Monday, March 31, 2014

Life of a Poet~Gail at the Farm

Kids, I have the best treat for you today! We are going to visit a real old-time heritage farm in Arkansas, where generations have lived on and loved the land. We will be talking to artist and poet, Gail, of  At the Farm. The words on the banner proclaim: "A tale of tails, tenacity and tedium, as told by me, usually barefoot and bellowing." Sounds like my kinda gal! There are animals all over the place, so I will be in my glory! I will be hard pressed to turn the talk to writing! Hop aboard, and settle in. This is going to take us back to life as it was lived in the earliest settlement days of North America, and the way some people, who have managed to hang on,  still live.

Sherry: Gail, I so enjoy poking around your site. I am such an animal lover, and have always wished I could live off the land, which you seem to be on it, and with it. Tell us about your life at the farm, would you, please?

Charme with me

Gail: We sold our house and returned to the farm after Mom died and we knew Dad had Alzheimer's.  We came to help my sisters, Bev and Marcy, with his care. Dad has passed. My husband, one grandson, and I live in the old farm house. My sister, Marcy, who takes many of the photographs, lives next door in her house.  My husband is a retired Office of Emergency Management Coordinator. I am retired from the postal service, and Marcy is retired from teaching.  My grandson Andrew is a high school student.  My sister, Bev, lives in town and works down here and at our family "shop".

Hubby and I were married in '72, have two daughters and three grandsons.

Hubby and I with Magic Man

Sherry: Wonderful to live with family all around. The way it used to be, and it was a good way of life. I love your statement on your About Me page: “We live the way we were raised – honestly, respectfully and lovingly, and expect no less from others.”  And “I know how to trap, hunt, fish, grow, harvest and preserve.” Would you like to talk about this a little, the satisfactions of being self-sufficient and self-sustaining? I know it involves a LOT of work, too.

Gail: Farming is not for wimps.  It is continually hard, back-breaking, faithful work.   You need a true love of the land and the life style. You need an extra job.  Will Rogers said. "Behind every successful farmer there is a wife who works in town."  Just when you get a fence built a tree falls on it.  Fields to clear, calves to tend to, winter feeding, it's an endless job with little thanks except the fact that you know you have put in a hard day's work.

The old house still here that was grandma and grandpa's,
 then Dad's. Marcy was born here.

We have a small farm...147 acres.  We raise cattle.  We have stocked fish ponds. Fruit trees, nut trees, grapes, berries and whatever crops we plant each year.  We are all getting older so those crops are getting smaller.  We all have wild game in season.  We know the right mushrooms and the right greens to eat.

I know how to do all that but Marcy is the main preserver now.  We grow, tend and pick and she dries, cans and freezes the produce. We all work together preserving the wild game.

We have chickens, cats, cattle and dogs.  My horses are gone.

Me riding Magic Man
I still so miss the horses.
It was a lifelong dream.

Sherry: You must miss them. Okay, here comes my favorite part! Introduce us to the animals, Gail! 

Diamond Lil is a short haired Border Collie almost eight. 
Named after a pub in Eureka Springs Arkansas.  Andrew's dog.

Junior/Billy Jack/Lil Gibson is Ki-Anne's pup, 
both he and Ki have natural bob tails..
He belongs to both the guys. He's about two

Squiggie, the Jack/rat 
a rescue, maybe 8 years old
Andrew's dog

Group with Lil, Maggie, Junior
Maggie Mae is hubby's dog (the other woman),
named after our favorite song when dating

Lizzy my Cairn mix rescue, about two years old

Bonnie and Ki-Anne
Ki-Anne is a rescue, and mine. She's a hot pepper

Bonnie is a pit bull and belongs to hubby.  She is four months old.  
She is being trained and we hope the older dogs 
will train her for varmint patrol before they are gone.

TP is Dad's dog
She stays with Marcy and sleeps with the cats

Lil in the water garden

Only Maggie and Bonnie are inside.  Maggie because she always has been an in and out dog.  Bonnie because she's in training. All the dogs have taught each other.  All herd, all varmint hunt, kill poison snakes and watch the farm in general.  If the cows escape, the dogs take them back in without being told.

Sherry: You live in heaven! I want to come live with you and the dogs! I only get to have one. Not nearly enough!  I so enjoy your farm blog, Familiar Spirit,  the glorious photos of animals and wild birds, life on the land.......You have a quote on this blog: “Let us walk softly on the Earth with all living beings, great and small, remembering as we go that one God, kind and wise, created all.” I so love this! Is it your own quote? Would you like to say a bit about this philosophy?

Side of rock farmhouse

What remains  of the hand-hewn, 
almost 200 year old barn

Gail: The Ancient American Indian Prayer is the quote on the side bar of Familiar Spirits.  It was so similar to what I've been taught that I wanted everyone to know it. I stopped posting on this blog a year ago, because my humor seems to have left me.

When you are harvesting wild plants you take one, leave two.  Just the way I was raised. Take care of the land and it will take care of you.  My parents were Depression Era parents and knew how to make do.  I'm still "making do".  It's a way of life.

Day off - inside the barn 

Mural I painted on the Dreaming Porch
before I had horses

Sherry:  A wise way of life. I wish we all still lived this way. Tell us about your dream of horses.

 Gail: Dad always said no to horses, because tractors don't eat when they're not working.   I raised miniature for a while than went to big horses.  They came to me. Due to life, family health issues, I was not able to devote the time to them they deserved.   I donated them to a youth ranch because I knew they would give them more personal attention and have their own personal boy or girl.  My horses were so gentle and trained, they were promoted to the show barn.  I know they are thriving and helping children, but I still feel the emptiness.

My Gift...My Loss

Life has a way of changing us.  It is what life is, constant change.  
Some changes are welcomed, others, not so much.

This  past week, I did the best thing I have ever done.

This past week, I did the hardest thing I have ever done.

From the small girl who drew nothing but horses to the woman surrounded by her 
dreams-come-true,  my life, my soul, yearned for, and reveled in, the company of horses,  
yet, I could never overcome my fear of riding.  I rode, but the fear never left.

My babies, my dolls will be loved by young people who have never had a proper home 
until they came to Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranch

This decision was not a light one.  Horses in this program never leave.  They are loved and 
cared for by disadvantaged  youth with constant professional equine-educated supervision.  
The horses receive top notch veterinarian care and provide therapy for the young people.

The papers are wet from the tears I shed while writing about each horse, telling about their 
sweet spots and favorite snacks. All registries are transferred with the i's dotted and the t's crossed.  

The horses are gone.

From paper dolls to the mural on my Dreaming Porch to the realities of those dreams, 
it has been quite a ride.

From miniature horses,
to my big ones,
I have loved them all.
Farewell, my beauties!

If one child learns to trust,
if one child learns to love,
if one child's wall is breached by the love of these horses,
then my gift, my emptiness, will have been worth it.

Sherry: Oh, Gail, THIS is the heart of the interview. Each week, there is always a story, and this one goes straight to my heart. Reading, I felt chills through my entire being. Not just because I feel your loss, but because the horses will be part of a program that heals children. Wow.  
The horses – what a story. What a poem. What a heart you have! Bless you. (Kids, do follow the link to Gail's post on-site. It explains more about the program, and there are more photos.)

Now, I suppose we had better talk about writing, hard as it is to drag ourselves away from the animals!

Horse sketch
charcoal on paper

Gail: I have always written stories and poems.  In high school I was the mystery writer for the local one ever knew it was me.  I've had a few short stories and poems published but nothing of great importance. I don't think of myself as a writer or poet.  I just write. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not.

I began blogging in 2008 just because Bev said one day, You should write a blog so I did.  It has changed directions many times, but the name remains.

I have never written anything of importance, but am trying to compile a collection of short stories, family tales and poetry.  Then I must find someone who wants to publish it.

Sherry: We must chat about self-publishing, Gail. It is affordable and easy. And a GIFT to your family, to compile all of those old stories, so they wont be forgotten. You are the keeper of a treasure trove of history!

You are an artist as well as a writer.  When did you first begin painting? Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist. Your Rebirth of Anubis is my favorite - he looks like my wolf-Pup.

Rebirth of Anubis
acrylic on canvas man, one horse, one mountain
acrylic on canvas

Gail: I have always sketched.  When other girls played with paper dolls  I drew and cut out paper horses. In 2001 Bev, the true artist, said I should paint.  I asked how and she said just paint.  So I did and got lost in the act of it.  The paints and brushes did the work and I was always surprised with the finished project.

Polish Chickens
chalk and charcoal on cardboard

Sherry: I love your work. It is so reflective of your life and loves. Tell us about your journey through blogging and what it has done for you as a writer. Are you happy about the direction in which it has taken you?

Gail: Blogging has made me braver about speaking my mind and yet the little girl in me always thinks it is not good enough.  I have gone from some humorous writing to just writing.  I tend to write on the dark side.

Writing prompt sites Like Poets United have challenged me to create.  I have enjoyed that journey of learning to create within guidelines and styles. The encouragement has been great and the support amazing. 

acrylic on canvas

Our farming has taken a turn with health issues and age.  We aren't spring chicks anymore.  I long for a small yard, a new home and fewer responsibilities but then I walk down the creek and know I am home.  Mom and Dad wanted the farm to be handed down to grandchildren and on and on.  We are bound by honor to meet those wishes.

A Sunday walk-Dogs in the creek

Sherry: I can well imagine the workload is daunting. But, yes, you are Home. Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United?

Gail: I have rambled enough.  Thank you for this honor.  

Sherry: It is we who thank you, Gail, for sharing your wonderful life, and farm, with us! I have so loved this visit!

Every week, kids, another amazing life story. Wasn't this visit completely satisfying? I am so hooked on these interviews! Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Well done, Sherry.

    Thank you for the honor of being featured.

    1. It was my pleasure, Gail. I wanted to come and live with you!!!!!!

    2. Come on. I could use the help!

  2. Wonderful interview, ladies! I enjoy Gail's blog tremendously.

  3. A very interesting interview, Sherry and Gail. Loved all of the dog photos. I understand why you would miss the horses. But it sounds like you are assured they all are in a good place. Enjoyed seeing your art work as well, Gail. Another multi-talented poet! So glad to learn more about you here at PU.

  4. I love that Gail is featured here. I always enjoy my visits to her blog and tales of life on the farm. I can only imagine the sense of loss she feels over her horses but there is some comfort in that they are helping others as part of their journey. A for her humor having left her, I don't think so . . . not one bit. It's often her blog posts that make me laugh out loud. Great feature and I enjoyed meeting all the animals. That's a whole lot of dogs you have Gail. :0)

  5. So nice to know more about you Gail.... kudos to your dedication in everything you do
    ...and Sherry another amazing presentation.. :)

  6. It's so inspiring to learn about Gail's life, her special relationships with animals, the principles she carries thru life: 'Take care of the land and it will take care of you.' Love the paintings "Polish Chickens, "Horses". Nice blog, always enjoy visiting. Thanks for sharing, Gail and Sherry!

  7. Interesting to know more about you Gail ~ Life in the farm is sure challenging and more so, when the land given to us are from our family like a birthright ~ Home is where you are most happy ~ I enjoy learning more about your life as I am a city gal ~

    Thanks Sherry for a lovely interview ~

  8. Gail
    Thanks so much for sharing your loves with us. My mother always said I rode before I walked. Horses are such gentle and faithful friends.
    Your art and your writing are heart felt.
    sherry thanks for another treasure discovered.

  9. smiles...i know gail...
    thanks for the tour around your world gail...
    in reading you i know your connection to the land and the animals...
    you are good people...

  10. I am overwhelmed by all the wonderful comments. The shy child inside me was wondering if I had anything interesting to share.

    I appreciate all your visits. When I am wading in deep unfamiliar water you have each given me a hand and encouragement.

    Thanks for that.

  11. I am smiling, Gail, as almost every single person I interview says "Oh I'm so boring, no one would want to hear about me"....and then proceed to totally knock my socks off, as you did with your incredible story, and your way of life, which is a life I would have so loved to live. I LOVE all of your wonderful dogs!!!! And the story of your horses really touched my heart.

    1. I think I live my life the way I was raised which puts me years behind the present world. I know how to do without power, haul water, and bath in the creek IF I have to do so.

      The dogs are not just for pleasure but an invaluable part of the farm team. I am hoping Bonnie will learn from the older ladies and be able to patrol for coyotes and the mountain lion we have seen recently.

      The best compliment my husband ever gave me on our anniversary was, "All these years together I have never been bored".

      Thanks once again. I do believe you have bolstered my confidence.

  12. Wonderful post…I cried when I read about her horses…we really shouldn't have to give up all of our dreams, and it seemed Gail did. Thanks for the post Sherry.

    1. Thank you, Annell. I will always have an empty spot where the horses were. I know they are in the best place. I lived my dream of horses if only for a few years.

  13. Gail, I know what it is to live one's dream, then have to give it up. One never stops mourning. I so know how you feel. And when that dream involves horses, it is even harder, as they are living beings one loves with all of one's heart. It was a heroic thing you did but I know it was really heartbreaking.

  14. Gail,
    I happened to scroll down on your blog today and read this interview.
    I knew much about you, learned a bit more . . .
    I think what I learned more than ever today is of your humility . . .
    Privacy and playfulness appear as well.
    I have been blessed to know you.
    A Gift . . .
    Love, Lynne


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