Saturday, June 7, 2014

Zero Balloon Sightings

I was on Merlin, riding up a hillside at a steady trot when I heard the sound of a text message in my headphones. My audiobook (story and saddle are a great way to start the morning) was interrupted but I let it go without checking it. I'm trying not to treat my phone as a walkie talkie, something you need to instantly react to. I was on a horse, after all. Whoever it was would surely understand the dangers of texting and driving. So I let it go. Merlin saw the land rise before him and started to canter. My camera was strapped tight around my chest like a slingback and it clanked against as as we made our way to the highest spot on the hillside. That was our goal, the overlook. It's the same place I have shown you many times on this blog, with the single birch tree. Merlin knows the routine and I let the reins go and grabbed my camera to take a photo. I was hoping on this gorgeous, blue-sky morning that I would see a few of the hot air balloons from the festival happening in town. Zero balloons but a view so lush and green Tolkien would wobble at the knees, take off his shoes, light a pipe and go full Hobbit. I smiled. The horse workshop for the day was rescheduled. The folks coming were unable to make it so I offered them an Indie Day instead at a later date. This happened last night and I realized I had the day free. I wanted it to start with hot coffee, a black horse, and a camera. My phone buzzed again. This time I checked it. It was a text from Livingston Brooke Farm needing help loading hay. Crap.

Crap, crap, crap, crap, CRAP. I instantly felt a gut punch of impulse and obligation and turned my horse back down the hill. Asking for help haying is pretty much the farmers' version of the bat call in Gotham City. You see that shining symbol in the night sky of your heart (a sickle and horse I imagine instead of a bat) and you come a running. There is no notice. There is no planning. Farmers put up hay when they can and in this case I had exactly twenty minutes to get in the truck and get over to Patty and Mark's place. I texted back that I was on a horse and my guest was still asleep in the farmhouse. I would be able to get there in about 45 minutes.

I rode home, untacked the horse, and ran around the farm fast as possible topping off water for the day and moving chicken tractors. By this time my guest was up (friend from High school, a physicist) and explained that help was needed at a friends farm and did he want to? This guy ran cross country, was fighting' lean, and seemed game until he was explained exactly what "putting up hay" meant. At this he politely declined and headed back home early. No fault of his, of course. Not everyone is into this farm stuff and he didn't study nuclear engineering to buck bales. I saw him off and started closing up the house. This was the point that I noticed the screen door was open and Annie was gone.

Annie is a 15-year-old Siberian Husky. She is not very fast, but she is a husky. They are not a breed known for their farm dog appeal. Annie likes to kill chickens, chase turkeys, roll in horse dung, and basically take off for the forest to chase deer. That last one is an offense punishable by death in New York State. Dogs that "run down" whitetails are considered a nuisance or threat and therefore shot. So I was worried. Annie was gone, my guest was leaving earlier than planned, and Patty and Mark were loading hay bales alone. Crap just upgrade to Shit.

I tried to call, scream, holler and bribe Annie back but to no luck. In a panic I grabbed a leash and some treats and jumped into the truck to run up and down the road. I looked in the woods and worried that my gray and white wolf dog would be shot on sight if seen from the road. We were a mile from a highway. No sign of her anywhere. I needed a bat symbol of my own. I texted Patty to explain that Annie had ran away. She didn't reply. I imagined her covered in sweat, working without much help, and loading the hay my horses, goats, and sheep eat three seasons of the year. I should be there.

I drove home after a few circles around the neighborhood and realized I was nearly an hour-past the hay invitation. I turned off the car, sat down, and tried to breathe a little deeper. Annie was 14. She was not interested in running 16 miles in 80-degree heat. She was probably in the woods close by, eating a laying hen, and enjoying the shade. I leaned back against the door and looked up at the sheep. Half their new mineral block was eaten away. I knew they needed three more trips with buckets to top off their water for the day. I was almost out of grain. I felt that surge of overwhelming emotion the gentler sex is known for and that I usually just punch, kick, or work through and started to cry. At this point Annie came trotting up to me from the stream across the road. Her face was covered in egg yoke and goose shit. I didn't ask questions. I just hugged her.

It took another few minutes to clean her up, get the dogs watered and settled in, and then finally jump into the car to head over to haying. I was in a kilt, paddock boots, half chaps, and cowboy hat. I was not dressed for it but had long since passed the MMMMmmfuckit point and was just happy to finally answer the Horse and Sickle. I was literally a hundred yards down the road heading for the hay work when my phone buzzed again.

"Don't Worry, We're Done!"

Welcome to farm life: epic views, pure joy, beautiful moments, friends in need, chores, different people, chaos, guilt, and disappointment all within one hour of living. I wouldn't have it any other way.


Blogger Cary said...


June 8, 2014 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

Combine homestead life + community = the best! I'll take this lifestyle for the rest of my life. Jenna, in my opinion you're doing great. You'd be a super neighbor to have, husky, border collie, and all!

Su Ba,

June 8, 2014 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Haying already. Veryork is way ahead of Downeast Maine. I'll be over this week for my high school reunion so I'll see the difference.

June 9, 2014 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger urban peasant said...

What an incredible view there :)

June 9, 2014 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger oceangal said...

Found your site from Taproot. I loved all the jumble of emotions you experienced that morning.

June 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM  

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