Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Rainbow for Brego.....

I know it may seem silly to some, but I really believe in the magic of a rainbow - yes, really! Rainbows, to me, are indicators of promise and the hope to mend even the darkest, stormy stuff that has made its way around you. They remind you that even when you feel spent and low, that there is a natural arc to everything. That what goes up must come down but if that is true then it must also be that what is down can rise up singing again. And, you know, I have that 'thing' for color so something so purely inspirational that also looks like someone painted the sky with electric crayons really draws me in....

For the last few months, I've really been struggling with our farming life. It's not that I have higher aspirations for some 'green grass' of a life anywhere else, and it's not that my life isn't rich with pleasure and full of promise yet revealed. It's just been a really hard go of it lately. I don't want to whine so I try not to think about it much. Plus, thinking about it really sucks because it just drains the hope right out of ya. I thought, for a while, that it was just us - that maybe it was just due to the 'extreme' nature of our homestead in terms of our remote living and the stresses of doing almost everything manually while living off the grid. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Many small farmers are feeling it right now. It's not a pinch of a fumbling economy. It's not a blow that knocks you back but you get right up from and shake it off. It's a tightening grip that is rather frightening because all practical and logical thought for where it might end seems void of optimism. With grain having increased by almost 40% in just 2 years, and hay going from 2.00 to 5.00 a bale out of the field (6.00 if you buy it out of a barn), the stage for small farmers and for their animals has shifted quite dramatically. Add to that the fact that the folks we've talked to who use oil furnaces are still paying off last winter's heating fuel and the cost to keep the thermostat at 60 this winter will cost thousands of dollars - and there's no denying that this news leaves you full of despair.

Animals from small farms end up being the casualties, though their humans generally don't escape a deep well of sorrow, either. That's the tragic loss to our society as a whole when the small farmer is crunched out of the mix. I'm not purporting to deem all commercial farms as negligent because they certainly aren't, but the loss of the small farm is the link to a very sacred bond. We're generally very bonded humans - living with our animals and finding pleasure in taking the daily journey into farming with them instead of from them. It is an impossible choice, for some - to decide between feeding and keeping your family warm and keeping your livestock. Sadly, many are either forced to or are just too broken to keep getting up and animals are selling for so low that it is hard to watch.

When we heard that the annual horse sale that our local auctioneer hosts was last weekend, our hearts sank. There's something you should know about Thing 1. She's been studying the healthy and care of horses since she could first read books on her own, that would be at the age of four. She can tell you every ailment, every tactic for training, every breed of horse that isn't yet extinct with scholastic accuracy. Really, we're all crazy about horses but we've not yet gotten to the point where we can actually buy one. Every year we save our pennies, start a fund, and generally try to make it happen but every year a car breaks down or a vital piece of equipment needs fixing and we don't quite make it there. We've worked on the fund this year, though the reality of hay prices and costs greatly over-shadowed our optimism. Already, we've reserved the necessary bales for next year from the field down the road and that will cost us the equivalent of three mortgage payments when we're done. Then, last week, there was the need of car repairs. So, we read about the sale in the paper and everyone was crying on the inside. Some of us on the outside, too. We almost made it this time.

sugarI decided we'd go, anyway. I told Things 1,2 and 3 that we'd go knowing we couldn't actually buy a horse. Maybe a used saddle. Maybe some tack. We'd build slow, and we'd wait for the right moment to come our way. We all felt sad about it but were excited to spend a day around some beautiful horses. I fell right in love with this little powdered sugar mare. I stayed with her a while, avoiding the other side where you see the heads of the rowdy and kicking belgian X's . They were awful and the huge (and I mean huge) donkey next to them wasn't helping the mayhem at all. Frustrated that they were upsetting the other horses so badly, we went over to the auction barns and - guess what? We found a beautiful saddle for half of what I'd put aside to spend on one. I bought us all a round of root beers and we felt pretty content.

The pony barns are always a little different than the horse barns - ponies being energetic and maybe more opinionated because they are so small and generally looked cross at by the big, showy horses. The whinny-ing was sort of comical - little bodies belting out loud songs saying, 'hey, look at me, I may be small but I'm totally cute!'. We used our afternoon as an opportunity to learn. We talked to owners when we could, made notes about our favorites so we could watch what they sold for and be more prepared for when our time came. The talking to the owners was both comforting in a creepy sort of way and hard in a heart in the throat sort of way. I realized right away that our family wasn't the only family exhausted by the rigors of last winter. While for us it wasn't heating oil bills, there was the daily dance with the wood supply, knowing that she could turn anyway, anyday and we'd have to make do with what we had. I learned that many hearts were on the ground and I was sad to see some really good shepherds/caretakers turning their backs entirely on the small farm life because they just couldn't balance it all anymore. I felt grateful that we can take care of our needs with sweat and tears because I was beginning to see the other side - wherein you can't take care of it anymore and have to let it go. It was awful and inspiring, terribly sad but a concrete reminder of why we've made the choices we have, and it was all to the background of these graceful spirits humming, patting their hooves on the ground, and giving the occasional shout out to either be noticed or kindly request that a prospective buyer put their leg down and leave them to their hay.

The word around the fair grounds was that everyone was looking for ponies this year and that horses were expected to sell for less than a new saddle. We gasped. I mean, that definitely meant what we already knew - we weren't leaving with a pony, today. But, an idea started to form in our minds and, without speaking it to each other, we moved into the arena and took a seat. Sure enough, ponies (easy to feed, smaller in a tight barn space, etc.etc.) were snatched up like wildfire. But the horses? It made me cry. I saw stunning paints go for less than one car payment, registered show horses for a quarter of what they were worth. I couldn't help it at one point, I just watched these beautiful horses be sold for pennies of their value and the tears were running down my cheeks. I resisted, though it was awful hard, putting my card in the air and saying, 'I'll take them all'. Such martyrdom may have been my inclination in my younger days but I've come to learn that that kind of adoration is a selfish calling - not the better part of yourself that bridges the gap between hope and reality and looks genuinely at the long term interests of the things they profess to love. Still, it was difficult to see the ones that sold for so little but had so much to offer and, even worse, the ones that didn't sell at all - whose fate might hold an even more painful story. It made holding onto one's grip of reality a stabbing thing. The one that bucks, though beautiful and packed with potential - not an appropriate horse for kids. The one that has show experience and cuts beautifully? Too much horse for a beginner. There were only three horses left and I'd managed to scratch every one from our list due to some reality that would have made the match incorrect.

brego shinesAnd, then, they brought him in. Rode him in, actually, saddled in his stunning Tennessee Walker prancing glory. Calm as an old gentleman, though he's only 11, and taking every queue with poise and calm. Loud screeching from the amplifier? He didn't even budge. He had a grace that made the people in front of us gasp as he turned with his rider and left arena. It was telling that when the auctioneer called 'sold' and read my number and thing 3 (who was sitting in front of me and had no idea I was bidding) heard our number and promptly fell off the bench with excitement. A few people came over to congratulate us on finding such a great horse and we just stood there beaming and gaping like a pack of fools drooling on ourselves. And he is ours like we are his. And we love him. Welcome home, Brego!

brego Even hubster, who when we married proclaimed himself as 'not a horse person', has fallen under Brego's spell. The next morning, when we sat down to eat, I asked Thing 1 if she'd been down to the pasture to talk to him, yet, and she shyly smiled and nodded. Thing 2 piped up shortly after that he'd taken him some grass bouquets and Thing 3 answered that by informing us that he'd gotten up with the sun and snuck down to take him a carrot. I think this means that we are a little excited.

So, surprises in the air, we've decided to still keep our camping spot and go away for a few days - leaving the place in the trusty hands of hubster and under the watchful gaze of Sage and Gypsy (our brave dogs). We'll be back on Friday and I can only hope that he's not up to any crazy notions while we're gone. It's a playground littered when potential for chaos whenever I leave this man alone.....expect anything to happen. Have a great few days - I know I will. I've packed the Things and we are thrilled beyond belief to head to our little special spot at Acadia Ntnl. Park and sleep listening to the ocean lap at the shore even if the seagulls poop all over our tent, again. The necessities in tow, which means my new sock mind bending thrill (love you, Cat Bordhi) and a basket full of sock yarn because while I am on vacation - I'm not crazy! Some serious seaside knitting while the kiddos play on the beach is just what I've been needing to conquer the monster within! The winner of the Great Giveaway magic ball will be drawn upon my return and announced next week.