“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014

I took this picture a little while ago and have since watched these same chickens follow Lou through the pasture almost every day, circling his head, sometimes staying close on his blind side, and snatching bugs that are stirred from the grass as he sweeps his mouth side to side, tearing off the green blades.

At first I thought the chickens, being so small compared to Lou, were a bit daring to be near him. Only weighing a few pounds, unseen on his left side, and simply one step away from eleven hundred pounds, they were taking a chance. Now I am not so sure.

Lou doesn’t mind the chickens coming near him like Pats or Zips do. Zips especially will lower his nose to their level and chase them, as if he’s the ball and the chickens are the pins - we call it chicken bowling. On the other hand, Pat will stomp a foot a few times to warn them not to come near. It’s as if these two are protecting their territory and are never in the mood to “share the grass”. Lou doesn’t care how close they come to him and maybe there is good reason.

I think that the chickens offer Lou some protection on his blind side. If something were to come up on his left, the chickens would most likely alert him naturally by scattering or clucking. We don’t have horse predators here, but Zips and Pats sometime like to chase Lou for fun since he’s older and half sighted, making him the beta of the herd. I don’t doubt that Lou has learned that when the chickens start to scramble, one of the other horses, or maybe something else, is coming up on his blind side.

On the other hand, I think that the chickens have come to trust Lou, sensing he isn’t likely to stomp at them or take up chicken bowling, and besides scattering bugs, Lou is a shield and shelter from scavenging hawks looking for easy pickings.

Thinking of it in these terms, I discarded the idea that their relationship is a coincidence. I am beginning to think of it as a natural relationship benefiting them all, whether they are conscious of it or not.

Friday, September 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

The dryer broke the other day and it’s so old that the repairman said the parts have been discontinued, but he’d see if he could locate them through his contacts and over the internet. Meanwhile we will not have a clothes dryer for the time being, and most likely we will need a new one. It can only break so many times, and there are only so many parts left out there in the ether.

So this morning as the sun was pushing up above the trees I was out hanging wash on a clothesline. It brought back memories of when my mom had an elaborate umbrella clothes line contraption that consisted of a pole with rows of lines between arms that reached out from the top center. My mom could turn it so that she never had to move, bringing the next set of empty lines to her.  It worked out well, especially for a family of six.

Our line is a bit simpler – a poly coated green line stretched between two trees, about 25’ long. We are only two people, so we don’t really need a whole lot more. And to be honest, I don’t know if they still make the umbrella like contraptions anymore. One thing I did notice was that the wooden clothespins we just bought were made of less wood and lighter springs than my mom’s of years ago. Back then hers were made to last; these clothes pins, after two days, are popping apart and also don’t have the spring power to clamp things down! Oh well. I should know by know that in America cheap is the quality people want.

While I was hanging up the bath towels, socks, shirts, etc I was reminded of a poem I once read years ago about how one could tell what kind of sex life a person had by the type and colour of underwear they hung on the line…it wasn’t a “dirty” poem, but one of  descriptive observation. Actually it was sort of deep. There were a lot of metaphors throughout the poem, but that’s not where I am going to go with this.

I think that if the poet had looked at our clothes line she wouldn’t have found much inspiration, and I sorta laughed to myself. I think if we did have hammocks and thongs and things we wouldn’t put them on the line for everyone to see anyway…I guess she was seeing an extroverts wash when the words came to her!

About the only thing one can tell about our wash is that fashion isn’t a big deal to us, and that we don’t much dress to go anywhere. Except for a few colourful pairs of socks, we just have plain stuff, most of it farm and animal stained, thread bare because we do not throw anything away until our underwear shows. I should say until our plain underwear shows!

So I am thinking that what we need to do is to hit the dollar store and buy the most bizarre and colorful underwear we can find and just hang it out there with a riding crop for the nosey world to see!  That will give the neighbors and visitors something to wonder about for a while…or the two of us 50 something’s may get a poem of our own. Or at least some funny looks!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014

My most often mouse clicked prompt might be the “skip this ad” button that clears off the ads on most every You Tube video. I imagine that there are some persons who don’t mind the advertisements and to others they might even be helpful, yet I feel my space has been trespassed without permission. I didn’t invite these annoying neighbors into my home – they walked into the front door on their own without knocking. At least for now I can ask them to leave, and most do.

For a few years I have toyed with the idea to write down every ad that I see in a day, just to see how many I am exposed to. I would include advertisements from TV, internet sites, billboards, print, radio, email, mail, and on and on. The sources are unlimited. Ads and persuasions are everywhere.

I have actually started this count a few times on my way to work in the morning, only to realize how big this project really could become. Just looking at signage along the roadside I have seen up to 15 or more advertisements in the first few minutes and first few miles. If I turned on the car radio at the same time, counting would get out of hand. I haven’t come up with a way to record the ads I see and hear fast enough to write them all down.

With all the types of media that are available today, it’s impossible to live a life without persuasions. Of course, in some cases, as with Pandora Radio, one can pay a monthly fee to listen to music ad free- of course, this is advertised too!

When one really begins to pay attention, it’s hard to find a space on earth that isn’t filled up with something to grab your attention. Even here at the farm, thinking I am alone weeding between rows, the banner planes are flying over.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 5, 2014

Before vegetables and horses and goats, but not before chickens, I grew daylillies and a few other types of perennial flowers here. I  put them on a stand out on the highway to sell them based upon the honor system - take a plant, leave the payment in the "bird house" payment box. It only half worked - people did take the plants, but...

Trying to be as Quakerly as I could I stayed with it for a few years believing that there were enough honest people out there in the world and I could absorb a lost plant here and there...but one day I walked out to the stand and every plant was gone and the "birdhouse" payment box was empty.

To this day I will never forgot the empty feeling that was left inside of me.

I kept a few of the daylillies, cone flowers, and black eyed susies and planted them around the house in different beds. Over the years we have added a few new perennials - mostly for the butterflies and bees. I have been walking around the house these past days and have done my best to capture them in bloom.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014

Waiting out the thunderstorm, I stayed in the stable. I finished brushing Lou and unclipped him, and while turning him into his stall, he stepped on my foot and pivoted all of his 1100 (plus or minus a few) pounds on me…it definitely wasn’t the first time this has ever happened, and it was definitely a lot less painful than the 10 stitches to my face or the broken ribs of the past, but still, the toes on my right foot will still be throbbing for days… I can never get mad at the big galoot though, never can. He stepped off my foot and bent his head back to look at me with his brown, wet eye as if to say he was sorry, gave me a nuzzle and lumbered off to his hay…I just gave him a hug and limped back to the house in the rain. Maybe not everyone understands, but I think most of you who love and live their days with animals get it. Love and forgiveness over come any pain, physical or emotional. Its another life lesson that Lou has given back to me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 12, 2014

I was walking out to the stable yesterday when this guy came over the trees from the direction of the Tuckahoe River and circled over the pasture, showing off his catch. I was nervous and fumbling with the camera because I never had an “eagle opportunity” like this before -I don’t even know how I got it in the viewfinder, I was shaking so much!

Eagles are getting more common in this area and they are no longer rare to see, but most times when I do see one I don’t have my camera with me, or if I do, the eagle is too high or too far away for my lens to bring it in close enough for a decent shot. Even this shot was border line for my lens, which is why I am so glad it came out as well as it did.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of eagles in Woodbine at Still-a-Hill when I am riding. The other day when I was warming up Cruiser I saw a pair, maybe a mating pair, flying low over the trees and then circling on the up drafts until they faded from view. The experience is the inspiration for the haiku that I end this post with.

There are so many turkey buzzards in the skies over there that it’s easy to assume that all the large birds overhead are all just turkey buzzards. I have learned to pick the eagles out from the turkey buzzards and am surprised that almost every week I see one or two, or even more, eagles there.

And we do see them here at our farm, like I did yesterday, but not quite so often, and rarely, if ever, so close circling overhead. I can only keep hoping for the day that this becomes common, and I don’t get so nervous with my camera because I will know that this wont be my only chance to get a decent shot.

afternoon on horseback
eagles float across the sky
 two leaves play tag on a stream

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

Cuban Devil, April 27, 2014, prior to the 5th race

The 5th Race

back legs chained and shackled
winched up into the trailer and
transferred to a refrigerated truck
until arrangements are decided, if they hadn’t been already. because it happens.
bones break all the time I am told.

not a hush
a line grows to place bets, the sixth race, simply delayed
without explanation.
just enough time for another beer
the party has too much momentum
to stop for such things. to care for such things. call to the post is near.
the trumpeter neatens his red velvet coat and tails

I asked an unshaped man, eyes locked to the racing form
“which one was it?”
“its just the way it goes” and he stepped aside
 disappearing sideways through a slim crease in the paddock crowd

monday I found the race results in the paper
it read
5th race
Cuban Devil, raced outside, broke down on the turn
and was humanely euthanized
it was the only epitaph there would be. 

Last Sunday was the first time I ever went to the track; it was the first time I saw a live horse race. I went to see the horses and take photos, not necessarily to see the races. 
Besides the Triple Crown, I really have no interest in horse racing. 
Prior to the race, the horses were walked in a ring so everyone could see them. Each horse was led around a mulched circle a few times with its handler, and then the horse was “saddled” and the jockey jumped on, and the horses were walked around a few more times before heading to the track, and to the starting gate.
I randomly took pictures of some of the horses as they were being walked, including one of Cuban Devil. 
We didn’t see Cuban Devil’s accident on the turn, as the inside track is walled by privet hedges that blocked most of the view from where we were standing. It was also far enough away that we couldn’t make out all that was happening, but we could catch a few glimpses.
From where we were we saw the horse limping and a horse trailer pulled by a pickup and another car driving to the scene. I watched the horse fall and then the horse trailer was backed up towards that spot. Kath and I knew what that meant.
There are injuries in every sport- athletes get concussions, torn ligaments etc. Last year a basketball player for Louisville snapped his leg in two during the NCAA tournament. Injuries are a part of sports, and horse racing is no different. The exception is that humans can heal from most injuries while horses can’t. A broken leg is fatal to a horse – even all that was done for Barbaro still could not save him.
What struck me though was by how cold the process seemed – especially that the crowd never quieted, but partied just as if nothing was happening; the dead horse didn’t matter to the crowd or the bettors, although I have to believe it did to someone. Some one had to have loved that horse. The only announcement that came was that the 6th race would be delayed a few minutes.
The entire incident still bothers me, foremost that the horse had to be euthanized, but also because I think that Cuban Devil deserved better from the crowd -a moment of silence, something said…something to show that his life mattered.

Note: Cuban Devil’s grandsire was Sunday Silence, winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.