horses

New resident

 

Meet “Jazz,” a recent addition to the farm.

He’s my new project horse.

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Jazz is a 4-year-old OTTB (an “off the track Thoroughbred.”) He’s Kentucky-bred and the offspring of respectable bloodlines. But when the starting gate opened, he never delivered.

His race record? Abysmal. Eleven starts and one paltry win. Plenty of 9th, 10th, and 12th-place finishes. Running fast wasn’t in the cards. Now we’ll see if he can succeed in a new career.

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A new career, beyond eating…

 

With Jazz’s arrival, we are officially booked up. There’s no vacancy at the farm.

We’ve got 5 horses, 5 sheep, 5 cats and 1 Border Collie.

And 1 Border Collie is equivalent to 5 normal dogs….

 

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Pasture Ornament

 Mid May 04 004 

In the horse world, a “pasture ornament” is defined as an unrideable horse. An equine ill-suited for productive use.

But lately around here, the tractor’s been the ornament. It has been stuck in the back field for weeks. (Note: “it” is the only farm vehicle to escape nickname and gender assignment. Unlike Chitty.)

Not only does tractor disability result in unkempt grass, it restricts pasture use.

Technically, we could use the field. But allowing horses unlimited access to something new — namely the presence of a sharp farm implement…

…is like putting a steak knife in front of a toddler. Call the doctor.

So, the tractor. It’s a 30-year-old Ford, with issues.

Issues not entirely self-inflicted or aged-related.

We haven’t treated the “It” very well. We leave it exposed to the elements and rarely provide service.

Okay, never provide service. And this summer the tractor’s been reluctant to operate.

Really reluctant once we lost the key. The key.

We scoured the farm for it, countless times. We begged the kids to find it, then threatened them. Finally we offered a bounty: $25, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, the grass grew and grew and grew. I imagined the neighbors complaining. Actually, I pictured them shaking their fists and shouting as they drove by: “Hey, slackers! Go back to the ‘burbs where you belong!”

 

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When green nearly swallowed the tractor, I called the local parts store for a replacement key. And good news: the key is universal. I just needed the tractor model number. So I bound up the attic stairs, crawled into the depths of storage space — through Christmas wrapping paper and Halloween costumes — and unearthed the battered manual that came with the battered tractor.

I flipped open the cover, studied the model number, then gasped in horror at a line of text immediately below.

Six jarring words, emblazoned in thick, bold letters:

This tractor engine – Made in Japan

Made in Japan?

A tractor — one of the most iconic symbols in America — and a Ford, nonetheless, made in Japan?

I am not evenly remotely xenophobic, but everyone’s got limits. And mine is the tractor.

That is not right, I thought. No way that engine’s made in Japan.

“Yep, made by the Ja…Pan…Eeze,” tractor guy emphasized over the phone. “It’s an ’83 model, right? I’ve got 10 copies of that key.”

I sighed. “Alright. I’ll take them.”

What, all 10 keys??

“Oh no, I mean… how about three? You keep the other seven for me.”

“Yea, I can’t do that.”

“Okay, then gimmie four.”

So, we were back in biz. Five keys (the original resurfaced) and the tractor started. Immediately, the battery quit. The following day Martin jumped it to life and shifted into gear. He bush-hogged one row before the the tractor threw up, all over him.

A hose blew, showering him in hydraulic fluid. So there the Ford sat. Again.

Weedy flowers blossomed all around.

I glared at the tractor and mulled over bitter thoughts.

About the Japanese, too.

 

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Another trip to the supply store, hose-transplant surgery, lots of sweating and cursing… and the It-Tractor was back in action. Martin jounced across the rutted field, bush-hog trailing. Four hours and one (allegedly) bruised kidney later: mission accomplished. Martin parked It-Tractor in a safe location and the horses charged about, turfing up their newly-cropped confines.*

As for the spare keys? I’ve stashed them in various, undisclosed locations.

Guaranteed, I’ll never find them again.

 

*Possible reader question: Why must we mow the fields when able horses can do the eating? Horses are choosy and consume only the tasty clover, leaving the weeds to run amok. Mowing’s a must: lesson learned after you’ve bought the farm…

 

 

Critters with attitude

 

 

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Last Wednesday night was like any winter evening: dark. blustery. frigid.

Most unpleasant.

Martin and I were outside —  wind-battered and miserable — in a stand-off with the horses.

We tried to coax them in the barn for dinner — the horses knew we wanted them in for dinner — but they stood statue-still, clustered in the shadows. A gateway of mud separated us from them.

“Come-on in, guys…. come-on, boys….” I called in a sing-song voice, rattling grain in a bucket. “Dinnnnner,” I sang out. “Comeon ponies, comeon in…. HEY!! We see you, losers! Get your butts in here, before I beat the lot of you! Comeon guys…”

Neither kind words, nor threats, prompted movement.

“This sucks,” Martin muttered into the wind.

The horses were being stinkers. But the fox wasn’t helping matters.

He (let’s assume it’s a “he”) has been a frequent visitor. On this evening, Maisie chased the fox away, but he retreated just beyond our floodlights. And voiced his displeasure with a jarring call — “Ow…ow…wow!”

He sounded like a demented dog crossed with an owl. Eerily close.

Of course, we’ve heard foxes before. But this creature — he spoke to us.

And he was pissed.

Martin and I slogged through the mud and dragged the horses in. Then, surfing the web, I uncovered this website about foxes. Among other things, the site provided sound bites of calls. I can’t verify the site’s authenticity but I’m confident: our fox delivered a “territorial response” and a “sound of warning.”

I got the message: this means you.

Since last week, we’ve spied our brazen fox everywhere … even on the porch. So I decided that he deserves a name.

Of course, in my dictatorship style, I decided on the name.

“How about ‘Loki‘?” Martin suggested.

“That’s a terrible name,” I said. “We’re not naming him Loki. We’re calling him, ‘Randolph.'”

“Why ‘Randolph?'”

“Because I said so.”

Actually, I allowed the minions to weigh in. “Loki or Randolph,” I asked Hadley, casting a stern gaze with the second choice.

“Randolph,” she said, glancing sympathetically at Martin. “Sorry, Dad, but I think Randolph is better. You know… because he’s a fox and he ranned off…”

 

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