Friday, January 2, 2009

Ask Pony!!

I'm going to try and have a weekly "Ask Pony" post. So I need questions! You can ask me anything. I will do my best to answer. I might answer seriously, or sarcastically, or goofily. You won't know until I answer. But I will do my best to answer every question I get unless and until I get so many I CAN'T answer them all, then I will pick and chose.

So send me your questions to:

Edit to add: I will be making a post later about this months give away! So watch this space for details on the item and on how to enter this time around!

PhoenixDown Farm, what IS in a name?

My little patch of God's Green Earth has gone through several names over the years. It started out as Caledonia Hills Farm back when I first bought it with my ex husband in the early 1990's. There wasn't really a reason or meaning behind that name, I just like the sound of it. Being a bit obsessed with all things Scottish I got the name from reading far too many books about Scotland and seeing it called Caledonia.

Somewhere during the years of my marriage to my ex my dreams of this ever being a farm of any type slowly faded and died as I realized that my dreams were never going to come true so I might as well just give up. For a while my farm had no name. But then my ex was kind enough to leave (I mean that sincerely, I was unable to realize it at the time but now I know his leaving was the second best gift he ever gave me. The best gift being my daughter, obviously).

After he left I decided my place needed a name again. I renamed it when I got it put entirely into my name, and I called it Braidwater Farm. Now this name has great meaning for me but it is hard to explain and put into words. It represents the way the paths of our lives are so entwined, the flow of life, and the futility of trying to control life instead of flow with it and make the best of the cards you have been dealt. That name lasted only a very short time, because then I fell for my husband and we married and I rented the place to his brother and sister in law and it went back to being nameless.

But when we started to talk about moving back I got the urge again. The urge to name my place. To give it a final name, one that would stick, one that would last, one that would have meaning for me and would represent something important for me.

So I named it after an item in a video game.

No, no! Don't laugh! It sounds silly and flippant but I put a lot of thought into this!

First, this game has huge meaning to me and to my husband. It's only, like, the video game we emotionally bonded over when we were just friends and before we became romantically involved. It ranks as one of the favorite video games of all time for both of us. Final Fantasy VII. Now the use of the item brings my farm name meaning as well. See, the Phoenix Down was an item that would revive a "knocked out" character. IE, it would bring them back to life if they got killed in battle.

The Phoenix is a mythical beast. According to Wiki: "A phoenix is a mythical bird with a tail of beautiful gold and red plumage (or purple and blue, by some sources [1]). It has a 600-800 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again." It rises from the ashes of it's former life to start anew. let me tell you, as someone who had given up on ever having her hopes and dreams come true, that mythology has a LOT of appeal. For someone who spent a long time feeling dead inside, as if her heart and soul had been burned to ash... yeah.

BUT WAIT! That's not all! There is more! Most of my animals are rescues. Either i adopted them from a rescue or shelter, or I rescued them (from abusive or neglectful owners, or from the side of the road injured, or however they fell into my "nest"). Many animals I have rehabbed and rehomed, and many I have brought into my family. But in all of their cases they landed in my nest as ashes... damaged by their former life in some way... and comforted and nurtured here they were reborn into a new life where they would never be abused or neglected. A mother bird lines her nest with her own soft under feathers, the down. It gives her babies a soft warm place to live while they grow and develop and learn to fly. Or in the case of the Phoenix, to fly AGAIN.

I got the idea for this name not because it came from a video game I loved, but because when I looked at my late pony, Jamie, I remembered where he came from, how he was when I bought him, and how he had been given a new life with me... and the Phoenix just seemed such a wonderful representation of that. Even if I buy my next horse, this place will always have the heart of a rescue. Some day I want to foster for Chance's Miniature Horse rescue. Maybe do pony and mini horse rescue on my own.

I look at my dogs, the one from a rescue and the other from the shelter... and at my cats, two which I bottle fed for weeks because their stray mother was hit by a car in front of my house when they were 6 hours old, two who were abandoned by their stray mother in our carriage house at 2 weeks old, one who was born to a cat who was given to me by an owner who didn't want her any more and she promptly dropped 5 kittens in my bedroom (she and 4 of the kittens found new homes and one stayed here with me. He will get his own entry some day, hehe). I look at them, and how their lives rose from the ashes, and I look at my own life and the way *I* have been reborn and I know why I call this Place PhoenixDown Farm.

I think this name is going to stick.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! And some of my plans for this blog.

Hurray, it's 2009.

It's a whole new year! Which, from the looks of things, is going to be an very interesting year indeed. Personally I prefer living in boring times to living in interesting ones, but that is just me. And I have to admit, some of the changes going on in the world at large are interesting and exciting.

Love him or hate him, Obama as our next president is history making in many ways. The roller coaster ride of our economy is like a mix between a horror show and a dark comedy. The Middle East as a whole is a powder keg just waiting to explode (like it has been for thousands of years but now we can be right in the middle of it and get live updates as it happens). The price of everything seems to be skyrocketing while income tanks and businesses fail and the government seems intent on bailing out everyone but the common middle class or lower folks whose spending actually drives the economy and whose tax dollars will be PAYING for the bail outs.

No matter HOW you feel about all of these things you have to admit, it is a pretty interesting time to be alive.

I'd love it if it was a little bit LESS interesting. Hehe.

So, what does that have to do with me, and this blog? Well, let me explain... sometimes when the bigger world outside your door gets crazy it helps to spend some time doing something you love, and working towards a goal for yourself. That is what I am doing and that is part of what this blog is designed to do. Hopefully it will generate a little income thanks to my kind advertisers, but more importantly it will be a place for me to track my progress and keep my ideas foremost in my mind.

One thing that I need to do in order to help my goals become a reality is... get readers. Yes, I am going to be honest here. I want folks to read my blog, and I want them to keep coming back. In order to achieve this I am going to have a few different things going on.

The first of which will be a monthly give away! Each month will be something different, and the way you enter will change from month to month. The second thing will be a weekly advice post. I will post the details on each of these in their own post when I am ready. So spread the word, and watch this page for details!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oil and Leather and Tack, Oh MY!

For Christmas my beloved husband got me a saddle. I also got an English bridle for Mary so that Sparrow can use the bits-n-pieces bridle I cobbled together and she can use her own instead of having to constantly readjust between work. I've been waiting to get in to town and pick up some leather oil and with the holidays and Tsu being on call and... well I haven't been to town in a few weeks, literally. At least not the BIG town. So I had to go drop Pony Jr. at her dad's house and swing by the library (two books about belly dance and one about hoof problems, hehe) so I decided to stop by the old hardware store and see if they had any harness oil.

This old hardware store is dark, over crowded with stuff older than I am, and has the oddest mix of junk you ever saw in a hardware store. They have dog food, bird seed, pine tar, and a 14 inch horse collar, not to mention crocks for making sour kraut in and electric space heaters and who even knows what else.

Sure enough, right next to a goat collar and a calf halter and a bundle of scrap leather there was a bottle of Fiebing's Neatsfoot compound. JACKPOT! And surprisingly, it was not over priced. Probably because they priced it 22 years ago when they first stuck it on the shelf, lol. I blew a layer of dust from the top and took it to pay for it. I told the guy (great grandson of the original owner of the store, with the same name, Daniel Orr) how glad I was to see they had it. He laughed and said he grew up in that store and he is still startled some times by the stuff he didn't know they had in there.

I got home and happily spread out my ratty old felt blanket that I use to keep oil, sick dogs, and what ever else off of the carpet. I grabbed a new paint brush from my craft supplies, an old jam jar, and a holey sock. Then, with a ridiculous amount of delight, I collected up all the tack I needed to oil and spread it out on the blanket. It didn't need cleaning, heaven knows I keep it clean enough. At the most it might get dusty. I took every piece apart so I could coat the leather well on both sides. Then I opened the bottle of neatsfoot oil and took a deep breath before pouring some into the jam jar and dipping my brush in to it.

It's amazing how a smell can take you back in time, take you to a place you long to go again. The smell of the leather and the oil for a split second took me back... back to a small barn with a fire place in the tack room, a black leather harness, and a huge bay and white draft cross named Trooper who would stand watching me through the doorway as if his sun rose and set on me.

Ah, the sweet smell of nostalgia!

So I spent my evening, and part of today, oiling up tack long over due for oiling, and softening and oiling my new saddle, and thinking about the past and the future. I guess that is kind of fitting, on this last day of the year.

So now my equipment is once again as soft as butter and my hands smell like neatsfoot oil. The snow is falling slowly outside my window, the dog is whining to go out because she saw one of the barn cats cross the yard and she wants an excuse to bark at it. And I feel hopeful. I look back over the past year and think what a roller coaster ride it has been. But I am happier, healthier and have more hope than I have in a long time. I can hardly wait to see what the new year brings.

Monday, December 29, 2008

That Is THE Ugliest Dog I Have EVER Seen.

I hear this all the time about my dog, Nigel. I'm used to it. I actually get a kick out of it, because i find him to be just beautiful. I get a huge grin out of showing off his least flattering pictures and watching people try to avoid barfing in their mouth a little.

Nigel is special. He is my dream dog. The dog of my heart. The dog I spent 10 years wanting and researching before I found him. Nigel is a Hairless Chinese Crested Dog.

This is Nigel the week I brought him home:

Almost everyone who met him thought I had lost my mind. But from the moment I laid eyes on him I KNEW he was my special dog.


I've had Nigel since Ground Hog Day 2002. He was 6 months old when I got him from a rescue group down by Novi MI. He has been my constant companion ever since.

He isn't entirely incapable of looking handsome, and he is very good about saying his prayers.


But he is pretty rough looking when he first wakes up.



It doesn't matter what other people think, I love my dog and I think he is the most beautiful dog I have ever seen.


The best part is that he seems to be as crazy about me as I am about him. I am grateful every single day that we found each other.

How did I find my dream dog? Seriously, if you are looking for a pet, even a rare breed high priced type of dog, check them out. I found my bestest buddy in the whole wide world there. Everyone should have a dog as smart and handsome as my Nigel, hehehe.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saddle training the tiny ones.

I am of the opinion that one of the single most important things you can do to make sure your horse has a long, happy, healthy life where it is kept in a good home and well cared for is to make sure it is TRAINED. Even the ugliest, most poorly put together horse is more likely to find a soft place to land if it is well trained.

This doesn't change if you make the horse smaller. Miniature horse people tend to forget that. If it is small, cute, and doesn;t eat much why bother training it to DO something? It's adorable-ness will make sure it finds a home should you ever not be able to keep it yourself, right?



There is a massive glut of mediocre miniature horses on the market right now. If your mini isn't show ring quality, at least around HERE, there IS no market for it unless it can DO something other than mow the grass.

Since my goal is to sell Sparrow in the spring getting him trained now that he is old enough is of critical importance to me. And since I am training him I might as well get Mary on her way to employability as well. They have been worked in harness for the last year or so, but since they are both large enough and sturdy enough for small children to ride it was time to start getting them used to work under saddle, so to speak. Since both already know the basics of stop/go/turn thanks to their harness training this means mostly just getting them used to having someone on their back.

Well, yeah. problem. They are tiny little things. Solution? Keep a foot on the ground. Yeah. So for your viewing pleasure, pictures of my day after Christmas training session with Mary. PLEASE NOTE: I am actually walking over top of her, and bearing a good deal of my weight on my own feet. I'm very careful not to ask her to do anything that will hurt her or be too much for her. If at any point she seems to be struggling I will completely back off!

Tacked up and ready to go!


Back in the saddle, so to speak (I am riding her in the halter for now until I get my "sea legs" so to speak and make sure she is settled into this well so I don't accidentally hit her in the mouth):


I'm amazed by how well she is doing, it's like she has been doing it her whole life:


Sparrow seems to LOVE it. I don't have any pictures riding him... or rather walking over him, lol. He is taller but more narrow, and while it is harder to walk over him it is still possible. He has taken to being ridden MUCH better than he did to driving. This guy is going to be a FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC little kid's pony!!! I mean, he is gorgeous, healthy, active, smart, sweet as sugar, and already looking to be really solid under saddle. I am seriously going to be looking for a family for him that will appreciate that and actually use him.