Beautiful Casalae Farms, nestled in the gently hilled countryside outside Traverse City, is a large property framed by clean white fences that accommodate over thirty happy horses who enjoy soaking up mid-spring’s mild-mannered sun.
The natural music that surrounds this place, though, is really something special.
Right now, large numbers of busy barn swallows are industriously building nests and raising their young in the big stable’s high rafters. These sparrow-sized beauties- aerial artists who masterfully snatch insects on the wing- create constant, crisply rapid songs and gossipy chirps that echo throughout the big structure, while the horses rhythmically munch their hay down below. The combination is delightful!
The horses contribute their own calls and comments. Their deep, low nickers are reminiscent of muted kettledrums; their quizzical whinnies rise and then descend two or three octaves from these bass drumbles in shimmery glissandos, just right for Nature’s natural symphony. Toss in the low growl of small tractors, the clatter of buckets, the exclamatory bang of a breeze-slammed door the staff’s laughter and cheerful chatter as they work, and you have the best of country music.
There are more subtle sounds, too; the rustle of hay as the horses nudge and shift their piles; the soft roll of thick wooden stall doors opening and closing; the clip-clop of hooves as the animals are led out or inside; the stable cat’s ‘notice me’ meows-
Sometimes I find myself ‘stalled’ in mid-rake, marveling at how it all comes together!
Bryn-dog and I hear birdcalls and songs as we explore the thick, mature forest that lines Silver Lake, a very long, curving body of water very near the Farm. And these are intermingled with the adult robins’ distinctive challenge calls that alert potential trespassers: this territory is taken! Invisible woodpeckers incessantly drill for grubs, and duck parents raucously quack ‘stay together’ reminders as they cruise through the lake’s benign waters trailed by multiple silent babies bobbing behind in long, fluffy lines. The breeze ruffles the long grass and rumples the water, causing it to lick the shore...
I usually hum favorite tunes as Bryn scrambles over brambles, downed trees and tenaciously winding English ivy, heading toward some sun-defined spot that wants checking out. A master of stealth, she makes no sound while moving through the jumbled greenery. She’ll not blend with the foliage in Michigan’s warm season, though; her snow-white coat always betrays her, except around high noon, when she disappears into the sun’s intense white light.
The way she carries her banner tail speaks volumes about her happy state of mind as we explore exciting scents and sounds.
This dear soul is the apple of my eye.
For over seven decades I’ve longed to be part of stable life in a country setting, and now, here I am, loving the little things- like smoothing Menesson’s mane or flicking bits of sawdust off his big body as I work- or feeding him a honey crisp apple, whose sweet juices he loves. He’ll bite into it carefully so as not to include my fingers.
In warm, sun-washed mornings like this one he frequently stops eating hay- literally pauses in mid-chew- and turns slowly to face me. He looks straight into my eyes, unblinking, thinking horse thoughts. I stand absolutely still so as not to disturb the moment, and look back at him...
Within one minute, his sleep-heavy lids droop to exactly half closed. (Prey animals never shut down completely. There is always a measure of vigilance.)
He sleeps, as the birds chatter on, filling the air with their soothing sounds.
I’ve related this behavior before, I know, but every time it happens I’m thrilled all over again, and perfectly, perfectly happy to simply relax into this spot, with this horse, savoring the sunlight, and surrounded by the barn’s unique country music.
Life can be so rich, and right now, so full of peace.