2004 Letters 2005 Letters 2006 Letters
All the groundhogs have predicted an early spring this year, Puxatawny Phil, Shubenacadie Sam, and of course Ontario's own Wiarton Willie. With the rodents all in agreement, one should be able to anticipate an end to winter sooner rather than later, however the accuracy of their predictions in years past, has led me to contemplate groundhog stew, which might help to take the chill off winter! We actually saw a predecessor of the current Willie in Wiarton, while on a trip up the Bruce peninsula one year, and I have to say that the old albino boy was so obese that it was hard to imagine him even stirring from his den, much less waddling around to check for his shadow, however the younger, newer and hopefully improved Willie appears to be far more energetic and motivated, so I am relying on him to be correctly heralding the arrival of spring.
After the most incredibly mild December, and almost a green Christmas, January arrived and alternated between thaw and freeze several times before winter truly set in. Now we have the kind of weather we usually expect this time of year, with bone shattering temperatures and copious amounts of snow. The animals are pretty much staying indoors, even when given the choice, although on a nice afternoon most of the horses find a sheltered spot and stand out in the sun, enjoying it while they can. The large horses and ponies pick up their feet as they prance through the white stuff, and the minis just follow the paths and plow through increasingly smaller areas. Their movements are often restricted for a time at the end of winter, though they always keep a couple of paths trampled down, and amuse us once a day or so by having a silly half hour, galloping single file back and forth along these tracks. Deviating from these areas brings consequences that they learn to try to avoid, as once off the beaten path, a tiny horse can find itself bogged down in snow up to their shoulders, and the struggle to regain solid ground can be a tough one. I have yet to see however, a year as bad as when a friend's 36.00" or so mare strayed off a path and found herself in snow which actually came up and covered her back! The poor thing could only look round helplessly until her owner came to the rescue and dug her a path out (although she took a photo of the incredible sinking first - and I am certain that mare was absolutely GLARING at the camera!)
Every horse owner dreads a jail break, and we have had our share over the years. A gate or door gets inadvertently left open, and the first horse that spies the error wastes no time in leading the others like the pied piper, into a (hopefully brief) taste of freedom. The problem for the minis at this time of year, is that when freedom does happen, it comes with limited choice of direction, unless the snow is not very deep. So the other day when a gate was left unlatched, the yearlings and two year olds followed the only available route from their paddock by the barn, straight up the plowed driveway, through the front gate, our second line of defense which for some reason had also been left open, and onto the highway!!! Randy and I were busy doing chores when Mike screamed to us that the babies were out on the road, so I did not see exactly who it was that had led the others astray, however in my heart I just KNOW it was Baby Boo and Ruby (Diamonds and Rubies) as those two have proven to be the Houdinis of our miniature horse world. Three strand electric fence has worked well for us for years, containing horses of all sizes, until Baby and Ruby partnered up at the end of last summer, and continually showed us how clever they are at navigating through any number of strands we installed. Ruby being a tiny little thing, started it by almost crawling on her knees underneath the lowest wire, barely bruhing it with her back. As she got taller she just charged, ducked and I assume hit the wire so fast that she felt no sting from the fencer. Baby soon mastered the art of escape along with her partner in crime, and as fast as we returned them to their paddock, they would be outside of it again, grazing contentedly in the back yard with the other foals watching enviously from behind the fence. Baby would at least stick to the grass, however Ruby began to sample anything and everything, including shrubs, daylilies and any other plant that caught her attention. Now it was not just an aggravation, it was a health concern as not all garden plants are good for horses. We finally strung a page wire fence and sat back and smiled at "The two bad babies" (nicknamed after a favourite book from when our children were small) who paced the perimeter looking for any possible escape route. Resigned to their captivity they settled into the main group of youngsters and behaved themselves reasonably well until the other day.
On this particular afternoon, four horses had remained in the paddock, though it was surely only because they were not quick enough in spotting what had happened, but five of the little darlings were out and away down the road before anyone could stop them. I have never seen Randy move so fast as he did sprinting down the highway after them, which is something that always puzzles me, as never in all the years I have been around horses, have I ever seen a person chasing a loose horse catch up with it, and yet we still do it. Randy duly informed me that he did indeed catch up with them, but that the "darlings" (which is NOT what Randy called them) adjusted their pace accordingly and he just couldn't pass them! Mike grabbed a bucket of grain in hopes of luring the little horrors back, and I jumped in the car thinking I could pass them and perhaps block their route. Thankfully the road was not particularly busy that afternoon. By the time I drove out, some kind person had already slowed down and angled their car across the two lanes, managing to halt the expedition in it's tracks, but not before they had made it a half mile or so down the road. Unwilling to admit defeat, the group did an about turn, dodging round Randy on both sides. Seeing that they were on the return trip, I backed up and parked the car across the lane closest to our gate, hazard lights on to warn approaching vehicles, and Mike and I stood behind it doing our best to block the other lane, hopefully forcing them to turn into the driveway. Despite the fact that any animal escape where traffic is involved is a nightmare, fearing for both human and animal safety, I had to laugh at the sight of the five little brats trotting back down the road, the two bad babies in the lead. Tightly pressed together for security, their little wooly bodies appeared as one huge multicoloured ball of fur with a jumble of little legs trotting incredibly fast under it. It was an absolutely hysterical picture, which I was not the only one enjoying, judging by the grins on the faces in the cars that were sitting waiting for the removal of our roadblock. In unison the little bundle of fur did a left wheel and trotted back up the driveway, and into their pen and back behind bars where the little delinquents belong!
"All's well that ends well" I suppose, everyone is safe and where they should be, and our household has had a new and fierce drilling about leaving any gates open, however if the snow keeps up I have visions of evil little Baby and Ruby plotting to construct a bridge to go over top of the pagewire! So I hope the groundhogs are right, and that spring is just around the corner. I am not a winter person, I personally am happiest when the skiers, skidoers and ice fishermen are crying over the lack of snow and ice. Sympathy is not in my vocabulary when it comes to this subject, however after a long wait, lovers of winter are currently in their glory, and I can only cruelly hope that their glee is short lived!
Back where they belong.....for now!
I find myself at the start of this brand new year, wondering again where the last twelve months could possibly have gone. In many ways 2006 was a horrible year and we are glad to see the back of it. Randy developed new health concerns, reminding us both that age is something that we can not avoid no matter how much we try to ignore it's advances. We had the most unbelievable year of vehicle problems that a family could ever experience. The truck, car and tractor seemed to be taking it in turns to see that we did not have a single month pass us by without some major expense. December did not start off well. Mike's cat Angel passed away and will be sadly missed. The evening before Randy was meant to be in Sudbury for pre admission work for an angiogram, the truck broke down coming home from Jessica and Morgan's dental appointments. Another huge expense just before Christmas was not part of the plan, however the Lord sent several blessings our way, and a season that seemed to be all about disaster, was suddenly transformed back into that magical time that we look forward to the rest of the year.
We admitted defeat with our old car and had it towed away for scrap, and three days before Christmas bought a brand new little car. It is a lovely fuel efficient 2007, with a WARRANTY!!!!! What a welcome Christmas present! : ) Randy's appointment in Sudbury was rescheduled to this month, and even that came as a bit of a blessing since the hospital changed times around, and all going well, he is now only required to spend one night there instead of two. Our hay supplier brought a loader up to our farm and he and the man who does the delivering for us, took two days and ran back and forth and all our hay but one month's worth, is now stacked up snug in our barn before the bad weather, which has been remarkably late in arriving, but is I am sure, still ahead. Four horses left us and went on to wonderful new homes at the end of the year, and if the round sides on some of our mares are any indication, we will have several new little ones running around this coming spring.
We are greeting 2007 as a clean page, with the stresses of last year behind us and with much to look forward to. Our little miracle from last year, Dove, will be one year old in just a few weeks. She turned out to be the best of a few bright spots in an otherwise very difficult year for the farm. Erinn will graduate from college and move on to pursue her dreams. Jordan is also preparing to leave home and embark on a career. This time is not without worry for us as parents and we will certainly miss them, but we are so very proud of the wonderful young adults they have become! We look forward to our foals this year, we don't know how many yet, but it promises to be an exciting and colourful crop! I managed to get out to some of the MHCO functions last year with friends, and they are also encouraging me to show, so I am now thinking about which horses to take. Thank you Debbie and Heather, it is going to be lots of fun, and I would probably never have worked up the courage to set foot in a show ring without you! (You may still have to give me a shove that first time out!)
So after an incredibly mild and wet start to winter, we brace ourselves for the coldest and snowiest weeks, however the days are getting longer again and as my mum always said, once the new year gets over with, spring is not far away. Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2007.