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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dearest Fenway,

My own Henry mule aspires to be the sort of steady trail companion you have become, but we have hit a rather troubling wall; that of his ears going anywhere near a bridle. He is perfectly content to have the crown of a halter unbuckled and placed behind his ears, but has a rather violent reaction when anything comes sliding towards them, despite having lived 4 years in a place where ears are only lovingly rubbed. (Which he enjoys quite enthusiastically.) Perhaps you can offer up some words of advice as to how to go about bridling? Building the bridle around his head each day is getting tiring....so many buckles!

Signed,
Your facebook friend


Dear Facebook Friend,

As I see it, you can go one of two ways. 

Option A:

First, make sure your bridle is comfortable and well-fitted and that your mule's bit is suited to his mouth. If his comfort is not in question, then buy "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. Read it. Then, when your understanding of behavioral conditioning is fully developed, buy a clicker. Use it often. Disassociate the bridle with riding by practicing often, rewarding with food, and taking baby steps. Train, train, train. Have patience. Be consistent.  Break the exercise into small parts if you need to. Have you, by the way, tried sliding the HALTER over his ears? Maybe separating the bitting part of the picture from the sliding part will help him let down his guard. 

Option B, which you may want to use in conjunction with Option A in order to get some rides in: 

Buy a snap-over-crown mule bridle. Here are two companies that make them: 


They'll save you some tacking up time, anyway.

I do wish you luck with your problem. If I had an audience with Henry, I'd tell him this—"ears are best when they're shared. If you have a good human, you can trust her to take good care of them. They're not only rubbable, but also bendable, foldable, squishable, slideable, and huggable. No human worth a lick ever hurt a mule's ear on purpose, and surely your human never will. Let the muleness in, Henry. It will fill you up from your ears to your toes if you let it." 

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If wishes were horses—

—we'd all have plenty of compost.

If I stumble upon a couple grand tomorrow, I'll first attempt to return it to its rightful owner. When the rightful owner turns out to be a generous mondomultigazillionaire who tells me, "thanks, but please keep it," (because this is a fantasy, after all, so why wouldn't s/he?) I will then jet on down to Madras, Oregon, and blow my money at the Small Farmer's Journal Horse Drawn Equipment Auction. What a lot of beautiful equipment—and not just horse drawn, really! I'll bet I could find a dozen hand tools Mat and I would enjoy using around our ever-improving farmlet.

After that, I'd use the remaining $501.56 to order 33 yards of crushed concrete, delivered. (Prices are up since 2009, when I got the same load for $285, but such is life).

Finally, I'd retire to my home which would magically have all new windows, a metal roof, solar panels, a water collection system, and a fresh coat of exterior paint.

Yours daydreamingly,
M

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


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http://textaligncentaur.com—yet another way to waste time on the internet.


Look at the dam wall

This has made the rounds of the internet before, but I just learned of it today. I thought it was bad having goats in my shed, goats on my fence, goats in the manger. The friendly folks of Diga del Cingino, Italy, however, have an even worse infestation. 

See the dots on the dam wall? 

My first thought was, "dots? What dots? Those little things?"

My second thought was, "Dear Lord! Dead wildlife! Poor innocent lives!"

Turns out they're not dead. They're just goats, and they've managed to get themselves where only a goat would. 

These are European Ibex, and they climb the wall in order to eat lichen and moss and to lick salt from its surface. 

I'm lucky, I guess—I get my salt from a selenium rich block that sits next to my hay pile. Santa Claus replaces it for me every other year. 

Ears, 

Fenway Bartholomule









Sunday, March 27, 2011

Anniversaries

Here's the thing that's happening next weekend: FarmWife is leaving me. Grampa will come to the farm, though, so that will be good—he doesn't understand the finer points of equine obesity, and might through plaintive braying be convinced to hand over a second dinner flake.

FarmWife is taking FarmHusband with her, and they are going away for two days at a fancy inn. This is because they have been married for seven years, which to me seems silly because they have been able to spend about 2500 happy days together in those years. What's two at an inn, really, when you could be at home scraping the mud off your mule together?

Seven years, two days, one lonesome mule. FarmWife has been my woman for about two years, now that I think of it, so I think we should celebrate by taking a trip for seven days. We can leave Grampa to take care of FarmHusband.

FenBar

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hooves

FarmWife trimmed them today.

FarmWife has been sick, and FarmWife isn't at her best, but FarmWife trimmed my feet today because my feet are easy. I am a gentleman.

FarmWife is a bit of a safety snob, and she's all about the "closed toe shoes," "no stirrups without heeled boots," "helmeted heads," "adult supervision at all times," "no reins before balance," yada yada yada. You won't find her children walking through the paddock in flip-flops or monkeying about in the mule shed without a parent. When it comes to doing my hooves, though, here is her dirty little secret: she sits on a big wooden block.

Yes! She sits! She sits her butt down, and she places my foot in the comfortable cradle of her lap, and she trims it. It's awfully leisurely for us both, and the only reason it is is because we have known eachother for two long years and she knows every flinch of my hide, every prick of my ear, and every widening of my assymmetrical nostrils (one of which I inherited from my horse mother, and the other from my donkey father). She knows how, when, and why I spook, and she knows that I would sooner eat a hairy caterpillar than kick, even in moments of the most severe irritation. There are mounts she wouldn't say this of.  Truthfully, being kicked is one of her phobias—she was kicked in the kneecap in 1989 by a relative's mare, and tore the ACL in the same knee in 1997 in a collision with her rambunctious wolfhound, then kicked by  another mare in the same weak knee in 2006. She's a bit sick of it, really, and that knee is all the more reason to trim while sitting, as she does today.

Don't get me wrong—FarmWife would rather do one of two alternative things: 1), hire a skilled professional trimmer, or 2) trim standing up, as is proper and safe. 1) would require that the trimmers live nearer to her, which they don't, and that she sell an extra poem every six weeks to bridge the gap in her budget*, which she ought, and 2) would hurt that darned knee.

We have a system that works, and I like it. I'm a good boy, and I'm glad she knows.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

* Shameless plug

Friday, March 25, 2011

'tis only a flesh wound


Here's my boo-boo. It's a few days old now, and healing nicely, but it's going to mean no saddling me for a while. That's OK—I've got a fleshy pillow of a back, and FarmWife is nimble enough to manage a bareback ride. We'll have a fun adventure in the nude this weekend (well, me, anyway—she's no Lady Godiva).

You know what this means, though, right? It means I can hold the secret of How I Got My Scrape over FarmWife's head for all eternity! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! (Sinister laugh.) I shall never tell her, and she shall remain forever in the torture of wondering.

FenBar

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring, glorious spring!

This would be a "real life > computer" sort of a day if I were feeling well—the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the garden is springing to life. The goats are cavorting like kids and the mule is rolling in new places where he's never rolled before. Toes in the grass, faces in the sun. Sounds good, except that R and I are home sick with a gross cold that's had us down for too many days in a row now.

Worse, though, is my husband's conundrum—not only does he miss out on sitting in the sun (phlegmy or not) but he, too, is sick. He's working, tiling a bathroom or building a cabinet or some such business, and he's probably doing it with this same sore throat, throbbing ears, and pounding head.

I'm great at self-pity, but today I'll pick myself up and say that I'm lucky to be a working-from-home, sunny-farm-dwelling sick mother of three. There are worse places to sit with a box of kleenex and a cup of tea than here in my office window, the glorious sun streaming in.

M

Baa baa rainbow sheep!

♬♪Baa baa rainbow sheep, have you any wool?


Yes Fen, yes Fen, two bags full. 


One for your FarmWife to knit ear nets for you,


One for the fillies to play with after school,


Baa baa rainbow sheep, thank you for the wool!


It's wonderfully fuzzy, splendiferous and cool! ♪♫







This fleece was a gift from the ewes at Wind River Woolen in Wyoming. I saw pictures of them wearing it, then pictures of them next to it, so I'm pretty convinced that they actually grew it themselves. A miraculous thing!

FarmWife is excited about processing the wool from start to finish, and has a friendly neighborhood mentor to help her with the tools and skills. The outcome may be a woolen ear net, if I'm lucky, or at least a needle felted donkey or two if FarmWife's spinning doesn't go as planned. Either way, there are warm, fuzzy adventures ahead!

Thank ewe,

Fenway

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The inner workings of a child's mind

Three year old R was disappointed when I told her she could not use the urinal at the Blue Mountain Grill.

"Why do boys get a special potty?!," she wailed.

"They pee differently."

"I can pee in the special potty!"

"They pee standing up."

"I can pee standing up!"

"It's only for boys. That's the rule."

Not much more was said, but every time we dine out at the neighborhood greasy spoon she makes a careful examination of the tantalizing alternative to a toilet—brow furrowed, lips tight with concentration. She wants to understand the magic of the urinal. Something about it baffles and amazes her, and until today I didn't know what that something was.

We were out on the road today, driving to the grocery store and having a conversation about the mechanics of cement mixers, and she saw a septic pumping truck. "Isn't the cement going to get hard in that one? That one that's holding still?" she asked.

"No, that's not a cement truck. That's a septic truck, for sucking the poop out of septic systems."

The gears turned. Silence reigned. She thought.

Two minutes later, the answer to an older mystery came out: "So, Mama? Is that how they get the boy pee out of the wall after a boy uses the bathroom at the Blue Mountain Grill? The poop-sucker-truck sticks its hose in the wall and sucks it out?"

All this time, I thought she was fascinated by the urinal because it was off limits. Turns out she was fascinated because the girls deposit their urine in the hole in the ground (Toilet > Floor  >  Pipe > Septic System —this is understood). The boys, on the other hand, pee into a hole in the wall. The Urinal > Wall > Pipe > Septic System connection didn't happen automatically for her, and so she found her own way to a solution. Urinal > Wall > Puddle of Urine, Trapped Until Liberated by the Poop Sucker Truck.

I think I'd stop patronizing the Grill if that were the case, but I admire R's inventiveness. She saw a problem, and she thought of the solution.

M

Monday, March 21, 2011

Problems

My Easyboot gaiters, which were held together by little bits of neoprene and embroidery thread and some patched-on bits of nylon automobile seatbelts, are no longer held together. They're in a number of pieces. FarmWife's repairs, which are ordinarily so spectacular, have been a complete flop with this particular product. New gaiters are required!

FarmWife needs to A) sell my Easyboot Bares, which will allow her to fund the replacement of my Easyboot Epic gaiters, B) sell a poem*, or C) sell my Wintec snaffle bridle. I'm taking offers! It's in good shape, it's sold sans bit or reins, and it's been touched by a star. $25 and you, too, could own a piece of history. Black, beta, horse size, regular cavesson with an aftermarket leather flash attachment added (optional). For another ten bucks, we'll throw in a 5.5" stainless loose ring french link snaffle. 

The other problem is that FarmWife now has a new, favorite tack store. This is why she's not to upset at the thought of selling my snaffle bridle—you see, they have one there that she'd rather have, anyway! She'll save up for it. It's lower priority, since I do my trail riding in a bosal anyway, and my hoof boots are the first thing to get straight. 

I, on the otherhand, have very few wishes. Hay. Grass. Carrots. Strap goods? I could take 'em or leave 'em. That's one of the best things about being me, Fenway Bartholomule. 

FenBar

*a few new sample poems have been posted to www.commissionedpoetry.blogspot.com, and additional samples are coming this week! Keep an eye out!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hoofbeats


It's official: I am the spokesmule of Hoofbeats, the new English tack store in Bellingham, Washington. In that capacity, let me tell you this: you should shop there.

My agent (FarmWife) has dropped in with apologies for my failure to make an appearance at their opening celebration, and she reports back that the store is everything she'd hoped and more. They have polo wraps in my very favorite shade of sage green! They have a synthetic bridle that beats any Wintec strapgoods, hands down. Pretty, supple, and highly coveted. They have beautiful belts, abundant boots, heaps of helmets, and blankets galore. They have zocks in every color (mule ear covers, perchance?). They have cupcakes (FarmWife didn't save me any) and candies (FarmWife didn't save me any) and marigold spray for the beautification of shining coats (FarmWife did bring me some of that, at least!).

My next assignment is to shed my winter coat, then get dolled up in my dressagiest gear for a nice Hoofbeats photo shoot. They'll put my picture on their wall, they say, and who wouldn't love that? After all, it's not every tack store that gets to show off an image of His Royal Muleness the Honorable Sir Fenway Bartholomule. In the meantime, they've stuck my business card  under the glass countertop thingy near the cash register, which was tremendously flattering. It's a wonderful spot for a wonderful card, if I do say.

Ears,

FenBar

P.S. FarmWife says I should tell the whole family that Mothers' day and her birthday are both coming up, and that she wouldn't say no to a Hoofbeats gift certificate. I'll try to remember to do that, although I have more trouble capturing FarmHusband's ear than FarmWife's. Funny how that is.




Saturday, March 19, 2011

Special Friends by Marnie Jones

When you met Luke you made a friend to keep through thick and thin—
Devoted, yes, and pretty too, but prettiest within. 
You made a friend who loves the world (but loves you most, you know),
A friend aburst with joy and care, with love that overflows. 



When you gave Cole a warm, safe home for which he needn’t run,
You shared with him a newfound joy—the joy of being loved. 
You taught him that his inner worth is greater than his speed,
That friendship, warmth, and company are all one really needs. 

What stroke of luck, that Cole should find himself in such a place?
With such a dog as Luke around, to help unlearn the race!
To teach him, as such hounds must learn, that homes can be enjoyed.
To show him play, and confidence, and how to go outside.

What blessing you bestowed upon these cherished, gentle souls!
The both of them so full of heart, sweet Luke and quiet Cole.
Dear Cole, aloof and elegant, a prince among mere hounds—
And Luke, adoring playmate! Luke, whose goodness knows no bounds.

You thought perhaps to get a dog (and then to get another) 
To make your lives the richer, then to get dear Luke a brother.
Just as they’ve enriched your lives and blessed you with their caring,
So you’ve blessed them with rich, full lives—made better by the sharing.
Bringing Bailey Home

Some horses run to save their lives— 
  unlucky, they that fail.
Some horses run for glory, full of heart,
  with streaming tails.
Some horses win, some horses lose,  
  some horses miss the mark—
Some run until they find their place—
  the track is just a start.

Some horses are not born to race,
  not born to fight and win.
Some horses run to better lives—
  to other jobs, new friends.
How dear you were to Nana, once,
  and dear to all you knew,

But they new not how you would run—
  or rather, how you'd lose.
A lucky thing, those races lost—
  a lucky thing indeed, 
For you weren't destined for the track.  
  A new life called, dear steed . . . 
A life of lessons, friends and blessings,
  jumping, and dressage, 
A life from A to C and K to F
  in rising trot. 
New friends—you'd meet them, and  
  they'd love your courage and your soul,
You'd be adored, you'd be enjoyed,
  you'd play and work and show. 
We love you, Bailey, this you know,
  but life is full of turns. 
You wound up down in Florida,
  and only just returned.
Eventing, running, playing
  in the warm sunbeaten south—
You won more hearts each place you went, 
  but Ali’s most of all.
Tammy, Bucky, pretty Sass,
  and Ali, always yours . . . 
We honor you, and cherish you,
  and welcome you back home. 
You're here with us, dear Bailey,
  and your life's been long and great—
It's but half done, and here with us
  your next chapter awaits. 



I'm "cowy," alright.

I have a very clear concept of the Control and Direction of Livestock Animals. FarmWife is almost certain that that makes me half quarter horse, though half quarter horse equals one eighth horse which is the furthest thing from the truth of the matter, which actually puts me at one half horse! It's a matter of some debate around here, I can tell you! In any case, reprimanding the goats when they've graced us with less than stellar behavior is one of my favorite things to do, and on our ride yesterday I had occasion to do so.

You may recall that Jasper Jules came along on our trail ride yesterday, which was all good until he saw a logging truck coming. FarmWife was prepared for this possibility and held us both steady on a wide part of the road, so no misfortune befell us. We're all well-practiced with traffic, and FarmWife was masterfully vigilant about our safety, but Jasper's reaction AFTER the passing of the rig was less than exemplary. He RUSHED past me, and RUSHED down the hill, and RUSHED towards home until he came abruptly against the end of his leadrope. Too much Rushing! Really! I did not approve. Not one bit.

This is me telling him, in no uncertain terms, that Rushing was NOT ACCEPTABLE.

This is Jasper Rushing. 

This is me telling him exactly what I think about his Rushing. 
And here we are, friends again. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

He Doth Protest

Jasper trailing behind. 

Jasper in quiet contemplation of a Precipitous Slope.
Jasper looking like he needs a real halter. He's outgrown his old one! 

FarmWife and I had a gloriously warm, brilliantly blue, fabulously sunny morning yesterday. With the smallest human at a friend's house and the others at school, it was an unprecedented opportunity. Not only did we seize the day, but we seized the goat, too! FarmWife felt that Jasper Jules needed a distraction, as he's become increasingly bored and restless in his solitary turnout. (He bullies his mother and sister when he's in the group and pines when he's alone.) FarmWife says, "a tired goat is a good goat," and also that we should fitten him up (fittify him?) so that he can carry my dinner and her tent if and when we ever go camping together.

As you can see in this brief clip, Jasper Jules whinged a bit about being made to go out. He perked up, though, and stopped maaaaing eventually. We had fun, I think, and I know FarmWife felt like we were a lovely spectacle.

We'll do it again. Perhaps it wasn't a joyful excursion for young Jasper, but it was at least a character-building one!

FenBar


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Alternative transportation

FarmWife went on a bike ride to the local watering hole yesterday, with our youngest human filly in tow. Normally, my hackles would be up at the preposterous suggestion that any mode of transportation could serve better than me, Fenway Bartholomule. This time, though, I have to agree.

Firstly, there was the weather. A romantic mist at the beginning of their ride turned into a pissing, frigid downpour by the time they returned, and I was just as happy to observe from within the comfort of my dry shed.

Secondly, there are the amenities. I understand that they serve beer, soda, juice, and coffee at the Blue Mountain Grill, but only out of mugs, glasses, or cups. A bucket of Guinness would cost a pretty penny, and I'm pretty sure those lawn chairs on the patio aren't designed for the likes of me.

Thirdly, there is the roadway. Rushing along a paved back road is fine for wheels but hard one hooves, and with the pace they were setting I was well advised to remain behind.

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, the Blue Mountain Grill sits on Highway 9. The means by which to get there are quieter, but the parking lot is right on the main drag. It would be a shame, I think, if I was overcome by my Annual Stupidity while in such close proximity to the thundering lorries. (My Annual Stupidity, for those unaware, is a gigantic megaspook, which involves whirling, bolting, and braying in abject terror. It has happened to me twice in my two plus years with FarmWife.)

I won't begrudge FarmWife and her littlest filly an occasional bike ride, then. I just hope they bring me back an oatmeal stout and a side of onion rings next time.

FenBar

Blogger isn't working.

The only way I have been able to access my blogs today has been to go and hit "edit" on a post, then from that post tab pop over to "new post", adjacent. Any tips on how to regain total functionality? I get error bX-f0hw1h when I try to access the Blogger dashboard at www.blogger.com.

Otherwise, all's well—my good friend Daye is getting out of Tokyo in the morning, and my two favorite guys (Mat & Fenway) are both sure to enjoy this weekend's forecasted sunny weather. Life is better here than elsewhere, certainly, and I really can't complain. We're off to shop for ballet slippers (for R) and soccer cleats (for D) this evening, and I feel like the mother of an evolving family. A new chapter, perhaps?

M

Monday, March 14, 2011

Competing hobbies

FarmWife has another hobby besides blogging and muleback riding (shocking, I know!). Unfortunately, she says I cannot participate in it with her because of Loudness.

I know something about Loudness. Do you remember The Bray of Wonder?  Loudness is OK with me.  I thrive on it.

Nonetheless, FarmWife says I wouldn't like the Loudness that goes with her other hobby, which involves one of these:


But I say she must take me along on her target practice outings, and that I promise to stay safely out of the way while she demonstrates the voice of this strange little machine. 

She says only maybe, and possibly someday, and certainly not right now, and only with these in my glorious auricles:


On second thought, those look awfully uncomfortable. I'll just stay home. 

FenBar

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wringing my hooves

Wringing my hooves, literally, is rather difficult—firstly, there is the musculoskeletal strength that a prolonged levade requires. I am simply not in the physical condition to support my weight on my hind limbs for any length of time. Secondly, there is the question of joint mobility. Try as I might, I cannot bend inward at the knee in the fashion of you humans with your multi-directional elbows. My hooves can be rubbed together, yes, in the fashion of an interfering trotter or a conformationally defective sport horse in desperate need of a pair of bell boots, but with my sturdy, wide stance and my moderate tendency to toe out, even this requires more than a normal degree of effort.

OK, then, we'll say this—I am figuratively wringing my hooves over the tragic affairs in our international community. I cannot think about the relative merits of chewing my delectable hay with my left molars or my right, or the questionable usefulness of my rather expensive closed-cell foam saddle pad, or the trials and tribulations of dragging a tire and a PVC travois down Meredith Lane—not when there are untold thousands suffering, mourning, and worrying about the future. In northern Africa and the middle east, in Haiti, on the Ivory Coast, and now in Japan, there are bigger things to worry about.

I am a mule of optimism, cheer, and merriment, though. I will not lose sight of my joy, nor will I lose sight of my ability to infect FarmWife with it. She has been sick, and we have not ridden lately. As she improves, though, she's showing signs of needing a relaxing outing. I can help with that.

I cannot fix corrupt governments, tectonic shifting, or broken nuclear reactors, but I can fix FarmWife. I will take her riding on Tuesday night, and she will shrug off her worries and her persistent cough. She won't stop worrying about friends in Japan, but she will feel better. I promise.

FenBar

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hay Storage Solutions

FarmWife is worried about rising prices of commodities, and she's sorry that she only has one acre of grass. Luckily, we live in a place where hay is affordable, high in quality, and easy to come by in July and August. Our storage limitations, however, force us to buy hay in quantities of less than a ton.

FarmWife wants a barn so that she might buy a year's worth of hay every summer. Her carpenter-husband has the skills to build one, but the money to prepare a site, purchase materials, and get the thing permitted are another matter!

I, on the other hand, am worried about how my tummy will feel by a quarter after three. I think she should immediately give me all the hay in her possession, and I will take care of it for her. The Volvo hay mother seems perfectly able to continue disgorging two or three bales a week, as has been its custom, and FarmWife is silly to hide them away on the milking porch when she could be having me tend them in my shed. Why look to the future when there's a hungry mule here today?

FarmWife also thinks that I could do with fewer calories, but then there is that amendment which prohibits Cruel and Unusual Punishment in the United States. I think reducing my hay would definitely qualify.

FenBar

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My whole-foods kitchen (surprise ending)

Cheese press
Herbs and spices
Whole foods and vegan cookbooks

This week's "to be planted" seed packets
Beans soaking prior to being canned
Bulk grains and beans






Fresh kimchi fermenting on the countertop
Aaaaaaand . . . 

Dinner. (The children's reward for uncomplainingly eating wholesome, cooked-from-scratch things for several days in a row).

Bird business

Both of these exotic specimens were photographed here at Bent Barrow Farm. It's a good thing one didn't eat the other.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Advice from an editor

One of FarmWife's editors recently passed down this bit of wisdom: "Simplify, simplify . . . until only the best remains." It works for articles, for publications, and for life.

It has FarmWife thinking all sorts of things, like that she really should convince the children to save their very finest artwork rather than every scribble they've ever penciled, and that she should work harder to loan poor bored Jasper Jules out on brush-eating duty, and that she doesn't have to keep every mediocre paperback and outdated text book she's ever read, and that there's no sense growing a dozen varieties of lettuce when the romaine and red loose-leaf varieties are the only ones she ever really eats.

FarmWife used to own a dozen saddle pads, but the one she likes best is the hand-me-down, trimmed-down wool felt western saddle pad that she inherited with me from my previous owner. "Simplify, simplify"—she has given the rest away. She used to have six or eight dandy brushes in my grooming tote, but now she has two: a stiff nylon one for muddy legs and hooves, and a flexible natural-bristle brush for my sensitive body. She used to have three milking does, but she found good pet homes for the one with nasty tasting milk and the one with a misshapen teat.

The good news here is that I am the best, and will be forever cherished. Even if it comes down to just her her good husband, her good children, and her good mule, I am among the best. No simplification can touch me.

FenBar

Writing to the stars—a copy of my letter to Ewan

Ewan McGregor
United Talent Agency
9560 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 500
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2401
USA

Dear Mr. McGregor,

You mentioned your interest in owning a donkey during an episode of The Long Way Down, and I wanted to encourage you to give it a try. Donkeys are warm, affectionate, stoic, and charming creatures. Their needs are few: the company of humans and other equines, a healthy diet of grass hay and minerals, a safely fenced enclosure with shelter and room to move around, and regular hoof and veterinary care. It's likely within your means to provide these things, and you'll be repaid ten times over by your donkey with his humor, his kindness, and his antics.

Donkeys do best with a friend, and so I want to encourage you to adopt a pair. The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 0NU, telephone +44 (0) 1395 578222, can provide you with additional information about finding and looking after a donkey in the United Kingdom, and there are a number of additional donkey charities in the UK, the United States, and around the world. Adoption is a responsible way to find a new pet, and the world is full of donkeys in need.

If you are interested in helping donkeys but don't want any of your own, I encourage you to extend your philanthropy to our hooved friends. I appreciate and admire your charitable work for children and impoverished people, and I hope that my suggestion will be taken as an addition rather than an alternative to your wonderful work in these areas. Monetary donations are sorely needed and I am sure there are dozens if not hundreds of worthy associations who would love some assistance in funding their efforts to help these hard-working and often maligned animals.

http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk has more information about donkey rescue and some webcams of their residents in the barn and yard. My own mule (the offspring of a donkey and a horse) lives in my backyard in Acme, Washington, and blogs at www.braysofourlives.com. I'm including his picture on the enclosed card, and would very much appreciate a note from you to acknowledge receipt of this message. I'm including a SASE in case you would like to use it to reply.

Thank you,


Marnie Jones

(return address included in actual correspondence)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ewan McGregor wants a donkey . . .

 . . . and I think he should rescue one.

In this clip from his show The Long Way Down, Ewan expresses his appreciation for the donkeys of the African continent. In the episode from which it was extracted, he goes on to say that he actually is quite interested in owning a donkey, and that he likes them, and that he'll likely seek one in the UK as shipping from Africa would be unrealistic.

So, did Ewan ever get his donkey? I don't know! You don't hear about it, and if he didn't then it's about time he opened his capacious wallet and comfortable home to a hoofbeast in need. I'm going to write his agent and say so. (Ewan isn't one of those people you can just write to directly, unfortunately, even if you are a mule of international celebrity.)

Ears,

FenBar

I pledge allegiance, as a mule, to the United States of America

What this country needs is a return to the land, to self-sufficiency, to community, and to good old fashioned hard work. What better to represent that than by freshening up our flag with an image of America's first best worker, the mule? It would be a beautiful homage to Royal Gift, George Washington's jack that started it all, and to the mules that were the economic engine of America before the industrial revolution.

It would be pretty, too.

Out of the goodness of my heart and the generosity of my spirit, I have taken some time out of my busy schedule (8 am—breakfast. 10 am—nap. 11 am—grazing. 12 pm—roll. 12:05 pm—more grazing. 1 pm—another nap) to volunteer my graphic design talents for this important project. I'm afraid, however, that the seamstressing will require a Betsy Ross type person with some sewing skills. Between these slippery, muddy hooves and the size of my ass, I just can't sit at the sewing table and make it work.

Ears,
Fenway Bartholomule

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Threshing


I learned this week that it is possible to grow enough grain to feed a family, a flock of hens, and a manageable yard full of livestock on a quarter acre. We have more than that in lawn, and plenty of room to spare.

Ok, I know—the fact that we have space for grain is no assurance that we will actually plant it, weed it, harvest it, thresh it, store it, grind it, and use it as we should, but the fact that we COULD is exciting.

The video above interests me. I can just imagine Jasper Jules, B.G., and Fenway doing this work. Heck, we might even need a couple of cattle to add extra threshing power! Missy, I think, is exempt—with her hind end weakness, she'd drag the chain gang down.

The sad thing about this plan is that Mr. Fenway Bartholomule, in all of his rotundity, shall have no grain. We need pasture and a hay field, for a truly self-sufficient life with livestock, but to feed ourselves and our food-producing animals might be a good first goal. Fenway's hay can continue to come from the shop, for the time being, or from the neighbors when the season's right.

(Now, not to mislead you, and in the interest of disclosure—we're nowhere near eliminating store-bought groceries. It's just that we would like to be. It's a good dream, and an exciting one.)


M

Stealth


I thought I was being all sneaky and everything by wearing these funny big round horse boots. No one could possibly suspect, I thought, that it was actually a mulish mule leaving those ol' moon-shaped tracks. Sneaky Fenway, I thought. Aren't I clever, I thought, tricking people like this.

Then FarmWife showed me my tracks, and pointed out that my ovalish back feet couldn't possibly be mistaken for horse hoofies. Turns out everyone knows I'm a mule, 'cause for every round print I leave there's another spade-shaped one beside it.

Next time, I'll wear boots on all fours. And BACKWARDS! That will confuse them. They'll think they're following a horse going west, when really it's an eastbound mule they're after. Ha!

Ehhhh . . . .

Oh, dear.

FarmWife just pointed out that once they find me, they'll know the truth for sure. It says it on my browband.

Ah, never mind. Stealth is for dummies, anyway. I love celebrity life, and it's not so bad if everyone knows The Muleness and where to find it, right?

FenBar


Thursday, March 3, 2011

A nice green snack



FarmWife put me in this stream today because she thought it would make a pretty photo. Luckily for me, there were some delicious sword ferns nearby! Imagine FarmWife's disappointment when all she got were these shots of me eating the fronds. Yummeroo! (Actually, she did get one decent shot, too . . . I'm not ALL rude.)

Just thank your stars, FarmWife, that you didn't park me next to a (toxic) bracken fern.


FenBar





Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back Country Horsemen

This is not the backcountry, but it is nice.

We've thought it over and decided that the Back Country Horsemen's Association is worth joining, even if they reject the commonsense notion of renaming themselves "the Back Country Horse- and Mule- and Donkey-Men's and Women's Association." They keep trails open, clean, safe, and accessible for equestrians, and they fight for the right to ride and to preserve open space. Hikers, cyclists, conservationists, and farmers should thank the BCHA (the BCHMDMWA), for the land they help protect is a gift to all.

Some links for your edification and enjoyment:

Back Country Horsemen of Washington
Back Country Horsemen of America
Whatcom Chapter
Skagit Chapter

Off my soapbox now . . . and good thing, too! I don't know if it can bear my ample weight much longer.

Ears,
FenBar
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