Last night as I was filling water troughs and buckets for 15 horses and 17 goats I was on the ‘phone with my folks and my mom said “I think we will all breathe a collective sigh of relief when you and the ponies are back on the road again.” I think that’s going to be especially true for my dear Jesse James. A month ago the ponies and I were all having some second thoughts about this whole adventure. It felt like we were dragging from rest day to rest day in a grueling test of endurance. I was getting grumpy and unfriendly which isn’t a good policy when one is constantly dependent upon the mercies of strangers. Jesse was making ugly faces when faced with a camera, Finehorn was lagging slower and slower, making ponying her a chore – and she was doing serious cumulative damage to my right shoulder every time she jerked her head around to snap at a horse fly. We weren’t having fun, the exhaustion was bone deep and I somehow didn’t feel like I had much of a choice. “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
This morning when I went out to doctor mr.James and turn the ponies out into the pasture for the day I was struck by how good and strong and healthy they both look. Jesse’s back has been improving daily and today I really searched and could find no remaining scurf. There’s one remaining scab that, while it’s shrunk from the size of a 50 cent piece to less than a narrow dime, isn’t quite ready to let go – that’s all we’re waiting for. Today we had a big thunderstorm with enough rain to bring on the rain rot again if he’s going to go that way – but I’m feeling hopeful. Which is the other big change in reality brought about by our enforced rest stop – the ponies aren’t the only ones feeling better and stronger and ready to ride again. When I got to Lucy’s two weeks and few days ago I was sick, I was tired, I was afraid that the Journey was over – at least for this year. I couldn’t imagine what stopping would look like but I honestly didn’t think I had the fortitude to finish.
Now I do.
It’s amazing sometimes how much it helps to feel like I have a choice – choices! I’ve had an offer of a place to live which made stopping for awhile a real and positive option. I’ve had offers of help finding another suitable horse to continue on if Jesse needed a prolonged break. I’ve had words of support from people letting me know that they believe in me No Matter What I decide is the best option – and if the ponies and I have had enough then it’s Really OK to stop. The Long Riders’ Guild has been there for me in wonderful and encouraging ways – with practical advice, personal commiseration and a grand historical perspective. It’s so much easier to think clearly when I’m not feeling like a loser in a trap of my own making. And it turns out that it wasn’t as bad as all that – the herd and I just needed a bit of grace and time and space in which to heal and recover some energy and enthusiasm for the Journey yet ahead of us.
So – a few of the highlights of my time here at Meriwood Farm have included a visit from Nancy, a reporter from the Advocate Newspaper, who did a lovely story focussing on how Lucy Sikes Karnes, my first riding instructor, helped plant the early seeds (ages 5-12) of this Journey and our fortuitous reunion after 35+ years.
I decided that there was enough fresh goat’s milk in the fridge that I could experiment with making cheese, something I’ve wanted to learn for many years. I went on line and found a very simple style of recipe requiring only milk, lemons, cheese cloth and a thermometer (and a stainless steel pot and a wooden spoon). I squeezed a cup of fresh lemon juice, brought the milk up to 180*F, stirred them together and waited for the promised curdling. Ummm – yeah – two more lemons – oh dear – have I wasted a whole gallon of milk? and 7 lemons? I poured it into the cheesecloth waiting in the colander, thinking all was lost, and lo and behold – there were solids accumulating!
I rigged the cheesecloth wrapped lump so that it could drain, washed the dishes, went off to read for awhile – and returned to find that my precarious rigging had toppled. I set it all up again, not sure whether to restart the drip dry time – wishing I had an experienced cheese maker to call – deciding to split the difference. The resulting cheese had very good flavor, but was Not creamy – the adjective that came to mind was “dusty” – ok – not as bad as all that – but not something to spread on a cracker.
Other highlights of the past two weeks have been 4 baby bunnies who were rescued when the lawnmower took the top off their nest and the big brindle (American Staffordshire Terrier) dog brought them to Lucy. They’re doing well and have graduated from formula in an eye dropper to eating cheerios and apples and alfalfa and will be ready for rehoming in a week or so.
And then there was the arrival of Agatha – Munchkin’s first kid and a beauty at 5#. She’s 1/4 Saanen and 3/4 Nigerian and within an hour of her birth was not only nursing but bouncing around playing – trying to get her legs figured out in the deep straw. Too cute.
One other random note – Sassafrass – I grew up with this tree back in East Texas – the root makes a grand tea in Springtime – (and sarsasparilla – aka root beer ;-)) – I’ve been asked a few times lately how to ID it and here it is, growing beside the driveway. The flowers are honeysuckle, a vine and not part of the tree – they’re invasive and smell divine. If you look at the leaves of the Sassafrass tree they come in three different shapes – all on the same branch! The smell of the root is very distinctive as well – but harder to transmay on line.