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!

TEXT EN FRANCAIS

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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August



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.

My email address is

totibleu@gmail.com

or use the comments button

 

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LOVE

Buckminster Fuller said ” Love is metaphysical gravity”


Our loving friend Samuel

 

I belong to several groups on Facebook. One of the groups is Aging Horsewomen and there are over 40,000 women in the group. The other groups are interested in Comtois horses, draft horses, barefoot horses and horses that are ridden without a bit, some with only a neckrope. I realize that Facebook is often criticised but for me it has opened up a huge world of information. Recently someone asked a question on one of the groups that at first seemed like a bit of nonsense, but it stayed with me and brought up lots of thoughts. The question was “How do we know that our horse loves us?” Quite honestly I don't ask the question. For me it is just a feeling. How do I know my husband loves me? How do I know our dog loves me? I just feel loved. How would you answer that question?

What is love anyway? Is it totally different for each person or each animal? Do we truly believe that animals have emotions? How can we not believe it? Why does there need to be scientific research on the subject?

I wake up at 6 every morning, kiss my hubby, have my coffee, throw on jeans and a shirt, grubby shoes, and head out to see Vanille. If I'm not rushed to go somewhere I take her out for half hour or so to eat in a lush grassy spot, I check her over and at this time of year put a non chemical fly repellent on her, then I clean her stall and fill it with bedding, and fill up her water. By this time the sun is high in the sky and I'm in need of a good shower. When she sees me arrive with the halter she talks to me in a soft voice, slowly comes toward me and lowers her head for the halter. We spend an hour or so together, just being together. She is careful and gentle with me. We are just quiet and peaceful. For me it is a loving moment. No one enjoys picking up manure and cleaning a horse's stall but I do it without complaint. When I ask Vanille to work she does it willingly, I might even go so far as to say she does it lovingly and happily. For me this is love. People who see her always say she is so beautiful but she is beautiful because she is loved. I feel happy when I am around her, I smile, and I have energy because she is so eager to please. This feels like love….to me.

What feels like love to you? Do you feel loved by your horse or dog or cat? Why? Why not?

You can comment in the comments section of this blog or email me at totibleu@gmail.com

A wonderul young woman came to trim Vanille's feet. We are continuing to improve her feet with the absolute decision to never use iron shoes. Yes, it's complicated but we're seeing results and she has boots.

 

This amazing British woman, Daisy, 73 years young is traveling to Scotland and back for the Brain Tumour Charity. She's doing it ALONE with two strong and beautiful horses.

 

 

 

 

 

When I have the time I'm still long reining Vanille without a bit using the Zilco Flower. We're doing great!

 

Dana tried out the saddle on Vanille. There was no problem and my dream is to eventually ride her.

Ahhhhh…these sweet summer days. Long hot afternoons spent snuggled on the bed in Toti, a cup of tea and a biscuit, birdsong, soft breezes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fields are being transformed into huge rolls of hay for winter.

Summer is not all laziness. I had to repaint the flowers on the sides of Toti and repaint the trim on the doors after an endless winter of rain and fog and snow. Monster mildew! This year our challenge is to find a place to put Toti under roof.

 

HAPPY TRAILS!

 

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Sleeping in Paradise

image

Such a beautiful image in words from my daughter Dana Ecelberger

 

It is June in the Black Mountains of France, in the Tarn District, in the heart of this very passionate country. The skies are very emotional at this time of year, especially this year. Everywhere I look nature responds to the pull of life’s longing. Grass grows as you watch, trees are unfurling their neon leaves, the peony unfolds petal after petal in a reckless fervor. Bees are drunk on nectar; they weave and careen under the heavy load of pollen they carry. Lambs cry across the hillside, “Moommm. Mooommmm.”

 

I sleep in the warm embrace of Toti Bleu. She sits delicately in the backyard, between the chickens and the two black sheep. There is a palpable calm inside the colorful arches of her ribs, shoulders and back. As I climb into the cave of a bed, it is like entering a womb. Here I sleep as I never sleep in my life in America. The hooting owl, the mewling doves, even the awful craw of the peacock high in the Maple tree, these sounds lull me to sleep. The unbroken black of night so profound here that I forget to worry. I close my eyes and it is as if I cease to exist, as if I join the deep, still night in a seamless absence of definition.

 

Morning comes early. Like a Satie piece, the birds start slowly and quietly to discuss the day. “Where are you? Did you survive the night? Shall we meet at the feeder? Isn’t the coming of dawn a miracle today? Every day?” The sound builds and is quickly a cacophony of trills, whistles, chirps and chips. Now the lambs join in with their bleating and calling. The peacocks, from their high perch, sound the alarm. The shepherd has arrived to lead the sheep to pasture. Suzanne goes out to feed Vanille. Mark is here to feed Pivoine and to release the chickens from the coop. The dog, Bella, barks at Beau, the cat. The day begins. Gently, but insistently.

 

I cling to this moment of peace. Savoring the golden glow inside Toti. Let my eyes wander over the flowers and curlicues my mother has so artistically painted onto every surface, marveling again at her inexhaustible creativity. Snuggled down, three quilts deep, I am as happy as I have ever been. Safe inside my mother’s beautiful dream.

 

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