Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I’ve always preferred the heat to the cold.  Now that I have large animals, I can say with absolute certainty that I prefer the heat.  All for one simple reason – cold equals frozen water troughs and buckets.

Luckily in the Texas hill country we don’t deal with long winters or even winter temperatures that last for weeks on end.  And maybe in some ways that makes it worse, as we simply never get used to it.  Now for my northern friends, you are probably laughing your heads off, and rightly so, at my cold weather wimpiness.  All I have to say is let’s talk the next time you have to deal with 100 degrees.  But I digress …

My biggest farmgirl challenge yet came when we had a winter spell the kept us below freezing for three days straight and included snow and ice.  Luckily I am far enough past this incident now that I can actually chuckle about it, but holy moly it tested my farmgirl fortitude.

During this spell I would bundle up like the Michelin man for each trip outdoors. I’m talking layers of shirts, sweatshirts, long johns, gloves, hats, and scarves.  If I could manage to use it for warmth, I piled it on.  Oh and of course I was donning my pink rubber boots.  One other thing you should know about me, grace is not my middle name.  So if there is a way to trip or find a clumsy moment, I will find it.  So outside I go, to do my chores.

Let’s just say when the horses and donkeys see you coming, they come running.  They think it’s feed time, treat time, or just pet me time.  And as any farmgirl does, I absolutely love doting on my babies.  But when I’m freezing and sliding around, big animals with even the best intentions can be a tricky situation.  But, I did my best to give them some loving.  (I also didn’t help my cause by sliding around with a camera trying to capture these snowy moments in hopes of getting that perfect Christmas card shot.)

To top chore time off, during this time, our outside water faucets had frozen.  So no big deal, you say?  Wrong.  While I’d added heaters to my horse water troughs I had no way to keep refilling them.  Okay scratch that, I had no easy way to refill them.

If you can,  picture a clumsy, bundled up farmgirl carrying buckets of water from inside to outside and dumping them into horse buckets.  Over and over and over again.  And in case you’ve never carried a bucket of water while skating across the ice, it’s a messy proposition and not all of it makes it to the bucket.  Horses sure can suck down some water.

Oh, and scooping in the ice and snow?  Equally not as fun.  I did not become an ice skater for a reason.

But the good news is that I made it.  And boy did I feel like I had a cowgirl up kind of moment. I was so proud that I could take care of my critters and find a way to keep them full and hydrated.  But I’ll be honest, I was none to sad when the ice and snow melted, and most of all when the faucets thawed.  I’ll take Texas summers anytime.  (I’ll re-read this post in August to remind myself when it’s 106 degrees in the shade.)

Smokey, Cowboy's mustang, wandering through the cold and posing for the perfect picture!
Smokey, Cowboy’s mustang, wandering through the cold and posing for the perfect picture!
Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Upwind vs. Downwind – It Really Matters

Admittedly, I didn’t grow up in the country, so it’s fair to say that I’ve had a learning curve.  In fact, I’m still learning every day.  But if there is one thing that I’ve learned for sure, it is this —  it is incredibly important to know the difference between upwind and downwind.

When I lived in the suburbs, I never gave too much thought about upwind and downwind.  But now that I’m a country gal and have regular large animal chores, such as mucking out stalls (for my city friends – that’s a nice way of saying scooping horse poop), I’ve learned to pay attention.

Picture it (totally borrowing a line from Sofia Petrillo here) …  It’s a hot, windy summer day.  Dirt is in the air.  Birds are chirping.  Oh, and another fun and pertinent farm fact, the hotter and drier it is, the faster the poo dries out and breaks apart.  Fascinating, right?  Anywho, I’m wearing my pink rubber boots and scooping stalls.  However, I make one fatal flaw when I start.  You guessed it.  Not paying attention to upwind and downwind.

I place my scooping wheelbarrow in front of me.  I get a good big scoop full on my muck rake and go to put it in the bucket, when a Texas-size wind kicks up and blows a big old gust.  My muck rake is poised over the bucket to unload the cargo, but I’m not fast enough.  It’s too late.  The wind covers me in poop particles and dust before I can dump it.  There I stand, muck rake in hand covered in dusty poop particles.  What’s a farmgirl to do? Laugh, simply laugh (with your mouth closed of course)!

It’s safe to say that I fully understand upwind and downwind now, which comes in handy in all sorts of ways in the country.  Skunk smell?  Best to be upwind.  Cows in the pasture?  Best to be upwind.  The bottom line, when in doubt, choose upwind.  You’ll be sure to stay clean, but I’ll warn you, it might not be as much fun.

A windy day.  Great for taking horse picture with flowing manes,  not so much for scooping.
A windy day. Great for taking horse pictures with flowing manes, not so much for scooping.
Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

And The Thunder Rolls

Goober out for a stroll in the bluebonnets.
Goober out for a stroll in the bluebonnets.

I used to enjoy a good rain storm.  Thunder and lightning.  Wind whipping through the trees.  And then I got a dog who was afraid.   Excuse me, did I say afraid?  I meant to say terrified.  Now storms equal long nights of a very large, 70-pound dog panting, vibrating, and gluing himself to my side.  Sounds relaxing, right?

This leads me to all things, Goober.  Yes, we named him Goober as in “Awe shucks, Andy.”  You see, Goober showed up on the farm almost two years ago.  Underweight, flea-bitten, scared, and heart-worm positive.  But this catahoula   hound dog mix stole my heart.

When he first showed up, I wanted to call him Rebel.  Since we had a Dixie, I thought it was cute, and they would make the perfect pair.   But in about five seconds flat, it was clear that he was no more a Rebel than he was a poodle.  Cowboy said, “He’s really more of a Goober.”   And it just stuck.  He’s Goober.

Which  brings me back to the thunder storms.  This is one of Goober’s greatest shortcomings.  He can hear it coming long before we do.  When Goober starts pacing and panting, you know a storm is coming.  He’s sort of like our own little meteorologist, except he generally gets it right.  When you hear a loud noise and you wonder if it’s a storm, just take a peek at the old Goobs.  If he’s calm, no storm. If he’s anxious, you better get prepared.

The first storm that rolled in after we had Goober was an eye opener.  It was, of course, the wee hours of the morning.  Sleeping soundly, I was awakened to one giant dog leaping into bed, crawling across my head, and promptly burying his head under the pillows.  In a sleepy stupor, partly amused, partly annoyed, and partly concerned, I wrapped my arms around Goober and softly tried to comfort him.  Nothing doing.  Goober wanted one thing and one thing only – the storm to stop.  Needless to say, it was a long night and Cowboy was having second thoughts about  this loveable pooch who cost us an arm and ten legs to have his heart worms treated.

That episode taught us that storms were no longer going to be something we could enjoy, but rather something we just had to get through.  Even worse are day-time storms that last for hours.  Have you ever tried getting a dog to go outside to go to the bathroom in the rain when they are terrified?  It’s a treat.

During a recent storm, I had finally coaxed Goober outside, since he was doing the doggy version of the pee-pee dance.  I stood on the porch, shivering in the winter cold, begging him to go to the bathroom.  So when he finally left the porch to go find his spot, I did little back flips insides.  Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as his feet his the grass the sky lit up and Goober was back on the porch in a shot.  No luck.

I even got a text from Cowboy the other day when I was out during a storm, that simply said, “The thunder rolls …” To which I quickly responded, “And the Goober shakes.”  Now Garth Brooks should have sung those lyrics, don’t ya think?

The bottom line is that Goober is part of the family.  He’s got his issues, as we all do, and we love him just the same.  So when the winds blow, the storm clouds pile up on the horizon, it’s time to hunker down.  Hunker down on the couch, arms wrapped around Goober, and pray it passes before Goober passes out or I run out of patience.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

I Should Have Named Him Fabio

Ranger grazing - hair and all.  Special thanks to Kelly Hoodenpyle for the amazing picture.
Ranger grazing – hair and all.
Special thanks to Kelly Hoodenpyle for the amazing picture.

Ranger is our six-year old American mustang horse.  And while Ranger is a perfectly good horse name (his official name is Lone Star Ranger), I really should have named him Fabio.

Let’s start with the obvious, the horse has an amazing mane.  It’s full and long, with his forelock covering his eyes.  It blows in the wind, is fun to brush, and looks gorgeous when he runs through the pasture.  His tail is equally as impressive.  Practically touching the ground, and double bonus, it’s oodles of fun to braid.  While I’m definitely a proud mama, the little guy is a looker.

His second fabio-esque trait is the fact that the horse just likes to pose.  Cowboy will often look out into the pasture and say, “Your horse is posing again.”  While the farm is relatively flat, there is some slight variation, and we have small berms throughout.  Ranger tends to find a berm, wind a blowing, and just stand there, as if to say, “Aren’t I just the most handsome horse you’ve ever seen?”  It simply makes me smile every time.

His third fabio-esque trait is that he likes the ladies.  He’s a gelding (and for my city friends that means he shouldn’t care about the girls, think Bob Barker spay and neuter your pets), but he is IN LOVE with our mare, Sweet Suzy Q.  What’s even funnier is that she’s 22 years old.  But to be fair, she’s equally sweet on him. Does that make my horse a cougar?  I digress.  The point is that Ranger spends an inordinate amount of time following her around and placing himself between her and the other geldings.  And like good geldings, they don’t care about Suzy or that Ranger is trying to be a bossy pants about who Suzy stands next to.

So there you have it, Ranger should have been named Fabio. But to me, the part that is most interesting is his personality.  You see, before I had horses, which was not that long ago, I really never thought of them as having personalities.  I thought of dogs and cats with personalities, but it just never occurred to me that large animals are just as funny, amazing, and often times neurotic.  The truth is that they have personalities in spades.  Some love attention, some are playful, some are curious and get into all sorts of things.  Ranger happens to fall into the latter category, prompting our trainer to say he should have been named Dennis the Menace, since he doesn’t mean to get into trouble he just can’t help himself.  But that’s another story for another day.

Ranger is my first horse.  He’s taught me more than I could have ever imagined.  Cowboy likes to say that our biggest challenge with Ranger is that he’s smarter than we are.  So whatever you call him, my horse by any other name is still Ranger.  Mustang, magnificent, and all mine.

A small plug, if you have never experienced the beauty or the story of our amazing American mustangs, wild horses who live on government lands, check out the or ExtremeMustangMakover.comRanger is a makeover horse who competed as a yearling.  We were blessed to adopt him into our family.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories


There is simply no other way to describe it.  Since moving to the country, we have had a cat-splosion.  Not the gross-blow-em-up kind of splosion but the holy-moly-how-in-the-world-did-we-end-up-with-so-many kind of splosion.  For years, we have been dog people, frequently having five at a time, but we have religiously stuck to one bossy cat, the infamous Miss Willie Kitty.  And that has been plenty, or so we thought.  But since moving to the country, we have added and added until now we have seven, yes count them seven cats, clearly landing us smack in the cat people category.  (Personally I prefer to just think of us as critter people, but still this is getting out of hand.)

It all started with the thought that we needed a barn cat.  So when I came across a beautiful cat that had wandered onto the wildlife center where I volunteer, I took him home to be the barn cat.  Well a whopping 24 hours in, he bit me which resulted in 10 days of quarantine for him and a swollen ankle for me.  Needless to say, after “investing” in his stay at the vet and his health, we made friends and Rhinoceros became cat number two.  (Yes, we have a cat named Rhinoceros and he has the heft to prove it.).   Life was good – one Miss Willie Kitty and one barn cat overseeing the place.

Well wouldn’t you know, not even a year later a tiny cat wanders into the barn, and we see her dart here and there on occasion, but we are getting nowhere near her and she is getting nowhere near us.  Rhinoceros seems to be sharing his barn, and there you have it, we have cat number three, Shadow.  Now we are good cat owners and Rhino was neutered and Miss Willie Kitty was spade so we had no intentions of being in the baby kitty business.  But it seeems that Shadow had other plans, and clearly had a boyfriend or two, and before we could catch her, she ended up preggers.  And to top it off, she had them in the barn under the attic floor.  So here we are cutting up the attic flooring to dig her (I should mention a not so happy her) and her little gems out.  Well that little adventure brought us Chip, Grizzly, Bear, and Petunia.  Yep, numbers four, five, six, and seven.

For those of you who know me personally, parting with an animal is not something I do well.  Considering we’ve now raised these kittens, they are going nowhere fast.  I did make one exception to send Petunia to Chicago to live with my sister-in-law turning her from country cat into city kitty.  Okay, so if you’re following the math, we’re back down to six.

After Shadow and crew arrived, we started seeing a black cat wander around the front yard at night, much to our dismay as we were farmtasically happy with six. Well, low and behold one evening, about 3 a.m., the old black cat decided he wanted in and started scratching at the door and meowing to high heaven.  Cowboy was thrilled, as I’m sure you can imagine, and as such named the cat accordingly.  You guessed it, Nightmare.  He showed up in the middle of the night, and he was number seven.  Perfect.  Nightmare was a bit of grump (shocking) until he got sick with an abscess driving his temperature to dangerous levels, and us back to the vet. The vet tech promptly gave him an old fashioned ice bath to bring it down, which like a chicken (or maybe a sneaky genius)  I opted out of participating in.  This little adventure has turned Nightmare into the loviest of all.  He watches the barn, but I can carry him around like a baby, rub his belly, and call him like  a dog.

There you have it. Seven cats who all have their shots, are micro-chipped, are all neutered/spade, and all part of our lives.  Most of them live inside because I’m neurotic and worry about something getting them.  God bless our vet (or maybe he should be blessing us) who lets us bring all of them in once a year for shots – yes we do it at once.  We enjoy making a scene that way and clearly cementing our status as cat people.

So there you have it – a true cat-splosion.  It seems in the country they literally just show up. But Cowboy has made it clear, the ranch is full.  So we’re hoping this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, because if cats live as long as I suspect they do, we are going to be cat people for a very long time to come.

Rhinocerous (wearing his Christmas ribbons).  From wild to mild, clearly he has a farmtastic life!
Rhinocerous (wearing his Christmas ribbons). From wild to mild, clearly he has a farmtastic life!
Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

My Love Affair With Tractor Supply

Growing up in the suburbs, we had shopping a plenty.  And while, admittedly, I have never been a fashionista, shopping was somewhat of a hobby for me.  Like most folks, getting a good deal just makes me smile.  So when we moved to the country, it was one of those things in the back of my mind that I often wondered how I’d get my fix.  Of course there is online shopping, and I do absolutely love shopping local in small town boutiques, but holy cow did I fall head over heels in love with Tractor Supply!

For those of you who live in the city, Tractor Supply is a chain store that is absolutely essential to country life.  It is definitely my wonderland of shopping.  Not a huge store, but big enough for me to do some damage to the old wallet.  In fact, Cowboy (my hubby), would prefer it if he could make the trips to Tractor Supply all on his own.  As he puts it, “It’s much cheaper that way.”  So what is the fascination?

Well when you move to the country some things just simply change.  For example, I love shoes, but in the country mud and dirt are just a part of life and a pair of rubber boots becomes a gal’s best friend.  And where can you find pink ones?  You guessed it, at Tractor Supply.  And when you need just about anything to take care of your critters from food to wormer to medicines to feed buckets?  Yep, Tractor Supply.

I can go in there and just plain old wander around like a kid. I can often be found digging through the books and magazines sections looking at everything from how to raise chickens to how to tell your horse’s mood to how to bake the best cakes.  If you’re in an extra girly mood, they have cute western shirts, T-shirts, and such for a quick pick-me up.  And if you really want to see a country girl go nuts?  Try to pick out horse buckets, brushes, halters and such in your favorite colors.  One of my all-time favorite gifts this Christmas?  A purple muck rake (for my city friends – that’s what you use to clean up after the horses).

So, there you have it. I still love to shop, but perusing aisles of clothes and shoes and jewelry is now replaced with bright colored horse buckets, fun western gifts, and just stuff you plain old NEED in the country.  I don’t shop nearly as often as I used to when I lived in the suburbs, and honestly I don’t miss it.  But when I need a little fix, I can run down to my local Tractor Supply and get all a gal needs for herself, her hubby, her critters, and her farm.  Try those pink rubber boots on for size!

Essential farm girl needs - pink boots and a purple muck rake!
Essential farm girl needs – pink boots and a purple muck rake!
Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

My Donkey Found a Duck

Yep, you heard me correctly.  My donkey found a duck.  Sweetie Pie the donkey was hot on the trail of a little brown duck.  And this is how it all started …

It was a Wednesday morning, and I distinctly remember because I was busily gathering up the trash to drive it down the driveway for pick-up.  (Yes, driving the trash down the driveway is the norm – either in the tractor bucket or piled in the back of the little Jeep.  Either way – carrying it is not an option in the country.  Heck, we’re lucky we have trash service at all.)  And as usual, I was in a hurry, when I happened to notice that Sweetie Pie was dead focused on something in the pasture.

For those of you who have a donkey, you know that they are experts at spotting things, and when they are seriously paying attention to something, it’s usually worth checking out.  You can imagine my surprise when I rolled up to find Sweetie Pie nose to beak with a brown duck.  Keep in mind, our farm doesn’t have  pond or a lake, so a random duck in the middle of the pasture was quite a shock.  The good news – the duck was alive and alert but not making any attempts to make a break for it.

My save-the-animals instinct kicked in, and I dashed into the barn to grab a cat kennel to collect the duck (yes I said cat kennel – in my mind it was the right size).  My second germ-a-phobe instinct kicked in, and I decided to grab a pair of latex gloves, which happened to be blue, just in case the duck “had something.”

Back into the pasture I went cat kennel and gloves in hand, Sweetie Pie standing guard and thankfully not stomping or attacking.  As I went  to grab the duck, Mr. Duck found his inner duck self and wings and began flapping like mad and running as best he could through the pasture.  Clearly Mr. Duck was injured but not enough to make this is an easy catch.  So off I went running after the duck, blue-gloved hands waving, yelling behind me at Sweetie Pie to stay away.  Oh what a farmtastic site!

Well after much fussing, Mr. Duck made it safely into the cat kennel, where the dogs and cats all checked him out with faces that pleaded, “Please mom, let’s not keep another critter.”  So I loaded Mr. Duck up into the Jeep and drove him off to our local small animal vet, who was kind enough to take him in and nurse him back to health.  Mr. Duck was released into a local pond and has yet to be back in the pasture. Sweetie Pie continues to keep watch.

Donkeys - Sweetie Pie and Mama Rose
My donkey girls.