Saturday, September 29, 2012

A delicious promise

FarmWife is away visiting relatives in misty moisty New England while I am stuck at home with only two goats, two house sitters, a flock of poultry, and the world's prettiest minimule for company.

(Now that I say it like that, I think I'm doing OK. It could be worse.)

Before FarmWife left, I told her I would have liked to have gone along. FarmWife said I would not have fit under the seat in coach class and that I would not have been comfortable in the depressurized luggage compartment and that it would have been terribly expensive to fly me business class.

I told her I would have liked to have driven, and that she needed merely to buy me a nice new horsevan, and that we could have detoured past the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore on our way east.

She told me that horsevans cost more than one can earn selling commissioned poetry and newspaper articles and that the Grand Canyon is not on the way to New England and that Mount Rushmore is disappointing, anyway, because it has no mule faces on it.

I told her to have some respect, and not to forget that George Washington was instrumental in establishing mule breeding as a successful American enterprise.

This week, FarmWife is sending home pictures and stories about all sorts of delicious things from New England: maple syrup, pumpkin cookies, and apples as far as the eye can see. She promised to bring me one from a nearby orchard, which left me feeling just a little better about missing Mount Rushmore.

My tummy is grumbling just thinking about it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good news/better news

FarmWife would probably describe this as more of a "good news/bad news" situation - you see, my shed has been deeply bedded in straw for comfort's sake (good news), and it is DELICIOUS! (Better news or bad news depending on perspective.) I ate, and ate, and ate, despite FarmWife's protestations that it was not really intended as food. By lunchtime, she told me I had better stop eating or I would lose the comfy bedding privilege entirely.

Below, see my response to FarmWife's announcement that next time, she's getting pine shavings.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thank you!

Thank you for the outpouring of support regarding my tender hoofies. Your thoughtful comments and emails have warmed the cockles of my noble and capacious heart.  I dearly hope that your own feet, too, are so widely cared about. 

We will keep you updated on the situation.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unforseen consequences

How do I look in these shoes?

Last winter, we had rains and rains and more rains. This added up to mud and mud and more mud, so my very kind FarmWife (who always, and I do mean always, has my best interests in mind) spent most of a paycheck on nice gravel footing. 

This summer, we've had sun and sun and more sun. This has added up to rock hard, stone dry, rough and raspy footing for yours truly, and the sad truth is that I can't grow hoof fast enough to keep up with the wear. This goes to show you that you never can be sure how things will turn out in the end, or that no good deed goes unpunished, or that a penny spent on gravel is a penny spent on horseshoes, or on some other truism. Maybe "the wandering mule grows no hoof".

FarmWife is thinking of getting me shod all around, for what very well might be the first time in my one long and precious life. She's all about philosophizing on the virtues of the barefoot life until her darling muley comes wincing down the lane on his poor stubby toes. I don't have any wall left to trim, and my soles are tender on these rocks.

I've got four worn out feet, two worn out goats, and a round of vet and farrier visits coming. Until then, you'll have to promise to bear with my gaps in communication. FarmWife is pulling some long hours in anticipation of these visiting professionals and their not-cheap services.

Ears, woefully, to you.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I need to get off this computer and onto a ladder. I've painted everything I can reach on the North and East sides of the house, and boy does it look pretty!

Painting is such a fantastic home improvement project. For a relatively small investment of money and with minimal physical exertion involving non-specialized skills, a homeowner can completely reinvent their home. I can't think of anything comparable.

This house looks good.

Hiking with Arrietty

My fat miniature animals—namely Clover and Arrietty—have jumped on the chance to do some invigorating trail hiking with FarmWife, and now go out every day for a brisk walk over hill and dale. FarmWife, who is neither fat nor miniature, has longer legs than the two of them put together but still comes back huffing and puffing. I secretly think that it is FarmWife who most needs to get fit with a daily uphill march, but I don't dare say so. There would surely follow some sort of comment about my gut, and who needs that?

I am invited on these walks, too, and sometimes go along. I am waiting on some new hoofboots before getting too involved in these gravel-road outings, but FarmWife promises they'll be in the budget soon.

FarmWife is fairly close to the realization that a walk in the woods at the side of a little bitty mule is just about as much fun as a ride in the woods on the back of a big one, which may spare me some hours of toil in the future. At the very least, it's a chance for her to stretch her own legs.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Warning: badass

FarmWife and FarmHusband have been busily working away to turn their pukey mint green house into a cozy warm brown one. I dare to say they were inspired by the shining beauty of yours truly and Miss Arrietty, as the color they chose is something between the shade of her and the shade of me. Most ideal.

Today, FarmWife is walking around proudly, boastful about having painted the trim at the top of the first story. She stood on the stepladder at the level which reads "Danger: do not stand at or above this level."

FarmHusband, meanwhile, painted the second story with no trouble at all (nor any need to boast). He is a better-at-heights kind of a guy, but we can't all be good at everything. FarmWife has other strengths.

I will show you the house when it is done. You will love it.


P.S. FarmWife told me that someday I shall have board and batten siding for my little barn. It shall be painted "Foothills" (by Sherwin Williams) with "Fenland" trim. She told me this will happen after the human house gets a new porch, new windows, and new floors on the second story, so I expect I shall pass a good span of time with multi-colored salvaged metal siding. It's OK: I like its rainbow charm and the rat-a-tat of raindrops in the winter.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A forced march

<p>Last week, to celebrate the departure of her youngest daughter on the school bus for kindergarden, FarmWife led me and Arrietty up yonder hill and back again. You will guess, from the accompanying photograph, that Arrietty was rather more excited about this endeavor than I. Note my facial expression, which should tell you that I met the journey with something less than total enthusiasm. FarmWife thought I was a little footsore on the gravel roads, so she will outfit me in boots and we shall try again.

Arrietty, on the other hand, was all nimble eagerness on the trail. I would venture to say she has not had such a grand adventure since her Mothers Day drive over the mountains in my Granny's Volkswagen Vanagon.

Ears to you,


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rabbit habbits

Harriet is not usually loose with me like this. This particular
photo was taken in celebration of Easter before she
was returned to her wire-lined gulag.
Er . . . I mean Rabit Habits.

Erm . . . .

Rabbit habits.

Third time's the charm!

My rabbits live amongst the hoofbeasts, now, you know—they have a stall, bedded in straw, and a watering trough and a grain pan and a grass-and-gravel turnout paddock. The only difference between them and us is that their stall and paddock are lined with chicken wire, to prevent digging, and topped with fishnet, to prevent abduction-by-eagle. I, who have almost had my two precious ears stolen by an eagle, understand all to well the need for this latter precaution.

The former precaution, to prevent digging, is made because of an anatomical peculiarity of my rabbits: you see, in place of hooves they have razor-sharp pickaxes on the ends of their legs (five or four per, depending whether it is a forefoot or a hind). They use them to rend the earth up into moist, dark heaps, and then they slither into their excavation like a snake and disappear. This is a sinister and un-mulelike behavior.

Otherwise, the rabbits are pleasant. Like mules, they dust-bathe, graze, gallop, groom one another, rest in the sun, and discuss the complexities of herd life and pecking order amongst themselves. They congregate with we mules and goats, attend regular meetings of the Bent Barrow Hoofbeast Society (we gather daily near the electric fence for a daily State of the Grasses address), and generally behave like good little herbivores.

FarmWife is happier, too, because they are not eating her sheetrock.

The FarmChildren are happy because now all the neighborhood can know what beautiful rabbits we have.

I am happy because a crew of six herbivorous mammals is stronger in voice and vote than a herd of four, and if we should want to then we should be very close to overthrowing the humans completely.


Sunny days

Sunny days—fifty of them, give or take, all in a row! This weather has been amazing and unprecedented. Unlike that of our less fortunate neighbors in other regions, it's also been very, very pleasant. It's been dewy enough, overnight, to keep the grass green (mostly) and it's been nice enough every day for hiking, camping, swimming, and sunbathing. With daughters who are 5, 7, and 12, we're at that stage as a family where we can actually go on and enjoy such adventures with a minimum of tears (and no dirty diapers).

This summer has been fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it.

I hope yours has been as wonderful.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Goat trouble

B.G. on the day of her birth
I have two goats—Missy, age 10, who has been feeble, slow, stiff, and hard to keep weight on since The Great Collapse of 2010, and B.G., age 4, who foundered a couple of years ago and whose chronic lameness has been repeatedly misdiagnosed (I blame myself and my vets: none of us did enough, and all of us were baffled until my lightbulb moment a few weeks ago. Had she been a horse, I never would have missed the signs!). She has been a little off for years but, with corrective trimming and a restricted diet, I hope to get her sound. Today, though, I feel a bit despairing.

I have one goat who has lived half her life in low-grade pain and doesn't show any dramatic signs of improvement and another who is prematurely decrepit and who may or may not continue to have a high quality of life as we go into the next cold season. Missy moves around less and less. This summer, she rests 90% of the time. She no longer has the confidence to venture into the big pasture, she is afraid of phantoms, and she walks more stiffly than before. She looks like an old woman.

I have another goat who may get better but who will never be the same—a goat who will be lonely when her companion dies—a goat who cannot, in good conscience, be sold or given away.

I don't know what I'll do for B.G. when Missy goes. I don't know how I'll console her, and I only hope that she'll be sound enough at that time to go in with the mules. I hope she'll accept them as the next best thing.


A very big change

There is a very big change happening right now: the smallest of my three human children is beginning full day, five day kindergarten.

FarmWife has been a parent since she was 20 years old. She has been pretty busy, most days, since then. She is not a "gets-it-all-done-with-time-to-spare" kind of mom, nor is she a "plays-imagination-games-for-endless-hours" kind of mom, but she is a "makes-dinner-every-day-and-usually-sweeps-the-floor-too" kind of mom. In this respect, her life won't change so dramatically—after all, there will still be hungry people coming home every afternoon and there will still be a floor (and a shedding Australian shepherd). She will probably not suddenly becomes a "gets-it-all-done-with-time-to-spare" person, despite her intentions to landscape the yard and train the mini mule and do more fencing and paint the house and organize the attic and remodel the porch. "FarmWife," I tell her, "I love you as you are. I will be happy if you merely pick up my poop."

Still, there will be some changes: with a long, lonesome day, FarmWife can do her freelance work before the children come home. This way, when she is with her family she can really be with her family instead of distracted by work. When she is not working, FarmWife can groom us (this she can do with her daughters) or clean our paddocks (this she can also do with her daughters) or ride me (this she cannot safely do with her daughters, so this is a very exciting prospect!) or drive Arrietty (this is merely a dream, but with Arrietty showing some aptitude it is a dream within reach).

FarmWife is borrowing a harness from her good friend J.N.C. in New England and Arrietty is already quite accustomed to meandering around on a longeline in surcingle and crupper. This week, she will begin learning to work properly on long lines.

I have asked FarmWife to promise to blog more, too, and also to start in again on the writing of her book. Her book, you see, is going to be partly if not mostly about the beauty and magnificence of me, Fenway Bartholomule. It's also going to be about good intentions, lucky coincidences, and happiness. It will be good.