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Sunday, December 30, 2012

A monumental shift

I just sat here and wrote a melancholy treatise on the failure of my relationship with FarmWife, but it was too dramatic to share on such an upbeat blog. I'm going to try again, boiling it down to a statement of the facts and a question to my readers.

The facts: FarmWife used to be my very best friend, and I adored her. Then she got me a miniature mule, Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon. We ALL love Etty, and Etty loves us all. Etty loves FarmWife, and the children, and the goat, and me. As for me, I don't particularly like the humans at all anymore. They are good for food, and they were once good for companionship before I had an equine companion. Now I cannot be bothered with them at all.

FarmWife is a little bit grief stricken at this development (I now begrudge her even a touch of my hide unless I am haltered and forced to stand!). Do YOU know why I have soured so badly on people? Do you have advice for her, other than to spend time with me every day? Jean, of Anna Mule fame, does this sound like what has happened in your family?

Here is another important fact: NO ONE regrets getting Etty. She is our heart and our light.

FB

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The week in review

1) Happy Cloverversary! The humans brought home a chihuahua from the Alternative Humane Society exactly two years ago today, and from the moment she burst out of the gift box into their loving arms she has been a warm, wiggly, and wonderful addition to our big, happy family. FarmWife has elevated her to the status of Other Best Dog Ever, up there near Mirri the god-like Australian Cattle Dog and Russ the superhero lab mix. She is truly a mule among dogs.

2) Great goat! You may remember that Missy had a brush with death a couple of months ago due to her senility, arthritis, trouble holding weight, and generally depressed outlook on life. When her daughter, B.G., had to be put down because of crippling orthopedic disease (a long, sad story), FarmWife very nearly had Missy put down too. Well, she and the vet talked it over for an hour, pink juice in hand, and decided to give Missy a week or two. Do you know what? In that week, and in the seven or eight since, she has packed on pounds, gotten the spring back in her step, stopped hackling at invisible demons, and started gamboling and spring-sproinging like a kid again! Here is FarmWife's theory to explain this nearly inexplicable mystery: since nothing else has changed in her life, except the loss of the sad and uncomfortable herdmate across the fence, it must be that Missy's condition was dragged down by the weight of her companion's pain. Whether it was empathy or merely a sedentary lifestyle in the company of a sedentary friend that weighed on her, we cannot know. FarmWife does not doubt that the former is possible, though—perhaps Missy was holding vigil with her friend, waiting for an end to her suffering.

3) Yay, Solstice! The dreary darkness is going to leave soon, I can just feel it. This week, Santa will come (the reindeer ALWAYS share their carrots) and then . . . the crocuses!

4) I am sorry. FarmWife is doing day shifts in one place, night shifts in another, and a little freelance work on the side. I am getting the short end of the stick, but I know that you readers are too. I will work on getting some voice recognition software so that I can blog in her absence. In the meantime, no dice: you should have heard the lecture I got last time I set these muddy hooves on the MacBook.

It won't always be this busy.

Ears, with immense fondness, to you!

FB

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The SafeChoice Choice

FarmWife has decided—yippee!—that I need more condition, which is not to say more weight, but rather more muscle and more nutrition. Grass hay alone isn't cutting it, and with the green grass gone and the colder weather setting in I've been looking a little light in the topline. The good news is that I now get some supplements in addition to the grass hay and salt block to which I am accustomed! These things are delicious, and I am immensely pleased with this turn of events. The bad news is that I am also supposed to be subject to regular exercise, especially now that my hock seems quite well. For now, under pressure of short days and bad weather, this exercise is limited to a little longing and short walks around the neighborhood. In the summer, FarmWife hopes that this exercise will include brave expeditions into the wild yonder.

Nutrena SafeChoice has always seemed like a . . . well, a safe choice—it is fairly low in sugar, and better for we easy keepers than a high-starch, sweetened concentrate. FarmWife used to feed SafeChoice to her easy keepers when they needed more cool calories back when SafeChoice was new and highly esteemed on the horse feed market.

Last month, she went to the feed store and encountered Original SafeChoice, Special Care SafeChoice, and Perform SafeChoice. "I want the kind that I used to feed when there was only one kind," she said. "Oh," said the clerk. "You want the Special Care SafeChoice. That's the original Original." Apparently the new Original has corn, which isn't at all what FarmWife had in mind for her easy-keepers! You humans and your taxonomies are still a little bit baffling to me, but at least clear answers can be found on the nutrition panels. (The exception to this is when the nutrition panel on a human menu item lists the values for one half or one third of a ready-to-eat thing, as though you would actually eat the thing as three separate servings spread across three days. That's just silly. Who eats half a soup cup?)

Now, I eat pellets for breakfast AND I eat three hay meals a day (small ones, but a mule takes what he can get). What a lucky fellow I am. Etty, who is a wee bit fluffier than me, gets pellets too: about forty of them. Although they're small, so is she.

FB


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good news/bad news.

It's a good news/bad news week: the good news is that I can use my neck to bend the pasture fence ALLLLL the way down to the ground and eat the delectable lawn! The bad news is I am now confined to my dry lot until such a time as FarmWife is free to repair (and electrify) the pasture fence. It's a terrible state of affairs (and, according to FarmWife, a terrible state of the fence!).


Friday, December 7, 2012

Merry Christmas to you and yours!



Have a holly jolly Christmas

While the weather is still slightly uncooperative, today's photo shoot went much better! This is mostly due to our fortuitous discovery of neighbor M & S's beautiful outdoor lighted tree, complete with big glowing presents. They welcomed us to their yard and we enjoyed the perfect stage for our second attempt at a holiday photo for this year's Christmas card.

Later, FarmWife made Clover nestle in a bed of tree limbs. The poor thing was nearly scared out of her shiny skin! FarmWife made light of the incident, singing, "scare the dog with boughs of holly," and Clover picked up her contagious festivity (and finally pricked her ears for a picture).

Ears, and brayful tidings, to you!

FenBar

P.S. we are tied together because I have a rock solid response to the "stand" command and Arrietty, as of yet, does not. If she were to go traipsing away out of reach of FarmWife, I would have the sense and might to hold her back. FarmWife realizes that this would not be a safe arrangement with certain other beasts, but for us she trusts it as the best alternative to a leadrope-holding helper. Fine print: do not try this at home.






Saturday, December 1, 2012

Photo shoot

My first Christmas photo shoot didn't go all that well—it was rainy, I was muddy, and FarmWife's camera batteries were dying at an alarming rate (something is wrong with it, methinks). I'm not delighted with any of today's shots, so I will try again next week. FarmWife and Arrietty have agreed to give it another go.




Friday, November 30, 2012

Conditions are not ideal

Fenway and Arrietty have their antlers, garlands, hats, and bells at the ready. My camera is charged up and ready to go. All that's missing is the SUN! I am going to have to do one of three things if I am going to get a properly mulish Christmas card together this year: break out a flood light, bring the mules in the house, or wait until mid-December for a break in this oppressive cloud cover.

It's not the rain that bother's me, it's the darkness!

Wish me luck. Tomorrow, I'll try for a photo rain or shine.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time passes quickly

It is a fallacy for mothers and fathers of young children to think that they will have abundant free time as soon as the children are old enough to go to school. For one thing, children who are old enough to go to school are also old enough to be driven to and from drama workshops, sporting events, music lessons, parties, and sleepovers. For another thing, children who are old enough to be driven to sporting events and music lessons usually need money for such extra curriculars, which means that in between drives said mothers and fathers had better be raking in paychecks. The rewards, however, are many: I am now a mule in possession of three little girls who can enact dramas, score soccer goals, play musical instruments, etcetera, etcetera. They are proper Renaissance children. 

As for me, I am still out here in the shed, sound but unridden, occasionally groomed, often visited, sometimes ignored, and always adored. The hay still comes three times per day, the removal of manure and scrubbing of troughs still occur twice weekly, and I still have a miniature mule, a geriatric goat, and a cackling and quacking flock of fowl for company.  We critters had a delicious celery, cranberry, barley and apple salad for Thanksgiving last week (view it at www.instagram.com/didgery) and are feeling fit and fuzzy! 

How was your holiday, and how are you? 

Ears, 
FenBar


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Search filters

Dear friends,

You, of all people, know of my splendor. Don't try to deny it—I've noticed how I take your breath away with my majestic nobility, my brayful boldness, and my artful big nostril/small nostril sneer. I don't have to explain to you what profound gladness comes from viewing my magnificence.

I want everyone to know the joy that comes with looking upon me, Fenway Bartholomule, and I thought that Instagram would be a perfect vehicle for the transmission of that joy. Sadly, there is a major wrinkle in this generous plan. Four wrinkles, really, and they are as follows:

1) vodka beverages
2) ladies' footwear
3) antlered deer
4) off road vehicles.

Friends, FarmWife can Tag and Tag and Tag her photos until the cows come home* but I promise you she cannot saturate Instagram with images of me, Fenway Bartholomule: the interwebs are  already flooded with gingery mules in copper cups, strappy mules on ladies' feet, dead mule deer next to gun-toting lads, and muddy four-tired utility vehicles.

The only off road vehicle I'm interested in is this sort (courtesy www.facebook.com/pantsthemule):

Despite the plethora of non-equine mules on Instagram, FarmWife says we will persevere. I may not be the only mule on Instagram, but at least I am the most mulish.

Ears,
FenBar

* I hope the cows don't ever REALLY come home. I find them icky.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's YOUR tagline?

My favorite tag company, Fetching Tags, is giving something away every day from Nov. 7 to Dec. 7! You can join in the fun and enter to win at www.facebook.com/fetchingtags.

I have a couple of Fetching Tags of my own. My taglines? "I am Mule, Hear Me Bray", for starters, and "Ears to You!" My "I am Mule" tag is currently on loan to Arrietty, who doesn't have a tag of her own yet. When she gets one, it shall say "Warm as toast and smaller than most." (If that doesn't ring a bell, you obviously haven't been reading enough classic picture books.)

Paisley's tag says "One sandwich short of a picnic," but it's currently riveted Double Agent style to his Paco Collar so that all that's visible is his name and number. Clover has a wee little collar with a wee little tag—no room for a tagline, but she does have a cute little shamrock on there—and Missy's, of course, reads "Empress of All the Light Touches."

What does your tag say, or what WOULD it say if you had one?


Ears,
FenBar

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just in case

Just in case I die of starvation, I wanted to put this photo out there on the internet. It is evidence of my advanced state of emaciation. Can you believe FarmWife says I don't need another meal until dinner time?


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tangle free!

FarmWife has been dying to do a full scale muley spa day this autumn, but with mud on the ground and temperatures hovering around freezing it just hasn't fit in. She did, however, pick up on a psychic distress call from me the other day - she grabbed her Detangle & Shine solution (a birthday present from the folks at Simple Relief) and strode out here to the paddock with one thought in mind. "I bet my dear Mr. Bartholomule could use a tail-brushing." Well, I sure could have! Imagine her surprise when I showed up dragging half the forest behind me!

OK, I exaggerate. It was one bramble, but what a bramble it was! FarmWife couldn't have wished for a better trial for my new beauty products, and she leapt into action. Spritz, fingercomb, untwist, unwind, separate, shake out, and smooth - in five minutes' time, she had kicked that bramble's butt and returned my tail to its usual voluptuous glory. The Detangle & Shine worked marvelously on my tail, which begs a question. Why on earth didn't FarmWife use some on the rest of me, too, before taking the "after" photo which appears below?

May your tail be forever brambleless and your hay forever abundant. 

Ears, 

FB




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cow sitting



Cow sitting has been in turns wonderful and heartwrenching. My good friend D., a Jersey cow, fell terribly ill from postparturient hypocalcemia on Saturday night 24 hours after calving. She and her calf are both alive and well today but the whole episode, from calving through late-night vet visit, has renewed my passion for a vegan life.

I was strictly vegan as a teen but, in this decade, have had frequent guilty lapses. By "lapses," I mean that I gave up considering myself vegan at all (though I haven't eaten a mammal since 1987). I've tried to justify a more mainstream diet by keeping my own goats and hens, buying milk from neighbors, and consuming locally-grown dairy. That doesn't quite cut it for me anymore, as there are still culls who suffer in this exploitative system. Even the act of buying sexed chicks means that an equal number of male chicks die.

I realized, last week, that the answer is right in front of me and has been since I first read "Diet for a New America" in 1993: don't eat animal products. It's not that hard.

There's no reason to eat food that makes me feel bad, and I want to apologize to my animal friends right now for the lack of willpower that led me to this place. It isn't hard to eat vegan foods that make me feel physically AND morally robust! I'm renewing my vows so that I can look my cow and chicken friends in the eye.

I don't write this to guilt any of you into veganism: I DO write it to publicly air my feelings of guilt, I suppose, but also to encourage each and every one of you to follow your own moral compass. If you are doing something that feels wrong, stop doing it! If you have a truly honest and compelling conviction about what is right—about what is kind—then heed it! If you can see the path of righteous living, then walk it. It may not look anything like the path that I am on, but I can promise you it will be smoother underfoot than the alternative.

M



A disappointment

President Harry S. Truman at the Missouri
State Fair with the State Champion mule team,
c. 1955. Caption credit: www.dailyyonder.com.Photo credit: University of Missouri
Dear friends,

I have a dreadful bit of news: I, Fenway Bartholomule, am being barred from the polls despite having reached the age of majority (18, last month, and thank you for the birthday wishes!) on the grounds of my non-human status. The speciesist policies of this so-called "democracy" are shameful and repellant.

FarmWife says that voting is best reserved for those with opposable thumbs, but that my cries of bias against the four-footed do in fact ring true. She herself is a supporter of animal rights, and has even renewed her once-lapsed pledge of veganism after falling more deeply in love than ever with the neighbor's dairy cow. Too many cattle live short, uncomfortable lives. FarmWife wants cattle in her life as friends, not food.

FarmWife says that not all animal-keeping is exploitative, and she is not tempted to give up riding, driving, or keeping domestic pets. I perform labor for which I am suited, as she does, and I take my wages in hay.

On that note, I'm holding up under light use and have been salvaged from my early retirement! I have been on a couple of satisfying little trail rides lately and can report that I performed nobly and with perfect soundness. This hock just needed a year off, after all.

Since I can't vote, will you do me a favor? Can you please go to the polls and vote for me? It's really important.

Ears,
Fenway Bartholomule


Friday, November 2, 2012

Calving


Attentive readers will remember that my FarmWife is in love with our neighbors' cow. This cow, D, is very special to FarmWife, but I don't mind: I'm lucky to have a human with such a capacity for love.

FarmWife is sometimes left in charge of D and a handful of other cattle (also nice, but not like d) while their owners are away. In that capacity, FarmWife recently had the exciting and tremendous responsibility of midwifing for D during the birth of a calf. The little one is perfectly beautiful in every way. FarmWife hopes someday to have a Jersey cow of her own, or a pair of little Jersey steers to raise into working oxen. For now, she enjoys the cows of others.

FarmWife says she loves this cow, D, as much as she loves me, Fenway Bartholomule, and that sitting with her while she gave birth was a great honor. Since I shall certainly never give birth, I'm glad FarmWife got to have that experience with a different animal friend.

Ears,
FenBar


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An old one but a good one

Such nobility! Such poise! Such a look of "Oh My Gosh What Is In That SWAMP?????"


Monday, October 29, 2012

Field trip!

Bad news: I was not invited on FarmWife's field trip, which took place in Alexandria, Virginia at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate a couple of weeks ago.

Good news: FarmWife got to go (she was the organizer, of course she got to!) and she brought back photos and stories.

FarmWife quizzed her tour guide, a knowledgable and amenable fellow, on his understanding of George Washington's mule-breeding exploits. She was delighted to hear that he knew all about our first president's prominence as an early supporter of the mule, that he knew of the jack Royal Gift (a present to Washington from the King of Spain, and one of this continent's first good mule sires), and that even today mules and donkeys are kept near Mount Vernon Estate and brought back for demonstrations and for farm work in the spring. They were offsite at the time of FarmWife's visit, so she contented herself with visiting some steers and sheep.

FarmWife loved the livestock, but she was really there for the timber frames. She thought the buildings, both original and reproduced, were breathtaking. If you ever have the chance to visit Washington's estate, do take it! You won't be sorry!


This wheat looks so delicious, I cannot begin to imagine why FarmWife didn't snarf it all up.
(Maybe it would have been a professional humiliation.) This photo shows a hopperboy, which raked and cooled the freshly-ground wheat flour in the attic of the timber-framed grist mill. 

FarmWife rather liked Mount Vernon's Red Devon steers. The tour guide offered to sell her a pair of calves and she very nearly would have accepted had it not been for the 3000 mile flight home. 

This reproduction of Washington's 16-sided timber-framed treading barn was made for horses: a pair or a quartet of them were trained to trot in continuous circles around the slatted second story floor, threshing the wheat underfoot. Grains were gathered on the first floor after falling through.

FarmWife thinks that I ought to have a job like that. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gravedigging for beginners

Missy, left, and B.G., right
This was a hard week.

Last month, B.G., who has been on-again off-again lame for most of her life, was finally diagnosed at four years of age with laminitis and arthritis. Severe changes in the outer claw of her left hoof meant that, for the last several weeks, she had been virtually unable to walk. The third vet to see her about the lameness finally got the diagnosis right, and it was not a happy one. NSAIDS and dietary changes did nothing to improve the situation, and the vet and I agreed on Tuesday that it was time to put B.G. down. I made an appointment for Thursday.

This decision came at around 10 am, and I went for a tearful muleback ride (my first in over a year, due to Fenway's old hock injury) thereafter. From the saddle I called my mom, which is always good therapy, and soon felt somewhat better.

I came home from that ride to the news that my friend A. (www.mamacan.blogspot.com) had died of cervical cancer. She had a ferocious nearly four-year battle with the disease, which left her ravaged, and had been in hospice care for a week.

Here's what I think about A: she had a magnetic, joyful presence that made me feel amazing. I didn't get to know her as well as I would have liked, as we started running into one another (her sister-in-law is a dear friend of mine) just before she became sick. I took her a dinner, once, and often commented on her blog. I saw her at her family's parties over the years, and later I thought of her and worried for her and encouraged her from the sidelines. From the get-go, before and after cancer, she was an incredible woman: always smiling, always warm, always beautiful and creative and compassionate. She lit up a room. She made me feel like a good friend even when I barely knew her, and it felt like a privilege to be around her.

There came a time when she was sick, too sick to cultivate a new friendship, and I was busy and broke and living in another town. It's too bad I let any of that stop me. I should have signed up to drive her to Seattle for treatment. I should have taken her more meals. Four hours in the car with A. would have been four priceless, precious hours and I'm sorry I missed that opportunity.

A was surrounded by friends throughout, and it's no surprise: everyone felt drawn to her as I did, I think. The outpouring of love that I've seen on her facebook page and her husband B.'s has been tremendous. Her preschooler son C. got her beautiful smile, and those boys B. and C. are going to need these friends now. They are beloved by their entire community, as A. was. I hope I get the chance to know them better over the years.

As for my goat, she was beloved too. I'm not one to believe much in an afterlife, but I do take some small pleasure in thinking that if A. ever wanted a dairy goat, she's got a good one now. The tiny little part of me that wants to believe in magic can imagine them together, now, in some pastoral place.

The same part of me—the part that wants to believe in magic—saw significance in the tremendous double rainbow that appeared over Western Washington the day A. died. She loved rainbows, and her "rainbow connection" group (to encourage healthier eating) inspired me to bring more fruits and vegetables into my life. I'm going to blog about it, in guised and upbeat terms, on my nutrition blog for the Bellingham Herald later today.

I dug two graves yesterday—the first was easy going in light, sandy soil. I was two and a half feet down and feeling like a gravedigging machine when I hit the water table, and then I stood in two inches of silty water wondering how many fish would die if I put a poisoned carcass into the
Samish headwaters. I called around, learned it would cost $300 to have the body taken away, and decided I really did want her grave to be at home where we could someday visit it. I filled in my beautiful, shallow hole and hiked to the high side of the property, closer to the sunken railroad tracks than the spreading river. There, near Meredith Lane, I tried another hole. This one was gravelly but I was able to dig deeper without hitting water. I should have been thinking.

I buried B.G. in her mother's paddock—the mother who you'll remember, if you're following www.braysofourlives.com, as having also been scheduled for euthanasia that same day. The vet, my husband, and I finally decided that being thin, old, and lopsided is not the same as being in pain, and that Missy was not ready to throw it in. I'm glad of that, as she seems unfazed by the loss of a herd mate and I'm certainly grateful for her company now.

My nose keeps bleeding, off and on, from a whack B.G. gave me with her head as she went down under sedation. So much for chemical euthanasia as a clean method—she was clean, yes, but I was covered in tears and snot and blood. I was not at my most dignified when B.G. died, but she went with quiet grace. It didn't look like murder, anyway.

I wonder sometimes if a bullet would have been better for the environment. I do now have a toxic body buried on my organic farm, and a place where the clover will always be suspect. I don't know if roots can carry sodium pentobarbital to the surface, but I plan to cover B.G.'s grave in a thick mulch as a preventative measure, in case.

As much as I say I feel no attachment to the body, I placed value on the experience of burying her. I dragged her unceremoniously by her neck, apologizing through my tears, but when I had her in the grave I arranged her comfortably. I tucked her legs beneath her. I excavated a shelf for her chin, extending her neck into a somewhat natural position. I comfortably covered her body with earth but had to avert my eyes as it fell around her nose and eyes. She still looked too much like herself.

How's that for a rambling blog post? I'm not sure I said enough about any of this, but there it is. My week in a nutshell.

M





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update

Here's an update for all my kind friends who offered condolences on B.G.'s passing. FarnWife and the vet spent a long time talking about Missy and decided to wait. Her daughter went quietly; Missy is attending the body now with no apparent concern. Time will tell if this was the right decision.

Sadness

There's been some sadness hanging around here lately. FarmWife's friend Alexis (mamacan.blogspot.com) died of cervical cancer on Tuesday after a fierce, nearly four-year battle. She leaves behind a loving husband and preschooler son.
Today, the vet is coming for B.G.'s end-of-life appointment.  We always expected her mother, Missy, to go first. Now it's B.G. who is in chronic pain from arthritis and laminitis, conditions which became apparent during her pregnancy and which were misdiagnosed twice before we finally got a clue. She is not well.

FarmWife is left with the difficult decision of whether to put Missy down too. On the one hoof, she's weak and crooked and thin despite a high calorie diet. She sees demons, butting her head and hackling at invisible invaders every day. FarmWife fears she will feel vulnerable if left alone. She is afraid of me, now, and terrified of my sweet Arrietty. 

On the other hoof, she's not declining. She's been a skinny, geriatric goat ever since her stroke (or whatever it was) two and a half years ago. She does not seem to be in decline, and maybe she could live a couple more years like this.

FarmWife made the appointment for both goats, thinking it's better to bring death a year too soon than a minute too late and fearing desperately that Missy, weak and alone without her daughter, would be afraid. Now, as the hour draws near, she is wavering.

Your thoughts are welcome.

FB

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SEA-IAD

I'm off to the 28th annual eastern conference of the Timber Framers Guild. Those of you who know me well will realize the extent to which this event has absorbed my attention for the last four months. I'm glad it is finally here! Watch for updates here and at www.tfguild.org.


Happy birthday to me!

I, Fenway Bartholomule, have been abandoned yet again by my human mother (FarmWife). She is away on business, which doubtless means that she is hobnobbing with interesting people, eating interesting food, and washing her hair with *teeny weeny* shampoos.

I envy her the food and the company, but I don't need the teeny shampoos. I have my own jumbo toiletries and medicinal balms, thanks to my kind friends at Simple Relief Products (www.simplereliefproducts.com). They heard I was turning 18 and sent me a sweet-smelling box of wound-soothing, coat-shining, skin-nourishing goodness. I will tell you more when FarmWife returns and conducts my next spa day. In the meantime, visit my new friends online or at their Facebook page to see their line of natural products!

FarmWife promised presents for her daughters on return from her conference, and I rather hope she'll bring Arrietty a new halter, but my needs are met. I just need her back to help me enjoy these gifts.

Thank you, Simple Relief! You are Simply Wonderful.

Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule



Friday, October 12, 2012

The difference between veterinarians

I have had dealings with a veterinarian who called me a donkey, and I have had dealings with a veterinarian who call me a dear. The difference is stark.

The former veterinarian said things like, "careful, you have to show donkeys who's in charge," and "you'll need a stud chain if your donkey won't come in here."

He is not my veterinarian any more.

The latter veterinarian said things like, "he's a wonderful mule—even nicer than most," and "he's being so good, we hardly need to sedate him," and "it's no wonder you are so proud of him. He's gorgeous."

He is going to be my veterinarian forever.

Thanks, Dr. Leisher, for being so nice to me and for knowing that there is a difference between mules and donkeys. You are the right kind of veterinarian for me.

FB

Mule recipe from peer.tamu.edu

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What I expect



FarmWife has taken me on some test walks (better, now, with shoes) and my hock has been rock solid all along. This is a wonderful improvement over last summer, a year ago, when my thoroughpin blew up to tennis-ball size after even light exercise.

I've had more than a year off, and it is only recently that I've dared to hope that FarmWife may ride me again one day! No terribly high expectations, of course—I won't be foxhunting, completing the Tevis Cup, or entering Rolex anytime soon. It would please us all, though, if I could meander from here to Skagit County, ponying my pony mule, for a trailside picnic. (I do love sandwiches!)

I shall keep you informed.

Ears,
FenBar

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Barter

Barter: I love the concept, and I'm grateful for frequent opportunities to practice this ancient means of commerce in this closely intertwined community I call home. Here's my new tattoo, which I got in trade for writing through a convoluted string of IOUs. (Next question . . . to tip? I thought "yes," settling on some cash and a beaver skull. It suited the artist's decor better than my own.)
The original design was by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, artist, illustrator, fine art professor, and childhood best friend.
The tattoo was by Bob Yaple at Bellingham's Sabbath Tattoo.
It's a robin amidst dill and sage, and reminds me of my three daughters (Robin Elizabeth, Dylann Hannah, and Mia Sage).



Out on a walk

I'm strolling with my buddies and my feet feel fine!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FarmWife is back!

FarmWife is back! She spent nearly a week in New Hampshire and Massachusetts enjoying the delightful company of her extended family, which includes a lot of people and a couple of cats but not a single mule. She came home, needless to say, in desperate need of a big furry mule hug. Arrietty and I provided eight hooves, four ears, four steaming nostrils, and a whole lot of fuzzy autumnal hairyness for the comfort of her lonesome soul. She is once again covered in hair, dust, hay, and straw—just like we like her.

Jason Rutledge, www.healingharvestforestfoundation.org
FarmWife is desperately eager to enroll students in her upcoming workshop, "Restorative forestry through horse logging," scheduled for Thursday, October 18 from 8:30 am to 5 pm in Leesburg, Virginia. Enrollment is low and the session will be cancelled on Friday if something doesn't change between now and then. If you have ever wanted to learn to work draft horses in the woods, or to promote the long-term health of a forest through "tree gardening" and single-selection logging, this is an excellent chance to learn. Details about the session are available at www.tinyurl.com/horselogging and registration information is available at www.tfguild.org. If you are someone with an interest in healthy ecosystems, I encourage you to attend. You need not be a logger or own a team to participate, learn, and boost your muleness through education!

Ears,
Fenway Bartholomule



Saturday, September 29, 2012

A delicious promise

FarmWife is away visiting relatives in misty moisty New England while I am stuck at home with only two goats, two house sitters, a flock of poultry, and the world's prettiest minimule for company.

(Now that I say it like that, I think I'm doing OK. It could be worse.)

Before FarmWife left, I told her I would have liked to have gone along. FarmWife said I would not have fit under the seat in coach class and that I would not have been comfortable in the depressurized luggage compartment and that it would have been terribly expensive to fly me business class.

I told her I would have liked to have driven, and that she needed merely to buy me a nice new horsevan, and that we could have detoured past the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore on our way east.

She told me that horsevans cost more than one can earn selling commissioned poetry and newspaper articles and that the Grand Canyon is not on the way to New England and that Mount Rushmore is disappointing, anyway, because it has no mule faces on it.

I told her to have some respect, and not to forget that George Washington was instrumental in establishing mule breeding as a successful American enterprise.

This week, FarmWife is sending home pictures and stories about all sorts of delicious things from New England: maple syrup, pumpkin cookies, and apples as far as the eye can see. She promised to bring me one from a nearby orchard, which left me feeling just a little better about missing Mount Rushmore.

My tummy is grumbling just thinking about it.

Ears,
FenBar


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good news/better news

FarmWife would probably describe this as more of a "good news/bad news" situation - you see, my shed has been deeply bedded in straw for comfort's sake (good news), and it is DELICIOUS! (Better news or bad news depending on perspective.) I ate, and ate, and ate, despite FarmWife's protestations that it was not really intended as food. By lunchtime, she told me I had better stop eating or I would lose the comfy bedding privilege entirely.

Below, see my response to FarmWife's announcement that next time, she's getting pine shavings.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Thank you!

Thank you for the outpouring of support regarding my tender hoofies. Your thoughtful comments and emails have warmed the cockles of my noble and capacious heart.  I dearly hope that your own feet, too, are so widely cared about. 

We will keep you updated on the situation.

Ears,
Fen

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unforseen consequences

How do I look in these shoes?

Last winter, we had rains and rains and more rains. This added up to mud and mud and more mud, so my very kind FarmWife (who always, and I do mean always, has my best interests in mind) spent most of a paycheck on nice gravel footing. 

This summer, we've had sun and sun and more sun. This has added up to rock hard, stone dry, rough and raspy footing for yours truly, and the sad truth is that I can't grow hoof fast enough to keep up with the wear. This goes to show you that you never can be sure how things will turn out in the end, or that no good deed goes unpunished, or that a penny spent on gravel is a penny spent on horseshoes, or on some other truism. Maybe "the wandering mule grows no hoof".

FarmWife is thinking of getting me shod all around, for what very well might be the first time in my one long and precious life. She's all about philosophizing on the virtues of the barefoot life until her darling muley comes wincing down the lane on his poor stubby toes. I don't have any wall left to trim, and my soles are tender on these rocks.

I've got four worn out feet, two worn out goats, and a round of vet and farrier visits coming. Until then, you'll have to promise to bear with my gaps in communication. FarmWife is pulling some long hours in anticipation of these visiting professionals and their not-cheap services.

Ears, woefully, to you.

FenBar

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Progress!

I need to get off this computer and onto a ladder. I've painted everything I can reach on the North and East sides of the house, and boy does it look pretty!

Painting is such a fantastic home improvement project. For a relatively small investment of money and with minimal physical exertion involving non-specialized skills, a homeowner can completely reinvent their home. I can't think of anything comparable.

This house looks good.


Hiking with Arrietty

My fat miniature animals—namely Clover and Arrietty—have jumped on the chance to do some invigorating trail hiking with FarmWife, and now go out every day for a brisk walk over hill and dale. FarmWife, who is neither fat nor miniature, has longer legs than the two of them put together but still comes back huffing and puffing. I secretly think that it is FarmWife who most needs to get fit with a daily uphill march, but I don't dare say so. There would surely follow some sort of comment about my gut, and who needs that?

I am invited on these walks, too, and sometimes go along. I am waiting on some new hoofboots before getting too involved in these gravel-road outings, but FarmWife promises they'll be in the budget soon.

FarmWife is fairly close to the realization that a walk in the woods at the side of a little bitty mule is just about as much fun as a ride in the woods on the back of a big one, which may spare me some hours of toil in the future. At the very least, it's a chance for her to stretch her own legs.

FB

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Warning: badass

FarmWife and FarmHusband have been busily working away to turn their pukey mint green house into a cozy warm brown one. I dare to say they were inspired by the shining beauty of yours truly and Miss Arrietty, as the color they chose is something between the shade of her and the shade of me. Most ideal.

Today, FarmWife is walking around proudly, boastful about having painted the trim at the top of the first story. She stood on the stepladder at the level which reads "Danger: do not stand at or above this level."










FarmHusband, meanwhile, painted the second story with no trouble at all (nor any need to boast). He is a better-at-heights kind of a guy, but we can't all be good at everything. FarmWife has other strengths.

I will show you the house when it is done. You will love it.

Ears,
FenBar

P.S. FarmWife told me that someday I shall have board and batten siding for my little barn. It shall be painted "Foothills" (by Sherwin Williams) with "Fenland" trim. She told me this will happen after the human house gets a new porch, new windows, and new floors on the second story, so I expect I shall pass a good span of time with multi-colored salvaged metal siding. It's OK: I like its rainbow charm and the rat-a-tat of raindrops in the winter.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A forced march

<p>Last week, to celebrate the departure of her youngest daughter on the school bus for kindergarden, FarmWife led me and Arrietty up yonder hill and back again. You will guess, from the accompanying photograph, that Arrietty was rather more excited about this endeavor than I. Note my facial expression, which should tell you that I met the journey with something less than total enthusiasm. FarmWife thought I was a little footsore on the gravel roads, so she will outfit me in boots and we shall try again.

Arrietty, on the other hand, was all nimble eagerness on the trail. I would venture to say she has not had such a grand adventure since her Mothers Day drive over the mountains in my Granny's Volkswagen Vanagon.

Ears to you,

FB


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rabbit habbits

Harriet is not usually loose with me like this. This particular
photo was taken in celebration of Easter before she
was returned to her wire-lined gulag.
Er . . . I mean Rabit Habits.

Erm . . . .

Rabbit habits.

Third time's the charm!

My rabbits live amongst the hoofbeasts, now, you know—they have a stall, bedded in straw, and a watering trough and a grain pan and a grass-and-gravel turnout paddock. The only difference between them and us is that their stall and paddock are lined with chicken wire, to prevent digging, and topped with fishnet, to prevent abduction-by-eagle. I, who have almost had my two precious ears stolen by an eagle, understand all to well the need for this latter precaution.

The former precaution, to prevent digging, is made because of an anatomical peculiarity of my rabbits: you see, in place of hooves they have razor-sharp pickaxes on the ends of their legs (five or four per, depending whether it is a forefoot or a hind). They use them to rend the earth up into moist, dark heaps, and then they slither into their excavation like a snake and disappear. This is a sinister and un-mulelike behavior.

Otherwise, the rabbits are pleasant. Like mules, they dust-bathe, graze, gallop, groom one another, rest in the sun, and discuss the complexities of herd life and pecking order amongst themselves. They congregate with we mules and goats, attend regular meetings of the Bent Barrow Hoofbeast Society (we gather daily near the electric fence for a daily State of the Grasses address), and generally behave like good little herbivores.

FarmWife is happier, too, because they are not eating her sheetrock.

The FarmChildren are happy because now all the neighborhood can know what beautiful rabbits we have.

I am happy because a crew of six herbivorous mammals is stronger in voice and vote than a herd of four, and if we should want to then we should be very close to overthrowing the humans completely.

Ears,
FenBar

Sunny days

Sunny days—fifty of them, give or take, all in a row! This weather has been amazing and unprecedented. Unlike that of our less fortunate neighbors in other regions, it's also been very, very pleasant. It's been dewy enough, overnight, to keep the grass green (mostly) and it's been nice enough every day for hiking, camping, swimming, and sunbathing. With daughters who are 5, 7, and 12, we're at that stage as a family where we can actually go on and enjoy such adventures with a minimum of tears (and no dirty diapers).

This summer has been fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it.

I hope yours has been as wonderful.

M

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Goat trouble

B.G. on the day of her birth
I have two goats—Missy, age 10, who has been feeble, slow, stiff, and hard to keep weight on since The Great Collapse of 2010, and B.G., age 4, who foundered a couple of years ago and whose chronic lameness has been repeatedly misdiagnosed (I blame myself and my vets: none of us did enough, and all of us were baffled until my lightbulb moment a few weeks ago. Had she been a horse, I never would have missed the signs!). She has been a little off for years but, with corrective trimming and a restricted diet, I hope to get her sound. Today, though, I feel a bit despairing.

I have one goat who has lived half her life in low-grade pain and doesn't show any dramatic signs of improvement and another who is prematurely decrepit and who may or may not continue to have a high quality of life as we go into the next cold season. Missy moves around less and less. This summer, she rests 90% of the time. She no longer has the confidence to venture into the big pasture, she is afraid of phantoms, and she walks more stiffly than before. She looks like an old woman.

I have another goat who may get better but who will never be the same—a goat who will be lonely when her companion dies—a goat who cannot, in good conscience, be sold or given away.

I don't know what I'll do for B.G. when Missy goes. I don't know how I'll console her, and I only hope that she'll be sound enough at that time to go in with the mules. I hope she'll accept them as the next best thing.

M

A very big change

There is a very big change happening right now: the smallest of my three human children is beginning full day, five day kindergarten.

FarmWife has been a parent since she was 20 years old. She has been pretty busy, most days, since then. She is not a "gets-it-all-done-with-time-to-spare" kind of mom, nor is she a "plays-imagination-games-for-endless-hours" kind of mom, but she is a "makes-dinner-every-day-and-usually-sweeps-the-floor-too" kind of mom. In this respect, her life won't change so dramatically—after all, there will still be hungry people coming home every afternoon and there will still be a floor (and a shedding Australian shepherd). She will probably not suddenly becomes a "gets-it-all-done-with-time-to-spare" person, despite her intentions to landscape the yard and train the mini mule and do more fencing and paint the house and organize the attic and remodel the porch. "FarmWife," I tell her, "I love you as you are. I will be happy if you merely pick up my poop."

Still, there will be some changes: with a long, lonesome day, FarmWife can do her freelance work before the children come home. This way, when she is with her family she can really be with her family instead of distracted by work. When she is not working, FarmWife can groom us (this she can do with her daughters) or clean our paddocks (this she can also do with her daughters) or ride me (this she cannot safely do with her daughters, so this is a very exciting prospect!) or drive Arrietty (this is merely a dream, but with Arrietty showing some aptitude it is a dream within reach).

FarmWife is borrowing a harness from her good friend J.N.C. in New England and Arrietty is already quite accustomed to meandering around on a longeline in surcingle and crupper. This week, she will begin learning to work properly on long lines.

I have asked FarmWife to promise to blog more, too, and also to start in again on the writing of her book. Her book, you see, is going to be partly if not mostly about the beauty and magnificence of me, Fenway Bartholomule. It's also going to be about good intentions, lucky coincidences, and happiness. It will be good.

Ears,
FenBar




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