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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chickentown

I have chickens at my house, which is helpful: they poop on the grasses, making them greener; they peck the poops, making them cleaner; they cluck contentedly in beautiful harmony with my brays; they leave their rainbow feathers lying about, bringing some color into an otherwise gray and green world.

The chickens used to pass their days under the salmonberry bush until the day that the humans set the salmonberry bush on fire. This had something to do with some garbage the former property owners had left under the salmonberry bush, which FarmWife wanted to dig out and dispose of, and also with FarmWife's desire to make room for raspberry canes. (On a property of merely one and a quarter acres, even one bush can stand between you and your dreams.)

Meanwhile—and bear with me, because I am getting to the point—FarmWife has spent the last six years battling triffid-like weeds in one other particular corner of her garden. Horsetails, which have a lovely name but are poisonous and persistent; bindweed, which maintains such a complex underground root system that one plant can often overtake an entire neighborhood; wisteria, which is pretty but mightily bold; and assorted annual weeds were competing with furious aggression against each other and against any hapless, tender vegetable FarmWife might chance to throw at their mercy. It was not a pretty picture. 

This year, FarmWife thought she'd get a jump start on weed season by loosing her sunchokes on the troubling corner: a desirable native edible, sunchokes are known for their vigor, their beautiful blooms, and their culinarily delightful roots. FarmWife expected a weed-patch death match, with the sunchokes as the first big loser, but she was surprised! They have survived—nay, thrived!—and at the expense of the other weeds. The horsetails are gone, shaded into oblivion. The Wisteria is crawling in a different direction, thanks to a little careful pruning. The annuals are largely absent, starved of soil and sunlight by the vigorous sunchokes. Most surprising of all, the bindweed is succumbing as well! FarmWife credits this latter astonishing fact to the presence of the chickens, who have adopted the sunchoke patch as their new chickentown and who spend all day every day digging cozy dustbaths under the verdant greenery. The lumpy, clumpy sunchoke roots are unfazed by a little exposure, whereas the shallow bindweed roots make good, wormlike snacks. It's the first truly successful anti-bindweed initiative FarmWife has ever seen, and to think it happened by accident! 

Here, then, is chickentown: a shady lounge for the birds, a death chamber for the weeds, and a fertile bed for a delicious and attractive crop. A win-win situation if I ever saw one! 

Hard to tell, but there are 17 chickens in that stand of greenery. 


FB

Monday, June 25, 2012

Duets

Arrietty and I have mastered a powerful feat of mind control: by simultaneously whuffling at FarmWife at the bedtime check, we can obtain a third meal. I say, "hee-hee-hooo." Arrietty says, "whee-hee-huh." I flare my left nostril. Arrietty flares her right. FarmWife's heart breaks a little, and she says, "awwwwww. My poor darlings!"

So far, our third meals have been pretty tiny—one handful of hay each—but it's a start. Give us time, and we'll sing her into a maniacal hay-tossing frenzy!

Ears,
FB & A

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Colorful memories




 When you are a 14 year-old girl with a shiny new horse, a couple of rolls of colored electrical tape, and an accomodating mother, anything is possible. This is FarmWife on Dor, whom she had owned for a total of the three days (and whom she had ridden just twice) prior to this event. FarmWife recalls that they placed second in the beginner novice division that day. 











Friday, June 22, 2012

FarmWife's nostalgic treasury

FarmWife recently happened upon (was handed—by her mother—) a box full of hundreds—no, thousands!—of childhood photos, most of which include one or another of the cherished horses of her life. I'll share four now, but there are at least another dozen that she wants me to show you on another day:

On Shorty.

On Dor (a.k.a. Duracell, the coppertop)

On Fahrenheit.

On Isis.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fitting

Uncle Fenway said I could borrow his harness. 




It's the thought that counts. 


Love,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To my friend Judy

To my friend Judy, who wondered if Arrietty is exposed to too much food in the presence of a great robust chap like myself, Fenway Bartholomule:

Arrietty and I are both tremendously easy keepers. We share a single slender flake of wilted brown grass hay morning and evening, and we are done with it after just a few meager moments despite both eating out of slow-feeder haynets. We then go into the pasture and graze upon the barely-existant grasses until FarmWife summons us for our Aerobic Exercise, which consists of marching up and down the scenic byroads of Wickersham. (FarmWife threatens to increase Arrietty's Aerobic Exercise by obtaining for her a harness and cart).


Exercising upon a scenic byroad. (The verges around here are tantalizingly delicious,
but FarmWife makes us stay on the firm and foodless lane.)
Ears to you,




Monday, June 18, 2012

Fenway and Arrietty, as described by Fenway "Seuss" Bartholomule

Up mule, down mule, tan mule, brown mule,
plump mule, round mule, stroll through town mule.
This one sparkles like a star,
This one has a great big scar.
Say, what delightful mules they are! 
Yes, one is brown and one is tan,
Both are lovely, both are grand.
One's a molly, one's a john,
Both mules bray a pretty song.
Why do they bray a pretty song?
To make you bring some hay along!
They both eat hay, it makes them fat,
They like to eat and stay like that.
From there to here, from here to there,
Lovely mules are everywhere.
Every day, they like to eat.
They eat, and eat, and eat, and eat.
Oh me, oh my! Oh me, oh my!
When eating's done, they trot on by.
One has big hooves, one has small,
The big-hooved one is slightly tall.
Where do they trot to?
I shall say.
They trot into the maples' shade.
We see them come, we see them go,
They're sometimes fast and sometimes slow.
One is high, and one is low.
Both of them are truly splendid—
(Sadly, now my poem's ended).

The June Monsoon

M.C. Escher
The internet says we have had two hours of rain today, whereas reality says something along the lines of twelve or more hours of precipitation interspersed with five-minute reprieves in the form of a cold, hanging mist.

This is a lesson to you—not a lesson on the terrible truths of our Northwest climate (I rather like it, actually—it makes for a very green July and August!), but a lesson on the dangers of relying on second-hand information. Go outside, I say: go outside, and see if what Google says about the world is true. I don't mean about the weather, entirely—this lesson can apply to your entire life, as well as to mine.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day repost: Ode to a Jack, my Father


Ode to a Jack, my Father
written by Fenway Bartholomule, June 2010

With ears so long
And bray so strong 
And hooves like solid rock,
You were so mighty,
Never flighty,
Always taking stock.

You never flinched
when harnessed, cinched,
You carried men or towed them.
You hauled their loads
Down dusty roads
And with a bray, you told them:

"I'll pull for you, 
I'll pack for you,
I'll cheer you when you're troubled.
I'll ease your work
With ears aperk
I'll do it on the double."

Your son—that's me—
Would like to see,
would like to nuzzle you—
We never met
but I would bet
That you would like me too.

I can't have come
From anyone
Unsavory, unhandsome . . . 
In fact, dear Jack,
I'd wager that
You'd fetch a pretty ransom.

As sire you have proved your worth
The humans chose you well
And when they placed you with a mare
Then only time would tell
But your genes passed along to me 
and mingled in with hers
To form a creature you would like,
With ears not unlike yours. 

Thank you dad,
From your wee lad,
From your own small brown mule.
You gave me life—
A Brayful life!
So ears, dear jack, to you.

Happy Fathers' Day.

Love, 
Fenway Bartholomule


Friday, June 15, 2012

An open letter to Larry Simpson, editor at The Van Horn Advocate

Dear Editor,

As a mule owner, animal lover, and columnist for the Brayer (the journal of the American Donkey and Mule Society) I have come to understand that donkeys are among the most sensitive, empathetic, and tolerant of animal species. As a blogger (at www.braysofourlives.com), I've been made aware by some of my readers of the donkey roping events scheduled to take place in Van Horn later this month, and I share their horror and outrage. Many donkeys suffer bone breakage, permanent physical and mental damage, or death during these events. 

Yours is a city with a proud heritage, and I hope that citizens of Van Horn will celebrate by building new traditions of compassion and respect. Culberson County was instrumental in the settlement of the west, and donkeys and other equines were part of that incredible chapter in your history. Van Horn could not have become the city it is today without their contributions, and I hope that your readers will take it upon themselves to honor the animals, and themselves, by enjoying humane, cruelty-free events as an alternative to the upcoming rodeo. It is time to lay aside the abusive practice of donkey roping and write a new chapter in the Van Horn story. 

Sincerely,

Marnie Jones
Acme, Wa


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Exercise

Good news! One month with a perfectly normal hock means I'm approved for hand-walking exercise away from home. I practiced by going to the chapel a couple of weeks ago (<1/4 mile) and came home unscathed. Yesterday, I took my wee Arrietty down to the corner past the salmon pond (~1 mile, round trip) and home again. FarmWife intended to stop with her husband and children at the salmon pond, but the setting proved too delicious and we mules were not allowed to stay admist the delectable foliage. Pressing on, we three walked a bit further while FarmHusband and the children stayed behind to play.

Too delicious for we mules-of-ample-girth! 

More exercise, less foliage. More exercise, less foliage. No matter how often I say it, it still sounds wrong! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poem by Rob Lewis


I found this on the Coal Free Bellingham website and wanted to share, as I think it captures the extraordinary qualities of this region well:

A Berry Land Preamble

by Rob Lewis

Whereas. . . dairy farms and the Little Cheerful, sweet juice
in the berries simmering in the sun; the white crown
of Baker, the heron speckled flats of Lummi
the wild crescent shore called Cherry Point.
Here a nation local, planted in the routines of people graced
by a place—and devoted to that place; pledged to
land and each other; blessed by bay winds and
snow geese; growing milk and blueberries
and improvisational comedy; hosting epic games
linking mountains to sea. And having
a constitution; whereas We The People.
Recognizing. . . there is an abiding arithmetic, an accounting of the soul,
daily tabulating the essentials: good air, thriving children
sound atmoshphere, neighborly transaction. The human and natural,
people and land all bound up together in complex equation
amounting at last to a rare and exceptional sum:
the good town Bellingham, the good place Whatcom.
But knowing. . . the seas that cradle our work are rising
and the snowy peaks which encouraged our forebears
are graying to dim the vision of our children.
For there is another arithmetic, chartered to profit
and chained to greed, which comes here
with coal trains and morbid math:
“sell us your soul’s negation
for increased tax revenue and 218 permanent jobs.
You are recalculated now; your worth is to be a corridor
for coal. Put aside your verdant vision.
Our coal trains must pass.
And decades hence, when we’ve hauled our last load
then you can have your vision back, then we will go.’
We reply. . . by lacing boots and printing signs, gathering voice
and excavating rights:
Here a nation local, planted in place,
Bound up in land and sea and the work of people
Linking thriving children and the white crown of Baker
Pledged to epic games and constitution; We The People
Of this verdant place, this rare and exceptional sum
say No Coal!

Steven Colbert and COTH dare you

http://gawker.com/5917976/stephen-colberts-new-favorite-athlete-is-mitt-romneys-dressage-horse


The response to Steven Colbert's recent segment (linked above) promoting dressage as the official Colbert Report Sport of the Summer is largely positive with the Chronicle of the Horse bulletin board community: in appreciation of this tongue-in-cheek gesture, they've moved to order fan paraphernalia in bulk. Keep your eye out for bright jerseys, beer cozies, and foam hands at dressage shows this year! I honestly wouldn't be surprised if you see some (and I double-dog-dare you to show up with some yourself. Just don't spook the horses!). One astute COTH poster noted, "I am sure there are enough CoTH-ers to who want them to justify ordering a gross of foam hands." 


As for Rafalca, the dressage horse co-owned by Anne Romney, the road to the Olympics is open. Of course, per Steven, it's going to be a long drive to London on the top of Mitt's station wagon. 


www.colbertnation.com

Monday, June 11, 2012

A meal time revision suggested in iambic pentameter

I've tried suggesting the addition of brunch, lunch, tea, and dessert to my menu before. I've tried it by braying, and I've tried it by whining piteously, and I've tried it through silent pleading with these big brown eyes of mine. I'm going to try once again, and I hope FarmWife listens:

Woe, eight and eight are boring times to eat.
Why not add meals at two and six and three?
Why not add meals at one and four and five?
Why not a dozen meals to fill the time?
FarmWife, thou sayest I am rather plump.
Thou sayest two scant flakes shall fill me up.
Would thou not part with something sweet and light?
A sugar cookie, or Turkish delight?
Perhaps a veggie platter would suffice?
Some nori rolls (no fish) with sticky rice?
Thou sayest that my diet is quite rich:
That water, salt, and hay will feed my flesh.
Thou sayest that my mini-mule would pop
If ever she and I were fed non-stop.
I say, "pish posh! Why live, if not to eat?"
I say, "please lay a feast here at my feet."
Thou sayest, "thou art well, though rather plump."
I say, "I'd rather grow than shrivel up."
Thou sayest, "watch thy hock and spare it pain!"
I say, "What hock? It's fine. Gimme that grain."





Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why is Arrietty so cute?

If you aren't dead of the cuteness yet, read on! 


Astute reader Sally dared to ask the million dollar question: why is Miss Arrietty G. Teaspoon so cute? Ah, it seems so simple. The answer, I'm afraid, is rather more complex than one might think!

I did a little thinking with this great big brain of mine and I came up with the only plausible explanation: a perfect alignment of a dozen contributing factors. If any single ingredient had been left out of this magical recipe, we would have had a miniature mule of ordinary cuteness: a two-E Squee, if you will. Instead, we wound up with Arrietty, a twelve-E Squeeeeeeeeeeee if ever I knew one!

First ingredient: a darling, dapper donkey dad. He must have been at least three times as cute as the average donkey dad. This is hard to comprehend, I know, since every donkey is pretty darned cute. Still, I promise you that it must have been true.

Second ingredient: a marvelous, magnificent miniature mare mother. She must have had the stars in her eyes, the wind in her mane, the moon on her ears, and the sun on her coat. She must have been a goddess among mares. She must have made that dapper donkey swoon!

Third ingredient: a humane and heartful human herdmaster. Arrietty's cuteness comes from without and within. Her looks are matched—nay, exceeded!—by her extraordinarily trusting, kind, and gentle temperament. A nature that willing cannot possibly have been cultivated by accident! I believe that Arrietty's breeder must have been a human of the very finest quality in order to raise a mule of her character.

Fourth ingredient: sweet and sensible subsequent stewards. Arrietty is now in her third home. We will cherish her forever! We owe a grateful nod to her intermediate home, who entrusted her to us just last month. They cared for her compassionately, kept her safe, nurtured her kindly, and showed her the love and respect due to a mule of her monumental cuteness. They were special.

Fifth ingredient: hay. It takes hay to make a mule: not much, but some. Rather a lot less than more, in this case, as my Arrietty is an easy keeper.

Sixth ingredient: water. Everything needs water—the cleaner the better. That's obvious.

Seventh ingredient: space. Ample, sanitary housing is essential to the cultivation of cute mules!

Eighth ingredient: veterinary care. Arrietty has some brutal scars on her hind end, which makes me think she was entangled in a fence, grabbed by a predator, or otherwise damaged to within an inch of her one precious and irreplaceable life at some early moment. The story has been lost to the winds of time, but the fact that the scars are painfree and that she does not flinch from touch makes us feel that she must have been tended painstakingly and well. I'm sure it was an unpleasant chapter, but by enduring it she has become the special mule that she is today.

Ninth ingredient: Stardust. I can see it sparkling whenever she bats her eyes.

Tenth ingredient: a songbird's trill. She captured it, by some magical feat, and put it into her voicebox. By what other sorcery could she sing so beautifully?

11th ingredient: teddy bears. She must have eaten at least a dozen in order to grow such an adorably fluffy winter coat.

12th ingredient: Lucky Charms. I know she's on a restricted sugar diet, but I still can't think of any other way that she could possibly have gotten so sweet. She must have eaten boxes and boxes of them. She's magically delicious!

And that, Sally, is the recipe for an extra cute mule. I don't know if it's been done since, or if it will ever be done again, but I remain ever grateful that these things aligned to bring me my darling underling.

Ears,
FenBar

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A nice difference


FarmWife had a "gone all day, no time for mules" sort of day today. That's OK: instead of a "gone all day, no time for mules, poor Fenway stuck alone at home with only goats and poultry for company" day, it was a "gone all day, no time for mules, Fenway and Arrietty left behind to enjoy the abundant pleasures of being a herd of two" sort of day. That's a nice difference.

Ears,
Fenway Barthomule: Herdmate, Leader, Friend.


Libraries

Have I raved yet about the miracle that is the public library? If not, let me do so now.

What brilliant innovator of democracy decided that we should all have access to books? Books of every kind, and at no charge, and in whatever numbers we choose? That we citizens should be able to march into a building and walk out with an armful of loaned material? Take it home, enjoy it, savor it, renew it if we should so choose? Was it Benjamin Franklin? John Harvard? William Rind?

Whomever they were, these pioneers of the public library, I salute them. Each time I walk through the doors of my local branch, I marvel again at this gift.

Can you imagine visiting a free public auto vendor? Walk in, flash your card, and drive off in the Taurus or the Jetta of your choice? Keep it for a few weeks, then renew it and keep it for a few more? Can you imagine borrowing a food processor or a harrow or a pair of slacks? A paintbrush, a printer, a piece of art? Choosing it off the shelf, taking it home, and enjoying it like it were your own . . . all the while paying nothing? It's an outlandish idea, and yet the library exists.

Of all the books I've read and loved in my life, literally thousands were the property of my public library. Librarians have gone out of their ways, time and time again, to help me find out-of-print or one-of-a-kind texts. Because of the public library, my children have read 10,000 books (three per night for twelve years, at least). I love you, library. I thank all who keep you going.

M


Friday, June 8, 2012

Reprinted from the Brayer: Dreams Deferred

If you were wondering, my hock is doing better this month! It's nearly normal, and I'm sound to walk, trot, and canter in the field and to walk (in hand) around Wickersham. Things aren't nearly as bad as FarmWife thought they were when she wrote this column two months ago.

Reprinted from the Brayer, April 2012


The Bold and the Brayful
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

Dreams Deferred

Spring: a maddening chorus of frogs has overtaken Wickersham. It's loud enough to drown out even the approaching freight trains. The hills are bursting into green, delicious life. The goats are bagging up, the yard is full of chicks, and FarmWife dreams of hitting the trails.

Unlike last spring, and the one before it, FarmWife dreams in nostalgic, worried tones. Her dream, this time, is indefinitely deferred.

Last spring, I was coming off of a winter of rest following a steroid injection into my hock, and I was in light work. Our summer plans for long distance rides and overnight packing trips were deferred, and we stuck to light exercise. The spring before, my thoroughpin acted up for the first time, swelling from the size of a tea bag to the size of a softball over the course of about a month. I had the summer of 2010 off completely.

I spent this winter on complete rest (she last rode me before Halloween), and FarmWife took up jogging (not as much fun) and shifted her dreaming towards a less ambitious equestrian goal: a packing trip, sans riders, where I'd go along in the role of companion and tent-toter. It turns out I'm not sound enough even for that.

FarmWife and my veterinarian have changed their focus, this spring, from trying to get me riding-sound to trying to keep me pasture-sound. That means I get to stay home, stay slim, and load up on MSM and glucosamine-laced snacks. FarmWife says that keeping my weight down is key, but I am forbidden from exercising even a bit: turnout in my one acre field is all the freedom I get.

I am 18 years old this year, and FarmWife hopes to keep me around for another 50 years. That means we have to take care of this leg, because we all know the old adage: “no leg, no mule.”

FarmWife has been paying a little less attention to my blog this month, but she has an excuse. She's job hunting, because an unsound mule needs more veterinary attention than a sound one and because her long-range goal of having me PLUS a mount requires cold, hard cash. She's window-shopping, cruising the classifieds for my someday future pasture buddy, even though she's not in a position to buy just yet. And she's grieving, a little.

FarmWife set out a couple of months ago to write a book about her life. This is how it was to begin:

“This was going to be a story about a place. It was going to be about one small, green acre, but also about the world around Bent Barrow Farm: the half-logged hills and the noisy wetlands, the slow-moving trains and the meandering trails down which my mule, Fenway, takes me. And then this looked in danger of becoming a story about Fenway, but also about how I am now that I know him, and who I am now that I live here. Maybe, after all, it is going to be a story about happiness.”

Happiness is a powerful thing: when you've got it, it feeds itself. It's contagious. It spreads like wildfire, within and outside you. Once lost, that's a hard feeling to get back.

FarmWife will get her happiness back. I'll bray to her, morning noon and night. I'll bury my noble head upon her chest. I'll lower my ears, knowing that a good rub of the old auricles is good for the rubber AND the rubbee. I'll catch her eye with mine, and I'll remind her: I am still your very best friend.

Ears,
Fenway Bartholomule
www.braysofourlives.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hello, Musée du Louvre?

Hello, Musée du Louvre? I have some fine art for you! (On second thought, they can't have it. They would have to wrest this painting out of FarmWife's cold, dead fingers.)

Shaila Tenorio is more than my artist—she is my friend. When she visits, she tells me I am nice. She admires the bigness and the smallness of my respective nostrils and she notices the refined dignity of my majestically curving ears. She is, in addition to being a talented painter, an excellent judge of character. She likes me and my little mule too.

Shaila put a lot of time, energy, and talent into creating this spectacular painting and we owe her a debt of gratitude. It will hang on FarmWife's wall for all her life, and then it will hang on the wall of her daughters and her daughters' daughters.

Luckily, you too can invite me into your home! If you're interested in a fine art print on gallery wrap canvas or matte archival paper, use the dropdown menu at right to purchase directly from Shaila. Every purchase helps support her career as an equine artist and helps me thank her for her work on my behalf.

Ears,
FenBar


The Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond plows through life, one calf nut at a time, and an audience throngs at her feet. Whenever I mention I'm a blogger with livestock, I hear her name: "Oh, like the Pioneer Woman." People love her.

A blog. One post after another. A single human voice: authentic—down-to-earth—funny—honest—real. That's what I went looking for when I first popped in to www.thepioneerwoman.com. Instead, I found a slick site packed to the brim with links. It was enough to make me dizzy! I saw a lot of pretty food, a few opportunities to buy stuff, some professional photography, and an overabundance of content that drove me away. Speaking of agoraphobia (the Pioneer Woman has it, mildly), the website left me overwhelmed.

I wish I'd gotten on the Pioneer Woman train before she became a celebrity blogger and the next Martha Stewart. I really wanted to like her, but I feel like I don't even know where to begin.

I don't hear you, Ree. Your voice is lost in the hubub.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! (That's the singing of a heavenly choir)

Photo courtesy www.lostateminor.com

My painting is here, and everything I ever thought about its potential quality is confirmed x10. You are going to flip your respective lids, my friends, when you see the monumental beauty and mulishness of this work.

I don't have a good electronic reproduction of the painting yet, but I will get one for you soon. In the meantime, just imagine the prettiest thing (me) and then imagine it in a beautiful medium (oil) on a beautiful canvas. Then imagine that it is even better than that.

Ears,
FenBar



Sunday, June 3, 2012

My birthday

I woke up on my birthday, sandwiched between a really spectacular husband and a really spectacular dog, and took an inventory of my blessings: three charming daughters, a home of which I am proud, a well-groomed acre exploding with spring, two of the world's best mules, admirable friends, inspiring professional associates, a truly special community, my health, good food, and a disposition leaning more towards joyful than morose. What more could I ask for, except dessert? I got that at the Blue Mountain Grill, where my special day was honored with the world's biggest brownie (a la mode).

Thank you, people of Acme, for being who you are and where you are and what you are to me.

M


Happy Birthday to you

Birthdays and spa days go hand in hand, right? That's why I invited FarmWife to spend her special Saturday picking debris off my topline, trimming stray hairs from my mane and tail, swabbing boogers out of my nostrils, picking mud clods from my hoofies, and generally enjoying all the little pleasures of a careful grooming session. She came away looking . . . well, less than pristine, shall we say? . . . but Arrietty and I passed FarmWife's birthday in high style.

Resplendent ears to you,
Fenway Bartholomule 


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