Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Pretty Girl

If you’ve ever loved an animal, today is one of those days that is the hardest. The day when after years of love, hugs, and kisses you have to say goodbye. You know it’s time. You know it’s the right thing to do. But as the tears stream down your face, your heart breaks, and a little piece of you goes silent.

Today was that day for our sweet Abby, our pretty girl. Abby was 13 1/2 years old, and the oldest of our canine crew. Truth be told, she was the last one of our original family of five dogs, so it felt in some ways like the end of an era. We’ve known for some time that Abby’s time with us was coming to close, but this weekend it became clear that she was ready to move on. A beautiful blond Shepard mix, Abby had dropped to under 30 pounds, just a shadow of her former self.

This morning I made the call to our vet, and through tears choked out that it was time to say goodbye. As always, he took fabulous care of us and fit us right in. Cowboy and I stayed by her side until the end. Tears rolling down our faces, holding each other, and whispering to sweet Abby that it was okay. She would soon be at peace and all of her friends who have gone on before her, like her best pal Pooh Bear, would be waiting to greet her.

As we said our goodbyes, we left with love in our hearts and her worn leather collar in our hands. One more of our fur-children gone from this world. No matter how many times we go through this, it never gets easier.

Dog Photo - Abby laying in the grass
Our sweet Abby. You taught us so much. Rest in peace pretty girl.

On the ride home, Cowboy and I tried to get a hold of ourselves. Talking about the good memories inbetween searching for Kleenexes and sniffling. Abby came to us as a puppy who had been severely abused and neglected, and ultimately abandoned to be put down. Some great folks rescued her, and we adopted her into our family, crowning off our crew of five dogs, which happened to be the perfect home for her. Truth was, at the adoption she picked out Cowboy. He picked her up, and she hung on as if to say, “Will you make me yours?”

Once we got her home, she didn’t so much trust people at first, given what the two-leggeds had put her through, but she loved our other pups, especially Pooh Bear. Abby lived under the futon until we she was too big to fit, and to this day hid her head under furniture when she was scared.

But even given her unfair start in this world, Abby was a sweet loving girl. She gave back so very much. She was simply the best. Here’s what we remember most about our Abs.

  • We laughed when at about six months old her ears went from flopping at the top to standing straight up. I can still see her turning her head with that questioning look and those great big ears.
  • We’ll never forget the day she found a blue gel pen and chewed it to pieces turning herself and our comforter bright blue. It was like our very own Braveheart.
  • We always said Abby could spot a lawyer. The only time she ever bit anyone was our neighbor and dear friend, the lawyer. Luckily he had done the reaching at her, had on gloves, and most of all had a great sense of humor.
  • She was never one to snuggle up to you, but she loved to be petted, and the porch was her favorite spot. I’d sit in the big wicker chair and she would back into me over and over for a good rump scratching.
  • She was a lesson in love, as she and Pooh Bear would always lay together, licking each other’s faces. They were never very far apart. In retrospect, after we lost Pooh Bear she never really was quite the same.

So as our hearts ache tonight, we want to remember the good times. That we gave her that second chance that she needed. That she gave us so much more in return.

Rest in peace pretty girl. Cover Pooh Bear in kisses and snuggle with your long lost pal. Until we meet again.

P.S. Again, I have to say big thanks to our wonderful veterinary staff who was just as compassionate as they could be, and I could see in our vet’s eye how this is the hardest part of his job. We are so grateful to have you caring for our fur-kids.

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Pete and Repeat

I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl, and some times the crazy, corny jokes that he told me as a kid just get stuck in my head.  Lately, this is the one that is parked on my brain:

Dad: Pete and Repeat sitting on the fence.  Pete fell off and who was left?
Me: Repeat.
Dad: Pete and Repeat sitting on the fence.  Pete fell off and who was left?

You can imagine the little girl giggles this created, as this could go on and on.  But the reason it’s been on my mind lately is that I think it is the perfect description of the crazy Texas weather and the farm antics that ensue when we are frozen in.

Just a few short winters ago we were stuck in the snow in a major way, at least for Texas. This winter we were iced in yet again, and let’s just be honest here,  winter is certainly not over.  While I have still not mastered the ability to be graceful on ice, and my hopes for this are waning each year, the farm chores still have to get done.  As Sweet Suzy Q will tell you, it might be cold and she may have fresh hay, but she is most definitely positive that she still needs to have her feed twice a day or she very well may wilt.

I’m happy to report that with each winter here at the farm, Cowboy and I learn something new and feel like we make little improvements. For example the mud boots required for this weather are in place and in multiples!

The big “yehaw” this year is that we (and by we I mean Cowboy) were able to install underground waterlines to all of the stalls.  This means we were not dealing with miles of frozen hose.  Can I get an amen!  We did still have some frozen spigots and at times were relegated to one water trough, but everyone had access and we were able to keep it refreshed and heated for all our equine kids.

What do we still need to work on?  Well there was the matter of the ice on the roof shifting and ripping loose the gutters, which resulted in me skittering outside across the ice only to shuffle back inside and tell Cowboy, “I think we have a problem.”  Cowboy investigated and concurred, always frightening since I’m the worrier.  After bracing things with the tractor, shoveling, heating, and fiddling, he had us back in business.  Thank goodness Cowboy is so handy, or I’m not sure how this farmtastic life would work.

Things on the wish list for next winter? Water heaters for all the horse troughs that are “play proof,” especially for my curious fellows.  (It seems the female persuasion around here can leave well enough alone.)

So bring it on winter. Pete and Repeat sitting on the fence.  Pete fell off and who was left?

P.S.  Cowboy and I have a dream that one winter we will have it all nailed down before hand.  I’m not so sure that will happen, but we are giving it one farmtastic try.

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Horse Stall Therapy

As I’ve mentioned before, Cowboy and I both have day jobs in order to support life on the farm.  My job happens to be in the high-tech industry, which can be exciting but also volatile.  This has been an especially rough week for me as my company is laying folks off (or as the latest industry trend likes to  call it “delayering,” but this farmgirl says let’s just call a spade a spade).  While I am super blessed to have landed a spot, many great folks, some dear friends of mine, were ushered out the virtual door.  It’s truly been heartbreaking.

Currently, I product manage software applications for the digital industry.  It’s a fast moving place where things are always changing and there is never a shortage of things to learn and do.  Simply put, it can be thrilling and an adrenaline rush when you see your ideas comes to life.  But to be honest, I’m a bit of an oddball in the field as I live in rural America and do this job remotely.  Many of my colleagues are big city folks who are immersed in technology 24/7.  But while I’m known as the Texas farmgirl around the office, I’ve often said it’s because I live a decidely non-tech life that I can excel at a high-tech work life.

Which brings me back to this week.  My emotions have been all over the map with these changes.  But I am reminded once again just why the farm life is the perfect spot for us.  Horse stall therapy!  You see, when you are up to your elbows in documentation and timelines and everything feels critical, a horse (or any animal) can be a calming friend and a reminder to take a breath.

Just standing next to my Ranger boy I can inhale the sweet scents from his neck, run my fingers through his long mane, and be in the moment.  I often will just wrap my hands around his neck.  Horse hugs are the best! (To boot, it’s never wise to be around a 1000-lb animal and not be in the moment.  It’s best to be right there!)

And around the farm, it’s not just Ranger who can fill up your soul. It’s watching Nightmare the cat criss-cross the horse stalls by being mister twinkle toes across the fence tops.  It’s watching Maybelle the dog’s ear flop with joy as she runs across the yard in sheer joy as she chases a rock. (Yes, I said rock.)  It’s listening to the brays of Sweetie Pie the donkey as she insists she is starving and will simply collapse if you don’t feed her one more time or give her some good neck rubs.

And sometimes you just need to work out with some good old fashioned farm work.  Shoveling out horse stalls is about as honest as it gets.  It is what it is, and with each scoop you put a little of your own muck in the bucket.

It’s a farmtastic life for me, and while things may ebb and flow, and times can be upsetting or scary, it reminds me why Cowboy and I chose to move to the country and live this life.  Horse stall therapy really is good for the soul.

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

It’s a Dusty, Dandy Life

Love and marriage might go together like a horse and carriage, but when it comes to country living it’s dust and dirt that have the perfect marriage.  And to be honest, the horses (and their carriage) love it!

Living in the country simply comes with a lot of dust and dirt, and if you want to keep your sanity, you just have to get over it.  I remember when I used to visit folks who had horses and barns (long before my horse days).  We would walk out into the barn and everything would be covered in a thin layer of dust, and I used to think, “Sheesh, don’t they ever clean this place?”  To all of you, I am deeply sorry.

Having lived the country life for three years now, I have finally given in to the dust and the dirt.  I mean, you can spend your days with brooms, dust pans, hoses, and my favorite, the leaf blower, or you can spend your days hugging the neck of your horse, brushing manes, and sitting on the porch.  Frankly,  the latter appeals to me a whole lot more.

To be fair, I’ve never loved cleaning, but I do my best. I grew up in a house that could pretty much pass the white glove test at any time.  My mom’s mortal enemy is dust, and it still is today.  In fact, we have a long running family joke about the fancy formal living room coffee tables circa 1974 that were shellacked to a high sheen (say “amen” if you know what I mean).  Dusting them was the bane of my existence.  When my mom finally upgraded her furniture several years back, she quipped, “You sure you don’t want these tables?”

I was quick to respond with “Are you kidding me?  Do you know how many hours of therapy those tables cost me?”

And not only do you just have to deal with it, I actually find myself spending cold hard cash on dirt, well sand, but you get the gist. Where we live, when it rains our dirt turns to gumbo.  That thick, gloppy mess that will turn a girl’s boots into 10-pound weights, that is if you are lucky enough not to have them sucked off of your feet.

To help with this lovely little dilemma, we’ve brought in truck loads of sand to mix around the horse stalls and work area.  And in case you are wondering, dirt ain’t cheap, which you are gently reminded of on hot dusty days as your precious sand is blowing around.  The wind whispers “cha-ching” in your ear as the dirt you actually want slowly slips away.  So while some girls get to dream of spending money on new sofas, I dream of sandy soil.  My what has happened to me?

And if not for the dirt and dust that just blow around, the animals will make sure you have plenty of extra.  For example, Nightmare the barn cat, loves to roll in the dirt and sand and turn his shiny black coat into a lovely shade of tan.  Sweet Suzy Q loves nothing more than a good rain to roll around in the mud and fill up her beautiful mane with mud clumps, resulting in bath time, which is a whole other story altogether.

So there you have it.  Country life is filled with sand, mud, and dust.  But when a big old dusty horse slobbers all over your shoulder and leaves a dirt print on your favorite T-shirt, you think dirt is just about the best thing you’ve ever seen.

Horse Photo - Ranger with his nose in the air
This is what Ranger thinks of the dust. It is just dandy!
Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Like Flies to Honey

Nothing attracts friends and family to visit like moving to the country.  Don’t get me wrong, Cowboy and I love our friends and family but we have done more entertaining in the last three years than the last 12 years combined.  My theory is that the smell of fresh air, the promise of a porch sitting evening, and just plain old peace and quiet is as enticing for folks as honey is to flies.

For years, we lived in the suburbs in your typical three-bedroom-two-bath house.  We had a lovely guest room ready to welcome friends and family.  But alas, the room sat empty and I can count on one hand the number of times it was actually used.  So when we packed up and moved to the country and into our one-bedroom barndiminium, I was not prepared for the onslaught.  (For those who don’t know, City Girl, a.k.a. my sister-in-law, dubbed our place the barndiminium.  It’s a barn with living quarters, workshop, and horse stalls, a great big porch, and it is country living at it’s finest.)

House Photo - Shabby Chic Guest Bedroom
Our shabby chic guest room. Perfect for curling up in the picture window with a good book and a cup of tea.

Since moving into the barndiminium, we’ve had friends and family sleep on the sofa, the floor, and on chairs and ottomans.  They showed up, and we found places to stack them.  We’ve hosted dinners and cookouts and packed 12+ people into our little living space.  So much so, that last summer Cowboy built a guest suite upstairs. And thank goodness Cowboy is handy, or we’d still be spreading pillows and blankets out on the floor.

Our move to the country even inspired both sets of our parents to follow suit.  My parents came just 11 months after we moved, and Cowboy’s parents just two months ago.  And let me just say that they are all hooked. We’ve got dads driving tractors and feeding horses, and moms enjoying porch time and deer watching.  City Girl even has dibs on the barndiminium apartment for her retirement digs.

We’ve seen friends and family that we haven’t seen in years, and all because it’s enticing to take the long drive out of the city and head to the rolling hills, wildflowers, and calm.  And, I’m guessing you need this allure to attract visitors when your most interesting personal skill is that you can scoop a darn clean horse stall or make a mean enchilada dinner (obviously not at the same time, and with much hand washing in between).  I digress … so if you want to see your family more often, become the vacation destination. Oh, and it helps if you have a small zoo at your disposal as well.  Nothing will attract the kiddos like the allure of petting a donkey, riding a horse, or chasing around the barn cats.

The bottom line, it’s a good thing to have an interesting place to hang your hat since otherwise we’d still be looking at a pretty but empty guest room.  And if you need a break from your family, settle down in the suburbs.

House Photo - Guest Bathroom with Clawfoot Tub
The guest bath – complete with a vintage claw foot tub. Time for a soak!

 

 

 

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.
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!