A post about ponies!

 

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Four years and two days ago, my ex-husband and I loaded up two tiny ponies and brought them home to stay.  One was a little, palomino filly with a deep love of cuddles, and one was a little, chestnut colt with an attitude that outpaced his stature.  They were an anniversary gift from my ex-husband (probably the best gift he ever gave me), adopted from one of my favorite animal rescues, Guardian Oak in Moberly, Missouri.  

Both had been rescued from the New Holland auction with their mothers.  I met them originally when they were just a few months old.  They were as cute as buttons and so small my ex picked them up to trim their hooves.  

Rescues get a bad rap, especially in the equine world, where, admittedly, taking on a poorly behaved or unsocialized animal can be dangerous. But these two, under the care of Sherri Crider, her family, and her volunteers, were well-socialized from the start and have always been exceptionally good for me.  (Well, I mean, Slash did go through a visit the neighbors phase that I probably could have done without…and he does occasionally have Napoleon Complex moments like any self-respecting pony, but that’s just his pony power showing through.) Continue reading “A post about ponies!”

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Dear Hoomans of the Hill

My bipedal servants seem to think that I owe you an apology.

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I think they’re wrong…but they do refill the hay nets on demand, and I believe that they have access to grain, even though they don’t give me any of it, so I do what I can to stay in their good graces when it isn’t too inconvenient.

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I, of course, am Slash.  High King of the Hill, Guardian of Camelot, and First Pony of the Alpacalypse.

I assume you’ve heard of me?  (Of course you have.  It was silly of me to even ask, but I do try to stay humble.)

And you, I believe, are referred to by the bipeds a “Neigh Bores.”  (They worry about us making noise, but you have “Neigh” right there in your name.)  I gather that you are other bipeds who are not indentured to any equines, camelids, or chooks.  That’s sad for you, but I won’t rub it in, as I imagine it is a source of despair and humiliation in your little hooman lives.  (Seriously, what do you even do with your time?  If a hooman wakes up in the morning without a horse to feed, does it even exist?)

Oh, right, apology…

(How does one even do this?) Continue reading “Dear Hoomans of the Hill”

Utter Nonsense

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I present to you, my husband.

Utter Nonsense

I left for Costa Rica, and my husband went on quests and turned himself into a Legolas (yum) /Gandalf (ummm….) hybrid for the week.  And by quests, I mean taking care of the farm and constructing things (like exceptionally apt signs), and by Legolas/Gandalf hybrid, I mean he did so while carrying a quiver and wearing a wizard’s hat.

(Interesting side note: He took this photo by himself using his skid steer as a tripod.)

This photo pretty much perfectly sums up my life.  Here on the ranch, we live at the intersection of adult responsibilities and utter nonsense.

Just yesterday, someone asked me when I possibly find time to “just relax.”  He was astounded that we both work outside jobs while renovating the house(s) and running the farm.  I sort of laughed because that question has a different answer depending on the day.

On the one hand, sometimes it gets to be a lot, and I really question why I’m not the sort of person who goes to the spa or travels extensively, instead of the sort of person whose horses eat all my spare money in the form of hay…

On the other hand, there is a sort of Zen that comes from cleaning stalls, or grooming horses, or walking my fields.  And very little gives me as much satisfaction as a good training session with one of my critters, or watching the flowers that I plant bloom, or making breakfast with eggs I collected from my own chicken coop the day before.

I mean, really, does life get any better than watching a chicken ride a llama???

Joker and Marilyn
When the coop door blew shut during the day, Miss Marilyn took stock of her options and decided that Joker would make a pleasant roost.
chicken and llama
Joker opened the feed room door to alert Jeremiah that a chicken was roosting on his butt. He required assistance to remove her.

(The llama was less amused than we were…He was very polite to her, but Jeremiah said it was clear he preferred his butt to be chickenless.)

These days, things are greening up, and we are starting to shift focus to a whole new sort of work.  Fences need mending.  Our farm road is in need of repair.  The gardens need weeding.  Shearing is just around the corner for the llamas and alpacas.  New chicks are on order to come in a few weeks.  (Sadly, I’ve lost a few chickens to predators this week…but that’s a different post.)  Horses will be starting back under saddle soon.  And hopefully the ponies will start work towards their eventual jobs as therapy animals this year.  There is so much to do, and we seldom check anything off our to-dos without adding more.  But this place and this work is my “relax.”

Come to think of it though, I wouldn’t say no to a nice massage to wind down from “relaxing”…

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Thanks for a year of almostfarmgirl!!! (And my trip to Costa Rica)

Hi Everyone!

It seems I’ve been gone for two whole weeks!  Weird.  And unintended.

Also weird?  It’s been just over a year since I started almostfarmgirl.com.  Since then, almost 200 of you (between Facebook and WordPress followers) have started following this crazy ride on the ranch, and I am so thankful to each of you.  (I’m especially thankful to those of you who interact, and who I’ve gotten to know a little bit.  You guys know who you are.)  I just paid for another year of hosting, so here’s to the start of another year of this blogging adventure together.

To celebrate a year of blogging, I went to Costa Rica for a week.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I went to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday.

You see, for Christmas this year, my mom gave me and my sister a trip to Costa Rica; she had earned the trips in her independent consultant work with Norwex, a company that specializing in environmentally friendly cleaning products.  (Just FYI, their dusting mitt is awesome, and I have never found a better way to clean windows and mirrors than with their enviro cloth and polishing cloth.)  She chose to give the incentive trips to my sister and I, partly because Chas’s 30th fell just on the other side of the trip.

So we traded this

The woods are lovely dark and deep

For this
Costa Rica

Between seventy-five and ninety degree temperatures in Costa Rica.  Between 20 degrees and negative twelve degrees back home.

I did feel bad leaving Jeremiah with the ranch, but I loved seeing the rainforest, and volcanos and the ocean.

Volcanos in the distance
Volcanos in the distance
Waves breaking on the beach
Waves breaking on the beach

I was playing in the surf wearing SPF Vampire to protect against the tropical sun…

Playing in the Surf
Playing in the Surf

Costa Rica

And my poor husband was shoveling the barn out of nearly a foot of snow.

Guys, I actually zip-lined through the Rainforest.  I saw Scarlet Macaws, and a Toucan, and Iguanas.  And I barely got sunburned at all, which is kind of a miracle.

Costa Rica

Swim up bar!
Swim up bar!
How cool is this tree?
How cool is this tree?

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Chas and I toured an organic coffee plantation.  (Seriously, don’t take your morning cup of coffee for granted; it’s loads of work to get it in your cup.)  We spent five days in Central America on the Pacific Coast and somehow managed the escape all but the very last harsh winter days of the season.

At the Rainforest Gala
At the Rainforest Gala

We spent our last night at the Norwex Rainforest Gala, before packing up and heading back to the states.

And, one delayed flight, one missed flight, one redirection to Chicago, one lost bag, and a three-hour car ride later, we made it home safe and sound…and completely exhausted.

I was ready to be back home.

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Because as awesome as that trip was, there’s nothing quite like watching my ponies and alpacas grazing from my kitchen window.

Thanks again for a great first year, everybody!  And, as always, thanks so much for reading.

Our humble bonfire

Let’s just start here, shall we?

The Alpacalypse is coming
The Alpacalypse is coming

The above might just be the greatest picture ever taken…In the history of all of ever.

The 25th marked our first (hopefully annual) bonfire party at the ranch.  The week leading up to it marked 7 days of complete insanity trying to prepare for our first (hopefully annual) bonfire party at the ranch.

I will admit that I sort of scheduled the party as a shove; I knew that we would work harder to finish things if we had some sort of deadline.  And we did.  I was under the (incorrect) impression that we would work harder over the course of 6 weeks or so.  No.  That is not how we roll around here.  Mostly, we let things roll into major crunch time.

Guys, four hours before the party starting, I was painting baseboards.  The morning of the party, I was still hanging and glazing cabinet doors. The night before all of this went down?  This is what my kitchen  looked like.

2014-10-24 19.35.37 2014-10-24 19.35.42 (And then Jeremiah photo-bombed things.) 2014-10-24 19.35.45 (I would like to point out that we don’t live like this; we still don’t live here at all, and about every corner of the house is undergoing renovations.)

Miscellaneous boxes were still piled high in the living room.  Any and all dusting that I had done days before had been rendered pointless as Jeremiah had drilled through drywall and installed new light fixtures since then.  (Drywall dust…everywhere…)

I spent Saturday morning working on the house.  When I left at 2:00pm (to go back to the other house, fix food, and shower), the house was still a mess.  However, as I was the one in charge of feeding all the people, I couldn’t stick around.  So, I took a deep breath in, explained to Jeremiah what was still left to be done, and prayed for a miracle as I walked out the door.

When I got back, carrying large quantities of food and fearing that I would be met with chaos, I found my miracle wiping down the counters of a mostly spotless kitchen.  Jeremiah’s mama to the rescue!

There is no way to tell this story without mentioning that my mother-in-law completely, totally saved my butt.  Seriously.  Unequivocally.  She showed up early and finished all the cleaning…without even being asked, by the way.  (I think I hugged her about ten times over the course of a half an hour…I honestly could have cried.)

Anyhow, thanks to her (and a lot of help the day before from siblings, cousins, parents, etc), we had a very presentable home when most of our guests began showing up.

Our tiniest guest showed up with his mama and dad early in the evening.  He and his parents were treated to a private tour, complete with pony introductions! 2014-10-25 18.08.49 2014-10-25 18.08.58 2014-10-25 18.09.06

Isn’t this the cutest! Violet and Slash love ALL tiny humans, but they seemed to take an extra liking to this little guy.  He loved them right back with grins and pats and giggles.  It was adorable.  Jeremiah and I gave a lot of farm tours over the course of the evening, but this one was probably my favorite.  It was definitely my bitty babies’ favorite.

Of course, farm tours notwithstanding, the main event of the day was the bonfire itself…and holy cow was it a fire.

Have I ever mentioned that Jeremiah used to be a professional fire officer?

Did you know that basically all firefighters are pyromaniacs who have managed to productively channel their “interest”?

Fire
That tiny looking person standing in the lower left is my husband. He stands just a little bit under 6 feet tall.

Well, now you do. There were no fewer than five firefighters present at the bonfire.  I was briefly afraid that we would need all of them involved in some sort of professional capacity. still fire still aflame Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire fire 2 everything burns aflame The guy walking around in bunker gear is my dear, sweet husband/personal pyromaniac.

My hero...
My hero…

At one point, he brought out the big guns to push the fire around.

This should probably be on an advertisement for Caterpillar.
This should probably be on an advertisement for Caterpillar.

(We actually had to build a secondary, smaller fire to roast marshmallows and hotdogs.  The actual bonfire was way too big and way too hot.)

Around 30 people came by over the course of the evening.  Friends from college came down and stayed the weekend.  My grandparents even took the time to travel down several hours to check things out.  (Grandma, I know you read this, so I thought I’d let you know that your pumpkin bars were a major hit!)

Good food.  Great company.  A fire that will probably live in infamy.   For a bonfire, that equals success.

I am so glad we had this party.  (I am also so glad that it’s over and the pressure is officially off.)

(By the way, the watermarked photos of the fire were taken by an incredibly talented friend of mine, Bob, who actually takes photos semi-professionally.  Big shout out to Bob for letting me use these photos on my humble little blog!  Also, if any of you are into web design and would like to trade for pictures, he’s your guy!)

(Second by the way, all of the animals were way out of the way of the fire.  Even though it looks from the photos that the flames were rolling towards the pastures, I assure you that everyone was perfectly safe.  The llamas weren’t even that interested.)

Letting your inner 8 year old give you a pep talk

Sometimes, barn chores suck.

There is nothing fun about hauling individual water buckets down a frozen lane to fill a 100 gallon water trough because your water spigot froze (like it did last winter).  There is nothing fun about going out to the barn with a headache, or head cold, or stomach flu.  (I’ve done all three.)  And there is nothing fun about forgoing potential plans with friends, or trips, or vacations, because you have to take care of the ranch.

Occasionally, taking care of the critters is the last thing I want to do.

Here’s the trick though: sometimes, when hauling my butt to the barn to do what needs to be done, and I’m grumpy and irritated, I let my inner 8-year-old give me a pep talk.

Everyone has that kid who they used to be buried inside somewhere.  Mine just happens to be a horse obsessed little girl in pigtails.

From whatever age I was first self-aware, I was obsessed with horses and ponies, but when I was 8, I started actually riding horses.  I wore pale pink cowboy boots with fringe and glitter; I’m pretty sure they were never intended to see the inside of a barn.    My pint-sized helmet made my head look huge, and my parents had to buy me a ring to wear on one of my fingers because I was still really bad at telling my left from my right.

I still have memories of that first ride, the first time I ever settled into a saddle…and walked around in a circle.  I mean, if we’re being honest, there was nothing at all exciting about those first few rides.  The horses played follow the leader, and I sat there, thinking I was riding but in reality I was only sitting.  Still, I was thrilled!

As a kid, riding lessons were absolutely the highlight of my week.  I adored all of the horses I rode, even the more difficult ones, and I wanted a horse of my own more than anything else on the planet.

So, on the days when barn chores suck and my head hurts and I want to scream for things not going well, I try to channel that eight-year-old who would have given up every last material possession she had to have her own horse.

A few weeks ago, when one of my horses had an absolute hissy fit during our lesson and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to scream or maybe cry (it hadn’t been a great week before the lesson either):

Me: “I hate this.  I hate this.  I hate this.  One easy horse.  I just want one easy horse.”

8 year old self: “You have a horse!”

Me: “Yup.  I have a horse…one who is acting like a complete turd.”

8 year old self: “But you have a horse.”

Me: (With a notable sigh and shrug…) “Actually, I have five…”

8 year old self: *Jaw drops to floor.*

Me:  “…and llamas.”

8 year old self: “You should never, ever be sad.”  (Life is simpler when you’re eight.)

Nothing is ever all good or all bad.  Most of the time, by a landslide, the farm and my critters are good.  Sometimes, they aren’t, but when they’re not, it helps to remember that they are literally my childhood dream come true.

And that I, and my inner eight year old, love them to absolute pieces.

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And of course, my wonderful llamas!

 

 

 

Introducing the bitty babies!

September 4th was our four year wedding anniversary.  Let me tell you, we are not good at anniversaries.  They always begin with the best plans, and somehow, by the end of the night, something has gone sideways, creating a day far different than imagined.  For example, this year, we ended up taking care of emergency shoeing stops in Columbia, MO, five hours from home.  Our anniversary dinner was especially romantic: Steak n Shake…drive through.  We at burgers and fries and drank milkshakes while laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Despite all of this, I must say, my husband knows me exceptionally well: he bought me a perfect anniversary gift.

Little Violet.  Happy Anniversary to me!
Little Violet. Happy Anniversary to me!

Meet Violet.

Violet is a yearling mini mare who was originally rescued by Guardian Oaks from the New Holland Auction with her mama when she was only a day old.  She is tiny, barely standing past my knees, and is very sweet.  Jeremiah adopted her for me.

Keep in mind, Jeremiah has often claimed that the four horsemen of the apocalypse will ride in on mini ponies.  As a farrier, he’s dealt with some monstrous ones.  Why?  Because they’re small, and not intimidating like a bigger horse, minis are often owned by people who don’t know the first thing about horses: People who try to treat them like big dogs…which they are not.  They often end up mishandled and difficult.  (He is usually not a fan of minis, but he knows I like them, so he found one for me.)  This little girl, unlike many of her breed, has been appropriately handled since the beginning, and it shows.

Oh, and did I mention we brought home an extra?

Slash
Slash

His name is Slash, and we brought him along as company for Violet.  Right now, he’s a foster pony, but one of Jeremiah’s farrier friends may have a home for him.  If she doesn’t, well, we’ll probably just send in his adoption fee and keep him ourselves!  Isn’t he adorable?

We brought these little munchkins home on Tuesday–had to literally pick them up and place them in the trailer as they are both too small to make the jump–and they seem pretty happy with us.   I haven’t decided whether or not to rename Violet yet.  I can’t quite put my finger on the perfect name.  In the meantime, I call them my bitty babies.

 

The bitty babies!
DSC_1336The bitty babies!

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Bonus?  Check out the llamas checking them out.

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Once we move back to the farm and I have more time, I’m hoping to really work with Violet so that someday I can have her certified as a therapy animal for use in nursing homes, etc.  (I have my eye on a couple of my llamas for the same purpose.)  In the meantime, aren’t they just as precious as can be?

More of the bitties.
More of the bitties.