27 July 2010

Welcome, Thistle Cove Farm!

~ Thistle Cove Farm ~
My kith and kin hail from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England and many generations before it was known as Great Britain. I cannot deny this, nor would I want to, because I am as fey as the Celts who spawned me. Once, while waiting to board a departure flight from Marrakesh, I bumped into a tall gentleman waiting in line in front of me. As he turned, my apology was ready but before I could say anything, he looked at me and said one word: "Irish".  "No," I replied, "American". "No," he replied. "Irish." It took a few moments for me to suss out his correct pronouncement. I had to go back through the generations to when my kin first came to these shores and, yes, Irish by way of Scotland, Wales and England and when we got here, we married into the American Natives already living here. 

Although I was born in a city, it's always been my hearts desire to return to Appalachia and my beloved mountains. I think of myself simply as "American" or, if the nut needs cracking, "Appalachian American" so I was over the moon when Dave and I decided to move to Appalachia.

-drug lords from New York City!
-going to put in a heliport
-building an indoor swimming pool
-not very friendly
-different last names, must be shacking up

These are but a few of the rumors flying about when we first moved to the smallest farm in our valley. In May of '95 we took possession of almost thirty acres, named them Thistle Cove Farm and were married on the front lawn on a beautiful summer day. Our reception was a picnic luncheon, featuring a country ham with biscuits, lemonade and sweet tea, salads of potatoe -it's how they spelled it in Idaho and they should know!-, broccoli and cole slaw, baked beans and the piece de resistance, our wedding sheet cake. The flowers were thistle, orange "ditch" lilies, white and purple clover, Queen Anne's Lace and other "weeds" jammed into canning jars. The bride, that would be me, wore a sleeveless red print dress and sandals made for me by a guy named David when we lived, for a short while, on Maui. Dave, the groom, wore khakis and a denim shirt, sleeves rolled up and, he was adamant about this, no tie! As if I'd care if he wore a tie -grin-.
~ thistle, our namesake ~
Dave's poor mother almost had heart failure when we told her -the wedding was going to be on the front lawn and not in a church or any other building, -the "reception" was going to be a picnic lunch, -no attendants, -flowers were going to be whatever was in bloom in July, the wedding cake would be a sheet cake and...GASP!...the bride would keep her last name. To the day she died, I'm not sure she believed the wedding was legit -smile-.

After we bought the farm, we moved in with Dave sleeping downstairs and me upstairs for about six weeks prior to the wedding. Immediately, we began renovations to this homestead built from 1900 to 1902. The electrical service was sixty amp which wasn't much for a 5,000 square foot house. Early days, we made friends with field mice, raccoons, possums and a couple of red foxes passing through with some regularity. Each night, when I'd trudge upstairs to my "bedroom" -a room with a bed but at least it had a frame under the mattress and box springs- I'd carry a candle to light my way. Thank God and early settlers, we had indoor plumbing and didn't have to make the "trek", 200 yards too close in summer and 200 yards too far in winter.

That first year was full of surprises for both Dave and I as well as those watching us. The winter of '95-96 was harsh and January was especially difficult; eight to ten foot snow drifts meant fences and posts were buried and driveways and roads impassable. That was bad enough but, worse, the house didn't have walls; we had clapboard stuffed with R-19 insulation and six mm plastic stapled on top. The plastic was to keep the insulation from being blown out when the hard winds blew. One '96 January night, we went to bed in shifts with Dave taking the first shift so he could feed both coal and wood stoves. He would work for two hours while I slept for two hours and then we'd switch. Cats were stuffed under our electric blanket and the dog was given a heating pad to sleep upon. Our white iron frame double bed was three feet from the wood stove and at 7 a.m. we finished the night. The back porch thermometer read an unbelievable 35 degrees F below zero but, thank God, there was no wind chill or it would have been a lot worse. 

While Dave was splitting more wood for the stove and I was fixing breakfast, a neighbor drove up on his tractor and admitted, "I figured I was coming to claim the dead, never figured you'd make it through the night." We laughed at him and said, "we're made of much sterner stuff than you, obviously, think." It was much later we found out there had been bets, county wide, taken on whether we'd make it not only through that night but through the first year. Hmmmm...welcome neighbor.
~ Meri Go Lightly, American Curly horse
The gossip mongers, being alive and well and in need of fresh material, found it when we brought American Curly horses to the farm. These horses of "myth and mystery" have micro curls, curly fetlocks, curls in the ears, curly eyelashes, an extra layer of fat and are known for their great disposition, curiosity and dog like devotion. Perxactly my kind of critter!
Sunny Martin, one of the earliest devotees of the Curly horse told me of the time she and others captured some Curly horses off the range and brought them back to their ranch. The next day, Sunny took one of the older horses, I can't remember if it was a mare or stallion, into the round pen and, by day's end, the wild, range born horse was under saddle. Sunny died well past her 90th birthday and was a true cowgirl; it's my loss we never met in person.

The first written mention of Curly horses was by the Lakota Sioux in their 1800 winter count calendar. They drew a Curly horse, called it a "big red dog" and it was these horses alone who were able to withstand temperature inversions and nasty winters that killed off other breeds. Into a valley known for high stepping and fancy prancing, sleek coated horses, I brought sturdy, stocky, curly coated horses. I'm not sure folks have ever recovered but I've always been drawn more to function than form. As Gran used to say, "Pretty is as pretty does."

~ HayJ, black and white American Curly x Percheron ~
We sell horses when prospective buyers pass the test of providing a good home. American Curly horses are, mostly, hypoallergenic, and as they don't have dander, most folks who have horse allergies, aren't allergic to Curly horses. In fifteen years, I've had only one farm visitor who had an allergic reaction and he said, "may not be the horses; could be sheep, grass, cats, dogs, sky, lumber, air..." I felt so sorry for this man as his wife was bound and determined her husband Would Ride Horses With Her! WHOA! Lighten up, sweetie, because if you don't, it's going to be a long, long life and not filled with much fun for either of you. I'm just saying...
~ Dani Girl, American Curly x Arab ~
I'm a newcomer to owning horses and vets and farriers have taught me tons but the rest of it has been OJT or on the job training. When we first brought Peach home, I had nothing but the "want to" so I climbed on her back...no saddle, bridle, halter, blanket, lead rope...nothing except the "want to" and thought a ride would be lovely. It was, for about twenty feet, when she then stopped, turned her head to look at me and then gave a great shudder and shook me off. She meant well as she stopped where there were no thistles; mighty thoughty of her, don't you think?

Not one to tarry, my next introduction to the farm were rare breed Shetland, Romney and Merino whom I proceeded to cross bred. Most farmers in our region grow white sheep for meat but not me. I've the largest colored -gray, black and brown- flock in the region and they are grown for their wool fleeces alone. Thistle Cove Farm is a no-kill farm and everyone earns their keep by providing excellent quality fleeces, nose kisses and lots of sheepy luv. All sheep are named and I'm surprised by now folks' eyebrows haven't joined their hairlines -grin-. 
~ Sophie Shetland ~
Now, we're all aged and there's no breeding going on with anyone. Essentially, the horses are well cared for ornamental hay burners and I've not ridden in years although we still sell them...to approved homes, of course. Any time I buy a guilt trip ticket, Dave tells me, "our money, our choice." he and I both have "loyalty issues" and as long as we're able to have them, all the animals will continued to have a home. I've always loved animals and wanted to be "Mad Lori" McGregor in Thomasina. Do you remember the reclusive weaver in the wood who "healed" injured and sick animals? She was wonderful and, I thought, the perfect person for that role in Paul Gallico's book.
~ Sandra, HayJ, Lightly ~
So, all these decades later, I'm not "Mad Lori" but I am over the moon happy living at Thistle Cove Farm, making a life with and for Dave and all the critters, beasts and varmints that come here. It's not been a good life; it's been a great life with all the ups and downs, ins and outs, sorrow and joys. I've been blessed, well beyond my deserving, and am, daily, thankful to God for claiming me as His own and allowing me to become a woman after His own heart.

Howe are we doing here at Thistle Cove Farm? Better than we deserve!

God's blessings on you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.

Thank you so very much, Sandra! I love knowing even more of your "story"! And there is so much more to tell :)
Please return in the future to share more of your very interesting life with us! I would be honored to have you grab a rocker on our front porch again!

Please take the time to visit Sandra, at the link above.
I promise...you will fall in love with Thistle Cove Farm!

Wonderful day to you all!   xo, misha


allhorsestuff said...

That was an excellent visit! I am fascinated with the "Curlies". I found one once that was so beautiful..I wanted to breed my mare to him.
Love your farm and area!
Thanks Misha..very nice to go places here with you!
have not forgotten...I am still writing!

Snappy Di said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! On my way to visit your blog!


Kathy in KY said...

So great to see you here, Sandra, and learn some of your all's background. You're a really great writer - just the right amount of detail to your life stories. I'll be over to visit you later on. Thanks Misha for having Sandra as a guest blogger today. I love both yours and Sandra's blogs. Thanks to the both of you for sharing your wonderful lives with all of us. Take care you two, from KY.

Maura @ Lilac Lane Cottage said...

Hi Misha! What a wonderful post and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Sandra and Thistle Cove Farm. Once I send this off I'm heading over to her blog to check it out. I hope you're staying cool...we're trying to and I'm very grateful my hubby bought an above ground pool last year! Have a wonderful Tuesday...Maura :)

Kelly said...

Sandra I appreciat your gumption. I too relocated to an area. I will always be "from away". I'm sure they took bets. 3 years later I'm still here. I know what you mean about not just existing. We live!

Jeanette said...

Wonderful story! Thanks you for sharing.

Feral Female said...

Great story, thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

Wow, what a journey! Love the curly percheron cross, he's gorgeous, as is that countryside.

Sandra said...

Hi Kacy - Curly horse are wonderful - calm, quiet and responsive to humans. I just love mine!

Hi Di - thanks for your kind words and hope you enjoyed your visit when you came by Thistle Cove Farm. You've done a fabulous job with Misha's blog; just fabulous!

Hi Kathy - so glad to see you here and hope you're enjoying Misha's blog. She's a great woman and I've enjoyed getting to know her.

Hi Maura - thank you for your kind words re. my post. I envy your pool!

Hi Kelly - it's been a trip, in every sense of the word. Fifteen years later, we don't even try to fit in, we just live quietly, contribute when we can and, mostly, stay on the farm -smile-. I do a lot of charity work and that helps.

Hi Jeannette - you're welcome and many thanks for commenting.

Hi Feral Female - you're welcome and thank you for commenting.

Hi Karen - HayJ is a big'un, that's for sure and, generally, a gentile giant.

Life is good! said...

oh how i would love to live at thistle cove! thanks for sharing it with all of us bloggers!

Mrs.B said...

Nice pictures! My Papa used to say that too~Pretty is as pretty does! Wise Words! :)

葉仲蓮葉仲蓮 said...
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Tanya said...

Hi Misha,
Found you on Joni's blog....I was curious and now am in awe of your wonderful beautiful world you live in. GORGEOUS...scenery and horses!! Will be back soon to see more...
PS....Summer is definitely a scorcher this year!!!

Lucy said...

Thistle Cove Farm. What a neat name. Would love to somehow go through those photos and be there.

陳林美純易南 said...


Sandra said...

Hi Life - you're right, life is good at Thistle Cove Farm although there's always work to be done. I just finished, five minutes ago and it's past 10 p.m., making and putting up 14 cups of pesto from my basil plants. That should taste good when the snowballs fly!

Mrs B. - you have a wise Papa -smile-.

Hi Lucy - thank you, I love the name Thistle Cove Farm; it suits...nicely!