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  • The Horse Lady

Water, water everywhere - and it's disgusting

In Eastern Ontario, since April 1, 2017, it has rained. Fewer than seven days have been completely dry, and those that are sunny are only so for about four hours, and then the clouds sweep in again, banishing once again warmth and positivity.

Our farm, The Red Gate, sits at the bottom of a defunct river valley just immediately east of Almonte, Ontario. The result of our position means that the rainwater from the surrounding hills flows downward into our watershed. We will never run out of potable water. We have a rich ecosystem that boasts not one but two threatened species of turtle - the Blandings and the snapping turtle. They say frogs are the canary in the coal mine for a healthy ecosystem. We had so many of them breeding this spring it was deafening. And of course, when you have one plentiful species, you have others. Blue herons, weasels, rabbits, sparrows, eastern king birds, whoop-oor-wills, robins, deer etc. We also have garter snakes that feed on the frogs and toads, as well as a teeny little brown snake that sleeps in the hay pile in the barn. I would imagine he eats mice. And last but not least, our beautiful foxes.

So our local environment has been a blessing. However. There can be too much of a good thing. The volume of water that has fallen from our small portion of the sky has become something of a problem .

Our house sits on the highest point on our twelve acres. Good thing. Also, it sits directly on bed rock, which is also a good thing, because all of the water is carried away from the house by sheer gravity. However, at the bottom of our sloping front lawn is an area 150 feet wide by twenty feet deep that simply cannot be mowed because the water is too deep - as much as twelve inches in spots. The land surrounding the house is lusher and greener than we have ever seen it - mostly because it is all swamped. All of the soil on our property is so saturated with water that walking on it is challenging. Every step sinks the foot into the soil taking grass and other vegetation with it. Our back yard boasts a rich blanket of moss that squelches under foot.

Last week we had an experience that drove home the problems of our soggy habitat. Normally, when the horses sleep, they take turns, with Shannon going last. When she does so, she sleeps a respectful distance from the others, just in case they feel the need to give her something to do - scrub a scullery, run an errand. I'm being funny, but she does come third in a band of three horses. So when my husband came in asking if Shannon should be laying down in the barn, it sounded a little off to me. When I found her doing just as he said, I opened the gate and climbed over her to have access to her head. I touched her, stroked her, put my head against hers. And every vibe I got from her radiated exhaustion. And then we realized. The barn is literally the only place left in their entire accessible area that is dry enough to lay down. But the water table is rising.

Yesterday, I had plans to take Duke out for a fitness run. We do this whenever it isn't raining, which means we don't do it nearly enough. I found him on the top part of the property. with some of the best drainage, standing in water up to his fetlocks and nibbling the tops of submerged grass. I looked at him and said, "wanna dry your feet off for an hour?"

Shannon, and later Duke, found our wild asparagus.

Last night, we locked down the perimeter of the property. We opened the gate in the barn that separates their world from ours, and we let them out. They ran out, tossing their heads and looking around, not sure where to start. And then Suzy remembered one magical, special place. On top of the septic field. The next ninety minutes was spent exploring and enjoying grass usually off limits, not because they eat it, but because their deep footprints in the wet soil disturbs the perfection of the lawn as seen from the road. Not that I care. But men have this thing about their lawns. As if they have surrendered the survival skills of old and instead place their efforts and their pride in an ability to grow a species of ground cover that humans can't eat.

And one other thing the damp has robbed the horses of. A good, dirty, honest to goodness dust bath. So when Suzy hit the septic field, within minutes she dropped to the ground and had a really good roll, cleaning off the accumulated dirt, and rubbing her many insect bites and scratches in the dry grass. And grunted. And groaned.

I have had a few people in the last few days mention that there are dire predictions about how long the rain will last. Until August. Until September. Until next year. You know what, I choose to work on the next week. That way neither the horses nor I are overwhelmed. Or suicidal.

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