Monday, July 26, 2010


Andersen Windows Was Here!

It was a relatively simple email. Andersen Windows wondered if Refuge Farms would have use for a team of their employees to work at THE FARM for a day.

I blinked and then blinked again. Could it be true? Do we have a use for these people? Oh, my! The largest task would be selecting the project for this team! The list of projects waiting to be done was pages long so, yes, Refuge Farms would have use for a team of employees. Oh, yes!

A few more emails and I was given the names of the four individuals that would arrive at 7am on Thursday, July 15th. The normal shift hours for these people would be kept so our work day would begin at 7am and be completed by 3:30pm. Hopefully, before the worst of the heat!

Another email was received from one of the team members: Did I want her to bring her weed whip? Her mower? Her post pounder? Her tools? A telephone call was received from one of the members: Did I want him to bring his power washer? And his tools? These people were serious workers and willing to share not only their time and labors but also their equipment and tools. My excitement grew even more!

The day before this team arrived, the temperature and the heat index rose to the warning stage. It was dangerous, they said, to be outside and especially to be working. Not a pleasant thought for any of us. However, Thursday morning dawned clear and much cooler and there actually was a breeze. The humidity had moved on to the East Coast and Spring Valley was actually a pleasant place to be. It was 7am and four vehicles pulled into the yard.

No time was taken for tours or chatter. "What do you want us to do? Just point me to what you want done. Where are the posts you want pounded?" These people were serious and seasoned workers!

The two guys set about power washing the inside of the big barn. It had been several years since that barn had been maintained and the cob webs, bird droppings, and dust from the fans made the barn dirty and not a pleasant place for our guests to enter. It was minutes - literally! - and the washers were working and the dirt was flying! Neither of these two men were concerned with the heights and so the ladders sprang up and they cleaned the entire barn. From the very peak to the floor. No spot was missed unless, of course, it was a bird's nest with eggs or babies in it!

Even the wooden interior half walls were washed. As I ventured in the barn at about 10am, the interior looked like it had looked when the barn was new. What a transformation! The two guys were soaked and covered with barn specs of webs, mud, whatever it was they had peeled off of the walls. But not a complaint. Not a one. These were top class people.

Once the washers began, another went to work creating the fence line from the
corral to the east side of the driveway. We were going to finally put a barrier between the horses and that highway! I had expressed that I was a bit fussy about the straightness of the posts and the need for the posts to be in a straight line, as well. I needed have wasted my keystrokes. I have never, truly never, seen such a straight line! And each post was straight, as well. This was an experienced fence maker and a horse owner, as well. She knew what I was looking for and delivered it in spades!

One of the team had set about mowing the entire lawn. With those famous instructions of not mowing into the flowers or under the trees, she creatively found ways to still "get 'er done". As she mowed, my mind was racing with the tasks I could get completed in the time she was saving me! I would be freed this weekend from having to sit on the lawn tractor to mow. What a blessing that was!

It was time for lunch and so we traveled into Spring Valley for a sit down lunch where we could rest and be in the cool of air conditioning. Even lunch was efficient with this crew. We ate and we left. No sitting and chatting. No time to rest the food we had just consumed. Nope, it was, "Let's get back and get the rest done". Gotta love them and their attitudes!

We returned to THE FARM with the same drive and energy as 7am. The time left was short but they didn't seem to know that. The north portion of the corral was picked. The grass around the pine trees in the West Lawn was mowed. Yes, the grass that had not been mowed the entire year! The waist high grass was mowed and the entire appearance of the place changed! And the twenty-four post brackets were pounded into the ground around the corral shelter. Now, I could simply insert the 4x4's and get rid of that temporary, ugly fence around the building!

I stood in awe. As I had emailed Andersen, if one of maybe two of the projects were completed by the end of the day I would be elated! Heck! The entire list was accomplished and even some tasks not even on the list!

At 2:30pm, I called for all of them to come into the big, freshly cleaned barn. I wanted to hook and feed so they could meet some of our residents. It was time to tell some stories and have them understand our Missions. And I had two more very special projects that I wanted them to complete.

While the horses ate, we hung our new, shining fire extinguishers. Those extinguishers so generously gifted by Kristin and Mike so long ago this spring! It was a challenge, actually, to find places to hang them where the horses could not get at them but we humans could! Finally, we settled on places where gate hinges would allow us to shimmy up the post but above the reach of even our mischievous Jeri-Ann!

As Kristin and Mike had pulled out of the driveway that day, I had told myself that I would not hang those bright, new, red extinguishers in the dirty barn. I had told myself that I would get the barn cleaned this summer. And as it always seems to happen, summer was quickly flying by! But these people had made it possible today and so I asked them to hang the extinguishers. Perfect. They seemed to be the final picture to hang on the wall. But, no . . . .

Before we brought the horses in, I explained The Three Promises to them. I told them of Andy and his challenge as we stood next to Frannie's Memory Bed. We talked about horses and I learned that three of these people were or had been horse owners. They knew the power of these creatures. We talked and then we completed the final project for the day.

We hung the big blue sign that had been safely covered and tucked away until the barns were cleaned and extra hands were here to help. Finally, the sign would be hung in the barn. Finally, our Mission Statement and The Three Promises would hang above them as they ate. Finally, our guests would be greeted by the words that define our actions. Finally, the sign would be hung in the barn.

And hung straight, of course. These people even measured so that the screws would be evenly spaced on the top and the bottom of the sign. They measured and re-measured. They knew. They knew how significant this sign was to me and THE FARM and so time and care were taken to do it just right.

Once up on the wall, I felt a piece go into place in my gut. Finally, I would be greeted, too, with the words that I had heard at Andy's funeral. Those words about binding up the crippled and feeding them all in justice. About bringing back the strayed and finding the lost. Finally, my daily reminder was in place.

We hooked and we fed. And then we talked. The big to the little stood around us and the sound of eating was heard in this sparklingly clean shelter. Oh, the impact of these four people! What a magnificent difference they had made that day!

They were filthy. They were sweaty. They were tired and they were hot. But in those moments while the horses ate, they understood. They, too, felt their efforts had made a difference and they knew they had helped in the cause of rescuing and caring for these thrown away horses.

I asked them to each sign the guest book and they left with a newsletter and brochure. A hug and a personal invitation to return. These people had touched me with their compassion and their energy. Their drive and their willingness to help. I felt an enormous relief as we stood in the shade at the end of the day. Many projects that I had been shaking my head over and fretting over were done. Completed. And done well. What a relief these people had given me! The weight they had removed was tangible. My shoulders felt lighter thanks to their drive and hard work.

One of the guests wrote a note in the guest book. It meant the world to me. His note told me that he "got it". Big time. I was pleased and wished I had known before he left so I could hug him for it. His note said simply, "I had a wonderful time. Lots of work but lots of fun. I feel honored to have been allowed to hang your wonderful sign. God bless you!"

It is I who am honored. These four people performed their own kind of magic on that Thursday. They refreshed me. They unburdened me. They gave me new spirit. Thank you. To each of you. Bless you for your works. And your help. And your willingness to do whatever was needed. With humor and a smile. I am the one who is honored to have had you in these humble barns.

Thank you, Jeff.
Thank you, Tassy.
Thank you, Tom.
Thank you, Kristi.

And thank you, Sue.
And Andersen Windows.

I am grateful.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd in the Clean Barn!

Monday, July 12, 2010


They Scratched

I sure wish my heart would heal right along with Laddee's neck. Your words of encouragement and understanding are so helpful and so very appreciated. However, I need to get through this period of ownership and grief over M'Laddee's difficulty and move on. And that, my friends, is much easier said than done.

Laddee continues to heal, although at a slower rate than expected. As Dr. Anne says, "Laddee just hasn't read the book. And even if she had read the book, Laddee would still be the independent mare that she is and do it her own way." Her journey back to Spring Valley is coming soon. Hopefully, she will delight all of us with her presence in the barn once again.

Until then, she is being treated like royalty. In fact, her new name at the Equine Center is "Princess Laddee". She lifts her head and awaits the treat for responding - an apple. There is a lovely sign on her stall that reads:"Feed Laddee whatever she wants. She likes wet hay cubes (serve them warm), the findings from hay, and fresh grass (pulled from the agricultural lots). Feed her anything she wants."

We spend quality time together almost every day and I am thrilled at her progress and eagerly await the day when Dr. Anne says it is safe to send her home.

And her Handsome. Oh, her Handsome waits diligently for her. Eager for food, he comes into the barn and stands in his corner obediently awaiting the drop of his big feed tub. He has resumed eating his feed, thank heavens. This ordeal has caused him to lose a few pounds right with his girl, Laddee.

But after the feed, he stands quietly in his corner. No one to come and nudge him and scratch with him. Handsome spends the day in the barn looking out. No one to stand over and guard as she lays in the hay sleeping in the early morning sun. Handsome is lonely and awaiting the return of his love.

But this morning, I saw something of pure magic, however. This morning I saw one horse reaching out to another horse to help fill his void. I stood in awe and then quickly remembered the camera. I needed to record this moment. And share it with all of you.

After breakfast, Handsome stood quietly in his corner. Appaloosa Mare and PONY! were already back outside, just like a good little married couple should be. But Gracie stayed in the barn longer than usual. So long, in fact, that I began to watch her out of the corner of my eye to see if she was lost or sore or in trouble in some way.

But then she began to move. Tiny little steps with those tiny little feet. Slowly and carefully. Smelling the ground after every step. Carefully placing a hoof on the ground and then carefully shifting her weight to move forward. Smell the ground again and then repeat the process once more. A very slow and deliberate process. But Gracie seemed determined and so onward she moved.

Gracie was two feet or so behind Handsome when he noticed her there. Still he stood quietly. He saw no threat in her and presumed she was after his feed droppings. Still, little Gracie continued her slow, deliberate trek forward. Forward to Handsome.

Finally up next to him, Gracie reached over and nuzzled him. The big giant of a horse ignored her. After waiting for a response and not receiving one, Gracie then nuzzled Handsome once more. The big horse turned his head and looked down at her with his one good eye. What did she want? Almost disregarding her, Handsome turned his head back and resumed his gaze outside. But Gracie was not to be ignored.

Once again, she gently nuzzled the giant horse. Stretching her little neck upward to try to reach his ribs, she nuzzled him and awaited a response. Gracie had grown a little impatient and so when Handsome still ignored her, little Gracie now gently bit the big horse. Gently but surely in his ribs. She bit. Now, Handsome turned and looked at her again. What did she want?

While the giant head was turned to her, Gracie nuzzled Handsome once more. She wanted to scratch with him.

Handsome turned and looked down at the little tiny horse. The little mare stood her ground and awaited his return nuzzle of her. Handsome nuzzled the top of her back by simply turning his head to her. Meanwhile, she stretched her neck upward and worked hard to reach the base of his throat.

They scratched.

How precious this scratching was! Little Gracie had come to Handsome and offered her scratching to help him. Did she sense his loneliness? His solitude? His need for compassion? Did she know that he longed for his Laddee and scratching with her? Whatever little Gracie sensed, she knew that Handsome needed the scratching of a mare. Overcoming her blindness and forgetting her tiny size while never fearing his enormous size, Gracie stepped up to help the big gelding.

There's a lesson in there somewhere. I know it will come to me someday. But right now, I just want to share with you the magic of these horses. Little Gracie and Big Handsome. Once again, they show us Humans how to be.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd Awaiting Laddee's Return

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