Moose River Farm Blog

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seasons's Greetings from Moose River Farm, 2013

       Merry Christmas,
     While looking ahead into the new year, we count our blessings for the wonderful year it has been at Moose River Farm.  To all with whom we share our farm, we wish you a joyous Christmas and much happiness in the coming year.  Thanks so much for your loyalty and support. 
     Sending peace and love,
     Rod, Anne and...
 all the Animals at Moose River Farm

Sandi, Zambi, Easau, Target, Makia, Spirit, Gatsby, Joshua, Lowtchee
Bing, Lacey, Nina, Huxley, Rosemary, Hayden, Niles, Frankie
Fiona, Lilly, and Liam

Photo by Michele deCamp and edited by Mark Butto

 Ben (photo by Mark Butto)
Tango (photo by Mark Butto)

     

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

     Good Evening,
     I have been on the go every weekend lately, promoting Finding My Way to Moose River Farm during the holiday season.  Not only do the commitments lengthen an already long week, but they also confiscates valuable time away from my animals.  Despite this I am thoroughly enjoying the process of spreading the word about my book.  The many people I have met or reconnected with along the way have added so much to the experience.  Occasionally, I have been able to bring smaller members of my menagerie along to meet and greet potential readers.  One of my favorite things is to share the animals with others, especially children.  Youngsters reach out to stroke Rosemary, the iguana or Bing the donkey with an air of confidence not yet eroded by a preconceived notion of fright.  Adults usually come around after being reassured that they are safe in the company of the lizard lying on the table.  A fence around the donkey and goat affords a more tangible degree of protection from anything they might do deemed unpredictable.  My goal for everybody visiting with the animals at these various book signing venues is quite simple.  I want them to interact with my pets at the animal's level.  
     The iguana will not come when you call her, but she will stretch her neck and press against a finger that is scratching her head.  A goat will approach someone standing quietly, moving minimally.  And a donkey loves close contact hugs from those who greet him at eye level.  When time is taken to accommodate the animals, many may experience a glimmer of my relationship with Rosemary, Bing and Liam.  
     All this time spent engaging with animal lovers has kept me away from the horses.  My contact time with them is limited to routine care in the morning and at night; much like a school day.  On the rare weekend that I get to spend entirely at home, I bask in their presence and make a point to linger in the barn.  I miss them.
     Around my waist is also one of my favorite things; a leather belt with seven or eight nameplates attached.  Each one is engraved with the name of one horse, past or present, including Bing and Frankie, the donkeys.  My thirty-six year career with horses has, in fact filled two belts with nameplates.  Every horse from Promise, (my first), to Gatsby, (my newest), is riveted in place.  Fastened to the strap and buckled around my waist I feel their embrace while I am away from home.  
     
Just a few of my favorite things about sharing the animals:
Rosemary joins the fun at the face painting table and even gets her nails done!
Kendall can't get enough of Bing as Liam watches from the trailer.
Rosemary is reunited with her 'grandmother', Anne Beckingham, at a book signing.  Our iguana is named after Anne's mother, Rosemary!
My neighbor from the days that we lived in Inlet showed up at a book signing with her Westie, Roger and Welsh terrier, Chester.
Rosemary snuggles against Marion, the owner of the Holland Patent Farmer's Coop!
When I can't be with them physically, I derive great comfort from their embrace around my waist.
My favorite pieces of silver combine my love of horses with riding and an appreciation of how horses are put together on the inside.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fantasy Farm Shopping

     Good Evening,
     Actually, it is the middle of the afternoon, but it is the darkest day I have seen in November.  That combined with the saturated dew point and plunging nightfall that comes early this time of year, are challenging me to keep my spirits high.  It is after all, Friday and next week a short work week is followed by a busy Thanksgiving weekend to be spent with animals and friends.  The doom and gloom however, is prompting me to surf the net for sunny Florida properties that are available for sale.  Are we considering buying property in Florida at the moment?  No, but clicking through the listings of elite horse farms in the southern region of the Sunshine state is a welcome distraction before heading outside to do chores in drizzly cold conditions.  Besides, it doesn't cost anything to look, dream and imagine how those with an endless limit of financial resources avoid residing in the north over the winter months.  Join me and let's peruse the elite offerings in the Wellington, Florida area near West Palm Beach.  Feel free to be picky.  At these prices I expect perfection! 

Wellington Horse Farm; $34M
      Good thing this one doesn't come with a house because I would rarely be in it.  The barn has plenty of amenities that provide living quarters.  Besides, after playing with my horses all day, I would be too tired to entertain, let alone cook in a fabulous kitchen!

Wellington Horse Farm; $27M
     When would there be time to tend to the landscaping?  Of course the goats would gladly help out.

Wellington Horse Farm; $13M
     I wonder if these surroundings would elevate the goats and donks to a new level of sophistication.  That goes for the eclectic members of my horse herd too! 

Wellington Horse Farm; $10M

Wellington Horse Farm; $1M
Before you get too excited about this one...there are no paddocks, barn or ring... yet!

Had enough?  Me too!  The more I look the more I appreciate what I already have here; simplicity, coziness, and the ability to care for my own animals in an efficient well designed facility.  Escaping the gloomy afternoon for awhile to peek inside the realm of mega-wealthy horse owners provides some degree of satisfaction.  Despite the long, cold, winter that's on its way, I will keep what I have and be thankful for all of it.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Photos by Michele deCamp
Me with half of my herd...
...Rod with the other half.
Goats and donkeys gorge on apples
The dogs, Rosemary, (iguana) and Fiona, (pig).


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whinnies of Change

     Good Afternoon,
     Accepting change is necessary.  The ability to do so however, is not always easy.  As the caretaker of so many animals with lifespans that vary from single digits to several decades, there always seems to be a geriatric family member to manage.  A year ago, I wrote a post about Sandi, (Just a School Horse), MRF's tried and true beginner lesson horse who celebrated his 28th birthday this year.  The post was a tribute to his loyal career as confidence builder for many budding equestrians.  I wanted to acknowledge his gifts while he was still very much alive and healthy.  
    What a difference a year makes.  Compromised, (but not limited), by the surgical removal of his right eye years ago, it was only a matter of time until Sandi's other eye would succumb to Uveitis, (periodic opthalmia).  Although medication slowed the process, it has become evident lately, that the battle is being lost.  Despite the inevitable, Sandi's ability to adjust to change reminds me of the power in each of us to accept and adapt.  Once the most amicable horse in the herd, Sandi is now rather aggressive toward other horses who venture too closely into his space.  His reaction includes lunging full force with ears pinned against his head, mouth agape and teeth bared.  The maneuver is shocking to witness by those of us who know the gelding as nothing but a gentle soul.  However, the gesture is understandable as Sandi clings on to the remaining vestiges of his dignity.  I was forced to change the turnout routine so Sandi could eat in peace. Therefore, he was allowed to spend summer days grazing freely around the property by himself without competition from other horses that might cause stress. 
     Sandi was mostly content with this arrangement except for the fact that it isolated him from belonging to a herd.  His pitiful high-pitched whinnies were proof that horses are happiest when they belong to a group; feeling more secure no matter how low on the pecking order they rank.  But Sandi's negative behavior risked injury to other horses as well as to himself.  
    Meanwhile, donkeys Bing and Frankie were also forced to accept significant change in their lives at MRF this week.  While dragging the donks home after dark with Mary, my neighbor, illuminating our way from the headlights of her car, I was forced into making a revelation.  The donkeys can no longer be allowed to roam freely.  With maturity has come the confidence to explore farther and farther from the barn.  Fearing for their safety, (not to mention my neighbors' safety), it is necessary to secure them in a paddock during turnout hours.  Only on supervised walks are they permitted to run freely in the big field below the barn.  
     Fortunately, Sandi's and the donkeys' situations bumped into each other this week creating an acceptable solution to both dilemmas.  The pictures tell the rest of the story and once again remind me that every problem is solvable.  Once we accept that change is inevitable we can channel our energies to adapt.    

Bing and Frankie to the rescue!
Sandi is curious about his new companions who have lost their privilege to roam the property freely.
Alex assures Sandi that he will be cared for and loved forever. 
The donkeys pose no threat to Sandi...
...therefore, providing companionship and...
...a herd to call his own.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Winter is Coming

     Good Morning,
     For the first time since school began, I spent an entire weekend at home.  It was a chance to catch up on chores that have been neglected for too long.  In addition, I got to spend some quality time with all of my animals.  That pleasure alone, gave me a much desired lift despite predicted bitter cold temperatures and snow.  
     All around Moose River Farm evidence of the beautiful extended fall weather exists. Some of my flower boxes are still maintaining dashes of pink and yellow blooms against barren tree branches.  Even the garden continues to produce winter squash and carrots while cherry tomatoes ripen within the trapped heat of a tiny greenhouse.  The longer all of this goes on, the shorter winter will seem.  
     Choosing to live in the Adirondacks requires us to accept that summer is short and long winters extend from late fall into late spring.  The goats sleek fur is thickening with cashmere that will keep them warm in the months to come.  The horses' shiny summer coats have been replaced with teddy-bear hair that will insulate them under blankets.  Donkeys, Bing and Frankie have established a fuzz from ear to hoof in just a few days.  Even Rosemary is beginning to slow down, consuming fewer calories as her body prepares for semi-dormancy.  Along with four inches of wet snow that fell this week, these signs remind me that the inevitable is on its way.  Together, Rod, the animals and I will stick it out, thankful that we have each other to see it through.

Despite several inches of wet snow this week, our farming endeavors keep producing. 
Tondi, (the collie), spent the weekend with us, keeping warm by the fireplace.
Rosemary doesn't need a costume this time of year. 
My petunias have survived many freezing cold nights this fall and are still blossoming.
Green grass this late in the year is unusual but Spirit and Tango are not complaining.

The chickens have been liberated to the garden to clean up.
Like my goats, the deer are beginning to grow thicker coats.  This one is looking in my classroom window.
Three Gerbera Daisies add color against the grayness that is November in the Adirondacks.





Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lessons From Tango; Part II

     Good Morning,
     Last week I wrote about Tango, (Lessons from Tango; Part l), a compact paint gelding, transitioning into a beginner lesson horse.  Although Tango is a safe mount for children, 99% of the time, there still exists a single percentage point that catches me, the instructor, off guard when my vigilance becomes lax.  These incidents remind me that I know better and that I must, at all times, respect a horse...for being a horse.
     
     My eyes remained riveted on each of Natalie's hot pink shoulders.  Any second I expected one of them to begin veering left or right, thus precipitating a hard fall to the ground.  My heart pounded while I flew with all my bipedal might down the hill after them.
     Finally, Tango came to an abrupt halt, dropped his head and began cropping the grass at his feet.  From the saddle, Natalie stared back at me.
     "Natalie, hop off right now," I ordered through my heaving breath.
     "What?" 
     "Get off of him right now!" I ordered, fearful that Tango might begin a victory lap around the field after another mouthful of grass.  This time my urgency sunk in.  Once her feet hit the ground I knew Natalie was safe.
    After what seemed an eternity I reached horse and rider at the farthest end of the field.    "I am in total shock."  I exclaimed holding Natalie tight in my arms.  "Are you ok?"  The words sounded so hollow.
    "Why did he do that?" she inquired evenly.
    I answered the question with a couple of derogatory, (nothing too hair raising, mind you), expletives about Tango.  Convinced that Natalie was fine, the three of us headed back to the barn.  On the way we talked about what happened.
     "At first I was really scared but then I just knew what to do.  So I pushed my heels down and sat up straight.  I never felt like I was going to fall off."
     "You are one brave cowgirl," I claimed.  "Nat, I would have been scared galloping down that hill, even with my heels down!"
     A few days later Natalie came back to the barn to ride Tango.  Something had changed.  A new air of confidence was apparent as she prepared him for a workout in the ring.  
     "Can I canter him?" she asked, casually.
     "Well,..I don't...I'm not sure...uh...ok," I responded unable to come up with an excuse not to canter Tango.
     And canter they did!  Round and round the ring.  Tango was under Natalie's complete control.  He did exactly what she asked, over and over again.  I watched with a new found respect for Tango as a teacher...a teacher who doesn't give the answers away.       


In this video, Tango and Spirit demonstrate the power and speed that Natalie experienced going down the hill!  Yikes!

Tango's mother Vicky shows the perspective of Natalie's ride...
....all the way down the hill and across the field!
Tango is the perfect gentleman when he is expected to be.
As a teacher, Tango gives nothing away.

     

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lessons from Tango; Part l

     Good Evening,
    Its been more than four weeks since I lasted posted an entry on my blog.  With publication of the book, Finding My Way to Moose River Farm and the start of a brand new school year, my days have only gotten shorter.  I miss writing...a lot.  I miss pouring my visions into thoughtful words, then revising them so that the timing, message and content come together like the catchy lyrics of a song.  Winter is coming and for once I look forward to the cold weather giving me an excuse to stay indoors and assemble pages of words. 
    Recently, I made a revelation about teaching.  Once again it was brought to my attention, loud and clear, by animals with whom I share my life; one horse in particular.    As dear Sandi, our perfect 28 year old school horse veteran transitions into full retirement, it has been necessary to move other horses into the "beginner rider" ranks.  This is a difficult niche to fill.  The perfect beginner horse must be, above all, safe.  Next, he must be able to read jaunty, incomplete messages sent from a rider who is struggling to coordinate her body with a horse's movement.  The beginner horse must not take these inappropriate cues personally.  He must forgive weighty kicks and unintentional yanks on the reins without displaying irritation.  It is a lot to ask of our equine partners, but hard to avoid when well meaning individuals begin the "learning to ride" process.  Some horses, like Sandi, accept the challenge with extreme patience while maintaining a strong sense of dignity.  Others make it perfectly clear that they will not.  And then there are horses like Tango!
    At just under 15 hands, this compact paint gelding is not intimidating for novice riders to climb aboard.  But once in the saddle Tango begins to sharply monitor where the weaknesses in the rider's education lie.  If the reins are not long enough, he refuses to go forward.  If they are too long he will drop his head to the ground for a nibble of grass that grows on the perimeter of the ring.  If the rider's leg is weak, Tango plods along with little enthusiasm.  If the rider's hands give the slightest unintentional tug on the reins, the gelding screeches to a halt.  None of this disobedience is performed with a sour attitude.  In fact, Tango expresses extreme patience while waiting for the rider to ask a question that he clearly understands and can answer correctly.
    Last month a fourth grader named Natalie leased Tango so that she could practice her riding on a more frequent basis.  She enjoyed the challenge of riding the horse in addition to caring for him on the days that she came out to the barn.  With great determination, Natalie rode Tango in the ring, working mostly on keeping him next to the rail and moving forward at the trot.  Her progress was steady but frequently, Tango resorted to his antics if Natalie got tired or lost focus.  Although she had learned to canter on steady Sandi, Natalie had yet to canter the more forward gait that Tango expresses.  
    The extended beautiful fall weather has provided many opportunities to ride on the trail after working out in the ring.  It is a good way for both horse and rider to relax in each other's company after matching wills in the ring.  Usually, this phase of the ride occurs uneventfully.  However, I always walk along on foot just in case...
    "Whoa!" a small voice commanded behind me.
    A sickening thought took hold as I turned my head in Natalie's direction.  She was navigating Tango across the top of the great hill above our sand-pit field.  Spying the green grass below and without Natalie's permission, Tango decided to abandon the trail and head down the hill for a snack.  Of course the sooner he got there the sooner he could eat.  Suddenly, he was in full gallop down the grassy slope that would ultimately lead him to the field.  In horror I watched Natalie's hot pink T-shirt become smaller and smaller with each thundering stride down the steep hill.
to be continued.... 
        
Tango is this novice rider's favorite mount.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breaking Ice with Rosemary

      Good Evening,
     "Is it real?" a customer asks, a mixture of curiosity and squeamishness etched in her expression.  A large lizard lounges leisurely on the table that the patron is approaching.  
     "This is Rosemary.  Would you like to pet her?  She is very friendly," I offer using a well rehearsed reply.
     "Does she bite?"
     "No," I reassure.  "She is quite used to people and loves to be scratched right here behind her ears."
     "Ears!  Where are her ears?"
     "On either side of her head," I respond pointing to the holes behind her eyes that are covered with a tissue paper-like membrane.  Next, I scratch the lizard's head so that she stretches her torso upward and closes her eyes.  The customer prepares to touch Rosemary with a tentative finger, still not quite sure it's a good idea.  
      My iguana seems unfazed in unfamiliar surroundings here at the Adirondack Reader, a quaint and cozy bookstore in downtown Inlet.  Her "Mona Lisa" smile reveals little of her opinion about being away from home today, but her easy going temperament lets me know that she isn't stressed at all.  
     I have brought Rosemary to my first book signing since the launch of Finding My Way to Moose River Farm at my home the week before.  We are set up at a table where several copies of my book are displayed.  The bookstore is a welcoming oasis from the rainy drizzle that forces Labor Day tourists to seek shelter, a cup of gourmet coffee, and perhaps a good Adirondack read.  Store owner, Reggie Chambers, directs patrons, particularly children, to the table where Rosemary waits on a bath towel in front of small stacks of my book.  
     I have brought her as evidence that the characters in my book are real.  Although many of the animals have passed away, Rosemary represents one of the oldest and presently, our longest residing family member.  She has survived several large clutches of eggs, extreme temperature fluctuations, and the loss and regeneration of her tail.  
      "She feels like a beaded belt," the customer reports after touching the lizard, bravely.  Her hand now relaxes as she permits all of her fingers to caress Rosemary's head.  The tight expression on the customer's face is replaced with a smile.  She begins to identify with the iguana as a fellow living being.  
     "What does she eat?"
     "Leafy vegetables, grapes, zucchini, cucumbers and tofu.  This morning she had a scrambled egg."
     "How old is she?"
     "I have had her 19 years so she is about 20."
     "What do you keep her in?"
     "She roams around our house freely, but has a heated cabinet she can climb into to get warm."
     "Where does she go to the bathroom?"
     "On my kitchen floor once a day or every other day."
     "She is so interesting."
     "Yes, she is, thank you." 
     Mission accomplished!
Book singing with Rosemary is a great pleasure!
After a long day, we all snooze on the couch.  Our Dachshund Huxley is the 'lump' under Rosemary.  Hayden is behind my right leg.  Nina, (left) and Niles hover above.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Squeezing the Last Drops Out of Summer

     Good Morning,
     Summer vacation has run out although I am still trying to squeeze the last few drops of it in these remaining hours.  So much has been accomplished over the last 10 weeks despite sticky hot weather, biting insects and a shortage of lesson horses in the barn.  On the first day of vacation we welcomed Gatsby, a handsome Quarter horse gelding recovering from a tendon injury.  He has made great progress since his arrival.  This week he is back in light work that includes lots of walking on trails.  
     All of the MRF riders have progressed this summer bridging the gap between learning to ride and learning to train.  It is a marvelous transformation to witness and one that both horses and riders benefit from.  Keep up the good work ladies! 
     This last week has flown by from one activity to the next leaving little time for my mind to transition back to that of a school teacher.  Today, however, I find myself making lists that will help prepare for the arrival of my new fifth graders.  I am excited to begin the process that will send them up to middle school 180 instructional days from now.  And I welcome the challenge despite state test scores, common core curriculum, and teacher evaluations.  As my school teacher life resumes in the coming days, I will keep the special summer memories close by for comfort.  Then I will fill up the next 10 months with discovery, enlightenment, and fun, until the last drop signifies that it is summer once again.  Happy New Year to all of us going back to school! 
Welcome Gatsby.
After weeks of rest and rehabilitation Gatsby is back under saddle. Rider; Meg Marcone
After a long and successful day of signing books, I spent an evening by the fireplace with my friend Mary Anne.
Alex stands in front of the quilt, (far left), that her grandmother made for her dad; displayed this week at the NYS Fair.
I want an alpaca or llama....next!
Cute zebra face....reminds me of my donks.
Katherine and Alex wait in line...
...then brave the rides!
The next night we played Horseopoly with other MRF family members.  Apparently, Hayden is an alien?  Why am I not surprised?


  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Available Now!

     Good Morning,
     The last several weeks have been a flurry of activity as the final phase that completed the publication of my book fell into place.  Holding the book in my hands, I am humbled by its very existence.  Between the front and back covers, over 250 pages chronicle my life with animals from childhood all the way through the first presentation of Hoofbeats in the Adirondacks
      Finding My Way to Moose River Farm is a memoir that I am proud to share with those who feel the company of a horse, dog, goat, pig, goose, reptile, rat, etc... is among life's greatest gifts.  Enjoy!
(Online orders begin August 24th)
  

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Finding My Way to Moose River Farm Promo

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Girls and Horses; 2013 MRF Riding Recital

     Good Evening,
     Last Thursday night was MRF's annual riding recital; an opportunity for all of my students to demonstrate their hard earned skills for friends and family.  The group was small this year showcasing only 9 riders.  As I scan the many pictures that were taken to record the event I am taken by the riders' cumulative years of experience and the range of years that they represent. 
     At the lower end of the age spectrum is 8 year old Natalie who has been riding since Kindergarten.  She begins the season early in the spring and rides right up until the first snow arrives late in the fall.  Natalie enjoys barn chores almost as much as riding.  She also makes time to visit with the chickens on her lesson day at the barn.
     Courtney is the oldest student in the group.  A college Junior, Courtney began riding with her sister Lauren the first summer that we moved to Moose River Farm.  That was nine years ago!  They were both in elementary school and never missed a lesson during the good weather season.  Courtney now rides on Hobart's Intercollegiate Riding Team.  Lately, I've noticed significant development in Courtney's riding.  Her polished position rides with 'feel' rather than mechanics.  It is the one facet of the riding lesson that I can't teach.  She had to get there all on her own through hard work and lots of hours spent in the saddle.  The results make me very proud.
     Jessica and Lauren, two college students have also been riding at MRF for a significant number of years.  Lauren's long, lean physique on the back of a horse creates the desired image that we all strive for.  However, it is her cerebral command of the horse that impresses me the most.  Lauren is a thinking rider who mentally selects the perfect combination of aides prior to employing them on the horse.  Jessica is a natural athlete who can go months without riding and return to the saddle finding all of the correct buttons to push.  She instinctively rides each horse based on his appropriate needs.  
     In the middle is a group of young ladies who have been riding long enough to establish strong basics that enable them to command most of my upper level horses.  Alexis and Haley are becoming aware of the importance of riding between their inside leg and outside rein, a correction that reestablishes everything from the horse's focus to his balance.  Another rider in this group named Alex has improved her skills immensely in the three years that she has been riding.  Because Alex rides just about every day in the summer, she looks and rides like somebody who has been riding a lot longer.  Finally, Trinity and Jenna, two young ladies about to enter middle school also ride with ease established by their natural athletic abilities and strong command of the basics.  Jenna, an avid hockey player has strength and timing on her side.  Trinity rides with a relaxed nature; the result of endless sessions without stirrups. 
    This year's riding recital made me acutely aware of what binds us together at MRF.  We are all girls who love horses, who are connected to horses and who strive to ride our best in a way that keeps the horses happy.  Respect, discipline, assertiveness, and compassion infuse our relationships with the horses as well as with each other.  We all are living very different lives and are at various destinations along our live's journeys.  However, at the barn...we are all the same.
Photos by Michele deCamp
Courtney can ride Easau with calm, grace and...
...precision.
Jessica and Spirit demonstrate harmony between horse and rider.
Jessica and Spirit
Lauren encourages and challenges Joshua at the same time.
She raises his confidence and her own with the results.
Trinity keeps Tango focused on her requests...
... Otherwise, he makes his own decisions.
Haley reminds Lowtchee to keep going forward.
Haley also demonstrates riding without stirrups to establish balance.
Alex and Makia make it look easy.
Their's is a give and take relationship based on respect.
Alexis is another rider who keeps Tango's attention.
The hand-gallop is one of Alexis's favorite gaits.
Tago and Jenna demonstrate the two-point position.
Using the leg and the rein Jenna turns Tango away from the fence.
Natalie and Sandi demonstrate the steady ride that so many romanticize about...
...Truth is, it takes lots of hard work...
...and dedication.
What we all have in common is that at our core we are simply girls and horses.