Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Country Driving

Cowboy and I have always loved a good road trip, but since moving to the farm, it’s hard to get away for any length of time thanks to our lovable menagerie of critters.  Don’t get me wrong, the farm is where our hearts are, but sometimes a girl just needs to feel a little wind in her face.  So every once in a while, Cowboy and I will climb in one of the vehicles and go for a jaunt.

Today was one of those days when I just needed to clear my head and go for a spin.  And country driving is just the thing to put a smile in my soul.  Windows down and music turned up, we went cruising down the backroads.   And what I really love are all of the beautiful little moments that are happening in life right before your eyes if you will just look up (yes, from your phone) and notice, really notice.

My Farmtastic Life - A young farmgirl on her first roadtrip
That’s me at 4 years old on a cross-country road trip. Daddy thought it would be hilarious to stand me on the side of Route 66 and have me thumb it – with my purple suitcase and my baby doll. I guess my love of the road started early.

I saw an elderly lady wearing garden gloves and digging in her glorious bed of irises.  I saw a big sister pulling her little sister in a wagon, while little sister took in the view and enjoyed a sippy cup.  I saw cows napping, horses of every shade munching spring grasses, and a baby lamb leaping and tripping to keep up with its mama.

I saw sleepy towns waking up, and shopkeepers opening their stores, hopeful for good business.  I passed oodles of horse trailers hauling four-legged best friends for a day of adventures.  RVs and campers passed us in droves headed to campgrounds and far away places, as we’re just starting spring break here.  I even spotted a few Texas bluebonnets in bloom, a sign that spring is definitely sprung.

There truly were beautiful little moments all around.  Everyday moments that some might say are nothing special, but it’s those every day moments that can bring real deep down, feel it in your toes kind of joy.

I try to be a positive gal, and somedays I’m successful and somedays not so much.  But when I need to clear my head, there’s nothing better than a little four-wheel-perspective.

 

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.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Mutual Admiration Society

I’ve been a self proclaimed daddy’s girl my whole life, just ask my momma.  Whether we were riding bikes all over town, building science projects in the garage, or dancing in the living room, we were pals, friends, and playmates.

My Farmtastice Life Photo - Dancing with dad
Dad is a fantastic dancer – the one thing I didn’t inherit was his rhythm. But he humors me and last year we went to a ’50s dance and laughed all the way through.

In fact, my dad has called me his buddy all of my life, and to this day, he’ll throw his arm around my neck and whisper in my ear, “You’re still my buddy, aren’t you?”  Yes, a thousand times yes.

This week Dad turned 78 years old – it just doesn’t hardly seem possible.  I’m so grateful that he is still healthy, mischievous, and full of life.  In lots of ways, I’m his mini me.  From the awkward gate of my flat-footed walk to my wacky offbeat sense of humor.  Truth is,  there is nothing I love to do more than get him belly laughing and crying over the silliest of sillies.

Even growing up, I could wiggle myself out of trouble with the slightest of smiles.  More than once I got Dad to crack up, only to say, “Hey Dad, you can’t punish me if you’re laughing at me.”  We’d crumble into a heap of giggles.  Bless my poor mother, as this is not when she found either of us amusing, trust me.  Dad’s soft spot meant mom had to be the disciplinarian, and I’m so grateful she was.

Dad had to travel a lot for work, but when he was home he was a one-man jungle gym and entertainment center. I rode on his back to bed while he whinnied and neighed, most of the time busting up into giggles before we could make it down the hall.

He’d take me to his work as a mechanics training instructor on the weekends, where I’d set up his classroom, draw love notes on the board, and wheel around the shop on the creeper.  To this day the smell of grease and old books is a smell uniquely dad.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Dad and horses
Dad dreamed of being a cowboy from the time he was a child. He loves nothing more than being around horses – and they love him.

Probably the greatest legacy he has given me is my love of all things four-legged. I swear that man would live in a barn and sleep on a bale of hay to be near a horse.  He loves to blow in their noses and soak up their scent.  He’s got a calm around the critters that I appreciate.

He’s our resident ranch hand around the farm when we need a watchful eye over the critters.  On those rare instances when Cowboy has not been here, I’ve called Dad to help me put medicine in a horse’s eye, de-skunk a dog (seriously not fun AT ALL), and even kill a snake or two.

Truth is that Cowboy and I took the risk to buy the farm because of stories Dad told about how he wanted to live in the country, but never quite got all the way there.  How in life sometimes you have to take a risk, so you don’t look back and wish you had.  We’ve had the land 10 years this summer and lived here for 7, and I really can’t imagine it any other way.  Another one of dad’s telltale fingerprints on my life.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - old family photo
Our little family – we were and continue to be a close little bunch. I can almost promise you that dad was making me laugh in this pic. Mom insisted he come to all picture sessions – she said it was the only way to guarantee I’d smile.

There are moments when I become fully aware of just how precious life is, and overwhelmed with gratitude for the rock my parents have always been.  Don’t get me wrong, life is not perfect.  We’ve had our arguments, hurt feelings, and frustrations, but above all I have always known how much I am loved.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

So as my dear dad starts his 79th trip around the sun this year, I watch in awe and wander at his kindness, his humor, and his love.   There is none other quite like him, and I’m so blessed that he is my dad. Momma has often called us the mutual admiration society, proclaiming that to be a member you must think the other walks on water.  And I guess that is true.  I love you, buddy!

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Valentines Schmalentines

I got a text from Cowboy last week that said, “Happy National Spouses Day!” To which, I replied, “Who knew!” And my quick-witted better half quickly typed back, “Evidently I did.”

This is just one of the many exchanges we have that just makes me laugh and love him all the more.  As I’m sure I’ve covered in past posts, Cowboy is not much of a holiday guy. He’s more of a live-love-laugh-every-day guy.

To be fair, I can pretty well guarantee you that he was not waiting on pins and needles for this day.  He simply saw a post about it online and beat me to the punch.  He’s also one to poke you in the ribs at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning to wish you Merry Christmas and chuckle that he told you first.

It’s always been this way with us.  Laughter is a big part of what makes us tick.  And as you can probably tell by the way I write, I think humor is a darned important part of life.  I mean seriously, when you live with 16 critters it’s a requirement, not an option.

Which brings me to the fact that we are on the cusp of February – the month of love. You know the holiday I mean – the annual chocolate-rose-love fest known as Valentine’s Day.  Let’s face it, this day just requires a little humor.

Back in the early days (I mean like when my age started with the number two early days), I used to have silly expectations about the importance of this occasion.  As if a gift or a dinner or moment would feel extra special on this day.

My Farmtastic Life - Cowboy on a Tractor
Cowboy just doing what he does – taking care of us. Love!

Looking back this just flat out perplexes me, and these times were certainly not my finest hour.  The truth is that Cowboy loves me, and has always loved me, every single day.  He’s a man of actions, and not so much of words.  To prove my point even further, the song that always makes me think of him is the classic country tune, When You Say Nothing at All.

It’s the little everyday things that mean the most.  Like when he cares for the horses or washes the car or just knows when I need a hug.  He’s truly my better half.

While I’m sure he’ll be oh so delighted to make this appearance on the blog (he may be funny, but he’s also pretty private), I write this to all the gals and fellas out there that are setting themselves up with great expectations during this season of candy hearts and pink balloons.  Give your other half a break.

Look for the little things – like the special language only the two of you share.  Be grateful for each moment – even if it’s a 5-minute chat as you fold the laundry.  Most of all – laugh together.  Especially on Valentine’s Day, because seriously it’s a day whose mascot is a chubby baby with a bow and arrow.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter under the title of Laugh, Love, and Laugh Some More.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

No Need for Kennels

First things first, I don’t write about politics.  I was recently told I could/should, and let the record show, that’s not my cup of tea.  I don’t talk about which side I am on, because I’m not much for taking sides.  End of story.  But I do love to write about the critters, and I’m always amazed at what we can learn from our critter friends.  And in this week of political crazy, it’s no different.  I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready for my Facebook feed to go back to puppies, horses, and friends’ great family pics.  I’m also ready for the news to find something else to talk about.  Period.

Unless we are darn near besties, I’m not one to talk about politics.  As my momma taught me, discussing religion and/or politics in most situations is just not the most polite thing to do.  And while I truly love the Internet – it lets me share stories, keep up with friends, and have a livelihood – I do think we have forgotten how to be polite to each other when we are on it.  (Yes, I’m not the first one to make this revelation.  But I do think it’s worth noting again, given our short attention span these days.)

All of my life, I’ve had friends from all walks of life, who hold all manner of views – some far left, some far right, some sitting in the middle, and some clear off the reservation in their own little world.  But the fact is that I love them all – as my fellow human beings.  (It’s also a reason I don’t often fit into groups, but have friends across groups.  As I’ve been told in the past, I’m not a joiner.  But I digress … .)

Folks have a right to their views, and I respect that.  As long as you don’t force your views on me, I’m even willing to have a nice discussion.  I’ve always loved to learn what makes people tick.  (And yes, some of us are down right cuckoo clocks, but still, I find it interesting nonetheless.)

Which brings me back to the critters.  You see, the critters at the farm all have to learn to live together.  We’ve got cats and dogs, and we don’t separate them or kennel them for everyday living.  We’ve got mares and geldings (that’s girls and boys for my city friends), and we don’t tell them who’s boss or how to share or which one is better at running or opening gates or listening.  We let them figure it out.  And, miracle of miracles, they do so just fine.   Now don’t get me wrong, every once in a while someone hisses or kicks or bites, but it’s temporary.  They made their point, and they move on.

So I come full circle to social media, news, and all of our various ways to scream our point of view from the mountaintops.  Let’s all try to be a little more polite, a little gentler, and remember that all of our friends don’t always see things the way we do.  And honestly, isn’t that a blessing? I mean how boring would my life be if all my friends were just like me. Lord knows, one of me is enough.

So while it’s probably not realistic to ask everyone to keep their commentary to themselves, I would ask us all to find a little bit of politeness and  ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary? Is it kind? Does this help my friends truly see my point of view, and am I open to hearing theirs?  Does this alienate people I care about?”

We can all be true to ourselves and also be kind. I’ve never once in my life found that browbeating someone who does not think like I do to be a successful method to share my point of view.  In fact, it does just the opposite. (And trust me, I’ve been on the wrong end of some serious browbeating, and it did nothing more than make me dig my heals in, and I still carry the scars.)

So as we all go into this new era, for better or worse, no matter your side, let’s keep it civil. Now, I know every once in while there will be some kicking, hissing, and biting, but let’s keep it to a minimum.  Because, at the end of the day, we all have to live and work together, and no one wants to be put in a kennel.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Maybelle and Willie
One of my favorite pics of an unlikely pair of friends – Maybelle as a crazy playful pup and Willie as a wise old crotchety kitty, rest her sweet soul. Maybelle made Willie a little more spry, and Willie taught Maybelle a few more manners. Sharing our life lessons – isn’t that what we want from each other?

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.