Sunday, July 29, 2007


Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Once a month, I submit an article to the Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI, for publication in the Variety Section of their Sunday edition. This is that article as submitted for August, 2007:

We are right smack in the middle of summer. The vibrant greens are already changing to golds and browns as the corn tassels and the oats mature.

My mind wanders to our family living room up in Duluth, Minnesota. I am 9 years old and standing next to our new Hi-Fi Stereo system. It’s a fancy one! That huge black album held magic in its grooves. I’m on stage, you know. Singing to my make-believe audience at the top of my lungs. Singing with Nat King Cole that favorite song of mine for this time of year. And when that special diamond needle rested on those grooves, Mr. Cole was right next to me and we were on! ”Bring back those lazy hazy crazy days of sum-mer. Those days of pretzels and sunshine and cheer.” These are the words my Mom approved and so I must sing these words and not the true words of the song! And sing I did!

Fast forward fifty years. It was a public hours Saturday in July at Refuge Farms. Many of the volunteers, or The ‘Other’ Herd as I call them, were working at a local music festival to earn extra funds in their support of THE FARM. As a result, I found myself greeting our guests and telling them the stories of Andy, Frances Andrew, the Memory Beds, and of course, about our Missions for both horses and humans alike. Truly, I enjoy this socialization! And isn’t that a peculiar statement from a woman who so desperately protects her privacy! Yes, I do thoroughly enjoy greeting total strangers who decide to check us out and venture in to my barns!

Toward the end of this particular day, a young couple stopped to visit. I enjoyed his humor and her keen eye! He enjoyed Jeri-Ann and was, as expected, in awe of her size given her young age. This gave she and I time to talk and begin to know one another. Her observations showed me a quick mind with attention to detail. And her questions caused me to really think before spouting off a reply. We talked of how her Mother reads these very articles and how she has driven by many times on her way to visit her Mother. And her love of her life and of these horses was obvious to me. I found myself concluding that this was a truly nice woman.

At the close of this initial visit, we strolled up from the barn toward their vehicle. Our conversation was lively and I was enjoying it and them. Innocently, she asked me, “How long have you been doing all of this, Sandy?” As she posed her question, her arm swept the horizon around us signaling her intention of including the barns, the yard, the horses, the pastures, the house, the volunteers, the public, the round bales. How long had I been doing all of this?

My response came out of me before I fully heard her question. It was one of those quick replies that you say before you hear it yourself. But the answer was honest and sincere. And like a mirror on my wall. “Forever. I’ve been doing this forever.”

After their departure, I thought of her question and my response. Why did I answer so quickly? And with those words? Was it fatigue? Was it weariness? Was it the heat and the lack of sleep? No. My response was from none of that. My response was from my heart. Better yet, my response was from my soul. Yes, that’s right. From my soul. From my very inner being. In that quick response to her simple question I showed – even to myself – that I was truly, honestly, and wholly born to do this.

I was born to rescue the horses that no one wants. The ones that we call the “diers”. I was born to care for these huge animals. I was born to care and love and get right inside of them with my determination to heal and help and comfort them. And, unbelievably, I was born to grow enough as a human being to come to want to share them with all of you. And in that sharing, maybe both of us can learn a bit about forgiveness and respect and acceptance and honesty and loyalty. Maybe, just maybe, these horses can get through to we Human Beings when human words cannot. Maybe, just maybe, these horses can give the love and welcoming hearts that we all long for. Maybe, if we learn to trust over a ton of horse flesh with our bodies we can, too, learn to trust a fellow human being with our honest feelings.

In a recent blog, I wrote about my belief that if you get in front of Human Beings with a message of kindness and forgiveness and faith and grace, eventually someone will take that message on as his own. That without ever having visited THE FARM, someone reading these articles will know of the Missions and actually begin to practice them in their own life. Creating those random acts of kindness. Maybe, just maybe, words and stories and pictures are able to sow the seeds of them. Just like we planted those tiny little pumpkin seeds in the Kid’s Garden just a short while ago! And so I write our stories with the hope of someone grabbing on and making them their own. Maybe someone would hold a door open to help a stranger. Offer an iced tea to a hard working neighbor. Maybe our work to show our Missions to you can mimic those forty pumpkin seeds that sprouted in to forty-one plants! The faith of a gardener – that’s what I strive for! To plant a seed in the dark dirt and trust that a plant will grow. To trust that good will come from my efforts!

And so on this public hours Saturday, I found myself walking with the proof of that very trust and my efforts. Living proof walking right here in my driveway and talking with me! A visitor to THE FARM because of these articles and our consistent message of faith and good works. But did she know the healing that she gave that day? The healing she offered to the one who was offering her horses to heal others? Did this stranger know that on that particular day, it was she who healed me?

Later, after feeding and chores and some time to ponder the day, I was rejuvenated by the realization that I was here. Right here in this very place at this very time. Doing what my heart calls me to do. I am where I am supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing. I know this like I know my name! The peace and calm that come with that realization and the acceptance of it all!

Sure, there’s work and blisters and headaches and too little sleep and way, way too much stress. But there would be stress in my life if I were a millionaire! And yes, there are times when it all is truly overwhelming. You hear me when I tell you how tired I can become and how the work never ends. You hear me when my grief simply oozes out of my skin when I must let one go. But then a visitor shows up during public hours and she asks a simple question: How long have I been doing all of this?

If I work really hard at it, I can remember a time when I did not have cars in the driveway or anyone in my barns. When I chose not to answer the telephone when it rang and I seldom held a conversation with another person. I was secluded and that way on purpose. I was reeling from the loss of my sister, my only sibling, and my very best friend. And no other person could – or would – be allowed to intrude on my grief!

But that seems like lifetimes ago! Now I have people at THE FARM almost daily! And my telephone rings and I reach for it – smiling! And total strangers are given a handshake when they arrive and then a hug when they leave. My, how time – and the magic of this place – has worked on me! And now, simply, it is my job to share what I have found with you. Come and meet The Herd of Horses and The ‘Other’ Herd of Volunteers! You’ll find some of the most caring, giving, sincere, and comical people who walk this earth right in my backyard! Right here! Not hidden in some retreat or hillside someplace. Right here in St. Croix Valley!

I was born to do this. And so I must rescue. And I must do my best to heal. And I must do my very, very best to be there for “them” – who or what ever “them” might be. And to make tough decisions. And to do my darnedest to not have regrets.

And so I’ve been humming that Nat King Cole song a lot lately. “Those lazy hazy crazy days of summer!” Yup. Hear the hazy part. Yup. I even hear the crazy part. But when, Mr. Cole, does the lazy part start?

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, July 22, 2007


"We sure must love these horses!"

It’s been a very busy week here at Refuge Farms. Every day has been packed with commitments or tours or meetings – some days had more than one major event, even! So I sit here this morning with tired legs but a big smile on my face… It has been a good week here at Refuge Farms.

One of the major factors to deal with in a Wisconsin summer is the heat and humidity. This week was a gift! We actually had a couple of days with highs in the 70’s! Glorious! And the dew points stayed in a range less than my age! Huh! Because of this cool break, both the horses and I rested well and enjoyed our days more. The stresses of worrying about the heat and the sun and the flies and the heavy air and how to generate breezes were put off for another day. And we all rested.

This was the week of Country Jam! The ‘Other’ Herd participated in the event as Security staff in order to earn a bit of cash for our expenses. For some of the ‘Jammers’ this meant waking at 4am. Not easy! For some of the ‘Jammers’ it meant working Country Jam in the morning, their full-time job in the afternoon, and then at THE FARM in the evening for a Vacation Bible School group holding their closing meeting amongst The Herd. For some, it meant putting miles on their vehicles at $3.29 per gallon - and refusing reimbursement by THE FARM. For every ‘Jammer’, it meant doing something out of their way – out of the ordinary – to benefit Refuge Farms.

For you ‘Jammers’, I want you to know that the funds raised by our Security hours will be used to the purchase some of medicines needed by our Lanna. Maybe with these funds, we can address her eyes…?

Kid’s Ventures returned to us again this year. Thursday evening a whole caravan of vehicles turned their blinkers on and pulled in to the driveway! Smiling volunteers greeted them and then spent the next two hours trying to show them a good time but also trying to teach them something. Like how April’s feet are healing with the “bubble gum” she wears. And how the birds like different types of feed out of the different types of feeders. And all about Frances Andrew and what these flower beds and all these young tress really are. And how to get heavy feed sacks emptied in to the feed bin without spilling the feed on the floor!

The Kid’s Ventures group, as always, is polite and eager and full of energy! And each year we close with discussion of what we learned. And the Missions. And this year we talked about respect. How appropriate! I enjoy this group and I learned as much from them as hopefully they have learned from us.

Saturday was our Public Hours Saturday. I haven’t been in the driveway the past few Saturdays in an attempt to cross train the Management Team. But with the “usuals” at Country Jam, it gave me a chance to be the hostess again. I found myself introducing the concept, The Herd, myself, and our Missions. Throughout the day I retold the story of Frances and Andy and talked about this invisible thing here that we call the “Magic”. And I repeatedly asked our guests how they had found us? Where did they first see us?

I enjoy these times. The sunshine on my face and the breeze out of the South. The horses up to the gates trying their best to get all of the pets! And the faces of our new guests as they see Big Guy for the first time. Or see Cole and hear his ancient years. Or see The Old Horse and Addie-Girl scratching each other. Or hear that Jeri-Ann is only two years old! Yesterday, once again, I was asked – twice – if I was telling the truth or, “Maybe did I have another horse in mind?”

No,” I reassured my guest, “that horse right there – the one you are petting - turned two on May 1st. Really.

As a little girl, I remember singing along with Nat King Cole as he sang that song about these lazy, hazy days of summer. I sang loudly as our Hi-Fi with it’s fancy diamond needle played that album. Mom was tactfully (and gratefully!) outside hanging clothes or in the basement washing clothes while I belted out “Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of sum-mer! Those days of sunshine and cheer!” Well, they’ve been hazy. And it’s summer. Wonder when the lazy starts?

Yesterday, right about closing time, a familiar vehicle pulled in the driveway. Out poured – yup, poured - Cathi and Sabra. A bit sun burned. A bit dirty. With tired, bloodshot eyes from the dust and lack of sleep and too many highway miles. But with visible determination written all over their faces.

To the very first horse they went – in straight lines! With their arms swinging and their hands petting the air before they were touching anything close to a horse! They looked like they were seeing the reward of hard, hard work. Their first words, to me, summed up the entire week so well! It said what we all believe and feel and why we do all this stuff! What were those words?

“We sure must love these horses!”

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Milestones Reached

In every ‘organization’ there is a pusher. Think about it.

In every family, there is one member who keeps the family moving and on time to wherever they are going. In every relationship, there is one of the two who keeps questioning and makes sure there is plenty of communication. And in every business, there is someone with the plan and the drive to keep moving the business forward on that plan. A measured risk-taker. The pusher. Sometimes, the pusher is not the most popular person in a family or business. But a pusher is needed if the organization is to grow and survive.

Refuge Farms is no different than any other organization in this respect. We have a pusher. It is someone who has a vision of what the future of THE FARM will look like and the drive to keep pushing forward. And pushing forward sometimes is exactly the opposite of what the pusher – and the volunteers – want to do! Maybe for a while, it would be nice just to sit still… and to not grow for a while… and to not add any new events… and to not take on new publicity obligations… and to not grow at all. Just to sit. And rest.

But then I push. I push us all to keep moving and going forward. And in all of this, to remember why we exist and to keep the faith that started us out. The belief that we make a difference. And the belief that what we do is good. So I push. Even when it’s I who wants to rest most of all.

The month of June, 2007 was a month of pushing for me and Refuge Farms. We have expanded – and continue to expand – our obligations for articles and regular publicity commitments. And we do this not only for the publicity, but because I believe that if you get in front of Human Beings with a message of kindness and forgiveness and faith and grace, eventually someone will take that message on as his own. That without ever having visited THE FARM, someone reading the articles will know of the Missions and actually begin to practice them in his own life. Creating those random acts of kindness. Maybe, just maybe, words and stories and pictures are able to sow the seed of them. And so we write our stories with the hope of someone grabbing on and making them their own.

And in the month of June, 2007 we have moved forward in our organizational structure by continuing the process of re-addressing the Board of Directors. A huge and ever so meaningful task, but one that must be addressed and one that requires time and patience and an eye for others who are pushers. This task involves a bit of selling, a bit of humility, a bit of pleading, and yes, even a bit of pushing.

And also in the month of June, 2007 we have grown. And we have grown in three ever so critical ways:

First, we have grown in volunteers! The visits with us have resulted in others deciding to become a part of us. Wonderful! It truly is an honor and I am amazed that people with busy lives and commitments on their already-full-platters will express a desire to give of their time and talents and energy to our Missions. What a compliment! And what a good and reaffirming sign that the current team is magnetic and friendly and that they actually does possess the spirit of the Missions! The proof is that others see it, too. Not just me.

Secondly, we have grown the herd. But where, you ask? Well, that’s the pushing part. And the third piece of the growth….

Refuge Farms was formed on a dream of two aging adults who only hoped that they could set the foundation and build the base for the big dream in their hearts and minds. That big dream of theirs was of multiple facilities with multiple herds with multiple programs for kids and adults of all abilities and ages always in the works. Multiple lives saved every day. Multiple lives changed every day. And the one question I have fielded throughout the years about that very dream is Refuge Farms? Why Farms? Why the ‘s’?

My answer has always been a patient reply that “some day we will have multiple locations”. And then I would dream…

Until now, we have continued to grow and expand as Refuge Farms sitting here on a single property of 20 acres in Spring Valley. In June, 2007 our first Annex Location became a reality. And so now, truly, we are Refuge Farms.

Just what does an Annex Location mean? It means that Refuge Farms has a second facility where we house horses and continue the work of the Missions. Currently, these Annex Locations are not for public hours or events, however the horses are part of The Herd and the owner of the property is an active member of The ‘Other’ Herd. Refuge Farms supports the horses in their needs and Refuge Farms supports the need to maintain fence and grounds. However, Refuge Farms does not own the buildings or the land or even the fence line. All of this is the generosity of the owner of the Annex Location. Plus, this owner gives the muscle and the dedication and the heart to care for these horses as if they were their own. In other words, Refuge Farms owns the horses with someone else’s investment and muscle.

Do these horses receive The Three Promises? You bet! Remember, any horses on Annex Locations are a part of Refuge Farms and a part of The Herd. The only difference is where they eat and sleep.

So in June, 2007 two new horses joined our family – Windsor and Star. And the very first Annex Location of Refuge Farms with our own dear Tracy O, or Professor as I call her, has been born.

You will all get to know these horses as well as you know all of the others. They will come to THE FARM and participate in the big events as they truly are a part of The Herd. And you will come to love and appreciate them as much as Tracy and I do as you get to know them.

Windsor is an Egyptian Arabian gelding who was a South Dakota State Champion four years in a row. He is a cart show horse with personality and mischief just flowing out of his eyes! He puts on a big aire but is truly a kitten inside. Or maybe a cat….a big cat!

Star is a Morgan gelding who is actually a big horse on the outside. And as I expected, proving to be shy and tender on the inside. Stately and manly in appearance, Star stole my heart from our first meeting. Following you like a puppy, Star simply wants attention – and plenty of it!

Both horses are in their early 20’s and it’s important to keep them together as they age. Windsor is content to hang around the pasture and even venture out farther than his pasture mate. While Star finds it most comfortable to share the breeze from the barn fan with Tracy’s llamas. I find that most interesting, given that Star has backpacked over the Colorado Rocky mountains hunting animals that looked a lot like those llamas!

And our Professor has seen her way to wrapping her arms around these two horses in their need of a home and care and patient and gentle touch. Tracy has worked wonders with theses horses in teaching them that she is Alpha but all the while remaining kind and loving and giving to them. These two horses desperately needed the shelter of a barn to escape the flies and gnats. Tracy has arranged that space and so now their hides and their nerves are healing from the relief. And Tracy works on manes and establishing bonds. A little at a time. And the trust is building. Slowly, as it always does, but it builds.

So, Refuge Farms is now a reality. The ‘s’ is for real. A milestone indeed for our history book and a big step in the creation of the dream. And all of this because horses needed a home and shelter and someone to care for them. And Tracy was willing.

Why Tracy? you ask. I’ll tell you a story and you’ll see…

It was a hot and very humid day in June and we were all sitting in the shade at the close of our Public Hours Saturday. Tracy and I had talked very briefly about “those two horses” and their need for a new home. We had talked about trying to keep them together. And we had talked about options for separating them. We had skirted a discussion about Tracy housing them. But neither one of us had met them or even set eyes on them yet. I was scheduled to meet their owners and the horses the following day and had asked Tracy if she would like to accompany me.

Why?” she asked me. “Well, to be sure you like them and the looks of them”, was my response. “Most people want to look at a horse and check it out before they say ‘yes’ to taking it on.”

What was Tracy’s response?

I’ll go with you, sure, but I don’t need to. There is no such thing as a too big or a too little or an ugly or a handsome horse to me. There are just horses in need of a home. I’m okay without seeing them.

In that instant, I knew we were moving – and I was pushing - in the right direction. Tracy’s response showed me her heart and I knew, like I knew the sky was blue, that this was the right thing to do.

So, June, 2007 was a milestone month for Refuge Farms! We have grown in size and commitment and herd and supports and literally everywhere! Be pleased and excited over our growth! Take on the challenges and rest quickly! Because I’m still here. Pushing!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, July 08, 2007


One Soul's Journey

"That tree is as important as I am!" I shouted the words into the smoke and flames, from which a man emerged to tower over me. We each carried a shovel, and each had a 40-pound pack can of water on our backs. We were civilian fire fighters for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, tasked with putting out the blaze. We were engaged to be married.

Concerned with the fury with which I threw myself into the task, he cautioned me to back off, be careful, don't get hurt. Live to fight fires another day. I wanted no part of it; I was on a mission. I have no idea where those words, that idea that a three-foot jack pine was equal to a human, came from.

Probably it was my wish to say something shocking, to be different in a world whose sameness bored me, to buy some space from well-meaning men in a world of 1970s paternalism. It was perhaps a visitation of my childhood angst at the thought that anything else in the world, even a tree, would experience being unwanted, as I had been, which led me during my preschool years to hide garbage so it wouldn't be thrown out.

As a child I whispered "I love you" to anything my parents discounted, from furniture that "looked junky" to specimens at the Christmas tree lot that "looked scrawny," to spare them the pain I intellectually knew they were incapable of feeling, but which lodged so large an ache in my heart.

My words in the woods that day came not from a firm grounding in science or a well-developed spiritual belief, since in those days I had neither, but I was to learn years later that my idea was, indeed, connected to both.

"However innumerable all beings are, I vow to save them all." Two decades and 2,000 miles from the Wisconsin fire line, I found myself reciting those words at 6 a.m. every day for what would be many years in a Los Angeles Zen temple. Like other things Zen - the koans, the stories - this first of four Buddhist vows (the other three are equally vague and impossible to fulfill) are meant to skew our thinking to a non-linear place where we can perhaps, some day, gain enlightenment - an understanding such as that held by the Buddha 2,500 years ago, of our "true nature."

While I knew it was impossible to "save them all," my continued concern for reducing suffering and pain in the intervening years had lead to my not eating meat, not using chemicals, and only buying products that didn't involve animal testing. A trip to the store was, again, me on a mission, armed with lists of products to avoid, rather than things to buy. "Paper or plastic?" would elicit a lecture about the need to use cloth bags.

In my corporate togs, I bent one day to lift earthworms that would otherwise dry out and die on the sidewalk in front of the Fortune 500 firm where I was a manager. This was a typical walk in from the parking lot for me on a rainy morning. "What are you doing?" asked my boss, passing with someone from her ranks of ever more authority. "Rescuing earthworms," I smiled, my nearly 50-year old hands filled with squirmy sliminess. "How cute," her colleague mused.

Fast-forward another several years and, back in Wisconsin, I'm driving past Refuge Farms. "home of "Horses Helping. . ."," I read the blue and white sign that faces the state highway and, seeing people in the yard, I pull in. The warmth, laughter and friendship I found that day in the midst of hard-working women applying themselves to dozens of tasks has stayed with me as a joyous memory, and it is one I experience again and again when I go there. The unwanted child is gone. The horses? They're icing on the cake.

I tell the students in the classes I teach that life is a journey: getting the most out of college is more important than racing through in some belief that life is better "out there" in the "real world." In 30 years, whether you graduated at age 22 or 23 won't matter, but the ideas you've absorbed, and the friends you've made, will, I say. They smile and nod ruefully; at core they understand, but their eagerness to "get on with life" is palpable. I tell them, this is your life; you've already lived through a quarter of it.

Looking back on my own journey, much more than a quarter gone, I see a movement towards moderation that has its roots in the combined worlds of physics and spirituality. Science tells us our world is made up of spinning electrons and sub-atomic particles, forming what we see as "you" and "I" as well as what appears to be the empty space between us. However, the idea that each thing we see is a separate being is so ingrained in our psyches from childhood on that this alternate view of the universe as a continuum of undulating energy is beyond our comprehension.

This is what the Buddha saw, without benefit of scientific knowledge, two and a half millennia ago, and while far from enlightened, I have seen bits and pieces of this reality through a decade of meditation. It has informed my life, helping me "save them all" without losing myself in the process.

I see that I'm really helping myself when I rescue earthworms or care for rescued horses - it is who I am. They are a part of this same, vast energy mass as I, just as my fingers and teeth, which are so different from each other, are both part of what I call "me."

Science has determined that sometimes it is preferable to let a forest fire burn itself out - destruction leads to needed regeneration, and the plants and animals sacrificed, despite whatever pain and fear they experienced, become part of the new growth. This is a hard one for me to accept - allowing short-term loss for the greater good - so the image of this ever-changing mass of energy swirling in space of which we are all a part is easier for me to accept than a world of individuals in which so many meet untimely and tragic ends.

So I salute THE FARM's two missions - reducing pain and supporting healing in people and animals. It is at the root of everything I've believed and cared about for as long as I can recall. But I am also able, some days more than others, to realize that we can only do so much - saving the earthworms starves the robins. And when it is time to release a horse from suffering, I know that this swirling energy mass that we call by a name and love as a separate being is no more or less with us than before, since no energy is gained or lost. It is merely transformed.


Sunday, July 01, 2007


The Ways of THE FARM

We have a document here at Refuge Farms. It is divided in to chapters and it talks about Barn Expectations, Horse Handling Expectations, Public Persona… you know. The kinds of things that you document when you are transferring your mission, your dreams, your goals in to the heads and hearts and hands of others.

This document is founded on the Declaration of Purpose and is intended for people of all ages and all horse experience levels. The idea is that this document will, when read, tell you how to be safe and happy around the horses and the environment here at Refuge Farms.

We call this document The Ways of THE FARM.

Is it a rule book? No, not really. In fact, each sentence begins with “It is expected that ….”. In this way, it is setting expectations understanding that reality, at times, causes deviances from those expectations.

Is it lengthy? Some people say yes. In fact, some people say it’s too lengthy. I would, however, ask you to consider that this document must serve the 11 year old young girl with ‘horse love’ written all over her face just as well as it serves the 50’ish experienced horse handler with ‘knowledge’ written all over her face.

Is it working? I believe it is. This document sets a foundation and a standard of operation for all to read and receive and participate in should they decide to become a part of our Missions. It also reminds us to follow it. Simply put, without following The Ways of THE FARM, there will be challenges.

Let me give you one example:

This morning at 5am I am in the barns picking them clean, filling tanks, and getting ready to feed The Herd their breakfast before I clean up and meet friends at 9am for a meeting. I have the radio on and it’s cool outside. Very pleasant. I am sure my time is plentiful so I take the time to wash a load of barn clothes and get them on the line – taking full advantage of the breeze that today has blessed us with.

I begin my usual feeding routine on the Helen Keller side of the barn. Hooking Miss April at her new feeding spot and then the others… It’s only 15 minutes and I have six horses munching and content at their places. I must adjust PONY!’s fly mask, however, before I continue with the remaining tasks, and so I turn my back and begin to do just that.

Out of the back of my head I see a gate move. Then I hear a hoof on rubber. I know someone on the other side of the barn is attempting to slip past me but I’m confident that when I turn, they will back up. Huh!

Before I can fully turn around, ten horses are out of the gate and through the open barn door to freedom! Ten of them! Free! No fences between them and the North Pole!!!

Foolishly, I go and close and latch the open gate. Foolishly. Then I turn my attention to the forty hooves having a wonderful time running through the yard and playing and munching on flowers in the Memory Beds and just being where they know they shouldn’t be! The fun of being naughty! On a gloriously cool, crisp, and windy day!

I scan this group to find the leader. No, it’s not Babee Joy or Jeri-Ann. Unit is just thrilled and following anyone who will tolerate her. Big Guy is following Babee Joy. Josephina is glued to the side of Addie-Girl. Addie-Girl is sensibly eating grass as swiftly as her mouth can get it in! Miss Bette is eating her fill of that same sweet grass up by the corral. Sweet Lady Grey and Blasie are eating, too, thinking no one notices them way over there by the Andy tree!

The leader? That would be Beauty. If Beauty decides to venture off, there’s no stopping her or the others. Her strides cover twelve to fifteen feet each and I would be so far behind her it would be comical! Would feed work? No time to get the feed and find out! I must get Beauty’s attention and get her turned around and simply heading toward the barn. But how?

Then the answer I am so desperately searching for falls in to her face. My clothes drying on the line. Beauty is fascinated with them and the laundry basket! That basket flew thirty feet in to the air! And the clothes? She was munching on them! She would be startled each time a clothes pin popped off the line, but the clothes were her single focus. Thank you, Lord!

So with Beauty absorbed, I worked on a few of the easier ones. Big Guy who will go anywhere with me was soon back in the barn. Jeri-Ann followed Big Guy out of simple fear of the unknown. Unit was right behind Jeri-Ann. Three down and seven to go!

Josephina was a non-issue once I got a lead rope over Addie-Girl’s neck. Getting that lead rope over Addie-Girl’s neck was a bit of a challenge given that she is still trying to understand this ‘touch’ thing… But we managed to trust each other enough to get close and then the lead rope fell over her mane. In to the barn we walked like a well-drilled team of three. Sweet Lady Grey and Blaise obediently followed those two and so all that was left was Babee-Joy and Beauty. Now the challenge!

Babee Joy was not going anywhere without her leader, so I must focus on Beauty. Remember those front feet, Sandy, and the swiftness with which they strike! Now is the time for feed!

A morsel of feed in front of her and Beauty changes her focus from my now green-stained clothes to me. A lead rope around her neck and off we go – Babee-Joy following close behind. Through the gate we fly! I am so happy that Beauty is returned to the barn!!! I quietly gather Miss Bette and all is back to normal.

Forty-five minutes later, I am sweaty and breathing like I’ve just run a marathon. My heart is just about beating its way out of my chest! And the horses! They are so hyper and excited from this new adventure that it’s now time to kick up their heels and run and play for a while. This gives me time to sit on the feed tank and shake my head.

The Ways of THE FARM says that "It is expected that all gates shall be kept shut and properly latched at all times, except while passing through." Wise expectation. Works very well, too, when you follow it!!!

I had made the mistake of not following my own expectation this morning and I had risked a herd of ten glorious creatures! I risked their safety, their lives, and the lives of people driving by to Sunday services who may have collided with them. My sloppiness and shortcut almost cost me a disaster. And had put others in danger.

My body vibrated for quite a while as I realized and absorbed the depth of my error and the enormity of the risk I had created in my sloppiness. Lock the gate, Sandy. Every time.

So, yes, The Ways of THE FARM works – when you follow it. Just ask me and I’ll show you my green-stained clothes and show you the divots in the yard and the huge hoof prints in the west lawn!

How appropriate that such an event would happen on July 1st. You see, January and July 1st of each year are the times for our twice-yearly review of The Ways of THE FARM. We do this to insure timeliness and completeness of the document. And this July 1st of 2007 there are updates. How will you know what has been updated? The changes have been published on our web-based document in blue italics. Take a moment and review them, please. Truly, The Ways of THE FARM will mean the difference between a grand fun time or time spent chasing horses or soaking bruised bodies. Just ask me!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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