28 September 2015

The Hound Of The Meadow, A Parable.

Hound Of The Meadow

Hound Of The Meadow

Someday, I'd love to write a story about the Hound Of The Meadow. Maybe tonight a little bit.

She prowls the meadows and the moors, far from the road, out of sight of people.

She shares the meadow with a bear, some raccoons, coyotes and foxes, mice and chipmunks, there are rumors of moose in the winter, down from the North. There are birds and bats, eagles and hawks, rats and bees, snakes and lizards, frogs and toads, marsh and dry grass, valleys and gentle hills, birch and pine and maple trees, brush and wildflowers.

She hides in the meadow grass, pouncing on unsuspecting chipmunks, never catching them or chasing them far. She is a magician, she can disappear at will, then reappear, she hops and bounces and dives, she is here, then there, she floats through the barbed wire fences, slipping between the wires, under them, or over them. She never gets caught.

Maybe she befriends a fox out there, or falls in love with a coyote, or has strange and secret adventures with a bear, or is invited into the chipmunk's hollow to dance and drink and sing. Maybe she saves a mouse from a feral cat, or carries a butterfly on her back. Maybe she buries her treasures in a soft hole in the wet grass, or perhaps she finds a treasure and shares it with her secret friends.

Does she remember her other life in there, or does it slip out of sight and mind for a bit, living the life of a dog. Maybe she has a boy friend out there, a stray dog, even a coyote, perhaps they chase one another and even make love out in the deep grass out of sight. Or hunt a mouse together.

Perhaps she burrows into the dens of other animals, or digs her own holes. She swims in the wet marshes of the meadow, drinks from the cool and hidden streams, the smells and droppings tell her a million stories beyond the consciousness and understanding of human beings. She wants to hear them all.

She is beyond the rules of people, she runs unleashed, she goes where she wants to go, rolls in what she loves to roll in and smell, chase what she wants to chase, sails freely through the air, as if she could fly.

And then, when she hears the footsteps on the road that she listens for, she appears as if by magic, out of the brush, over a fence, and onto the road. Her secret life in the meadow behind her, for now.

We will never know. She has created her own world, it exists for her alone. There are no rules in the meadow, no prying humans with their rules. In the meadow a good dog is a dog that lives like a dog, the bad dogs are the ones who have to live like human people.

The Dog Of The Meadow comes when she wants and goes when she wishes. One day, she may vanish in there and stay,  joining the secret ranks of the mystical dogs. Hounds Of The Meadow can do that sometimes.

Posted in General

Apples And Applesauce: Myths and Portents

Apples And Applesauce

Apples And Applesauce

The farmers have  reasons and myths and stories to account for everything, farm life is so difficult and unpredictable, they need to find ways to account for the unaccountable. We are drowning in apples. Apples are dropping where I have never seen apples before, not in my 15 years of living on a farm.

The farmers say a plentiful apple crop is a sure sign of a tough winter – this is Mother Nature's way of making sure the animals outdoors have enough to eat. The biologists say most apple trees produce a crop every other year or so. Still, nobody can account for the enormous numbers of apples popping up everywhere.

I am sorry Johnny Appleseed is not around to see it. Even Maria has turned domestic, she is collecting some apples and making pot after pot of applesauce, which we are eating daily. She has spent hours collecting the apples in baskets and tossing them into the woods so Chloe will not eat too many.

It is a hopeless quest, there are apples everywhere we look, even in places where we had no idea there were apple trees. And we are hearing this from everyone we know. We can't walk into the back  yard without crunching apples, it is mess to mow the lawn, the donkeys line up by the gate, pawing the ground to get ate them, meanwhile they are eating scores of apples falling out of the tree in the pasture.

Something is different. But nobody knows what. I was thinking today of the sudden disappearance 100 years ago of the carrier pigeons, once the most populous bird in North America. They all began to die suddenly about a century ago, the last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Maybe 2015 will be known as the year of the great apple invasion, when the earth began to be covered in apples, and the deer took over the earth.

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Hugging Red

Hugs With Red

Hugs With Red

Red is a very sweet creature, and he and Maria have a very powerful connection. At least once on every walk, she stops to give him a big hug and he eats it up. He also manages to keep an eye on me.

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Saving The Blue Star Idea: The New Movement For True Animal Rights

The Blue Star Idea

The Blue Star Idea

Blue Star Equiculture is an idea as well as a physical place. It is an idea for the times, as timely as it is desperately needed in a divided and suffering world.

Blue Star began as a way of offering the hard-working New York Carriage Horses a safe and loving retirement home on a historic farm in Palmer, Massachusetts. It has grown into something much larger and more significant – a movement to save working and domesticated animals from greed, development, and a wealthy and increasingly hateful animal rights movement that does not believe animals should live or work with people anywhere in the world.

Blue Star is a mystical place, for me, for Maria as well. The horses are recognized as individual spirits who need to find ways to continue their work with people, a magnificent partnership that has existed for thousands of years, one of Mother Earth's most beautiful relationships. And to the Native-Americans, a sacred and historic trust and obligation.

The horses, they say, bring the water and the wind, they shall take it with them if they are driven away. Their message – invoked and repeated by Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, among many others, is that we will either learn to live in harmony with them and one another, or we shall all soon perish together.

This is not an Apocalyptic or Dystopian message, I have come to see, but a crossroads for people who choose to care for the animals, for one another, for the earth. It is time for the Blue Star idea, that there are some things as or more important than money and development.

We have been struggling for years to find a true understanding of animals in our world. Once, we saw them as beasts of burden, to be worked and worked, and then we came to see them as piteous dependents, understood only through the prism of human cruelty and abuse. Today, we are banishing them from the earth, the horses, the ponies, the elephants. If they get the horses, they will one day come for the dogs, and the cats and the service animals who have always uplifted the hearts and minds of humans.

Blue Star has a new idea, and a better one. Their idea is to treat humans and animals in a new way, to keep them together, to live and support them in our world.

Blue Star suffered a grievous loss earlier this year when Paul Moshimer, one of it's most important guiding spirits, decided to take his own life, perhaps too burdened by the great responsibility he had undertaken. His beloved wife Pamela Moshimer Rickenbach, is committed to keeping the Blue Star idea alive. I believe it is important for every person who seeks a better and more humane world and who wishes for animals to remain in our everyday lives and keep them on the earth to consider helping Blue Star move forward and show us a better and more loving way to understand animals and the people who wish to live among them and support.

Sadly, the movement that claims to speak for the rights of animals seems to be turning greedy and cold. More and more, it has become an unrelenting source of hatred, fear, and controversy. It has no vision for keeping animals engaged and on the earth, it has no idea other than removing them from people, and abusing the people who would live with them and work with them.

Everywhere, the movement seeks to remove animals from their work and from people, isolate them from children and the poor, take away their future, place them at risk. It is a crime to drive the animals from their work and lives, they have nowhere to go. If the horses and the elephants and the ponies lose their place in our world, they will perish and die, as is happening all over the planet. Their survival depends on us, they are not equal to us in their power, they cannot be saved unless we save them, not ban them.

So we are at a crossroads when it comes to understanding and saving animals. We can either let them go or embrace a new idea for animal rights – keep them in our everyday lives, making their lives safer and better, making sure we do not lose sight them or consciousness about them, vowing to know and understand their true needs, not our emotionalized and unknowing projections of what they must have. The most basic right of any animal is to survive in our world.

So called animal rights activists have harassed it's workers and threatened,  targeted and vandalized the Blue Star farm. They believe it is cruel for draft horses, who have worked hard for human beings for thousands of years, to work at all, or even to be retired and cared for. It is hard for me to understand, but I have witnessed some of the irrational hatred directed at Paul and Pamela. And experienced some of it myself.  Blue Star is not about hating anyone. Neither am I.

It seems that Blue Star's crime is supporting the idea that animals can and should work with us. These same people believe it is wrong for people to own dogs or use them to herd sheep or help the blind cross streets.  If you meet and speak with the gentle and caring people at Blue Star farm, and read their writings, or watch their videos, you can see for yourself just how outrageous this persecution is.

Blue Star has been offered $7,500 in matching funds in their new reorganization and re-commitment to the future of working horses and working animals. They have raised more than $2,000 this week and are seeking $4,500 more. By supporting Blue Star, you can also support the humane and loving treatment of human beings, something the animal rights movement has abandoned. One cannot thrive without the other. You cannot love animals and hate people. You can contribute here.

It would be inspiring if Blue Star  were able to benefit from the generous offer from the Leo S. Walsh Foundation to match contributions. It costs a lot of money to feed and care for the beautiful draft horses that depend on Blue Star for their survival. We are all bombarded with requests to help keep the bright side of the human spirit alive in a stressful time. Blue Star is the idea for me, especially for animal lovers.

Blue Star has launched an important fund-raising campaign at a critical time for them. Please consider supporting it, either by contributing directly or joining the Blue Star "herd" and saving the lives of the horses who have done so much for us and for our ancestors.


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(Video): Learning, Adapting: How Fate Is Learning To Stay.

Learning How To Stay

Learning How To Stay

Dog training is always a reflection on human adaptability, patience, and ability to learn. I've been working for a good long time on getting Fate to stay, and it is perhaps the trickiest and most challenging part of our training work. Fate is an explosively instinctive dog with an enormous amount of drive. She reacts instinctively, as well-bred working dogs do, and when she hears the chain a gate, for example, she shoots forward, out of her stay and lie.

In the pasture, her lie down is great, the stay command is the hardest for her. Fate is very different from Red, he is eager to please and instantly responsive. He has spoiled me in a way.

Fate has to be trained differently, as you can see in the video I took this morning. When I tell her to stay, she does, when she hears the gate, she moves forward but does not run through it. Invariably, on the second try, the stay command works, she lies down and stays. That is because I've already opened the gate and she doesn't hear the sound of the chain.

This is the thing with intense border collies, certain sounds and movements trigger their explosive responses. Red stays whenever and wherever he is told to stay. Fate has trouble containing herself, and I need to remember, she is only six months old. So I've decided to go with Fate and not push too much against her instincts. She has to stay, but she can move forward a bit around the gate. Nowhere else.

I am understanding that Fate is not Red and will not be Red. She is very much her own dog.  Fate is coming along beautifully in the pasture. She is giving more eye every day and the sheep are beginning to sense her power and let her move them. Patience, patience, patience. Good training is as much about us as it is about the.  Come and see.



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