Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 things about me

I was going to try for 50, but couldn't think of that many.

  1. I first learned to ride a horse when I was 3
  2. When I was sixteen I flew to Toronto on my own to show cows.
  3. I'm not easily impressed.
  4. When I got married my dad finally told me I was no longer grounded. Yes, I was that bad.
  5. My dad is a pilot and I've been flying in small planes since I was a little girl.
  6. My first time on a commercial plane was when I was 15.
  7. I can't play volleyball. The only sport I've tried that I truly suck at.
  8. I learned how to drive a tractor when I was 12. My brothers were younger than that, but I had to wait until I could reach the pedals and was heavy enough to push in the clutch and brake.
  9. I drove from Las Vegas to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Best drive I've ever made. I want to go again and again.
  10. I've seen a ghost.
  11. For fun as kids, my brothers and I would climb to the top of spruce trees (30 - 40 ft) and jump from tree top to tree top.
  12. I don't like wearing gloves, it makes me feel blind.
  13. I have excellent long term memory. My first memory is when I was two years old.
  14. Sometimes eating chicken drumsticks grosses me out.
  15. I have two older brothers. One to get me into trouble, the other to get me out.
  16. As a kid I had an imaginary friend named Banjo.
  17. I can swim, but I can't do the front crawl.
  18. I started boxing to see how hard I could hit.
  19. I like to draw.
  20. I wish I hadn't quit ballet when I was 7.
  21. I don't like nail polish. It makes my fingers feel heavy.
  22. In junior high I played the trumpet in band.
  23. I used to win money playing pool.
  24. I don't like most seafood.
  25. I like heights.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Welcome to Farming

The first time I saw a cow butchered I was seven years old. I knew what happened to them when they left the farm, my parents never lied to me, but this time I wanted to see it. I can't explain why I wanted to see, I just did. It didn't upset me, it was just the way life worked. But I haven't forgot.

I haven't forgot any of them. The calf that was born dead.  The calf I found in the field after the vultures had found it. The yearling that broke her neck in the feeder. The heifer that broke her neck tied to the post. I remember them all.  In 30 years I've seen alot of death. 

Today we tied the the two cows and the calf to the back of the tractor and started the walk back to the pasture. We had made the same walk to the barn in January, when Smokey didn't want to walk.  Since the air smelled of fresh grass and the cows were itching to get out of the barn, I thought it would go more smoothly than last time.

Everything started out fine. Everything was going as planned. I had put halters on the cows weeks in advance, preparing them for the walk.  They were quiet as we started out, all walking perfectly. Then Toodles got scared and pulled tight. She was taking forced steps the whole way, but not dragging and falling like Smokey did in January, so we kept going.  This was nothing new, expected actually.

Then, with only 500 ft left to our walk Toodles fell. I went to her side to get her up. She wouldn't. We took off her halter and encouraged her by slapping her butt, but she wouldn't move. I don't know how someone knows when something is dying, but I can assure you that if you are ever in the situation, you will know.  I don't know why, but lying there in the road with her head in my hands, Toodles died. 

Toodles was due to calf any day.  Her calf was now dying too.  With two other animals, we had to keep going.  So Mart stayed with Toodles while I continued on to the field with the others. I love my husband dearly. Neither of us woke up this morning expecting him to have to cut open a dead cow in the road to do an emergency c-section. But he did. He tried. He did everything that could be done. But it was too late. The little heifer calf died with her mother. 

As shitty days go, this one ranks up there.  Toodles was a sweet, friendly cow. I won't soon forget her death but most of all the enjoyment I got from her.  I so wish this didn't happen but I don't know how I could have foreseen it, or prevented it.

With life comes death. Welcome to farming.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Here lies Chocolate

I knew a girl once who told me she didn't need a man. Implying the only reason I had a husband was because I did. She claimed to not need a man because she was quite capable of taking care of herself.

I never argued. I was always sad to know she just didn't get it. I don't need Martin to take care of me. I am quite capable. But sometimes it's nice to have someone to look after the things that are hard. Someone to share the weight.

Reiley's rabbit Chocolate, lovingly known as Bunny Bunny, died today. She's been sick since before Easter and has not recovered despite antibiotics and our best efforts. Tonight Martin did what had to be done and put Bunny Bunny down.

She is buried in the field under the spruce trees where the cows won't trample her. It is the first grave on our property but likely won't be the last. We wrapped her in a blanket so her fur wouldn't get dirty and marked her place with a stone. I'll go back tomorrow and carve her name.

In the field with my man-boys and boy-men I cried and didn't hide my face. It's ok to be strong, but it's ok to be soft too. Together we take turns being both.

Story of a horse

It occurred to me that I've never told the story of Bud. My lovable but frustrating horse that I often refer to as Dink. Really it's not fair to him. You don't have the full story. He is a dink sometimes none the less, but you need the full story for it to be fair I call him that.

Bud is a purebred registered Morgan. He was born with a fancy pedigree name that, to be honest, I don't even know. His papers are in the safe at my mom's house I think. I've just never cared enough to look at them. His familiar barn name was Bubba. I don't call him that either. I take offence when someone does. That life is long gone.

When I was two years old my family adopted my sister. She was 8. She was put in foster care when she and her siblings were removed from her mothers care, or lack there of. My mother (so the story is told) told her she could pick a new name for herself if she wanted to. A new life, a new name. She did. A beautiful new name.

Bud came from a similar situation. So, new life, new name. He is Bud, or Budward or Dumb Ass or sometimes even Dink.

As a stud colt he was shown all across the US and won awards that covered the walls of his breeder. He was something to look at. He still is. A champion. But as he got older he became violent and unpredictable. Only to be handled by the owner.  I met him at this time, when I was hired on to muck out stalls at his barn for the summer, but never allowed in his.  He was 2 and a nervous ball of power and energy.

He was only allowed out of his stall to be exercised under saddle.  After his lesson he was returned to his stall where he paced in a constant state of anxiety.  He became too much of a problem when he started to toss his head in the show ring. They would put up with him being difficult to handle, using the fact that he was a stallion as the excuse, but when he could no longer be shown, he became worthless to them. They had him gelded but that didn't help. They couldn't sell him as he would give them a bad name. It's at this time that we found him.  Three years had passed since I'd seen him last. He was now 5 and if we didn't want him he'd be shot. So my mother and I took him. That was 7 years ago.

When he first came home we could ride him anywhere. He'd go with the whites of his eyes showing and his chest covered in sweat. It was quickly evident just how damaged this horse was. So we stopped. Everything. And started again at square one. We asked nothing of him and offered trust.  We didn't ask him to go anywhere or do anything he was afraid of. Turns out he was afraid of everything. He had never been allowed out of his stall so he didn't have one sweet clue how to be a horse. He didn't know how to graze, what a stream was, what a puddle was, what the wind was. Nothing. He had instinct but no teaching from another horse on how to behave. We left him in the company of the cows and he started to learn.

We brought him back slowly using natural horsemanship and the guidance of Pat Parelli. Very similar in style to what I'd naturally been doing with horses my whole life, but with more tools and understanding.  When we started riding again he would only follow the dog. And did what the dog did. So we rode for a few months with his nose dragging on the ground.  It was two years before I could ride him down the road where he'd never been before.

He's come a long long way in seven years. I can confidently take him anywhere. He is not dangerous.  The tension is gone. He's a relaxed, happy boy. (On a side note, what we've learned through Bud has translated to our dog and kids.)  But he can still be a dink. He's a smart horse, which is why I think he snapped being cooped up in a barn all the time. He likes to push my buttons. Plus he still carries scars from his past life. He tenses when new men come around. He is very claustrophobic. He likes to scare himself like a little kid on Halloween. Having been gelded late imprinted stallion behaviour on his brain so dominance fights can be fun between us. He is a challenge and everything I get from him is earned.  He is affectionate and sweet and loves to play and think.  Plus he is wicked fun to ride and full of spunk.

To see a horse who was once afraid to stand alone in a field now gallop it's length, is a beautiful thing. Who was once afraid of trees, ride through the woods. Who was once afraid of a puddle, plod through a river with water up to his belly. 

Then he sees his shadow flicker and jumps in fright while I'm on his back. Chases the cows so they can't have a turn drinking water. Turns his butt to me and farts when I come to say hi.  Jumps into the road because he sees a mailbox. Dink.

I've always thought control is an illusion. There can't be control, control is forced. Instead, there is partnership. I had to earn that from Bud, and to know I have is an honor.  He had plenty of reasons to never trust again. He can be a dink, but I love him anyway. I've learned a lot from him. Most of all, that pedigrees don't make a horse. Or a dog. Or a person.