Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saving you trouble one post at a time

I'm reading your Facebook comments, kind fans. I really am. I don't log in often (a bit of self-discipline now that the weather's nice, and FarmWife and I do outside things together rather than online things together for several hours out of every day) but I get your comments by email and I post my blog entries automatically.

Here's the thing—many of you have noted html markup in my posts on Facebook. I can't help it! It's some terrible issue between Facebook and Feedburner and I can't fix it—I'm sorry!

Know this, though—when you see gibberish on, it means there's something new (and clean, and legible, and probably fascinatingly witty and wise) at Brays Of Our Lives. Come on over and read it like it was meant to be read.

Keep on rockin' the muleness,

My poor, long-suffering husband

My poor, long-suffering husband is doomed, so long as we live at Bent Barrow Farm, to have raspberries on every birthday cake.

A midsummer birthday has its perks—outside gatherings, sunny picnics, and fruity desserts among them. We've been picking a gallon a day from our overgrown, under-weeded patch and we've hardly scratched the surface. The consequence? Raspberry shortcake (2009), raspberry cheesecake (2010), and raspberry upside-down cake (2011) desserts for my lovely Leo.

Luckily for him, the raspberries (and his birthday) happen to flood in at just about the time of year when our neighbors' Jersey cow is in the peak of production. They do go well with fresh whipped cream.


Thoroughbred mares

Young FarmWife on Sophie
FarmWife loves little brown mules. This much is true, and there's no denying it. Still, I'm willing to acknowledge that she has, in past, had her flirtations with cob geldings and draft stallions, with horses and ponies, and with two very particular thoroughbred mares.

The first best thoroughbred of FarmWife's life was Sophie, her mom's mare. She was a lovely blood bay with a shining coat and a fast metabolism. She ate like a . . . well, a horse, but she was worth her weight in Omolene. She was a typical TB—emotional, sophisticated, refined, and passionate. She had a series of compelling love affairs with the important geldings in her life, and she was universally adored. She died when FarmWife was 11, and she's remembered fondly even today.

The next best thoroughbred (in terms of chronology, not importance) in FarmWife's life was Isis—a muscular 17.1 hand mare with what one could truly call "a warmblood build." She was wonderful. FarmWife admired her terribly, and even now Isis is the definitive Best Mare Ever in FarmWife's books. Isis had a thing for tobiano geldings, and she loved one and then another and then another after that. When her Husband Gelding died, tragically, in 2002, Isis latched onto the other resident tobiano at the boarding barn. When she was moved to another barn, she pined and lost weight until FarmWife's mother, her owner, got her her own tobiano pony. They lived happily ever after, despite the fact that he was a full two and a half feet shorter. (He was Sailor, incidentally—the villain pony in yesterday's post.)

FarmWife loves me—it's certainly true. Someday, though—someday, she hopes, she'll have a thoroughbred mare again. When such a time comes, I'll welcome my leggy new girlfriend with earful exuberance.


Friday, July 29, 2011

First sight

It was almost, but not quite, love at first sight for me and FarmWife. On her end, it was like at first sight, at least. She saw my pretty black tail hanging out the back of her neighbor's rusty old trailer the day he bought me, and she was hooked. For me, I was always willing to approach the fence for a bit if chit-chat but I didn't commit my heart until she became my waitress—that is, the bringer of the hay.

Here is the first photo FarmWife ever took of me, the day she brought a borrowed pony home to Bent Barrow. I was still the neighbor's mule, but I was jealous nonetheless. That was MY chit-chat fence.
Here, ignoring me as only a pony can, is the offender (whose name, by the way, is Sailor):

I got over it. Oh—and I got FarmWife (so there). Sailor went back to his owner on Whidbey Island and I got the whole stinkin' Bent Barrow family. Neener, neener.


Minister of Disengagement from Threatening Articles

I suggest that Bif meet Sheaffer, if he already hasn't. Bif, if you don't remember, is a pleasantly plump mustang from Ohio who blogs at and Sheaffer is a sophisticated donkey gourmand who blogs at They are both absolutely faboo.

Bif's mother recently wrote of his coat incident, described thusly: "Bif grasps the coat in his teeth and starts to back up. I give the infamous ANN-ANNT sound to indicate, NO! Bif, now alarmed that he is being followed by the coat and in trouble with Mother, attempts to flee the area, swinging away into Belle. Coat still attached. Belle squeals, turns, and flees the run-in. Bif scoots to the far corner, frantic that the coat continues to follow him. He starts cutting back and forth, spinning, attempting to evade the assailant that constantly dances in front of him and occasionally slaps his legs and chest . . . I'm ashamed now to admit I stood, cartoonish, hand extended and laughing Ha-HA. Torn by my desire to go and offer assistance, knowing I would more likely be trampled in the endeavor; by my shame at laughing at my poor, bewildered beast; and by outright humor at the fact that my horse is too stupid to just open his mouth and let the coat go."

Sheaffer recently wrote about his paddock mate finding himself in a similar pickle: "Chester is progressing with his lessons but continues to exhibit a streak of youthful exuberance that is sometimes alarming. This morning he grabbed the hose out of our water trough as it was filling and nearly drowned himself before realizing he needed to drop the thing for the drowning to cease. He ran off to the corner, snorting, dripping and looking puzzled and hurt. Then he approached the trough from another direction and tried to drink with his lips extended as far as possible. Herself says he may need something called a straw with a bend in it. Pshaw. What nonsense. Let the boy sink or swim, I say."

I think Sheaffer should be appointed Minister of Disengagement from Threatening Articles and charged with reforming equines who are ignorant of this important process. Does anyone second that motion? 



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fenway Bartholomule, stadium jumper

Photo © 2009 Jennifer Wood/PMG.
I, Fenway Bartholomule of Wickersham, Washington, am officially a jumping mule. I'm not talking clearing a brush heap or hopping a log out on the trail—no, I have jumped a real course. In an arena. 

Except . . . um, it wasn't really an arena. It was my pasture.

And . . . um, it wasn't really a real course. More of a collection of salvaged items. 

And . . . well, the tallest obstacle was a picnic bench (fourteen inches high and ten inches deep . . . I think that qualifies as an oxer?) and the most complex gymnastic element was a series of two crossrails set up with 2x4's on saw horses. 

Still, I managed! I jumped beautifully. Not only that, but I did so while handicapped by the uneven footing, the unmown grass, and FarmWife in her dressage saddle aboard. 

I managed, and I impressed FarmWife with my pep and my vigor. I had one run-out (is it my fault our picnic bench is a mere four feet from end to end?) and one refusal (bi-fold closet doors are meant to stand in front of closets, people—not out in the field, lying A-frame style on the lawn like the bunker of some sinister miniature army) but I did a lovely job for the most part. It was fun. 

Now, FarmWife—get thee an all purpose saddle and some real standards, jump cups, and poles. We'll do it again some day.


Saddle fitting nightmare

I wonder if they had to pay a saddle fitter to tell them the Schleese didn't fit.


For Sale:

18 inch Schleese Jes Elite dressage saddle with Flair Air panels.  This saddle is in exceptionally good, like-new condition with the exception of needing repairs to the front left air bag.  Our Schleese saddle fitter (at the May 28, 2011 fitting) quoted the repair cost at $75-$150.

The tree is currently set to "wide" and can be fully adjusted by a saddle fitter.  See the Schleese website for more details.

Asking $1200 OBO, a significantly reduced price compared to the current market value of $2000 for the same saddle in pristine, like-new condition.

NOTE:  The "saddle rack" is not for sale.  Heehee!

Please contact us for more details, serial numbers, questions, or pictures of the saddle.  This is very nice, quality, comfortable and correct saddle for a fraction of the cost, even after the repair is made!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shopping for a girly version of me?

Here's your gal:

She's got my good looks, my amazing shine, and my magnificent auricles. We don't have to talk about the fact that she's five and a half inches taller than me.


This was me

This was me trotting over the dried mud in June. It is now July, and not much has changed except that the mud is no longer dry. It is sort of medium-wet. 
I'm not complaining, only conversing. Rather too wet than too hot. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I know it's a little early in the year to be asking, but I found the perfect Christmas present. Are your elves any good at dismantling structures?


1913 ORIGINAL BARN - $65000 (BLAINE)

Here is an original farm barn built in 1913 for sale. It's in great condition with no dry rot. Asking $65,000.00 standing or will negotiate a price to you for us to dismantle and number all the pieces. Moving and need to sell as soon as possible. 35 feet wide by 55 feet long and 49 feet high. As you can see from the photos we added on to the sides but left the original sides intact. We will remove the add-ons prior to purchase.

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  • Copyright © 2011 craigslist, inc.

You are sweet, but you lack courage

"You are sweet, but you lack courage." I hear it often, or sometimes its more positive variant: "Fen, PLEASE try to be brave."

I went with FarmWife to the Cowboy Campsite the other day. I got in the trailer nicely, I got out of the trailer nicely, and I stood nicely to be groomed and tacked. That should count for something, but what FarmWife seems to remember the most about the day was my spooky behavior.

Here are a few excerpts from our rather one-sided conversation:

"It's horse poop, Fen. It won't kill you to touch it."

"Jiminy crickets! It's just a stump!"

"It's a shadow. Deal."

"Get a grip on yourself! It's only a bush!"

"I. Am. Losing. My. Patience."

The worst thing that happened to me during the day, besides nearly being eaten alive by the killer horse turd, the monstrous stump, the villainous shadow and the sinister bush, was a very resounding thwack upon my shoulder with the bight of FarmWife's reins. "How dare she strike me, her darling Fenway Bartholomule?," I asked. "I'm going to start carrying a dressage whip if you don't get your fat ass over that bridge," she told me. My ass (which is voluptuous, by the way, and not fat) got over the bridge, but not without some haggling.

The second half of our ride went better, with me plodding dutifully forward—lower lip quivering, and tears nearly welling up in my saucer-sized eyes, but forward into sure death. We survived, and at the end of our ride I dutifully negotiated part of an obstacle course—the bridge and the fringy-rope thingy, both of which FarmWife thought I could handle. My brain didn't quite fry, and FarmWife was praiseful of my efforts.

Ears, tremblingly, to you,


I want a girlfriend (in addition to Katie Scarlett)

and I want this one:

It's something about her sweet face.


Monday, July 25, 2011

A bad truck/good truck story

I think you should go over to and read this adventure about the Howard family getting to Shelbyville with four mini donkeys. It's a grand adventure (and everyone makes it home safely in the end). After that, FarmWife says, you should go look at their mini donkeys for sale and try to think of how to convince your husbands to let you get a couple.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coloring pages

There is a tradition in my human family of the children asking the mother for coloring pages, and then the mother (FarmWife) taking her fat black sharpie and outlining some sort of pastoral scene of an animal mother and child—the young one napping sweetly upon her parent's paws, or gamboling joyfully among the delicate blossoms of a verdant meadow. They may be horse coloring pages, kitten coloring pages, raccoon coloring pages, mouse coloring pages, gazelle coloring pages, or bushbaby coloring pages, but they all follow this pattern. Mother wolf watches baby wolf leap at a leaf. Mother doe watches baby fawn race through the orchard. Mother elephant sleeps while baby elephant embraces her with his trunk. Mother lemur clutches baby lemur to her chest. Etcetera, etcetera.

Well, this week FarmHusband paid FarmWife the supreme compliment of parodying her work—he offered HER a coloring page, that she might join in the family fun of drawing within the lines, and it artfully illustrated a mother and child. In this case, mother donkey is royally pissed to find her little boy smoking a cigarette.

"I'd be that mad," FarmWife told her daughters, "if that were you." And so FarmHusband's creation became both an activity and a lesson, and a good time was had by all.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Freak of nature

And I mean that in a good way. Grandma Missy, who tended to violently butt her grandkids away from her udder until just ten or twelve days ago, has taken pity on poor overwrought B.G. (the triplets' mother) and begun to let them suckle. The babies have enjoyed the sudden addition of a third and fourth teat and, as of this week, Missy is actually lactating again for the first time in a couple of years. Go, Missy! Now that's a truly great milker.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Public Service Announcement

When you do a Google search for "mule panty hoe" and somehow (I don't know how) get a link to Brays of Our Lives, I will be able to tell. My stat tracker will show me that you did this search, and it will give me your IP address. I won't seek you out because I find you creepy, frankly, but I will know you did it.

No one is truly anonymous on the internet.

Yours concernedly,


Craigslist trauma of the day

Hey, look! You can have a "not neutured" horse with a hoof infection! He can "bearly" walk! (He can lumber along looking for berries and grubs?) What a deal. Oh, and he can breed with female horses. Yippee, skippee!

Now, pardon me while I remove my tongue from my cheek.

I hope this poor guy gets a good new home and a competent vet. He's actually handsome, and I'd accept him here at Bent Barrow Farm if I was in charge of deciding these things (I'm not). FarmWife wishes she could rescue and geld him.



This is my horse Cookie, I bought him a year ago. Hes only 8 to 9 years old. He has a hoof infection so he can bearly walk on gravel, but fine on dirt and grass. He's gentle with kids, he's not neutured so he can breed with female horses, and he's full Quarter Horse. The only reason I need to get sell him is becuase I have 2 new horses coming and I can't afford to feed too many at once. Call or text (360)-941-9111 I would love to sell him to a great owner.

  • Location: Mount Vernon
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
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There are horsemen and then there are horsemen

Michael on Atlas—photo from
And Michael Etherly is a serious horseman. He's an incredible rider, a committed athlete, and a true artist. He rides with the kind of poise that most of you humans can only dream about.

Oh, fine, I confess—this is mostly FarmWife talking. She told me to say these things, and I think it's just because Michael Etherly was her Pony Club trainer when she was 14 years old. She still hasn't gotten over the thrill of riding with such a classy guy. He had charisma, as she tells it, and he was a good teacher. He was there the day she fell over a cross country fence, hurt herself and her horse, and lost her confidence, and he saw her slide from ambitious young eventer to nervous nellie. (She didn't really get her groove back until she met me, Fenway Bartholomule, and in fact I helped her learn to jump again. That's a story for another day.)

FarmWife loves me—her trail mule—and she loves the gravelly, muddy byways of scenic Wickersham, but there are times when she wishes we could be whisked away to Northern California, don some white breeches*, and learn to ride like Mike. She sometimes wonders where her riding career would be today if she had stayed focused on dressage and eventing back in the 90s. She wonders what would have happened to her life if she'd gone to a college with an equestrian program, or if she'd never sold her homebred Swedish Warmblood colt (who, it turns out, is a gorgeous athlete with a glitchy stifle and a challenging attitude), or if she'd saved every dollar she ever earned and poured them into lessons and clinics and schooling shows.

She'd probably be a better rider, but she probably wouldn't be happier. She'd find something else to pine for—something different, and more laid back. Something like a nice little mule and a quiet trail.


*Her, not me—this butt of mine wouldn't fly in stretchy pants.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I promised you a picture of Missy

Here she is, feeding her granddaughter Briony Bluebell! Yes, Missy is lactating. I wasn't sure, but today I got a steady stream of fresh white milk out of her baggy old udder. B.G. appreciates the help, and Missy has impressed me all the more with her resilience and good nature.

FarmWife's new raincoat

When FarmWife was cold and wet in October, she thought she should get a proper raincoat. When she was cold and wet in November, she thought she really should get a proper raincoat, but then in December she was busy with family and in January it was too icy to ride much and in February I got a new quarter sheet which she could pull around her legs to make up for the insufficiency of the windbreaker on the top half of her body. In March she thought, "why bother—it will dry up soon," and then in April and May she was too distracted by the beautiful greenness to notice that she was soaking wet. In June she knew the sun would be out soon, but now it's late July and it's still raining a deluge. FarmWife took some birthday money that she'd been holding onto and bought herself one of these:

No, no—not the cowboy! The duster, which makes her look like the man from Snowy River but which does, in fact, keep her dry. We rode into a fine mist yesterday and before our ride was half done it had become a steady rain. FarmWife stayed dry from her head to her toes, and her saddle was somewhat protected, too. I kept my eyes peeled for wild brumbies the entire time. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Before I was a writer I was a nursing assistant, and before I was a nursing assistant I was a farm hand, and before I was a farm hand I was a tutor and a nanny and a florist. This was when my oldest daughter was in preschool and I was not yet married.

I worked at a bustling urban flower shop in Boston, anywhere from 25 to 45 hours per week, for about two years. I loved it at times—the people-watching opportunities were tremendous, and I enjoyed gaining familiarity with common and exotic blooms. I hated it at times, especially when working until two in the morning on Valentine's day with toxic South American roses that made my arms break out in a puffy rash.

I worked with C, who designed floral arrangements to pay his way through cosmetology school. C did my hair for my wedding, though he nearly backed out of the deal when he learned I planned to neither pluck my Scottish eyebrows nor wear makeup for the big day. C had, not long before, used me as a test model for his Massachusetts beautician licensing exam. I think the quiet that I maintained while he blistered my ear in his hot iron was at least part of the reason that he willingly came to my house at four in the morning to bedeck me, my two bridesmaids, and my four year-old flower girl in flowers. We looked nice.

C had shar-peis and a boyfriend whom I'd like to say was an airline pilot but who might actually have been a flight attendant. (Memory is funny sometimes.) C was very smart and very kind and, of course, sassy and tidy and always fresh. I enjoyed working with him, and when our big expensive customers came in C was always in charge of whipping up some $300 tower of blossoms for them to deliver to their loved ones. He designed something for Toni Morrison one day, and I still regret not fighting more fervently for the chance to deliver that arrangement myself.

The other sales clerks and I designed the little things—the $15 bouquets and the $35 off-the-shelf arrangements—and kept the cooler stocked with vibrant centerpieces in a range of seasonal colors. I worked with J and C2, a lovey-dovey couple whom I've learned are now acrimoniously separated, and J2, who had come from Florida and who lived and breathed Florida and who desperately missed Florida to the point that we all wondered why she didn't just go the heck back to Florida. I hope, for her sake, that she has by now.

I remember the strangest things—a turbaned gentleman coming in in a frenzy, begging in broken English to use our hose to clean his dirty fruit. "Please, Ma'am—I am washing my pineapple?" A $200 tip for a walking delivery, conducted after hours (and with only the slightest concern that I'd be murdered at my destination). A Pauly Shore sighting, when all of my fellow staff ran screaming down the alley and I was left at the till trying to remember if he'd been in Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo or if that had been someone different. The thrill of being asked to design something huge—something elaborate—something fancy—for a funeral (no price too high!) and letting my imagination and my untrained eye run wild to the tune of $500 and the encouragement of the wealthy bereaved. Telling my coworkers that flowers were fine, but that a true romantic would give his girl a stuffed animal (and, a few weeks later, receiving Mortimer the teddy from my attentive husband-to-be). They must have told.

I did develop an allergy to roses, which manifested itself in rashy welts along my arms and migraines. These hurt so much that I once found myself lying down on the dirty urban pavement outside the subway station near my ghetto home—lying down, pressing my cheek against the sidewalk, and wishing for the strength to go home (I found it).

All in all, though, I loved the work—loved having peers, and workplace camaraderie, and a room full of beautiful things in which to pass each day. I loved it almost as much as I love writing—sitting here, alone, and remembering it all for you.


Imagine my disappointment

Last year, the children had a trampoline. It was black, with a blue pad around the circumference, and it was about the right size for the humans. Three feet across, maybe four, and no bigger around than a mule's belly. They jumped on it, one at a time . . .  sink down two inches, bounce up six inches . . . sink down two inches, bounce up six inches . . . 

Well, come summer they got a package from their human grandpa. They began to unwrap it, and it was full of rubber mesh and metal legs and a big green pad about 15 feet in diameter. It was, I realized, a trampoline! A huge one! A really, really huge one! Huge enough, I was sure, that it could not possibly be intended for the human children. It had to be for me! 

Imagine my excitement. Little old me—Fenway Bartholomule, a small brown mule from a small green village, with a trampoline of my very own! I was tickled. 

Well, there's this sad news—it was not for me. It turns out that there is a "no shoes, no bikes, and no hooves on the trampoline" rule. It is for those human children, those three diminutive little bipeds, and for them alone. They jump, and they jump, and they jump, and while they jump I think about how I am expected to jump on the cold, hard clay that stands in for an arena here at Bent Barrow Farm and how I am expected to jump over terrible heaps of brush and logs when we are out on the trail and how, despite my importance and my sophistication and my big, beautiful brown eyes, I am never invited to spring upon the soft and elastic surface of the giant trampoline. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A friendly patch of sky

This is me scowling in the rain on a
different day, under a less friendly sky.
FarmWife and I found a little opportunity yesterday—a window in the rain, just an hour and a half before she had to leave for an appointment—and we seized it. We sauntered down the road, and then we hustled up the trail and we whipped around our favorite short loop and we hustled down the trail and we sauntered, once again, back home.

We sauntered for our health and we hustled for our schedule. FarmWife's mother taught her that one never lets one's mount hurry on the way out from the barn or on the way back, lest he die of colic or azutoria or road founder or something equally unpleasant.

On our way we saw a bit of blue sky—it was shaped like a whale and was, if I dare equipomorphisize, rather friendly.


Monday, July 18, 2011

A goat update

Missy is in the background in this picture—
I'll work on getting a better, current photo.
Missy—strange, strange Missy—has been the subject of much discussion these past months. You remember her "stroke" in August, don't you? That's what we're calling it, though it was never diagnosed. She woke up one morning with nearly complete paralysis from the waist down, limited sensation in her hind limbs, elevated white blood cell counts, and crashing organs. She was put IV fluids, steroids, selenium, vitamin E, NSAIDs, and a new, grain-free diet in case of rumen acidosis. She was nursed for two weeks, and when it seemed she would almost certainly die we planned to A) have her put down and B) buy back her daughter from a friend, so as to continue her lines in our herd.

Well, I've probably already mentioned that she sprang weakly to her feet not more than a couple of days after we brought her daughter B.G. home, and that she has been up and about ever since.

She's still funny—her right hind limb is nearly useless, so she hobbles with her haunches centered over the left. She favors one foreleg (the diagonal opposite) and has a distinctive, peg-legged pirate gait. She rests more than she stands, but she still rears, leaps, gallops, and grazes every day. She is no longer the herd queen, but she asserts herself socially as much as ever. She's angrier now, and her former distain for human children has advanced to an all-out hatred. She is dangerous to our little girls, and we have to accompany them into the paddock so that they don't get trompled.

Missy sometimes hackles at nothing at all, staring into space and glaring with cold-eyed resentment for five minutes—ten—until her one good hind leg begins to weaken and fall out from under her. She snaps out of her reverie, then, and retires to the shed in good spirits for a bit of cud chewing and a nap.

Anger, dementia, lameness—these sound like grounds for euthanasia, don't they? I would be the first to admit it if she needed a reprieve from life, but she seems quite happy! She obviously suffers some discomfort and/or disfunction of the limbs, but she is no less enthusiastic than she was a year or two ago. She eats her meals with gusto, she's in very good weight, and she interacts with B.G. and the kids all day every day. She has, in fact, begun to feed the kids from her dried up udder. At this point, I don't think she's lactating but rather serving as a pacifier for the third hungry kid while two at a time nurse from their mother. It's amazing, and it makes me wonder if she might start producing milk for this hungry litter of three. That would astound me.

Before we went camping, I was thinking forward to a day when Missy's no longer with us—when the girls can go into the pasture without fear for their safety, and when all our goats can hustle across the field with equal speed. I was almost wishing she were in pain, because I am a firm believer in euthanasia for the suffering. I would put her down if I thought she were not enjoying life.

While I was camping, though, I missed her. I thought about her unique personality, her obstinance, and her friendliness (to grown humans, at least).

If Missy were a mule or a horse, we would have put her down by now. For one thing, her treatment was not cheap and everything costs five times as much for equines. For another, her movement isn't easy. It's somewhat painful to watch her walk, in the way that it's painful to watch an old dog hobble. Like the dog, though, she settles down and rests when she's reached her destination. For an equine, who spends 23 hours out of every 24 on his feet, such a life would be constant discomfort. For Missy, though, life seems full. Her eyes still sparkle, she's still quick to leap to her feet for a back scratch or a flake of hay, and should another goat begin to frolic Missy is always the first to join in that melee. I think she's doing fine.


Boasting retracted

It is raining.

It has been raining all week, and it is expected to continue raining.

There is mud five inches deep in front of my shed—where the gravel was, and where the woodchips were, and where the landscaping fabric was laid down in order to keep things sort of dryish except in the rainiest months.

You might recall me having said, back in February, "neener neener! We have crocuses and you don't!" or words, kinder words, with that same taunting message delivered more gently. I take it back. Any boastful statements about the superiority of my weather over yours I take back, unless you are dealing with tornadoes and floods and terrible droughts. In that case, I'm sorry and I do know I shouldn't complain.

If you are in New Zealand or Australia or South Africa, dear reader, let me clarify one point—this is a summer day, smack dab in the middle of the only two weeks that are usually hot around here. July 5th through July 20th or so . . . that's when we break out our bathing suits here in Wickersham, and that's when we get a little color on our otherwise pallid limbs (except me, Fenway Bartholomule—always short, dark and handsome). We need these weeks. We need them in order to stock up on vitamin D, without which we all might die or at least become irritable and morose. We need them in order to go riding, because there is only so much adventuring a mule and his woman like to do in this eternal downpour.

Sigh. OK, I'm done. I'll stop my whining, and count my blessings, and give thanks for my safety and my health and my green, green grass (so green! You wouldn't believe it!). And then, dear readers, I will stand here, in my shed with my goats, and listen to the rat-a-tat of water on metal.



P.S. Don't try and tell me this will pass, and that we'll get a proper summer after all. I don't believe it, and in fact I'm so convinced of the coming of Autumn that I've begun to earnestly shed my summer coat. How's that for sad?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it.” 

Words of wisdom from the crazy horse girl of I would add, "if you have a mule, feed it." 

My humans are all different

I have five humans, plus spares (various friends and neighbors whom I call into play when FarmWife vacations). They have varying opinions of me, ranging from true love to disdainful tolerance.

One finds me heartwrenchingly wonderful. She is my transcriptionist and she adores me, which is why she lets me get away with having this self-congratulatory blog. I deserve her adoration.

One finds me very nice, and loves to groom, feed, and ride me rain or shine. She has to share me with her mother. She draws pictures of me in her spare time.

The next likes me, too, and dabbles in riding when the weather's fair. She is a budding equestrian, and her mother and older sister are rubbing their hands in delight over her growing interest in me, Fenway Bartholomule.

The fourth likes to play beauty parlor with me—she finds me too tall to ride with confidence, but if she can stand beside me and curry my shoulder or help her mother pick my hooves, she's happy. She is usually the first to suggest roaching my mane, banging my tail, or polishing my nostrils when I'm looking unkempt. Without her, I'd be a dusty urchin.

The fifth has ridden me once and really doesn't see the point. He finds me slightly uninteresting, I think, but it's just as well. I stay quite busy toting his womenfolk around.

Who are YOUR people? Do you have a favorite?


My, what big hooves you have!

This little girl was about as big as FarmWife's youngest child.

 The draft world of our region seems to be dominated by a handful of families, families who've had working horses for generations and who have now established beautiful, flashy, and well-outfitted teams of eight plus spares. They turn up at plowing matches, regional fairs, and draft horse shows around our area, and they always bring a dozen mighty horses. 

These people, of course, have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These great-grandchildren are about the same age and size as FarmWife's girls, and so it was that FarmWife came to be asked, "why can't I have a clydesdale and enter him in this show?"

"Well, dear," FarmWife probably found herself saying, "draft horses eat more than Fenway and these children have had draft horses in their families for generations. Their families probably have big farms where they grow their own hay. It's really not in our means to have a draft horse," and so on and so forth. 

FarmWife wants to drive. She really does. She wants a horse or mule that will pull a cart, do some plowing, and skid a log should she ask him to. That's not me, but that's OK. I am a nervous wreck in harness, and most of the fun in working a mule comes from knowing he likes his work and performs it safely and well. She will wait, and sometime later in life she will have another animal that likes that job. In the meantime, she will go to these things and take pictures. Then she will come home, and hug me, Fenway Bartholomule, and say "I still like you better." 


These young handlers from Mt. Baker Clydesdales had
just completed a driving class, in which they both placed. 
One of Shagren's Belgians' entries in the youth cart class.
Belgians make nice mules, you know! 
A nod to the single helmeted rider in this drill team—
ears to you and your safe attire.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zoological gardens

The children made a zoo and I got to be in it! If you look closely, you'll see that the children have chimpanzee, zebra, leopard, jaguar, platypus, bat, sugar glider, tree kangaroo, and mule habitats. Not only am I the biggest and shiniest specimen in their collection, but I am also the luckiest—I am the only one with a large habitat, and one designed to imitate my native soil.

Just keep me away from those big cats, girls.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Selfish, selfish woman

Gif  by Photobucket user Pam_Calif
FarmWife says "no hooves on the keyboard," and unfortunately this means that my internet time is limited to her availability. While she really enjoys transcribing my daily blog posts and keeping up with my fans via comments and email, she finds Facebook distracting and addictive. The upshot is that my page—my own Facebook fanpage with all my 1700+ wonderful fans—has been deactiviated along with her personal account. Selfish, selfish woman!

That's OK, though. I will forgive her, and life will go on. I'm still blogging daily at and anyone who misses me can get in touch via email, too. If you hear of any bereft and grief-stricken Facebook users who don't know about these other ways to reach me, will you please lend a helping hoof and guide them back to me?

Earfully and always yours,

But losing the fan page hurts . . .

If you've looked for me over at and come up empty handed, blame Google+! I'm taking a Facebreak, and this is why: I looked at Google+ yesterday, and I thought, "well, this is sort of silly. Any of these people could reach me by email or phone if they wanted to keep in touch. If I find web content of particular interest to any of these people, I can share it with them without signing up for yet another service that requires (or at least tempts) daily interaction." Oh, and I also thought it looked a lot like Facebook. And acted a lot like Facebook. Spaghetti Monster knows I don't need another distraction like Facebook in my already over-wired life.

I like Facebook a little too much, but I've been quick to defend the hour+ that I spend on the site in an average day. "But it's networking," I say, "and a marketing opportunity!" What, exactly, am I marketing? Not my business, which is better served through email and telephone contact with my clients and peers. My blogs? Yes, I do market my blogs on line, and Fenway Bartholomule's active Facebook fanpage is hard to close the door on. The blogs stand alone, though, and if anyone's been reading my Facebook page with any sort of close attention then they know how to find, and from there a link to at least three other websites which all reveal my email contact information. I have not fallen off the face of the world, at least not to an attentive friend.

As for Fenway's followers—whom I value, and would hate to alienate—if they've been reading for all these many months and somehow missed the link to, then that would be a shame. I do have a new comment system set up on Brays of Our Lives, and I hope that it will allow Fenny to keep in touch with his many loyal, kind, and interesting followers. When it comes to my own friends, I will miss a little of the web content (cute whale videos, interesting political commentary, and funny status updates about the challenges and rewards of parenting and/or living in bear country) that streams into my brain via Facebook. With 50 out of every 60 online minutes, though, I have a sneaking suspicion there's something better I could be doing. Reading the news, weeding the garden, or calling my good friends to keep in touch. The Mayumis, Dayes, Colleens, Anns, and Susans of my online life (some of whom are rediscovered real-world friends, and some of whom I've yet to really meet) know how to reach me. I don't want to fall out of contact. There are more good friends on my Facebook contact list than I have space to list here, but I'm not closing the door on you. I'm just closing the door on my own bad habits—my procrastination, my lazy streak, and my tendency to choose sitting on my ass over living my wonderful life.

Keep in touch!


P.S. In a couple of weeks I'll be shutting down my spam-infested Yahoo account, which I've had since the internet got invented, practically. If you have been reaching me there at afatbrownmare, please shoot me one last email for a more updated contact method. My poetry email address, accessible through, is one means of reaching me. Thanks.

And I thought MY hoof trims were bad!

I have four hooves. Paisley has sixteen (four tiny ones on the end of each leg). I thought MY hooftrims were bad . . . half an hour of three-legged balancing while FarmWife props one hoof after another up on her metal stand for a pedicure. Paisley, my cloud dog, suffers something far worse—his hooves are trimmed with power tools!

Now, FarmWife is quick to defend this practice. "The Dremel is far more comfortable than clippers for him," she says, "and conventional trimmers frighten him." Paisley is a dog with issues (chickens frighten him, goats frighten him . . . even goat puppets frighten him). It is not a surprise that trimmers strike him as scary, especially since he has a bad leg. What is surprising is that they can keep him still for the trimming of 20 hooves via a rotary sanding disc.

My oldest human filly, it turns out, holds the key. The key is peanut butter. The trimming of Paisley's hooves is performed by FarmWife (with the Dremel) and the human filly (with the peanut butter) and together they pull it off without a hitch.

Ears to whatever works, right?

Now, about that peanut butter . . . where's mine? Can I have it with jelly?


Thursday, July 14, 2011

After the rain, a rainbow

It was a lovely rainbow in person, but somehow it didn't come across in this photo. In fact, I had to torture this photo to within an inch of its life just to reveal something sort of arc-like in the sky. You'll just have to believe that it was there, and that it was nice.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Go away!

Today was supposed to be a fantabulous day for a ride. Today was the day when we had hours free—hours in which to explore the verdant hillsides and to meander down the dappled roadways of Wickersham. Today was supposed to be sunny.

Instead, today was wet. This wasn't a weak sort of a drizzle, either. Not a "we should probably go anyway, because you know we'll have fun in the end" sort of a rain. Not an "it won't be so bad once we're out in it" wet. Today was so wet that, in fact, I think I had better stop trying to convey its wetness to you. If I succeeded in making you understand just how wet this wetness was, you might drown there at your keyboard and monitor.

The good news? A) the humans will probably never have to water their vegetable gardens again, B) summer rain makes grasses greener, C) the chickens are feasting on a thousand drowning worms, and D) there are 256 square feet of corrugated metal between me and the deluge. Thank goodness for sheds and warm straw beds.

Ears, soggily, to you.

Fenway Bartholomule

P.S. if you haven't seen me complaining about the weather on Youtube yet, check it out. This is me last winter, and you have to admit I look sad.

What is wrong with our culture??

This woman faces fines and possible jail time for trying to grow vegetables in a neighborhood where yards are required to hold "suitable, live plant material." She argues that the vegetables are live, they are plants, they are material, and—this is where opinion comes in—they are suitable.

She has a blog now, and is getting tremendous support. Rumor has it that the city of Oak Park has shut down their email system in response to a flood of complaints.

I'd rather see citizens fined for watering lawns in arid regions or for laying down concrete where food or native habitat could have grown.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Image: a series of platforms leads up to a
second house on top of the first house.
I have sent my super-secret hoofspy on a super-secret hoofspy mission, and this is the report:

It is the same temperature inside the house as out. Stories of a giant blazing furnace full of wood are false—there was a metal object in the living room, but Briony reports that it was stone cold.

The furniture IS softer than a straw bed. (Drat!)

The floors are terribly slippery and have nothing at all to recommend them.

There are not, in fact, piles of vegetables everywhere one looks. There are more vegetables outside in the gardens, as it turns out.

The humans have blankets like I do (they keep them on their beds), but theirs lack fasteners (buckles, leg straps, surcingles, etcetera). I can't imagine how they keep them on.

There are doorways inside which are too small even for a little mule like me. Briony reports that these lead to closets full of delicious grains and other delectable edibles.

There are no buckets and no watering troughs indoors. One wonders how FarmWife drinks!

There is a second house on top of the first house. A series of little platforms leads up to it.

I expect Briony will get at least one more chance to infiltrate the human's habitation before she is pronounced too large. I will keep you apprised of future developments in this fascinating case!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't tell FarmWife

Don't tell FarmWife how good I look with her 11 year-old daughter aboard. It just might make FarmWife self conscious about being a long gangly woman with a squat little mule. We'll keep it a secret, you and I, and hope she never notices that I am a child-sized mule.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This is terrible news!

Here is some terrible news: the camping trip was WONDERFUL! It turns out that Clover had great weather, beautiful trails, delicious food, fabulous scenery, and not a single mosquito bite during her stay with the humans in North Cascades National Park. I retract my offer to stay home alone, and demand an immediate do-over plus mule.

FarmWife says I wouldn't have been allowed there, anyway, and that I wouldn't have fit in the sleeping bag with her and Clover. She also says they will try to find a livestock campground next time so that I may go too, and that I will be in charge of carrying the sleeping bags and tents.

That's more like it.


Sound the trumpets!

Taking the Jr. Ranger pledge
I have a proclamation to make: I am the mother of National Park Service Junior Rangers.

We have just returned from the first successful camping trip of our lives as parents, one which followed a disappointing series of botched outings with our miserable, tent-wetting, quarrelsome, sulky, mosquito-bitten offspring. They have transformed: the last three days have been passed in the company of charming, respectful, joyful and joy-inspiring adventurers. They enjoyed and admired every baby chipmunk, every old-growth cedar, every blooming wildflower and every soaring osprey. They had a great time, and so did we.

Small dog, big tree
Clover, intrepid outdoorsdog, came along too. I missed the goats and Fenway terribly, and have put in my request to find a livestock campground for next summer, but we survived without them. I can't say I missed the bunnies, the chickens, the cats, or Paisley—as much as I love him, the latter would have had a miserable time in the forest. He is simply too anxious for adventure. 

Please don't tell everyone, but I will tell you—the North Cascades National Park is wonderful. I am proud to say that we vacationed in a remote portion of our very own Whatcom County. This region is spectacular, and I am further convinced that there is no place more beautiful. I'm lucky to live here. It's about 60 miles from my doorstep to Colonial Peak (pictured) and every inch of it is beautiful. 


yours truly at the Diablo Lake Overlook
Mr. Puddle Run

Colonial peak.
Beneath the mountain, on the left side of the photo,
you can see the beach and the forest in which we camped.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest blogger Briony Bluebell

The humins leaft and im in charj of kiping uncel fenwai happe wile thay ar gon. i dont haf to ware splents eny mor cuz im geting vari stronge now. im as big as mi bruthirs. uncel fenwai is buzy steeling ar hay and he sez i can hav hiz blagging job wile he eets.

eers to yu!


Friday, July 8, 2011


I try and tell myself that if it (he? she?) hadn't died in our garden fence, it would have killed itself somewhere else: trapped under a root. Drowning in a puddle. Stuck in an owl's talons. Still, it's hard to absolve myself of guilt when I've installed this device, this 2x4-in. grid of steel, which just happens to be one tiny pinch smaller than a full grown rabbit's pelvis. I blame myself for this death.

When my bunny-loving daughters came upon this specter, I was called upon to remove the body and place it into a sanctified grave. I was too squeamish—when the cold corpse failed to budge at a little tug, I called on Mr. Puddle Run to give it a great wrenching yank. I couldn't bring myself to try harder, being afraid that the whole body would be degloved by my effort. Mr. Puddle Run, coming to my rescue, gave the rabbit a backwards pull (in the direction from whence it had come). His effort was so slight that we were sure the poor thing could have freed itself had it thought of trying the same.

"Rest in peace," I told it, and "may you frolic forever in the green pastures of the Great Unknowable," or some such nonsense. Then, with a giant heave that startled my children and caused my husband to burst out laughing, I chucked it over the fence and over the trees and towards the swamp where it can return to the chain of nutrients . . . dissolving to become fish food, then eagle food, then eagle poop, then grass, then rabbit food, and someday, perhaps, a rabbit again.