The Odd Mix

I have moved to Everything that was here is now over there as well. Come on over and join the fun.

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Location: Virginia, United States

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Study in Weather

OK, I know it is an absurdly artsy title but I had to call it something and "A bunch of photos I took of old things around the farm" just didn't seem right - factual, but no style. These are, in fact, a bunch of photos I took of old things around the farm.

I am captivated by the way things age. To my eye, weathered oak and iron have a unique grace and beauty. That which makes new material soft and smooth is worn away, leaving behing that which is tough, that which gives form and structure to the softness. The bone which has the remembered shape of the original refined to its escence.







Friday, May 27, 2005

Mowing Girl

I am so proud! Gabriella has always tried to be helpfull to Willie and me. This week she found a new way to help. We have been letting her drive the tractor around the field in low gear.

Today she came in and said, "Mommy, the yard doesn't look very tidy." and asked if she could mow it. Well, the mower has a kill switch that stops the motor (and the blades and wheels) as soon as weight comes off the seat. She can't reach the clutch but has learned that to stop, she just has to stand up and instant halt. So Willie put her on the tractor, started the engine, put it in gear, released the brakes, and away she went.

Our front lawn is over an acre and it took her a good portion of the morning, but she mowed the whole thing and did a great job of it. Thats my girl!

Here she comes, mowing away.

Driving proudly by..

Off to clean up the rough patches.

Our front yard - see her way down by the fence?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


You may recal several weeks ago there was an absolutely heart-rending photo on many front pages. The subject of the photo was an Army Major carrying a little Iraqi girls who had fallen victim to mass murder by vehicle explosive - and she died before he could get her to the aid station.

I find I am unable to look at that picture for more than a couple of seconds. Moreover I cannot bring myself to look at the details of the photo, they are too painfull and personal - I keep seeing how much her feet look like Bissy's, thinking of the agony of her father who probably loved her as much as I do my little ones.

And yet I also find the image compelling because of the Major (odd to think if I had stayed in, I would be a senior Major now and very possibly deployed to Iraq). The love and compassion embodied by that one soldier as a representative of our military ballances the grief and sorrow with hope and pride in our people.

The mainstream media used this image all over the place, most often accompanied by a 2 sentence bit saying only that this four year old girl was dead. But shortly after its publication I stumbled upon the blog of the photographer, Michael Yon. He is an embedded journalist with a batallion of the 24 Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division (light). He has been with the unit since they entered Iraq and travels in thier Strykers on a daily basis. He writes about the experiences of the soldiers from an intensely personal point of view and illustrates his missives with outstanding photography. How the Battalion Commander entered a burning vehicle to rescue trapped men, how it feels to see the vehicle in front of yours hit with an IED, how an EOD seargent dissarms an IED which could go off at any moment, how Army medics help Iraqi children wounded by the heartless cruelty of fanatic murderers.

One of his recent posts concerns the reasons for the actions of the mainstream media in Iraq from his pespective and I found it to be very telling. Below is a link to that post, and from there you can visit the rest of his posts.

Michael Yon : Online Magazine: And now, for the rest of the story....

We are at war, and war is pain. But even in amidst the darkness there are some very bright lights. I am gratefull to Mr. Yon for showing some of them to me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bye Bye to the Hall

Good news, today! I found out I will be starting work for the government on June 12th. That means I will bid farewell to my office in the hallway and move into the cube right next to it. My position is being federalized and I managed to navigate the political minefields and redtape concertina to secure the position. Hurray - I am a bureaucrat!!!

My office in the hall

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Chinese Curse

They say "May you live in interesting times" is a Chinese curse. Dunno if that is true or not, but it should be.

I thought we were due for a quiet, relaxing Sunday. Then one of the working students ran up to the house to tell us a horse had fallen in her stall and was stuck. We left for the barn on the run, and things got interesting.

The horse, Maggie, was in one of two stalls divided by what amounted to a sturdy fence. Kicking at her neighbor, she managed to partially kick loose an inch thick oak plank and get her foot caught eighteen inches in the air, fall down (foot still stuck) and thrash enough to hit her head on the door post.

Willie and another friend sat on Maggie's head and neck - this is how you keep a horse down - while I used a hammer to pry apart the partition so we could get her loose. Then we looped ropes around her legs and rolled her over so she could get up. Then ensued vet visits, shots, cold hosing, antibiotics (giving horses pills is an interesting proposition), dressing changes, eye ointment applications, etc.

Well the upshot is that she should recover, but that used up my entire excitement allotment for the month. Much too interesting.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tools Coming

Huray! I ordered my tools for trimming today. I can't wait. Maybe it sounds silly to be excited about getting to stand bent over holding up a horse's leg so I can trim its toenail - but hey, its the little things that make life fun. :-)

Horse Massage! Who knew?

More Massage

The Audience

Check out those cool gloves.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Well, this was an interesting night. The long and short is I am now learning to be a farrier.

For those not in the know, a farrier trims a horses feet and, if necessary, puts on horseshoes. We have nearly twenty horses here and we are responsible for the cost of shoeing over half of them. Figure a minimum of $30 per month per horse and you have quite a hefty monthly bill.

Well, as it turns out, our farrier has too much business because there is a shortage of good farriers in our area. So, to ease the cost to us, reduce the pressure on her, and just because she is a nice person, Julie has offered to apprentice me in the time I can spare. We started tonight with trimming and I successfully trimmed my first pony. I am jazzed!

No, I am not going to give up my day job. Particularly as Julie says it will be 4 years or more before I really have it down. But it sure will be nice just to be able to do our own horses. And when I get good, maybe I will do some shoeing part time to earn some "mad money". We'll see, I'll let you know how it goes.

Well, off to bed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Images from an Iris Garden

Yesterday when I got home I pulled into the driveway and noticed these Iris flowers. They are in a volunteer garden which grew up at the end of the drive, planted by a previous occupant of the house. This spring when things started growing I never realized that there was anything of note in this patch of Virginia clay except for some early weeds and some thin grass. As it is surrounded by railroad ties the patch never got mowed even when the grass grew tall (we have been very busy and I figured I could tear it out and plant it later when I had time). So over the past month the grass grew undisturbed and I never noticed there was anything else there until I pulled into the drive and the evening sun lit these blossoms up like living jewels.

I think in this, as in so many of life’s circumstances, there is a lesson to be learned. We spend so much of our time and energy trying to keep our lives manicured and orderly, but there are often weedy patches which we haven’t the time or ability to keep as we think we aught. Our industry is good, for without it our lives would be chaos, but sometimes – much to our surprise – it is through the weeds that God brings the greatest beauty.

Living Gold

Botanical Royalty


Happy Horse-Hockey Heaving

We are using a new bedding for the horses made from wood flour. It looks very much like the pellet fuel for wood stoves when it comes out of the bag. From the standpoint of a stable manager it is the greatest thing since sliced bread – shoot, it is better than sliced bread. It works something like clumping cat litter (only with much bigger clumps – there is a reason for the old saying about having to pee like a racehorse). The maintenance cost is about a quarter that of straw bedding, there is much less smell, and it is much easier to keep clean.

One pleasant side effect of using this new bedding is that my kids can now help with the chores (with straw bedding the forks are just too heavy for them to manage). So today Gabriella and Bissy took up their extra small size manure forks and pitched in to “help” Mommy. They were both enjoying themselves and I was enjoying watching (as opposed to shoveling).

But as I watched I noticed a difference in the way they were enjoying themselves which seemed to reflect a difference in their personalities. Gabriella took pleasure in doing an important task. She was very serious about cleaning the stall properly and was happy as a clam to be doing a “big girl” job. Bissy took pleasure in being a part of the family doing what they were doing - didn’t matter what it was. She was happy to be doing things with her Mommy and big sister. For her the whole thing was a fun game. And she showed that happiness by mugging for the camera in true Bissy style.

As their Dad I don’t think either view is superior to the other. They both enjoyed themselves. They both worked to help. I love them both with all my heart. But this kind of observation can keep a parent sane. Bissy, like me, is more People Oriented – she couldn’t care less about what she is doing as long as she is doing it with people she loves (and it’s not too cold – she hates being cold). If I tried to inspire her to be task driven I would wind up beating my head on the wall. And Gabriella is more Task Oriented – she gets much more satisfaction from doing things. And she needs affirmation that what she is doing is important and that she is doing she is doing it well. The critical thing for me is to remember how each responds and not to expect one to be the same as the other.

Mother's Helpers

Girls helping Mommy take care of the stalls.


Gabriella and 'Lise (riding Ti)

How cool is this! I mentioned that I am a technophile. I just discovered that I can now push pictures and messages to my blog from my mobile phone! Call me silly, and maybe behind the times, but this stuff gets me going :-)

Of course entering much meaningful text will have to wait till I log on with a computer (as I am now) thanks to a 250 character limit and a phone keypad.

I often think about how my world seems to be shrinking, or maybe it is better to say I feel my reach into the world is increaseing. Everyday we seem to find new and faster ways of using technology to reach out to learn, to share, to communicate, to do business, to entertain. I can speak to anyone, anywhere, almost anytime. I can get email on the go. I can look up a recipie while riding the train, find a new song while sitting in a coffee shop and listen to it at work. I can show people hundreds of miles away what I am seeing at any moment.

But what is the effect. Do we communicate more, or do we dilute our communication into inefectuality? Do we become wiser with knowledge, or just get lint roller minds with lots of odd things stuck in them? Are we more at peace for getting things done more efficiently, or are we more stressed because we have so much more to do? If I forget my cell or PDA when I leave the house I feel naked.

I think what is easy for me to know but sometimes hard to remember is all my gizmos and gadgets and the connections they make are tools. They are the means not the end. When I build a fence, the important thing is the fence, not the hammer. The important things in our life are the relationships we have. Use the tools, enjoy them, but don't let them be the end.

Take time to watch the kids instead of taking their picture, sometimes memories are better. Send a card instead of an email. Go visit your mom instead of calling her from the road, hugs are easier that way.

As I said, I love this stuff. But every now and then I leave it all in the house and walk out in the field. I sit on a fence and look down the green valley. I see the sun in my wife's hair. I feel the wind on my face and smell the hay. Hear the birds singing and the kids laughing. Pet my horse. And the world is big and I am small again - and it is a good thing.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Another mundane subject, but again, I love the image. Not sure yet what this one says, though. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Bissy's Letter

I am so blessed.

One Saturday, Bissy anounced that she missed my grandfather, her Great-Grandpa Cook. I suggested she write a letter and we would scan it and send it to him by email. Here is the "letter". She made sure she had "Strawberry Blonde hair so it looks like me."

Sometimes Bissy's spontaneous shows of love bring tears to my eyes and a song of praise in my heart.

I am so blessed.

Caleb and Bissy Posted by Hello

There's Mommy

Waiting for Mommy

Mommy's working and we are watching and waiting. Patience is a hard thing to learn, but we are working on it. Nice weather helps.

Blue, Blue Eyes

Oh, those eyes. I need to start buying more baseball bats.

Training Time Posted by Hello

The Reason for the Round Pen Posted by Hello

Caught in the Eye of a Cyclone

Another eye. This one belongs to my horse Cyclone. As I was lining up the shot I saw a reflection of Gabriella and I and snapped it. I love how it turned out.

Cy is a great horse. Patient (enough), strong, and willing. He has learned to come at my whistle and has won my heart (at least the horse shaped part of it).


This is Gabriella on a sunny Saturday morning. I love the way her hair catches the light.

"You are my sunshine, my special sunshine, you make me happy..."

Three Pretty Girls Posted by Hello

After a good lesson Posted by Hello


From our yard in Spring

Dogwood and a pretty bay. Screams "Virginia!" to me.

Gabriella's Pony Falcon Posted by Hello


Annelise's "Pretty, Pretty Horsey"

This is Smoke and 'Lise is in love. He is very short, and very patient (well, at least very lazy). She loves to sit on him in the field - with daddy (Me) holding her on, of course.

Caleb's horse Chelsea Posted by Hello

Fire in the Eye

Ti Eye

I find horses eyes fascinating. This one is Ti's. Ti (pronounced like tie) is a beautifull chestnut gelding who stood patiently as I took pictures. When I got to this closeup I noticed how the iris caught the afternoon sun and looked like flame.

I am entranced by the beauty God hides in such unexpected places.

The Drive

Spring Lane

What can I say? Here we a photo of our gravel drive taken from the base of the gate. Mundane subject but a delightful image. It speaks to me, somehow, of peace and contentment. Maybe it just says, "You're home!"

round pen Posted by Hello

A Slew of Photos On The Way

main barn and arena

Well, how about a flurry of activity!

I have been taking lots of photos and decided to post some here for all to see. A little peek at our special world.