“Judge Not……”

Three of our present inhabitants.

Have you ever found yourself flat on your back with stars in your eyes and a burning headache? All you have to do is walk through an open gate that has active hot wire stretched across at eye level!

The property was used as a boarding stable run by a veterinary friend who not only had a busy practice, but also kept the property up and running pretty much on her own. The result was often a Mickey Mouse, good enough, amalgamation of makeover fences, bolstered by said hot wire, among other make do attributes. To her great credit the horses were well bedded, well cared for and exercised by some of her friends, students, or occasional helpers. Nonetheless, there were moments when my daughter and I would bewail the fact that it seemed so higgledy-piggledy and broken bits often took a long time to be addressed.

Years ago we boarded a horse at a small ranch with acreage for horses to roam. They took great care of the horses and were the nicest family with kids, dogs, the whole works. Unfortunately one had to make their way through the house over clothes on the floor, toys, etc.  We greatly appreciated their care of our little filly, but privately wondered how they could live like that.

Some years later we were at a lovely ranch looking at their herd. This was an obviously very well to do couple. There was a proud groom (or stable manager?) who brought each of “his” prize horses out to parade for our benefit and accolades. Yet when the lady of the house invited us in to her immaculate domicile, kept that way by a housekeeper, there was one eyesore. Her lovely kitchen cabinets were chewed almost to shreds by their pet Cockatoo. She explained what had happened with a laugh and self assured attitude that of course we would understand…and she was right, to a point. However, with their kind of money the question remained, why not fix it?

One of the smaller creatures making a home on our property.

An extreme case was the home of a vet who bred and raised far too many horses on her ranch. After loading, with some difficulty and a lot of time, the colt we were picking up, I asked if it was possible for (ancient) me to use her restroom. The answer was no, it was not in workable shape. That was very surprising for someone who was a successful vet and breeder. Surely she had the wherewithal to redo her bathroom? We later got the impression that the entire house was in deplorable shape, which would explain not wanting us to enter.

At the boarding stable where my daughter kept her competition horse so many years ago, we used to attend parties with old, horsey friends that the owners would invite to their house. I would see massive cobwebs and dust bunnies in corners and wonder about them. Mind you, the wife spent much of her day on the ranch grounds weeding, fixing fences, tending goats and sheep, and all the other chores necessary to animal health and welfare.

One of our array of rose bushes.
Two goats, two sheep coming out of their domicile.

In my 60th year we finally acquired a place of our own, my daughter and I.  2.5 acres with a barn (of sorts), a 50 years old, very small house, and a fenced sand arena. It seemed like paradise to us at the time. 20 years down the road I am ready to apologize to all of the above! No, I would not change it, except perhaps to get a windfall of cash that would enable us to hire a stable hand, a housekeeper and a gardener! When we moved in, the back “pasture” was nothing but dirt rimmed by eucalyptus trees in our neighbors property, and a line of the same trees against the back of our acreage. Now we have fenced turnouts, rose bushes, chaste bushes, and various trees dotting the landscape. We are working on a sustainable garden of fruit and veggies to augment our grocery needs. The house has received updates as we could afford them, windows, floors, roof for instance. However, with four dogs, five horses, two sheep, two goats and a couple of coops full of chickens or ducks, I now understand our friends and acquaintances challenges. The house is never spotless, sometimes it is totally grungy. And of course there are our bathrooms, decades old and desperately in need of a redo. In the barnyard and pasture there is always a fence down somewhere, or a gate that needs repair. At the moment we are attempting to work on new stalls as the old ones are falling apart.  Our 17+ hand horse with the build of a weight lifter loves to pull out, or smash/kick, the boards of his stall when he has a tantrum. In other words we are in the same “boat” as the horse people who’s lives we have crossed in the past.

To many of my family, past friends and acquaintances our life style would be unacceptable.  Like our neighbor, who waters his weeds every day, and mows them at least three times a week. Who had to erect a privacy fence so their guests would not see our manure pile, or the collection of used posts, gates etc. that might come in handy some day.

Coffee’s fly mask.

Yes, there are numerous areas that look arid or junkie, yet we have carved out niches of relaxation. As mentioned, we have planted trees and bushes in our back acre. I have come to fully appreciate the diaries of our pioneer women, where they managed to obtain a tiny plant and somehow nursed it into a flowering bush. That one spot of beauty meant so much to those early settlers, and I think of that with each bush or tree we see reach maturity. Then I walk in the barn to a chorus of whinnies, “look at me, touch my nose, scratch my back” and shake my head, one more time, as I note Coffee has discarded his fly mask…again. I go to let the hens out so they can roam, and their flurry out of the chicken pen makes me smile. I go to herd the goats and sheep back into their pen and grin at their antics, jumping over imaginary fences in their path. I watch our two Sheltie dogs careen around the turn outs and lunge pen and cannot help but laugh.

We welcome wildlife, make a safe place for our own animals, and are trying to build a sustainable vegetable/fruit garden.  It is hard, sometimes laborious, work. Especially for an octogenarian. But the rewards are many, and if we reached the completion of our work, where would we go from there? While I may not live to see our finished canvas, as the wise man said: it is the journey that matters, not the destination.

So I apologize to all those entities my mind used to question, they were all on their own journeys, and if what brought them joy inhibited their ability to achieve a sterile house and pristine landscape, so be it. There is far more to life than a well made bed!

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