Sunday, December 29, 2013

Whoops. Sorry about that.

Well, my twelve days of Christmas thing sure fell flat. It is just so hard for FarmWife to find time for blogging with her dear old mule when she's also busy with three jobs, three kids, and a house.

Here's my new years resolution: I may not be the one of the world's best bloggers anymore, but I do resolve to continue to be one of the world's best mules.

And, if anything awesome happens, I promise I'll tell you. I still love you more than words can bray.

Fenway Bartholomule.

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the ninth day of Christmas

♫ On the ninth day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me nine bites of carrot,
eight hugs and kisses, seven lights a-shining, six apple slices, five meager graaaains . . .
four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the eighth day of Christmas

♫ On the eighth day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me eight hugs and kisses, seven lights a-shining, six apple slices, five meager graaaains . . . four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the seventh day of Christmas

♫ On the seventh day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me seven lights a-shining,
six apple slices, five meager graaaains . . .
four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On the sixth day of Christmas

♫ On the sixth day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me six apple slices,
five meager graaaains . . . four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers,
and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Monday, December 16, 2013

On the fifth day of Christmas

♫ On the fifth day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me five meager graaaains . . . 
four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On the fourth day of Christmas

♫ On the fourth day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me
four big blue buckets, three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Saturday, December 14, 2013

On the Third Day of Christmas

♫ On the third day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me
three flakes of hay, two little tigers, and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Friday, December 13, 2013

On the second day of Christmas

♫ On the second day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me
two little tigers and a chihuahua in a tree. ♫

Thursday, December 12, 2013

On the first day of Christmas

 On the first day of Christmas, my FarmWife gave to me a chihuahua in a tree. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Arrietty has become predictable

There is no longer any question as to  whether Arrietty will hog the show every time FarmWife brings out the camera. She will. She does. And always with a smile!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pigs Peace Sanctuary

FarmWife passed one of the most enjoyable afternoons in recent memory with the 190+ porcine residents of Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, Washington. There, she saw a barnyard which was notably cleaner than her own, beautiful rolling green pastures full of happy, romping oinkers, a harmonious herd of big and small, old and young, white and black, sleek and fat, slow and fast pigs. She met a pig who had been born with three legs. She met pigs that weighed more than me, Fenway Bartholomule. She met pigs who slept so deeply in their orchard grass beds that all one could see were little snorkel-snouts sticking out of the hay.

If you are ever in need of some inspiration to value animal lives alongside your own, visit Pigs Peace Sanctuary. It makes it ever so clear that you humans and we equines are co-citizens with our fellow sentient earthlings.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

One camera, two attitudes

This is me, Fenway, reacting to the presence of a camera. 
This is my sweetheart, Miss Arrietty, reacting to the presence of a camera. 
I'm not naming names, but someone is a bit of a show off. 

Love, FB 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revisiting our cast of characters

It's been a while since we talked, but in that time the demographics of Bent Barrow Farm have radically shifted. This summer, a weasel struck (nine hens dead in 72 hours), then we found other homes for all but our oldest remaining chickens. Our barnyard fowl population is now down from nineteen to three (Chanticleer, Daphne, and Feather). Those three are moving to Granny Joan's house this fall. Daphne and Chanticleer were originally hers before they moved here 7 years ago and she says she would be glad to take them back. It is just as well: the humans need more room to grow delicious apples, pears, carrots, and similar delectable edibles for me, Fenway Bartholomule.

Here's the permanent cast:

Me, Fenway Bartholomule. I am the king and benign overlord of Bent Barrow Farm. I am in charge of eating the grasses, braying the news of the day, and standing vigilant against suspicious atmospheric apparitions*. (*I am afraid of rainbows).

My darling, Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon. She is the Director of Adorability, Chief Eyelash Batter, and Head of Hug Distribution.

My goat, Missy (Empress of All the Light Touches). She is more like an Empress Dowager. She's old, she's frail, she's weak, she's wobbly, but let me tell you . . . she can still tip a wheelbarrow full of manure before you can say, "don't you dare!"

My clouddog, Paisley. Paisley is 12 years old. Paisley has been unlucky of late. He would have a lot of life left in him if it weren't for an unfortunate pair of afflictions—he has epilepsy, which is mostly controlled by medications. He has a missing ulna in one front leg, which isn't too bad because the other three work OK. The challenge is that sometimes his epilepsy meds make him weak behind, which leaves him one leg to stand on. It is a delicate balance, literally and figuratively. Let's just say he is doing OK today. (Actually, we can say whatever we want: he's congenitally deaf and can't hear us. He knows some ASL.)

My weaseldog, Clover. Clover is an 11 pound chihuahua trapped in a 13 pound body. No amount of dieting seems to help. She is magnificent in every other way, and used to go trail riding with us back when I was sound of limb. She would scout ahead for us, except during eagle season. Then, she'd ride in the saddle with FarmWife.

My housetiger, Desmond. Desmond doesn't come outside to boast about the interior of the human abode anymore. The humans decided to limit their freedom after one too many dead shrews and one too many scraps with the neighborhood toms. As I recall, Desmond is a regal panther in a tabby suit.

My other housetiger, Townes. Townes is just like Desmond except with a frailer body and a better sense of humor. Townes was found in the middle of a busy highway at age 6 weeks and has always been Not Quite Right. He wobbles like a drunken hula dancer, but that doesn't stop him from living life to the fullest. He has no idea he's different.

My minimule, Harriet. Harriet is a Rex/Californian cross. They say she is a rabbit but I know better. With ears like that and a strong appetite for hay, she MUST be an equine of some sort. She has very big kickers. She is the velvetiest in our family.

My mini lop rabbit, B. B came into the family to be Harriet's friend. They were mortal enemies for the first year, but it's all been worked out. B is a marvelous and magical animal. One miraculous thing about B is that she is 70% fur and 20% loose skin. When you squeeze her, you find that she's hardly made of anything at all.

My house falcon, Kevin. FarmWife says Kevin is a cockatiel (and a vegetarian, and left handed) but I know better. With that keen gaze and sharp beak, I'm just sure that he could eat me alive if I didn't outweigh him by 4500:1.

Kevin's mail order bride, Keiko. Keiko came home last week from the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. Kevin is expected to fall head over heels for this shy and diminutive creature, because his love affair with FarmWife has been frustrating for him. You see, for one thing, FarmWife's already married. For another, she works a lot. No one wants a lonely house falcon, and so it was decided that Kevin needed a friend of his own species. I will let you know if Kevin's and Keiko's polite acquaintanceship blossoms into a full blown romance.

FarmHusband. His team is in the world series. He is good at building barns, throwing hay, and rubbing ears. FarmWife thinks he's handsome.

The weanling humans. These girls love me. They are 13, 6, and 9. If you look through the archives, you will see that they are avid equestriennes and very good huggers.

FarmWife. She's my human. We're very good friends. I used to lug her around over hill and over dale, but with her schedule being as busy as it is and my hock being just sound enough for light use, we've decided to keep all of our feet on the ground. I rather think she is the nicest woman any mule ever had for a friend.


Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

It's International Mole and Mule Day, the day when chemists the world over celebrate Avogadro's number while Friends of the Muleness celebrate me, Fenway Bartholomule! Did you know I turned 19 this month? We don't know the date, so the 23rd must do.

 This year, FarmWife "works six days a week" Jones honored the moment with two pears and a quick ear rub. Ho, hum. You know who REALLY came through for me today? Lynda at Simple Relief! She sent me a big care package full of my favorite products. (I'll tell you a really embarrassing truth: I used to have the grossest dandruff on my dock before I started getting my tail moistened with Simple Relief Detangle & Shine.)

I know I've been falling down on the blogging job lately, but bear with me. I love and value each of my readers—nay, I shall call you my friends. I will write when I can, but in the meantime know that I am well and well-loved! FarmWife is busy working here and here, but don't doubt that she is well too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The culinary explorations of an elderly goat

Purina Goat Chow? No thank you.

Equine Senior? Ho, hum.

Corn, oats, and barley? Blech.

Alfalfa pellets? Yaaaawwwwn.

Asphalt shingles and moldy tar paper? NOW we're talking!

Missy hasn't been so excited about a meal in ages. Good thing FarmWife was near the all-you-can-eat garbage buffet before Missy overate!

P.S. Our housetiger, Townes, is easier to feed. His challenge is that he is ALWAYS hungry. Here, you see that he has asked for, and received, a BIGGER bowl of cat food. "Ah," he said. "Finally, a dish my size!"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book 4

We are well situated here at Bent Barrow Farm in regard to nature. While our 113 year-old farmhouse sits on what many would consider a small parcel, we do have what feels like the world's biggest backyard. Bent Barrow Farm sits in the South Fork Valley of Western Washington's Cascade foothills, and with a fit mount and a weekend's time, I could ride out on our neighborhood logging roads and deer paths and make it as far as the 7,000-ft. Twin Sisters. With a free summer, a game mule, and a machete, I could traverse the neglected Pacific Northwest Trail to Montana. With a free hour, however, I am limited to difficult footing or very short spurs that end, like the pipeline trail, at gravelly drop-offs or precipitous, densely forested slopes. There’s the trail that ends above Ennis Creek, its gravel cul-de-sac offering little pleasure beside the burbling sound of the falls below, and the one that ends on the rise below Lyman Hill’s impassable north slope. Lyman Hill is just a little taller than New Hampshire’s famously difficult Mount Monadnock, for scale, and is our closest geographic feature beyond the Samish River. There’s the Bear Walk, which requires a mile of road riding and which was recently logged, anyway, but which hides pounds upon pounds of chanterelles in its least disturbed corners, and Lex’s Walk, beyond, which has been sculpted by motorcyclists into a sandy roller-coaster track. There’s the Hilton’s gravel slide, which covers the natural gas pipeline a mile from here and which is littered with hoofprints and lead shot—the former left by Fenway Bartholomule, the latter left by our neighborhood’s least discerning target shooters. I am a target shooter too, but I don’t fire towards the pipeline and it’s “Warning! Natural Gas!” signs. I'll leave that Darwin Award for another contestant, thank you.

From the perspective of an equestrian, Bent Barrow Farm is well situated. Springy, groomed bridle trails and a covered arena would be nice, of course, but the mere presence of trails—any trails—is a boon. I grew up riding horses in Central California's expansive country, so my perfect ride would involve cantering up a sprawling ridge: golden grasses bowing before flying hooves. Shadows pooling under spreading live oaks. Sun. Space. A clearly visible horizon. Here, though, I get the next best thing. Picking our way among roots, Fenway Bartholomule and I exit a primordial forest onto a steeply climbing gravel road. We stop and look behind us. To the east, the glaciated peaks of Mounts Baker and Shuksan peek out from behind the Twin Sisters in their lacy bonnets of spring snow. The south fork of the Nooksack curves away to the north, a ribbon binding quilted squares of orchard grass and blueberries, corn and kale and cattails. In front of us, a replanted forest slopes into the tuneful marsh of the Samish headwaters. A pastel softness defines the scene, a special quality of light unique to the first emergence of brilliant sun on an otherwise rainy day. We turn southwest to a view across the blue and rolling Chuckanuts to the tulip fields of Skagit County and the southern San Juan Islands. We are twenty minutes from home. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book 3

Bent Barrow Farm
'Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

This story begins with this farm, if I can call it that. This farm sits on just 1.25 acres, but it’s all pasture and orchard and barn and garden and coop. I think it qualifies at least as a hobby farm, except that I resent that phrase. It brings to mind hobby farmers, whom I think of as people with more money than me. Perhaps this is no farm but just a rural home, with a rural yard full of rural pets—mules, goat, rabbits, chickens.

I start by telling you about this place because it is here that I learned to be happy.

When we bought Bent Barrow Farm (known then merely as the Omey’s place or, to some of the older neighbors, the Hathaway house, or, to some of the even older ones, the old electrical transform station), I was not happy. I was quite distressed, actually. We were expecting a third child—all of them unplanned, and through no lack of attempts at contraception—and we were broke, exhausted, and really, really tired of our tiny apartment in a nearby college town. That neighborhood was gray and brown, with plum-colored bus stops.

This neighborhood is green, brown, blue, and white, but mostly green—green forests, green pastures, green hills, green orchards, and, in the winter, green moss where my pasture grass is supposed to be. I think it means my soil needs a higher pH, which is no surprise: we live on slick gray clay, notorious for its acidity. This acre is bounded by the Samish headwaters to the east and by a rarely-used spur of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to the west, which works out nicely: when Wickersham floods, the steeply-banked railway serves as our own personal canal. Meredith Lane becomes an island, and life goes on as usual here at Bent Barrow Farm. This has happened more than once in our seven years here, which makes me think we are rather lucky to have the train tracks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A book I was writing, part 2

Here's the second installment of the book I was writing. —Marnie

Roommates, continued

My cockatiels lived at that time in their own outbuilding, a flight cage of about a hundred square feet, and so Rhody, the aptly named Rhode Island Red, was the little house's only resident fowl. She had lost a leg after becoming entangled in chicken wire and had thereafter been brutally ostracized by her fellow hens. Chicken flocks, it turns out, are not equal opportunity organizations. She passed her remaining days in the yard with my three dabbling ducks and slept, each night, on my the headboard of my bed: butt facing out, paper beneath. The ducks slept in a doghouse out of doors, because even I had my limits.

My Siamese cat—Mewzetica—and three guinea pigs—Piglet, Nellie, and Iggy Tribble—rounded out the mammal population of my little house until I brought home three mice and a pony. The pony, Sir Lancelittle, had spent his first five years of life tied to the outside of a lion cage, a sort of live entertainment act for the two resident cougars. My mom drove by one day to the sight of the two cats crouching, tails a-flick, and the pony twenty feet away pulling back against a straining rope. She bought him there and then, loaded him into her Vanagon, and offered no objection when I borrowed him as duck yard mower and occasional house guest. In defense of my sanity, I will tell you that he was only allowed in the kitchen, that he was never permitted to poop indoors, and that he slept in the barn with our ten big horses. There was only so much room in my bed.

The mice were a symptom of my first crush: I was 14, recently returned from summer camp, and a percussionist of 17 had captured my attention. He was the first vegetarian boy I'd ever met. On my last night at music camp, he walked two miles to bring me a rock which we had both admired. We named it Howard: 52 pounds of garnetiferous mica schist.

My timpani player loved classical music, Apple computers, and pet mice. We had music in common—I played flute and cello. Apple computers? Check. I had one, back when they were roughly the size, shape, weight, and color of a standard cinderblock. Mice were the missing element, and in a fog of teenaged thinking I decided that I needed some with which to lure the object of my affection from his Seattle home to my Whidbey Island lair.

Rimsky was plump and golden, Korsakov exotically splashed with black and white, and Glinka, their underweight albino companion, thrown into the purchase out of pity. I set the three “boys” up in a nice large cage. All was well, for a time.

Anyone who has ever examined a male mouse will know that male mice are anatomically—how to say this—well, let's say “testicularly endowed.” There is no overlooking mouse balls, and yet somehow I overlooked the absence thereof on little Mr. Korsakov until the day that I awoke to sixteen little pink pups suckling at Mr. Korsakov's breasts. Make that Mrs. Korsakov. My dad, ever the handy assembler of pet cages, had recently moved to the area to set up his own household. With his assistance, the little weanlings and their parents were soon moved into a set of nineteen mousey condos: six inches per side, two feet tall, each equipped with stairways and landings so as to lend interest without taking up floor space. Still, the colony required about half of my kitchenette and at least an hour a day of my time. Cleaning my room was more akin to mucking out a stable, and I don't believe I ever did get my percussionist over for a visit. I wouldn't have had time.

It is in this context that you must understand my present day argument: that no, we do not have too many pets, and that yes, I really should bring my two mules in next to the hearth for next year's Christmas photo. It's really a very reasonable request. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An excerpt from a book I started to write

Let's file this under "old but good." This is an excerpt from the book that I was writing, and which I ought to get back to. I'll parcel it out to you over the next few days, and you can see if you think it's worth finishing.

Some material may have appeared on my blog, Puddle Run, before.

It's a mostly true story.  


When I was about twelve years old, my mother and stepfather let me move into the guest house at Cultus Bay Road. The two story building, 100 yards removed from our squat shingled house, had linoleum floors, a kitchenette, and a fenced yard for my Indian runner ducks. This was my home for a brief but formative time, the years after my family moved to the country but before my Irish wolfhound was framed for murder. At the end of those years, my mom moved me to a five acre parcel off Lone Lake Road where we could afford a barn or a house, but not both, and where we therefore lived in a barn for the rest of my childhood. (My former bedroom is now home to Sailor, the Shetland gelding, and Cadbury, the miniature stallion.) 

The linoleum in my little house was handy, as some of the tenants with whom I shared the building were less evolved in their bathroom habits than others. I was an animal lover even then. It was how I had identified myself, and been identified by others, for all my life. My mother was an animal lover too, and her particular enthusiasm was for making ALL animals welcome. This meant that she passed no parental judgement—offered no voice of mature reason—when I decided to invite Mirri, Maggie, Mewzetica, Piglet, Nellie, Iggy Tribble, Sir Lancelittle, Rhody, Rimsky, Glinka, and Korsakov plus her 16 infants (I named them Bach, Tchaikovsky, and fourteen other composers between) to live in the little house with me. 

Mirri was a given. If you've ever loved an Australian cattle dog, you will know that they are not the sort of pet one leaves behind in the main house. They are a faithful shadow of a dog, glued to your side except when they are out in front saving you from attack, herding your livestock, or nipping the heels of an innocent bystander. Mirri was heroic, gentle, and savage as needed: when I was seventeen, she bit a would-be date rapist badly enough to require stitches. When I was 21, she performed as the steadying ballast when my daughter pulled herself to her feet for the very first time. So yes, Mirri moved with me into the little house. I will tell you another time how she broke my heart when she died, and how she visited me with terrible nightmares, and how I could barely let her tired body go. 

Maggie, the Irish wolfhound who would later be smeared with blood and accused of having murdered my mother's three dozen hens (all of them shot through with a .22), came too. Hers was the still-warm turd that I stepped onto, in bare feet, on my first morning walk out of the little house. She weighed 140 pounds, and it was not a small turd. Otherwise, she was a saint of a dog with a flawless character. She looked like one of Jim Henson's muppets and acted like a child, save for occasional majestic moments: during those, she would pause and sniff the air in such a way that one could see the blood of Finn MacCool coursing through her. Otherwise, she would grin and galumph about or gambol with such unbridled joy that she might knock into an observer's knee, shredding its meniscus cartilage and completely obliterating its anterior cruciate ligament (ask me how I know). Aside from a lifetime of knee problems, I have nothing but fond memories of Maggie. Like many Irish Wolfhounds, she died too young. They are a marvelous breed, but not a long-lived one. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

A beautiful dogs, beautiful bird kind of day

I worked from home today (Labor Day + a cold = a great excuse to stay in) and enjoyed the time with my pets:

Clover, who DOES have a tail (it's just wagging too fast to see)

Paisley, who ALWAYS looks this amazed
Kevin, who is THIS wonderful (stretching arms wide).


Sunday, September 1, 2013

One blog, two voices

Dear friends and readers,

I'm planning on deleting, and The archives of those blogs are now intermingled with Fenway's posts here at I hope that the disadvantages of broken links and changing voices will be outweighed by the advantage of having a streamlined online identity and a chance to share photos, stories, poems, and updates in one place with my largest audience. The tone and character of Brays of Our Lives may evolve, and I thank my friends and readers in advance for going with me on this next phase of my journey as a writer. 

Fenway is still here, hale, and hearty, and still serves as my muse. You'll hear from him from time to time!

Marnie Jones

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New role, new schedule

Fine company indeed! The lovely Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon
is my constant and affectionate companion.
Dear friends,

My excuse? Sunny days, dusty hides, tender grasses, and the pleasure of fine company. It's hard to blog in these lazy days of summer.

FarmWife's excuse? She's been busy settling into a really exciting new position as Communications Manager for the Whidbey Institute, a Clinton, Washington-based organization which works in the three areas of leadership transformation, community vitality, and sustainable action. The half-time position compliments her work at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, where she is continuing, and gives her a sense of balance in her work with animals, people, and the earth.

We have a new schedule, and it's a far sight more predictable than the one we had before. It includes blogging time. You will hear from me again soon.


Mama, why are you so boring?

Robin: "Mama, why are you so boring?"

Mama: "Because I have a lot of jobs."

I'm writing this morning to share the very happy news that I am transitioning into the Communications Manager role at Whidbey Institute, a South Whidbey organization dedicated to work in leadership transformation, sustainable action, and community vitalization. After my first day on the job I can say with utter conviction that the people, place, and work are inspiring and beautiful.

I'm continuing in my half-time role at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley as Webmaster/Publications Editor, but stepping back from my broad role at the Timber Framers Guild (though I will continue as their newsletter layout editor for the immediate future, as it's work I very much enjoy). I am officially closing my poetry order form and getting out of the freelancing business. Robin, that should make me a little less boring! Just give me a week or two to tie up loose ends and then you'll have your fun and flexible mama back. I promise.

This is a very exciting change. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Well, we made it

"I'll tell you where to stick your
'no white after Labor Day' rule!"
—Missy, Empress of All the Light Touches
Whatever it is that compels you human Americans to celebrate freedom by recreating the terror of war in your own backyards each July 4th evades my understanding. I, Fenway Bartholomule, am an unflappable mule (except when visited upon by an Avenging Phantom Line from Beyond or a Place where One is Taken to Die) and was therefore unfazed by the sounds, smells, and sights of your explosive festivities, but poor FarmWife spent the evening holding her trembling chihuahua and experiencing strong feelings of resentment. FarmWife associates July 4th with bad things: the memory of her childhood dog Brumby, for instance, running away and being hit by a car (he suffered a collapsed lung, but survived). 

Luckily, Labor Day is coming! I think that's when the working people of the world celebrate their hard work by not working. Oh, and not wearing white dresses and open-toed shoes together. Or something like that.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What semi-retirement looks like

Semi-retirement means carrying medium-sized children . . .

And semi-retirement means carrying little children . . . 

And semi-retirement means carrying great big children
who are hardly even children anymore . . . 

And semi-retirement means lots of hugs.
I can go with that. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Granny files

Did you know that I, Fenway Bartholomule, have some of the best human grannies in the whole wide world? Well, now you do. My human Granny Joan loves animals so much that she is even bringing a scraggly little kitten back to Washington from Florida after finding him on a business trip! He needed someone, and the only someone who stepped up was a woman who lived 3500 miles away. He's been to the vet, and is vaccinated, neutered, FeLV/FIV tested negative. He's going to be looking for a home in Cascadia after every Miami-area rescue refused him admission. Granny is also kind to hoofbeasts, and has opened her doors to cattle, goats, horses, llamas, dogs, cats, and birds in need! In fact, it was SHE who fronted the cash to make me a permanent member of the Jones household, after seeing how her adult daughter FarmWife had fallen head over heels for me.

My human Grammy Jane is pretty swell, too. She's the sort of woman who stops at the grocery shop for carrots after a full day's travel from New England to Wickersham, just to be sure she won't arrive without a treat for her favorite grandmule. That's dedication.

My human Grandma Leslie is renowned the world over for her delicious food, her beautiful garden, her pampered kitties, and her amazing talents as a hummingbird whisperer. FarmWife tells me that there are sometimes two dozen hummingbirds at Leslie's kitchen window all at once! Her garden is like a fairytale, but I know this second hand. I have not been entrusted to set hoof amidst its winding paths, hidden nooks, and fragile blooms.

That's OK. I'm all about the wide open pasture, anyway.

My wish for you—may your hay be fresh and abundant. May your trails be smooth and scenic. May your grandmothers be as kind as mine.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A big step

The oldest human filly is home for the summer from her other home (with dad) and I have this to say: she's nearly as tall as FarmWife, just as nice as FarmWife, and just as good at delivering hay, ear rubs, and scratches. It's official: I've taken the big step of including the oldest human filly in my circle of People Who Get Brayed At (PWGBA). The PWGBA have a very special place in my heart.

The middle human filly asks when, and by what means, she can become a PWGBA. FarmWife tells her that regular barn visits, occasional treats, and consistently kind actions will get her into the club. It will, middle filly. It will.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summertime . . . and the living is easy!

Ok, so it's not officially summer yet . . . but the living IS easy! I am relishing my role as Official Farm Greeter and Pasture Ornament. Could I be any more lovely, really?

FarmWife is using every spare minute of computer time to push pets for the folks at, but we assure you that we're still brayful, hayful, and well!

I hope your Solstice weekend is joyful, and promises of an excellent summer to come!

I am a RARA

I'm distancing myself more and more from mainstream horse industry thinking. In opposition to some vegans, I DO think it's humane to ride a horse if the discipline suits his physical and mental aptitudes and if you're willing to keep him on as a retired companion when his useful life is through. However, when riders carry on about the RARA's threat to equestrian sport, I think to myself that I would GLADLY trade my right to ride, harness, breed, or otherwise use my animals if the tradeoff was a fulfillment of Radical Animal Rights Activist goals: an end to subjugation. It's not a slippery slope into restrictions on OUR freedom. It's an overdue journey towards the abolition of speciesism and slavery. Yes, there are animals that need protection more immediately than the eventers and the carriage horses. Still, if we lose eventing and urban carriage rides as part of a societal shift away from institutionalized animal abuse, it's a worthy trade.

Oh, and I say this as a huge livestock lover: to the meat eaters who argue that we protect domestic livestock breeds from extinction by milking or eating them—screw that. I'd rather see them go extinct than be brought into this world only to be murdered by their keepers. They were invented for human appetites, and they didn't ask to be born. It would be a sad thing to never again gaze upon the doe eyes of a Jersey cow, but it's sadder still to think of that cow being sent to the butcher when her overtired udder loses its tone in middle age. To think of her sons being thrown out like garbage.

In the past, I've supported the breeding of sport horses, purebred dogs, and dairy goats. I shall not support it any longer. I no longer believe in intentionally bringing animals into this world. There are too many already, and I shall hold this stance until they ALL have loving homes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Who's the badass?

Now THAT's a confused llama. Not my image.
I found it on,
which probably found it somewhere else. 
I was taking a look at the recent searches that led folks to Brays of Our Lives dot com (and yes, people, I do see what you type into Google so please keep your strangest queries to yourselves!) Here are some highlights:

Confused llamas
Furry question mark
Looks like we have a badass here
Advantages of riding donkeys

نقاشی پنجره

That last one had me pretty excited, as I was sure it would translate as "mount of the gods" or "equine who surpasses all others and breathes the fire of heaven from his majestic nostrils". Turns out it's Persian for "window painting." 

Ah, well. 

A window would look nice with me painted on it. 


Monday, June 10, 2013

Feast time is over, let the famine begin.

Well, it's official. I am no longer skinny. After losing a lot of weight this winter (we're guessing it was due to encysted strongyles), I'm now round as pound, plump as a lump, fat as a cat, and what have you.  I not too fat, mind you—I just have well-sprung ribs, so you can forget that pregnancy joke right now! Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am no longer in need of massive quantities of concentrates. I've had my equine senior/timothy pellet combo reduced from four pounds to two pounds a day and FarmWife says it's going to go away completely in not too long.

Ah, it was fun being a hard keeper while it lasted. FarmWife says that next year we're doing a Quest dewormer in the fall and a middle weight blanket all winter just in case.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

My kind of math

A girl after her mother's heart! Here's my middle human filly's second grade math work:

Problem: write a story that matches the problem: 42+53.

Solution: "I have 42 mules. I get 53 more. How many mules do I have now?"

That's my girl. Keep dreaming big, kiddo!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A knee story

I turned 34 this morning. Cheers, Joan! Cheers, Tim! Thanks for bringing me into the world.

I decided a few days ago that it's a lot better to be 34, out of shape, and just starting on the road to fitness than 40, 50, or 60, out of shape, and just starting on the road to fitness. I have, therefore, gone on three jogs in the last five days.

Being a person of fast metabolism, I can be deceptively out of shape without standing out to my friends and loved ones as a person in poor condition. Believe me. I am a person in poor condition. Today, I had a major fitness milestone: I ran so far, and so fast, that my fat chihuahua started to pant and lag behind. Small steps. (Apparently she, too, is a person in poor condition. With shorter legs.)

Here's one small miracle: my right knee, which I injured in 1998 in a collision with an Irish Wolfhound and which has no anterior cruciate ligament (total tear), had a transformative experience last fall and I am like a new person! This  experience came after 14 years of nearly constant mild to moderate pain, loud clicking and grating, and one diagnosis by an orthopedic surgeon as "the worst knee [he'd] ever seen that [was] still being walked on."

Last fall, I was riding my bike along the road in slow, stoic discomfort. Pedal, crackle, wince. Pedal, crackle, wince. Pedal, crackle, wince. Then, at the corner of Wickersham Street and Innis Creek Road, something tore loose. The crackling stopped. The knee surged with a lightening streak of pain. It swelled up, bruised badly, and was generally more dysfunctional than ever for a day or two after the experience, but do you know what? I have had NO knee pain in the ensuing 8 months. None! It's amazing. My theory is that a flap of my torn meniscus cartilage had been bending the wrong way with every step for 14 years and that finally, on that bike ride, it broke loose. It must have settled someplace out of the way, because I haven't felt it since. Fingers crossed. I hope it's gone for good!

Next step: a 5K charity run in September for the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Happy birthday

Today is FarmWife's birthday. I heard we were going bowling and then out for sushi. I was so excited that I got all dressed up: new mane turrets, fresh fly spray (it's organic), the whole 9 yards. I heard that the sushi place had one of those fun little conveyor belts where an astute vegan can grab an order of avocado and cucumber maki while it rolls past, and the less discerning diner can go for the mystery rolls with tentacles sticking out. Fun times.

Well, do you know what? It turns out that mules are not allowed at 20th Century Lanes OR at Kuru Kuru! I am being left behind.

Here is my left behind face.

I think I am going to go roll in the dust. That will teach them to celebrate without me.

Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, May 31, 2013


There is a rumor afoot (ahoof?) that Missy, Arrietty and I are going to get marvelous, magical BATHS on Wednesday! You see, temperatures are due to soar around 80 degrees fahrenheit this week, and that's an opportunity that can't be missed. Missy is small enough to squeeze into the heated indoor bathroom in a pinch, but for us mules there's no choice but to bathe au naturale in the wild outdoors. Warm weather is essential.

Why do we need baths, you ask? Well, there's the dirt, the dust, the grease, the grime, and the accumulated detritus that has resulted from passing the last who-knows-how-many months as a barnyard animal. There's the long and scraggly winter hair, which is falling out but not fast enough. And there's the fun of it. If there's anything more adorable than me, Fenway Bartholomule, it's me in a bubble hat.

Ears to you! We promise pictures on the big day!


Bath Day 2012

Friday, May 24, 2013

A quick update on me

This has been the Month of FarmWife: she talks about HER new job, HER house repairs, HER dentist appointments, HER PTA obligations, HER very busy schedule. Not a lot about ME on that list, and that's my excuse for being a very quiet mule. You may recall that I have been forbidden from laying hooves on the MacBook, so without her transcription services I'm hardly able to blog.

I just wanted to let you know that I am doing very, very well. I have a new trimmer coming out next week to have a look at the ol' hoofies, but I've been sound this spring. I've regained all the weight I lost, and we thank the Panacur PowerPak for that. I like the organic lifestyle as well as the next guy, but sometimes you've just got to poison a few parasites to get by!

Arrietty, Missy and I are passing our days in complete tranquility, save for a little bit of deer fly trouble, and things in the barnyard really couldn't be more peaceful. FarmWife still shows up every day to curry out last winter's straggling hairs. Hay still gets delivered. Manure still gets removed. The water troughs still get scrubbed. Of course, daily trail rides and fearsome adventures would make for great blog fodder, and we'll get to those someday. Short of the time and ambition for such adventures right now, I can only assure you that I remain healthy, wise, and, as always, your humble friend—

Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Steel yourselves

Dear Readers,

I, Fenway Bartholomule, cordially invite you to steel yourselves against an onslaught of beautiful, affectionate, darling pets, all in desperate need of loving homes, before visiting This is a website for which FarmWife is newly responsible. She's been busy getting all of their deserving dogs, cats, bunnies, and birds listed online these past few weeks, and that's my excuse for the long silence. Know that in the meantime I have been well. Yes, I have had to pass many lonely hours without FarmWife's company, but at least I've passed them with Missy and Arrietty and with mouth buried in hay. I'm nearly ready to unveil Summer Coat 2013, which is due to be just as shiny and splendiferous as Summer Coats 2012 and 2011 were, and Arrietty is about ready to unveil her wonderful new Fetching Tag! It reads, "A.G. Teaspoon" on one side and "Short & Sweet" on the other. We also have new chicks to show off ("homemade, not storebought," as the human children say) thanks to the efforts of Honey, a broody Buff Orphington, and there will be hikes and adventures of which to tell in the very near future.

In the midst of this busy time, let me say that there is not a one among us here on Bent Barrow Farm who could be happier, healthier, or more thoroughly grateful for the patience and friendship of you, our beloved blog readers.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dog joy is the purest joy

There's no gratitude like dog gratitude. There is no happiness like dog happiness, especially when it's a dog who has been locked in a six by twelve box and is suddenly set free to romp, run, roll, cuddle, and play for twenty minutes. It's faces like this one that make my new job at the humane society so very satisfying!