Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Christmas, Happy New Year!

Season's Greetings from Harrison Farm! As the New Year approaches -- and I have finally finished my Christmas cards! -- I want to extend all my best wishes to those of you who support my efforts on the farm!

During the Christmas Season, we've had many new faces join us on the Farm, including the beautiful horse pictured with me! I am very grateful for the good friends who brought me Flirt the Horse on Christmas Eve! For the last several years, I had cared for Lassy the Horse and Abe the Mule. I grew up with these two equine, who had belonged to my mother. Lassy passed away in the fall of 2010, and Abraham passed just a few months later in the winter of 2011. Since losing these wonderful animals to old age, my friends Angie & Elliott had offered to help me find a new horse. I told them that I was only willing to spend up to double what I had given for the last horse I bought: Tewanna, who was nick-named "Old Dollar" for her purchase price! Despite that low price, Tewanna was the best horse I ever had. We had many wonderful adventures together when I was young!

Things happen in a special way on the farm. Shortly before I left for Germany, Angie & Elliott told me of friends who were looking to find a loving home for Flirt. She was raised at Honey Bear farm, had been a novice reining champion, and was the mother of a World Champion Paint Horse. Unfortunately, Flirt had developed uterine cysts and could no longer be bred. Her owners at Honey Bear Farm loved her very much and did not want to sell her, but they were willing to give her to individual who would take good care of her. After meeting Flirt, I could tell she was a very special horse. Angie & Elliott agreed to be the delivery service, and Flirt arrived on Christmas Eve. She is extraordinarily beautiful and very, very smart! I feel incredibly blessed to have this fantastic mare, and even more blessed that I have good friends who would make this possible for me!

Christmas weekend was very busy for us, with travels to Fairborn and multiple family gatherings. I got to see many members of my family -- family through blood, through marriage, and through adoption. It was a very hectic weekend, but well worth it. On Christmas Eve, I attended Mass with friends at my home parish, Holy Family. The first time I ever attended Mass there was on Christmas Eve in 2003, and then I made my confirmation there at Easter 2006. My confirmation name is Joseph, which was also my father's. It is a special name to me, since Joseph is the patron saint of workers and the model of a good family leader. Saint Joseph shows me the importance of loving the family that is sent to us . . . which may or may not be related to us by blood. During all the hectic travels over Christmas -- and the many events and places I wanted to go to -- I reminded myself how extraordinarily blessed I am to have so many family members that God has sent into my life!

My gift this year, from my step-father & his wife, was two sheep! I am very excited to have these lovely ewes joining the menagerie at Harrison Farm! Since Gabe passed away and I butchered Thunder, I have missed having sheep of my very own. A couple of times I have made inquiries about purchasing ewes, but nothing ever came together right. My new sheep are a blessing, and a happy reminder of all the wonderful memories I made working with my grandfather's and my mother's flocks of sheep. The older I get, the more I understand those two remarkable individuals. I am extremely grateful to have had them in my life, and I appreciate this gift that is making it possible for me to carry on the traditions they handed me. Family is a marvelous blessing!

The holidays have not been without sadness and struggles. Most vivid, of course, is the loss of my beloved Captain. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and miss her. I detest waste, and one of my deepest fears was that her death was a total loss. A miserable accident that wasted a precious life. What I was given by The Captain, however, lingers large even after her passing. She was an animal of great spirit, full of affection & curiosity. What has truly amazed me, though, is the number of people she touched without even realizing. When I wrote my blog post about The Captain, it was with a heavy heart and with an unsure mind. I did not know whether to share those details, but I felt I was untrue to The Captain if I did not speak honestly. I was amazed by the way The Captain touched people: within 48 hours of me posting about her loss, 146 people had viewed that piece! Now, those are small numbers for many bloggers, but for Harrison Farm that was huge! The link to this piece was shared on Facebook by people I did not even know, and my hope is that people learned through reading about my beloved pup. In addition, a friend of mine contacted her cousin -- a vet -- who was able to offer some closure on what happened to The Captain. As best we can tell, it was still a terrible freak incident, but it helped me to say goodbye to my darling girl.

Augustus turned one year old on December 19th, and celebrated with a delicious hotdog! He was, however, very down after his sister died. It was a full week after The Captain passed before Gus acted at all like normal. Animals are creatures of instinct & sense, and Gus knew things were not right. As he mourned his companion, we debated how soon to get another dog. The loneliness I observed in Augustus and the loud howls of coyotes at night were signs that we should go ahead. Through friends, I learned about a litter of pups near Gambier. After speaking with the farmer, it turned out that I knew his wife and his father! On Boxing Day, we drove to see these Pyrenees dogs, and ended up coming home with a new pup! The farm where she grew up is in Harrison Township in Knox County, and just a few miles down the road from the cemetery where many of my ancestors are buried. I think it was meant to be!

The new pup is doing quite well! We are getting to know her and she is getting to know her new home. I was immediately struck by two things: she is very attuned to the livestock and she wants to please me. It is turning out to be MUCH easier to train one puppy than two! Augustus is a good role model for her. It took him a couple days of being afraid of this little dog -- only half his size! -- to overcome his anxiety. Now they are fast friends! The puppy is gradually getting more freedom and is responding well to training. While there is no replacing The Captain, I am grateful that God provided another dog that is fitting in so well to the farm. It is hard to lose the ones that we love, but life is about changes.

A new year is about new hopes, new expectations. If we live with regrets and sorrow, we will darken our own souls. On New Year's Day 2011, I watched the movie "Invictus". I was profoundly struck by the ability of Nelson Mandela to overcome the anger that must have been in his heart from the struggles he faced during Apartheid. As Mandela, actor Morgan Freedom explained this with the quote, "Forgiveness liberates." Everything in life is affected by how we choose to view it. The same thing, the same situation can be viewed by different individuals in radically different ways. Life has taught me that we must look forward, that we must learn lessons, and that we can choose our attitude toward what happens to us. I am excited for the new year, I am appreciative of those that support me, and I wish many blessings on you in 2012!

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