Since there's a Romani (Gypsy) girl in my upcoming book THE LIGHTING QUEEN, I had an excuse to do fascinating research on this culture.... including my trip to the Irish Rose Farm on the outskirts of my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado two summers ago. Charlie Cox showed me his gorgeous authentic vintage Romani vardos (wagons), which I wrote about in another post.
Over the past couple years, my Lil Dude and I have become friends with Charlie and Jan, who we see at the Farmer's Market every Saturday. (They are such energetic people! Jan sells fantastical succulents planted in creative upcycled containers like Minions, old baby doll's heads, vintage Star Wars fighter jets, Lego Darth Vader action figures, 1950s Nancy Drew books....)
So we were excited to hear about their two newborn Gypsy foals, and even more excited when they invited us out to see these impossibly adorable creatures.
Charlie and Jan actually breed this kind of horse (Irish Cobs), whose ancestors were used in Ireland to pull Gypsy vardos, and who were also well-loved, gentle members of the caravan. Jan and Charlie are an incredible wealth of information about Romani and Traveler culture in Ireland, and true experts on the Gypsy horses and vardos and dog that they treasure.
These horses are gorgeous and sweet, with distinct black and white patterning and elegant tufts of hair around their ankles. I love their luxurious manes and tails so much!
They lead extremely happy lives on the farm, staying for many months with their mothers, wandering the huge fields with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, getting lots of love from Jan and Charlie and their Gypsy dog, Finn. In Ireland, caravans often included this breed of dog who, like the horses, also were a useful, gentle, and well-loved part of the family. They are expert hunters, and will go off on their own to fetch rabbits or other small animals to have for dinner. (Finn has proudly brought home rabbits and squirrels.)
So, more about these beautiful foals: The older of the two-- about three weeks old in these photos-- is named Skellig Michael (Skeilig Mhichil in Irish), which is also a rocky island in Ireland. The 2-week-old girl is named Saoirse (pronounced Searrrsha), which means "freedom" in the Irish language, and has cool political/historical significance in Ireland.
Once the babies warmed up to Lil Dude, they enjoyed having him scratch their rump.
I honestly knew very little about horses before our trip to the farm. The extent of my knowledge was what I'd gleaned from Lil Dude's easy reader books on the topic. ;-)
It's incredible to me that within a few hours of birth, the foals are already walking around... and within a few weeks they're already munching on grasses to supplement their mother's milk. Supposedly Gypsy mare's milk is incredibly nutrient-rich and makes these foals grow heartier and faster than other horse breeds.
The mothers were so sweet with their babies, but generously let us close enough to touch them. We felt so fortunate!
Before I sign off, I'll give you a quick update on THE LIGHTNING QUEEN. It's available for preorder now, and will be released on Oct. 27, 2015 in hardcover, ebook... *and audiobook*! So happy about this!
You can read more about the book here and get links to book club and educators' guides.
And if you're on Goodreads, you can add it to your "want-to-read" list here. Review copies are out in the world now, and I've gotten a bunch of awesome early reviews from a group of elementary school kids in Half Moon Bay, CA! I'll share those blurbs with you in a post soon....
Hope you're having an enchanting summer!