Photo Op: In Training

This fall, Hadley is participating in a junior foxhunting program. At monthly meetings, the kids learn about history and traditions, land conservation and other aspects of the sport. In addition, each junior is assigned a puppy; they learn to handle and lead them.

At the end of the last meeting I caught a bit of Hadley’s session with her hound, “Kennedy.”


The goal: to encourage Kennedy to listen to her.


To pay attention and behave.


And to walk on a leash.


It’s a work in progress.

But neither Had nor hound seemed too concerned about the outcome.

Sometimes, companionship and attention are enough.


Mystery Patch

Plant, then ignore.

That’s been our modus operandi when it comes to establishing berry bushes, grapevines and hops.

And it has not served us well.

Martin and I set out with the best intentions — we nurture a fledgling plant, water it as needed, and track growth. And then… that’s it.

We ignore said bush, tree or vine, leaving it vulnerable to parasites, disease or marauding, munching sheep.

The pumpkin patch would’ve been another victim of neglect —

–had we’d known that it existed.

A couple of months ago, Martin was planning to take another whack at the mystery weed marching through the lawn. (I’d already mowed over it once before.)

But on this particular day, he spotted a yellow flower among the weedy leaves.


The flower led to a leafy vine and a line of pale-orange orbs the size of tennis balls. Not far away were larger growths, like basketballs, nestled in a hard-to-mow spot between the boxwoods and the deck.


Google “how to grow pumpkins” and you’ll find a wealth of gardening guidance. Tips about soil pH and fertility, how to plant with adequate spacing and depth, and tips on weeding and watering.

Our pumpkin patch was the product of one simple act: Hadley stuck some seeds in the ground.

“Remember when I told you that I was going to plant pumpkin seeds?” Hadley asked me.

Not really. In my defense, the kids are constantly burying things in the yard, in “Jack and the Beanstalk” fashion. Who thinks that anything will come from it?

Hadley’s patch proved us wrong.

All summer we marveled at the little heirloom squash and the hulking carving pumpkins growing in size and deepening in color, with absolutely no assistance from us.

By September, however, I noticed that the leaves were withering and a few of the pumpkins were suffering from soft rot.

I gave a vague description to a local pumpkin grower and he triaged the problem: a combination of powdery and downy mildew. Any efforts to fight the pathogens would be too little too late, but we could spare some of the squash by harvesting them early.

And that’s what we did.

I’d say that in the future, we’ll take better care of Hadley’s garden but let’s be realistic; we’ll probably apply the same “technique” that we’ve used with other plants.

In this particular case, neglect actually worked.

Pumpkins are a hardy crop!

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What’d you miss? Mites and more


There’s no way to rehash the could’ve-been blog posts from recent months. But here are a few events and observations that come to mind. In no particular order:

*I completed 3,000 pushups in 30 days.

*Jazz and I helped with crowd control at the Potomac Hunt Races. Anxiety fueled Jazz’s flop sweat in the opening parade.

 Hunt Races


*Pigpen (our aged car) shed some interior bolts and other parts of questionable importance.

*Cayden, Hadley and Brynn participated in school recitals, riding lessons, pony club, baseball, softball, and drama club.

*At one point, I wore the same clothes for three days.

*Martin found a decomposing raccoon in the hayloft.

*I trailered Rocky home from a riding lesson, driving a truck with a flat tire and an empty fuel tank.

*Cayden met Zeb Hogan, host of Nat Geo’s “Monster Fish.”


*I found a starved dog, dumped on the road.

*My insomnia ran amok. I quit Ambien, then took it up again.

*We discovered that barn swallows shed bird mites when they are nesting.

*The kids slept in a tent in the yard, until a storm nearly blew them away.

*My friend Sarah competed in a sidesaddle race and placed 2nd.


*I opened the mailbox one day and found a field mouse staring back at me.

*We plotted several farm improvements but accomplished none of them.

*Cayden and Hadley learned to surf.

*I treated Hadley’s infected toe using the horses’ Ichthammol, per my veterinarian’s instructions.

*Maisie stayed at a nice hotel with us.


*Martin considered removing a wasps’ nest by grabbing it with gloved hands, and stuffing it into a trash bag. He changed his mind when I started videoing the event.

*I cleaned out my mom’s freezer and threw out cans with sell-by dates from 15 years ago.

*I quit the blog and picked it up again.