Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everything in moderation

Without FarmHusband, FarmWife would probably end up
with this many mules . . . .

 . . . and this many goats . . . . 

 . . . and this many dogs . . . 
 . . . and this much money. 

FarmWife is glad she has FarmHusband. I'm glad, too, because there's only so much sharing a mule likes to do. 

Ears to moderation! 


Saturday, May 28, 2011

The garden is a fickle lady

In our five years at Bent Barrow Farm, we've had good potato years and bad leek years; great years for basil and poor years for broccoli; bountiful greens and lousy root crops, and the other way round. We've had bumper crops of this and miserable flops with that, and sometimes visa versa. We've succeeded here, failed there, then succeeded again. Until we get a few more years' wisdom under our belts, I think we'll continue to be victims of the garden's fickle mood. It seems we never know whether to plant too much or too little, because what grows and flourishes one year might struggle and fail the next. We haven't yet come to understand exactly why.

Some of it, I'm sure, is weather. In this cold and cloudy spring, we've had a delay of about 60 days from what we experienced with 2010's early greens. Our first peas never came up. March's lettuce is just one inch tall.

Some of it, I'm sure, is rotation. We try to apply what we've learned and plant things in an appropriate succession, but there is much that we have yet to understand. Neither my husband nor I have a great deal of experience with vegetable gardening, and we're learning as we go. We could do worse.

I sometimes envy those second, third, and fourth-generation farmers who were weaned from the breast onto the kitchen garden, and who know (because their daddies knew, and their daddies before them) that this is the time to plant and that is the time to harvest. Who know what follows what, and why, without referring to their bookshelf. I wish I had an inborn or ingrained understanding of the soil, the seasons, and the reasons for one season's bounty and another's scarcity.

We seem to want to garden intuitively, digging in compost when it seems to be needed and mulching with straw at other times, but perhaps there is more to the specifics of soil chemistry than we've been willing to concede. I know we have acidic clay soil, but we have a lot of lovely compost, too. So far, things seem to be going along well, but a bit more soil testing and a bit more attention to our crop-by-crop feeding might be in order. Perhaps we've made the mistake of treating all crops equally.

I wonder—does the experienced farmer have seasons when his brocolli raab bolts before it's big enough to bother with and seasons when his onion sets rot in the ground? Are these the pitfalls of ignorance and inexperience, or is this just part of life?

As organic gardeners, we want to treat our garden as a healthy system. We want holistic wellness—birds, bees, soil, greens, animals, compost, people. It's a system, and when something doesn't work I want to know why.

So tell me . . . are we missing something, or is this just how it goes? What could we do better?

In the meantime, I know we'll end up with plenty of something. Last year, the basil and parsnips went wild. Two years ago, our potatoes and carrots kicked butt. Three years ago, the broccoli and cauliflower could have won ribbons. This year, something will flourish—I just don't know what!

For everything else, there's MasterCard

Mule: $1500

Goats: $400

Woven wire field fencing: $1400

Hay (per bale): $3 to $14, depending upon the season

The happiness on FarmWife's face when three goats and a mule face are in her lap, ready for scratching: Priceless.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Overdue thanks

I'm a little overdue to bray a hearty thanks to some of my online friends—first, Zelda the Zorse and her kind human caregivers, who worked in cooperation with John from to get FarmWife a really nifty Zorse t-shirt last month. Thanks, guys! (I have to admit to having a soft spot for Zelda. As much as I adore my darling Katie Scarlett, there is something exhilarating about a beautiful, exotic woman!)

Second, I'd like to thank Stacey of for the fantabulous bottle of showsheen that arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. Her haiku contest was loads of fun, and with this prize I can have the silkiest and most tangle-free tail on the block. (Lord knows I don't need help with SHINE, but a little bit of comb-through ease never hurt anyone's fly swisher.)

The contests at and are always fun, and I do love free stuff. Thanks, guys. Ears to you!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five things you'll never hear me say

1) Please, FarmWife, can we go walk on that yellow painted line?

2) No carrots for me, thank you. I'm watching my weight.

3) Of course you may clean my sheath! So nice of you to offer.

4) Trail riding and jumping are so last year—can we stick to these 20-meter circles instead?

5) No, I won't lead, load, or tie. Screw you for asking.

And, on the other hoof, the five things I WILL say in the above scenarios:

1) Aaah! A line! It's evil!

2) Please, ma'am, may I have another?

3) Don't. You. Dare. Touch. Me. There.

4) Ugh, ugh, boring, boring, ugh, ugh, boring, boring. Let's hit the TRAIL!

5) No prob, Bob!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patchwork Mule

FarmWife and FarmHusband have plenty in common, not the least of which is an appreciation for patchwork things. FarmHusband once released an album entitled Patchwork Girl with his former band, and I'd like to think that he called it that for a reason. The reason was surely that he knew he'd marry someone someday, and that she'd get a mule, and that that mule would shed unevenly, and that the mule would leave his mistress covered in fur pancakes after every grooming from April through June. I am a patchwork mule, and even though I am male I do like to think of this ska record as a tribute . . . a tribute to me, Fenway Bartholomule. Thanks, FarmHusband! thanks, Johnny Too Bad and the Strikeouts! I'm humbled, and I'm grateful.

Ears, sleek and shaggy, to you.


Monday, May 23, 2011

A comedy of errors

Here's what FarmWife wrote about this ridiculous little movie when she uploaded it to Youtube today:

"There are a couple of humorous and humbling moments in this film, which I took as a means of seeing myself cantering on Fenway Bartholomule. 

1) Note how I failed to tell him, "stand," and therefore he walked away at the beginning of the movie. I wasn't worried. He whoas and comes on command. 

2) Note how my girth slipped when I mounted. (Whoops!) I do tend to keep a slightly looser girth than perhaps I should, because he gets rubs in his elbows if it's done up tightly. 

I hope you can find some entertainment value in this silly little clip and refrain from judging my mulemanship or my cinematography!"

As for me, Fenway Bartholomule, I say "note the surging power of my stride! Note the lithe athleticism and churning force of my motion! Note what a good boy I am, and how I carry that lady with nary a complaint!" I also ask that you enjoy the quiet interlude between the going from and the coming towards the camera—consider it a chance to meditate upon the Muleness of the universe.

Fenway Bartholomule

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Here are Satan's Deer. 

Here is me observing Satan's Deer with quiet distain.
You will note that I am now secure in the knowledge
that my Muleness places me well beyond their evil
clutches. You will also note my new hat. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sinister rainbows

I looked out the kitchen window this afternoon to hear my kindergartener shrieking, "what is it?! Daddy! It's scary!" and to see my husband and daughters staring at the sky, eyes sheilded against the sun, mouths agape. From my vantage point, it seemed as though they were witnessing the Ascension a day early. I was nervous.

I went outside to snap the photo that appears above . . . though, if I may anthropomorphize a little, it appeared angrier in person. In the center, a dark circle around the sun. On its boundary, a brilliant rainbow  (a 22 degree halo, as I've learned it's called). Intersecting this circle, a second, huge ring parallel to the horizon. This is the parhelic circle—a perfect halo around the entire valley, stretching from the sun across the sky and back again, with sun dogs on either side—two gleaming, multihued slices of sky where the halo and the giant horizontal ring intersected. With the entire valley taking on a bizarre, muted cast on an otherwise cloudless day and with my kindergartener wailing in terror, it was hard not to feel some unsettling wrongness in the weather. My husband and I both admitted to being disturbed, just slightly, by the sky, though a Google search revealed that these are common meteorological phenomenon.

The solar halo, as it turns out, is something a careful observer might see several times a year. I think I witnessed one last summer but failed to see all of its features. I remember seeing two brilliant rainbows strangely close to the sun. These would have been the sun dogs, or parhelia, bright spots which mark the intersection of the 22 degree halo and the larger parhelic circle.

In typical Marnie fashion, I've Googled this phenomenon to within an inch of its life. I am probably now qualified to teach a ninety-minute seminar on ice halos and related optical phenomena. A good summary lies here:

So, folks, next time a sinister rainbow falls over YOUR valley, tell your children to rest easy. It's only light playing on ice crystals.


Somewhere entirely new

 These are photos of me, Fenway Bartholomule, standing Somewhere Entirely New.

We have a well described circuit of well-beaten paths, FarmWife and I, and because of various roads and gates and rivers and what have you we are generally limited mostly to those paths and none other. Recently, however, we've discovered NEW TRAILS. Not "new to us" new, but "new new" . . . made, by the hand of man, for the purposes of recreational ambulation. They are here in abundance, right in our own neighborhood. We've found two new loops, each of them well-cleared, fairly lengthy, and scenic beyond our dreams, and we've seen evidence of a third and a fourth that simply require an afternoon's exploring.

We have tried to decide who made these trails. Was it a motor- or bicyclist? Probably not, as there aren't obvious signs of tires having passed this way. An equestrian? To the contrary! The trail bears no hoofprints but my own. What we did see were dog prints . . . big ones. We saw one boot print, but one only. It may have been an anomaly, this human boot print, which means the logical conclusion is that the trails were made by a pack of large and active wolves. Signs of cut foliage lead me to think that they were wolves with opposable thumbs, and hand or power tools, and above-average height.

FarmWife stopped me in mid-panic and reminded me of Occam's Razor . . . when you have a couple of potential explanations for something, the simpler one is probably right. In this case, she argues that we're probably looking at a humanoid trail-clearer with a light step and a doggie companion rather than a pack of saw-wielding bipedal canids.

FarmWife and I are going to try not to break these new trails. We'd like whomever made them to notice our hoofprints with gladness, not despair.

Thank you, anonymous trailmaker. Ears to you!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Herd Animal

This is me meeting Oliver, a P.O.A. in my extended family,
for the first time. 
Here is something else you might not know about me . . . I play well with others. Although I live alone (except for my goats, the chickens, FarmWife, and an assortment of house creatures), I am always up for a chance to meet new equines.* I greet them with inquisitive welcome. I neither shun them nor make an eager fool of myself. It's nice, because FarmWife can always feel safe turning me out beside someone new without fear that I will bow a tendon running the fenceline or break a hock kicking the fence.

Here is the other thing . . . I am perfectly able to observe a hormonal mare or a snarky retiree without rocking the boat. I don't get up in people's business unless they want me up in their business, and yet I never take it personally when they're up in mine. I am the perfect Herd Mediator.

If I lived at college I'd be the R.A.—always checking in to make sure everyone is feeling fine, but giving them enough space to stretch their wings. I would step in if I had to, for instance if someone had a big flake of hay that was simply too big to finish alone.

There was one exception to my Mediator trend, and that was when FarmWife brought a Shetland pony to Bent Barrow Farm. This was before I knew FarmWife personally . . . . I was still the neighbor mule, but even then I had enough sense to try to warn her. Ponies are NOT to be trusted, and pony IS a four letter word. Mule, however, is the other kind of four letter word—the same kind as "love" and "like" and "dear."

The other exception, come to think of it, was when I had a mule friend given to me and then taken away. When she was given back, several months later, I wanted nothing at all to do with her. I had decided that she was no good, and there was to be no more shed sharing between us.  That was another story, and I'll tell it to you sometime.

Ears to you, and sniffy muzzle touches too.


*disclaimer—I shall be meeting no new equines this week, thank you! I'll wait until the EHV-1 plague has subsided. I am friendly, but I am not foolish.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Here is the other thing about me: I am not a mule of great indulgence when it comes to enjoying the tactical pleasures of touch. Generally, these are the rules for grooming Fenway Bartholomule . . . .

1) you may rub my ears, but only if you ask first. If you are FarmWife, I will enjoy it. If you are the oldest filly, I will enjoy it. If you are anyone else, I will permit it but it is really going to be more for you than for me. That is just how it is. 

2) you may scratch me on my sides, above the rib cage, gently. You may rub me over my eyes (closed) with the palms of your hands, firmly but not firmly enough to damage my big brown orbs. You may massage the sides of my face, from jowl to nostril, towards the nose with a downward, stroking motion. These are the touches I enjoy, and all others are simply tolerated.

3) when it comes to grooming me, you can clean me to your heart's content anywhere except on my sheath but I won't do any of this flappy-lipped, giraffe-necked ecstasy business. That's for weaker mules than me. 

But . . . but!! Here is the thing that happened yesterday: 

FarmWife groomed me. She rubbed my ears (I liked it). She massaged my face (I sighed). She cradled my head against her chest, and I closed my eyes and sank into her embrace. Then, ever so sneakily, she scratched the itchy spot above my ribcage. I liked it. She scratched, and scratched, and scratched, and my sleek little lip began to quiver. She scratched, and scratched, and my lip jiggled, and wiggled, and I sighed, and I stretched, and before I knew it she was scratching and rubbing my entire body from tail to poll and I was stretched out like a tennessee walker on valium! My eyes were closed, my mouth was agape, and I was, for the first time in my almost seventeen years of life, getting and enjoying a massage. FarmWife lifted my ribcage and stretched my tail and jiggled my crest and generally manipulated my body in ways it's never been manipulated, and then she left me stretched out like a wet towel. I nickered a "wait, don't go," then trotted after her with my ears all dopey-floppy and springs under my feet.  

It was nice. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Timber framers

Timber framers, it turns out, are a wonderful sort.

I've known this, of course. I married one. Many of my good friends are timber framers. My own timber framer happens to be my best friend.

The art and craft of timber framing has inspired me since I learned of it. It's a method of building that predates Christ, and there are historic and contemporary frames that take my breath away. The art of building, period, amazes me. Done right, a simple dwelling can be the perfect marriage of function, form, art, and craft.

I was at the Timber Framers Guild conference in Fort Worden, Wa. this weekend (where, incidentally, I also summer-camped as a 14 year-old twerp) and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. From the good company, the good beer, and the good information to the Utilikilts and the Carhartts, it was a weekend spent with the right kind of people. I wasn't the only non-builder present, though as a staff writer I was probably one of few participants who didn't have a hand somewhere in the designing, engineering, or constructing of timber framed homes. I know enough, however, not to confuse my mortises and my tenons or my rafters and my purlins.

I learned a little about drafting with Google SketchUp (thank you, Clark), a little about thermal bridging (thank you, Jesse and Richard!), and a little about treehouses (thank you, Jake . . . and yes, that's treehouses, one word). I have a new favorite soda (DRY juniper berry; thank you, Wade) and a new knowledge of the climate, geography, flora, fauna, and culture of places from North Dakota to Idaho and Georgia to interior British Columbia. I know more about the Freemont Troll than I ever expected to, and more about lumber grading and structural insulated panels, too. I narrowly avoided bidding on a four-figure auction item (compound dovetail hewn log structure—pictured above), though I did somehow manage to bring home a trio of buzzards that doesn't belong to me.

It was a good weekend, and I'm counting the months until TFG 2011 East. In the meantime, I'm going to play with wood! I probably can't outdo Frameworks, Teton, or New Energy Works in next year's slideshow, but I've been inspired.


The challenge of gaining my affection

This sort of friendship takes time.
I'm a one-person mule. I liked my old person, Jim, and now I've got a new person and I like her. Her name is FarmWife.

I've met some other people, too. The human fillies, who go for rides on my back, and who groom me, and who bring the occasional carrot. The vet, who tortures me to within an inch of my one, splendid, precious life. FarmHusband, whom FarmWife promises is one of the world's best men. The neighbors, and the occasional doting fan. I accept them. I neither bite nor kick.

I don't really adore meeting other people, though, and the fact is that I have a bit of a personal space bubble with everyone but FarmWife. They can touch me (some places), they can feed me (of course!) and they can ride me (if FarmWife offers a leg up) but they can't cuddle me and reap the reward of my affection. I'm not that kind of mule.

Here is how it goes when I meet someone new: he offers me pats, and handfuls of grass, and succulent fruits and vegetables. I accept the offerings, and then I stomp away with wrinkled nostrils. I stand a dozen feet off, ears at half mast, and sneer at him with a look of unguarded distain. (I don't mean to . . . that's just how my face is sometimes!) If he approaches again, I flinch from his touch. If I am haltered, I become a biddable slave. I'll stand with him, and be groomed by him, and be led by him, but I will not relax into a devoted friendship with him. I am not like that.

Well, his feelings are hurt. Who can blame him?

So let me tell you now—when this happens to you, please don't take offense. Come again! Bring fruits and vegetables. We will work through it, you and I. I am a big, soft, squishy, lovable angel under this cold, suspicious exterior. I promise.

Fenway Bartholomule

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nothing compares 2 U

Sung to the tune of Nothing compares 2 U:
(ears to Prince for writing it and to Sinead o'Connor for singing it best!)

It's been seven hours and a couple of days . . .
Since you took your love away!
I swish flies every night and mope all day . . .
Since you took your love away!

Since you've been gone, I can graze wherever I want . . .
I can roll whenever I choose.
Pretend my paddock is a fancy restaurant . . .
But nothing, I said nothing can take away these blues.

'Cause nothing compares, nothing compares 2 U

It's been so lonely without you here
I'm like a bird with a brayful song
(heeeeee, eee, haw!)
Nothin' can stop this lonely rain from fallin'
(But it's Washington—know it's not your fault!)

I can put my ears down for every guy I see
But they don't rub 'em like you.
I saw FarmHusband, and guess what he told me?
Guess what he told me?
He said, "mule you'd better eat this flake, no matter what you do"
Well he's no fool . . .

But nothing compares, nothing compares 2 U

(Heeee, hee, heee, haw . . . hee, haw, hee hee . . . haw . . . .
Hee, haw, hee, haw, hee, hee, haw hee. . . . . .
hee, hee, hee, haw . . . )

All the flowers that I tasted, FarmWife,
in the pasture . . . all eaten since you went away.
I know that waiting for my dinner is always hard,
But I'm willing to give it another try.

Nothing compares, nothing compares 2 U
Nothing compares, nothing compares 2 U

Nothing compares, nothing compares 2 U

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Enough with the reminiscing

Come home, FarmWife! It's rainy, and there's no one here to change my blankie for me. (I can't possibly let FarmHusband do it . . . the straps cross far too close to my tickly bits. I've been left naked, since we're in between seasons.)

Jasper suggests a jail break to get her attention, to which I reply that FarmHusband is NOT a vegetarian, and that goats are renowned for their vindaloo-seasoning properties.

B.G. suggests an early labor, to which I reply that preemie kids are a large price to pay for the attentions of our beloved mistress.

Missy suggests having a second stroke, to which I roll my eyes and wrinkle my assymetrical nostrils in horror. No, thank you! That was no fun.

Clover, the chihuahua, says she's got it all under control. Having infiltrated the house, she's going to poop on the bathmat until FarmWife agrees to come home.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My third ever blog post


The Fenway Park Connection

There have been questions (thank you, Becky) about whether Fenway Park was named after me. I can only answer to those who are willing to suspend their disbelief in the paranormal, because the answer points to the murky folds in the space-time continuum.
I have heard that in every generation there is born a seer with the power to glimpse beyond the here and now. I am sure that there was someone like this born the year they made Fenway Park, because how else would they have known that I would be born many years later in 1994? The other layer of complexity is that my first name was Buckeye, and that my true identity as Fenway Bartholomule was not revealed until last February when I came to Bent Barrow Farm. The husband here has a fondness for the Red Sox, which must have come to him as a premonition of the important role that a mule named Fenway Bartholomule, né Buckeye, would one day have in his life. It is almost too much to ponder unless you like mind-bending science fiction with convoluted plotlines, in which case it sounds kind of like a good movie! Perhaps I will start working on a screenplay.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My second ever blog post



The Seven Responsibilities of Fenway Bartholomule

To the uninformed, it may appear that I spend nearly all of every day standing around or nibbling tender grasses, but I think it would be easy for all of you to understand my importance if you only just looked deeper. I have many jobs on Bent Barrow Farm but there are seven that are especially key.

1. Taking FarmWife on our weekly tours of the countryside. This is the one that most people think of when they meet me and I don't really understand completely, since this is leisure time for both of us, but it's got to be important because the humans talk about it all the time. 

2. Providing the goats companionship and guidance. I do realize that the goats have feelings too, even though their feelings are usually jealousy or spite or false superiority. It would be sad if they had no one to set a good example for them.

3. Monitoring the Perimeter. I make sure that no one can come into or out of the Bent Barrow Farm vicinity without sounding the alarm. The alarm, of course, is my very pretty bray which is not so much an unpleasant consequence as it is a delightful surprise, so for this reason it is good that so far all of the trespassers have been good people.

4. Crying then news. I do not have a fortified rampart from which to cry the news but I do try to keep the neighbors abreast of our goings on as well as I can. This means that everyone here knows when there is A) motion in the FarmWife's kitchen or bedroom, which windows I can see from my paddock, B) motion in the driveway where the hay is produced, or C) motion in the shed where the hay is stored. This is important in case any of the neighbors should ever have an emergency and need the assistance of either the FarmWife or the hay.

5. Eating the hay. The FarmWife has a magical station wagon which produces hay at regular intervals, and without me to eat it I'm sure it would soon overrun our small lane. I don't know what the neighbors would do, since they can't eat hay and the goats surely aren't big enough to do the job themselves. Soon the families on the dead-end beyond us would be trapped beyond salvation, and without a road or an intrepid mule to escape on they would surely starve. It is very lucky that I am here to keep the scourge of the hay from becoming deadly. As it is, I have turned a dangerous threat into a tasty treat simply by maintaining my healthy appetite. 

6. Offering aesthetic pleasure. The humans are silly creatures in many ways but I like them nonetheless, and one thing I like about them is that they think I'm beautiful. I don't mind being admired as a work of art, and I especially don't mind if it means that the FarmWife will stay home and look at me and give me hay on a regular schedule instead of traipsing off to some fancy-schmansy urban art museum to look at some glorified soup cans. 

7. Carrying the larval humans to the salmon pond on Innis Creek. I don't do this often, since the human parents seem to be of the impression that riders under three need an assistant to spot them. I don't really get it, since I am Reliable and Steadfast, but I like them well enough to let it go. 

There is also the job of watching the baby goats, which doesn't really need a number because it is more of a favor than an obligation, but which I sort miss now that Jasper Jules is all grown up. We will have more babies in the spring and I sort of kind of think it might be fun to play with the little tykes again. They are very cute before they get to the tail-nibbling age. 

A walk down memory lane

Since My farmwife is leaving me this week, I'm going to spend the time moping about and remembering the good old days—they days when she was here with me, daily, to provide companionship, ear rubs, and blog post transcription services.



Bike—0. Mule—1.

Today my FarmWife was faced with a choice between taking a bike ride with her human child and taking a mule ride with me. She opted for the latter, but came home walking with a flat tire. I don't know if there's a moral in this, but I do know that I wouldn't have gotten a flat tire if she had picked me. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "but Fenway, you might have come up lame." I say to you this: 1. I would not have come up lame because I have hooves of steel and legs of titanium. (Knock on wood). 2. Mules are made of sturdier stock than that! and 3. Even if I had, which I wouldn't have, the FarmWife would have enjoyed the pleasure of my company as we walked home side by side. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Other Goat's a Coat Rack

Here's Missy, who's actually been packin' on the pounds over the winter. You may remember that she had a mysterious, paralyzing illness last August, and that she just about died, and that she couldn't stand for a full two weeks. Well, now she's closer to normal and closer to plump (but still the skinniest member of our little family). She wobbles a bit, but she has a good appetite and a normal activity level. And, as you can see from the second photo, she still has her pleasures in life.

Missy, top view.
She's gained a lot of weight since the Autumn!

Missy, taking her daily back
scratch very seriously.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My goat's a boat

This is my goat, viewed from the top. 

This is my goat, viewed from the rear.

My goat is pregnant. She is supposed to wait four more weeks before kidding, as she's due on June 5th.

FarmWife recalls that this doe's mother is the tiniest saanen there is, and yet somehow managed to produce 11 and 13 pound kids three years ago (B.G. and her brother Jasper Jules). B.G. is much bigger than her mother, and this is her second pregnancy. She had two big strapping kids last year, the weights of which were not recorded.

We are now taking wagers on what day, what time, what gender(s), and what weight(s) B.G. will produce. The closest guesser will receive an autographed photo of the little darling(s), with their own precious little hoofprints inked upon it. You can email your answers to

May the speculating begin!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Musing upon the subject of my mother

I have a hard time remembering my mother. A warm, dark udder . . . two graceful ears . . . the smell of warm milk. Black stockings, soaked in dew. There are only flashes—pictures, and scents. The sound of her delicate whinny, like the trill of a bird beside my noble bray.

I'm pretty sure that my mother must have been a daughter of Rugged Lark. After all, I share his good looks, his cow sense, his athleticism, poise, versatility, and intelligence. Like Lark, I am equally at home in the paddock or in the office.

Rugged Lark was a prepotent sire, foaled in 1981. He would have had plenty of time to put a daughter on the ground and have her foal in 1994 . . . with me, Fenway Bartholomule. There's no reason not to believe that this is so.

So thank you, mom, for foaling me. Thanks for teaching me that ruffed grouse are evil but that garden hoses are not, and that a shadow on the ground is far likelier to kill me than a gunshot or a speeding semi. I remember your lessons well, and hold them close to my heart.

Thank you, also, for my full tail, my short coat, and my shapely back which can carry a horse saddle without customization or breeching. I appreciate it. Finally, thank you for my left nostril. I'm glad to have it—it's bigger than the one I inherited from my dad, and I use it to breathe and to express disdain.

Ears, fondly, to you. Happy mother's day from your little boy,

Fenway Bartholomule

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Paintings by Vicki Asp. Available for purchase at
I had a nightmare last night in which I was walking through a dusty northern California town, sobbing because of the beauty of it and because I was homesick for the oak-dotted hills of my youth. Then a seven-fingered man came running out of a nearby barn, peppering me with rocks. I learned later that his name was Pickles, and that he had lost his other digits by soaking them too long in vinegar.

There's something breathtakingly, heartwrenchingly beautiful about a golden hillside scattered with live oaks (or, better yet, November's light green blush of new growth). As much as I appreciate the dense, green aliveness of Western Washington, there's nothing like a long, soaring ridge line amid that sea of waving grass.

Is this a universal phenomenon? Do we all experience nostalgia (the pain, to translate literally from the Greek, of wishing to return home) for our childhood landscapes? Or is it perhaps reserved for those of us who enjoyed our childhoods, or who grew up happily? Who grew up in a landscape suitable to our spirits?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Other things to do with tires

Sometimes a mule has to put his hoof down. "FarmWife!" I commanded, "thou shalt find an alternative use for thy evil tire!" Sick of dragging the thing about, I suggested that she might enjoy building an earthship

Well, she gave it her best effort, but rammed-earth tires are more labor intensive than you might think. By the eighth go at it, she was ready to give up.

Instead of a recycled habitation, she ended up building this nice herb garden/livestock salad bar.

Not to bad, if I do say!


Thursday, May 5, 2011


Two nights ago, FarmWife noted that the flies were back. They're not the big, boring fatties that lounge about on your average manure pile—they come from the swamp, and they're brown, tiny, and evil. They're like an F-22 Raptor to the house fly's jumbo jet . . . small, fast, and dangerous. Anyway, she saw them eating my ears so she rubbed my ears with some soothing, repellant balm and went indoors. (She calls them "dear flies", by the way, which I presume to be sarcastic in the fashion that "well, bless your heart" is sarcastic.)

Last night, FarmWife was practically ready to call a priest when she saw what state I was in. Lathered in sweat, obviously distressed, and covered in self-inflicted rubs and bites and bug-induced, bleeding spots along my thighs and underbelly, I cried to her as I saw her coming out after dinner (I'd been fine before the meal, by the way). I cried to her to save me, and limped towards her, favoring first one hind leg and then the other. She was sure that I was A) injured, B) dying, and C) the saddest thing she had ever seen in her entire long 31 years of life. She nearly cried when she rubbed my tummy and her hand came away streaked in my own precious muley blood.

(This is not the first time this has happened, by the way, and here is what we have tried in the past: organic marigold spray; herbal vinegar/skin-so-soft/citronella concoctions; standard, non-organic flysprays such as Farnam Endure; and pour-on cattle insecticides for killing everything including the fish and our children's children. None have worked. I need an air-tight barn with AC and radiant floor heating.)

An investigation of my hind limbs revealed that my discomfort stemmed from an embarrassing inflammation of the inner thighs, but that my legs and hooves were well and sound. A half-hour's cool compressing and some medicated ointment brought the irritation down to the point where I walked and trotted soundly. I was cleaned, and then a thorough treatment of my skin and ears with herbal fly repellants was undertaken. I was blanketed against the worst of the plague, and FarmWife moistened my ears with slimy balms. Soon, she tells me, I shall get a mesh ear net in the mail for nighttime use. (I do need to get a leather turnout halter to hold it in place! Anyone have one to sell?)

This morning, I was better. The flies seemed to have drowned in the night, which is one good thing about the rain coming back.

Ears to you,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ix-Nay on the Ow-Play

I told FarmWife that I simply CAN'T pull a tire anymore. It's just too scary. I pull a travois just fine, but the sound of that horrible, heavy thing dragging behind me is just too much. I told FarmWife that I actually want one of these:

She says fine, and that I can have a sulky, no problem, and that she'll even take me to the beach, but that I'm going to have to pull obtuse, rubbery things until I earn my wheels.

The folks at Road's End Driving use a mudcrawler—a vehicle made of 2x4s and rubber stall mats. Apparently this vehicle is so heavy and awkward that there is virtually no way to wreck it, and somehow FarmWife thinks that this sort of vehicle would make a nice intermediary between tires and sulkies. I, on the other hoof, think that the royal State Landau would suit me nicely.

One thing is certain—there is no plowing in my immediate future. I am in no mental state to be hitched to a sharp metal object.

For now, we're taking a step back. FarmWife is going to try to bump up the frequency of my sessions from twice to five times per week, and we're going to ground drive around Wickersham until we wear grooves in the pavement. When I've made a million turns 'round the neighborhood, we'll invite the tire along again.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pony? What pony?

That's no pony! That's a great, big, strapping mule!
Look how he dwarfs his human passenger!

Oh, FarmWife. You giraffe lady. Why must you step in and spoil
my illusion??

Monday, May 2, 2011

A new paint job

I think my trailer is about due for a new paint job. I've got it all planned out (although I sort of want it to be yellow . . . and FarmWife sort of wants it to be white). What do you think? 


Before (HOT, and I don't mean smokin'!)
After: a nice, traditional white with silver or gray stripe. Text optional.

After: an eyecatching yellow. Text optional. 

Dear FarmWife

Dear FarmWife,

I love carrying you down the trail. I love jumping over logs with you. I love walking down the dappled byways and cantering up the meandering lanes of Wickersham with you. I love carrying your children, your visitors, and even your chihuahua for you. I love being your friend.

I hate dragging your tire. I don't want to be a driving mule. I don't want to learn to plow. I think your singletree is the scariest, evilest, most atrociously awful thing ever.

I recommend for you that you go out and get yourself someone(s) like this, who like to pull things. We can be one big happy family, and I can put these pulling days behind me.


Team for Sale
phillip formel
730 nw 9th ct
homestead, fl. 33030
Day Phone: 305-613-3127
Evening Phone: 305-247-0451
Animal #1Animal #2
Color:light baydark bay
Date of Birth
Training:most machines/vehiclesmost machines/vehicles
Trained for:Driving
Hitches:on righton left
Price (US$):$4500.
Comments:put together at 6 months, amish broke ,6000 road miles,8 wagon trains,walk 4 miles per hour plus,currant health papers,hobble,kids ride ider under harness,many parade's,and school functions,pulled logs & disks,almost voice command,price includes leather harness, stainless steel hames, amish made,will deliver $, hate to see them go, yearlyings to start,coming 7 years,good honest team.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

That was then

Have you ever noticed that the things that made you happy when you were a foal are the things that still make you happy today? For me, it's grass, hay, and ear rubs. Drinking from the trough, then extending my wet tongue to catch 60 or 90 seconds' worth of delectable breezes. Frolicking a little, resting a lot. 

For FarmWife, it's equines and canines. Then, it was poodles on ponies. Now, it's chihuahuas on mules. She's simply ALWAYS gotten a big kick out of sensible geldings and cuddly puppies. 

These fine specimens are shorty the mustang/POA/yak mix, who came to FarmWife (she was eight) as a teenaged pony with a resigned attitude and a serious maggot infestation in his ears. (!!!!!) After being treated, he became a steady first mount, though he was always headshy. He was put down because of complications from Cushings disease in his late twenties, and buried on FarmWife's farm. 

Pether was a toothless toy poodle with a very small brain. (People say poodles are smart. Many are. This one wasn't.) She had some endearing qualities, though FarmWife can't remember exactly what they were. Let us simply say that she was not FarmWife's favorite childhood dog, but that she was one of FarmWife's childhood dogs.  That has to count for something. 

May they both rest in peace.