Thursday, June 16, 2011


Lead, feed, muck, mow. That about describes it - funny how an entire life can be characterized so briefly and crisply. The devil is in the details, as my neighbor told me today. In my case, the total substance is contained in the details.

Leading is a joy - my favorite culminating activity, especially in the mornings. Before leading them to their turnouts, I greet the horses one by one - ask them how their night was, admire their bed-head telling me that they were down or down flat, as the case may be. I check their buckets and feed areas to see what they did and how they liked it, etc. All of them are lovely to see, and they are certainly glad to see me because of the next activity which is the feeding part. There is a small current hiccup in the normal schedule, however. One horse needs a syringe of medicine first thing, and she really doesn’t like it. She actually pinches her little horse lips together tightly in an effort to keep the syringe tip out. She is the nicest of mares, and I just hate to subject her to it, but there is no help - even though the glop is mixed with as much molasses as I can fit. It will be over soon, thank goodness, but you can’t tell her that. The rest in this barn must wait for their food while I dose her, since it would be even ruder for her to have to listen to them munching and banging their feed bins around while she stoically endures The Syringe. Now it is time for everyone’s favorite thing - the rattle of a handful of hay stretcher pellets for a porky little pony, the slithery sound of crimped oats and barley for the Oldenburgs, the perfumy older horse sweet feed for the retired Standardbred, and a small amount of sweet feed for the patient mare, since it’s the only thing she likes as a med chaser. Once fed, then they get their bonnets and their head-wear and their sprays and life is good - time to go out.

Mucking isn’t so bad - I have great help seven days a week, and they do a dandy job. Bleach and clean the tubs? Yes ma’am. Move hay? Why, certainly. Muck the sacrifice area? You bet. And so on - I would adopt them all.

The mowing, alas, is my job. The big tractor has a brush hog for pasture tending, and there is good news and bad news with regard to this tractor. The good news is that it runs on waste vegetable oil during the summer, and that is also the bad news. I had one day last week to finish mowing the pastures before more rain, and the dang thing quit before I was 20 minutes into it. Cursing, I nursed a coughing, sputtering and powerless machine up the hill to my mechanic neighbor who is already swamped with work. I was the LAST person he wanted to see, limping into his yard with my tractor, but he is a civil man and a good neighbor and agreed to take a look. Sure enough, it was a plugged fuel filter from the oil. I got a lecture on at least mixing diesel into it, which I received with meekness, but then we figured out it is much cheaper and just as effective to simply change the filter once a month. So I went out and bought four filters, which should see me through. In the meantime while it was still at the neighbor's, I mowed the pastures with the lawn tractor which is a tough little thing but not really built for lush field work. I actually apologized out loud to it many times while ramming through tall weeds, listening to the poor thing struggle and spit smoke from the effort. I felt the need to bear down, however, because of ticks...not that we have many. It is rare to find one at this altitude (along with dogs have never worn collars since we moved here). But one is too many and tall grass only encourages them....and honest to god it is a jungle out there with the recent weather.

Doesn't seem like much, but these sorts of events and activities fill all the hours of the day. The wise person once was asked by a student - "What shall I do to attain enlightenment?” “Chop wood and carry water”. “And after I have attained it?” “Chop wood and carry water.” My own mantra has become the one I started with above - it carries everything within its words.