Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Does She Get These Ideas?

Last Saturday, Cowgirl Slim was lobbying me to give her Chief for her 16th birthday this summer. Chief pretty much exists at my farm for Cowgirl Slim's benefit. She's able to use him exclusively and at will, in trade for her work as my barn baby.

A barn baby is like an unpaid internship. You work, you ride, you do whatever you're told. In exchange, you learn a tremendous amount about horses. Cowgirl Slim is entering her third year as my barn baby.

I have one barn baby at a time. I choose who it is. It is a demanding, but special relationship. It takes a lot of my time, but it is a pay it forward for all that's been done for me by RW and the vet from my childhood who taught me to ride. It is demanding of the barn baby as well. I am a perfectionist. I want things done right. I don't tolerate whining. I want that person to give it their all, every day. In return, I'll teach that person everything I know...if they stick around long enough.

I've only had two barn babies--Cowgirl Slim and Cowgirl Moe. They are awesome girls. Moe went on to hunter-jumper showing and fox hunting. I'm proud of her, but I still miss her. Moe was with me for two years. Slim came along as a student and then became barn baby about two months after Moe left for a show barn. I couldn't have asked for better barn babies, albeit two very different girls.

Moe had her own horse. She was a boarder initially. Slim does not have her own horse. Slim was at a place in her horsemanship where she needed to have a relationship with one horse that she was responsible for in order to see the results of her actions and as a mirror to her development. She needed a horse who was already trained to start from scratch with--what he knows of the farm and what's expected of him comes from her.

RW got me Chief. On the day he was delivered, Slim was the first one to ride him. I think I've only ridden him twice. He needs to be hers as much as possible.

Slim and Chief have a love hate relationship. They love each other, but I think Slim sometimes hates how much trouble he can be. It's a direct reflection of how much she works with him. When she's spending a lot of time with him, he's great. When she doesn't spend a lot of time with him, he's a pain. It's a lot like kids--you get out what you put in.

So, last Saturday, Slim and Chief were having a good day. She said,"You should give him to me for my 16th birthday. You know, as my sweet 16 present."

"Oh yeah? I should give him to you, huh? Do you have $5,000 a year to keep him up? Besides, you know I'll never give him to you outright. I may sell him to you for a good deal, but I'm not just giving him to you."

"I'll ask my parents. But, you really wouldn't give him to me?"

"No. Well, if something bad happened to me, I'd leave a note that he's yours."

"Like if you went in the witness protection program I could have him?"

"Yeah, if I go in the witness protection program, I'll leave a note saying he's yours. Just come load up the corral panels and take him home."

The conversation continued on. I won't burden you with the rest of the ludicrous requests if I end-up in the witness protection program. I have no need to worry about being in such circumstances. So, I'm left wondering, "Where does she get these ideas?"

Thanks for reading! Have a nice Sunday!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Important Relationships--It's Not Who You Think!

Good morning everyone!  This blog entry is going to have to be short.  I find myself on the run today after yesterday's full day vet visit.

Every six months, horses have to have shots.  Once a year, they have dentals.  I'm happy to report everyone behaved themselves for our vet, Mack.  Chief did not have any moments of questioning his authority as he did with the blacksmith a few weeks ago.  That's nice, Chief.  I always appreciate it when you skip the bucking idiot routine!

I always learn something when our vets are here.  It's fascinating to have the time to talk about a horse's aging process, any habits he's picked-up, and the individuality of each of them.  As always, Mack was full of funny stories, too.  It's a fun side benefit when your vet is also amusing!   For me, being with our vets is a nice way to spend a day learning.

I got into horses through a large animal vet when I was six years old.  He was the father of a good friend in elementary school.  That's the person who taught me to ride.  It's also the person who began my life long fascination with animal health by letting me and his daughter go on calls with him.  It was a very different way to come into horses.  It's given me a unique perspective.  I'm very thankful for such an early life opportunity to better understand the animals who have helped make my life full.

If I'd had more aptitude for science, I would have been a large animal vet.  Although I did not join their ranks, large animal vets have become some of the most important people in my life and business.  From that vet when I was a child, to my vets now, they've been a huge influence and a wonderful help.  I'm grateful for them all.

In my business, a good vet, a good blacksmith, a reliable hay supplier and good clients are absolutely necessary. I can't get along on the farm without them. It's probably not how you think of life on the farm.  I'm sure you know how important clients are to us here, but I'm guessing you don't expect the others who are so essential to our lives.  Since I refer to this blog as a survival guide, let me assure you,  this group of folks will be on the first page in your farm survival guide!

It always surprises me when people consider getting a horse to have at home that they don't consider these important relationships.  It surprises even more me when people who've had horses for a long time don't have these relationships or don't work to maintain them.  If you're running short of cash, don't let it be your vet you don't pay!  A lot of people make that mistake.  They don't appreciate how much they need them or how hard they work.

Your large animal vet is going to be the one coming out in the middle of the night to see your sick horse.  If you have to put your horse to sleep, that's the person who's going to be beside you.  I'm not sure there'll be anyone in a horse owner's life who will teach you more than your vet--if you're smart enough to listen. 

So, be sure you're good to them.  Pay them on time.  Be ready for them when they arrive.  If you can, have some coffee waiting for them in cold weather or a cool drink in hot weather.  They are some of the unsung heroes in the horse world.  If you have a large animal vet, say thank you next time you see him or her.  We're lucky to have them in our lives!

Take care everyone and have a good Friday!  I'm off on errands while the girls clean paddocks!  Life never stops or slows down on the farm!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Cause an Irrational Fear: Tar's Delimma

Good morning, folks!  Remember I told you yesterday that Rose is not afraid of Tar?  She is afraid of Merry.  Remember I told you that is irrational?  Remember I told you being afraid of Tar is also irrational?  Remember I told you about Rose's attitude and how it's going to bite her in the ass?  Well, here it goes!

Several months ago, when Rose joined my herd of little Christians at the farm, Big Mac was bummed-up.  Big Mac had a bad abscess in his foot.  He had to be confined to his stall.  Well, Big Mac is very attached to his Miniature Mediterranean Donkey, Donkey Kong.

Big Mac was working himself into near hysteria by day three of his confinement to his stall.  He could see Donkey Kong.  He could "talk" to him. But, he wasn't within reach of him.  That was quickly becoming unacceptable to Big Mac.

Finally, we moved Big Mac and Donkey Kong to an alleyway.  What's an alleyway?  An alleyway is the space between paddocks.  It's about 16 feet wide and the length of a paddock.  It's not a small space, but it's much smaller than a paddock.  It's a good place to confine a horse who is not doing well being in the barn alone.

Big Mac and Donkey Kong are normally in the paddock beside Tar.  Since horses don't like change, we put them in the alleyway beside Tar.  I think this is when it started.

I often think my horses and other animals consult with each other.  Why? Because sometimes they seem to be working together.  Now, this is not far off the mark.  Horses are herd animals.  In nature, they work together.  So, I assure you, I haven't lost my mind.

During this time, Rose was going in and out of that alleyway, which was blocked off with corral panels to keep Donkey Kong and Big Mac in there.  I'd warned her about keeping the horses at an arm's length.  It's just good practice.  It keeps you from getting stepped on and a myriad of other accidents that are waiting to happen.

When you're working with corral panels instead of gates, it's a little more cumbersome. While a person is wrestling with a panel, a horse can close in on them.  I think Donkey Kong and Tar were counting on this while they were talking about how to initiate Rose into farm life.  I think they had a bet.

Donkey Kong is a slick little bastard.  He sneaks up on people with his cuteness, like my mother.  My mother is a whole different kind of cute than Donkey Kong.  But, they both use cute to their advantage.  Remember that folks!

Anyway, back to the donkey...He's short and fat and generally looks like a cartoon.  He is not a cartoon, friends.  He's slick.

No one told me when it happened.  I think they were afraid I'd blow my cool.  I blow my cool when people do things I've told them not to do that can result in injury to person or horse.  I save blowing my cool for moments when it'll make an impression.  If you're doing something that can get you or a horse hurt, it's time for me to make an impression.

Several days after the fact, I heard about it from Dod.  Apparently, Donkey Kong had bit Rose in the ass.  Bit in the ass by an ass.  It's poetic.  I'm sure Donkey Kong thought of it that way.

I asked Rose about it.  Yes, it was true.  She was putting Big Mac's feed bag on him.  She felt Donkey Kong behind her.  She didn't shoo him away like she'd been aside in my mind.  Then he bit her.  It left a mark.  I didn't ask to see it.  I think I laughed.  I'm sure Tar got a giggle out of it, too.  I'm also sure he must have been in on the plan.

At times like this, don't expect much sympathy from me.  I told her to keep them at arm's length.  I told her it was for safety.  Sometimes, people have to find out for themselves.

In the months that have followed, Tar has done his best to look huge and freak out new people. Rose has bumped along in her learning process.  As she's learning, we're learning about her, too.  For example, that she's mostly talk and very little tough.  I'm sure the animals are learning about her as well.  Remember, horses pay attention to everything.  Horses are smarter than people.

In the meantime, Tar is out there plotting, I assure you.  He's used to getting the first laugh on the new staff.  This time, Donkey Kong stole his thunder.

Tar heard that Rose is afraid of little tiny Merry.  He can't have that!  Now, Tar really needs to make an impression on Rose.  He's thinking of how to make her life more interesting.  That's his mission.

He's thinking, "Maybe I should bite her in the ass? No, no.  That's been done.  Maybe I should flinch when she's leading me?  No, no.  That's been done, too.  I tried my wheelbarrow flipping trick.  It just made her mad.  What can I do?  How can I make my impression?  Why isn't she afraid of me?  I must give her a good scare at least once!  Otherwise, what the hell is going on here? Where have I gone wrong? Have I lost my mojo?  No, no, I haven't.  I just need more time to think."

Oh geez, that's dangerous.  Giving an intelligent, mischievous horse time to think!  That'll bite you in the ass for sure...even if Donkey Kong got you first!

Ok, folks, thanks for reading!  And, yes, I do like Rose.  She drives me a little crazy with her tough talking facade, but she's ok.  She'll learn.  I'm sorry life is going to have to kick her around a little to learn, but she will.  And, Tar will help.  I promise you that.  Tar will help her come down a few notches.  He's thinking about it right now.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Irrational Fear? Part Two

Good Morning everyone!  Today I'm going to tell you about someone who is not irrationally afraid of Tar.  Can you guess?  It's my good ol' farm hand, Rose.

Rose is a tough talker.  She's not nearly as tough as she talks.  She will never admit it, though.  Rose has no horse experience.  You'd think she'd know to admit what she doesn't know.  She doesn't.

Occasionally, Rose will admit to being unsure about something.  She will never go farther than that.  That attitude is going to bite her in the ass one day.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rose announced that she is not afraid of Tar one day.  Really?  Yes, not afraid of him.  He's pulled that wheelbarrow trick on her, too.  You know, the one I told you about yesterday.  Nope, not afraid, she says.

Well, during the last snow, I found out that Rose is afraid of Merry.  Merry?  Afraid of Merry?  How is that possible?  Talk about an irrational fear!

Merry is a small horse.  She weighs 800 lbs.  The average horse weighs 1000 lbs.  Tar weighs 1600 lbs.  Merry is not physically intimidating like Tar.

Merry is a really good horse.  She leads easily.  She doesn't try to eat grass while leading or riding.  She doesn't crowd you while leading.  She doesn't try to walk in front of you.  She doesn't pull away.  She's high energy.  She's sensitive to instructions.  She's rarely, if ever, in a bad mood.  She's darn near perfect.  How could anyone be afraid of Merry?  It's an irrational fear.

Well, Rose is afraid of her.  I asked why, when this came out during the last snow.  Rose said she was afraid to lead Merry in the snow. She said she was "uneasy" around Merry, period. Why?  Rose is afraid Merry will have some sort of explosion of energy.

Yes, Merry is high energy.  She doesn't do anything about it unless she's asked or spooked.  But, you can feel it leading her.  She kind'a has a vibrating energy that comes down the lead rope.  It's not harmful, though.

I have to work with what I've got on staff.  I told Rose if Merry had this "explosion of energy" and she couldn't regain control, just drop the rope.  Sometimes, there's a point at which you have to drop the rope rather than be drug, stomped, run over, or have irreparable rope burn on your hands.  It rarely happens here because I have really well trained, calm horses.  But, it happens once a year or so.

I walked out with Rose and Merry that day in the snow.  That snow was more ice than snow, so it crunched when you walked on it.  Knowing this, I had scrapped pathways to the paddocks with the tractor the night before.  Rose somehow didn't think to walk in the pathways.  I have no idea why.  They were four feet wide.  You couldn't miss them.

No, Rose was walking in the path leading Merry on the snow.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.  I kept calling to her to get Merry in the path.  It was no use. 

I've told you about horses having more energy in the cold weather.  I've told you horses don't like change.  So, here's this high energy horse who's got even more energy because it's chilly.  Here's this very sensitive horse who's now crunching along on the snow.  That's not what she's used to.  Then there's a tense farm hand leading her.  Do you see where this is going?

It's not as bad as you think.  When Rose finally got Merry to her paddock, when she was just inside the gate, Merry flinched.  Dear God you would have thought she'd turned into a dinosaur and tried to kill Rose.

Rose dropped the rope and jumped out of the paddock.  Now Merry is scared.  What's the rope doing "chasing" her around and why is Rose jumping away from her?  What's happening next?  Is a tiger going to eat me for lunch? Is that what Rose sees?  A tiger coming to get me?  Oh no!  Panic!  This is how a prey animal thinks.  Horses are prey animals.

Merry starts running from the rope, which of course is futile because it's attached to her halter.  The rope starts to wrap around her legs.  This doesn't help matters.  I've called to Rose she has to go get the rope.  Rose makes no move to do so.  Crap!  Damn wimp!

Ok, I can't let my best horse get hurt because Rose is a tough talking wimp.  I go in the paddock and get the rope.  Merry had chilled for a moment and was standing at the hay ring.  It wasn't a big deal.  If I got the rope while she was calm, that would be the end of it.  And, it was.

Afterward, I had to clarify with Rose when it's appropriate to drop the rope.  And, that you cannot just walk away and leave the horse with the rope attached to her halter.  When the horse calms down, you gotta get the rope.

Rose's display of "horsemanship" was a fine example of an irrational fear in motion.  I didn't say it.  I thought it.  The worst thing you can do is tell someone who has an irrational fear that it is irrational.

Saying their fear is irrational makes them dig into the fear even more.  Or, in Rose's tough talking case, just tell you how she isn't afraid in the first place.  See, I told you all my therapist training was just cleverly disguised these days!

Oh, dear Rose, life is going to be hard on you.  The farm offers such a good opportunity to learn.  It offers an opportunity to work with a boss who wants the best for you.  It offers a place where you're not supposed to know, so it's ok to say so.

Very few people have need of horsemanship skills in this day and age.  It's ok to say you don't know.  Nope, not for Rose.  Rose needs to be a tough, sometimes know-it-all, person.  Oh Rose, life is going to bite you in the ass one day...just like...well, that's tomorrow's story!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Irrational Fear? Part One

Hey there!  Sorry to be getting this to you a little late in the day.  I'm solo at the farm today. 

Ruthie is getting her master's degree in teaching English as a second language.  She had to do some make-up teaching today.  She must have missed some days with the snow.  So, being a nice boss, I said, "Ok" to her request.  Of course, I got something in trade.  She worked Sunday for me.  I'm not that nice!  Hence the late blog entry for you.

I've started hiring people with little or no horse experience in the past few years.  It allows me to teach them to do it the way I want it done.  It cuts down on people who think they know horses, but they don't.  Those folks are still alive by the grace of God!  I've seen some real doozies by people who "know" horses.

People have a lot of preconceived notions about horses.  You've probably gathered that by reading my blog entries over the past few days.  When I hire new people, they also have some preconceived notions about horses.  When they start interacting with my horses, it's always Tar that they tell me they are afraid of.

Being afraid of Tar is like being afraid of a puppy!  Tar doesn't have a mean bone in his body.  Yes, he's big.  Yes, he's curious.  Yes, he's smart.  Mean he is not.

If Tar hurts you, it's probably an accident.  Either you didn't watch your feet and he stepped on you.  Or, you didn't obey the rule about not getting between a horse and a wall and he squished you.  YOU as the person have a responsibility to keep yourself safe.  It is not Tar's responsibility to keep you safe.

I don't know that Tar has ever done these things with the staff.  They are simply afraid of him because he's huge.  He can't help that.  As my dad would say, "That's just the way God made him."  It's a common fear, being afraid of big horses.  It's an irrational fear.

Tar rather enjoys playing tricks on these timid souls who are afraid of him, though.  It's a rite of passage here.  Tar will play a trick on you sooner rather than later.  He's not going to hurt you, but he is going to get a laugh out of your misfortune.

One of Tar's favorite tricks to play on the newbies is toss the wheelbarrow.  I warn them, but it happens anyway.  This is how it goes. 

The paddocks have to be cleaned every week.  It's unhealthy for manure to stay around the horses for long periods of time.  Standing in it is bad for their feet.  It promotes parasites.  It's just not good. 

The staff sometimes use the tractor, sometimes the wheelbarrows.  When someone is new, they are not getting their hands on my very nice tractor.  Those folks use the wheelbarrow.  I think Tar starts to grin when he sees them coming with it.

Tar socializes with the staff while they clean his paddock.  He watches them.  He rubs on them.  He solicits petting and chatting.  Then, when they have a wheelbarrow full of manure, he flips it over. 

I cannot tell you how many times this has happened.  It's happened enough that I warn them.  But, Tar is cleaver.  So, he gets away with it anyway.  I told you horses are smart!

Not everyone is afraid of Tar, though.  But, you'll have to wait to hear about that tomorrow!  Thanks for reading!  Have a good day!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Killer and Coffee to the Rescue! And, Spot too!

Good Monday morning!  Remember I promised you every thing I tell you is true?  Remember I have no need to make this stuff up because it really happens?

Well, just the other night when I was typing the blog for you to read in the morning, it happened again.  Something I knew you'd get a laugh out of happened right then and there.  Here's the scoop.

As I said, I was typing away for you to have a funny postcard from the farm to read with your morning coffee.  Not my Coffee the guard dog, your coffee that you drink.  Don't want to get the two confused.  You'll understand in a minute.

Rat a tat tat my fingers are flying away on my computer keyboard.  When I got my degree in journalism, we still had to use electric typewriters and take a typing test to enroll in upper level classes.  Yes, there were computers.  I'm not that dadgum old!

As students we even lobbied not to use typewriters.  This was a big university and a top ten College of Journalism. We didn't need no stinkin' typewriters!  But, good ol' Dr. Brown, who was a real son of a gun, said, "You may end-up at some small town paper that doesn't have computers.  You need to learn to use a typewriter."  So, when I type, I'm fast.  It may account for some of my mistakes you see.  Anyway, I digress.

Rat a tat tat my fingers are flying.  I'm telling you a funny one!  I'm starting to giggle, too.  Then, I hear something.  I'm in my study in the living quarters of the people barn.  But, I have ears like a dog.  I hear everything.

At the time, I was surrounded by three other sets of dog ears.  I looked around to see if Coffee, Killer, and Spot were alert.  Usually if I hear it, they hear it.  Or, vice versa.  It's hard to sneak up on us.  I like it like that.  Alas, my dog ears were the only ones on the alert.  The others were snoozing on the floor.  I kept listening.

My friend from high school, Miss NRA, is getting excited reading this.  She thinks I got to whip out my grandfather's pistol.  Nope, sorry Miss NRA.  No shootin' went on this night.  Maybe another day.  Don't lose hope.  We'll get 'em!

Anyway, I kept hearing a high pitched screeching.  I thought I heard a car pull up and cut off.  Turns out that was at my neighbors.  I know because I woke the dogs up and we went outside.

The sound was like a child or a woman screaming in a very high pitch, but not exactly.  Once we're outside, everyone is on the alert.  The noise is coming from the back of the people barn.  My study is on the opposite end of the people barn.  I told you I have dog ears.

We head down the sidewalk of the people barn and past the tack room door.  Through the gate and past the cross ties where the horses are tied up at lesson time.  Noise is louder.  It's Sasha!  But, I couldn't see her.  The flood lights weren't on back there.  I wasn't to the switch yet.  Huh?

The flood lights at the back of the people barn turn on outside. Why is the switch outside?  Because in the winter, it invariably gets dark before I'm finished teaching a lesson.  I'd rather the parents or one of my farm hands just flip the light on right there at the cross ties rather than go rummaging through my living quarters.  Besides, Spot likes his privacy.  It's unwise to bust in on 70 lbs of extra large dalmatian that doesn't like strangers.  Sorry, I digress so easily when I'm tired.

I get to the light switch and flip it on.  Killer and Coffee are way ahead of me. They took off as soon as we rounded the corner.  They were on the hunt.  Sasha was under a foot stool to my patio furniture.  She looked stunned.  Then, I got a whiff of it.  Tom cat urine.

Sasha, who loves to flirt with anything male, had attracted a tom cat.  Sasha!  This is what you get when you swish your tail at everything male!  You get some sort of Spring Freak Tom Cat!

Thankfully, Sasha is "fixed."  And, yes, she has all of her claws and knows how to use them.  Just try to give her a pill if you don't believe me.

Sasha looks fine, but stunned.  I leave her under the foot stool. Spot and I round the far corner of the people barn.  Coffee and Killer are way ahead of us.  Spot is about twelve feet in front of me.  Someone has to stay behind and guard "Mom" after all.

Coffee and Killer have rushed through Shadow and Speakeasy's paddock and back out under the fence on the far side.  They are at the back perimeter fence before you can say, "Jackrabbit!"

There is a big ruckus at the back fence line.  There's rustling of leaves.  There's big barking and growling.  I'm starting to get worried.  That tom cat got more than he bargained for when he started spraying and talking dirty to Sasha.

That tom cat didn't know Sasha had two super aggressive guard dogs as siblings.  Not to mention one back-up dalmatian and a "Mama" with a pistol.  Nope, ol' tom got more than he bargained for!  I didn't have the pistol with me folks.  Relax.  I didn't shoot ol' tom.

By this time, Speakeasy and Shadow are in on it.  They are racing around their paddock snorting and fussing.  Tom best not head back through that paddock.  He'll get squished!

I call for Coffee and Killer.  I don't want pieces of tom cat every where.  Remember, I have to clean that stuff up.  It was getting late.  I hadn't had dinner or a glass of wine.  I didn't want to scoop up tom cat guts.  Believe me.

Killer is the most obedient dog ever known to cowgirl kind.  Killer leaves the pursuit and comes toward me and Spot. Spot has never left me.  Spot is guarding me.  I told you he's completely devoted to me.

Coffee is another matter.  When Coffee gets the scent of an interloper, forget it.  She's not letting you get away.  Coffee is a Chow after all.  Under that flat lab mix coat, Coffee is all Chow.

Just ask Doc.  He'll tell you.  Chows are domineering guard dogs.  They were bred to guard the Emperors of China.  He'll also tell you most Chows boss their owners around.  Chows need a firm and confident leader.  Coffee has one.  Doc likes that.  It means Coffee behaves herself when she's at his office.  I take it a lot of Chows don't.  Doc doesn't suffer ill behaved animals gladly.

Anyway, I have to call Coffee again, after Killer has come off the tom cat.  Coffee isn't going to let this fella get away. She's ready to head under that fence.  I call her the second time strongly.  She really doesn't want to give up.  She wants to give ol' tom what he deserves.  "Talking dirty and spraying around my Sasha!  I'll show you!"  I'm sure that's what those growls meant.

Third time I call her, Coffee comes off the tom cat.  The third time I call a dog of mine, he or she has absolutely no doubt they better get to me now.  And, I mean right now.  I'm the head of this herd.  Get over here.

Coffee comes tearing over to me.  She is all a quiver with adrenaline.  She's panting. She's so excited.  I wish I could let her finish what tom started, but I can't.

They all come back around the people barn with me.  Shadow and Speakeasy are still disgruntled.  But, by the time we turn off the flood lights, they are starting to calm down.  Sasha is no longer under the foot stool.  Good.

Whew!  That smell!  Tom has sprayed back by the cross ties.  That'll be fun for lessons in the morning.  Damn tom cat.  Maybe I should've let Coffee have her way with him?

We head to the horse barn where Sasha has her own stall.  Sasha is waiting for us behind the recycling bins.  "Sasha, that's what you get.  You can't flirt with every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  This isn't the breeder's cattery where they are all in cages.  This is the real world.  You aren't in the Queening Room any more, sweetheart."

The Queening Room is the room in a cattery where the breeder keeps the female breeding cats.  Sasha still thinks she's a queen because of  it.  Sasha is a retired breeding cat.

I close the side door of the barn completely.  I always lock the big doors, but the side door I usually leave cracked for Sasha.  She stays out late.  I don't want her to be unable to get inside.  I'm a softy, I know.

The dogs and I head back inside to finish your postcard.  We get in the foyer between the business side of the people barn and my living quarters.  In that small space I realize either Coffee or Killer has been sprayed.  Oh crap!

I know it's not Spot since he never left his position guarding me.  So, I put him in my quarters.  No need to let him get contaminated in the post-hunting excitement.

I come back in the foyer and notice wet paw prints.  Ok, someone walked through tom cat pee.  Great.  I start feeling paws.  Of course, it's Coffee who got it.  Ol' tom took a parting shot at her.

No wonder it took me three calls to get her.  She wasn't going to let tom cat get away with spraying her!  No sir!  She was going to tear him limb from limb.  Literally. That's why I called her off.

"Ok, Coffee, I see you had good reason.  I'm sorry I didn't let you finish him."  Not really, but I'm trying to make her feel better.

I feel Killer's paws.  Nothing.  Poor Coffee is the only one who seems to have taken a direct hit.

I go back inside and get Clorox wipes.  This is serious stink.  I wipe down Coffee's paws.  I wipe down Killer's too, because by this time, he'd walked through Coffee's tracks of tom cat pee.  I wipe down the foyer floor.  Please let that kill the stink.

As I'm sanitizing everyone, I see Sinatra through the french door to my quarters.  He's sniffing at the threshold with a disgusted look on his face.  I know Sinatra.  It's tom cat pee.  "Geez!  You can get neutered and take care of that stench.  Doesn't every cat know that?"  I know Sinatra, I know.  I'm cleaning it up.

Sinatra saunters off.  He's smelled quite enough. Tom cat pee and dogs.  Yuck!  He's leaving.  Back to his pillow on the leather sofa.

Now, poor Coffee and Killer will have to go to bed early.  They live in the horse barn since they are guard dogs.  I can't let them come watch tv with me and Spot tonight.  I don't want my entire living area to smell like tom cat.  Sorry guys.

Back in the horse barn, Bun-Bun the rabbit is hoping animatedly in his hutch.  He wants to know what all of the excitement is about.  It dawns on me tom may come back.  We can't let Bun-Bun be a sitting duck...or rabbit, rather.

Come on guys, let's go close all the barn windows. We don't want ol' tom coming through a window when he can't get in a door.  Coffee, Killer, and I walk around the barn closing all of the dutch windows.  I get to Chief's and he turns around.

Chief is restless enough being inside all night. Closing his window makes him near stir crazy.  Ok, Chief.  I won't close your window.  But, if ol' tom comes through your stall, you stomp him, ok?  He's a trouble maker.

Ok. Chief agrees.  Chief is just glad I'm calling someone else trouble maker tonight.  That's what I usually call him--that or Fat Head. Chief has a really big head.

Finally, barn windows closed.  Barn doors already locked.  Sasha lectured again.  Killer and Coffee tucked in.  I'm tired.  And, I still need to finish your postcard.

But, I am reassured.  Coffee and Killer spend a lot of time harassing Sasha every day.  Coffee in particular likes to chase Sasha and bark at her.

Coffee believes all cats belong inside.  She's herding Sasha back to where she thinks cats belong.  Don't worry about Sasha, though.  Sasha will swat Coffee with those claws if she gets too close.

Like any parent of siblings who try to kill each other on a daily basis, I am glad to see that, when it counts, Coffee and Killer will protect Sasha from a tom cat.  It's probably not quite that noble, but it has the same effect.  Family protects family.

Sasha may be a crafty wench, but damnit, she's Coffee and Killer's crafty wench!  Now, ol' tom, get outside of our fence and stay there!

By-the-way, today is Spot's birthday.  He's 13.  That's 91 in people years.  He's holding up ok for such an old guy.  Drink a toast to him with your coffee.  Remember, your coffee, not mine.  My Coffee will get ya!  Just ask ol' tom cat!

Have a good Monday, folks!  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

This Is Not A Petting Zoo

Good Sunday Morning to you!  Again, let me tell you about all the folks Spring brings around the farm.  This one probably won't surprise you.  Maybe you've done it.  Don't do it again.  Ok?

Remember all of those folks I told you about who love to drop-in at the horse farm?  They just pull into the gate and start talking, or worse, walking around my farm.

A lot of these folks have their little kids in tow.  Now, I call all kids this--even kids I like.  So, don't get the wrong idea.  Kids, in my good natured vocabulary, are all rug monkeys.  You read it right, folks, your kid is a rug monkey in my world.  I call 'em as I see 'em.  Rug monkeys.

In the Spring and Summer, lots of folks like to get out of the house with the rug monkeys.  Those little boogers start driving their parents crazy.  So, they like to bring them to my farm to drive me crazy.

Nope!  Not happening!  I gotcha on this one.  No rug monkeys running loose here.  No, ma'am.  Pick him up and take him back with you.

All small children must be "kept in hand."  It says so in the rules posted in the barn.  That means, you can't let them get out of your reach.

I prefer you not let them go at all.  Those suckers are fast.  They can be under a horse in a minute.  Hold on to them!  I don't care if you've paid me for his big sister to take a hundred lessons.  You must hold on to your rug monkeys here.  It's for their own good.

When folks are loading up the rug monkeys to get out of the house in pretty weather, they want to take 'em somewhere fun.  I don't know why my farm screams fun to these folks, but it does.  I can't tell you how many station wagons and mini-vans wheel into my place.  They're in my gate so much I should charge an entrance fee.

Why?  Why charge a fee?  Because these folks want something for nothing and without signing a release of liability form.  This is a business and you don't get your hands on my horses without signing that form.  This is a business and you don't get something for nothing.  I gotta make some money to feed those horses!

These folks want their rug monkeys to,"Just see the horses.  I just want to sit him up on one.  I just want him to pet 'em."  No!  These folks also do not ever turn into paying customers.  I know.  I've let too many of them see my horses when I was feeling generous.  I learned my lesson.

I cannot give these folks what they want.  Why?  What they want is a free petting zoo.  And, let me tell you something ladies and gentlemen, this ain't no petting zoo!  And, above all else, this place ain't free either.

Yes, I know how to speak proper English.  I have two college degrees.  I'm just throwing in that cowgirl vernacular to give it some flavor.  Now, let's get on with it.

Whatever you think it costs to own and operate a horse farm, multiply it times 10.  Seriously.  I've never had anyone come close to guessing what an expensive addiction a horse farm is.  It would blow your mind.  So, I'm not going to tell you.  I don't want you to hurt your head on a Sunday.  You might miss Sunday dinner that way.

But why? Why won't you let little snot nosed two year old Johnny pet the horsey?  Because snot nosed Johnny is going to put his hand in my horse's mouth and get bit.  My horses aren't bitters usually, but people are always wanting to put their hands in the horse's mouth.  I have no idea why!  If you know, write to me in comments, please!  I'd love to know why it looks like a good idea to put little Johnny's hand in something with such big teeth!

Or, these people want to feed my horses all of the junk food they are giving their fat little rug monkeys.  No!  Horses get sick easily.  I will take care of all of the feeding.  Get away!

Again, why don't you take their money and supervise the rug monkeys?  You could make extra cash doing it.  Charge 'em a buck a pop.   Nope.  You have to have special liability insurance to have a petting zoo.

Petting zoo insurance is really expensive.  Why?  I just told you!  Rug monkeys get bit because they put their grubby little hands in some poor animal's mouth!  Stop asking silly questions.  You sound like your kid.  Would you like me to call you Big Rug Monkey?  No?  Then stop asking silly questions.

Look, if what you want is a petting zoo, go to your local zoo.  Like a real zoo.  Not my farm.  Not another horse farm.  Not your neighbors who don't know who you are, but they happen to have some horses.  No.  Go to the zoo!

The zoo has petting zoo liability insurance.  The zoo has special snacks they'll sell you to feed their animals.  The zoo will be happy to have you visit.  So, go there, please.  This is not a free petting zoo!

Besides, the zoo loves rug monkeys.  Look, they've even got monkeys of their own over there!  Go over and say, "Hi!" to your cousins!  They'll be happy to see you.

Hope you got a little laugh and learned something, too!  Have a beautiful Sunday!  Go to the zoo!  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just Say No!

Good Saturday Morning Folks!  I told you I start getting a lot more phone calls for business as the weather warms up.  But, the calls I'm going to tell you about today I get all year long.  I always wonder why people are surprised when I just say "No!" to this request.

I find that people are awkward when it comes to calling the farm with questions.  They are non-horse people, but they want to learn about horses.  Or, as you've heard me rant, they are people who have never been on a horse but they love horses. I get all kinds of calls.  People just don't know the right words very often.

So, when people call and are struggling to form the right question, I give them time.  I try to guide them towards the area I think they are asking about.  The most frequent call I get is this question:  I just want to ride.  Do you let people do that?

That one takes clarification.  I always respond: "I teach lessons.  Is that what you're looking for?"  Sometimes that's the right direction.  Yes, they want lessons.  Unfortunately for business and for me, many times that's not what the caller meant. 

I try again: "Do you want a trail ride?"  If that's what the caller is asking, I have to tell them, "No. I'm sorry, I don't have enough acreage for trail rides."  Inevitably comes the next question:  Do you know who does?

I am too nice and too honest.  I do know of one place.  I used to tell people.  Then I finally got tired of steering people over to the competition.  So, now, I just say, "No, I don't.  I'm sorry."  It's business ladies and gentlemen, I'm not sending it elsewhere.

If I still haven't gotten to the bottom of the question, I try again: "Do you want a pony ride?"  This is usually if they've mentioned a child in their initial question about a horse to ride.  The answer is: "No, I don't do pony rides."

I like for people to truly learn about horses.  Pony rides teach you nothing about horses.  Pony rides also run up your liability insurance premiums.  Why? Cause those little pony riding boogers always seem to fall off of the pony and get hurt.  Then, they file a claim against your liability insurance.  Nope. No pony rides.

But, the most frequent meaning of that time worn question I get day after day after day: I want to ride a horse.  Do you let people do that?  Is that this poor fool on the other end of the phone has watched too many movies and tv shows.

This poor fool wants to rent one of my horses and just ride off for the day.  The poor fool doesn't want any instruction.  The poor fool has never been on a horse.  The poor fool probably thinks the horse knows what to do and all he has to do is sit there.  It'll be just like in the movies.  Oh, yeah.  Uh-huh.  Just like in the movies. 

The answer to this question is a resounding, "NO!"  Now, I'm polite about it.  I don't scream at them.  I don't curse or tell them they are damn fools.  I just say, "No, I don't do that."

Then, inevitably, comes the next question, "Why?"  They want to know why I don't just hand over one of my fine animals that I've invested with most of my time and all of my money.  They want to know why they can't just grab him up and go.

I don't know. Why don't you just let me have your new Porsche for the day?  I don't know how to drive.  I've never seen a car.  But, why can't I just drive your new Porsche for the day?  I love Porsches, but I've never seen one in person.   It's the same thing as these poor fools wanting to get their unsupervised hands on my horses.  It ain't happening, folks.  No!

Oh, but the horse knows what to do.  Yeah.  That's right.  The horse does know just what to do. That horse knows he's got 200 lbs of idiot on his back and Cowgirl Domino is no where in sight.  My horses know exactly what to do now.  That horse is going to do as he damn well pleases.  That's exactly what he knows to do.

A horse has judged his rider in the first 15 seconds you're on him.  And, remember, I told you early on, horses are smarter than people because they pay attention.  Don't forget it because as soon as you do, that's when he'll put one over on you.  That's why I'm not going to rent my horse out to you without me and a lesson to go with him.

You will have a terrible time after 1000 lbs of horse flesh has stood still; or walked you up on the porch; or eaten all of the grass on the farm while you try to make him stop; or galloped off to Miami with you; or whatever that horse wants to do in that moment.  A horse with an unsupervised, unknowing rider will do exactly as he pleases.  Trust me.

And why, if I get all of these calls, don't I just give in and take their money?  I could let them find out for themselves.  I could stop wasting my breath on them and take their money.  Well, I thought of that.

I asked my insurance carrier about it.  The agent said, "Underwriting will never approve that."  She didn't even try to sell me some expensive "Just In Case of Idiots" rider to my insurance policy.  She just said, "No."

You know what that means folks? If you call and ask to: Just ride a horse.  I just wanna ride.  I don't want no lesson. I just wanna ride.  I will just say, "No."  Pretty soon, I'm going to stop wasting my breath answering that second question, "Why?"  Or, I'm going to go all Mama on them and say, "Because I said so.  That's why!"  You don't want me to do that, do you?

Now, you know one more thing not to do when you call or drop by a horse farm this Spring when you start getting Spring Fever.  I'm just saving you the trouble.  I'm just saving my competition the trouble, too.  We'll all just say, "No."

Why? Because our insurance company won't underwrite it and we don't want to lose our shirts when you fall off and hurt your stupid self.  There you go.  That's the answer ladies and gentlemen.  So, don't ask the question.

Take care. Thanks for reading.  Hope you got a laugh and learned something, too!  Have a good Saturday!

P.S. By-the-way, I have seen a new Porsche.  I've seen old Porsches, too. I've ridden in them.  I've driven them.  I'm surrounded by sports car enthusiasts.  So, you'd be safer giving me your Porsche for the day than I'd be giving you my horse.  Just wanted to put your mind at ease.  Now, hand over those Porsche keys to Cowgirl Domino. Zoom, zoom.  Just like in the movies!!!  Yeeeehawww!!!!

;0)  Just kidding.  I don't say "Yeeeehawww,"  ever, never, ever, never.  Not happening.  Now, give me the keys and get away from my horse!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Freaks

Good Afternoon Everyone.  Just a quick post to tell you about what spring weather brings around at the farm.  It's also a warning to you not to behave this way with a horse farmer.

It's unseasonably warm today.  It has been all week.  We'll have one more cold snap before Spring.  Right now, though, everyone has Spring Fever--including the freaks!

What do I mean by freaks?  Oh, come on.  You know.  People who act weird.  People who make you say, "Hmmmm."  People you just wonder about when you encounter them.  I get a lot of phone calls from freaks.  I bet I've gotten at least 10 in the past two days.  Now, the freaks are starting to drop by, too.  Weird.

Since my farm is also a business, I have to field phone calls from the general public.  It's how my lesson people find me.  It's part of my job.  I also field unscheduled drop-ins by the public.  The freaks blend in with the general public.  It's hard to tell them apart until they start really talking to you.  Then, you know.

Most of my unscheduled drop-ins are people who want to ask about lessons.  Not many of them book lessons.  Most of them are just talking.  The people who book lessons tend to call after they found us on the web, saw our sign, or a friend referred them.  Drop-ins almost never result in business.

I spend a lot less time with drop-ins now that I know it's not likely to result in business.  I talk to them.  I answer most questions.  I'm polite.  But, I learned not to spend half an hour with them.  It's a waste of time.

Drop-ins disrupt our daily schedule.  Drop-ins cost money because they keep me or the staff from doing what I'm paying to be done.  Drop-ins have great potential to be freaks.  I mean who else has time to be driving around in the middle of a weekday, stopping, and asking a million questions?  Not most normal people.

Most normal people have jobs or children at home to take care of.  Normal people do not pull into my gate on a Thursday at 2:00 pm and start asking if my horses are male or female.  Those kind of questions let you know a freak is on the farm.

Just today, Dod headed off a freak for me.  It was actually a pair of freaks.  They started asking about lessons.  Ok.  That's not a problem.  Then, they started asking about my horses' names, male or female, and breed.  I wish Dod hadn't told the freaks my horses' names.  He only told them the names of the two horses.  They also wanted to know if those two horses were females.  Red flag, red flag, red flag!!!!

Why do these freaks want to know my horses' personal data?  Do they want a date with my female horses? What?  Too many questions.  Too many weird questions that have nothing to do with lessons.  It makes me start wondering about people.  I want them to go away when this kind of stuff starts.

There was a guy in the news last year breaking into people's horse barns and having sex with the female horses.  He was finally caught and sentenced for animal cruelty.  There are more really serious freaks out there than you know.  Trust me.  I'm not paranoid.  I'm cautious.  I have really good reasons.

My first horse died of antifreeze poisoning from a freak calling him to a fence and giving him a bucket full to drink.  The autopsy showed it.  The guy is in prison now on an unrelated charge.  He'll eventually be sentenced on those animal killings, too.  He killed horses and cattle.  That's a serious freak.

Now, I realize most people are simply asking an innocent question.  They are trying to find common ground.  They want me to think they know horses.  Trust me, it makes me think you don't know horses when you ask freakish questions.

So, next time you drive by a horse farm or call a horse farm, don't be a freak.  Don't be mistaken for a freak.  Ask normal questions that you'd ask at any business.  Ask the business hours.  Ask the price of lessons or boarding.  Ask if they teach beginners.  Do not start asking about those female horses over there and what are their names and do they have a cell phone number. That starts making you look like a freak.

Freaky questions by people "just dropping by" make me get out  my grandfather's pistol.  I have it close by just in case you're one of those serious freaks.  I don't brandish it at any one.  I'll patrol the property with it sometimes.  But, trust me, I have it on hand.

I will greet you with the pistol if I must.  You don't want to get that reaction from me or any other farmer.  Really. I promise.  We won't be friends afterward. So, promise me next time you think of horses, you'll remember not to act like a freak.  We'll all breathe easier.  Thanks.

Hope you got a few laughs as well as some helpful hints!  Have a good day! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Can't Make These Things Up

Good Morning Everyone!  I was actually up a little early this morning which brought to mind another early morning.  This is another one of those farm tales that people have been begging me to tell again.  Here you go!

Spot is prone to urinary tract infections.  This is unusual for a male dog.  But, it's not unusual for a male dog with neurological issues--spinal-- who has been on steroids.

He had been whining to go out a lot.  I thought I'd get a sample for Doc and let him check it out.  Doc has warned me UTIs can be the end of a "neuro" dog.  They don't show signs of pain as well.  So, UTIs can quickly become a systemic infection.  This will help you understand my determination to get a sample.

Doc needs a specimen from Spot's first trip outside for it to be most accurate. When Spot decided it was time to go out, I was still asleep.  He'd been off his schedule for a few days. Knowing this, I'd planned ahead.  I put a plastic container by the door.

It was a really cold morning.  I dressed warmly, but not attractively.  Remember, I was asleep when this started.  I had on my nightgown, a heavy wool sweater over it, a pair of tall gray work socks, bathrobe, Ariat riding mules that had seen better days, librarian glasses, and a really bad case of bed head.  I mean, my hair looked like Einstein.  Who was I going to see at this hour any way? No one.  Why worry?  Ha ha!

We head outside.  Spot goes in the flower garden and lifts his leg.  I lurch under him with the container.  Now, Doc likes to be specific.  He also must have a lot of faith in me and Spot and our abilities to meet his requirements.  Doc doesn't want this first squirt.  Doc wants a mid-stream sample.  Ok, no problem.  Again, ha ha!

Spot is wise to this process.  He had a bad UTI back in November.  Spot is also bladder shy.  So, I stick the container under.  I get maybe a quarter ounce.  Spot stops his business...and runs.

I am running after him in my "lovely" outfit with a container of dog pee in my hand, when I hear a truck coming down my driveway.  Crap!  It was one of my "finest" moments.

Ok, they've got to be going back to see my neighbors.  We have a shared driveway.  They live behind me--a whole clan of them.  Seriously, four houses worth of them.  Just don't look at the truck.  The driver won't notice you.  Again, ha ha!

The truck promptly pulls up in front of my gate.  I have no intention of acting like I notice.  Then, the man in the truck starts yelling, "There's a horse in the road!"

Don't get alarmed.  It's not my horse.  I know it's not my horse for several reasons.  First, since it was an exceptionally cold night, my horses spent the night in the barn. The barn doors are still closed.  Second, I have a perimeter fence of field fencing with posts set three feet deep in concrete.  Finally, I have really good gates that are locked at night.

My horses are not getting in the road unless a gate is open.  No gates were open.  I was standing right there beside both exit gates with dog pee in my hand.  I should know.  Besides, I also know whose horse it is: my neighbors.

My neighbors have crappy old rusty barb wire fence nailed into rotten old saplings for posts.  Their horses get out all the time.  It's not news to me.

I yell back to the man, because I have no intention of approaching the gate in this get-up with Spot's dog pee in my hand, "It's not mine!"

He yells again, more insistently this time, "There's a horse in the road!"

I yell back, "It's not mine.  Mine are in the barn!"

He looks utterly disgusted and turns around in the driveway and heads back to the main road.

I did peek around my barn to the main road.  I did not see a horse.  I'd call my neighbors anyway when I got inside.  Those people are thorns in my side.

They sold me the property.  Then they kept me in zoning for eight months and two public hearings.  Complete jerks, especially the old man.  That's another story.  But, needless to say, I don't go chasing their horses down the road.

Why don't you go help those poor horses?  First of all, my liability insurance will not cover me or my employees if we're chasing someone else's horse down a public road and something goes wrong.  That sounds harsh, but it's true.

I'm telling you, my neighbors would have no problem suing me if their horse got hit by a car when I was trying to rescue it.  I promise, no problem whatsoever.  I'd be in court.

And, the person who ran into the horse would sue me.  Actually, their family would have to sue me. If you hit a horse, you're dead.  It's like hitting a brick wall.

Second, those horses aren't very well cared for.  It's not so bad I could report them, but it's not so good that the horses don't head for here.  Seriously, every freaking time those horses get out, they head for my farm.

I think they want to be adopted.  Anyway, those horses might be better off getting in the recycle line for reincarnation.  Maybe they'll come back as one of mine.

I know.  It all sounds harsh.  But, it's all true.  Sorry folks.  I don't want to lose everything saving a horse that might be better off trying again.  Besides, I didn't see a horse in the road.

Back to the story.  I come back inside and call my neighbors.  I call the son who lives directly behind me.  He's a nice guy but he's still following his father's orders even though he's 60 years old.  I call the son even though the horses belong to the old man.  The old man can't hear on the phone.

The son says he knows and he called his dad 20 minutes ago.  Said someone should be out there getting the horse.  Told me it wasn't mine.  No, sh*t Sherlock.  That's why I'm calling you.  Ok, I thought it. I didn't say it.

As soon as I hang up, the phone rings.  I don't even bother to answer with the business name.  I just say "Hello."  I know what it's going to be.

"Are you the horse people?"  Ok, there are three other people around me with horses, but I get all of the calls.  I swear I'm going to put up a sign: If the horse isn't inside this fence, it's not mine!  Call 555-0000.


"There's a horse in the road!"

"It's not mine.  It's my neighbors.  They're taking care of it."

"Oh, ok."

There was another call. Same drill.  Why do I bother answering the phone at times like these?

I called Rose who should be on that road about now.  I was going to warn her not to hit the horse. Instead, Rose was early.  Rose was outside.  She didn't see a horse either.

In the meantime, I still only had a quarter ounce of pee out of Spot.  That was the purpose of the trip outside anyway. Damnit!

This is my life on the farm.  I cannot make this stuff up!  Hope you had a good laugh.  Have a nice day.  Thanks for reading!  I have to go sell sh*t now.  There's a customer in a few minutes.  It's my life!

P.S. Tell all of your friends.  This blog started because too many people are harassing me to write a book about life on the farm. If there's enough interest, well I'll think about it.  And, by-the-way, "Hello Canada!  Hello Singapore! Thanks for hanging in there with the American Cowgirl!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Selling Sh*t

Hey everyone!  Today was a much better day, chiefly because of the hay.  We unstacked the hay.   It was much better than I thought. 

Yesterday, when I was so overwrought about the moldy hay, I could only see the places that were the wettest, thus the moldiest.  Today, unstacked where I can see an entire round bale, not so bad.  I think the load will be largely salvaged drying in rows in the sun.  Thank goodness for all of this sunny weather!

The sunny weather brings me to my next point.  Spring is in the air here!  It's still February so I know not to be fooled.  Everyone else is free to get spring fever!  Why? Because spring fever breeds income!

When the weather gets better, so does my business.  People are ready to get outside and ride.  People are ready to plant.  People are planning their gardens.  People are in need of sh*t!

Selling sh*t.  Some may interpret that as selling drugs.  Some may think of it as having to run quickly to the pawn shop to cash in.  I think of it as a lovely source of income.  That's right folks, I sell horse sh*t.

Actually, if you're willing to load it yourself with a shovel, it's free. Rarely do I get someone who wants to load it themselves.  It's not the smell either.  Horse sh*t really doesn't smell.  It's that people are lazy.  Ok, well, pay up then.

One of the few people who opted to load her own sh*t was a pregnant woman.  She was due any day and trying to help the baby along with the exercise. When I saw she was very pregnant, I offered to load it with the tractor for free.  Nope. She wanted to do it herself. She and her sister loaded a pick-up truck load with shovels. Now, that's a real woman for you!

It took me two years into the business to start charging to load sh*t.  I realized one day when diesel fuel was hitting close to $5.00 a gallon that I was losing money giving sh*t away.  I was loading for someone one day while I paid a trainer to work my more advanced horses.

Something was seriously wrong with that picture.  I'm burning fuel that costs money.  I'm paying the trainer that costs money.  I'm loading sh*t for some lazy rude person.  This is wrong.  So, I started charging to load it.

My prices are cheap.  Three pick-up truck loads of manure is $35.00.  The average truck will hold 600-800 lbs of sh*t.  That is a heck of a bargain.  You can't buy compost from Lowe's for that.  You can't produce that much compost from your yard trash and household leftovers.  It's a deal.

You'd be surprised how many people think it's not a deal.  The first year I charged for it and required appointments, people hung up on me.  My farm is not Burger King.  You cannot have it your way.

I was tired of people wanting sh*t on demand.  It disrupted our daily schedule.  They weren't nice about their requests either.

I don't remember who told me people are especially rude when they are getting something for nothing, but it's generally true.  Now, I have my exceptions.  My lesson clients can have sh*t for free.  There's a nun who comes to pick up sh*t for the monastery garden.  Hers is free.  There's a farmer who brings me homemade sausage, wine, you name it.  He gets his sh*t for free.  Those are nice people.  I'll load them up all day long.  No problem.

The general public is another matter.  Those are some strange folks.  Lately, I've gotten some calls asking, "What's in your manure?" don't know?  Horse poop, mostly.  A little hay.  A few pine shavings. "What's in the shavings?"  Pine.  "Anything else?"  I don't think so.

I had one guy call the company that produces the shavings to ask if there was arsenic in them.  I told him I didn't think they'd be FDA approved to use with animals if they did.  Of course they didn't.  He's a good customer now.  Weird.  Drives a little pearl colored poser truck, but he's ok.

I've got a bunch of folks coming in for sh*t this week.  That's good.  It means income.  But, one of them responded, "Oh my!" to my $35.00 for 3 truck loads price.  His price is about to go up. 

That's the next move.  If you're a pain in the part of the horse this sh*t came out of, your sh*t will be priced accordingly.  That was my mother's idea.

See, she's a whole lot tougher than she looks.  I warn people about that. She sneaks up on them with her cute little self.  Bam!  They didn't call her The Velvet Hammer for nothing.

I mean, if Mr. Oh My weren't so freaking lazy, he could load the sh*t himself and it would be free.  That's the policy.  If you're too lazy to load it yourself, shut up. 

Maybe that should be the new policy?  In addition to the price going up by how big of a pain you are.  Mom also added price should go up by the number of inane questions people ask about the sh*t, too.  See, I told you.  She'll sneak up on you!

Good night folks!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On a Bad Day, I Always Remember...

Hey everyone.  I'm sorry I missed you earlier today.  I've had a couple of bad days.  I'll try not to burden you with too much of it, though.

I've got a plumbing problem at my house in town.  It goes back to when I had a new gas pack installed.  They had to take out my main drain line under the house to get the old furnace out.  When they put the drain line back in...well, the plumbing hasn't been the same since.  I found out the old pipes were really unhappy yesterday...just in time for Valentine's Day! 

I'm thinking of applying the "Three Strikes You're Out" rule with Cupid.  Last year on Valentine's Day, my pet rabbit, Jolly, died.  If next year things don't start looking better on Valentine's Day, The Cherub with the Bow and Arrow may be getting his pink slip from me!  At this point, I'd just settle for a mundane Valentine's Day!

Yes, Bart took me out to dinner last night.  He brought me a pot of purple calla lillies.  He apparently has faith I'll be better with them than I was with the orchid last year.  He also gave me a little bouquet cake.  He did just fine, folks...especially for a man who isn't good at romance.  It's not his fault about the bad days.

Then, today, Ruthie called me to look at Tar's expensive imported hay.  Tar can't eat the hay that grows around here.  It packs up in his colon and makes him colic.  So, what he can eat has to be hauled in from out of state.  RW, my mentor, brought me a load in January. 

I've had that hay stacked and stored under a tarp since then.  I was finishing some other hay I'd had stored for Tar, first.  Today, Ruthie pulled back the tarp and all of that new hay was molded.  Oh no! That's really bad.  We're talking about a lot of money here.

Looks like with the last snow and the four inches of rain we've gotten recently, the moisture seeped in through the seems of the tarp and under some patches.  Crap!  It's no one's fault but it still sucks.  When I've got some help here tomorrow, we'll have to unstack the hay and see if the sun will help salvage some of it. Tomorrow?  If it's so bad, why not today? 

It's Tuesday, so I didn't have any help this afternoon.  Poor Ruthie stayed an hour late and almost missed her class trying to help me with what we could do today.  And, since my life is never simple, I have to break down the round pen to have a place to unstack the hay to. 

A round pen is a series of corral panels that are portable and can be put together with metal pins to make a temporary place for horses to be exercised or kept.  The round pen I have set up is about 15 panels.  They aren't terribly heavy, maybe 75 lbs each.  But, they are bulky  measuring about 5' x 10' each. 

Taking the round pen down myself this afternoon would have been a real task. I could have done it, but did it make sense to do it by myself?  Would it make any difference?

In reality, I knew I wouldn't save any more hay any faster doing all of work by myself this afternoon. At times like these I try to imagine what my mentor, RW, would advise me to do.  I knew waiting until tomorrow would be his advice.  "You're not going to save any more hay doing it by yourself, than you'll save tomorrow with some help."  I can hear his voice in my mind, even as I type.

Now, you know what's on tomorrow's agenda when Rose and Dod get here.  It will still take all three of us at least two or three hours.  Today, Ruthie and I took the tarp off of the stack and let the sun dry it where it stood.

I actually cried over it, privately of course.  Shhh!  I am not a big crier.  It makes me very angry with myself when I get that weak. Others can cry and they aren't weak in my mind.  If I cry, it's a whole other story.  I lose all patience and respect for myself.  Usually, it takes a lot to make me cry.  But, this was literally the straw that broke the cowgirl's back today.

I occassionally get in what I call a Murphy's Law Cycle.  Everyone remember Murphy's Law?  Murphy's Law states:  Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  Every so often, I have a rash of Murphy's Law decend upon me.  If this continues tomorrow, I think I may definately be in a cycle.  During those times, I remember my Aunt Virginia.

Aunt Virginia and Uncle Tom are gone from this Earth now.  They were my grandparents' best friends and my mother's godparents. They were extraordinary people.  They traveled extensively.  They were very intelligent, yet down to earth and very easy to talk to.  They were married as teenagers and remained in love until death parted them.

Their lives were not easy though.  Their lives were far from easy despite all of their good fortune.  They lost two children.  One shortly after birth and one as a toddler. They had very little family outside of each other.

Uncle Tom proceeded Aunt Virginia in death. He had lived to be quite old and as happens when you are old, all of your friends and family tend to have already died.  There were a lot of people at his funeral, but almost no family. 

My parents, my then-husband, my grandfather who had Alzheimer's, and I sat with Aunt Virginia at her request.  We were her only family.  We were the only ones in the family section with her.

Before we went into the church with her for Uncle Tom's funeral--the man to whom she had been married since she was 16 years old--she did not cry.  Aunt Virginia did not ascend the steps of her church in tears.  Aunt Virginia held my hand on one side and my mother's on the other and told us, "I am so thankful I had him for so long.  I am so thankful."

This was a woman with no biological family left.  This was a woman who'd lost her children.  This was a woman burying the love of her life and she was thankful.  How could I ever have another ungrateful moment in my life with an example like Aunt Virginia?

So, on days like today, when I feel like Murphy's Law is catching up with me,  I think of her.  After I had my cry.  After I got my wits about me with a plan of what to do about the plumbing and the hay, I thought of Aunt Virginia.

Nothing that's happening to me compares to what happened to her.  How can I let myelf get so upset? On bad days, I always remember Aunt Virginia.  I pull myself up by my own boot straps.  I remember to be grateful for what I have.

I am grateful there will be people here to help me with the hay tomorrow.  I'm grateful my homeowner's insurance will likely pay for the damage to my plumbing if the HVAC folks won't make it right.  I am grateful Bart came to help me with evening chores tonight-- after I'd litearlly been sick to my stomach with stress today.

I am grateful Ruthie stayed helping me until I made her leave so she wouldn't miss her class.  I am grateful for RW's voice of reason that's always in my mind at these times on the farm.

I am grateful for all that I have been given in this life and all of the people who've taught me lessons, like Aunt Virginia.  Thank you Aunt Virginia for always reminding me what's be grateful in all things and at all times.

Good night everyone.  If you don't hear from me tomorrow it's because I'm salvaging hay.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tractor: A Love Story

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  I thought I'd tell you a love story today.  It involves my tractor.  It's not as strange as it sounds.

Bart and I had been dating about three weeks when I was forced into learning to drive my own tractor.  For the better part of the first two years I owned the farm, I was busy getting divorced. 

Yes, it took nearly two years for my divorce to be final.  It was a brutal one.  I got everything.  That should tell you something.  But, I digress.

In those two years, my cousin managed the farm for me. I was here to teach lessons and on an as needed basis.  My staff did most of the renovations to the farm.  I had one person who taught lessons when I was unavailable or double booked.  During this time, I did not need to learn how to drive my tractor.  There were other people doing that.

Towards the end of my two year divorce, the intended purpose of the farm began. Rennovations were complete. The zoning was done. It was time to officially open for business.

I had to let two of the staff go who had done the renovations.  I no longer had enough work for them.  It was hard.  They were like family to me.

A few months later, one of the staff I'd kept got a job offer he couldn't refuse.  I understood.  That took the staff down to my cousin, one farm hand, and me.

As happens when you work with family, my cousin got mad and stomped out leaving a note on my desk on Christmas eve.  I later found out from another family member, with whom he'd been in business, that this was not unusual behavior.  He had done that in their business, too.  Ok, I adjusted.  It helped me to save his salary.

By this time, the divorce had been final for only two months. My life was full of change. I was a true believer in the advice I'd been given: You can only rely on yourself.

This left the farm staff at me and one farm hand--who didn't speak English very well and I didn't do any better with his native language.  Some how, he thought my cousin was still in charge even though he was gone.  We had to get a translator to work that out.

It happens when someone has been in a job a while, they begin to take liberties.  The farm hand I had left was taking a lot of liberties.  He was asking to borrow money from me.  When I finally put a stop to it, I found out my parents would still give him cash when they were here.  Of course, they never made him repay it.

He was working a lot of hours and being paid well.  He shouldn't have needed money.  Later, I found out he was also asking my clients and boarders for money.  Some of them were giving it to him!  Don't ever do that folks.

As this farm hand's time was growing short with me, he also decided he didn't have to follow my directions.  I tell you what, as long as I sign the paycheck, you follow my directions.  We had several employment counseling sessions complete with a translator.  Finally, I knew I had to let him go. I started looking for replacements.  I found a little spotty temporary help, but that's another story.

My farm hand's last day came. He accepted his severance check with grace.  He was thankful for what I'd done for him.  I was thankful for his hard work and loyalty.  We parted on good terms.  He comes to visit me on occasion.  Even when I fire people, I can't seem to make an enemy at the farm.  I must be doing something right...or really wrong.
The weekend before I let my long time farm hand go, Bart and I went on our first date.  What a time of transition in my life!  My divorce had been final for six months.  I had a complete staff turnover in nearly the same amount of time.  Then the spotty temporary help turned out to be real spotty. Most of them never showed-up to work.  It was a great time to begin a relationship!  Haha!

Fortunately, Bart was the guy coming into my life.  I knew by the end our first date, he was someone special.  We closed the restaurant without realizing it was time to go-- until they started turning off the lights.  We sat in my great room at the farm and talked til 1:30 a.m.  We never noticed the time.  We were enamored with each other to say the least.  We've rarely gone a day without seeing or talking to each other since our first date.  I am so lucky this is the man who came into my life.

I was also lucky Bart was a man with heavy equipment experience.  He'd operated all manner of heavy equipment in Viet Nam as a platoon leader of a bunch of combat engineers.  I knew that by the time I needed him to teach me about my tractor.

What I did not know, until later, was that Bart owned a farm in another state earlier in his life.  The man had tractor experience!  In fact, for Valentine's Day today, he's getting a double frame with pictures of both of us on our tractors.

What a match we are!  Cupid was definitely looking out for me.  There was not a better match for either of us when that fateful arrow was shot into our hearts.

Maybe three weeks into our relationship, I had to learn to drive that tractor.  I needed to put out hay. I simply had to do it.  There was no more getting around it.  A round bale of hay weighs 1200 lbs.  What was I going to do?  Roll it across the farm? I don't think so.

I swallowed my pride. I asked Bart to teach me to drive my tractor on a Sunday afternoon.  I don't like to look like a dummy.  I especially didn't want to look like a dummy in front of this amazing man I'd started dating.  I had a feeling dummy would not appeal to him.

Bart came over.  He got my tractor out of the shed.  He made me get on it. He reviewed the controls with me.  Even though I begged him to take it for a spin and "just let me watch," he wouldn't do it.  Bart made me do it myself.

I was a chickenshit and he knew it.  He didn't say it, but he knew.  He also knew I had to learn.  I couldn't run this farm being dependent on someone else to operate my tractor for me.  Bart did me a huge favor by making me do it myself.  Thank God for Bart.

I learned to operate my tractor.  It was easier than I thought.  I did, of course, make mistakes.  I had embarrassing moments.  It took me forever to do something simple like change the implements off of the front end loader.  But, I did it.  Bart was supportive and encouraging.  He never allowed me to feel embarrassed even though I tried to be.  It may have been the single most important task I have learned on this farm. I truly  cannot operate the farm without operating the tractor.

As our relationship progressed, Bart began doing farm chores with me.  He rarely drives the tractor.  He still wants me to do it myself.  He'll hang on to the three point hitch in the back or stand on the step by the controls, but he makes me drive.  He does not feel emasculated by this arrangement.  He smiles at me as he hangs on for the ride. I assume he feels proud of me.

Bart is not a man of many words.  He's said he likes this hard working side of me when I'm on my tractor. I often joke and turn around that old song "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" by saying "He Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." He laughs and smiles when I say it.  He'll occasionally say, "Yeah.  I do."

Bart is good at the every day stuff.  He's good on the farm.  He's good with my animals.  He is not good at romance.  So, on Valentine's Day, I seriously doubt I will be getting a dozen roses delivered to my door.  I doubt I'll be receiving jewelry.  I most certainly will not get an engagement ring.  I think my sapphire eternity band on my left hand may be the only piece of jewelry I ever receive from Bart.  That's ok.  I know he loves me any way.

I get one real night of romance, dinner, dancing, and champagne out of Bart each year.  It's on New Year's Eve.  It is not on Valentine's Day.  I know we're going out to dinner at one of my favorite places.  It's not a fancy place but they do a fancy dinner on Valentine's Day every year.  It's a family operated European-style cafe.

I know we are going only because I walked in on him making the reservation on the phone Thursday night.  Making a reservation for Valentine's Day five days in advance is a lot of pre-planning for Bart.  For me, that's the last minute.  We're learning to balance each other!

I imagine there may be a card and some candy.  Last year there was an orchid--which only lasted until June.  Apparently, I'm not good with orchids!  Thankfully, I seem to be good with keeping my relationship with Bart alive.

I'm glad he thinks my tractor's sexy.  He loves me for me. He loves me as I am.  He sees what's inside of this dirty sweaty cowgirl driving her tractor.  And, he loves me.  Thank God for Bart!  I love him, too...and my tractor.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Do These Things Happen to Me?

Good morning everyone.  This is a brief tale of one of the many bizarre things that happen to me at the farm.  I never have to make-up a funny story.  I have plenty of material from farm life.  How do these things happen to me?  I have no idea.

One Tuesday afternoon, I was at the farm alone.  That's how it is on Tuesdays.  I walked through the horse barn to stall 13.  It's become my storage stall because most people do not want their horse in "unlucky number 13." In some cultures, 13 is a lucky number.  Not in the USA.  It's considered an unlucky number.  It doesn't bother me, though.

I opened the stall door.  Hay to go in the barn feeders, rakes, shovels, and that kind of stuff is stored in there.  There's also a wheelbarrow to fork the hay into to take it to the stalls without making a huge mess.

That day I was wearing boots and jeans as usual.  For work boots, I wear Ariat Fat Babies.  They hit me at low calf.  They are mostly hidden by my jeans.  So, I have no idea how this happened.

If you've ever owned a pair of boots, you know there are a couple of tabs at the top on each side.  These are to help pull your boots on.  If you're told to "pull yourself up by your own boot straps" this is the place they mean for you to grab.  My boot straps were covered by my jeans.  They always are!

As I stepped into stall 13 this day, I stepped past the wheelbarrow that is fairly close to the door.  Then I abruptly stopped.  My right leg was caught in the air.  What the heck?  Why couldn't I put my foot down?

I was standing like a flamingo on one leg.  I didn't have anything to reach forward to balance myself.  I was too far past the door to hold on to the door jam to balance.  I was stuck. 

I was about to be flat on my face.  Worst of all, no one would be there until the next morning to help me if I fell and hurt myself...for example by tearing all of the ligaments in my right leg that was stuck in the air and twisting my right knee beyond repair.  Those were not good options.

I balanced on my left leg and carefully turned at my waist to see why my right leg was stuck.  My boot strap was around the wheelbarrow handle.  How in the world did that happen?  My jean leg was over my boot, not tucked into it? How in the heck did it ever get the wheelbarrow handle laced through it?

I will never know how I managed that feat.  I suspect some evil leprechaun had been occupying stall 13 just biding his time to pull a real doozie on me.  His time had come and he had struck...and vanished as leprechauns do.

I wasn't in a position to simply slide my foot out of my boot and then unlace it from the wheelbarrow.  No, my life is never simple.  You should know that by now.  Look at my plumbing puzzle from last Sunday, after all.

I also couldn't hop backwards on my left leg and unlace my boot from the wheelbarrow.  My boot strap had managed to slide down almost the length of the entire handle. Hopping backward would likely land me on my butt, but worst of all my spine across the wooden threshold and my head on the concrete hall floor.  That would not result in simple injuries. Crap!

With the help of my guardian angel, I made a move worthy of Cirque du Soleil.  I stood unwavering on my left leg.  I arched backwards at my waist.  I made a near crescent moon with my back.  I took my foot still in my  boot with my right hand. I gently slid it back up the length of the wheelbarrow handle.  I did not fall.  I did not tear any ligaments or wreck my knee.  I did not fall to a head injury or a broken back.

I was free!  Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I was free at last!  And, I hadn't done yoga in a really long time.  Maybe this was a sign from above that I should start again?

I cannot tell you how these things happen to me, but they do. As I promised you from the beginning, these stories are all true.  Ok, the leprechaun wasn't far as I know!

I hope you had a good laugh at my expense.  I certainly did!  Have a wonderful Sunday! Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sasha's Diva Moment

Good morning everyone.  I said a while back when I introduced you to Sasha that her transition to barn cat went well except for her nearly successful suicide attempt.  Here's that story.  It was quite a diva moment.  Don't worry, it has a happy ending.

If you want to know more about Sasha before you read this story, go back to the January post on The Cast of Characters.  I think it's in Part 2.

Sasha had been a barn cat for about three weeks.  She seemed to be adjusting ok.  Then, one morning, she didn't show up for breakfast.  Ok, she may have been exploring.  I didn't worry about it.  The next day, she also didn't show up for breakfast.  I started asking the staff when they last saw her.  The farm is near a busy road, I hoped she hadn't met her end.  I also have neighbors, maybe she'd talked her way into one of their houses.  I didn't know.

On day two, Dod started the search for Sasha.  Dod is not a cat person, but he humored me and especially Cowgirl Slim who had a soft spot for Sasha.  Dod and Cowgirl Slim looked, and looked, and looked.  No Sasha.  They looked in the storage rooms.  They looked in the shed.  They searched the back fence line.  They searched the stacks of hay.  No Sasha.

Towards the end of Day Two of No Sasha, I asked Dod to search the storage room where we kept square bales of hay one more time.  Maybe she was back behind the square bales.  We hadn't heard any meowing or scratching, so I was of course afraid she was dead back there.

I went on to the feed store and took Cowgirl Slim with me.  I didn't want her to be around if my fears about Sasha were confirmed.

Just as I was checking out at the feed store, Dod called my cell phone.  I asked if he'd found her.  Yes.  Is she alive?  Yes.  Where is she? In the wall of the storage room.  In the wall?!  Yes, in the wall.  Sasha, you pain in the butt!

Dod said he'd start moving out those square bales of hay.  There were about 200 of them in there and it was a 100 degree day.  Poor Dod, non-cat person that he is.  He was going to rescue Sasha anyway.

On our way back to the farm, I called Doc's office to say I thought I'd need to rush Sasha in when Dod got her out of the wall.  Doc wasn't in but one of his associate vets would be waiting for us.  It was 3:30 and they closed at 5:00.  It was of course a Friday.  Nice move Sasha!  Thanks!

Upon our arrival, we saw Dod had pulled out about 50 of those square bales.  He had a saw all lined up to go with a long extension cord wrapping around the back of the people barn for it.  He told me he could see Sasha with his flashlight and that she mewed and moved a little when he shined it on her.  Oh, poor Sasha.  Haha.  She was about to show us she wasn't so pitiful after all.

How in the world did she get in the wall, Dod?  Well, there was a gap of about six inches between the plywood wall and the ceiling.  She must have gotten through that tiny space and fallen down the inside of the wall.  Crap! Who would have ever thought a 10 pound cat could manage that?

I sent Cowgirl Slim to get a cat carrier.  I assumed Sasha would shoot out of the wall as soon as Dod cut the hole.  She had to be hot and thirsty in there!  Slim got the carrier and Dod started sawing the hole.

I assumed Sasha would be limp as a noodle from dehydration.  I thought she'd be scared from the noise of the saw.  As animals do when they are afraid, even if they are sick, I thought she'd have an adrenaline rush and try to escape.  So much for my animal behavior knowledge, I was very wrong.

Dod cut the hole and removed a section of the wall.  He reached in for Sasha.  No Sasha.  She had back-up in the wall.  We waited a while thinking she'd come out once the saw noise stopped.  No, she didn't come out.

It was getting so hot in the back of that storage room, we had to take turns going in while the other person came out to avoid heat stroke.  The time was ticking for the vet's office to still be open.  I was losing sympathy for Sasha.

Every time one of us would reach for Sasha she'd scoot back more.  One of us would go next door to the other storage room and bang on the wall trying to scare her forward.  No luck.

More square bales were removed from the storage room.  Another hole was cut.  Sasha backed up more.  Freaking cat!  This went on for a solid hour.  We'd reach, she'd back up.

What's your problem Sasha?  Don't you want to be rescued?  "No! I want to die!  I will be a martyr for all displace house cats who've been put outside.  I'll show you!"  Geez, Sasha, you've got your own stall in the barn.  We feed you and give you water every day.  It's not that bad.  "Yes it is!"  Sasha was being a diva.  We were all losing patience with her.

Finally, Dod looked in the wall and realized Sasha was coming to a support beam she wouldn't be able to shimmy past.  Good, cut a hole there.  Dod cut the hole.  Sasha backed-up as far as she could go.  Dod was able to reach her!  Great!

In one motion, Dod pulled Sasha out by the scruff and straight into the carrier.  Whew!  Cowgirl Slim and I headed to the car with her. We made it across town at a record setting speed.  It was fifteen minutes to closing time at the vet and we were almost 45 minutes away.  Sasha!  You diva!  We didn't make it in 15 minutes, but they waited on "poor" Sasha.

Dod stayed at the farm and did the evening chores.  He would not have time to put all of those square bales of hay back in storage.  Damn! It was supposed to rain that night.  I asked him to throw a tarp over them.  Once baled hay gets wet, it molds.  It's just throwing away money if you let that happen.

Cowgirl Slim and I arrived at Doc's office and skidded in the parking lot.  We ran in with Sasha and handed her over to a vet tech.  They took her back to the treatment area.  We waited.  With about 20 minutes, Doc's associate vet came out.  Sasha is fine.  Huh? Fine? She spent two days in a wall in a hundred degrees.  What do you mean she's fine?

He agreed.  He'd expected a severely dehydrated cat who would need to be left there over the weekend.  But, he was wrong.  They were giving Sasha some fluids in the back and then we could take her home.  Sasha, you crafty wench!

I couldn't wait to tell Doc next time I saw him.  He'd assured me she would be ok outside when I was worried about displacing her from the residence.  He told me cats were survivors.  I would have to tell him he was right--again!

That's the story of Sasha's Diva Moment.  It did not regain her entry into the residence portion of the people barn.  So, she gave-up and started catching mice the next week.

If you have hay stored, you've got mice.  It doesn't matter how obsessively clean your barn is.  The little boogers are there!  Sasha, start earning your keep!  And, she did.

Needless to say, we fixed that gap in the storage room wall and all the holes Dod had to cut to get her out.  It did not win her any points with me or Dod.  Sasha you crafty wench!

Have a great Friday!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unexpected Details of Farm Life

Good morning everyone.  I'm sorry I missed you yesterday.  I had an unexpectedly full day.  As I told you, I went to see my accountant.  Doing business with friends often leads to much longer appointments.  So, that was my morning.

No sooner than I walked out of my accountant's office, Rose called to tell me Tar was "acting weird."  Ok, define that please.  He was lying down.  Oh, you remember my rant about this one, don't you?

Horses lie down.  It doesn't mean they're dying.  He was making a bit of a grunting noise.  Well, sometimes they make noises.  He wasn't exhibiting any symptoms of colic, other than lying down.

Without thrashing around on the ground, lying down isn't significant, remember? I ran through the colic symptoms with her.  There's a page on colic symptoms in my procedure manual in the barn, but sometimes, I gotta talk it through with them.

Yes, there's a procedures manual in the barn.  It's a business, remember.  I have to give them something specific to refer to as a guide.  I learned that the hard way.  People don't remember what to do even when the job is fundamentally the same every day.  They don't built 'em like they used to!

Ok. Ok. So much for that call I'd just made to Bart to see if he wanted to go to lunch. A potential colic trumps lunch.  I was dressed-up for my appointment in some of my old fancy work clothes from my former life as a professional with a desk job.  Bart hasn't seen much of my wardrobe from that life.  It's a lovely wardrobe.

This outfit included a very high end jacket, long jersey skirt, and lovely high heeled ankle boots.  There was an avaunt guard pin.  There were chunky jade earrings.  I wore make-up.  I wore a ring besides my left hand ring from Bart, albeit on my right hand.  I wore a bracelet.  I was decked out!  It was a rare sight. I thought I'd share with my man.  He gets to see me dressed up so seldom, it's a good thing he doesn't care.

Alas, plans change. I went on to the farm.  I changed out of my lovely outfit and back into my farmer's ware.  I ate a microwaved cup of mac and cheese standing up.  It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind.  But, when Tar gets sick, he goes from looking a little under the weather to deathly quickly.

I had Rose take Tar out of his paddock and put him in the hospital stall with fresh water and no hay, immediately upon her call.  After my "delightful" lunch, I asked her to walk him out.  Now, why the hospital stall? And, what the heck is a hospital stall?

A hospital stall is a much larger stall than the industry standard of a 12' x 12' stall.  It has a very large door.  A hospital stall is larger in case the horse needs a space for a long illness or recuperation or for birthing.  A hospital stall is larger to allow for the vet and others to be in there to attend to a horse who is having difficulty getting out of the stall.  Sadly, but very true, a hospital stall with all of it's space and big door allows you to more easily drag a dead horse out of there.  Yes.  I'm serious.  It's one of the details you have to plan for in farm life.

As my vet, Mack, said to me, "Animals will give you their all to the very end.  But, unless you're getting close to the end of your life, they will die before you."  It's a truism that any farmer or person who spends a lifetime with animals will tell you.  You will likely outlive your animals.  So, if this is something we know, you may as well make it easier on yourself to help your dearly departed horse out of that stall and on to his burial.

Ok, dry your eyes.  Tar didn't die.  In Tar's case, he occupies the hospital stall frequently because he's a huge specimen of horse flesh!  Tar is simply more comfortable with the extra room in there.  He weighs 1600 pounds for goodness sakes!  His head is the size of my torso, and I don't look like Kate Moss!  His back is over five feet off the ground.  At his head, he's pretty close to standing seven feet with his head up.  He measures at 16 1/2 hands at the withers.  That's for all of you horse folks.  Now, for a Percheron, he's small. He's only 16 1/2 because he basically doesn't have much in the way of withers.

Back to the story...Rose brings Tar out.  I try my "ultimate Tar colic test" with him.  I gave him a piece of peppermint candy.  Peppermints are Tar's favorite food in the entire world.  I knew Tar was really sick six years ago when he spit one out.

That day, Tar looked normal.  He wasn't exhibiting symptoms of colic.  But, he didn't have his normal spark.  He was off.  When he spit out the peppermint, I knew not to go home.  It didn't take long before he was in a severe colic.  He ended-up having big time surgery at a big time university a few weeks later.  Colic is the number one killer of horses.  It kills 20% of all horses.

Yesterday, Tar didn't look bad.  He didn't look pained to walk.  His eyes didn't look glassy.  He was interested in food and me and what was going on around him.  He did look bloated though.  Ok, let's take him off his hay for 24 hours and see what happens.

Rose and Dod set up some panels for him between paddocks.  There he could graze a little on some dead grass.  Stay beside his regular paddock.  Stay with his regular buddies nearby.  Too much change is not a good thing for a horse.

This morning, Tar's belly bloat is gone.  He looks half the size he was yesterday.  He may have had a little gas.  Pulling him off his hay probably saved us a lot of trouble and him a colic.

I thanked Rose this morning for that good judgment call.  Rose grunted.  Maybe I should pull her off her hay?  Maybe she's gassy?  Maybe she's about to colic?

Rose, like Tar, goes from fine to sullen quickly.  I don't do well with sullen when I'm paying you.  It's not what a boss looks for in an employee.  It's especially not what I look for when I am the only one who is a revenue producer here verses a cost center.

I bring in money, the farm hands suck it up every Friday when I pay them.  If you're sucking up the money I earned this week, be nice.  Say "Good morning" back when I say it to you.  Don't go around slamming doors.  Don't grunt at me when I compliment you.  Be an adult.

Rose's sullen attitude this morning is after she asked me yesterday-- while I was teaching a lesson, poor timing--if she could start coming in at nine on Thursdays and Fridays because, "I'm not getting enough sleep."

You're not getting enough sleep? How is that my problem? I thought it. I didn't say it.  I simply made a tick mark by her name in my mind.  I'm learning.  You can't reason with immaturity--even if it's 23 years old.

I don't think Rose is going to make it here on the farm.  It's a tougher job than she'd imagined. If you're vaguely physically fit and follow directions, it's not that hard of a job. It can be physically tiring for them, but it's not a hard job. There's very little higher brain function involved in scooping poop and grooming horses.

I told her she needed to discuss it with me at a better time, like when I wasn't teaching. I heard her out in my office at the end of the day.  I said, "Ok" to her request.  Tick mark in my mind.

Then, Dod came in.  We discussed the weather for today because of the potential for snow.  Dod doesn't work on Thursdays.  He announced if it snowed, he was going snowboarding.

Rose whinned, "I was invited to go snowboarding this weekend but I have to work."  I suggested she get happy real fast about working on Saturday. I did not say anything but that sentence.  I thought the rest of it: I'm not suffering through another of her moods on a busy Saturday.  She hasn't worked a Saturday in three weeks.  Snap out of it.  Be an adult.

Dod quickly added, "Why don't you think of it as an opportunity to make money instead of spend money this weekend, Rose?"  He said it very nicely.  You see why I enjoy having Dod work here?  Oh, Dod, you're an adult!  Good for you!  Life will be easier for you!

These are the unexpected details of farm life--a horse with gas and an employee who doesn't know that 23 qualifies you as an adult.  I'm so glad I have my animals.  They aren't layered in neuroses.

This is your flatulent sullen attitude laced postcard from the farm.  It's not all fun and games here, but I'd still rather be here than in an office!  How about you?  Thanks for reading and have a great Thursday!