Saturday, November 22, 2008

'Tis the Season

I’m not talking about Thanksgiving, which is known by its other name in the UK: “We Finally Got Rid of Those Troublemakers Day.” I am talking about Charitable Giving Season. So, I am going to take a moment (or maybe longer) to explain why you might want to consider our organization in your seasonal giving.

The White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue is a non-profit (501c3) organization that Tom and I founded in 2003. Before then, we had been involved in the rescue of companion animals, serving as rescue transporters. Just before Christmas 2002, a plea for help came across one of the Internet rescue lists we monitored. A family in southwest VA had lost their farm, and their two horses were without a place to go. The mare and gelding had been bred by this family and owned for 23 and 24 years, so this was devastating to them. After a discussion with the owner, we decided that we could take them in. So, the owners drove for four hours to deliver the pair to us the day after Christmas. The family was in tears over having to part with them, but some of those tears were tears of relief. PJ and Heather are shown in the photo above, which also includes our friend Cody Perry.

Up to that point, Tom and I had been fairly oblivious to the problems faced by horses and their owners in this country. Unlike those for companion animals, emergency shelters for horses are few and far between. That’s because horses take space, money, a lot of work and a specialized knowledge of equine behavior and disorders. You can’t just drive them to the SPCA and drop them off (not that we encourage that). So those without a place to go are often neglected by their owners in their own back yards, or worse, passed along until they end up in the hands of kill buyers, who then sell them to slaughterhouses. The White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue was created to provide emergency shelter for horses in urgent need, to provide medical, dental and hoof care, and to find them loving homes or permanent sanctuary. We decided to specialize in Appaloosas because we know and love them and because we felt that it was efficient to have a single point of contact between those needing to surrender these horses and the people looking for them. We have taken in many breeds, though, because our real priority is the need of the horse.

This year, like many charities, we are bracing for the fallout from the weak economy. We are receiving many calls from people who have lost their jobs or farms and cannot afford to keep their horses. At the same time, people worried about their finances have been more reluctant to donate money to charitable causes, so donations for the coming year will be less, while operating costs have continued to rise. For us, these are primarily feed, bedding and veterinary care. This rescue would never have managed to accomplish what it has without the support of many people. This past year, we were granted permanent non-profit status by the IRS, which was quite an accomplishment that we owe to many, many individuals. I am asking now for our friends who read this blog or have visited our rescue and met our horses to consider making a tax deductible contribution to help us continue rescuing urgent need horses through these difficult times.

It doesn’t need to be a lot to make a difference. For example:

$13.00 buys one bag of feed.
$15 will medicate a Cushing’s horse for a month
$20 will provide one hoof trim (this needs to be done every 6 weeks)

And its easy to do. Donations can be mailed to:

White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue
1688 Burkes Tavern Road, Burkeville, VA 2322

or Sent via Paypal to:
A convenient “donate” button is located on our web site at: for this purpose.

White Bird is an approved member of the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, so state employees can designate donations through their paychecks, tax free. We are Charity #3388.

White Bird is also an approved charity of the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capitol Area, and the Combined Federal Campaign, Central Region, so federal employees in these areas can donate the same way.

There are so many horses who need our help. But while you are munching on your holiday goodies, you’ll know that a horse in need has a dry stall and a full belly and that you’ve helped to make that possible. On behalf of our horses, we thank you for your kindness and support over the past five years.

Tom and Jorg

(Photo by Tom. When the horses arrived, we discovered that PJ, in addition to partial blindness and arthritis, also had a large squamous cell cancer that needed surgery. This photo was taken at the Middleburg Equine Hospital, where the wonderful Dr. Adams surgically removed it. Heather was there to keep him company).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What We've Learned - A Synopsis of the Summer

Having reached the end of our first season of attempting greater self-sufficiency, we have learned a number of useful things. We are passing them along in the hope that others will be encouraged by the knowledge that there are people out there who are even more inept than they are. We hope you find these observations helpful.

Calves are often born with their eyes open. While you can’t help thinking how creepy this is, it’s also helpful to consider that we must look like aliens to them, too. Also, calves that are bottle fed, like Annie, view humans in a very different way than naturally raised calves. As suckers. But in Annie’s case, we were fortunate. Mom Bessie taught her herd manners, so we ended up with the best of both worlds- a friendly calf with a high level of respect for both people and cows. Important lesson: keep a bottle on hand if your cow is due to freshen.

The Stilton cheese that we have been curing for several months is starting to look a little less objectionable. We went into the home cheese-making business with high hopes and low skill levels. Once we got past the idea that the stinky, moldy object in the downstairs refrigerator was not in any way like the similar-looking stinky, moldy objects that we have been routinely throwing out, we settled down into a comfortable routine of reminding each other to turn the cheese daily, while forgetting to do it, ourselves. We are now preparing to drive holes into the cheese, in order to encourage the blue mold to grow deeper into the interior. This is something we normally try to prevent in our food. We’ve discovered that pretty much everything you do with raw milk is counterintuitive. Once the cheese has reached a stage of ripe perfection, one of the dogs will probably find it.

We can, indeed, live without credit card balances. We undertook this step in order to preempt what we are predicting will happen next in this fascinating economy: credit card companies will lower available credit limits, which will raise the balance-to-credit ratio, which will lower credit scores, which will then increase interest rates. Since we don’t want to provide any more corporate reptiles with golden parachutes, we just won’t provide them the opportunity to finance them. My apologies to all actual reptiles, who fill a useful environmental niche, for the comparison to investment company CEOs.

Aged horses might benefit from increased protein levels. We’re kind of proud of this one. Most senior horse feeds contain lower protein levels in order to be kind to the less robust kidneys of senior horses. But horses are individuals and some will need more to keep fit. We increased the protein fed to two horses using soy meal and while the result was inconclusive with one horse, it was startling in the other. We are constantly looking for ways to better care for rescued horses and this is another good tool in the arsenal. The horses are trying to convince us that lots of apples will work even better.

Your loved ones will eat even really bad cookies if you make them.

England losing a Rugby match might cause transient amnesia. We are not sure, though.

A lot of intelligent people are growing their own food. We are not them, but we have met some wonderful people who have graciously shared their knowledge and talent.

A puppy’s breath still smells really sweet even at about six months old.

You have to consider carefully which you love more in your garden: the sight of black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, or dill. You won’t have both.

We wished we’d tried some of our cost-saving measures a long time ago.

Peppers are the easiest vegetables to freeze. Really fresh vegetables are beautiful.

Chickens will eat things that no other creature on earth would eat.

Even sore, grouchy cows will ultimately consent to being milked if you are gentle and patient. Corollary: even neophyte milkers will figure it all out with a patient cow and a good coach- and a milker that works when you turn it on.

We are probably never going to learn how to do everything perfectly, or even well. We will never completely understand everything, either.

There will come a time when you will look back at lost loved ones and smile, even if you think that day will never come. We’ve said a lot of “good-byes” this year.

It never has been about getting everything you want. It’s about valuing what you have.

Detecting when cows are in heat is impossible. Bessie and Rosebud are snickering and making fun of us when we aren’t looking. It's gotten completely humiliating. Bovine husbandry is a humbling pursuit.

Random Jottings

Winter came hard on the heels of a warm wind here. Well I know by US standards freezing is not cold, it's just us wimpy Brits who think more than two days of low temperatures is a new ice age! But still, when a northerly wind cuts like ice and the troughs start freezing over, I am thankful for my all-in-one quilted overall and can (sort of) laugh at the elements. As a Billy Connolly joke goes "........... there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes"! Our older residents get nice warm blankets as well, and it is time for their "soup" to be served hot. In fact Sunny, Jorg's old riding horse, keeps dipping his nose into his cold mash and raising the horse equivalent of an eyebrow in disgust. Mea culpa, but we still don't have the flash heater I bought a year ago fixed up in the tack room - it is next on the list!

The fall leaves are mostly in the yard now, and it still astonishes me how dead the trees always look in winter over here. Maybe it is because there are so many, or the types of trees, but I never remember my homeland trees looking quite so desolate over the winter. I am always surprised, and very pleased, when they spring back into life again.

Our new puppy, Cassie, is proving to be an absolute gem. Well apart from an ethernet cable, my beard trimmer, the back of my cell phone, and sundry tights and stockings (Jorg's not mine!) that is. I had forgotten what having a small child around the house is like. Move everything four feet above the floor until the difference between chewing toys and personal possessions is learnt! However, this is a bright little dog and anxious to learn. She watches everything that is going on and really only gets into mischief when left to her own devices - silly us! I have always wanted a dog that would be a companion, especially around the farm, and she has every sign of being that dog. Once I can get her to remember that, while the other dogs don't mind her seizing them by the leg, a horse might!

We have been putting up with the "desperate" sounds of mothers and calves separated at night, prior to full weaning. Goodness knows what we will have to put up with when we finally separate them for good. Apart from finding a suitable place on the farm out of sight (although probably not out of sound!) of each other, it will put a strain on our "soft" hearts to hear them missing each other. Talk about the children leaving home, this is way worse! (Sorry kids, only fooling!)