Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A poem shared by a friend

Only click here if you think you can read a touching, bittersweet poem without crying. As Bif says, it's a "circle of life" sort of thing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I've probably mentioned how lucky I feel to have in-laws I actually like (and love). The girls and I spent last week in Chelan with Mr. Puddle Run and his folks, plus his two sisters, their husbands, and our nephew. I missed the pets, of course, but a good time was had by all. Luckily, a friendly neighborhood cat was more than happy to provide a little pet therapy during our stay. We called him Shadow; other neighbors called him Felix. No one knew where he lived or what he was truly called, but he seemed very happy to serve as a loaner cat for the week (we didn't take him indoors due to our rental's pet policy, and also for fear of becoming inadvertent catnappers). With at least four of our 12 people jonesing for some four-legged companionship, he had plenty of laps to cycle through. Good cat—he managed the job handily.

Would that I could gallop across those hills

Oh, enough with the poetic license. What I actually meant to say was, "would that I could schlump up that hill and eat some food." FarmWife is the one with the visions of rapid parambulation across the rugged wilderness, but we balance her fantasies with my slow-n-steady approach. 

This is a picture of the place where FarmWife vacationed without me. It was taken from the deck of the house where she visited with her in-laws for one full week.

All vacations make FarmWife want to ride (when she vacationed in London, she rode a percheron through Hyde Park; when she vacationed in Amsterdam, she took a dressage lesson at De Hollandsche Manege). This was no exception—she didn't get to ride, but she wanted to. She came home with stories about rugged cliffs and steep, sun-drenched hillsides, and ambitious ideas about all of the overly hot adventures we could have in Eastern Washington. I replied with stories about the importance of the daily roll and the comfort of my shady paddock, and we agreed to stick to our tame Wickersham-based adventures until I can lose this extra 50 pounds and she can afford to get the trailer tuned up. We've the rest of our lives ahead of us.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Five favorite little parts of my routine

My daily routine is somewhat fixed, and except for the occasional ride I don't vary too much in my habits. There are a few highlights to every day, and here are a few of them:

1) the daily bray. This is always issued around 8 am, and usually has to do with the first sight of FarmWife and hay coming over the lawn.

2) the morning roll. This happens while FarmWife is doing the breakfast dishes, which is really handy because then she gets to watch it through the kitchen window.

3) the afternoon ear rub. This is often issued by FarmWife but occasionally issued by the weanling human or a guest.

4) the evening roll. This is always performed while FarmWife or FarmHusband is doing the dinner dishes, though I do say she enjoys seeing it more than he.

5) the goodnight whuffle. This is a sound that is something between a bray and a sigh. It undulates softly. It is delivered during the serving of the nightly hay, and if you heard it you would cry sweet tears of joy.

The eternal struggle to dry Missy off

Missy was bred to make milk. Never mind that she is also a sweetheart with the brain of a criminal mastermind, and that she's one of the world's cutest creatures, and that she defied death and came back from the edge of the grave last year. She has many skills, but her powers of lactation top the list. She just won't quit.

Missy kidded a few years ago (Was it four?) and lactated for 22 months straight. We finally forced her to stop, milking her less and less over the course of a few weeks, because she was a little underweight and we really wanted her to bulk up over the winter. Her body didn't want to quit, and her rock-hard udder needed daily relief for many weeks before it finally admitted defeat and resorbed the rest of its milk. Her next pregnancy resulted in another abundant lactation, but that one was cut short by her terminal (we thought) illness. Because she was down for two weeks, lying on her sides and being manually flipped every two hours, her udder was virtually inaccessible. Luckily, the powerful steroids we used to combat her inflammation also reduced her body's urge to lactate, and she dried off after a mere week of gradually decreasing milking.

Triumph! "Never again shall she produce milk," we thought, and, once her survival was assured, "won't she enjoy her retirement." Not so, it turns out—as soon as her daughter B.G. produced triplets, Missy leapt to her aid and began feeding the spare kid at every opportunity. When we removed B.G. from the company of her weanling-aged children this month, intending to save her milk for human consumption, Missy kept feeding the kids. I assumed it was a trivial amount of milk, more of a treat than true nourishment, since it has been almost two years since Missy kidded herself. I was wrong! Last night, after having been separated from the triplets for 24 hours, Missy gave 5 pounds of milk from her over-full udder. More than half a gallon, which is not a trivial amount for such a little goat.

We want to dry her off, and dry her off we will. Her weight is good, her attitude spunky, and her desire to come on in to the milking stand apparent, but she should save her calories for herself. Her weaker legs (one hind one, which collapses when she bears weight for too long, and one front one, which she uses out front and to the side like a crutch to counteract the lopsidedness of her hindquarters) make her uncomfortable on the milking stand, and we want to see her live a life of ease and comfort. We have to fight some serious milking genetics, but we will prevail. We will stop her from lactating, and we will protect her from exposure to any future kids. She relactates too easily. LaLeche League would be proud.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day two of FarmWife's being at home and I still haven't gotten more than a carrot and some flyspray out of her. "Busy busy!" she screeches, running here, then "so, so busy!", running there. She is like a chicken with it's head off.

Tomorrow, she says, we will ride. Ride and blog and visit.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

My new badge

Here's a beautiful badge from my good friend S—if you like it, please feel free to share it on your own blog sidebar! Let me know if you do—I love adding my own favorite blogs to the "FenBar Reads" list below.


Thank you, guest bloggers and neighbor friends!

I didn't want to say so at the time, but the reason we needed guest bloggers was that FarmWife took her human family away for a WHOLE WEEK to a vacation house for a family reunion. There was a great big ground-floor master suite that would have served perfectly as a mule house if only it had been permitted, and there was a lovely swimming pool that could have served as my trough, as well as a delightful, irrigated lawn for supping. I cannot imagine why they didn't think of such things earlier.

Alas, they did not think of inviting me and so I missed out on seeing Grammy and Grampa New Hampshire, Auntie and Uncle Massachusetts, and Auntie and Uncle Texas plus cousins. I missed out on a lovely boat ride up Lake Chelan, but I did get an invitation to trek there with FarmWife someday in future (she wants to see Stehekin, Wa., which is only accessible by plane, boat, or mule/horseback. I need to become fit in anticipation of this adventure).

FarmWife came back with a sun tan, a lot of leftover groceries, and some beaded friendship bracelets around her ankle. These read "Larval Human #1, Larval Human #2, Larval Human #3" (except not really, as they have names); then "MJ squared forever," because FarmWife was M. Jackson before she became M. Jones and because FarmHusband is an M too; then finally "Fenway Bartholomule—special/forever." Since the "forever" bead had "special" on the back of it, FarmWife was forced to use both words even though "special" carries some possibly negative connotations. FarmWife says that I am special in all the best ways, though, and I believe her. She also says that I am going to live into my fifties, so if not forever then at least close.

We were looked after by CD, Keeper of the Duke of Wickersham (Wickersham's other best chihuahua—he is a good friend to my Clover, Duchess of Wickersham); also MB, Keeper of the Cattle (it is to her farm that FarmWife occasionally goes for cows milk and bovine kisses); also BJ and family who helped me with twice daily scritch-scratches and flymask applications. We are the kind of pet family that is big enough to require not one house sitter but three, and so it went that we had all sorts of friends all week long. It was good.

As for the guest bloggers, I thank them each and all. There were more offerings than I had time to use, and some of them were wonderful and deserving of an audience. I expect you may see some of them in future here at Brays of Our Lives, but for the next few days I reserve you for myself. There is so much we should talk about!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guest Blogger 5: "A story about Candy Mae Mule"

Dear Fenway...I know you are looking for some stories while your transcriptionist is busy. So, here is a story about me, Candy Mae Mule! I was born in Idaho, lived in Montana and am now semi retired in Florida. I lead a fine life in a big green pasture with my other equine and bovine friends. My friend Leslie rides me when it isnt too hot or buggy, which amounts to about 6 months a year. She never asks me to move too fast down the trail or ford raging rivers (there aren't any here in Florida), but we have good times anyhow! I am a Delta Society Pet Partner visiting people in nursing homes, Hospice’s and rehab centers. I am especially good at this job, knowing just who needs my touch. I enjoy making people smile, bringing them some happiness. I am one of only two mules in the country to be a Pet Partner and Leslie is very proud of me. I even have my own Facebook page with many friends. Not as many as you, of course! Ah, it’s a great mule life!! 

Bye for now, Candy Mae Mule

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Blogger 4: "Equine Poetry"

Equine Poetry

By Bob Goddard

Sometimes a moment of great artistic inspiration can be pinpointed. Mine came when I saw the letter “C” printed neatly in magic marker on an empty milk jug. My horse obsessed daughter, Jamie, left “C” unattended on top of an equipment chest in the tack room. When I saw “C”, I felt an undefined, but powerful impulse to do something with it. But what?

In the days to follow, other letters joined “C”. First “A”, then “H” and then “K”. “F”, “B”, “M”, and “E” were added later. I kept a close eye on the accumulation of letters, happy to see that all those hours of Sesame Street were paying off. In less than two weeks, everything became clear: Jamie was collecting letters for a dressage ring. I hadn’t realized we drank that much milk.

I didn’t know much about this new passion of Jamie’s, but I had a vague understanding that at each letter you do something different. “A” was the entrance point: “Enter at A” is dressage equivalent of “Gentlemen, start you engines!” Logically – or at least alphabetically – “B” should be the next point. But no, “X” is always the second point. These people are asking for chaos.

I couldn’t find the “X” in Jamie’s collection. When I asked her about it, she mumbled something about “X” being in the middle. This is what bothers me about dressage; it’s all so fuzzy. “X” is in the middle of what? Texas?

But no matter. The presence of an “A” and an “E” presented me with a huge creative opportunity. With these vowels I could generate complete words. The seed of “C” was bearing fruit: FAKE, BAKE, CAB, FAB, BACK, HACK.

I was told to stop. Jamie didn’t appreciate having to reposition her letters every time she went to practice. Every letter had its own special spot around the ring and I was disrupting the sacred arrangement. This from somebody who goes directly from “A” to “X”.

I was ready to quit anyway. I was concerned with things like creative inspiration and artistic self-expression. BECK and HECK only went so far.

Instead of letters, I needed entire words. I wanted something like those refrigerator magnets, only bigger so my fans could see my work. By a stroke of luck, I found a sign in the barn with all kinds of great words on it. I carefully removed the sign and cut it up into individual words. Here are the words I had to work with (in alphabetical order):


My words kept me busy for a week. I came up with some profound expressions:


Jamie didn’t like this either. She was not impressed with my artistic expression nor did she care much about my creative inspirations. In fact, she was tired of finding these stupid words tacked on her hay bales. And I owed her a sign.

What I needed was a dynamic format. Conceptual art often includes a random element that provides motion and variety to the expression. If I could find some things that moved around in random fashion, I could attach my words to them and thus create endless word combinations. I’d be a shoe-in for a grant from the National Arts Foundation.

I was standing next to the pasture with my words tucked in a manila folder, watching the horses move around in random fashion when it hit me: an empty water bucket square on the back of my head. “Don’t even think about it,” a small, but angry voice came from thirty feet behind me. I didn’t know Jamie had that good of an arm.

But I wasn’t going to let an empty water bucket stop me! I appealed directly to my wife, Jenny. With arms spread and palms up, I outlined my clever idea. What an artistic breakthrough! “Besides,” I pointed out, “it will finally give the horses a practical function.”

Jenny said she was going to find me a practical function. Maybe even two or three practical functions. Then she tossed my words into the garbage. “You owe Jamie a sign,” she said.

This is typical. Creative geniuses always run into resistance from those who do not understand. I’m sure other giants like Warhol and Keourac and McManus got smacked with their share of empty water buckets. But no amount of criticism can stop the impulse to add beauty and expression to the human experience. The next day, I began collecting empty milk jugs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Blogger #3, continued


by Notoriass Manuel
Laramie, Wyoming

A mule amidst Arabians.
Most of the equine competitors in endurance racing are full or part Arabian horses. These trim, fiery steeds have been bred to run for thousands of years. They toss their riders into the sagebrush with glee in the excitement of race day. Having (God willing) passed the half-way point in my life, my motto when it comes to wild riding is now “live to ride another day.” A good mule (note the qualifier) is one key to this endeavor in my mind. And mules can compete here.
According to Rho Bailey, AERC spokesman (who rides a mule himself), “there have been a lot of mules that have done well and have completed LOTS of miles in Endurance.” Two mules have won the Haggin Cup for Best Condition in the prestigious Western States 100 Tevis Cup Ride; Hugo ridden by Eva Taylor in 1974 and Ruby by Joseph Sandy Brown in 1998.
Other mules that have done well and who are still competing are: Junior with 3,780 AERC miles ridden by Max Melich; Mur the Blur with 3,320 AERC miles, ridden by Robert and Melissa Ribley; Walker the Mule with 3,110 miles ridden by Jill Carr; Miss Molly Mule who has 1400 miles being ridden by T. J. Edwards; and MZ Hazel ridden 1,570 miles by Marshall Bates. That’s a lot of mule miles!
Another advantage to riding my mule in the endurance race was sleeping in a bit on race day. No need for expensive glue-on shoes, special feedings, leg wraps, or blankets. The mule was good to go. He got the extra calories he needed by siding up to his horsey pals and stealing the lovingly prepared beet pulp and rice bran from their feed tubs. His barefoot hooves looked the same after three days on the trail as before. And a mule with a blanket on? Oh, please! He would roll it to shreds in an hour. That’s why we call them “horse” blankets.

Finishing (and a good roll) is winning.
On the trail we flew through the sand and trotted gingerly down sandstone slick rock like a trail ride on steroids. Manny jogged and fretted, caught up in the excitement of a race. He stopped dead at one point on a rocky stretch of trial and plucked a carrot off the ground, dropped by someone riding ahead of us. “Such a smart boy,” I thought, and we continued on. Since the ride was on Halloween, my friend, Ronnie had neatly written “NICE ASS” on Manny’s hindquarters (my mainly conceptual Halloween costume) and I received more compliments that day than I’ve heard in a long time.
At the end of each leg of the race my fine sleek mule turned into a rolling fiend. I was given 30 seconds to whip the saddle off before his knees buckled and he dropped to the ground for a right-side/left-side/right-side roll. Red sand clung to his sweaty sides. Note: next time pack a stiff brush.
We finished the 30 mile race just under the cut-off time of 6 hours and 40 minutes. Several vet assistants petted my tired mule and fed him bits of hay to bring his heart rate down just under the wire. For me, finishing was winning; for Manny rolling was the key.

Wyoming dreaming.
Now that the Wyoming winter has set in for real, all riding has to occur in short bursts. Frozen fingers and toes are the limiting factors. Prairie dog holes have filled with snow forming invisible landmines, so for the most part we walk through the howling wind. Sometimes it is really beautiful—one night my fine mule stepped through drifts as the full moon was rising. Snow blew in silver sheets and a chorus of geese honked close overhead. On these cold short days a Wyoming mule rider begins to dream of “next summer,” setting plans that seem implausible as the wind chill drops to double negatives and the sun dips below Jelm Mountain before most people are home from work. Next summer I’ve got my eye on a few more endurance races, though, so I’d better get out and saddle up the mule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Blogger #3: "Endurance Mules!"

Endurance Mule!
Notoriass ManuelLaramie, Wyoming

There’s no denying it. It’s fun to ride a good mule up sandy washes, over slick rock, and between the endless sage and rabbit brush around Moab, Utah. Turns out, it’s more fun to do it fast!
This summer I “traded up,” and my new mule, Manny, is a pleasure to ride. He is a little brown mule with a good mind and a big heart. Forgot your crupper? No problem: this boy will side-pass down the hill. Too cold for gloves? I can stuff my hands in warm pockets and easily ride with cues from my legs and seat. So, of course, now all I want to do is ride. When I was invited to come along to the Moab Canyons Endurance Ride down south of the border in Utah I was packed up and ready to go three days ahead. (What did she say about some little race?)
The trip out of Wyoming (as usual) was less than auspicious. We crept on ice-covered roads towards the Colorado border. It’s the last week in October Wyoming-style. You definitely don’t want to be a ballerina for Halloween; all the smart kids plan bulky, well-insulated costumes. I-70 was closed over Vail Pass, so we snuck in the back way, through Kremmling, over a snow-packed Trough Road. Dropping into the Grand Valley our plan started to seem a bit less crazy. The temperature displayed on the rear-view mirror jumped up and we drove into Spring Canyon in the dark but on dry roads.

No, I Think It’s a Race!
Race day, I crawled out of my tent with the first glow of dawn in the eastern sky. The 50-mile racers were throwing saddles on. As they headed out the whinnying of equine companions left behind filled the camp. Manny the mule was calm as I tacked him up and got some caffeine in my system. Such a good boy, just another trail ride... He walked easily to the starting line as seasoned Arabians skittered around us. We were on the trail. Manny watched as more and more horses trotted passed. He picked up the pace—“I think it’s a race, Mom.” His trot lengthened out. Another horse came from behind. He loped up the next hill.
The day my first horse came as a gift from a neighbor when I was twelve years old and horse-crazy I felt pretty much the same way I do today. All I wanted to do was ride and ride and ride. Seeking out like-minded accomplices I joined the local Pony Club. My mother kindly bought the mandatory Manual of Horsemanship, high black leather boots, and a velvet-covered riding hat (used, but very dapper). She drove me to meetings, and I sat shyly in unfamiliar living rooms, only to discover pony-clubbers didn’t ride in the winter. As a matter of fact, for all the hype and fancy outfits, our chapter didn’t ride much at all. Through many years of riding I’ve noticed a trend here. Lots of people keep horses and mules and maintain tack rooms full of fancy equipment. They talk the talk, but it’s a rare event that they get out and ride. Endurance riders RIDE. It takes many a mile in the saddle to prepare a horse or mule to cover fifty or a hundred miles in a day.
Endurance racing is an ancient pursuit. Equines have been selected for speed and endurance since the first paleo-nutter crawled on a Mongolian wild horse and thought, “I wonder how fast this thing can go?” The modern sport of endurance racing has a few added rules, most of which are designed to keep equine athletes safe and sound. In North America racing is sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Commission (AERC).
The day before the race, Manny and I headed to the “vet check.” To enter the race my mule needed to qualify with a clean bill of health. Each equine’s vet card has check boxes for normal heart and respiration rates, good hydration, gut sounds, and muscle tone, as well as a sound trot out. This thorough check-up includes 14 measures of health, all graded on a scale A+ to D. Completion depends on passing two more examinations, one at the half-way point of the race and a final check as we come in to finish. In order to pass at these stations equine heart rates must drop back to 60 beats per minute within a half-hour and any sign of lameness, dehydration, or colic—even a saddle sore—is grounds for disqualification. Let’s all note that riders’ butts are not checked. You’re on your own, people! (My endurance mentor, Ronnie, tactfully nodded to a little tube of Vaseline the night before the race.)


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guest Blogger #2: "Donkeys, Mules and Horses: a quick overview"

Laura, the kind mistress of, kindly prepared this essay on the different between horses, donkeys, and mules in order to entertain and educate my readers during this guest-fest! Thanks, Laura!  

Ears, Fen

After owning a horse for many years and having had almost no interaction with donkeys or mules I recently went to the Derbyshire Donkey Sanctuary Open Day. I found it really interesting and I learnt a lot about the donkeys they kept there. They were also very cute, especially the foal! But then I started wondering, how different are donkeys, mules and horses from each other? Was a baby donkey even called a foal? So I decided to find out!

Life Expectancy- I had learnt at the donkey sanctuary that donkeys lived until an older age than horses. The lifespan of the horse is said to be 20-30 years, whereas donkeys can live 30- 50 years. In general, mules have a lifespan of somewhere in between donkeys and horses.
Trooper, Laura's 22 year old horse
I currently own a horse that is 22 years old, the oldest horse I have ever known was a 45 year old Shetland. Whilst visiting the donkey sanctuary and seeing a large number of donkeys over the age of 30, it showed me there really is a big difference between the life expectancies of these animals.
Fertility- Donkeys are less fertile than horses. Mules are a hybrid between the two so are often not fertile, although occasionally there are fertile mule mares.

Genetics- The donkey has 62 chromosomes and the horse has 64, the mule therefore has 63. This is why most mules are infertile as they have an odd number of chromosomes which cannot pair up correctly in the offspring.

Behaviour- The donkey is thought to be more intelligent than the horse, the mule is also thought to be intelligent. So this puts to rest the common phrases “dumb ass” or “stubborn as a mule”!

Coat- Another difference I noticed whilst visiting the donkeys was that they had a much softer fluffier coat than horses. Mules will have a combination of different hair. Donkeys are more at risk of wet weather as they have not evolved to cope with this as horses have. However, a donkeys coat is better adapted to colder weather as long as it is not wet. Mules tend to have hair like the horse in the summer and thicker hair like the donkey in the winter.

So, was it a foal?- Yes! It was called a foal, they are called Donkey Foals! The names of the male and females in each animal can be seen on the table below. Another thing that surprised me was that when a stallion and jennet breed the foal is called a hinny, and when a jack and mare breed the foal is called a mule. I had never even heard of a hinny and certainly never met one! A mule is easier to obtain than a hinny. A hinny is said to have the body of a donkey and the extremities of a horse whereas the mule is said to have the opposite.

Male Name
Female Name
Jennet/ Jenny
Horse Mules/ Jack/ John
Mare Mules/ Molly

I found all this research very interesting, coming from a horsewomen’s background I just assumed that donkeys, mules and horses were all very similar but I have now learnt how different they are! I would definitely like to take the time to get to know donkeys and mules a bit better and I am going to do a 2 week placement at the donkey sanctuary! I am sure a lot of you already knew this information but there will be people like me who were unaware, and for those of you who already knew, I hope it was a nice summary!

Love Laura


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Guest Blogger #1: "The Hedgerow of Death"

 I, Fenway Bartholomule, personally endorse this entry from Thanks for sharing your wit and wisdom with us! 

About the author:Wife and proud mother of two human children. One boy, age 12, and one girl, age 9. Both of my children ride with me (aaaaaackkk!) Also doting mom of a wonderful 15 year old Dutch Warmblood mare named Obottie, called Sugar around the barn for her sweet nature.

The Hedgerow of Death.

The outdoor arena at my barn is bordered by a driveway and paddocks on the long sides, the barn and picnic/viewing area on one short side, and a hedgerow separating it from a cornfield on the other short side.  For some reason, this hedgerow is a constant cause of consternation for most of the horses, despite the fact that most of them are ridden past it darn near every day.

I was riding my friend's horse, an 8 year old gelding namedStratego (Strah-teh-go, like the Greek word for general, not Struh-tee-go,  like the game).  Stratego is a behemoth of a horse, somewhere around 18 hands.  Now, you might think that this would make him, like many larger people, fairly confident about his size and ability to deal with any threats.  Not so.  Apparently, toStratego, his size makes him a cougar's gourmet fantasy, and he is not about to forget this fact for a moment.  Doesn't matter thatStratego lives in a comfy stall, has never had to forage for a meal, and has never seen a predator (cranky Corgis not withstanding). Evolution be damned, in Stratego's mind he is one moment away from being some predator's breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So, it's a breezy morning, and I'm riding Stratego in the outdoor arena.  The breeze is rustling the hedgerow, and Stratego is clearly convinced that something is about to leap out at him.  He is determined to avoid the end of the arena, and I am determined that we are not.  I am trying to distract him by asking him to shoulder-in, with the hope that the difficulty of the exercise will cause him to forget about the distraction of the potential horse killer in the bushes.  Ain't working.  I circle him and try again.

Ten minutes later I was sweating like a pig and accomplishing nothing. We'd taken several quick trips down the long side when Stratego decided, unilaterally, that escape was the better option.  By this time I was hell bent and determined that I would get one trip through the evil bush-laden short side with the horse correctly bent to the inside, rather than with his great big schnoz pointed outwards like a rubbernecker passing a fender-bender.

At this point I was cussing like a sailor/trucker/sleep-deprived mother all rolled in to one.  However, I was careful to speak my curses in dulcet tones, as horses respond to calm, soothing words, not hissed threats to turn them into dog meat.  Actually, I was cussing AND huffing and puffing like a steam train, because convincing Baby Huey (think smallish tractor trailer) to do something he most definitely did not want to do was sending me into serious oxygen deprivation.  Note to self: Must increase cardio training.

Finally, Stratego gave in.  Most likely he came to the conclusion that being eaten by a cougar was preferable than dealing any longer with the crazed woman on his back, and we went through the short side with the correct bend AND without rushing.  Mission accomplished.

I wish I could say the adventure ended on that success.  Sadly, it did not.  We got to the other end of the arena and the other short side, where the barn owner had set out extra chairs, tables, and umbrellas in preparation for the barn barbecue.  Stratego took exception to this, and before I knew it, I was continuing northbound while the horse was going westbound.  Sigh.

I belly flopped, and, like a water skier that falls and forgets to let go of the tow rope, stupidly held on to the reins.  I think my reasoning (?!?) was that if I held on, the horse would realize that it would be too difficult to drag a dead weight and reconsider escape.  I also did not want to have to call my friend and tell her that her horse had left the barn and was halfway to Pennsylvania.  Luckily Stratego stopped dragging me after only a few feet.  That, however, was enough to accrue about 5 pounds of sand down my shirt and breeches.

Needless to say, I needed to get back on the horse and re-educate him.  Commenced shoulder-in, circling, and cussing exercise until submission was achieved.  Horse and rider were covered in sweat, and rider was covered in an additional layer of dirt and sand (somewhat like grout).

When I got home, I undressed in the shower.  Result was somewhat like being small child after day at beach - 5 pound pile of sand at bottom of shower and grit in unmentionable places.

Remind me why this riding thing is fun??

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some of you saw this coming

My children are growing older, which means they're civilized to the point of being able to go out on a social errand more than once a month and they have motives, wishes, and dreams of their own. They have friends. Hobbies. Obligations. Interests.

I always looked forward to the new freedom of being the parent of adolescent children, but now I miss infancy—a pliable little life form with such easily understandable needs. Keep her dry, keep her fed, keep her warm, keep her close.

Sibling rivalry is making me want to SCREAM! Oh, and sometimes (but not often) I do. Why these children cannot treat each other with diplomacy and respect is beyond me! All three of them have enviable vocabularies, sophisticated intellects, and empathetic, compassionate outlooks. When there's conflict (I was sitting there! No, I was!) all these things fly out the window. Tears erupt. Wails ring out.

My comfort? The neighbors are mostly people with grown children. When our daughters break down into choking sobs over a "who gets to bounce on the trampoline first" discussion, the neighbors understand. When R screams like she's being murdered, the neighbors realize she's actually just trying not to be ignored. And when, once in a while, I shout "I     CAN    NOT    STAND   THIS    FIGHTING!!" then they understand I do still love my children. I do, but how they wear me out!


Spa day

First, I show up for my 10 am spa treatment expecting a eucalyptus steam room, seasalt exfoliation, a Swedish massage, and a cucumber facial. I get a quick currying and a once-over with the dandy brush. Then I ask my pedicurist for metallic avocado airbrushed palm trees and scarlet rhinestone appliques. You know what I get? I get this.

What kind of dive spa are you running here, FarmWife??

At least it's free, eh? It just goes to show ya, you get what you pay for.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Goodbye, SuperShine

My summer SuperShine is gradually fading to the fuzzy, chocolatey deliciousness of the long-coat season. You can't tell yet, but I can . . . my perfect, gleaming little hairs are falling out a thousand at a time and my coat has a pricklyness the presages the colder weather.

FarmWife took this picture to commemorate the extreme sheen of August 2011. Give me a month or two, and I will show you the woolly pajamas of winter. They're nice too.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The place where FarmWife took me to die

This is an article about the place where FarmWife took me to die . . . and where I didn't die, after all, but only nearly did. FarmWife says it's an article about how she defused a difficult situation and turned it into a calming lesson, but I say 'pphhhhlllbbtttt!' to that sort of psychobabble.

FarmWife took me for a ride yesterday—our first ride in ten days—and I was all edgy vigilance from the get go. I was certain something was going to kill me from the moment we started off, and I was hyper-attuned to my surroundings for the entire ride. Jittery. Not just "fixating on my own shadow" jittery, which I often am, but "clattering around like a hyperactive clog dancer" jittery, which I rarely am. I am too lazy, usually. I was so jittery that I nearly exploded from terror a couple of times—when I saw a leaf fall from a tree, and when there was suddenly a boulder where I didn't remember there having been a boulder, and when the grass touched my knee while I walked.

I was sure the road was going to kill me, and then we got to the corner where I saw a motorcycle (I was sure it would kill me) and some gravel (I was sure it would kill me) and a gate (I was sure it would kill me, or if not then at least maim me and leave me bleeding in the lane). We got to the pipeline trail, which is usually one of my favorite places, and I was so jittery that my nervous energy—enough to power New York City for a day and a half—was travelling through FarmWife's seat into her spine and up into her jaw which was clenched tightly enough to give her the beginnings of a headache. Realizing, in a moment of self-awareness, that her own tension was escalating, she dismounted. She untied my mecate and made it into a lungeline of sorts, and she grabbed a supple limb off a nearby tree. She lunged me right there in the waving fronds of grass at trailside for a full eon, I think. (I lose track of time when I'm exercising—she says ten minutes, maybe fifteen.) She lunged me, and had me walk and trot and whoa and reverse and walk and whoa and reverse and she KEPT MAKING ME WORK EVEN WHEN THERE WAS A TERRIBLE TERRIBLE DEER ON THE KNOLL!! I saw it while I was working and I nearly died of it right there but FarmWife said, "don't freak out, just trot!" and so I trotted and survived, but barely. We did that until I was out of breath and slightly less worried about my surroundings, and then she remounted and rode home. Our nerves were not so jangly on the downhill journey.

I will forever remember that place as the place of being lunged until I was out of breath, but FarmWife says that's better than remembering it as the place where I killed both my rider and myself. FarmWife is glad that I got some exercise, and that I now know that being an idiot means fifteen minutes of trotting in circles, and that she wasn't thrown from the saddle and broken. I, for one, am glad we didn't die (though I do believe we nearly did).


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A wild and crazy weekend

My chihuahua's patella has been luxating. My FarmWife has been square dancing. My baby goats have been officially listed for sale. My human children have been practicing to become circus acrobats. 

This is how our weekend has been. We didn't go riding, but there've been no shortage of things to think about and do. Tomorrow, we hit the hills for a genuine, old fashioned trail ride. FarmWife will tell me how to do-si-do and promenade, and I will tell her how to separate the tastiest grasses from the least tasty ones using only one's pliable lips. It will be fun.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Hay, you!

Is this a painting by Jan Brueghel I? Pieter Bruegel?
Anyone know? I can't quite ID it.
All I know is the file name begins with "brue".
FarmWife had an extravaganza of hay-hauling last week. She hitched up the trailer and drove to the nearby field again and again and again, and now there is hay bursting out of every orifice of our feedroom, woodshed, and mule trailer. These are the scrumptious $1.50 bales that we had 60 of last year (as many as could fit, we thought) at a cost of 90 dollars*. This year, FarmWife thought the savings were too fine to pass up and so she committed to 115 bales without being quite sure where the extra 55 would go.

Never fear, Fenway is here! I promised FarmWife I would eat them as quickly as mulishly possible, hopefully allowing her to empty her trailer and woodshed (less water tight than the feedroom) before the next rainy period sets in.

I did, in fact, have an even better plan which FarmWife inexplicably vetoed. It was this: FarmWife hitches the trailer. She puts me, Fenway Bartholomule, inside. She unloads me, Fenway Bartholomule, into the grassy hay field alongside the 115 bales which she has purchased. She loads 30 of them into the trailer (for that's about all that will fit) and takes them home to the goats, leaving me, Fenway Bartholomule, to dine upon the remaining 85. I pass a pleasant few weeks in succulent repast, and when at last we meet again she finds her beautiful boy all the more shiny, all the more voluptuous, and all the more nourished.

"Uh, uh," she says. "You get a flake in the morning and a flake at night." On this plan, the hay should last half a year. The good news? This makes me, Fenway Bartholomule, one of the world's most affordable equines.


* By the way, FarmWife loves her local hay farmer. Did you know that for this price—$1.50 per bale—he not only supplies her with good, clean grass hay but he also helps her to load it? He is one of the world's most mulish men.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Craigslist Mules

Trolling Craigslist in my region reveals that there are more mules than ever listed right now. It's a good time to be shopping (but also a good time to be a mule with a solid, forever home).

The tall, dark and handsome award goes to Smokey:

The shiny and beautiful award goes to Meeska:

The too cute to be that cheap award goes to this unnamed molly:

Who's your favorite Craigslist mule? Any good ones in your town today?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I need you!

Photo by Brian Brown—
My transcriptionist is going to take a week off in order to attend to her social and professional obligations, and I'll be stuck without a typist for a full seven days. I need YOUR help!

Send me your content—amazing photos, touching stories, fascinating blog posts, cute anecdotes, mulish lectures, or gripping news bits—and if I find it earfully interesting, I'll post it (with credit to you, of course, and a link to your blog or website). Do you have a product, a philosophy, or a cause to advertise? A song, video, poem, website, or article to share? Little, big, long, short, true or fantastical—I don't care, as long as it's original (or the original author or photographer has granted permission) and of interest to mules and their humans.

Bring it on, all week long, and many brayful thanks to you! I'll accept submissions through the third week in August and I'll share my favorites with you towards the end of the month.


Submissions may be mailed to fenway at braysofourlives dot com.

It's all about the camera angle

There's no need for me to go about looking like a little twerp when a slight change in camera angle can make me look like a leggy athlete!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wasted grasses

Grass is wasted on this human.
A terrible injustice has been done to the grazing animals of Bent Barrow Farm.

This weekend, the humans left us all in the care of the next door neighbors and they went away. We were not invited. They were gone overnight.

When they came back, they brought photographic evidence of a great betrayal! They went, it seems, to a delicious and verdant meadow full of delectable edibles. They did not invite me, Fenway Bartholomule.

FarmWife tells me that it was a long, hot drive to Tonasket and that I would not have liked being hauled over the mountain passes for one short overnight visit to our dearly departed* friends The Chicken People. She also says that the grass is greener on my side of the mountains, but I say my grass is not nearly so tall or so interesting as THAT grass. I tell her I would have loved the trip. Every mile. Every bite.

She tells me that perhaps we can go next summer, and perhaps I can come, and that perhaps I can eat the grasses in exchange for carrying her down the scenic, pine-dotted byways of the Okanogan Highlands. I have agreed to these terms, and so we have called it pax.


*departed from Wickersham, not from this earthly existence.

Tonasket, Washington

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hay season

August the 8th already! I spent the day working—a good thing, I suppose, since I spent the weekend spending. We drove to the Okanogan Highlands on Saturday, and I loved the meadows and scattered pines. I would have stayed a month or a year if only I hadn't had to get back to the pets and the house and work and school. My friends the chicken people, who will be sorely missed in Wickersham, promise to report back from their new home with winter weather updates (and I, to be honest, am half hoping for a dismal picture in January and February—something to stay my land lust. If they write with good news, I'll be forced to start browsing the real estate listings.)

I bought a hundred and ten bales of grass hay from a local farmer this weekend, too. It's wonderful stuff, this hay, and it comes at a wonderful price. I love getting a call, hitching up the trailer, and driving out to the hay field. Pulling forward twenty feet at a time, rolling bales up onto my knee and then onto my chest and then finally up above my head, rocking and shoving and showering myself with chaff until it's firmly seated in it's appropriate slot. On my second and third runs, I had help from the farmer and his wife, who drove the truck for us.  The work took two evenings, as I got a late start. My porch is stuffed. It's a very, very, very good thing, this phenomenon of having been here long enough that I'm on the short list of people who get calls when the hay's been baled. It takes time to nurture this friend-of-a-friend sort of business.

I have itching forearms, stinging hands, and a shirt full of hay stems. I'll leave you with that, and go shower and sleep. Tomorrow, pictures from Tonasket.

Your friend,

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top Five Reasons that Bovines are Suspect

Assoicated Press
You've already heard me go on about their filthy long tongues and terrible wet stools, but I have recently been forced to endure the company of FarmWife's favorite cow and I can assure that those are not the only reasons to abhor bovines. I offer, below, my top five reasons that bovines are suspect.

1) Eyeballs. Their eyeballs are big, they're brown, and they're long-lashed and liquid. I'm supposed to be the "big brown eyes" guy around here. ME! Fenway Bartholomule! I won't have some stinky old cow batting her big peepers at my FarmWife. It's not right.

2) Mouths. These are very wet, and are attached to noses which are also very wet. When a cow tries to bite the flies that plague her, a trail of saliva about as long and stringy as my tail whips through the air and ensnares every person or animal within flinging reach. When she touches you with her nose, it is like being touched by a giant dead oyster.

3) Gaits. They are abnormal. When a cow walks it looks constantly as though she's going down a very steep hill, slowly, with a stomach full of water. When she canters, it looks as though each of her four limbs is going to come loose and canter at me from different sides, cornering me and diving in for the kill.

4) Appetites. Cows have the biggest bellies of any person I've ever seen and still the humans throw alfalfa at them like crazy! This is NO FAIR. My belly isn't even that big and I am on a strict diet! I think it's because the cow's hips are visible, but this is a terrible reason to feed them. Skinny or not, their hips are about as big as the main course yard on a pirate ship. The humans should stop feeding cows, because the cows get the hay and grasses slobbery. It's gross.

5) Turkeys. Cows hang out with turkeys, and turkeys look even more like velociraptors than chickens do, and turkeys cannot be trusted because of the evil noises they make. I know this from experience, and I can tell you with the utmost certainty that when you hear a turkey there is bound to be a cow nearby, and that you will die.

FarmWife, on the other hand, says cows are "soooo sweeeeeeeet!" and "precious darlings!" She is wrong. She will know she was wrong when she dies of turkey-attack or cow-slobber drowning.


Friday, August 5, 2011


There's a burning orb of yellow-whiteness in the sky. It hurts my eyes when I look at it. The world is full of blues and yellows where there should be grays and browns, and when I exercise I get rivulets of fluid running off me. I was recently sponged with a damp cloth and then scraped with a wand. FarmWife called it a sweat scraper.

What is this sweat stuff? What is this golden emanation from the sky? Help me understand. I am just a simple mule from the rainy NorthWest.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The terrible unexpected side effect

Here is the terrible unexpected side effect of owning three little girls and a foolish FarmWife:

I just can't decide if I look more like a chess piece, a stegasaurus, or some crown molding. As for FarmWife, she thinks I look Beeeee-Yoooo-tiful. Unfortunately, that means I might be rocking this look for some weeks to come (or until she gets a fjord to practice on). 

I will endure. At least I don't look like this guy:

Ears, Fenway

Other things that look like me, Fenway Bartholomule:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Bold and the Brayful: Passenger Safety Instructions

The Bold and the Brayful
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

Reprinted with permission from the Brayer

Carry-on luggage must be securely stowed 

When FarmWife talked to a former owner of mine from a few homes ago, she was told that I could carry 350 pounds (I probably weigh 800). The operative word here is could—not should. FarmWife is a rider who listens to her mount, and here's what I told her: I'll carry her and I'll carry her dog, but I'm done carrying half my own weight down the trail. New owner, new weight limits, new rules. Here are a few of my new, improved guidelines for safe muleback riding:

Passengers are allowed one checked bag (attached to the saddle, and generally containing a hoof pick, wire cutters, and a few first aid items) and one piece of carry-on luggage (in FarmWife's case, a dog-pouch worn about the torso). Pets must remain securely stowed until Captain Fenway turns off the "watch for traffic" sign. (Clover Chihuahua, this means no roaming until we're out of the public roadway). 

Before takeoff, Captain Fenway requires that passengers run down the following checklist: 

Hooves picked
Coat curried and brushed
Hoofboots secured
Saddle pad smoothed
Ears massaged
Saddle placed in a secure and upright position

In the event of turbulence, please keep your center of gravity low and stable over the center of the mule. Captain Fenway is not responsible for poorly balanced passengers. 

In the event of a sudden loss of altitude, please wear A) a helmet and B) boots with heels. A) because I don't have opposable thumbs with which to scrape your gray matter off the floor, and B) because I'm frightened of dragging things. (This has stood in the way of my conversion to a driving mule, actually—I certainly don't want to get stuck dragging you!)

In the event of a water landing, Captain Fenway's tail can be used as a towing device. To use it, free your feet from the stirrups and float backwards towards the rear of the mule. 

On this mount, there are four exit doors—one on each side of the saddle, one over the ears, and one over the crupper. Please take a moment to locate the exit nearest your left leg and use this exit whenever possible. 

This mount is equipped with radar for the detection of scary things. Please defer to Captain Fenway's judgement when passing lines on the pavement, looming garbage cans, and other treacherous items. 

At the end of your voyage, Captain Fenway will be searching passengers' pockets for carrots and other delectable items. Please be prepared to make a donation at this time.  

Ears to you, and thanks for riding with Captain Fenway! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My daily dose

Now that I am a celebrity mule, it's very important that my health be maintained with precise . . . um, precision. This was important when I was merely a pasture mule, too, but that's beside the point. The point is that I now get fancy schmansy powdered herbs from my friends at Silver Lining Herbs and boy, are they delicious!

FarmWife is a firm believer in holistic approaches to wellness, so when the Silver Lining team asked her if I could use some botanical support (and when she looked at the testimonials and product descriptions on their website) she was quick to accept. Still, though, her knowledge of herbology is limited. She picked #27, Liver Support, for me, because I have very sensitive skin and severe fly reactions. She has to put fly spray on my tender ears and nether regions or I break out in bleeding hives, and she and the Silver Lining team agreed that a bit of detox for my barraged organs would be helpful.

When I first received my package of herbs, it came with these instructions: mix one tablespoon with a cup of oats and a little water. Administer daily.

FarmWife objected. "You're obese!" I was limited to one tablespoon with a quarter cup of oats and a little water. A quarter cup—for you metric people, this is like 20 grams or so. Not much for a strapping lad like me.

The miracle? It's still yummy. I don't know yet if these herbs will make me into an iron-strong, flyproof beast of immense resilience, but they are delicious! Now, to talk her into ordering me a bag of the herbs for fatties (#26, Thyroid Support). I wonder if they're just as tasty.


How I carry the children

I can carry them while framed artistically between tree trunks

I can carry them while rippling sinuously in the sun

I can carry them with one ear ahead and one ear behind

I can carry them with nose-wrinkling resignation

I can carry them briskly, when forced

Monday, August 1, 2011

An easier thing to do

I haven't surmounted enough precipitous slopes this summer—the thing is, FarmWife says I'm too fat for such a challenge. I confess. It's a little bit true, and all the dieting in the world doesn't seem to fix me. What I need, though I hate to admit it, is exercise, and so she's assigned me a little additional weekly work. FarmWife rides me twice a week, and that's terribly fun for us both, but now her oldest daughter rides me the other five days. I get a wonderfully manageable bit of exercise this way—thirty or forty minutes of walking, a little trotting, and a light sweat on a warm day. It's not hard, it doesn't hurt, and the oldest human girl loves the opportunity to work on her steering/posting/stopping/starting and all the little points of correct equitation. FarmWife gets to be a responsible mother, feet on the ground, available to all three of her little ones, and yet I still get ridden. It works for everyone, and so far it's working for me.

I am a WONDERFUL family mule. I'll show you pictures tomorrow, and they will prove it.