Saturday, March 31, 2012

4-H: A Family Affair

Oldest One's first 4-H riding meeting turned into a family affair yesterday.

At the rodeo grounds in the Tiny Little Town, all the little girls brought their horses for a lesson and some fun. Parents were encouraged to bring their own horses, and the leader brought along a couple of her own horses that Andrew and I got to ride. Even Grammy came up from the Big City with her horse, Roxy. If there's one thing that's not lacking in Oldest One's horse adventures, it's family involvement.

Here's my Oldest One with Bandit.

All went well with him and she was having a great time, until she took him to the far side of the arena by herself. When he looked over and realized all his friends were back at the gate, he took off running back toward them. Scared poor Oldest half to death, though to look at her you wouldn't have known it. She looked so calm and was seated so nicely as he loped across the arena. When he finally stopped, she started bawling. "I was wrong. I don't like 4-H. I don't like horses. Horses are scary. I don't want to do this any more."

Her leader - who seems to know exactly what to say to a scared kid - patiently took her around for awhile, talked to her, and calmed her down.

Ten minutes later, when they came back, Oldest patted Bandit on the neck and said, "I guess I was lying about not liking 4-H." And for the rest of the afternoon, all she could talk about was how much fun it was to lope.

Hubby rode Bertha, the 4-H leader's draft horse that she uses primarily for driving.

Apparently she hadn't been ridden much in the past year and was feeling a bit frisky. He had his own adventure when Bertha decided to rear up and dance around a little bit while he rode her. No big thing though, he handled it like a pro. I imagine if he'd had the opportunity to grow up with horses, he'd be quite the horseman now - he's got such a calm, patient, confident manner about him that horses would relate so well to.

Grammy's horse behaved perfectly, and Littlest One rode double with her.

It won't be long until Littlest needs a horse or pony of her own - you put her up on one, and I think she'd stay all day if you let her. She wasn't ready to get down when Grammy was ready to quit.

And yes, even I got on a horse. It'd been fourteen years since I got bucked off my own horse as a teen. I never did get back on after that. For all that I was nervous, it sure did feel good to be back on a horse again.

So an afternoon of family horseback riding - it made us all want our own horses even more desperately. We spent the evening talking about long trail rides together, camping in places only horses can get us, and how we're going to figure as much riding as possible into our already too-busy schedules.

The best part - we get to do this every week! I'm so glad we she joined 4-H. :-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Since the current theme seems to be showing you our new animals, let me take this moment to introduce Lazarus:

Lazarus was a City Rooster. City Roosters are not allowed to crow at unreasonable hours of the morning, but no one told him that.

My best friend raised him from an egg. Well, okay, one of her hens did. Her hen got broody, so she put some of my mom's fertilized eggs under the hen and got two baby chicks from it. Both turned out to be roosters. One rooster was mean and unpleasant and swiftly made it to the stew pot. The other was Lazarus.

He's gentle and kind. He's just loud. He's got a beautiful voice and exercises it daily, starting at about 4:30 am, as roosters are prone to do. Only that kind of singing isn't allowed when one lives in the city. As bad as she felt, my sweet best friend tried to do away with him. She thought he was dead. (It was a rather traumatic experience for her. I'd share the whole story but I'd end up laughing uncontrollably and I'm not sure she thinks it's funny yet.) But when she went out to the trash can, there was this big, beautiful rooster looking at her, with a disgruntled look in his beady chicken eyes.

And so, she named him Lazarus, and he came to live here on our farm, where he can crow to his heart's content and has our four hens as his own personal flock. He seems rather happy now, and we're glad to have him. Well, as long as he stays gentle and kind. The first time he attacks one of us, I have no qualms about putting him in our stew pot.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


For a Little Girl who loves horses with a deep sort of passion, and after said Little Girl lost her first horse-friend after only six weeks of getting to love him, a dream has come true. Our nearest neighbor heard that we had a Little Girl looking for a good, kid-friendly horse. It just so happened she had a pony that was needing a 'job'. The 'job', of course, is to stand patiently while Two Little Girls brush him and pet him, and to do his best to respond to the confusing cues of a still-learning nine year old.

This is Bandit.

He's not ours for keeps, but will be living with us as long as Two Little Girls are content to ride him and care for him, which I imagine will be some time. He raised three other kids, now all grown, and while they aren't willing to sell him, they are happy to see him raising two more.

He is absolutely delightful, so loving and patient and cheerful. He's half Percheron, a kind of draft horse, and half pony. He's nearly as wide as he is tall, and his hooves are absolutely enormous. He's about 20 years old - old enough to know how to deal with kids, young enough to still have some spunk.

So far they've only ridden him bareback with a halter and lead rope, but he does pretty well taking cues from that. Oldest One is looking forward to saddling and bridling him and going for jaunts through the hay field. Some day I'll get over my motherly fears and allow that. For now, it's walking along with me next to her. But she's thrilled to have him, and to have him here at her own house, where she can feed him and water him and visit him as often as she wants to.

Even cleaning his stall and corral is great fun... at least, for now. In fact, Two Little Girls got into an argument over who got to clean up the last manure pile, they were having such a nice time doing it. I imagine the excitement will wear off eventually, but I love seeing them do real work with such cheerful spirits. Having animals is so good for Little Girl character.

It's good for Mommy character, too. I can't tell you how pleasant I find it to go out there and spend time with him. Troubles and worries and stress and frustration all seem to disappear when there is a furry animal to focus one's attention on. Hopefully some day we'll have a whole farm full of them... I won't have time to think about anything else!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


We adopted a puppy.

You know, since we're not going to overwhelm ourselves by taking on new animals our first year. Heh.

His name is Huck, and he's three months old. Our neighbors' Great Pyrenees went visiting one night, and had a hot date with the other neighbors' Saint Bernard. The result was one adorable puppy with paws twice the size of our Labrador's.

He is to be our Outdoor Dog. Though I can't understand why, it would seem my husband doesn't like the idea of another enormous dog sleeping between us.

Being the Outdoor Dog, his primary job will be chasing off the critters that get too close to the fenced area of our property. Because farm dogs have jobs, you know, unlike the lazy hunk of black lab that spends her days sleeping in the sunshine on the floor of the living room. The girls have each asked if he can come sleep inside "just for one night". I was tempted to let him - poor puppy outside in the dark garage all alone - but we all know that would quickly result in the biggest, slobberiest indoor dog I've ever seen. So out in the garage he stays, until he's grown up enough for an outdoor dog house.

We had a lovely first day with him though. If I were a more responsible housewife, I'd tell you that I folded laundry and washed dishes and watched the girls play with him. But it was sixty five degrees outside today, and there was a puppy out there for heaven's sake. I accomplished very little indoors, but thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine and the cuddles. With a personality as sweet as his - and Two Little Girls to thoroughly spoil him - I have no doubt he's going to be a wonderful dog.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Big Little Adventure

"Mom, we're going adventuring."

It was the sort of adventure that made them feel like they were very far away, but I could still see them from the kitchen window while I was cooking dinner. It was an adventure to the far side of the hay meadow.

They tromped through the melting snow - Littlest One always trying to hard to keep up with the Big Adventurer.

They stopped to watch the water flowing downhill along the fence line. It's amazing how fascinating a little spring runoff can be to Two Little Girls.

And after as much exploring as cold little noses and hands could handle, they headed back home to tell me all about their Adventure.

Littlest One informed me that there was a Really Big River (trickle of water) that would soon form a Gigantic Canyon on the far side of the field. (We'd been discussing erosion a few days earlier.) I asked how long it would take before the Gigantic Canyon was formed. "A really, really long time," she explained, with wide eyes. "Probably next week."

Oldest one told me about the footprints she saw. "They were probably skunk... but maybe they were cougar prints!" (There are, in fact, occasional mountain lions here, and she knows it. She's desperate to see one... or at least scare Littlest One.)

As for me, I can't tell you the pleasure it gave me to get soup simmering on the stove and watch out the window as my Two Little Girls explored and played together, getting to know their new world.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Top of the Hill

We finally found the time to hike to the top of our little mountain last weekend. Between the snow, the mud, and all the work, spare time hasn't been all too plentiful, but we decided we had to see the top.

It's a rocky hillock, covered with cedar, pine and juniper trees from about halfway up. Truly beautiful, in typical Colorado fashion.

We found the picnic table that the man we bought the ranch from told us about.

The girls cleared the snow off of it, and we found it was still in pretty good shape, especially considering how long it's been out in the elements. It won't be long til we can enjoy picnics up there.

We also discovered the view.

It's amazing how far you can see if you just get high enough up.

We came back down the southwest side of the mountain and got a new view of our house and outbuildings from the back side:

Really a nice little hike, and one I look forward to doing more and more as the weather warms and the mud dries out. There is a lot of space to get to know up there, and we're all looking forward to it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

No Goats.

I want a milk goat.

Actually, if we're being completely honest, I also want a Jersey cow. Or maybe a Jersey/Dexter cross. I want my children to be drinking goat's milk, but I want butter, darn it, and I'm only gonna get that with a cow*.

But alas, one must face reality, disappointing as it may be. And reality right now says that this year, I'm not getting my milk goats. Or Clarabelle. (Because yes, I have already named my cow.)

But wait, you ask, didn't you (finally) move to a farm? What is a farm without milk producing animals? Sigh, I know. I agree.

But. There's this list. You know, the ever-dreaded "to-do" list. And it's growing at a pace I can't keep up with, making my head spin before the snow's even melted off the pasture.

Here's this summer's to-do list:

*Learn to irrigate the hay pasture
*Repair and fill the pond
*Fertilize, cut, bale, and sell the hay
*Plant a small orchard
*Increase the chicken flock to 50, mostly for meat
*Butcher said chickens
*Prepare a nursery or greenhouse
*Learn to garden in a climate several zones colder than what I'm accustomed to
*Plant, weed, and harvest said garden, which is ten times bigger than my previous one
*Learn to pressure can, so I can put by the harvest
*Fix bridges, mend fences, shovel gravel, and other maintentance
*Feed, care for, ride and love the horse we are taking in on a semi-permanent basis
*Maintain a rental property in The Big City

Oh. And homeschool Two Little Girls, keep house, feed the family, have some fun, and otherwise function as a normal housewife.

That list is daunting. Adding a home dairy to the list? I think that tips the scale toward "overwhelming."

Adding milk goats (or Clarabelle) to that list isn't just milking twice a day. It's learning to make cheeses, butter, keeping up with yogurt and kefir. It's trying to sell the excess (or give it away because I'm too chicken to sell it.) It's then raising a pig to consume the excess that I'm too chicken to sell. It's breeding and birthing and possible illness. It's a whole lot of things I'm not sure I'm ready to take on right now, on top of the list of things that absolutely have to be done around here.

So there it is: reality. No milk goats. Or jersey cow. At least, not at this moment. I keep reminding myself that it'll only be a year until having a home dairy might really be an option. But then I look at pictures of those sweet brown jersey cow eyes, and I get all twitterpated again.

I have an incredible ability to take on far too much though, and for once it might be best if I reign it in and take it slow. This is our Forever Home. Not everything has to happen this year. There are many years to come. Before we moved, my best friend and I often joked about how if either of us ended up living out on a farm, we'd likely end up sitting in the middle of a hay pasture bawling because we were too overwhelmed. That doesn't seem too far off now, so I'm realizing I best be careful. And sadly, that might mean Clarabelle and her goat companions might have to wait a year.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Family Game Night

After a week of work, school, and unpacking, it was time for Family Game Night.

Glad for Two Little Girls, a Daddy who plays with us, warm fires, snuggly pets, and fresh popcorn. It was a good way to spend an evening.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Interior Decorating

We keep working, a bit here and a bit there, toward making this house our own. Hanging decorations, organizing it so that it's right for our family, and adding those special finishing touches that just make it feel like home.

There. Now doesn't that just make it feel all cozy?

Yep, I thought so too.