It's time for kids!
June is the official start of a new season here at Refuge Farms. Officially, it is now summer. Hurray! And in celebration of summer, we expand our public hours and focus on the children.
Off to school, off to the horses
To begin our new season, we closed out the school year by visiting with the entire school at Oaklawn Elementary in Menomonie. Chad Webb of Menomonie had approached his teacher about our visit, and soon we had Miss April and our little Gracie loaded in the trailer and off to the school we went! And of course, Little Man, our four-legged dog accompanied us, too. It was hot and barely a leaf moving.
What a polite and attentive group of kids! And the teachers were so organized. Our event was planned out completely, even down to the mats for the floor in case it rained outside. I was impressed and soon to be overwhelmed.
The school was segmented in to three large groups, each of which first met with me in the cafeteria. We talked about what Refuge Farms is all about and our goal of healing. And I coached a bit on walking and talking and touching and approaching a horse - especially a blind horse like Gracie.
Then off to the horses! Little Gracie could hear them coming long before she felt them. But both horses stood well and allowed touching and hugging and brushing and kissing for the entire afternoon. Little Man? He was thrilled to have so many little hands touching him and telling him just how handsome he was!
Perhaps the memory of the day for me was when a young lady approached me and asked me to quietly help her.
I replied, "Sure, but with what?"
She said, "I've never touched a horse before."
Off we went and we touched Gracie, her velvet nose and her coarse mane. We smelled her and then brushed her sides. Long after I left them, those two were standing and soaking in one another. That magic again…
A garden runs through it
At the farm, to begin our "Season of The Kids," we created and planted our first ever "Kid's Garden." I had simple plans for the day. Truly, I was expecting to start some new traditions on this day. You'd think I'd have learned by now, wouldn't you?
I was up and outside early to prepare. The spot I had selected for this special area was the very first flowerbed that I had built when I moved here to Spring Valley. It is one of the only flowerbeds that is not a "memory Bed." I didn't think children would necessarily appreciate playing and planting in a Memory Bed, so I picked a regular old flowerbed, which, of course, now was full of weeds and needed new lumber for edging.
This little bed had been sorely neglected these past few years. It was in sad shape. But that would all change. My boards were cut. The wheelbarrow was ready to receive all of the weeds and debris. My tools were out. The trimming had been done so the kids would have clear and easy access to the soon-to-be garden. I was ready.
Guests arrived all day, and the children helped pull weeds and pull weeds and pull weeds! During a quiet time when the guests were in the barns with Kathy Myren, our operations manager, and the horses, some of us took the opportunity to pull up the old rotten boards and replace them with my newly cut sturdy boards. Voila! A new flowerbed was born!
You could really see it now - except for the weeds! But I had help. Eager hands tore in to the dirt and the weeding was done in no time. The work was done by Ella, Alia, Cole, Jessie, Melody, Mike, Heather, Natalie and Pam - you get the picture. Many hands - big and small - helped to transform this weed patch in to a new flowerbed. One young lady even brought her own shiny red and blue and green gardening tools with her.
Now, we all know I'm missing a part of the story, aren't I? The dirt. Oh, the fun of the dirt! This bed is full of good, rich, composted black garden dirt. Some of the little white socks left here not so white anymore. And a few of the faces weren't so clean anymore. And a few T-shirts had some pretty generous smears of dirt on them, too. We had dirt on our faces, under our nails and on our pants - especially our knees.
Weeding is hard work. We wiped the sweat from our brows with our dirty little hands, so then even our smiles were dirty. Weeds require hard pulling and even some digging, and so we had dirt in the air. There was black dirt everywhere!
Personally, I enjoyed the dirt and the kids as we played and worked. Dads helped us out and found some of the big, long spaghetti-like roots - oh, the size of some of them! And moms helped, too. True progress was made then, for sure. We worked hard all day and by 3 p.m., our weed patch had turned into a beautiful bed just waiting for little hands to plant the seeds.
On Saturday, June 16, we planted the seeds for carrots and pumpkins, and what fun it was. Each child has a marker with their name written on it and placed at the start of their very own row of seeds. And when the kids return, they can pull their carrots and feed them to the horses. Or in the fall, they can harvest their own pumpkin and decorate them at Halloween at the farm.
Seeds of 'Hope'
I've read that a gardener is truly a person of faith, one who plant seeds and then awaits the miracle. Seeds are acts of faith - and hope.
One of the families that visited us in June was a family from Hudson. This family has visited us several times in the past. In fact, I remember one of their first visits because they had taken a true "shine" to Miss April. They instantly loved her and would easily take her should I ever need a home for her. In fact, they left their name and address information, just in case.
Well, this family had selected Refuge Farms as the place to start their day. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? Sure. A young family bringing their young son to a horse farm to play in the dirt, play with the dog, pet some horses and catch up with Miss April.
However, this day was a special day for this family - a day still tinged with sadness. This day was an anniversary - for Hope.
Hope had been born and had crossed on this day just a mere three years ago. Hope was a beautiful young baby girl whose purpose I'm not sure is yet understood. She was a child who was and is still loved, a child named Hope.
I am honestly humbled that this family would come to our little patch of healing to spend a bit of time on this memorable day. I am honored that we could offer them a place to come and play and remember. And I am pleased that their handsome young son could meet Little Man and Gracie and bless us all with the sound of his laughter, and that his mom could find Miss April again and reach out to her.
Soon, we'll have a new memory bench here at the farm. So far, we have the Andy bench; the Jimmer bench; the DukeDuke bench; the Halima bench; Jerry, the Tom-Boy bench; and the Jerry, the Roan Horse bench. Soon there will be the Hope bench. "HOPE" will be engraved in the backrest and, when when the bench is all ready, I will call the family and request that they visit us once again.
When they arrive we will tour the grounds and talk about the memory beds and the trees and we'll look at the views. And then this family will position this new bench for their Hope - and in hope.
Life is cruel sometimes. Losses happen every single day. We all cry and wonder why. And time passes. Maybe we don't cry so much on the outside, but we still wonder why. And we miss what we don't have. Life is cruel sometimes. But we always have hope. We always have the wishes for the future and and the energy of possibilities.
Life is good! Life is full of promise. And yes, we always have hope.
So I sit here and I smile as I ponder all of these things during the month of June: children galore, hundreds of hands touching a single horse all at once, the fun of dirt everywhere, patient and kind horses and families that love and endure a terrible loss but remember and still smile - families who still go on.
Isn't all of this just another piece of this big magical puzzle coming together? Aren't we just seeing how it should all fit in to one big piece? Don't you see? We have our blue "Faith" bucket hanging in the barn. Then came "Grace" to live with us. And now we have "Hope" in the yard. My, how the pieces fit together!
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd - with Hope