Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Riding Into October

Sunday was a beautiful day, in every sense. The last days of September and the sun shining warmly. Maples are near peak color, a swirl of orange and yellow under a sky so blue it looks dreamlike. I was with Merlin and my friends, enjoying Washington County roads the best way possible - by horse cart. We had a seven-mile trek along dirt roads and slowly sloping hillsides. Eleven wagons in all, a happy parade. With the sun on your backs and no wind, rain, or hindrance of any sort the horses and their owners were in high spirits. We trotted, walked, and *cough cough cantered cough mumble cough* as we made our way to the Battenkill Creamery for ice cream cones. The event is called "Dessert First" and hosted by these two beautiful people in my life: The Wesners. Look at them. Sitting up there in that beautiful draft-sized Meadowbrook cart with their steed, Steele leading the way. I write about meeting Patty and Steele and learning to drive from them in One Woman Farm, and it astounds me it was less than two years ago. That I went from shaking her hands at a book signing in Cambridge to becoming best friends, two women with horses, carts, and adventures to spare.

I was the only person driving alone, no partner or passenger in my cart beside me. It was such a grand way to experience the fall day. I of course shouted and talked with people around and behind me in line but long stretches were just Merlin and Me, watching the leaves slowly fall to the dirt roads and listening to the sounds of jangling harness and hoof steps. I could see Tyler ahead of me, sitting in the back of a red wagon and taking in his world while his wife sat up in the buckboard seat with Jan and talked while their team of haflingers trotted ahead of them. Behind me Rob and his son drove their trained ponies, in teams and a single cart. I liked knowing that other adults were out there working ponies to be more than hay burners or children;s passing fads. I wish every homesteader who was considering draft power could talk to Rob and see what one little pony could do for the small investment in hay and care. He travels dozens of miles with horses that eat less as a team than Merlin does as a single.

Back to Jan! Jan and her husband are serious teamsters. A usual drive for them in twenty miles. Their haflingers are athletes, no doubt about it. Ike is their big gelding and I have never seen a neck as thick on any animal. He is a rhino! Jan said she loves watching him bunch up that neck, tighten up his rump, and push forward with courage. I must agree, he is a beautiful thing to behold. At sixteen years old, Merlin was not up to their level but a firecracker in his own right. He may be one of the smallest horses in the club but he's diligent and fast, strong and calm. I would not trade him in for any other animal in the club. He's my boy.

I'll leave you with this. A view of the valley as we descended towards the Battenkill Creamery. And I thought Ike's neck was a thing to behold?! Darling, THIS is paradise. This view of my home, an agricultural wonderland. A place where food abounds, the air is clear, people are kind and life is about manes and tails and not IoS7. This is the real world. This is what we are all working for. This is the reason I go through all the effort, because of moments passing through my life as this.... Yes. Paradise is out there. You just need to scrape and howl and hunt it down. It's a hell of an awful path to take, but just look at the view from the top. Carry on. It's worth the fuss.

photos by Tara of goingslowly.com and thank you Melina for the title!

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