It’s been dry here. Any rain in the past few weeks has been random–and light.
I have two creeks on my farm. One of the creeks starts on my farm, way back behind the second upper pasture, from springs in a huge cliff. This is the creek that is seen in most of my photos because it’s the creek that runs through the upper pastures, the sheep field, down along the driveway and through the back barnyard, and on into the cow field. The other creek runs through the field on the other side of the road, then goes under the road to join up with the creek that starts on my farm. Where the two creeks join is in the cow field, which keeps the cows in good water because the creek that comes from the other side of the road is a larger creek with more water. I’m not sure where that creek starts, but not on this farm.
The creek on this side of the road, the one that starts on my farm, doesn’t have much backup of water coming at it since this is its inception, so I’ve found it dries up quickly if there’s no rain. I do, however, have dozens (who knows how many) natural springs on my farm. West Virginia is the land of water–it’s out there, if you can bend it to your will. Finding springs isn’t difficult. Just go out on a dry day and find water where it shouldn’t be. The bottom of hillsides, rocks, those are good places to look. It’s the bending it to my will part that is the problem.
Adam and Robbie have been out here on several different random days helping me around the farm. When I say I have “hired men” I feel like my great-grandmother, but it’s a good feeling to know I have general farm help to call upon when I need it. They will move cows, move horses, put up hay, build a milking parlor, re-coat the barn roof, dig up old stumps, fix fences, make a creep feeder, show me where the mulberry, sassafras, and pawpaw trees are, put a cart together, haul hay, let me out of the milking parlor when I lock myself in, and make me laugh–a lot. I’m glad I found them. (Thanks, SarahGrace!) They’re generous with their time and their knowledge, and they even teach me how to do things for myself, which is only marginally dangerous to their job since they do many things I won’t ever do. When they’re coming, I start making a list. Sometimes they do things that aren’t even on my list. If they see a thing needs done, they do it.
The other day they were here doing some other things for me and asked for the tractor key. I was busy doing something else and gave it to them without asking why. They came back to the house later and Adam said, “We dug out a pool for you by one of your springs so you have water in your upper pasture now.”
It didn’t take long for the spring to start filling the pool with water. They got Patriot and the donkeys and we walked them back to the upper pasture, where there is still plenty of grass, and now plenty of water, too.
Adam took them down to the pool to show them where the water was. Patriot had an exuberant splash-attack in the pool as soon as he laid eyes on it.
Water = happy horse.
As we walked back, Adam pointed out all the pawpaw, sassafras, and mulberry trees in the upper pasture.
Several mulberry trees. TONS of pawpaw trees. And the sassafras trees are thick, too. Robbie said, “That’s why they call it Sassyfras Farm.” He always calls it Sassyfras Farm. He cracks me up.
I’ve also started tractor lessons. Here’s Adam, showing me how to drive the tractor. (Kelly Walker was still here the day he gave me my first tractor lesson and she took the following photos.)
I’m hauling hay in a truck, riding a horse, and driving a tractor! Somebody pinch me, I think I’m a farmer!
I was never one of those horse crazy girls. My best friend, Mary, was horse crazy. She lived in the same suburban Maryland neighborhood I did, but she had a horse. I went with her to the farm where her horse was stabled, watched her clean out the stall, groom it, ride it. Nope, no interest on my part. I was just hanging out with Mary. By the time Morgan was three, she was begging for toy horses, nothing but toy horses for Christmases and birthdays. Is it born in you, this horse crazy thing in girls? She wasn’t exposed to horses, other than the toys at the store that she zeroed in on. I saw an ad about a horse camp for kids nearby. I took her, and that led to regular riding lessons. I had nothing to do with the lessons other than dropping her off and picking her up. Nope, no interest.
Now I have two horses–for Morgan.
I’m slightly leery of horses. My one previous experience riding a horse was when I went with a church youth group in California to a trail riding outing. I rode a horse, for the first–and presumably last–time. I didn’t find the experience comfortable. Horses made me nervous. They’re big. I feel uncomfortable–now–handling Patriot and Zip. I can handle sheep, cows, goats, donkeys, but not horses. Horses are big. But I have to start handling these horses. Morgan isn’t here–and won’t be here–all the time. They need to be moved from pasture to pasture, they need to be vetted, they need their hooves worked on, and who knows what else. In the end, I’m the one who runs this farm and is here all the time. I have to be able to handle the horses. Other than the one glorified merry-go-rounding ride I had on Patriot when we first visited him in Kentucky, and the one glorified merry-go-rounding on Zip last week, and oh yes, that one trail ride in California when I was a teenager, I’ve never been on a horse. And I sure can’t handle them. I can’t even put a halter on them.
Yesterday, I went to Soggy Bottom Farm, where Zip is staying for a month of board and train with Mike Trader. I’m very pleased now that I’ve been to his farm. She isn’t at a stable, like a business, she’s at a home. His house is right beside the big horse barn, and she’s not stalled non-stop. She has pasture time. I thought we’d start with me watching him train Zip, but he had other ideas. He put me on one of his horses, Sierra, right away.
Let me state straight up that this is an incredibly well-trained and gentle horse. I felt immediately safe on this horse. He showed me how to put her saddle and bridle on. I got on the horse, and he put me through my paces teaching me to make her walk, make her stop, make her turn. Making me take my hands off her while she was walking, and even making me close my eyes. And then because I was having so much fun that I wanted to go faster, he let me take her out of the ring and make her gait. Wow, that was fun. Then we took her back and he made me unsaddle her and wash her down.
Then, yes then, came Zip. We took Zip to the ring and he showed me her groundwork. He went through what he’s been working with her on for the past few days–desensitizing, yielding her hindquarters, and backing up. She’s resistant, but he’s made a lot of progress with her in just a few days. He said strong will is not a bad thing. “She’s got heart,” he said. “She’ll make a good horse.” And then he let me come into the ring and practice the groundwork exercises with her. THIS THIS THIS was even more fun, if possible, than riding Sierra because I got to learn to handle Zip, make her back up, make her get out of my face, show her she can’t crowd me. These types of exercises are what she needs–but it’s also what I need to gain the confidence to handle her.
I only have two weeks before Morgan will be back and I have to share the fun with her–which I want to, but….this is my time. On the other hand, I don’t want to bother the trainer too much or impact his time to work with Zip. Three hours later when I was leaving, I said, “I’ll come back next Thursday, if that’s okay.” He said, “I’ll start riding Zip by this weekend, taking her out on the trail. Don’t you want to come trail ride with us? You can ride Sierra.”
First lesson in the ring. Second lesson on the trail? I JUST MIGHT.
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"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die."Keep reading our story....
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