Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sighs of Relief and Environmentalists on the Edge

s I get older, I find myself becoming more introspective.  That might be because random thoughts with some import take me by surprise now, as what’s usually going on in my head is attempts at remembering song lyrics or whether I made a dentist appointment for the same time as the horseshoer.  Or it could be that age brings us closer to the end and forces us to reconsider our decisions.  Neither is a good choice.

In any case, the other day I caught myself sighing in relief, and had a flash of realization that I seem to do that a lot these days.  I sigh.  In relief.  I thought it would be wise to take inventory of what, exactly, elicits the Relief Sigh.  

This week’s sighs:

o   My missing favorite boot sock turned up attached to the Velcro tab on Zip’s fly mask.

o   The phone rang, and it wasn’t the Republican National Idiocy Committee with a breathless update on the evils of the Obamonster.

o   I went to the barn to feed and all the horses were still alive and behaving like horses.

See?  It’s not a very exciting list, and these things probably pass through other brains unnoticed and un-sighed-about.  I suppose it’s the measure of my life that my concerns are so minute.  It wasn’t that long ago when I was sighing because I’d made it home under my own steam after a chemo treatment.  Or because I’d survived another encounter with a truly violently disturbed student.  Or because the phone rang at 3 AM, and it was a wrong number instead of a panicked voice asking for help with my ailing father 70 miles away.  

So all-in-all, I’m happy that my life runs so smoothly and gently that small things are notable. 


Environmentalists?  Horse people?  Really?

I avoid criticizing people who obviously know more than I do (though they are few and far between, so it’s not hard to avoid them entirely).  This week, however, I have to take issue with an article in the Journal Formerly Known As Michael Plumb’s Horse Journal.  I love that vets share their expertise about vet stuff.  Without informative articles, most of us would still be putting Vaseline on ticks and believing that horses are too smart and connected to the planet to get struck by lightning in a storm.  But Dr. Eldrege’s article contends that we horse people tend to be more in tune with nature than the average Joe Plumber on the street, and that this makes us better for the environment.

As it happened, I read the article after I’d made a quick trip into a nearby town for breakfast.  On the way to and fro, I regularly pass a large horse property where the river that feeds the local aquifer runs through the pasture.  It runs unfettered.  The horses are in the pasture.  So is their manure, urine, and the run-off of both.

Any environmentalist worth all those syllables knows that that’s a no-no.  In fact, before our Jersey Shore Star Gov gutted the DEP, it was also illegal.  

That’s just one example.  There are dozens more just along that one route.  Farmers, as some might know, are not always the purveyors of benefits to the environment.  They are too busy scraping a living out of rocky soil to be overly concerned about where the chemicals go when they leave the crop field.  Horse farmers are right in there with the use of chemicals on and around the horses.  Sure, we’re careful not to use stuff that will kill the horses.  That’s a given.  And the article does point out that we are very nervous about what’s on and in our hay and the water going into the buckets.  But it’s been my experience that we’re not quite as worried about our output as about our input.

Want to guess how many gallons of diesel fuel it takes for me to
hay this field?  Me either.  

Dr. Eldredge recommends that we horse folk keep on top of changes in crop management to make sure the grain we’re feeding isn’t contaminated with nastiness.  That certainly is something to keep in mind, though in this economy simply affording feed is a bigger problem for owners.  She comments that naturally our hay is grown without use of pesticides or herbicides.  Uh…really?  When was the last time any of us, desperate for a load of affordable forage, checked with the hay guy to find out what was on the field before it had hay on it?  My beautiful hay field has had fifteen years to recover from having been a heavily sprayed corn field in a previous life.  The same goes for much of the pasture land around here.   When you took your horse to that brandy-new training barn, did you ask what was there before the barn was built and the fences installed?  Or were you just happy to find a place you could afford where the people weren’t crazier than you are?

And if you've never seen me try to put fuel in one or more of the tractors by standing on the PTO and balancing the can on my shoulder, you can't appreciate the amount of spillage that winds up in unlikely places around the farm.  It's not good.  

Manure happens.  Antibiotics happen.  Fuel-powered vehicles happen.  All sorts of chemicals are in use around horse farms that don’t qualify as safe for the environment.  I’d love to think of myself as an  Environmentalist, but it’s all I can do to think of myself as not a mass murderer.  The rest is moot.  

The temptation to be above it all is lovely, but it’s about as realistic as the current crop of political ads.  Getting real is a harder road, but it’s got a better ending. 

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