“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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 27, 2015

Prayers for Patrick…

It’s been a solemn here at the farm, and to say we that are heart broken doesn’t even begin to describe our emotions. Recently, Pat went lame, and since has been diagnosed with DSLD - an incurable, inherited, disease of certain horse breeds that causes the breakdown of tendons and ligaments throughout the entire body, showing first as hind or front leg lameness. Unfortunately, it is not a survivable disease, but in some cases, it can be managed for a long time. Each horse is different, and some live on for days or months, while others can hold on comfortably for years.

In Pat’s case, our veterinarian decided to forgo western medicine and began treating his whole body rather than the just the pain– she feels that managing the pain with drugs does not help the body fight the disease, but if she treats the body so that it fights the disease, that in itself will relieve the pain and allow him a longer, comfortable life. With this in mind, she immediately put him on gut buffers, nutrients, etc, and a rice bran/ linseed meal feed mix (she plans to add canola to it soon) - no grain, no sugar, no meds. She also started chiropractic sessions and is working with our farrier on his hooves to move his toes back. She also recommended giving him as much turnout as possible, saying that “movement is life”.

Because there is no cure, what we are working for is to keep him moving and out of pain for as long as possible. Our hopes for him are optimistic but guarded…he has been doing well since the treatment plan started (with the understanding that the damage already done can’t be repaired), yet there is no way of knowing if, or how long, this might continue. We have made the decision that we won’t let him suffer, live without dignity, or without quality of life. Sadly, we know that we will have to act on this decision some time in the future. With DSLD, all time is borrowed. All time is a gift.

Many of you may know Pat from visits to the farm, through the blog, or from posts I’ve made on face book. Pat has always been the horse our friends are drawn to first when they come to see the farm. He has always been the most outgoing, laid back, and friendliest. Some of you may have had the chance to ride him. Some of you may have even gotten ‘lipped” by Pat, as he has always greeted people by working his lips across their hand to say “hello”…and if you were brave enough to lean in with your lips, you most likely got kissed. Even now, I can lean in and get a kiss anytime, every time.

It doesn’t seem possible that this horse, who is the leader of our small herd, the youngest, and the gentlest, could be struck so hard and so fast. It doesn’t seem fair at all. It is said that everything happens for a reason…and I have to believe that it is true, even if I don’t see it or understand it now.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 31, 2014

For this last post of 2014 I came up with the idea to post one picture that I took during each month of this year. These twelve (of over 4,300!) aren’t necessarily the best shots (technically or artistically) that I took this year, but these are ones that stuck with me for one reason or another - mostly because they defined a moment that was in some way special to me, like of Louie standing in the rain looking as if he ruled the world on that day, or the frog that was swimming in the pool with my cousin Sara, or taking an afternoon walk with my wife down the railroad tracks leading out of Tuckahoe-  these photographs are all of moments that I was caught up in, rather than ones I was chasing after. 

(Ps. Clicking on the photo will enlarge it )













I wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2015! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

When we first moved out to the farm we’d see deer in the back field along the woods line almost daily. It was so common that I began to give them names based on some characteristic so that I could tell which herd had come. There were about three small herds that would come through, each here a few days, then moving on. A few days after a herd left, another would show. Once in a while we spotted a buck among the does, but not very often; never a trophy – usually a button buck up to a four point, and once, a decent sized six point.

They never became a problem. They stayed out of the hay shelter and the garden / CSA field. Mostly they stayed along the edges and grazed the grasses. Sometimes at night they’d come up to the house and nibble down some hosta plants, but it didn’t bother us much. Growing up on a hillside above a small town, the deer reminded me of the ones that came into our backyard in the early foggy morning. As I was getting ready for school, I’d watch from the kitchen window as they nibbled away at our peach trees. That sentimentality was still with me.

And then, without any apparent reason, they all disappeared. At first we thought the hunters may have scattered them, and because in the woods behind us, poaching is common, maybe they either were thinned out or scared out permanently. It is not uncommon to hear gun shots year long, mostly in the mornings and early evenings. A few times over the years our local town “newspaper” carried a story about different families that never go to the grocery store, but grow and hunt their own. I knew one of the families, and their freezer wasn’t very big. It all added up to everyone but the authorities….we always laughed it off.

One evening at an event, I was sitting with a local, seasoned hunter/ trapper who knew the wooded area behind our farm and I told him that for years now I have hardly ever seen a deer, and the herds have disappeared. He told me it wasn’t hunting or poaching, but a virus, which later I found to be called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which was killing off many of the deer in our area. The state had confirmed a localized outbreak in Tuckahoe, and since there are no curative measures, it would have to run its course. He assured me that the deer population would rebuild itself over the years, and the grocery stores would not be so crowded.

This spring the deer came back. We first noticed a doe and two spotted fawns in the little field off to the side of our house, and not long after, another few does and fawns joined them. Ever since, we have seen this herd almost daily either in the back field, the back yard, or the field beside our place. Over the summer the fawns out grew their spots and their coats turned bronze, and now to winter grey. We also noticed that one of the deer in the group was a young, skittish button buck.

On the east side of the back field there is a fenced in area where I once grew strawberries, but is now taken over with white clover. I never mowed it down, but let it grow high. The deer easily jump the fence and I often see them in there grazing the clover in the late afternoon and early evening.

But this new herd, unlike those that came years ago, found my garden and CSA field too tempting. Late at night they have jumped that fence too, and the past month they have eaten two rows of strawberries, the tomatillo plants, and have left the pepper plants leafless – empty green sticks pointing to the sky. Luckily it is at the seasons end, and I can handle the losses. I covered the strawberry plants for the winter (a few weeks early)  to protect what is left of them. Over the winter and before next spring, I will need to figure out a way to keep the deer out, as I am afraid they will leave me with nothing left to sell. I am not sure if a higher fence will do. I rather doubt it, as they can jump almost anything, even from the standing position. They can go straight up and fly forward seemingly without hesitation or any extra effort.

All in all, and even though they are beginning to cause me some trouble (this morning they were eating the last of the leaves from my apple trees!), it’s good to see them around again. It’s not a good feeling when any kind of wildlife disappears.

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.