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One woman’s treasures

Today, I went on a treasure hunt – for my own treasures oddly enough. One of the dogs carried my big rubber muck boot off into the woods, as if it were a chew toy. Damn dog. Dixie lost her halter somewhere in the pasture, and a few weeks ago, Dalai lost his halter too. I think they scratch their faces up against a tree or something and it unbuckles and falls off. This is a drag – unless you’ve ever caught and put a halter onto a head-skittish llama, you can’t appreciate the trouble involved.  I keep my livestock in halters because it makes tyeing them up at feeding time easy. I wouldn’t have to do this if I had a barn, but I don’t.

If I don’t tie the animals when feeding them, they get all greedy and pushy and take advantage of my docile donkey, pushing him aside to swallow his portion. Everyone deserves their share of grain. Fair is fair. I don’t tie the llama, and he often becomes a bully that closes in on donkey and begins spitting. He doesn’t spit at me, but he is always covering my poor donkey with seeded llama regurgitation. It is pitiful. I tend to position myself right by donkey as he eats, stroking his ears, my presence enough to keep the aggressor away. I am, above all else, the grand protector of the underdog – or underdonkey as the case may be. 

Anyway, I broke down and bought a second pair of muck boots, because I really couldnt’ survive without, and I figured even if I found my wayward boot, this would allow me to keep one pair out to be hosed down and still have one reasonably clean pair to wear when needed. I put the backup pair on and began my hunt. I walked every inch of our pastures, sinking into the mud without problem, thanks to the boots. No halters anywhere. Perhaps they are buried in the muck by now, only to be discovered in the spring  . . . rotting. Sigh. I did find my missing boot, however, up on the hill by my deer block (the one that no deer will ever get near, thanks to my protective dogs. Damn dogs.) This was good fortune.

You may be wondering about my lack of barn. Actually, a barn is not a necessity in this mild climate. Barns are more for the humans than the animals that are housed there. It gives us a place to feed and groom the animals while remaining out of the elements, a secure, dry place to work and store feed and tack. It provides containment for animals you may want to control, such as when you want to keep a horse clean or separated from others, or if you don’t want to trudge out looking for them (mine come when I call – lucky me) It makes it easy to care for them.  It gives you a warm, dry place to house the animals in times of foul weather or particular need, such as when a horse is soon to foal, or if it is injured. Really, the animals are happiest in their natural state, roaming free in a pasture. That is how nature intended them to live, after all. Even if you have a barn, the goal is to allow them as much time as possible getting exercise and grazing peacefully outside.

Nevertheless, I want a barn. Real Bad! I’ve been lusting for one since we got our first horse – for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is to have space to shelter wayward cats or dogs that need a foster home. When our horse was injured, I pined for a barn so he would heal faster. When it is cold and wet and I sink into the mud knee deep, I also long for a barn. And on those days when my horses are big fat dirty pigs that won’t stop rolling in the red Georgia clay and I’m thinking it sure would be nice to keep them clean before people visit , I covet a barn. When I think of how much more I would ride if I had an easy set up for saddling them, I crave a barn. (We don’t ride much because the tack is stored up at the workshop and it’s a huge ordeal to retrieve and return it, so it deters us from taking a quick ride.  Has to be a big todo to go to the trouble now.&nbsp When I saw Charolette’s Web, I again, wanted a barn. I also wanted a pig, but that is another story. 

Unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to afford a barn – other things have taken greater priority, such as having a house to live in and a workshop so Mark can begin his new career in wood arts. And those other damn luxuries, like food or paying the electric bill. We finally made some arrangements to shuffle some money around and refinance something with sincere plans to erect a barn – but we hit some unexpected financial problems, so again, the project was put on hold. I decided I could live with a simple metal shelter, but we decided even that would cost too much at this time. Next, I decided all I really needed was a small shed for a tack room to store the equipment. Ummm… almost got it, but that had to be put on hold too. Drat. It seems the only barn I’ll see for some time will be those on other people’s land – you know, the ones on the roadsides with a big “see rock city” painted on the roof. (Interesting story – that was an innovative marketing plan by Rock City before the billboard was invented. Fascinating bit of American folklore trivia).

Finally, when they were fixing our roads, Mark said we can at least get an area cleared and leveled for the future barn. I was so excited! We determined we could spend a certain amount on this project, even though it was a stretch, to put up something barn-ish, even if it was just temporary.

The fellows with the huge equipment arrived and began cutting trees out by the pasture near the chicken house. They leveled . . . . and leveled . . . and leveled . . . They were out there for days. Mark started getting worried. He said, “What did you tell them to do? This is going to cost a fortune!”
As if I had demanded some high end barn site or something. I stay out of the construction stuff – I didn’t say anything except to say hello one day when I was feeding the horses. I mentioned that I wouldn’t be putting a barn there right away…. but heck, I didn’t start ordering the men in the big machinery around. Who are you kidding?

I shrugged innocently, swearing that they weren’t working there all week because of me. All I knew was they were leveling a space for a future barn in the place Mark determined it should be. I had recommended a different spot that had less trees – closer to the road. Mark told them where to work so this was, in my opinion, his brainchild. He thought the project would take a day, like when they cleared the area for his workshop. Guess again.

Turns out, the grader assumed we would want a big, flat area for a big barn, and we would want proper drainage and the ability to drive up to the building with a horse trailer and such, so we ended up with a beautiful , professionally cleared area, the kind you would have done to put up a house. The trees were far thicker than anticipated in this spot, and it was a major project to level the rocky red soil. Then, they had to lay seed and straw to hold the earth in place. The time and effort all this required drove up the bill ten times what we expected. In fact, it ate up every cent we allocated for the barn project and then some. Damn. There goes my coveted barn again. And my grocery budget….

What can I say? It’s like the gift of the magi. I can have a barn, but no place to put it, or I can have a place to put it, but no barn. The cost of one prohibits the other. Whatchagonnado? So, I do not have a barn. I do have a barn site, however, which is a step in the right direction. All dreams begin with small efforts which lay the foundation for the future, so I am grateful.  Instead of nagging about my lack of a barn, I remind myself the glass is definitely half full – I have a site. A terrific site. That is more than I had to begin with. Some days, I go out there
and stand in that big flat spot, and because it is empty, like a plain canvas, it is easy to imagine my future barn. It will have a nice view of the pasture and be conveniently close to the chickens and rabbits too.  The sky is blue when I look up, and this flat, peaceful area is surrounded by trees, a space nestled in nature’s camouflage awaiting my someday-maybe- with luck- barn. Perfect.

Till then, I will battle mud and the elements without complaint, glad I have two pairs of muck boots to handle it. I will consider hauling that tack in and out of my car a useful workout. I will give thanks that none of my animals need to be confined because of injury or behavior problems, and I will accept the fact that they have incessant dirty coats as the price of owning horses in times when you don’t have perfect, rolling fields of spring green grass. I will remember that a barn is not a necessity, but a luxury, and remember that I have a bountiful life regardless. It is almost a bit much to dare want for more than I already have. (But I still want the barn. Shoot me.). And I will rejoice that I have a barn site, which isn’t a barn, but is the canvas to paint a dream barn onto. It takes time to erect a new world. I have learned that you must trust fate. If you are meant to have something, in time you will have it. If not, you were never meant to have it at all. Live true.

It is raining today, so I will stand outside, cold and shivering, as I feed my horses. My feet will sink into the mud as I stroke the grossly dirty coats of my bedraggled horse friends. I will sigh, but quietly. But it won’t be forever. It is only for now. 

I trust fate.

 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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