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

Posts tagged “farm

Better Than That…

IMG_0171I’ve learned to keep my opinions to myself, and on most days I am successful at it, or at least I think I am. I live my life my way, you live yours as you see fit. For the most part, it works out just fine for all involved, no matter if you are a close friend or a casual acquaintance.  We all have different life experiences to draw upon, with odd quirks that can either be entertaining or maddening to those around us.  We all have different views on religion, with different levels of belief (or not) in a higher power governing our lives.  Live and let live, you do your thing and I’ll do mine, let’s raise a glass and toast to our differences…and be kind along the way.  That’s my philosophy, and it’s served me well over the years.  Unless, of course, it’s election year.  That is when I struggle.  When someone is making life choices that only determine their own fate and surroundings, it truly is none of my business if it does not effect me or my loved ones.  When that person (or a group of like minded people) are willing to vote for someone or something that will adversely effect my life, and they are ok with it, then I have an obligation (and a right) to speak my mind.  For months now on a popular social media site, I’ve watched as others spoke their minds and posted their memes, most often with “facts” that are untrue, or at the very least greatly misquoted.  The amount of frothy hatred that was appearing on my news feed was getting more than a little overwhelming, and I made the decision to not subject myself to what they were saying, even though in some cases, they were friends and sometimes family.  One tap of a button allows me to not see the hatred, the racism, the bigotry and the outright lies that they themselves choose to believe.  I cannot change what they allow to fill their lives, but I can choose to not let it drag me down on a daily basis.

The other day, I made a comment about how I had blocked another person from my news feed because I did not want to see their daily dose of misinformed hatred anymore.  The mistake that I made was the wording that I had used.  Many took offense that I had used the word “unfriend” instead of explaining in clearly needed simpler terms that I had only blocked their posts from appearing in my news feed.  Hell fire rained upon me from all directions, and I have to admit, I was taken completely by surprise by the reaction from some people who follow my posts.  One person wrote that they thought I was “better than that”, others wrote in great detail about how disappointed they were that I could pass judgement so easily on others, and that I was, in fact, the one that was now discriminating against others for their beliefs.  It was clearly pointed out to me that I needed to stick to posting pictures of the garden, the dogs and the horses, as well as daily updates of how long the grass has gotten and how many eggs I had collected that morning.  I was so shocked and initially hurt by the accusations of judgement and discrimination that I made the decision to delete any political posts that I had recently posted, and would from now on mind my own business and let others continue to create their own path, complete with their own consequences.  I would move on and let be, or so I thought.  That night, and for the few days since, I have slept very little, and my mood is dark.  Not because others may think badly of me (I’m a big boy), but because I think badly of myself for allowing others to bully me into censoring what I say and post, while they continue to post their thoughts, comments and memes willy-nilly without bothering to do even two minutes of fact checking with reliable sources.  “Freedom of speech!!” they scream, except for if someone doesn’t agree with their bigotry.  Yes, we all do have “Freedom of Speech”, as guaranteed by the Constitution of this already great country we share, but with that freedom comes a responsibility to be truthful, not hateful.  To judge each other by our words and our actions, not by the color of our skin.  To celebrate our differences, not promote candidates that would undo years of progress, or laws that would further separate us into different classes not worthy of the same rights.  To be accepting of our individual religious beliefs, not promote violence if we don’t share those same convictions.  To promote unity, not divide by using fear and lies.  To show compassion, not look down upon.  We have a responsibility to be kind in all that we do and say to each of us every day…and that also applies to what we choose to post on our social media pages.  If you choose to post something that is untruthful, hateful and divisive, then it has not come from a place of kindness, and the results will have far reaching effects.  Life truly is about choices, and the words that come out of our mouths and the company that we keep will surely determine the paths that we take.

I will admit that I might have gotten a little testy the other night, and if I DSCN2014hurt anyone’s delicate sensibilities in any way, that was not my intention.  It was born out of frustration, and of concern for my future and the futures of those that I hold dear, and for that I will not apologize.  Your freedoms do include being able to say and do what you like, as do mine, but not at the expense of others. I will continue to share photos and updates about the Farm, and about the Man, and I will do that mostly because that is what a great many people have to come to love and expect.  I will also continue to share those things because they are the two things that I love the most in this world.  For the same reason, I will continue to voice my opinion on the current political scene, and will keep an open mind about what other people may care to post, if they are reasonable and intelligent postings.  I will also continue to censor what others post if they do not come from a place of kindness and compassion.  I don’t allow that in my life outside of social media, and I will not allow it within.

Because, as a matter of fact, I believe that I AM better than that.  We should all be better than that…


Butterscotch Kisses…

He walked into the Barn as he always does, with authority and purpose, and as he passed the mini horse’s stall, the nightly routineDSCN2120 of a few hoof stomps and a few snorts began.  It never lasts very long, this display.  It’s a nod to the resident wee horses that this Barn belongs to him, always has and always will.  He was the first to be welcomed to the Farm, and with that comes a certain status that everyone who lives here, both four and two footed, is reminded of daily.  On his testier days, he will include a high pitched whinny as an exclamation point, just in case nobody was listening.  This night, however, he chose to forgo that extra proclamation, and went directly into his freshly cleaned stall where his nightly grain and hay awaited.  After tucking his stablemates into their own stalls, I returned to his for our usual habit of quiet words and gentle scratches.  I quietly came up beside him and stretched out my hand to caress that special spot on his neck, but instead of leaning into me as he usually does, he quickly pulled away and walked to the front of his stall.  It wasn’t the first time he had done this in the past, so I wasn’t taken aback in any way.  Some would argue that perhaps he is a bit spoiled, with kingly expectations, and I’m good with that.  He has earned that right as well as his commanded status.  As I turned to leave his stall, I ruffled his mane and gently chided him that it was ok if he was tired and cranky, but he didn’t have to be rude.  Before I could reach the door, I felt his warm nose on my back, and I felt his words “I’m sorry, don’t go.  I am tired from the day, but I want you near.”.  He returned to his grain bowl, and I moved to stand by his side.  We stood there in silence, with him slowly chewing and me with just one still hand on his back.  He sighed deeply, and relaxed to my touch.  His majestic head lifted and slowly swung towards me, and when our eyes connected, I realized that I hadn’t been spending as much time with him as both he and I would like.  My days here on the Farm during the summer are full, and although I work very hard to make sure that every critter living here has their share of quality time each day, once in awhile that isn’t enough.  He took another deep breath, and then took a step back so that my face was level with his.  As I had gently reprimanded him a few minutes before, he was now quietly chiding me.  I instantly felt his need for closeness and connection, but most of all, I felt his love.  After a few moments, the spell was broken, and he started chewing as he lifted his head to expose his neck.  This time he accepted the gentle scratch, then lowered his head to rub his nose on my shoulder.  Never one for wasted emotions, he then returned to his grain and hay, but now with an air more of contentment than of concern.  I grabbed his favorite brush, and while he slowly chewed his hay with his eyes closed, I brushed away the dirt and sweat of the day.  I carefully brushed his beautiful mane, taking out twigs that he had collected while browsing earlier in his field.  DSCN2141Just as I thought he might be tiring of the attention, he shifted his weight and offered one front foot to be cleaned.  I pulled my ever present hoof pick from my back pocket and set to work, with him offering up another foot as the last was finished.  As I slipped the hoof pick back into my pocket, he rubbed his forehead on my back a few times, with a slight nudge towards the door.  He was satisfied, and was telling me it was time to go.  As I reached for the handle on his door, I felt one last nudge of his nose.  “Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asked.  I followed his gaze to my right front pocket, where chances were good that I might happen to have a couple of his favorite butterscotch horse treats.  It was a safe bet, and all of the animals here on the Farm know that the same pocket almost always has something to nibble on.  Soft fuzzy lips carefully took what was offered, and when the treats were gone, those same soft lips brushed my cheek and his butterscotch breath warmed my face.  It is moments like this that I wish could last longer, but one cannot take or expect affection from a horse, only gratefully accept when it is freely given.  With one final soft knicker, our time was done, and he returned to his hay.  I closed his stall door, and gently slid the latch into place.  I made the rounds one last time to check on the other Barn residents, securing doors and scratching noses.  The Barn was quiet, except for chewing noises, and I knew that they were all content, and most importantly, felt loved.  I glanced over one last time at him as I turned off the lights, and he was standing there, warm eyes watching me.  “Good night, my friend.  I love you.” I said.  I slid the Barn door closed, and as I walked towards the house, I once again felt the warmth…and love…of fuzzy butterscotch kisses on my cheek.

 


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Bountiful Crop…

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Our Tapestry…

IMG_4674Animals have always been a part of our lives. Dogs and cats were a constant part of our childhoods, and now as adults, we can add horses, goats, donkeys, parrots, chickens, and recently a bearded dragon. Future plans include some Scottish Highlander cattle, Baby Doll sheep, and perhaps an Alpaca or two. I wouldn’t be surprised if a pig entered the picture at some point.IMG_0391 For some, animals are just pets, and they come and go through their lives with little to no fanfare. But for most, these critters become much more than just pets. They become family. There is no place that this is more true than here on the Farm. Each new arrival brings excitement and joy, with a healthy dose of upheaval as the new member struggles to find it’s place within the Family. It usually doesn’t take long for things to settle down each time, and soon we are all laughing, playing, connecting, eating, and even snuggling together.  It’s a gift from the Universe, this dance between us all.  The Man and I cherish every day we have with our “children”, for we know all too well that those days are limited.  My Gracie’s graying face reminds me of that every day.  Their departure is inevitable, and the more animals a person shares their life with, the more often they are faced with tearful goodbyes and the sadness and mourning that follows.  One would almost think that these goodbyes should get easier or that the grieving should lesson over time.  Although the Man might appear to have better control over his grieving process than I do, it never gets easier for either one of us. IMG_1864Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that we said goodbye to Kody, and even as I put these words to paper, the tears well up, and the pain is as fresh as it was that day. Everyday I visit his grave, sometimes surrounded by our other dogs or with the Man, but most often by myself.  It’s my time to say hello, to make sure he knows that he hasn’t been forgotten, and that he is still very much a part of life on the Farm.  Of all the many threads in the tapestry that the Man and I weave into our life here on the Farm, Kody remains the strongest thread of them all.  He was the first, and all that have come after have been bound to him in one way or another. IMG_0245There have been many other goodbyes over the years.  Some were beloved cats, like Toby, Trouble, Bert and Ellie.  Last week, we said goodbye to Chester, a beautiful black Himalayan, rescued from the roadside after his mother had been hit by a car.  Even losing Harriet the chicken a few days ago filled me with sadness.  Yes, just a chicken, but my chicken nonetheless, and I did my best to nurse her back to health even though her outlook was grim.  Rudy the goat had a very special place in my heart, partly because he wasn’t very bright, and partly because he was devoted to me, and followed me around like a puppy dog.  His leaving was sudden and unexpected, and I cried like a baby as he passed away in my arms.  Despite all of the heartache when they say goodbye, the love and affection they give us while they are here is immeasurable, and we find ourselves opening our doors to them every time with little hesitation. That’s what we do.  We welcome, we love, we say goodbye.  And soon after, another thread is added to the tapestry…and we love again…IMG_3775


Gift of Love…

IMG_1480I have to admit, that for the most part, I pretty much kept forgetting that today was Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment of the holiday, but here at the Farm, it’s really not that big of a deal.  We’ve had more than our fair share of Valentine’s Days, and in the beginning we had fun with the presents, the flowers, the kisses, the restaurants and the romantic movies.  As the story usually goes, it was fun while it lasted.  At some point over the years, it just started to feel more odd than fun, and we slowly weaned ourselves away from the traditions.  Of course, we still get each other cards dripping with proclamations of love, and we smile and kiss, then put the cards on the mantle above the living room fireplace.  Then we sort of just go about our day.  Our usual day in, day out, predictable routine sort of day.  You see, every day we spend with each other is a celebration of our friendship, and our love.  To set aside one day to celebrate that love seems a bit silly above and beyond the card and the kiss.  We already spend nearly every minute together, out of choice, not holiday.  We make sure that our days begin and end with “I love you”, and that is repeated dozens of times in between, sometimes verbally, sometimes with a touch.  IMG_1335Every evening we share a meal that has been prepared just for us by the Man, a Southern man who truly understands the power that a good meal can wield over another man’s heart.  We routinely settle in beside each other most nights to watch a good movie, complete with malted milk balls and other snacks, and feeling as though we were teenagers at the drive-in.  Every night, we fall asleep knowing that each one loves the other with all of his heart, and that same love will be just as strong and present the next day.  Each and every day with the Man is a blessing, and that is truly the only gift I need…

 


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…


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…