Does your horse Bark?

What a silly question. Or is it? How do you see your horse?

We get a kick out of asking our students funny questions like this during their riding lessons. It makes them wonder just what in the world we are getting at. Which is exactly why we ask. We want them to turn their horse brains on the moment they step into the barn.

After the rounds of laughter, they are asked to describe the differences between dogs and horses. Have you ever thought about the differences between these two animals that so many of us enjoy over our lifetimes?

Have you ever thought about the differences between dogs and horses?

If they stumble (we do not let them sweat it out too long), they are asked this question, “Are horses prey animals? Or are dogs? Who hunts whom? What is the difference between a ‘herd’ animal and a ‘pack’ animal?” “Which one does the horse belong to?”

Are horses herd animals or pack animals? What is the difference?

By now our poor students are wondering why they even asked their parents for horseback riding lessons. Hey! They just wanted to ride off into the sunrise. That ain’t going to happen at this barn.

From the get-go we want them to have a clear understanding that horses are not like their pet dogs. Not in the least, and they must not put them in the same category. This is mostly for safeties sake, but it is also a building block for becoming one good horseman.

Safety first, beauty second. This has been the motto of our small horseback riding school since our beginning. We are small. Only two horses, and four miniatures make up our stable. Lessons are private. They begin on High Hope, our pretty buckskin mare. Once the students hands and seat are improved and controlled, they move on to Duke, our Tennessee Walking horse. This exciting move is made only when satisfactory progress has been made in the riders’ seat, balance and hands. Primarily hands, because good hands produce a good seat.

Riding bareback develops a better seat. Riding in halters develops a better horseman.

Though small in equine numbers, our lessons are big is scope. Students learn quickly that actual riding comprises a small part of weekly lessons. Groundwork, horse care and horse knowledge carry a lot of weight and precede the skill of riding. We believe that good groundwork produces good riding.

The first fact students hear from this barn is, “A horse can kill you if they want. They can kill you if they don’t want.” The best student is the one who innately knows this truth. For they understand the ultimate lack of power they have over the horse. Either through fear or wisdom of the horse, this knowledge will serve them well.

“What are your goals in wanting to learn to ride?” The answer to this question helps decide if our school is the right fit for them. Our focus is basic horsemanship knowledge and good soft hands. Knowing how to “put your horse brain on.” We believe that if it is not done “on the ground”, it will not be able to be done on the back of the horse. In other words, our students must know how to move a horse while working around them on the ground before they will ever be able to move them from sitting in the saddle. They have to learn how to ‘read’ a horse. These are developed from groundwork and good observation. They will soon learn that all horses are not the same. They may not like a horse for some reason, and that is okay. Did you know horses do not like all people either? Some prefer men over women and visa versa. We teach them how to care for the horses, i.e. how to tie them safely, groom them, look for ailments and injuries, pick their hooves, how to tack them up, and so forth. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a learning curve. We try hard to make it fun, informative and tasty. There is a jar full of candy for hungry horse wranglers in the tack room. Help yourself.

I always have fun telling my students that at this barn, I am the groomsmen, tack man, barn man, hay man, go-fetch-the-horses man, and main mucking man. These students catch on quickly, as they know they will be learning all that too.

Does this mean our students do not ride? Certainly not! We ride english, western, bareback, with a bridle or without. In the round pen, out in the fields, in the woods, on roads, and through streams. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

At this barn, we do everything except shoe the horses!

Basic health care is another part of training. Horses are expensive, but expenses can be controlled. We do not need pink buckets, halters, or lead lines. They cost more money! Less is more, and we learn how to take good care what we have.

Our Fall Riding Recital. What is this? It is a unique ‘show’ we put on every fall for parents, and guests. Students demonstrate the skills they have learned during the year. Each student has a particular skill they have learned well. It is a time to show-off their skills to their parents, friends, and guests. Oh! And there are refreshments for all afterwards, time to talk with students, and meet the horses. It is a fun, unique opportunity for all. Enjoy these photos of recitals past and present.

So if you are interested in having a fun time learning about horses, and becoming a good horseman, swatting flies, sweating, getting stepped on, having a velvety muzzle to pet, and a fun ride, come out and meet us. You may want to give it a try.

Never could keep that helmet straight on Emma (second photo) . The above photo is out of focus, but it shows how the students ‘sacked out’ the horses so as not to be afraid of strange things.
Shoot us an email if you would like to visit the farm: mitzybricker@gmail.com
The natives tend to get a little restless, but they will be nice. All of them!

Wanda

Wanda (not her real name) is one good cook. Just ask Tanner (not his real name either), he will be the first to say so. Bubba (another alias name) would be the second one to agree with that opinion. They are not alone, I agree as well.

Wanda is one good cook.

Tanner is Wanda’s husband. Bubba is the fortunate single brother-in-law that gets invited to supper with them often. So she gets to hear from two men just how great her cooking is. They are good at telling her so too.

Cooking is an art and science. There is also a sense of wonder and surprise to it as well. Sort of like the wonder one feels when watching a soft snow quietly, and gently falling through the air to the ground. It has a way of making one feel content. The smells of cooking throughout the house has that same sort of feeling. The feeling of comfort and contentment. I recall, as a child living in the suburbs, how smells of a supper cooking somewhere wafted on the air while playing outside. We all hoped we were getting that good meal when called in for supper.

So whatever happened to cooking at home?

I cannot help but first wonder whatever happened to “home”? I have read that ‘sayings’ should not be used in writing. But why not? They say so much, i.e. “Home is where the heart is”. Well, where is our heart? Are we afraid of the answers our hearts may whisper to us? Have we even given our heart a chance to answer? Sometimes that takes a while.

I am not talking about feelings. Feelings can be most misleading. I have found that my feelings many times are negative: ‘I don’t feel like getting started on this day’; ‘I feel ugly’; ‘I don’t feel like being nice today’; I don’t feel up to visiting anyone; ‘I don’t feel like cooking’; ‘I feel fat’….on and on those feelings ramble through my thoughts. Do you have similar feelings? I have more than I would like to admit.

I am now a senior citizen. Wow! I thought getting old would take longer! Anyway, when I was young, cooking was not high on the list of fun, interesting things to do. Except for bread baking. That was an early kitchen joy for me. Baking bread was truly magical back then and still is. All the same, I did notice how well my momma cooked. She made it seem easy, getting everything together at the same time, and having it taste so good. Funny thing though, she did not like cooking, and as soon as we girls got old enough, it became our job. Fair enough, we took our turns and learned.

Wanda is young. She has two little robust boys in her happy home. Wanda knows the power she holds by being a good cook. She knows the affect cooking has upon her house. Did you know that homes sell better when there is the smell of home-baked cookies in the air? How about that? Apparently home feels more homey with the smells of food in the air.

I was like Wanda when I was young. Most especially after children started arriving. It became important to eat well, and stay well (it was not easy managing five children and one doctors appointment). I also noticed how important my cooking was to the family unit. Once a week we had a big meal with my in-laws. There was not one person who did not look forward to that meal. To this day the smell of fresh green beans cooking on the stove, and home-made rolls takes me back into my sweet mother-in-laws happy, steamy, busy kitchen. It was the heart of her home. It is the heart of mine as well, and of Wanda’s.

With fast food, and quick dinners available at our fingertips, and working mothers outside the home, cooking has fallen out of favor. But it is not impossible nor over complicated to prepare a meal for your family. In many ways it is a mind game. What do I mean by that? The most difficult part of cooking (for me at least) is the planning. It must be done every single day, unless you think smarter! Bulk recipes. For example, lasagne, chili, beef stews, spaghetti, soups of all sorts, pot roasts, macaroni & cheese. These recipes afford leftovers. Not only that, they are simple and easy to make.

I have been made fun of by my more culinary minded cooks for the simplicity of my food. Wanda has been teased as well, but she is strong and knows her mission. I am proud of Wanda. I am proud of any woman, or man that goes against the grain of current popular thought and follows their heart.

Cooking for one’s family is not for every one. It takes time, effort and planning. Men do a lot of cooking when they get home from work these days. They tell me it is calming, therapeutic, and they like to make people happy. How great is that? Would you like to try? I promise one of the sweetest sounds you will hear is this: “Man! It smells GOOD in here! I could smell it as soon as I got out of the car!”

I actually heard those very words last week while cooking just onions in the iron skillet at my twinsters house. Music to my ears. Oh! Did I mention that cooking is musical too?

Wanda knows all this and it has made her life rich and full. This joy is found in cooking for yourself and your loved ones. Would you like to try? Is your heart urging you? Start small. There is power in little. Pick one day, plan a simple one pot meal, have fun. Light a candle! It is fun cooking with a candle burning. Be sure to serve your meal with candles on the table as well. It is lovely and adds to the joy of it all.

Just ask Wanda, Tanner or Bubba. They will tell you.

A big pot of chili makes for several yummy meals.

The Keezletown Community Cannery

“We deliver everything but babies”. If this is not the motto of the trucking industry, perhaps it should be. Indeed, this industry keeps the world moving.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we locals love to complain about the number of trucks traveling on I81. What would happen, though, if the trucks stopped? Even for just a few days? Ever notice how quickly food sells out of grocery stores with the announcement of snow over the radio? It does not take long. How long could anyone last in regards to food supplies should trucks not run?

These are questions worthy of some thought. Not to cause a panic, but rather to elicit the thoughts of a ‘plan B’ should our food supply deliveries suddenly, for whatever reason, come to a halt.

Canning our own food. What? Whoever does that anymore? How in the world does anyone do it? Oh! Only the hillbillies can their own food anymore. It is not sophisticated enough for us. We have risen above that silliness and hard work. One might get sweaty and dirty. Right? Suppose that depends on ones point of view. We all still need and like to eat. Funny thing is, very few folks like to cook, much less grow their own food. That is far too much effort and hard work. Who has time for that anyway?

The Keezeltown Community Canner could help with many of these questions. I say ‘could’ because it is due to close this November—for good.

So come take a peek inside and see why it would be sad to have this community cannery close its doors.

This community cannery is a plus for folks in the area for many reasons. Come take a peek inside and see why.

Victory Gardens. Isn’t that a wonderfully invigorating name? Ever heard of them? They found their beginning during WWI to aid in the war effort. Commercial food was shipped in great quantities to feed the soldiers. Farms had been turned into battlefields. Farm workers were recruited into military service causing food to be in short supply. Our government encouraged we citizens to grow food to assist in the war effort. A school program was even initiated by the federal Bureau of Education to encourage children to enlist as “soldiers of the soil”. It was called the U.S. School Garden Army (USSGA).

The results were huge. In 1918 an approximate 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables were generated. The canned food was shipped overseas, and the extra was put up for our own supplies here at home. Smart, effective and proactive. It was the patriotic thing to do. By the end of WWI many folks had stopped gardening though.

Image result for world war one victory garden posters
Image result for world war one victory garden posters

The onset of WWII however brought on a renewed interest in the victory gardens. Food rationing began in the spring of 1942. This caused an even greater interest in gardening. Again, it was very successful. These gardens promoted patriotism, boosted morale, and provided protection from food shortages. The year 1942 saw an estimated 15 million families gardening. By the time 1944 came around, victory gardens had grown to around 20 million. This provided over 40% of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the US. This amounted to roughly 8 million tons of food. Is this not amazing?

A Victory Garden was even planted on the White House lawn by Eleanor Roosevelt!

The Keezletown Cannery began in 1942 in the basement of Keezletown School. It has been operating every since. It is one of the oldest in Virginia.

The cannery makes fast work of putting up food supplies because everything is there, except the food.
Innovative tools have been created to make the process even more efficient and fast. RT Hammer made this clever and fast apple slicing tool.
This amount of canning cannot be done in a private home. There simply is not enough space or equipment.

RT and Trudy Hammer ran the cannery for seventeen years. Sandra Hammer runs it now.
The wall behind the desk has several interesting articles about the cannery.
Sandra Hammer with my sister, Kay. Sandra has been at the cannery for fourteen years, the last three she has run it alone. She also bears all the expenses of running it.

What newbies do not know about canning, Sandra can answer. She is adept with the entire process. It is all run by steam and pressure. It is an amazing, efficient process.

This past week I canned one bushel of apples at my house alone. It took seven and one half hours! In October, my sisters and I canned three and a half bushels of apples in five hours. It is amazing the amount of food that is able to be processed at this cannery.

Home-canned lard. Neato!

This cannery serves as a way for non-profits to make money as well. Many a pint of apple butter have been processed by local churches to sell for fund raising every fall in this richly historic building.

There is so much to learn about food, physics, machinery, timing, providing for oneself , and of course canning food inside the walls of this cool shop.

Open only five months of the year, first Monday in July to the second Friday in December. The middle, end, and canning portion of our gardening season. This cannery has provided a great service to it’s community over many years. Located in the quaint town of Keezletown, VA, in the shadows of the lovely Massanutten Mountain. It is a treasure I would hate to see go. In fact, I’d love to teach canning to our next generation in it! That would be grand!

Preparing the jars for packing. They must be hot, hot, and sterile. This steamer makes one fast job of this part of the process.
The weight used to hold the door for steaming jars.
The setting is beautiful. Set in the shadows of the Massanutten Moutains.
The boiler room, where all the steam is generated.
We share lunch together around the desk. Wonderful fellowship time.

The Keezletown Cannery is a productive piece of community history in this area of Virginia. It has served it’s community members well over these many years, and still does to this day. To see it close would be a sure loss of vital history and active productivity for surrounding area folks, myself included. Growing, preserving, and being an active part of our food source is an important part of life that in these days and times should be of top interest to everyone who has to eat to live.

The cannery has served it’s community well over these many years, and still does to this day.

La Petite Tronconneuse (The Little Chain Saw)

It is fall. Time for wood cutting and chain saws. This post is still true today. Happy wood cutting with your chain saws!

Primary Farm Operator

It seems smart, when one has free fuel, to use it.  The free fuel here at Blue Rock Horses & Farm is wood.  With a wood stove in the  basement and fireplace on the main floor, this fuel is welcome heat.  The one thing not free about it though is gathering it.  Oh well, just another reason to be beckoned out-of-doors into beautiful fresh air and thoughts.

Moving out to this 14 acre farm last summer made two tools obviously necessary for this PFO.  First things first, a Z-trac John Deere mower was purchased.  Before the ink dried on that sales ticket, the baby chain saw arrived.  Every working farm around has a ‘farm boss’ chain saw or similar.  These are for the men to operate.  This PFO can hardly pick it up, much less start the engine and carry it!   That is why we brought the baby home…

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Children & Farm Animals

Two of my favorite subjects. That they go so well together is a big plus for this primary farm operator who runs around the farm with a camera in her hand.

Children make animals better. Provided they are taught properly how to behave around them. The very first step is respect. Some children are afraid of animals. This is a good step towards respect of the animal. I have found that children who have no fear of animals are a bit harder to manage. Mostly because they want to get “in their face” too quickly. This can make an animal very nervous . Animals of prey, such as dogs, and cats may strike at them in defense of this nervousness. Preyed animals, i.e., horses, chickens, pet birds, will run or fly away in fear to get away. However, always keep in mind that any animal will strike out if cornered. Never corner an animal unless you are looking for a fight.

It is always smart to move slowly and quietly when meeting farm animals for the first time. Extending a hand so they can smell it is a nice way to say hello. Look them in their eye and smile. Give them a soft pet on their nose or ear. Talk happily and kindly to them. They will respond positively to all these actions. Should they look nervous, take a step back and get out of their space. Let them check you out! Sit quietly, and they will most likely come to you. Yes, a budding friendship has begun!

Here on our farm, children are encouraged to interact with the animals.

Animals make children better. There are any number of positive qualities animals give to children. The first is responsibility. A child must be responsible for the way they manage themselves around the animal. If we want animals that are nice to be around, we must first be nice and good to them. We are their stewards, not visa versa. Teach your child to “read” the animal, for this is how they “talk” to us. This is learned by simply watching the animal.

Stand quietly, extend your hand and let them
smell it. Such a nice greeting!
Let them take small steps when getting comfortable around larger farm animals. Give everyone space.

Children know their own comfort levels around animals. Go at their pace. You, the animal, and your child will be happier and more confident. This is our goal out here on the farm. We want the children to know how to handle themselves and the animals. So much of this learning is carried into their adulthood as they work to manage gracefully their own lives.

The fence provides the protection for this little fella to say hello to Duke. They both look happy to greet one another.
My twin and I learning early how to be quiet and polite with a foal.
Spending time with animals is always time well spent and lessons well learned.

You are invited to come out to the farm and meet our animals. You may end up wanting one for yourself and your family!

Animals are good for the young-at-heart too!

Enjoy your children and animals! They are gifts!

Who blesses Whom?

This past Wednesday morning made a gentle, lovely entry here on the farm. Good. We needed it for the folks coming to visit. It showed all the signs of a day made to order.

These delightful visitors had special needs. “Make sure you put the canopy up for them. It is going to be hot!” our daughter called out before leaving for work. ‘Be sure the chairs are on level ground, with room for the van to get around easily”, was her last detailed order before closing the car door and departing.

A week in the making, everything was in it’s proper place. Except…the canopy! It must be set up! Our visitors must be in shade. A big sigh of relief was heard with that last detail was completed.

“We are loading up! We will be there shortly! The text came across my phone, and immediately put my two helpers and myself into high gear. “Tack the horses, Sarah! Sam, I’ve already brushed them, get your riding boots on. I want you two riding out in the yard when the van pulls up!”

Smile, and enjoy yourselves! It’s our Show Off Day!

I was so grateful for my two riding students, and their mom’s willingness to bring them out to help. I could not have done it without them.

“Today is our Show Off Day! Smile, look lively, and most of all enjoy yourselves!”, were my last minute instructions once they mounted up.

Our students were a huge help!
I could not have done these visits without these two terrific students. Love, love those smiles!

The van quickly arrived with our delightful guests. Off they came in their wheelchairs and walkers. These lovely guests were from Shenandoah Valley-Westminster Canterbury. Our daughter, Helen, is their Activities Coordinator. This past week was National Assisted Living Week, and Helen planned two visits here with the residents.

The van quickly arrived. Whoopie, our official greeter, was the first to say hello!
Our guests were a joy to have.

One group came in the morning. The second group arrived early afternoon. Time between the two visits was filled with pizza and an ice cream trip to Pack’s just down the road.

Animals have a sense of their surroundings and people that I do not fully understand, but can clearly see. They are quite, gentle and patient with these senior citizens. They move slowly around them and stand quietly for a scratch. I hope you enjoy these special photos:


Everyone got a big chuckle watching the chickens following me! #chickensmakeuschuckle

Who blesses whom? I think that is easy to see. What do you think?

Our Perfect Hostess

We had the pleasure of entertaining special visitors here on the farm this week. Our daughter, Helen, works as an Activities Coordinator at Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community. A premier retirement community here in Winchester. I will be posting a blog with delightful photographs soon. This little blog, however, is about our perfect hostess, Whoopsie.

Whoopsie is the perfect hostess by unanimous vote. This little blog is a photo story illustrating her keen hostess abilities. We are sure you will agree!

Whoopsie takes her greeting/hostess job very seriously.
She must be sure she sees every single guest!

Just look at that happy little greeter giving our guests a hearty “Hello! Welcome to the farm!”
Ahhhh, our perfect hostess is being unceremoniously excused from her job! For shame, Helen! (Actually, she had to move to make way for the wheelchairs.)

The Lazy Man

I may be lots, I told myself, but one thing I am not and that is lazy.

Is that so? The next thought begged the question.

My thoughts immediately turned on their defensive mode. I grew up in the tourist industry on a big farm. We twinsters started earning paychecks long before our hours could be legally reported. No, no, I am not a lazy man!

Yet, there they sat, all ready to go. My photographs. Carefully place in frames that added to their visual appeal all ready to be entered into the county fair. Why bother with this fair in this other county? You have already won ribbons from your own county fair. You do not want to take the time to drive all the way over there. Think of all the work you could get done here in the time wasted doing all that mess! My thoughts nagged me.

Does anyone else have thoughts like these? These: don’t do it; it’s a waste of time; it’s not worth it, kind of thoughts? What a battle! I was exhausted! When suddenly floated in the encouraging words from my daughter:

“Yeah! Go for it, Mom!”

“You will have fun!

“Your pictures will win, they are great!”

The urge to not let my main cheerleader down pushed me to grab up the photographs and head to the fairgrounds.

It was in this struggle that the truth of Proverbs 13:4 hit me head-on:

“The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”

Just how diligent am I being toward gaining my personal goals? What are my personal goals? It has struck me that I am a worker. I know how to work. But this Proverb did not speak of work. It spoke to me of desires. These are two different notions.

I do work hard. It is hard work to keep our animals healthy and well cared for. It is hard work maintaining the gardens and farm. However, I desire to become a better amateur photographer, a better blogger, a better horsewoman, a better Christian.

I realize I must be diligent in working toward my desires. After all, they will not improve just because I want them to. I must not be lazy in working to improve them. These desires add a great richness to my life. A cheerleader is another important piece to this puzzle. I did not want to disappoint her hope in me. Everyone needs a cheerleader in life.

As for the entries in the fairs? I won eight ribbons between the two fairs. It was a fun surprise to see which ones won. Call me sappy if you like, but when I saw that blue ribbon hanging from the photo of our steer, it put a lump in my throat!

I am rich indeed.

Ribbons won from both the Frederick County and Clarke County Fairs.
The blue ribbon on this photo of our steer put a lump in my throat. Yes, I am sappy.



Trouble the photos—Grrrr…..

Computers are like cars. They are great when they are running as they should. But when they do not! Grrrrrrr…….so blasted aggravating! What have I done with the photos?

Since my last post, ‘something’ has happened to my photo gallery. I am unable to post photos. I know they are in here somewhere. I just do not know how to ‘find’ them and put them back where they belong so they can be added to my posts. Man! This is so frustrating!

I need help, and am hoping my computer savvy son will be able to set it aright. Will be back ASAP! 🙂

Largest in the World

We came upon it by chance while visiting the gift shop in Plymouth, Massachusetts during our twinster vacation this spring. We noticed a postcard of it, realized it was nearby and decided to pay it a visit. Wow! Amazing! Astonishing! How did we not know about this magnificent monument?

It is the National Monument to the Forefathers, in Plymouth, Mass.

This is the description of it on the postcard we purchased: “Erected in 1889, this 81-foot memorial is dedicated to the four virtues that brought the Pilgrims to the New World: Morality, Law, Education and Liberty. It is the largest freestanding granite statue in the world.”

It is absolutely magnificent. Have you visited it and spent time with it? It is a must see while visiting Plymouth, Mass.



The base reliefs all around the monument tell the story of the Pilgrims.
The detail is stunning.

It is a magnificent, beautiful monument.
Standing 81′ tall this National Monument to the Forefathers dwarfs my twinsters.
It is this u-tube with Kirk Cameron where I learned about this beautiful monument.