Monday, February 28, 2011

Stupid Weasel

Apparently Punxsutawney Phil was wrong.

After a really smashing January (blue skies, warm temps) we're back in the pits of winter, and today the goats and I are up to our knobbly little knees in slushy muck. I have, however, a set of solutions to suggest!

A) The community of Wickersham should pool their resources and install an indoor riding arena in front of the Little Brown Chapel, which is this town's closest thing to a community center. It doesn't matter if I am one of Wickersham's only equines—I am happy to give rides to everybody.

B) The owners of the Lake Whatcom Railway, who own a great many miles of scenic, flat train railroad throughout the dense forests of Acme and Sedro-Woolley, should retire their antique steam engine and pull up their tracks. The result would be a lovely, well-graded, tree-covered, quick-draining trail upon which we Wickershamians could ride in even the wettest weather. Second best thing? No more 7 am wakeup calls from the engineer and his train whistle.

C) FarmHusband should enlarge the front door to permit me to enter the living room. He is a carpenter. It shouldn't be hard.

D) We should trade Missy, B.G., and Jasper Jules in on some fluffy sheep or, at the least, a Poitou donkey and an angora goat. My Saanens are cold bedfellows.

E) Five last words: triple tall soy caramel latte.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

What about you?

I have a million things I want to tell you, but what do you want to hear?

More links to longears in rescue?

More trail notes and real-life action stories?

More how-to's or recommendations straight from the mule's mouth?

More witty mulicisms?

More profiles of my blogging equine friends?

More Notes From the Farm?

More goats?

More chihuahuas?

You're going to get more Fenway Bartholomule—I can promise you that.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pin the Tail

Two big things happened today—firstly, DSL came to Wickersham! We have said our last goodbyes to our tired old wireless aircard, and are now surfing at blazing speeds. Can you tell? Does my blog seem zippier today, or more invigorated?

The other thing that happened was Weanling Human's 11th birthday party, which was celebrated with cupcakes (I didn't get any); pizza (I didn't get any); party favors (I didn't get any); and a rousing game of Pin the Tail on Fenway Bartholomule. I got a flake of grass hay and two buckets of tepid water, as usual, but I did appreciate their attempt to somehow include me in the festivities. We had fun.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Talkin' bout the weather

This week would have been an unprecedented opportunity for FarmWife, had the weather been different: She had a sitter and/or an at-home husband lined up for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, AND Friday! She could have gotten five—nay, six! rides in this week, had she also planned to make use of the weekend. In the end, though, we've chosen to stay in. The weather is the culprit.

Do they make Yaktrax for equines? Last time FarmWife and I went riding during a cold, snowy period, the ice-packed tire tracks on our local roads and pathways made walking unsafe. FarmWife led me towards the trailhead, and I slipped, slid, and generally proceeded in a halting fashion. We decided to turn back, for safety's and comfort's sake, before FarmWife had even had a chance to mount up. This week, we're not even going to try it.

Now, fluffy new snow is another matter. Slush? No biggy, and rain certainly doesn't stop us. It's ICE we don't like, and there's plenty of it in Wickersham today.

I'm warm(ish) and safe in my paddock today, and FarmWife is passing the afternoon at the fireside. There's always next week, and there's always the hope that this miracle of babysitter alignment will occur again. In the meantime, I shall ring for some cocoa and try to enjoy the beautiful sparkliness of this cold, cold day.

Stay warm,


Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to photograph a black chihuahua

So here's the thing—it turns out black dogs are hard to photograph.

Clover is one of the cutest things I've ever seen in my life, and her twinkling eyes and jaunty step are just about enough to melt the coldest heart. On camera, though, she turns into a light-bending lump of bulgy-eyed, highly reflective, cringing anti-photogeneticism.

Paco Collars and Fetching Tags recently collaborated to bestow upon Clover a beautiful new collar, and I wanted to thank them for the gift with a nice portrait of Her Royal Chihuahuaness in said article. Harder, I'm afraid, than it sounds.

There's the "use the flash" option, which creates the possessed demon effect:

There's the "shoot while she plays" option, which creates the streaming high-speed effect:

There's the "wait for a pause" option, which gives you the menacing werewolf effect:

There's the "force her to stay where you put her" option, which gives you the beaten-and-cringing effect:

There's the "wait until she falls asleep" option, which creates the naked pillbug effect:

There's the "extreme closeup," which gives you the bobblehead effect:

And then there's the "hold the kong above the camera" option, which gives you extreme focus, and a picture you're actually not ashamed to share:
What's that? 


Does it help with preventing snowball accumulation? 

Sort of. 

Does it substitute adequately for bringing your mule indoors and bedding him down next to the woodstove?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fine Art

Fine art, bad photoshopping. FarmWife stitched together these scanned images hastily, poorly, and with very reduced mulishness. I'll forgive her—she needs to get the humans to bed, and I need to show you this splendiferous poster my weanling human M made for me. She turned 11 this week, and she's got her mother's bountiful love of equines!

Ears to you, indeed!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Channeling Dr. Suess

One ear, two ears, brown ears, true ears.
Fine ears, good ears, torn ear, smooth ear.
This one has a little rip, this one has a perfect tip.
This one turns to listen here, this one turns to listen there.
Look—what lovely ears I wear!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Pooper

You were told that Clover is perfect—and she is, as long as she's tied to FarmWife by an eight foot cord. Here's the one glaring flaw with FarmWife's little Christmas angel—poop!

FarmWife likes dogs. She understands dogs. She feels that training dogs comes naturally to her, and she feels that there is very little about problem dog behavior that she cannot understand and/or remedy. This problem, though, is beyond her.

Clover, who's about one year old, recently spayed, and adopted two months ago from the Humane Society, understands that outside pooping is good. FarmWife passes many chilly moments standing outside in the rain and sleet with Clover, and praising Clover with effusive pats, play, and cheesy globs when Clover poops outdoors. Clover understands that peeing outside is good, too, and since her first day here has never made a mistake in THAT department.

FarmWife feeds Clover in a crate, and takes Clover outside immediately thereafter to do her business. Clover does her business. All is well. Still, Clover will sneak away, given an opportunity, and poop in a favorite, solitary spot. When the favorite spot is deodorized, sanitized, and blocked off, Clover will pick a new favorite spot. Clover gets to go outside, with a human for company, after every nap—every play period—every snack—every meal. She can't possibly be missing adequate opportunities to move her bowels outdoors.

Clover has been on a leash and/or gated in a room with FarmWife for nearly two whole weeks, and during those weeks Clover has not had an accident. Today, a trial off-leash period ended badly, with poop in the downstairs bathroom. (Closer, Clover—next time, use the toilet, 'kay?)

So, animal trainers extraordinaire—how can we make the connection happen for Clover? FarmWife has caught her in the act, scolded firmly (without any physical abuse, of course, but with firm words and removal to the outdoors), and shown her outside. FarmWife has cleaned up the messes privately, to avoid giving Clover a Master/Servant complex, and FarmWife has tried putting the poops carefully into Clover's designated outdoor bathroom spot in order to give her the idea. FarmWife has made much of Clover every time she's gone outdoors. Clover is healthy, and the poops are normal and well-formed. Clover is on a good grain-free diet and, in all respects, seems to be thriving. FarmWife sanitizes the heck out of the floor wherever Clover goes, so there should be no lingering odor to mislead the pup into thinking it's a good spot to go.

Finally, let me say this—Clover is beloved, and this is a small problem in the big picture. Still, advice is welcome! FarmWife would love to let Clover have a little more freedom indoors, and FarmHusband would love to stop stepping in dog poop.



State of the Farmlet, Part III

Paisley is wonderful. I never loved him as much as I do now, at the beginning of his 10th year of life. Clover, also wonderful, uses him as her living rug, and when the fire dies down she retreats to curl up on the high ground of his gently-rising flanks.

The chickens are laying again—four eggs a day, or sometimes five. Most of our hens are between three and nine years of age, so four eggs a day is all we can expect. It works, and when our girls no longer lay they can continue to work as manure-sorters and parasite police. 

The children are wonderful. We've enlarged their playground, adding a slide and sandbox to last year's swingset, and they're finally coming out of hibernation to enjoy daily outdoor play without a fight. Two will have birthdays in the coming months, and the third lost her first incisor last night. In the back of her mouth, like Mounts Baker and Shuksan, two huge permanent molars are erupting with volcanic strength. 

And then there's me—happy, grateful, and living in paradise.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Bridle for Every Season

I get ridden once—maybe twice—a week. We're working on this. FarmWife and I dream of riding and/or driving six days on and one day off, but it may be some time in coming. Never fear—at 16, I am still young!

Still, I have four bridles and a half-dozen extra bits. In rotation, we have my snaffle bridle, outfitted with a Sealtex-coated, single jointed dee snaffle. FarmWife, who loves new bits and who's noticed how I appreciate a more stable mouthpiece, would like to replace this with a rubber mullen baucher snaffle.

I have a snaffle bridle because I have promised FarmWife that we may take dressage lessons in the future. I didn't do this because I actually want to take dressage lessons, or because we can afford dressage lessons, or because we have a place to practice dressage. No: I did this because FarmWife loves to daydream, and because there's no harm in entertaining her fantasies.

I have a pelham bridle, which I use on the snaffle-rein setting for open-bridle driving training (in action, it is much like a liverpool) and which I will use when I go hilltopping with the Woodland Hunt. I don't have any particular opportunity pending with the Hunt, but I'm sure they would love me. Can one hilltop in a dressage saddle? I'm not sure. FarmWife will need to replace her only pair of breeches, which are brown with a hole on the knee. 
I also use my pelham bridle, with two reins of course, when I go trail riding in big groups. I have the World's Best Walk. Unless I'm out and about with gaited horses, I struggle in a group. My walk is equivalent to a thoroughbred's jig or a quarter-horses lope. I should go first, except that when I'm out in a group I don't want to go first. I want to go side-by-side with horse number two, so that we can meet any potential monsters together. I want to go side-by-side, even on a single-file deer trail through challenging terrain. The pelham keeps me functional, and keeps me where I ought to be per FarmWife's instructions, but I won't deny that I need a lot more practice with group dynamics. I never said I was perfect.

I have a closed driving bridle with blinders and a two-slot, mullen mouth, Sealtex-wrapped liverpool bit. It was a quarter inch too big and had swivel cheeks rather than FarmWife's preferred fixed cheeks, so I wear it with bit guards. It's snazzy, and makes me look like the real deal. The blinders keep me from seeing the tire behind me, which is nice, but FarmWife says I have to try pulling it without them, too, as an educational opportunity. I supposed she wants me to know I'm being followed now, in a controlled setting, rather than to discover it later when my bridle slips at some bustling event—slips to reveal a fire-breathing monster hitched to my traces. 

These driving photos were
taken before I got my liverpool—
I used to drive in a rubber
pelham, which worked too. 
And then there's my bosal, which is a new innovation. My FarmWife got me a bosal after deciding that my responsiveness to lateral aids (turn, steer, sidepass, yield the forehand or the hindquarters) was just about nonexistent. I grew up a trail mule, and trail mule I've remained. My early steering experience was limited to "follow the trail left" or "follow the trail right," and in a wide-open space I can be as wiggly as a fish. The hackamore is helping, and is giving me some understanding that pressure on one side or the other means something. It helps me keep my forwardness, which is important. It's comfy, it fits, and FarmWife uses it with care. I like it just as well as my mechanical hackamore, which I used to wear, and FarmWife likes it better for it's usefullness as a direct-reining tool. 

Between ground driving work on the long lines and trail work in my hackamore, I'm learning a lot about steering. Meanwhile, my ├╝bersoft mouth is undisturbed, and I'm free to take a treat from FarmWife now and then as a reward for particularly wonderful work. When I really get it, we'll reward ourselves—with a country drive, or an outing with the Hunt Club, or a schooling show. Until then, I've got a closet full of outfits for those fantasy dates. 


Saturday, February 19, 2011

State of the Farmlet, part II

The bunnies are wildly destructive. We are planning a rabbit complex with sheltered hutches, attached outdoor runs, and day-use paddocks. The reign of the houserabbit is ending: two couches, one square foot of sheetrock, and one telephone cord later. When the weather warms, they make the move, though we'll always bring them in for daily companionable visits. 

The goats are well. Missy spends some time standing in the middle of the paddock, head tilted, hackling at nothing. We wonder if she suffered some brain damage during her mysterious bout with paralysis, but we are happy to see her enjoying the things she's always loved: back scratches, alfalfa, dominant stand-offs with her herdmates and the human children. 

B.G. remains the friendliest goat ever, and she alone prefers human companionship to hay—when I feed the four hoofbeasts, three tuck in and one shadows me, adoringly, as they do. She'll kid in June, having been bred to the lovely specimen at left last month. (The gremlin-like appeal of a urine-soaked buck continues to fail me, but he's a fellow with great breeding and a wonderful reputation.)

Jasper Jules is hard at work in the habitat, which we thought we'd cleaned out rather well. He recently excavated a bramble-encased motor vehicle engine, proving that human gardeners are no match for a goat when it comes to clearing. He's better than a weedwhacker, and handsomer. 

The cats are well, and entertain us endlessly with their nightly games of fisticuffs. Desmond stands over Townes, tail twitching ominously, ears pinned back, and Townes threatens him with slow-motion paw-swipes. They explode after a minute or two of this, plunging into a howling, spitting, 40-clawed hug. Then—silence, and the standoff begins again. No one is ever hurt, and they always walk away as friends: rubbing, nuzzling, and matching each other stride for stride. 

(to be continued)

Friday, February 18, 2011


Remember the time someone painted me? That was fun. Thanks, Sue Kroll!


Beware of Horse Farts

I am not sure that the level of accurate comprehension is as high as one would like when it comes to interpreting this sign, which is similar to one we saw in the Mount Baker National Forest. I assume that the public is to read it as "speak before approaching horses from the rear," and it probably has something to do with the ranger's desire to keep horses from spooking and killing people on the mountain trails. I parsed it, initially, as meaning "beware of horse farts," and then as "listen to a horse's ass."

This is my proposed alternative: a text sign, reading "Speak before approaching livestock." Lower humor value, but more lives saved in the end, eh?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

It turns out that I was not actually the first famous animal of Bent Barrow Farm.

A few weeks ago, our friend the Chicken Lady picked up a three year-old magazine from the library's giveaway bin. It featured a Skagit Valley goat farm from which Missy had originated, and so she brought it back to Wickersham for FarmWife's edification and amusement. Imagine FarmWife's surprise when she recognized not only the farmer but also her goat—Missy, in fact, pictured on the cover eating her former mistress's earrings! 

Missy is a particularly special goat, and was beloved to her breeder. Her breeder sold her to us with the understanding that she'd be a cherished family pet, which of course she has been and shall remain. We are happy to keep in touch with Missy's breeder, and she is happy to hear that Missy is well.

B.G. and Jasper Jules, as you may remember, were both born here at Bent Barrow Farm. We love them all, and each is as unique as can be. They are easy to understand, as each has just one wish in life.

B.G. spends her days wondering why she was not born a human, and wishing she could live in the house. She worships the humans, and loves them, and baas to them whenever they appear.

Missy spends her days wondering why she was not born a goddess, and wishing she could dominate all life on earth. She worships her sense of authority, and reigns over us all, and hackles at everyone smaller than her.

Jasper Jules spends his days wondering "huh?" and "what?"

Because Jasper Jules has never had a clearly defined question in mind, he has never found an answer. He spends his life in a constant state of confusion, surprise, amazement, and startled curiosity. He is not brave enough to research the matters that confuse him, but not dull enough to ignore them. He lives in constant naive wonderment, and will be forever young.

Fen Bar

The State of the Farmlet Address

The farmlet is glistening in the February sun.

I have never failed to appreciate February in Washington, which brings a break from the precipitation (usually—so far, this is holding true in 2011), warmer temperatures, and the first crocuses of Spring.

We have some mud, and my gravel dreams remain with me—before October, I'd like to acquire 24 tons of 3/8ths inch minus (plus fines) and 12 tons of coarse sand. Still, it's not too bad. One mule, three goats, and a flock of chickens seem a manageable population for this one acre, and they have some green grass even now.

Our salad greens are pushing up in the greenhouse, and we should be eating spinach, lettuce, arugula, and baby kale before too long. Our celeries are germinating on the windowsill, and we're finally employing the baseboard heat in our dining room to warm their feet. Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, scallions, leeks, and onions are poking their heads into the light.

Fenway Bartholomule is getting slightly fitter after his very relaxing winter, and we're committing to at least one real ride and one brief exercise session each week. I'd like to make it four and two, respectively. I, for my part, am lifting weights again, a hobby which I used to enjoy but which evades me now as a regular habit. I need to reestablish it, as it was a healthy and rewarding one.

My husband has ripped the gross carpet out of our bedroom, and the besplattered plywood underlayment is actually a refreshing substitute. There will be time for hardwood later.

The fruit trees are sending out suckers, and we're afraid to touch them. The overpruning of '09 still haunts us, with it's years of fruit-suppression.

The compost piles have grown beyond our ability to use them, and we're on the lookout for a needy gardener. Well aged manure—free! I've added a second gate to the pasture, hoping to facilitate truck access when we eventually find a taker.

 (to be continued)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New bridle with BLING

Bridle. Headstall. Hackamore? Bosal hanger.

Whatever you want to call it, I've got it—it's new, it's made of beta, and it was put together for me by Amy of Better Than Leather. FarmWife ordered an extra-long browband so that she might modify it to her taste, which she did by adding a center ring and a Fetching Tag which reads "✭✯ I AM MULE ✯✭" on the front and "HEAR ME BRAY" on the back. As if I wasn't already stunning enough, eh?

It's beautiful. Thanks, Amy at BTL, and thanks, Jen at Fetching Tags, for making me the best-dressed mule this side of the Mississippi!

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

p.s. To the fashion police who are disturbed by the photo above—yes, that lumpy brown thing is FarmWife's knee. Lest you worry, she is appropriately dressed in breeches, paddock boots, and half chaps underneath. She puts her quilted Carhartts on over her traditional riding attire in the winter so as to stay dry when riding through wet brush. Call her a dressage diva/range rider crossover—it's not pretty, but it's comfortable.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reposted from

To Kathy and My Many Friends
with love and thanks, from Fenway Bartholomule

A quiet mule, I live alone—
Except for FarmWife, two white goats,
A flock of hens, their rooster too,
And little tigers passing through. 
And little girls, I’ve counted three, 
And FarmHusband, the dog, plus B
And Harriet, the housemules sweet. 
So perhaps NOT alone.

A clever mule, I often bray—
I bray to greet each bright new day,
I bray to call for fresh clean hay,
Or sometimes when I feel afraid.
It’s true, I’ve brayed from fear, I’ll say,
But not too often—I’m quite brave.
I’m stoic, yes, and well-behaved,
But perhaps NOT so quiet.

A thoughtful mule, if often think
Of things to say and songs to sing,
Of friends to make and ways to bring
The Muleness to the front of things.
I’m oozing Muleness, don’t you think?
And don’t you find my brown coat sleek?
My velvet nose, you think it’s sweet? 
You may, if you wish, kiss it.

I haven’t much—a paddock, friends,
Fresh hay at start of day, and end, 
FarmWife, a friend to last my life,
And time—The time goes ticking by. 
I spend a great deal thinking. Why,
I think from dawn ‘til dusk—
And then my human, whom I trust, 
She writes it down.

Brays of Our Lives was just a whim—
My FarmWife had this mule, loved me,
And wanted all the world to see.
It’s true, I am a sight indeed!
So we commenced to writing, blogging,
Musing, logging every trial and each joy.
Notes from a FarmWife and her boy—
Somehow it grew. 

It grew to this—a hundred friends!
Two hundred—six! A thousand soon.
I have heard joyful things, it’s true. 
I’ve seen tears shed and heard glad news.
I’ve made good friends—great friends, so kind,
Been given gifts, been helped at times.
Sent to the vet on donors’ dimes. 
I have been loved.

I have been loved, I have been blessed.
FarmWife, too, she must confess
To feeling very lucky. To have care
Pour in from every corner—and to share
A mule like me with you, with everyone—
FarmWife’s grateful, having fun.
I, too, am glad, and bray a song
Of love, and gratitude.

My friend, this song’s for you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good news/Bad news

The good news: FarmWife is going to audit a driving clinic next weekend. Woohoo! It means she will return all the better prepared to help me become Fenway Bartholomule, Driving Mule Extraordinaire, as we all know I shall.

The bad news: the clinic syllabus glaringly lacks a chapter on the natural superiority of the mule.

The good news about the bad news: FarmWife may have some opportunity to propogandize at the blogging clinic, and may be able to bring a few new Fans of the Muleness on board at Brays Of Our Lives. We shall see!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dog Math

Dog math:

Fig.1: -1 Aussie ≥ 1 chihuahua. (Negative one Aussie is greater than or equal to one chihuahua.)

Fig.2: -1 Aussie + 1 chihuahua = 1 sheep. (Negative one Aussie plus one chihuahua equals one sheep.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

As promised, a new song

Starring, in order of appearance: Fenway Bartholomule; Jasper Jules; B.G.; and FarmWife.
Directed by Fenway Bartholomule.
Photography by FarmWife.
Music composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and performed by FarmWife.
Lyrics by Fenway Bartholomule with a nod to Vinicius de Moraes and Norman Gimbel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black Ruby

I'm going to share a link today to, a blog which "explores the bond between equines and their people." I love the inclusiveness of that statement, which allows for mule, donkey, hinny, mini, and regular ol' horse love.

When I read the heading "wrecked" at the top of a blog page full of racing photos, my stomach turned. Thankfully, this is not a Ruffian/Barbaro/Eight Belles story! This is the story of a fast, healthy, and cherished mare mule, and let's all hope she stays that way.

Thanks, fan A., for sending me the link—and for reminding us all that mules can fly.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You may have a personality disorder if . . .

Humans: you may have a personality disorder if . . .

you can pass a puppy in the street without wanting to stop and pet him.

you hate the sound of red-winged blackbirds.

you think mule breath stinks.

you don't like the smell of fresh alfalfa.

you'd rather ride in a limo than a carriage.

If any of the above apply, get thee to a shrink* immediately!

*and remember, the best therapists have four hooves and a tail.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sung to the tune of "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am" by Herman's Hermits.

I'm Fenny the great, I am,
Fenny the great, I am, I am!
I get ridden by the lady next door,
She's owned horses seven* times before. 
And not a one was like Fenny
She hadn't had a mule or an ass
I'm her eighth good boy, I'm Fenny,
Fenny the great, I am! 

Second verse, same as the first! 

I'm Fenny the great, I am,
Fenny the great, I am, I am!
I get ridden by the lady next door,
She's owned horses seven* times before. 
And not a one was like Fenny
She hadn't had a mule or an ass
I'm her eighth good boy, I'm Fenny,
Fenny the great, I am! 

I'm Fenny the great, I am,
Fenny the great, I am, I am!
I get ridden by the lady next door,
She's owned horses seven* times before. 
And not a one was like Fenny
She hadn't had a mule or an ass
I'm her eighth good boy, I'm Fenny,
Fenny the great, I am! 

F! E! N-N-Y! 

I'm Fenny the great, I am, 
Fenny the great, I am!

These were FarmWife's seven geldings: Panda, Fahrenheit, Dor, Farallon, Painter, Tanner, and Jack Vance. Shorty, at 13.1, and Twink, at 30+ inches, didn't make the "horse" list. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wikipedia, how dare you ignore me?

I was going to write about FarmWife and her childhood pets today, but she stole my idea. It's been posted over at I'm not too mad—after all, it is her childhood that I had planned to plagiarize!

Instead, I searched for myself on Wikipedia. You can imagine my disappointment when "there were no results matching the query."

Ah, well . . . my fame will grow.


Back on track

I've wandered slightly from the original path of this blog, which was to follow my fascinating life and the means by which I ended up here—now—happy.

I wasn't always here, nor was I always happy, though I did have a joyous childhood. They say that if you really want to thrive, you should remember what made you joyful when you were eight and then do that thing again. In my case, that was the year when I got my own pony.

I know what I do best—love animals, and write. When I was small, writing was my area of academic excellence, and it got me through my education with flying colors. I'm good at other things, too—I've tutored successfully and turned my hand at retail sales. I'm versatile, though mathematics are my weak area. (A-, advanced calculus, 2003—and I don't say that gloatingly, but with pride and relief. I worked my butt off for that A minus.) I need work on mechanical and manual skills, too . . . while I can muck out a barn like nobody's business, I'd be hard pressed to build one. For that, I have my husband. (This month, he's going to teach me how to reframe a window opening!)

People say I have a lot of pets. Two each of the dogs, bunnies, and cats; a mule; three goats; a flock of chickens. That's not so many! It's nearly a personal low.

When I was 14, I lived in the guest house on my family property in Clinton, Washington. With me—in and immediately adjacent the guest house—were my two dogs, three guinea pigs, sixteen mice, a cat, a mini-horse, two ducks, and a one-legged Rhode Island red. In the barn, I had two horses and a pony of my own. As a family, we had seven additional horses, two additional dogs, three or four additional cats, and thirty-odd chickens. This was before the potbellied pig and pygmy hedgehog, but after the cockatiels, rabbits, lovebirds, and parakeets. I guess you might say it's a family trait, and in that sense you might even say I'm moderating the effects of my genetics and upbringing. With just 10 non-human mammals in my family, I'm living a downright ordinary life.

There was a time when I thought I would like to be a lawyer. I wanted to fight for animal welfare in the pit, using the law as my weapon. I'm not sure, though, that I would have liked that work. I might not have been able to work with an Aussie on my feet, a chihuahua on my lap, a bunny on my desk, and a mule out my window, and perhaps I might never have become the farmwife of Bent Barrow Farm. I think it took accidentally missing law school (via an unplanned pregnancy, if you'll recall) to remind me that this is where I want to fight for animal welfare*—at home, on the web, with a dog on my feet.


*and yes, I use the term "fight" loosely. In 2010, the fight equated to a bunch of letters written, a couple of news briefs shared, and a donation of 10% of my freelance proceeds to reputable animal rights organizations. It may not be much, but it feels like a start. It turns out that I am neither a sidewalk-stomping PETA protester nor a courtroom-gripping legal eagle, but I feel that my voice is heard. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gift-giving advice for a mule-lover's valentine.

image from
This is a public service announcement.

Gentleman: Valentine's day is fast approaching. Remember that there is nothing as romantic as a great big rock! I advise you to purchase this rock by the truckload, crushed, screened to three-eighths inches (plus fines), delivered, and spread on the high-traffic areas of her paddocks and barnyard. If the budget permits, have it set in a gorgeous ring—20 by 40 meters at a minimum, or at least 100 by 150 feet for jumping or western events. When I say rock, I mean the greyish sort! Under no circumstances can a diamond substitute, unless it is intended to be pawned or resold for gravel-buying funds. 24 tons of rock is a lovely quantity for the modest farmlet, while the Valentine with a bigger equestrian operation will of course need to make an even larger display of his affection.

Precious metals are never a mistake. Snaffle bits, stirrup irons, heavy-duty hardware, and livestock panels are all excellent choices. Remember—bit choices are varied, and selection is a personal and important matter. Sometimes a gift certificate is the best way to go.

There's still nothing as romantic as a nice fur, and nothing as tragic as a dead animal. If you want to give something warm and luxurious, make sure it's still attached to its thriving original wearer! Nothing like a nice fur coat on a warm, nickering critter to make a girl feel cherished.

In other news, I hear this year's Bud commercial was a let down. Too many dudes, too few clydesdales! Ah, well . . . there's always Superbowl 2012 to look forward to.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A major offense

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There is alfalfa on the premises. I know this because last night when FarmWife filled my haynet she accidentally included an adjacent handful of something far, far more delectable. Immediately realizing her mistake, she rushed into my shed and reacquired the enticing morsel. She passed it to Missy, who lives on the other side of a chest-high 2x6. Missy dug in with obvious delight, and I was left with an ear scratch and some residual leafy bits.

Here is the thing about Missy: she's still a wee bit thin, even four months after her serious illness. You my remember that she was down for two weeks, and came so near to dying that the humans actually replaced her (with B.G., who is still here too). I don't begrudge her the extra calories. I can understand why the humans want her to have free choice orchard grass, daily alfalfa, and alfalfa pellets with black oil sunflower seeds with dinner.

I just don't understand why I can't have some too. More of me to love—really, what could be bad about that? FarmWife throws around terms like "cushings," "founder," "colic," and "insulin resistance" as arguments against letting me eat whatever I want, but I have none of these syndromes. I have been healthy all my life, and excepting last summer's puffy-hock thing, I have never been ill or unsound. Personally, I am of the opinion that my hock would have been dramatically improved by fifteen pounds of sweet feed.

My grass hay is alright, don't get me wrong. I'm lucky to live in a place where the local cheap stuff is green, clean, fresh, and sweet. I am such a very good boy, though, and I just don't understand why I can't have the equine equivalent of whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Yours in plumpish hunger,

Friday, February 4, 2011

North Mississippi Donkey needs help!

Click the photo above to enlarge—it's a screen capture of a Craigslist add from  The poor critter needs someone . . . preferably, someone with a safe fence, a vet, and a farrier!