Homeland Farm

Homeland Farm

Friday, March 23, 2012

Christmas Card Fun

      As you might know by now, (if you are a regular blog reader) I had the opportunity to grow up with many different types of farm animals. We had everything from horses, cattle, and sheep, to dogs, cats and ducks. I think it all stemmed from having a mother that was a big animal lover. Every stray or unwanted animal in town seemed to find it's way to our door, via the back seat of my Mother's station wagon.
      One day, my brother, sister and I were sitting in the kitchen after school when we suddenly heard our mother's horn blaring. We went out on the porch and watched  as she turned into the driveway ever so slowly. We knew for her to be driving that slowly, she must either be out of gas, or have an animal in the backseat of the car.
       Sure enough, as she drove past us, there was some type of animal in the backseat. We ran around the house just in time to see her drop the tailgate of the car down, and out hopped a shaggy, brown burro.
       "Gabriel", as we called him for his loud blaring horn, soon became a beloved member of the family. He was cute, fun and stubborn, with a heavy emphasis on stubborn. He participated in many backyard barbeque's, and was even featured in one of our family Christmas cards. 
        To this day, the mere mention of the words "Family Christmas Cards" conjures up some rather unpleasant memories. As children, there was a particular time of year that we learned to dread more and more as time went by. It occurred late every year, around the middle of November, and while it may have lasted only an hour or two, to my brother, sister and I, it seemed an eternity. It was the time of year known as "family Christmas card picture taking time." My mother took pictures of us children every year while we were growing up. Fun, fun.
       One year, my mother was trying to think of  'something new' for our cards. I suggested she buy them at the nearest drugstore like most people did, but no way. We had a 'tradition' to uphold.  No, she thought everyone really enjoyed seeing our strained, awkward grins every year on our card. This particular year, she came up with the idea of having us pose with the newest member of our family, Gabe the burro.
      So, while other children got dressed up in their best clothes, went to the nearest photography studio, and sat calmly in front of a backdrop depicting a warm, roaring fire with stockings hung by the chimney with care, we got dressed up and went down to the barn, brushed the burro, put on his new Christmas halter, and proceeded to go through two hours of torture.
      My mother thought it would look nice if we took Gabe and stood in front of the corral. Gabe thought it would be nice to drag the three of us across the yard and head toward my grandmother's house. Then mother thought it would be nice if my brother knelt in from of Gabe, while my sister and I stood on either side of the temperamental burro. Gabe thought it would be better to stand on my brother while my sister and I tried to pull him off. My mother then thought it would be nice if we stood by the well house, facing into the sun, for a  cheery, sunny picture for people to see in the middle of a long, cold Maine winter. Gabe thought he hated having the sun in his eyes and proceeded  to throw himself over backwards, taking my brother with him. Not having much luck out in the back yard, my mother then thought it would be cute to have us standing on the porch with him. Gabe then decided it would be cute to poop on the porch, just as my mother took the picture.
She then thought if we could get him to roll up his upper lip, like he did sometimes, it would make a great picture. Gabe thought 'sure, why not', and lunged for the dog with his mouth and teeth wide open.
      This proceeded on and on, with us trying to hold onto the stubborn burro, and obey our mother's order to "SMILE!" I think our Christmas card that year featured a scared Zak, kneeling in front of Gabe while trying to smile at the camera and keep an eye on the wild beast behind him, a bored, frowning Kim, who had tired of the whole thing as soon as it started, an exhausted, sweaty Christmas sweater wearing Carmen who was covered in long, brown burro hair, and one fierce looking burro, who had finally slipped off the nose band of his halter, and looked as if he was bearing down on the kneeling Zak with no good in mind.
      Of course, when mother mailed this to all the relatives, everyone responded on "how big they are getting", and "what a cure burro..they must love him to pieces". I think I was fourteen that year, the year of the Burro. I know Kim, Zak, and I tried our best to talk mother out of the family Christmas card for years, but with no luck. I believe it wasn't until I was 21, that we heard the words we had been waiting so long to hear.." Okay, NO family Christmas cards this year."
Brogan putting the Christmas poodle on the tree..
      And my kids thought they had it tough, having to sign their names to the cards...

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Great Steeplechase

      Back when I was "in my prime", I used to think of myself as a pretty good rider. Western, anyway. I could never quite get the hang of posting a trot, or master the art of jumping. Not that I didn't try, however.
     One evening after supper, I went over to Zenya's house to try jumping our horses with her. At this point, she had tired of riding my old nags, and had bought her own horse, a part Arabian that loved to jump.
     As Angel and I headed over the road, I hummed to myself in anticipation of the evenings events. Angel, my Quarter Horse type mare, had jumped over fallen logs and streams without hesitation on the trail, so I thought a few small jumps in an open field would seem like a piece of cake to the old girl.
    We trotted around the corner of Zenya's house, and I saw Teke and Zenya out in the field, heading for the next jump. As graceful as any horse I had seen on television or at a horse show, they sailed over the jump, horse and rider in complete unison.
    Wow, I thought, that looks great. I could hardly wait to try it. I set Angel into a canter and off we went to the jumps, where Teke and Zenya were now standing, waiting for us.
     "Hi Zen," I said as Angel and I pulled up beside her. It was then that I saw that there might be something wrong. It was like a scene in a children's magazine, where they show you a drawing and ask you what's wrong with it. There was Zenya, sitting on Teke, who's shiny coat glistened in the evening sunlight. I saw the highly polished leather of her new english saddle, and the glint of the snaffle bit as the sun caught it just so. Zenya had on her riding breeches and proper english helmet, and looked positively professional. I glanced down at myself and shuddered.
      I had worn my faded Wranglers, and an old pair of cowboy boots that featured a dried layer of manure around the edges. I had a ripped "I love Donny O." tee shirt on that bore the smelly stains of the fly repellant I had applied before my ride.
       Next I looked at my gallant steed. While Teke was the height of jumper class, Angel looked ready to go rope a doggie. I didn't own an english saddle at the time, but figured my western saddle would be fine. Looking at it after I saw Zenya's shiny new saddle, I wasn't so sure.
       In its heyday, my saddle was a lovely deep brown color, but now the rain, sun and a lot if use had faded it to a reddish hue. What fancy silver there once was on it, was now tarnished or had fallen off, as the leather tassels had rotten away. One stirrup was cracked, and was being held together by crazy glue. No shiny bit in my horse's mouth, Angel tended to like a hackamore better.
     And to top it all off, Angel was in a lousy mood that night, and was dancing around, snorting, and just acting out in general. Oh well, I thought, she does like to jump, even if she doesn't look so spiffy.
      "I'm ready, " I called as we followed Zenya and Teke to the jumps. She said she would go first, and proceeded to set  her horse up for the first jump. She signaled Teke with a soft clucking noise that I thought I would have to remember to try on Angel, and they headed toward the first jump in a slow, easy canter. Up and over they went, Teke's mane and tail streaming out behind them.
     "YAY!" I hollered, as they headed toward the second jump, Teke anxiously looking at it. Together they sailed over it, and then jumped the third with equal ease.
      "That was great!" I called as they came trotting back over to where Angel and I stood waiting our turn.
      "Thanks, "said Zenya, as she patted her horse on it's shoulder. "Now it's your turn."
       "Any last minute instructions?" I asked, as I gathered up the reins.
       "Nope, just stay in the center of the jump." she said.
        "Okay, I'm off!" I said. I made the same clucking sound Zenya had made when she urged Teke into a canter, but nothing happened. I clucked again, and accompanied it with a slight nudge of my heels.
        The next sequence of events are not entirely of my own recollection, but are a rather detailed account I received later that evening from my cousin.
       Angel, it seems, misunderstood the gentle nudge of my heels, which I had meant to be a slight urge forward. It seems she thought it meant tear across the field full tilt, ignoring any efforts her hapless rider was making to slow down. She was off like a rocket, and the only thing I can remember in the first few seconds of the ride is the look on Zenya's face as we went careening across the field toward the woods.
         As Angel was galloping out of control, I quickly began to grasp the gravity of the situation. I was on a stubborn horse, heading straight toward the woods, one foot out of the stirrup, and to top it all off, the saddle had started it's inevitable slide to the right.
         By some miracle, just short of an act of God, I managed to get not only my foot back in the stirrup, but also the saddle
back up on top of the horse. We were now just a few yards from the trees, so I reined Angel hard to the left. For a few more feet, we continued running toward the woods, with Angel and I almost eye to eye, I had reined her so hard to the left. Finally, she got it through her head that she couldn't continue running when she couldn't see where she was going, only where she had been.
       Reluctantly, she turned to the left, and I saw clumps of dirt fly as she skidded around, and then we headed back toward the jumps where I could see Zenya and her horse still standing in awe.
       We picked up speed again, and headed toward the jumps. Fool that I was, I figured if I could slow her down a bit, we might be able to take a couple of them. I came over to Zenya's house to jump, and by God, I was going to do it. I leaned back with all my might, and hollered WHOA, WHOA!! Now, whether Angel finally decided to listen, or was just sick of running, I'll never know, but to my amazement, she slowed from her mad gallop, to a pretty darn fast canter.
       By this time, we were approaching the first jump, and I thought for sure she would do it. She saw the first bars approaching, and managed a wonderful jump to the hard right, missing the jump entirely. I yanked her around, and we headed toward the second jump., which consisted of stacked bales of hay. Before I knew it, she was over the hay, but tripped when she landed and went down on one knee. She continued on about 15 feet or so, still cantering with three legs, but coasting on her front knee. In sheer terror and concern for her poor knee, I leaned back and yanked up hard on her head.
     Well, somehow, it worked, and she was back up and cantering again on all four legs again. Then there it was. The final jump. It was the biggest jump of all, and I thought there was no way we were going to make it. I closed my eyes and Angel was up and over as easy as you please. As she touched down on the other side, the old saddle pitched to the right, and off I went, doing a complete somersault. To my surprise, I landed right on my feet and was holding onto one of Angel's stirrups, as she stood shaking beside me.
      I managed a "Well, how was that?" before I dropped to the ground, as my weak knees gave out.
      "My God," said Zenya, "Are you alright??''
        "Oh yeah, " I said, as I lay on the ground, trying to catch my breath. "Never been better..Think ole Angel and I are ready for the Olympics?"

Friday, March 16, 2012

A troublesome question for my blog readers..

       As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been watching way too much television lately. I don't usually pay much attention to the commercials but a few have caught my eye lately and I have been giving them much thought. I guess I am really out of the loop, because I hadn't heard of this plague that has apparently been causing a lot of issues for many people, according to the number of advertisements I have seen. Frankly, I hardly dare go outside any more, lest I come across one of the bad boys.
       I am sure there are many readers out in "Blog-land" that are by far more sophisticated and aware then I am. Perhaps you can fill me in on what it is exactly I should be looking for, so I can protect myself and my family from the potential dangers that are associated with these terrible creatures.
      According to the commercials, these beasts seem to stalk middle aged people, and they can do it inside their home, in the middle of a walk, or even while taking a bath. That one really scared me. I make sure to always lock the bathroom door now, when I take a shower. I don't know if they can get you while in a shower, but I sure as heck am not taking any chances.
      I made sure Cliffy saw the commercial the other day, in case he sees one before I do. We both watched the evening news with Brian Williams, to see if they had a news story on about the critters, but nothing. Just the commercials. I guess they figure that will be enough to get the word out. I hope so, for all the middle aged couples out there. We could be in big danger, if it isn't.
       Every time Cliffy and I go to town, we scour the horizon, looking for one, but therein lies the trouble. Despite all the commercials we have seen, they have never shown what one of the little devils looks like. I guess either they are nocturnal, and only come out at night...Or maybe they are still rare, like Bigfoot, and Nessie, and there aren't a lot of them around. Maine does have cold temperatures..I hope that's enough to save us from the devious buggers.
      So, dear readers, perhaps you can help me..Help me prepare in case of an attack. So I can be ready, and have my family ready. Perhaps one of you can tell me...

Is this one of those "Dysfunctional Reptiles??"

Wait..I think they are actually called "Reptile Dysfunction"..that must be the Latin term. If this is one of those things, we are in big trouble! My family is being stalked by them..see the proof!

Brogan has one watching her from the tree!!


SO, if you think this is what one of those so called "Dysfunctional Reptiles" looks like..let me know. I will get a couple rounds in the gun, just in case. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coming to a cable station near you...

Liam as Mr Drysdale, ready to defend Homeland Farm
     I have a really good reason for not having posted anything in the last couple days. I got caught up in reality television. I really don't watch much T.V. at all, with the exception of an occasional cooking show and the news. Oh, and of course, reruns of "The Walton's".  Recently though, Liam was watching a couple different shows, and well, I got sucked in. Boy, do they ever have some odd shows on television these days. It is apparent that they are really grasping at straws for show ideas.
    Which gave me an idea for tonight's blog. I am thinking us folks at Homeland Farm need a reality show. We just need to decide what it is going to be about, and then we will start filming A&E channels newest hit show. I think the storyline will be a bunch of shows all rolled into one. Here is what I've got so far....
      The intro has to be catchy, of course..to lure the viewers in. Now on the show called "Billy the Exterminator", he and his entire family are making a ton of money chasing varmints. I figure since I have a good background in varmint control,  that's a natural theme for us to go with. The "exterminator" show starts out with the entire family, all dressed in black and wearing lots of leather, and spikes and sunglasses being named in the   introduction.
     They remind me of  "Dog The Bounty Hunter" and his crew, except they chase bats and bees and possums, and not bail jumpers. I am not sure I can see Cliffy as "Dog", as he doesn't have the long flowing mullet, and I can't really be Beth, his wife, because I don't have her...umm...well, if you know Beth, you know what I am talking about. So, dressing like Dog the Bounty Hunter, or Billy the Exterminator wouldn't really be us.
Cliffy doing his Uncle Jed impression!
      We did dress up like the "Beverly Hillbillies"  for our local Fourth of July parade, advertising Homeland Farm. I sat in a rocking chair, wearing my Great Grandmother's old gingham dress, and holding a large jug with XXX written on it. Brogan dressed up as Ellie May, and wore denim shorts, a plaid shirt, and a yellow braided wig. She of course, held a chicken. Cliffy was an Uncle Jed look alike-wearing overalls, a white Tee shirt, and a floppy hat. He drove his old yellow tractor, and pulled our float on a flatbed. I am proud to say we got "Honorable mention" in the parade. The judges said we would have scored higher, but didn't incorporate the "circus" theme in our float. Don't they realize it is a circus here everyday at Homeland Farm???
Cameron as Jethro, ready to fight!
      So, I think since we were so popular in the parade, we should probably dress like that. That would make for some good television viewing, and, is a lot more true to life then us wearing leather and spikes. Cameron can be Jethro I figure, as he was plenty of jeans and a can borrow one of Cliffy's plaid shirts.Plus, we have lots of baling rope for his belt. If you have ever seen Cam sit down to a bowl of cereal, you know he really is Jethro! He doesn't dump the milk right into the box of cereal, but he does use a serving bowl to eat from at times. A true likeness for sure. I think Liam will most likely be Mr Drysdale, as he is a suit and tie guy for sure. That is how we will be dressed..it's gonna be good.
Brogan as Ellie, with a baby chick

       Now, we need a show title, and theme. I have seen TV shows by the name of "Swamp People", "Moonshiners", "Bayou Billionaires", and a new upcoming show, "Duck Call Dynasty." Oh yea, these are all real shows. So, we could go with "Farm People"..nawww. "Farm Folks"? Maybe. We don't make moonshine, but do make homemade rootbeer. So maybe "Rootbeerers?" Nope. Maybe "Rootbeer Rebels?" No..too southern. "Yankee Brewers?" Maybe.
       We certainly aren't billionaires, so lets see. "Bridgton Broke folks?" True..but too wordy. "Farmland Overdrawers?" True again, but too hard to say. Hmmm, onward. How about "Crow Call Dynasty"? or maybe "Hog calling Homelanders?" Wow. So many choices. I think I will go with "Homeland Farm Follies". That will work.
       A theme song is needed..I think it could go something like this..(I, of course, will sing it..)
                    GREEN ACRES..sung to the tune of, well, Green Acres...

    my part - Homeland Farm is the place to be,
                 working with Cliffy is the life for me
                 Jobs spreading out both far and wide,
                 Keep Millinocket just give me that countryside.

Cliffys part- Key West is where I'd rather stay,
                  I get allergic smelling hay,
                  I just adore a water view,
                  Darling I love you,
                  but give me something fun to do
     Me- You are my Honey!
     Cliffy- Goodbye all my money!
               Green Acres we are there!
          Great..so we have our theme song. Now, what will our show be about. I think that is by far the easiest part. It will feature lots of animals, chaos and laughs. I will be dressed in various granny night gowns and camo. Cliffy will be sporting the latest in Carhartt and plaid. I suspect there will be shooting, four wheeling, animal chasing, and cooking. Oh yeah, with a lineup like that, we would have hit on our hands. I guess I should start practicing my award show speech.." I'd like to thank the 2 blog readers in the Netherlands that gave me my start....."
This would make some good television watching, yep!



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BEAR! (or, maybe not..)

    Owning a farm with a variety of animals made it hard for our family to get away for a vacation, or even an overnight camping trip for that matter. So, my siblings and I would pitch our old canvas tent at home, and pretend we were out deep in the wilderness, surrounded by wild creatures. We had a lot of fun in that old tent, but one memory sticks out in my mind the most
    My sister and I decided one steamy summer night that we wanted to "camp out." While my mother packed our snacks, Kim and I lugged our pillows and sleeping bags over to the tent that my father had set up earlier that day. Now for some unknown reason, we always pitched the tent in the horse pasture, underneath one of the apple trees. Every year after we set it up, the horses and steers would check it out carefully, then pretty much ignore it the rest of the summer.
      Kim and I made several trips across the pasture hauling our "supplies" for the night. You would have thought we were spending the week, not just one night. I brought the latest "TEEN" magazine with a hot new interview of Donny Osmond, and a horse story I wanted to finish reading. Kim brought her barbie dolls, and her crocheting, and we both brought a lot of food.
    After supper, we said our goodbyes to our parents, and headed merrily off to the tent, chatting about how our brother who had wanted to come, was just "too young" to be able to  stay all night in the tent. and how he would probably have gotten scared and had to go home. No, we couldn't be bothered by such immaturity. After all, I was 12 years old, and Kim was 9. We could handle anything. Or so we thought.
       It started clouding over around 8 pm, so we changed into our granny nightgowns, crawled into our sleeping bags, and started to read. A breeze picked up, and I thought it felt a bit like rain, so I got up and zipped up the window flaps.
       I could hear the horses and the steer stamping their feet in the barn, trying to keep the flies away. My sister was still laying in her sleeping bag, when suddenly it hit. It started to pour, and we could hear the wind picking up, blowing harder and harder against the tent.
     Swallowing nervously, my sister asked "Do you think we should go in?"
     "Nahhh," I said confidently."You know how these storms are, we will just get over to the house and it will stop." I slid back into my sleeping bag and picked up my DONNY O interview again.
        We laid in our sleeping bags, reading and crocheting, ( a couple of real live wires we were) and listened as the rain beat against the tent. Thunder crashed as lightening struck out in the woods behind us. As the storm grew closer, I got more nervous. I got up, and unzipped one of the tent flaps a bit, and could see  this was going to only get worse.
      My sister, standing beside me now, in her Petunia Pig nightgown, asked again "Do you think we should go in?"
       "Well," I faltered, "I think we will be okay as long as the wind doesn't blow any harder."
        Not very reassured, my sister went back to her sleeping bag and crawled inside, zipping it all the way up around herself. I decided to do the same thing, and soon we were snug as two bugs in a rug, despite the tent floor was getting a bit wet.
        As we lay on the ground, listening to the thunder and lightening crashing around us, I suddenly became aware of a noise outside the tent. By this time, the battery in our camping lantern was wearing down, but there was still enough light for me to see in Kim's expression that she had heard it too.
      " What..??" she started to ask.
       "Shhhhh!" I said, straining to hear. I listened for a few minutes but didn't hear anything else.
        Suddenly, something hit the back wall of the tent, by our heads, straining the canvas in toward the center of the tent. My sister and I froze in our places, not able to move. The thing came around to my side of the tent, and I could hear snuffling, and grunting. At that moment, lightening flashed and I could see a large shape move around to Kim's side of the tent, where it rammed the corner support pole. The pole fell away from the tent, causing the front part of Kim's side of the tent to collapse around her.
      Apparently, this was enough to bring her out of her catatonic state, because she screamed "BEAR!!!" and started to thrash around in her sleeping bag.
      Since I had just heard the horses and steer in the barn a short time earlier, and couldn't really see them venturing out in the terrible storm just to knock down our tent, I figured she must be right.
       "Mother!" I hollered, as I  fumbled and groped for the zipper on my sleeping bag, trying to free myself before the bear came back around to my side of the tent.
       "Help! BEAR! HELP!!!" Kim screamed, each word louder the the one before. She suddenly leaped free of her bag, and ran to the door, kicking aside her crocheting and ripping my "DONNY O" interview in half. I made up my mind right then and there that if the bear didn't eat us, she was going to have to buy me a new magazine.
      As Kim was unzipping the door, I finally got myself unzipped and out of my sleeping bag. Lightening flashed and the thunder cracked at the same moment the whole back of the tent came crashing down. Kim let out one long hair raising scream, and bolted out the door, spilling her glass of orange Zarex all over my magazine. I shuddered at the loss,  but wasted no time bolting out the door behind her.
        It was a torrential downpour as we raced across the pasture, lightening flashing, wind whipping the nightgowns around our legs. We thought we were running as fast as we could, but when we heard a heavy thump behind us, an Olympic gold medalist couldn't have caught us.
      We rushed into the house, dripping water all over the floor, and filling our parents and our little brother full of stories of how the bear almost got us, and how he collapsed the tent around us. Kim and I were adrenalin filled for a good couple hours after that, but we finally fell asleep high and dry in our beds.
       The next day, we rushed out and there it was..the tent was in tatters, all beat down, and ruined. As we ran back to the house to tell everyone what we had seen, we saw the culprit. Dooley, our steer, who's head was usually white, was stained a nice shade of "tent green." For whatever reason, he decided to wreck the tent with us in it. Maybe it was for future "blog" material, or maybe he just hated DONNY O. I guess we will never know.
Kim doing what she does best..Pretending not to know me..!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Picking Blu-ets for Nanny


          I was mowing the lawn for the first time this spring, and reluctantly kept mowing off patches of Blu-ets. Those little clumps of white flowers with a hint of blue were always a favorite of mine as a child. Seeing them in the spring always meant another long Maine winter was over, and spring was upon us at last.
        As a little girl, I would walk around on the lawn, or in the field and pull up big handfuls of the little flowers to give to my grandmother. Nanny, as we all called her, would oohhh and aahhh over them like I had just presented her with a dozen long stemmed roses. She would take my little fistful of blooms, dirt and all, put them in a jelly jar, and set them on the table. Whenever someone new came in, she would exclaim " See what Carmen gave me?"
     I would be so proud of my offering, and can still recall her picking up the  jar full of flowers and taking a big sniff. "Ahhhh" she would say, and I would grin with pleasure. Anyone that is familiar with Blu-ets knows they have no fragrance whatsoever, but to Nanny, they were as sweet as honeysuckle.
      I would always try and find the blooms with the most blue in them..those were her favorites. I would search high and lo, checking for just the right bunch, before making my choice. On a beautiful spring day, I was never in any hurry to go inside anyway. Looking for the bluest flowers for Nanny was, in the end, a treat for both of us.
       The best part of all was that the Blu-ets arrival often coincided with Mother's Day. Nanny always got a lot of nice Mother's Day gifts, but I always knew she liked my handful of Blu-ets best. I am sure there are plenty of grandmothers that receive really extravagant gifts for Mother's Day like fancy clothes and jewelry, but I bet they don't mean any more then a jelly jar full of little white flowers with a touch of blue.
         It seems to me that children today spend too much time indoors. They seem to lead  busy lives with school, dance classes, and sports followed by homework, television and video games. I think that perhaps they miss out on the simple things in life, like picking wildflowers and presenting them to a loved one.
      I do not have any grandchildren yet, but I hope I will someday. And you can bet that when May rolls around, we will be outside in the field, jelly jar in hand, looking for Blu-ets.
Not Blu-ets, but pretty Irises

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not QUITE the Kentucky Derby

          Did I mention that Zenya and I used to ride real races horses? Well, we used to ride ONE real race horse..actually, I rode the real race horse. Zenya rode Ebony. Let me back up.
          One of our first horses was a retired Standardbred race horse by the name of BJ Frisco. She was a tall, leggy chestnut, whose coat shone a fiery red on a nice sunny day. Even though she was retired, she loved to run, or should I say trot, because Standardbreds are trained to never break into a canter. If they go any faster then a trot, they are disqualified. During the time we had that horse, I never remember her breaking out of a trot. But, that was fine with me, because boy could she trot.
            I guess it was inevitable that we started racing each other, me on BJ, and Zenya on Ebony, our old Quarter Horse. I am not sure why it was that I always got to ride the fast horse, except for the fact that I liked it that way. Yeah, that was probably it. Not that Ebony couldn't keep up, it was just that she wasn't a race horse, and didn't have the same drive to win that BJ, (and apparently I) had. Towards the end of our racing days, however, Ebony started to really get into it, and there was one day I truly thought they were going to beat us.
              It was a warm, breezy spring day, and as is common in the spring, the horses were sassy, and acting out, snorting and jumping at things that weren't there. Zenya and I quickly came to the decision that a quick trip around the field would tire them out a bit, and besides, I didn't think my Uncle Billy was home. He used to make a practice of taking off in his truck when he would look down across the field and spy us headed toward the barn. Had he stayed home, he would have been a nervous wreck, alternately watching out the window, and then not watching out the window, and swearing in between. He hated to see us get on the horses and ride.
          On this particular day, I knew he was headed to town to buy some grain for his cows, and I figured that would give us enough time to saddle up and get around our "race track", which went right by their house, while he was gone.
          We headed down to our "starting post", a big pine along the fence line. As we drew near, our excitement grew, and the horses picked up on it, tossing their heads and snorting in anticipation of the big event. I rode BJ with a halter and two lead ropes, as I didn't own any english equipment at the time. Our racing gear also included a curb bit for Ebony and we each sat in a heavy western saddle. Jockeys, we weren't.
          As we drew our horses to a standstill, the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. We tightened our reins, and hunkered down in our saddles. With no official gun to start us, it was a "GO!!" from my lips that set us off and down the pine spill covered "straightaway".
         We took off, with BJ in the lead, trotting as fast as she could, and Ebony galloping along side. The wind in our hair and the pounding of the horses hooves below us set our pulses racing as we turned the corner and headed down the back stretch, toward my grandparents house.
         I glanced back over my shoulder, to see how much we were going to win by THIS time, when my heart stopped. Zenya and Ebony were catching us! I looked ahead, to see how much longer we had to hold the lead, and then glanced back again. Let me tell you, I had never seen Ebony go that fast before, nor did I ever see her go that fast again. Zenya was laying low over her neck, her long blonde hair mixing in with Ebonys coal black mane. Ebony had her ears pinned back against her head, and looked like she was hell bent on winning. For a moment, I felt a bit like Ichabod Crane, with the blonde horseman after me! And to my amazement, they were gaining on us!
         First, they were at BJ's flank, and then were running almost neck and neck. I knew then that if I was going to win, I was going to have to pull out all the stops. I was going to have to let BJ go. See, I always had to keep BJ pulled in a little, because she was so powerful and strong, that I had a heck of a hard time stopping her once she got going, seeing as I only had a halter and a couple lead ropes.
         However, the idea of victory being snatched from my grasp made me a little crazy, and throwing caution to the wind, I let the reins go loose. BJ lunged forward, her legs pounding like ramrods into the tender spring ground. Ebony slid back a little, then alot as BJ and I crossed over the patch of dirt that was our finish line.
         "YAHOO!", I yelled, as I realized victory was mine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Zenya and Ebony start to slow down, and I pulled back on the reins, kind of hoping BJ would as well. Well, it was not meant to be. Apparently, she thought the race was still on, as she had no intention of stopping. Fear clenched my heart as I quickly analyzed the situation.
          Number one, I was on a big, rugged race horse who was going very fast and didn't seem to recall she had a pitiful, tiny (ok, not so tiny) human on her back. Next, and what chilled my heart the most, was the fact I was rapidly headed toward my grandparents house, and I knew my Uncle should be getting back from town, very soon.
         "Whoa! Whoa, BJ!" I yelled, as I tried to swing her around and stop at the same time. Suddenly, we were at the back of my grandparents lawn, and in a quick moment shot past the house. Sure enough, my fears were realized.  My Uncle Billy was just turning in the driveway.
           One moment he as looking down across the lush green field, and then suddenly a chestnut hurricane with a sweaty yelling rider blasted into view, snorting and pounding the tender spring turf. In his surprise, he let loose a blast of the horn, dropped his "stoggie" from his fingers to his lap, yelled a couple silent obsenities ( his window was up..) and stepped on the gas, tearing up the driveway.
          I was in the process of waving a casual hello, when he blatted the horn, and by the time I had regained my seat in the saddle, we were half way down the field, headed toward the barn at a frightening rate of speed.
         As we neared the house, I saw my mother's head pop up in the bathroom window, mouth shaped like a big "O", her eyes doing a sort of bulging trick, similar to a frog. You've seen that look? Anyway, we were coming in fast, and I knew I had no choice but to let BJ handle things from there.
        We started sliding about half way across the back lawn from the corral, and slid on our haunches (she on hers, me on mine) the rest of the way in. I closed my eyes and waited for the crash. I could feel the breeze as clods of mud flew past my head. Suddenly, it was over.
        We were standing, neat as a pin, in front of the corral fence. I started to laugh, and was pretty proud of myself for not only winning the race, but for having stayed on the horse's back. Then, I turned around.
         There were two troughs running parralel across half the back lawn, each several inches deep, where BJ's feet had dug in during her magnificent sliding stop. I quickly looked up to see if I had been caught, and sure enough, there were those two bulging eyes still watching from the bathroom window.
        Just then, Zenya and Ebony walked around the end of the house, the horse carefully picking her way over the torn ground. Zenya gave me an odd sort of grin, and then took Ebony into the barn to unsaddle her. As I unsaddled BJ, I heard Zenya say "well, my mother wanted me home early tonight, I gotta go." I thought yeah, right, sure she did.
        There was nothing I could bribe her with to make her stay and help fill in the holes in the lawn. Not the offer of the biggest bottle of homemade rootbeer, nor what I thought was sure to get her..the offer to ride BJ during the next race. Nope, she just hopped merrily onto her ten speed, and peddled over the road. I on the other hand, spent the next hour filling in the damaged lawn, while BJ stood and watched me from over the fence. I'm not sure, but I think that horse was laughing.
Liam on his race horse OLD BILL

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pig Tales

         I love pigs. They are very comical and fun to watch when they eat their dinner. Oh sure, they have a bad rap about smelling bad, and living in a "pig sty" but if you have ever had a pig, you know they are clean animals that pick one spot in their pen to go to the bathroom. I wish my cats were as tidy.
        I remember about 30 years ago when my sister, brother and I were discussing what to get our mother for Mother's Day. She wasn't big on chocolates (then), and my father always gave her flowers, so all the traditional gifts were out. Then it hit me.
        "How about a piglet?" I asked my fellow siblings, sure they would think the idea was as dandy as I did. My brother, who was thinking she would much rather have a BB Gun, wasn't so sure about a piglet. My sister just out and out thought the idea was "stupid."
        When I approached my father with the idea however, he thought it was a great idea and got my sister and brother to go along with it by saying he was sure our mother would be the ONLY mother to be getting a Mother's Day pig.
          We waited anxiously for her present to arrive that next week, dropping hints about what an unusual gift she was going to be getting, and how excited we knew she was going to be. Finally, one afternoon, a truck pulled in and drove out behind the house, where it backed up to the pigpen.
           "It's here! It's here!!" we yelled, as we dragged our unsuspecting mother right through the middle of the freshly tilled garden. We arrived at the pen looking like three little mud balls and a big momma mudball, panting and out of breath.  The man let down the tailgate and out came not one, but two pink little piglets, by far cleaner then any of us at that moment.
         "Happy Mother's Day!" we yelled at the brown oject between us.
          "Oh," she exclaimed, emotion choking her voice, "for me?" We turned and looked at each other, thinking how lucky she was to have kids like us. We looked at her again, and saw what we just knew were tears of joy rolling down her cheeks.
         "I am sure your father had a hand in this," she said, as she kicked the dirt off her once white sneakers.
          "Oh yes," Kim said," it was our idea, but he thought you would really be excited to be the only mom anywhere getting Mother's Day piglets."
          " I see, " replied mother, through gritted, and quite possibly gritty teeth. She turned and started to walk back toward the house, as we bent over our new friends, scratching their backs with a stick. We heard some mumbling as Mother walked around the edge of the garden, and headed toward the house.
            "What did she say?" I asked Kim, bent over the side of the pen with the stick.
             "I'm not sure," Kim said, "something about wait until Father's Day."
            Those weren't the last pigs we had here at Homeland Farm. We had several over the years, and I think the last one we had was a big pig by the name of Spot. I remember one incident with Spot that had us all laughing, well, maybe not all of us.
             One hot summer day, I was pestering my mother to take the siblings and I swimming. She said we could go "later." I always said I would never say that to my kids, as it usually meant "never." Do I say it? of course. It is another legacy passed down through the generations here at Homeland Farm.
           Anyway, she said she would take us, but we needed to get our work done first. She was inside cleaning, and she told me to go outside and shell some peas. So, I took my basin and sat out in the back barn doorway, where it was cool. A nice breeze always seemed to blow through the barn, even on a hot day.
           I was sitting in the doorway, shelling peas, when I looked out at the garden, and saw some odd vegetable movement. The cornstalks were jumping and moving, and I could hear them snapping from where I sat. I couldn't see anything from where I was, but I figured I had better go look. I walked out past the rows of corn and saw the culprit. Our pig Spot was loose, and wrecking havoc in the garden. One hill of cukes was torn up, half a row of corn was trampled, and the pig was now trashing the tomato patch.
          "MOTHER!" I hollered."THE PIG IS OUT!"
          "What?" she yelled back, as she came out on the back porch, wiping her hands on a towel.
            "The pig is out and is loose in the tomatoes!" I hollered back, sure that would bring action. And boy, did it ever. She was out that door and running toward the garden full tilt. I ran toward the pig, with my arms outstretched, trying to shoo it back into it's pen before my mother got to it. The pig, not knowing a friend when it saw one, darted past me, and came face to face with my panting, outraged mother, I watched as my mother, looking around at the destruction that WAS her vegetable garden, lunged forward and grabbed the pig around the neck. I watched the next sequence of events in total helpless amazement.
           The pig, not liking the half nelson my mother had on it, wiggled and squirmed until it had first one leg, then a second through my mother's arms. By now, she was half laying on the pig, arms around it's middle. As I watched, the pig tried to get away, but my mother didn't loosen her grip, and looked for all the world like she was trying to squeeze those tomatoes back out of that pig.
         Ole Spot was making the most awful squeeling noises I had ever heard in my life, not one or two short squeels, but a full on blast that might have doubled for an air raid siren. I know it had my grandparents and Uncle Billy out on their porch in no time!
         As I watched, the pig, who weighed about 200 pounds, started gaining ground, until my mother's grasp had slipped to one fat haunch, and then finally, one leg. Now if you have ever tried to hold a pig by one hind leg, you know the effect. A pig can shake it's hind leg like a jackhammer, and that's exactly what this pig started doing to my mother. Her arms and upper body were shaking back and forth like it was hooked to one of those machines at a weight loss farm that is supposed to shake the fat right off you.
          Spot started running on three legs, weaving in and out of the corn, shaking her hind leg about one hundred miles an hour, all the while squeeling bloody murder. My sweaty, determined mother hung on to the other leg for all she was worth. It was when they made their third trip past me, that I finally snapped out of my reverie, and snatched up that other hind leg.
         The scenario continued. A big, fat squeeling pig running through the corn rows, now on two legs, shaking both hind legs one hundred miles an hour, my mother and I both attached and hollering "Whoa pig!" If this had happened years later, after we saw the movie "Babe", we could have just said "That'll do pig, that'll do." Maybe she would have paid more attention, who knows.
          But, she didn't pay much attention. I don't know how many laps we made total, but there wasn't much corn standing when we were done. The pig finally got tired, and we were able to walk her back over to her pen, and with our last remaining strength, shoved her in the hole she had escaped from and blocked it with a piece of wood.  She lay there exhausted, and probably wondering if a few tomatoes was worth being driven like  a wheelbarrow by a couple humans for half an hour.
         I looked over at my mother, sweat running down her face, as she kicked tomato gunk off her shoes, and pulled corn leaf pieces off the front of her tee shirt. "So, about that swim......"
A much more successful garden then the pig years
A Hoe'in Brogan
Good Looking Veggies Farmer Daigle!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Not QUITE ready for AARP!

       I am not sure exactly when it happened, but apparently I got old. I think it must have happened sometime after my 49th birthday, as near as I can figure. It seemed one day I was a young, vibrant 48 year old, and then next BAM! Old people catalogs started filling my mailbox. Ordinarily, I  don't really look at the stack of catalogs I receive almost daily. I only glance at them as I stuff them into the recycle bag.
     They range, well, let me rephrase that, they USED to range from horse owner catalogs to cooking catalogs, from LL Bean outerwear, to a country woman catalog featuring nice colorful sweatshirts and calenders. All pretty mundane stuff.
      However, lately I have noticed a distinct trend, and frankly, I don't like it one bit. Old people catalogs. Now, perhaps someone in cyberspace read my blog about being "not as good as I once was.." and then there was the reference I made to being a bit "past my prime." However, this gives no reason for the onslaught of "oldster" stuff I have been getting in the mail lately.
        The title of the last one was innocent enough.."Full of Life." Sounds nice, I thought as I opened it up to do a quick flip through before I stuffed it into the recycle bag. Well, they say full of life, but what they should call it is "One Step Closer to the Assisted Living." I actually flipped it back over to make sure it was truly addressed to me, hoping, well SURE actually, that I was reading someone else's mail. Nope, Carmen C Horton in big bold letters.
        So, I pulled up the kitchen chair, and sat down to peruse "my" new catalog. Sure, there was the usual array of items such as the "Upside down tomato"planter, and a window bird feeder, and the always popular "Pajama pants."
        But then, the theme of the catalog took a devious, dark turn. I suddenly found myself looking at stuff I shouldn't even know exists for another 20 years or so. I went from a harmless banana ripening bag, to the not so pleasant thought of an adult bib..in several colors....all washable and two sided though, very clever I thought. The "Saliva Stimulating Lozenge," the "Lung Cream", and the "Urine Stain Remover" spray bottle with the happy smiling couple, (that thankfully looked NOTHING like Cliffy and I) all made for interesting reads. The "Edible Deodorant" was exciting..apparently it is all the rage in hawaii..Who knew. Liz T. is a firm believer.
She says, and I quote.."Nobody noticed I hadn't used my regular deodorant in a week!" My gosh, that is some good stuff. She went on to say it even stopped her morning breath and foot odor. A Miracle, I say!
        Then came the whole section of contraptions. I saw some of the darndest things ever. Wearable supports for your neck, knees, back, feet and ankles, and my personal favorite...a hernia truss. That is an odd, and frankly, uncomfortable looking rig. Straps, and a belt and underwear all rolled into one. Supposed to be "invisible under most clothes..", yeah, right. Sort of reminded me of my grandmothers corset, or as she used to call it..her corselet. I looked up that word for the fun of it, and it means a "piece of armor covering the trunk of the body." She told me to try it on one day, said it would "make me feel better." I did, and it didn't. It actually did feel like body armor. I really don't know how she wore that her whole life. I was not a fan.
        Next came a whole section on hair removal. I guess that's an affliction all us women have to contend with, because they were removing hair from everywhere....nose, face, ears, bikini area..Really??  Seniors?? Wow. Then there was the section for men, trying to add hair..hair paints, sprays, even a "Laser light Hair Rejuvenator", a brush that stimulates hair growth with a  laser beam. Interesting. I suppose if you hear someone breaking in, you can blind them with your hairbrush..it is pretty expensive, you should get two jobs out of that bad boy.
          Now, I have been poking fun, but will admit right now, I did..um..bend a couple pages, you know, for future reference. The "Royal Tush EEZ Cushion" did look cozy, and as I sit on my uncomfortable desk chair writing this blog, my Tush is NOT very cushioned..so that is a  "maybe". The "Himalayan Salt Deodorant" sounds good..it lasts 6 months, and I don't have to eat it, so I might consider that. I only saw one thing I think I would really like.
          Brogan, it is only March, but May and Mother's Day isn't too far away, so if you look on page 47, in the middle of the column, sandwiched between the "Toilet Tissue Holder that reaches where you can't" and the "Disposable Adult Wash clothes", there is one thing I circled..I don't know..Do you think a "Bidet Spray" would work with our plumbing??
WAY too young for a "Hinged Toliet Booster Seat"...