Sunday, April 29, 2012


FarmWife will be THIS happy to see us all again! 
If you love something, set it free. That's what they say, isn't it? With that old adage in mind, I begrudgingly permitted FarmWife's friends and employers to borrow her for this little weekend jaunt she's been on. "Take her," I told them. "If she loves me, she'll come home."

Well, let me tell you . . . I heard from FarmWife recently, and she is hustling back to me as fast as her gangly legs can carry her! She's just 100 miles away at this very moment. She's had all sorts of tremendously fun adventures, but she misses we citizens of Bent Barrow Farm. She's coming home.

FarmHusband and the human fillies have had occasion to speak to FarmWife on the telephone, and you might say I have too: each time they phone her, my bray rings out. She gets funny looks from strangers when her phone rings, and knowingly bemused ones from her friends. They know that sound.

Word from FarmWife is that this has been a tremendous trip full of friendship new and old. She can't wait to tell me all about it, she says. I'll tell you a bit about it too, I expect.


Air travel vignettes
On a plane bound from San José to Seattle—a Disney-themed plane, with strains of "hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go" piping faintly through the speakers—a man and woman sit across the aisle in yellow medical masks. The masks look comfortable, as far as masks go, and are quite a bit more elaborate than the "cover if you're coughing" masks issued in every doctor's office. They pull travel-sized Purell bottles from their bags and then the man pulls out a road-weary package of Oreo cookies. From my vantage point, and without staring, I have trouble determining if the cookie pack is empty or just nearly so. They sit, masked, without eating. They keep their Purell close at hand, but never sanitize a thing.

Beside me, an outdoorsy young couple plays cribbage. The two women look to be about 20. They feed each other pretzel chips by hand, and wear what appear to be matching engagement rings. I have never before seen someone play cribbage, and have to ask what game it is. They are coming from a wedding.

The flight lasts three hours.

In Seattle, I enjoy a salad and juice during a two-hour layover.  I walk back to my gate on the heels of a certified genuine rodeo cowboy, complete with boots, hat, sponsor-embroidered shirt, and Canadian National Rodeo Champion jacket. In his hand he holds some tangled assortment of cotton and leather—hard to identify from my angle, but possibly a halter and leadrope. He clanks and clatters as he walks, and when he's passed I think to wonder if he got his spurs past security.

I am looking forward to getting home.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Santa Cruz

The bull shed at Wilder Ranch State Park.

Visiting coastal California fills me with pangs of nostalgic longing. I love these landscapes and their flora, as I think I've shared before: the grasslands, the live oaks, the eucalyptus, the undulating hills.

Yesterday, a morning spent at the historic Cowell Lime Works and an afternoon at Wilder Ranch State Park nearly moved me to tears: the beauty, the peace, the perfection of it all! I am so very happy that those two beautiful historic ranches are being preserved, restored, and shared with the public. I really was a bit verklempt for a moment.

Luckily, I found three ticks on my pants later in the afternoon. I do love this region, but the nasty buggers helped me remember that I love home, too. It's a different kind of perfect.

Dowsing for horses

FarmWife is a bit of a horse diviner . . . wherever she goes, there they are. Here are a pair of draft horses, upon whom she stumbled during yesterday's tour of historic timber frames in the Santa Cruz area. They were rather bored with her, I think, but not so her with them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


When FArmwife was 
Since FarmWife is away at a conference, I figured we could talk about her a bit. She's a half a bubble off plumb, you know.

FarmWife was raised in a barn from age 14 to 18. It was a nice barn, and eventually had running water and electricity. Early on, it didn't. FarmWife's bathtub was in a field, her phone was at a post in the woods (under a bucket, which doubled as a stool for comfort while conversing), and her power came from a gas-powered generator with about 50 minutes in the tank. FarmWife and her mother would haggle and bargain over who had to go fuel up the generator during the last commercial break and risk missing the crucial last five minutes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

FarmWife is descended from staggering geniuses, hardy Scotsmen, and the mentally ill. From the geniuses, she got a fair bit of brainfulness. From the Scotsmen, she got a predisposition against throwing anything away ("waste not, want not!"). From the mentally ill, she got some morbidly fascinating stories. The most fascinating of all are the ones about those relations who were both mentally ill and staggeringly brilliant.

FarmWife is deaf in her left ear and listens ceaselessly to a symphony of tinnitus, the tone and perceived volume of which ranges from the sound of a high-pitched tea kettle to the sound of a high-pitched tea kettle whistling with ten other dissonantly-tuned high-pitched tea kettles in a train station during a violent wind storm blowing off a storm-tossed sea. This happened all of a sudden, on the evening of Dec. 7, 2007. She was driving at night, in the snow, with a goat, and she remembers the surreal strangeness of it—of telling the goat her ear felt full, and of wishing to be home.

FarmWife loves to skip, to whistle, to sing, and to color in coloring books. FarmWife tries to refrain from doing these things in public too terribly often, as she is of an age where unabashed joyfulness is frowned upon. She settles on grinning like an idiot and walking springily.

I won't tell you all of FarmWife's secrets, because we must save something to talk about next time she goes away from me. Those should do for now. Don't tell her I told you!

Fenway Bartholomule

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Fenway 50, #6

The Fenway 50, #6- Your favorite memory of visiting with people. (For those not in the know, this is the Fenway 50 master list). 

Here's a nice photo of the culmination of nearly two solid weeks of visitors: in the summer of 2010 we had three uncles, two aunts, a grand-uncle and grand-aunt, a granny, and assorted other friends and relations staying in tents in my pasture for a week. Then we had two aunts, a grandpa, and four cousins from a separate branch of the human family staying on the lawn for a week. Luckily, our lawn is big enough to make up—at least seasonally—for the lack of a guest room! 

Here I am with the second wave of visitors:
Back row, from left: FarmWife, me (Fenway Bartholomule), FarmHusband with Robin upon him; Grandpa Tim, Aunt Ena, Aunt Jodi. Front row, from left, Cousin Aidan, Cousin Jackson (obscured), Cousin Nico, Mia, Cousin Kanan, Dylann. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Most Valuable Player

FarmWife has taken it upon herself to kill about 1000 square feet of lawn, the better for avoiding mowing. I am her loyal and devoted servant in this matter. What I cannot obliterate by overgrazing, I stifle with my abundant leavings. I pile them tidily in the corner of the shed; FarmWife removes them from my presence and spreads them atop cardboard on the offending delectable edibles. She then removes soiled alfalfa stems from yonder goat shed, layering them atop my road apples. She waits. Father time massages them into a rich, black humus. She plants bushes. They thrive.

Teamwork is the name of the game, and I am the MVP.


This is Harriet patrolling some of the soil that I helped build.
Let me tell you—the soil is a lot prettier now, two years
later, since the addition of a whole lot more mule poop. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A goodly day

Robin does many things "goodly," and is free with her compliments when she catches others doing things goodly too. I cook goodly, for instance. Her father builds goodly, and Fenway brays goodly for his breakfast. The grass grows goodly in April in these parts! I love the word, and wish to see it in our common lexicon.

Here's my litany of excuses regarding this blog: First, I've been busy enjoying the company of 38 chickens, four ducks, and the regular roster of mammal companions. (Luckily, 20 of the fowl are leaving tomorrow and six others are old enough to kick off any day now.) I think a dozen poultry fit nicely on Bent Barrow Farm. Three dozen is simply ridiculous.

Second, I've been busy with work and family. Next weekend, I go to Monterey, CA to have a truly spectacular time at the Timber Framers Guild conference. Nowhere in the world will you find a nicer bunch of people (and registrations are still being accepted over at Of course, the weeks and months leading up to a conference are always full of things to do, and this season has been no exception. We are close to the finish line.

On the subject of family: thank you, Auntie Hannah, for visiting Bent Barrow Farm! We loved seeing you. The children have suggested that we turn our shop attic into a luxurious apartment, complete with kitchen and bathroom, "so that Auntie and Uncle can get away when we fuss but still be nearby." Sounds like a plan to me—now, to get you a jet plane so that you can keep your East Coast jobs.

Third, I've been sulking a bit since Fenway's hock rendered him permanently lame. Since this is supposed to be a blog about happiness, I haven't been much in the mood for blogging! I have a new exciting prospect on the horizon, though: in May, we're getting a 33" miniature mule who can be Fenway's companion in his retirement and a good friend to me and the children. Who knows—perhaps we'll train her to drive!

Spring has sprung, the grass is exploding, and I have a happy song in my heart again. There's so much to be glad about.

Random things FarmWife had to do today

Today, FarmWife rescued her fence from the blackberries (the triffid-like brambles had overgrown so heavily as to snap the wire stays), applied Vaseline to Missy's dried up old boobies (ah, the things we do for love), discovered and treated an abcess in B.G.'s hoof (poor girl feels much better!), and started construction of a mini-mule deflector (i.e. a fence separating alfalfa-strewn goat areas from grass-hay strewn mule areas). The goats now have access to the offending blackberries, and with luck and a bit of steadfast browsing they may just take care of the problem for us.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Exciting talk

There is talk in the human abode of getting me a friend: a friend who is the size of a goat, but who is not a goat. A friend whom I shall be required to share with the human children (gladly, of course!). A friend with Muleness. Apparently this friend has already been approached with the idea and has given her brayful and wholehearted approval. She wants to move to Bent Barrow Farm, and how we shall enjoy welcoming her!

I will release more details as they solidify, but for now let me just say this: stay tuned for cuteness of extreme magnitude.


Sneak preview:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hardly a glimpse

I catch hardly a glimpse of FarmWife these days, as April is notorious as her busiest time of year. She'll go to a conference at the end of the month, and after that we'll pass our days in merry repose beneath the dappling shade of yonder trees. We'll probably have fruit platters and things. It will be lovely.

I DID talk FarmWife into having a spa day this weekend: since Human Auntie Hannah had done up the children's hair and nails, it seemed only fair that I get a currying and a mane trim. Little Dylann looked after my ears, mane, and tail, Little Robin looked after my shoulders, barrel, and hips, and FarmWife curried my topline and picked my hooves. I was beautiful for our Skype call to the Grandparents, which took place outdoors so that I could show them my puffy hock. They offered their condolences and best wishes for a speedy recovery, which were terribly kind things to offer. We talked about France, then, and about baseball and the weather.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Busy weekend

I am looking at a VERY busy weekend, folks: a weekend, that is, to be spent staring at the spot where FarmWife ought to be when she is not terribly busy at her computer or out and about.

I want you to know right now that I do love you all, and that if I do not post again until Tuesday or Wednesday then it certainly means nothing at all except that my typist is otherwise occupied. I won't have forgotten you, and I hope with earful earnestness that you shall not forget me, your beloved friend, Fenway Bartholomule.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Fenway 50, #5

Here's the original post on the Fenway 50 if you missed it.

Here, for #5, is a photo of my second worst "oops" moment. My worst "oops" moment had something to do with whirling and bolting headlong and heedless down the road for a good 55 yards due to the approach of  motorcyclist. There was—thank goodness—no camera.

My second worst "oops" moment involved mistaking a ewe for a terrorist.  Here's is some of my original post on the subject:

Sheep=growers of bountiful fleece, right? They must be cute, and tender, and clean, and gentle . . .
Well, with that association in mind, you can imagine that I was ill prepared for the angry-looking MegaGoat that I encountered at a friend's house yesterday. We rode up, innocently enough, to let the Chicken People's dogs out to pee. They had an astonishing, awful creature in their pasture—a creature about which FarmWife UTTERLY failed to warn me. I'm thinking that it looks like a goat, but angrier—it baas like a goat, but deeper. It's dressed like a goat, but with suspicious, bulky packages strapped to its torso. Not to be insensitive, but if it is a goat it is probably a Suicide Bomber Goat. Not the kind you want to hang around with.

Now here you see me assessing the Suicide Bomber Goat. This was before FarmWife told me it was a sheep, and even after she told me it was a sheep it took my traumatized, shaken-up brain a minute to associate the word with my gentle friends from Wyoming.

Please note the focus and determination with which I continued my prolonged assessment of the Suicide Bomber Goat—erm, sheep. If you have read my important treatise on the F.E.A.R.R. system for preservation of life and limb (look it up if you haven't) then you'll understand the importance of taking one's time with this business. My assessment went on for, we shall say, about eight minutes.

Next, you see the exhaustion into which I fell after the immediate threat of Death and Dismemberment had passed. Once I decided to go ahead and give the all clear, I cocked a hind leg and had a good long rest next to those sheep. FarmWife let the dogs pee. All was well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A better day

1: this photo was not actually taken today. It was taken two winters ago.
2: FarmWife did a really bad job of photoshopping out the power lines.
Forgive me on both counts. 
Whether it's the nicer footing (hello, sun!) or the MSM (goodbye, loading doses!), my hock is looking a bit better today. Bray for my continued improvement.

Days like this make a mule happy to be alive! The sun is shining, the trough is shimmering, the chooks are stirring up the compost like nobody's business, and the goats and rabbits are sunbathing in their respective paddocks. The only bad thing that happened today was that FarmWife drove 20 miles (round trip) to buy a bale of hay, and when she got it home she found that it was profoundly and deeply moldy. She is rather annoyed, since it was not a cheap bale. (The goat food—alfalfa—costs $19.99 a bale plus tax. The mule food—grass hay—costs $1.50 a bale, straight out of the field. Another reason I am the best, but I don't need to get into that now.)

Tomorrow, FarmWife will again drive 20 miles (round trip) for a fresh bale. This time, she'll inspect it. What's that you humans say? Once burned, shame on them?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Reprinted from the Brayer

So much has changed since I last wrote column for the Brayer two months ago! I tried to get in shape for camping, and my hock went kablooey again, and I was retired from strenuous activity altogether, and Schneider's Saddlery heard about my hydration woes and sent me this wonderful bucket for wintertime sipping: 

Here, anyway, is the column I wrote two months ago. I was so young, so naive, so innocent then! 

The Bold and the Brayful
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

Trips and Sips: thoughts on staying hydrated

You may remember that I am good at about a thousand things. Among them: steering my goats hither and thither with assertiveness but without cruelty, turning a little bit of hay into a lot of tummy, summiting precipitous slopes, filling my neighborhood with the joyful noise of my resounding bray, and warming the cockles of my human's heart.

I am also terribly good at camping, which I proved two homes ago when I carried my very big owner all the way into the woods and carried his very big dead elk all the way out again. FarmWife promises me that I can go camping with her this year, and that there will be no elk to carry. Maybe a sleeping bag, she says. Maybe a little girl. You see, when FarmWife and I go camping we will also have a FarmHusband and three little girls along for company.

FarmWife and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, which means we're usually pretty soggy from October through June but we're rewarded, in July and August, with the greenest and most amazing world a mule could possibly ask for. I'm good at snacking upon the great green world and at traveling through it with surefooted majesty, but FarmWife says I need to get my drinking problem under control before we hit the trail. My drinking problem, despite what you think, is not overindulgence: I drink rather little, you see. I drink a couple of gallons a day, and FarmWife says that a great big fellow like me surely needs more than that to maintain life. I hardly drink at all when I'm away from home, or when the weather is cold, or when the weather is hot, or when anything is funny at all, and so FarmWife says I am going to have to start eating my hay soaked. “Hydration,” she says, “is of the utmost importance.” This, coming from a woman who gets 80% of her fluids from coffee and the other 20% from soup.

I have decided to petition for alternative beverages, and have put in an order for apple juice, cranberry juice cocktail, and a double tall iced soy mocha. FarmWife says her plan for quenching my thirst involves soggy grass hay in a water-filled trash can, so we have some negotiating to do. I'll let you know how that goes.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fair Weather, Fowl Friends

Today is my smallest filly's birthday. Our mail order ducklings (who were not birthday presents, but who do serve to make a birthday feel more festive) arrived right on time, but alas! Only two came, as the third breed FarmWife had requested failed to hatch on time. Two ducklings, three daughters? That wouldn't do, so FarmWife and her offspring trundled off to the feedstore for a rouen duckling to add to the buff and cayuga that waited at home. It was buy one, get one free day, and I double-dog-dare you to say no to a free, cute baby animal.

There are, therefore, four ducklings in the family: two who hatched yesterday and spent their first arduous 24 hours in the care of the United States Postal Service but who are, nonetheless, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and two who were hatched two weeks ago and who spent the intervening time at the feed store growing burly and beautiful.

Meet Dewdrop, the yellow buff; Junebug, the black cayuga; and Pickle and Francis, the stripey rouens.

Meanwhile, outdoors, there is a strange yellow emanation from the sky. I use my great bulk to shield the tender little pullets from its scalding rays.


I will shade you, my precious minions. 

The gears are turning. When chickens think, they really have to think hard. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Eight years ago today

Eight years ago today, FarmWife and FarmHusband were married at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn while a looming, bronze Ghandi looked on. (Actually, he didn't: they were indoors, he was out.)

The guesthouse and chapel in Sherborn are now being relinquished due to financial difficulties, while the mission and programs of the Peace Abbey go on during a relocation to thUniversity of Massachusetts Boston this summer.* The slaughterhouse and feedlot escapees who called the Abbey home have moved to Maple Farm Sanctuary.

Did YOU win the Mega Millions last week? If so, consider buying the Abbey buildings. It's a pretty amazing place. FarmWife is sad to see it go.


*Thank you, Director Randa, for this correction!

Monday, April 2, 2012

State of the Humans

No, she didn't break her leg on the trampoline! 
Did anyone get fooled yesterday? Not me. FarmWife is very nice about not playing nasty tricks. 

I wanted to update you all on the state of my humans. They're doing terribly interesting things these days! 

FarmHusband has become a jogger, and ran in a 5K foot race yesterday despite having some sort of awful flu. He's an admirable and mulish man. 

FarmWife is going to meet one of her very favorite online friends later this month . . . S., you know who you are. I only wish I could come along too. FarmWife is also going to visit sunny Monterey, one of the many perks of being an employee of the Timber Framers Guild. They hold their conferences in wonderful places. She promises me that I will be looked after in her absence. 

My biggest human filly is nearly done with her sixth grade year, which makes her practically a grownup. She is part of a very prestigious girls' choir, which makes her the second best brayer in our family after me, Fenway Bartholomule. The two of us should sing a duet, no?

My middle human filly got her cast off today. I do say, if you're going to break your leg then it's terribly smart to do it during the muddy season. She's hardly missed anything worthwhile! 

My littlest human filly is turning five this week, which means she'll be off to school in September. I hope to enjoy a few dozen more picnics with her before she is too mature and sensible to share her sandwiches. For her birthday, she has requested a tiara, a drum set, and peach-upside down cupcakes with whipped cream and spun-sugar bunnies on top. I have a hunch that she is getting all three of those things. 

My other humans—the neighbors, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles—are likewise well. My dear Aunt Hannah is coming from New England next week, which thrills me. She's always good for a carrot or two. 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Skokomish Farms

Have you hear of Skokomish Farms? It's a neat idea, and one I'd consider trying out if I had a lot more money. The thing is, I'd like to do it with 18 families of my choosing rather than with 18 families of perfect strangers. Carabbas, Hugginses, Popes, Joneses, Forests, Jacksons, Hiltons, DuBoises, Harders, Campbells, Merles, Davises, Browns . . . the list goes on. I'm lucky to know a lot of people I'd gladly live near and farm alongside!

The concept, an eco-subdivision with green building requirements and an organically-farmed, working agricultural preserve filling most of its 750 acres, appeals to me. Having a darned good farmer involved would be central to the project's success, I think, and having compatible personalities and a true commitment to the values that make this project different than your average development would matter too.

I hope this thing works. I want to see how it shakes out.

Bob Dylan has prophesied

♫ My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain.
The best is always yet to come,
That's what they explain to me. 

Does that sound like Wickersham or does that sound like Wickersham?! I think Old Bob was trying to tell FarmWife something. 

Fenway 50, #4

#4 on the Fenway 50 (search for it at right if you missed the first post) is a photo of a day that impacted my life. Here goes:

This is the day that my mini buddy and I moved in with FarmWife. The molly found another  wonderful home, while I stayed on at Bent Barrow Farm. This photo shows just how quickly mules plus Wickersham clay plus rain make mud: the next day, we took delivery on 12 yards of gravel.