MaryPat and Mike, plus Horse Stories
July 23, 2008, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Celebration, Family, Farm

Matt’s parents spent ten days with us, leaving Monday afternoon. It was wonderful to have them with us, they took us to great restaurants and to see lots of live music and we’re sad they’re gone now. We all went to the Grassroots Festival to see Lucinda Williams last Thursday night.

Lucinda & Moon

Lucinda & Moon

MaryPat & Mike

Mike & MaryPat

That’s all the pictures I have for y’all today, but they’re sweet, right?

In case anyone was worried by my hooks last week, here are some horsie stories:

A week ago last Thursday, I believe, Karma and I worked all morning and part of the afternoon, and then she announced that I needed to learn to ride, and she and Rosie and I were going to go walking in the woods– on ponies. Rosie was kind enough to lend me her pony, Mira, while she rode English and Karma rode the fat round barrel that is Friday (an incredibly hard worker, and the fattest animal on the farm, except maybe for Beatrice the eldest sow). We took off at a leisurely pace up into the woods, back onto the road behind the farm, down into someone’s field where Reuben scared off a posse of neighbor dogs, only spooking Mira a tiny bit (but spooking me a little more, although we only jumped a bit and I felt fine afterwards). She leapt a log once, which was very exciting. Overall, it was an uneventful walk and I had a great time.

We came back through the top of the farm past the pond and were just taking saddles off, etc. when Mike and Nathan arrived home, and Mike wanted to work all three of the ponies we’d just ridden. So we gave them a little rest, then harnessed them all up three abreast and led them up and hooked them to the disk implement, which smooths already plowed and harrowed soil to make a nice neat seedbed, in this case for covercrops like buckwheat, clover, etc. It has several sharp metal wheels set at an angle so that they don’t roll straight through the soil but create a lot more drag and therefore necessitates more than the regular two pony work team of Mira and Friday. English, Friday’s sister, is a little high-strung, good for riding but not usually used for farmwork because she’s harder to control there. She was hooked up next to Friday, who was in the middle with Mira on the other side, looking very patient. Friday was worked up as usual, throwing her head around a bit and bending it down to eat grass while things were getting ready behind her. Mike led them out to the field before we noticed that, in bending down to eat, Friday had gotten one of her hames (one of two metal bars with decorative balls on the upper end that attach around the collar and have the lines hooked through rings along their length) hooked under one of English’s lines (like reins, to direct the horses by means of the bits in their mouths), and English’s head was being pulled a little sideways towards Friday and Mira. As Mike started out into the field he wanted to disk, Karma and I shouted, but he didn’t hear, and before we knew what was happening, they were running pretty fast down the row alongside the mangels (feed beets for the pigs, which had just been thinned). Mike was shouting and pulling their lines, but they weren’t listening. Soon, he had jumped off his seat behind them and in front of the disk, to the side so as to avoid being disked himself, and continued to shout and pull. They kept running, and he dropped the lines and held up his hands, still running and shouting but signaling (we figured) to us that he had lost them. They went racing down the rest of the row, curving into the mangels towards the far end, then turned a neat corner around the end of the beds to the right, then to the right again at the barn end of the garden, running fast along the high-tensile electric fence, the disk flying along and bouncing behind them. About halfway back towards us, the disk caught on a locust fencepost and snapped off, and they kept running, dragging a bit of the fence line along with them for a while. They kept going when they reached the end of the garden, and probably would have continued full-pace back to the barn, but the sight of the ducks’ poultry net stopped them short.

We ran over there, and all the horses seemed to be fine, breathing heavy and sweating but not hurt that we could see. I turned the poultry net charger off and we got them out of the little alley they’d run into, turned them around, and hooked them to another piece of equipment when Mike rejoined us so that they wouldn’t stop work on a bad note. It didn’t go well, since the same thing kept happening with Friday’s hame and English’s line, so eventually we took them back to the barn and I headed home. The disk was broken, but not so badly that we couldn’t hobble it together the next day, and the fence post had been snapped at about ground level but could be propped back upright so that the paddock it enclosed could be used that evening, and none of the fence lines were down. Mike was OK, just shaken and winded. Karma did find a small cut on English later.

I think I also mentioned hay? Not half so exciting. We loaded 200-some square bales of varying conditions of hay (three wagonloads, if I remember right) into the haymow (the upstairs, open, well-ventilated area for hay storage) of the barn last Wednesday on a pretty darned hot and humid day. Never having done more than a trial run of hay loading the Saturday before, when Michael, Matt, Karma and I loaded about 70 bales, many of them badly baled and therefore relatively light, I may have overworked myself a bit… I was exhausted when we started chores afterwards, itchy, shaky and generally not in a very good mood. Matt and his parents wanted to go see Donna the Buffalo and a zydeco band play on the Commons that night, and I didn’t think I would make it, but I headed up to the house for a nice cold shower, and lo and behold, once I was clean, a little less itchy, and changed into a skirt, I felt much more up for dancing, although still quite tired. We ate tacos and danced in the rain. The Gloses were there, Rosie in her cape and Karma’s parents dancing under an umbrella. Matt’s parents danced, too, photographic evidence of which I posted last week. Quite well, too, I might add. For more dancing pictures, you’ll have to bother Matt to finally post to his blog again.

It’s been raining a lot here, and we spent most of today indoors, cleaning and packing eggs and then garbling herbs (rubbing the dried leaves and flowers off the stems) and weighing and packing them for sale until it was time for chores. Everything is awash in mud outside. The cows seemed to enjoy the rain, though, lying in the field looking thoroughly relaxed. The bull, a temporarily purchased Red Angus always named Colonel Angus (no matter which particular bull he is), was lounging, too, showing no desire to do his duty by the ladies, all of whom have horns (he doesn’t) and most of whom are quite sassy and hard-to-get. The milkers have his digits, and Dearie (the half-Jersey, half-Shorthorn who’s old enough to badly need a bra) has been showing him how to mount– by doing it herself, to him. She’s always been a favorite with the bulls, but this one apparently needs a little more help than previous colonels. Here’s hoping for pregnant cows someday relatively soon.

Speaking of pregnant, the two youngest sows– actually gilts, because they haven’t had any previous litters– are expecting come Monday, so the sow barn is cleaned out, and we should have lots of tiny little piggleties for me to photograph and generally ogle soon. Maybe I’ll even get another birthing film. Hopefully the camera and I will communicate better about that this time.

The second batch of broiler chickens will be processed on Sunday, and the ducks either the week following or the second weekend in August, I think. In between, Michael and Karma are going to NOFA in Massachusetts, and I’ll be left alone with the farm, so I’ve been practicing my milking and trying to build confidence. Poor Clara Bell, whom I milked this evening, is currently being beat on by the other cows and suckled on by the other calves besides Tinker Bell. Hopefully things will be a little more in order when they’re gone so she’s a little more comfortable while I’m milking.

Enough for today! I hope everyone’s enjoying their summer, has enough rain but not too much, etc.


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