Monday, October 31, 2011

Letters from Virginia

Here's an old photo of us doing something we don't do much anymore—riding together.
Sweet memories.
FarmWife is going to leave me pretty soon. She's going to Virginia on business, and while she's there she expects to meet other mules, go out driving in a meadowbrook cart, and see some beautiful horse-dotted countryside. I am only a teeny, weeny bit jealous.

She promises to write me every day, and I'll share her correspondence with you.

You can't come kidnap me while she's away, because she's leaving other competent human grownups in charge while she's gone. They'll be agile, attentive, and heavily armed.

You can come kidnap the Volvo if you want, as long as you're willing to slip $750 under the door before you leave.

FarmWife also promises that this "too busy to ride, too busy to blog" business will subside after her trip. September and October have been very crazy for her, but I don't judge her. My heart is capacious and forgiving.

Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pony mule and mini horse need home in PNW!

I just found out that a couple of equine friends have been rendered homeless! A friend of a friend sent them out on a long-term care lease/giveaway in 2010, but when she did a follow-up visit yesterday she found that they hadn't had their hooves trimmed for a year. The new owner reported that he didn't want them anymore, anyway, so she's taking them back into an already over-full barn in Northwest Washington. She doesn't have stalls for them and we're going into the rainy season. If you or someone you trust is looking for a young mule or mini in the Pacific Northwest, let me know and I'll pass on your info! They are free to a good home. References and a home visit will be required. They really need a safe place where they will actually be cared for—short term, long term, or permanent placements will be considered.

1) Dun molly mule, seven years old and about 12.2 hands high. Needs work on having her feet handled. Very green. She had just recovered from severe slipper feet before this failed placement, and I can imagine that her feet need a lot of TLC once again. She was sound and her feet were looking great last time FarmWife saw her (a year ago) so I think she'll spring right back.

2) Chestnut mini mare, young (5, maybe), with a flaxen mane and tail. Green, but cute! Might like to learn to drive with an experienced adult handler.

If you know how to handle equines and you have a trusted farrier who's good with greenies, this might be your chance to gain an awesome mule (plus sidekick) of your very own! Just imagine.

Here's hoping,

Fenway Bartholomule

An old movie

I am  good mule. I do as I'm told. Here is FarmWife trying to prove it to you by recording a little video of me walking, trotting, and cantering without reins. (Of course, when it's just the two of us she tones the spoken commands down a bit. I read her mind and do what she wishes.)

She is trying to make you jealous, but don't let it get to you.  I would walk, trot, canter, and whoa for you, too, if you asked nicely. I'm a gentleman about things like that.

Fenway Bartholomule

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five things FarmWife can't ignore

FarmWife has been ridiculously busy. ("But Fenway," she says, "you won't have a rain blanket for Christmas if I don't earn money.") She's never too busy to feed me, of course, but she is sometimes too busy to come sit in the pasture for a chat or walk me down to the salmon pond for a roll on the sandy bank. I've had to get creative, and I've found at least five surefire ways to get a bit of a visit at feeding time.

1) A poopy water trough. I can't bring myself to do it, but my minions (read: goats) are always willing to toss some raisins in the drink if it helps gain FarmWife's notice. This is usually good for four minutes, give or take, of FarmWife's presence as she scrubs the bucket.

2) A mucky shed. I used to poop outside on Mount Bartholomule, which could be neglected for days at a time in between removals to the compost pile. I recently realized, however, that FarmWife mucks out our habitations Every Single Day if we only spread our poop around sufficiently. I now poop right next to the manger, where she can't bear to leave it, and it's good for ten minutes of her company each morning if I grind it in a bit with my hoofies.

3) A mournful bray. This still gets her, every time. FarmWife is hearing impaired, which means she cannot always hear her children crying or her husband calling her name. Somehow her brain is hardwired to pick up the distinct undulations of her beloved mule's song, however, and it always gets her into her boots and out the door.

4) An injury. I summoned her psychically that one time, you remember, and then there was another time when I had a scrape on my flank and she spent five minutes putting soothing balms upon it instead of leaving on time for some important social engagement. I'm still #1 in her book!

5) A playful romp. When FarmWife's really in a hurry, she tosses my hay and wheels back towards the house. Sometimes I can lure her in for a side-by-side jog around the paddock and some wither-scritches by doing a prancy-dancy approach. If I come trotting up, flagging my tail and cavorting sideways, only to screetch to a halt and whuffle softly to her, it breaks her heart so wonderfully that all of her appointments and obligations and scheduled work projects fall out of it onto the floor and she gets distracted for a good half hour.

I'm not her only obligation, it's true. I'm just her best one.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lucky you

If you give me seven hundred and fifty dollars, I will give you my Volvo hay mother.

Lucky you!


p.s. The subtext here is that FarmWife and FarmHusband went truck shopping today, and FarmWife is finally driving a vehicle which was made in this century. It has plenty of room in the back for hay.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I don't want to hear a single one of you suggesting that I'm the fat one in the family.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Learning to read

D is learning to read. 

I remember the revelation of learning to read myself—to really read, cover to cover, and understand. It happened on the front steps of my house in Piedmont, Calif., where I lived from ages four to eight. It was a book about a bear of some sort—a firefighter bear, perhaps?—and was in a set of three stories bound together. I have a picture stored in memory—the book in my lap, the sunlight, the dappled shade. My elementary school stood right on the other side of Linda Avenue. 

I remember another book I had as a child which had in it the story of three little ponies—a black, a grey, and a chestnut—who go to town and dress up as humans, or perhaps they were humans who dressed as ponies. It was bound in a single volume along with a story about a hippo and I remember I always wanted to read about the creepy ponies in creepy masks and my mom always wanted to read about the happy hippo with the pleasant adventures. 
 . . . five minutes passing . . . 

Another revelation, this one via Google: I've found a description of the book. Apparently someone else has seen the same edition, as this blogger has described the very set I've been trying to remember. I now recall the happy hippo was named Veronica, as referenced in this blog post: The book was Three Little Horses, by Piet Worm, and I might not be the first adult to note that it has a touch of a fetish vibe. The protagonist hides, dressed as a tree, until he can lure the three little innocents away and doll them up like voluptuous women. 

Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe it's a sweet story. Perhaps it should be enjoyed for its simple beauty, by a child, as I once enjoyed it. 

Nude dude

I'm mostly naked these days—FarmWife doesn't want to start blanketing me until it gets colder, and I don't have a rain sheet of my own. (Sniff. Sniff. One precious tear.)

I'm naked, muddy, and soaking wet but FarmWife likes to point out that I can go stand under the shed roof if I want. Honestly, she wants temperatures to get down and stay down for a little while so she can justify making me snug and comfy, clean and glossy, under my toasty warm blanket. We're asking for a rain sheet for Christmas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mystery solved

FarmWife can't figure out why she had a psychic pang of concern for me on the morning when I turned up lame, but why it didn't enter her head until she opened the door to come out to my paddock. "ESP shouldn't be stopped by a window or wall!," she thought. "Sixth senses are beyond material limits!"

Your mule-dar is working fine, FarmWife. You got my anxious thought the moment I sent it to you. You didn't hear from me until you opened the door because it was at that moment, when I heard the click of your turning doorknob, that I cried a silent "help!"

Yours in the eternal bond of friendship,

Fenway Barthomule

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An update

I'm sound at the walk, turned out in Easyboots during the day and stalled (barefoot) at night. FarmWife is getting a terrible amount of pleasure out of scrubbing my soles with pine tar every morning and evening, but at least I'm not in hot water anymore (pun intended). Those saltwater soaks grew tiresome!

Ears to you, and may all your wounds heal as quickly.


Monday, October 17, 2011

You must laugh neither at me nor at FarmWife

Don't laugh at me for loitering with my feet in buckets, and don't laugh at FarmWife for buying the gravel that must have bruised her mule. She wanted was was best for me, and she truly thought I needed the gravel to stay safe. I do need the gravel to stay safe, really—I came to Bent Barrow Farm with rainrot, thrush, and scratches, and I cannot live in mud. FarmWife needs to sweep her gravel, which has compacted nicely but for some large stones that remain on the surface. One of these must have hurt me.

I'm able to stand and walk comfortably, with a small limp, when I'm wearing my EasyBoots. I'm able to graze happily in the grassy—not rocky—pasture. I'm able to sleep comfortably in a deeply bedded stall. I'm able to soak my tender toes in a warm epsom-salt bath twice daily. I'll do these things until I'm all better, and FarmWife will sweep and sweep and sweep.

We'll be alright.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spoiler: I'm not dead

FarmWife came out to feed this morning with a racing pulse and an inexplicable feeling of dread. From the moment she opened the door and stepped outside, she had the terrible feeling that she would find me dead in the field, a lifeless corpse, already growing cold.

She didn't. She found me three-legged lame, favoring my right foreleg. She is now treating me as though I have a stone-bruise or abscess, though she can't find any sensitivity in the hoof. I have a full range of motion with that leg and no obvious sore spots when she pokes around on my shoulder, leg, or hoof. She doesn't have testers but she prodded my hoofie with the butt of her hoofpick pretty soundly and got no response.

I, Fenway Bartholomule, am going to spend the rest of the day standing in buckets of warm salty water alternated with free time in my hoof boots for padding.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Who is that girl in those fabulous boots?

photo courtesy
Why, it's my FarmWife in those fabulous boots! She looks dashing!

FarmWife has lovely K*ty Lake Country boots because I am an important mule, and because no human belonging to such an important mule should slouch about in icky footwear.

FarmWife's new boots were from the kind folks at the Equestrian Clearance Warehouse. They are BEAUTIFUL. FarmWife wasn't entirely sure whether she could order well-fitting footwear online, but she needn't have worried—she asked for a UK size 7 (Euro. size 41) after reading that the boots tend to be a big generously sized through the foot. The retailer's comments, viewable at this link, were right on, and the boots fit just as described. (In other words, perfectly!) FarmWife usually wears a US women's 10 or men's 8, for reference.

Could FarmWife ride in these boots? Yes! They have a wonderful, sturdy sole, a safe heel, and no lug treads (to avoid stirrup-hangups). I will take her out and about down the scenic byways and heads will turn. I have no doubt we'll be noticed admiringly.

Could FarmWife go to town in these boots? Yes! In fact, she has promised to keep them clean for a whole month so that she can wear them at an upcoming professional conference without smelling of livestock. She is going to wear them in the presence of her boss and everything—they're that nice.

Could FarmWife clean the paddock in these boots? Yes, but not yet. They are simply too beautiful to abuse, though surely she'll get there eventually. In the meantime, she's had them on her feet for two days straight, minus the occasional sleep or stable-mucking, and her feet are happy as clams.

These boots are waterproof, breathable, gusseted, and padded with a comfortable insole. They shipped quickly, arriving here in Wickersham, Washington, U.S.A. a mere five days after leaving Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. They are pretty, they are cozy, and they smell nice. 

The only complaint that I have about these boots is this—they don't come in the right size or shape for me, Fenway Bartholomule.

Ears to you and ears to my friends at! My your feet be forever comfortable.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Bon voyage Briony!

Briony Bluebell left for her new home today—she'll be a 4H show and dairy goat for a homeschooling family and a special pet to their little boy. They know goats, have bred goats for years, and have experience with contracted tendons. Bye-bye, Bri-Bri! We'll miss you, but you'll love your new home. 

That's it for this year's kids, then. It's just me, Beeg, and Grandma Missy. Quiet around here today.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Missy can't scratch her own butt without a tool

In case you missed the back story.

My goat is smarter than your honor student

First scientists said that only humans could use tools—that only humans were smart enough—and perhaps that was why some of you thought it would be ok to vivisect animals and destroy our habitats.

Then scientists said that chimpanzees could use tools, too.

Oh, but then some birds started using tools. And dolphins, and then even naked mole rats.

Maybe we all use tools, and your human scientists just aren't paying attention!

Anyway, my goat Missy tends to get itchy. She can't turn around and scratch her butt very well, being of poor coordination since her strokish-thingy last summer, so she gets FarmWife to do it or she rubs herself against the fence. Yesterday, she saw an opportunity! She seized little human's mini-rake in her mouth during stall-cleaning time, and she hoisted it up over her shoulder, and she scratched back and forth, back and forth, back and forth across her itchy hip. It was sudden, intentional, and premeditated.

I use tools, too. I just try not to let FarmWife know—if she ever catches me using the MacBook or making myself a smoothie in her Vita-Mix then I'll be locked out for sure!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My online doppelganger

Apparently I am not the only Californian-turned-South Fork Valley resident with a veggie patch; a menagerie of goats/poultry/equines/dogs/cats/children; an employment history as a copywriter/teacher/Everybody's Store cheesemonger; an interest in heritage livestock, and a clever soap-opera pun blog. The author of seems to be living a parallel life! She has a donkey and a horse, whereas I've got the two rolled into one, and she has ducks and turkeys rather than chickens. She's a Catholic, and I'm a skeptical agnostic. She's got a boy, I've got girls. Otherwise, she's basically me.*

" I never thought I’d be told “you have a cute hairy little ass,” but when you own a donkey, the jokes just keep coming."—Denise Miller,

*Oh, but then there's this—she found all this after leaving her six-figure income for a down-to-earth life.  I found all this after leaving an 800 square foot apartment and a part time job as a nursing assistant. Still, though—the soap opera pun thing is a pretty cool coincidence.
FarmWife spent the weekend with a bunch of big hairy animals. (No, regrettably I don't mean me and my goats.) She enjoyed cuddling some companionable musk oxen, some cheerful elk cows, some inquisitive fallow deer and some bold bison. She observed a pair of sullen zebra, but they wouldn't come to the window of her truck. Even the offer of a feature article on didn't tempt them! 

She saw prairie dogs (fatter than me); bears (furrier than me); peafowl (shinier than me); raccoons (friskier than me); cougars (musclier than me); and more. She didn't see ANYONE sweeter than me, though, and that's a fact. 

Disdainful zebra

Grabby llama

Hungry musk ox

Serene bear

Curious bison

Inquisitive fallow deer

Restful fallow deer

Smiley elk 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Four ways to mount bareback

Here's a lovely demonstration of four ways to mount your steed without the aid of saddle and stirrups. Congratulations, lithe YouTuber! You've impressed this mule.

Now, FarmWife, would you care to issue a sequel? I know you have a fifth method to recommend, a method executed in six steps:

1) find a knoll, curb, or suitable high spot.

2) heave oneself up onto one's tummy while gripping the neck and the fatty far side of your mount's barrel.

3) slither forward and diagonally earward, moving your chest, your belly, and eventually your pelvis onto your mount.

4) Continue moving onto the mule, still on your belly, while shouting "whoa! Whoa!" and feeling blindly about with your left hand for your mount's reins.

5) heave your right leg over your mount's hip, trying not to kick him in the flank with your boot.

6) Scooch carefully forward towards the withers, hunching over like Gollum so as not to alarm your mount with your poorly centered mass. When you've scooched sufficiently, scooch another inch. Now scooch backwards, causing each shining hair to rest in the correct direction.

Congratulations! You've mounted your animal.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Goodbye hot weather

The hottest day of summer was actually in the autumn—at the Burlington harvest festival/pumpkin pitch, actually. We were drenched in sweat, almost too hot to enjoy the spectacle of trebuchet-launched flying fruit. I think it was the last warm day we'll see 'til spring. 

We're burning wood now (though barely—just a log at dinner time, to take the chill off, or perhaps two) and we've got goats and a mule who've grown in furry winter pajamas. I haven't begun to blanket Fenway, though it might be a convenience if I do. It's easier to tack up and ride a mount, after all, who hasn't the opportunity to go rolling naked in the mud. 

I'm going to have an opportunity to visit Virginia on business next month, and I can't wait to see that part of the country.  I've never been south of Philadelphia in the East, and I've always had a fascination with the area. I'll see the heart of horse country and some beautiful timber-framed buildings, I hope. I've been invited to go driving, while there, in a horse-drawn Meadowbrook cart. Driving—something I've been unsuccessfully working to arrange here in Whatcom County for a couple of years now. Funny, but it seems I need to cross the country to try it! 

I haven't the foggiest idea what weather to expect. 

This is FarmWife's middle child, who recently turned seven. Yes, she asked for a bike for her birthday. Yes, she got a bike for her birthday. She has asked for a bike a handful of times in her life, and she has asked for a muleback ride at least three dozen times. This is because muleback rides are better.

Mules whoa when you speak. There is no backwards peddling or hand-brake grabbing involved. There is no muscular effort required at all, really. None except that required to exhale and sit heavily in the saddle.

Mules go when you cluck. A squeeze might encourage me—there is no pumping of the pedals up and down. When there's a hill to surmount, a mule surmounts it himself. The rider simply aids him, lifting her weight off his spine and centering himself over his shoulders as he goes.

When you hug a mule, he hugs you back. He wraps his head and neck around your shoulder, and he squeezes your torso between his neck and jowl. When you hug a bike, you get a pedal or a handle bar in the sternum and some grease, if you're unlucky, on your good white blouse. A finger stuck, if you're even unluckier, between the spokes.

Mules provide a diversion in between rides. They bray for you, they play with you, they bat their big brown eyes and whuffle fondly when you're passing by. Bikes sit, sulking, and ignore you. You call to them—"hello, my two-tired friend!"—and they stand sullen and silent. Call to a mule, and he'll call back. "I love you too!"

I won't begrudge the child her bicycle, but I will tell her this—when you get tired of being ignored, dear girl, you come see me, Fenway Bartholomule. I'll give you a ride you'll truly enjoy.

Ears,   FenBar

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A tour

This is my bedroom. You can see how I have a bit of a goat infestation.
This is what we used to call "the mudroom," or occasionally "the sacrifice paddock." Sounds barbarous!
This winter, it will be known as "dryland." Thank you, Cowden Gravel!
There is more to this paddock, off to the left, which got gravel a different year. 

This is the pasture. You can see the terrible gate, which bars me (only temporarily) from the delectable grasses.
The gate is for rainy days. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Bold and the Brayful: A family affair

Reprinted with permission from the Brayer

The Bold and the Brayful: A family affair
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

I am a family mule. This means I do moderate labor (carrying FarmWife, a gangly woman),
light labor (carrying the children, ages four, six, and eleven) and occasional hard labor
(carrying FarmHusband, who is an athletic but muscular man).

FarmWife would have five mules if she could—three for the children, one for herself, and
another for herself because we're like potato chips (you can't have just one) and because
FarmHusband would probably rather have an ox. Instead of five mules and an ox she has me,
though, and I am wonderful! I am five times as wonderful as your average mule, and so she
has just me and I am enough. We live on one acre, which just manages to hold me and the
goats and the chickens and gardens. I cannot share this paddock more ways.

When FarmWife was small she lived in a 14-foot travel trailer because horses were the
priority in her family. She lived in a travel trailer but she had a five stall barn, and she had her
retired gelding and her new gelding and her homebred colt, an up-and-coming sport horse.
All this for a girl who had only so many hours in each day and on a budget that was none
too large, and all this in addition to the other horses which belonged to her mother. She's not
complaining—it was a wonderful childhood!—but, as the mother of three animal lovers, she
can't offer the same abundance of mounts. Where her own mom managed to provide three
mounts per daughter, FarmWife tries to keep the peace with three daughters per mount. They
take turns. We have a house, which I'm not allowed into but which is an improvement over
FarmWife's childhood. We don't have a barn, but my shed has three sides and a waterproof

On an average summer day, I carry the biggest girl for 30 or 40 minutes. We mostly walk, and
so I am still fresh for child number two. She gets on and rides for 15 or 20 minutes, and then
her first-grader attention span is used up. Her littlest sister mounts, then, and is led about by
FarmWife for five minutes or until she grows bored. By then, an hour or more has passed and
we're usually all ready to get out of the sun. I'm fat, if I hadn't mentioned it, and so FarmWife
actually looks forward to the day when all the kids want to ride me for forty minutes and do
some trotting and cantering. FarmWife thinks it will make me slender, and she waits with
eager anticipation for this future boost in my daily exercise. We shall see.

FarmWife sometimes wishes she had more mules than one, but then she thanks her lucky
stars that her one mule is so good—that he manages to be both a bold, intrepid trail mount for
her and a gentle friend for her children.

As for me, I don't mind the attention. I have four women and they all adore me. How lucky is

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Notice to potential goat buyers

If your response to FarmWife's Craigslist ad regarding a Saanen doeling in Acme, WA consists, in its entirety, of, "Where is it," then you will get spam filtered. Sorry!

Whether you are a Nigerian prince with a large sum of money to wire or a friendly farmer looking to expand your herd, my advice is the same: write again with a gender-specific pronoun. It will work wonders on FarmWife's willingness to engage in conversation.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

The perfect tool for a rewarding job

If you had a wonderful, pliable lip like this you'd be grazing too. I must say, a lip like this is drawn to grass like a moth to the flame. Feeling about among the delicate and succulent fronds is the task for which it was born. There is no lip better for the job—not a single one in this whole wide world. It is perfection.