Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Barn Time, 1: and then the rain came

As if I don't have enough series rolling, here's a new one which seems to fit these hot summer days: barn time.

I've been going out to the barn each morning and getting lost in the routine of readying six equines for their day. They've been out all night, grazing hay, much like they do in the winter. After a month of no rain the grass has dried up almost completely, as has the ground.

I was thinking the day before yesterday that in some ways this level of drought, speaking only of November Hill, works pretty well. With a herd of easy keepers and really wonderful organically grown hay (hay grower lives in another part of the county with decent rainfall this summer) that tests below 10% sugar/starch and is easy to balance mineral-wise, cutting grass mostly out of the forage equation works well for this crew. As does the dry earth on hooves.

A few minutes after having that thought two days ago, it started to pour rain. For about a minute, until I lost my focus and raised my arms up to the sky saying THANK YOU - then it stopped.

Yesterday I decided to stay in the moment and not think about all the implications of rain/no rain. I walked out in the heat, which was more intense yesterday than it had been, and felt the dry ground under my muck boots, perused the crunchy brown stuff, the dried out red clay soil, and started thinking about Cormac McCarthy novels. West Texas and Mexico, dry heat and cracked earth, brown dust on boots. Extremes. When I think of Cormac's novels, I think of extremes.

After swaggering around in the sun for a little while, I went back in the barn and got in the moment with horses. Keil Bay stood in the feed room door while I made tubs and his happiness at being given that privilege made me smile. He is happiest when he's my partner in all things, without the divisions of gates and stall doors and lead ropes tied to things. Recently he found me in his stall, mucking, and he was in the barn aisle. We had the most wonderful moments of role reversal as he walked up to the stall door and I hung MY head over from the inside and let him nuzzle me. I was closed in and he was free. He seemed amused and then his eyes took on a questioning air, almost as if he was worried that I might not be able to get out.

We enjoy freedom here on November Hill. Although you might think a nearly 1400-lb. Hanoverian whose nickname is The King would be bossy and rude, he isn't. He responds very well to simple and polite requests, and goes further - he is often quite helpful.

Like yesterday morning, when I had set feed tubs up but needed to run back into the house to get something I'd forgotten. I told the horses I'd be right back, sailed down the barn aisle, and then remembered I'd left the feed room door wide open. Not a great idea with two donkeys and Keil Bay standing there gazing at all those full feed tubs. I stopped, turned around, had the thought  I need to close that door and Keil Bay reached around with his nose, hooked the edge of the door, and slammed it closed with a nice resounding bang.

How's that for being helpful?

The horses and donkeys are all laid back and happy on summer mornings. They've been out all night, are ready for fans and breakfast and nice clean stalls where they can hang out during the heat of the day. They get brushed and checked over, they get herbal fly spray and full mangers. We try to make things comfortable and pleasant for them. I'm rotating one gelding over to the other side of the barn each day, to give that one a break from the pony, who is really making a big play for herd leader this summer. Usually I go to the paddock gate and call out, and one of the geldings will come out and walk through to the other side. They actually do a decent job of alternating so the rotation is equitable.

After I got inside yesterday I made a comment on Facebook about the farm feeling like a Cormac McCarthy novel. An hour later, the sky was dark and we had a huge thunderstorm. Extreme. Lightning struck numerous times right beside our house, so close that sitting on the front porch I could hear the sizzle before it hit. The goldfinches were fussing in the sweetgum tree, darting in and out in flashes of yellow.

Kyra Corgi was shaking, so I came in and offered Rescue Remedy, which she took, and Bear Corgi wanted a dose too even though he wasn't shaking, so I gave him one as well.

It rained solidly for about 40 minutes, steadily but not so hard or so fast that we got water washing around - it soaked in, which is exactly what it needed to do.

My daughter and son were in the barn feeding Salina and giving more hay. At one point Keil Bay and the pony ran out into the front field and got under a tree. My son convinced them to come back to the barn.  Teens and equines weathered the storm together.

Last night I was in the barn for evening feed. Salina got her Summer Whinnies off for laundering and we put some ointment on her eye when we took her fly mask off for the night. She and the donkeys were staying near the barn for the evening in case more rain came, but I opened the arena gate so they could meander around in there and be close to the back field where the geldings were.

Keil Bay was out scouting the back field but appeared, almost as if by magic, as I checked the water troughs. I stood with him while he had a drink, and then we walked off together, my hand on his wither, connected. A few times since moving here with the horses I have felt like their energy carried me along with them - my feet not needing to move, not really even on the earth. Last night was one of those times. It's like being grounded, but through the horse's body, not my own.

Earlier I'd been grounded by two donkeys as I sat in the barn aisle giving neck scratches and ear scratches and a butt scratch for Redford. The donkeys both have silky smooth areas now and a few scruffy areas that haven't fully shed out yet, and the sensation of winter coat and then silky summer coat on my fingers was wonderful. I had the thought that it would be nice to be able to see each of their deep, all-knowing donkey eyes at once, but with my human eyes, could only gaze one way into Rafer's and then the other into Redford's. Still, I soaked in that donkey calm. It's a potent mixture that anyone with donkeys knows can cure you of almost anything, at least for a time.

I think I've written this here before, but there is sidereal time, there's kairos, and I think there's a good case for yet another kind of time. Barn time. There is nothing else like it.


Anonymous said...

I love those special moments of just being with the horses - I've never been in a hurry to ride and have always liked just spending time and grooming and barn chores - but now that I can't ride I'm really enjoying just being with the horses - have never been around donkeys but they sound excellent.

Michelle said...

I love that Keil Bay closed the door for you! He sounds so adorable.

Grey Horse Matters said...

The 'barn time' at November Hill sounds very special and magical. Thank you for taking us along for a day with your herd.

So glad to hear that you finally got some much needed rain. Hope there's more to come.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

The rain - last night + almost all day today! - has eased tensions considerably. Drought times make me a little crazy ;)

We had nice barn time yesterday. After all chores were done we shared icy cold cantaloupe pieces. Cowboy loves them, Val not so much. He liked the sweetness but wasn't sure about how / where to chew ;)

Hugs to all your herd, but especially to R + R!

Matthew said...

Lovely Prosetry!

Máire said...

It seems like the freedom you give them all has allowed them to expand be their deeply real selves - the self that so many horse owners do not see because they do not think it exists. I always love you stories of Keil Bay and you may yet convert me to donkeys.

billie said...

Kate, my guess is that being with Pie, Drift, and Dawn will get you back in the saddle quicker than anything else in the world!

billie said...

Michelle, he's pretty amazing.

billie said...

A, I think there is more this week. We definitely need more, but it's fine with me if it comes in several "events" as opposed to a deluge all at once.

billie said...

C, they all send hugs your way too. The donkeys especially, as they adore hugs at all times. :)

billie said...

Thanks, Matthew!

billie said...

Maire, I think each equine here has really blossomed with the set-up we have. I know Keil Bay was adored in his previous homes, but he wasn't allowed the freedom he has here, and he thrives on it.

I am so glad our barn/etc. was set up the way it was when we moved in - else I might never have gone with what was already here and then expanded that.

I knew w/o doubt that horses had incredible personalities and selves but I had no idea until we began to let them be free to move around that they would be so much fun to live with.

I completely forgot to add in the post that yesterday as the evening set in, Cody went to the back gate and let Bear out! Cody has a very playful side that doesn't get exercised as much as he would like - and I am sure he finds Bear tearing around in circles to be a game in the making.

Bear was barking and it's also entirely possible that Cody decided to answer him by freeing him - if horses can move about at will, why not dogs?

We were in the barn and suddenly saw Bear dash by - and Cody was still at the gate, trying to decide if he was going in the back yard to graze, or going to follow the wild Corgi running circles. It was hilarious.

Matthew said...

Ha, I was wondering when you would add the part about Cody letting Bear out!

billie said...

So much happens here in a day's time that I just plain forgot about Cody letting Bear out!

ponymaid said...

billie - that does it. I'm coming to live at your house. I love parched anything, especially earth, but especially love the sense of serenity around everything you do.

billie said...

Sheaffer, as you know, we would welcome you at any time! There was a little menopausal woman drama here this a.m. but Salina's wonderful massage therapist gave me a tissue with clary sage, vetiver, and geranium oils on it and that has cleared things quite a bit!