Before we moved to the farm we had a lot of people telling us how awful it would be. How we wouldn’t have any free time because of all the work that would need doing. How I’d wish to be boarding again.
It’s a good thing that I don’t let others negativity effect me.
Since moving here I have never once regretted it. Honestly, none of the “work” has actually felt like work at all. I enjoy most things around here, but the one thing I love to do more than anything else is now the pasture.
There are so many reasons for it. It’s a great way to check out the fence line for loosening, holes or other issues. I can look over the grounds for the health of the grass, invading weeds and any potential area of harm like large rocks or sink holes.
But beyond the logical reasons for loving the task, I also just really enjoy the time spent in the tractor. The task itself requires minimal mental effort and is an instant gratification type activity. I can easily see the progress I have made and the difference in the pasture it is creating.
The four hours spent out there is a time for me to think, dream and watch the horses as they graze and interact with each other without any pressure from me. The pasture has been needing mowed every 6 weeks or so since spring. I’m not sure what the fall and winter will bring, but I’m thinking I’ll likely get one more mowing in before a long break for winter.
Any farm chores that speak to you more than others? I know plenty of people enjoy kicking stalls for similar reasons.
When we moved here in January we were a little screwed in regards to hay. We needed enough to get us through until 2017 first cutting but 2016 was a drought year and pretty much all stores were gone. I managed to find some horse quality hay and while it wasn’t the greatest, it was good enough to supplement the green fescue in the pasture. The horses ate it fine with
minimal waste but I wasn’t thrilled enough to purchase again.
Once the first cutting was made, and it was a great spring for hay around here with with a perfect combination of rain and sun, I researched a new supplier and found a guy up north by the NC/SC border. Hay was $7/bale plus a $160 delivery fee, but it showed up green and delicious. I got 50 bales and was thrilled with the quality. The horses chowed down on it and all was good.
I had a client mention that she had 1,000 bales of first cutting fescue they needed to sell to make room for their second cutting coming off the field soon. Her typical buyer is Clemson University but they started baking their own and didn’t need nay. She was selling it for $4/bale and lived only 3 miles from us. I told the hubby that it was worth a look at least as it would save us some money and we could stock up on another 50 bales. We went out a couple of weeks ago and while the bales were extremely loose (like a few completely fell apart trying to move them loose), they were green had very minimal stems and smelled like hay.
We loaded up the trailer and truck bed and filled our garage to the brim. I was happy to see a full stock of hay that I knew would last us at least through the fall.
Except I noticed the horses would not eat it. The piles I put out remain there untouched. The grass is starting to grow again with the cooler temperatures, but even the best spring grass is typically ignored for hay by our fat horses. For them to not even look our way as we put it out is odd.
So they hate it. We have plenty of the other first cutting left to feed them so it’s not an issue of not having hay to feed. The issue is what on earth I’m supposed to do with 48 bales of hay my horses won’t eat. I don’t think I can sell it. I mean my add would have to read “$4/bale fescue hay, first cutting, horse quality although my horse won’t eat it”. Who is going to buy that? It’s been such a great hay year that everyone is pretty stocked up for the year and a third cutting is basically going to waste as nobody has room for it.
I can’t keep throwing it out in the pasture just to watch it be ignored and then have to rake it back up. I have no idea why they won’t eat it. It’s green, smells like hay and has very little stems in it. It looks identical to the northern hay which is also fescue but for some reason they won’t touch it. Do I take 48 bales to the dump?
While all the rain this year has allowed the pasture to grow and the hay supply to be abundant, it has also allowed the insects to go a little wild. It is to the point where they are having issues eating their grain between stomping and biting at the nasty little buggers. I’ve also noticed that their hooves are starting to chip from the combination of being softer from all the rain and the trauma of all the stomping.
We have been spraying them with heavy duty fly spray frequently but it seems like it only works for a day and then they either sweat it off with the high temps and humidity or it rains and washes it away. Even the supposedly water proof stuff isn’t lasting more than 48 hours.
Past use of feed throughs didn’t produce any results for us and just kept Pete from eating.
I’ve started looking into fly sheets for them. Riding Warehouse has a good variety at a reasonable cost. If we go that route it has to be an open enough mesh to not cause overheating in the hot sun and high humidity. It’s in the upper 80s and low 90s and is only going to heat up from here. I’d rather them get bitten than have heat stroke. Plus most of the bugs seem to be on their legs.
That lead me to look into just getting fly boots or those newish shoo fly bags. That way the legs are protected and they won’t overheat. But I’ve never been fond of wrapping the legs up and I’ve read that people have issues keeping them on.
So that leads me to asking you all….fly sheet versus fly boots versus shoo fly versus something I haven’t thought of?? They need some relief and it is too early in the season to ignore. I don’t have a barn, so stalling them with a fan isn’t an option and Dusty looked at me weird when I suggested we buy a massive outdoor fan and put it in the pasture.
Life has been pretty stressful lately. Nothing is new there, life is always stressful, but this week it just all seemed to accumulate more than usual. Yesterday it boiled over and I just had an obscenely bad day.
By the time I got home all I wanted to do was curl up in bed in the fetal position and forget the world.
I fed the horses, poor mud covered and ignored souls, and happened to look over at the shelter. While many people tell me that their shelters remain empty even in the worst weather, my two prefer to remain out of the elements as much as possible. With all the rain we have received, they have spent hours upon hours inside staying dry. One look at the ground and I was appalled. Too much to apparently remember to snag a picture, but the ground was not only torn up but was also knee deep soupy mud.
Something needed to be done, so instead of fading into the oblivion of an early bed time I dragged the boys to Home Depot to see what we could do. I really want to put pea gravel in, but we had neither the time to dig all the way down and set the stone properly or the money to get enough to cover the 200 sq ft shelter floor.
Perfect solution? No, but I’m really hoping we eventually return to more normal rain fall amounts. Prior to the recent deluge the ground was remaining perfect in there. It’s hard to cope with the 5″ of rain we have had in the last 3 weeks.
While the boys were playing in the mud and sand, I grabbed the riding mower. The pasture is going to seed in places and the horses are just not able to keep it all eaten down which is resulting in over grazed areas and tall regions where the grass has gotten too fibery for them to want to eat. It was time to mow.
I headed into the pasture and began to mow as the sun threatened to set. About 15 minutes and a few stripes later I came to a screeching halt.
I had run out of gas. Ugh.
I left the mower in the pasture, mush to Petes delight as he promptly went over to explore, and headed to the gas station. I wanted to mow dammit.
Twenty minutes later I was back in my mower making my way up and down the pasture.
It was a little slice of heaven.
I sat on that mower as the sun set and stars peeked through the small breaks in the clouds. I listened to the songs of the birds that were loud enough to overcome the mower. I watched as Gem and Pete grazed. I breathed in the smells of freshly cut grass, clover and wild onion.
All my stress melted away. All the emotions of the day were replaced by a deep inner peace.
The boys went to bed long before and it was just me and the pasture. Mowing is an intensely satisfying activity for those who need instant gratification. Watching the pasture go from unruly to even and well kept is nearly addictive. I didn’t want to stop.
As night fell, my world shrunk to the size of the headlight and any remaining concerns about my day, life and future were eliminated. All that mattered was lining up the tracks and mowing.
Unfortunately I needed to stop eventually. I got about half way through and it took 2 hours. I was worried about running out of gas again, there is no gas gauge, and having to push the mower all the way home which is a really long way to be pushing a dead mower.
I’ll mow again tonight and finish it up if the rain holds off.
I love living on the farm. It feeds my soul. It brings me peace. It helps settle the world.
Just over a month into this whole thing and I can say without a single hesitation or fleeting doubt that I absolutely adore having the horses home.
I’ll admit to a little trepidation when it all began. Everyone kept telling me how much work it was going to be…how little time I would have for anything else…how I would miss boarding.
You know what? Everyone was dead wrong.
We have established a nice little routine: Dusty gets up earlier than I do and always takes care of breakfast and I get home from work before he does and handle dinner. We both have mentioned numerous times that we love just hanging out in the pasture with the Dynamic Duo while they eat and how relaxing it all is. Honestly, feeding them grain and hay, even including the fact we have been spoiling them with unnecessary mashes, takes all of 15 minutes and even in the pouring rain it was still an easy and enjoyable task.
I’ve already talked about how much easier riding has been. Now that it is staying light out later, I can even sneak in a ride after work once again. In addition, the money we are saving in not paying board (we already paid for grain), even with the addition of hay costs, has opened up the ability for me to take lessons – something I’ve wanted to do for forever.
Its also been nice to learn a lot more of their routines. The water tank needs topped off every 2-3 days depending on the weather. They spend the morning soaking up the early sun rays between the shelter and the fence and then after breakfast they go to the far corner to hang out and gossip with Rhino. While Gem and Pete are really great buddies, they are often grazing in separate parts of the pasture and only come together to groom or if Gem is scared of something. Gem always hides behind Pete to try to get out of work or when she is scared. Pete, on his part, is a great security guard for her.
I haven’t been home to catch them napping, which is sad. I’ve always wanted to catch them napping.
Life is really enjoyable and way less stressful now that they are home. I no longer feel guilty if I don’t ride because I see Gem constantly and pet her every day, take her out to groom and in general just hang out. Everything is just more relaxing and calmer.
Both Wyatt and Einstein have a new found freedom as well. I’ll be cooking dinner and here the quad running outside and there goes Wyatt – driving around to his hearts content. Einstein has room to run and often comes inside exhausted and flops on the couch for a nap.
This has been the best thing to happen to our little family and I catch myself often thinking how great things are right now. There is nothing I am currently pining for and wishing I had. Nothing feels missing in life.
Pasture management is an obsession of mine. When done correctly, even a smaller than preferred area for your horse can be kept lush, safe and healthy. It may take work, thought and planning, but it can be done and I find the topic to be fascinating.
Gem and Pete are on 3-4 acres. That satisfies the bare minimum for my region’s grass type, soil quality and terrain: 2 acres for the first horse and 1 acre for every horse thereafter. Your area may require more or less room depending on the above. We are fortunate that the pasture was previously used for what qualifies as hay down here and has a solid, mature root system of fescue. I prefer fescue to coastal because it grows year round, although it does need a good bit of water in the hotter months, and grows taller blades of grass.
Overall I am really happy with the soil and the grass growing on the acres we have access too. There are no hills in the pasture, but the land has a gradual slope which allows for good run off if it ever decides to rain. After a month of being on it 24/7, you can tell the horses have been grazing but there are still untouched regions and the grass has continued to grow and not be eaten down. We are only feeding 1/4 bale of hay at night and both horses have gained weight since being home. In fact, we had to cut Pete’s grain down again and I am watching Gem carefully while we get back into work.
There are two things that I don’t like: only having one pasture which eliminates the ability to rotate and rest one while they are on another (the best method to pasture management) and the vast amount of poop strewn everywhere. While I cant correct the first issue right now (plans are in motion for future use of the other 5 acre field) I can do something about the poop.
Most people will think I am being OCD or just plain nuts, but seeing all those big piles of poop in the pasture makes me itchy. A horse produces roughly 50 lbs of poop a day. They have been out there for almost 4 weeks, so they have produced roughly 2800 lbs of poop. And all that poop is in the pasture. Not only is it an eye sore, but it isn’t healthy for the horses or pasture.
The most obvious reason is the spread of parasites. Gem and Pete are not on a routine de worming program. We test a fecal sample twice a year for egg count and treat if necessary. They haven’t been positive in 2 years. I’d like to keep it that way. If they were carrying worms, allowing all that worm and egg filled poop to just lay in the pasture will spread those worms and increase the risk of reinfection. They were tested a few weeks prior to the move, so it will be very interesting to see what the fall test reveals. Big piles of poop also attract flies, their eggs and are just gross.
Another reason though, is seeds. Weed seeds that are not digested will be spread throughout the pasture putting your nice, lush grass at risk. If you have a larger area, it isn’t such a big deal, but I am working in a smaller area than I would like (I would prefer two 10 acre pastures to rotate between) and I don’t need the grass killed off.
The last big reason though has to do with the grass growth itself. Piles of poop not only kill off the grass via smothering, it also deters the horses from grazing in those spots as they go off to hunt cleaner regions. The pasture can easily become an area of rough zones, where the weeds and grass have grown tall and won’t be eaten due to the presence of manure, and lawns, areas eaten down to nothing and stunting the grass growth. Neither are good.
All that to say…I needed to do something with the 2800 lbs of poop scattered about the pasture. Most resources say to rest the pasture. Move the horses to another, drag and mow it and allow it to sit and renew while they create havoc next door. You do not want to drag or spread manure in a pasture that is being actively used. Read all the above about the spread of weed seeds and parasites.
The only option for me is to pick it out of the pasture. I probably look like an idiot to all the neighbors as I walk with wheelbarrow and pitchfork in hand, picking up poop from the pasture. It is also frustrating work since they are pooping right in front of you as you are cleaning it up, but it only took a weekend and I didn’t mind it at all.
Of course, this lead to the next dilemma: what to do with all this manure. A manure pile makes my skin crawl. I told you I am obsessed with this stuff, right? I mean, a big stinking pile of manure that attracts flies like crazy just won’t work for me. After even more research, I settled on my solution.
A compost bin. Or three.
By composting the manure, I can turn the manure plus all those darn leaves into wonderful soil. Delicious soil that can be spread on the pasture to enrich it – weed seeds and parasites are killed in the composting since it gets to about 115F when made correctly – and can put it on my flower beds as well. The enclosed system locks away odors and keep the bugs to a minimum.
It is a win-win for my little pasture OCD heart.
I only had to get the hubby to build me what I wanted and add the goodies in. I’ll post a how to shortly to show the steps of making it, but it is everything my little heart could desire.
Gem isn’t a morning horse. She showed up late to her 6:15 am breakfast with massive bedhead down the entire right side of her body and a droopy, cranky lower lip. Sorry girl. You can sleep in on the weekends like the rest of us 🙂