Barn swallows return and lilacs fade

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“Welcome! Welcome home!” I cheered as the barn swallows swooped in the back door, circled a quick reconnaissance and whirled back out to gather the rest of the troops.

It was April 25, the same date on which they have arrived the past two years, so I was really expecting them. Which means, of course, that the plastic mats must come out to place beneath their roosting sites. Much as I enjoy them, there is a slight penalty — like droppings! — but the effort is well worth their cheerful presence. The plastic is much easier to clean than the concrete.

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Are you just dying to know if I made my 88th birthday ride? Yes, indeed I did, thanks to the generosity of Kay Chamberlain of Bethel Park, Pa., who let me ride her sweet mare, Toccato.

Kay is one of the Ladies of the Clinic, who come to Judy’s from all over to take lessons in dressage from the renowned German instructor and author, Erik Herbermann. Erik travels across the country all spring and summer, conducting these clinics, and this area is fortunate that he comes here three times a year.

The Ladies range in age from their 30s to 60s and beyond, and they are a hardy lot, hauling their own horses, doing all their own cleaning, etc. And with horses there are a lot of etceteras!

Toccato, 24, and I got along famously, and I get really emotional when I think how many decades I have had the privilege of riding a wonderful horse. My imported Passiere saddle is now almost 50 years old, still in beautiful condition and just as comfortable as ever.

There are many poetic tributes to the joys and benefits of associating with horses, and I truly believe I am almost as active today in my 80s as I have always been because of my lifelong closeness with horses.

As Rolf Kopfie said, “There are many wonderful places in the world, but one of my favorite places is on the back of a horse.”

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When Lester Baringer of Baringer Pump Service installed a new submersible pump for me two years ago, it was a great relief, not having to worry about the antique Deming that finally gave up. So it was a puzzlement the other night, around 10 o’clock when I noticed a regular slight flickering of the lights as though the pump was coming on. No water was running in the house so I checked the barn — nothing there either.

But when I opened the door to the room above the pump basement, it sounded like Niagara Falls. I didn’t dare go down those steps — I was in my nightclothes of course — so what to do? Call Les, that’s what to do.

Les’ answering machine was no help so I called another person in the same business — and was given a flat-out “Nope, can’t come.”

But the third time I called Les, he answered, and didn’t hesitate to say “I’ll come.” And he did, and it wasn’t the pump but a break in the old pipe.

Les knew where to shut it off, and though there was no water in the barn I still had water in the house. He promised he’d come back in the morning to make the repair and install a new hydrant and he was as good as his word. There should be more Lester Baringers in this world today!

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Did you notice that the last column was a little bit out of sync? Somehow it had gotten lost between here and there, and I had to send another which made some of the observances late. Anyhow, a pair of brown thrashers came on April 8 and are daily visitors.

There was a snowy egret on the pond April 13, and lilacs and bluebells have been at least two weeks early. Lilacs are already almost gone and it’s just going into May.

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I’ve been saving this ad from the classifieds in the daily paper to share. Under Pet Feed/Supplies: “Chic and Quail Bruder House.” Hurrah for spell check. And here is another just today under Free Pets: “Ginea Pigs.”

* * *

If you are an animal lover, do read “Lions & Tigers & Mares, Oh, My’ by Gay Balliet.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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