Favorite photos from 2019


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2020 approaches

In 2013 I began dreaming of a gypsy wagon, traveling ever so slowly through the days pulled by a horse. I began this blog to record the miracles and the difficulties, the moments of that journey…the journey of realizing a dream.

The gypsy wagon is built and we have traveled in it. In the heat of summer I sleep away the afternoon in it, listening to Vanille munching nearby.I have realized my dream with the help of many people.

I have posted through the years to tell of all the loving and wondrous moments and I am happy that so many people read about our adventure. I don’t have many words to add to what I have already said so the following are just my favorite photos of Vanille. I have posted videos on my Facebook site: Roulotte/gypsy wagon Toti Bleu if you would like to see some action.

Vanille is an amazing animal. She has become the most important part of my dream. She has an enormous heart and gives her all when she is working. She is unflappable which is extremely important when traveling the roads. She is constantly listening to us and has confidence that what we tell her to do is in her best interest. I love her so much!! I had my 78th birthday this year and Vanille her 10th. We have spent the last 4 years together and our bond has become very strong. I look forward to 2020.

I wish you all a very happy New Year and I wish you dreams that come true.

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Lovely day in October/Belle Journée en Octobre


After two years of health problems and just life getting in the way, we finally hitched Vanille to Toti and went to the lake for a picnic. It was absolutely heavenly with summer weather and gorgeous scenery. We began with sweaters and jackets but peeled off layers before lunch. Unfortunately Vanille couldn’t shed her extra coat. We all walked uphill to give her extra comfort. After both knees being replaced and cortizone in both ankles, walking is miraculous for me! At our lunchtime stop beside a small lake we unharnessed Vanille, made a small paddock with lots of green grass and I rinsed her with cold water. Then we all settled in for lunch and a long rest.
Jean François competed for many years with his horses in endurance so we have the best teacher possible. On such a long difficult trip we stop often, check Vanille’s breathing and hydration, and just take the time to let her relax, graze and drink if she wants. She has been in training since February which means we have had numerous trips in the forest with the small wagon. Already that has given us enormous pleasure. We have worked very hard to help her lose those extra kilos and of course she has vitamin and mineral supplements daily. At home after her 22 KM trip she galloped in the pasture. However Bella and I were exhausted!
Mark took all these wonderful photos!

Passing through Arfons










Monsters on the road but Vanille just ignores them.


Vanille pulling Toti into her parking place and Bella telling her how to do it.


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Autumn Automne

En français en bas

Signs of Autumn are everywhere now. I wake up in the deep dark of an autumn morning where just weeks ago the sun would be climbing above the horizon at this hour. I have to grab a jacket and headlamp to check on Vanille after the long night. The apples in our neighbor's organic orchard are ripe, our firewood is stacked, and chilly evenings find us in front of a fire. The big barn is packed with hay. Chestnuts, Beechnuts and Walnuts are scattered on the ground. Vanille's winter coat is starting to grow. There's only one thing I don't like about Autumn…. Hunting season. Not only does it make me weep for the animals but many of our trails are blocked by hunt clubs who rent the forests for their twisted enjoyment. I dream of the day when humans will stop killing.

We have had many, many trips through the forest with Vanille and the small wagon this summer. I have spent many sweltering hot afternoons in Tòti reading, sleeping or simply blissfully doing nothing. Tòti has been nestled under an enormous tree in Vanille's pasture. We were prepared to take a trip in September but Vanille was limping and we found she had a hole in her foot causing her pain. She's fine now but it is raining. We're hoping to leave next week. In the hot months we can take out the small wagon very early in the morning and be home before the heat of the day descends. We don't consider asking Vanille to pull Tòti in the hot months.

Recently we have had a couple of exceptional trips. The first was our visit to the apple orchard. We wait all year for these apples. They are so delicious! The second was Vanille's new friend Colosse who followed along and sometimes took the lead. Colosse is a Comtois/Fjord cross, 6 years old. He has been ridden very little and we were amazed at his performance. Once he understood what was happening, he seemed to have such a good time. He took the initiative to go ahead or climb up a nearby embankment just for fun. He easily galloped along with Vanille when she decided to show her stuff. We all fell in love with him, even Vanille who spent a couple of hours in the pasture with him while we enjoyed a cold beer. It was an especially wonderful day for us. We celebrated two things. Vanille who has finally lost her extra kilos after months of careful management, and Colosse who proved himself to be a bright, kind and energetic horse.

We have a friendly approach with our horses. Vanille and Colosse are not fearful at all and they seem happy to go out for a ride. Vanille is always listening to us and a simple voice control gets results. We laugh because if we are talking and one of us says something in the conversation that resembles a command to stop or to trot, she responds.

Here are photos taken by Mark Balogh.








We feel blessed and we give thanks for the bounty of our life. We have had some difficult times and not everything is always as we wish. However, our life is incredibly gentle. I feel fortunate to have a husband who shares my passion for horses although his passion is the sea and sailing. We are surrounded by nature and we appreciate it enormously. To bite into the first apple of this year is sheer ecstasy, to clip clop along under towering trees chatting and laughing is pure bliss.

Thank you for sharing our journey by reading this blog.














En Français

Les signes de l'automne sont partout maintenant. Je me réveille dans l'obscurité d'un matin d'automne où, il y a quelques semaines à peine, le soleil se levait au-dessus de l'horizon à cette heure. Je dois attraper une veste et une lampe frontale pour regarder Vanille après la longue nuit. Les pommes du verger biologique de notre voisin sont mûres, notre bois de chauffage est empilé et des soirées fraîches nous retrouvent devant un feu. La grande grange est emballée avec du foin. Les châtaignes et les noix sont éparpillés sur le sol. Le manteau d'hiver de Vanille commence à pousser. Il n'y a qu'une chose que je n'aime pas à propos de l'automne… La saison de la chasse. Non seulement cela me fait pleurer pour les animaux, mais bon nombre de nos sentiers sont bloqués par des clubs de chasse qui louent les forêts pour leur plus grand plaisir. Je rêve du jour où les humains arrêteront de tuer.

Nous avons eu beaucoup, beaucoup de voyages à travers la forêt avec Vanille et le petit wagon cet été. J'ai passé de nombreuses après-midi torrides à lire à Tòti, à dormir ou simplement à ne rien faire. Tòti est niché sous un énorme arbre dans les pâturages de Vanille. Nous étions prêts à faire un voyage en septembre mais Vanille boitait et nous avons constaté qu’elle avait un trou dans le pied qui lui faisait mal. Elle va bien maintenant mais il pleut. Nous espérons partir la semaine prochaine. Pendant les mois les plus chauds, nous pouvons sortir le petit wagon très tôt le matin et être chez nous avant que la chaleur du jour ne descende. Nous n'envisageons pas de demander à Vanille de tirer Tòti pendant les mois les plus chauds.

Récemment, nous avons eu quelques voyages exceptionnels. Le premier était notre visite au verger de pommiers. Nous attendons toute l'année ces pommes. Ils sont vraiment délicieux! Le second était le nouvel ami de Vanille, Colosse, qui suivait et prenait parfois les devants. Colosse est une Comtois / Fjord âgée de 6 ans. Il a été très peu monté et nous avons été étonnés de sa performance. Une fois qu'il comprit ce qui se passait, il sembla passer un si bon moment. Il a pris l'initiative d'aller de l'avant ou de gravir un talus à proximité. Il a facilement galopé avec Vanille quand elle a décidé de montrer ses affaires. Nous sommes tous tombés amoureux de lui, même Vanille qui a passé deux heures dans le pré avec lui pendant que nous savourions une bière bien fraîche. Ce fut une journée particulièrement merveilleuse pour nous. Nous avons célébré deux choses. Vanille a finalement perdu ses kilos en trop après des mois de gestion prudente et Colosse s’est révélé être un cheval brillant, gentil et énergique.

Nous avons une approche amicale avec nos chevaux. Vanille et Colosse n'ont pas peur du tout et semblent heureux de sortir faire un tour avec nous. Vanille nous écoute constamment et un simple contrôle de la voix donne des résultats. Nous rions parce que si nous parlons et que l'un de nous dit quelque chose dans la conversation qui ressemble à une commande d'arrêter ou de trot, elle répond.

Nous nous sentons bénis et nous rendons grâce pour la richesse de notre vie. Nous avons eu des moments difficiles et tout n’est pas toujours comme nous le souhaitons. Cependant, notre vie est incroyablement douce. Je me sens chanceux d'avoir un mari qui partage ma passion pour les chevaux bien que sa passion soit la mer et la voile. Nous sommes entourés par la nature et nous l’apprécions énormément. Mordre dans la première pomme de cette année est de l'extase pure, bouger doucement au rhythm de Vanille sous les arbres immenses, bavarder et rire est un pur bonheur.


Merci de partager notre parcours en lisant ce blog.


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Reflections and Wondrous Surprises Réflexions et Surprises Merveilleuses


This lovely woman recently arrived at our door on a bright and beautiful day, holding Tòti's book up and asking if this was the place. Doris and Ruedi are dreaming of traveling in France with a roulotte. With their Belgian Shepherd, they had left their home in Switzerland in a well organized camping car to drive around France for a few weeks and visit people who are building or traveling in roulottes. Doris had found Tòti's book on Amazon and decided to find us. Like me she dreams of living with her horses and traveling slowly. As she says, “I will feel the slowly passing beauty more deeply in my heart”.

At the same time, a friend had quite surprised us by explaining how he felt when he visited us. Seeing Tòti sitting in the pasture spoke to him of broken dreams. Why weren't we traveling now, just hitching up Vanille and taking off into the unknown, not caring what could happen, he asked. He was feeling very sad for us. It was hurtful but at the same time his words jolted my mind and made me think. I remembered this conversation for days and am still trying to clarify my thoughts and my way of viewing life.

I believe the importance of bringing a dream into reality is more than just arriving, much more. First of all, we must begin. Each moment is to be savored. For me it is the journey that is important, setting out on the dream, not just the arrival. Perhaps the dream will change along the way or perhaps there will never be a finish. We must pay attention to what is happening while building this dream. There is wonder to be had by slowing down, opening our eyes and breathing in life.

Building Tòti was a long, exciting and difficult project but during the work we met many generous and loving people. We discovered something important every day. For me there was impatience and exhaustion, and fear that it was an impossible undertaking. I learned to live with Mark in a different way. Vanille came into our life and we learned so much from her and even more from Jean François. We are still learning of course. We were never sure that she could comfortably pull Tòti and the first trial was amazing! How excited we were that day and the days we spent traveling in the forest. We started from zero, zero money and zero knowledge. Nothing could have prepared me for the meetings with people, the daily life with Vanille, our many many rides in the forest with her pulling the small wagon and my heavenly afternoons in Tòti while she rests under a big tree in the pasture with Vanille talking to me through the window.

Last year both Mark and I had serious health problems. Vanille had problems as well. She hurt her back leg by leaping and twisting in the pasture and then she hurt her front foot by jumping for joy in the pasture and landing on a big rock. ouch! Sometimes we just had to plod through the negative and savor the little moments interspersed between hospitals and doctors. We succeeded in taking care of Vanille every day through the winter although we were both not at our best. Now we are preparing Vanille for a September trip which is very exciting. We believe in preparation. We don't use iron shoes on her feet so we must be sure her feet are strong and her sensitive front feet are protected with boots when traveling. We must be sure she is well muscled and in top condition. My original dream was to travel and yes we will still travel but the dream has become much more complex and wonderful than I ever expected. Tòti waiting in the pasture is not a broken dream, she is and will always be a multi faceted dream. There is no conclusion to this dream. Doris who came to our front door holding Tòti's book reminded me that this dream can go on forever. I hope we can help her realize her dream and I look forward to visiting her in Switzerland and meeting her Very beautiful horses. I believe she and Ruedy will become dear friends. Without Tòti and Vanille we would never have met.

Vanille brings joy to so many friends but I think this photo says it all.

And here is a photo of my every morning smile, my anti depressant, my joy.


My new favorite book is Lady Longrider, Alone across America on Horseback

If you want to ask a question or comment, the easiest is to use my email:



En Français

Cette belle femme est récemment arrivée à notre porte par une belle et brillante journée, tenant le livre de Tòti en l'air et lui demandant si elle etait chez Toti. Doris et Ruedi rêvent de voyager en France avec une roulotte. Avec leur Berger Belge, ils avaient quitté leur domicile en Suisse dans un camping-car bien organisé pour parcourir la France pendant quelques semaines et rendre visite à des gens qui construisaient ou voyageaient dans des roulottes. Doris avait trouvé le livre de Tòti sur Amazon et avait décidé de nous trouver. Comme moi, elle rêve de vivre avec ses chevaux et de voyager lentement. Comme elle le dit elle-même, “je sentirai plus profondément la beauté qui passe lentement dans mon cœur”.

En même temps, un ami nous avait surpris en expliquant ce qu’il ressentait quand il nous rendait visite. Voir Tòti dans le pâturage lui a parlé de rêves brisés. Pourquoi ne voyagions-nous pas maintenant, attelons-nous simplement Vanille et partons dans l'inconnu, sans nous préoccuper de ce qui pourrait arriver, demanda-t-il. Il se sentait très triste pour nous. C'était blessant, mais en même temps, ses paroles me secouaient l'esprit et me faisaient réfléchir. Je me suis souvenu de cette conversation pendant des jours et j'essaie encore de clarifier mes pensées et ma façon de voir la vie.

Je crois que l’importance de concrétiser un rêve est plus que simplement arriver, beaucoup plus. Tout d'abord, nous devons commencer. Chaque moment est à savourer. Pour moi, c'est le voyage qui compte, le départ du rêve, pas seulement l'arrivée. Peut-être que le rêve changera en cours de route ou peut-être qu'il n'y aura jamais de fin. Nous devons faire attention à ce qui se passe pendant la construction de ce rêve. Il y a de quoi s'émerveiller en ralentissant, en ouvrant les yeux et en respirant la vie.

Construire Tòti était un projet long, passionnant et difficile, mais au cours de ce travail, nous avons rencontré de nombreuses personnes généreuses et aimantes. Nous avons découvert quelque chose d'important chaque jour. Pour moi, il y avait de l'impatience et de l'épuisement, et la peur que ce soit une entreprise impossible. J'ai appris à vivre avec Mark d'une manière différente. Vanille est entrée dans notre vie et nous avons beaucoup appris d'elle et encore plus de Jean François. Nous apprenons encore, bien sûr. Nous n'étions jamais sûrs qu'elle pourrait facilement tirer Tòti et le premier essai était incroyable! Nous étions excités ce jour-là et les jours que nous avons passés à voyager dans la forêt. Nous sommes partis de zéro, zéro argent et zéro savoir. Rien n'aurait pu me préparer pour les rencontres avec les gens, la vie quotidienne avec Vanille, nos nombreuses randonnées en forêt avec elle tirant le petit chariot et mes après-midi paradisiaques à Tòti pendant qu'elle se repose sous un grand arbre dans le pâturage avec Vanille en train de parler moi à travers la fenêtre.

L'année dernière, Mark et moi avons eu de problèmes de santé. Vanille avait aussi des problèmes. Elle s'est blessée à la jambe arrière en sautant et en tournant dans le pâturage, puis elle s'est blessée au pied avant en sautant de joie dans le pâturage et en atterrissant sur un gros rocher. Aie! Parfois, nous devions simplement passer à travers le négatif et savourer les petits moments intercalés entre hôpitaux et médecins. Nous avons réussi à prendre soin de Vanille tous les jours de l’hiver, même si nous n’étions pas à notre meilleur. Nous préparons maintenant Vanille pour un voyage de septembre qui est très excitant. Nous croyons en la préparation. Nous n'utilisons pas de chaussures en fer à ses pieds; nous devons donc nous assurer que ses pieds sont forts et que ses pieds sensibles sont protégés par des hipposandales lors de ses voyages. Nous devons nous assurer qu'elle est bien musclée et en parfait état. Mon rêve initial était de voyager et, oui, nous continuerons de voyager, mais le rêve est devenu beaucoup plus complexe et merveilleux que je ne l'aurais jamais imaginé. Attendre dans le pâturage n’est pas un rêve brisé, elle est et sera toujours un rêve à multiples facettes. Il n'y a pas de conclusion à ce rêve. Doris qui est venue à notre porte tenant le livre de Tòti m'a rappelé que ce rêve peut durer éternellement. J'espère que nous pourrons l'aider à réaliser son rêve et j'ai hâte de lui rendre visite et de la rencontrer ses très beaux chevaux. Je crois qu'elle et Ruedy vont devenir de bons amis. Sans Tòti et Vanille, nous ne nous serions jamais rencontrés.


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Just a few photos






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Spring/Printemps 2019 (en français et anglais)

(text francais en bas)

Spring has arrived, a gorgeous spring, full of flowers, forests green green green, birds singing and nesting, lambs leaping with the joy of being alive, and sun, precious sun. The days in our world are full of gardening, trips with Vanille and friends.

Vanille with a friend/ Vanille avec une amie

We had a few beautiful days in February and March so we unveiled Toti after her winter coverup, pulled out Vanille’s harness and hooked Vanille up to the little wagon for some joyful trips of 2 to 3 hours. The time passes so fast on these excursions, and my mind is empty except for the sound of her hooves, a bit of conversation and laughter, the joy of finding wildflowers popping up, and just a soft quiet in my brain. I simply don’t think of anything else. I feel this is meditation at its best for me.
My body reminds me that age is setting in and arthritis is my demon. However I fight it as best I can and I have had several amazing moments riding Vanille. How incredible she is! For me to get on her I have a mounting block. Throwing my leg over her back takes some time and a few bumps on her rear. She never moves a muscle, allowing me all the time it takes for me to get comfortable. Dismounting is another challenge but she still stands absolutely unmoving.

We are finally seeing results with Vanille’s feet. She can now take us for a 10 km trip, pulling the small wagon, with no shoes and no boots. We are paying close attention to her attitude and it seems she is quite comfortable. Remember, we are in the mountains and the roads are rocky so it has been quite a challenge. The photo below was taken a few years ago when she was wearing Duplo shoes. That was not a successful experiment. After enormous research and study Jean François has done a great job of trimming her feet properly, proper diet and boots when necessary.

We are planning our trips with Toti but for the moment we spend most of our time taking Vanille for trips with the small wagon. This is a great way to get her in shape after the winter and pure pleasure for us. However we did have a frightening encounter with an enormous truck. The road was paved but narrow, the truck was carrying a monster machine for working in the forest, he approached us too fast and partially in our lane, he refused to slow down. Vanille never flinched! I however almost had a heart attack and reacted by screaming all sorts of vile names at the truck. We are now wearing day glo vests and will try to flag down fast approaching vehicles of enormous size.

I am one of the people who enjoys Facebook. I have the opportunity to follow lots of people here in France who are traveling long distances and living in their gypsy caravans. I am impressed by these adventurous, creative people who are living a very simple life. Some have children, some are traveling with other gypsy caravans, one is a traveling circus. I am so very happy to know this exists in our world. If you are interested and have Facebook, look for le monde de la Roulotte.

A few years ago I began dreaming about a gypsy caravan, traveling slowly pulled by a horse. This dream has become a reality but everything surrounding the dream has been the most surprising and wonderful. The dream opened up a whole new life, many new friends and experiences I never dreamed of. One of the best parts of this dream has been the day to day experience with Vanille. It has become a friendship I never imagined. I have learned a non-verbal communication with a 750 kg animal, a deep understanding. I have had horses off and on during my life but this has been the best of all. I have studied about this relationship and way of communicating, read about it and now I’m living it. I think it is helping me enormously in my relationships with people. Vanille reacts slowly, she thinks about things and then takes action. I’ve never been good at this approach but she’s teaching me. We have developed a mutual trust and that seems like love, love at its finest.

The beginning/ le debut

Never give up on your dream, never!


Le printemps est arrivé, un printemps magnifique, plein de fleurs, de forêts vert vert vert, d’oiseaux chantant et nidifiant, d’agneaux sautant de joie de vivre et de soleil, soleil précieux. Les journées de notre petit monde sont pleines de jardinage, des balades avec Vanille et d’amis.

Nous avons eu quelques beaux jours en février et en mars, alors nous avons enlever le bache de Toti, sorti le harnais de Vanille et accroché celle-ci au caleche pour de joyeux voyages de 2 à 3 heures. Le temps passe si vite lors de ces excursions et mon esprit est vide, à part le son de ses sabots, un peu de conversation et de rire, la joie de trouver des fleurs sauvages qui surgissent et un calme paisible dans mon cerveau. Je ne pense simplement à rien d’autre. Je pense que c’est la méditation à son meilleur pour moi.

Mon corps me rappelle que l’âge commence et que l’arthrite est mon démon. Cependant, je me bats du mieux que je peux et j’ai eu plusieurs moments incroyables en balade avec Vanille. Comme elle est incroyable! Pour que je puisse la monter, j’ai quelques marches. Jeter ma jambe sur son dos prend un peu de temps et quelques bosses sur son arrière. Elle ne bouge jamais un muscle, ce qui me laisse tout le temps nécessaire pour que je sois à l’aise. Le démontage est un autre défi, mais elle reste toujours immobile.

Nous voyons enfin des résultats avec les pieds de Vanille. Elle peut maintenant nous emmener pour un voyage de 10 km en tirant le caleche sans fers ni bottes. Nous accordons une attention particulière à son attitude et il semble qu’elle soit très à l’aise. N’oubliez pas que nous sommes en montagne et que les routes sont rocailleuses, donc le défi a été difficile. Merci a Jean François pour ses heures de recherche et son travail sur ses pieds!

Nous planifions nos voyages avec Toti, mais pour le moment, nous passons la plupart de notre temps à prendre Vanille pour des voyages en caleche. C’est un excellent moyen de la mettre en forme après l’hiver et de nous faire plaisir. Cependant, nous avons eu une rencontre effrayante avec un énorme poids lourdes. La route était pavée mais étroite, le camion transportait une machine monstre pour travailler dans la forêt, il nous a approché trop vite et partiellement dans notre voie, il a refusé de ralentir. Vanille n’a jamais bouger! Cependant, j’ai presque fait une crise cardiaque et j’ai réagi en criant toutes sortes de noms vils au camion. Nous portons maintenant des gilets de protection et nous essayerons de signaler les véhicules de poids lourdes, camions et voitures qui approchent à grands pas.

Je suis l’une des personnes qui aime Facebook. J’ai la possibilité de suivre de nombreuses personnes ici en France qui parcourent de longues distances et vivent dans leurs roulottes. Je suis impressionné par ces gens aventureux et créatifs qui mènent une vie très simple. Certains ont des enfants, d’autres voyagent avec d’autres roulottes. Il y a même une cirque! Je suis contente de savoir que ça exist dans ce monde.

Il y a quelques années, j’ai commencé à rêver d’une roulotte voyageant lentement tirés par un cheval. Ce rêve est devenu réalité mais tout ce qui l’entoure a été le plus surprenant et le plus merveilleux. Le rêve a ouvert une nouvelle vie, de nombreux nouveaux amis et expériences dont je n’avais jamais rêvé. L’un des aspects les plus intéressants de ce rêve a été l’expérience quotidienne de Vanille. C’est devenu une amitié que je n’ai jamais imaginée. J’ai appris une communication non verbale avec un animal de 750 kg, une compréhension profonde. J’ai eu des chevaux par intermittence au cours de ma vie, mais c’est le meilleur de tous. J’ai étudié cette relation et cette façon de communiquer, j’ai lu des livres à ce sujet et je la vis maintenant. Je pense que cela m’aide énormément dans mes relations avec les gens. Vanille réagit lentement, elle réfléchit, puis passe à l’action. Je n’ai jamais été bon dans cette approche mais elle m’enseigne. Nous avons développé une confiance mutuelle et cela ressemble à de l’amour, l’amour à son meilleur.


Les rêves sont des choses merveilleuses. N’abandonne jamais vos rêves!




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Winter drags on


Vanille just grinning for the joy of a tummy scratch.
This has been a winter to remember. Week after week the sun hides behind a dense cloud cover and the days begin and end with a selection of rain, fog, snow, ice and battering winds. I spent Christmas and New Year in the hospital with pneumonia, 2 weeks in all. Just as I arrived home, Mark was held hostage in the Clinique for a week with an in depth look at his heart. I was dramatically reminded how precious friends are as everyone came to my aid. I was also reminded how blessed I am to live in France. Now Vanille has hurt her back leg. It doesn't seem serious but it worries me just the same.

So…that's why I have been silent on this blog. I'm dreaming quite a lot though and I know spring will come, flowers will bloom and I will be busy in the longed for sunshine.

Winter scratches are so appreciated!








I was ecstatic to be able to spend a few moments outside as Mark has taken on all the outside work and insists I stay warm inside. Vanille makes me happy, just to be near her and I have missed our walks together. She has a heavy coat to keep her warm and even though I make a nice deep straw bed for her in her “cave”, she prefers to enjoy the snow. Tòti is sleeping through the winter. Vanille's harness is inside all cleaned and ready for spring.

We recently watched a very well done and interesting DVD, Trait de Vie. It follows several people in France who are using horses for work in the forest and small and large gardening. It can be ordered online at grenierdimages.com

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year 2019! May we not forget for a moment to enjoy this marvelous world we live in and do everything we can to protect it and all the creatures that we share it with. Let's be kind and loving, no matter how busy we are or how fed up we are.


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Where Dreams Lead us


I'm sure everyone dreams, wide awake dreams, dreams of places to go, things to do, loves to live. Dreams are wondrous things. In my dream I was seated in a horsedrawn wagon slowly moving through the countryside. This has become reality thanks to a few words of encouragement by a dear friend and four years of learning, lots of help and also lots of work. Yes, it became reality this dream of mine, but it has brought me so much more. There have been many surprises along the way. I could never have expected the door to life that would open, a very different life than I had known. I could never have imagined all the beautiful people that would come into our life because of the dream, or the amazing horse that we would spend years loving and caring for, and the moments of pure bliss we would experience as she pulled us in a small wagon through the forest. I never dreamed of the hours I would spend sleeping and healing in Toti's magical space resting under a huge tree with Vanille looking in the window to comfort me. What I dreamed of, the horsedrawn wagon traveling country roads, has happened and those days have been ecstasy. Of course there have been difficult moments and setbacks along the way but they have faded in my memory. The beauty is what shines brightest in my mind.

We didn't take a trip in Toti this season and I can't hide my disappointment. We were blocked by weather, injuries, and finally a nasty virus. I haven't ridden Vanille very much either. Nothing tragic has happened, just small things that have stopped us and forced us to just relax. However we have taken numerous three hour trips with the small wagon which is more adaptable to narrow dirt paths through the forest. These trips have been incredible and we have been able to share them with friends. November marks a year since I had my third total knee replacement and finally I am feeling stronger. November will be my 77th birthday and I feel so blessed to have lived this long. November will also be the third anniversary of Vanille's arrival here.

Lately I have discovered the fun of simply taking Vanille for a walk. She clearly loves this moment in her day as she comes at a gallop when she sees me and almost puts on her halter herself. Over the past three years we have established a very gentle relationship and there is a silent communication between us. Bella comes along and we just walk down the road all together, stopping at a tasty green spot or two. The three of us seem to enjoy the quiet of walking under the towering trees, watching the leaves drift down and simply enjoying the peace of the moment. We have been noticing how Vanille chooses certain plants to nibble and I have begun researching the nutritional properties of these plants. That she knows instinctively which plants are beneficial and have a high nutritional value becomes more and more interesting as I continue my research. Did we humans have the same capability long ago? Of course we did! I could never have expected that Vanille would teach me a long lost art. These are her favorites:

Beech tree leaves (Fagus) (French / Hetre)

From Wikipedia:

Fresh from the tree, beech leaves in spring are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. The young leaves can be steeped in gin for several weeks, the liquor strained off and sweetened to give a light green/yellow liqueur called beech leaf noyau.

Plantain (genus Plantago Major) (French/Plantain) (Waybread, Dock, Fleawort)

One of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal crops in the world. A poultice of the leaves can be applied to wounds, stings, and sores in order to facilitate healing and prevent infection. The active chemical constituents are Aucubin (an anti-microbial agent), Allantoin (which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration), and Mucilage (which reduces pain and discomfort). Plantain has astringent properties, and a tea made from the leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes.

Broadleaf plantain is also a highly nutritious leaf vegetable that is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. The young tender leaves can be eaten raw, and the older, stringier leaves can be boiled in stews and eaten.
















Wild Chamomile (Matricaria discoidea) (French, Camomille)

Chamomile tea has long been used, as a traditional folk remedy, for a wide range of health issues. Nowadays, researchers are increasingly exploring its effectiveness in managing illnesses, including cancer and diabetes.

The flowers are dried for herbal tea. Vanille just eats the flowers.


Mallow (Malva neglecta) (French/Mauve à feuilles ronds)

People use the flower and leaf to make medicine. Mallow is used for irritation of the mouth and throat, dry cough, and bronchitis. It is also used for stomach and bladder clmplaints. To treat wounds, some people put Mallow in a warm moist dressing (poultice) and apply it directly to the skin, or add it to bath water.










Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) (French/ Ortie)

The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War I. Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).











Burdock (Arctium) (French/Bardane)

The root is sometimes used as food. The root, leaf, and seed are used to make medicine. Some people take burdock by mouth to increase urine flow, kill germs, reduce fever, and “purify” their blood. It is also taken by mouth to treat colds, cancer, anorexia, stomach and intestinal complaints, joint pain, gout, bladder infections, diabetes, high blood pressure and skin conditions.









Vanille also loves a vine that is growing wild over a stone wall but the leaves are gone now and I am not yet able to identify it.

This is just the beginning of my study. If you are interested, read more on the internet. All of the above is taken from internet searches. AND, watch what your horse likes to eat

Imagine, Vanille is teaching me about wild plants! When we go for a walk I point to areas of grass that I think look appetizing so we are working together. I recommend taking your horse for walks!

Have fun! Enjoy all that nature offers us!


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The days of August have been hot, sweltering hot and dry. This morning we were blessed with a soft mist but a little rain would be nice. Our life has been quiet and gentle. It has been a month of reading, friendly visits and afternoon naps in Tòti under the trees. Vanille passes by, stops and pokes her head over the fence to say “Hello”. I have noticed that she talks to me much more as time goes by. There is the loud whinny in the morning when she hears our door closing which means I'm on my way. There is also the very soft sound, much like a mare reassuring her foal. This is the sound I hear often now. I always speak to her when I'm approaching and I talk to her, touching noses, looking around together, stroking her neck before asking if she wants to go out. She talks back very softly and lowers her head for the halter. This is our early morning time together when the remainder of the day is too hot. We walk around together looking for the tastiest grass. Since I must ration her grass, in the afternoon she follows my every step as I enlarge her pasture and she talks to me about it most of the time. It's quite a difficult balance to give her enough food but not too much and it changes with the seasons.

We had one accident, a sort of comedy routine. Vanille was giving me a nuzzle and her lip grazed my glasses sending them flying. I'm blind without glasses so I was crawling around looking for them and there they were just behind her front foot, the one furthest from me. I managed to grab them but the cable temple was gone. These were precious glasses to me. My daughter had found the frames in an antique shop and I had lenses made for them. Finally Mark came to my rescue and found the temple, put it in my pocket. I don't know how but I lost it before getting back to the house. This was just one of those days! So Mark managed to find a place in the states where he could order a temple that looks like it will fit the glasses.

We have been taking Vanille out a couple of times a week with the small wagon. Some of our trips have been pretty exciting. We've traveled over some rough terrain in the forest, avoiding ditches and fording small streams as well as some difficult uphill grades. Vanille is impressive. We pay close attention to her weight and she can do a 3 hour trip without overheating. When we arrive home she is dry. We don't push her however. We allow her to find her own pace and after a difficult climb she slows down to her recuperation pace. We call her our diesel energy. She attacks a hill as if we were shifting into a special climbing gear. I feel that she loves the challenge. Often on the internet there is the question, “Does a horse enjoy working?” and there are many opinions. I know that we are extremely gentle with Vanille and when she is harnessed and ready to go, she really wants to go. It's a bit difficult to teach her patience. We allow her to look all around when she is pulling and we allow her to stop if she wants which is seldom so we check to make sure everything is OK. We pay attention to her breathing, the bothersome flies, and that her boots are properly adjusted. Our trips are just pure pleasure, time to talk and enjoy the magnificent scenery. We often invite friends. This is an important aspect of driving a horse rather than riding. It is very social but still there is the special contact with the horse.

AND, the most exciting for me is that I pushed past my fear and got on Vanille, not once but several times. Here I am, granny on her horse.

Thanks to Jean François, I have the use of absolutely the most comfortable saddle ever and a bridle without blinders. Vanille just plods along slowly which is perfect for me. I'm trying to give us both time, time for me to feel confident and time for her to become accustomed to my weight on her back. We don't have a ring to work in so it is a bit different to just take off down the road, but we're building confidence all the time.

So, when will we take Tòti out for a trip? We plan to take a trip here in the mountains around the end of September when the weather is a bit cooler and another trip down our mountain and in flat country for a few days to arrive at a protected winter home for Tòti. Everything we do now builds strength for Vanille. The idea is not to rush into anything but enjoy the time it takes to arrive. It is all important!.

As always, I invite you to comment if you are reading my journey. Much love to all and happy trails.

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