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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blogging without adventuring


My world. 


I wouldn't call it writer's block, per se, but I am facing a bit of a dilemma: how to go on blogging about a life which is now being passed in a field, 132 feet on each side, a paddock, forty feet long, and a 16x32 foot barn? How many ways are there in which to tell you that I bray for my breakfast? That I whicker softly when FarmWife passes during the day, that I trumpet loudly when FarmWife comes out at night, and that I live beneath the migrations of the snow geese? That I have a chihuahua who is fatter than she ought to be, a goat who is thinner than she ought to be, and a flock of chickens that are more colorful than clever? That the mail comes six days per week and that some small portion of it is usually addressed to me, Fenway Bartholomule? That the hay comes once per year and that the vast majority of it is positively scrumptious? That I was a good trail mule once, and that I am a good pet now and forever?

I'll keep telling you these things, but I'd like to tell you something else, too—I need your adventures to supplement my own newly limited ones. This fat hock, which is not painful but which is limiting, says that I can't regale you with tales from the trail unless you send in YOUR stories. Can you help?

I'd like to begin running a guest post once a week . . . we'll call it Friendsday Wednesday. Hopefully, you'll share with me your own scenic vistas, wilderness adventures, showring sagas, and stories from the sound-of-limb. Email photos, text, and a URL if you'd like to share one to fenway at brays of our lives dot com. Horses, mules, donkeys, goats, dogs, ducks, and humans—all are welcome to apply.

Thanks, and Ears to You!

Fenway Bartholomule

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slideshow

Here are three unrelated silly things:

My goat. Taking a bath. In the tub. 

Empress of all the light touches? More like Empress of all the bucket holds. 

FarmWife's potato storage plans went terribly awry. If anyone can advise her on what to do differently next year, please do!




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First world problems

Today's problems:

My eight pound chihuahua is trapped in a ten pound body. No amount of exercise or dieting seems to make her slender again.

My mule is retired and I have fallen in love with the photo and description of a free gelding in West Virginia. West Virginia is very, very, very far from Washington. If he lived closer, I'd already have snuck him into the paddock.

I dream of winning the lottery, but I have never bought a lottery ticket.

I am out of printer ink.

In the grand scheme of things to agonize over, these are not terrible things. I'm distracted by GOOD news, too: we had a BEAUTIFUL weekend; Paisley hasn't had a seizure in weeks; Dylann will get her cast off on Monday; I have my health and my family and my home.

Rejoice!

Setting the bar

I've set the bar high for FarmWife: of course she dreams of adding a second equine to the family someday, but she will never again shop for a horse or mule with the same broadness of standards. I've taught her to expect—nay, demand—certain things, and she is probably spoiled forever as a result. Any equine she adds in future will be expected to be:

An easy keeper
Hard of hoof
Soft of mouth
Intelligent
Gentle with children
Kind to goats
Well-behaved in a herd
Shiny
Cuddly
Sound of limb (OK, so I fell short here. Not my fault.)
Good at loading, leading, tying, bathing, etcetera
Game
Surefooted
Patient
Respectful
Tidy
Obedient
Vocal

FarmWife is willing to flex on the Shiny (after all, elbow grease can fix a dull coat) and the Vocal (after all, not everyone is a naturally gifted soprano). The rest? Well, I simply don't know. After all, why settle when you have known perfection?

Now, before you get yourself in a tizzy, FarmWife is not shopping right now. If she were, she'd be hustling down to Enumclaw to rescue that feedlot molly I posted on Facebook. No, she is saving up for my next joint injection, satisfying herself with two-legged trail adventures, and dreaming of a someday far off future.

Ears,
FenBar



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mottos

Do we need a family motto here at Bent Barrow Farm?

FarmWife says her maternal family has the motto "touch not the cat but a glove," along with a fancy crest and their very own tartan.

I said, "FarmWife, your family motto is silly. Who would want to touch a glove when they could touch a little tiger instead?," to which she said, "Fenway, it means don't touch the cat until his claws are sheathed."

Here are my proposals for the Jackson/Jones/Bartholomule motto:

"Why be normal?"
"Hurry up and eat it before it's all gone."
"Happy trails."
"Courage in the face of rainbows."
"Eat, Bray, Love."

Do you have alternate proposals?

Once I settle on one, I think I am going to design a family crest.

Ears,
FenBar

Monday, March 26, 2012

Coal conundrum

Wickersham—and part of the proposed alternate route—as viewed from muleback. 
There is trouble brewing in paradise: those of you who live near me, Fenway Bartholomule, might know that a coal shipping terminal has been proposed for picturesque Whatcom County. This terminal, by my calculations, is proposed to export hundreds of thousands tons of coal each day from strip mines in Wyoming, Canada, and Montana to markets in China and beyond. The obvious routing choice for these trains would be the main Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway: a railway which runs through the wild Chuckanuts, past the quiet neighborhoods of Fairhaven and Bellingham, down into the vital downtown waterfront of our county seat, and out to the waiting ships at the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Plan B, which is even more devastating to yours truly, is the alternate proposed route: the Farmland corridor, which runs by my door. The quiet tracks sit roughly 30 feet from my mailbox and my rhododendron bush . . . 80 feet from my organic carrot bed . . . 90 feet from the little barn where I rest my head at night.

The three or four trains per week that use this spur run slowly, moving closed freight cars at a placid pace from Burlington through the Skagit Valley to Sedro-Woolley, then through the sensitive wetlands of the Samish headwaters and into the South Fork Valley of the Nooksack River. They trundle past Bent Barrow Farm before rolling through the raspberry cane- and jersey-cow dotted landscapes of northern Whatcom County. 

About a year ago, Bellingham's then-mayor Dan Pike wrote the following about the Sumas route which passes by our door: 

"Alternative route that avoids Bellingham must be considered.
Reducing freight train traffic along the shoreline and through Bellingham, thus reducing contact with and impacts to population and business centers;
Improving passenger rail timetables and the ability to expand passenger service;
Providing greater flexibility to meet future market conditions for both BNSF and SSA, and creating track/route redundancy during natural disasters.
While relief from community impacts of increased freight traffic must be addressed, an even more important alternative must be considered, and included in the EIS process: use of Burlington Northern's existing route from Burlington to Sumas, instead of the coastal route running through Bellingham.
Requiring use of Burlington Northern's Sumas line as the primary route for Cherry Point SSA deliveries, as well as for the current deliveries to Roberts Bank, would have the following important benefits:
It is absolutely in the interests of all parties that this alternative freight route be studied as part of the EIS process. This is a win-win solution that must be on the table."


I, Fenway Bartholomule, happen to think that Dan Pike should have taken a stand against coal trains, period. For the sake of Wickersham, of Bellingham, of Whatcom County as a whole, and of Wyoming and Montana and the atmosphere and our fragile global ecology. There are no good long-term reasons to dig coal out of our hills and send it to China. None. 

We are all atwitter here in this little agricultural community about the looming threat: We see how BNSF used delayed stage timing to bypass environmental review in Montana's Tongue River region, and we predict that they could use similar tactics to avoid including the South Fork Valley in their environmental impact studies this time around. A 1992 Commerce Corridor Feasability Study made the following determination on the subject of creating an industrial fast-track for goods through Wickersham, and it shows clearly why the powers behind this movement will try to avoid including the route in their initial surveys: 

"The current alignment of the WCC has significant natural constraints, will impact several small rural and agriculture based communities, and has potential fatal flaws, specifically for segments of the corridor that impact small and rural agricultural communities, and those segments that  have  long  term  impacts  on  species  habitats  and  watershed  areas. Regulatory  and  land  use issues also present a key obstacle in that communities may need to modify their comprehensive plans.  Moreover, existing environmental review processes in Washington, although functional, are currently not equipped to handle a project of this scope, and pose significant pre-construction risk for the private sector."

Here's what I think could happen if we are not careful: BNSF, Goldman Sachs, and SSA Marine could conduct their environmental impact studies on the shore route. They could determine that it would be acceptable to run more coal through Bellingham, and they could go ahead and obtain approval for the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.  And then—what? Well, they could decide that they needed just a bit more track time. That nine or ten mile-long trains per day were not enough to meet the globe's insatiable appetite for dirty energy, but that twenty or twenty-two trains per day could do the job. And then . . . then, when all the studies were finished, licenses issued, facilities constructed, and permissions secured . . . they could reroute traffic through Wickersham. They could do this, and I suspect that they will have planned to all along. I think this is coming. 

We are seeing ominous signs: New traffic signals marked "emergency warning" now flash on the quiet highways leading to and from the train trestles in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. A dozen lumbering machines and a busy crew just replaced every railroad tie between Burlington and Route 9, the turnoff to Wickersham. Track maintenance crews roll up and down the railway next to my farm with much greater frequency than they ever have before. 

FarmWife and FarmHusband are trying to learn more about the most effective way to get involved, and are hoping to join county residents in creating a rights-based fight based on the work of Coal Free Bellingham. They have already warned me that we cannot live here if coal trains live here too. Wickersham, as we know it, would cease to be. 

To learn more about anti-coal train efforts, you may visit these websites: 


And finally, for a bit of entertainment, witness the Acme Elementary School principal and his band, Band Zandt, performing their new original song "No Coal Trains."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A plan of action


FarmWife can already carry two goats:
 is it such a leap to imagine her carrying
her darling Fenway Bartholomule? 
These are some things FarmWife has decided to do since my hock went kablooey:

Find more work
Take tactical shooting lessons
Quadruple the size of her ornamental garden
Grow naked oats
Jog

FarmWife is taking this bad news well, I think: With more work, she can buy me more joint supplements. With tactical shooting lessons, she can defend me against zombies. With a quadrupled ornamental garden, she can offer me exotic, toothsome delicacies like rose hips and lilac sprigs. With naked oats, she can tempt my appetite even further. With jogging, she can become strong, and hopefully begin to carry me about on HER back so that we can continue to enjoy the wilderness together.

Ears,
FenBar

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unfair life things

The rabbit has fairy wings. I do not. Unfair! 
Robin, who is four, is often going on about unfair things. Dylann got more peaches. Unfair! Mother has fancy earrings. Unfair! Mia's book choice gets read first. Unfair! 

Well, I know all about unfairness. Here are some unfair life things that have happened on Bent Barrow Farm: 

Clover has been allowed to sleep in FarmWife's bed, while I have been forced to sleep on dirt. 
Missy has been allowed to sit in FarmWife's lap during hoof trims, while I have been forced to stand on three legs like a doofus. 
Paisley has been allowed to sit in the back of the new van, while I have been asked to stay behind the fence. 
The baby chickens have been brought into the house to sit on human laps, while I have only been brought to the window to peer inside. 
The humans have eaten at least ten picnics this year, while I have only been invited on two. 


Here are some unfair life things that FarmWife says invalidates all of my complaints:

War 
Genocide
Cancer
Famine
Tsunamis


Hmmm. She has a point. 


Ears,
FenBar


Friday, March 23, 2012

Shedding season algebra

If a mule is curried at a rate of 100 swipes per minute and puts 280 brown hairs per swipe onto his FarmWife for 25 minutes, then two goats are scratched at a rate of 120 scratches per minute for five minutes, simultaneously, and each puts 150 white hairs per scratch onto their FarmWife, how many hairs are on the FarmWife after 30 minutes?

Extra credit if you can account for one Australian shepherd, two cats, one chihuahua, and two rabbits all shedding at a rate of 33% of the goats' shedding rate and scratched for five minutes each.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not an espresso machine, but close!


Do you remember my hydration woes, wherein I didn't drink enough and wound up with a tummy ache? Well, the friendly folks at Schneider's Saddlery,providers of value-priced horse supplies, heard about my troubles and sent me the perfect remedy: a heated water tub! I will never again have to face the terrible choice between drinking the moment that poor, exhausted FarmWife arrives with armfuls of water from the house or waiting until thirst strikes and then gnawing and pawing my way into a frigid slurry of terrible unwelcoming ice water. This thermostatically-controlled wonder of modern beverage management is the next best thing to my own personal espresso-machine, and I expect to spend many fond moments slurping up its delicious blue waters. 

My new bucket holds 16 gallons, which makes it an absolutely perfect substitute for my normal tub, and has a wire-wrapped cord to prevent damage-by-goat. Since damage-by-goat is a pretty common problem around here, FarmWife and I were both delighted with this clever feature. It's sturdy, shiny, beautiful, sleek . . . and, well, mulish, really! 


Now, let's all do a bit of an ice dance, shall we? It's 34 degrees and pouring . . . in other words, a pretty typical spring day in Wickersham. I can't wait until the temperature plummets so that I can report back! 


Ears to you,


Fenway Bartholomule 




Sunday, March 18, 2012

My entry in a $5000 contest

I recently entered this contest, and I'd be terribly grateful if you'd pop by and vote for me. The first contestant to reach 5000 votes will win $5000, and I'd very much like that to be me. 


Here's the description FarmWife wrote for my entry form:


Fenway Bartholomule is only half horse but he's at least twice as marvelous as a lot of people so I'd say that qualifies him to compete. 

Fenway is an 18 year old mule with a bum hock, a giant heart, and a family who adores him. His bray is out of this world. Children are drawn to him. Baby animals sleep at his feet. Women weep at his beauty. His shining coat is more blinding than a thousand suns. He is smarter than your honor student. He speaks several languages: the language of the horse, the language of the ass, and the language of the heart. He comes when called. He stays when told. His ears inspire poetry. He is a God among ungulates. 

For more information on the Coolest (half)Horse in the World, visit www.braysofourlives.com, LIKE www.facebook.com/fenwaybartholomule, or read his columns in the Brayer, the magazine of the American Donkey and Mule Society.



Book update

What I've determined about writing a book:

A book does not write itself.

Writing a chapter of a book is not exactly like writing a dozen blog posts. A book chapter requires a sort of continuity of focus that blogging does not require, unless of course you are writing a book for the short-of-attention-span. Maybe that's the sort of book I ought to write. 

Writing a book about the joys of riding one's mule is hard to do when one is processing the loss of the joys of riding one's mule due to said mule's being permanently lame. 

Writing a book about the children, dogs, cats, husband, rabbits, goats, plants, relatives, neighbors, friends, jobs, hobbies, and delicious meals that make living with a lame mule less sad seems like a marvelous idea. 

I haven't given up, but I do think it's going to be a longer process than I thought. 

M

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I found a four-leafed clover

I found a four-leafed Clover:


It was actually much cuter in person, but it turned all cringy when FarmWife pointed the camera at it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Fen

Fenway 50, #3

The third item on the list of 50 items is a photo of me being naughty, but I am afraid that there are no photos in existence of me being naughty. I am never naughty. Sometimes I am hungry, and sometimes I am astonished, and sometimes I flee, heedless, in headlong and abject terror. I never misbehave on purpose.

The closest thing to a photo of me being naughty is this illustration of a young demon donkey smoking a cigarette. It was drawn by FarmHusband and colored by FarmWife. It has a moral: demon donkeys who smoke incur motherly wrath. Demon donkeys who smoke probably also contract lung cancer.

Ears,
FenBar


Friday, March 16, 2012

The Fenway 50, #2

The last time I worked, I walked halfway up a little mountain and then walked down. I had a child upon my back. She walked the last quarter mile home, during which time it snowed. It was my retirement ride.

The last time I carried FarmWife was before halloween.


In other news, FarmWife has an itty bitty rental car this week which looks and handles like a Kitchenaid stand mixer. It's a Fiat 500 with a semi-automatic transmission that's like nothing she's ever seen. It's here in lieu of the F250, which has gone away to a new life plowing snow in Tonasket. We await the arrival of the ultimate soccermom-mobile in it's place: a minivan, upon which FarmWife promises to place a stickfigure family. Five people, two dogs, two goats, two cats, two bunnies, three ducks (joining our family in May), a rooster, a dozen hens, and a mule should just fit.

Ears,
Fen


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Fenway 50

My friends Iota McHippus and Petey Pants have been doing this fun exercise and I thought I'd follow their leads and give it a try myself. For 50 days—not necessarily uninterrupted— I'm going to share the below images and stories with you. Hopefully this can be in addition to and not instead of the usual mulish witticisms on which you've come to depend! The list, copied straight from my pony pals' facebook pages, appears below. I may allow this project to spread out a bit so as to  leave room for other fun content here at www.braysofourlives.com, but I promise I will finish it. 

I'll start today with this: the oldest picture I have of myself. It was taken before FarmWife and I were family, when I still lived over the fence. I was angrier then. 




Day 01- The oldest picture you have of yourself
Day 02- The last time you worked and what you did
Day 03- A picture of you being naughty
Day 04- A day that impacted your life
Day 05- A picture of your worst "oops!" moment
Day 06- Your favorite memory of visiting with people
Day 07- A picture of your favorite treats
Day 08- A picture of your house
Day 09- A picture of your favorite stall decoration
Day 10- A picture of you with your mom
Day 11- A picture of your paddock mate(s)
Day 12- A picture of your favorite color
Day 13- A picture of you jumping
Day 14- A picture of your horse mom
Day 15- A picture of your horse dad
Day 16- A funny picture
Day 17-A picture of your equine idol
Day 18- A picture of your favorite grooming item
Day 19- A picture of you doing what you dream of doing
Day 20- A picture of your favorite past travel visit
Day 21- A picture of you with someone other than your mom
Day 22- A picture of you being ridden bareback
Day 23- A picture of you and a horse friend not in your family
Day 24- A picture of something you would like to do in your future
Day 25- A picture of your dream house
Day 26- Your biggest accomplishment yet
Day 27- A picture of your best horse friend
Day 28- A picture of you getting your hooves done
Day 29- A picture of you with your vet
Day 30- A picture that makes your day
Day 31- A picture of the first rime you were handled a lot
Day 32- A picture of the most recent trailer decoration you bought
Day 33- A picture of your favorite famous horse
Day 34- A picture of somewhere you’d like to go
Day 35- A picture of the tack you use
Day 36- Your favorite picture of yourself
Day 37- A picture of you in the pasture
Day 38- A winter picture
Day 39- A spring picture
Day 40- A summer picture
Day 41- A fall picture
Day 42- A picture of an item you want
Day 43- A picture of an item you need
Day 44- A picture that makes you laugh
Day 45- A picture of something you want to jump
Day 46- Your favorite horse-related quote and who said it
Day 47- A picture of the last place you visited
Day 48- A picture of the next place you plan to go to
Day 49- Your biggest goal in life
Day 50- Your most memorable moment

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Chainsaw Curse


Here is photographic proof that FarmWife was not always subject to the Great Chainsaw Curse. Sometime between 30 years ago and now, however, FarmWife seems to have come under the dark cloud of some terrible voodoo. She cannot touch a chainsaw without it immediately and inexplicably succumbing to hours or days of utter non-functionality. She cannot start it, or feed it premixed fuel, or even carry it to the truck and set it on the tail gait. She certainly cannot saw with it. Her hapless husband has learned never to say, "FarmWife*, will you hand me my chainsaw?" If he does, he will surely be the unlucky recipient of a defunct tool. It won't start again, most times, for a full day or two. This has happened with more than one chainsaw and on more than five occasions.

FarmWife promises that she's not spitting in the fuel tank, shaking the saw like a maraca, turning it upside down and wearing it like a hat, or whispering threats against its little mechanical wife and children. She has no excuses for this fatal touch.

Can anyone think of a way to purge FarmWife of this power-tool juju? Can we take a moment to bray to the God Husqvarna for a reprieve from this oppression?

Ears,
FenBar


*he doesn't actually call her that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Many thanks to Granny J. Bone for finding this funny ad!


From Craigslist:

Pain in the ass mini donkey (W. Pierce County)


Date: 2012-03-12, 7:08PM PDT
Reply to: wbdkf-2888886770@sale.craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]

Precocious seven year old with a penchant for opening gates, army-crawling under fences and waking up the neighbors at ungodly hours.

Loves to be groomed by everyone but the one that feeds him. Demands a king's ransom in the finest hay (only to pee all over anything that might hit the ground). Enjoys regular visits from the vet and farrier (as he routinely causes such a fuss that I need to reschedule).

Thoroughly loves (to chase and maim) dogs and other furry critters. Gets along well with pasture mates (that can out maneuver his back hooves).

Trailers well (probably).

Gelded, though would happily do again.

Potential homes will be thoroughly screened (for video cameras so I can make a clean get away).

Contact with questions.


Fine Print (added 3/12): Despite my big talk here, Donkey is in no danger of being sent to auction or sold to some traveling band of indoor basketball players. I am looking for a home that can give him a job, career or provide that springboard and mentorship into political office. I am not selling him for money, nor am I looking to offload him onto some hoarding situation or Enumclaw funny farm. However, I am asking the same of you and requesting that he be returned if you can no longer care/feed/vet/entertain him. Or, if you find your herd some morning curled up, whimpering and begging for a swift exorcism of the demon donkey. I will do a site visit and check farrier and vet references. If, after reading this not so fine print - you still think you have the perfect fit, please drop me a line.

  • Location: W. Pierce County

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sense

FarmWife has always had a better sense of horsemanship than of fashion.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Opting out

The thing about shooting is that I think it's perfectly wonderful UNTIL the earplugs go in. FarmWife, who knows all too well (for non-shooting-related reasons) the challenges of living with hearing loss, think's it's only wonderful AFTER the earplugs go in. I would much rather listen to the earth-shattering tumult of a .357 firing next to my head than feel the oogy-boogy yuckiness of an object in each auricle, but FarmWife says "No way are you doing without, mister." It used to be that she'd make me wear them each time we hit the range, which was a terrible bore even with the temptation of a rewarding apple slice. Now, my hock gives me a convenient opportunity to opt out of this particular extracurricular activity.

FarmWife and I still get a chuckle out of this "are you shooting your mule?" story:

She once had me tied at a safe distance from her firing line (twenty feet back, where she could see me out of the corner of her eye but where I was nowhere near the hot zone) and practiced shooting paper targets until some motorcyclists approached. She holstered her weapon and removed her earplugs. They cut their engines and removed their helmets.

"My mule's tied up back there," she shouted, gesturing toward the trees.  She wanted them to know so as not to startle me or mow me down, you know.

"Are you going to shoot him?!?" they asked with a tone of alarm.

FarmWife assured them that she was merely shooting targets, and that I was merely her pet and her transportation into the wilderness. I was not to be her victim.  They were incredibly relieved, as they were certain she had brought me to the woods to end my suffering. I'm not sure why—maybe I was having a frumpy day?

I hope I go in my sleep . . . fifty or sixty years from now. FarmWife, being a vegetarianish person of soft heart, only kills soda cans and scrap paper.

Ears,
FenBar

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The bad and the good

The bad news: FarmWife says pasture-rest only this summer, so there go my plans to camp in the Cascades, walk to Montana, visit the Chicken People in Tonasket, and go to a police horse clinic. FarmWife says we shall still have our time together and that we can still chat and play and have singalongs and that we will picnic under the maple trees in the back of my field.

Then: fat. Now: not so much. 
The good news: FarmWife says I am having my picture painted in oil on canvas by the eminently talented Shaila Tenorio of www.orangehorseart.com. I am also officially no longer fat, which has resulted by some miracle from FarmWife switching me from two to four meals per day. She doesn't quite get it, but it's working for both of us. It might have something to do with the arrangement in my new barn, whereby the goat manger is harder than ever to steal from, but I can't tell FarmWife that—it would practically be an admission of guilt.

Ears,
FenBar

Friday, March 9, 2012

A stumbling block

Writing about how happy riding makes me is a bit hard when I haven't been riding since October. I haven't been successful in bringing Fenway back into work. As of this week, he's officially retired.

After a winter off for the Great Wet Darkness, I've tried gently reconditioning him. After a month of worsening lameness, I'm faced with this truth: his on-again off-again leg issue is more on than off. His hock, which was out of commission for the entire summer of 2010, has flared up again. He needs further diagnostics and treatment but no matter what he is probably due to be retired from service as a mount for adult riders.

Fenway's veterinarian and I had a heart-to-heart about it and he said what I'd been thinking: Fenway's hock isn't well, and repeating the cortisone injections that give him temporary relief is no substitute for retiring him. He may need the injections to stay comfortable and they may continue to help but the vet and I both know they are not a cure.

I'm wrapping my head around never riding my friend Fenway again. It's not creating a huge lifestyle change for me—after all, I hadn't ridden all winter—but it sure is putting the kibosh on a lot of great dreams. There are so many places we haven't been yet. There are so many things I wanted to do, and I spent so many hours looking forward to a day when my girls would be in school and I could really grow as a rider again.

I've been really crabby lately (sorry, family!) and a mule ride is usually the cure. It's time to shake this funk off one way or another! Time with the livestock will help, and I hope I can go sit in the barn for a while tomorrow.  I'm also going to try to enjoy other hobbies—hiking, gardening, shooting, writing—and look for more work. Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy cortisone!


M

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Retirement hobbies

I've been weighing my options: sailing seems too tippy, whittling requires opposable thumbs, and crochet would be a muddy mess. I've thought it over, and I've decided that my retirement hobby options boil down to golf and gardening.

Golf, pros:

Golf: a delicious-looking pursuit! 
  • Normal grass, a.k.a. the fairway, a.k.a. the appetizer
  • Longer grass, a.k.a the rough, a.k.a. the main course
  • Shorter grass, a.k.a. the green, a.k.a. dessert 

Golf, cons:

  • Gripping the club would probably require some special prosthetics, which could be expensive and which could be in violation of course rules.
  • Joining the country club could prove expensive.

Gardening, pros:
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Lettuces
  • Celeries
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
Gardening, cons: 
  • The fence, which divides Here from There. It is designed to keep out chickens, but it also serves to keep out mules.
  • The dirt. Unlike the pasture, where the grasses sit atop the dirt year-round, the garden has dirt atop the vegetables in some cases (carrots, beets) and dirt instead of vegetables in other cases (December, January). FarmWife says this is easily dealt with through the planting of cover crops, which grow on top of the dirt and happen to taste delicious. 

FarmWife suggests clicker training as another potential retirement hobby for me. I took this to mean that I would get a clicker and would reward her for such actions as delivering feed, removing manure, and rubbing my ears. She took it to mean that SHE would get a clicker and would reward ME for such actions as braying on command, pawing the answers to math problems, and answering yes or no questions with a nod or a shake of my head. Either way, rewards are doled out. Sounds like a good deal to me! 

Ears,
FenBar

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A substitution

From www.facebook.com/fenwaybartholomule"I am a small brown mule of great heart and splendiferousness. I am good at surmounting obstacles (making new friends), braying for my breakfast, shining, and giving hugs. I am a columnist and a great eater of dried grasses. You should read my blog, www.braysofourlives.com."


Still good at basking.



FarmWife has officially banned me from surmounting obstacles, which was one of my very best skills: I was good at getting up and over just about anything on the trail. "You mustn't," she says. "Your hock." It turns out these joints are aging faster than either she or I would like, and we're going to put my hock in the same category with FarmWife's knee—the category for joints that need to be babied, and that simply don't do very hard things. A recent talk with my vet confirmed what FarmWife already knew: I would be wise to resign myself to a leisurely life.

It's a bit of a tragedy, but FarmWife reminds me that I am very good at a number of things besides charging down the trail. I am good at shining, singing, and inspiring art with my glorious beauty. I am good at amusing the children with my funny faces. I am good at giving rides around the pasture to the under-10 set. I am good at making friends.

You will notice that FarmWife made me revise the "about me" blurb on my Facebook friends to reflect this substitution, but that's OK with me. I'm ready for a new chapter.

Ears,
FenBar

Poetry special

You probably know that www.commissionedpoetry.com is FarmWife's way of bringing in a little money on the side. Writing commissioned poetry is one of the many things she does to patch together a career as a writer, blogger, and small-business owner, and since my reach is greater than hers I like to help publicize her efforts.

This month, she'd like to offer you a special deal. Tell your friends, too!

This month only, we are offering 25% back on poetry purchases if you are:

A) A repeat customer, or

B) A Facebook friend of me, Fenway Bartholomule, or

C) Willing to post a poetry flyer (printable PDF here) at your local feed, pet supply, veterinary, or grooming location

To be eligible, place your  order via the form at www.commissionedpoetry.com and say how you qualify (option A, B, or C) in the comments section or via email. FarmWife will promptly return a quarter of your money and get to work on your one-of-a-kind, satisfaction-guaranteed gift or keepsake.

Thanks, and here's to cherished friends!

Ears,
FenBar

Monday, March 5, 2012

Those of you who read my posts via Blogger rather than Facebook ought to know that there's a wonderful new video up over there. Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/FenwayBartholomule and then let me know what I sound like:

A) a dinosaur
B) an Italian tenor
C) a peacock
D) a traffic accident
E) pure love rendered audible


Plumbing

Not to be indelicate, but I take marvelous care of my leavings. I organize them into a tidy stack in a small, dry corner of my shed. I pile them neatly, leaving them undisturbed for future collection via wheelbarrow. FarmWife comes once or twice a week to take them away to the compost pile, which is really a rather relaxed schedule. If I were a messier mule, I'd expect her to attend my droppings daily.

The mucking out of manure is quick as a flash due to my foresight and consideration, but the cleaning up of urine is another matter entirely. FarmWife spent so much time trying to reengineer my pee-puddle yesterday that she might as well have gone ahead and installed a toilet. You see, I like to pee in one particular spot. This spot is neither at the top of a hill, where runoff would naturally take place, nor at the bottom of a hill, where it would be out of sight and out of mind. It is, instead, at the entrance to my shed where A) passersby must walk; B) food must be supped upon; C) level gravel absorbs and holds moisture.

Yesterday, FarmWife scraped out all the sloppy bits, dug a channel six inches wide and deep enough to create a downhill-flow, and hosed my puddle off to wash away the stink. So far, so good. Now, we'll see how that lasts.

If not, I think we'll look into getting one of these:


Ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A misleading photo series

The photos I posted yesterday may have led you from the truth: I was tacked up and readied not for a ride but for a photo-shoot. I wanted to show you the delightful interplay between my quarter sheet and my new barn. Unfortunately, I was not sound enough for our planned outing.

The fact of the matter is, FarmWife knew before she began to tack me up that there would be no adventuring for me. You see, a brief walk to the salmon pond and back last week caused a bit of thickening in my hock joint. A slightly less brief walk up the mountain and back, with my biggest filly aboard, caused even more thickening. Friday, with no particular cause at all, my hock was about one baseball bigger than it ought to have been. Yesterday, too. I'm not lame on it, but with my history of issues in that joint FarmWife doesn't want to push it. She said we won't do any more riding or walking for a while except in the pasture, and that I'll get an ultrasound when she can afford it and a lot of time off in the meantime.

"You have a terrible hock," she told me, "but you are a wonderful friend." We played "Nicker for snacks," instead, wherein FarmWife holds something delicious and refuses to relinquish it until I whuffle at her. It's a great game.

Ears,
FenBar

An old x-ray of the offending hock, showing nothing significant. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Few mules are as lucky as me.

It's not just every mule who gets a shed addition for Christmas, and it's not just every mule's whose shed addition grows so much that it begins to be called a barn. No, sir (or ma'am)! I am a lucky mule.

I am the luckiest mule in the world, I think, for I have a new brown barn:

and a new green barn:

and a new stripy barn, to go with my stripy quarter sheet:


FarmWife says the siding is multicolored because it was free. Good thing—I thought she paid extra for the variety pack! She says it will do for now, but I think it will do just fine forever.

Ears,
FenBar

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!

A resounding and mulish happy birthday to the late Theodor Seuss Geisel.


From Oh, the Places You'll Go!, I'll pass on this bit of mulish advice: 


"Be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that life's
a great balancing act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)"

Does that sound like a mule navigating a treacherous spot, or what? I have a feeling that the honorable doctor might have known a longear or two in his time. 

Ears,
FenBar

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A home for every horse . . . or mule.

Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue
Liz Lamont Images
Edited to add that an astute reader has pointed out the link between this program and the pro-slaughter agenda, which is a lesson for all of us. Thoroughly investigating the charitable and progressive organizations to which we belong or contribute is vitally important. I, for one, will NOT be supporting or endorsing the Unwanted Horse Coalition or any of their affiliated programs! 


Your concerned friend,
FenBar

Original post:

Congratulations to Missy, the first "Home for Every Horse" adoptee. Missy, it turns out, is not a horse but a molly mule. She found a new home through Equine.com's new rescued horse ad listings, a service offered as part of a cooperative effort of Equine.com, the Equine Network, and The American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition.

The good side: Missy got a home!

The bad side: It's still unclear to me what this program, which is sponsored by Tractor Supply and Purina Mills, is doing for horses, or how it's helpful beyond providing another forum for free online ads. Doesn't Dreamhorse already offer free ads? Am I missing something?

Can any of you tell me more about the Unwanted Horse Coalition and what they're doing to effect change? I'm genuinely interested.

Ears,
FenBar