God’s Country Ride

Where do I even begin. I truly am not even sure. The Monday blues were real and hardcore on the struggle bus yesterday.

Years 1, 2, and 3 were all so different and this year was, well, no different! It was indeed the best year in my estimation and I believe in several others’ as well.

I suppose starting at the beginning is the natural way of things. It just seems so long ago!

I was able to skip town pretty early on Friday. I already had my things packed and Merle with me at the office. All I had to do was drop him off (more on that later) and I was off scot-free! Well, as scot-free as one can be in Friday traffic, but hey, I was on my way!

There were only a few stops I needed to make on the way for necessary long road trip things. Shavings for Ronan and Lito in the trailer and breakfast kolaches (both sausage and fruit) to go and nacks (that is ‘snacks’ for all you people without a cute niece) for R and me.

R and Ro made it to the farm Friday evening with just enough time to get Ro settled and for us to get into town for a Mexican food dinner. We were both starving and decided loading all of my stuff could wait till the morning.

Morning came quick enough, as it does, and there was plenty left to do before we could leave, but we got it all done in not much time or having to rush too badly. After loading Ro and Lito and before pulling out, R warmed up the sausage kolaches while I turned the rest of the horses out.

Our farm cat, clearly a bit miffed that he was going to be missing out on the fun and the kolaches, decided he would take matters into his own paws by snagging and eating our fruit kolaches off of the truck dash. He clearly enjoyed them! After having a good laugh, the first of many, we were on the road by around 10 AM. 

Lito in his road gear. Am I ridiculous? Maybe, but I do not care.

The drive was going smoothly enough.

Long time horse people never actually think that thought though because it is just a matter of when something will happen, not a matter of if.

Is that not so subtle foreshadowing you read?

Spoiler alert, there were incidents.

This was the first incident. Blown tire.

Doesn’t that just look like a party?

There are several great things about this incident. Both the horses and us were just fine. We had all the things we needed to change the tire. AND, go figure this, a friend just up the road to help. We were on the road in very little time at all. By all accounts, this part really could not have gone any better.

That was the first part.

Once we got to the next town about 45 minutes down the road, we spent the next hour trying to find someone to check the rest of the tires and replace the blown one. After trying three places, we finally got the others checked and decided to get on down the road. We started the drive with two spare tires and knew we would have better luck replacing the one in a bigger town or come Monday morning.

Feeling pretty alright about our good fortune, but still someone shaken, we drove on.

I will spare you some of the details of what happens next, but we almost got in a bad wreck…Like slam on the breaks and horn and basically come to a stop on a major freeway bad. And feel the horses get smacked around in the trailer behind us bad. All because someone was not paying attention and was entering the freeway incorrectly! (Let us all make a pact to help educate people on driving the road with horse trailers, OK? Thanks). It could have been much, much worse. I do not want to focus on that.

The point is, we were and are still OK.

I have shown you this cross before.

I can tell you one thing, we were praising the Lord during and after this drive.

Us humans were pretty shaken by the day’s events and we have never been so happy to unload horses in our lives. Oh, and bless these two boys of ours. They unloaded calmly and seemed to comfort us and not the other way around! I think at that point we would have been happy to never leave that hilltop ranch. At the end of the day, the drive took about twice as long as it should have.

We put the horses in their pens to settle and went to settle ourselves. That later on included an evening stroll with the horses before dinner with some of the other early arrivals.

Lito wanted to make donkey friends, but they were not so inclined.

The Sunday sunrise the following morning was stunning as per usual. R and I climbed on top of the trailer with our coffee for a better view. This basically set up the rest of the day.

I stayed in my pajamas until 11 AM. This will likely not be a shock for you to learn, but I never do that. Ever. It was glorious. I probably had four cups of coffee too.

Lito and one of his many girlfriends, Jazzy.

The longhorn wanted to make friends too.

Later on, in real clothes, we went for a much needed ride.

I have shown you this cross before too!

We then watched the sunset before heading down the hill for dinner in town with friends.

At dinner, our great friend and hostess read that day’s devotional aloud.

Boy howdy, if that did not speak right to me, I do not know what does.

It was a great evening and we all awoke on Monday morning rested and ready to make it to our final destination for the main event! …Sans incidents!

However, R and I first needed to replace our blown tire which took some time. This was actually kind of nice because we got to have a nice breakfast in town while we waited. Once that chore was finished, we went back to the ranch, loaded up (again, I praise these boys that loaded very well despite how their last trip went!), and headed out!

I am happy to report that we made it without any problems and got our ponies all settled for the week of fun!

And fun we did have in a big way.

Fun. Fellowship. Sisterhood. All with our horses. I can not share too terribly much because it is all, you know, secret and stuff, but here is a little taste of what went on.

Just look at my cute boy. He looks happy, yes? He had this face on pretty much the whole week.

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We enjoyed a movie out on the lawn after dinner the first night, complete with popcorn and candy…under the full moon! It took me right back to childhood and camp. We watched The Man From Snowy RiverGreat movie if you have never seen it!

I had late night and early morning hangouts with my guy.

Lito striking a pose while looking for the strange animal that made a scary noise.

We rode the hills together.

Those are my friends R and H. And Lito’s friends Ronan and Chica.

We crossed a lot of water and we loved it.

We rode through the shady, idyllic groves.

We hung out in the river and watched the fish.

Lito took many naps. I did not. I did not sleep much all week!

We saw, experienced, and felt God’s creation from the back of God’s gift to us. It could not have been any better.

We caught the sunrise each morning and the sunset each evening.

I felt transported to a different place at times. Which was much needed.

I do believe my Lito had as good of a time as I did.

My horse. My Lito man. He was amazing and seemed to be very happy (even if he did get bored and frustrated when we were going too slow or stopping too much). He wanted to be friends with everyone. I could not be more proud of him. He is not the horse for everyone, but he is for me. We have our own thing.

I lost count of how many times I laughed until I cried with my fellowship and horsemanship sisters. My stomach and my eyes hurt! Y’all have no idea how much I needed that. How much we all needed and still need that.

We rode together. We prayed together. We laughed together. We cried together. That is what it is and was all about. That is what IT is all about. AHAmoment. They call the Hill Country God’s Country and it sure did feel that way!

Now I can not share any more about that! BUT. I do have one more thing for y’all.

Did you wonder about my Merle while we were away? Well, wonder no more. He was in excellent care. I had to board him because all of my people were busy or out of town. He did not seem to mind and clearly had fun! Does he look like he is practicing his face for Halloween, missing baby teeth and all?!

By the time we got back to the farm and unloaded, I wished R a good safe rest of her drive, took a much needed bath, and then took a two hour nap (another thing I do not do).

I still have not caught up on sleep! We are all happy to be safely home even though we were not quite sure we wanted the trip to be over. This week is major catch up and now I just want to go back!

Walk in love, dear readers! I sure missed y’all!

 

Teaser

Y’all. I just can not help it. I have a little teaser for you. OK, maybe not so little…I am sorry I am not sorry! Just a little stroll down memory lane, if you will.

It is just that…

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We will be headed to our yearly ride in a little over a week and I just want to go through photos and memories until we are on the road! So, I am going to bring you along with me!

A photo summary of year 1…

Year 2…

Year 3…

How will I make trough the next week???

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I am so excited to see what this fourth year will hold. A little older. A little wiser. And no less in  need of it!

Lito is just as excited as I am, even if he can not tell me so in English.

Walk in love, dear readers!

 

 

 

 

Merle

So, I did a thing and now I have a story to tell.

There was a hole in my heart and it needed to be filled.

If you have been following along on that social media thing (it was fun, you should give it a try), the pup is already out of the bag…but, if you have not been…I have some news!

Just when you thought I was going to share yet another Merle Haggard song (which I actually am because I slacked on sharing those and they are worth sharing), I am going to share a little something about Haggard’s new namesake, Merle the puppy! Likely soon to be Merle Man and Merle Dog and any other logical nickname. My favorite of those nicknames so far is Mighty Merle. It suites him!

So, without further adieu, I introduce to you, Merle, my new wingpup.

Naturally, that begins with where he came from. He comes from the same place Darcy’s sire, King, is from. And, King is actually one of Merle’s grand relations. This is all a full circle deal full of connections. Signs I tell you. The only difference is I did the drive this time instead of C and J. But this Merle’s story and it could not have been any other way.

This is his dam mamma, Nugget. I call her Nugg. You know how I am about nicknames.

A good and proud mamma she is.

After the pups were weaned, she escaped multiple times to get back to her pups. I love that about her.

This is the proud sire, Scotch. Handsome guy.

My Merle man seems to take after him.

This is a Merle pup from early on.

The cutest stinker.

He looks like a thinker.

Here is where the adventure part comes in…We flew up to North Dakota to pick him up! We almost missed our connecting flight, but we made it right before they closed the doors. And then…rented a car and drove all the way back to the great state, special package in tow!

If you are thinking I may or may not be crazy and that whoever would choose to come with me on such an endeavor is equally as insane…you may or may not be right! Let me tell you though, it was indeed a grand adventure and we had fun seeing parts of the country we have never seen before. On top of that, Merle is already a road tripper just like Darcy!

Friday evening in North Dakota we enjoyed watching the sunset after a taking a tour of the kennels. Sunsets in North Dakota are pretty! It was so great to be with the people that made my Darcy girl and Merle man happen.

Mighty Merle had bath time Saturday morning before hitting the road!

A dirty puppy is a sign of a happy, playing, outdoor puppy.

Look at all those spots under there!

He took pretty well to the road tripping and developed his riding preferences, like they do. The initial shotgun riding position that makes for a good dog.

The pretty Dakotas through an increasingly dirty windshield.

Driving.

The preferred shotgun riding position which makes for a great dog!

Pretty!

Posing or taking care of business?

Boop!

Driving some more.

Keep on keeping on.

Really so very pretty. All I wanted to do was ride a horse here…and clean the windshield.

The only evidence of Nebraska was a picture of a sleeping puppy.

Merle met some bikers headed to Sturgis.

By this point it was just put the pedal to the metal and get us all home.

Somewhere in here was Kansas…zero photo evidence. Just trying not to speed.

We finally made it to Oklahoma and the big dog had a big dog time! He was in two different random photo shoots with random people we ran into. There were two girls in a car that screeched to a stop in the middle of the street to jump out and ask if they could pet my Merle.

There was speeding from this point on to get us back to Texas.

We are finally home now and playing during coffee time. Learning what are toys and what are not toys.

He is already a brave a smart boy. Exciting times are to come!

Walk in love, dear readers, and enjoy both Merles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado

You know what? It is hard to get off mountain time twice in one month.

Ha!

What a statement! Can you believe I can say that? I certainly can not complain about it one bit.

This summer has been so great and it is not even over yet.

The thing is, I was too busy being in the moment, breathing in the mountain air, and enjoying just being in the mountains that I did not take very many pictures.

However, we went on a little hike after an attempt at yoga on the mountain and saw this sweet, little big view.

There was a lot of stunning storm watching. You know how I feel about storms.

There was a lot of marveling at God’s creation. How can a person not in a place like this?

We went on a bike ride to eat lunch.

And. We saw a rainbow. What is it about this place and rainbows? I see one every time I am here.

I blinked my eyes and here we are back in Texas. Is not that just the way?

Trying (not really THAT hard) to get off mountain time and back into real, adulting life for a few days. No more than that though because there is something exciting happening at the end of this week.

I told you this summer was going to be an adventure. We have been on two so far and the biggest one is yet to come! Here is your hint (ha! What a hint!). There will be a song for each day leading up to the big reveal. You do not want to miss this, I promise!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Are Y’all Ready?

I know I am!

Today is going to be a good day! I just know it. For me and for you.

We also had an adventure last weekend. We hauled down the road for some fun. He loaded like a champ and worked like a champ!
It was hot, but it was fun!

We had a cold front blow in last night. All the way down here in the southern half of the great state of Texas. In late July.

What????

It must be a sign.

I know, but indeed stranger things have happened. Too bad I am not at the farm right now to ride. Although, all my horses are probably farting horse kites this morning.

I took the city dogs to go be farm dogs.
They liked it.

 

I have been dog sitting at my Aunt M’s house since I have been back from Montana. I awoke long before 6 AM and decided to just get the day rolling. That is how many a good day have started long before time (or at least long before this little space of the internet). This fine day (and yesterday too in truth) already had a different feeling in the air as I strolled down the stairs to let the dogs out. I opened the door and to my surprise felt a dry, cool breeze sneak past my face. I looked up in question and peered out into the darkness (or as dark as any backyard can be in the middle of a neighborhood, in the middle of a big city, with a pool lit up like a Christmas tree) as if I could see what I was feeling. I stepped outside and smiled as that cool air enveloped my entire being. I felt a giddiness rise inside of me.

Naturally, I had a little dance with a sideways glance from the dogs, turned on some Merle Haggard, opened all the doors, and got the coffee going. Now, I sit here writing to you. A great start to a great day, or any day for that matter.

Can not beat this with a stick.

This day however just so happens to be my Friday. Why do you ask? Well, as I promised, the adventure continues!

I am off early tomorrow morning to fly to Colorado for a long weekend with my parents! Where every morning will be cool and dry and invigorating and filled with the sounds of the Aspen leaves! And, and, and!


If you have been following along on the AHAmoments Facebook page, you have known about this trip for a couple of days and have been reliving the last time we were there. If you have not been, well, you can do that here too! I am just so nice that way!

Good Morning From The Mountains!

Wonders

Satisfaction

Just Another Mountaintop View


There is just something about the mountains that brings you closer to God. In more ways than one. But alas, more on that later. The morning is going quick like and I need to get going with it. The house is now cold (how is that a true statement???) and it is time to get ready for work.

It is going to be a great day and we are going to make it such together! It is our choice. AHAmoment.

One more work day, a packing session, and a sleep…AHAmoments is off to Colorado!

Walk in love, dear readers!

 

Montana

Want to know where this gal was last week checking out? I guess the title up there kinda sorta gives it away…oh well!

Montana. And well, some of Wyoming too actually. 

I sat by that trout pond and listened to the birds sing and frolic. Those swallows how they play while catching bugs! We watched the cotton of the cottonwood drift on the breeze while the green grass swayed. We watched the dynamic mountain storms come and go from a porch rocking chair and felt the change in the air. 

I myself am partial to my Texas skies as I am sure y’all already know. You know they do not lie about that Texas sky, but man oh man, the Big Sky country of Montana is pretty dang special.

I am not the only one who feels this way either. Many Texans have strong feelings about the Montana and Wyoming skies, no matter where they call home. Especially from the back of a horse.

 

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I got to cover some country on the back of this Quarter Horse named Flash. He worked his magic and got us some fabulous weather to be out in and to watch. We rode to wide open hills, the sides of mountains, down in the valleys, and up in the trees.

Hard to not see the Lord at work here.

 

 

It sprinkled on us a little bit.

You cannot tell what we are doing here, but we were fly fishing the Yellowstone hunting up the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. That was fun! I was sore the next day, I will not lie, but it was so worth it.

Just look at that view. Imagine being here 150 years ago on the back of a horse.

We watched the horses get turned out.

Then we actually rode part of Yellowstone National Park! Who can say they have done that?

Flash getting us back before the storm behind us hit.

Words and photos do not do it justice!

It was such a pleasure to be in new country and be as unplugged as possible on the back of a horse. It does a soul good. I could have used more days, but let me tell you, I actually slept in when I got home!

I will be forever grateful for being invited on this once in a lifetime trip! Thank you!

Summer may be about half way over, but the adventure is only just beginning! Stay tuned for the next one!

Walk in love, dear readers!

 

Weary Travelers

Best laid plans, right? Long time no talk. Apologies for what is likely to be an interestingly written post.

Here is the thing. I have been sick. For DAYS. Since Monday. And not Monday as in a few days ago this week. I mean Monday as in LAST MONDAY.

You read that correctly. I was a deep voiced balloon head with mucus everywhere. That is probably too much information, but that has been my reality.

I guess I should just start at the beginning. This is probably a spoiler alert, but let me just say that we had been watching the weather and knew that we were going to get some rain coming into our ride. Now if you have seen any of the news, you might know some of what I am about to say.

But first, back to the beginning of the story. Let us not get ahead of ourselves. This was the sunset Friday night that officially kicked us off on our ride vacation. When R and Ronan arrived, we got him settled and decided to just enjoy ourselves and have dinner with my parents instead of loading all of my stuff. We put that off until Saturday morning.

The following morning of loading took longer than normal as my stuff was less organized than I have had it in the past. However, we were in no real hurry and had plenty of time.

We loaded the horses, pulled out of the farm, grabbed kolaches for breakfast from town, and hit the road to make the almost four hour first leg of the trip.

I made Lito wear all the things and he still loves me for it. Although, he did not really need any of it other than the mask since this trailer is so big. Unlike ours.

Once we arrived, we unloaded and got the horses settled before going to find a late lunch for us in town. I swear every time I take Lito somewhere he not only grows, but he loses weight.

Always with the doe eyes.

Telling me how he really feels about me making him wear all the things. He said, “I am a real horse, I do not need to wear all of this.”

The rain had already started and stopped a few times at this point, but we were no worse for wear. We were staying put till Monday anyway. Even though there was a good chance for rain on Monday, we figured we could get up and out and get there before it really started.

Lito made a bunny friend. We think she had babies hidden somewhere near by. I also believe she was sick.

One of the pretty and clear moments of the weekend. Promising and hopeful.

A moment of being tired of the rain and being stuck in the stall. That is Scooter back there.

Lito being a grumpy gandpa telling the others to quit their shenanigans. Funny that he was the youngest horse. Ronan was very upset about something out in the trees.

This was Saturday night’s sunset. It was beautiful. That is kinda when it all started to go downhill.

This is what we woke up to on Sunday morning. Ominous looking out there, but oddly peaceful at the time on top of that hill.

This is a little summary video clip from the whole weekend. It was quite fun until Monday rolled around.

We were able to take the horses down the hill to a flat area on Sunday evening to get a longe session in. They all needed it. Between all the things we were doing and the rain, fitting in an actual ride just did not happen. So, for your mental math, the horses rode in the trailer for about four hours and then were basically stuck in a stall for the rest of the time till Monday.

I had the pleasure of also longing Scooter, the blaze face bay horse in one of those pics. He was basically a horse kite.

One day, Lito may grow into his hips. His shoulders are starting to finally fill out.

Lito acted like he was fine with the whole being stuck in a stall thing. He was straight up lazy on the longe and really just wanted to graze. Grazing goes a long way so I let him.

This is when everything kinda starts to run together. Literally and figuratively. At some point Sunday night or Monday morning…or maybe some other time, I am not quite sure…It started to really rain somewhere. Here. There. Everywhere. All the creeks, streams, and rivers started to fill. Monday morning rolled around and we were not sure we were going to be able to get to our final destination for the week an hour and a half down the road. Or that we would be able to get back to where we were if we tried.

I also woke up that morning with that tell tale feeling of getting sick.

A lot happened on Monday. None of that really matters. What matters is the AHAmoments…Wait. Do not be in a hurry. Wait for data and facts from reliable sources, non opinions. Keep your emotions low and do not worry about what you can not do anything about. Difficult in this kind of situation? You bet. That is life.

The long story short. We found a window that afternoon when it was not raining, the roads were clear, and we knew we could go. So we went and got there safely. Who cares that we were later than planed.

Then it rained some more.

Then Tuesday morning rolled around. And it rained more. Everything started flooding again. The barn became a flash flood at some point after this video and the below photo.

Water, mud, muck, and shavings everywhere is the gist. I would not quite use the word disaster, but…

I stopped taking pictures and started trying to move water and get as much as we could off the ground.

When the rain finally quit, we took the horses and tied them up at the trailers for the rest of the day to do what we could to remedy the situation. Dig more trenches. Shovel out shavings. Try and get the ground to dry.

Lito’s stall got bad, but not nearly as bad as many of the others.

By the end of Tuesday we were all wet, muddy, and tired.

By the time Wednesday rolled around…I felt like…um…bad. Really bad. And decongestants make me feel even worse. I was weak and tired. And the horses had been in stalls, dry if they were lucky, for two more days at this point.

We only got to ride for a couple of hours on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday each because of the conditions. And honestly, I do not think I should have ridden more even if we could because of the way I felt. It was still pretty though.

Lito had a couple of young horse moments. One because I was honestly too weak to even mount up on Wednesday and another on Thursday when we got buzzed by a plane. He really did not like that last part.

There was more rain coming at some point Friday evening into Saturday with more possible flooding. We decided it would be best to pack up and clean up early on Friday so people could leave that afternoon or first thing in the morning on Saturday given what the beginning of the week was like.

R and I left with the horses on Saturday morning as early as we could with the rain. And it rained on us most of the way home.

Needless to say, Lito and I were happy to be back at the farm, even if we had to unload most of my stuff in the rain and wind. I was going to stay at the farm Saturday night, but I was so tired, wet, and crummy feeling. I booked it to town to stay at my parents house with my dog since she was there.

Not quite the report I wanted to give, but such is life! We made the most of it and had a good time together (even if it does not quite read that way!). We are all stronger for it. Albeit a bit tired as well, but stronger and closer.

If the rain story ended here, that would be lovely with all sunshiny roses and rainbows.

The thing is, the whole of central Texas has continued to receive buckets upon buckets of rain. All up river from the farm. It also got pretty dang cold in there somewhere setting more records, but that is secondary to the rain.

All that water is coming our way and hopefully not flooding.

I went out to the farm yesterday after work for my midweek visit and went ahead and moved the cows up into the horse pasture so they can all get to high ground just in case.

I have spent every evening since getting back on the couch in sweats, wishing I had a fire place while hacking all the crud out of my chest.

Do not even ask me about my laundry. I have not even looked at the mountain.

Go walk in love, dear readers. This gal is happy to be high and dry at the moment!

 

 

The French Countryside: La Fin

I last left you after having experienced the best day on the trip so far, riding along the river and enjoying my finds from the local farmer’s market with everyone. The memories of this day will stay with me forever and I could have gone home happy then.

But, I still had a few days left and they were going to be busy ones. They may have been the last days, but they were certainly not the least ones.

After a Friday of eating croissants and baguette with magic butter and resting up (I did eat other foods…), I took a day trip to the coastal town of Pornic on Saturday, Bastille Day, with a few of the other house guests. We stopped in the city of Nantes on the way so I could peruse through a tack store there. I bought some things I did not need, but I was in France, so I bought them. Why not, right? Side note, this city looks to be pretty cool and has many things to do. If you are in the area, it might be worth looking up. Food. Shopping. Entertainment. Close to the coast.

Continuing our journey to Pornic, we took “the scenic route” trying to get out of Nantes as they were already barricading many of the streets for the Bastille Day celebrations. We all had a fleeting thought that we might not be able to leave! Every time we tried to turn,  we could not and our GPS kept telling us to u-turn. We gave up on the GPS and just started to follow the traffic hoping we would end up somewhere where the GPS would recalculate our journey. Eventually, after much honking and swearing and laughing, we did find our way and continued on.

The kids in the car were starting to get hungry at this point and we still had a ways to drive to our destination. One of them had a fascination with trying McDonald’s in France and it seemed like a good plan to get them some food while we held out for a cafe in Pornic. We asked them if it tasted the same as back home and their comment was that it tasted a little funny. We thought nothing of this and continued on.

We pulled into Pornic, found a parking spot, and set off on foot to the busy harbor. It was a hub of activity and there were people all around with the set up for the night’s celebrations and cafes and shops. If we were not so far from the farm, it would have been nice to stay for the fun, and indeed the original plan was to stay for it. However, after much deliberation, we decided it was best to not stay that late and planned for a nice late lunch, look around, go find the beach, and then head back before it got too late.

Lunch at Le Cap Gourmand was wonderful. A couple glasses of prosecco. A goat cheese galette with honey, nuts, and delicately dressed mixed greens. So simple, yet absolutely fabulous. Sitting outside under an umbrella next to the canal. Good company. It was lovely. After our leisurely meal, we walked through some of the shops before grabbing some sorbet at Glacier Pornic, which was also a knockout. Current and lemon. So so good.

After some trial and error on where and what this beach actually was (the non rock cliffs with crashing waves), we found a good parking spot and made our way down. One of the kids mentioned he needed to use the little men’s room, so our first stop before the actual crowded, teeny tiny patch of beach was the public restroom. Or rather, right outside of said public bathroom with Turkish toilets.

Here is where I might should mention that one should not eat McDonald’s in France. But. S*** happens and it indeed happened that day. In spades. That poor mom and kid! They were both troopers in, dare I say it, somebody stop me, a s***ty situation!

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It was character building! That kid took it all in stride is going to be somebody great!

All is well that ends well, as they say. After the McDonald’s episode, the kids swam for a bit in the ocean before we decided it was time for us to cut our losses and head back to the farm early. These adults needed some wine. We would put our feet in the pool and pretend we were on a beach somewhere with less people and more sand and zero McDonald’s.

We had some good laughs on the way home and after we got back.

Sunday, World Cup day,  began with more croissants and more laughs followed by a ride on the Top Girl in the fields to start the day off right.

Then some of us thought it would be great to meet up with a newcomer to the house at  Chateau Des Vaults to try some wines. Wine tasting in France is fun. I liked the wine and the grounds were just beautiful. So lush and green. You can walk around the gardens and then up a hill to see the vines. I highly recommend it. We all bought some bubbley rose to take home.

That would have been a good enough day right there, but France was playing in the final game of the World Cup that afternoon so we loaded up some snacks and headed to a packed park in Chateau Gontier to watch the game on a jumbotron and drink some beer with a bunch of French people. If you do not know, France won and everyone commenced to celebrating in the streets.

On Monday, the newcomer to the house (who we tasted wine with) and I went off to the coastal town of Concale. It is a lovely, quaint town. We went there specifically to go to Epices Roellinger  (a great spice shop I could have spent hours in. There are others around France, but this is THE one) and a bakery called Grain de Vanille. I bought all the things. Seriously, y’all should go here.

After lunch the coast and crepes for dessert, we drove over to see Mont Saint Michel Abbey. I wanted to go in, but we were too late in the day, and to be honest, I was quite tired by that point and we had a long drive back to the farm.

Tuesday was a relaxing last day on the farm. We had a lovely lunch in a nearby town and then I had one last ride on the Top Girl before leaving on Wednesday.

Wednesday was an early and long day. It is a long story, but I missed my train to get to the airport and we had to make the three hour drive to Paris instead…which put me at the airport less than an hour from the scheduled take off. Fortunately, the flight was apparently delayed. I however, did not know this until after I frantically ran through the airport, almost slipping and falling on my behind in the process. I half expected my shoe to break.

When I finally got on the plane and settled, I ordered a cocktail like I needed it more than my next breath.

Always dress for a run through the airport, kids. You just never know what can happen, whether or not you eat McDonald’s! Ha!

Walk in love, dear readers, and I hope you enjoyed coming along on my trip with me! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The French Countryside: The Best Day

The only thing I knew about Thursday when I woke up was that there was a local farmers market happening in Chateau Gontier and I wanted to go. I love markets. Especially with other people who also love markets.

We skipped the croissants at the house in favor of having one near the market so we could get there early and find all the things we wanted to find. Namely mussels to prepare for lunch later that day at the house.

All of the eager market goers hopped in the car and set off. We parked and set off on foot to a bakery for the first order of business.

We were all suffering from croissant withdrawal and we needed to remedy the situation. What we found in this bakery was a basic gold mine. If only I could remember the name of it. Everything was beautiful and looked as though it actually tasted as it looked. Each pastry was an individual art piece. While we all acted like we had never been in a bakery before, a few people jumped in front of us in line to order because we could not figure out what to do. At the end of our ogling, we each ended up getting multiple things to sustain us throughout the day. With our buttery, delicious finds safely tucked away in a bag for later (we were too excited to eat them just yet), we continued on our route.

As we approached the beginning of the market, I began to get giddy.

We passed by the bird and rabbit section rather quickly to get to what was happening farther down. We were not in the market for that kind of dinner or in need of any breeder stock.

This is where the action was happening. The fresh produce, goods, and all the people! So many sights, sounds, colors, and tastes. I am not typically a fan of crowds of people, but that is part of what makes a market a market.

All the locals were catching up and sharing stories. Smiling. Playing music. It was fabulous. Did I mention the weather was fabulous? Because it was. It reminded me somewhat of the markets we would go to in Mexico while spending summers there growing up. Not quite the same, but similar.

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I spied some beautiful cherries and circled back around to buy a kilo of them. I said si instead of oui. I had actually done this multiple times already, but who is counting. Spain was not all that far away, right?! What can I say, old habits die hard.

We opted to start our walking breakfast of croissant as we continued on. I had to quickly stop as I realized how good this croissant was. Seriously. I am not kidding in the slightest. This one croissant was seriously the best one I had enjoyed yet (and was the best one the whole trip).

Once I was able to walk again, I found something to really got excited about. Local goat cheese! I LOVE goat cheese. Well, any cheese, but put goat cheese on anything and I will eat it. The same can be said about queso and vanilla ice cream. Anyway. Her case had already been depleted and there was a line, so you knew it all had to be good.

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I purchased a round of plain and a round of fresh ground pepper corn crusted to take back to the house. I said si to her as well.

At this point, we decided to power through to the other side where the mussels were to make sure we got some and then stroll back through the rest.

The powering through only lasted so long as we had to stop at this stand with all kinds of dried sausage.

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Anything you could imagine as a sausage, this man had it. Someone in our group bought some kangaroo sausage, just to give you an idea. One of the things I love about these types of markets, is the tasting. They all have little delicate tastes of their offerings to passers by. This man had slices of pork sausage with walnuts to offer. Naturally, I had to try, and just as naturally, I had to buy. I already had the goat cheese! How could I not!? Then I saw something even better. Pork sausage with figs! Do you want to know what I also really love not only in addition to goat cheese, but with goat cheese???!!! FIGS. So I bought some of the fig sausage as well.

We continued on and bought some potatoes and the mussels we came for before turning around.

On our stroll back through the rest of the market, I kept an eye out for the local honeys I saw at the beginning to go with my goat cheeses and sausages. All of that combined with a fresh baguette, I was going to create the best cheese board some time in the next couple of days.

We found a lady with different kinds of honey and she was willing to let us taste them all. This was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. If you like honey, and maybe even if you do not (you might find you indeed do like honey based on how different honeys can be), I recommend you try doing this. They were all really different. We tried four or five different kinds based on what the bees were pollinating on. Some were lovely and balanced and one in particular was straight up medicinal (in which all three of us made a face after we tried it). After deciding on a honey we thought would go well with the cheeses and sausage, we made our way back to the farm.

A large, late lunch and a nap had us all ready for the evening’s activities.

A ride along the Mayenne River at sunset.

Y’all, I can not imagine that I can fully describe this experience in words, so I figure I will let the photos do most of the work. This ride alone was worth the whole trip.

There were five riders and two horses, so we took turns with two people riding and three walking. The plan was to ride from the trailer to a cafe down the river where the rest of the non horsey part of the group was enjoying dinner, at which point I would hop on and ride with one person past the cafe, turn around and come back. Then I would ride with another person from the cafe to the trailer.

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I turned around while I was walking to see this chateau.

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When I hopped up on Top Girl (which was comical because I have not had a leg up in many years), she was ready to go. That Top Girl has top, big girl walk when she wants to! She was happy to be out and about, and so was I. Just another reason we got along so famously.

France loves their hedges and so do I.

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The part from the cafe to the trailer was really and truly fabulous.

A great horse.

Stunning scenery.

A nice new friend and good conversation about horses.

We trotted for a little bit and if I thought Top Girl’s walk was nice, her trot that day could have gone into any ring and won the blue ribbon.

The money shot here. Not surprisingly, this was the best sunset of the whole trip.

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As if all of the above was not enough. The evening just continued to get better.

All of the horse group met at the horse trailer to head back to the farm while the non horsey group finished their meal at the cafe.

Now, I could have done without dinner that night, but why would I do that?! I had all this cheese and sausage, so after settling the horses in their paddocks, we all went up to the house to enjoy some wine and my finds under the starlit sky, around the outdoor garden table. Good food, wine, horse talk, and laughter.

I do not like to use the word perfect, as you well know, but this day was rather perfect.

Walk in love dear readers, and stay tuned for more!

 

 

The French Countryside: The Beginning

The last update from France left you with us in the quiet farm house well after midnight on Sunday the 8th, drinking wine and eating chocolate mousse before getting some much needed rest.

Apologies for the delay in sharing the rest of the trip, but life has gotten in the way! That whole being an adult thing.

So, here is some more of the French adventure!

I woke up later that morning to this.

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Naturally, way before everyone else, but I did not mind because it gave me a chance to explore and enjoy the quiet. The mornings were the only quiet time in the house as the house was full of people and most everyone slept in until the croissants arrived after 10 AM.

The air was cool, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the birds were chirping.  This is how every single morning greeted me. As you can assume, a bit more my speed than busy Paris.

I was staying near Chateau-Gontier, a very cute and quint little town surrounded by rolling hills of golden wheat fields, dairy producers, and French Trotters in the Mayenne department. I will tell you, there is nothing quite like seeing one of those golden wheat fields on a hill as it is lit on fire by the late evening sun. It truly redefines the color gold like Lito’s coat will do when the sun hits it just right.

This first day began, as the rest of the days, with croissants from the local bakery. They really are better over there if you were wondering and that is why I ate so many of them! No excuses! I was in France! Good thing I have never had a croissant over here that tasted as good as the real French ones or I might just make that part of my lifestyle.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the farm. Meeting the horses. Enjoying the yard and the breeze. Talking about what we wanted to do that week.

Monday, after croissant and fresh black current jam from currents grown on the farm, we drove three hours to Normandy to visit some of the brood mares and foals, see some of the young horses in training, and bring one of them back to the farm.

On the way there, we stopped in Fougeres to walk around the castle and have lunch.

 

The castle and the view were better than the actual lunch and we continued on our way.

 

It was a long day of driving, but we were greeted back at the farm with wine, cheese, and charcuterie for dinner. I believe it was at this time I tried the magic butter on a piece of baguette (which are also really as prevalent as croissant if you thought that was not true). Magic butter is no lightly used term. It will change your life. It has huge salt crystals in it and it is nothing short of amazing. Word has it you can buy it here in The States and I am going to go buy some for EVERYONE as soon as I can.

Tuesday was another quiet, slow day on the farm where I spent time in a hammock reading next to one of the paddocks.

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Wednesday was a good horse day. We trailered one of the horses to a near by equestrian center that used to function as one of the state studs, Le Lion-d’Angers, for a visit to a farrier. It was a really cool place with an amazing cross country course and race track. Hedge lined, white sand, outdoor jump arenas. Rows and rows of militaristic stables (not my most favorite part). A breeding center for the standing race studs.

I walked the grounds as the mare got her new set of kicks. It was beautiful. If there was any kind of event going on there while I was there, I would have definitely gone back. If you are ever in the area, give it a visit. You will not be disappointed.

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Then, back at the farm that evening, I finally got to ride! A big, lovely French bred warmblood bay mare named Top Girl. We got along famously the whole time I was there. It was most needed.

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We rode at the magic golden hour in France. 8PM. It stays light till about 10:30 there. The air was cool, the lighting was wonderful, and the grass and wheat fields. Words can not describe it. Atop a fine horse and nothing could have been better.

Wednesday was a good day, but not nearly as great as Thursday!

But. You will have to check back for that later!

I am currently out on location for work trying to enjoy some down time in my life this month as a traveling vagabond. I got to have two much too short days at home with my Darcy before I drove the three and a half hours out of state.

So, this is where I sit. I hope to be home by next week and you can bet your boots the first place I go will be directly to the farm. This is the longest I have gone without my animals, but this is what pays the bills.

Being an adult man…

Walk in love, dear readers!