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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Horse

Dear horse who tore, riderless, through the royal wedding procession,

You are welcome here. I understand your actions (how boring all that pomp and circumstance must have been, and how irksome that rejoicing crowd!) and I forgive you for them. I am not so sure that Her Royal Highness Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, would agree. I hereby invite you to take refuge in the witness protection program, by which means you might be discreetly relocated to scenic Wickersham, Washington. I will ask FarmWife to felt for you some prosthetic ears. We shall dye your star black. You can learn to plow with me, and we shall have all sorts of fun.

Your consoling friend,
Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, April 29, 2011

Alpaca Face




Sometimes the best thing you can do is just think of an alpaca face. 

It's a great alternative to worrying about the future, wringing your hands over the past, or getting down to the business of some unpleasant task. 

Who knows—maybe a little dose of alpaca face will inspire you to greatness. 

FenBar

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A story, with Paco Collars as its hero

Once upon a time there was a puppy named Garth. You might think him unlucky—after all, he was born deaf in a litter of hearing pups, and was scheduled to be culled at six weeks of age. He was taken home by a soft-hearted college kid instead, and renamed Paisley. He learned sign language. He grew to be a beautiful, majestic animal.

When Paisley was four, he suffered a simple fracture of the ulna in a freak accident (tripping on the lawn, actually). Do to a comedy of errors involving one bungling vet and three concerned specialists, the leg was ruined for life but saved from amputation. His bone was removed, and his joint healed at a bizarre angle.  Paisley limps, but feels comfortable. He is what one might call "pasture sound."

When Paisley was six, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. His grand mal siezures occur several times a year, with or without medication, and last about three to five minutes each. Each time he seizes, his human wonders if he'll ever wake up. He always does—terrified, confused, and unrecognizing.

When Paisley is not siezing, he is joyful. He is not a brave dog, though. He has lived on this one acre farmlet for six years now, and he has never yet set foot beyond the wire gate that separates the Dog Yard from the Goat and Chicken Yards. He is afraid of goats and chickens, even though they have never hurt him and even though he has never had a bad experience with livestock in his nine years of life. He is simply positive that they will kill him if he invades their territory, and so he watches from the porch.

Paisley is a good dog. He is a handsome dog, and a pretty one at the same time. He is covered in clouds of the softest, whitest fur. His nose is pig-pink and speckled like a dalmatian dog. He gets a new freckle every few months. (His humans hope that one day the nose will reveal a portrait of the virgin mother or the holy son and thereby secure a fortune.)

Paisley is not the most sensible member of the family. He is terrified of dogs in t-shirts and all hooved animals, but he is the most socially benign dog in the world when it comes to canine/canine and canine/human interactions. He has never so much as glared at a child, and he has never risen to a single challenge when it comes to doggy disputes over resources and supremacy. He is the definitive "nice guy," with all his gentle goodness and geeky mannerisms.

Paisley was lucky to get a spiffy tag from Fetching Tags of Georgia several months ago, and from the get-go he wore it proudly—even though his human asked that it say "One Sandwich Short of a Picnic" on the side opposite his contact info., and even though it hung from a $3 grocery store collar. He was luckier still when, yesterday, he received a present in the mail from Paco Collars of Berkeley. The folks at Paco Collars sent him a beautiful collar. A strong collar. A collar to be proud of. It's a work of art, and it fits perfectly.

The greatest thing about this is that they sent him the collar because he deserved it. Because he is a good dog, and because he has a good heart. They sent him a collar because he is special, and because he is beloved, and because—despite his many eccentricities—he is perfect. They sent a perfect collar for a perfect dog.

Thank you, Paco Collars, for making Paisley feel special. He is. (And we don't just mean "short bus" special.)


FOR MORE ABOUT THE SIMPLE TWO TONE COLLAR FROM PACO COLLARS, CLICK HERE. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grass

It's greener on the other side.

Our delightful neighbors have been offering me paddock space for some time now, and I've always politely declined out of a sense of . . . oh, I don't even know. Independence, I suppose, or self sufficiency. There are also minor concerns about the quality of their fence, but they can be alleviated with an electric wire. Today, I looked at the muddy slop that was Fenway's sacrifice paddock and decided that a rest would do our ground some good. Tomorrow, I think I'll see about getting him over next door.

Neighbors who do one another a good turn—it's one of my favorite things about Wickersham. This particular neighbor, who loves Swiss chard but who won't be gardening this year for reasons of health, will have a row in my garden. Another neighbor needed her dogs let out to pee this afternoon, while yet another watched my daughter for an hour today when I had a schedule conflict. Is this small town life, or is this the way things work in every community? Never mind, I love it.

There are days when I long for a bigger pasture, a cozy barn, and an off-grid life. The grass is always greener on the other side, but it's pretty green right here too.

M

Limbo like me

http://youtu.be/ibjHm7tvw2I

Breaking news—I, Fenway Bartholomule, have disrespected the phantom fence. (The phantom fence is FarmWIfe's pseudoelectric line—the one that looks like a live wire, but isn't. She uses it to divide my paddock in bits.) I didn't touch it . . . no, I got down on my almost-knees and my almost-hocks and I limboed under it. FarmWife watched it happen, and I do say she was rather impressed! (The wire sits at my breastbone when I'm standing). Woohoo! Makes me want to sing!


 Ears to freedom,

FenBar

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Jar

There's a jar on FarmWife's counter with $20.78 in it. It says "Farm Fund." FarmWife says that when it is full enough, we will go to a verdant meadow amidst rolling hills, and I will have pastures and wildflowers and babbling brooks and a proper barn. She also says that I will remain on a restrictive diet during the grassiest time of the year, but I don't focus on that part of the dream.

The nice thing about this is that someday I will live in a place where I can gambol with unrestricted freedom. Right now, my pasture is about the size of two 20x40 meter small dressage courts, and my gamboling must be done with delicate tact. The other nice thing about this is that you, lucky reader, can buy Bent Barrow Farm if you want it. It's nearly outgrown for us, but it might be good for you! The OTHER other nice thing about this is that FarmHusband can build a house himself, and a barn as well, because he is talented with things like that. There is one more nice thing, which is that if we had a hay field we would need a draft team to hay it and then I'd have more friends.

FarmWife wants this imaginary someday farm to be on the west coast. FarmHusband wants it to be on the east coast. They're both willing to compromise. They both agree that it must be temperate, and it must be beautiful, and it must be affordable and out of the path of things like tornados and hurricanes. Tell me, reader, where would YOU go?

Ears,
FenBar

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rabbit Mouths

Click for rabbit mouths. 

The house mules—FarmWife calls them rabbits—are not unlike paddock mules, except that they are small, malformed, and lacking hooves.

What is it about rabbit mouths, though? The humans seem to love them. They're strange and tiny, cavelike and inflexible, and full of weird little eccentricities—a split lip, a firm tongue, and ever-growing teeth.

My mouth is more useful. It can hold a bit, masticate an entire apple or carrot, and herd goats hither and thither.

I yawn cutely too, you know. I think my yawn, in fact, is MUCH more benign in appearance than these gaping grimaces.

My mouth is definitely better. There is no contest.

FenBar


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter



At Bent Barrow Farm, even the chickens are special.

Trying for the perfect picture.

First there was MY stinkeye, which ruined the first Easter portrait.

Then there was Harriet's stinkeye, which ruined the second Easter portrait. 

Then there was plan B, which involved the two of us longears grazing side by side for the third Easter portrait.
MUCH better!

Happy Easter—may your grass be green, may your bunnies be happy, and may your FarmWife love you as much as mine loves me. 

Fenway Bartholomule

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just call me Fenway "Shuttlebus" Bartholomule

Today I carried my oldest human filly up to the valley of the deer skeletons, at which place she got off and handed me to her mother. FarmWife mounted and enjoyed a brief trot down to the end of the pipeline road and a canter on the return. They traded back (Weanling astride, FarmWife afoot) and we came down through the yellow gate, turned left at Innis Creek, and sauntered home. I then proceeded to give the baby fillies rides, one after another, to Uncle Jim's gate and back. The four of them, I'll gratefully acknowledge, never did attempt to ride me all at once.

This is the complexity of being a family mule, but I welcome it. What can I say? They adore me, all of them, and for good reason. I am a good boy, no matter who my passenger.



Ears to you,
FenBar

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grow a pair

You may recall my having been frightened by a sheep a few weeks back. It demonstrated a terrible lack of courage, and I stand humbled before you in apology for my gutless response to an unfamiliar ungulate.

Luckily, some wonderful ladies from Wyoming have the answer—the ewes of Wind River Woolen, seeing that I could not grow them myself, grew and mailed this lovely pair of fleecy, felted balls!

They report that they learned of these things from Grandpa Rambo, who assures them that such charms aid in the development of ATTITUDE and INVINCIBILITY. "Lost is now returned to ewe," they write, and "wear the pair, plus the spare, around the neck . . . and the bell, perhaps, to change the tune for spring."

I've donned these marvels briefly for today's photo shoot, but you'll surely see them upon my breastplate in future as a standard wardrobe component. FarmWife thinks they'll come in handy.

Ears to you, and may you too regain lost treasures this week!

Fenway Bartholomule


A spare (it's white) and a bell to change the tune for spring!

My bell, and balls worn jauntily upon the ear.
 The pair about my neck—I'm told they can be worn this way or in the nether region, though I think I'll wear mine affixed to my breastplate in future.

p.s. I don't actually live amongst all of this playground equipment—that would be untidy and less than safe. I am, however, permitted to mow around the swings and sandbox on sunny afternoons. Just call me Fenway Bartholomule, Landscape Contractor.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A fun way to pass the time


This was going to be a makeup, wardrobe, and photos kind of a day, as I have some new items that I desperately need to show off. It's rainy, though, and you may be aware that I have no cosy dressing room in which to prepare on an inclement morning. Instead, I'll just assign homework and leave you to it until tomorrow.

Your assignment is this: Go to www.braysofourlives.com, and in the "search brays" box, enter any word. I tried "tummy," "googly," and "stupendous."If you get no results, just try again.

This is a wonderful way to walk down memory lane if you've been with me for a while, or to see what you've missed if you're a late adopter. You might see a post you'd forgotten, find one you missed, or get another chuckle out of an old classic.

If your search doesn't delight you, come back tomorrow. I promise I'll have something wonderful to show you.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More house history



You may recall that I shared a photo of the Wickershams of Wickersham, Washington a few months ago. At that time, I knew little else about them. Here is the original Puddle Run post on the subject: http://www.puddlerun.com/2010/04/wickershams-of-wickersham-washington.html


As far as placing the Wickershams' hands on our very own acre, we have these records (which relate to our property, Block 3 lots 4 through 10, and our house on lot 5):


The deed history of lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 from 1918 back as indicated in the Auditor’s General Index to Recordings is as follows:
·         11/21/1913 sold by P.S. Haner to J.A. Yorkston
·         9/13/1911 sold by J.R. Crews to P.S. Haner
·         8/1/1911 sold by H.J. Raybourn to J.R. Crews
·         5/22/1905 sold by Noah V. Wickersham to H.J. Raybourn
·         10/24/1892 Block 3 sold by William Wickersham to Noah Wickersham
·         8/3/1892 Plat of the First Addition to Wickersham recorded by William Wickersham

Our tax records date this home as a 1900 model, which points to Noah Wickersham as its original owner. 

Today, I found another brief article on the Wickersham family. Here it is, copied from www.wagenweb.org:


HOW WICKERSHAM GOT IT'S NAME
Years ago, in the early 80's, two boys, Noah and Will WICKERSHAM, living in Kansas, got the western fever. They started out, as so many of the young people did in those days, to find a home in the as yet unsettled regions of the West Coast. After some months of travel they reached the town of Whatcom (now Bellingham). Noah had the longing for a ranch and not content with conditions as he found them in the town of Whatcom and he, like Noah of old, decided to build a craft and launch it upon the waters. Instead of an ark, he and a companion named RATHVUN built a raft and launched it upon Lake Whatcom, near what is now Geneva. They drifted or propelled their craft by help of a small sail until they reached the extreme southern end of the lake near what is now a small settlement called Park. They forged ahead going farther inland until they reached the point where the North Fork valley and the Samish valley meet. Here the land forms a three-way water shed between the head waters of the South Fork of the Nooksack, the Samish river and a little stream flowing into Mirror Lake, thence to Lake Whatcom. Here Noah staked a claim and built a cabin. He was later joined by his brother Will.
Other settlers soon followed them in and took up claims. In the year 1892-93 the Northern Pacific railway came through and built a depot there. The WICKERSHAM brothers each gave 40 acres to the railroad company for a townsite. The railroad company turned it over to the Virginia Townsite Co. who laid it off in lots and blocks, and named the settlement Wickersham.
The valley is a dairy section. A large number of men who now live here are railroad men and loggers in the lumber industry.

From The Deming Prospector, June 30, 1930; copied by Susan Nahas





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My kind of guy



My human Grampa Phil came from far, far away to visit this weekend, and although he's gone now he won't soon be forgotten. He brought his wife, my human Grammy Jane, and also carrots. Two of the world's best things, If I do say. He told me that I was obviously the star of this show, and then he gave me a carrot not once but four times (once daily). He requested the special privilege of delivering my dinners, and when FarmWife presumed to attempt to put a carrot into her salad he even went so far as to correct her. "Dear, those are for the mule."

I LOVE THIS GUY!

Ears,
FenBar

Oh, nuts

I like my coffee less when B.G. and Missy, our Saanen does, are dry. Black coffee never did suit me, and store bought cow's milk comes with so much suffering. Soy milk makes me ill (I have an allergy, though I seem to tolerate tempeh and tofu better) and rice milk is sickly sweet and weak. Almond milk—I like almond milk, but it's so expensive. I have a hard time justifying the shipping of heavy, packaged fluids across long distances, too . . . and there are no almond milk factories in Acme.

I was ruminating on these matters a couple of weeks ago, and went so far as to post a Facebook status: "can I grow nuts here? Can I make milk from them?" Then, thinking my question made me look a bit ignorant, I promptly deleted it. "I think I could grow hazelnuts," I said to myself. "I'll just have to research hazelnut milk." I wondered if anyone had ever tried hazelnut milk, and if it could be made at home, and whether it required a lot of time and energy to produce.

I left my desk, then, and went to visit my friend down the road. Mrs. H and I see each other often and share a number of interests, but I was still surprised by the coincidence of our parallel thinking. The moment I stepped over the threshold, and before I had shrugged out of my coat, she offered me coffee. "I hope you'll have it with hazelnut milk. I've just made some."

It turns out that homemade nut milks ARE possible! Easy. Delicious. Quick. Affordable. Wholesome. The icing on the cake? Hazelnuts can be grown here, right in Wickersham.

Mrs. H's hazelnut milk was wonderful—easily as nice as anything you'd find in an aseptic package or a refrigerated carton, and far less labor- and petroleum intensive than a trip to the grocery store. I've since duplicated her recipe with raw almonds with just as much success. So great is my enthusiasm for this new coffee-whitener that I've planted three filbert (hazel) trees!

Our new filbert trees
The recipe: 


1/4 cup raw nuts (almonds or hazelnuts), soaked overnight in three cups of cold water


in the morning, drain and rinse the nuts, then combine in a blender with 3 cups of new fresh water; a tablespoon or so of honey or raw sugar; a pinch of salt. 


Blend until it looks whitish. (I've tried this in my super-duper VitaMix and I've tried it with a puny stick blender; the results were better with the VitaMix, though the stick blender did a fair job too.)


Strain through a sieve. (With the VitaMix, this was sufficient. With the weaker blender, I found that the milk was gritty until strained through cheesecloth too.) Squeeze the milk out of the remaining solids, then refrigerate the nutty remains. (They can be used later as an additive in cake or bread.) 

I did the math and found that I can make milk with store bought almonds for about 90 cents per quart. Once our three filbert trees start producing, it's conceivable that we could make over 400 quarts of milk per year—more than we'd need, as we'll have a goat working too.

It's yet to be seen whether the trees do as well as we hope they shall, but I'd say my "which milk?" question is answered in any case.

Go nuts!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I owe ewe


Readers,


You may recall that I spooked at a sheep a couple of weeks ago, and while I'm tempted to leave the past alone I felt I ought to share (with permission, of course) this comforting bit of encouragement from my Wyoming friends, the ewes of Wind River Woolens. The ewes sent me a most REMARKABLE gift—something emboldening which they grew for me themselves when they saw I could not grow it on my own. I will show it to you soon. In the meantime, here is a part of our conversation: 


Dear Fen,

We girls got quite a chuckle out of your story.  Little did we realize what a gentle creature ewe really are.  We, on the other hand, cannot be mistaken for fearless in as much as we face numerous threats every day.  Just yesterday a whirlwind came through and whisked away our youth and tomorrow we must remain fearless for the mind boggling task of caring for two, or perhaps three, young-uns. We have praciticed our moves 'til they are perfected. We are known for our chasing of cars, naughty children, our guard dog, and the UPS Man. Soon, when the young-uns baa, we will begin to put the run on the neighbors and even the nice lady who puts out the feed.  It is all a matter of being a bully.  Ewe need some help in this area and we are here to help.  We know what ewe need, and it will be on the way on Monday.  In the meantime have no fear.  Practice it. Say—I HAVE NO FEAR.  This will be our little secret. Help is on the way!  We luv ewe!
Your friends,


The Wyoming girls


Dear Wyoming Girls,


Please accept my sincere apologies for doubting the character of one of your brethren. If only the sheep of Wickersham had been as fresh, clean, and well tended as yourselves, I should surely never have been led astray as to their intentions. The sheep that I encountered last week had recently come from a wild and brambly existence, and were not in remotely the sort of aesthetically pleasing condition that ewe must find yourselves in. They have recently been improved through the shearing efforts of their humans, and no longer mask their kind demeanors and delicate beauty under oppressive coats of wool. 



I have no fear—I have no fear—I have no fear. I shall remember to recite it ten times before breakfast and ten before dinner, as well as in times of need (when, for instance, I encounter my next unfamiliar ungulate). 

Ears and big neck scratches to all of you! 

FenBar

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A bit of preaching as Easter approaches


This Easter, don't do the following:


  • Buy or support businesses who buy dyed or colored chicks. This is sick. Don't endorse it. They usually croak, anyway, and . . . well . . . eew. Just say no. 

  • Buy a live housemule. Sure, a rabbit is the perfect symbol of spring—cute, fuzzy, and fertile! If you want a surprise for Easter morning, do your research now and then give a gift certificate good for the adoption of a spayed or neutered rabbit from your local animal shelter. Be prepared to house, exercise, feed, socialize, and clean up after a destructive and lively housepet for upwards of a decade thereafter. 

  • Give your dogs chocolate. Even by accident. It's poisonous to them. Rein in your "chocolates for Fido" impulse and channel it into some "carrots for Trigger" behavior instead. 

  • Eat a factory-farmed ham. I'd like to say "why eat meat?" but since not everyone loves grasses as much as me and FarmWife, I'll limit the proselytizing to, "why not buy from a local farmer who cares about his stock?" Delicious doesn't have to be synonymous with tortured. 

Do, however, do this:

  • Play. 
  • Bray. 
  • Feast. 
  • Breathe.
  • Shine.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Friday, April 15, 2011

The house


This is FarmWife's house.

This house was built in 1901, and local legend says that it was the electrical transfer station for Wickersham back when Wickersham was a real town—a metropolis, practically, serving as the meeting place between loggers and railroad men. There were brothels here then, and legend says that this house served as a whorehouse, too, after its turn as a power hub. It was also home to a huge family, later, who grew up in this house and who squeezed in so tightly that one child called the dining room closet home. It was also home to a witch, once, and in the 1980s it was so decayed that there were blackberry bushes filling the kitchen. FarmWife wants to find out the name of the family that built the house, so that someday when it's looking beautiful she can get a little plaque that says "Jinglehiemer House, 1901" or words to that effect.

FarmWife's youngest daughter was born in this house. She's lived in it for all her life, and never lived anywhere else. This is the house that FarmWife likes best, out of every house she's ever been in. She loves it, even though it needs a paint job and a porch remodel.

This is FarmWife's first house, and she can't believe she got so lucky as to find it, with her husband, and to buy it, with her husband, and to live in it for all these wonderful years.

Here's my question: if I'm you're favorite pet, and it's your favorite house, then for hay's sake WHY CAN'T I COME IN?

Ears,
FenBar

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sometimes you feel like a nut

Sometimes you feel like a nut*,





sometimes you don't. 



*Disclaimer—FarmWife doesn't usually let me go about spazzing like this. I just happened to spook at a suspicious "moo" from the adjoining pasture at precisely the same moment as FarmWife's photography attempt. I was quickly brought under control. The mooer, however, was not—he galloped hither and thither for the rest of that afternoon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Memory Lane

If there's one good thing about a fried hard drive, it's that it gives a mule an excuse to look through his photo archives. There are certainly some "keepers" on this old computer, and thanks to to our external backup we have an opportunity to save them. 

Here's a favorite which I don't recall having shared—it's me, walking home, with FarmWife on a leash. (There are rules about that sort of thing, you know, and plus we don't want her running into traffic or starting a fight! I keep her close at hand.)


Here, witness me getting my ears rubbed by the oldest filly. She's nearly tall enough to do the job without stretching.


And here, you have a photo of me doing the very best thing . . . eating! As it happens, FarmWife was going for a shot of my haynet during this photo shoot. When I turned my head and looked back, however, FarmWife snapped "the" photo—the one that wins contests and graces my header, business cards, and notecards. Funny how that happens sometimes. 


I hope you keep your photos safe, my friends, and go back to them from time to time. It's fun to remember the shinier seasons. 

Ears, 

FenBar


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Contest!

Pardon the strange, non-English and
only vaguely related diagram. FarmWife
told me to use it. 
FarmWife is a budding needle felter, and needs YOU to encourage her developing skill! Share a picture of your pet on my facebook wall, and tell me why she should felt him or her. Then, ask your friends to "like" the photo. The fan whose photo garners the most "likes" by May 1st will receive a felted version of their pet by the end of May! (All non-human animals are eligible to compete, though tropical birds may find themselves disappointed by FarmWife's earth-toned wool collection.)


Ears to you, 
Fenway Bartholomule


P.S. I do have an ulterior motive—FarmWife wants to felt ME, but I'd like to see that she's good and practiced first! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Universe

Art by Gaylon Dingler (detail)
Dear Universe,

Somewhere in a barn somewhere there is an unused 19 inch full face work collar in good repair. It is sitting there, gathering dust. Also, I think, there are some sturdy 20" farm hames. Oh, and a pair of short tugs (not rotten!).

If you can find that collar, Universe, I ask that you direct its owners to www.BraysOfOurLives.com. I want that collar. If only its owners knew, they could dig it out from that mouldery old harness room and send it to me. I would repay them with shipping and handling costs as well as my brayful well wishes and capacious gratitude. Oh, and also pictures of me dragging little logs and farming implements about with it.

Love, your precious boy—

Fenway Bartholomule

P.S. I realize, Universe, that I should prepare to spend a few hundred for a good collar and hames. I'm not a cheapskate, Universe, but I am a humble mule without  a day job. I thought I'd try asking you first.

P.P.S. Universe, I still really love the breastcollar harness that you (and my fans, and my friends at Chimacum Tack) sent me last year. I use it a lot. I drag a bigger tire now, and am going to start dragging a stone boat too.


Before and After

I'm going to have to organize a before and after slideshow one of these days. It's hard to look out the window and remember anything other than what I see today—a tidy fence, an evergreen lawn, young fruit and nut trees, the cool, rich earth of the early garden. Beyond, a shingled greenhouse and a well-grazed pasture, compost bins in various stages of decay, and strawberry beds awakening to spring.

Our property is shaped a little bit like this, but plumper: ˩.  The bottom part of the backwards L houses the house, the yard, and our youngest fruit trees. The "hinge," if you will, contains gardens, sheds, the woodshop, and livestock paddocks. It runs along Meredith Lane and ends at the goat paddock.

The long part of the L is all pasture—about an acre of it. We think we might turn some of that over to oat hay.

To put our progress in perspective, we made an offer on this place when the long part of the L was so overfilled with dead plum trees, crawling blackberries, tangled barbed wire, and assorted bramble bushes that we didn't even recognize it as part of the marketed property. We thought we were putting our money down on a rectangle. The bottom of the L. ("That's an awfully small acre and a quarter," I thought at the time, "but I'd better not jinx it by complaining.") We thought our claim stretched as far as the greenhouse in one corner and the demolished boat in the other (that's another story for another day) and that fitting a horse paddock on this property was going to be like a game of Tetris.

A week before closing, we met the owner for a walk-through and a boundary discussion. Pointing over the head-high brush, he pinpointed a tangled birch tree in the distance. "That's the corner," I believe he said, though I confess his statement was drowned out by the voices of the heavenly choir. Where he saw an impenetrable thicket, I saw pasture.

 (to be continued)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Busy, busy

FarmWife has been busy, busy, busy today and had no time to ride or to groom her darling Fenway Bartholomule. I passed the morning, meanwhile, thinking of what she could do if she WEREN'T so busy. I came up with a hundred ideas, but here are five (at random):

1) Hug a librarian. Free books on any subject? No cost? You've got to be kidding me! This service is AWESOME! (Hint: check out books on longears. They're the best ones.)

2) Learn to use a hand tool. I'll bet there's something you do with gasoline or electricity that you could do with your own brute strength. It'll make you stronger, too! (Plus, any work YOU do is work your mule doesn't have to do himself!)

3) Grow a vegetable. (Feed it to your mule.)

4) Make something. Do you draw, write, sing, knit, sculpt, build, cook, or carve? Surely you can beautify your world a little bit today. (Hint: make something for your mule. Even better.)

5) You humans and your telephones, your internets, your opposable thumbs—what a lot of ways to reach out and touch someone, eh? Call up someone you love. Write a letter. Tell someone you love them. (Then, go say it to your mule. You know you want to!)

Eat, Love, Bray.

Ears,
FenBar


Friday, April 8, 2011

Sheep

So FarmWife told me about sheep: fuzzy critters that grow cloudlike fibers of joy and goodness out of their skin. We even got a great big sack of said fibers in the mail from some kind sheep from Wyoming—it was swell! All was good. (FarmWife made a cute little experimental dog out of it, by the way, and wants to make some mules as well.)

Sheep=givers of gifts=growers of bountiful fleece, right? They must be cute, and tender, and clean, and gentle . . .

Well, with that association in mind, you can imagine that I was ill prepared for the angry-looking MegaGoat that I encountered at a friends' house yesterday. We rode up, innocently enough, to let the Chicken People's dogs out to pee. They had an astonishing, awful creature in their pasture—a creature about which FarmWife UTTERLY failed to warn me. I'm thinking that it looks like a goat, but angrier—it baas like a goat, but deeper. It's dressed like a goat, but with suspicious, bulky packages strapped to its torso. Not to be insensitive, but if it is a goat it is probably a Suicide Bomber Goat. Not the kind you want to hang around with.

Now here you see me assessing the Suicide Bomber Goat. This was before FarmWife told me it was a sheep, and even after she told me it was a sheep it took my traumatized, shaken-up brain a minute to associate the word with my gentle friends from Wyoming.

Please note the focus and determination with which I continued my prolonged assessment of the Suicide Bomber Goat—erm, sheep. If you have read my important treatise on the F.E.A.R.R. system for preservation of life and limb (look it up if you haven't) then you'll understand the importance of taking one's time with this business. My assessment went on for, we shall say, about eight minutes.

Next, you see the exhaustion into which I fell after the immediate threat of Death and Dismemberment had passed. Once I decided to go ahead and give the all clear, I cocked a hind leg and had a good long rest next to those sheep. FarmWife let the dogs pee. All was well.

Ears to you,
FenBar



Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today the good computer, which is notoriously bad, stopped working altogether. This is a serious customer service issue. Apple, you should be ashamed! This is the third major hardware failure (logic board, logic board, hard drive—all dead, in that order. We've had it far less than a year).

The bad computer, which used to overheat and shut down every 90 seconds, is working like a champ! Yay, old computer! I think that, like Missy, it resented being replaced. (You may recall that Missy couldn't stand and was heading for euthanasia until her daughter, B.G., was purchased by the humans.) The other good news is that no photos of or articles about my Glorious Mulishness have been lost, thanks to Time Machine. Yay, Time Machine! If you're not using this program, you should be.

I am going to boycott apples* for a week just to show 'em who's boss. FarmWife says that's an empty gesture and that the computer company doesn't care whether I eat fruits, vegetables, or legumes, but I say that a small act by a concerned mule can change the world.

I took FarmWife riding today, hoping to get her mind off of her dead computer, and I saw two of the scariest things of my life. One was black, and long, and shorter than a cat, and the other looked like a suicide bomber goat with weird fleecy baggage on its body. It was AWFUL. I shall tell you about it in the morning, and share pictures, too, but I need to compose myself first.

Ears,
FenBar


*actually, I like carrots a lot better than apples and always have. Ha! Take that, Apple people!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Plowing

Image from superstock.com


FarmWife thinks she needs a ten inch single furrow walking plow and a work collar, short tugs, and farm hames in order to use me for plowing.

I think she needs a team of mammoth mules or a John Deere tractor, plus a nice cabana for me to stand in while they work. Fruity drink. Umbrella.

We're just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

Ears,

FenBar

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Breaking News

R, my youngest human, turned four yesterday. You know what that means, right? Time to start her under saddle!

I plan to get her one of these:


She can use it to carry hay, grain, apples, carrots, plums, pop tarts, and soft dandy brushes (I'm thin-skinned). She will be expressly prohibited from carrying my least favorite things: syringes, sticky salves, and loose ring French link snaffles. 

I can already see a bright new future ahead—with young R. being old enough to bear a burden but too young to go to school, she can pass each day in a frenzy of treat-porting activity! We shall have such fun! 

Yours expectantly, 
FenBar



The udder kind of mount


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18UPCJdt08k

There are those naysayers who think a mule is step down from a horse (they're wrong) or who scoff at an unconventional mount. There are those who question FarmWife's decision to embrace a longear over a warmblood, and there are even those who laugh.

Don't laugh at me, and don't laugh at Luna the cow. While I must say that I, Fenway Bartholomule, jump with more enthusiasm and grace, I can't say I do it with more warm fuzzy heartfulness! Luna looks like a loving and beloved animal, and her rider seems a patient, persevering, and kind sort. I wish them both much success. May Luna graze in green pastures and may her human eventually get that horse she hopes for (but still find time for her bovine love).

Ears to you,
FenBar

Cake

I've had a request from a friend of Fenway for my favorite cake recipe, which works really well for ANY occasion and which can be modified a million ways. My favorite cake recipe is based upon this one, which is good in it's own right but which improves, in my opinion, with whole-grain substitution. 


Here's my version:

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour (from soft white wheat, finely ground and sifted. I grind it myself with the Wonder Junior mill, and I sift it for special occasions like birthdays when I want a fluffy cake without that wholegrain vibe)
  • 1/4 cup ground raw almonds (can be ground in a coffee grinder)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (substitute canola oil in a pinch)
  • 4 large eggs from happy, free range chickens—a healthy orange yolk adds wonderful color! 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (I've substituted all sorts of things for this ingredient and it always comes out fine)
Beat butter and sugar together with vanilla; add dry ingredients, mix, then add sour cream, mix, then add one egg at a time and mix thoroughly in between additions.

Bake in preheated oven at 325 degrees for at least an hour, sometimes an hour and fifteen minutes—until the cake starts to pull away from the edges of the pan and the top is just starting to color a bit. 

I like to make this cake with a can of peaches (drained) poured in the bottom of the cake pan instead of the pineapples and caramelized sugar topping; I have also made it with sugared raspberries, canned cherries, or just about any other fruit on hand. It's fine plain, too, and is great frosted. You can serve it upside down, decorated with fruit or frosting, right side up, covered in whipped cream and cherries, plain, round, square, in loaves . . . it's a great substitute for pound cake and works great with ice cream or sorbet. I adapt this recipe for everything and it's always a crowd pleaser! 

Happy baking,
M

Saturday, April 2, 2011

FarmWife's little supervisor



 FarmWife's little supervisor, Clover, sits on donkeyback beside her desk. FarmWife doesn't put her there. No, she hops up on her own! Perhaps, like a landowner of old, she feels superior when looking down from astride.


FarmWife does half of her work with Clover supervising from donkeyback and the other half with Clover sitting on—and sometimes sharing—her lap. When she does share, it's usually with Harry Housemule (pictured) or B-bun. 
FarmWife likes doing her computer work with an animal companion nearby. Why else, I ask, would she have agreed to this blogging-with-a-mule business? 

Ears to that, and ears to you.

FenBar

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pocket Fen

While FarmWife is opposed to genetic engineering on principle, she's not hard-nosed enough to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime when it's presented to her. When geneticists from Washington State University contacted her early last year, she heard them out. When they told her what they had in mind, she had to say yes.

COMING IN THE FALL OF 2011: Limited edition Pocket Fenways! The prototype is now 7 months old and, due to his accelerated growth rate and rabbitlike lifespan, already fully mature. A perfect, shining, miniature version of me, he's everything one could hope for in a house pet. His keepers, Doctors Franken and Stein from WSU, state that he inherits tidiness, intelligence, and a robust bray from my side of the family.

24 additional mulelets are due in the coming weeks, wrapping up four months of gestation with their surrogate mothers, a very special group lesser lesser Malay chevrotain does. The first four have been reserved for FarmWife, the Queen of England, Madonna, and Bill Gates, respectively, but the remaining 20 are up for sale!

To reserve your Pocket Fen today, please paypal $45,500 USD to afatbrownmare@yahoo.com. 


Delivery not guaranteed. Product may not resemble description. Alternative products, including but not limited to plush toys or pencil drawings, may be substituted. 

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule
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