Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Stills - No Zoom

This week's challenge was simply to take pictures without using the zoom, easy enough for the most part, I seldom use the zoom.  Although, a bit of zoom would have been nice around this fellow.  He is not someone to turn a back on or mess with and a good dog as backup is a must.
All of these were taken this month, but not necessarily this week as it just won't stop raining again.

How does this area celebrate the anniversary of the historic flooding we saw in 2006?
  With more flooding of course.

It wasn't as bad here or as widespread, but a lot of folks just north of here are having a tough time.  

This is the third time in ten years that we have seen flooding in these areas and they are not flood plains or areas prone to flooding - at least they weren't ten years ago.

There are many times when I bemoan my geographical location.  The wind does howl and the snow does blow.

But the floods can't reach us here and, for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The solstice sure did bring summer in with a bang so I finally broke down and set the fan back up in the barn.    It's a BIG hit.  I know it looks precarious, but it is anchored down a lot better then it appears in the photo and my herd is not the sort to fiddle with such things now that Gabe is no longer here.

I haven't discussed it with Emma yet, but I think we are going to have to instigate some Donkey Diet protocols.  I don't think that is going to go over quite as well as the fan.

And what did Tessa think of the fan, which she had never seen before?  I'll let her tell you....

"I'm not coming out until Fall!"
I haven't mentioned it to her either, but some Pony Diet protocols are coming as well.

As for me, well I need a diet too, maybe I should start a Fat Farm.  I sure do know how to grow that well after all.  In the meantime, I went swimming in my pond!  It was bliss, but WOW! is that water COLD.  I guess those springs feeding it are a lot more active than I realized.  I sure hope all my little catfish didn't go in there and freeze to death.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Couple of Very Nice Asses

"Hey, are you talk'n about us?"

Assorted Questions

I have had several questions recently that I keep meaning to answer and then don't get to so I thought I'd just try to post them all here.

Rebecca2 wanted to know more about hay and  baleage....Baleage is hay that is round-baled shortly after it is cut while it is still very green and has a high moisture content (as opposed to dry hay which does indeed have to be dry or it will spoil).  The bale is then very tightly wrapped in very heavy, opaque white shrink wrap.  The wrapping has to be completely air tight or the bale will spoil.  The hay undergoes a fermentation process inside the wrap which preserves the hay as well as releasing more of the sugars inside the grass.  This is a very high quality feed suitable for dairy cattle and growing animals.  Horses can eat baleage and I have fed it to my own in the past, however, it is generally too high in sugar and protein and too low in roughage to be a good choice for anything other then heavily pregnant or lactating mares.  I would not feed this to donkeys other then to perhaps supplement a pure straw diet.  Even then, the sugar content is still way too high for donkeys.  The giant white 'marshmallows' in the background are balage. 

The truly great thing about making balage is that it is not so weather dependant.  There have been a couple of nasty times when our baleage was cut, baled and wrapped in pouring rain.  This is definitely not ideal, but desperate times call for desperate measures and when it comes to balage, it's better too wet then too dry.  They keep fine if the moisture content is high enough for proper fermentation, but if they are too dry, they will mold and be unusable.  The only problem we have had with too much moisture is that they freeze solid in extremely cold weather, which is just one of the reasons for making several types of hay.

Several people wanted to know what kind of hay we make and how much land there is....The hay is all native mixed grass.  Primarily orchard, timothy and brome grass (this farm is separate from my place where I own 20 acres, it's about about 3 miles away).  There are sixty acres total; a 20 acre hay field, roughly 25 acres of pasture and about 10 acres that are in a wildlife reserve area.  We cut hay on this, but not until after July 1st so that the ground nesting birds can raise their babies.  I counted nearly 20 pairs of bobolinks up there last year and there are more every year.  This hay is coarser, generally lower in sugar content and higher in roughage because it is past its peak maturity.  This is what I feed my horses and donkeys.

None of these fields have been reseeded or chemically fertilized, but Farm Buddy does intensive rotational grazing and uses organic practices.  The cattle are grazed on all of the land after all of the hay is cut.  Forage samples from this farm have won first place every year they have been entered in the county fair.

MtWaggin wanted to know if I have more skeeters since I had my pond re-dug.  Actually, I have a lot less this year.  There has always been a pond there, but it was shallow and a bit stagnant.   Now that it is deeper and there are roughly 12 billion hungry tadpoles and salamanders in there, I have noticed a dramatic drop in the number of skeeters. 

Irmgard wanted to know if the sheep always line up so neatly.....sometimes....fairly often.  They don't always manage to get themselves lined up quite so well, but they do frequently move and graze as a solid unit, very much like a school of fish.

There were also a couple of questions about the barley straw in the pond...When barley straw degrades in water it releases oxygen which helps prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria and algae, thus helping to keep the water clean.  That's the way I understand it anyway.

It seems like I am forgetting some questions and I am too tired to go check.  If I missed any, please let me know.  Now I am off to bed.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Stills (with a haymaking twist)

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was historic sites or monuments.  Since we were making hay this week, I initially thought that I would probably end up skipping this challenge.  I got to thinking about it though and, really, what could possibly be more historic than making hay on an old farm (built around 1870) in what was once, long ago a thriving community.  The few farms still struggling to survive in an area that was once all working farmland are the best historical sites I can think of for a tiny upstate hamlet barely holding onto existence.

Making hay is one of the truest, most universal cornerstones of all human society.  It's the making and storing of feed so that our farms can survive, so that we can survive.  However, in our ever more urbanized culture, many people don't seem to realize that this is still one of the most crucial aspects of keeping our world fed.  Gone are the days when a barn full of hay is what guaranteed that our workforce, livelihood and transportation survived the winter....

or ensured that we would have clothing to wear....

but it is still the the lifeblood of any farm, very literally the difference between life and death (not to mention the continued survival and happiness of our beloved donkeys and horses as well).

We have been extraordinarily lucky the past couple of years to have the help an incredible group of friends who have taken time out of their own very busy lives to come together to help us put our hay in. 

It is a hot, exhausting, dirty job demanding extreme, prolonged physical effort.  In years past, it has often been just Farm Buddy and I doing this job ourselves, with only the occasional bit of help coming our way.  Doing the job as we did this time, with a group of fun, intelligent, hard workers along with the best four days of hay weather we've ever had made the job into a pleasure rather than a trial, as it so often can be.

We must have racked up some really good hay karma somewhere along the way for this batch of hay. We had been getting worried as the weather was being impossible for so long.  We normally average about 2.5 inches of rain in the month of June.  This year, by June 15 we had had almost 10 inches and the specter of flooding was growing.  It is always better to have a wet year than a dry one, as last year proved (because of the drought last year, this same patch of ground produced half the number of bales it did yesterday), but there are limits. 

We were even luckier this time because Riding Buddy's mother, who is world-class chef, made a feast for all of us at the end of the day.  It is hard to describe just how great it is to come in at the end of a hay day to find that someone else has done the cooking.  That is a luxury we have never known before, but we sure could get used to that in a hurry! 

Through a complicated barter deal with a nearby dairy farm, we make three kinds of hay here; baleage, dry round bales and the small square bales pictured above.  The last are all made with Farm Buddy's ancient, but (mostly) functional equipment, half of which was designed to be pulled with horses.   The neighbor farm does all of our mowing, round bales and baleage.

The modern round baler gobbles up hay at an amazing rate...

rolls it up tight, wraps it in plastic netting, spits it out.... 

and goes on gobbling.  And if you're wondering why we don't have our own equipment like this, it's because just these two pieces represent about $50,000.  Add in the tedder, rake, bale wrapper...The mind boggles.

A couple of weeks ago they made 45 balages.  This week we put in 842 square bales and 6 dry round bales.  The next time we have dry weather, we'll be doing it all again.  We wouldn't want anybody going hungry around here after all.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Haymaking, Ponds, Frogs & Turtles

We're making hay the rest of the week so I am going to disappear from blog-land for a few days.  In the meantime, Bowstreet wondered what my pond looks like now that it is all filled up so here are some pond pictures for you.   

I have counted at least five painted turtles hanging out on a bale of barley straw I put in the pond to help keep it clean.

We think of turtles as slow, but these guys see me coming as soon as I step out of my house and dive for cover faster than the eye can see.

A massive explosion in the frog population. 

And if you're wondering about my little catfish, well so do I.  I've seen nary a whisker, but I am not sure I would.  I just have to take it on faith that they are in there doing their catfish thing and living their catfish lives.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We Did It!

I took my entire herd for a trail ride in the woods!  Granted, it was a short ride, only about 20 minutes, but we did it.  We were on a trail, in the woods so it counts, right?  Right.  I don't have any pictures this time as it was all I could do to manage myself, my horse, the reins, lead rope, two donkeys, low branches, trees, etc.  The camera would have been the large brick atop the house of cards.

We definitely need to work on this some more as there were some complications, but it went very well for our first try.  I would like to have the donkeys simply accompany Tessa and I as Emma did when she went riding with us, but I am not completely certain that the two donkeys on the loose together might not stay with me.  It is a lot like going out with dogs, one alone will stay close, but two or more may go off exploring on their own (unless they're Border Collies of course!).  Maybe in time.

I had Emma on a long lead and Ramsey was loose, which did work well for the most part.  Tessa needs to neck-rein and work off my leg just a little quicker.  Emma needs to learn to follow a little closer and make sure not to end up on the wrong side of a tree, that was the biggest problem.   When I am on foot, she does very well at this, but that hasn't completely translated to leading from horseback.  We'll have to work on it out in the open until she gets it all figured out.  I also want to work with Ramsey on the lead and with him leading off of a surcingle on Emma.

We have a lot of work to do, but I am encouraged.  Ramsey is not up to long rides by any means, but I hope to be able to continue doing these short training rides.  If he and Emma learn this now, it will stay with them and be the foundation for what comes later when he is more mature and his foot is up for more.  Even if we never progress much farther (and I think we will), we are all having fun anyway and that's what counts.

And, as I don't have any pictures of our trail ride triumph, how about a picture of another small triumph.  A job finally completed.

I was starting to think I'd end up burning all of this before I ever got it stacked!  I can't tell you how glad I am to have this job done for now, I am extremely sick of firewood.

The BC however, remains unimpressed on all counts..."Have you completely forgotten how to throw a Frisbee?"

Monday, June 17, 2013


Now that Gabe has been gone for a few weeks, my little herd is finding cohesion.  Not surprisingly, the one who has been the most affected by this change is Tessa.  Oddly enough though, she is the happiest about it.  She loves living with the donkeys.

Emma and Ramsey are a tight little unit and were not sure they really needed a horse in their midst.  They accept her, but remained somewhat aloof toward her at first.  That is my fault I think.  I worked so hard at keeping the horses and donkeys separate in order to protect Ramsey from Gabe that Emma no longer feels attached to Tessa and Ramsey has never learned to live with horses.  That is changing a little bit every day though.

Tessa and Gabe certainly looked like they were meant to be together and they did get along well.  However, Their personalities did not always mesh.  Gabe is the big, strapping football player who wants to hang with the guys, have wrestling matches, drink beer, watch sports, take in a game, he's a real guy's guy.  Tessa....Tessa really wants to be a donkey.

I am not picking on Gabe, you'd be hard pressed to find a sweeter, nicer horse.  Tessa is the odd-ball here, mostly because she never truly learned how to be a horse.  She was born in a fancy show barn and she and her mother were never turned out with other horses.  She was weaned young and sent off to another fancy show barn where she, once again, did not get to be out with any other horses.  Then, as a two year old, when her owner fell on hard times and passed her on, she was thrown out into an established herd of 10-12 adult horses and she had a rough time with them.  Before she ever really got that figured out, she was sold to me and had another tough introduction to the herd I had at the time, (for that story, click here).  She was just managing to feel comfortable when Sprinkle (the mare who was here) came unglued and attacked her, injuring her very badly and injuring her confidence even more.

The bottom line is, Tessa just doesn't know how to live with a horse herd.  And, while she desperately wants to be part of the herd, she is afraid to be out with other horses.  I probably would have kept Tessa with the donkeys if not for the fact that that it would have made Gabe crazy to get in with them and early on, I was worried that Tessa might try to steal Ramsey.  She wanted him for her own (and who could blame her:)).

The happiest, most relaxed time in Tessa's life to date is the year she spent living with just Emma.  Now that she is once again a lone horse living with donkeys, she is incredibly happy and relaxed.  I might just have to get her some ear extensions.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Stills - Sunsets

Someone quipped that we have only had rain twice this Spring, once for 15 days and once for 28 days.  That about sums it up.  I sure wish we could send some of it out west where they really need it.  Luckily, the sun did come out a bit so I could take it's picture for this week's photo challenge.  Not as spectacular as some, but awful nice to see.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Pied Piper

Farm Buddy, in a sing-song voice...."C'mon chickies, c'mom"

"Chickie, chickie, chickies, c'mon"

"It's supper time..."