Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

We Simply Love Them

I have a confession to make. I’m not one of those girls who can claim I’ve always loved horses. In fact, the truth is for most of my life, horses have downright scared me.  I much preferred it if there was a fence or two between me and them. (I know, hold your shock.)

Now don’t get me wrong, all you have to do is take one look at our Meet the Farm page to know that Cowboy and I are animal lovers of the highest magnitude.  But I also understand that horses are bigger and more powerful than me, and definitely have minds of their own.  Boy, do they have minds of their own.  In fact, they’ve often awakened the fight or flight in me, and the few times I’d been around them in my past they had me on the flight side of the fence.

For example, as a kid I had taken a ride at a stable with our youth group, which seems to be a harmless right of passage for lots of kids.  I was excited to try it out, but being vertically challenged, they couldn’t make my stirrups short enough. However,  with a mischievous smile they told me not to worry, I was on a gentle ride, and all I needed to do was loosely hang on.  Hmmm ….  should have been warning sign number one, don’t ya think?

Warning number two – the guides told us absolutely no screaming, as the horses were trained to run if you yelled, thinking you were in danger.  Fabulous,  simply fabulous. So there I sat, feet dangling in the top of the stirrups keeping quiet.  Not an easy task for a girl whose first grade teacher called her motor mouth and mouth of the south (but that’s another story).

Well you guessed it, my horse trotted, loped, and flat out ran for the barn.  Picture a puny 13-year-old whisper-yelling, “Help, help, help!” while trying desperately to keep her bum from bumping right off that horse.  Not surprisingly, the flight thing came naturally after that.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Smokey and Ranger, American Mustangts
Smoke in the Valley (a.k.a. Smokey) and Lone Star Ranger (a.k.a. Ranger) having a nice little munch. This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of them – and just looks like love to me!

Enter 2008.  Cowboy and I attended the Extreme Mustang Makeover, sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, in Fort Worth, Texas.  Holy cats (or should I say horses), what a show!  Patriotic, majestic, amazing.  We walked the barns looking at these mustang horses, and there was just something in their eyes. It went right down to my soul.  And a tiny voice whispered, “Could you possibly be a horse person?”

My Farmtastic Life - Ranger
Ranger as a yearling. You could already tell that fella was going to have great hair and a crazy fun personality.

Then came the yearlings’ stalls.  And one very special little guy trained by one special little girl did me in.  She had done a great job with her fella, but had other horses at home, and so this one needed a fur-ever home. You know what’s coming next, right?  One little mustang yearling was adopted that day and headed home with me and Cowboy.

Fast forward more than eight years later, and Lone Star Ranger has changed my life.  We’ve got two more mustangs, one aging quarter horse, and two charming donkeys. I’m a horse person now.  Who knew?

But what does that really mean anyway?  No, my house is not decked out in western regalia; I don’t run around in cowgirl boots most of the time; and I don’t have a desire to be the rodeo queen (trust me, this is a good thing for all involved).

But these horses have a story and that speaks to me in a million ways.  Most of the time when we meet other horse folks, the first thing they ask me is, “What do you do with them?” I’m not sure why this is, but Cowboy and I have experienced it over and over.   Everyone expects you to DO something to justify why you have them.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Mustang River
Mustang number three – A River Runs Wild, a.k.a. River. This guy had a rough start, but he’s probably the biggest lover we’ve got.

 I often feel sheepish as I know they are waiting for me to impress them with tales of riding or rodeo antics.  And the truth was I used to always feel guilty because I wasn’t a great rider, heck if I’m honest, riding still scares me.

And then one day, someone asked me once again, and the right answer finally came to me.  We love them. We simply love them.

Because that is the truth.  They got their second chance at life and love at the farm, and they are our family members.  We even moved to the farm so that they would have room to roam and play, and yes that is also why we ended up with more.  (Just a friendly warning, horses are like potato chips.  One is never enough.)

We’ve built stalls and runs. We brush them, share carrot snacks, and love on them.  Sometimes Cowboy even rides them. (I don’t call him Cowboy for nothing.)

Could this have happened with any horse?  Maybe, but I like to think it’s the magic of the mustang.  The deep connection they make with their humans.  They simply love us.

P.S. A version of this story was submitted to the America’s Mustang Essay Contest.  While I was not a winner, these great equines make me feel like a winner each day.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Spa Kitty

You’ve met Bear in past posts; he’s the quirky little cat who starred in Toilet Cat.  Well, never one to disappoint, he’s developed a new habit this winter season.  He’s expanded his repertoire in the powder room to perching up high on the cabinets and worshipping the  heating vents and shower steam.  We’ve now upgraded him to spa kitty. Quite the promotion, if you ask me.

It’s his own personal spa day – every day.  That’s just how he rolls.  When he hears Cowboy or I head to shower and the whirring sound of the bathroom heater and ventilator kick on, he just can’t help himself but mosey in and head to the highest spot.  I mean, what cat couldn’t use a steam.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Bear the Cat
Having his own personal spa day moment – Bear soaks up the shower steam.

If you peak around the shower curtain, you’ll see him sitting like an ancient Egyptian cat with his head turned just so, eyes closed, and tailed curled neatly around his feet. You can practically here him meditating.  Ohm. Meow. Ohm.  It never fails to to make me crack a smile and shake my head.    When I head to the door squeaky clean ready to exit my warm steamy bliss, he pops open an eye and gives me a look as if to say, “Seriously?  Just one more  minute.  Meowy-please?”

I reach up to scratch his ears, and assure him he’ll have another spa day soon.  Depending on how much dirt we kick up outside, it could be sooner than he thinks.  What a character.

On top of his excellent bathroom manners, Bear is a curious little fellow.  He’s a lanky thing, barely weighing in at seven pounds and has a leap like none I’ve ever seen.  He’s amazingly lovable, but only when he chooses to be.  (Hey, I said he was a cat.)  Born on the farm, to the once feral Shadow, I must admit he was the scrawniest of the kittens, and I originally thought that he lacked personality.  Boy, was I mistaken.

He meows when you call his name. Not the angry meow of what-do-you-want-with-me, but more the sweet answer of hey-what’s-up.  (Yes, I speak cat, and for that matter dog and horse and donkey.  I’ve tried to convince Cowboy that I also speak goat and chicken, but he says I speak enough languages for the moment.)  Back to Bear …

Bear talks A LOT, so on top of such nicknames as toilet cat and spa kitty, he’s also been called Beartholameow, also his hashtag on Instagram.  Such a modern cat.

So as this winter warms to spring, the bathroom heater will be taking a break, much to Bear’s chagrin.  Bless his little heart.

 

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Rearranging Equals Chaos

Last weekend, Cowboy and I (umm mostly I) had the bright idea to rearrange the bedroom furniture.  Since the arrival of Max, the golden retriever who also insists on snuggling in bed, we’ve been toying with the idea of a king size bed.  It’s getting seriously crowded.  And let’s just avoid the whole  why-don’t-you-just-make-them-get-down discussion.  If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know that is just not how we roll around here.

So off we went scooting, shifting, and shoving to see if we could find an arrangement that would work, and that we would like just as much.  Truth is, Cowboy is quite the genius when it comes to space arranging (what can’t that man do). And after some newly discovered dust bunnies and the removal of an excess piece or two, we found just the new setup that worked.

I was delighted!  I wandered in and out of the room all day admiring our work. It really was a smart design.  In fact so smart, I was thinking, “Wow, maybe we should have had it this way all along.”  And then it was was bedtime.

Holy cats (and dogs)! You would have thought we moved into a whole new house, bought new furniture, and introduced a gaggle of new smells.  In came our canine and feline friends and they all lost their collective mind.  Our critters have a routine, and they know exactly where they fit and go at night.  It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Every piece has its place.    Not tonight. Nope, not happening.

All of a sudden, instead of the normal two to three dogs in bed, we had four.  Given that three of them weigh over 60 lbs., Cowboy and I were left scratching our heads trying to figure out where in the world we would fit.  We tried rearranging them, but they just kept panicking.  Climbing on top of pillows, scrambling over blankets, and just generally acting a fool.  Children!

My Farmtastic Life - All the Dogs In Bed
Seriously – where is there room for humans? Of course Goober’s current collar situation does not help, not one little bit. But those faces? Oh those faces!

Cowboy and I stood there laughing at them, and taking bets (err… ummm, volunteering) as to who would go sleep in the guest room.  After 30 minutes to an hour of settling, reorganizing, and settling again, the pooches finally settled down.  And then the cats decided to make it a party.  Wedging themselves into free space, and by free space I mean vertical free space, perching on top of us.

Cowboy and I were both a wee bit pooped the next day.  And I seriously wondered if were were going to have to put the furniture back just to get some sleep.  Luckily, night two went better, and by nights four and five we regained our collective brain and settled back down into a routine.

Now I know animals love routine.  I’ve written about it before with the horses.  But good gravy what an unnecessary adventure.  I’m happy to report we have all settled down and the king size bed will indeed fit. Lord help us when that thing finally arrives, as I’m guessing it will be one more night of chaos.  Just one. I hope.

 

Critter Stories · Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

10 Critters, the Bible, and a Bra

Cowboy and I live at the edge of tornado alley, and after a particularly close call in 2014, decided a storm shelter would be a good idea.  Of course, we pray that we will never actually need it, but it’s a comfort to have that steel box bolted deep into the foundation.  (Yes, we have an above ground job – I’m not looking to crawl into one those tomb like things people put in their garage floors.  No thank you!)

Which leads me to one of the first nights of the new year.  We’ve been waffling between hot and cold weather, as if mother nature is in the middle of a hot flash, a hottie, her own personal summer, or whatever granny calls it.  This also means severe weather is always a possibility.

We’d been watching the weather that day, which had been glorious, but knew storms were coming in from the west.  As the evening progressed, warnings started coming about potential straight line winds – up to 70 miles per hour.  We did our usual battening down of the hatches, which these days means making sure the pool side lounge chairs don’t become kites, and horse gates are latched open so the equines can move around at will.  (Goodness knows I’d love to have a storm shelter big enough for our horses, but honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be locked in there with them as a storm blew over.  That might be a storm all on its own.)

Well, at 3 a.m., the time of all good storms, I woke up with my heart pounding as I heard a giant bang. Thunder! The wind chimes were blowing furiously, and I looked out the window just in time to see of one of our rocking chairs go flying off the porch. (Dang it, we clearly needed to do more battening.)  I heard the sounds of small hail starting to pelt our metal roof.  Hemming and hawing for all of about two minutes,  I decided it was time to put ourselves in the shelter.  (You do remember, we have 4 dogs and 6 cats, and you can bet your bottom dollar, if we’re going in the shelter they are, too!)

Let me paint you a picture.  It’s  3 a.m., I’m clad in pink heart pajamas, and we are about to start an indoor rodeo roundup.  First up – cats! I bound up the stairs to grab Nightmare, where I know his favorite hiding spot is.  Into the first cat kennel.  Door locked. Next! Moving on to the big boy, Rhinoceros.  Oh man, I haven’t had him in a kennel for a little while; that took some shoving.  (Note to self, he might need to graduate to the big boy kennel.) Then it was time for Shadow and her crew of boys.  As Cowboy says, thank goodness God gave cats tails for handles.  One, two, three, four – all shoved into one giant kennel. Now they normally lay together all day, but like most children, force them to play nice and there is hissing, swatting, and growling.

Finally, it’s time to add the pooches.  On Dixie, on Goober, on Maybelle, and Max –  yes it feels like you are calling Santa’s reindeer there are so flipping many of them.  Herding them all into the shelter with the promise of treats, the last one entered just in time for us to shut the door and lock our little family in place. (Oh gosh, this is also when I remember that Nightmare likes to hide presents in the storm shelter. Please Lord, let there be not one little half eaten mouse in here with us.)

My Farmtastic Life - Dogs and cats in storm shelter
All tucked into the storm shelter – there were 3 cat kennels stacked on top of each other – effectively creating a tower of cat. We were standing up against the wall – wouldn’t want to crowd the critters. (And yes, Goober is in there, too. See the tip of his tail on the bottom right.)

And then you hear it. The panting, the whining, the banging of tails, as you realize you are in a 12-by-4-foot  steel box with 10 critters!  Are we sure this was really a great idea? Dogs are sniffing cats, cats are doing that dreadful cry they do when you drive them to the vet, and everyone is just confused.  Of course Max, the golden retriever, just lays down and takes a nap in the middle of it all, because seriously, in case you missed, it is 3 a.m.

But then I looked around at all of those noses, paws, and ears, and I was grateful.  We were all safe in our box.  And I was praying the horses would use all of their God-given instincts to stay safe.

Adjusting to the dim light, I smiled at what else I saw.  Before bed, I had the presence of mind to put our Bible in the shelter, because nothing comforts better than that. Oh, but I did mention a bra in the title, right?  Why, pray tell, am I talking about unmentionables?

All of us good southerners know that we are dreadfully misrepresented on the news when there is a natural disaster.  For whatever reason, the news can spot a shirtless, toothless, shoeless fella a mile away.  Well, this southern farmgirl was not going to have it. If, heaven forbid, we lost it all, I was at least going to emerge from the shelter dressed in something other than jammies.  So yes, before we went to bed, when forecasters were warning of storms, and winds, and danger, I was busy tossing the necessities into the shelter, which any lady will tell you, definitely includes a bra.  Which also guarantees, we would not be on the news.  Amen-glory-hallelujah for that!

After 10 minutes of howling winds, the edge of the front moved on and we were left with simple rain and no real damage. Thank you, Lord!  But I realized something in that box.  When it comes right down to grabbing the things you absolutely must have in this life, the list is preciously small.  (And yes, there is always room for a bra.)

 

Adventures Away From the Farm · Farmtastic Stories

A Tourist In My Own Town

I’ve had a love affair with adorable town squares for as long as I can remember.  Cowboy has often said the unicorn I am hunting in life is a grand old farmhouse on a hundred acres in the middle of a town square.  (Yes, most definitely a unicorn!)

Glen Rose dinosaur bench
Sit a spell in Glen Rose.

But I have to say that where we live now, just outside our quaint little town at the tippy top of the Texas hill country, is just about perfect. We’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Glen Rose town square – filled with delightful shops, good eats, and quirky findings that make it special.

Track in Time Too
Tracks in Time Too is one of my favorites – filled with industrial, farmhouse, and just plain fun finds.

Whenever Cowboy and I have guests, we often take them into town and show them all that is Glen Rose. Heck, we used to be those tourists dreaming of finding our own spot. So on this gloriously sunny, albeit slightly windy day, with a little time off, I decided to be a tourist in my own town. Just me, myself, and I.

I drove on down to the square, promptly parked the Jeep, and hopped out with a spring in my step.  No time clock. No agenda.  Just me and the town I’ve come to love.  I wandered from shop to shop – trying on clothes, laughing at funny signs, looking through stacks of old books and farmhouse antiques.

Paisley Reese
New to the square – cowgirl chic Paisley Reese was filled with unique and fun clothes.

The shop keepers were all gracious as they asked if I needed help, shared their post Christmas sales, and wished me Happy New Year.  There were quaint little parks and tucked in between buildings and historic old structures still decked out with holiday flair. And when you really looked, you could see that our little treasured square holds genealogy secrets, dinosaur footprints at the museum (yes, we are the dinosaur capital of Texas), and art galleries.  How perfectly farmtastic! There is just something about a square that makes this farmgirl’s heart sing.

River House Grill
One of my favorite good eats – The River House Grill. The Harvest Flatbread is DIVINE!

Sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right in front of us with all the glory of the Internet and ease of Amazon.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that Amazon Prime can change a farmgirl’s life. You can even order a muck rake online; trust me, I’ve done it).  But today was not about the pure task of shopping, it was about the act of experiencing where I live.  Talking to people, supporting the town, and basking in gratefulness.  Because I am exactly where I am meant to be.

As you get ready to jump into 2017, I encourage you to take a look around at where you are and become a tourist in your own town.  Maybe you live in a big city and have amazing museums or restaurants.  Maybe you live in the suburbs with walking and biking trails that just spur the imagination.  Wherever you are, find the beauty.

And if you ever find yourself in Glen Rose, stop by the square and do a little strolling.  It’s good for the soul.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Tug Of Donkey

We love our donkey girls here at the farm. They have big personalities, make crazy braying noises when it’s time to eat, and they are great at keeping an eye on things. (Our city friends like to call them guard donkeys.)

And while they are oodles of fun 99 percent of the time, sometimes they are … well, um … donkeys!  Sweetie pie is about 7 years old, and from time to time gets a little limpy, which means we need to bring her up into a stall and let her get some rest and TLC.  (Cowboy is convinced that Sweetie Pie plays up the limping when she wants a little extra attention. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past her; she’s one smart chica.)

Well we’ve had some rain, which means we have mud, which is when she usually gets a little sensitive. So out in the mud we tromped to get her a little R&R, farm style.  While with our horses you can whip on a halter and have the job done in two seconds flat, with the donkeys, not so much.

Now don’t get me wrong, Miss Pie is better than her dear sweet Mama Rose (that’s a whole other kind of rodeo), but she is still a donkey.  It’s a lovely rhythm of 2 steps, tug, release, 2 steps, tug, no thank you.  So we work our way up from the pasture to the stalls doing our delicate dance while all the other equines watch on in amusement.  (Yes, I do think they are laughing at us humans sometimes.)

Farm Photo - Sweetie Pie the Donkey
Sweetie Pie being a smidge stubborn. She is a donkey, after all.

And then the final show down – the big bad scary stall gate.  Now little miss knows good and well the gate is not a bad thing, but it’s her last stand.  So she has to make a show of things.  Who can blame a girl for trying. (Notice the taught rope in the photo and those ears and eyes.  She is saying, “No ma’am, no ma’am, mo ma’am.”)

Ultimately, she trots into the stall for some extra special care, at which point I do a little jig of victory.  She gets a good rub down, some fresh hay, and while I think I have won the grear tug of donkey event, I think our girl knows she is the real winner, but she is at least gracious enough to let me bask for just a moment.  Even donkeys have manners on the farm.

 

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

When You Wish Upon a Frog

Farm Photo - Digging of the pool
I just had to climb in at my first chance.

I’ve wanted a swimming pool since I was a little girl. Growing up, it was always my favorite summer activity.  I remember fondly the summer my mom took me to a huge pool club and I would spend hours upon hours dreaming in the pool.  My raft became a dolphin and I an amazing dolphin trainer.  Or sometimes I’d press my feet together and try to swim like a mermaid.  I felt graceful in the pool – something I rarely feel on dry land.

So last fall when I confided my dream to Cowboy of getting a pool, he found a way to make it happen. (Yes, I just love that man.)  I watched from the front porch for 12 weeks while machines and craftsmen dug, rocked, and tiled the pool.  Finally finished, I donned my bathing suit and watched eagerly as it began to fill with water (just a measly 27 hours).

And then the splashing began.  We had my niece down from the big city (Chicago) to splish and splash.  We bought pool toys, floated, and for the first time in my life, someone even told me I looked tan this summer.  That’s because every chance I got, I was by the pool – swimming, reading, and enjoying the view of the horses.  Blessed, simply blessed.

And then the ecosystem started.  First, we had one or two frogs. Kind of cute.  They were especially fond of the rock fountains.  Then there were a dozen.  Each night as Cowboy and I went to take a dip, we’d count frogs.  I’m not sure when it happened, but all of a sudden we were up to over 40 frogs, then 50, then 60.  Until one day, we counted nearly 100 frogs!

I googled to see how to make them move on, but no luck. Any solution would hurt or kill them, so not an option.  And ultimately, it turns out they are great bug control.  Let me be clear, we have no pond or other nearby water source, so how these crazy Kermits found us, I’m not quite sure.  (Other than, obviously the animal kingdom has a network equivalent to Facebook, and I think we must be posted, shared, liked, and loved all over it.)

Back to our ecosystem … so one lovely evening during a warm swim, I was doing my nightly frog count, and a little face poked out of the rocks at me that I had not seen before.  It took my brain a moment to register this creature, which was a mere 10 inches or so from my face.

My first thought was, “Oh, how cute.  Wait, it doesn’t look like a frog.  It has a tongue sticking out at me.”  My second thought was “S-N-A-K-E!”  Quickly followed by a panicked, “Out of the pool. Out of the pool. Out of the pool!”

Holy hades where did he come from?  Well, you guessed it, we were serving up a lovely buffet of a snake’s favorite dish – Kermit a la poolside.  He was more scared of me that I was of him, although I’m not sure that is entirely possible or true.  And over the next week we had two of his associates show up as well.  Fun science fact I somehow missed in biology, ALL snakes swim. (Once again, thank you Google.  And yes, you heard me.  A-L-L.)

Well Cowboy and my dad came to the rescue, and the snakes met their fate.  Sorry fellas, swimming with snakes is not on my list of things to do.  The Kermits are croaking and singing nightly, and we have purchased a snake grabber on Amazon. (Who knew … Amazon really does have everything.)

So yes, I’ve got my dream pool and we are loving every minute.  But let me say, I am thanking my lucky stars for beautiful clear water that you can see what you are getting into, literally.  Last night, as Cowboy and I stood on the porch, we listened as a giant hoot howl sounded very close.  We hadn’t heard that before.  So with my handy dandy phone I looked up their food source – furry creatures and (yep, you guessed it) frogs.  Ribbit!

Farm Critter Pic - Frogs in the Pool
A sampling of our friendly frogs.

P.S. – I never liked swimming in lakes, but with my new all-snakes-swim revelation, I’m sticking to clear water from now on. No exceptions.