Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Easter Donkey – Take 2

Two years ago I wrote about our Easter Donkeys.  This year as Easter approaches, these sweet donkeys have even more meaning to me.  I’ve reworked the original story a bit an added in some thoughts on how this symbol of grace, compassion, and kindness touches me today.  Happy reading.

Easter is one of our favorite times on the farm.  The wildflowers are blooming, spring grasses are coming in, and all of the critters are feeling frisky.  In addition, it’s a time to reflect on our faith and God’s grace.

How do donkeys fit into that?

We’ve had our donkeys for nearly seven years. The first year we had them, a friend said to us, “Oh how exciting, you have Jesus donkeys!”  We were shocked and wondered what in the world were Jesus donkeys.  

A little Googling solves most mysteries these days, and it’s become one of our favorite stories to share at Easter.  The legend of the Easter donkey, as interpreted by this farmgirl, goes something like this …

A sweet donkey carried Jesus through town on Palm Sunday.  The donkey was in awe of Jesus, most especially his kindness and compassion.  One week later, that same little donkey was in the crowd as Jesus was crucified.  He couldn’t believe the cruelty and torture that had befallen his new friend.  

The donkey was broken hearted.  But he loved Jesus and to honor his friend he stayed until the end.  As Jesus took his last breath, tears fell from the donkey’s eyes.  The skies went dark, and the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey’s back.  

Forevermore the donkey would carry the cross as a symbol of his devotion to Jesus and as a message of God’s grace, compassion, and kindness.

Sure enough, our sweet donkeys have a dark brown stripe that goes down their spines and a matching horizontal stripe across their shoulders, forming a beautiful cross.

This cross reminds me of the crosses that we often wear as jewelry or on clothing as a symbol of our own faith.  I’m also reminded that in this time of immense turmoil and side taking that God doesn’t choose sides.  He loves us all.

Sometimes we’ve used the cross to send a message.  To shout our faith from the rooftops.  As the animals so often do around the farm, they’ve given me a different perspective.  The cross is truly a symbol of sacrifice, grace, and the ultimate compassion.

My Farmtastic Life - Sweetie Pie the donkey and her Easter Cross
Sweetie Pie shows off her Easter cross – a reminder of grace, compassion, and kindness.

Now when I wear a cross, I wear it not as a message to all that I am a Christian, but as a personal reminder that I owe my fellow man compassion and kindness, for the ultimate grace was shown to me.

As you celebrate this Easter and spring season, no matter your faith, we wish you comfort and peace.  As you think about the symbols that are important to you, may you see them not just for the story that they tell to others, but also for what they say to you.  
This Easter Sunday on the farm, we’ll be spending a little extra time with our donkeys. Remembering why our faith is important to us, how grateful we are for the grace we’ve received, and most importantly focusing on the kindness we owe our fellow man.

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

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Farm Style

This Christmas season has been a busy one at the farm with critter antics and adventures galore.  Stories are coming, but we wanted to wish all of our farm fans a very merry Christmas with our version of Twas the Night Before Christmas, farm style of course.  We hope you enjoy.  God bless!

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Farm Style

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the farm,
Every creature was stirring, making one noisy barn.
While stockings were hung on the horse stalls with care,
Ranger hoped they’d be filled with carrots to share.

The dogs, they were dancing all over our bed,
Wiping visions of sleep right out of our heads.
Cowboy in his boots, and I in my coat,
Decided rest was not coming. Nope. Nope. Nope.

When out in the barn there arose such a clatter,
We dashed in to see what could be the matter.
Nightmare the cat had cornered a mouse.
Oh dear me, not another. When will we build a house?

The moon shone above all our crazy below,
Water troughs glistened like new fallen snow.
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
Jack rabbits, turkeys, and all sizes of deer.

My eyes, they lit up with the critters anew,
Cowboy chimed in, “No ma’am, not one more for you.
These critters are guests, and they’re just passing through.
There’s no room at the inn, all the bills have come due.”

I smiled and I nodded, a wink in my eye.
I realize he’s right, I cannot tell a lie.
But I love all our critters, odd quirks and all,
Even when dogs chew shoes and horses bust stalls.

“Now Dixie! Now Goober! Now Maybelle and Shadow!
Oh Willie! Oh Grizzly! Oh Chip, Bear, and Rhino.
We must get a grip if we want to see Christmas.”
Nighttime is ending, please Santa don’t miss us.

We called to the fur-kids to gather around,
We begged and we pleaded, “For once settle down.
Christmas is coming, and Santa is near.
Let’s make sure there’re snacks for all the reindeer.”

Suzy and Smokey, River and Ranger,
Set out their buckets, while we found the manger.
Mama and Sweetie shared their best hay,
As we looked to the sky, soon it would be Christmas day.

Sleep fell over the farm as we finished our chores,
Peace and rest came in the sound of sweet snores.
When out on the porch I heard the chimes blowing,
I peeked out the window to find it was snowing.

Just at the moment, I saw old Saint Nick.
He was chubby, and jolly and ever so quick.
I jostled poor Cowboy so he wouldn’t miss it.
Rubbing his eyes, he said, “Is it Christmas?”

Tears filled our eyes as we watched what came next,
Santa bent down, his hat to his chest.
He was saying a prayer by the manger so sweet,
Asking the Lord to meet all of our needs.

I watched as the critters all gathered around,
They joined dear old Santa, with heads all bowed down.
The scene on the farm this Christmas morn,
Reminded us why our Christ was born.

He came down to Earth to set our hearts free,
To love every person, even Cowboy and me.
We remember at Christmas and all the year through,
Jesus has blessed us with our own little zoo.

So from our farm to yours, we offer this wish.
From people to donkeys, to dogs, even fish.
We pray this New Year will bring blessings to all.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a Texas yeehaw!

Merry Christmas from MyFarmtasticLife

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Patience Is the Name of the Game

I often feel like God teaches us great lessons through our critters.  One of them is to be in the moment, which is inherently hard for me as my brain is constantly on the go (just ask Cowboy).  And the second most frequently needed lesson around the farm is patience, as it just makes everything run more smoothly. Now my mama always said, “Never pray for patience, because you never know what you are going to get to teach you that one.”

However, God always finds a way to teach us whatever it is we need to be taught.  Enter our dear donkeys, Mama Rose and her baby, Sweetie Pie.  When they arrived four years ago, we had no idea what we were in for.

From the start, Sweetie Pie lived up to her name.  That donkey thinks she is a dog.  She loves people.  Everyone who comes to the farm hugs on Sweetie Pie, and she inevitably ends up with her pic posted all over Facebook.  She’s even been known to chase a car or two down the driveway.  I often think she’d just climb right in and sit down with you if you let her.  Mama Rose – not so much.

When our friends brought us the donkeys, they had let us know that Mama was stand-offish.  However, they hadn’t had the pair long and hoped that with constant care she would follow Sweetie’s lead.  Mama would take carrots out of your hand, but that was it.  If you moved too fast or didn’t’ have food, forget it.

Well this fall with Sweetie Pie’s hoof injuries, we were forced to keep her up several times.  And this pair can’t be separated, so where Sweetie goes, Mama goes.  Every time we would enter the stall, Mama would run away as if we were out to eat her, although with the confines of the stall this was a humorous jaunt.  We’d simply let her do her thing, running around like a crazy.  And the usual refrain around feeding time was always, “Oh, Mama!”

One night at dusk, I was  hanging out in the stall just enjoying the night air, and low and behold Mama Rose started to approach me.  I stayed perfectly still and held out my hand.  Could this be the moment? She started sniffing, no doubt hoping I had a carrot.  My fingers tickled her nose, and she started trying to nibble my hand.  Not unusual, but this is as far as it usually goes.  Once she’s certain there are no goodies, she’s usually done with me.

But somehow that night was different. I kept playing with her and working my way up her nose.  She took it.  And when I’d take my hand away, she’d take one step closer.  On my goodness, she actually wanted to be touched.  I wanted to scream out with joy, but clearly that would have ended our encounter in two seconds flat.

I could see Cowboy watching and smiling in the distance, and I mouthed, “Look at me. I’m petting Mama Rose!!!”

After four years, I was finally touching Mama’s head for the first time.  I was actually rubbing her fuzzy forehead!  Honestly, I had long ago given up hope that Mama and I would be any more than feed buddies, but as I said, God has a way of teaching us things.  There is always hope.  Things that seem as if they will be that way forever can change.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses:

6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7)And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

So we continue to learn our lessons from our four-legged friends.  And I love this lesson.  Give up the anxious, and bring on the grateful.  Mama and I continue to work on our friendship daily.  She loves her morning scratches.

Adventures Away From the Farm · Farmtastic Stories

Donkey Basketball

I love small town life for a whole host of reasons. The mom and pop businesses that dot the square and the main drag, the friendly greetings you get as you mosey about town, and neighbors helping neighbors. But who knew my small town would also host donkey basketball?

Yep, it’s true. On a recent weekday night, darn near the whole town turned out at the local school gym for a rousing game of donkey basketball. We all piled into the gym, and the bleachers were a buzz as we watched local leaders, school teachers, and public servants line up as they awaited their wild rides. And in they came. Adorable donkeys of all sizes complete with rubber shoes.

The hooting and hollering ensued as we all rooted for our favorites. Helmets on, the riders mounted their donkeys and began to pace up and down the court dribbling, carrying, and shooting basketballs. And just to be fair, I’m definitely using the word pace quite liberally here. If you’ve never spent much time around donkeys, what you might not know is that while they are smart and can be amazingly sweet, they definitely have minds of their own. This sometimes frustrating trait, made for a great night of entertainment.

So why in the world were donkeys playing basketball in our little town? Well for a good cause of course. Another part of small town life is the way folks are committed to helping each other, and this night the agenda was focused on kicking cancer (pun intended and emblazond on the t-shirts). The program started out honoring the cancer survivors, then the national anthem (and yes kids riding donkeys paraded around the flag), the pledge of allegiance, the Texas pledge (that’s how we roll around here), and a prayer. You can’t say we don’t take our events seriously. During halftime, a cake auction was held, and homemade goodies fetched hundreds of dollars for a great cause.

It was one of those nights that just made me smile. When I came home and fed the horses and donkeys, I had a little chat with Sweetie Pie, our resident donkey. We talked it over, and while she was supportive of her fellow donkeys, she made it very clear in no uncertain terms that basketball was not in her future. I guess we’ll save the basketball hoops for another day.

Donkey Photo - Sweetie Pie shows off her pearly whites
Sweetie Pie says, “No mam. There will be no donkey basketball at the farm. Smooches!”

 

P.S. – No donkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.

Farmtastic Updates

Critter Resolutions

It’s that time of year when gyms fill with hopeful new members, weight loss commercials jam the air waves, and we all resolve to strive to be better versions of ourselves in the coming year.  Which of course got me thinking about life around the farm, and just exactly what would the animals resolve for 2014 (or rather what would I wish that they would resolve to do).

So to get the year started off right, here’s a few words from the critters here on the farm.

From the horses

  • Ranger – Everyone knows that I’m the looker on the farm, so I resolve to get my gorgeous mane in fewer knots.  Mom loves to brush me, but I don’t enjoy the talking to that I get when I’m a mess.
  • Sweet Suzy Q – I love to eat, in fact it’s my favorite thing, but sometimes I get a wee bit pushy when it comes to dinner time, banging gates and what not. I resolve to take it easy on the gates and other things that I find to make noise, as I know my mom and dad always keep me in great grain and hay.
  • Smokey – Well I’m often full of hot air just blowing at everything new that comes my way, so I resolve to tone it down a bit.  I mean my mom and dad know that I’m really just blowing smoke (ha ha)!
  • River – I’ve really come to love my humans, so I resolve to continue to build up my confidence.  Oh, and to take my wormer much easier.  Dad really doesn’t love being covered in wormer paste.

From the donkeys

  • Mama Rose – I resolve to finally let my humans pet me.  I mean it’s been four years and they spoil us so much, it’s really the least I could do.
  • Sweetie Pie – I resolve not to chase or bite my humans’ cars (or their family members’ cars).  While they are quite yummy, I truly do prefer some fresh hay.

From the dogs

  • Goober – I resolve to get a grip when Cowboy asks me to go outside.  It is very silly that I act like my legs are totally new and go slipping and sliding out the front door.  And Cowboy has been nothing but nice to me, so I suppose I could give him a break.
  • Dixie Doodlebug – I resolve to eat a little less and walk a little more. I mean in my younger days I was a tennis ball chasing fool, but no one is fully buying that it’s just my thyroid.
  • Abby – I resolve to try to cut down on the shedding.  While I do love leaving my signature white puffs floating all around, my mom would love it if we could make a vacuum cleaner bag last more than a week.
  • Maybelle – Well I am just so darn cute, I don’t really know why I need to resolve to do anything differently other than just being my sweet adorable self. My mom may disagree, but I’m sticking to it.

From the cats

  • Rhinoceros – I resolve to torment the dogs a little less, although I do love watching over their water bowl as they salivate and wish I would move.
  • Willie – I resolve to be more patient with Maybelle.  I’m doing my best to school her into being a proper pup, but she is just so enthusiastic it wears my old bones out.
  • Shadow, Bear, Grizzly, and Chip – Since we’re a little family within the farm family, we decided on a family resolution, which is that we will not run around like crazy cats at night when it is time to go to bed.  It really does wear our humans out and we are truly grateful that they took us in.
  • Nightmare – Since I’m the true barn cat around here, I resolve to continue to prowl the barn, but when I find great prizes, e.g. mice, I won’t always display them quite so proudly, as it really freaks out my mom.

And as the human that belongs to all of these wonderful critters, I resolve to keep up with our blog much better so that they can share all of their antics with you.

Best wishes and blessings for 2014 – from our farmtastic life to yours!

Dog and Cat Photo - Maybelle, Goober, Willie
This is what Dixie thinks about resolutions, just hide them under the cat. Maybelle of course, being adorable.

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Are You New Here?

Horse chore time around the farm is a daily event,  and most of the time it is an uneventful routine, as it should be.  However, like kiddos are often known to do, critters just want to test you.  It reminds me of just one more drink or one more story before bedtime. But with the four-legged variety, there is snorting, blowing, refusal to go into stalls, and running around like crazies.  (For all my friends with little ones, this may not be so different at all.)

Tonight was one of those times.  Our horses know the routine.  We head out to the barn.  Everyone goes in their stalls.  Food is distributed.  Love and neck rubs are given.  Stalls are scooped.  This is not a new event, but tonight you would have thought I was asking them to barrel race at the rodeo.

For starters, Sweet Suzy Q took off running, which only caused everyone to take off into the pasture as well.  Again like the kids, one can sure wind up the bunch.  Once we settled and determined that a lion wasn’t chasing anyone, we slowly worked our way back to stalls.  But still no luck.  Tactic number two – a bribe.  Off to grab the food and see if I could coax them into place.  The thing with a thousand-pound animal is that you just can’t drag them by the arm and stuff them back under the covers.

Success!  Food worked and Suzy and Ranger were tucked neatly in their stalls munching away.  Now for Smokey, my resident jumpy pants.  The little jaunt into the pasture (thank you Suzy) had him on edge.  Snorting and blowing he followed me into his stall. Ears perked at every noise.  Gates swinging, doors opening.  It was like he was new here.  He settled into the goofy pace of eating and going to the end of his stall to check on things and then back to the food.  Whatever works for the big fellow, the bottom line was that he was in.

And finally there is River.  You would think the horse had never seen a stall in his life.  And to make matters more amusing, the donkeys kept right on my tail as I tried to talk and coax River into his stall.  You see the donkeys are last to eat, and they know it.  So the longer River fiddled around the longer they had to wait.  Patience is not something donkeys are experts at (please hold your shock).

Here I am in the pasture, talking to a thousand-pound horse, coaxing him with food all while Sweetie Pie is glued to my backside.  If you were there, you would have heard me yell at the donkeys, “Listen Thing 1 and Thing 2, back off for a minute.  Will ya?”  Yes, you have to talk to the animals to make it through these obstacles.  Finally after sniffing, timid steps, and great leaps of courage, River made it into his stall.  A collective sigh of relief could be heard throughout the farm.  Funny how the sound of horses chomping hay can be music to your ears.

Farm chores are routine and often sort of relaxing as it’s a time to just unplug.  But on those crazy nights when it seems they’ve all lost their collective minds, I find myself looking horses straight in the eyes and asking, “Are you new here?”

River happily munching his dinner in his stall - but not after acting like a crazy beforehand.
River happily munching his dinner in his stall – but not after acting like a crazy beforehand.
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