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Woke up in the middle fo the night to a sound I know all too well; the clanging of a metal trash can 20 yards from my front door. Inside that trashcan is about 40lbs of sweet feed from the local granary. Sweet is an understatement, that blend has enough molasses in it to throw a black bear into a torpor. But I knew what was out there was bigger than any bear. It was Merlin, who had escaped the electric fencing of his 2+ acre paddock and was committing a crime in the night.

He was due, honestly. He always figures a way out in late fall. It's like he knows the temperatures are shifting. He wants those calories. And I didn't hold it against him, but I did want my 900lbs of black brute in his paddock. A fell pony chasing the sugar dragon isn't a safe unit on a rainy night on a twisting country road.

I was wide awake in seconds. It's almost uncanny. I go to bed at an embarrassingly early time lately. I think I'm banking sleep. I know when real cold hits I will be up with the stove until midnight, and starting it again at 4:30AM. But right now, with nights no lower than the high twenties, I can sleep as much as I want long as I get up at the time I am most creative/productive/eager (4-5AM). So lately, I am in bed earlier than your kids.

I didn't look at the time. I just got dressed. I slid into work clothes, socks and boots, and threw on a headlamp. Soon as I went outside I could see the toppled over trash can but it took a few seconds for the outline of the black pony to be made clear in the darkness, kind of a magic trick. There he was, chowing down.

Merlin and I know each other so well, are so comfortable. There wasn't any fear he'd balk or argue with me. I can practically move him around with my badger body and a stern tone. But over these past few years we've gone from horse and rider to two old folks on the porch, sharing stories and eating soup side by side. And that's the kind of comport you want in the dark, in the rain, with a large animal that doesn't want to leave his trick-or-treat bucket.

I got him haltered and back to the pen in a few minutes. That was the easy part. I returned with hay and grain for him and Mabel, to keep them busy inside the paddock before I started trouble shooting. Friday was with me, at 8 she's still alert and ready to go soon as she sees me grab my boots. Gibson was still fast asleep. When he's out he's out, my dear old man.

I walked all the lines of the electric fence. Not a single broken strand. I walked the entire line of sheep netting, trying to see how this pony got out? Eveything was fine. Unsure of next steps, I did what I could to sure up any sections that seemed easy enough to belly-crawl or leap over, and headed back inside. As I walked through the door, sliding off wet clothes and hanging up my headlamp, I tried to guess what time it was. I guessed around 2:20AM, because if that's the case I had already slept a straight 6 hours. 2:18 was on the stove clock. Damn, if there's a skill I have learned from waking up in the middle of the night a thousand times on this homestead, it's guessing how much sleep I crave/had. This was the high point of the night. I toweled off the wet dog, got undressed, and slid back under the heated throw.

I did end up going back outside 20 minutes later to make sure I plugged back in the fences. I had. But if any of you struggle with anxiety, you know how I had to go check if I ever wanted to relax.

I couldn't fall back asleep until 4:30, and ended up sleeping in until 7. Woke up to a farm coated in a chilly rain and gray skies, but everyone remained in their enclosures. Taking this small win, I took a note to make sure Merlin gets extra grain and a blanket tomorrow night for the frost. He's well over 30 and there's no reason not to baby him. Hell, that's what I need. You think after 4PM when chores are done and I've made my way through another hard and unnecessarily-existential day that I don't want sugar and a blanket?

Breakfast was Nutella on my neighbor's sourdough, heated in the oven. I am in an oversized hoodie that feels more like a sleeping bag than clothing. I have zero grounds to judge that horse.

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