Talk of Breeding

Title: Talk of Breeding
Time Period: November, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Someone's playing matchmaker.

The cold of winter may be many weeks away still, but the air still has a bite. Patches of white offset the brown earth and rocks of the farmlands, lingering on fence posts and at the base of trees. The cold has hardened the earth, leaving the horses with solid ground to tromp upon.

The dark brown stallion has an unfamiliar rider, but Cas keeps leaning forward to touch his mane gently and occasionally whisper into his ear as if sharing a joke. The small motions seem to help acclimate the already mild tempered horse. Some men smack horses with the ends of the rein, but not Cas. He doesn't even use the rein as much as his legs to guide the creature along.

To protect against the cold, Cas wears a thick red scarf around his neck and a coat that's a little longer than what he'd worn before. Likely he has more layers under as well, to add to the insulation.

"What all do you plant up here?" he asks, turning to look at the woman upon a second horse, the lighter bay mare.

"It varies on the season and what seeds I can get ahold of, really. There are plenty of options. Some crops take a bit more work than others, so they're only worth it if I can get a good price for them," Mairi gazes over the ground, scanning the fields to determine which is which from memory.

"Carrots are something I like to have a good amount of. Especially for the horses, but it's not very practical as far as the amount of effort it takes to pick them by hands. Potatoes are very easy and when it gets later in the season, I'll plant sweetcorn just over there. I've thought of considering some fruit trees for an investment of sorts since they last for years and years to come, but they take quite some time."

While the cold may not be bitter, Mairi's a fan of bundling up when it's cold and she's not being active enough to generate excess body heat. Her shirt and trousers are sensible and plain brown, but there's a familiar yellow scarf wrapped around her neck and tucked just slightly into her coat. It's a tiny splash of color in the midst of what could be fairly drab. She nods towards the horse Cas rides on.

"He likes you, you know, I'm sure of it."

"Sounds about like what we used to do where I'm from," Cas admits with a laugh as he runs his hand down the neck of the stallion. It's all soothing gestures, despite the fact the horse seems to like him. It makes him feel better too.

"He's a good horse, that's the main reason why he likes me," he adds, grinning over at the woman beside him, showing off his dimpled cheek. "If you had more help around the farm I'd ask if you ever considered breeding them, but that's not something you should do on your own." There's an implication in his voice that, if he had more time, he might have helped with that. But his new job keeps him busy— as she knows. He doesn't get to visit more than once every two weeks or so.

"I'd thought about it. Maybe in the spring. I'm sure I can get some hands when the weather's warmer," Mairi says, the mare getting a gentle pat of her own. Her gaze turns back towards Cas as the horses move along at a leisurely pace. "Maybe if I get a foal you can come buy it off of me. Then I'd certainly know it's in good hands and you wouldn't have to worry if you can convince your boss to sell you one." She pauses. "I mean, mine wouldn't be so fine, I'm sure, but you're welcome to it."

She looks ahead of them. "I might have to ask you for advice, though," Mairi admits. "I'm a little out of my league when it comes to horses. I don't really know a lot about breeding them."

"Spring would be best, yeah— I don't imagine the mare would agree to such a thing— and it takes almost a year for the gestation," Cas says, sympathetically looking over at the mare, who is getting talked at like that. "And I wouldn't recommend doing it unless you have a stablehand who knows something— who can be there for most of the last month. Especially if the mare has never foaled before— A lot can go wrong. You'd need someone who is good at reading the horses for signs of distress."

But he's smiling, still, at the idea that she would consider doing such a thing for him in a way. "I'm sure any foal from these two will be wonderful. The parents have a good disposition, and believe it or not that's just as important as good breeding. You can have a strong and powerful horse that produces complete brats that are impossible to train. And these two aren't weak, by any means." He leans over the neck of the horse to scratch the mane right between the ear. "Sorry we're talking matchmaker with you, mate. There's also the off-chance that they will refuse to breed at all."

Mairi gives a little nod, looking down a the pair of horses. "Well, it couldn't hurt to try. The extra income would be helpful and I can still manage the farm work with one horse if it comes down to it. It would certainly be exciting." She pats the mare's neck gently. "I wouldn't push them if they didn't see each other that way. A foal might be nice, but who knows, perhaps they've already decided that they're 'just friends'."

She smiles over at Cas once more. "You really do know your stuff about horses. If I do get around to trying to breed them, I hope you'll help me find a stablehand. If I forego the fruit trees, I should certainly be able to afford it and I should have the time to focus on it."

"Yeah, that's the problem, believe it or not— and why people trade studs for breeding purposes. If the mare and the stallion are together too long they just don't… you know. Feel the need as much," Cas says with a shy laugh and a shake of his head. "My family did mules— and we had a different challenge. The mare sometimes needed a … teaser stallion around to become interested enough to accept the jack. Da would borrow one from another farm occasionally— "

With a laugh, he runs a hand through his spiky hair that's starting to get a little long again. The longer it gets, the more tame it seems. But it still likes to stick up, especially in the wind and while moving.
"But if you have other things you should focus your time and finances on, you should do that first. I'd hate to drain your resources even for my selfish wish of having a horse."

"I'm certainly glad I'm not a mare," Mairi says, giving the bay mare a soft pat. "No offense," she whispers to it before her gaze goes back to Cas. "The finances are alright, I just figure I should only focus on large project at a time. The horses seem a wiser bet, though, because the trees… they're much more of a long-term thing. Who knows how many years it'd be until they bear fruit, and the conditions have to be just right. We get hit by a bad winter and I may have to pull up the whole thing and start from scratch."

She pauses for a moment. "I didn't thank you properly, Cas. It was very kind of you to come riding with me. It's a nice break from working. I love my work but it's nice to just talk to someone human. Have some company from time to time. I do hope the conversation isn't dull, though. I'd hate for you to come all the way to my farm to be bored."

For a moment he looks over at her with raised eyebrows, and then suddenly Cas laughs and shakes his head. "First of all, you don't have to thank me for doing something I asked about— I may work with horses all day but I don't get to just leisurely ride them often— this is a treat for me." Riding him he does on his work hours, but not like this. Not just for the sake of riding. And company.

"And you're not the least bit boring. Though I should apologize to you— I keep talking about horses." From the wink, he's not really apologizing for it at all. "Or I could apologize for being easily amused, if that makes you feel better. But. Not bored."

Mairi laughs merrily at his words. "I don't mind if we talk about horses. You love them and I have them and it's not as if it's a boring topic. And I know you asked about it, but I just appreciate you being here. Which is why I'm thanking you. You don't need to apologize for anything. Especially not being amused. Laughter is one of the best sounds in the world, I think."

The redheaded woman peers up at the sky for a moment, noting the overcast clouds. "We're lucky. It might look a bit gloomy but it won't rain on us. It'd be terrible to be stuck out and have to ride back to the barn in the rain. I think you chose a good day."

"I'm glad to be able to be your company," Cas says in an honest way, smiling over at her. There's a pause before he adds in an aside, "You always seem to know if it's going to rain or not,." He remembers other situations where she commented offhandedly about the rain and whether it would or not. And he noticed she was often right. Or at least as right as he expects people to be when weather is involved.

"I'm glad, though. I hate having to clean my clothes after they've been rained on— I have to deal with that enough when I'm on the road, and plus we'd smell like wet horse by the time we made it back, too. Not to mention it'd be cold."

Lots of reasons to be thankful for the lack of rain at the moment. "I wish I had more choice over the day, but I'm trying to make a good impression on the boss— don't want to take too many days off or he'll think I'm lazy."

"I'd hate drying clothes. It's such a mess and a hassle. I try to avoid being out in the rain as much as possible," Mairi agrees, but she gives him a mischievous smile at his comment about her knowing the weather. "Clearly I just know when it's going to rain because I'm old and feel it in my joints."

Ducking her head sheepishly after delivering the line, she gives him a warm look. "Maybe I should take a day off and come see you for once. I know it's just me, but I can always just do the bare minimum of what I've got to do for the day and come into town and see you sometime. It's only fair, especially considering I've got the horses. And I don't want your boss to see you as lazy. Maybe I'll bring you some fresh milk and eggs so you can actually be well fed somewhere other than my house."

"Please, you're not that old," Cas says with a shake of his head, moving the stallion closer as if he might let the horses collide. A kind of horse-elbow to side kind of thing. Only he doesn't let it get that close. The threat is enough!!

"I wouldn't mind seeing you around the castle, though. If you got time. I'm entitled to snack breaks. And milk and eggs during the cold winter months? I might actually gain some weight for a change if you bring them by too often."

Not that he looks as if he could carry much in the way of weight with his frame, but… "I look forward to it," he adds honestly.

Mairi gives Cas an appraising look. "Well, maybe I'll have to bring them by often, then. Can't have you looking too scrawny, and considering the hard work I'm sure you'll work it off faster than I can feed you." She grins. "And you can tell everyone in the castle how superior my milk and eggs are to everyone else's and I'll have an excuse to come by the castle more on deliveries."

She looks to the sky for a long moment again, this time her eyes on a kestrel flying overhead rather than the clouds themselves. "It would certainly be nice to steal a little time off the farm, not that your visits here aren't appreciated. I'd just like to be able to return the favor."