Saturday, July 26, 2014

Glorious Summer

Summer has been busy this year. With the warm, humid winds and the golden-green foliage of the season, come excited children ready for lessons, frisky horses ready for training, and visitors ready to enjoy the amenities and programs on the farm. The fields are now doted with vermillion-flocked wild flowers and heavy-headed daisies, drooping in the heat. Cicadas sing in the trees and tiny, young frogs navigate through dried, browning clover. The dirt roads kick up dust while slender, shiny snakes curl in the warmth. When evening falls, the farm takes on a tranquil cloak and fireflies glitter in the darkness while bats flutter across a cool, glowing moon. The world becomes silent except for the occasional chirps of ebony crickets. Summer is the time to revel on the farm and to relax at the end of long, warm days.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Here Comes The Lambs

Nothing heralds in spring quite like lambing season. Small, wet bundles are dropped in the straw and are carefully cleaned by anxious ewes. Within minutes, the new packages are transformed into woolly, wobbly lambs, hungry for their mother's milk. If you want to hold them, you have one week. Then the lambs turn into springy, bouncy babies who bound away when you come near.

With the coming of the lambs, spring usually follow. But not this year. Winter still clutches the land in its icy claws. Instead of emerald grass blanketing the fields, it struggles to poke through the cold, muddy ground. Most days, thick, slate gray clouds plaster the sky. The flowering trees still cover their buds, refusing to show their colorful glory.

But the baby lambs do not mind. The world is still a wondrous place filled with eating and racing their siblings in a baby flock, their mothers oblivious to their antics. And just maybe, one day spring will bound along with them.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Seeding for Spring

The top portion of my window in my bedroom had slid down and even though it was cloudy with a sullen, gray sky and rain splattered the pane, there was a hint of spring squeezing through the slit. The smell brought memories of warm mud, budding trees and worms on the pavement to enter my head. Though February had been a brutal month, with fierce weather that wore down the stoutest of men, it could not linger and was drawing to a close.

Soon I would be putting up in the kitchen my small, beaten up, plastic sheathed greenhouse, its green, metal tubes chipping from use. An old aquarium light serves as the sun and is held up by bits of wire. I will be filling the cloudy plastic trays with crumbly, moist starter mix and embedding seeds in it, who will lie curled up in anticipation for the first trickles of water which will send them sprouting.

The green house will smell gloriously of earth and spring with its fragrant, damp soil. And soon I will be able to plant the young seedlings outside. Yes, spring is be coming and nothing will stop it.

Crimson Whisper

We picked up Crimson Whisper, a 9 year old, bay thoroughbred mare who has not been ridden is over six years. She is an off the track race horse who did well during her career. Needless to say, she was full of sass. She loaded into the trailer nicely though.

Crimson is a dark bay who is sporting a light coat of winter fuzz. She stand about 16.2 hands. She has a fine, feminine head that harkens to the long ago Arabian ancestry. Her look is completed with a full mane and tail. She is a pretty mare.

When she moves, she covers ground and has a floating trot. We are going to train her to be an eventing horse and if she is as athletic as she is beautiful, we have a very nice mare to breed to our eventing stallion.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Working in a Winter Wonderland

I can not recall when we had such a wickedly cold and snow packed winter on the farm. But no matter how crazy the weather gets, there is always maintenance that still needs to be done outside. Of course, first you have to shift the mountainous snowdrifts before you can begin to labor.

We have a short drive where we park the farm pickup. I emphasize short because you want the smallest distance to road. In the spring and fall, thick, gloppy mud threatens to suck your vehicle into the earth. And this winter, huge piles of snow wrap your truck into a wintry tomb. So you want the least amount of distance to get you off the property with the smallest amount of work, hence a short driveway.

After the blizzards that dumped a foot or more of snow on the farm, our neighbor was kind enough to use his large tractor with a scoop to push the white stuff to the end of the drive. We were so happy that we did not have to hand shovel it that we did not think deeply about where the snow was being deposited. This is a fatal error when you own a farm. You have to think about all the worst case scenarios before you commit to something or you are going to end up with a whole lot of back breaking manual labor to correct it. And that is exactly what happened.

When our neighbor pushed the flakes, he blocked in the trailer. Two weeks later, we needed the trailer which was surrounded by huge, packed, white soldiers who held our trailer hostage and mocked our tiny shovels. It took us two solid days, in which we labored like tiny ants, and slowly shifted the mounds bit by bit. There was much swearing, a few threats to abandon the job, and plenty of stiff muscles. And when we thought we were done, we realized that the gates and part of the fencing also needed some snow removal to be functional along with hauling of broken branches and repairing of cracked equipment with succumbed to the bitter temperatures. There is nothing like trying to use finer motor skills in -5 degrees.

But that is life on the farm. Constant maintenance everyday of the year. But when I look out and see our content horses and peaceful sheep, I know it is all worth it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wild, Windy Day

Yesterday, it was windy with clumps of snow blowing from an ashy, gray sky. The horses could feel the change and were tossing their manes and snorting like mustangs on the endless plains. My son and I were tired and our addled brains thought foolishly that we would have a calm and easy ride, then call it quits for the day, not realizing our herd had other ideas. We wanted to pony our two race horses, Flash and Sky. Sky was willing to come to us, figuring she was going to get a little grain. Flash, on the other hand, peeled his ears back, weaved then disappeared amongst the other horses, clearly saying no to any work today.

We got on Copper, a chestnut gelding, and our grey stallion, Rocko, figuring we would catch Flash on horse back. Copper was sharp, raring to go. He loves a good chase, far more than the tediousness of doing equitation in the ring. Rocko was as tightly coiled as a spring. He didn't allow a saddle to be put on his back, slipping from his halter and giving us a merry run. My son mounted him and he attempted to buck. When we finally got down to business, Rocko thundered across the field after Flash like a war mount.

After forty minutes, we caught Flash, who by then had swept the rest of the herd up into his antics and caused them to explode with excitement. They bucked, reared and kicked, having a merry time. While I was opening the gates to the other pastures, my son and I realized the main gate to the horses' pasture had been blown open by the wind. My son yelled, "The gate is open!" I heard him. Unfortunately, the whole herd did also. They heard "open" and "gate", looked up and bolted toward it. When they reached the entrance, they spilled out and galloped across the snowy lawn.

Luckily, our whole property is fenced in or we would have a mass of horses flying down the road. After another forty minutes of wild chasing, we got all of them back in the pastures. While I attempted to shut the pasture gate, which was jammed in an icy snow drift, Hidalgo, a clever, little, Spanish mustang, saw his opportunity. My son yelled and sprinted toward the gate, still on Rocko, hoping to drive Hidalgo back. The race was on. The mustang beat the stallion by a hair. Another thirty minutes of chasing ensued.

After everyone was safely back, my son and I rubbed our freezing arms. When we were thawing in the warm house, we eventually started to laugh. Never say you are going to have a quick and easy ride with horses.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter on the Farm

The rain spat from the slate gray sky and splattered on the window glass, signaling the start of an ominous ice storm crawling across the brown, withered countryside. When winter comes to the farm, it is never easy, taking the form of bitter temperatures with powdery snow or chilling mud with ice and sleet. But once it settles in, and December begins to fade, the farm can look magical.

Snow will layer the ground in a pure white embedded with fragments of glittering crystal. The fields will be blanketed with humping drifts. Swirling winds will lift the powder, sending snow tornadoes dancing. The only sign of animals are hungry birds flocking to the feeders or small foot impressions in the white that are quickly buried. Skeletal trees reach for the sullen sky, still holding the brown withered fruits of fall, while their branches clatter together.

Frost spiders the house windows and their sills are empty of the farm cats who normally peek inside. The heavily furred feline now curl in the hay in the barn, drowsily waiting for the occasional mouse that peeks its head in. The dogs lay on the kitchen floor, forming a breathing, hairy rug. The chickens keep to their warm coop, declining to hop around in the deep snow. The furry horses get frisky, getting bored standing around in their blankets. They begin to tease each other, nipping one another, then tearing across the pasture in a white whirl wind while snorting clouds of steam. The animals unfazed by the cold are the sheep, wrapped in their blankets and a heavy layer of wool.

When winter comes, time slows on the farm. Chores take double the time with the deep drifts. A quiet falls and when standing outside, there is an eerily beautiful silence. When the weather is too harsh for man or beast, the house's wood stove burns on high, warming reddened, numb flesh. As things slow, spring creeps forward and everyone waits for its arrival in a semi hibernation.