Into the woods: Three weeks alone in rural Pennsylvania, featuring horses, dogs, cats, and a SPIDER

Equine companion

I’m a big believer in genes.

I think that from the moment we are born to the moment we die, it’s all pretty much mapped out according to the arrangement of those genes. You can only meander off the blueprint so much. (It’s in my genes to be sceptical). 

In a way, this is depressing. In a way it’s comforting.

One of my genetic attributes is a strong preference for animals over humans.

I don’t really like humans, other than the ones I know. I just don’t feel responsible for humans. 

I do feel responsible for animals, even the ones I don’t know. I love them unconditionally. My stomach drops like a hot brick into the soles of my shoes when I see an animal hurt or unhappy.

So much affection

I’ve often wondered why this is. It doesn’t make much sense, evolutionarily speaking. Despite a very few exceptions, you don’t see chimps with pet squirrels, or lions mourning the death of a porcupine.

Animals don’t hang out with other animals from a different species. That’s because, unless you can procreate with them, other living beings are either: dangerous (out to get you), a parasite (out to use you), a competitor (out to steal your food), or food (there to be eaten).

So my stance on animals makes no sense at all. But I was born with it. Ever since I was a tiny toddler. I can’t help it. I care about A but I don’t care about B. It’s in my genes.

Which brings me to my latest travel destination: the woods of Pennsylvania.

Current location

I’m here for the next three weeks to look after the home and the animals of my aunt’s dear friend Kate.

Kate is a seriously swish Hollywood make-up artist and has built this amazing woodland wonderland animal sanctuary in upstate Pennsylvania which I am now keeping safe in her absence.

The house itself is ridiculously beautiful.

Slate-grey walls lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows which pour sunlight like liquid gold all over the rustic floors. Concrete and reclaimed wood surfaces scattered with trinkets she’s collected from around the world.

Look out across the front and you can see Kate’s horses plodding past in their rolling paddocks or poking their heads into the big black barn.

The whole thing is nestled in a forest of ancient trees, some of which are hung with mirrored disco balls and clonking wind-chimes. 

Trees adorned
Bath time
Roaring fire
View all around

All Kate’s animals (cat, cat, cat, dog, horse, horse) are rescues.

They are as follows…

Lily: Escaped from the gas chamber at the local shelter. Actually managed to escape death in the chamber. Clever.
Delilah: Also from the local shelter. Used to be rake-thin and self-mutilate. Is now fat and purrs all the time
Little Old Man: a former stray, close to death, who collapsed on Kate’s land. Was taken inside and now hobbles around the house finding good nap spots. Little Old Man is a nap connoisseur
Mouse: used to be a combat dog with the US military. Was hideously abused and injured by her soldier handler. Still aggressive towards strangers, especially men. To me, a faithful adoring companion
Talli: 100% blind, saved 24 hours before execution for meat
Jack: Rescued from some wanker who used to routinely punch him in the face

So here I am in the middle of nowhere – with no mode of transport – and with nothing to do but read and write and cook and look after the heard of rescued creatures.

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

Except maybe if Leonardo DiCaprio was here. 


But if he was here I’d have to brush my hair, put make-up on, and change into something other than the batshit uniform I’m wearing now.

My inside uniform is: comedy T-shirt, two jumpers, Christmas-themed PJ bottoms and floppy grey socks. Sometimes also my meerkat hoody. 

My outside uniform is: faux fur coat worn over two baggy jumpers, jogging bottoms, and muddy boots.

Photo on 26-03-2016 at 3.06 pm
The meerkat hoody, in case you didn’t believe me

My hands have cuts on them, I’m not sure why. I think from lugging stuff around for the horses.

My face has a gash across it, and that’s because Mouse (all 130lbs of her) sometimes feels the irrepressible urge to leap up and clamp her front paws over my shoulders, but misses, and gets my cheek with her massive claws.

The bad bits?

Fear at night. I’ve been watching a lot of The Walking Dead. Sometimes at night time, when it’s dark and eerily quiet, Mouse will leap up, panic-stricken, and start and charging up and down barking.

At times like this, I am utterly convinced that a Jeep-full of armed rednecks wearing hats and red plaid shirts (?!) are tanking up the driveway with the intent to loot the house and murder me. It’s OK though, because I have quite a detailed escape plan.  

Photo on 21-03-2016 at 1.36 pm #3
My four-legged burglar alarm
If a horror movie had a horse barn in it, this is what it would look like
It would be good if I had Rick and Daryl here to protect me against the armed rednecks

Also, I had an incident with a spider. I have a profound phobia of spiders, and I don’t use the word ‘phobia’ lightly.

Despite this, I do sometimes ask myself whether I play it up in front of other people. Is all the screeching and running and hyperventilating a bit attention-seekish?

Turns out, nope. 

Today, I heaved a load of wood inside for the fire. And when I clunked the last armful down next to the wood stove, I saw a fucking spider on it. This means I unwittingly CARRIED A SPIDER. It probably touched my jumper.

This triggered a screech, a run, and about three minutes of unstoppable hyperventilating. Half an hour later, I am still itching and twitching and checking my hair (in case it crawled in there). I can’t help it, it’s in my genes. 

Disgraceful Trojan horse

Unfortunately, I can’t now go near the wood pile, and I definitely can’t load new logs into the fire. Which means I’m going to get cold soon.

I have three weeks at Kate’s house.

By the time I emerge, I will either be bright-eyed and bushy tailed from all the nature and the relaxation, OR, I will have forgotten how to converse with other humans and be generally paranoid and deranged. 

Next, there are plans in the works for New York City, Miami, and LA, before I fly off to Australia again. 

Below, more photos…

Beautiful Lily
Blissful Delilah 
Plodding Mouse
Ducks in a row
Cat up a tree
Kate is very good at interior design 
Oh deer
Good morning, Mouse
Good morning, Little Old Man
Good afternoon, skylight 
Farewell for now…

3 thoughts on “Into the woods: Three weeks alone in rural Pennsylvania, featuring horses, dogs, cats, and a SPIDER

  1. This ‘Into the Woods’ post made me so happy. I relate to it on a gut level as this is my ideal existence. Sub Leo for Colin Farrell & he will love me even more because of my muskrat hoodie. 🙂 I love animals at my core as well & have my own animal care business & a rescue/501c3 & am moving towards land for all this. Also starting a blog & my sister sent me yours as an example of a ‘good one’. Thank you for it. I now have a visual for my dream & plan to follow your blog for inspiration.
    Best to you! ~Jude


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