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A Tale of Town Meetings, Referendums and the Responsibility of Being American May 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 2:36 pm

On this Memorial Day weekend I am grateful to those who made unspeakable sacrifices so that we may continue to have the abundant freedoms we enjoy, and sadly often take for granted, in this country. For me, few things are as important as the freedom of speech and of the press, as these are the tools we were given by our founders that enable us to question hypocrisy, expose fraud, fight tyranny, and yes, even express our own opinions without fear.

This weekend, I am writing a blog BECAUSE I CAN. How lucky am I? How lucky are you?

I am not a politically active person. I never have been (although I do follow politics because, well, everyone should.) You will NEVER see my name on a ballot, although for a dozen years you may have seen my byline on hundreds of articles covering local politics in more than a dozen towns. I work hard to be unbiased and present the views of everyone involved, and I seldom write an opinion piece about politics, aside from one snarky column about Milford Public Works pretty much napalming the courtyard at the Parson’s Complex.

Last week I wrote a blog about showing up at Bethany Town Hall to vote on the budget only to learn I wasn’t going to get to vote, and that the Board of Selectmen had voted two-to-one to send the vote to a referendum. I wasn’t the only one who was angry. On my way in I passed a mess of people who were storming out, not so much because of the referendum, but because they were not told about the change. I was also pretty pissy. Think about being told someone was throwing a birthday party for you complete with a chocolate mousse cake from Julia’s Bakery, only to be told as you walk through the door that they’d decided to serve the cake in two weeks, instead, so here, have a glass of lukewarm water. With a slice of old lemon in it. Drink it and like it, dammit, it’s for your own good.

I then wrote a blog that clearly stated I was pissy about the lack of communication, NOT about the referendum. The way selectmen Aileen Magda and Don Shea handled the situation may not have been illegal, but it was inconsiderate and unprofessional. Am I going to stamp my feet and call them names? Not at all. I think they made a really poor decision, but the truth is, I like Aileen and Don and I believe they truly care about our town. However, after a dozen years of covering local politics in the New Haven and Bridgeport area and seeing the good, the bad and the indifferent, I have developed an opinion. Because I am lucky enough to live in the United States, I get to write it and post it. So here’s what I believe, and it has less to do with politics than with being considerate and polite.

If Aileen and Don have a long-held belief that the townspeople of Bethany are best served by a referendum to pass the budget, that’s great. However, if this is the case, something as important as such should really have been part of their campaign, and our first shot at voicing our opinion of this would have been in the voting booth. I don’t remember seeing anything about it in their campaign literature, but if I am wrong, I would appreciate being corrected.

If, as they say, they were approached by many townspeople requesting a referendum due to their inability to make the annual town meeting, that’s totally valid. BUT . . . say 50 people spoke to them about it. That’s hardly a representative number. Neither is100. In fact, it wouldn’t matter how many people approached them because there was nothing official or documented about it (and those who don’t want a referendum didn’t have a voice – why would they approach anyone about anything when they were still under the assumption they would get to vote at the town meeting?) In any case, if they believed the right thing to do was to call for the referendum I would hope they knew this more than a week before the meeting. In fact, instead of sending out a mailing about the airport hangar, which the town had already voted on and approved (I not only covered that meeting, I voted “aye”) they could have broached this subject instead.

I stated in my previous blog that even though the selectmen couldn’t act until the call to meeting was signed, they could have given a heads-up as to what they were going to do at the April 28 selectmen’s meeting since being the majority on the board made it a done-deal. I could still have gotten that information into the Bulletin, which didn’t go to press until a few days afterwards. Aileen’s suggestion to send the Bulletin to press a few days early (actually, more than two weeks) was impossible. Period. A town mailing ($700) could have been done, but after a Monday night vote the soonest it would have hit mailboxes was Friday or Saturday, possibly as late as Monday, and that’s if the printer wasn’t backed up with other work. A reverse 911 call, as mentioned at the town meeting, is hardly appropriate. When I get one of those I just about pee my pants as I’m sure there’s a tornado approaching, a gunman running loose on school property, or at the very least, an Amber Alert. No thanks . . . I have far too many panicked moments in my life without that.

So I will repeat what I’ve already stated – if there was no way the town could be adequately informed about this dramatic change in the town meeting agenda, then it shouldn’t have been done. The more professional options, if a referendum means that much to the selectmen, were to discuss it as part of their campaign, send out a mailing well in advance, give a heads-up at an earlier board of selectmen’s meeting, and if none of that could be done, don’t do it at all. They will be in office for another entire year during which this could be addressed, and even better, they could have worked to give Bethany voters a say as to whether or not they want a budget referendum by making it a ballot item; then we would really know if the majority are in favor of it.

I will vote on the budget whether it is at a town meeting or a referendum. Period. If the voters of Bethany unanimously decide they want a referendum, that’s just peachy. I have no problem with that. But the way it was handled was sloppy, unprofessional and impolite and made a lot of people angry on both sides of the political aisle.

In a blog, Aileen wrote about her feelings that the board of selectmen was being run in an unprofessional manner. I don’t know if that’s the case as I have not attended any meetings this past year, but if it is true, the antidote to that isn’t more of the same.

But this Memorial Day, I have a voice and I have a vote, and I am not afraid to use either. I am one of the most fortunate people in the world; I am an American and I am not afraid to use the power that our Constitution gives me. And above that, I am not afraid to say I would appreciate a little consideration and forethought by those who represent me in Bethany Town Hall because I take my voting very, very seriously.

And lucky you, you get to voice your opinion, too. In fact, in honor of those brave individuals who died to preserve our freedom, maybe you should. But please, a little consideration . . . let’s be polite.

 

 

Bethany Town Meeting Hijacked by Republican Selectmen May 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 11:21 pm

After attending last night’s Annual Town Meeting, still reeking of barn, horses and other assorted farm odors, I sat up in bed for an hour fighting back the journalist in me. It was an ugly, bloody battle, and in the end, I lost. I had toyed with ways to word the op-ed piece I would write if still at a regular news group instead of the non-political Bethany Bulletin newsletter. I toyed with “Bethany Held Hostage by Political Terrorists,” but that was a little extreme and clearly a side-effect of the large glass of red wine I sucked down upon arriving home. And yet . . . this morning . . . it still seemed vaguely appropriate and that was after my third cup of coffee, which sadly did not get rid of my headache from the red wine . . .
But let’s back up to last night . . . I finished teaching my therapeutic riding students before 7:30 pm, took care of the horses, raced back to the house, brought Petunia Buttercup (a 550 pound pig) into the house for the night, put blankets on outside pigs, fed parrots, and, in short, raced around like a nutcase so my husband and I could get to this meeting and be a part of the vote we love so much . . . how cool is it we live in a place with a town hall form of government where “Aye” holds so much weight? And where, when we arrive an hour late to a meeting wearing dirty jeans and work boots, topped with worn flannel shirts, not a single person looks at us askance or with judgment . . . only last night, we arrived to learn that there would be no vote on the budget.
“Incensed” does not touch the way I felt.
So here’s the story I have pieced together as to how this came about. The Board of Selectmen held a regular meeting on May 12. There was no agenda item regarding a referendum, but at the end of the meeting Selectman Aileen Magda made a motion to take the town budget vote to a referendum. She was corrected and told she had to first make a motion to add the topic to the agenda, which was done, and then there was discussion, followed by a vote. She and Don Shea, the Republican selectmen, voted yes, while First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski voted no. Aileen and Don said their reasoning was because many people could not make it to a town meeting in the evening and more people could vote on the budget at a referendum as they could vote during regular election hours. Also, they said the senior bus would not run at night when so many seniors don’t like to drive (under special circumstances, if needed, the bus actually could be used in the evening.) Whatever. There was absolutely no effort made to inform the public of this change, and only a few residents knew there would be no budget vote at the meeting.
There had also been no mention of a referendum at the Board of Finance meeting when public input from the Town Budget Hearing had been incorporated into the budget. The request for the referendum had come out of the blue, with no hope of stopping it.
So here’s what happens next . . . the referendum, which is set for June 2, will cost $2,000 for staff, ballots, etc. The postcards to inform voters of the referendum will cost about $700 with postage. Several scenarios would follow. If the budget passes, the town has to meet again to vote on the capital projects. That will require a mailing of several pages at a cost of about $1,200. If there is another referendum requested to vote on the capital expenses, there is an additional post card mailing at $700 followed by another $2,000 to staff and supply the polls.
IF THE BUDGET DOES NOT PASS AT THE REFERENDUM . . . there will have to be another referendum (see pricing above) and we start from scratch This can go on for a long time, at pretty significant expense, until a budget does pass.
But wait . . . there’s more. Because the town tax bills must be in residents’ mailboxes by July 1. If the budget passes the referendum, it’s still two weeks before the town can vote on capital expenses, bringing us to mid-June. Codes that would have to be entered to add the new discount to tax bills for seniors, if the budget passes as-is, and then everything gets sent out to a vendor for printing, bringing us in just under the wire, IF THE PROCESS IS COMPLETE AND WE HAVE AN APPROVED 2014-2015 BUDGET. If we don’t, the real problems begin. The tax bills will have to go out regardless, but using last year’s budget, which was approved using a pre-reevaluation grand list that was much higher than this year’s. Tax bills will not reflect true tax payments until the budget is approved, and then, a revised bill will have to be sent out at a cost of an extra $5,000, followed by a lot of confusion for residents getting this second bill.
All of this is expensive and sloppy, and it gives me yet another headache which, when I am done writing this, I will try to drown in a large glass of red wine, but first . . . my own, insignificant opinion as to what happened in my beloved town of Bethany.
I truly don’t care what political party anyone is in. I was raised by staunch Republicans who proudly wore their NRA patches on their jacket sleeves. I have always been registered as an independent and split my tickets all over the place, and only recently registered as a Democrat so I could experience voting in a presidential primary, which was a delight, as I LOVE to vote. I repeat – I DON’T CARE WHAT PARTY ANYONE IS IN. And I happen to like all of the people involved very much. BUT . . . on the evening of May 12, when the referendum won the vote at the board of selectmen meeting, it totally smacked of passive aggressive manipulation and political grandstanding. Everyone knows we have no traditional press coverage in this town and the Bulletin had already been delivered for the month. There was absolutely no way to get the word out to the town, and there was no attempt made, (although at the town meeting Aileen did mention perhaps a reverse 911 call could have been placed explaining it, but that the possibility wasn’t discussed at the board meeting.) Knowing that no one would know what they were walking into when they showed up at the town meeting, the selectmen still voted for a referendum. Why? They couldn’t possibly have come up with the idea on the night of May 12 and just tossed it out there for kicks and giggles. They HAD to have had a clue weeks earlier, when we could have included it in the Bulletin and informed the public. Even if they couldn’t vote for it earlier, Don and Aileen knew they were going to win it 2-1, so why not give their fellow townspeople a heads up? It would have been the polite thing to do . . .
I know that at Board of Finance meetings and the town budget hearings Aileen has lobbied to get rid of the Bethany Bulletin as she feels it’s just too expensive for the town to carry (with ads and absorbing the monthly cost of Seniority, it doesn’t cost any more per year than what the minimum referendum process will be, about $6,000.) It’s no skin off my teeth as I do it as a volunteer and it would free up about 25 hours of my month if she actually won that battle. However, if an ill-informed public was what the founders of our country had in mind, they wouldn’t have penned their famous little ditty about freedom of the press.
I understand the selectmen’s point about involving as many people in the budget vote as possible, but their approach was absolutely wrong and pissed off a lot of people, me included. The potential for a referendum should have been addressed months ago, publicly, and not snuck by at the end of a meeting. And here’s what really upsets me (yes, there’s more!) Every town resident had plenty of notice of the town meeting, in accordance with state law. I am flat-out busy from 4:30am to 9pm at night with my many jobs and duties. I made attending the Bethany Town Meeting a top priority and turned my life upside down to get there to vote, to the point of offending nearby residents with the odor of horse manure on my boots. If I can figure out how to get there, just about anyone can.
There.
Rant over.
Excuse me while I pour that big glass of red wine . . .

 

Saying Goodbye to Sue September 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 8:45 pm

Sue’s Eulogy, for those who could not be there . . .

Sue's rainbow as we exited the wake

The Wizard of Oz once said to the Tin Man, “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

The Tin Man had taken a long and treacherous trip down the Yellow Brick Road only to be told his fondest desire was going to cause him a lot of heartache. Which we all understand, as everyone present today has, at one point or another, walked the Yellow Brick Road of Life with the very special Susan Ives.

There are so many things about Sue that we will carry forever in our hearts. She always thought the best of everyone and worked hard to see things from their point of view . . .  right up until they proved her wrong, of course. She may have laughingly called herself Silly Sue, but she was wise enough to understand who she should spend her time with and whom she shouldn’t.

Sue always made everyone feel comfortable in her presence, and thought more about other’s feelings than her own. Even as she was dying, most of her fading strength was focused on making sure the people around her were at ease with what was happening. Sue was fine with impending death, and looked forward to being with friends and family who had crossed over before her. She often told us not to worry, she’d be right there, working hard for all of us from the other side. And we know this it true, because Sue always kept her promises; we have a dedicated heavenly advocate watching over our shoulders every moment of every day.

Sue’s obsession with making sure people were comfortable even extended to this eulogy . . . she requested it be kept short so no one would become uncomfortable sitting in the wooden pews for too long. Most of us, however, would probably agree if anyone deserves a long and splendid tribute, it’s Sue, and since she’s unable to tell us to stop making a fuss over her at this precise moment, we’re going to make sure we all leave here satisfied with these memories of her.

We’ll start with the ruby slippers. Over Sue’s hospital door hung a pair of ruby slippers, reminding staff that Sue was at risk of falling. This wasn’t news to any of us, as over the past 25 years or so we’d all seen her walking around on crutches more times than we could count. The hospital falls were different, however, as it wasn’t just Sue being klutzy – it was Sue trying to hold onto her last bit of independence and do things for herself. Heaven forbid she be a bother to anyone, especially for something as mundane as getting to the bathroom.

As the cancer progressed for Sue, the attack on her bucket list reached fever pitch. While Hawaii was out of reach, Bermuda beckoned and Sue packed up her shorts and wheel chair for the vacation of a lifetime with her family.

When the Red Sox were playing, she was there as often as possible. Her daughter Jamie remembers what they refer to as “The ULTIMATE trip to Boston.”

“She had a 5 star hotel with down comforters and pillows in a room literally next to the elevator.
The Red Sox won AND Big Papi hit a home run (which Tom bet a dinner at Papi’s restaurant if Ortiz came through). Then there was room service breakfast. And giving Jamie a heart attack when she put Sue on the elevator, said “push the door open button”, then turned to get the luggage on said elevator and turned back only to see the doors close and hear mom’s fading voice say, “I’m sor..r…y………”

And then the life-long wait for her duck tour was over. She had an ear to ear grin the entire venture and Jamie occasionally pretended to look at scenery because her eyes were welling up to see her mom so happy.

Sue even managed to sit in a car for a six hour trip to Virginia. She didn’t necessarily get to see a baby alpaca be born, but she got to hold a 4 day old cria on her lap, and it was a beautiful picture.

When looking back through her high school yearbook, Jamie noticed that her mom had crushes on nearly half the boys in her class. Right up to the end she would turn back into an awkward teenager when reminiscing. Sue was around 60 when she met the movie star Keir Dullea for the first time, and even though she’d had a week to get used to the idea of meeting her teen crush from the movie David and Lisa, her hands shook, her knees knocked and her voice trembled. She actually had to sit down and compose herself afterwards, yet she smiled for weeks afterwards and treasured the moment.

Sue’s life revolved around those she loved so beautifully and well – her children, her family, her friends and her animals. She was always at her children’s sporting events, drama productions and band performances. She often became assistant coach or stage manager, never turning down an opportunity to be involved in their lives. Sue was the ultimate cheerleader.

She took in a pair of unwanted cats, one of which turned out to be diabetic, and scheduled her life around his injections. She adopted a PMU colt that was destined for slaughter and obsessed over his soft hooves and sore back. She purchased an alpaca that she kept in VA with her brother Chuck and Sister-in-law Sue, visiting every year and making a fuss over Miss Wise’s babies. Sue was the superlative mother to all.

Lori Warner sent this Sue Story in an email to Jamie:

Your mom taught me through her actions that all children need to be protected as if they were our own, and often put herself in an uncomfortable situation so I could be spared embarrassment or discomfort. She really listened when I talked and I knew whatever I said was safe.
I would babysit for you and one day you were in a bad mood and your mom said, “It’s okay of you don’t give me one now, but sometime today I need a hug.” You went upstairs, but 15 minutes later you came back down and silently walked over and hugged your mom for a long time. Then without a word you went back upstairs with your shoulders a little lighter. Sue explained that she never wanted you to do something you didn’t feel, but she had told you what she needed. When you felt it was the right time, you’d hug her because you wanted to, and then she was happy.

Sue made me see that the best mothering is based on intuition, communication, and knowing your audience!

She taught me that simple things are sometimes the most meaningful, that casual conversations and treating people with respect, no matter their age, can make a huge difference in someone’s life. This is how she taught me how to be the mom I wanted to be.

Kathleen Schurman remembers when Sue met her horse, Bart, for the first time. Life had taken a difficult turn for Sue, and she was very depressed. It took several months to convince her to come to the farm to see the first three of what would become many rescued horses. Sue finally agreed to visit on her mother’s birthday, and when she first laid eyes on Bart, she began to cry and said, “If only I could have that horse, I know I would be happy again.”

Kathleen looked at her and said, “If that’s all it’ll take, then he’s yours!” And thus began the greatest love affair of our Sue’s life as she was never as happy as when she was when with the pony she had wished for since she was a child.

Sue grew weaker ever day, but Jamie remembers those days when her mom could get to the farm to see her “boy.”

“Nothing compared to the smile she had when around Bart. Their first reunion was in late February. It was the first time she’d seen him since October of 2009. Bart sniffed and snorted with happiness, then removed his mom’s hat and was startled by her “Darth Vader” appearance, but he rubbed his muzzle over her head and realized she was the same handicapped woman who loved him unconditionally. Just without hair.
The second visit – same huge grin!
The third and last visit, now wheelchair bound, was the biggest grin ever. It even surpassed the duck tour grin!”

It was only a few weeks later that Sue checked off the last item on her bucket list, a visit from a special relative, and said, “I can go now.” She tapped the heels of her ruby slippers together one last time and said, “There’s no place like home.”

The Tin Man looked on, oil can at the ready, and said, “Now I know I have a heart, ’cause it’s breaking . . .”
In the end, her spirit remains. Which one of us hasn’t felt her lurking over our shoulder in these past few days since she left us?

We imagine that soon after crossing to the other side, aside from a visit to her beloved Bart, who would have been her first visit after embracing Jason and her parents, she managed to get in a trip to Hawaii and Ireland, the two “misses” on her bucket list.

In the past months Sue managed to orchestrate quite an elaborate funeral production. Every single thing she wanted- the Calvary tribute, the flowers, donations and the songs were all hand-picked by her. Even the things Jamie wasn’t sure could be accomplished, such as the writing of this eulogy by one of her best friends to the musicians and even a freak weather event like Hurricane Earl and a gigantic rainbow last night as people began to exit her wake. . . all lined up with little effort. Sue could not have made a more grand exit.

And if anyone deserves to make it to the Emerald City in such fine style, driven in a cart pulled by the Horse of a Different Color, it’s our Sue.

 

Desperate last-minute horse rescue attempt thwarted August 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 2:54 pm

This little mini mare is going to slaughter. FOR WHAT??????

Early this morning a small group of people lined up, checkbooks in hand, desperate to rescue 60 horses crammed into a small kill pen on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. Despite days of pleading with the owner, half the horses were loaded into a stock trailer bound for a Canada slaughter house, while the other half awaits a similar fate tomorrow morning.

The herd includes thoroughbreds from the racetracks, quarterhorses from family back yards, and even a brown and white paint mini, hardly worth turning into steak for the foreign meat market. Most of these horses are young, healthy and broke to ride, but that won’t save their lives.

I own a small horse rescue in Bethany, Connecticut, where I have 10 horses rescued from this same kill pen. We brought them to Locket’s Meadow Farm about a month ago, and have been rehabilitating them to be used in our lesson program or adopted out. As of this week, the kill pen owner has decided to no longer allow us, or anyone else, to rescue these horses from death and refuses to let us purchase them at the usual price, which is just over the per-pound rate the slaughter buyer pays.

The situation for equines in this country has never been more dire as more and more people are devastated by the economy and forced to get rid of their horses. Since there is no market to sell them, they send them to auction hoping they are going to a good home, but instead, they are bought in large lots and sent to kill pens and then on to the slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

For some horses, there is no hope; but for the ones in Kentucky, there are people ready and waiting to get them out and give them a new life. Can you please, please look into this and possibly help save the rest? The nation needs to know what is happening right under their noses, and people who give up their beloved horses should understand the fate of their pets if they can’t find a better option than auction.

I have attached links to some stories done locally about these rescues. We have tried everything, the only option we have left is to let the country know what is happening and hope they are as outraged as we are. Thank you for anything you can do.

Shantal Bordeaux Rosales has been coordinating the rescue attempts from her nearby home in Westmoreland, Tennessee. Her phone is 615-427-1505, but she is hard to reach today due to the drama.

PLEASE SEE:

http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/new_haven_cty/Bethany-horses-tagged-for-slaughter-rescued

http://www.newhavenregister.com/articles/2010/08/10/aa1horses081010.txt

Sincerely,

Kathleen M. Schurman
Locket’s Meadow Farm
755 Litchfield Turnpike
Bethany, CT 06524

locketsmeadowfarm@yahoo.com
http://www.locketsmeadowfarm.com

 

Charity vs. Greed vs. Ethics . . . or lack thereof – how DO we save the horses? August 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 4:05 pm

I rescued two pregnant mares last week for $400 each. This one is now $550. Do we know when we are being GOUGED? So repulsive of this kill pen owner . . .

A few years back we rescued a dozen horses from a North Dakota PMU ranch that had recently been dropped by the Premarin industry. The rancher’s family had raised horses for several generations and had started supplying urine to Wyeth Ayers maybe a decade earlier, investing in huge pee barns (don’t ask, you don’t want to know right now) and taking out big loans to make their facility current with North American Equine Rancher Association (NAERA) codes. Then they dropped them and the rancher was stuck with a lot of debt, little income and a mess of pregnant mares. We helped them out the first year, and assumed they would sell their horses off and get out of the business.

The next year, the rancher called and asked if we wanted any more of his horses as he’d bred them all again. About a hundred of them. I was appalled, and replied that we would not help him, please stop breeding, for God’s sake, there’s no market for all those babies. He said he was behind on his loans and he’d have to sell them for slaughter. I felt sorry for the horses, but I was not going to help someone who did not help himself. Months later I found out he had contacted a California rescue and convinced them to help place his horses, and every year since, he tells them the same story – help place them or he’ll send them to slaughter.

It’s easy to coerce us, because as a group, we bleeding heart animal rescuers can’t stand NOT to save the lives of these animals. BUT, in allowing ourselves to be held over a barrel and forced to become the bread and butter of breeders who don’t know when to quit (the market for foals was drying up long before the economy tanked since there are just way too many of them) we are aiding and abetting crimes perpetrated by lazy and manipulative jerks.

Last week we rescued a batch of horses from a kill pen in Tennessee. We all busted our butts to raise the funds to get them out before they shipped. In the end, there were only six horses left, not enough to make it worth sending them to the slaughter house in Canada. Somehow, this pissed off the owner of the pen, and he decided to raise the prices for the bleeding-heart-animal lovers, so horses that cost $300 to get out last week (slightly higher than the per-pound rate for the slaughter house) now cost $600. When you add in shipping, there is little hope of rescuing these beautiful animals from death, and at the end of next week he’ll sell them for the usual per-pound amount to the killer buyers.

All right everyone, raise your voices . . . can we all shout “scumbag” at the top of our lungs? And there is nothing we can do about it, except, perhaps, NOT rescue these poor horses (how bad will we feel then?) so that this creep understands we can’t be forced to our knees in the name of compassion and kindness for helpless creatures in distress. But what will it really matter to him as he will get his money anyways from the killer buyers?

 Does this make your head spin? It makes me nauseous . . .

I’m not sure what anyone can do about this. Pressuring this guy won’t matter, he’ll “punish” us by not letting us save these poor horses. If we keep paying these amounts to rescue them, there’s a good chance he’ll raise the prices even more, assuming we’re all stupid enough to pay anything to save a horse from death. The sad thing is, we can’t. It’s not only wrong to play this guy’s game, it’s unethical to allow a greedy dirt bag to grow wealthy because we care. It feeds the cycle in kinda the same way buying puppies from puppy mills perpetuates the suffering of hundreds of thousands of dogs, even though we feel we are saving a mill puppy (by paying full price for it in a pet shop, of course!)

 The only hope for the horses of this continent is for us to start an all-out campaign to stop the over breeding of every kind of horse, in the same way activists have worked so hard to do the same for cats and dogs. The difference here is that while most people put horses in the same category of sentimental value as a cat or dog, they don’t meet the same end as our smaller house pets, whose lives end with a humane injection and a pain free death. Feel free to Google how horses are slaughtered, and watch the videos if you like, but it’s not my cup of tea. Just know from the time they are packed into filthy kill pens, then stuffed into trucks and shipped four thousand miles with no food or water, then packed into slaughter yards, terrified and most often very ill . . . well, you get the drift . . .

And it’s all because there are way too many horses. WAY TOO MANY HORSES. The answer is not slaughter. The answer is education. It will takes decades to fix it, but we need to start now. Meanwhile, we are left with an age-old problem that I don’t know the answer to . . . greed. Anyone have any idea how to address that? Because I’m at a loss . . .

 

All Romance All the Time, or “I’ve got sequins in my muck boots” June 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 3:55 pm

My boots at around 3pm yesterday

For the past few years I’ve spend the majority of my days up to my ankles (sometimes knees, depending on rainfall) in “glamour” aka “manure/mud/muck/slime,” etc. And I’m cool with it – it’s just another one of the perks that comes with having over a hundred animals. However, you do start to forget that there’s a whole other world out there, one filled with clean people who take a shower in the morning, “do” their hair and makeup and would never consider leaving the house without a spritz of their favorite perfume.

When you have a farm full of rescue animals, you don’t even think about perfume or any other luxuries except along the lines of, “A hundred bucks for this tiny vial of perfume! I could buy seven bags of feed for that much money!” or, “Six bucks for mascara? That’s six days worth of hyleronic acid for Captain’s achy fetlock! I can’t justify that!” and “Thirty bucks for a new pair of jeans? But I could feed my cats for a week with thirty bucks!” (Have I mentioned I’m a cat-lady-in-training?)

I’ve talked myself out of buying such trivial items as a new paint brush ($3) or nail file (pennies) using this logic. So, you can imagine my reaction last week when my husband texted me this message:

 “We’re invited to the Starlight Ball honoring Julie Andrews, with the Live Miracles, Martha and the Vendellas and Junior Walker. Only $450 each. LU!”

First, I laughed. He couldn’t be serious; it had to be a joke. I read it again and didn’t see even a hint of sarcasm. I sat down at my desk in the tack room and reread it. Nope! No sarcasm that I could see. I propped my glamour-covered boots up on my desk and responded.

“Did you fall and hit your head? Are you bleeding from the ears? ARE YOU CRAZY!?”

$900 to go to a ball. No, more than that. I’d need a dress ($500) shoes ($150 – I have huge feet, so I never find them on sale) hair highlighted ($150 – I have a lot of hair) mani-pedi (a steal at $30!) and if I can’t locate my Spanx undergarments, another $60 to replace that (never go to a ball without your Spanx – saves having to suck in your tummy all evening long!) Then, since the event is out on Long Island, we’d have to spend the night. That meant not only paying for a room, but hiring someone to take care of the farm for two days. When all is said and done, we’re talking a $2,000 evening out.

What does $2,000 mean to me? Two weeks worth of hay. One month of grain. One month of horse shoeing. Four months of vet bills.  Six dumpsters worth of manure removal. Processing this year’s fleeces from all the sheep and alpacas. And then there are the “luxury” items, like . . . $2,000 will buy enough lumber for a run-in shed, enough fencing materials for two paddocks, and half the footing for a new outdoor arena. Two grand will also rescue one and a half horses from slaughter (that doesn’t sound quite kosher, but that’s just the way the numbers fall . . .) and buy four new saddles for the therapeutic riding program.

I ran the numbers in my head, and it all made sense to skip the ball, but . . . I kept envisioning Julie Andrews, one of my childhood idols, and could clearly see the Mary Poppins doll I got for Christmas when I was three. “Practically perfect in every way . . .” How I love Julie Andrews . . . And I thought about how I haven’t worn shoes that weren’t work boots in a long, long time. I closed my eyes and imagined wearing an evening dress, heels, mascara, Spanx . . . dancing the night away . . . and was rudely awakened from my fantasy by the sound of Captain slamming his foot against his stall door. Apparently, I was running late tacking him for our morning ride.

I stood up and went out to the barn aisle.

“Did you fall and hit your head?” Captain snorted at me from his stall. “Are you bleeding from the ears? ARE YOU CRAZY? A ball . . .  next you’ll be wishing for a fairy godmother!”               

“Oh, leave me alone,” I said and slipped his halter over his ears. “I can dream.”

“Snort!”

“Yeah,” I said, “I can dream that I can get through an entire ride on you without having to sit to a 40 foot spook . . . for a change. How about I have that fantasy, huh?”

“Snort!”

“Yeah, I thought so!” I mumbled and started picking the “glamour” out of Captain’s feet.

My phone buzzed and I looked at the text from my husband.

“Can you call Richie? [Our hay guy] I see he called me. I’m really busy here. And Cajun drank a whole bucket of water last night, I gave him more electrolytes this morning. You were right, Ragano didn’t really have to pee in the middle of the night, he just wanted to eat more cat food. LU.”

Yes, it’s All Glamour All the Time here at Locket’s Meadow. And Romance. We’re real high on the romance scale, as well.

Instead of the Starlight Ball I think we’ll go into New Haven and hit a noodle shop for dinner ($16, equivalent of a fifty pound bag of carrots for the pigs.) Afterwards, we’ll walk around downtown holding hands for a while, look at clothes in the shop windows that we can’t justify buying, then go home and snuggle on the sofa with all four dogs and a half-dozen of our 11 cats. It will be a perfectly lovely evening . . . maybe we’ll even watch Mary Poppins . . .

 

“The time has come, the walrus said . . .” (thanks Tara! Be safe!) June 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen @ 1:14 pm

My daughter Bo was often sick when she was a child, to the point of being on intravenous antibiotics for osteomyalitis for a month. This meant lots and lots of needles, but she was a brave child, and she squeezed her eyes tightly closed and chanted, “If I can’t see it, it won’t hurt me.” This is an excellent strategy for a child, but for an adult . . . not so much.

Kirk Varner at WTNH just published an online editorial about where the TV station stands on showing pictures of what is happening to the animals in the Gulf as a result of the oil spill. Apparently, people are complaining about being forced to actually see these images as they are very disturbing. Believe me, I have to avert my eyes, as well. Varner, however, says in his piece, “. . . there is nothing about this situation that should be ignored or left on the editing room floor.” And I agree.

As human beings, we outdo the ostrich, burying our heads in the sand about things that disturb us, that seem too huge to be within our ability to control or change. The AIDS epidemic in Africa? Avert your eyes, change the channel and it’s gone. Genocide in Somalia? Click! Gone . . . no longer a part of our sphere of reality. Images of factory farming, most of them far worse than what you see coming at you from the Gulf? I dare you to try to watch them – God knows, I can’t. And yet, as disturbing as it all is, it is what Al Gore refers to as, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

AIDS in Africa or anyplace else touches us, factory farming inflicts enormous pain on animals and provides humans with a tainted and potentially fatal food source, and whether we look at the pictures or not, human beings are killing each other for such twisted and egotistical reasons it’s unbearable to contemplate . . . so we don’t. We change the channel and ignore it, don’t contact our politicians and demand something be done, don’t donate to organizations dedicated to attacking the problems. We blithely forge onward with our day-to-day lives. Even Al Gore, with all his impassioned pontification about global warming, ignores the well-documented fact that the meat industry is responsible for the production of more greenhouse gasses than all automobiles combined and refuses to give up steak because he just plain likes it. Damn, now that IS an inconvenient truth . . . and I voted for him!

But back to the pictures on the news. Can I look at them over and over again? Hell, I have to look away from the footage of the millions of gallons of oil spewing underwater, never mind the dying pelicans. But this is a disaster that is happening every day, it affects the residents of the Gulf, both animal and human, and will affect the planet long after my great grandchildren have passed on (and our oldest grandchild isn’t yet five.) This oil spill is symbolic of how Big Business has been allowed to conduct their business in the name of “PROFIT” with little regard for the its influence on the planet, humanity and yes, the pelicans and other living denizens of the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

In the end, why is it so hard to look at these incredibly graphic photos in the news? I believe it’s because no matter how hard we try to pretend we are separate and far above every horrible thing that happens in the world, our souls recognize that we are all connected, intertwined with the same spirit, and whatever happens to, for example, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and children enslaved in the sex trade, is on some level happening to all of us. Don’t buy my argument? Then go ahead, look at those pictures and walk away unaffected – I dare you!

But even if we don’t look, that needle is still stabbing us in the arm and we feel the pain. And it’s going to keep coming back to stab us again, so we might as well be REALLY brave and take a hard look at it to understand what’s happening to us, and then, maybe even do something about it . . .

To start, I will not buy gas from BP. And with the 11 miles to the gallon my farm truck guzzles down, that’s 75 bucks every two weeks. What are you going to do to make sure this never happens again?

 

 
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