear-rubs, most of my little joys are edible. Carrots, hay, and sunflower seeds. Delish.

FarmWife has been apologizing, lately, for her failure to ride me twice weekly as had been our arrangement. "I'm sorry, lovey," and, "we'll get out soon." I think she's projecting some emotion onto me that I, quite frankly, don't experience. I get my ear rubs, morning, noon, and night. I get my breakfast, I get my dinner, and I get a carrot at lunch. I get my hoofies picked most afternoons, and I get my back curried rather more often than I'd like. I get my nostrils cleaned out when they're dusty, my paddock picked over when it's mucky, and my shed raked and freshened when it's less than its best. It's all good. I love it. I've no reason not to smile.

We'll go riding soon, and FarmWife's grin will stretch ear to ear. She'll come home invigorated, thrilled, and delighted, and I'll come home well-exercised, cooled, and content. And, at the end of it, I'll be rewarded with dinner, which is just as much of a treat as anything else.  Win-win.



Friday, October 8, 2010

A message for my readers . . .


Image credits: Joost Elffert (food art) and (collage heart).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bent Barrow Farm's Top Six Miracles of the Week

Bent Barrow Farm has been home to a riot of emotions this week, as we've seen the full recovery of one very sick goat and the revision of another's prognosis from "doomed" to "hopeful." Here, then, are a few of my counted blessings.

MIRACLE NUMBER ONE: Missy, who could not feel her toes, use her back, or shift her weight on Tuesday morning (September 28), can now rise to her feet with help and stand with only the slightest aid from FarmWife. She continues to eat, drink, baaa, smile, and eliminate normally, which in itself counts as MIRACLE NUMBER TWO.

MIRACLE NUMBER THREE: The itchy, oozy rash that I developed on my insect-bitten chest last week resolved in a matter of minutes after FarmWife told me, in no uncertain terms, "We can't deal with this right now. Fenway, you must resorb that rash. This instant." I am all obedient compliance, especially in times of crisis. A followup application of Swat has prevented its recurrence.

MIRACLE NUMBER FOUR: FarmWife, though she has not ridden me in weeks, is still happy. I am, as you know, her therapist, and it turns out that I give good counsel even out from under saddle. This is not to say that she does not look forward to our next ride, once the urgencies of deadlines, sick goats, and various obligations have passed.

MIRACLE NUMBER FIVE: It has been sunny in Wickersham. If you'll recall my April ramblings on the subject, you'll be reminded that Empress Missy, in all of her wisdom and power, always waits to kid on the sunniest day of spring. It turns out that her wisdom extends to other life events. She has fallen ill, for the first time in her life, during the sunniest week of autumn. She could not lie abed in nicer weather.

MIRACLE NUMBER SIX: Jasper Jules, who two weeks ago suffered the removal of the end of his penis and the lidocaine-infused catheterization of its remainder, still likes people. Amazing.

Nature, Goddess, Lady Luck, Gaia, God, Spaghetti Monster—Infinite Unknowable, whatever You are—I salute You. Ears, and brayful thanks, to You.

Fenway Bartholomule

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A delicious salad

I, Fenway Bartholomule, have just dined upon a most delicious salad of sliced apples, black oil sunflower seeds, and alfalfa-leaf with a delicate glucosamine and MSM dressing. The alfalfa, limited by FarmWife to a serving size of one tablespoon per 1000 pounds body weight, is the most rare and toothsome ingredient, but the MSM and glucosamine are the reason for the salad's existence and get, in their own right, high marks for palatability. I have John at and his kind sponsors at Omega Alpha to thank for the liquid joint supplement, which came as part of a prize package valued at $145. Wowee, zowee! That's a lot of vitamins, and we look forward to sharing the bounty with our favorite sport horse trainers. With a barn full of equine athletes, the folks at Cain Lake Stables will find a use for the many supplements that I don't eat myself. I am but one mule, and my nutritional needs are simple; hay, a salt block, fresh water. The occasional carrot. And, given my hock history, a joint supplement. This one is perfect.

Ears to HaHaHorses, ears to Omega Alpha, and ears to you!


Jasper Jules has entered a contest!

Its not all bad news among my goats this week; JJ is recovered from his recent illness, and Missy continues to eat heartily despite having been very sick for a week now. Jasper, in a lucky turn, has been selected by Fetching Tags as one of their October "What's my Tagline?" contest participants!

Jasper Jules wants to milk this for all the attention he can get, and your tagline suggestions can help him win! He's up against a doggedly determined pack of competitors, but I am confident that he can hoof it to the top. He's udderly endearing, and that's got to count for something.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keep Calm

Update: It turns out that, in addition to the $8 for new medications, we were billed for a $250 addition to an earlier invoice; an invoice that we had thought to be paid in full. Additional, legitimate charges were added days later for services already rendered, and our card was debited automatically. We have since seen an itemized list of charges and are reconciled to this new sum. The vet was very understanding about our surprise, and have agreed to give us fair warning in future! They've also offered to retract the charge and let us pay when we can in the coming days. We are grateful, and I am calm again. 

Thanks for the comments, here and via facebook. All's well! 

.I am very distressed this evening; I received notice, after hours, that the vet's office mistakenly (I hope!) used our debit card for a $246.90 charge when they ought to have used it for a $8.69 charge. This, after weeks of one, two, and three hundred dollar vet visits, will not clear. We'll have bounced check fees, at the least. I very much hope to resolve this with their billing department in the morning, but in the meantime I'm going to bed with a knot in my stomach and an ache in my head. I don't bear conflict well, and for some reason my body treats something as simple as a billing dispute in the same fashion as it might treat a fender bender or a mugging.  Emotionally, and physiologically, I take these things like a punch to the gut even when my logical mind tells me it will all be resolved after breakfast.

Luckily, I have a knack for remaining outwardly calm—I'll be on the phone at 9 am, all courtesy and decorum. No harm will be done, and it will all be behind us.

Breathe. Stretch. Chill.

I love your comments!

I always read and enjoy each and every comment here on Brays of Our Lives. FarmWife got a bit behind this weekend, but as she's catching up we thought we'd post a few recent comments (along with my newsy responses) for all to enjoy. Buddy, Dunie, Blue Page, Sian, Valentino, Junie, Little Big Red, AnnE, and so many wonderful others—your comments are always music to my magnificent ears. Bif, today I've enjoyed catching up on your comments and questions. Ears to you all.

Bif said...
Happy birthday, FB! I, personally, don't really have a known birthday. Mother doesn't celebrate any day for me, either. And I am afraid of googling Boyfriend birthday. But I am SO glad your FW noted your birthday... I'm sure you got some extra carrots out of the deal?
Bent Barrow Farm said...
FarmWife is trying very hard not to increase my carrot rations while the goat is sick. You see, it used to be that I would see her three or four times daily and that she would have a toothsome morsel for me at least two or three of those times. Now, I'm seeing her ten or twelve times a day and she has to practice conscious restraint in order not to give me nine or ten toothsome morsels each day. I am on the more voluptuous side of perfect, you know.

And yes, Bif, I'd be careful about googling "Boyfriend birthday." I once suffered the consequences of google's auto-correction and was presented with the image results for a "male harness" search.