I awake so early each morning some call it night. I pour a big mug of coffee and sit a while to read or write. When my coffee mug is drained I’m out the back door with my dogs running free. My senses are clobbered with the sounds of birds, the smell of garden, a distant rooster, and the sight of the morning light rising behind the barn. I pause a step to thank God for the possibilities and purpose in a new day, for I know who has given me these pleasures. I carry a bucket of scraps from last night’s dinner out to the chickens. They congregate at the door and sing an odd melody of growly clucking. I toss in a couple scoops of dried meal worms because I’m trying to win their favor and loyalty. I’m also expressing my gratitude for their breakfast donations to our kitchen. Occasionally, I step inside the hen house and see if one of the girls is game for a little cuddle. The rhode island reds like me the most, probably a redhead kinship sort of bond. I aim to win them all, and my husband just wonders why I need to touch every animal.
Gigi and Buttercup are the spies for the barn. When they hear my back door close they neigh to tell the boys I’m on my way. One bag of hay doesn’t last them long after eight p.m. so they are feeling the hunger in the morning. Lately, Gigi comes all the way out onto her patio to greet me, and Cinderella has been there also. The cat rubs against Gigi’s curious face. I think they are friends. The cat came with the farm, and there are rumors she’s around fourteen years old. We never know where she’ll make her next bed.
When I turn the corner, and make the grand entrance to the barn the horses cheer a chorus of nickers and neighs. A couple of them bang their feed dishes like a drum. The party has begun. In the distance, I can hear Eve braying to remind me she’s eager for a hug. And lately I can hear a hen making a noisy fuss, laying my breakfast. I greet the five herd members who share the barn, looking to see how much they drank, I count piles of poop, and look for shavings on their backs so I know they had some good sleep. Rudy likes to lick my hand for a long time. He reminds me he was my first love, and I assure him it is still so. I disappear into the feed room to fill the bucket with their individual feed jars. The sound of the bucket increases the volume of their celebration. I can hear them make turns in their stalls and begin to nicker again, I call it the happy dance, an integral part of the morning ritual. There is a clear order of feeding that I do not alter. Gigi is first and that’s probably why I am her favorite human, food is important to her above all else in life. Benson needs friends, Rudy needs peace, and Manny needs Jack. Buttercup just wants to belong to the herd so she’s next to receive her jar of goodness. She is the little one who doesn’t appreciate being dismissed. She is followed by Rudy, then Benson and finally Manny, who has to have a special recipe mixed with water to make a soupy swamp monster stew. And he eats it with such gusto the others become a little concerned they got a bad deal going first.
While they celebrate the first of four meals of the day I collect hay bags and drag two wheel barrows across the parking lot to the hay barn. I open the garage door and I am greeted by my four green eyed panthers. The boys curl around my legs knowing I can’t resist a cuddle. The girls keep an eye on me while skittering out of reach. They like their morning meal as much as the horses. After I fill their bowl they eat circling it in unison and I can’t help but love them so much. I whisper, “please keep the mice out of here that’s all I ask.”
I take a flake of hay over to Eve, our miniature donkey, and Gaston, the miniature Shetland pony, where they are patiently awaiting in the corner of their pasture. Gaston tells Eve, it is for him and he pushes her away. Eve however likes to hug more than eat so we spend a few minutes where she presses the full weight of her head on my back as I wrap my arms around her. She’ll stay there longer than I will, but I do try to indulge her because she is only one after all. It’s hard to be the baby. Her beautiful eyes and long ears, soft lips and warm breath are irresistible. She always gets what she wants from anyone, including Gaston, as she nudges her way in to share the pile of hay he tried to hoard.
I fill the hay steamer and get it cooking while Jack arrives looking like a sleepy head, to walk the horses out to their pastures. I stop at the hen house and collect my freshly laid breakfast and go home to cook it. I stir up Kira, have a quick stretch, put my breeches on, and return to the barn so the riding can begin.
I’m selfish about having these morning rituals in private. Getting older has taught me that my boundaries are worth protecting. The morning light through the trees, the stillness amplifying birdsong, the fresh smell of dewy grass, and the sensation of being surrounded by my good friends has turned out to be all I really need. As my children grow up and enter their adult lives I have created an environment where I am able to continue to nurture and grow animals and gardens I love. A strong purpose greets me each morning. It requires sweat, it gets me dirty, and there are endless challenges. This lifestyle isn’t a sure recipe for everyone, but why would or should we all be the same? We don’t have to think the same way or spend our lives doing the same things to be able to appreciate and respect one another. I’d love to know how you spend your mornings and why it brings you to life for each day.