Monday, January 31, 2011

Brilliance and an Old Farm Tale

Good morning, all.  This is "pre-recorded" because I am not coming to you funny, well-written, and fully composed at 8:00 a.m.  I'm barely awake at 8:00 a.m., even though I'm usually up and dressed and outside.  Today is going to be a busy day, so I thought I'd try this option for you.  Let's see if it works.  If it comes up as a second Sunday post, save it till Monday so you'll have something to read.

If you're one of my Monday Morning Quarterbacks--well, not really a quarterback, but someone who only tunes in from work or when the kids are in school--go back and read "Friends, Legends, Humility and Horses." It is a wonderful tribute to a good friend and a legend.  I am proud I wrote it.  I'm prouder still that I know her well enough to have been influenced by the legend, too. It'll make more sense if you read it.  The entry after that is sort of a "Part 2"--worth the read on your coffee break.

Ok, so, since I've written about my friends, family, boyfriend, and my animals for you in such loving terms, I'm sure you're starting to wonder: Can everyone in her life really be that brilliant and successful?

No, not everyone in my life, but those who are close to me, yes.  I would, and will eventually, describe every one of them with some sort of superlative.  My immediate family, my grandparents, my greatgrandparents--they are all brilliant and successful in their own rights.  Some of them are also hysterically funny.  The same thing goes for my boyfriend, my close friends, and my animals.  They are all brilliant, funny, and successful in some way.  The people and animals I am mentioning here are also very loyal.  Disloyalty gets someone out of my life quicker than just about anything else.

How did I end-up with such an entourage or circle of friends or family or menagerie of animals or whatever you decide to call my family and friends? What's my secret?  Well, it's not terribly flattering.  My family, ok, I just got lucky.  And, in fact, maybe they are partially to blame...because...I don't do well with...looking for a nice word here...dumb bunnies.

Before people start gasping, let me clarify.  I don't mean bunnies like my cute little Bun-Bun in his hutch in the barn.  I don't mean people with developmental disabilities.  I don't mean people with mental illnesses.  I don't mean people with brain injuries.  I don't even mean people with low IQs.  I mean people who just don't try to learn.  People who have no ambition whatsoever to better themselves or the world.  I mean people who are a drag on the system.  I mean whiners and snivelers. The dull do-nothing losers of the U.S., in particular, because we have more resources and, really, very few excuses not to try to do better.  NOT ALL U.S. CITIZENS, just the losers, ok.  Just the losers.  Calm down. You'll spill your coffee on your nice tie, or something.

And, if you're reading this blog for more than the first time, you are probably not a loser.  Of course not, you're my readers.  You get the humor, the essays, the diatribes, the things that other people don't know how to look up.  Face it, if you were a loser, you would have tuned this blog out already because it's not "Jackass" or Paris Hilton on "The Real Life."  It is, ever so slightly, more subtle than that.

In the end, it is true.  I am surrounded by an unbelievable group of people and animals.  They are hard workers, they are curious, they are loyal, they are brilliant and successful--and I mean the people, too, not just the animals.  So, yes, as I promised you from the beginning, it's all true.

This leads us to an old farm tale of someone who was in my life for two years who wasn't brilliant.  Oh, no, this poor girl was not the brightest star in the universe, bless her heart.  It also illustrates a point I've been meaning to raise.

When did it become socially acceptable for people under the age of 80 to publicly discuss their bodily functions?  When, especially 'cause I really want to know this one, when did it become acceptable for people to tell their bosses about their bodily functions?  Because, this boss, doesn't want to know about it, ok?

Unless the person you're talking to is your mother, your spouse, or your doctor, they do not need to know about your bodily functions!  Since we all know by now that I don't have children; that I don't have a spouse, only a boyfriend; and I am not a medical doctor--why do people, especially my employees, tell me these things? Why?  We may never know.  But, if you figure it out, write it in the comments.  I'd like to learn how to prevent receiving information like you're about to read in the following story.  Read on, it's funny.  I took all of the gross out just for you squeamish types.

This is one people have been begging me to tell again.  They are already giggling, in fact.  Here we go.

My first employee from the Bible College was a girl named Mindy.  Mindy was an hour late for her interview, she called ahead, but still, that should have told me something.  I wasn't jaded enough to see the signs, though.  Now, I am.  Mindy was 21 and a beautiful girl.  She'd never had a date but that's not uncommon, even for pretty girls, at the Bible College.  She seemed well spoken.  She seemed intelligent enough to scoop poop.  She'd had a horse her entire life.  She was sweet and enthusiastic.  I thought she'd do fine.  Oops!

Oh, Mindy, Mindy, Mindy, bless her heart. I had to be very specific with her and many times that didn't work either.  She was loyal and honest and she mucked stalls better than even me. She didn't have a mean or passive-aggressive bone in her body. So, that answers the question: Why'd you keep her for two years?

One day last summer, I needed to take one of my animals to see Doc, the small animal vet.  He's way on the other side of the city.  It's a haul over there but he's the best small animal vet in the state and he's down to earth, successful, funny, and brilliant...I knew you were thinking it.  I told Mindy I wanted Paddocks 1 and 2 cleaned. No ifs, ands or buts. Done.  Do you understand me?  Yes.  Ok, I'm off.

Mindy had not cleaned the paddocks in three weeks.  Paddocks need to be cleaned every week.  It's bad for the horses to be exposed to poop for long periods of time.  It's bad for their feet.  It breeds parasites.  Yes, my horses are wormed, but still, not good.  Gotta clean paddocks.  But, Mindy had been avoiding it for three weeks and I was losing patience with her.  This time, I was very clear about what I wanted and when I would be back and expecting to see it done.

So, I came back probably more than two hours later.  There's Mindy in the garden weeding.  That was one of her favorite tasks and sometimes she even fouled that up.  One time I rescued a mum just as she was about to yank it up.  Poor girl.  Not bright.  Not at all.

I got out of the car, yes I have a car and a truck.  I don't always have to drive a truck just because I'm a farmer.  I walked up to Mindy and asked her...that was my mistake..."Are you finished cleaning Paddocks 1 and 2?"

"No."  In her short overalls with dirt on her face.


"Well, because, my tummy hurt.  And, well, it only felt better when I bent over.  So, I only did things I could do while I was bending over.  I cleaned water troughs instead."

"You know you cleaned water troughs two days ago. Why didn't you clean paddocks like I asked you to?"

"Well, I didn't know it at first, but, I had gas."

Ok, I'm trying to think of something to say here that doesn't involve firing her because it's hard to find honest farm hands to do a good job of cleaning stalls in the summertime.  That was always her saving grace.

"Well, I'm glad I missed that," I said with a completely straight face.  I mean come on, what else could I say? I was glad I missed it.  Do you really think I wanted to be around to hear her farting "Root a toot toot?"

Of course, I told my mother the "Velvet Hammer" that one and Elaine, too.  I needed management advice on this girl.  Who in the heck tells their boss they didn't do as they were asked because they had gas and, in fact, that they didn't know what it was at first?!  Who does that, huh? Mindy! That's who.

Why in the world, once she figured out she had gas, didn't she run to the drug store for some Gas-X or something? She knew I'd be gone a while.  She could have been there and back and done her work and no one would have been the wiser.  Mostly, I wouldn't have had to hear about her bodily functions as a work excuse!

Ok, even I laughed as I was typing that one and I already knew the story.  So, you may have spilled coffee on your nice tie anyway-- when it came out of your nose while you were laughing.  Sorry about that.  Keep a spare tie in your drawer or swallow your coffee before you read this, especially when I warn you an old story is coming up.  I mean, really, would people be begging me to re-tell these if they weren't funny?

Ok, go, change your tie and have a nice Monday.  And, please, for God-sakes, don't tell your boss about your bodily functions as a work excuse.  Don't tell your boss about your bodily functions at all. She doesn't want to hear it.  Bye.

P.S. I know, I didn't tell you what happened to Mindy.  She's a restaurant hostess now.  So, consider yourselves fairly warned. Root a toot toot.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Clarification and Thinking Politics

I was right, I got a call from Elaine within an hour of that post.  Now, to be fair, I'd told her it was coming and gave her the opportunity to hear the outline.  When I didn't hear back from her, I went ahead with the writing, then called to tell her it was out there.

So, I'm outside with Cowgirl Slim tearing-up one of my barrel courses with Milagro when the call comes in.  I've got thundering hoof beats on my end and she's on hands-free in the car with the kids on her end--something she didn't mention to me quite soon enough.  Always tell me when I'm on speaker phone folks, you never know what I'll say!  Anyway, there was a lot of noise on both ends.

Through her laughter and the ambient noise--she's got a great laugh, by the way--she loved the descriptions of herself and Lee and the post in general, well almost.  She got me on the "brilliant strategic thinking protege."  She exclaimed over the noise, "But you are a strategic thinker!"

"Yes, I know, but I can't say I'm brilliant."
"Well, why not? You are."
"Because, Elaine, I've got to have some humility."
"Harrumph! Humility only gets you rolled over in politics."
"Well, I'm not in politics anymore."
With a sort of wistful little sound she said, "Yeah."

An aside:  The whole social work detour really disappointed Elaine.  I remember telling her the day I resigned and why.  In not quite a scream, but very loudly, she said, "You're doing what? Why?"  Well, because...whatever I said...she responded, "That's stupid. I cannot believe you're doing this."  Oh, Elaine, I never have to worry about wondering what you think, do I?

Ok, back to the call.  Then she told me she was not Lee's driver.  She was doing polling for Reagan.  I promised her I'd correct that information on the blog.  But, I did ask her, "What about the 'Drive, baby, drive!' story?"  She responded, quite calmly, "Oh, Reagan was in town.  (pause) I deceived Reagan."


"He called me 'Sugar Plum'. He thought I was sweet."

I gave a response inappropriate to be on speaker phone with the kids.  See, you gotta tell me when the world and especially the kids are listening.  And, no I'm not going to tell you what I said.  Geez, some things are sacred.  Not everything can be in the blog.  I have to keep some interesting details of my life to myself.

The "Drive, Baby, drive" story? Well, Elaine will have to chime in on "Comments" with that one if she wants you to know it.  My life did not intersect that story directly, so, I'm not telling it.  For now, you'll just have to smile and wonder.

Our phone call ended before I could further corrupt her children and before Cowgirl Slim rode the legs off of Milagro.  I need Milagro to have legs, after all.

I did call her later and leave her a message offering to write her eulogy, just to have on file.  Then, I realized, her mother couldn't take it and her sister would be jealous.  Her buddy in Sacramento and I will have to have a private service in her honor.  Wait, why wait till she's dead?! She may outlive all of us!

Hey Kev, we need to get together next time I'm out there!  Tee hee, tee hee, tee hee hee hee. But, we love you Elaine.  You're just the most amusing, smartest, Amazon-Kewpie Doll-Pixie we know, that's all.  You've got the best stories!  Hey, if I'm willing to admit that someone else has the best stories--that's saying something.  Ok, I gotta give Elaine a break before she decides I'm not funny anymore.  She is a predator, remember, and it's getting close to lunch.

Later in the evening, I call my mother for her review.  My mother gives honest reviews.  She was a successful business woman.  One of her kinder nicknames was "The Velvet Hammer."  So, she's not going to coddle me on weather the blog was good or not.  Mom was afraid I'd been drinking the Sarah Palin Kool-Aide that's so popular right now.

Who doesn't get the cultural reference? What are they teaching in schools today? Drinking the Kool-Aide? Really, you don't know? It's a reference to Jonestown and Group Think.  Now, look it up beyond that.  Geez, at least you're getting an education here.  Ok, now, back to the story for the Well Built generation who got the reference in the first place.

"No, Mom, I said, 'James Carville, too.'" See, now you're confused, my readers.  How could anyone so deeply admire both Lee Atwater and James Carville?  Talk about opposite ends of the political spectrum.  Well, let me tell you who can admire them both: a political strategic thinker.

I am able to admire them both so much because they made silk purses out of sows ears.  They were/are so brilliant that one of them changed the politics of an entire region of the country in one election and the other took a really smart affable guy with "a past" and made him president anyway.  Clinton was facing George H.W. Bush--who was really squeaky clean on the "past" stuff, and he had a lot of federal government experience--for goodness sakes.  Carville couched Clinton in a way that he beat Bush anyway...brilliant.  I love 'em both, Atwater and Carville.  Geniuses.  No, I'm not telling you whose politics I agree with, this is about thinking.  Which brings me to my next point...

There's very little thinking going on in our political discourse today.  It's boring to me.  Boring, you say?! Boring? Talk radio? 24 hour news cycle? How can it be boring?  It is boring because everyone is just shouting sound bites and bumper sticker phrases at each other.  There's no real thought.  No strategic thinking.  No actual opinions of their own.  It's dull.  It's stupid.  It's cut throat without a cause.  It's why I left politics.  I could see the writing on the wall.  It had already begun in 1995.  I wasn't going to be working 70 hours a week for those idiots. Nope.  Not me.

I go back to last Sunday's blog where I talked about the days when I was in politics and the sense of being collegial.  It was possible because there was more thought going into things.  A lot of, though not all, debates were interesting.  Both sides had some merit to their arguments.  You can respect, even admire, people when they have well thought out arguments with merit--even if their ideas are radically different from yours.

I'm afraid those days may be gone.  With talk radio and the 24 hour news cycle, we've robbed people of the time to map out well planned and merited arguments.  It's just shouting now, like kids on a playground.  Dull. You see why I like horses so much, huh? And, how it's possible to admire both Lee Atwater and James Carville.

Go and have a good Sunday. Don't waste your time on the Sunday morning political talk shows.  Go talk to a horse, he's smarter anyway.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friends, Legends, Horses, and Humility

Remember I mentioned my friend Elaine the other day?  It was in "They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To."  I described her as someone with "a heart of gold and a brass knuckles attitude."  Well, Elaine has phoned in her opinion of my description of her...she was insulted...that I made her sound like a WIMP.  Yes, Elaine thinks a "brass knuckles attitude" is wimpy.  I asked her how she'd rather be described.  It wasn't a family friendly description.  But, I'll try to give you a better picture of the lady.

Elaine, as I told you, was the Director of Research for whom I worked in college and then she recommended me to take her job and she became a lobbyist.  She is very successful.  Elaine believes in using all of her resources.  Let me tell you the physical package allows her to sneak up on her prey.  Elaine is built like an Amazon woman.  If you don't know what that means, look it up.  But, the face on this Amazon body is that of a Kewpie Doll.  Again, if you don't know what that is, look it up.  The final injustice is that she has blond hair in a pixie cut.  There are men who now have a picture of her in their minds who are drooling on their keyboards.  Sorry guys, she's married.  I know, lucky devil, you'll be ok guys.  There'll be another woman for you, but there's only one of Elaine.  God saw his creation and broke the mold...for the good of mankind.

In this physical package of a woman that makes men weak in the knees is the brain of a ruthless genius and the attitude of brass beach balls wrapped around her prey's neck.  That's as close as I can get to her own description of her attitude.  I have often introduced her to people as, "The most beautiful, intelligent, and ruthless woman in the lobby."  It's true.  I am so very glad she's my friend because there is a vast graveyard of her political enemies.  I mentioned she's married. Fortunately for her family, Elaine is able to turn off the ruthless when she gets home and become "Mommy."  I know, it took some getting used to for me, too.

So, how did this beautiful girl from the foothills with her heart of gold become a political predator?  Did she drink some bad milk? What happened?  She was a protege of Lee Atwater.  If you don't know who Lee Atwater is and you're from a red state, you better start flogging yourself now.  Then, go look him up.  Lee Atwater was one of, if not the, most brilliant political strategist ever.  There are Republicans every where who genuflect at the mention of his name.  There are Democratic strategists who at least have deep respect for him even if they didn't agree with him politically.

Lee Atwater is the father of The Southern Strategy which allowed Ronald Reagan to win the South for the first time.  Yes, folks, the South used to be a bunch of blue states.  That's how brilliant Lee Atwater was.  He changed the politics of an entire region of this country. I think there's some other Republican strategist trying to take some credit for The Southern Strategy right now. That's the hell of dying in politics, some other son of a gun tries to take credit for your work.  Lee also had a reputation for being ruthless.  But, sadly, Lee passed away a number of years ago.  He gave up being ruthless for God before his death.

So, Lee met young Elaine working on Reagan's campaign as a volunteer, I think, if my memory serves me correctly.  Elaine was the beautiful and intelligent daughter of a respected bank president and important Republican.  Of course, Lee was obligated by chivalry to take her under his wing.  Well, that's probably not what he had in mind to start with, but Elaine was a good girl who was only interested in learning.  I imagine, though I do not know, that when Lee or any man figured out they weren't going to get out of the dugout with Elaine, much less to any base, they were probably simply turned on by her brilliant mind.

So, Lee let Elaine hang out, work, learn and be his driver.  And, learn she did.  Elaine made her daddy proud.  Sadly, he too passed away very young, like Lee, and did not live to see her success and political brilliance.  It makes me well-up a little.  He would have been so proud of her at work and home.  I am not overstating her brilliance, believe me.  Nor is she paying me to say these things.  She's probably home with her coffee chuckling while she reads this, except for the parts about the passing of Lee and her dad, she's tearing up with me.

Now, make the connection.  The most brilliant and ruthless political strategist of all time--hey it's my blog and I'll say it if I want to, though I think James Carville is a very close second--trained young Elaine who in turn trained me.  Yes, folks, I am one degree of separation from Lee Atwater and I am proud of it.  Lee made Elaine, and then she made me, strategic thinkers. She can out think anyone on the planet.  I'm not quite that good, or if I am, I can't say it.  She's going to be insulted again.  I'm saying she didn't train me to be a brilliant strategic thinking protege...I feel a phone call coming.  But, Elaine, I gotta have some humility.

I have to have some humility because I chose to walk away from politics.  Politics, if you're successful, is like a drug and it is very addictive.  It's fun.  The way strategic thinking makes your mind work is really exciting. Ruthlessness for a good cause doesn't bother you. You crave political success probably like heroin addicts crave their fix.  Oh, I've got to shake it off...I'm starting to twitch.  I sound like a junkie, don't I.  See what I mean, I enjoyed it.  I enjoy the memory of it, still.

And, how did this political junkie and Lee Atwater protege's protege find her 12-steps out of politics and back to humility, kind'a? I went to purge myself in the do gooder land of rural mental health and then, I promptly got some horses.  Horses will keep you humble.

It's not the constant poop scooping that keeps you humble, though it helps.  The average horse produces 50 lbs. of waste a day.  Yes, look it up.  That's a lot of horse sh*t.  Which, by the way, I've found out I can sell.  Oh, Lee must be smiling down on me for that one.  But, what keeps you humble is that horses are smarter than humans.

Yes, horses are smarter than all humans.  If you don't believe me, get one of your own.  A horse's brain is the size of a lemon.  A human brain is what 5-7 lbs., something like that?  And, no matter how smart you are or how much time you spend with horses, one day that animal with the lemon brain puts one over on you.  He sneaks one past you.  It's happened to me many times.  I learned quickly, as do most people who stay in horses, that you've got to laugh.  You can't be mad at him, he's being a horse.  He's doing his job and he just figured out how to do it in spite of you.

I often laugh at my staff and students because the horses get quite a few past them.  I'm the only one allowed to laugh around here because I'm the only one who can do it better.  That's the rule.  If you can't do it better, you can't laugh at someone else.  The exception is when RW and his son Boot come to visit.  They are better than me with horses and they are free to laugh their rear ends off at me.  That's ok, I laugh at myself, too.  But, that's how horses keep you humble--even if you're one degree of separation from Lee Atwater.

Ok, I gotta go teach Cowgirl Slim how to lunge Chief.  He needs to get some of his extra energy out.  Have a good Saturday.  Enjoy yourselves.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Here's a quick post script for anyone who rides my lesson horses...hopefully it applies to other lesson horses, too.  Even though they are prey animals with big reactions, there are horses whose life experiences have taught them that not everything is scary and that they can relax and trust the right humans.  Now, they are still prey animals and they can still revert to their base nature, but there are horses that are more solid and less flighty than others.

Shadow, Milagro, Speakeasy, and Big Mac are these horses on my farm.  Sure they can spook, but it's just fairly unlikely.  Life has treated them pretty well on this farm and they are willing to trust me that the mountain lion isn't going to eat them for lunch. So, they don't have the big spooky reactions very often.  I just wanted to put your minds at ease before everyone called their riding instructors and said, "We're never coming back!"

Finally, notice I didn't mention all of my horses.  When someone asks to ride Merry, Tar, or Chief I usually say, "That's a more advanced horse." This translates into, that horse has more and bigger prey animal reactions more often.  Now, I love to ride Merry.  She's fun.  Another advanced equestrian said to me one day, "She makes you remember you're riding."  Yes, she does and I love it.  Cowgirl Slim has had enough of Merry in about 15 very tense minutes.  She's not ready for her yet, but she is ready for Chief.  Tar, well, that's a whole other story.

Ok, go have a good day.

The Danger of Knowing It All

Remember yesterday I said I had to teach a child who "knows it all" ?  Let's talk about the problem of "knowing it all."  We all know someone like this.  Someone we can't ever get a word in edgewise with.  Someone who discounts any idea we have.  Someone who makes you wonder, "Why am I here? Why'd you want to have lunch with me if you could carry on this conversation by yourself?" You guys know the feeling.  It's off putting.

Why do people do this? Why do people feel compelled to let every one know they are smarter or know more?  Well, sometimes it's just poor social skills.  No one ever said to the child, "That's enough. Don't interrupt.  No, that's not right.  Stop and listen."  I don't have kids, but I imagine it's very easy to encourage an intelligent child.  It must be really cool to hear them talk about their observations and watch them learn.  I imagine it's a thin line between encouraging that development and creating a "know it all" child.

For others, "knowing it all" is a wall they erect around themselves. It protects them from criticism.  It allows them to be superior.  If you're superior to everyone else, it's hard to get hurt.  But, guess what? They do.  They often end-up lonely because no one wants to be around a "know it all."  Sad when you really think about it isn't it?

The lesson client I mentioned who has this issue has been through two other riding instructors.  No one ever taught her more than a few lessons.  Her grandmother told me how much that hurt the kid's feelings.  She felt like those instructors didn't like her.  The grandmother told me one instructor kept canceling scheduled appointments and the other stopped returning her calls.  Well, sometimes instructors have to cancel.  Occasionally, a particular client is always the one that's getting rained out or the instructor seems to always get sick on that person's appointment day.  It's happened to me.  I feel horrible about it.  I try to convey this so no one takes it personally.  I don't know those instructors.  So, I have no idea what happened.  I can imagine it would be easy to find a way to passively cop out on teaching this kid, though.  Like all "know it alls" she can be a struggle to be around.

I keep all of this in mind when I deal with her.  Is she just an intelligent child that no one has set boundaries with? Is she an insecure child under it all and this is a defense mechanism?  I don't know how she's developed this habit.  She does seem like an intelligent child.  She is otherwise polite and kind to my staff and animals.  She does not seem ill willed in any way. So, I'm willing to keep going with her.  But, I also hear my parents come out of my mouth when I'm with her.

I can imagine I had moments of being a "know it all" child.  I know I've had them as an adult.  Fortunately, someone has always been there to challenge me back into my place.  The things I speculated no adult has ever said to this child, oh man, I can remember my parents saying things like that to me, too.  In college, one of my roommates who is still a very close friend, said to me, "You'll argue about anything."  Oops. That gave me a really unattractive picture of myself. 

The thought of that moment has made me shut-up a number of times.  I don't want to be that person.  I should probably shut-up more.  I'm learning.  But, my problem was the first issue. I was an intelligent kid who liked to talk about what I learned, to everyone. That's carried into adulthood, hopefully in more functional ways.  It enabled me to give good explanations as a very young research director to convince other legislators that what my legislative committee members wanted to do was right.  It enabled me to process through what a therapy client was feeling with them by talking through my observations of what they'd said.  It enables me to be a good riding instructor, although they may get more information than they really wanted sometimes.  For me, it is and was, about being excited about something.  I suspect it's the same for my lesson kid.

There's a danger in "knowing it all." Danger? Yes.  When we "know it all" we stop listening.  We stop paying attention.  We are closed off to new ideas.  We become closed off to other people.  If you "know it all" around horses, you're going to get hurt sooner rather than later.  This is not my original thought.  It's my mentor's.  I had this conversation with him on a day I most certainly did not feel like I knew it all. It was before I owned the farm and Tar was my only horse.  I was having problems with him.  I don't remember what, but I called RW feeling like a stupid failure.  Yes, folks, I am capable of feeling like a stupid idiot and that day I sure did.

Whatever the problem was, he talked it through with me.  At the end of the conversation these very wise words came from him, "I always learn something new every time I'm with horses.  If you don't keep learning something new with horses you're in trouble.  When you think you know it all about horses, you better get out because you're about to get hurt."  Sage advice. 

Why would "knowing it all" be so dangerous around horses?  Remember I told you horses are smarter than your kids--and most humans to tell you the truth--because they pay attention to everything?  Think about that.  Here's a 1000 pound prey animal who's senses are more sensitive than ours and he's paying attention to everything and deciding how to react.  One thousand pounds of reaction is a heck of a thing. Yes, the average horse weighs 1000 lbs. and he's about to bolt, spook, take off, or any other amount of prey animal reaction at any moment if you aren't careful.  It's how they survived in the wild.  It's how they kept from being the mountain lion's lunch.  They aren't being bad, they are being prey animals. That's important to understand because if you aren't paying attention because you already "know it all," you are about to get hurt, cowboy.  That's the danger of knowing it all around horses.

I hope you have a good Friday.  I'll talk to you later.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Idle Threats

Good morning.  Well, not really. But, "Hey."  I am not a morning person.  For people who know me well, this is not news.  I was going to try to sleep a little late today since I'm a little tired, you know, from all that reading...go back to "They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To" if you don't get it.

Well, the cats had another thing in mind for me this morning: not sleeping.  When I took Spot out for his early morning necessities, Sinatra and Pete snuck in my room.  I used to let them sleep in the bedroom years ago, before they became so obnoxious.  Now, no way.  You'll see why in a minute.

So, I come back in with Spot and see Sinatra and Pete on my bed side by side looking like a greeting card.  Ok, well, I'm only going to catch a couple of winks so I let them stay.  Mistake!  I crawled back in bed to try to warm up because of course it's cold outside.  That's all it takes to let these two know to let the mayhem begin.

Pete is walking across my head...back and forth, back and forth. Dude, that's my head.  Move!  Sinatra starts jumping around on the furniture.  Ok, that's it, you boys are going back out.  Pete is easy to remove.  Sinatra runs under the bed, of course.  Back in bed. Sinatra jumps on this lovely primative table I have.  It's lovely but it's not terribly stable.  Ok, time for him to go, too.  I make the grab before he can leap under the bed again and toss his big fluffy butt out.

Back in bed.  Please, five minutes of peace, quiet, and warmth before my day begins.  I'm under the delusion that my day hasn't already begun.  I think I can go back to sleep for a minute and call it a do over.  Then, I hear water. I hear water that sounds like urination, but then it goes on too long.  What? What the blank blank blank is that blanking noise?!  I get up again really especially unhappy this time and turn on the overhead light.

Somehow Sinatra has knocked over the vase on that table without me hearing it and then rigged it with some sort of delay so the water didn't start running out until he was out and I was back in bed.  And,the water is spilling all over the radio and the lamp on the table and running down on the hat boxes underneath.  Sinatra!!!!!!  You cat of unmarried parents!!!!!

I'm looking for a towel now because, yes, it's that much freaking water everywhere.  I get it cleaned up and give up on going back to bed.  Open the door and there's the guilty party, Mr. Sinatra himself.  Ooohhh, you cat.  I'm going to get you.  He looks unrepentant. I lunge for him and he hops off in his bunny hopping imitation of a run.  He's too fat and fluffy to actually run like a real cat.  I'm too tired to run after his cocky blanky blanky blank blank.  But, I start mumbling threats.

Yeah, I'm not having any more cats.  Yeah, maybe I won't even let you guys live here till you head for the big kitty box in the sky.  Oh Sinatra, you're going to be voted off the island like Sasha.  Send you all to a county shelter.  I'm mad.

Pete starts to apologize.  "Look, now, I only walked across your head a couple of times.  Let's be reasonable about this.  It won't happen again. I'm old and we've been together a long time.  Surely we can work this out."

Harlow is frantic, "Oh no! Oh no! I've been to a county shelter.  Those are bad places guys.  Really bad places. We don't want to end-up there."

Sinatra is still unrepentant, "Aw shut up Harlow.  Quit your whining.  Pete act like a real cat.  Act like you don't care.  We got what we wanted.  She's up.  Now she's going to feed us.  Hehehe, county shelter, right.  Sure.  Send us off. You know you won't do it.  Idle threats." And, with a swish of his tail, he's off to the kitchen to await his heart medicine and breakfast.

Yes, I eventually feed them and give Sinatra his heart medicine. Sinatra has the nerve to purr.  Boogers.  Truly, after these guys there will be no more cats.  I've had cats for over 20 years.  I've loved them.  But, I'm on to dogs now.  They keep their business outside so it doesn't have to be scooped out of a box.  They are loyal.  There's no a.m. taunting with a dog. Of course I love my horses, too, but they aren't really house pets.  Although, Tar would be if he could fit.

So, that's my morning start here on the farm.  Hope your return to the conscience world was more peaceful than mine this morning!  Off to teach lessons to two cool kids, including good ol' cutie pie Cowgirl Pinkie. Later, one child who watches too much Animal Planet and plays too many horse video games.  She thinks she knows it all. It's hard to teach someone who knows it all because there's no room in their brain for actual useful information.  But, it's a business and her grandparents keep on paying.

By-the-way, the talking animals are my mom's doing.  She claims responsibility from having my stuffed animals read me stories when I was a kid.  So, it's not farm induced psychosis, it's early imprinting.  Just in case you were wondering.

Take care. Have a good day!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loose Ends

Good evening, folks.  Just want to tie up a few loose ends.  Yes, the Christmas tree and all the indoor decorations are finally put away.  I know this is a new record for how late they stayed up. Woohooo!

Second, geez, I need an editor!!! Every time I look back at the blog I find more misspellings and typos.  Good grief.  I guess you guys are able to translate what I mean because according to the stats, people are still reading.  I'm sorry, I think it's all of those interruptions and the dyslexia and my own mid-stream editing of my thoughts.  Hopefully it gets better.

Apparently no one really cared for the serious essay on Monday.  Readership went down.  I'm almost afraid to try one more to answer my own question in that first one.  I'm afraid it'll kill readership all together.  Please post your comments and let me know what you want.  Any serious essays or just funny stories from the farm?  It's ok to not want the essays.  I can take it.  I've been eating nails to toughen up again.

My mother giggled about Bun-Bun and his sling shot and also swore it was true because she's been here for it.  My dad laughed out loud when he read it.  He's not the laugh out loud type, so I think that was a good one.

Looks like at least a few people who don't know me are reading this.  I've got readers in Canada and Japan according to the stats.  Hello Canada! Hello Japan! Thanks so much for reading!!!!  My Belize reader, I'm pretty sure I know who you are...hi, friend!  Thanks to you, too! Thanks to everyone!

I'll get back on the farm stories tomorrow.  Looking forward to the warm-up for the weekend.

Good night everyone.  Sleep tight.  Thanks for reading.

Smooth Start

Good morning. It's been a smooth start to the day so far. Chief did not act like a bucking idiot when I turned him out.  That's a nice change, Cheif.  You've been doing that bucking idiot thing for a couple of weeks now.  It's the cold weather/frisky/scatter brained Paint combo.  He's not bad, he's just feeling frisky from the cold, like we talked about last night, and he's being a Paint. Remember, Paints are a few ants shy of a picnic in many cases.

Rose seems to have rested-up from all of that reading, thankfully.  I wasn't going to suffer through another day like Saturday very easily.  I believe in having a professional attitude.  Even though it's a farm, it's a work place.  I expect people to behave like adults in a work place.  I don't do well with moodiness and irritability at work.  Get a grip.  You are an adult. You are being paid to work.  Behave like it.

Be a professional.  Even if you are a professional farm hand, be professional.  You would be absolutely amazed how many farm hands I've been through that can't get all of their personal baggage in check and be professional.  Fortunately, Dod will be here this afternoon. He's one of the most professional farm hands I've ever had.  I'm going to pair Rose with him this afternoon.  Peer modeling often works well.  See, all of that therapist stuff hasn't gone out the window.  It's just cleverly disguised in Carhartts and boots now.

Dod has many handyman talents that I could be using him for this afternoon, but the paddocks need cleaning and Rose needs some peer modeling. So, good ol' Dod gets to help her clean paddocks.  I won't even have to tell him why.  I'll just ask him to clean paddocks with her and he'll go to it with a positive attitude.

Dod has done his fair share of cleaning paddocks, but it's no longer one of his regular duties.  Now, I use him as a handyman and lesson assistant as much as possible.  The handyman help takes some load off of Bart, the lesson assistant helps takes some load off of me with the little kids.

Little kids and riding lessons.  I don't teach anyone under the age of six.  Children younger than this don't have the language development to be able to communicate what they understand, don't understand, or when they are frustrated--before a meltdown when it's very obvious.  This summer I decided to have a "pre-beginner" program.  It's a real term.  It's the first level in the American Pony Club classification of riders.

Pre-beginners are people who basically like the idea of horses but have no experience whatsoever.  They've never been on a horse, but they love horses. Um, yeah, right, your kid loves horses, huh?  Never seen one in person though, but he loves 'em.  Um hm. Yep.  I know just what you mean. I have to remind myself I was a pre-beginner at one point, too.  Ok, I was three years old, but I was a pre-beginner, too.  No, wait, by three I'd actually been on a pony.  So, two and a half, maybe?  See why it's hard for me to remember when I was a pre-beginner?

Six to eight year old pre-beginners take a lot of energy from the instructor.  They have very little focus or frustration tolerance.  Horseback riding is a sport, just like any other sport.  It requires focus and frustration tolerance.  Unlike most other sports, your "equipment" is your horse and he has a mind of his own.  The horse is smarter than all six to eight year olds, period.  Don't argue with me.  I don't care if your child is Einstein, most horses are smarter than the kid.  Why? Horses pay everything.

Not only do horses pay attention 99 times better than the average human of any age, the only animal with a longer memory than a horse is an elephant. That's what science tells us.  So, I'm putting your little kid on a horse that's smarter than he is, stronger than he is, and has a wonderful memory of all the things he can do that your kid can't or won't do anything about.  It is either that horse's field day or irritation day.

In rare cases, there are horses like good ol' Shadow who don't take advantage of the kid.  They know their jobs and they do it.  Milagro has some amount of automatic pilot on her, better than Shadow in some cases, but she will take advantage of the kid by eating at every opportunity.  Shadow doesn't take advantage.  He may decide you don't know how to ask him to turn properly, but he won't take advantage.  Now you see why these two are my most popular lesson horses.  And, the only perfect horse who behaves all the time and never changes is a carousel horse.  I thought you were getting ready to ask, so that's the answer.

And, the pre-beginner program for six to eight year olds? It's 30 minutes for $30.00 and I'm still cutting some of them a break.  The amount of energy some of those kids take is really a $100.00 for 30 minutes. But, they are having fun and their parents keep paying, so ok, here we go.  I do have three exceptions to the "pre-beginner" rule.  They are three kids who've been with me since before I made the "pre-beginner rule."  Two of them are really decent little riders for such little kids.  One of them is a little doll and she's having fun basically being led around. Ok, I'm a sucker sometimes. Besides, they pay the hour rate even though they don't really have enough control to do it a full hour without assistance.

So, you see how Dod comes in handy as a lesson assistant.  He'll lead them around if he has to.  Because, folks, I will NOT be leading your child around.  If you would like to ride with me solo, you must be able to control your own horse.  I will give you a horse to ride that is capable of doing it if you're sitting dead on top of him, but you've gotta be able to show a tiny bit of initiative.

Now, Cowgirl Slim and Cowgirl Hot Tamale (she never gets cold, that's why that nickname) who are my #1 and #2 students say I've gone soft.  They remember, and I do, too, that in the beginning, no one led any student of mine around, ever.  No one came to pull Milagro's head up for a kid because she wouldn't quit eating.  I rode my horse, usually Belle or Merry, and you rode your horse.  I was not getting off of my horse to come help you out of a non-life threatening situation.  A student must learn control.
Cowgirl Slim and Cowgirl Hot Tamale say they are better riders for it.  I agree.  They say, "You used to just sit there on your horse and say, 'I'll wait for you, but you can do it.'" And, yes, I'd just sit there and wait. They weren't going to die, but by golly they were going to learn how to ride.

But, I've got to make money and there aren't a lot of kids out there like Slim and Tamale.  If you want to make a living, you've got to keep the public coming back.  If you want to keep them coming back, you gotta make it fun for them.  So, it's a business decision ladies, I haven't gone soft.  We just want them to be safe #1 and have fun #2...and keep coming back.
Oh, wait! I may have gone soft on one of those little kids, now that I think about it.  Cowgirl Pinkie.  Pinkie is seven.  Pinkie is one of the cutest kids God ever put on this earth.  She's sweet. She's easy to like.  She developed a crush on one of my farm hands last year, Cory. Cory looks like Harry Potter. Cory is off at an Ivy League seminary on a 90% scholarship now.  Cowgirl Pinkie loved for Cory to lead her around.  It was so cute.  She'd start looking like a damsel in distress and she couldn't possibly turn Shadow and Cory would rescue her.  She'd bat her eyes at him like every little girl does when they have a crush on a grown-up.  It's not sexual.  The kid doesn't understand it. Cory was oblivious to it.  He's just soooo niiiiiice. It was funny to watch, but I let her develop a bad habit.  So now, we're focusing on her being a big girl and doing it herself.  She's coming along and is going to make a good little rider. Cory just can't come visit or it'll be all over and he'll be leading her around again. So, maybe, every now and then, I go soft.  I'll have to work on that. Eat some more nails or something to toughen back up.

Ok, folks, some business must be done. I must also take down that darn Christmas tree. It's happening today, I guarantee you...I hope.  I wonder if I can clone Dod while I'm at it?

Have a good day. Thanks for reading. Talk to you later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Evening Chores, Horses, and Bun-Bun

Good evening everyone.  It's pouring rain here. I think they are calling for a couple of inches in 24 hrs.  It's also 40 degrees.  Cold rain, not my favorite weather but I'll take it over snow any day.  I am a snow scrooge.  Why? I work outside.  Plus, I can count on being here alone to do all of the work outside in the snow by myself.  Again, why? Because there are only about 7 snow plows in this entire state.  I live in a place that used to not get snow, but now it does.  If you don't believe in climate change, get a job outside.  We're having unseasonably cold winters and unseasonably hot summers.  It's definitely changed since I was a kid.  How do I know? I was an outdoorsy kid, imagine that.

The new Tuesday schedule has me here alone in the afternoons.  I can't seem to find anyone from the Bible College that doesn't have class on Tuesday afternoons.  It's apparently a very big day for Biblical learning.  Again, that's ok.  It gives me time to get things done that need uninterrupted time.  There's not a lot of uninterrupted time here.  It's one of the downsides to teaching my staff about horses as we go, there are a lot of questions.  But, I'm ok with that as long as they do it my way.  You heard me, my way.  It is my farm, my liability, my life's investment, my animals, so it will be done my way.  You'd feel the same on your farm.  If you're self-employed, you probably feel the same way about your business. When you have the most to lose and it belongs to you, it's ok to think your business is Burger King...where you can have it your way.

It was a light afternoon and that's ok, too. I need a few light days right now.  I'm a little tired, and it's not from reading! See "They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To" if you don't get that joke.  Again, for those of you who just joined in, my help has been on a five week winter break.  I had Cowgirl Slim while she was on her two week high school break. I've had snipits of Dod and Rose, but I've been here alone a lot.  Especially during that snow we had the second week in Jaunary.  Yeah, I was real alone here.  Sure was.  I feel snow scrooge coming on, so I'll stop with that train of thought.  My friends who've already heard that grousing  are thanking me for not making them read it again.

So, evening chores are done.  Chief is inside so he doesn't eat himself to death.  Horses are fed.  Bun-Bun is fed.  Spot has been outside but he vetoed doing any business due to the cold rain.  Gee I hope I can persuade him to take care of things before bedtime.  I don't like waking up to odor de Spot.  But, we're devoted to each other and he's old and he has nerve damage in his spine, so what are ya gonna do? Huh? Clean it up and be happy he's still around, that's my plan.

I was thinking, as I was doing chores, about the questions I am asked by non-horse people. I especially enjoy the people who are driving by who come in and ask questions about why I'm not doing this or that. Or the phone messages from people driving by.  Yeah, thanks for your concern but you obviously know nothing about horses, so move along please.  No, I don't really enjoy the drive by folks.  They've seen too many movies and they think they know something. They don't. They are annoying.  They are especially annoying when it's about my neighbor's horses and not mine.  I've threatened to put up a sign with an arrow pointing to their pasture that says, "These are NOT my horses.  If you have questions or concerns, please call  So and So at 555-5555."

My all time favorite drive by reports is: "There's a horse laying down!"  Yes, I know, horses do that.  Horses lie down for 20 minutes a day for REM sleep. That's all the REM sleep they need. I wish I could stay sane on 20 minutes of REM sleep.  The rest of their sleeping is done dozing and standing up.  Horses lie down for other reasons.  They will lie down and stretch out to sun themselves in warm weather like sunbathing.  They will lie down sort of like a dog to curl their legs under them to conserve body heat in cold weather. Yes, horses lie down when they are perfectly fine.  Just because the horse is lying down doesn't mean he's sick or dying or already dead, ok?

This is how you can tell if a horse is on the ground and in trouble.  The horse is thrashing around like he's in pain--because he is. Not like the horse who is rolling to scratch his back, I mean really thrashing and then doesn't get back up.  I guess you could also have a horse that's lying down perfectly still who is already dead, but you're probably too late to tell the farmer then.  Are we clear though? All lying down horses are not sick or dying, ok? Good. Glad you're one less person to bother me about it.  It's well intentioned, I know, but it's annoying.

Ok, back to tonight's chores...One of the questions I imagined some of you asking is: Why didn't I bring all of the horses in if it's a cold and  raining outside tonight?  Horses have an amazing ability to control their metabolism.  The horses aren't cold out there.  They aren't wet to the skin because the rain runs off.  If you put your fingers just under their hair, you'll feel they are warm and dry.  On a cold day, you can put your hands under their manes and warm up very nicely.  Horses raise their metabolism by eating more hay.  It's that simple.  They are throwing more logs on the fire of their internal furnace by eating more hay.  Now, it also gives them more energy so they are pretty frisky in cold weather, but they aren't cold.  So, if you see horses outside in the winter and they have plenty of hay or grass to eat, they aren't cold.  Don't be one of those annoying people who drives up to some farmer like me and verbally accosts them with, "Why aren't you bringing those poor horses inside in the cold?" They are not cold.

Heat, extreme heat and no shade, that's dangerous to a horse, especially a black horse because they absorb more heat.  It's the same reason you don't wear black tee shirts and shorts in the summer time.  Black attracts more heat. It's scientific, if you don't believe me look it up.  In the summer we are on "reverse turnout." I don't have a lot of trees here, so there's little to no shade on the property.  The horses come in by 11:00 a.m. and are turned out at 5:00 p.m.  My horse barn is double insulated and we have huge barn fans. It's rarely above 80 degrees in there. The black horses wear fly sheets (looks like they are wearing coats--they are mesh and no they aren't hot) to not only protect them from flies, but to deflect the sun when they are outside. The black horses also have misters at their paddocks that they can stand in front of to cool off in the morning and early evening.  Yes, they learn to do that.  Horses are not stupid.  Horses are very smart. That's another lecture, I guess.

In the warmer months, I actually don't have a lot of flies here because it's obsessively clean and I use fly predators. Fly predators are insects that eat fly larva.  I order them in the warmer seasons, they send me fly predator larva every month, as they mature, we dump them on fresh manure. The fly predators grow and eat the fly larva.  Magic, very few flies and no pesticides. 

Back to bringing the horses inside in the cold.  I don't bring them all inside when it's above 25 degrees.  Why?  I have insulated water troughs so when it's above 25, their water doesn't freeze until almost sunrise when it's the coldest.  By morning, we'll be out there breaking up the ice in the water troughs, so they haven't gone long without it.  In truth, they can break up the water in the troughs themselves.  Tar did it Sunday morning.  Horses are strong creatures, a little ice in the trough doesn't deter them if they want that water.

Well, then, why do you bring them in when it's below 25?  If it's going below 25, we'll hit that temp just before sunrise, which means it's been 32 or colder for a while.  This means their water has been frozen for a while and we're probably going to find a 2 or 3 inch thick sheet of ice on it.  I don't have heaters for my water troughs because it's just not cold enough here long enough to justify the extra expense.  Practical, farm life makes you very practical.

Rabbits also do better in the cold than the heat.  A rabbit will die of heat stroke pretty easily, even in my well insulated barn.  So, Bun-Bun moves into my office with the air conditioning when it's hot.  He is not a good roommate.  Bun-Bun, I swear, has a little sling shot hidden in his hutch.  Why do I think this? Because bunny turds are 10 feet across the office from where he's stationed.  Cowgirl Slim vacuums my office every morning in the summer because of Bun-Bun who does most of his target practice at night when he's bored.  I am so glad she is obsessive-compulsive around the edges.  Fortunately, bunny turds don't smell or make a mess. They are hard little balls and completely dry.  So, it's just unsightly and probably somewhat unsanitary to have bunny turds all over my office thus the constant vacuuming.  See, that's another difference between your life and mine. I bet you don't have a bunny with a sling shot shooting turds all over your office in the summer, do you?

I cannot give you a better laugh tonight than that image of Bun-Bun and his sling shot. So giggle away.  No, I have not been drinking.  This is just life on the farm and I swear it's all true.

Good night everyone.  Thanks for reading. You've learned a little something new today, I hope. Sleep tight.

They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To

Good morning.  It's Tuesday here on the farm which is my Monday as it's the beginning of my week.  The herd of Christians gets back on schedule this week.  I think I'm glad, but I am reminded that they don't build 'em like they used to.  Let me explain...

Rose and Ruthie took one week intensive classes last week.  They were in different courses, but it was available to the graduate students at the Bible College.  It was four days of class all day and reading at night. Rose told me she had to read 200 pages a night.  Ok, well, that's college isn't it? My undergrad Journalism program was a strenuous education to put it politely, but that's a top 10 program for you. During undergrad, I worked at the State House doing more than making coffee and I was such a glutton for punishment I'd take 18-21 class hours every semester.  And, then, apparently, I didn't get enough so I went to graduate school after I'd been working full time for five years.  So, it's not like I can't appreciate what college classes are like. What I don't get is they both told me how tired they were from their classes.  Huh?  You're tired?

"But there was a lot of reading..." came a whine.  Ok, I don't do whining. I just don't tolerate it very well. It rubs me the wrong way for some reason.  It's a family trait. In response, I burdened Ruthie with the tale of the fiction class I took in summer school in undergrad.

Fiction, ok that sounded like fun to me. Haha!  It was reading things like Chekhov, the really dark Russian writer.  It was The Grapes of Wrath.  It was a bunch of "really fun" reading--at a break neck pace.  I had gotten myself into some sort of preview of Hell class.

I worked at the State House in the mornings for a very demanding boss (Come on Elaine, you know it's true--she's one of my followers.) and then I'd go to class Monday through Thursday afternoons from 1:00-5:00. Fridays when there were no classes, I worked all day.  We had to read one of those "uplifting" novels A DAY. That made four of them a week with a test every Thursday. This went on for four weeks. Holy cow!  Did I mention I also have dyslexia? Seriously, I do.  I've learned to cope with it, obviously, but reading is an arduous process. I made it through the class and made a decent grade, a B probably.

I don't recall being tired.  I don't recall whining about it. I signed up for it. I needed the credit.  What's to whine about? Just do it.  As my father told me when I was rudely awakened by the arrogance of doctoral teaching assistants in undergrad, "You can do anything and tolerate anyone for 16 weeks."  I come from a family of people with a "just do it" attitude. No whining was ever allowed.  Heck, sleeping late on Saturday wasn't allowed either.

Then I worked for Elaine, who is still a good friend of mine.  Elaine has a heart of gold and a brass knuckles attitude.  She's now a very successful lobbyist.  Back then she was a compassionate boss, but she wasn't coddling.  She graduated from that same Journalism program and their graduate school program.  She knew what I was going through academically, but she also knew I could do it.  I feel the same way about the herd of little Christians--although I would not have made it through the first week of the Bible College for extracurricular reasons.  I know what college is like, but I also know they can do it.

Ruthie was kind'a mock whining this morning about it.  My little Christian Rose was not mock whining about it on Saturday.  Life and that class had gotten the better of the poor girl.  Saturday was a very long day for me because of it.  It made me start thinking, these ladies are in their early 20s...around 23.  What was my life like around 23?

I began talking to Bart about this last night and regaling him with my loads of responsibility at that age.  And, it was a good bit of responsibility.  I was the youngest research director by far on the legislative staff.  I had a staff. I had purchased my grandparents' house from my mother complete with a real live mortgage.  I bought my first new car. I was married.  It was a lot of responsibility, but I was pretty darn happy with it.  Yes, I had moments of being tired, but during the legislative session we worked crazy hours. Like 70 hours a week kind'a crazy hours. But, we all did it. It was part of the privileged of being on staff. I don't remember anyone whining about it.  We all felt lucky to have our jobs and we were.  I am still lucky to have had that experience.

And, just as I am about to do something really stupid and ask Bart, "What was your life like at 23?" I caught myself in time to make it come out, "At 23 you were in Viet Nam, right?"  Yeah, let's talk about something that'll really make a 23 year old "tired"--a war zone.  "No, I was in the military, but I wasn't in Viet Nam until I was 24."  Let me add he was a lieutenant with 40 18 and 19 year old guys under his command. They were combat engineers.  Their job was to build roads and bridges for the troops to come across without getting killed while they did it.  They also swept for land mines every day which he recalls as the worst part of the job.  Ok, yeah, you could call that a downside of one's job and it would be an understatement.

It made me think of people around me and what their lives were like at 23.  I don't think any of them were in grad school full time.  I think they were all working in jobs a lot harder than the ones I have to offer here and maybe also going to grad school at night.  My friend, Ranger, the one who Coffee embraced, remember him?  At 20 or so, he was in the first wave of troops in the invasion of Panama.  Rangers jump out of planes at night with guns and hope they don't break every bone in their body when they land.  They jump at night so they aren't picked off one by one doing it in the daylight.  So, night jumps into enemy territory are the more desirable option.  Those are tough guys.  Yes, guys, women are not allowed to be Rangers. It's not my policy, it's the Army's. Write to them, not me.

You see where I'm going with this, right? I don't get it. Has the next generation gone soft? Do I lack compassion for people who've read too much? Or, do I just know too many really tough people? I mean, I know folks like Bart and the Ranger and non-military folks, too, whose jobs make my multi-faceted careers look like a walk through Disney World.  What is it?  Do they just not build 'em like they used to?

This is my morning rant.  I hope it at least has a funny spin.  I'm now going to make Ruthie hot chocolate because that's just the kind of boss I am.  Why? She's mucking paddocks in 40 degrees in the rain in the winter--Dod trained her right!  I have high hopes for Ruthie to make it here at the farm.  Dear Rose...only time will tell. I'm afraid if reading makes her tired, the farm may be too much for her.

Talk to you later. Have a good day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

These Are Your Options

Good morning. I've been thinking about how I've gotten through difficult times in the past and how that applies to what we're all going through with this economic downturn. Let's face it, unless you are a Saudi prince with a bunch of oil fields, you've been effected by the recession in some way.  I've watched it happen among my clients. 

Good hard working people from all walks of life come to me to say they have to stop taking riding lessons because they are afraid they are about to lose their jobs, or they've just lost their jobs, or their hours have been cut back significantly, or they've been forced into retirement, or the self-employed folks whose business has suddenly dried-up.  I'm watching other horse farms close and put up for sale signs.  My business has certainly decreased.  Recreational horseback riding and recession don't mix.  Of course, it makes me nervous just like it makes everyone nervous right now.

I'm not telling you anything new.  Even if you still have your job and your home, you've seen your 401-K dwindle, your home's value is less than you paid for it, or banks have raised your credit card interest rates despite on-time payments and paying over the minimum.  It's an economic environment that feels unfair because it's taking down people who've been financially responsible along with people who haven't been.

So, now that I've stated the obvious, let me tell you how I'm choosing to think about it:

Every morning when you wake-up, you have two choices:

1. Live
2. Die

Those are your options.

Everyday, you make a choice. The vast majority of us get out of bed and keep going.  We keep doing that until God calls us home or if you don't believe that...until you die and fade into nothing. 

In all seriousness, if you are considering Option 2--dying--as your chosen response, call 911.  The operator will get the on-call mental health professional in your area on the phone with you. If you're in immediate trouble, they'll send law enforcement to make sure you safely arrive at the local hospital where a mental health professional will meet with you and discuss your OTHER options. As socially isolated as you may feel right now, we are still a community and someone WILL help you.  I was the on-call worker many, many times when I worked at the mental health center.  We've heard it all.  The professionals will help you through.

Ok, now that my obligation as a former therapist has been met, let's talk about how the 98% of us who won't end-up in the ER are going to get through this recession.

To most of us, what's happening to the US economy hasn't felt like a recession--we've been through those before and it was never THIS bad.  I'm not an economist, but this recession sure feels a lot like the Great Depression of 1929 we read about in school.  People are in serious financial trouble no matter how responsible they were before the crash. I wonder if the government is afraid to call it an economic depression?  I wonder if they are afraid it will send people jumping off of buildings like it did in 1929?  As a compromise, I think of it as The Great Recession.  Except it's not all that great, it sucks.

So, if we choose to keep living and then we make the choice to actually get out of bed. How do we keep going with a sense of purpose? How do we escape our own personal great depression, emotionally?

For me, it's idetifying my top priority.  I know, it's not a sexy answer.  But, give it a minute to settle in on you.  When you aren't sure of what you're going to do next, think of what is THE MOST IMPORTANT PRIORITY to keep you going? 

Think about it.  Not the easy answers like food, money, someone to love me.  No.  That's not it.  Think beyond that stuff.  Food?  What is going to motivate you to keep going when you're too broke to eat or if you're lucky enough to have food, too depressed to eat?  What is that answer? 

Money? No, think beyond that answer.  What will most motivate you to make money? What will force you to take a job just to have the income? Yes, even if it's not what you had in mind and even if you are seriously overqualified.  What priority will make you get your ego in check and do what you have to do?

Someone to love you?  Ha!  Here's what the fairy tales never tell you about that goal...that "someone" can always stop loving you.  That's right, stop.  End of story.  Good-bye. Gone. Don't place all of your hopes on someone else to keep you going.  Obviously, I'm not talking about your small children or elderly parents who may need your hands-on care. I'm talking about the fantasy that a relationship will make it better. That's the kind of placing your hopes into someone else I'm talking about.  Early in my divorce process, a wise man said to me, "When you wake-up in the morning and wash your face, look in the mirror and recognize YOU are the only person you can depend on." It's very good advice.

Now that I've snatched all of the easy answers away, think beyond the easy answers.  Ask yourself what will keep you going above all else? If it were 1929 and people were jumping off of buildings, what would stop you? What will pull you back from the edge...of the building, of depression, of anxiety, of giving up on things ever getting better?

It will get better. The economy will get better. The job market and the real estate market will get better. Your 401-K will recover, at least to a certain point.  I decided to get happy when mine got back to even--the amount I had before this disaster started.  Look historically at the US economy, it bounces back.  So, this can't last forever.  Forever is a very long time. It's infinity.  Nothing concrete last for infinity.

You don't have to have a plan to last forever, you simply have to have a priority for now.  We will get through this, but we have to be brave enough to do it.  We have to be strong enough to outlast it.  We have to emulate the people of the late 1920s and early 1930s who made it.  What did they do?  My maternal grandparents didn't give up.  I'm not going to give-up either. 

My maternal grandparents were in their mid-twenties during the Great Depression. In 1930, their choice was to get married and make a go of it.  And, they did, for 59 1/2 years.  They were a wonderful example for me in many ways.  But, what I'm going to tell you isn't what you think of as a typical good grandparent example. 

My grandfather started reading the stock page to me when I was six weeks old.  I don't remember that, but I do remember being three years old with him reading it to me.  I assume when I showed up at breakfast at six weeks old, when my mother went back to work, that he was reading it, as always.   He started sharing the morning financial news with me as a normal part of our morning discourse.  I remember being 5 years old and asking him to explain what it meant. 

He showed me the numbers and the symbols and explained what they meant. He explained how the economy worked.  He started with what was appropriate for a child and those lessons grew as I grew.  Most children, especially girls at that time, never get those lessons about money, the economy, and what it all means to you. It is that very early understanding of the stock market and how money works that helps me understand what happened and that it will improve. I can never thank him enough.  I am not afraid of how it all works, because I have always understood it to some extent.  Without knowing it, he kept money and economics from becoming overwhelming and scarey.  Without knowing it then, he saved me from the overwhelming fear that a lot of people are feeling right now.  I get a little nervous about the business, but I'm not fearful of the long run.

My grandfather was not a banker or a stock broker.  He was a typewritter salesman.  He was a very successful typewritter salesman, but he wasn't a financial professional.  He made very wise financial decisions and gave the best financial advice I've ever had.  When I meet with a new broker, he starts talking to me like I have no idea of how to manage my finances.  I stop him and tell him the advice that I steer by, my grandfather's advice. It stops them cold.  They agree with him. They agree with what I want to do and how I want to invest.  In fact, I still have some of the stock he bought, probably in the 1950s, that I inherited from him.  It's utility company stock.  It's solid. It grows slowly, but it doesn't lose money.  It's steady.  What an appropriate inheritance from a man who taught me to be calm and dispassionate about money--because that's how you'll make the best financial decisions.

Ok, I'll stop teasing you and pass on his advice:

1.  Don't invest money you can't afford to lose.

2.  Don't fall in love with stock.

So, now, we've identified your options--live or die, remember? Those are your basic options.  You've got my grandfather's best advice and my best advice.  My best advice is to identify your top priority, remember?  Think about what I've suggested as parameters for that choice.  Find your top priority.  I'll share mine in the next essay and how it keeps me motivated.  I'll give you a hint: I bet it will surprise you.

Thank you for reading Postcards from the Farm.  Go and have a good day.  Remember, it will get better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Politics and Sundays

Well, just as soon as I posted last night that Bart was on his way, I got a phone call from a sleepy, tired, grumpy man.  That happens to all men sometimes, doesn't it? They overextend themselves and then revert to being tired, grumpy toddlers. There's no reasoning with them.  You simply have to let them go rest and then they'll be over it in the morning.  So, Bart didn't show up until this morning and he was over it.  That's ok, I am never alone on the farm or without companionship because I always have my animals. 

Last night, the dogs, cats, and I watched last week and this week's episodes of Bill Maher on the DVR.  He is so funny and actually has valid political discussions but the humor stops it from becoming rabid.  Maybe that's what we need--more humor, less rabid political discussions? Remember, I worked in politics for nine years 1986-1995.  It was a considerably more civil era in our political discourse.  We didn't think so then. We thought it was very competitive, and well, it was politics.  You didn't want to watch the process too closely if you had a weak stomach.

Compared to today's environment--whew--the political environment of my day was a children's matinee!  I think it was a more collegial environment. We got a lot done for people and business didn't suffer. I live in a "red" state and we were still able to help children, the elderly, poor, and disabled without hurting business.Today, I don't think we do nearly as good a job balancing those issues.  And, to top it off, people are rude to each other.  When did people start being rude and hysterical to get a point across? 

I long for the old days, obviously.  And, I saw the old days up close and personal. So it's not a fantasy of a bygone era, it was the real thing and I was in it for nine years.  If politicians were rude to each other, it was quietly and behind closed doors and it wasn't often.  You know why? They might have to ask that person for their support next week.  Collegial. It's missing.  Ok, I'll get off my soap box and tell you about the farm.

So Bart showed-up bright and early to help me with the morning chores.  No, I don't get to church very often on Sundays. I go to the church of This Farm.  I think God sees taking care of his creatures as a valid reason to be absent from formal worship as long as you're thankful, love Him with your whole heart, and love your neighbors as yourself.  That's my view, anyway.

We did morning feed and turned horses out.  Took care of Shadow's special diet and medication and, although he looks like himself again, we're going to see the whole process through till Tuesday.  While I was doing the indoor routine (minus the cat herding), Bart was breaking-up ice in the water troughs.  When we work as a team, it gets done quickly enough to give us time to go out for a late breakfast. 

After a late breakfast, almost lunch, we relaxed a little and spent some much needed time together.  I've been stuck at the farm so much with the Bible College on winter break that our time has been put on the back burner this month.  Again, I'll be glad when the herd of little Christians is back on schedule next week.  But, until then, after three hours, it was back to work for us--stall cleaning and setting them up with fresh hay and water for the evening.  Filling up water troughs. Leaving spigots dripping and hoses drained since it's probably going to be below freezing again tonight. And, of course, evening feed and bringing in those horses who come inside every night.  A farmer's work is never done, not even on Sundays.

You may wonder how Bart feels about being included in this blog. I read him the post from last night.  Although he laughed at most of the appropriate places and he didn't disagree about my assessment of Pip, it makes him a little uncomfortable--even though Bart is his "display name" and not his real name. He especially doesn't like the positive things I said about him. You read that right. He would rather I say he's a grumpy old fart who's hard on the eyes and difficult to tolerate.  But, it's just not true.  He's as great as I told you he is.  He did like the Elmer Fudd part. He thinks that's a more accurate picture of himself--don't believe it though.

This is a guy who drove 20 miles from another small town on a Sunday morning to help do farm chores in the cold when he didn't have to.  He could have sat around in his robe with his coffee and newspaper like most folks.  But, he didn't and he doesn't.  He's more of a man than that. Hmmm...I'm swooning again.

Ok, folks, it's time to take my 24 hour weekend.  Rose is taking care of the farm tomorrow so I can have a break.  I'll try to get one of those essays posted for you.  They are a bit more serious, but I hope they encourage you, as they do me, to remember we're going to make it through this tough economy.  We will and we do, indeed, have choices in the meantime.

For now, good night and sleep tight.  Thank you for reading.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Boyfriend and the Bachelor Dog

That's right, I'm finally going to tell you about Bart, my boyfriend of almost three years.  Bart makes me swoon like a teenager and I haven't been a teenager in more than two decades.  He's a man's man. You know, a real guy.  He doesn't wear pink. He carries a pocket knife and a handkerchief.  He likes sports. He has more tools than Home Depot and knows how to use them. He brought me one of his ratchets once.  I keep it in the pencil holder on my desk and think of it as his version of a dozen roses, because it is.  He doesn't get the point of romantic presents and flowers and stuff. What would you do with them any way?

He looked horrified one day when Dod told him he was going to a couples' wedding shower.  He looked like poor Dod was about to be carried off and emasculated.  I'd have to hit him in the head and hog tie him to get Bart to any kind of shower besides one with hot water.  He is all man and that makes me very happy. I do not ever want to be involved with a way...never!  It's ok if you like your man fresh from the tanning bed with mousse in his hair and a new mani/pedi, but it's not for me.  I digress...more about hero.

He's brilliant.  He's a mechanical engineer except he's actually useful. A lot of people tell me engineers don't have practical skills. Bart does. The man has built everything from weapons systems to dog houses.  He's worked for a defense contractor, the US military, and now a heavy equipment manufacturing company.  He's in their problem solving division with four other old engineers. I guess they figure these guys have seen it all so they can probably fix it all.  Yes, by chronological age Bart is quite a few years older than I am.  Functionally, he's still young and fit.  On paper, he's an old engineer.

He's handsome. He looks a lot like Paul Newman, blue eyes and all.  But, my farm hands and clients only see him when he's dressed like Elmer Fudd. Yes, this gorgeous man likes to cover up all of that handsome with work pants, flannel shirts, work boots, and a plaid wool cap.  Those are his "handy man" clothes. Really, he has specific clothes for fixing things in case he gets dirt or grease on them.   The farm folks only see him this way because if he has to be here when they are here, he's fixing something.

Bart doesn't like to hang around the farm on business days, including my business day of Saturday.  He says he doesn't want someone to ask him about horses.  I don't know why he thinks they'd turn to him as a source of knowledge because he is a non-horse person and it's obvious in that outfit. I mean he looks like Elmer Fudd when he's here, not a cowboy.  He also doesn't like to be around the "Herd of Little Christians" for long, except Dod.  He likes Dod.  I think he's afraid they'll try to make him talk about God. He's a "beliefs in action" fella and talking about it makes him uncomfortable. So, he tries not to engage them other than Dod.

Bart does like the farm and he likes that I work hard.  He thinks I'm sexy on my tractor and cute in my Carhartts.  It's this farm girl's dream come true.  A man who understands what I do and that farm work is actually WORK.  He also loves animals which is good because that's mandatory for being involved with me.  His favorite horses are Tar, Big Mac, and Donkey Kong.  I have no idea why, but those are his buddies.  He gladly accepts that Spot comes first in my heart.  I think it takes the pressure off of him not to have to be #1.    Bart has three adult sons and seven grandchildren.  Those are his #1s, which is ok with me because that's the way it should be.  Besides, no one can rival Spot's total devotion to me.

This brings me to Bart's dog, Pip.  Pip is a bachelor dog.  Pip did not figure me into his plans.  Pip was unloaded on Bart by his youngest son who couldn't keep him.  He is an aging Boston Terrier and arrived post-separation/divorce.  So, he's not used to sharing Bart with anyone.  He's used to doing exactly as he pleases like any bachelor.  He farts, snorts, snores, scratches, doesn't follow directions, goes out 10 times a day and pees on the floor anyway. The latter Bart swears is just in the past couple of years since he got diabetes.  I think it's a combination of diabetes and dog Alzheimer's. Pip is supposedly 10.  Pip looks 100.  Pip has a lot of health problems including blindness. He runs into things even at his own house. Plod, plod, plod, bam! Huh? Was that there yesterday? Yes, Pip, it was, you just forgot. You also forgot you were housebroken, Pip.  Paper towels, please.

Pip is the only animal I've not been able to make some headway with. I bribe him with treats and toys.  I try to play special blind dog games with him.  He doesn't care.  He'll tolerate me for some treats, but mostly he wishes I would go away.  "Leave me alone, lady.  You bother me."  Sometimes he goes in the other room and pouts on his bed.  "I refuse to be in the same room with that girlfriend of yours, Pop.  Let me know when she's gone.  I want to fart and snort in the living room some more tonight."

I try to love, Pip, really I do.  I pray for patience with him.  Because, you know what? I think Pip is going to be around for a long time. He's not about to keel over and leave Bart with some girlfriend. He thinks, "Geez, what does he want with a stupid girlfriend when he's got me?" The whole thing just chaffs his butt, I think.  He's not going to give in no matter how many health problems he has.  He's digging in, like the terrier he is.  I better pray for some more patience. Maybe I should ask my "herd of little Christians" to put me and Pip on a prayer list?

Well, Bart should be showing up any minute for our abbreviated weekend together since half of his weekend is already gone.  He'll have Pip in tow.  Get out your rosary beads!

Good night everyone. Sleep tight.

The Human Cast of Characters - Part Two and a typical morning

Good morning! Today has started off like a typical day.  It's a little strange compared to normal suburban life.  I woke up to one of Spot's accidents. It happens in cold weather. He says his butt freezes shut in cold weather but then it defrosts when he's inside and that's how his accidents happen.  I'm not sure about his explanation, but I do know he doesn't like to go outside in the cold. Combined with some nerve damage in his spine, he can't always feel it when he needs to head to the great outdoors.  So, it's one way to wake-up-- odor de Spot.

Tried to go back to sleep for a few minutes and then I heard Rose outside my bedroom door, "Miss Domino, did you know your door is open?" Damn, must not have closed the door completely between my living quarters and the rest of the "people barn" when I was cleaning up that accident.  "Miss Domino, I think Sasha is in here." Ok, ok, ok, welcome to the world for another day, Cowgirl Domino.

Since Sasha has been a barn cat, she tries to get back in my good graces and come back inside. She goes about this in the wrong way and sneaks back inside. When I veto her re-entry, the chase is on.  Sasha you crafty wench!  This morning was no different. I'm chasing Sasha around Sinatra decides he's going to help.  He's chasing her and hissing, I'm chasing her and cussing. You'd think she'd get the message.  Sinatra and I would be good at team pinning. He's chasing from one direction herding her towards me and I chase from the other direction until we catch her in the middle.  The team pinning would work out if Sinatra could ride a quarter horse and herd like he does on foot. Finally, Sasha the crafty wench is out.  Thanks for the help Sinatra.  "No problem Cowgirl, no problem.  All in a day's kitty catting, m'am."

Then, it's showing Rose how to make a "mash" for Shadow who acted like he wasn't feeling well yesterday. And, how to crush up the medicine, mix it with molasses and then mix it with the mash at the last minute to trick Shadow into eating it.  Of course, last night when Shadow started feeling under the weather, Milagro started acting like an idiot.  She's probably "in season" which means ovulating but it has the effect of horse PMS.  Grumpy, irritable, nipping, running and bucking horse. Great!

Why does it always happen this way? Why do my two best lesson horses go out of commission at the same time?  I'll have to lunge Milagro this morning to see if she can regain her composure.  Lunging is a kind of exercise that looks like running in circles.  It's helps horses sort it out sometimes, sometimes it doesn't.  In Tar's case, it just makes him mad.  He was over-lunged by a trainer I know.  It shows.

Next, time to feed the indoor animals.  For starters I have to give Sinatra his heart medication.  For a cat, he's super easy to pill.  He jumps on top of his feed container and waits.  I pick him up, stick my finger with the pill down his throat, he wiggles a little, purrs, then we're done.  A regular cat would have bitten all of my fingers off by now; but not good ol' Blue Eyes.  Pete is not so easy.  Pete is on a trial of anti-inflammatory meds.  I thought he looked like he was limping.  He says I'm imagining things.  Well, after three weeks, the meds have made no discernible difference.  Maybe Pete was right.  But, I wrestled him down for one last dose this morning.  Then, I fed the little feline boogers. Harlow had nothing to say, no surprise there. Time to prep Spot's feed. Two and a half cups of dry food, 1/2 a can of canned food, two pills hidden in the chunks of canned food. Spot wolfs it down, no problem. Thanks, Spot!

By this time, it's not even nine o'clock.  If it were a true typical Saturday morning, this would have happened hours earlier. But today there are no early morning lessons.  I'd love to have the lesson money, but after a few weeks with very little help (since the Bible College is on winter break) I'm exhausted and willing to trade the money for an hour's sleep.  Somewhere in here, I also reviewed the day's schedule with Rose; answered a few phone calls; checked my email,  and loved on Killer while he tried to decide if he wanted to finish his breakfast or play.  Mind you, in all of this poop, cat herding, and chaos, I haven't even had breakfast or coffee yet.  It's one way to live life, but it is definitely life on the farm!

There's an essential member of the crew missing today, Cowgirl Slim.  She's gone out-of-town with her parents, Mama Kay and Papa Rob, to visit her adult sister and her family.  I miss Cowgirl Slim when she's not here. She gets me. She knows how I want things done.  She knows how I want the animals handled. She's a little obsessive-compulsive and cleans up my office as soon as she arrives.  I wonder if I could clone her?

So, here's the low down Cowgirl Slim...she's 15 as I told you earlier when I was mentioning she is also the love of Chief's life.  She's been one of my students for almost five years. She's an awesome rider.  She became my barn baby two and a half years ago.  This is kind of like an unpaid internship.  It's how I learned 99% of what I know about horses.  It's invaluable experience.  She works her buns off and in return Chief is hers to use at will and she gets to ride a lot of extra hours.  Slim was always small for her age, then she suddenly grew three feet but she only gained 10 pounds! Hence, you see how she got her nickname, Cowgirl Slim.

Well, as much as I don't want to venture out into the cold, windy day, I must.  Hope most of you are enjoying this with your morning coffee still in your bathrobes!  Have a good day! Talk to ya later.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Human Cast of Characters - Part One

What a day, what a day, what a very long day.  Not a bad day, just a long one.  Sorry to be so late with a story or two.  I've heard from my "public" that I hadn't posted yet.  Yesterday, several people who know me personally actually called and emailed asking me to tell certain old farm stories again.  Ok, everyone, patience! Not everyone knows the whole story and who's who, so we've got to let them in on the background. That is if I have any stealth followers who aren't showing up and don't actually know me.  Remember, the blog is to partially pacify people who want me to write a book. The other purpose is to see if anyone besides my friends and family find it worth reading at all.

So, today, it was just me in the morning again.  I'll be so glad when the staff gets back on schedule next week.  Since I've started with the staff, I may as well introduce you to them.

The Staff/Farm Hands aka "My Herd of Little Christians"

Dod is my longest tenured farm hand at the moment.  He's been with me a year. He's a senior at the local Bible College.  He's a little older than most college seniors and just got married over Thanksgiving to his wife, Julie.  Julie is awesome.  If Dod didn't work for me, Julie and I would be great friends.  Since Dod does work for me and it would probably make anyone crazy to have their boss know all about their home life as well as their work life, Julie and I only enjoy the occasional chat to protect his sanity.  Dod can fix almost anything.  He never shows stress. He's always in a good mood. He'll do absolutely anything he's asked to do with a good attitude. This fella will voluntarily go scoop horse poop out of the paddocks in the rain in the winter. No one volunteers to do that.  Dod graduates in May.  He and Julie want to go to a very dangerous country to teach English as a second language in a Christian center.  I gave him a flashlight for his birthday with an SOS setting to use on the ransom video in case he's kidnapped. They are not going to a safe place. It makes me worry.

Ruthie joined my staff in the fall. She went to the local Bible College for undergrad and now is finishing her graduate degree there, too. Ruthie is sporty. She's super petite but that doesn't slow her down a bit. She's a contender on the co-ed intramural flag football team. I know, I was surprised too that a Bible College lets men and women play football together--even flag football. Ruthie occasionally turns flag football into a contact sport. She showed me a video of her taking down someone who got in her way.  She was very proud of herself.  Ruthie is a hard worker. At home, she skins her own deer and cuts firewood for her parents with a chainsaw. They don't make a lot of cute little Bible College ladies like Ruthie. In fact, she may be one of a kind.

Rose joined my staff in November.  She went to college in another state and is here at the local Bible College for her Masters in Counseling.  It's a three year program and she says she wants to stay at the farm the whole time.  I hope that works out.  I like a little stability in the staff.  Rose used to be a waitress. She has no horse knowledge. I've found most of the time people with no horse knowledge make the best employees. I'm not forever trying to break them of bad habits they've developed being around their grandpa's old plow mule.  Rose has a willingness to learn and has caught on quickly.  Plus the horses say she's great with room service and their meals are never late.

I started relying on the local Bible College as my employee poola few years ago --hence calling them "My Herd of Little Christians"-- when I discovered they don't lie, cheat or steal. They show-up on time. They are very humble and want to work hard. It's great.  Now, I did have one employee from there that was maddening. She was with me for two very long years. She's the one everyone wants to make sure I include.  She made for some funny stories--to everyone else.  To me, it was an exercise in patience.  I don't have the strength to tell you about her tonight, but I will. The stories are kind'a funny in retrospect.  She's been gone almost a month, so it's starting to get less painful/more funny, even for me.  Alas, that's another day.

Saturdays are the busiest days at the farm because I have tons of lesson clients and that's what pays the bills.  I'll give you at least one post tomorrow, so you don't have to call me if you haven't heard from me by a time certain, ok? I appreciate the avid readership, though! Tell all your friends!  Good night from the farm. Sleep tight.