We don’t get things for the farm that we can’t eat. Pigs not fun anymore? The freezer awaits. We aren’t in France, so horses have been out. Until this year. Somehow a burning desire to give kids a great birthday equalled Misty. You really haven’t lived until you have picked up kids from school, driven them home and sent them to the barn to meet the horse they thought they were never getting.
Besides in-edibility, I didn’t want a horse because they’re scary. My research said that our kids would be able care for the horse themselves, so I put this aside. Even more compelling is the common knowledge that pioneer children raised ponies unaided from the age of 6 or 7, but I didn’t depend on history. I did research.
Here’s what the research did and did not mention . . .
1. Thirteen year olds can take care of horses . . . if they have grown up with horses, understand them, and are comfortable taking authority when the horse disagrees.
2. Ten year olds can do a lot . . . if they don’t develop sudden onset terror of horses and refuse to leave the house on threat of torture or a trip to Goodwill to donate all their Lego.
3. You’d be surprised what an eight year old can do. . . you’d be surprised too, how contagious that sudden onset stuff is.
4. Five year olds can’t do much. I agree.
We had a choice. Give up on the best birthday present ever or get re-enforcements. This is how it stopped working that I only saw the horse from the kitchen sink.
Learning and working with thirteen year old is showing me a new side of him. We’ve never done anything like this together. We listen to advice from horse people, then try to apply it with Misty. He needs me, but he can do things I can’t. There’s nothing to argue about because we’re on the same team. More than anyone else, it is he and I that are spending the hours. Seven or eight extra hours in a week is a sacrifice for me, but it is for him too, and he isn’t complaining, so neither am I.
Eight year old was back on board the second I got involved. And she can do more than you’d think. Ten year old was delivered grumbling to mandatory horse lesson this weekend. Yesterday he helped with Misty for twenty minutes. This equals previous compliance times ten.
The hardest part, I tell my husband, is leading team horse, when I’m still afraid of horses.
You’re afraid of Misty? That’s so funny. She doesn’t bother me at all.
Says the man who only has to look at her in the field from fifty feet away because we need his time to do other things.
Originally, that was supposed to be my job.
We live on County road 21 for the joy of it, and in an attempt to stay grounded. Misty, the pony is giving us an education. The kids are surprised at how much fun taking care of a horse is not. At the same time, getting to know her has a kind of richness that we haven’t known before.
Anabelle, the cow, is turning into one very big momma. We had her bred with a Black Angus. He was the kind of husband that comes in a tube from a truck, so fairly low on the romance scale, but supposedly a great match for producing a nice calf with small shoulders. (Small shouldered offspring = every mother’s dream, I know.) Anabelle has done a nice job befriending Misty. They sleep together now. We put the sheep in at night on one side of the barn, which keeps them from becoming coyote food. We leave the stall on the other side open. Misty and Anabelle graze until dark, then put themselves to bed inside the barn.
The last round of chicks before spring finished their earthly sojourn this week. We wanted to give up on chickens after the last batch. This time, out of 33 chicks, we still had 30 when it was time to transition to the freezer. For the first few weeks, the chicks get a lot of care, and even more checking to make sure they have what they need. When it is time to get them out to the main coop, I always feel like I’m dropping off my kids at daycare. I’m fretful and unsettled. Back in the house I startle again and again worried I’ve forgotten something. But, it’s easier as time goes by.
Strangely, regardless of size and stage, we always call them the chicks. “Tomorrow’s the last day for the chicks, right?” we say solemnly about their five or six pound selves. It isn’t until they are in bags getting loaded into the freezer that we finally say, “good batch of chickens this time around, don’t you think?”
We are wondering if we want to get bees in the spring. We don’t know. We know that all this life – new, old, pregnant, happy, lonely but adjusting, hungry, content, human, bovine, equine, ovine, avian – even the homemade yogurt life. It keeps us learning. Keeps us wondering. It’s good for what ails us.
Not all farm pictures will include gorgeous cow, Anabelle. She is on a photogenic roll at the moment and pretty well liked by the other pasture dwellers. With Shorty gone, she and Misty have struck up a bond.
Misty the pony: extremely not impressed that we had her best friend shipped elsewhere. Not interested in speaking to humans. Will tolerate them if she gets to speak to an apple or a carrot.
Anabelle the cow: all the change in the air has made her pregnant self grumpy. She takes it out on the sheep. Grazing for a while, drive them all to the next field. Drive some more. Graze. Drive. My children do this to each other also except they don’t eat grass in between figuring out how to annoy each other.
Sheep (population 12) and Chickens (population 43) are happy and content. If it doesn’t work out to be a writer, I think I would like to be a sheep or a chicken.
Cluster flies (population 1500 plus in house alone): They are in their drunken buzzing phase, perpetually disoriented and therefore bumping into things like me. I love our farm. I love our province and our country . . . but boy do I hate those flies. Self calming now involves not only vacuuming them from the windows, but taping the hose nozzle on the vacuum after every killing spree – – otherwise I can’t stop picturing them inside mating like mad and then flying out in droves while I sleep. I look at the little Japanese beetles (population in house of at least 17 too many). . . who apparently aren’t actually Japanese but do belong to the beetle family . . . and I shake my head at how worthless they are. Like lady bugs but NOT lady bugs and they don’t even eat flies. Pathetic.
Rats (population unknown – closer to 0 than a month ago): seem to have either finally developed a taste for the poison we bought for them, or found other quarters. Either option suits us and the chickens they tried to move in with.
After two weeks of searching high and low, and following even the faintest of leads, a man is on his way with a trailer to pick up Shorty. Although I have been praying madly, beseeching, growling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself at the gates of Heaven, I now feel like crying. The horse I thought might want to kill me now looks innocent and misunderstood. I am reminding myself that this is how he looked right before I let him out last week and he turned into Happy Days, Fonzie/Get away from my woman, in 3 seconds flat. But I feel sad anyway and my thank yous that he is going are softer and less festive than I had imagined.
This is what having children has done to me. They have squirmed in when I wasn’t looking and set about enlarging the chambers of this grinch’s heart. The living ones are obvious enough. Having been away last week, the hugs to prove how much I was missed have almost cracked bones (mine, not theirs). It’s the lost ones that teach me more quietly. Maybe because they can’t talk. Years I have prayed for the gift of tears on the outside. Some sort of acknowledgement that the tears on the inside are real too. I wouldn’t have known that lost babies who never saw the light of day would hold those keys. That they would know how to sit it out inside the depths of me, kneading with tiny fingers at the hardness of my heart until it softened.
So that is me now. All those years of lip biting and tough talk and I am ready to cry at the departure of a danger to hearth and home. Albeit hiding in the innards of a cute little 300 pounds of small horse. I am a shadow of my former strength. A whisper only now of togetherness.
Still wouldn’t trade those tiny fingers. For anything.