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.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

“Meow,” said the dog

Around here, we’ve got horses who think they are donkeys, donkeys who act like dogs, dogs who love cat toys, and cats that chase dogs.  It’s a regular madhouse, but it definitely keeps us amused.  We like to say that if you need some good Friday night entertainment, pull up a lawn chair and watch the critters around here, because sometimes they are just plain C-R-A-Z-Y.

For instance, let’s take a look at our dog, Dixie Doodlebug.  She is nuts, I mean obsessed-kind-of-crazy, for cat toys.  If it squeaks, is on a string, or heaven forbid has catnip, she is all over it.  When the cats try to play with the toys, she watches intently as if to say, “Whoa, what’s up?  Those are mine.” She can destroy a cat toy in two seconds flat, and searches closet nooks and crannies for a stowed away gem.  You can often catch Cowboy saying, “Doodlebug, you are not a cat!”

Which leads me to the cats.  Grizzly thinks there is simply no better dog to torment than the gentle and slightly neurotic Goober.  While dogs may chase cats in childhood storybooks, that’s not always the case around the farm.  Occasionally, Goober will find is inner dog and believe he is big and bad enough to chase a cat, and goodness knows he should as he is 70 pounds and counting.  Enter Grizzly.  Grizzly loves nothing more than to pop over the top of the sofa and grace Goober with a few swift smacks on the head, reducing Goober to a shaking pile of wimpy dog.  Which is hilarious, because when it comes to strangers, large animals, or anything he thinks may be a threat, he is all over it.  As long as it’s not a cat that is up close and personal.

Now for the equines on the farm, both horses and donkeys.  Let’s just say they are all kinds of entertaining.  You can often find our horse, River, forsaking his horse buddies for some gal pal time with his two favorite donkeys,  Mama Rose and Sweetie Pie.  He’s twice their size and five times as fast, but he loves nothing more than grazing and kicking up his hooves with the donks.

And everybody’s favorite donkey, Sweetie Pie, is probably just as guilty of not knowing her true identity as any of the other farm critters.  Sweetie Pie follows you around the farm like a dog, and best of all has been known to chase a car or two down the driveway.  There is nothing funnier than driving down the road with a rear-view window full of donkey nose and ears.  But be careful, don’t step on the brakes or you’ll have a Sweetie Pie in the back seat, not that she’ll mind.  When folks come over and are getting things in and out of their cars, we often have to shoo Sweetie Pie away as she is primed to take a seat.

It’s never a dull moment around here, filled with phrases like “Sweetie Pie, you are not a dog,” and “River is running with the donkeys again,” and the ever popular, “Grizzly stop tormenting Goober!”  But  whether they know if they are dogs, cats, donkeys, or horses, I can guarantee that they all know that they are loved and that they rule roost.  It’s good to be a critter at the farm!

Miss Willie Kitty gives Dixie Doodlebug a bath - at the farm anything goes with the roles the critters play
Miss Willie Kitty gives Dixie Doodlebug a bath – at the farm anything goes with the roles the critters play
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 MustangHeritageFoundation.org 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

Cat-splosion

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!