Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ode to Saltblock, my companion

Saltblock, you were with me when the goats were out to browse.
You stood staunchly at my hoofies when my FarmWife wasn't 'round.
You are stoic, you are patient, you are tan rather than pink,
You enrich me with your traces of selenium and zinc.
You preceeded Arrietty, were my friend when I had none,
And the hours I've spent licking you have been immensely fun.
You've been tasty, you've been crunchy, you've been slippery when wet,
And the times we've had aren't over. We have moments to share yet!
My dear Saltblock, I shall mold you, lend you contours with my tongue,
'til you're eaten down to nothing
And we two shall become one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Acme PTA

I am honored and excited to be the incoming secretary for Acme Elementary's Parent Teacher Association. Aside from vague memories of watching my mom eat brownies in a claustrophobic, windowless room in Piedmont, California, my PTA experiences have been limited to Acme meetings and to the recent Washington State PTA convention in Seatac. My impressions, so far, have been very positive.

Acme Elementary PTA has a vibrant, intelligent, dedicated, and small corps of volunteers or, what WSPTA staff refer to as The Usual Ten. Apparently every PTA has them (though none can possibly be as wonderful as ours). The challenge, this year, is going to be to grow our Usual Ten to twenty regularly-attending members, and then thirty, and then perhaps fifty or more. Wouldn't that be something?

Legends abound of PTA gatherings of yore—gatherings at which parents and teachers filled gymnasiums, packed auditoriums, lined up as far as the eye could see, and filed in to meetings in such numbers as to give fire chiefs apoplexy. I don't know how to recreate this response en masse except to show up, to write vibrant newsletters, to fix our website, and to be a dedicated servant to Acme Elementary students and staff.

I'm grateful to the outgoing officers, who created a growing PTA out of virtually nothing at all, and I'm grateful to Acme Elementary staff and the Mount Baker School District for giving us a school worth supporting.


Menu suggestions
FarmWife is off to the grocer today, which leads me to wonder: if I, a mule who weighs roughly 800 pounds, survive on 1.5 flakes of grass hay per day, then shouldn't the whole human family (which weighs in at far less than 800 pounds, I'm sure) be able to subsist on the same?

How's that for a money saving idea? Let them eat dried grasses!

You're welcome.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

Sol Duc Falls as photographed by FarmWife
The humans told me they were going somewhere without me this weekend. They neglected to say they were going somewhere over the rainbow!  I am rather jealous, as I hear there are wonderful slippers and delicious straw men and oogly boogly green magicians over there. Also flying monkeys.

FarmWife says it wasn't like that at all—it was just a forest of beautiful ancient trees, scenic vistas over marvelous waterfalls, leisurely soaks in hot springwater, and evenings at a nice campsite full of delicious things to eat and cozy tents to sleep in.

Thanks, FarmWife, for easing my jealousy. (Not!)

They're back, anyway—unscathed, well soaked, and toting photos of a place I absolutely must visit one day. (Hock, mend thyself!)


P.S. If you're wondering, my hock is really looking great. I am still retired, but we hope I am retired sound.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My painting

I'm going to get my oil painting soon! The artist, Shaila of Orange Horse Art, emailed to say it's ready for me. We'll get together next week for the big reveal. It will take place here at Bent Barrow Farm, I think, as she rather likes all of us and wants ever so much to meet my wee Arrietty. 

There is good news and bad news about my painting. The good news is that it will be SPECTACULAR! FarmWife showed me the in-progress photos and I dare say no finer portrait has ever been made of man or beast. 

The bad news? FarmWife says we must hang it in the living room. It's a pity, as I had picked out a splendid spot on yonder shed wall. 

"It will be far too delicate to hang in a barn, my dear," she tells me. 

"You ought to improve the barn in order to ready it for my painting, my dear," I tell her. 

"Your barn is fine just as it is," she tells me. "Maybe I will buy you a print of it to hang out here." 

Maybe if my barn looked like this?
(photo by Liza Mills,

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sister Appreciation Day

My youngest human, Robin, decided that all this talk of Mothers (May) and Fathers (June) justified the establishment of a new holiday: Sister Appreciation Day, which she says can be held weekly, at least. Yesterday, May 25 2012, was the first official Sister Appreciation Day at Bent Barrow Farm. Robin said that Sister Appreciation Day is for anyone who IS a sister, or anyone who HAS a sister, or anyone who needs to BORROW a sister for the occasion. It involves, and I quote directly: "The grownups listening to all the children and hearing what they want." What they want, and I quote directly: "Fun stuff and trips to the playground and things like cakes with lots of frosting." 

We celebrated, Arrietty and I, by eating some grass hay and having our deer-fly bites bathed with repellant balms. Robin and her sister Dylann celebrated by going to a tea party with FarmWife at the Huggins home. This, as everyone who has ever met a Huggins will understand, fell firmly into the "fun stuff" category, making it a perfectly lovely way to pass the special occasion. 


Sister Appreciation Day may involve snail races and
almost definitely will involve getting chocolatey stuff on one's face.

Friday, May 25, 2012


FarmWife and FarmHusband currently maintain their lawn with one of these:

They plan, in the short term, to start using one of these:
And, in the long term, to get one of these:
I recommend, as an alternative, using one of these:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sounds real and imagined: a poem about tinnitus

My lone ear hears a symphony
of two mules, trains, and rain.
The best is yet to come to me,
Bob Dylan once explained.
But here I dwell in paradise
Beside my closest friend.
Our one flat acre, fruitful, lush,
He'll tirelessly tend.
We dwell with mules and goats and dogs,
Precocious daughters three
Who play beside the wilderness
In fields bedecked in green.
My rabbits are aleap with joy!
My fowl scratch and dabble.
My little tigers prowl about
And supervise the rabble.
There's no redundant voice at play,
No song I'd lay to bed,
Save these tuneless, wild noises
Stalking restless through my head.


Let me assure you that I am not neglecting my blog on purpose—no, I am neglecting it as a byproduct of being a very sheddish sort of an animal this May. There are many hours in each day, true, but several of them need always be dedicated to the removal, by human, of my voluminous loose winter hair. My wee Arrietty is a sheddish sort as well, and so you can only imagine the amount of currying going on here at Bent Barrow Farm these days! Let us just call it a Groomstravaganza, shall we?

The two of us look rather motheaten, I must confess, but we shall shine for you post haste. It will be worth the wait.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


You may or may not be aware that our friends over at Save Your Ass Longear Rescue recently bailed baby Biscotti and his donkey dam Cookie from the Camelot Auction. Sadly, he's not well. Here's their assessment:

Little Biscotti is very sick and mama is coughing as well. The vet has already had to check him out twice and it looks like pneumonia and possibly lung worms. His vitals are scary . . . he is eating a little so far . . . but he has very rapid respiration and very high pulse rate.  Both he and his mama are very scared too. 

We had some generous donations to help bail these guys and ANY additional donations to help with the vet bills would be VERY appreciated.
Please keep your fingers crossed he pulls through! THANK YOU!

If you were thinking of swinging by Starbucks today, could you save the $5 and send it to Biscotti instead?



Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome to Western Washington

After a week of unseasonable sun we are now back to the phenomenal, awesome dreariness that characterizes our beautiful region: a deluge of rain which will serve, to look at the positive side, to keep our pastures green. FarmWife is being particularly defensive of the gate for that very reason, arguing that Arrietty is not used to our fertile river valley and that her grazing needs be restricted even on our one heavily-trafficked acre. I concede, and Arrietty and I spend part of each day in the dry lot.

Arrietty tried on her very first bridle today. The eggbutt snaffle bit, even dipped in jam, offended her slightly. She behaved very nicely for her fitting (alas, it was not captured on camera. It was cute, anyway, and the bridle and bit were perfectly suited to her size and shape). Afterwards, she promptly had not one but FOUR very satisfying rolls, doing a fine job of rubbing the memory of that restrictive headgear away. Tomorrow, FarmWife will ask her to wear it again and will describe for her some future joy: the joy of trotting merrily down the lane ahead of a jaunty meadowbrook cart.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Fenway 50, #10

This is the Fenway 50: a list of memorable items and occasions at which I have been slowly chipping away. For #s 1 through 9, do a search here at Brays of Our Lives for the term Fenway 50.

The 10th point on the list calls for a photo of me with my mom. I'm afraid I have no photographic proof that I was sprung from an earthly womb, so a photo of me with my FarmWife shall have to suffice. She is like a mother: she feeds me, tends me, shelters me, and tells me where to go and what to do. She is sometimes grumpy but usually extraordinarily kind. She thinks I'm special.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The story of Arrietty

Say cheese!
This is FarmWife and her oldest human filly
meeting Arrietty G. Teaspoon for the very first time. 
Here is the story of Arrietty, as well as we know it:

She was born seven years ago to a miniature mare in Conway, Washington. She was named Teaspoon by her breeder. Her breeder, a nurse, trained her to go into nursing homes to assist a man with Parkinson's. Teaspoon learned to walk up stairs, ride in elevators, and generally be a good friend to humans. She exudes peace and love.

At some point in her early life, Teaspoon got a great big dent in her hindquarters, but she seems quite sound and comfortable! It is clear to all of us that Teaspoon never knew an unfriendly person. Unlike me, Fenway Bartholomule, she walks joyfully up to EVERYONE. I, on the other hand, only go looking for love from children, gentle women, and People of Established Trust.

At age five, Teaspoon was sold to a nice couple who named her Gertie. They lived in the tri-cities area of Washington State. They were parents, but their children were grown. After some time, they began to feel that Gertie would love to be a little girl's pet. They thought of teaching Gertie to drive, but never got around to starting her. They took awfully good care of her, though, and when they decided to sell her they wanted to be sure she went someplace special.

Gertie's owners found FarmWife (actually, FarmWife found them through Craigslist) and thought it seemed a good fit: in Wickersham, you see, there was a lonesome mule of excellent character; a smart woman with plenty of equine management experience; a not-too-big, not-too-grassy field; three sensitive, caring, and mule-crazy little girls; and a mule-shaped hole where Teaspoon/Gertie/Arrietty belonged. It was going to be perfect.

FarmWife, her mother, and her oldest human filly picked the little mule up in a Volkswagen Vanagon on Mother's Day, and the little mule arrived at Bent Barrow Farm as cool as a cucumber and as confident as a . . . well, as a mule. You can imagine that I was quite beside myself with excitement the day she came! She lived across the fence from me for 48 hours before she was given into my care, and we did a bit of staring and carrying on. After she came into my field, I showed her the best place to roll, the best way to drink (with tongue dangling, to catch a cool breeze), and the best place to stand for a view of the schoolbus stop. We have had all sorts of fun already.

FarmWife and her girls have decided to call their little mule Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon. I call her MINE.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There are risks

Being a little girls' mule is a dangerous occupation. This job may involve exposure to rubber bands, hairbrushes, and flowers. Contamination with decorative items is extremely likely. Beautification is a common side effect.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I promised you a brayful new friend on Mothers' Day, and here she is! We are all far too busy enjoying her to get down to the business of writing a serious blog post, but I promise you that we will have many tales of tremendous adventure in the weeks to come. Just you wait.

First impressions: she is sweet, smart, sane, sturdy, and simply stupendous. She has quickly learned where to poop, following my good example. (This is very much to FarmWife's relief.) She has given the children many patient and affectionate nuzzles. She has demonstrated that she loads willingly in a Vanagon, rides nicely across the miles, and behaves kindly towards goats and other small creatures. Since I, Fenway Bartholomule, am rather a lot larger than she is, we are getting to know one another over the fence today.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The difference
In case you missed my earlier comparisons, I will illustrate again for you the difference between mules and goats.

The ingredients for successfully keeping goats out of the raspberry patch:

  • One dozen heavy-duty 6-ft. steel t-posts
  • One 100' roll of 48" woven wire horse fence
  • 200 feet of low-guage aluminum electric wire
  • Two dozen plastic t-post insulators
  • One dozen plastic t-post caps
  • One heavy-duty low-impedance 110 volt 2 joule fence charger
  • One six-foot ground rod
  • 48 wire fence clips or fasteners
  • One powered 110 volt outlet

The ingredient for successfully keeping a mule out of the raspberry patch:

  • A single white or pale-colored string. (Synthetic yarn holds up nicely; pictures to follow).

This is why I, and not the goats, am allowed out to graze in the orchard.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Arts n' crafts

FarmWife is going to spend today making some of these:

Her children, who are terribly crafty, will be recruited to help.

See? She's a playful and creative mother after all!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Brays O' Four Lives

Stirling Design or Either way works, though of course the former is punnier.

These are, in one sense, Brays o' four lives. There was my first, at the feet of my mother. Her name is lost in the mists of time, or maybe I never knew it: I was hers before I had language. She was beautiful, I'm sure. This first life began in Ohio, where they named me Buckeye and trained me to carry a rider and a pack saddle.

There was my second life, with an elk hunter who brought me to Washington State for the pursuit of antlered ungulates. FarmWife spoke on the phone with him once, and he told her that I was a good mule. That I could carry a 330 pound rider and half an elk (no wonder my hock went kablooey!). That I loved Pop Tarts and Snickers bars. That I was special. I learned, in this second life, to fear lines on the road and to stand unflinching beneath the thunder of guns.

There was my third life, with Uncle Jim from down the road. He brought me to Wickersham and introduced me to Leisure, which is something I plan to enjoy for the rest of my many splendiferous and precious years. He put me in the pasture abutting FarmWife's pasture and gave occasion for FarmWife to meet me. He was kind enough, eventually, to sell me hither.

My fourth life, here, is the subject of these remaining Brays. This will be my final life (may it be long!), unless by some miracle there is a great golden pasture beyond the knowable—a pasture where, perchance, my mother and FarmWife might one day meet.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A wizard

Like me, my human Grandpa Tim holds phenomenal, cosmic power: in his case, it is the power to cage the stars themselves.

When FarmWife went away to a conference and left FarmHusband and FarmGrandpa in charge, FarmGrandpa came into my stall on some mysterious, wizardly business. He futzed about on a ladder. He snipped wires and turned screws. He hummed a tune as he worked, as is often his way.

Now, at the flip of a switch, a golden emanation descends from the heavens right here in my own little barn. Twin suns, miniaturized and domesticated, hang suspended forever by his magic. They do his bidding. They know his awesome, mulish strength. They call him master. I shall call him "GrandpaWhoTamesTheStars."


Friday, May 4, 2012

The toenail dialogues

One our rabbits was a hand-me-down, brought up without regular toe-trim-training-time. When the monthly Toenail Day rolls around she is always the first to dart away and hide in a corner. I will excerpt for you a part of the conversation I overheard today: 

B: Cruel, vindictive woman. You shall pay! 
FarmWife: Silly, helpless herbivore. Your weapons are useless against me. 
B: I weigh but three pounds, but I am clawed in titanium rapiers.
FarmWife: Ha! No. I've just chopped them off. 
B: The word "wrath" was invented for this moment. 
FarmWife: Who's a cutesy-wootsie wittle bun-bun? 

FarmWife is solely responsible for the maintenance of over two hundred claws, if you count hooves, dewclaws, and fingernails. That's assuming that her husband and pre-teen daughter trim their own claws, which I presume to be the case. For your edification and amusement, I shall proceed to rank us in order of trim-time behavior:

★: Perfectly poised
★: Often obedient
★: Frequently fussy
★: Ridiculously resistant 

: Clover, Harriet, Townes, Fenway Bartholomule (yours truly), and the human children
: Paisley (this is a big upgrade from his one-star past), Missy, Desmond
: B-bun
★: B.G.

B.G.'s hoof trims are a full-force wrestling match involving ropes, bribes, and indelicate language. I would relay for you the comical dialog between B.G. and FarmWife, except that it is usually a simple matter of B.G. thinking a string of profanity and FarmWife saying, "easy, easy, easy, easy, easy" throughout a process that is not remotely easy at all.

They need to work on that. 


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mothers' Day

Astute readers have commented that I have hinted at but not gotten specific about my pending friend: a seven year-old molly mule, measuring just 33" at the withers, who will be coming to live with me on Mothers' Day. I have been keeping the boasting vague for a reason. You know what they say: no counting unhatched chickens. I will say that barring some cruel twist of fate I am scheduled to get a brayful, four-hooved present on the 13th of May.

I get a Mothers' Day present because—well, because I have a mom, I guess.

I will call her "Mini-Me." We will do everything together. You will see.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Fenway 50, #7, 8, and 9.

The Fenway 50 #7: my favorite treats.
#8: my house.
#9: my favorite stall decoration. Right now, I suppose it's the prayer flags. By the 13th of May, I expect my new favorite to be this mini mule, whose arrival at Bent Barrow Farm is scheduled (via Vanagon) for Mothers' Day.