November 22, 2011

Kicking off the Season Right

Just a few pictures from one of this week's parades, a Baraat, and a light festival in Hartford. 'Tis the Season, AGAIN!

November 15, 2011

Sioux Country and Back Again

Funny how life gets in the way of documenting Life. For example, it has been two weeks since Terry's trip to North Dakota, on his quest to bring back a small herd of PMU babies for Equine Angels Rescue and Ray of Light Farm. For those not familiar with the term, PMU's are the result of breeding "premarin mares" for their urine that is collected to make a drug for women in the menopausal stages of life. The babies, quite literally wild, are often adopted out for what is hoped to be a much more rewarding life than the dinner plate.

Good friend Joe was brave enough to take the five day trip into Sioux Country with my cowboy. Once there, they were greeted by a well seasoned rancher and his Sioux wife, who, it was learned, spoke very little English beyond, "Here! Cookies! You!" That is all Terry needed to hear for him to fall in love with her and her 90 year old smile. 

The babies, on the other hand, greeted them with less enthusiasm. Eight were destined for Ray of Light, but were not yet chosen out of the larger herd. Terry had the dubious task of sizing them all up, and choosing what he thought looked like the best put together animals. Herding them into the trailer wasn't that big a problem, but weeding out the ones that would later stay in North Dakota, was. Wild and frightened, the herd huddled together in the trailer, backs to their wranglers, literally trying to climb the walls when anyone came near. The rancher asked Terry if he knew how to rope, and Terry said, "A little". He went and got Terry a lasso, but it wasn't the best — likely figuring a guy from out east wouldn't know the difference between a rope and a lariat. Terry tried using it and complained of its quality, so the rancher went and got him a better one. One by one the herd was culled (not always gracefully, I might add), provisions were added to the cargo, and Terry, Joe and the PMUs were on their way across country again.

Photos: At Ray of Light Farm in East Haddam, CT, the arrival of the PMUs each year is an exciting occasion. At Ray of Light the babies will be gentled and later adopted out.

November 11, 2011

November in Pennsylvania

Terry teaching Jen how to drive a team of Percherons while raking corn shucks into windrows.

Jen's most important lesson was learning what "Whoa" means.

Five of Paul's 40 horses.

Horse power and fossil fuel power rule on this Menonite farm.
But mostly horse power.

On our way home, we witnessed a hot air balloon flying
over the Pennsylvania farmland.

We were in Pennsylvania for a few days this week, and took the opportunity to meet up with my cousin Pam, and her daughter, Jen from Virginia. Unlike most people, who plan a "vacation" around places to see and things to do that are usually found in a tourist guide, we took the two on a working adventure through Amish and Menonite farm land. By default, Jen learned a thing or two about farming with horses and what it would be like to live without TV, computers, and phones (OK, well, we weren't exactly without phones, but whatever).

The highlight for Jen was learning how to drive a team AND rake corn shucks into windrows for baling - all at the same time! Naturally, Jen would tell you that the REAL highlight of the week was shopping, and ordering heaping side dishes of bacon. But I regress.

Terry, Pam, Jen and I stayed with our friends, and spent our days and part of the evening hanging out with Paul. Paul and Terry, for those of you who may not know, are twin sons of different mothers. The only difference between the two is Terry's white cowboy hat and Paul's black Menonite hat. Still, they think the same, talk the same, laugh the same, and all too often smell the same. This is because of their constant handling of sweaty work horses and the occasional driver. "Driver" is the Amish/Menonite term for "buggy horse". Funny, but the word "team" is sometimes used to define a particularly quick moving, well conditioned family horse of racing lineage as well. It is why we use the phrase "Team Menonite" to describe the order of Menonite that does not use cars - not every Team Menonite drives a team of horses, but each one drives a Driver. A "car Menonite" drives, you guessed it, a "car".

While on the subject of Team Menonites, Drivers, and cars (notice I have spelled "car" with a lower case "c" as it does not hold the same importance as a Team or Driver does, unless someone else is driving it for them, of course) — both Jen and Pam learned that in Lancaster County, Team Menonites drive black buggies and the Amish drive grey buggies. For those of you not fortunate enough to live or work amongst them, there is no such thing as a "team" or "car" Amish - because if you are Amish and you haven't been shunned from the community, you only drive a Driver.

Which brings me to the subject of an honest day's work. While waiting for Pam and Paul to get back from a short business trip in Pam's car (since it was faster than hooking up Paul's Driver), Terry commandeered the hay rake and a team (lower case - here it literally means more than one horse) and made Jennifer WORK. He stood with her on the forecart and taught her to drive the Percherons around in a giant square, then finally jumped off and said, "go to it!" Before Paul and Pam had a chance to get back from their galavanting in the car, the rows were raked and the hired baler (not horse drawn, sorry...) was already scarfing up the shucks and turning them into hard packed, huge bales. These bales were later picked up by Paul's son Wes with the skid steer. Wes, incidentally, is Jen's age and already knows more about working hard then Jen may ever know in her entire life time. Paul drove a new team on a hay wagon to carry the load back to the barn, where it will be used as bedding.

We did a whole lot of other stuff, like went to the auction, searched for a load of hay, shopped and ate. I tried to get Jen to go from the sale barn to the house in Wes's spring wagon, but she was too shy and didn't experience the unique excitement of driving a Driver of Standardbred/Dutch Harness lineage. I suppose she will have to settle for bragging rights with a team of Percherons.