Saturday, July 31, 2010

A cooler breeze, an old dog, and a mystery on the farm.

Early this week, Tuesday  I think, the day was graced by a strange north wind that blew the intense recent humidity back towards the gulf and it left a pleasant energy to the air. It never ceases to amaze me how much more I can get done in a day when the living conditions are tolerable. I am sure we are due for some more dangerous weather still to come but I was most grateful for this most unexpected reprieve, and I did take advantage of it.

With all this new found energy, I decided that it was high time for the silly fillies, my 3yr old Flemmingh sisters, to start first grade. These girls have been handled since birth of course, in kindergarten, but their training in formal had not begun as of yet. And so I began with them my pattern of teaching them to learn new things. The very first thing they must learn is basic manners. That includes, but isn't limited to, them learning to pay attention to me, my space, my body language, my voice, etc. even when things get scary, and to not climb on my head when it does. They were good working in hand near the barn, trying very hard to figure out what I was asking. Smart fillies, both, genetically programed to be good learners without attitudes, they kept their ears focused on me, made a few mistakes, but did well. Then I took them somewhere new.

I walked them each in turn, maybe 100 yards from the barn towards the house. As I had expected, this got their attention. Ears went up and eyes got wide at the very idea that there was anything other than the view from the barn yard. Their perspectives were changed in that moment, and after their moment of shock, they both dropped their heads to me for assurance, which I gave, and they relaxed.

Plato wrote a great little story way back in the day about some folks who lived in a cave and who always looked towards the rear of the cave and saw themselves only as the shadows that danced there on the walls. This was the only view of their lives, and to them, their only reality. Then one day, for some strange reason one of them turned around and saw the light at the front of the cave and was shocked at the sight. These folks' perception of their reality of being only shadows was totally changed forever. Now the shadows were behind them and this change in perspective had simply not occurred to them. Once the new view of life had been revealed, there was no going back to the old version of their model.
So too with my fillies. They had never had a chance to venture far from their pasture, or the barn, and their reality only included these places and what happened there. Seeing a new expanded version of their world made some light bulbs go on. That is what I love about starting young ones out is the showing them the new, and sometimes alarming things, popping their bubble, and having them learn and keep getting reinforced that if they keep their heads and pay attention to me that life is good and interesting or, at least, safe.

There is truely an overwhelming amount things to teach a horse just to get them to a safe working relationship but it all starts with a change in perspective or a change in habits. What was is a reality, stays a reality unless an outside force reveals another, and its the adapting to this ever changing flow to life that keeps it interesting and keeps us, and the horses, learning.

I worked, too, with Fandango, now 8 weeks old, and scheduled to go to the keuring (a breed inspection) in September. I figured he might need to be halter broke for real. So he did as I had expected, fine when mommy Joline was walking beside him, but threw a fit when she didn't care to join us. That was good. He had to test the limits and find them, and then settled, and then walked with me like a pro.
My vet recently came out to do something out here on one of the herd, and asked about the boy and couldn't remember the colt's name. Hiladago? No, not quite. Then he said "Margaret, this guy needs a nick name". You have to understand my vet is old school, never makes editorial comment and such, but here he was adamant. I thought and remembered some of my first "f boy" names.  And so it is that the colt who was first thought of as a filly, then became a colt, then a blithe and dainty baby, is now a rough and tumble, bite everything in his path, solid as a brick,  and all male brat, is now sporting the barn name of "Frank, the tank."  It suits him well.

So life continues on the farm with its daily dramas. Heidi the shepherd had a visit to the vet yesterday with a hematoma in her ear, which had to be drained and dealt with. She sits under the piano now as I write and looks so sad. My puppy of just yesterday has begun to grow old, is gaining the flaws that come with it, and there is nothing I can do about it but to try to keep her cool and comfortable as possible. Her once elegant face is now edged with a gray muzzle, and now her proudly erect ears will have a bit of a droop. How sad that a dog' life runs so quickly thru your life and then moves on. I wish it wasn't so. I wish that their time spans coincided better with our own and I do hope that this sweet companion stays with me a good long while longer.

The mystery of the day, no, week is this...on Thursday I walked past the peach tree by the garden and noted the heavy weight of the near ripe peaches pulling the loaded branches downward. I thought, "great, Sunday will be chutney making day". Well, today, two days later, there weren't but 7 peaches anywhere to be found lefet hanging. We are talking about the mysterious disapperance of hundreds of ripe peaches. Hundreds, if not more, all gone, no pits, no traces, no tracks, zero. How does this happen? Did aliens return to abscond with all my lovely peaches? Will there be peach cobbler al a mode on planet Lortab tonight? This really riles me because this tree always produces a wonderful bounty of white meat, free stone, sweeter than honey peaches that I freeze, can, make wine with, chutney, ice cream, and oh yes, cobbler. This year there will be none. Damn.

A bit of a lazy day so far, the last tomatoes in the pots by the pool, just got picked and sliced for BLTs. Mark is working on some new photographs in the studio, to take to the gallery tonight. Farewell to July tonight and welcome to August tomorrow. Time keeps on ticking...into the future.    

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