Life on the farm with the Man…and our critters…

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Goodbye, Hello…

IMG_2373I didn’t want another dog.  Not so soon, anyway.  After losing our old man Kody such a short time before, I really couldn’t bring myself to think about it.  I was still grieving heavily, and to entertain the thought of replacing him felt like I was betraying him.  Kody was the first four footed friend we had welcomed to our life together on the Farm, and his departure had taken me to a level of pain and anguish I had never experienced before.  Of course, as in all things, it wasn’t just about me.  The Man and our other two dogs, Gracie and Dewey, were all grieving the loss of a beloved Pack member in their own ways.  When I discovered that the Man had been quietly researching English Cream Golden Retrievers, I simply thought it was his way of mourning.  We all have our own coping skills, this was his.  Even when he came home from work one day excitedly babbling something about a friend of a cousin to a woman that was a childhood friend of the Preacher’s step sister’s dog had just had a litter of puppies, I still wasn’t taking him very seriously.  Then, with the barely contained excitement of an eight year old, he softly squealed that they were just a few miles up the road, and we were expected there in an hour to see them.  IMG_2129The next sixty minutes were a blur, and before I knew it, we had pulled up to the house where the puppies lived.  When I stepped out of the car,  the door to the house opened, releasing a flood of white puppies.  Twelve of them.  Six boys wearing blue collars, and six girls wearing pink collars.  The Man had informed me on the ride there that he preferred that I be the one to choose the puppy, but it had to be a male so Dewey could have a playmate.  Still not quite believing that we were where we were, and doing what we were doing, I started looking for blue collars.  At first, none of the blue tagged wee ones stood out to me, but then I noticed that one had a tiny little blue bell attached to his tiny little collar around his tiny little neck.  And then he turned and looked at me with those black as night eyes that were ringed with beautiful white eyelashes.  And in an instant…I was pudding.  Done deal, stop looking, he found us.  I turned to get the Man’s attention, only to find the puppy’s one hundred pound father balls to heaven in the Man’s lap, enjoying a good belly scratch.  After seeing proof of goofy genetics, I held the puppy up Lion King style, and presented the Man with the newest member of our Pack.  Over the next month, we visited him at least once each week, and each time, he was happier to see us.  IMG_2770We decided to name him Sebastian, a fine English sounding moniker that befits his breed.  By the time I drove those few miles one last time to pick him up when he was eight weeks old, he was answering to his name.  As we had planned beforehand, our first gathering as a family took place on the back lawn, near where we had laid Kody to rest.  I needed him to be near, to feel him near.  Dogs being dogs, that first gathering didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but they eventually all worked out where they each stood in the Pack hierarchy.  At the end of the day, Sebastian was a very tired pup more than ready to lay down and collapse.  Having done the whole puppy thing three times together already, we were well prepared, with the appropriate amount of toys, a plushy bed, and a large crate that stood beside his new brother Dewey’s crate.  Gracie took up residence under the kitchen table a few feet away, rightly claiming the night time space and bed that once belonged to Kody.  IMG_3986For the most part, the months since Sebastian’s homecoming have played out pretty much as I expected they would with no big surprises, but for one thing.  When Sebastian first came to live with us, there were often times when his Golden personality would remind me of Kody, and the sadness would return.  But Sebastian’s own personality quickly started to reveal itself, and the times I saw Kody in him grew fewer every day.  He and I bonded quickly, and he rarely left my side.  I came to rely on him for bad breath puppy kisses and laughter as much as he depended on me for unconditional love and approval.  The normal routine of life returned to the Farm once more.  Sebastian is now seven months old, and he is developing into a beautiful and rugged young English Cream Golden.  He is nearly as big as his brother and sister, and will likely surpass them in size and weight soon.  IMG_4556As the Man predicted, Sebastian and Dewey have become the best of friends, and spend hours each day getting into impish trouble together.  Of course, Sebastian still reminds me of Kody at times.  It’s hard to deny those Golden quirks, after all.  The difference now is that my memories of Kody are no longer painful, but are full of joy and laughter, with new memories being made every day.  I am grateful to the Man for knowing what our family needed, and also what I needed.  I’ve come to learn that sometimes in order to begin saying goodbye, one must first not be afraid to say hello…


Greek Trip, Athens, Part 1…

1Everyone has a bucket list, and ever since I was a small boy, someday visiting Greece was always high on my list. Very early on, I remember having more than a passing fascination with anything Greek.  The Parthenon, the Oracle at Delphi…I was captivated.  Even though I was surrounded by modern day religion and all that it taught to the contrary, I felt drawn to Greek Mythology, full of Gods and temples. The heroes of those ancient stories and beliefs were carved in beautiful marble statues, pictures of which filled me with awe and reverence, and I was much more inclined to believe in those stories than the ones I heard in Sunday school.  A few years ago, when the Man asked me what my dream trip has always been, I answered with no hesitation that Greece was the one place that I had always dreamed of visiting.  As most know, we just returned from that dream trip, and it was truly everything I had imagined it would be.  We knew that there would be no way to experience everything in two short weeks, so I gave the Man a short list of the places I absolutely wished I could see and visit.  As always, he took it on as a challenge, and when he was done, the trip was planned and plane tickets bought.  The day that I thought would never arrive did just that, and to Greece we were bound.

4Athens was our first destination, and we stayed in an apartment with a rooftop deck that faced the Acropolis.  We spent nearly a week of evenings up on that rooftop, enjoying the beauty of the Parthenon bathed in lights a less than a half mile away.  During the day we walked…and walked…and walked.  We  toured the city, enjoying it’s museums, colorful culture and lively music.  We walked on ancient roads through restored ruins.  We touched marble statues that had been carved by expert stone carvers thousands of years ago.  We enjoyed the very different Greek cuisine, which is largely dominated by sea food, lamb, and spices very unlike what we are used to.  We were tempted, and surrendered to, the sublime sweets the city had to offer.  You haven’t truly tasted baklava until you’ve eaten it freshly made by an elderly Greek woman running the family bakery.  The highlight of our stay in Athens was without a doubt visiting the Parthenon, which sits atop the Acropolis.  For me, there really are no words to describe what I felt as I stood mere feet away from the massive marble columns that support what remains of the roof of this grand building.  Time and wars have ravaged it, but it is currently being slowly restored to it’s former glory.  I also took the time to spread some of CJ’s ashes there, where he can overlook the city of 5 million people, and forever be a part of it’s history.

Visiting Athens and all it has to offer was truly what my dreams were made of, and I was not quite ready to leave it when we did.  I thought that nothing could begin to compare to those first few days of our adventure, but that opinion changed when I stepped off the plane on the Island of Santorini. The telling of that part of our adventure warrants it’s own blog entry…


The Cold Goodbye…

IMG_3903“Please don’t go.” I said.  She looked at me and smiled, saying “But I have to, you know I do.”  My eyes filled with water, and I asked “Will you return?”  She gently cupped my face in her hands, wiped away a tear and whispered “I always do, after a season.  When the days are dark, your shoulders weary, and your soul cannot see the light, that is when I will return.  I will once again fall upon your face, and warm your heart.  This I promise.”  She gently kissed my head, and turned to leave.  I watched her go, and the further she went, the colder I felt.  I know she will return again, but until she does, my heart will ache as much as my bones.  So I will wait, and watch the skies…and yearn for her embrace once more…


My Greek Cairn…

IMG_3365To some, it’s just a pile of rocks, but to me it’s much more.  It’s an acknowledgement, a nod of the head to those gone before.  Perhaps it’s not as intricately built as walls and foundations that were laid hundreds of years ago, but it is what I can present as an offering to those ancient builders. It overlooks the Aegean Sea, on the island of Santorini, on a mountain top where those that have gone before built their roads, their homes and their temples.  I feel their spirit all around me.  They lived, they loved, they passed.  They left their mark on this world…and on my soul…


My Mind’s Eye…

IMG_3114By now most people know that photography is my unofficial passion.  I say “unofficial” because if I take it more seriously, it becomes more of an obsession, and then it is no longer enjoyable to me.  I much prefer to carry my small pocket Canon, as opposed to having a heavier camera hanging around my neck.  If I purposely set out to take pictures with my 35mm, I then tend to miss the simple joy of catching the perfect shot as it comes along.  Rarely do I take a picture that shows an entire scene.  Instead, my eye leans towards just part of what most people see.  I appreciate forms and angles, and shadows are welcome.                                  Occasionally, I will notice people looking at me oddly, and following my camera’s line of sight, and it is obvious they are wondering what I could possibly be seeing that is worth photographing.  I am used to it, and can usually tune them out, leaving them to stare to their heart’s content.  This morning, however, I was presented with a situation that I had never experienced before.  IMG_2941I was walking down the street, very much in my own world as usual, snapping odd photos as I always do.  I noticed a young boy, about 9 years of age, give or take, and he was hanging back about 20 feet or so.  I would take a picture or two, zooming in or out on various scenes, and then move on.  As I moved away, he would move in to where I had been standing, and would study intently at what I had been photographing.  He would then take out his smartphone, and take the same picture or two that I had just taken.  Whether or not he was taking the exact shot that I had, I do not know, but I do know that he was trying to see what I had seen.  This easily went on for at least 15 minutes or so.  When I finally reached my destination, I turned and gave a nod to my young companion,wishing him well and silently thanking him for his company.  He went his way, and I went mine.  Later, as I was downloading and reviewing my photos, I thought of the boy, and realized that  perhaps he had learned to look at things in a different light, to look a little closer.  Maybe I had just witnessed the birth of this generations Ansel Adams, and I had played a part in it.  Of course, I will never know, but we all like to think that we’ve made a difference somehow, that we’ve left our mark on the world.  Maybe…just maybe, today was the day that I did…


Life is Good…

IMG_3204As I sit beside him, and together we watch the setting sun light up the sky, I give thanks for another day that I was blessed to spend with him.  My heart swells with love, and there is nowhere else I would rather be.  He is my rock, my anchor, my husband and my best friend.  What amazes me the most is knowing that he feels the same towards me…


The Last Goodbye…

IMG_1886I said goodbye to a friend the other day.  Grief overcame me in waves as we picked and prepared a spot for him to be buried.  We chose a spot next to the new fence we had recently put up, and just a few feet from the fire pit.  Having him close was important to me, and I was determined to make the spot beautiful, with a large stone to mark his grave, with some new plants and perhaps some mulch.  I was far too exhausted that night to start work on the landscaping, but made a vow to be up early the next day to finish what we had started.  I was so engulfed in my own grief that it never dawned on me that the Man would want to help, and I was genuinely surprised that he was beside me, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a rake in the other.  Thankfully, we had the tractor to help gently place the stone that we had picked, prominently marking the spot where he lay.  Before we started planting the rhododendrons and hostas that we had bought, we let Gracie and Dewey out to join us, more for my comfort than their want.  Instead of going off to play or do whatever it is that dogs do when they are free to roam, they never left our sides.  Dewey was more than eager to help dig holes for the plants, and then again”helped” me spread the mulch as the Man brought it over with the tractor.  Gracie sat a few feet away, intently watching and supervising.  Whereas the day before had been a blur of last visits from friends, with both laughter and tears, this day was for the four of us.  Throughout the project we cried, we laughed at Dewey as he helped, sat with Gracie and shared quiet moments, and when it was finished, we stood together and cried again.  The two dogs ran and played, and it filled our hearts with joy to see.  When they finally tired, Dewey claimed a spot under a nearby bush as his new den, and Gracie was back by our side.  And as a family, we had peace.  What I had set out to do alone, with my grief, we had done as a family, and we mourned together.  Earlier tonight, we again gathered out on the lawn near his spot, and played as a family.  And as I have for the last 11 years, I felt Kody’s presence…and I knew he was smiling…


The Commitment…

KodyHe needed help from the Man getting up on the couch beside me earlier, and he will remain there for the evening.  His hind legs, which are betraying him more each day, lay up against my right leg.  The old muscles in his sleeping body twitch as he dreams, and I wonder if in his dream he is still young as he chases the squirrels that have taunted him since the day he arrived on the Farm.  He is 11 now, and we had hoped that we still had a handful of years left with him.  He is nearly blind and mostly deaf, but all that came upon him so gradually, I don’t think he ever really missed it.  He never was very bright, and has gone through life being blissfully free of worry and care.  Before the first set of seizures, there was never any sign that something unwelcome may have been growing inside of his head.  All tests came back normal, with the only option left being a tumor in his brain.  Medications followed, and for a time he was better…but never the same.  Each seizure left him a little bit more vacant and unsure, and the Kody we knew slowly started to fade away.  He had his moments though, and we rejoiced each time he was present, and we felt blessed each time he visited.  What we had hoped would take months has turned into a few short weeks.  The medications that at first slowed the seizures is now hastening the process, and for the first time our discussions include the words “quality of life”.  Our other dogs, Gracie and Dewey, are never far from his side, and their sadness deepens daily.

We never thought that we would “know when it was time”.  Rather, we both believed that Kody would tell us when it was time, when he was ready to go.  The possibility that he wouldn’t be able to tell us never crossed our mind…until today.  No matter the cause, whether seizures, medicines or tumors, Kody is fading just as rapidly mentally as he is physically.  The daily decline is going faster and faster, and the days of him sharing his needs with us are mostly gone.  He has regressed, and behaves much more like a puppy with no table manners.  Our fear is that within days he will no longer recognize us for who we are..something we have already glimpsed in him.  For the most part, we are still able to comfort him, and reassure him when he is confused and scared.  Waiting until he is so far gone that our presence and touch will mean nothing to him in the end is what I fear the most.  He has been a faithful companion for many years, never wavering in his love and commitment to the Man and me.  It is now our responsibility to make sure he feels our love up to the very last moment…


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The Retaking…

The retaking...


The Return…

IMG_0723It’s been nearly 2 years since I last wrote a new blog entry, at least one that I’ve actually published.  I’ve started many of them, with each one being “the one” that got me back in the groove of writing.  None of them were actually finished though, and the months ticked by while “Me and the Man” remained idle.  To be fair, I’ve had plenty to fill my time here on the Farm, and trying to form my thoughts into words at the end of a busy day grew more daunting as time passed.  A serious case of depression also tapped my energy level, and my muse deserted me.  Trying to write blogs that filled others with good thoughts and warm feelings became impossible, and after awhile I stopped trying.  What’s changed, you ask?  Time does tend to heal wounds, even ones inflicted by family members.  The word “heal” is used loosely, of course.  “Fade” works better, because some things cannot be forgotten or forgiven, no matter how hard I try.  I wish I could, but that is a battle I’ve chosen not to fight at the moment.  Instead, one day I decided that I needed to stop looking behind, and start looking at the present and the future.  There are many, many things that I am thankful for, not the least being my best friend and husband, Jack.  He is my rock, has been for 13 years and our marriage is now recognized in my home state.  In the past year, I’ve reconnected with old friends that were always more like family to me, and became more involved with the Shriners by joining the Mini Racers unit that participated in parades across the state every weekend.  I’ve lost animals here on the farm that I had become very close to, but have also added others that fill my days with joy and laughter.  My love for photography has returned, and I once again view all things as though through a camera lens.  Music flows through me, encouraging me to dance and pick up instruments I had set aside.  I laugh more, and Jack laughs both with and at me.  I’ve discovered just what my own limits are, and in doing so, I’m able to give more of myself to others again.  I’ve rediscovered the joy of helping others when I can, and have formed bonds and made friends along the way.  One recent journey turned into a very spiritual experience for me, and I will carry the mark of it with me forever.  IMG_0775I still have moments when the clouds pass over, but no more than anyone else, and I deal with them accordingly.  Overall, I’m quite happy with how the past year played out, and I feel as though I’m a better man than I was 12 months ago.  What do I expect 2014 to bring?  I take nothing for granted, and am thankful for everything, and I can only hope that the coming year will be as good as the past one was.  I will continue to try to be a better man, to do the right thing always, and to do my best to cause no harm.  That is all I can do.  If I’m lucky, my muse will return as in days past, and I’ll be able to share my life with you again in this blog.  I wish you all many blessings in the coming year…


Home and Heart…

As most of you know, the Man and I have been on vacation in Hawaii, on the island of Maui.  It truly is a beautiful island, and was the perfect getaway to help lessen the winter blues that I struggle with each year.  They say that “Home is where the heart is”, and for the most part, that is very true, as my heart is very much where the Man is, but this trip has been very different from any others we have taken.  In the past, I’ve been able to set aside most pangs of homesickness for the week or two that we may be gone, with only the occasional pull at my heart strings for what we’ve left behind.  Not so this time.  Don’t get me wrong, our days here on this island of paradise were full of adventure, as is the usual for us.  We tend to find adventures that are far off the beaten path, and pride ourselves on experiencing things that most people overlook.  We’ve climbed mountains to view spectacular valleys, and scaled down cliffs to peek into emerald pools full of salt water wonders like two young boys.  We found hidden roads that lead to rarely visited villages, and sat with old women that offered us toasted coconut while we watched whales play in the distance.  We even walked centuries old lava flows along the sides of wind swept volcanos that most would deem dangerous and foolhardy.  But at the end of the day, as we would watch another magnificent sunset over neighboring islands, my thoughts would turn to what we’ve left behind at home.  Our Farm, with our newly built fences and stables that house our horses, and our dogs, Kody and Gracie, that never leave our side.  Our birds, Opie and Kookie, that delight us with their love and antics on a daily basis, and the cats that curl up with us at night by the fire after a hard day’s work.  We have become the Farm, and it has left it’s imprint on our souls.  For some, home may truly be where the heart is, but for the Man and me, our hearts are where our home is.  We may travel far and wide, sometimes for fun and occasionally for work, but at the end of the day, and of the trip, our hearts lead us back to where we belong.  To the Farm…to our home…


The Past Year…

This past year has been an eventful year for myself, as well as the Man.  Together, we worked very hard at making new goals, and even harder at achieving them.  Many hours each day were spent remodeling the barn and putting up fences to make a home for our soon to arrive horses.  When they finally did arrive after many setbacks, we knew our lives had forever changed, and the path had been set.  We are now making plans to add goats in the spring, and the coop is built and fenced in preparation for chickens in the spring.  We planted a few more varieties of fruit trees, as well as added some rows of blackberries in the garden area.  As usual, the Man also spent many hours canning the Fall harvest, producing enough bounty for ourselves and for friends and family.  While we were making plans to become a farm, the Farm became us.

The past year showed a turn around in our lives outside of the Farm.  For a few years, we had mostly turned inward, and had grown content to live the lives of hermits.  The reasons for the self imposed seclusion are many, and certainly worthy of a good tell all, but those are stories for another day.  We realized that we needed to learn to trust again, and to take chances with letting others into our lives.  We’ve made some new friends this past year, one in particular that started out as doing the right thing, and turned into a friendship and a bond that will never be broken. We had friends that we had lost contact with come back into our lives, and we picked up right where we left off.  Through my involvement with the Masons, I continued to find and befriend the good men and women that I had sought so hard to find, and my faith in humanity began to heal.

The beginning of 2011 also marked our tenth year together, and we began it as we have every year before.  With love, respect, and endless laughter.  We stood side by side and worked harder than we’ve ever worked before, and it made us stronger both as friends and as soul mates.  A year later, the goals we achieved, as well as our dreams for the future,  have given us a clear map of where our path leads.  We ended 2011 and welcomed 2012 the same way we have every year…holding hands and sitting beside each other, giving thanks for another year together, and looking forward to what lies ahead for the coming year.  The past year was a very good year, and the coming year looks to be just as promising.  Come what may…and side by side…


The Man’s guest blog…

Well, I’m honored and excited.  My Man has asked me to do a guest blog and is letting me do it without even knowing what it would be about.  (Ok…he has full editing and veto rights…but this is really how our life is and I don’t mind so much…I’ve come to cherish it oddly enough.)  So what would I write about that he couldn’t do better?  The only answer is himself.

My Man came to me when I was ready for such a gift and not when I wished for it.  I have come to understand that God often works this way.  From a very young age I had decided what I wanted most in life and what was important to me.  I never wavered from my earliest memories in my dedication to the quest.  I wanted true love.  As a child I dreamed of this person who would be my best friend and truest confidant….the person I could share everything with and have as an anchor in life.  My dreams of the future were always about having this great love…not so much what I would be, what I would do, or where I would travel.  All my dreams of happiness hinged on finding this person I knew was out there.  I was scared sometimes, in such a big world, that I would never find this person…or that I might find the person I felt this way about and it would not be returned.  I often didn’t think I was so worthy to have what I longed for…so this was a big concern for me always.

So I met Rick.  My heart fell.  I didn’t dare speak to him for 6 months after I met him because I knew if I did he would know how I felt.  I was very afraid of that…too afraid that I really had found him and that my biggest fear would be reality.  For 6 months I observed.  I had to be sure.  He was, and is, a strong man.  He didn’t let others make his choices for him.   He was kind. He was admired and pursued by so many, yet he seemed so alone.  I finally got the courage to speak.  You know the line “you had me at hello”…yeah…it was exactly like that.

I tell the same story about him so often that many of you if you know me have heard it already…sorry.  It is, though, the story that, to me, conveys the spirit of the man I love.  There are many, many more, but it was a moment where he made me stop and examine myself and realize that I wanted to be with him that I could learn to be more like him.  We took a trip together to Toronto. It was a magical trip really…we were so in love and it was so new for us still.  We, as we always do, walked for miles just exploring and seeing the city and all the little out of the way corners that don’t make the tourbooks…we like that.  So anyway, we were walking along and I was endlessly expounding on something or other (you probably already deduce that I’m that way if you don’t know me and are sure of it if you do) and realized he wasn’t beside me and I was getting some odd stares walking along there talking like I had an imaginary friend by my side.  I looked back to see Rick half a block behind me on his knees talking to an elderly, very down and out homeless man who was lying on the curb.  The man had asked Rick for a cigarette…(ok not very glamorous, but not the point) and Rick had given him one and was lighting it for him.  They were smiling at each other.  I walked closer as Rick then sat down on the curb, feet in the gutter and the two of them talked and laughed.  I watched.  Rick took time with him, looked him in the eye, they shared some laughs, touched each other…I don’t think I even breathed…I was so entranced.  When they had talked a while, Rick said he had to move on but had so enjoyed talking with him and gave him his pack of cigarettes and his lighter.  He put his hand on the man’s shoulder and squeezed it.  The old man looked so happy.  He told Rick what a good man he was and thanked him for not just walking by…as I had.  So many people never saw him he said…as I hadn’t. I was ashamed and at the same time so struck with admiration for this man…my Man.  I determined to be different myself so that my Man could be as proud of me as I was of him.

I know I’ll never be like him.  We are so different after all, but that’s part of the fun of our life together.  I have learned from him, though, to see people…to take the time to look someone in the eye and say hello.  I take time to just talk with people that I never would have because, for some strange reason, I didn’t realize I could.  I do every day now.  Soon after our trip I remember taking the time to talk with a homeless man in our home town.  It just happened…because I actually saw him.  We talked, we laughed…I saw that same light in his eyes when he realized someone saw him and cared to hear him speak…and laugh with him…and shake his hand.  As he walked away I realized I had just learned something else I couldn’t have learned from just watching.  The connection, the warmth, the kindness…it wasn’t a gift that Rick had given that man…it was an exchange….it was given and returned.  That kind man that I would have never seen before was more a blessing in my day than I in his.  So I keep finding it to be true…every day.

So that’s my guest blog.  My Man is my teacher.  He’s so much more…he’s a comedian, an artist, a caretaker, a guardian…I could go on and on.  He fascinates me…after 10 years together I just love watching him still…what he does…how he goes about things.   Still every now and then he unlocks some little corner of the world…some magical wonderful little tucked away corner…that I never saw.  The veil falls away , I see, and I’m astounded.  How could I have been so blind?  Perhaps I’ll get to tell you about them sometime if the blogmeister is so benevolent as to allow…

Jack


Growing pains…

It never occurred to me that my horse, Alex, might go through some behaviors once he moved home to the Farm, especially since he was so sick upon arrival.  It’s quite clear now, though, that the horse I fell in love with two years ago has a bratty side to him that he was keeping tucked away.  Now that he is on the fast track to robust health, he has decided to take away the dominance crown that Diva was proudly wearing.  He throws a fit if we don’t acknowledge him first with everything, from scritches to grain, to who goes out into the paddock first.  At first, it was a little cute, because it showed he was feeling better, and it was mostly centered around his feeding time.  He was used to fighting a large herd of horses for his share of food, and we figured it would pass in time.  It dawned on the Man and I this morning that maybe we now had a problem on our hands.  More experienced horse owners might have picked up on it a little quicker and put the brakes to it, but it took us a few days to realize that we have the horse version of Nellie Olsen on our hands.  The odd part is that the tantrum is never aimed at us, but at Diva, the queen of sweetness.  The ears go back and the hooves start stamping, with a swift kick to the stall wall for good measure.  Horses aren’t like dogs and cats, or even parrots, so we aren’t quite sure how to deal with this behavior.  I put in a call to the vet this morning for advice, and it will be interesting to see what they recommend.  This evening will be spent pouring through the web to see what I can find that other horse owners have written about it.  Hopefully, we can turn Alex away from the dark side before he starts directing his tantrums towards us.  The hardest part will be not letting him see me giggle when he stomps his feet…


Rite of passage…

It’s been an interesting day here at the Farm.  It was a day that we knew would come, but for some reason we thought it would be later rather than sooner.  It started out quietly enough, being that it was a Sunday morning, and the sun was shining.  The Man tended to the dogs and the birds, and I headed out to the Barn to give the horses their morning grain, hay, and buckets of fresh water.  Alex greeted me with his usual foot stomping and snorting, which is his way of telling me to hurry up with his breakfast, and Diva was quiet and attentive, letting her barn mate do the talking.  Her big brown eyes followed me around the barn, patiently waiting for her turn.  When they both had received the attention they wanted, and had turned away from me to eat, I ambled back into the House.  The Man handed me a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, and I settled down in front of the computer.  After an hour or so, when it was clear the coffee was not going to do it’s job, it occurred to me that there was nothing wrong with turning my usual Sunday afternoon nap into a mid-morning siesta.  The Man tucked me in, and I promptly fell asleep with visions of clean stalls and full water buckets dancing in my head.  I was awoken by a scream, and in my fogginess, I wondered what woman would be in my house, and why was she screaming?  As soon as I heard the words “horses out”, I realized the high pitched screams of panic were coming not from a strange woman, but from the Man.  I should make it quite clear that normally, the Man isn’t much of a screamer, and when he does, it’s usually quite masculine, so the level of stress in his voice alerted me to how serious the situation was.  I was up, dressed, and out the door faster than I thought was humanly possible.

As I had hoped, the Man had gone out to the Barn to turn the horses out, and had cleaned the stalls and refilled the water buckets, and had even spent time out in the paddock brushing both horses.  We have a gate on the back of the Barn that latches to keep the horses outside, and we always keep the huge door on the front closed in case they do manage their way in.  He swears that he latched the back gate, and I believe him, as horses are well known for their ability to manipulate simple latches.  This, however, is a pretty moot point, considering that the front door on the Barn had been left wide open.

We scrambled into the truck with harnesses and leads, and went off down the road to find them.  It wasn’t long before we saw a flash of white running through the apple trees, followed closely by a blur of chestnut brown close behind.  We abandoned the truck and headed into orchard, hoping that catching them would be easier than what we feared.  Alex was doing his best to keep up with Diva, and considering how sick he had been three weeks ago, he was doing a pretty good job.  Together, they wove in and out of the ancient apple trees, kicking up their heels as they squealed with delight at their new found freedom.  The chase quickly grew into a game for them, and they doubled back and headed towards the Farm.  By the time we got back out to the road, they were out of sight, and if it weren’t for a kindly elderly man who stopped his truck to tell us which direction they had headed, we would have been in sad shape.  We didn’t argue with him when he excitedly told us to get in the back of his truck, thankful for the help and the chance to catch our breath.  As we came over the crest of the hill beyond the Farm, we saw them in an open field, lazily munching on grass, as if this was where they always lived.  I quietly walked up to Alex, and easily put his halter and lead on him, and turned towards home, leaving the Man to deal with Diva.  Once she saw that I had Alex, she decided to give up the chase and trotted ahead of us up the road and towards the Farm, even turning into the drive by herself with no prompting from us.  They quickly settled into their stalls, munching silently on their hay as if nothing had happened, and it was just another day.

Chasing the horses over the river and through the woods was not what I had planned for the day, but in the end, I can admit that it was a little fun, and a good learning experience for the Man.  No harm, no foul, everyone safe and sound.  The interesting part of the experience was how all of our neighbors reacted and pulled together to help us catch the horses.  People from up and down the road were doing their part, from offering carrots to entice, or circling the horses to cut off escape routes.  Some of the less spry neighbors watched from their porches and offered words of encouragement.  When one smiled, waived, and said “You finally got your horses?”, I very nearly shouted out “No, these are our poodles!”.  It was good to see a neighborhood come together like it did, even if some of the amusement was at our expense.  I suppose that it’s a rite of passage of sorts, having your horses escape their barn and visit the neighbors, and I knew it would happen at some point.  It always does, we were told.  Hopefully it won’t happen again any time soon.


Legacy…

A few people have noticed and commented on how I capitalize certain words in my blogs, so I thought I would share my reasons why.  Over time, certain things aren’t just objects to me.  They take on a life of their own, with personalities and deep meaning.  One of the biggest would be “the Farm”.  Ten years ago, when I first came to the Farm, I didn’t have a very big connection to it personally, other than that was where the Man was, and it’s where I belonged.  Built in 1810, it had gone through many renovations and additions over time, and it wasn’t until the Man and I decided to bring it back to it’s former glory did it start to feel as though I belonged.  I’m a carpenter by hobby, something that is deeply rooted in my genetics, passed down through generations of Dawes men.  The one thing I didn’t plan on was how difficult it would be to deconstruct and rebuild a nearly 200 year old farm.  Every wall I rebuilt, every beam I exposed, they all brought me one step closer to the bond that was growing between this collection of buildings that I now call the Farm.  It is no longer just lumber and nails built upon a foundation of rocks.  It’s alive to me, a part of me, and I have left my mark for future generations to enjoy.  It deserves a certain reverence when it’s being spoken of…

The Barn is another.  Even though it is certainly a part of the collection, it also stands alone.  When the main house was built in 1810, the beams used to construct the Barn had been taken from another, older barn.  There are signs of a fire on some of them, and on others you can see the old notches and peg holes that were part of the original construction.  If you look close enough, you may even find the occasional mark carved into the wood by the builders.  Over the years, the Barn has seen it’s share of farm animals come and go, even a horse riding school.  When the Man and I decided to ready the Barn for our horses, we discovered that those many years of housing animals before us had left the floor of the Barn completely rotted out.  Reconstructing the floor added many weeks to our schedule, but the result was that I became much more intimate with the Barn.  I had seen it’s mighty foundation built with boulders from the surrounding fields.  I saw how the mighty beams were anchored together, cut and notched by the hands of men who had likely come together for a day with their neighbors, to fellowship and raise a barn.  By the time our horses did arrive, the Barn had earned my respect both for it’s construction and it’s history.  A history that the Man and I were now a part of…

And of course, the most obvious one of all.  The Man.  He is my mate, my best friend, and my husband.  He is the one that saved my life 11 years ago.  He rescued me from a bad place where bad decisions were being made.  He showed me the love I had dreamt of, and I returned it to him, and together we set out on this grand journey.  I call him “the Man” because he is complete, and he completes me.  Other than him occasionally trying to tell me how to build something, I would not change one thing about him.  Well, maybe it would be nice if he would learn to tie his shoes and zip up his fly, but these things do not detract from the man that he is.  We will grow old together, here on the Farm, our legacy complete.  Just me and the Man…


My Ellie…

For the first few years of our life together here on the Farm, we had three cats.  Two of them, Toby and Trouble, had been mine since they were 6 weeks old, and at age 18, were starting to decline rapidly.  The other, Bert, was a big fat tomcat that we had rescued from under- neath my parent’s porch on a cold November day.  Within a year, all three had passed away, either from old age or cancer.  All of a sudden, our house was empty, and I was determined to fill it back up.  One of my favorite things to do is to convince the Man to “just go look”.  We went to HART, in Cumberland, which is a no kill shelter, with the mindset that we were just going to see what they had.  At least that is what the Man was thinking.  Each room at the shelter had close to 50 cats wandering about, and each one that the Man picked up he liked, especially the one big orange tomcat that resembled Bert.  I basically ignored him, knowing that I was on a mission, and when I saw the right cat, I would know it.

We walked into the last room, and I quickly scanned around, and that’s when I saw her.  The cat that would soon become my Ellie was laying under a small table, and she looked about as pathetic as a cat could.  She was weak and shivering, and had a sadness about her that instantly warmed my heart.  I could hear the Man’s footsteps behind me, and I knew that he had found a cat that he wanted to show me.  When I turned to face him, I was cradling Ellie, and as soon as he saw the look on my face, he dropped the other cat and rolled his eyes.  Even the staff of HART thought I was crazy for picking out this particular cat when there were so many other healthy ones to choose from.  The Man remained a bit unconvinced, until he heard her story.  She had been found in a barn with 5 kittens, and all were very sick.  All of her kittens passed away shortly after arriving at the shelter from pneumonia, and Ellie really wasn’t far from joining them.  We both fell in love with her, and quickly did the needed paperwork so that we could bring her home to the Farm.

As was expected, considering that she had been a feral cat, she was very wary of us, and we couldn’t approach her for months.  I figured out fairly quickly that Ellie would be a years long project, and made the mental commitment to go at her pace.  She quickly made friends with a kitten we had gotten a month earlier (another “Let’s just look” notch on my belt), and stepped into “mother mode” automatically.  Seeing as though she had just lost her 5 kittens, having a small kitten for her to take care of was a huge step towards her recovery.  Gradually over the coming months, she warmed up to us a little, but she always took baby steps.  Every few months, she would make a big leap of faith, and get closer, letting us pet her, and always only with one hand.  I think in her mind she was afraid that if we could pick her up, we might put her in a box and take her to the shelter, just as what had happened to her before.  Then, when we least expected it, she was on the back of the couch near our shoulders, and few months later she would be laying beside us during the evenings when everything was calm.  Over the next few years, we could tell that Ellie wanted to curl up in our laps, but just couldn’t let her guard down enough to just do it.  A few days ago, I mentioned to the Man that I thought maybe Ellie was on the verge of giving in, and last night, she did just that.

Before I even knew what was happening, she had crawled into my lap and snuggled in.  Her body was relaxed, as if all the tension and wariness of the past 5 years simply drained away and left in it’s place contentment and trust.  She laid there for about a half hour, but it seemed longer, simply because the Man and I were in such shock that we barely dared to breath or move. She rolled onto her side and nuzzled her face into my hand.  I could feel my whole body vibrate to the rhythm of her singing, which matched perfectly to the kneading of my leg by her paws.  I realize that most might not think of how special this was for both Ellie and me.  Years of patience on my part, and learning to trust on her’s, had finally paid off.  There is a peace about her now, a peace that I had started to worry would never come for her.  I still can’t pick her up, or rub her belly, but I have no doubt now that these last walls will crumble for Ellie.  Perhaps in another 6 months or so, she will give in and offer up her belly, but there is no hurry.  She will know when the time is right.


A wink and a smile…

As the Man and I enter our third week of “Horse Ownership 101”, we find ourselves settling into a comfortable rhythm with Alex and Diva.  I wake up early now, to make myself a coffee and head to the barn, with two eager dogs by my side.  The horses greet us with soft hellos, followed by more urgent requests for their morning meal.  I give a quick scratch on the nose to each, then get on with satisfying their never ending need for food.  After all is done, and Alex and Diva are quietly chewing away, I head back into the house to refresh my coffee and catch up on what is happening in the world.  It has been an easy transition to include the horses into my morning routine, and it feels as though I’ve been doing it all my life.  I pull on my muck boots and throw on my fuzzy robe, and I go out and do what needs to be done…and I like it…

The transformation in my Alex has been a wonder to witness.  Sick and weak when he came to the Farm, he is putting on weight quickly, and the shine has returned to his eyes.  He playfully nudges me, and will ruffle his nose through my pockets looking for treats.  The treats are always on me somewhere, he knows it is his job to find them.  Our complete trust in each other has returned, and with it the closeness that we had before.  I am also seeing a glimpse of an impatient brat in Alex, but for now, I am ok with that.  After being the low man on the pole in a large herd, he deserves to feel as though he should come first…for awhile, at least…

In the evenings, we spend a lot of time in the Barn, and out of the corner of my eye, I quietly watch the Man have his time with Diva.  She trusts him more every day, and will now calmly drop her head and lean into him as he scratches her ears.  She studies him with her big brown eyes, and it’s as if she now realizes that she truly is home, and no longer has to fear.  I see in them what I share with Alex…and I am happy for them…

In the beginning of this adventure, my biggest fear was that there was so much I didn’t know about horses, so much to learn.  I’ve come to realize that I needn’t worry as much as I do.  The more time I spend with Alex and Diva, the more I learn about their personalities.  They pout and stamp their feet to get their way, and Diva has perfected the “Talk to the hand” stance when she is trying to make a point.  I swear I saw Alex grin when I gave him his grain this morning.  Their every move tells a story, and I am getting fairly good at knowing their mood at any given time.  When their world is good, they let me know, and when it’s not, they let me know that as well.  I am sure that there are many lessons ahead for the four of us, but for now, life is good for our two horses…and ours is much richer…


Walk in the woods…

Walk in the woods with the Man...


Homecoming…

Our dream for the Farm has always been to return it to it’s glory days of years past, and this summer was our biggest step towards that goal.  Our days , rain or shine, were spent putting up fences and rebuilding the big barn, making it ready for our expanding family.  At the start of the summer, our plan was to add two horses, Alex and Chaser, to our fold, with no immediate plans for adding any others.  Two was a good start, and the learning curve would be easier.  In July, we had crossed paths with a beautiful paint mare, and before we knew it, Diva had been added to the list.  Our preparation had it’s share of setbacks, including having to completely rebuild half of the barn’s floor due to rot, but we slowly and surely made progress.  With the finish line in sight, we learned that Chaser, the old man of the three, had become ill and passed away.  Chaser had been one of the sweetest horses we’d ever met, and he would have been a great companion to Alex and Diva, as well as to us.  Though we were sad, we knew that we still had a lot of work left to do, and we put our noses to the proverbial grindstone.  We set a date and made arrangements, and before we knew it, the day had come.

The day we had planned for and looked forward to for months brought with it a steady rain, but even the sogginess of the day could not dampen our excitement.  Alex was the first to arrive that morning, and the moment he stepped out of the trailer was magical for me.  Over the last couple of years, I had come to have a deep bond with Alex, and knowing that he was actually here, actually a part of the Farm now, was nearly overwhelming.  He walked into the barn and claimed his stall as if he had been here all his life.  It had been a hard summer for him with the other horses at his old home, and he seemed to sense that this was where he belonged, with the person that he belonged to.  Knowing that Diva wouldn’t be arriving until late in the day, I spent as much time with Alex as I could.  As the day wore on, he began to get restless, and I started to worry about what state he would be in by the time of Diva’s arrival.  Darkness, as well as heavy rain, had started to fall by the time her previous owners pulled into the driveway.  While still in her trailer, she trumpeted her arrival with a loud whinny, and a few moments later, an answer was returned from the barn.  “The moment of truth” I thought, as she was led in through the large, open door.  Alex was at full attention as he watched her walk into her stall, which is right next to his.  Diva gave quick inspection to her stall, as we quietly shut the door behind her and watched with eager anticipation.  Alex quietly blew through his nose as if to say “Hello there, friend.”, and as Diva approached the bars that separate the two stalls, Alex stuck his nose through to her side.  Oblivious to us, their noses touched and they quietly greeted each other, causing all who witnessed it to catch their breath.  To me, it was at that moment that our farm had truly become “The Farm”, and I stood beside the Man, both of us not daring to breath for fear of breaking the spell.  We quietly exited the barn, leaving them to their business of getting acquainted, and visited with Diva’s previous owners.  After they left, we went back into the barn.  Alex and Diva were standing next to each other and looking at us as if to say “What now?”  What now, indeed…

It’s been a week since our two horses arrived, and the learning curve is certainly a steep one.  We have spent countless hours with them, enjoying their presence, and watching them bond and play in their paddock that we worked so hard at to prepare.  We’ve also had our fair share of drama during the past week, including a midnight visit from the vet a few nights ago when Alex decided to wrestle with his stall door and came up a little bit on the short end of the tussle.  As horrifying as that night was, it brought home to us how fragile these proud, majestic horses truly are, and how much they depend on us for their care.  It has been a week of new beginnings and discovery, with a healthy dose of education and shoveling on our part.  But it has also been a week of quiet contentment and gaining of trust, and certainly of love returned ten fold.  We have come full circle, the four of us.  Alex and Diva are home, and they are now a part of the family…part of the Farm…


It’s you…

Earlier this evening, I was reacquainted with a song that I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  Stephen Bishop’s song “It might be you”, from the 1982 movie “Tootsie”. That year, I was a senior in high school, and on the thresh hold of becoming an adult.  I dreamed of my freedom, and with it finding someone I could and would love for the rest of my life.  This particular song made a huge impact on me, because though the lyrics described what I dreamed, it also made me realize that my path to love would not be an easy one.  One verse in particular described the hope, as well as the fear, that I felt.

“Looking back as lovers go walking past…All of my life…Wondering how they met and what makes it last…If I found the place…Would I recognize the face?”

We all dream of having that “love at first sight” moment, and I was no exception.  In a world where loving who you choose to love isn’t always a freedom, I often found myself wondering if I would ever have that moment, or if I’d be free enough to experience it when it did come along.  When the day came that I finally started walking my intended path, I started to sense that perhaps finding that perfect love just might be possible.  A few years and a lot of painful lessons did not lesson the hope that someday I would recognize the face when I saw it.  And recognize it I did.  In an instant, I realized that all the choices I had made, as well as the scorn that I had felt, was worth it.  His face was kind and gentle, his smile weakened my knees, and his eyes melted my soul.  As with the song, I had progressed from dreaming and wondering, to catching my breath and dreaming some more.

“Something’s telling me it might be you…Yeah, it’s telling me it must be you…And I’m feeling that it’ll just be you…All of my life.”

In the blink of an eye, my life changed.  I had my moment.  I recognized the face.  I felt the sweet joy of love returned.  Nearly 11 years later, the love that I share with that man is strong, with each day spent together being both a blessing and a gift.  The dreams I have now, I share with him, and we work together to make those dreams happen.  I have never wavered in my devotion to him, and I fall asleep beside him each night knowing that his love for me grows more everyday.

“Something’s telling me it might be you…All of my life.”


Kody…

We had lived together at the farm for a couple of years when I started thinking about maybe getting a puppy.  The Man never really seemed very keen on the idea for one reason or another, so when I saw an ad in the local paper for some Golden puppies just up the road, I convinced him to go for a ride and “just look at them”.  When we arrived, all of the 9 puppies had just gorged themselves on their supper, and they could barely move.  Those fat bellies didn’t even come close to clearing the ground, so the time was right for a nap in the noon day sun.  Adorable in their slumber as they were, I started to worry about how the Man could be charmed by a puppy that had no interest in us whatsoever.  That changed rather quickly, when out of the dozing pile of honey colored puppies we saw movement.  We watched with amazement as this particularly round puppy slowly crawled his way towards us.  With the grass a bit on the longer side, the 6 week old puppy was having trouble with traction, but he eventually made his way to our feet.  As the Man scratched the exhausted pup, I pointed out that it must be fate that we should choose this puppy as our own, for he had chosen us.  Before we knew it, we had handed over a deposit, along with the promise to return in two weeks to take him home.  We settled on a name for him, Kody, after his handsome father, Dakota, and counted the days until our first-born arrived at the Farm.  The day finally came for Kody to come home, we couldn’t have been more excited!  He quickly made himself comfortable, including figuring out where his food dish was.  It didn’t take us long to figure out that when he “chose” us on that first day, he had simply been looking for more food.  Puppy chow was his reason for living, and if he didn’t get fed when or as much as he wanted, he would crawl under a bush and pout.  Being the only dog on the Farm, he quickly trained us to meet his every need and want.  Kody and the Man bonded immediately, and most evenings I would find the both of them curled up on the couch together, something they still do.  It has been 9 years since Kody came into our lives, and as other pets have joined us, and others left us, he has taken on the roll of the wise old man.  When my lab, Gracie, joined us 6 years ago, Kody showed her the ropes as only an older dog can.  He is the Old Man on the Farm now, as his graying face and cloudy eyes reminds us.  He still makes the rounds to inspect his domain every day, but his movements are slow and deliberate as he walks the rock walls bordering the fields.  Food, along with his nightly couch cuddles, is still his reason for living, and we probably spoil him with treats more than we should.  In the end, it is us who are spoiled, as we are given back love and affection ten-fold.

(more…)


Good stewards…

Life has been busy here on the Farm the past few months, and it has been easy for both the Man and I to forget about the simple beauty surrounding us.  We’ve been so focused on clearing fields and erecting fences in anticipation of our horses coming home that we haven’t ventured beyond the rock walls that border our open fields.  In seasons past, it was common for us to head off into the woods that surround our home, feeling like young boys on a grand adventure, but we had yet to give in to the “call of the wood” this summer.  When the Man suggested it earlier this evening, I was more than willing to grab my camera and follow him.  Oddly enough, we had never walked along the rock wall that borders the north side of the property, so we excitedly headed off in that direction.  The hard work we’ve been doing with the fields and fences have given me a new appreciation for every stone that was used to build these walls, and I was anxious to imagine their stories.  In places the walls were as intact as the day they were built.  In others, they were crumbling, and it was almost as if you could tell where one builder ended, and another took over.  In the more intact areas of the wall, great care had been taken to arrange the stones like a puzzle, creating a tapestry that would truly stand the test of time.  Beyond that the wall looked rushed, with loosely stacked rocks that had long since been ravaged by New England winters and the constant traffic of the wildlife within these woods.  Although I was captivated by the beauty surrounding me, with the multitudes of ferns and Mother Nature reclaiming the fields, the lesson of the rock wall was not lost on me.  Just as the Man and I are the stewards of this Farm, we are each given the responsibility to be good stewards in our own lives, and to those around us.  The choices we make in life are like those stones that once littered the fields of the Farm.  They accumulate, and the care that we use in the placement of these stones could effect those around us for generations to come.  I know the occasional choice may be the wrong one, and it may come tumbling down at our feet, but even then, we are given the chance to replace it with better care.


Splash of color…

A splash of color for those tired of snow and cold...