Moose River Farm Blog

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Barn as Sanctuary

Good Morning,
I am happy to announce that the manuscript for my second book; They Teach Without Words; The Animals of Moose River Farm is finally finished so that publication can occur early in the coming year. Excerpts from my latest animal memoir will appear on this blog in the coming weeks leading up to availability of the book. Having retired from teaching in June, I now spend more time among my animal family paying close attention to the nuances of their interactions with each other. As I reflect on almost thirty years of teaching it occurs to me that so many of the strategies and management skills that I brought to the classroom were influenced by my experiences with animals. They also played a key role in developing my philosophies about relationships, acceptance, patience and loss. This book is full of unforgettable four-legged characters from my house, barn and classroom, who inspired my love of teaching.
To set the mood, this video introduces the animals with whom I currently share my life, as they go about their day in the barn. The following post shares the effect that the animals have on me during challenging times. Enjoy!

The Barn as Sanctuary

    Several years ago, my Aunt Anne’s memorial service was held at Gwynedd Meeting outside of Philadelphia. It had been more than thirty five years since I had attended meeting for worship. A familiar sense of calm settled upon me as I centered down in the early simple decor of the antique meeting house. Although the physical barrier of skin and skull prevented me from reading the thoughts of assembled friends and family, I was reunited with the connection that Quakers experience while waiting patiently for the inner spirit to stir.
    During the service, several vocal ministries interrupted the silence. I heard personal anecdotes that reminded me what a special woman and mother Aunt Anne was. Many delivered condolences to my cousins and dear Uncle Morrie. Others provided thoughtful messages of hope and community. Following meeting, we adjourned to the reception area. Nibbling on holiday treats, we received each other with embraces and smiles. After I exited the physical space of the meeting house, I remained enveloped for quite some time in the existential sanctuary of meeting for worship.
    Eventually, I returned home to the routine of caring for animals that live with my husband, Rod and me on our farm in the Adirondacks. My barn is a sanctuary for animals and humans alike, providing shelter for the many horses, goats and donkeys who live with us on Moose River Farm. In the days that followed the memorial service, I came to realize that each morning I attend a different sort of meeting for worship.
   I don’t sit in quiet contemplation, yet I perform all of my routine chores in a state of meditation. Before centering down, I am greeted by a glorious cacophony as I enter the barn. Shrill whinnies, wheezy brays and ravenous bleats demand sustenance. I oblige by severing twine on hay bales. Once released, pungent grassy flakes pop, making it easy for me to grasp three at a time to toss into each stall. Urgent animal chatter transitions to a chorus of peaceful mastication. The grinding rhythm soothes me in the sanctuary that is my barn. Here in the pale dawn, I meet with my creature community to prepare for my day. Nothing elevates my spirit more.
    Although a formal meeting house is silent, this sanctuary is not. A harmony of grinding molars, pawing hooves and the occasional gusts of breaking wind mingle into white noise. The sounds assure that the animals are well. That reassurance gives me permission to center down to a deeper level of prayer. While my body is busy with chores, my mind meanders, searching for strength that will lift my troubled mood.  
    Lowtchee, my portly black mare, chews her hay while I sift the piles of manure in her stall and toss them into a wheelbarrow. As if she and I are sitting next to each other on the wooden meeting house bench, I am aware of her satisfaction with life right now as she contemplates the forage in front of her. Once her stall is clean, I push my wheelbarrow to the next stall door. Joshua, a large paint gelding, swings his head to greet me as I enter. The black and white patches of his coat resemble formal evening wear. He too is content with his muzzle deep in hay. I allow my thoughts to surface long enough to greet him, stroking him between the eyes briefly before returning to deep meditation. How will I make a positive difference in a tumultuous world?
    My aunt’s funeral was held two days after the horrific shooting of children and teaching professionals at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The images are raw, the violence, personal. I am an elementary school teacher. This morning I am comforted by the congregation of Moose River Farm’s meeting house. In our sanctuary we unite as community. They meditate on a level of gastric bliss. I do so on heartache. It takes the mucking of nine more stalls for my mind to transition from despair to hope. Along the way I desperately seek answers to difficult questions, mostly why.
    My Quaker education has instilled tolerance and acceptance. I can make a difference today if I make a concerted effort to provide my students with the tools they need to be successful balanced citizens in a world that strives to knock them off balance. My teaching is a small counterbalance to heinous acts, but it is within my control. In the end that is all we have, control over our own actions. Although my hoofed society of friends can’t articulate meaningful messages, it occurs to me that I have been meditating alongside of them for decades and have borne witness to their peaceful acceptance of what simply is, this moment, now.  
     I agree with Gregory Maguire’s (author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) claim that “Animals are born who they are, accept it, and that is that. They live with greater peace than people do.”
    Eventually, the clock interrupts. My professional day begins in less than one hour. I grasp the long ears of one of my baby donkeys stroking gently. This is the handshake of sorts that will adjourn the meeting. I wish all my animals a good day. Later in the afternoon, the meeting will reconvene. After I serve their supper the animals and I will center down in meaningful meditation, enfolded into the barn sanctuary.  -Amen

Monday, March 26, 2018

Walk with the Animals; Winter, 2018

Good evening,
Spring break is three weeks earlier on the calendar this year. Although there is little that resembles spring, hints of its pending arrival appear from time to time. Birdsong, mud and geese laying eggs have all arrived on schedule. Nothing has been more welcomed than the daily dose of azure sky and sunshine. Despite too many inches of lingering snow, the brightness lures us outside to thaw our winter blues. We are not alone. Call it exercise, call it therapy, call it meditation. Whatever you call it, don't forget to include the word fun! 4 goats, 3 donkeys, 2 mini-horses and 2 llamas are determined to eliminate any remnants of the darkness from shorter days. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fantasy Farm Shopping, 2018

Good morning,
Happy New Year everybody. The Adirondacks are about to heat up after a very long brutally bitter cold stretch of sub-zero weather. These are the conditions that make me rethink why I live in an area where these temperatures are even a possibility. Tomorrow when I am basking in the glow of 15 degrees Fahrenheit above 0, I will have returned to my senses of course. Until then let me share the latest offerings from Wellington, Florida, the winter horse capital of the world. Feast your eyes on properties that have more than you need and all that you want for a carefree equestrian lifestyle. Enjoy!

$6,850,000 This is the bargain piece. 5 acres to design and plan all to your own specifications. Don't forget to include a place to hang the pitchforks, shovels and unsightly wheelbarrow out of view. 

$14,000,000 There aren't too many barn details for this one but since the mounting block is near the pool your horse will meet you there when you are ready to ride him. It's all good.

$15,000,000 This is my personal favorite. I don't see a substantial house, but I do think there is a luxury apartment somewhere in the mix. Doesn't matter because the barn details are everything I imagine for luxury horse keeping. My fitness tracker might run out of memory after a few days of cleaning stalls and riding horses here. Hopefully updates and upgrades will keep my data accurate for awhile. 

$23,000,000 I like the idea that these 50 plus acres can be subdivided so that several of us can share the horse facilities; thinking along the lines of a coop. Let me know if you want in.

$28,000,000 Just like the the next one only cheaper. Use the balance to improve the lives of those of us shivering up north. Maybe invite us to visit with our horses so we don't have to worry about finding caregivers for them while we are away. Besides, they would love a week of green grass on which to graze. We will even bring a bottle of wine or two as a house warming gift. Surely there is a wine cellar there..somewhere.

$36,000,000 This is the masterpiece. Everything and more to pamper you and your horses while the rest of us layer our clothing for months on end. The only thing you will need to do is hire a HUGE staff to maintain everything. Don't worry, it will be worth it. 

Enough of Wellington dreaming. Truth is I am perfectly happy right here in the bitter cold and blowing snow. Just when I think I have had enough and can't take anymore, there will be a hint of warmer days to come and the magic and glory of spring will soothe once more. You can't have that experience without a few months of this. I know I don't want to miss the transformation this year...or ever. Stay warm.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fantasy Farm Shopping, 2017

     Happy New Year,
     It's time for my fourth annual Fantasy Farm Shopping tour, brought to you by the cold and endless white landscape of the Adirondacks.  Just after the holidays I begin to long for good weather and green grass.  I am not alone.  My six month old goslings have been cut completely off from their daily fill of vegetation.  Hay chaff and alfalfa cubes are making due at the moment.  If the sun comes out at high noon, I do indulge them by filling one of their kiddy pools with tepid water so they can bathe.  It's a small token of luxury.
     My three baby goats who are also six months old have grown thick full coats that appear to be keeping them insulated in the bitter cold air.  At night they instinctively snuggle close together for additional warmth in their deep hay bedding. 
     The horses and donkeys demonstrate once again their ability to accept the cold and bare it.  All I can offer them is protection from biting wind and as much hay as they can eat.   
     The thought of leaving our farm in search of milder weather conditions is tempting but not really what I crave.  However, perusing listings that only 2% of the population can afford is kind of soothing.  The mood is ruined when I begin to wonder who will dust the chandeliers in the barn or mow the forty-two acres of grass?  How much does hay cost in Wellington since you can't really grow it nearby?  Who cleans the pool?  Actually, who has time to sit by the pool when thirty stalls need cleaning?  Back to reality I am jolted where there is plenty of time here at home to clean stalls.  With horses, donkeys, goats and geese milling about the barn on these harsh winter days, there is plenty of incentive too.  Enjoy!

For your dreaming pleasure...

Ocala, Florida

Rabbit Hill, $10,000,000

Ironwood Farm, $7,500,000

Haras Santa Maria, $6,950,000

Czech Mate Farm, $2,700,000

Wellington, Florida

Skara Glen Stables $45,000,000

Saddle Trail Park property $10,000,000

Although I wish the white would turn to green...

....spending time with my hooved and feathered family.... a joy, no matter what the weather is.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Brought to You by the Letter G...

     Good Morning,
     Summer vacation is coming to a swift close, now only a few hours left.  It's been a relaxing recess of extended sunshine and rejuvenation.  This year it was made extra special by the addition of baby goats, goslings and an incredible transformation in the garden.  Nothing marks the passing of time more profoundly than the growth of baby animals.  Despite a few episodes of heartbreak along the way, I couldn't be happier with this next generation of pets.  The following is a pictorial journey of the past four months.  The pictures prove once again, that living things are simply amazing, not to mention a joy to behold.  Enjoy!
Baby goats, Hazel and Audrey were selected from Nettle Meadow Farm in mid May.
The tiny doelings were only two days old when I brought them home.

They took to bottle feeding fairly well...

...and introduced themselves to the residents of the farm.
The month of May played icy tricks with the weather... the little girls had to live in our house.
Due to their feeding schedule...
...they attended school every day for the first week.
It was a happy time.
At a month old, Hazel became very ill and died, leaving Audrey all alone.

Two new baby goats named Pearl...
...and Ivy arrived to establish a herd for Audrey.
They were tiny too.

The two new kids provided much needed company for Audrey...

...and for me too.

The goats have touched the lives of so many.

Meanwhile, a gaggle of goslings arrived one day in the mail...
...while another hatched in our incubator.
Their first swim was in a dish pan.
Eventually, they graduated to deeper water.
Oh how quickly goslings grow!

Colored leg bands permanently identify each one.  Green is Vivian.

When the "kiddy" pool became a tight fit... updated spa with lounge deck was installed.
The most impressive transformation this summer... 
...took place in the garden.

Chickens patrol the perimeter in a dry moat, gobbling pests along the way.
  At summer's end, sunflowers reach for the sky and garden bounty awaits a fall harvest.
Thank you summer for such glorious gifts that soothe the eye and fill the stomach.  May winter be kind to us until you return next year.