What Do Ponies Really Teach Children?

Posted on September 18, 2014 by Rebecca | 8 comments


I've often heard many a horse person through the years say, "Don't waste your time on a pony - go straight to a horse." Then they add with an exacerbated sigh, "Ponies are such brats.  It's just not worth the effort."

I respectfully disagree.  One of the best teachers I ever had was Peanuts.  A little, unassuming, brown Shetland Pony who was as smart as they come.  A gift to me from my Uncle, horseman Dave Frey, he was my first pony and I was his first victim!!  As both of us grew up together, I would ride him in the back acreage all by myself and he would routinely leave me out on the trail.  And trust me, he wasn't one to wait after you fell off.  He had to have chicken wire on the upper portion of his box stall as he was adept at hopping out when he was bored.  However, the more we each grew, the more reliant we became on each other.  Fortunately, I didn't know enough to let him discourage me.  It was aboard Peanuts that I won my first ribbon and first place.  It was aboard Peanuts that I learned about diagonals.  And despite the fact that his mane was the most unruly mass of hair I've ever seen, I was able to learn to braid him in his signature yellow bows (it was the 70's).

Flash forward to Licorice.  Licorice came to our daughter Lizzie when Lizzie was 2 and Licorice was about five. A gift to Lizzie from my Mom and Dad. Licorice is a black Shetland pony who stands (up on her feet) at 10 hands.  But don't let her 10 hands belie you.  She is the leader of her pack.  Just ask all of our dogs and especially the Percheron Girls.  Now having been with us for over 10 years, she is wise beyond her years.  She and Lizzie have  learned together.  Lizzie was a toddler and Licorice had really only been a driving pony when she came to us but what they have accomplished is amazing.  And now that Lizzie is off riding substantially bigger ponies, she still is able to drive Licorice and practice all of her braiding on her.  In fact, Licorice is now learning a new repertoire of acrobatic tricks. 

And Licorice and I have learned a lot about each other as well.  I've seen her through losing a full-term foal at birth and the aftermath of a septic placenta (when we purchased her she was in foal).  She is the only founder case I've ever seen and it was this summer.  My husband and I took turns sleeping with her in the cross-ties with her feet covered in ice, so she could escape permanent damage.  In turn, she has given us years of enjoyment, companionship and activities, without asking for anything in return (with the exception of a few whopper vet bills).

Lizzie has learned about unconditional love.  Ponies don't decide to be your friend one day and not the next; they are always there for you.  Licorice has also taught Lizzie about discipline and responsibility.  We always take care of our animals first - Licorice can't ask for what she needs - we have to anticipate it.  She's also taught her worry, as she sat with me through the founder scare.  She's taught Lizzie triumph in the show ring, that hard work pays off and that you have to be humble, because just when you think you've got it al figured out, those ponies can throw you under the bus in a heartbeat.  Lizzie has also learned about persistence, life lessons and taking risks outside of her comfort zone - all aboard this tiny 300 pound pony.  

There have been many people who have tried to buy Licorice from us; they say that Lizzie has outgrown her and that we are done with her.  But I beg to differ.  Licorice is still teaching us every day and she's a part of the family.  She's home and not going anywhere else.  Lucky pony!



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The Winding Down of Summer Means Dahlia Season

Posted on September 12, 2014 by Rebecca | 2 comments


I don't know what it is about me and Dahlias.  Maybe it is that they are so easy to grow; maybe it is the tremendous variety.  Perhaps it is the vibrant colors.   Either way, I rarely have the heart to pick them.  I leave them in my garden for as long as possible to enjoy the enormous, colorful blooms that are like candy canes in my flower beds.  During the Great Geauga County Fair, I was able to sneak away from the Draft Horse Barn long enough one evening to visit the Dahlia display, the largest entry of flowers at the Fair, by far.  Probably due to the fact that the end of summer is this tuberous's most prolific showing before our first frost.  They are entered and displayed so simply; in a vintage glass milk jar or simple clear bottle.  Some of the blooms are as big as platters - they measure over 12 inches in diameter.  Some are no more than an inch across.  The colors are like a fireworks display, each leaf looks like they have been hand painted, sometimes in multiple colors. There is also a sense of symmetry about this plant like no others that I know.  Doing a little research,  I found that the great variety of these flowers results from dahlias being octoploids—that is, they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes.  Apparently, most plants have only two. In addition, dahlias also contain many transposons—genetic pieces that move from place to place upon an allele—which contributes to their manifesting such great diversity.  Who knew?! Usually, there is a hush in the flower barn as everyone assembles their dahlia entries, it is a reverent quiet,  almost hushed environment in the flower barn compared to the vast chaos of the rest of the Fair.  It is my treat every year to go view the splendor of the Dahlias, reflecting and contemplating upon the end of the summer and the arrival of early Fall, one of my favorite seasons.





Until next time, Enjoy!!


Best - Rebecca















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My Favorite Time of the End of Summer: County Fair Season!!

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Rebecca | 0 comments
The days are getting shorter and the gardens are in full swing providing us with all of that wonderful produce that we have been working so hard to nurture.  Last night, we had a glorious super moon that was fiery orange in the sky.  There is no denying it.  Fall is around the corner.
The end of the Summer in Northeastern Ohio signals County Fair season and in Chagrin, our fair is the Geauga County Fair, the oldest County Fair in Ohio, dating back to 1823.  Over the course of five days, tens of thousands of people enjoy one of America's most authentic agricultural and animal-based events.  Anywhere you can assemble two barns full of draft horses and almost a dozen eight horse hitches is a serious fair.  My favorite time is check in on Wednesday evening, when all of the animals come in and the Junior fair are carrying in their arms anything from turkeys to rabbits to ducks in all sizes, shapes and color.  There are cattle everywhere - pigs with kids chasing behind them and a generalized chaos, but in a good way.  It puts all of our tech savvy world of cell phones, video and Wii games on the back burner - even if just for a few days.  It reminds me of the roots of our country and makes me grateful that we haven't forgotten what farming is or what an impact that animals truly have on our lives.
I'm sharing a few photos from last year, including some of our Percheron girls. 
Camlyn at our house, getting ready for Fair!!
Derek and Camlyn, ready to go!
Did someone say "Fair?"
The Midway one evening...
Nothing better than Maple Sugar Candy from the Maple Capital of the US!
Canning for Fall
The Flower Exhibit Buildings - one of my favorites!
I'll take lots of action shots during the fair to share with you as well.  Happy End of Summer!  Find a County Fair near you, enter a pie and take a child with you so they know what Farmers do!

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Traditional Home Magazine Photo Shoot

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Rebecca | 0 comments

We have just finished one of the most fun projects on which we've ever worked on.  A few weeks ago, Stephen Carlson, our good friend and Rebecca Ray Designs Marketing and PR expert who owns DVG Group, called me one evening and said, "How would you feel about the Farm being featured in the September Fashion Issue!?"  After I let out a giant squeal of joy like a small girl, I regained my composure and tried to sound matter-of-fact (but I'm certain Stephen wasn't buying it!!).  There was a small catch, Stephen mentioned, "They are on a very tight time line and they'll be arriving in 12 days. Is that OK with you?"  "Sure!" I gulped- the same kind of "Sure" you use when you hear that unexpected house guests are 10 minutes away and you are cleaning your closets! 

I got off the phone so excited... and then I looked around.  As you know, we were absolutely ravaged by a record breaking winter, and Spring was at least 6 weeks late. The 100 year old roses had been killed back to the ground from the below 30 degree temperatures. Builder Bob was just finishing the new barn building and there were still piles of dirt all over and a rather unattractive dumpster sitting in front of the barn.  Game face I thought.  We can do anything in 12 days, right?  No worries that Derek, my heavy lifter and my right hand was traveling for work and wouldn't be home until about an hour before the Senior Architecture Editor of Traditional Home touches down in Cleveland.  In fact, maybe they could share a ride home from the airport... but I digress.



So, "any-who" as Lizzie would say, we got to work, and fast! My family, who is pretty reliable in a pinch, came to my aid. My aunt spent countless days gardening with me and transplanting perennials.  My mom came to help me plant my baskets and planters while my dad rode old Fergie (the 1954 Massey Ferguson) with the big gang mover dodging the rain and lightening. Andrea went above and beyond helping me with the animals. I rode my little John Deere tractor (which Derek reminds me weekly, is not a brush hog - whatever) and I answered my texts and calls as I was on the tractor out in left field.  


Within 10 days a magical transformation had occurred. The gardens were back up and everything started to bloom on cue.  


The hedges were trimmed and the patio furniture sparkled.  


Even the horses seemed to know to stay clean - there was no extra time to give them baths!  


On the appointed day, the Traditional Home crew arrived!  We suggested that they stay in the Village of Chagrin at The Inn at Gamekeepers, a historic hotel.  We took them to several of our favorite places to eat, including Lemon Falls, a delightful luncheon spot in Chagrin where they make the best egg salad, home-made soups and bakery.  


It was fascinating seeing how they make all of their shots so beautiful by arranging flowers and furniture. We all had a blast!  


The Traditional Home team was absolutely delightful and we can't wait to see the Farm in the pages of their gorgeous magazine.  Look for the September Fashion Issue, coming out in mid-August.


In the meanwhile, I'll be recovering!!!!






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Hemlock Lane at Valley High: A Stable 25 years in the Planning!

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Rebecca | 1 comment

As you know, Derek, Lizzie and I moved two years ago to our farm and have been renovating it ever since.  Despite the fact that this was originally a horse farm, the barns were all too small to accommodate the size of the Percheron girls. In addition, we found that all of the outbuildings, as charming as they are, were way too far apart to have animals spread out over 35 acres. Just bedtime check on everyone was an event!  So, we decided to bite the bullet and build a new stable that would house both our English Setters and the Percherons.


Both Derek and I have spent a lot of time in both barns and kennels throughout the years so we wanted to build a smart building that accommodated all of our needs.  Frankly, when Derek and I first started dating (we met riding equation for Miami of Ohio), we used to spend evenings sketching what our dream barn would look like.  I know - we were (and are) certainly a little dorky!  However, as our relationship went along and we got married, we kept designing on paper - we are probably both frustrated want-to-be architects!!  


So, when we finally were faced with a clean palette and the necessity of putting in a new building, we were able to realize our dream.  The entire project commenced in October of last year and stretched through one of the worst, coldest winters on record; we lost weeks of construction time due to the below 30 degree temperatures.


But I am very pleased to announce that 9 months later, we now have the most gorgeous dream bar! We wish we could spend every waking hour in it!!  Builder Bob (whom I've introduced you to in earlier blogs) has done it again and we are so excited.  We moved the animals in last weekend.


We splurged on our stall fronts from a wonderful company called Rockin J' out of Oklahoma.  They custom-made all of our fronts and even created matching smaller fronts for the pony stalls. The center aisle is reclaimed road brick while the center hunter green "Gas Station Lights" are an antique find.  The entire building is done in dark hunter green, copper, brick and dark walnut colors.


The tack room has a walnut floor plus other equestrian details and antique finds.  

The dogs plus all of the tack and feed rooms are on radiant floor heat, which the dogs adore - I find them on the floor soaking up the heat instead of their dog beds.

The kennel floor is done in a grey slate-like product that our good friend John Fabelo helped us find.  Our kennel runs are all Mason Fencing and the covered outdoor runs are done in a "Doggy Astroturf". These first pictures are hot off the press - I'll continue to update you as we continue to move in!






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