“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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010


It’s raining again. How could I tell…?

One day, a few days ago, out in the stable, three chickens were facing one chicken – or one chicken was facing three. I could not tell if it was three against one or one against three. I could not tell if three were picking on one, or if one was picking on three. Sometimes we can never tell which side is really fighting. Sometimes we cannot tell why.

These nine years are way too long.

At Quaker meeting a few weeks ago, Karen suggested we concentrate our lives for the week upon a word, and then asked each of us to tell others our word. I don’t remember everyone’s words, yet I remember that Mrs. Harris’s word was “endurance”, and since I did not have one for myself, she picked “health” for me as I was not feeling too well that day. But Jill picked “perfect”, which I did not understand, so I asked her. She said something that went like this: “Perfect! ‘Cause I am perfect just the way I am, and you are perfect just the way you are. No one has to be anything more that what they already are to be perfect…everyone is perfect the way they are.” I spent the week thinking about that. I still am. I like it.

Healthcare passed last week. Obama is called a socialist. Palin is stumping her way along the tea party circuit. People are threatening congress persons. States are going to sue the government. Obama is supposed to be a non citizen. Glenn Beck is making millions.

Our Quaker meeting has been helping area homeless families who have jobs. One woman, who has a ten year old, has two jobs. She wakes seven days a week at 3:00 am and delivers news papers with her child asleep in the back seat, as there is no child care at that time in the morning. After the newspapers are delivered, she drops her child off at school and works her second job – as a home health care aid, caring for others. She and her child both arrive back at the church shelter at 7:00pm. They do this routine seven days a week. Think about it. Two jobs, 70 or more hours spent working each week, and she cannot afford a one bed room apartment. Two jobs, 70 or more hours spent working a week and she is homeless. Forget health benefits.

In our area, there is no affordable housing. Every proposal has been petitioned and voted against. No one wants affordable housing in their backyard. Affordable housing will reduce property values they say. The residents of our area write letters to the editor against affordable housing. The council meetings are covered by reporters. “Not in my backyard!” they say. The next day, they read about their successful efforts to turn back affordable housing in the newspaper. The newspaper is delivered to their front door every day, seven days a week, while they and their kids are soundly asleep in beds. Later in the day, a woman comes to the door to care for Gramma.

Just outside my door, the fields are being sown with rain.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010

Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. Today…

The spring peepers are singing in a woodland chorus out back
The bees are foraging and bringing pollen back to the hive
Kids are out playing, laughing, having fun
The horses are browsing in the greening, awakening grass
A bluebird skips from fence rail to fence rail
The strawberries are uncurling new growth from beneath dried brown leaves
The maples are shaded red with opened buds
Chickens scratch and joust for worms in the tilled field
Crocuses are showing cups of white, violet, and yellow
Three deer, last years fawns now grown into does, graze behind the house
There is an indescribable newness in the breezy air

Outside, in Quaker silence, I said a thankful prayer….

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14, 2010

There are many things that make living on a farm “hard”. Some of these things are mucking out stalls, stacking hay, weeding rows, getting stung by bees and being butted by a goat, bit by a duck, bit by a horse, bit by the duck again, and getting kicked in the head by a spooked horse and needing 23 stitches…but these don’t compare to the challenge that I have now come face to face with.

I call it “despair with a twang”. My wife calls it country music.

Its not that I am against country music, because I’m not. It’s ok…but how I feel about country music is how I feel about monkeys – real cute, but I don’t want one sitting on my shoulder.

It’s the lyrics mostly that scratch my blackboard. Pulitzer lines like “working hard all week puts the beer on the table” does not take me to the deep end which is where I like to be. I like lyrics and music that I can interpret different ways and that make me work my mind back and forth to figure out meanings… “puttin’ beer on the table” doesn’t do it for me. I can figure it out way to easily. No metaphors there to ponder - its not anywhere close to the cryptic and sometimes whimsical wanderings of Devendra Banhart. Still, it’s not a bad song. Monkeys aren’t too bad either.

To be fair, my wife doesn’t like what I listen to anymore than I like her country. Playing Tom Waites curdles her skin. Once, on a trip back from Connecticut, she couldn’t take his gravel voice any longer and, well, let’s just say that for my own safety, I put in a different cd. Damn if I wasn’t looking at what I was putting in next and put in some John Coltrane…that’s when the roof blew off.(She hates jazz even more) Next thing ya know, for my own safety, I turned on the radio and found a song that went something like this, “I found the tractor of my dreams when you walked out that door after my last beer and my dog died before my truck got stuck in the mud while I was a four wheeling on my way to the bar after working hard for a bad boss before my spit cup fell out of my camper truck”. Peace at last! I know what’s best for me.

But seriously, there is a song we both like and can listen to and that makes us happy- it stirs up my imagination and allows me some meaningful interpretation. My wife likes it because it has a happy-go-lucky country theme and can be hummed to. It makes us both smile. It goes something like this: “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, and whiskey makes my girlfriend feel a little frisky”.

It’s the best song there ever was! Trust me!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010

A lot of times I write about the animals here, but have never said much about how they came to live here. With that in mind, I thought Louie’s story might be interesting. I don’t know Louie’s whole story, and it is very doubtful that I ever will, but this is what I do know…

I bought Louie and brought him to the farm in late November 2005. At that time he was called Leroy. “Lee-roy” did not roll off my tongue easily, so I changed his name. I had always liked the very early jazz of Louie Armstrong and his Hot 5 and his Hot 7, so Louie it became.

I bought Leroy from a women outside of Berlin, NJ who had what amounted to be a petting zoo that she would take on the road for kids birthday parties, parades, and fairs. She told me that she had bought Leroy hoping he would pull a carriage, but now she wanted to buy a draft horse for that instead. She had bought Leroy at an auction, and though he was not the choice she really wanted, she felt that if no one picked him up, he’d be off to the slaughter house in Texas the next day. (Unfortunately, unwanted horses are slaughtered and the meat is sold abroad) The auctioneer claimed that Leroy had been a “summer camp” horse; at a camp for overweight kids.

Leroy was not in the best of shape when I bought him. He had “bots” which are tiny flies that lay their eggs in the hair of horses, and the larvae burrow into the skin, causing irritations. Later, by ingestion, the larvae become internal parasites and can cause serious gastrointestinal disorders.

Leroy also had a hoof infection called white line disease, and a bit of thrush.

Besides that, he was lame with arthritis which caused him to stumble, and he was blind in his left eye.

Why would I buy a horse like that, all broken? I don’t know….I just liked him. It’s the only reason I had.

The only other information I have about Louie comes from his tattoo, which is in his inside upper lip. An inside upper lip tattoo is for racehorses. Louie is a Standardbred and a pacer, which means he would most likely have been trained as a trotter. I looked up his tattoo on the website of the United States Trotting Association, and found him. According to their “free” search”, Louie was born on April 15, 1987 in Saratoga NY, and was registered under the name of “Earl’s Lucky Buck”. There are no records that he ever raced.

Unfortunately, and as is the case for many horses, Louie’s whole history can’t be told – it can only be guessed. Louie has a hairless scar where the nose band of a bridle crosses his nose, strongly indicating that he spent many long days “tacked” up, either for riding or driving. His arthritis underscores again that he was a working horse, and is a clue that he has a lot of hard and long miles behind him. Maybe he was a trail hose at one time. On his right shoulder he has a small scar, and when touched there, his skin twitches because of nerve damage, which makes me wonder if he had a bad wreck (an accident) at one time. I’ve often wondered if the scar and his blind eye are related. Maybe a wreck ended his racing career? I just don’t know…Louie does, but he can’t say.

Pretty much, it’s obvious that whoever owned him at the time of sale thought his useful days were over and put him up for auction.

Louie was “lucky”. The petting zoo lady happened to be there at the right time.

Louie is doing really well here. Once he landed on our farm, we got his “bots” cleared up and after a few months of treatment, his hoof diseases remised. We put him on “joint” supplements to help him with his arthritis and inflammation – anymore he hardly stumbles, and he feels good enough to rear up, buck, kick, and sprint around, which he would not do four years ago. There really is nothing we can do for his blind eye. Louie has his own paddock because the other two horses are able to go to his blind side and “pick on him”. But when the horses are together, Louie at 23 years old can out sprint the other two much younger horses hands down, showing that he still has a lot of good years in him! And when I watch him run now, I wonder at how fast he must have been when he was young – it’s hard for me to think that he was too slow to race. He’s done so well here that Kathy and I are proud to say that he is younger now than he was when we got him!

Overall, Louie is a good horse. Sometimes he does get aggressive and we have to be careful around him. We never figured out what causes this – maybe a bad experience somewhere in his past. But other than those now and then moments, he’s pretty tame and friendly, and he has always been an easy and safe mount. He’s the horse that we put kids and first time riders on. He’s the perfect horse for me, and over the past four years he has become one of my best friends…something told me that it would all work out that first time I saw him. I just liked him.