Sunday, June 28, 2009

Turtle Time

I had the feed buckets in my hand as I approached the corral this evening. Silk and Siete were both conferring in Siete’s stall. Suddenly, something moved in the mud outside Silk’s open door. It was a turtle. I quickly closed Siete’s stall door and threw in a flake of hay to occupy the girls. If I hadn’t, Silk would have charged out of the barn as soon as she saw the feed buckets and run over the turtle. Of course, curious Miss Siete was craning her neck over the top of the door to see what kind of creature this was.

By the time I managed to reach the turtle, it had already crawled into Silk’s stall, in direct line to be trampled by a horse who was ready for her dinner. I grabbed a small shovel and hoisted my new little friend out of the shavings. The turtle looked pretty startled to be sitting in the grass a few seconds later. I gave it some bits of carrot and a little bowl of water and went back to the horses.

Once dinner was served in the barn, and the horses were settled for the night, I went back to check on my little buddy. The carrots and water were gone and so was the turtle. I felt so relieved. I had redeemed my good turtle karma. Several weeks ago, our neighborhood was the scene of a terrible tragedy. There was a famous, very big, very old snapping turtle who would appear every June, making her rounds from yard to yard to find the perfect spot to lay her eggs. Last year, she picked our pasture. My neighbor and I had to use two snow shovels to lift the snapper who was as big as a dinner plate and carry her to safety. It took some doing since she kept grabbing the shovel and knocking it out of my neighbor’s hands. This was a strong turtle with a neck as big as a soda can. My neighbor remembered her from his childhood and estimated the turtle was about 40 years old.

This year, as usual, we had all been waiting for the turtle to show up. I drove home one morning in a torrential thunderstorm and saw the big snapping mama in the middle of the road just past my driveway. My neighbor was waiting for the school bus with his kids at the end of his drive sitting in his car. I pulled in and ran into the house to grab a raincoat and the snow shovels so we could move the turtle. The school bus came barreling down the road and hit it before I got there. It was horrible. All the neighbors came out and some were weeping. I’ve been haunted by the turtle’s death, feeling guilty that I didn’t stop my car, forget about the raincoat and just block the road. Tonight, saving the my little friend from more turtle carnage, I could actually feel that the big snapper mama’s spirit was pleased.

Friday, June 19, 2009

So It Begins

With the rain and the beginning of summer, so comes the Sweet Itch. Silk is rubbing her belly in her special dirt patch, despite all my efforts. It’s not as bad as last year, thanks to the Deo Gel. Of course, it’s only June, so we’ve got a lot more itching to do before the no-see-‘ums are gone.

It’s more cloudy than sunny today, but we’re celebrating that the rain has given us a brief respite. There was more rain in this last week than we’ve had all Spring. Yesterday, the corral flooded, the basement flooded but miraculously the barn didn’t. Neither horse left her stall all day, which was a first. Siete didn’t want to move even four feet into her mother's stall since the mud had this peculiar quicksand-like consistency. She lost a shoe the day before, and it was raining too hard for the farrier to come. We’re waiting for him today. Just before dinner, my muck boot got stuck, and I ended up with a very wet, gooey sock before I was able to pull it out. Not wanting to stick my disgustingly soaked foot into the boot, I squished all the way back to the house with one boot on and one off. It was that kind of day.

We’ve settled into a slow routine around here. Silk and Siete are so consistent in their behavior that you could set your watch by what they do. Breakfast comes at 6:30, even if it’s pouring rain. I make a point of being prompt since I know it’s been a long time from last night’s dinner. They wander back and forth in the corral from stall to stall. At 9 am , I groom them, clean their feet and turn them out in the pasture. After they graze for two and a half hours, it’s so weird but they head back to the barn on their own accord. They wander right though that wonderful open gate (thank you, honey!) between the corral and the pasture.

At 12:30, when I come outside with their feed buckets, each horse is waiting for me in her own stall, sticking her nose out and staring at the back door. After lunch, they switch stalls for exactly a half an hour, and then, Silk goes back to her side of the barn to join Siete. It’s siesta time. I don’t know why but they always sleep together in Silk’s stall. When my daughter gets home from school at 2:!5, each horse gets another flake of hay to last until 5:30, at which point dinner is served. Shavings are fluffed, lights out and they’re both sound asleep by seven. They don’t object to any unexpected changes, like a little groundwork or a short ride, but they certainly aren’t looking for any excitement.

It’s a big change from last year, when Siete was six and rambunctious. I felt like she was never satisfied to be where she was, always at the gate looking for some action. Seven seems to have given her peace of mind. JME predicted it, and I’m so glad that she was right. I’m wondering if anyone else has seen a change in your horse between age six and seven?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Moment for Peonies

The peonies have opened. It might be grey and raining here in New England, but that didn’t stop them. I remember growing up in the Midwest and being given the important job of watering the peonies every night after the sun set. We had a huge, thick display of them, running across about 100 feet of the backyard. Even as an eight year old, I loved their lush petals and intense perfume. I would carefully aim the hose near the ground so I didn’t damage any of the delicate flowers. The wet grass was cool on my bare toes.

Deep red to almost white, they were my mother's pride and joy. The light pink petals glowed in the dark green, some of them stroked with thin stripes of magenta. Now, in her 95th year, my mother is still delighting in this summer's peonies. She is very protective of them, cutting the stems and arranging them in vases that belonged to both of my grandmothers. We don’t have as many peonies here in our yard as there were in hers, but I hope to add more over the years to come.

I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem, “Peonies”. Here’s the part I like the best:

“the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?”

I love Mary Oliver almost as much as I love peonies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Glorious Days to be Sick

I staggered out to the barn this morning after being sick with a miserable flu for the past six days. The minute the horses saw me, they came racing across the pasture. It did my heart good. I’m still not ready to leap into blogging - give me a couple more days. But I did want to tell you all that I miss you and look forward to visiting you as soon as I can focus on a computer screen. This has been a whopper!

I missed so many days of gorgeous weather. The irises are in full bloom. Peonies are ready to dazzle next. Silk is moping. It’s always amazing to me how fresh and remarkable the world looks after emerging from a darkened bedroom. I’m still coughing and wobbling but it sure felt good to get some horsey kisses.