The above photos are from last week’s training trip. We usually travel 8 to 12 km in 3 hours or less on gravel, dirt and pavement. There is a shady place to take a break for half an hour.
This Sunday morning arrived gently. While the cool of the night lay over the fields and the pale light of early morning held our world in a sort of antique painting, I brought Vanille up to the barn for a good brushing and overall checkup. We had time for half an hour of grazing on the few bits of green grass that have survived the severe dry hot weather. Jean François arrived with his friend, Joël, to measure and discuss the building of Tòti’s door and windows. A catalog of door and window hardware was spread out on the table and we chose all the necessary hardware, talked about the shutters and many other details over coffee. It was an exciting moment! This is one of a few jobs left before we can finally say, “Tòti’s finished”. The door and windows are difficult and they are the job that we are not equipped to do properly. The stained glass rear window created by Scott Ecelberger is the heart of Tòti. When it is in place, I know she will come alive. Mark is still doing the fidgety work of the front seat and I think that will be finished before winter.
Jean François has purchased Duplo Composite Horse Shoes for Vanille’s rear hooves. If you are interested, the website is
We’re tired though and the winter in front of the fire will be welcome. This has been a long project, already 3 years, and we have had to learn something new each step of the way. We have not had a proper workshop and tools have had to be improvised, borrowed or bought. Our bank account is way below zero and many things for our day to day life have been neglected and are worn out. I often dive into a project without knowing how it is to be done or what the complications might be. If I knew, I’m sure I would never attempt anything. However, this project has enriched our lives in ways we never imagined. It is a work of love and love is an extraordinary force!
We pulled Tòti out into the pasture and spent two nights living there. Vanille grazed around us but we protected Tòti with a small electric fence in case Vanille decided Tòti might be a nice scratching post. The summer breezes drifted in through the windows and the night sounds of owls, Vanille munching and the rustling of the trees lulled me into a deep sleep. Our two cats were the only bother as they had to explore and leap up on the bed. Our Chat Noir couldn’t quite make it and dug into Mark’s chest with his claws to keep himself from falling. Mark let out quite a yell but it wasn’t too serious. Bella spent the entire night with Vanille. By morning she was stretched out in the grass sound asleep. Our camp stove had the coffee brewing early and I sat outside feeling the grass under my bare feet, watching the dawn arrive. There was no electricity and we had no exterior lights so the stars in the sky were brilliant. There was no sound of cars, no city noise. Tòti rocked a bit when we moved reminding us that we were not in a house. She felt alive. The bed was comfortable and enfolded us. Tòti Bleu is truly a “spirit shelter”.
The last morning I harnessed Vanille and walked her over to Tòti with the reins to hook her up. With Jean François beside me, we set off through the pasture but I went under a low hanging branch making quite a lot of scratching noises on the roof. Vanille took off at a gallop, leaping in the air, Jean François grabbed the reins and she calmed down immediately. For a moment I had forgotten just how tall Tòti is. That was quite a lesson!
Last week Mark and Jean François went off by car, scouting places to visit with Tòti and Vanille. We are all new to this adventure and Vanille is still young and learning with us so we are not quite ready to take off into the great unknown. I preferred not to go along as I want it to be new and surprising the first time we set off for a few days.
Sleeping in the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.