And So We’ve Entered the Teenage Months…

Well, I‘ve had my puppy Kieffer for a whopping eight months already. Time sure does fly when you’re busy chasing after a wild puppy who loves to play keep away!  Kieffer has grown into his ears only slightly over the last several months and still resembles a bat, or Dumbo, or a rabbit, depending on who you ask. At least a three times a day I find myself asking, “Kieffer, why are your ears so big?” He usually responds by pricking them up to their full height and furrowing his little brow into rows of wrinkles so that he looks as though he’s thinking really hard about what his response should be.



Kieffer hates rain more than any animal I’ve met. He is the complete opposite of Zappa, who stands outside in the craziest of rain storms, as if to test the quality of waterproofing on each of his blankets. And then there’s Karma, who dives into the pond or any body of water she can find, even if it’s close to freezing outside!

If it’s raining and it’s time for Kieffer to go out for a pee, he will first spin around, away from the door and high tail it for the kitchen table where he hides underneath and whines until I come to retrieve him, leash in hand. Then, resigned to his wet fate, he flattens his tail underneath his belly and pins his ears back like an angry horse. He will often make one last attempt to save himself from the droplets by unsuccessfully digging his claws into the tile flooring. I even bought him a raincoat, but it does little to appease him. Finally, once outside in the rain, he flattens his ears so they stick out straight beside him like wings. He then proceeds to whine and batt angrily at his ears every few steps. My friend Glynis came up with a theory as to why he hates the rain so much: his massive ears act as giant rain funnels. And it’s true. His ears are so big that if he doesn’t flatten them out to the side, the rain literally pours down into them.

I have yet to determine what Kieffer’s breeding is, but every customer who comes into the tack store that I work at has to guess at his heritage.

“He must be part bat!”

“Dingo. For sure he’s got some wild dog in him.”

“Those ears! Must be rabbit in him.”

“Look at his little wrinkly forehead! Is he part Basenji?”

“Gosh, he can just balance on those hind legs, eh? Has he got some Meerkat in him?”

Big Ears

Big Ears

But my favourite insight of all came from a little girl who could not have been more than 5 years old. She was sitting at the bus stop with her siblings and as Kieffer and I walked past, her eyes grew wide and incredulous. She stood up on the bench and pointed definitively at my unusual looking pup.


Over Christmas I decided to look up the one breed many people had speculated he might have in him:  Basenji. I was surprised to find just how much he does resemble this African hunting dog, with its large ears, wrinkly forehead, tendency to stand on its hind legs like a meerkat, and ability to play tirelessly. At the very bottom of the breed description, my eyes paused. It stated that the Basenji is the second least trainable dog, beat only by the Afghan Hound, according to Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs. Well, that explains a lot!

The pup and I have had our struggles over the last few months; there were a few times where I seriously questioned where my brain had taken off to the day I decided to add a puppy into my crazy life of school, horses, full time work, farm sitting and trying to run a business. Despite the many misadventures—such as jumping out of my moving car’s window (thankfully I was very slowly pulling out of a parking lot when he decided to make his daring escape), scarfing down dinners of cow paddies (the manure pile is behind our house), being stepped on by my horse (miraculously he escaped without any broken bones) and chewing through all three seatbelts in the back of my car (a feat accomplished in 10 minutes flat)—we somehow survived the last eight months.  He even learned how to sit, lie down and give a high five on command. While he still has to stay in his kennel in the car (I’d like the driver and passenger seatbelts to remain uncompromised if at all possible) he’s now regained his off-leash privileges (they were revoked many times after the cow-paddy-dinner incidents) and he has learned that if the window is open in the car, it’s for fresh air and not to test if his ears are indeed large enough for him to take flight.

The little gaffer is growing up so fast and maturing into a lovely dog. He’s very careful around the horses ever since he got stepped on by Zappa (they still sniff noses each day so I think all has been forgiven).  And while he may have some of the “least trainable” breed of dog in him, whatever mix he is, he’s proven so far to be one of the most unusual and entertaining dogs I’ve ever met!


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Surprise Weekend Arrival

This past weekend we had a surprise arrive on the farm. An extremely unexpected little fawn-coloured bundle of joy.

My landlords have two cows and a young bull who live a pretty comfortable lifestyle mowing down the grass in the back fields. In the winter, however, they are confined to a paddock and barn so they don’t churn the hay fields into mud. Without being able to constantly graze, they apparently found other ways to entertain themselves over the winter.

While my landlord’s were away a couple times over the winter, my roomie and I looked after the two cows and baby bull for them. Diesel, the “baby” bull is already over a year old, but he’s so tiny—about half the size of the other cows—that he appears as though he’s their baby. He’s timid and runs away to hide behind Daisy if you so much as try to touch him. He’s solid black with a floppy white ear tag, and a scruff of mane that makes him look as though he’s wearing an oddly placed toupe. Each night at dinnertime when I came out with the grain buckets, he’d make the most pathetic, teenaged-boy-going-through-puberty-voice-cracking-uncontrollably moo that sounded more like a bleat.

Daisy acts as Diesel’s mum for the most part, and the two stick close to each other, forming a pseudo protective alliance against Clover.

Because Clover is the one who acts as the protective bull in their family. She’s as big as a one and what she lacks in horns she makes up for with the top of her head.  Often, when I enter the pen with dinner, she’ll spin her great bulk around, paw the ground like an enraged bull, and throw her massive head to clash against Daisy’s. She’ll do this repeatedly until Daisy has had enough (the head aches she must have to deal with!) and finally turns away to sulk beside her hay rack.

Sometimes, when mucking out the cows’ paddock, Clover will stand opposite the wheelbarrow and begin her bull-about-to-charge routine. This is when I grab the pitchfork and the handles of the wheelbarrow and play the super fun game of cow-dodging. While she’s never fully charged at me, her threats are enough to have me deaking the wheelbarrow this way and that, trying to shield myself while also distracting her as I awkwardly beeline it for the gate. Death by disgruntled cow is not how I see myself departing this world.

This past weekend, Daisy gave birth. None of us, including my landlords, knew that she had been knocked up. (We’re very observant people).

Miss May

“Who knew Diesel had it in him?” was my first response when I found out.

“Yep. We’re such good farmers.” was theirs.

Baby bull has grown up, apparently, and even though he may still sound like a teenaged-boy when he uses his voice, he’s now a full-on daddy. A jealous one at that. The baby, May, as they’ve decided to call her, is so small that she managed to duck right under the electric fence separating the mum and babe from Clover and Diesel. While Daisy went nuts, mooing her face off and darting back and forth in the paddock, May had a littleadventure in the grass field. Until things went sideways, when Diesel decided the baby was fa too annoying too and began to head butt her. My landlord’s were able to scoop her up and plunk her back in the paddock, but the next morning she did the same thing.  She’s an adventurous one and I’m sure she’ll soon be breaking through the fence with the rest of the family and going on their infamous neighbourhood wanders.

Miss May and Daisy

And who knows, she may soon have a sister or brother as a co-conspirator since Clover is looking rather rotund….


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The New Barn Buddy

We have a newbie who has taken up residence in the barn. We had two, in fact, but one got trapped in my Tupperware bin filled with saddle pads and last week I unearthed his stiff little body at the bottom. Death by saddle pad stench. What a way to go.

I dubbed the pair Bert and Ernie. Now, only Bert remains.  Perhaps it’s because he’s mourning the death of Ernie, or maybe he simply likes the company of the horses, making a game of it whenever their tales thrash in his general direction, like real life dodgeball. For whatever reason, Bert has decided to make the barn his home for the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to find a nest anywhere nearby, which makes his living choice all the more odd. Why on earth would a Bumble Bee, one who is designed to collect pollen, to feed his queen, to return to his colony, make a small horse barn his new home?

Bert spends his day buzzing about the rafters, zipping from stall to stall, patrolling the feed room, hovering beside the wheelbarrow as I muck out the stalls. At first, he freaked me out. I HATE being stung (who likes it, really?) Bumble Bees can sting more than once since their stingers are smooth and don’t get caught in the skin like that of a Honeybee. They are also incredibly aggressive when it comes to defending their nest. I worried that Bert might now think that the barn was his nest and one day turn on me in its defense.

The few times I’ve been stung, my allergies have gone nuts. The stung appendages inflate like helium balloons, they turn red and itchy, not a pretty sight. Once, when I was 10 years old and camping with the family, I was pretending to ride a horse (naturally) in the woods. My horse and I galloped through the forest jumping logs, dodging rocks, ducking under branches. We trotted along one log until suddenly the footing gave out and my foot plunged through the rotten wood, directly into a wasps nest. A few of them became caught inside my sock and as I raced back towards the camp site, the beasts continued to sting me over and over again, until my ankle became fat as a football.I’m sure everyone has unpleasant memories of being stung and that incident traumatized me.

So each time Bert’s massive fuzzy body (it’s the size of a golf  ball, I swear!) appeared within feet of me, I resorted to racing out of the stall, head down, pitch fork waving wildly behind me, to hide behind my car each time he soared an inch too close. This game got old fast. The chores took twice as long and while I was feeling rather fit with all the added sprinting, (who knows, maybe I could run a marathon…) I became tired of being bossed around by a bee.

Instead, I worked on remaining calm whenever Bert flew into the stall—this usually involved me singing so it’s a wonder he didn’t actually attack me to make it stop—and we somehow managed to co-exist.

I still find it odd that Bert enjoys the barn so much. He can spend hours floating up one stall wall, then down the other side. He drifts in and out of the rafters, never zooming off to collect pollen or to check out the apple orchard directly across from the barn.

The horses don’t seem to mind his company. Other than the occasional tail swish and head shake, they tolerate the incessant droning as he buzzes about their home. I’ve decided he’s the new security guard, policing the barnyard, hopefully keeping the wasps at bay.


Bert is about 5 times bigger than this guy!

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All I Want for My Birthday is A……..Wheelbarrow?

Yesterday, I turned 25. A full Quarter of a Century old. Didn’t I just turn 19 last year?

I feel like I can now use the phrase “back in the day” when referencing the past without people raising their eyebrows at me. No? Well, I’m going to.

Back in the day, when I was a young’un, I had a fabulous long-term life plan. By the age of 25, I would be living The Dream. I’d have horses. Lot’s of them.  I’d also own a farm. A big one, say 45 acres? My barn would boast a minimum of 10 stalls; the tack room would be heated, of course, and the feed room spotless; the wash stall would come equipped with warm water and they hay would have its own private building away from the barn for storage.  Naturally, I’d also own a truck and trailer. And not just any old trailer, one with living quarters, so that with all my spare time I could take the horses on fun road trips. Not bad, right?

Somehow, I didn’t factor logistics such as the necessity of owning good barn tools into The Dream. Clearly, I’d have hired help to do that sort of dirty work.

And now, here I am at 25 wishing not for a horse for my birthday (I have at least accomplished that part of The Dream), but for a wheelbarrow.  That’s right, a tool for transporting mounds of manure around. That is what living The Dream in my reality has boiled down to.

Ever since I became responsible for the daily mucking chores at the barn, I’ve experienced nothing but wheelbarrow woes. Apparently my roomie and I are cursed, because when Zappa first arrived at her little barn, the faded green wheelbarrow for pooper scooper duty already sported a very flat tire. I can only guess how long that tire had been pancaked before my arrival at the barn (six months—at least) but I do know that we both spent over a year pushing around that flat-tired beast.


That is 365 days of slogging through mud, rain, snow, hail, what have you weather, with a bum wheel. The number of times I nose-dived that thing into the mud…

While the flat tire made pushing the wheelbarrow nearly impossible, it did, however, provide an awesome upper body workout. For that first year of Zappa’s life at the farm, between hauling hay bales, shoveling manure and leaning into that wheelbarrow, I developed some mighty good guns.

So why did we simply not buy a new tire or get the wheelbarrow fixed? Who has time for that?! My excuses for not being able to fix the tire were as follows:

a)      I didn’t  have a pump to fill the wheel with air

b)      Said wheel most likely had a hole in it, so even if I had a pump, it would still be a pointless endeavour

c)       As mentioned before, I drive a Honda Civic. The odds of fitting a wheelbarrow into the trunk of a Civic—slim to none (trust me, I’ve tried).

d)      Where would I continue my upper body workouts if the wheel was fixed?

And then one glorious day about six months ago my roomie brought home a shiny, new rosy red wheelbarrow. Oh she was pretty! And moved so smoothly. I switched alliances to the new wheelbarrow and the green one spent most of the winter sitting dejectedly beside the barn, filling with rainwater.

Big Red lasted maybe two months before her wheel fell victim to the flat-tire-curse and breathed out her last bit of air. Now we had two gimpy wheelbarrows. If that wasn’t tragic enough, one day shortly after the deflation, I pushed Big Red out of the barn towards Zappa’s paddock and plunk! The bolts securing the forks of the wheelbarrow spun off and I dove, face first, into the metal bucket. Foiled again! I had a small tanty, pounding the metal bucket with my fists like a two-year-old.  And that’s when I realized I had the last laugh: the wheelbarrow was EMPTY.

Ha! No poo in the face for me! My anger quickly subsided as I relished in the glory that I’d fallen into an empty wheelbarrow. I’m trying hard these days to see the silver lining in everything.

Months went by with me cursing the wheelbarrows. At least once a week I’d fill one only to have it flop over on its side pathetically, spilling all my hard work.

So you can see why a wheelbarrow made the top of my birthday list.

Dear friends of mine surprised me for my birthday with….you guessed it! A fancy new wheelbarrow. She’s green with yellow handles, and an indestructible solid plastic wheel. Apparently, it should last for 25 years, taking me through to my Half Century birthday. The best part of all: no flat tires!!



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Exciting News Coming Up!

I haven’t abandoned my blog… I swear!  I will have some very exciting news to share regarding Horsework Before Housework early next week so please stay tuned!!

In the meantime, Zappa and I just returned from an amazing cross country clinic in Pritchard, BC so I’ll be posting about our big off-island adventure shortly!



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Life On the Go

This past Easter weekend, my boyfriend and I spent some time cleaning my car. We vacuumed, we washed windows, we hosed the mats and scrubbed the interior.

My car is in a perpetual tornado state: I scurry through life these days from barn to work to school, then  back to the barn. And usually in that order, which means my little 2003 Honda Civic is generally crammed with the necessities for a schooling-working-riding girl’s life on the go.

If you were to take a look inside my car on a normal week you’d find:

-a riding helmet (safety first!)

-a yoga mat (hey, you never know when a good stretching opportunity might come up)

-muddy riding boots (are riding boots ever clean?)

-a set of spurs, clinging to the heels of said riding boots

-a pair of half chaps, also complete with mud marks

-a tube of horse deworming paste

-a pair of sunglasses, though they are too dusty to see out of

-a laptop

-my camera and at least two lenses (I might as well set up an office in my car)


-doggy sheets and towels to keep back seats “clean” (i.e. mud-free—this does not mean that when you peel back the sheets the seats should be devoid of dog hair, dirt, or pebbles. You will find all that and more waiting for you in the cracks).


-paper towels (my windows would be much nicer if these were pulled out of the trunk more often)

-dog harness


-cloth grocery bags (I have yet to find the key to actually remembering to bring them into the grocery store)

-hair straightener (hey, you never know when your bangs might decide to turn back into curls, mine pull this sneaky stunt on me at least once a day)

-At least one dog (sometimes, when my landlord’s are away and I have their dog as well as my roommate’s along for the ride, there will be three black dogs in the back seat of my car—hence the copious amounts of dog hair and dirt. Sigh.)


Last summer when we ran out of hay for the horses I even managed to fit a bale of hay in the trunk of my car. It took months to rid the matting of golden remnants.

Hopefully one day I’ll upgrade to a proper truck and maybe then I’ll look like a real horse girl when I pull into the feed store. Maybe then the employees won’t raise their eyebrows as they watch my car buckle as they heave sacks of grain into the trunk. Maybe then when I go for an oil change the guys won’t ask me “how the heck did you get so much mud and grass on the underside of your car?”

But for now, my Civic does a mighty good job of making sure I make it from point A to B to C to D to E… so I can’t really complain, right?


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The Hay Diaries: Part One

Last week at work I had a customer lean over the counter and whisper to me: “you have something in your hair, you know.” Gah! I knew exactly what he’d found in my hair.

“Here, I got it.” He proceeded to pull out a long, thin wisp of golden hay from amongst my blonde curls. It was 2pm in the afternoon. I’d been at work since 8:30 in the morning.


I wondered how many other customers had noticed my hay-hair and been too embarrassed (or thought it was hilarious, perhaps part of the uniform for working at a horse store) for me to say anything.

Let me tell you how I proceed through life on most days. I have my “nice” clothes and my “barn” clothes. I try really hard to keep the two separate but often, I fail. For example, I bought a new jacket this past winter. “This,” I proclaimed as I swiped my credit card, “will never see the light of the barn. Ever. This is my new fancy-pants jacket and it’s going to stay clean!”

Within a week my gorgeous new jacket made its first appearance at the barn. I’d forgotten to pack my normal bag of barn clothes (which l should really never leave the house without) as I was rushing to feed the horses after work one day. The nice collar soon had tiny bits of hay grasping onto the faux fur and the formerly shiny sheen of the fabric was now covered in a layer of dust.

Sometimes I’ll be sitting in class at school and suddenly notice a classmate staring intently at me. If I don’t know them, they usually stay silent but have a funny little grin on their face. If I do know them, they’ll usually mime pointing to their head and mouth the word: H-A-Y. That’s when I’ll pull off my toque or hat or what have you and comb my fingers through my hair, inevitably picking off bits of the pesky stuff I can’t seem to escape.

My most embarrassing moment to date occurred this past winter. I’d just finished work and it was torrential raining; I was off to feed the horses and clean out the stalls at the barn. I pulled my old sweat pants over my nice jeans, buttoned up my big, black, poofy jacket that makes me look like an over-sized burnt marshmallow, tugged my toque down over my hair, donned my pink mittens and stared down at my feet. I’d forgotten my gum boots at the farm.  I had on were my red patent flats, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz style. I shrugged my shoulders—not much I could do about my footwear until I made it to the barn.

On the drive to the barn, I ended up pulling over to help move a deer that had tragically been struck down on the road. I stepped out of my car, as did the young guy (he could have been Hayden Christensen’s twin) in the fancy truck who’d pulled over behind me. He just about started to laugh when I offered to help move the deer. It’s okay, he said, observing my patent shoes and mashmallow outfit, I’ve got it.

I wished I could have clicked my heels together like Dorothy—there’s no place like home!—and been teleported away. Instead, I clapped my mittened hands against my side like a penguin and shouted, okay! before click-clacking my way back through the puddles to the car.

My roommate often says (emphatically), normal people do not live like this! and I have to agree—most people likely do not find it necessary to perform a hay-check before heading out for dinner or a night at the movies. They also probably do not feel a wave of panic if there isn’t a spare set of gum boots and sweat pants in the trunk.

Even though I feel like more of a Scarecrow than a Dorothy on most days, it does keep life interesting.


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