Moose River Farm Blog

Monday, December 31, 2012

All is Well

Happy New Year,
I thought it fitting to share an excerpt from Finding My Way to Moose River Farm about the end of a typical day.  Before saying goodbye to the old and embracing the new I wanted to acknowledge what a blessing living here truly is.  The simple act of falling asleep, knowing that all creatures are safe and sound from the barn to our bed and many places in between is one of my greatest comforts  So come along as I 'tuck in' my animal family on a cold winter's night.
All is well…
          The late evening is my favorite time to visit with the horses and goats in the barn.  After dinner I have a tendency to fall asleep in an overstuffed leather chair with at least three dogs piled on top of me.  Sometimes it is as late as 12:30 a.m. before I wake up and head out to the barn.  While pulling on my winter ‘uniform’ that consists of a warm jacket, wool hat and gloves, the Westies, (Puppy Play), make one more visit to the yard to take care of their bedtime business.  They return to the house quickly just as I am slipping my feet back into barn boots.  A blast of cold air assaults my face as I close the back door behind me. 
This time Fiona, (No More Pigs and More About Fiona), isn’t with me.  During the winter, she goes to bed early, around 4:00 in the afternoon.  At that time she comes in from her last visit to the barn glistening with snowflakes that melt quickly when she enters the warm house.  She heads for her crate that is in the same room where Rosemary, (Animals in the Classroom), is sleeping on her electric heating pad.  Fiona gets right into her bed and begins scratching at the assortment of ripped saddle pads, blankets and towels.  All of these items were once whole, but Fiona enjoys tearing them up with her strong snout and teeth.  Eventually she lies down satisfied with the nest she has made.
          “Umph,” is the last syllable that she speaks.  Soon her deep breathing signifies that she is fast asleep.  When the temperature dips to bitter cold, I stop in to cover her with an extra blanket.
          On my way to the barn I glance up at the millions of stars that twinkle so brilliantly in the black Adirondack sky.   The crunchy snow below my feet sparkles in harmony with the glowing stars.  Despite the bitter cold, it is a beautiful night.
          At the tackroom door I stomp my feet to eliminate snow before I turn the knob and enter the heated space.  The horses hear me coming and begin to whinny and nicker in anticipation of my visit.  I grab several carrots from the refrigerator and open another door into the cold barn.  The aisle floods with light when I flip on the switch.  Then I apologize when every head sticking out to greet me squints and blinks excessively from the glare.  Starting with Target and working my way clockwise I stop at each stall and offer a piece of carrot to the occupant.  Next, I deliver one flake of hay to each horse as a midnight snack.  Luckily, I have several buckets of water on reserve in the tackroom and use them to top off the heated buckets hanging inside the stalls.  That way I don’t have to waste time dragging the hose out of the tackroom and then draining it carefully after use. 
          For the final time today, (or first time, if you consider what time it is), I visit each stall with the wheelbarrow and a pitchfork to remove any manure produced since dinner, six hours ago.
          Before shutting off the lights I divide one flake of hay for the three goats and offer each of them an apple cinnamon horse treat.
          “G’night goaties!  G’night horsy boys and girls,” I whisper on my way out the front of the barn.  Light glowing from the living room windows beckons me back toward the warm interior of the house.  Once inside I peel off my uniform and head up to bed.  On the way I pick up our long haired Dachshund puppy, Hayden, (Finding Hayden), and turn off all the lights. 
“Vrrr, rdddr, frd d fr,” Hayden sighs.  I carry him in complete darkness up the stairs with Nina and Niles in tow to our bedroom on the second floor.  Sixteen hours ago my day began here. 
I place Hayden and Niles on the bed and head to the bathroom to change.  Thin cotton pajamas replace my fleece riding tights and wool sweater.  With face washed and teeth brushed I make my way to the bed in the dark.  Climbing into the flannel sheets is a signal to Huxley, (Welcome Huxley), (who went to bed with Rod three hours earlier), to climb in with me and press his whole toasty body against my chest.  Niles curls up on the edge of Rod’s pillow and above my head.  Nina jumps up on the bed and pushes her way under the sheets to her assigned spot between Rod’s feet.  The puppy, too hairy to find comfort under the sheets lies on his back against Rod’s leg and sighs. 
          As I drift off to sleep my mind makes a mental inventory of our family and their whereabouts at the moment.  Satisfied that everybody is safe, I allow myself to let go and fall into a deep sleep.  Eventually, my breathing synchronizes with the rhythm of Moose River Farm.  In that rhythm there is a promise, (Summer's Promise), that all is well.  All is well…    
Good night Moose River Farm!
Happy New Year!
      

Monday, December 24, 2012

Season's Greetings From Moose River Farm

♫ ♪ The 12 Months of Christmas ♪ ♫
At 
Moose River Farm

Each year before Christmas Moose River Farm gives to me; 
12 months of endless chores!
Clockwise; Sandi, Easau, Zambi, Target, Lowtchee, Joshua, Spirit,  Makia, Welby
Spirit, Tango, Joshua, Lowtchee and Target 
Ben and Makia 
Easau, Sandi, Zambi, (that is as close as he will get to the donkeys), and Welby, Donkeys; Frank and Bing.
11 noble horses!
10 months of teaching fifth graders!


Thanks for all your help Haley, Haley, Robyn and Cindy, (Jeff and Robbie too!)
9 months of riding lessons!

8 months of good weather riding!
7 months 'til book publication!

6 months until summer vacation!
Fiona
A pig plowing through 5 inches of snow!
Niles, Huxley, Nina and Hayden
4 barking dogs!
Lilly, Lacey and Liam
3 goatie'oes!
Bing, Frankie and Easau
2 singing donks!
Rosemary
...and an iguana at the top of a spruce tree!


To all our friends and family, we wish you the very best this Christmas and in the coming New Year!
Love,
Rod and Anne

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thoughts from a Teacher


Good Evening,
       It’s been a busy week with Christmas vacation looming just ahead on the calendar.  This year promises to be a particularly happy celebration as Rod, (The Dream Maker), and I will be sharing it with Cindy and Haley, (Healing with Horses).  They are on their way to a new life here in the U.S. that includes plans to settle in North Carolina.  On their way from Australia they have chosen to spend Christmas in the Adirondacks at Moose River Farm.  For the first time in almost 8 years, we have a reason to decorate a twinkling tree in our living room.
         My excitement for Cindy’s and Haley’s visit has had to be contained while concentrating on general Christmas preparation, while getting to know my two donkeys, (Operation Donkey Drop), and while making a quick visit to my family in Philadelphia a week ago.  Last but not least, my professional life as a teacher; had to roll onward with lessons in math, reading and grammar despite the opposing energy radiating from a very excited group of youngsters. 
         And then the events of last Friday in NewtownCT began to unfold in the background of all my wonderful chaos.  A school with so many parallel similarities to the one that I teach in suffered an unimaginable sequence of events at the hands of one mentally ill human being.  In a matter of minutes the innocent lives of an entire school community was forever changed by the senseless act of one.  Our whole nation has been stunned, saddened and angered by this crime sparking discussions on gun control, mental illness, and grief.  It is all too much to bear and too much to comprehend as the collected evidence pieces together a possible motive.
        When I returned to school after the weekend, I entered my classroom from a whole new perspective about my chosen profession.  For 21 fifth graders I fully accept the role as their leader.  Not only am I responsible for preparing them for a battery of state tests in April, I am also responsible for their safety in my classroom.  To do so, I must make everyone comply with the classroom rules.  I am vigilant about bullying behavior and address it quickly when it emerges from time to time.  I push my students to challenge themselves through deep thinking and rigorous problem solving because I believe it is the path that will make them successful citizens who will contribute to the prosperity of our country when it is their turn to do so.  I don’t take this responsibility lightly.  Sometimes I fail.  However, I never stop trying and I go to great lengths to try new angles or techniques that might make a breakthrough because I truly care and am committed to these children. 
       But, as I surveyed my classroom, I wondered if I could possibly keep my students safe from a crazed gunman in the event that we came under attack.  How could I protect 21 precious children from a round of 30 flesh seeking bullets randomly ricocheting around my room?  Would my instincts kick in?  Would the children listen to my direction and heed my wishes?  My room is not a bunker.  It is a relatively small space efficiently arranged with tables and chairs.  The shelves along the back wall are packed with books.  Posters hang on the wall to remind students how our government branches are organized to control democracy.  Maps remind us of the big world that spreads out beyond Old Forge.  And an over-sized dictionary I refer to as ‘Old Wordy’ waits patiently for me to throw out the command, “Look it up”, when a student dares to ask: “What does this mean?”
       At home in the safety of my barn and while in the company of my beloved animals, I allowed my thoughts to explore possible solutions for my concerns.   So where can I safely hide my students out of harm’s way should the unthinkable interrupt their constitutional right to learn in a safe environment?  So many questions have haunted me this week as acceptable answers still remain out of reach for my peace of mind.  
      Teachers all over the world must be feeling the enormity of Sandy Hook’s heinous act and wondering what they would or will do if, God forbid, they find themselves face to face with such evil.  Among all the nebulous answers one thought continues to surface in my mind.  I want my students to know that I will do all that I can within my human power to keep them safe.  My mission will never wane from protecting their innocence, cultivating their right to learn and giving them 100 percent of my teaching ability.  For now, that is the best that I can offer until decisions are made, new protocols are in place and every effort has been made politically, locally and nationally to assure that this despicable crime will never happen again. 
        
      There is something spiritual for me that happens in the barn.  To have the love of these all-but-wild creatures, and to be accepted into the herd is a magical and indescribable feeling.  In some strange way they are my passage way to God.  from M.J. Arrison's book Getting My Goat; Seasons on a Small Bucks County Farm.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Operation Donkey Drop

       Good Evening,
       The holiday season is in full swing and in keeping with the spirit of giving, Moose River Farm has recently opened its arms and given a home to two baby donkeys.  Their arrival attracted much attention over the weekend as many well-wishers stopped in to meet the tiny newcomers.  Even the goats, horses and Fiona, the pig showed great interest in the tiny equids who seemed to have appeared out of thin air overnight.
       "Why do you want donkeys?"
       "What are you going to do with them?"
       "What are they good for?"
        Not sure how to answer all of these questions, as only time will tell.  So before I formally introduce you to the new additions allow me to share the story that brought them to the Adirondacks. 
Operation Donkey Drop
       "Reba!" I whined.
       "Aww!  Reba!" came the reply followed by a chorus of sympathetic giggles.
       "She was so sweet!  I want Reba!"
       The little donkey mare had made a lasting impression on me when she pushed her way passed two smaller baby donkeys to fill the space provided  by my open arms.  By pressing against my chest and dropping her head over my shoulder, I had no choice but to wrap my arms around her.  What a love!  I have no doubt that she was desperate to show me that despite her larger older size, (1.5 years), she was a better specimen than the two tiny babies competing for my affection.  Her gesture won my heart.  
       Unfortunately, the logistics of getting Reba the donkey to the Adirondacks on her way from Equine Affaire in West Springfield, MA to her home in Indiana was going to be next to impossible.  Therefore, I was forced to peel myself away from our embrace and leave her with her two tiny companions.  
       What I couldn't leave behind was my peaked interest to acquire donkeys.  Perhaps there was a donkey in need out there who could find his or her way to Moose River Farm.  Keep in mind that I was not alone in this desire.  I had accomplices.  Since two of them were children, two of them were mothers, and all of them were regular caregivers to the residents of MRF, I also had pressure.
        "Let's get a donkey!"
        "It would be so cute in the barn."
        "We need a donkey!"
        "I want a little baby donkey!"
        "Reba!  Oh Reba," they chorused.
        For the next several weeks we joked and talked about baby donkeys constantly.  Frequently, I received emails with pictures of donkeys doing the cutest donkey things.  I also began casually to mention to my horse friends, connected in the industry, that perhaps I might be interested in a donkey if one became available.  That is all it took.
        "Two donkeys available," read the broken text message from Missy, (Walking with the Animals).  After an exchange of pictures and information it turned out that these two donkeys were surplus babies from a petting zoo in NJ.  Thanks to Missy and another friend Mary Anne, the necessary arrangements were finalized and my two friends were finally on their way with the Adirondack's fuzziest new residents.  Allow me to introduce Frank, (Sinatra), and Bing, (Crosby), MRF's miniature donkey crooners!
          
 Fiona welcomes Frankie.

 Frankie

 Lacey stops by to be introduced.

 Lacey is naturally curious about the newcomers.

  Bing and Frankie in the outdoor paddock.

 Frankie, (7 months old), and Bing, (5 months old).

Bing and Frankie.

video
Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Animals in Motion

       Good Evening,
       My three part post about the loss of Murray and the acquisition of Makia sparked an array of thoughtful comments from readers of all ages.  Many have shared similar experiences providing further proof to me that every second of life is precious and must be perceived through wisdom and appreciation gleaned.  
       This last week was too busy, (both leisurely and professionally), to concentrate on writing, but I have compiled a number of video 'posts' that I hope will lighten spirits as the holidays descend upon us all.  Enjoy!



video
Lowtchee's arrival provided mid-winter excitement at MRF.  Baby Liam and Lilly, (goats), are also featured in this vintage video.

video
Spy Hopes was Lowtchee's babysitter for her first 'turnout' in the Adirondacks.

video
Watching horses 'play' and interact with each other is one of a horsewoman's greatest pleasures.

video
When the 'Westies' get together several times a year, fun is guaranteed for all!