Moose River Farm Blog

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hue

       Good Morning,
       It is Memorial Day weekend and I am keeping myself mindful of friends and family members who now live only in my memory.  I am also remembering so many wonderful animals who stepped into my life either briefly or extensively and am so thankful for the privilege of their time with me.    
       Spike and Rosemary, the iguanas, were not the only reptiles that lived in my classroom.  A Veiled chameleon joined the menagerie in 1998 and provided my students with observations of one of the most interesting beings on the planet.  Most striking about the chameleon were the shades of indigo, teal and turquoise that covered his body in a camouflage pattern.  Unlike the iguanas, the chameleon was able to change his 'wardrobe' to match the mood he was in, (not necessarily to blend in with his environment). This vivid array of tones earned him the name Hue.
        Hue's other extraordinary features included a prehensile tail that wrapped around our fingers and wrists for extra security while holding him.  His 'hands' appeared to be wearing mittens with the claws poking through at the ends.  He used these digits to walk along the branches and twigs in his tank.  His movements were slow and fluid but in a 'cha cha' back and forth dance rhythm.  
        Perhaps Hue's most prominent and endearing features were his eyes that rotated independently around in complete circles while hunting prey throughout his tank.  Apparently, the chameleon brain can interpret more than one image at a time resulting in stealthy hunting accuracy.  
       Ownership of Hue required a constant supply of viable crickets for sustenance.  Managing the crickets became almost the same as managing an additional pet in the classroom.  Every six to eight weeks a shipment of them arrived chirping and crunching in a box at the post office where the post mistress, (quickly and thankfully), handed them over to me.  Then, the students and I had to set up a secure plastic tote to keep them in with litter, food, and moisture.  The children learned that keeping the crickets healthy would ultimately keep Hue healthy too.  



Hue was an extraordinary creature.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Will Build Myself A Farm

   Good Morning,
My grandmother lived to the age of 110 years old.  Born in 1898, her life was lived in three centuries until she passed away on Christmas Day in 2008.  Imagine the evolution in technology, politics, transportation and fashion that she witnessed in those eleven decades.  The secret to her longevity can only be explained by her intense interest in a variety of hobbies.  Grammie read books, collected stamps, grew wildflowers and ferns.  She made quilts, knitted sweaters and crocheted afghans.  She designed and hooked rugs with wool strips that for many, she dyed and cut by hand.  Grammie loved antiques and the history behind them.  When my grandfather was alive they collected beautiful old clocks that chimed harmoniously in their house.  
It wasn’t until I was 23 years old that I became close friends with my grandmother.  Up until that time she was a mesmerizing entity who visited us briefly and not very often at our home in Jenkintown, PA.  We entered an enchanted world on the rare occasion that we visited her in the quaint yellow house at 8 Cherry St. in Hudson Falls, NY.   But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I really got to know the woman living inside of that captivating exterior.  During that time she encouraged me to take up counted cross stitch and together we set out to produce every Noah’s Ark sampler that we could find.  Many an afternoon I spent with her, either spread out in the back yard or curled up by the fireplace, threading our needles with a rainbow of colored floss and stitching away. 
While we toiled over our needlework we talked about everything under the sun.  In those moments we were simply two girls with humorous anecdotes, serious concerns about the state of the world, or family stories to share.  After my days spent with Grammie, I left filled with brain food that I could digest until our next planned visit. 
Often we traveled together, mostly to visit other family members including Aunt Mary, (another captivating entity), who was Grammie's roommate at Mt. Holyoke College.  You can only imagine the intelligent conversations that arose when those two got together.  Don't be fooled, most of their dialogue brought tears of laughter to those of us just listening in on the chatter!
While my grandmother spent four years, after graduation, working as a bacteriologist for the state of Rhode Island's water department in Providence, Aunt Mary's younger brother Kip was attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.  After his graduation, he and Grammie were married and moved to Hudson Falls where he had grown up.   
 The walls of Grammie’s house were full of her exquisite counted cross stitch samplers that she had produced for decades.  Many of the pieces were reproductions of samplers that hung in the Americana section of museums around New England.  Some of the samplers Grammie had designed herself with motifs that represented her family's interests.  Tall case clocks, pewter pitchers and songbirds were among these beautiful motifs. 
  One of the reproduction pieces depicted a dairy farm with a large barn and house.  The landscape was full of cows, calves, sheep and chickens.  In 1983, Grammie reproduced a copy of the farm sampler, customizing it to resemble more of a horse farm.  She added motifs to the piece that clearly identified the owner of the farm as me.  On Christmas morning I unwrapped the beautiful sampler and marveled at all the personal designs.  On that fabric was stitched my future although, I was still a year away from meeting Rod Phinney. 
   The sampler, now stretched in a handsome wooden frame, hangs in our front hall as a reminder of all my grandmother's gifts and talents, especially in predicting the future.  
With a LOT of help, I built myself a farm.
Grammie visited us often at Lakeview Farm, Inlet, NY.
Getting to know 3 year old Windy, (1986).


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just a School Horse

 
      Sandi was euthanized today, March 26, 2015 at the age of 31.  He gave so much to so many in all the years he lived at MRF.  This was after a career teaching students at Morrisville College.  In this blog post from 3 years ago, Sandi was celebrated while still alive and well.  It's how I will always remember him.
        Good Evening,
My friend Lisa Eklund, (www.journeytowardsamindfullife.com), Assistant Professor of Equine Science at Morrisville State College worked with a school horse named Buckley, who she was certain had earned his PhD.  She commented about his intelligence and how, as her teaching partner, he always knew exactly what his role in the lesson was.  Sadly, Buckley passed away a few weeks ago leaving a void in the hearts of all those who loved him.  Lisa's Facebook announcement received many thoughtful comments about all the wonderful qualities that made Buckley a popular school horse among the students. 
In the past, I too have received heartfelt memories and condolences after announcing that one of my horses has passed away.  Although my grief was comforted, I question why I waited until the horse died to share how wonderful he was in life.  Why not celebrate his gifts while he is still very much alive, keeping the grief factor completely out of the picture?  Therefore, today’s post serves two purposes.  One, to remind us all never to take the wisdom and experience of a school horse for granted and two, to introduce one of the best of the best while he still resides on my farm. 
Sandi
Sandeman’s Port is just a school horse.  He’s the one that anybody can ride because he is safe and programmed with push button accuracy to navigate around the ring with the most novice riders.  He is so easy to ride that even if the rider falls asleep at the reins, Sandi will continue unfazed with the instruction never putting the rider in jeopardy. 
Sandi was probably close to 20 when he arrived at Moose River Farm seven years ago.  Only fifteen hands, (small for a Trakhener gelding), he is built square with a sound limb at each corner.  His solid athletic physique makes him quite balanced and comfortable to ride.  Sandi has three gears, (one per gait), that maintain a constant speed on the least amount of contact with the reins and leg.  Children always want to hear the story about Sandi’s right eye which was removed several years ago after it was ravaged by Uveitis and Glaucoma. 
For many youngsters, Sandi is the first horse they not only encounter up close but get to ride as well.  He is the one who they groom, pick feet and tack up for the first time.  Sandi graciously sports one of the coveted bright neon pink saddle pads without protest.
As a riding instructor, my school horses are my co-teachers who fill in the gaps with instruction that I just can’t convey through words or reassurance.  Sandi and I teach together like an old married couple who still garner respect for each other.  I know exactly what he is thinking and since he has memorized the objectives for each lesson we are both confident that our rider will achieve success.  This is important for young equestrians who sometimes become a bit overwhelmed by so many directions to follow at once.  
During breaks throughout the lesson, Sandi will often amble over to me and stop.  I react by wrapping my arms around his neck and rubbing his face with my hands.  I want the rider to see that he is not a machine, but a living, breathing being who seeks out pleasurable interactions with people.  After a minute or so, I ‘shoo’ him back to work, via the rider’s steering skills.
Anybody who trains horses at any level owes a debt of gratitude to at least one school horse.  You know the ones I mean.  They are the horses who provided us with our first lessons in steering and our first bouncy strides of the trot.  School horses are sometimes overlooked in terms of value, because they may be older, losing their buff and youthful topline, or appear to be dull in temperament.  The truth is that all of these qualities are what make good school horses worth their weight in gold.  So next time you’re about to refer to ‘just a school horse’, please reflect on your first lesson, your first horse, your first experience at the trot, how safe you felt, the magic of the moment and all of the horses you’ve ridden since that wonderful day.  Just a school horse?  Indeed!
 Sandi boosts confidence and provokes smiles.
 Good boy Sandi.
Sandi accommodates beginners of all ages.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Hen Named 'Chicken'

Good Evening,
        At the moment Moose River Farm does not have any resident fowl.  Rod and I talk about getting some chickens and employing them as pest control in a moat around the garden.  Unfortunately, Adirondack predators like coyotes, foxes and raccoon are a very real threat to chickens.  Once they discover how to intrude on the coop, they are relentless until the last 'cluck' is extinguished.  It is devastating to encounter the carcasses after a night's raid.  Therefore, before we invest our time, money and emotions into a new flock, a fortress will need to be constructed.  
        We had chickens years ago while living in Inlet.  Our lovely little flock of Araucanas lived well into their double digits, long after their egg producing years had ceased.  At one point we had adopted an ancient hen and rooster who lived with us for a year or two in retirement, (more like assisted living).  But perhaps the fondest chicken memory is from my youth when a young hen appeared out of nowhere in the barnyard.  In today's excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm, you will meet a special 'Chicken'.
Chicken
        Although I knew nothing about chickens I had had a pet Rhode Island Red hen years ago.  She had appeared out of nowhere one day at Triangle Acres, the barn where Promise was boarded.  The only explanation for her sudden arrival was that she must have fallen off of one of the large trucks that raced up busy highway Rt. 309 which ran parallel to the farm's pasture fences.  
        ‘Chicken’ spent the first week recovering from her ordeal in the basement of my house.  Eventually, my father found out about her and suggested that she move out to live with the other farm animal.  From then on she took up residence in Promise’s stall and soon could be counted on to produce an egg a day in a nest that she made in the corner.  
        Being an only chicken, she became quite friendly and followed me around the barn all summer.  She sat in my lap on those afternoons when I sought refuge from the heat and bugs in Promise’s stall.  Sadly, that fall, Chicken disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared.  I searched for days with great hope that she would reappear in the barn yard.  
 My future brother in-law, Steve is holding 'Chicken'.
'Chicken', (like Pierre the goat), visited in my family's kitchen too!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Morning Ritual

        Good Morning,
        I am often asked what time I have to get up in the morning to take care of the animals before I leave for school.  Then I am asked how long it takes me to do my chores.  The responses to both of these questions, (5:40 and 45 min), usually provoke a sympathetic sigh from the inquirer until I explain that I need to visit the barn every morning in order to prepare for the day ahead.  Right now many of my horsy readers, who care for their own horses at home, are nodding their heads in total agreement. 
        Horses are delicate creatures who benefit from frequent barn checks to ward off any potential situations that might require an expensive veterinary visit if ignored for too long.  Colic, trauma, and various kinds of lameness respond more favorably to treatment in the early stages of onset.  Therefore, I rarely let my horses go more than eight hours between barn checks throughout the day.
        Since horses are able to tell time, it is also important to keep them on a regular feeding and turnout schedule.  By doing so, the barn remains a calm, quiet, and soothing sanctuary.  
        Although my knowledge and training have established the regular barn routine, there is a part of me that mentally and physically needs to visit the barn each morning to smell, touch, and interact with the horses before I begin my professional day.  It is also the same part of me that craves these identical factors at the end of my working day. 
        In today’s excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm, I invite you to join me as I head out to the barn at 6:15 am for morning chores and my first horse fix of the day. 

Morning Ritual
  “Fiona,” I call.  “Come Piggily.  Time for your breakfast.  Come come Pigiletto.”
“Ump, Ump, Ump,” (Fiona) grunts as she lifts her bulk, blanket and all, off of the cushion that she has been sleeping on since last evening when a fire in the fireplace lured her to the bed there.  She marches through the kitchen, stopping for a long drink that practically drains the community water bowl before heading out the back door.  Her food is waiting in a rubber dish at the bottom of the steps.  With a few happy grunts, Fiona’s daily routine has begun.
With my coat, boots, hat and gloves in place, I am also ready to go outside with Fiona.  After her breakfast she quickly stops to clean up stray bird seed under the birdfeeder.  Then, she and I make our way out to the barn.  The cold air blasts in our faces.  I can’t wait until spring.  Winter in the Adirondacks is very long and since it is only February, there is still a lot of winter left.  I act as Fiona’s plow through the several inches of snow that have accumulated overnight.  By walking first I lower the height of the snow so her belly will not freeze.  She grunts softly with each step she takes behind me.  
At the barn I reach for the light switch and am greeted simultaneously by a high pitched whinny from the last stall on the right.  Sandi a small Trakhener gelding, is hungry and reminds me not to forget him back there in the far corner.  Some of the other horses greet me with low rumbles, clearly indicating that they too are hungry.  I begin my ritual distribution of hay to each stall.  This is also when I make my daily inspection of each horse’s condition and appetite, both an indication of how the horses are feeling today.  When I lift the lid on the grain bin, Fiona is at my side as if on cue.  She grinds her snout into my ankle which is a signal for me to drop a handful of sweet feed on the floor for her.  The horse’s grain is already pre-measured from the night before to save precious time and to assure prompt service.  As I deliver grain I am relieved to witness each horse dive into the grain with gusto.
Next, I become aware of a soft bleating sound from the eleventh stall.  Three goats jump up to peer out over the door.  They are hungry too.  After feeding them their own grain ration, I return to close up the grain bin.  Fiona has finished her handful of grain and is now making her rounds checking out the stalls of several horses who sling feed out of their bins.   I can hear her protesting with high pitched squeals when a horse lowers his head to sniff at her. 
I check the clock to assure that I am still on schedule before I begin cleaning the first of ten stalls.  Mucking stalls is the best form of meditation and at this hour of the morning, just ninety minutes before I begin my professional day, this mindless chore allows my thoughts to simmer, and plan for the coming hours at school.  Before I know it I am emptying the wheelbarrow on my final trip to the manure pile behind the barn.  I check every water bucket to make sure it will last the morning, and split up a flake of hay for the goats.
“Have a good day my loves,” I chortle as I reach to turn off the light switch and head back to the house. 
Fiona, who is still busy cleaning up the last bits of grain on the barn floor, begins to mumble in short contented grunts.  Left in the dark, she trots to catch up with me.
The bitter cold forgotten, I have had my barn fix, as satisfying as a hit that brings calm to any hard core drug user.  The difference is that my dose results in an appreciative high for all that I possess.
Fiona is my company for morning chores.
My first view of the barn every morning.
    

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding the Trails

        Good Evening,
        Best thing about living in the Adirondacks is the access to all of the undeveloped land that surrounds our small town.  Although the grocery store is only ten minutes away it is possible to explore the woods for hours without seeing cars or other signs of human encroachment.  
        Spring is finally emerging all around; a perspective that is especially vivid when viewed from behind the ears of a special horse.  Horses enjoy a hike through the woods as well.  Their ears swivel to catch every sound while their noses take great pleasure in sniffing the piney air.  Some horses scan the woods for potential spooking triggers while others traverse in a more meditative state.  Trail riding is a sensory stimulating exercise for both horse and rider.
       Come along for the ride and see for yourself how beautiful the Adirondacks are!
video
Tango, Vicky, Makia and I enjoy a therapeutic sensory stimulating ride in the Adirondacks.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

       Good Morning Moms and everybody else,
     It is a beautiful Adirondack day complete with blue sky and temps. that promise to top out in the high 60's or low 70's.  Perfect weather for being home and catching up before back to school tomorrow.  
     Today I am going to make a point of living in the now instead of dwelling on all the challenges that will rise inevitably in the future.  Thanks to my friend Lisa, whose blog, Journey Towards a Mindful Life, is a reminder to do so, I will make myself mindful of the task.  
       Today, I am posting yet another series of photographs from my archives and a video.  Hope you will enjoy these images of motherhood as you celebrate the day with family and friends.  Enjoy!


Helen, (right), was Hannah's mother.
Cindy, (middle), and Michele, (right) are both wonderful mothers. 
 All of the younger women in this picture of Rod's family are fabulous mothers who had an amazing role model, their mother, Rachel, (far left, 1928 -2011). 
 Xena, (last Westie on the right), is the mother of all the other Westies in this picture.
 Grammie was not only a wonderful mother, she was a super grandmother and great-grandmother.
 My mother with baby Nina and Casey Bird.
 Helen took to motherhood perfectly.  Here with Rachel, (top) and Hannah, (bottom).
 Mrs. Chicken was very elderly when she came to live with us.  She was the mother of many.
 My mother with Helen, (behind), and Helen's third baby Jordan. 
 Mother Michele and handsome Murray.
 My mother and her mother, Grammie.
My sister, Sue, (left on Welby), the mother of four, (two are in this picture), and grandmother to Welby!
Liam, (left), and Lilly lost their mother at two weeks old.  I gladly took over the role.
Jean is a mother and grandmother.
Irene is Ben's mother.
video
After raising to fine human boys, Vicky has become Tango's mother. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Red Coat

        Good Morning,
        My mom is the unsung hero who took the brunt of my childhood frustrations head on.  With adult wisdom I realize that she really was there for me when I needed her the most.  Unfortunately, my teen immaturity prevented me from accepting the fact that she really did go out of her way to bring horses, that we could afford, into my life.  Every Saturday she drove me out to my riding lesson, a 2 and 1/2 hour commitment.  It wasn't enough.  She sent me to an overnight camp where I would be with horses EVERYDAY for a whole month.  It wasn't enough.  Then she created the most beautiful custom made riding coat for me to wear in my budding horse show career.  It wasn't enough.  Although the coat was a subtle burgundy, my eyes saw RED and red was a forbidden color to wear in the horse show ring.  
       The following is an excerpt from my first article that was published in Practical Horseman Magazine, Oct., 2004.  The full story, (and pictures of the red coat), can be accessed in the Published Articles listed at the right, on my blog.  Why am I not surprised that my mother would once again play an important role in my budding career as a writer?  Thanks Mom, and Happy Mother's Day to you and to all the unsung hero Mom's who do what they do for those they love! 
The Red Coat
        The anxiety brought on by the red coat was gone.  Of course, there were no compliments either but blending in with the crowd was what every sixteen year old girl needed to be successful in life.  I was on to something, wasn't I?
        After high-school graduation, the red coat accompanied me through all the drastic life changes one makes.  With horse showing on hold during those uncertain years, I never wore it, but it always moved with me: from closet to closet and from dorm rooms to a number of apartments where I lived in my early twenties.  Finally, it came to rest in a storage closet at the house that my husband and I lived in.  
        For years it hung in that closet collecting dust, as I went about establishing a professional career as a schoolteacher and a life with horses in my backyard.  
       In 1995, I purchased a five-year old dark-bay Thoroughbred gelding, (Zambezi).  I trained him for two years, then was pleased enough with his progress to decide he was ready for his first horse show.  Eager to show him off, I wondered how to make him stand out among all of the other dark horses he'd be competing against.
        ....Riding to the in-gate on show day, I felt confident.  My horse with his gleaming dark coat and me with my subtle maroon coat stood out, just as I had hoped, among the endless sea of dark horses and riders in navy and black and gray.  I thought of my mother, realizing that I was approximately the age she'd been when she sewed the red coat for her horse-crazy daughter.  I wished she could see how proudly I wore it with no hint of the painful cringes she'd witnessed so many years ago, and hear the compliments from friends and fellow riders who smiled when I told them it had been made for me by my mother so many years ago.
Reprinted from The Red Coat, Practical Horseman, Oct., 2004.

My Mom, (left), Promise and me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rats! (Yup, rats)

        Good Evening,
        Intrigued by my blogging experience, many of my students have created blogs of their own.  The potential for having their assembled words read and interpreted by others is motivating.  It may even encourage them to linger longer when proofreading for capitalization and punctuation.  My students tend to gravitate toward animals for their blog themes and get excited by the endless possibilities for topics to write about.  This is just one more example of the power that animals possess to inspire and motivate youth.  I hope you will visit some of their blogs which I have posted on mine.
       One of my colleagues told me recently that her daughter still had a story she had written in my class twenty years ago.  The story was called The Adventure of the Pi-rats and of course its inspiration came from our gregarious classroom pet rats.  I even vaguely remember the title of the story although I don't remember the plot!
        I owe so much to our classroom rats who, like the iguanas, provided many lessons in caring, empathy and kindness.  In today's excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm, you will meet Sunshine and Shadow who endeared themselves to many.
Rats
Another democratic vote, christened the young rat Sunshine and she too became a cherished member of our classroom family.  The children learned to take turns holding her and to ‘parent’ her cooperatively.  Although Sunshine had a cage, we left the top of it off during the day and allowed her to investigate the chalkboard and windowsill.  Rats are very clean and choose to relieve themselves in one location if given the opportunity to designate it themselves. 
In the spring we acquired a male rat, Shadow and allowed him to breed with Sunshine.  Oh, the lessons learned from all of these wonderful encounters with the animals.  The students waited with great anticipation through the twenty one days of gestation and glowed like proud grandparents when Sunshine presented them with seventeen pink ‘erasers’ that she cared for meticulously.  A week later the babies began to grow hair that divulged the secret of their individual coat patterns.  The children identified each baby by a spot on his tummy, a dot on her chest, or a patch next to its tail. 
One of their favorite games to play was ‘What gender is it?’  After lunch I handed them each a baby rat at random and they had to identify whether it was a boy or a girl.  There were never any snickers or dirty remarks because the students were learning that animals, other than humans, live in a world of survival and purpose.  Sex is for perpetuating the species.  Babies are the adorable result.  Knowing the physical difference between males and females is important.  It is as simple as that.

Our intelligent pet rats attended the Christmas party in red bows.


   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Michael Matz

       Good Morning,
       I watched the Kentucky Derby yesterday on the edge of my seat as I'll Have Another chased Bodemeister to the finish line and won! Sadly, the favorite, Union Rags, had a difficult trip from the moment he left the starting gate, dashing the hopes of his trainer Michael Matz and owner Phyllis Wyeth.  That's horse racing for you; no matter what statistics are calculated in the months, days and minutes beforehand, it really comes down to the fastest horse during the two minute race. 
      Working for Michael Matz thirty years ago was the apex of my career with horses.  He was training show jumpers at the world class level then and dabbling in race horses on the side.  In today's excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm I've arrived for an informal interview at Erdenheim Farm. 
Michael Matz
Not wanting to disturb him, I was relieved when he brought his big shiny chestnut stallion down to the walk and approached me as if he had been expecting the interruption.  His friendly Hollywood smile put me at ease as we made our introductions. 
“The job requires cleaning stalls and grooming the horses everyday before and after they’re ridden,” he stated, still mounted on the large stallion who was now dozing peacefully in a sun-spot at the doorway of the arena.  “Do you ride?” he added as an afterthought.
“Yes,” I responded unaware that I would actually get to ride horses and be paid for such a pleasure here at this beautiful farm.  Then I offered him a brief synopsis of my educational experience with horses. 
        A few minutes later, I thanked him as he returned to his training session.  I lingered at the rail to watch this exceptional athlete, now my employer, at his craft.  I had seen Michael ride many times over the years at the Devon Horse Show and the American Gold Cup.  In my adolescent years I had even been brave enough to approach him for an autograph.  But at this moment I watched him through the eyes of a horseman who was really beginning to understand the rider’s role in the saddle.  His lean long legged frame remained soft and light.  With perfect timing, Michael’s body whispered an appropriate aide that politely asked the horse to transition into the canter.  In addition to Michael’s perfect position, I was taken by the steady feel of his hands on the reins.  The whole atmosphere in the ring at that moment remained focused, calm and successful.  I wondered how many different horses he had ridden in his lifetime to develop such a gift.  
Chatting with DeDe and Michael Matz twenty five years after my working experience with him.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Dream Maker

        Good Morning,
        In my childhood dreams of living with animals I never really paid much attention to the facilities required for so many to live with me.  In my mind I was too busy galloping horses around enormous jumps and hiking with the rest of my menagerie that included lions goats, dogs and giraffe.  Perhaps I assumed that I would live in an old farm house with an old barn and acres and acres of land.  
        After falling in love with the Adirondacks, I met and did the same with someone who shared my love of animals and just happened to be good at building things.  Little did I realize that he didn't just like to do it; he was an exceptional craftsman who loved the challenge of building things well.  Soon after we were married he began to build a two stall barn for my horses, (eventually adding two more stalls and goats), on his small lake front property in Inlet, NY.  Lakeview Farm made my dream come true.  18 years later, Moose River Farm would send me beyond my wildest dreams.  
        So who is Rod Phinney and where did he come from?  In today's excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm, my other half is revealed.
Rod
         Roderick Phinney grew up in Ridgewood, NJ.  However, every summer of his life was spent at Sucker Brook Bay on Raquette Lake.  Rod’s mother’s family has owned a ‘boat access only’ camp called Sunny Cliff since 1904.  Not only had he grown up there, but his mother, Rachel, and her three older brothers had spent their summers there as well. 
On Raquette Lake, Rod and his four older sisters learned to fish, identify trees, pump water, make balsam pillows, exist without electricity, row and paddle boats, sleep under the stars, (despite gnawing mosquitoes), chop wood and build campfires.  During the long summer days they water skied and hiked up West Mountain for a heavenly view of Raquette Lake.  At night they placed chicken bones around the fire in hopes of baiting wild animals that they could observe from their beds in the lean-to at open camp.  Luckily, nothing more dangerous than a raccoon ever arrived to entertain them!  One evening the children took hunks of foxfire, a bioluminescent fungus, to bed with them in an attempt to read by the organic glow of its light.  
Their mother cooked pancakes every Sunday on ‘Big Bertha’ the wood burning cook stove in the rustic camp kitchen.  There was no phone at Sunny Cliff and for several years Rachel washed diapers by hand for at least two children not yet potty trained.  Growing up on Raquette was a magical experience and the family spent the rest of the year counting the days until they would return to camp, the one place where they all felt connected to the mountains, the lake and to each other.  It is no wonder that this beloved camp is what keeps Rod united with his sisters who still visit Sunny Cliff with their own families every summer.
As the only boy at Sunny Cliff for most of the time, (his Dad came up occasionally on weekends), Rod kept busy by building and taking things apart.  As a result he learned how engines and switches work.  He could maintain a chain saw and make minor repairs on the motor boat. 
At home in Ridgewood, he was more fascinated by his bicycle as it lay on the driveway in pieces than as a vehicle on which to explore the neighborhood.  The day he got in big trouble for disassembling his neighbor’s tricycle is now family lore.  He was unable to reassemble it without the help of his very angry Dad.
...Rod attended community college to learn electronics and computer programming. While enrolled he took riding lessons for a physical education requirement.  After the credit was fulfilled he signed up to work in the barn during a vacation so that he could continue to ride.  Of course at the time he could never prophesize that decision.
Promise took care of Rod that summer we met at the Raquette Lake Girls Camp.

        

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lacey's Arrival

        Good Evening,
        For close to 15 years we kept a herd of pet goats that totaled 6 at its maximum.  Naturally, as the animals aged and passed away one by one, the number dwindled until we were left with one elderly goat.  Hannah was a very sad creature in the days after her mother, Helen's death.  She bleated pathetically for companionship so necessary in a herd oriented species.  Rod and I spent as much time as we could with her but of course it was not enough and did not solve the problem.  After two weeks of a solitary existence for Hannah, we finally located a young doe and quickly made arrangements to go and get her.  In the following video Hannah is lonely no more.  Enjoy!
video
Lacey arrives to provide much needed companionship for Hannah.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Animal Images II

       Good Evening,
       Perhaps the most pleasant outcome from my blogging experience is the array of connections that I have made with readers I have yet to meet.  My family and close friends have graciously shared the blog with animal lovers in their own circle of friends.  The ripples from the initial blog splash have apparently dilated into many rings of individuals who appear to check the blog often for new content.
        Lately, I have received forwarded emails from friends who have passed the blog along to an animal lover they know who will identify with it.  One person forwarded the blog to her friend with horses and dogs.  That person replied to say that she was going to send the blog to her sister who has horses, dogs and chickens and at one time had a goat.  Somebody else forwarded the blog to a friend who dotes over his cat.  Another person forwarded the blog to an elderly neighbor who used to live on a farm.  The scenarios go on and on and with each one I am inspired by the mutual affection we all share with our animal family members and how they remain close through the rough and placid patches of our lives; a constant among change. 
          So today, in addition to thanking all who have read my blog, I also wish to thank all who have shared it with somebody else who loves animals and reaps the benefits of having at least one to come home to, cuddle up with and provide exercise for.  To all of you, I dedicate today’s post.  Thank you!
        Tonight I am posting another set of great pictures that displays the human/animal bond.  Enjoy!
Noah, Ludie, Eric and me just enjoying each other's company.

Amy and baby Noah.

Amy had baby goats of her own, Maddie and Barley.

Meeting our Westie puppy, Niles for the first time as his mother, Xena supervises the visit.

Casey Bird, Rod and me.

My niece, Megan loved to hold Rosemary.  This year Meg will graduate from high school.

Promise and me in my high school yearbook picture.  

Jordan and I shared a special bond.

Our goat, Gideon and my Great Aunt Mary.  Her smile says it all.