A Lazy, Lovely Moment On The Farm, With My Son

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This has been a busy summer here at Phoenix Farm. Half a dozen competitions (and almost 3,000 miles on the truck and trailer), horses coming in for training, a bunch of new lessons, a horse sold, a baby donkey born, and 10 Nigerian dwarf goats born. But things started to settle down a bit as the calendar approached Labor Day, and last Friday I had a thoroughly enjoyable few minutes with my not-quite 2-year-old son, Wesley. We've set up a small pen for the goat does and their kids on the grass in front of the barn, under the shade of a sprawling valley oak tree that I'm told is well more than a century old. Wesley loves the goats (he probably thinks of them as ?my goats?), and lately We've been just putting him in the pen with the does and kids while we work the horses or teach. He plays with the kids and strokes the does, and now that He's walking so steadily, he runs back and forth with the kids, usually laughing. Or he endlessly busies himself ?fluffing? their hay?picking it up and letting it fall to either the ground or to the back or head of a goat. Wesley considers ?hay fluffing? to be very important work, and he'll also do it for my wonderful mare Alba and for our miniature Sicilian donkey jenny and foal, Sage and Stevie Nicks. Wesley and Stevie will also romp around the donkey paddock together, just like Wesley does with the other children at his pre-school. But Stevie is big enough that we don't just leave him in there with her, like we do with the goats. (In case you're wondering how big Nigerian dwarf goats are, they're about the size of a small Labrador retriever?roughly 45 to 50 pounds.) Late last Friday morning, I'd finished working the horses I had scheduled for the day, Heather was still riding, and our working student was getting set to ride her horse for a lesson with Heather. Wesley had been in the goat pen for more than an hour, so I decided to go in to join him. As I sat down in the cool shade of that wonderful oak tree, with a nice breeze blowing, two of the three kids in the pen came over to get attention, as Wesley continued fluffing hay. I had one of the kids in my lap, and Wesley came over to snuggle with the goat, resting his cheek on the little doe?s neck. After a bit, the doe decided she?d had enough and moved away. So Wesley settled in and decided I needed to have hay fluffed on my legs and hands. (Good thing I'm not allergic to hay or goat poop!) We sat there for about 45 minutes?Wesley piling hay on me, wiping it off, and piling it back on?as Heather finished working the horse she was on and began to teach. For a moment, I felt a bit guilty that I wasn?t doing anything, easily thinking of four or five things that I could be accomplishing at that moment. And then I thought, ?You know, He's not going to be like this for very long. Soon he'll just be running around constantly, and then, when he gets older, well, who knows' So I should enjoy this lovely moment right now.? I should probably explain how hard that is for me?I'm really terrible at enjoying moments, at relishing little successes, because there must be something I could do to do them better. And then I began to think?and to be thankful for?how fortunate my son is to live on this farm, in this beautiful valley and with all these animals. He's surrounded by dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, donkeys and, of course, the horses. Plus, as he grows older he'll become aware of the deer, the coyotes, the bobcats and the wretched feral pigs that live in this area. He already follows the birds, from the swooping vultures and hawks to the tiny, beautiful finches. Every day he runs to see his bunnies, his head spins around if He's here at the house and he hears the goats bleating, and a couple of weeks ago he got out of his ?corral? next to the goat pen and ran straight to the donkey pen, shaking the gate furiously to induce one of us to hop off a horse and let him in. I can't predict if Wesley will want to ride horses as he grows up, although I certainly hope he will. But I'm taking the fact that last Friday he took off his sandals and walked around the goat pen barefoot as a strong indication that, even if he doesn't ride, he'll grow up enjoying and caring for animals and the outdoors. And I'll be very happy for that.