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From the time I was about 8 until the time I was 14, I went with my dad on his spring arrowhead hunts. He’d say, “I’m going arrowhead hunting this morning. Do you want to come?” And, of course, I said “yes.” It was a precious opportunity to spend time alone with my dad who normally was so busy working.

indianbabyMy dad was born in Canada near the border of Quebec and Ontario by the Ontario River. As a youth he and his dad, who was of French Voyageur descent, would go out in a big canoe to fish for sturgeon on the mighty river. My grandmother would stand on the bank and wave and weep because she was afraid of the river and she wondered if she would see her husband and son again. The canoe was so wobbly and the river so big! But they always came back, and this was the beginning of my dad’s romance with Native American culture. He had been given a little Indian headdress and bow and arrow by a relative, and he went to sleep wearing the headdress and holding the bow every night. In the area he lived, there were many Cree Indians, and he learned from his father and the local tribe many important lessons. Fishing and hunting was all part of that knowledge.

My dad's father holding an Indian baby.

Then the family moved to Ohio. My grandfather had been in a logging accident and he could no longer make a living for his family so he took work as a machinist in the steel mills of eastern Ohio. But the way they lived in Canada was not abandoned, and they continued to hunt and fish in the woods, streams and lakes nearby. When my mom and dad married, they eventually settled in mid-Iowa. My dad took up flint napping and hunted deer with bow and arrow.

In the spring a hard rain would wash a newly plowed field so you could more easily see rocks and other objects including points and flint. A friendly farmer would allow my dad and me to come and tramp around getting what I called a “big mud foot.” The farmer asked us to respect any new growth corn and then we were welcome to see what we could find.

My dad taught me. He said, “Scan the ground around you and a few feet in front. Use 'soft eyes.' Don’t look hard. Just look for a shape or an object that doesn’t fit.” We’d do it on a cloudy day when there wasn’t any glare from the sun, but we’d go on clear days, too. We’d walk back and forth and up and down the rolling hills trying not to miss anything by looking from different directions.

He knew some good spots because over the years he had made friends with farmers through deer hunting. We searched on hills near natural streams, rivers and springs. Native Americans had made their camps near these bodies of water because game was plentiful there. They were logical places to make your points and then lose them if your shot went wild or if the wounded animal got away.

When we’d find something, he’d hold in it his hand like he’d found a lump of gold. He’d say, “The part I like best about this is picking up an object and thinking about who held it the last time.” He said, “It fascinates me that I’m holding an object that is hundreds of years old. The last person who held it probably was the person who made it. And now I’m holding it.”


There was one time that I found something really special all on my own. I’ll never forget it. The day was clear with fair weather cumulus cloud streets above. There were hawks wheeling over head, too. I whistled at them and they whistled back. I looked down and there they were. These beauties at my feet. And then my dad’s words echoed in my mind.

In my imagination, I could see a man standing on the bluff above the river looking for something and then turning away. He had lost his axes and had given up. Now we were connected because I had found what he had been looking for. A part of this stranger’s life lived on in his handmade tools. I’ll never know him personally but he’s here nonetheless. I hold them and I think about this person. My dad is gone now, too, but he lives on in his words that echo in my mind. I’ll tell this story to my children, and the past and the people we love will live on. The time machine is in our heads.


We need another wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth. – Henry Beston

Renee-Lucie BenoitI have a 28-year-old appaloosa gelding. He’s worth his weight in gold. You can do almost anything with him and not worry. You can ride around bareback and not be concerned that he’s going to come unglued at every little thing. You can lead the grandkids around and not worry about him taking off and causing a big wreck. These old campaigners have a special place in my heart. They’ve been there. They’ve done that. If they’ve been treated well their whole life as mine has been there’s not much that is better. They’re willing. They’re sensible. They’re precious.


So, how do we keep our oldsters happy and safe in their twilight years? If you understand a little bit about the special needs of the older horse, it’s not very hard. The key to caring for an older horse is to understand how his body changes as it ages. The areas to consider are: nutrition, lameness, vision, immune response and hormone changes.

Nutritional needs of aging horses will vary greatly between individuals. Some older horses may never need changes to their diet whereas other senior horses will require a special diet to help them maintain good health and body condition. There are many reasons why it becomes harder for some horses to meet their nutritional needs as they age. Sometimes their teeth get bad. Proper care of your horse's mouth by a qualified equine dentist or vet will help your horse get nutrients from his food. Horses chew in a circular motion from one side of their mouth to the other. This motion wears away the teeth. Over time, this chewing motion will lead to sharp points on the outside of the upper molars and on the inside of the lower molars. These sharp points must be filed down. The proper term is “floating.” I suggest you have your vet check your horse’s teeth when he comes to administer the rabies vaccine. That’s what I do. Just make it a habit. Floating will improve your horse's chewing ability and allow him to better digest his food. Here’s a warning sign: If your horse is taking his hay but much of it falls out of his mouth in clumps, you should have the vet take a look at his teeth.

Some older horses may not even have teeth. This makes it really tough for your older horse to chew and digest foods he would ordinarily eat. This can be fixed relatively easily by changing the type of food he eats. Senior horse feeds tend to be more soft than regular horse feed. Concentrates fed in the form of pelleted feed can be softened with water to make a gruel that is easy to chew. Forage can be provided in the form of hay cubes or pellets (made of either alfalfa or alfalfa/grass mix) and they can also be softened with water. As a matter of fact, this has worked well for our old boy who tends to bolt his food and has gotten choke. Choke is when food gets stuck in the esophagus. Horses usually work it out but it’s awful to watch. So go ahead and moisten the food a little bit and everyone will be much happier. As always when making a change to your horse’s diet go in small steps. It’s all about gut integrity, and if you give him all of the intended food all at once, you can cause colic. Give a little bit each day, increasing as you go, while blending it with his old food. A couple weeks is not too long.

Some problems with getting proper nutrition may be due to intestinal damage from parasites so routine de-worming is critical in maintaining the horse's health and longevity.

If you have a horse that doesn’t hold his weight you can try beet pulp in some form. Beet pulp is a highly digestible fiber for horses. You might see it in commercial feed or you can buy it separately to be wet down and fed in addition to hay or grain. We have used equal parts beet pulp, sweet feed and equine senior to supplement our old codgers. Rather than try to figure out what vitamin supplementation he needs, we choose to use a high-quality commercially processed senior feed with some hay free fed. Horses love to graze. They may not be able to process the hay very well but it suits them to chew all day long.

Does your horse have proper kidney and liver function? Horses with liver dysfunction will not tolerate added fat in the diet. Also providing feeds with high protein and/or calcium (e.g., alfalfa, beet pulp) can aggravate the kidneys in horses with kidney disease. So it’s wise to do a simple blood analysis prior to supplementing the horse's diet with additional protein, fat, vitamins or minerals to determine liver and kidney functions.

Keep grain and forage free of mold and dust. Moldy, dusty feeds can cause gastrointestinal tract problems. Older horses often are more susceptible to respiratory irritation, and feeding dusty feeds will only aggravate that. You can soak their hay for 15 minutes prior to feeding to control dust but my old guy never liked this. He would turn up his nose. I’m assuming that you are feeding good quality alfalfa horse hay or grass hay and not cow alfalfa hay or junk grass. It is important, if feeding hay, to feed good quality hay that was cut at the appropriate time. Hay that is too mature when cut is generally not very digestible for the horse. This kind of hay has a lot of stem in it.

And then you have the easy keepers. Not all older horses are hard keepers. Just like people, being heavy is hard on bones and joints and may aggravate conditions such as arthritis and navicular syndrome. Make sure your horse is meeting all of its nutritional requirements without gaining an excessive amount of weight. For horses that are not in a routine riding program, ample pasture time will provide your horse with exercise and help him maintain a healthy body condition.

Some horses may develop metabolic conditions as they age. This is commonly caused by hormonal imbalances like Cushing's disease, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome in horses are similar to the diabetes in humans. Horses with Cushing's produce excessive amounts of cortisol from their adrenal glands. This can lead to problems such as recurring laminitis, muscle atrophy, susceptibility to disease, slow wound healing, excessive hair growth along with failure to shed, and lethargy. Talk to your vet. Cushing’s can be controlled with medication, and horses with metabolic disorders can be managed with routine quality hoof care, vaccinations, de-worming, and a specialized diet. Again talk to your vet. An easy exercise program may help prevent the onset of metabolic disorders or help horses already suffering from these problems.

Our old boy has arthritis. It is one of the most common problems seen in older horses. You can try feed supplements marketed to improve joint function. However, very little scientific research has been done to test these products. Equine joint supplements are not FDA approved and, therefore, are not regulated. Because of this, there is often considerable variability in these products. I’ve heard of some horses that are helped, but they’ve never done much for us. My friend Mary used injectable products that she felt worked. These typically contain substances thought to replace joint fluid or improve cartilage regeneration. Some well-known products are Adequan and Legend. If that doesn’t work, a veterinarian can inject a joint with steroids for immediate relief. These may improve joint flexion and reduce pain within days, and benefits may last for months to years before the need to repeat.

Older horses can have foot problems. Many older horses don't grow high quality horn because of lack of use and a decline in their ability to extract nutrients from their food. Poor hoof quality can make arthritic conditions worse and can lead to soft tissue injuries. So while an older horse may not be working and performing like they once were, routine, proper hoof care is still essential to maintain health and soundness.

Horses vary greatly from individual to individual, and there are no hard and fast rules for caring for horses, old or young. Older horses, just like you and me, may not be as productive in the same way as when they were younger, but they can be just as useful in a different way. If they get routine veterinary, dental, and hoof care – along with proper nutrition and parasite control – they can be healthy for the remainder of their life span. That’s a good thing for both them and us.


Renee-Lucie BenoitThis is a recipe based on one from Martha Stewart. I’ve taken it and modified it to the ingredients I had and added one thing. I don't think I ever use a recipe exactly the way they say. I'm too far out in the country to hop over to the grocery store. So I make do with what I have. Don't you?

I still have tomatoes and basil coming out of my ears in my garden. This recipe was so good I wanted to share it with you. Confession time: I ate the whole thing all by myself. I couldn’t stop until it was all gone. Five stars!


Grilled Eggplant With Tomatoes, Basil and Feta

1 large eggplant (about 1  1/2 pounds) trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1-inch thick slices
Coarse salt (I used Morton table salt and it was just fine)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for brushing (I use Lucero olive oil made from Arbequino olives.
     I buy it in gallon jugs direct from this local grower in Corning, California.)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 10 ounces), halved
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I used toasted almonds. Also local. P.S. did you know growers
     pronounce it “eh-munds”? Processors pronounce it “all-munds.”)
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled or cut in small cubes
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large

My addition:
Balsamic vinaigrette to taste

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant slices generously with salt. Place vertically in colander, overlapping them. Let stand 30 minutes; rinse and pat dry.

  2. Preheat grill. I have a Weber so I just put in charcoal and let it get nice and hot. If you do it like that, you have to keep an eye on it and move the eggplant around as needed so they don’t cook too fast. If you have a gas grill, make it medium-high.

  3. Brush the eggplant liberally with oil. Grill, turning once (or twice) until tender, about 2 to 4 minutes per side. Arrange on platter. Sprinkle tomatoes, nuts, feta, basil and pepper flakes over top. Spoon vinaigrette over top everything.

A good Indian summer recipe!


Renee-Lucie BenoitWarning: Graphic descriptions contained herein. Rated: PG for disturbing images.

Grabbing something hard enough that is covered with bugs so the bugs squish in your hand is not high on my list of wonderful things to do. But, honestly, folks when I was young, we all wanted to get hired for corn detassling and bugs were just part of the program.

I was employed as a corn detasseler for a couple summers when I was around 15 years of age. I worked for Pioneer Seed Corn out of Tama, Iowa. It was a coveted job because Pioneer paid well for the unskilled labor and Johnny-on-the-spot. All we had to do was walk down the rows of corn and yank the tassel out of every plant on certain rows. I can’t remember how many acres I was responsible for but when you’re standing alone in a big field with corn surrounding you in every direction, it seems like the rows are endless and you’re being swallowed up. I was grateful for the fact that most fields were rolling hills so when you came to the top of a hill you could see how far you had left until the end.

It was a pretty easy job for the most part. I started out with gloves but quickly realized that they were a hindrance for being able to grasp the tassels effectively and pull them out so there was nothing left. You had to grab hold of the tassel pretty firmly because the tassel was attached to the plant very well. So every once in a while you’d grab a tassel that had bugs covering it and, of course, some of the bugs squished in your hand. Doesn’t that sound just peachy?

This was the summer that I got over being prissy and doing things with a high “yuck” factor. This has stayed with me all my life. Now I’ve moved on to castrating bull calves and other such things. Having a high tolerance for the yuck factor is a good skill to have on a farm or ranch. All you guys and gals out there know what I mean. If you don’t, start cultivating it. Eventually you’re going to be alone with no one to bail you out and you’re going to have to do something yucky. Man up. You can do it. I have faith in you!

The reason we had to detassel was because this was hybrid field corn that was used for seed. Corn, if you don’t already know, is both male and female in a single plant. The male part is the tassel and the female part is the silk that forms on the ear. If you have a certain hybrid you want to produce, you have to have a few rows of intact male plant and female plants with their male parts removed. Then there will be two plants of different kinds that will cross pollinate, and you will have a “new” type of seed corn. If you don’t detassel, the plants will self pollinate and your plans for hybrid seed corn will be ruined.

cornfield | Fotolia/Kybele 

Photo: Fotolia/Kybele

I think machinery is used a lot nowadays to speed up the process, but back in the day it was all hand labor. The manager hired dependable people, told them which rows to detassel and set them loose with their deadline. There was a certain window to get the corn detasseled and some days my mom and sister came out to help me. Some days were very long. We had to finish before the silk came out.

This was before the day of those Steven King movies having to do with Children of the Corn so there was no weirdness about going into a field alone. Just the gleeful recognition of how much money we were making. Being alone in the corn gave me plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts. There were the hawks wheeling over head and sometimes we whistled to each other. The weather was usually hot and muggy but we were working on our upper body tans so that was a perk for us girls. We wore tanks tops and doused ourselves with cool water at the end of the rows.

Now I live in a place that doesn’t grow seed corn. Here it’s either dry land grazing or nut and fruit trees. I look back on those days when I was young and physically strong with fondness and sometimes wish I could go back again. But I’m grateful for the experience and I wouldn’t trade anything for the memories of my family and me in the field doing a rewarding job.


Renee-Lucie BenoitWD-40 is common on a ranch or farm. Everyone has it. Everyone uses it. But does anyone really know what it is? I sure as heck didn’t so I did a little research. I found out that WD-40 was – or is – the trademark name of a spray developed in 1953 by a guy named Norm Larsen who was the founder of the Rocket Chemical Co. in San Diego, California. It was originally designed to repel water and prevent corrosion for nuclear missiles. But just like any magnificent discovery (penicillin comes to mind), it turned out to have more uses than the original intended purpose. Where did the name come from, you may ask? I bet you wouldn’t guess this: "Water Displacement – 40th Attempt.” This is science at work. Not Mad Men. But, hey, don’t you think it works? Dub-ya Dee Forty! Just rolls off the tongue like it was meant to be.

WD40 | courtesy

Photo: courtesy

I had always had used it for one thing: fixing squeaky hinges. Recently I was in a local tractor supply establishment looking for a product to help de-tangle the impossible tornadoes that had made their way into my horse’s manes and tails. The product that looked the best to me had a ridiculously high price tag on it so I hunted up a clerk for some advice. She told me her dad told her to use WD-40. Applied liberally.

So I went home and tried it. What a disaster! It was way too oily and it didn’t get a single tangle out. My hands just got saturated with chemical product. It was terrible, but it got me to thinking what people out there might be using WD-40 for other than its intended use. So I started looking into it and here is what I found.

WD40 | courtesy

Photo: courtesy

House cleaner Sharon uses it for removing crayon and old cellophane tape. She also uses it for removing stains from clothes and carpets, and mildew from refrigerator gaskets. Mel the plumber uses it to spray on air-conditioning filters. He says it filters dust out. Tony, our mechanic, uses it for cleaning the grill and bumper of his car plus removing oil spots from concrete. My cousin Sandy uses it for untangling jewelry chains and freeing stuck zippers. My husband used it on the fence to keep ants from climbing up the fence and into the dog food. My friend Roberta used it once to remove a ring stuck on her finger. I suppose it would work for a toe stuck in the bathtub faucet or a finger stuck in soda bottle.

WD40 | courtesy

Photo: courtesy

Here are a few uses I have heard of but would not recommend:

  • Cure mange. According to "USA Today," spraying a dog with WD-40 gets rid of parasitic mites. Maybe the dog, too.

  • Prevent dead insects from sticking to your car. Spray WD-40 on the hood and grill so you can wipe bugs off easily.

  • Make hangers glide over a clothes rod.

  • Thread electrical wire through conduits.

  • Remove baked-on food from a cookie pan. Spray on cookie pan and wipe clean.

  • Keep dogs, maggots and flies out of trash cans. Coat the trash cans with a thin layer of WD-40.

  • Free a tongue stuck to frozen metal. Spray on the metal around the tongue.

What do you use it for?


Renee-Lucie BenoitTimes have changed, my friend. Some things have changed for the better. Some things would have been better had they stayed the same. The point is we can’t go back in time, but we can remember what was and that gives us pleasure, peace and contentment. Also sometimes the stories about the past can teach us how to live our lives correctly in the present.


Gramma Frieda, my mother, me and Gramma's father, William

My Grandmother Frieda was quite a storyteller. I remember sitting in her kitchen in Watseka, Illinois, and she would tell me stories about “the olden days.” Through her stories, those days would come alive for me, and I could see them in my mind’s eye. I knew that Gramma was a girl with a lot of life in her. Maybe she got it from her father whose nickname was “Wild Bill.” Her mother was just the opposite. Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes? Marriage partners who offset and complement each other’s personalities. Mother Tina was the firm disciplinarian. Father William was playful. His photo doesn't show it but trust me, he was.

One story Gramma told me was of an escapade that cost her dearly. She never forgot it, and one day she told me what happened. It was haying time on the farm. Everyone had an important job to do because the hay had to be put up swiftly and correctly. The winter feed was dependent on it. If it wasn’t done right, the hay would spoil and then not be good. The women working in the kitchen – cooking all day preparing a big breakfast and dinner – was integral to the men working in the fields. It was a team effort and everyone worked hard. Lunch was called dinner then, and it was the biggest meal of the day. Supper was light. Everyone was tired at the end of the day. The day might last well into the evening. If the hay was ready to be mowed and shocked the men were at it from sun up to sundown.


Courtesy of Old St. Andrew's

Here’s what Gramma told me:

“I was born in 1896 so the year was 1912. I was 16 at the time and not fond of helping my mother in the kitchen. If I had any choice in the matter I’d rather be out helping the men in the fields. I didn’t like being cooped up in the house. I thought men's work was more fun.

"But this was not what my mother wanted me to do and besides she needed the help so I had to obey her. There was a big dance coming up at the Grange in Onarga. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. I planned what to wear and I talked about it with my sisters Esther and Martha. My special 'beau' Bernhard was going to be there. You know we eventually married. He was the son of the local Lutheran minister and shy. (Here she giggles.) I was more than enough outgoing for the both of us! He won my heart with his good looks and calm, confident manner.

"On the day of dance, my mother Trientje but who was called 'Tina,' instructed me, 'No lollygagging' and 'to be home by 10 p.m. There is a lot of work to do tomorrow!' My father William took us girls in the buggy and dropped us off at the door. Then he hitched the horse to the hitching rail and went inside to have a bit of fun with his friends before going home. We girls were again instructed as to the curfew and then Father William went home confident we would obey.

"The 10 p.m. curfew came and went and only my sisters obeyed. I was just too sassy. I was the oldest and it made me mad that I had to be home at a time I thought was too early. I was old enough to be married so why couldn’t I stay up and dance? I loved to dance! So the curfew came and went and I just ignored it.

"Pretty soon I realized that it was starting to get light. Everyone else was going home so I just hiked up my skirts and made my way through the fields back home. When I got to the house I hoped everyone was still sound asleep so I could sneak in, get in bed and hide the fact that I had come home at such an hour. Just as I opened the door to the kitchen I heard my mother call 'Frieda, is that you?' There she was at the sink washing something. She never said a word further about my disobedience. She just told me to start my chores. 'No sleeping for you, young lady!'

"So I had to work all day just as though I’d had a full night’s sleep. Mother never said anything more about my disobedience. Having to work all day with no sleep was enough. Mother didn’t get angry. She simply meted out the consequences of my thoughtlessness. Always after that I would think before I did something. She taught me a valuable lesson in thinking ahead about what might happen if I didn’t do the right thing."


Renee-Lucie BenoitI couldn't help but post an image of my finished product from last week's blog post. Look at these beauties. Delicious, too. Come on over, and we'll have some with pumpernickel and cream cheese.



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