Tag Archives: musings


11 Sep



If you look around our culture, the message seems to be that magic is for young people.  As you approach or surpass 50 (or 20 if you’re a horse), the message is that the magic is gone, get used to it.  Our culture is youth-obsessed.  Not that youth is bad, but it is one season of life.  And magic permeates all seasons of life, and all things.

In other cultures, elders hold wisdom, peace, and yes…magic.  Joy, love, light.  Getting old can mean letting go of things that obscure your light and letting more of the magic that is you shine through.  This isn’t the magic that is worshipped with youth.  That is part of what needs to go.  If you think that is the magic, and it fades, you might become a crusty old curmudgeon.

Magic can never be captured.  It is just is.  It comes from seeing things as they are and realizing they’re magical.  Look around, sit under a tree and watch the sunlight glint on the leaves.  Whatever thoughts dance in your mind, realize they’re not the magic and never were.   Getting older means more magic, and the more of us that see that, the better place our world will be.

Ownership a.k.a. So You Want a Farm?

27 Jun


Everything you own also owns you.  When I was young and poor, this made sense.  It also kept envy at bay.  I was proud of my garage-sale table- it came traffic cone orange and took three coats of brown paint to tone it down.   It was one of my few pieces of furniture.

With ownership comes responsibilities.  Everything inanimate needs dusting, maintenance and to be moved around.  Everything alive needs to be fed, cleaned up after and cared for.

Let’s take a farm for example.  Those cute children’s books don’t show all the poop that farm animals produce.  Or the overgrown grass that results if you attempt to leave your property for a few hours during growing season.  Soon the farm you bought owns you.  For better or worse.  In sickness and in health.  104 fever?  No problem- go feed the animals- they’re waiting.  They don’t have a fever.

Like so many girls, I dreamed of my own farm.  But I should have known better.  I grew up on a farm.  So I knew.  But my farm was going to be different.  In my mind, it would be small.  Just a hobby, not a living.  But no matter how small your farm is, it’s still a farm.  Mine is too small for a tractor but has work that needs a tractor.  So I do a lot of hauling with a wheelbarrow.  And last year had to hire someone with a tractor to move Mt. Manure and dump it on the pasture.  I could no longer scale Mt. Manure with my wheelbarrow.

Ideally, I should have gotten a slightly bigger property and a tractor.  And maybe had neighbors further away.  They built a big fence to not look at my horses.  So there are days when I think about moving to a condo and having one houseplant.  Or an RV and having no houseplants, but migrating around seeing new vegetation and antelope or other wild things.  Things that I don’t have to clean up after.

But I know I’d miss the view, the birds and the peace of mornings on the farm.  And what would I do with Katie?  Get an extra bedroom in the condo for her?

On Gardens and Horses

30 Jan


Soon after we moved here, we had a pony and a large vegetable garden.  Then my kids began horse showing.  The garden got weedier.  Then smaller.  We were gone to the Fair for 4 days one August and the weeds overtook the remaining veggies.  I still managed to excavate a lot of veggies from the weeds.  I grew all of our spring and early summer lettuces and quite a bit of corn, peas, beans, potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and last year I had an abundance of beets and carrots.  The year before I had bumper crops of parsnips and Brussel sprouts in addition to all-you-can eat kale and so much zucchini it was scary.  Then there’s the ubiquitous Swiss Chard which looks impressive throughout the summer.  And a few ventures into red cabbage, kohl rabhi and winter squash.

As the years of horse training, horse showing, horse lessons, horse janitorial work, horse pasture mowing, fence building, tack cleaning, 4-H meetings went on- I began to lose my battle with the weeds in the garden.  The garden has shrunk. This irks me because a garden is part of a farm.  But I see why it is not common on a horse farm.  It’s impossible to do it all.

I can see that any easing of the show schedule will find me re-expanding the garden, growing vegetables that never taste as good from the store.  There’s magic in a garden.  It feeds body and soul.   There’s nothing like weeding rows of young corn by the light of a rising moon.  Or picking fresh, sweet peas and eating them in the garden.

Growing up, we had a large garden and grew most of our veggies.  I took the joy of gardening with me into adulthood- growing huge lettuces, tomatoes, even peas and beans on our tiny apartment balcony, then renting a larger “pea patch” in Seattle- a plot of fertile land along the Duwamish River where we grew corn, tomatoes and lots of other veggies.  I have gardened everywhere I’ve lived.

I always wondered why, when I visited horse properties, there were no gardens.  On dairy farms, you always find a garden.

I think with pasture pet ponies, I could garden.  Or if I had an old puttery trail horse who mostly wanted to stand in the shade.  Katie would be happy to stand around and watch me garden and eat grass nearby.  She and I are very alike.  We’re not show quality.  We like to get out and do stuff, but not be in the spotlight.  That’s why I am glad to have Katie.  She’s happy to go for a hike or goof around, and always gives me a friendly nicker.  She reminds me what’s really important, keeps me honest and fair.

I think a pony and a garden would be pleasant retirement companions. Small enough to not be a burden, big enough to provide a lot of joy.  In America we like things big, flashy, bold and in lights.  I’d rather have a dark night sky and see the stars, a peaceful garden of fresh veggies and nice four legged friend to mow the lawn.  A pony can pull a cart, and that is fun, too.

Rebel Without a Cause, or My First Horse

24 Jan


Katie is busy eating hay this morning, leaving me to to reminisce about another red-coated equine.

When I was 14, I got my own horse after begging for one since I was five.  I had been riding other people’s horses and my horse obsession was not going away.  My parents weren’t happy about it, but they finally gave in.  The agreement was that I had to pay for everything for my horse.

In our price range, which I believe was around $100, we found everything from untrained Arabian stallions to well-trained horses that happened to be 13 hands tall (pony size) and I was not short.  I ended up with a 15.2 hand strawberry roan half Arab, complete with a white blaze and four white socks.  We found him through an ad in the paper, but when we got there, he was owned by my former neighbors who had moved away years before.

“What?” Janice asked, never being a one to suppress an opinion, “your dad is letting you get a HORSE?”

“He’s making me keep it across the street,” I said, “and I have to pay for everything and do all the work.”

My dad was an outspoken and notorious opponent of horses.  He had farmed with horses as a child and young man, and had endless stories of them running off and stepping on his feet.  And eating a lot.  My dad ruled our farm.  No horses were allowed.  I couldn’t even ride my horse around his/our farm.

My new horse, Rebel, had been born across the street from us at the very property he was destined to return to.  I remembered him vaguely.  I was much younger when the neighbors had moved away.  I mostly remember their evil black Shetland pony that bit people and whom we were told never attempt to ride because he bucked kids off.

Rebel got his beautiful strawberry roan coloring, complete with flaxen mane and tail from his Tennessee Walker mother.  He also got some very unusual gaits that tanked my Western riding classes in 4-H.  When he did hold a canter, with his front legs and his back legs moving in the same direction at the same time, we did well.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t very often.   His “tranter” (trot-canter hybrid gait) was so rough that I might as well have been riding a jackhammer.

Rebel also had a problem tying.  He pulled back.  He was not a fan of horse trailers.  He was very attached to his buddies and didn’t want to move if you tried to ride him alone.  He also walked very fast, since he was part Tennessee Walker (the “Walker” part means “walks faster than all other horses on the trail”).  This would not have been a problem if Rebel wasn’t scared to go in front.  He would refuse to move if asked to go first.  So he had to follow the Appaloosas and Quarter horses in our neighborhood.  If I spaced out and enjoyed the trail, he would be up on another horse’s butt, literally, because he walked so fast.  This sometimes resulted in a swift kick to his tank-like chest, which he never seemed to really notice and would do the same thing again.  He wasn’t a particularly sensitive horse.

The other option was to stop every quarter mile and wait until the other horses were specks on the horizon and let Rebel start walking until he caught up, then stop again, and do it all over.  It was more like trail sitting than trail riding.

When I was 19 and headed to college, after paying every cent I earned over the years for Rebel’s board, vet care (he was always injuring himself), farrier, and second-hand tack, I had a choice: go to college or keep Rebel.  I had dreamed my entire life of leaving my small town area and becoming an artist, novelist, interior decorator, vet, geologist, meteorologist, physicist, librarian or museum curator so with sadness I put Rebel up for sale.  I sold him to a middle-aged lady, someone like I am now, who wanted a trail horse.  She hadn’t had horses since she was a teen, and was fulfilling her dream.  She fell in love with Rebel.

I went off to college,  Rebel still filling my dreams.  In spite of his issues, I loved him and I rode most every day throughout my teen years.  I still dream of him.  The memory of his expenses was so intimidating to a not-particularly-prosperous adult that I stayed away from horses.  I moved on, putting horses away with my childhood things.  I donated all my horse show trophies and ribbons, the boxes of horse magazines, horse books.  I kept one Breyer horse model and a few pictures.  I wanted to forget.

But I think horse people are born this way.  You’re never really done with horses, and one day you’ll go back.  I did eventually, with many adventures in between.