Saturday, January 29, 2011

From Christian at Back Acres Farm

One of my favorite moments to spend with my horses is at night. Cold winter nights. Balmy summer nights. Every night before hitting the bed (and I hardly ever go to sleep much before midnight), I head out to let my old Gambler (30 y/o retired Clyde-cross, ex-policehorse) out of his separate mini-paddock where he spends some 8+ hours a day by himself to have enough time to eat his grain and hay without everyone else stealing his much needed nourishment. I check on the herd, and give them all another flake of hay (much welcome in these long frigid nights). I walk up to my mare Lili, she meets me half way. Her whiskers touch my face. A soft nicker, almost imperceptible under her steamy breath. We stand in silence for a few moments, contemplating the starry sky, the majestic sillouettes of the ancient maple trees that border the pasture. Do you want some hay? We march up to the barn through two feet of snow. The night envelops us, slows everything down, and makes the interaction with the horses sweeter and more tender than at other times of the day. The snow leaves even the most moonless nights bright. But before the snow started falling, it was pitch black during new moon. I would just stand out under the stars until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. At first I thought I'd never be able to see a thing, but then my vision slowly opens like a photograph developing in the chemical. Bit by bit I begin to make out a shape. Is this Destry over there? Is it a tree? The tree begins to move toward me. It is Destry. We move carefully, tentatively. We cannot be as sure about the world as we are during the day time. I sit with them for a while and listen to the sound of their teeth grinding the hay, occasionally they blow their nostrils: the sound of a horse at ease, simple happiness. As I listen to them eat in the dark, I think: there is nothing that could make me feel more at home. Out under the sheltering sky, the sound and smell of eating hay. It is like a faint memory of something I once was. By the time I leave them for the rest of the night, I laugh at my initial temptation of bringing a flashlight. I would have deprived myself of this magical moment when the world slowly emerges from utter darkness around me. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tales from Plainfield and Back Acres Farm

Another week, another eight inches of snow. The horses are funny with it - particularly the big ones. The snow is so deep out in the pastures that they are reluctant to wade through it, seemingly because they fear getting their legs stuck. I try and put the hay a little further outside the trompled area every day, in order to increase the size of their walking "area". The disinclination to step into the snow is so strong, however, that it takes a while for hay-hunger to overcome it. I actually hired a snowmobile to come a few days ago to try and pack down an area in the pastures, but it was a waste of time. Even the weight of the machine wasn’t enough to make a real difference, and then it snowed another eight inches on top.

I walked up the hill to the upper barn last night to check on a horse with a tummy-ache, and the sky was startling in its beauty. Utterly clear, and stars everywhere - as bright as ice chips. Winter is very quiet, and winter at night even more so. The horse seemed better - her eye was bright and she was quietly eating her hay, so I was reassured that she would have a good night. The dogs were delirious with the unexpected walk, and whizzed around in circles up and down the road. My youngest dog does the Run of Joy which is very funny to watch - seriously fast with his tongue and tail streaming behind him, just for the sheer pleasure of it. In the snow, it is even funnier, since he has extremely short legs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tales from Plainfield and Back Acres Farm

January 24, 2011

Last Thursday the Plainfield What-Nots (a venerable ladies group dating from war-brides after WWII) had a Caribbean dinner. Very nice spread, and lots of tropical drinks. As the hostess said, if it hasn’t got rum in it, I’m not interested. We laughed a lot and got silly, and tried to decide what to spend our $600 kitty on.  As Town Moderator, I suggested a new Moderator’s podium since it is so low I have to hunch at Town Meeting - it is undignified. Unsurprisingly, no one voted for this. It looks as though we will more likely look into funding a local cabinet-maker to build a display case for the library, since there is an historic doll collection which needs restoration and then proper quarters.

Some of the town ladies put on a dinner Saturday night, and a few of us Farm people went. What a hoot!! Jake the Farm Intern had a fun time, since there were a group of Americorp kids there, and he got to hang out with people his own age, which was quite a treat for him. (He is an extremely cheap date). It’s all volunteer - the host ladies provided roast pork and roast beef, and the townspeople provided the rest of the side dishes - all sorts of vegetables and some soup and toothsome breads and rice dishes. Around fifty people sat down - we sat with some people I did not know and was glad to meet, since I had been passing the woman’s house for years and recently noticed that a series of cute sheds had sprouted up, housing goats. We had a good goat chat - I myself have a history of goats and it’s always fun to compare goat-notes. We just got two more here at the Farm, since - although they are annoying at times - there is nothing better for keeping weedy stone walls and odd corners free of unsightly weeds and scrub saplings. After the dinner there was a musical event upstairs at the Town Hall - I will let merciful oblivion temper my report on it, except to say that effort should be honored.

The cold has been severe. I wrestle with issues of horse comfort and safety, as I do every year at this time. Single or double blanket? What to do about blanket rips when it’s little too cold to take them off and send them out for repair - but the hanging bits constitute Xmas in July for bored pasture mates? How to keep water tubs clean when they are sunk in the snow? Fences shorting out, water tub heaters at issue, frozen’s all part of the life and thank goodness it’s only this cold three months a year. All the animals seem good, thank the lord - anxious to be out, and then anxious to be in again. They make me laugh. Lily the Appy mare (who had an eye trauma of mysterious origins in December and spent a week in the hospital) seems completely cured except that very bright light on the snow seems to bother the eye a little bit. We both got very tired of frozen meds and fingers in her eye, so I recently decided to leave her in peace since all discernable symptoms were gone. The vet will re-check at some point and tell me if there is anything left in the deep recesses. That event was interesting - the soundest horse on the planet - who had not even been footsore in ten years - came up with an eye injury for which there was no explanation. There was nothing protruding in her stall, no infection, no surface or adjacent laceration or bruising, just a trashed eyeball as if some Stooge had poked her with a blunt finger. We still don’t know what caused it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekly entries about life in Plainfield, centered at Back Acres Equine Facility.

I will start by saying that Plainfield is the best place I have ever lived. It is almost invisible from the outside - when you drive through town, there doesn’t seem to be anything there. Two stop signs, Mr. Tire, a few town buildings, and that’s it. You would think that living here would be the most boring thing in the world, and I can tell you that after living on three continents and in a number of major cities, it is the most rewarding place of all to be. Not to mention, clean air, clean water, clean soil.
The farm was found the first day looking - the second place we two couples saw, and an offer was put in that night. As Ralph the Guru used to say, "If it’s right, it’s easy". That part, at least, was easy.
The farmhouse is a two family house, part very old and part very new - the old part has had only nine owners previous to me. The energy is of a place where people worked hard but were calm and kind to each other - no evidence of nastiness in the feeling of the house - just safety. It’s nice. The surrounding land (about 80 acres) also seems to have its own energy - and definitely seems to like horses. I have found it odd over the past 12 years at how easily horses and horse activities show up, as opposed to any other. The feeling is much more of stewardship regarding a pre-existing point of attraction, rather than creating something out of whole cloth.
It is also true that when horses show up here (as many, many have since the beginning), that their shoulders seem to drop. Don’t know whether it’s the underlying energetic, the lack of traffic, the orientation of the humans, the good amount of space - probably a combination. But it’s nice to see them take a deep breath and relax. Very gratifying.