Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Very, Very Scary Story

"Hello blog world, Ben here.  I've heard about this blog thing for a while now, I'm a bit dubious, but I feel that it is important to tell this story so that others will be aware of a grave danger that they may encounter.

Last year, about this time, my human, who I am generally quite fond of, was possessed by a dark, evil demon who led her to do a terrible, awful thing.  

I must preface this terrible story with some facts that you may not be aware of so that you can fully comprehend the evilness of this foul deed.  Watering holes are very dangerous places for a donkey, they attract predators and one can never know just what sort of monster is lurking in those shimmery depths, just waiting for a tender, delicate muzzle to be lowered into reach of claws and teeth.  Water must always be approached with wary, careful, alertness.  

Now that you know this, imagine my horror when the water trough, our only source of life sustaining hydration, was invaded by a monstrous demon of such hideous ferocity that just the mere thought would make your ears curl.  It had a huge, gaping, black maw surrounded by terrible, fierce fangs dripping with saliva at the thought of sinking themselves into a velvety soft nose.  It was covered in flat, grey scales, the color of ugly, slow death.  Behind it was a long, slithery, snake like tail coiled all around with venomous tendrils.  

As if this were not bad enough, my human, the one Emma and the Little Brown Devil call Ma, the one, as I mentioned, I am fond of - she was taken over by this dark, fearsome spirit.  Under this foul influence, she did her best to convince me that the monster was harmless!  

She succeeded in this awful plan with the others of my herd.  They fell, one-by-one, under her tainted spell.  I was not surprised when the horse gave in, she has impaired auditory senses after all.  She is only a horse and can't be blamed for her failings, but the other donkeys....Oh, the terror of it all.  

It was a dark, dark time indeed.

Fortunately, I was able to holdfast to my true donkey nature and eventually, it broke through the noxious spell that had been laid upon my human.  She finally shrugged off the evil taint and, with her help, we were able to banish the monster back down into the lowest regions of Hell from whence it had spawned!

I tell you this story as a warning so that you will be aware of this danger and can recognize it when you see it.  My fellow equines, do not let your guard down! These monsters can creep into your world and you must remain ever vigilant.  Keep a sharp eye on your humans, lest they be taken over by the demons and start placing these items in your water.  BE CAREFUL!!!

So that you can more easily recognize the demon, I have convinced to human to include a photo of it.  This may be hard to look at, but for your own sake, I beg you, do not turn away!"

Blogger's note: For anyone who may not recognize these, they are stock tank heaters that keep the herd's water from freezing in the winter.  They are both new.  I gave up on the grey demon on the left after two weeks and bought the red one.  I was finally able to convince Ben that the red heater would not eat him.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall Frenzy

I took this last week off from my job in order to do some real work and to try and finish all the many projects I got myself into this Fall.  Despite the nice weather we have had, I can feel the icy breath of Old Man Winter breathing down my neck.  I am sore, tired and the past week is already fading into a blur, but I did get a lot done....

Finished the roof:

Two out of three sides:

Re-leveled and replaced the posts, repaired the windows and got them closed for the season, (just in time):

Rain gutter, I hope it survives the snow, but I have my doubts:

Very sweet new farrier client who came up suddenly lame a couple weeks ago with laminitis trouble.  She got a trim and wraps followed by bloodwork and padded hoof casts.  Glad to say Rosie is feeling better and will, hopefully, continue on to a complete recovery.  She has a super cute donkey boyfriend named Al who is lending his donkey healing vibes so she is in good hands.

  • A sheep sorting chute in FB's barn
  • A day working with Tessa and Riding Buddy because Tessa's brain has turned into mush living with her new boyfriend.  Isn't that always the way?
It is now pouring rain with up to 5 inches predicted for tonight and tomorrow with high winds.  All the new gravel, gutters, posts, siding and roofing will be getting a good test.  Old Man Winter is closing in fast.

The Glow Worm

A guest post from Farm Buddy:

Okay, blog readers, this is the big day….Now I know Sara from Punkin’s Patch is going to try and tell you that it is National Hug a Sheep Day, and that may be true, but most importantly, today is Scout’s birthday, and he is 15 years old!!!!! 

(I don't recommend anyone trying to hug Scout, he is a grumpy old man and he will bite you.)

Is that a milestone or what? Not only is he fifteen, he is active! He greeted his morning and evening hikes with enthusiasm! He had a definite dog trot AND he carried a big stick both times! Not many 15-year-old dogs will do that!  

Oh, I admit Scout is not without a few problems; I have to be careful to make sure he doesn’t fall when getting out of bed in the morning, and he can be a bit unsteady crossing rock walls, but he really is in remarkable condition for a dog his age. Kris did have to get him a glow-in-the-dark collar so I can find him after dark.  He likes to go wandering about in the evening and he is rather deaf so it was hard to keep track of him.  Now, he looks like a glow-worm wandering about the yard.  He has an insatiable appetite for just about any type of food, and he is still able to keep all of the other dogs in line, even big Bess. No one argues with him, including me! So here’s hoping he can make it to the big 16, as my world will definitely not be as bright without him. 

Scout comes from a litter of seven pups, all males, and he still has one surviving brother, Moss, who lives in Massachusetts with the kind woman that raised the litter. Scout and I want to wish Moss a very happy birthday too. We also want to always remember the brothers who have passed, Tanner, Gyp, Dru, Beck, and one that I am not positive of his name, but I think it was Barley. Of these brothers, Scout and I were closest with Tanner, whom of course you all knew, and we miss Tanner very much and always will.

Now hopefully Ms. Dancing Donkey can come up with some appropriate pictures to acknowledge this extraordinary occasion!!

Friday, October 27, 2017

You're doing WHAT?

This Fall has brought a very rare stretch of beautiful, dry weather.  I'm not sure if it is this weather or just a lingering sense of frustration on many fronts that has pushed me into tackling some big projects that I have been putting off for some time.  Most of those, I have already written about, like the new shed, the gravel and the flooring projects. 

There was one other big project that has been nagging at me for several years now.  I've tried to hire someone to do this project, but every contractor I've talked to about it has taken one look and then disappeared off the planet.  I can only assume that either there is a voracious black hole that only eats contractors or they just don't want any part of my projects.  I suppose I should try to be understanding as I have gotten dubious looks from just about everybody on this one...

"Seriously Ma, you're gonna do WHAT?"

I guess I'm the only one who doesn't think this is crazy.  I'm afraid to think about what that means. 

Honestly though, it's not that crazy.  All I had to do was cut off the posts holding up the side of my barn, dig some deeper holes under them and put some new posts in their place without letting the roof fall on my head.

No big deal.

OK, so it was kind of a big deal and there were some dark moments.  You may ask why I would do such a crazy thing?  The answer is that these post, like those on my deck, heaved badly a few years ago and they get worse every winter since then.  The only way to keep the whole shed roof from tearing itself apart was to fix it.  I rented the big digger machine again to help with the holes...

I did have some willing volunteers, at least until the real work started and then they remembered some crucial sunbathing they absolutely needed to get to.
Everything went well at first.  However, I dug down about three feet (which was about how deep the old posts were) and I hit a layer of impenetrable hardpan that the excavator WOULD. NOT. DIG THROUGH..

Most people stop when they hit hardpan and just set the posts on top of it.  That's what happened the first time and it seems reasonable.  Hardpan is REALLY hard and should not move.  Setting posts on it even works in most places.  But not here.

That is how I found myself, with a badly pulled chest muscle, after hours of hard labor, crouched in the bottom of a deep, dank trench at 11:30 at night with a hammer and bar literally chiseling holes for my posts.  I actually ran out of swear words.  Can you believe it? 

Eventually, a little brown nose poked its way into the hole and whuffled at my hair.  I took a few minutes to rub that silky, soft muzzle from this novel angle and try to remind myself exactly why I have a barn in the first place.

It helped.

I will spare you the rest of the gory details, they are mostly a blur anyway.  Suffice it to say that the posts are now 5 feet deep - buried in the hardpan.  The roof-line and the wall are level again and the windows function once more.  The building did not fall down, I managed to get out of the holes and the new posts are set. 

The only real casualty of this endeavor seems to be the camera.  I forgot I had it in my pocket and all the dirt that got into it when I slither/fell into the holes seems to have done it in, which is why you don't get any pictures of this mess. 

I have some gutter to put up to get the water away from the posts and the barn and I still have to finish filling in the holes (there is another odd phenomena up here - you can dig a hole, which will be mostly rock, and then not have enough dirt or rock to fill the hole back in.  I have no idea where the original contents of the hole disappear to, but it happens all the time.  Come to think of it, the soil probably goes down the same black hole that contractors get swallowed into).  Otherwise, I am calling it a success (for now, we'll see how it fares over the winter). 

I also made a decision while I was chiseling hardpan at the bottom of a hole:  when one of these crazy projects finally does me in, I do not want to be buried.  I do not want all my bodily fluids sucked out and replaced with toxic chemicals so I can be crammed into a nasty little box and buried in the cold, dank ground.  A nice quick incineration would be much better thank you.  Spread my ashes on the wind and let them go where they may.

Farm Buddy gets my dog, the cat and my tractor.  Riding Buddy gets Tessa and the donkeys.  My sister gets the toy trucks and the three of you can sell everything else and split the proceeds. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Cat Thing

How's that cat thing go...if you're too busy and tired to write a real post, put up pictures of the cat?  Well, here she is.  You'll notice that Kipper has been hard at work getting ready for winter as well, I think she's gained five pounds.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Quick Updates

Tessa is doing very well down at Riding Buddy's place.  According to RB, she and Hawkeye are like an old married couple already, they hang out together all the time.  Tess is very relaxed, but is interested in all the goings on down there.  She is enjoying all the new scenery and all the extra attention.  Her diet is also starting off well, although she might not agree with that.  She is not thrilled by the grazing muzzle, but is getting the hang of it.  I think her only real frustration is that she can't reach over the fence and eat all the really good grass like she was used to doing here, which is why all diet attempts failed for her here.

The donkeys do not seem bothered by her absence.  They are kind of like a group of kids who get to stay home alone for the first time.  Every morning, I get up and find them all sleeping in the barn together.  Ben has taken over all of Tessa's favorite spots, Ramsey has moved back into his favorite places and Emma just rolls her eyes at the foolishness of boys.

All quiet on the Eastern front at this point. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Tectonic Shift

A truly major shift has occurred on my farm, one that I never envisioned.  If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is to never say never.

Riding Buddy and I have been talking about this shift for well over a year.  With Izzy's passing last week, Hawkey was left with no herd at all and, somewhat to my own surprise, I have decided to let Tessa go down to Riding Buddy's place to keep him company.  RB needs another horse to work with and keep Hawkeye company.  She also needs it to be a good, sound, young horse, who will be both fun and safe, which is a very rare combination.  Tessa fits that bill.

I have not been able to do much riding this summer for a variety of reasons and Tessa needs more exercise.  She also enjoys getting out and doing things.  RB's place is only a mile away and we should be able to ride out together from her farm easier than the two of us riding out alone to meet in the middle.  We hope that we will actually be able to ride more this way.  I will have one less critter to care for over the winter, the donkeys will have more room in the barn, Hawkeye will have a friend, Tessa will get to hang out with her boyfriend and (hopefully) get more exercise and RB will have another good horse to work with.

It should be a win-win for all of us.

It is a good plan and I think it will work out well, but it is a monumental shift in my world.  Horses have been central to my life for as long as I can remember.  If you had said to me 10 years ago that I would look out to my barn and find three donkeys and no horses, I'd have suggested heavy medication and therapy.  It is a jolt to walk into my tack room and not see a saddle.  It is even more of a jolt to walk to the barn and not hear Tessa's unique and distinctive wuffling, warbling nicker or look out my window and not see a horse. 

The donkeys are doing their best to convince me that no horses are needed.  They miss Tessa a bit, but Ben and Ramsey have been vying for her favorite corner in the barn all day.  Without her wading through their ranks, they feel even freer to crowd around me, demanding attention, affection and entertainment.

Tessa will be sporting a grazing muzzle just like Hawkeye's, maybe she will even lose a bit of weight.  One can always hope.

Last night, I spent a couple of hours repairing my manure spreader and all three donkeys were there for every scintillating moment.  Tessa would have eventually gotten bored and wandered off.  The donkeys didn't want to miss a single swear word, not even the ones directed at them when I tripped over one of them. 

I would never let Tessa stay with just anybody and I wouldn't put her with any other horses.  She is not happy being out with most horses and does not feel safe with them, but she has known Hawkeye for a long time and has always been very enamored with him.  While she will miss her donkeys, I believe she will enjoy staying with him and it is good for her to be around other horses.

All-in-all, I think this will be good for everyone.  It will just take me a while to adjust to this massive change in the world's geography. 

A Long, Quiet, Sweet Goodbye

My friend Riding Buddy said goodbye to an old friend, Izolde, on Thursday.  I have not written much about this mare as she has been retired for many years now.  Her only job has been to keep Hawkeye and the rest of the family company. 

Izolde (or Izzy), came to Riding Buddy 26 years ago from an Arabian breeding farm that became defunct and abandoned all the horses.  Long-time horse people will remember a crazy "bubble" of Arabian breeding during the eighties with Arab horses selling for tens of thousands, even millions of dollars and all the craziness that accompanies such things.  When the bubble inevitably burst, those same horses could barely be given away.  Riding Buddy and several of her friends all adopted some of these horses, saving them from starvation.  Izzy was one of the last of the group to still be alive. 

She was also one of the luckiest ones.  Izzy has lived her whole life since that day on the same farm.  She has been a beloved, pampered Princess her whole life.  Few horses are ever so fortunate.

However, in the past few years, age has been taking its toll.  Izzy lost most of her teeth and has been living on soaked hay cubes and senior feed.  Most of all though, it was her joints that failed her, especially her left knee.  What was once straight and strong had become bent and broken.

We've known for quite a while that this would be Izzy's last summer.  Her joints had failed to the point that no amount of pampering, medication or therapy could make up for the pain they were causing.  While the weather remained good, she was still able to get around and enjoy ruling her kingdom.  There is no way though that she would be able to manage even a small amount of snow. 

As all of us animal lovers must do at some point, we agonized over this decision.  Weighing the good against the bad, measuring quality versus quantity, trying to reconcile our own wishes with the needs of a friend in pain.  Finally, it was time and you could see it.

So, on a lovely Fall day, with all her friends and family around her, we said goodbye to Izolde.  Quietly, sweetly, with thanks and love we gave Izzy the last, kindest gift we have to offer. 

Goodbye Izzy-belle.  Thanks for deigning to share yourself with us lesser beings for so many good years.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

And Done

This whole gravel/rubber mat project has morphed into a far bigger job than I initially intended.  I have never been good at half-measures though.  Since I had a bit more gravel than I had landscape fabric for, I had the rest put near the barn so I could extend the very first project a bit further.  This included pulling all the mats out of the storage shed and adding a couple inches of gravel in here because water tends to puddle in here and cause problems.

I seriously thought about making Ben help me to move the mats, but I couldn't think of a good way to attach him (or the ATV) to the mats.  With heavy rain on the horizon, I couldn't take the time anyway so it was just Me, Myself and I with a bit of moral support from the herd.  They volunteered to keep the mats from moving on their own and escaping.

There was also one really big, brown rock that I just could not manage to rake smooth no matter how hard I tried.  The more I raked this rock, the more raking it needed.

It doesn't really look much different, but there is another 3-4 inches of gravel in the shed.

Which meant it was time to put the mats back and add a couple new ones.

Rubber mats and gravel really are great things, but I don't want to have to move either for a very, VERY long time.

Special thanks to Marco and Mina for the mats and Dave for the back-blade.  Now all I need is some Aleve, a hot tub and a really good chiropractor.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Project Runway

Seeing as how the weather stayed dry and I had a way to move gravel, I went all out and ordered not one, but TWO more loads of gravel. 

One truck load was more of the crusher-run gravel that I put around the barn.  This is a mix of crushed stone, stone dust and sand.  It is what most of the gravel roads and driveways in the area are made of.  It will pack down tight and become a fairly solid surface. 

I've had several people ask me about what kind of gravel to use.  This varies so much depending on your region that telling you that I used crusher-run may be of no use to you.  However, if you are battling mud, you will need some kind of crushed stone mix that will pack down.  If you want your gravel to pack in hard, then you need finely crushed stone or stone dust.  If you want it to remain loose, you do not want it crushed.  Unless you are trying to fill deep ditches, you want small stone, not a bunch of baseball sized rocks rolling around under your feet and hooves.  Generally, look for #1 or, at most, #2 stone, no larger. 

The very best thing for hoof health is a 3-4" layer of pure pea stone, which is nothing but very small, pea-sized stones:

Pea stone has a polishing effect on hooves that helps keep the walls short while the depth of the stone layer encourages sole growth. 

If you are looking to install some gravel, call around to the different gravel pits in your area and find out what is available at each.  They will vary a lot in price and product even in a fairly small area.  The loads I brought in cost about $240 each, but I had one place quote me a price of $850 for the same thing.  I told those folks to have a nice day and got off the phone real quick.

I put down a layer of crusher-run to combat mud and a layer of pea stone to the drier area to help with hoof health.  The two loads have made a sort of runway that is about 250 feet long.  I will narrow the fence along the runway so that the herd will have to use it to reach the rest of the pasture. 

More important than the kind of gravel you use is what you put underneath it.  If you put the gravel over bare dirt it will mix with that dirt and simply disappear into the mud within a year or two.  If you happen to have a bulldozer lying around and can afford to truck in lots of gravel, then you can peel the topsoil off with the dozer and replace it with gravel as long as there is solid hardpan under the topsoil. This is a big endeavor beyond many of us and isn't necessarily what you want in a pasture.

A better option for most equine owners is to put down a layer of heavy landscape fabric and put the gravel over that. The fabric prevents the gravel from mixing with the soil so that the gravel stays in place instead of getting sucked into the void.  They say that a layer of fabric is worth 20 inches of gravel.  I'm not sure about that, but if you want your gravel to last, this is a must in wet areas.

Pea gravel that I will spread out into 3-4" Layer to form a hoof-i-ciser:

The models scoping out the runway...

Ready for takeoff...

We're expecting heavy rain tomorrow so I guess we will get to see how it all works fairly quickly. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Why Chromosome

Part B of the gravel project was to level out the floor in the tack/feed room so that I can put down some rubber mats that another friend gave me when they sold their farm recently.  This is a big, messy job that I have been putting off for some time.  Having the mats and being able to bring in gravel finally pushed me into action.

It's a big job because I first have to take everything out of the tack room before I can even start on the hard work.  Of course, I did have help for this endeavor, lots of help....

Oddly enough, Ben was the first inspector to show up.  I don't know how he did it, but he managed to sneak right by Ramsey and then tip-toe past my shoulder when my back was turned for a second.  I turned around and there he was. 

Don't let those innocent looks deceive you, Ben can be a very sly, sneaky devil when the mood, and the opportunity, strikes.

Of course, Ramsey was not far behind.  I think he was a bit embarrassed that Ben had beat him inside.  I generally have to take elaborate measures to keep the Little Brown Brat out of here and to have been caught napping when the Gates of Heaven suddenly opened all by themselves....how utterly mortifying. 

Ramsey knows where every particle of food is kept in here and he knows how to open the door and all the containers.  If I leave the door open even a quarter of an inch, he'll have his nose deep in the feed and I have to pry him out - literally - pry his nose out of the bucket.

Since all the goodies had been removed, I let them in to explore all they wanted.  Ramsey was further disappointed and disgusted to find no gold inside Fort Knox.  Imagine all the hours he has spent scheming and dreaming of ways to break in only to find nothing but dust and cobwebs once his greatest goal had been reached.

Poor little Ramsey, he has been sulking just a bit.

Apparently, breaking into Fort Knox is something only the boys have been dreaming of.  Neither Emma or Tessa were much interested in this project.  They both came by, peeked in and left with a disinterested shrug.  I guess this is a job that only appeals to the Why Chromosome. 

Now that the new floor is in, it's time to bring all the goodies back and always remember to double check that the door is locked.  You really have to keep a careful watch on those Why Chromosomes.