Farm life

I Need a Weekend After Last Weekend

Phew! What a weekend we had! Life on the farm has been slowly getting into a routine which generally involves one weekend inside (cleaning, grocery shopping, fixing things), the next outside (mowing, barn chores, fence fixing), the third doing something fun with Wyatt (beach trip, hiking, swimming) and the last I’m too tired to move and remain lazily in the hammock.

This past weekend was farm weekend and it was a doozy.

It started with an early morning ride on Cruze Saturday. I’ll get more into him in another post but he was an absolute angel from tacking to riding to untacking. He was the horse I tested and fell in love with. Tough love for the win.

Still love this big orange beastie

After that it was time to tackle the tack room move. The office is nice because it has a ceiling and door plus is right next to the cross ties at the entrance to the barn. I started clearing out all the garbage tack left behind by the old owners.

Old, dirty halters, tack and a random saddle all went to the local dump
Dust and dirt covered everything. I bet it hadn’t been touched in 10 years

Then it was scrubbing the floor, ceiling and walls with the broom. If the main electric box wasn’t exposed I would have brought the hose in but electrocuting myself wasn’t on the to do list.

So much nicer!
Clean and organized

With that done I mixed up bleach water and wiped everything down that I could. It was so much nicer than when I started. My next step was to clean all my tack in the current room, but I needed to stop when the hay guy texted me to say he was coming in.

So…I may have no idea how much hay we need. I ordered 150 bales and it didn’t sound like much but when I saw the truck pull in I gasped.

Gorgeous, green, fragrant hay. The gang were up in the pasture by the road and saw the truck pull down the drive. Gem, my typically stoic mare, started neighing loudly and pacing by the gate. Nevermind she was standing in lush green grass. 

Dusty made fun of me the entire time we moved and stacked it. One for ordering so much hay for three horses on enough pasture with winter grass that we likely won’t feed hay at all and two for cheaping out on $0.50 a bale ($75 total) and not paying them to bring someone to stack it for us. Moving 15,000 pounds of hay in 90% humidity is no joke. Note to self: in three years when I need hay again, pay to have them stack it.

Wyatt helped by rolling bales down the aisle which was no small feat for a 57 lb kid to do with 100 lb bales.

By the time we finished that chore I was done for the day. Wiped out. Kaput. We had to run some errands and I was planning a landscaping project at my office, but there was no way that was going to happen. Instead we ate tacos at the new taco place in town which is my new obsession. Bang bang shrimp tacos forever. It helped that our waiter took our order and then went home leaving us behind. After waiting 30 minutes we asked a random waitress to find our waiter and when they realized he left, the manager came over and comped our entire meal plus gave Wyatt desert. Free tacos are even better.

Sunday was mowing day. Thankfully the pastures don’t need it as the big one is resting, but it still takes three solid hours to do the “yard”. Dusty hopped on the tractor and bush hogged the next section to be added as pasture. Next step for him is fencing. He is a bit mad at me at the moment as I’ve changed the pasture plans to make three instead of two but the horses aren’t using the pasture space by the pond and I keep having to mow it and then watch it get unused. The new plan is to cut off the back pond pasture from the large one, then take out the lane between it and the second pond pasture making that one large back pasture. It will give us three pastures to rotate.

The gang watches everything we do

After spending the morning mowing I declared the afternoon fun time and spent it at my parents’ house playing cards and joking around. I was exhausted, dehydrated and sore but it was good to knock so much hard work off the list. We have visitors coming in a couple of weeks, so our normal life rotation will be thrown off as we clean the house getting ready, but having them here will force us to stop working and relax a bit which is never a bad thing.

Farm life

The Arena Project That Will Not End

I have only one piece of advice for any would be farm owners: either buy a place with no arena and budget to put one in or buy a place with a pristine arena. Never, ever buy a place with an arena that needs renovated. The work never ends.

When I last left off I had been raking by hand for like an eternity, ok it was closer to 20 hours but it felt like an eternity, and cashed my chips in to hire a professional. Professional came on a weekday when I was at work and dug everything up removing the big clumps as he went.

When I got home the arena looked like this

And we had a new play area for Wyatt

Yup. That’s all the garbage he took out of the arena. No way I was going to get that out by hand raking before I died. He charged us just over $1,000 and left me with an arena free of major clumps and needing some grading and smoothing work. Since our groomer does that, I didn’t really want to pay him to do it.

The next weekend I got in there with the groomer and had a semi finished arena that was smooth, but still needed some leveling work as the extra footing he added was too thick in one region and the entire rim by the fence was pretty thin.

If you look closely you can see where I piled up the extra footing and planned to move it all towards the left side of the arena where it was pretty sparse.

Except then I needed to mow the pastures and we only have one tractor which meant taking the groomer off and changing it out for the bush hog. After 10 days went past I saw that while 3/4s of the arena still looked gorgeous, the far left side from front to back was back to growing grass.

I muttered many choice words about the old owner not dragging the damn thing in six years and went about spending three hours putting round up on the grass. Two days later I went back in with the groomer to rip up the dead grass and move footing around.

Then it rained me out and it is about 90% done as of today. With thunderstorms in the forecast the rest of the week this thing won’t be getting done anytime soon. The good news is that while there are a few deep spots and thin areas, the arena is 100% rideable and since I now know every inch of t like the back of my hand it is really easy to go around the few remaining deeper areas.

I started the renovation back in March. It is now May. I won’t have it done to the point that I want it at until June. And even then I have the feeling that we will be fighting this for years until I can afford to just rip the entire thing out and have someone come in and redo it all. The biggest issue is that I don’t think it was put in correctly in the first place. There is no true “base” with drainage and gravel. The good thing is that the arena dries up very quickly and doesn’t really puddle anywhere. Even after a hard storm it is dry and rideable within a day. But the lack of a true base allows vegetation to grow pretty quickly.

I think the old owners just graded a section flat and smothered it with sand figuring nothing would grow through it all. Wrong.

But I have a working arena again and a safe place to ride. Well, minus the massive hole in the arena fence where I may have ran the bucket on the tractor through it. We won’t talk about that though.

Now if the rain could just go away until I’m back at work I could ride the new guy in there!

Farm life

Arena Renovation Part 2

Yard work doesn’t bother me in general. Weeding, mowing, planting, cleaning stalls. I can find pleasure in it all.

Except raking. I despise raking. Not only is the actual act of raking annoying but then you need to pick up all those piles and figure out what to do with them. Raking is a never ending project. I hates it.

Once the arena was fully torn up, it was time to tackle all those clumps of grass and weeds. They needed removed and this has to be done by hand. With a rake.

No joke, literally 20 hours of hand raking through all the clumped sand to pull out the grass and weeds left me with all of 1/32nd of the total arena done. It looked super nice in the tiny corner I finished. At that rate I might have a workable arena again by next spring. If I’m lucky.

The bottom left corner of the arena is what I accomplished in 20 hours of raking. I still needed to go back through the corner again to rip up the remaining grass. It was disheartening. 

This wasn’t going to work. Sure the footing was looking amazing and I was getting some baller abs from all the raking, shoveling and scooping, but every time I looked up and saw the hundreds of hours still ahead of me I wanted to die a little.

It was time for a plan B: use the front loader of the tractor and just scoop the crud out.

While this method proved to be quick and way less work, it also was removing too much. The entire effort was in retaining as much of the sand footing as possible while still removing the crud and this method was removing everything.

I hopped off the tractor and sighed. Not going to work.

It was on to plan C: use the grooming fork part of the drag to break up the clumps of sand as much as possible in an attempt to lessen the amount of raking.

This proved a good compromise. The rake broke up the major piles and spread them thinner so it was quicker and easier to hand rake through. I started attacking the arena with a new vigor.

Then 10 more hours later I looked up and saw I had completed roughly 1/16th of the arena and the other half I had yet to touch at all was regrowing grass as my pulled up clumps had re rooted. Add in a ton of rain killing off days or weeks at a time where the arena couldn’t be worked and this entire project was seeming a bit daunting.

On to plan D: call in a professional.

Farm life

Naming the Farm

Having a farm name has always been a dream of mine. Something about naming the place makes it feel more permanent, more special. Like even when we eventually leave for whatever reason, perhaps it would still live on and people would remember us. Or the new owner could do what I did…rename it. But I won’t think about that.

Wyatt cleans Nashville’s stall every week. We ended up getting a pitch fork and sawing off the handle to make it his size. He is very proud of himself for caring for his pony.

Coming up with a name was a lot harder than I thought. Reading through various websites with tips and tricks, it quickly became obvious that there were a few main ways to go about it.

  1. Use your name. Borkosky Farm. Ick.
  2. Copy your favorite farm name from a book or movie. I’m not into copying things outright.
  3. Go humorous. Get Off My Lawn Farm nearly became a reality. It was really close and had Dusty been on board the discussion would have ended there.
  4. Use the defining feature of the place. Hmmmm….
  5. Make it a memorial. A Gem of a Farm. Except I find that creepy.
Waggy hiding in the shade on a warm day last month.

Number 4 seemed like the best bet, but what really is the defining feature of our place? We don’t have mountain views or ocean front property. There isn’t a pretty brook or stoney ridge. No meadow of spring flowers. There is a massive magnolia tree, but we plan on cutting that down before it falls on the house.

He also brings Nash in from the pasture nearly every night for dinner and returns him after.

I knew I wanted a pretty name. I love this planet and everything it offers us and I wanted the farm to have a pretty and nature based name that was also representative of the property.

I wracked my brain. Name it after the pond? Sparkling Pond Farm. Eh. Not so great. Hidden Waterfall Ranch. Maybe, but again neither of those things defined the place.

Then I landed on it.

Waggy’s version of being a lap dog. She either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that she can’t fit.

What we have here is a whole lot of grass. Big sweeping pastures. And then even more grass.

Light bulb!!!

Moonlit Pastures.

Concise. Calls up a beautiful image in your mind. Pays respect to the property itself.

Perfect.

So everyone….welcome to Moonlit Pastures!!!

Farm life, Uncategorized

Arena Renovation Part The First

When we bought the farm we knew we would need to purchase two big pieces of equipment and put another on a wish list: a new mower, an arena drag, and a manure spreader (on the wish list). Once the arena started turning green we needed to make a decision to either help it go all grass or bring it back to its intended sandy state.

Gross an not particularly safe either

While I don’t mind grass arenas when done right, this one wasn’t built for that and I was growing increasingly concerned with the footing getting compacted down with each progressive flooding rain and drying out. Her prior hoof prints were starting to be like cement and it was only a matter of time until the footing became unsafe to ride in. Gem is sound and happy but she is also going to be 20 this year and I want to protect her legs and feet as much as possible. I was dying to get in there and fluff up that footing.

But first we needed the equipment. Dusty did all the research. I just signed the 1 year loan papers. He chose an ABI TR3 E series arena drag due to its ability to not only drag and groom the arena, but allow us to do the renovation part as well.

Fresh out of the shipping crate

It showed up Monday afternoon and as soon as I got home I hopped on the tractor and headed to the arena. Probably not the smartest move since rain was forecasted all day Tuesday and the arena would be out of action for a while, but it needed done and I was too excited to wait.

Swoon

The drag has five different parts all used for different reasons. It came with an awesome little book that went over the set up, the parts and how to use it for all sorts of reasons. Thankfully it had a whole section on removing vegetation, just what I needed to do!

All parts needed raised so that only the very front bar was in play and it recommended setting it to a depth of 1″ to remove the grass at the roots but avoid any penetration into the base layer. We followed the protocol and I held my breath as I engaged it hoping I wasn’t about to ruin everything.

The first pass through had me grinning like a fool. I have no idea why this sort of stuff makes me so darn happy. The bar was doing exactly what it was supposed to: remove the grass at root level.

The first swipe through all that ugly weedy grass. You can see Pete in the background coming to investigate the open arena gate. 

It took a bit of playing around to figure out how to best maneuver the drag and deal with the build up of grass and dirt as it collected on the bar. At first I tried stopping, raising it up, and then backing up but this just left huge piles. I finally perfected when to raise it up and for how long to let it slowly drop the clumps over a larger swath which was easier to then go back over again.

Cutting right below the root system to remove the grass and leave the footing mostly intact. 

It took 4 hours to do the entire arena to my level of satisfaction. Overall I am very pleased with the outcome. The more mature and solid grass in the corners didn’t all come up, but I wasn’t really expecting it to. The directions specifically said to kill it with Round Up first which I obviously didn’t do. We have a disc we can hook up to the tractor for those areas and I’ll go over them again.

And then all three entered the arena, of course with Nash staring at me the entire time. In retrospect I probably could have put them in the arena for a few days first to eat it down and then got busy…but impatience. 

Next up will be going over it with the grooming rake to collect the clumps of grass and get rid of them. I’m not looking forward to that at all. It will take a ton of wheelbarrow loads to get rid of it all.

The end product: clean sandy foot
Thankful I had lights to work under. You can see the tracts the blade made and the build up between them. This process was solely aimed at getting rid of the vegetation

After we pick up all that loose grass and deal with the corners, it will be on to step 2: grading

Looking more like an arena now. It did cross my mind when I was about half way through that summer, when I don’t ride due to the heat, may have been a better time than spring. But the footing was really starting to worry me, so I had no real choice. 
Farm life, Uncategorized

Farm Life Upgrade

Dusty traded an ACL repair on a Boykin for a riding mower when we first moved to the rental. A much better deal than the time he traded a cat neuter for a chocolate milkshake. I used the rider to mow the 3 acre pasture and it did a good, but slow job. The pasture was a near perfect rectangle and still took 6 hours to do. It also ended up in the shop twice because really the little machine wasn’t made to handle that much grass.  I was really worried when we purchased 30 acres of mostly grass. No way could the rider handle it and even if it could it would take me a month to get it done just in time to start all over again.

The view from my small riding mower at the rental 

During farm shopping we had noticed that a lot of the sellers were willing to sell their tractor as well although most wanted way more than the machine was worth. Fortunately for us, the farm we ended up buying also offered up a tractor, but this time we managed to bargain for a great deal. It also came with a ton of accessories with a bush hog being the only one I knew what to do with.

My new machine. So much bigger. So much more power!

A few Saturdays back I got Dusty to show me how to use it and got busy mowing the large pasture. The new spring growth was being choked out by old, dead bermuda grass that the sellers never mowed and I was worried it wouldn’t grow in very well if not cut back. Plus there were a lot of tall grasses and weeds that needed cut back as well. The weather was gorgeous and Dusty and Wyatt were busy fishing at the pond, so there wasn’t a better time for it.

My new view. Upgrades all around 🙂

The 20 acre pasture took roughly 5 hours to do, all the while Dusty and Wyatt were fishing which is a miracle to get my 5 year old to do anything for that long, and looked near orgasmic by the time I was finished. I love a nicely mowed pasture, folks. The horses really appreciated it as well once they stopped being pissed that I interrupted their afternoon nap time. After I was done I saw them start to graze in parts they had previously ignored now that the green grass was accessible.

Gem and Pete rarely get bothered by anything I do these days. In fact, more often they are being a pain in my butt by refusing to move out of my way. Nash on the other hand was very concerned and watched me the entire time. He will learn. I’m very glad we have Pete and Gem to show him that things like this just aren’t worth getting upset about. 

I didn’t get the other side of the property done as it rained all the next day making it not possible and ever since then it has rained buckets. Now that it has stopped the ground needs a bit of time to firm back up. I’m hoping that happens before I need to redo this side all over again.

My favorite hat blew off my head. It landed on top of the bush hog and promptly got eaten. I may have cried. 

It was so nice having a real machine made for the job at hand though. Our little rider broke down for good which means we need to get one of those now as well and we are looking a the zero turn models. We have a lot of grass areas outside the pastures that needs mowed.

Death by bush hog. RIP.

Depending on bow fun the new mower is, I may or may not let Dusty use it 🙂 I really love mowing. There is just something about the monotony, the peaceful solitude and the instant gratification of seeing row upon row or gorgeously cut grass that gets to me. I think I’m becoming old.

Farm life, Uncategorized

TSC Pellitized Bedding

Time and money are always in short supply and with the new farm it seems like everything is an experiment on what will work out in our given situation. My latest quest was to find a bedding solution that I didn’t hate.

There is a Tractor Supply less than 1/4 mile from my office which makes it super convenient to use as my major farm supply store.  For the first 6 weeks on the farm, we used their premium pine shavings at $5.48 per bag. It took two bags per stall to get a decent amount of depth. If they were spending the entire night inside, I’d have used three bags per stall.

The shavings were ok. They smelled good, had zero dust and the bags were super easy to store and use. But they were very wasteful and basically required me to strip the entire stall each week to bare mats and use Lyme to help dry them out faster and neutralize any odor that remained. I was making 12 wheel barrow trips each week I cleaned the stalls and dumping in two fresh bags per stall to start all over. It made me die a little inside every time I threw out perfectly good, clean shavings with the bad as they were too big to shift through the pitchfork.

I needed an alternative.

The hubby contacted a local saw mill to check with them. they deliver 18 yards of saw dust for $205. Nothing comes close to that price and the dust is small particle. The issue was that they only deliver during our working hours and storage of that much saw dust. Yeah, we have plenty of empty stalls to use, but the dump truck couldn’t fit inside the barn and that is a ton of wheel barrow trips to transport it from the dump site to a stall. I wanted to run out of other options before doing that.

Which brought me to the TSC Pellitized Bedding. It was on sale for 2/$11 which is basically the exact same price as the premium shavings, so we gave it a go.

Now…don’t be like me. I did zero research and ended up buying way too few bags to start requiring a second trip to the store and I had no idea how to use them so…um…I just dumped it on the floor and shook my head wondering why anyone thought it was a good idea to put hard pellets down. Not only is it not comfortable looking, but those things roll around and all I could imagine was a broken leg and a cast horse who fell in the stall.

I use the wheel barrow after I’m done cleaning the stalls to dump the new bag and soak. It looks a lot like grain fresh from the bag. 

Turns out there is a process to using them. Oops. I did research it before bringing the horses in and remedied my error quickly.

How do they stack up?

When on sale the price per bag is the same as the shavings and I have yet to purchase any more when not on sale so I don’t know the actual cost. I think it was $1 off per bag. It took five bags per stall to initially bed it down to the depth I was happy with, so that is an additional nine bags up front cost. They still come in super easy to store and handle bags which is nice and they live in the hay stall.

Pre soaking. This gives yo a reference for how much it will expand. They say online to add a gallon of water er 40 lb bag, but I just use the hose and fill it up. I’ve yet to use too much water, but I am sure you can ruin the entire bag if you do. 

The savings has come in the weekly cleaning. The particles are super fine and basically I feel like I am in a giant cat litter box sifting through for the dry and liquid waste. It even clumps with urine like cat litter does. There is next to no waste which has reduced my wheel barrow loads from 12 down to 7 which is a big time saver as well as reduction to my manure pile (which I hate with an unhealthy passion, but needs to exist until I can save up to buy a manure spreader). Since there is no waste, I can top of each stall when finished picking and have so far only needed one extra bag total a week to do this, which saves me five bags of shavings a week. After two weeks I am already saving money even with the initial up front increase in cost.

After adding an unknown quantity of water. You can actually hear it soaking up the water and watch it grow. Sorta sounds like Rice Krispy cereal in milk. 

It is horse approved as well. Every time I top it off, Pete comes back out of his stall covered in shavings from a good roll. He never did that with the regular shavings. I really like the feel of these as they are super springy and comfortable under my own feet, so I can only image how it feels to the horses.

Old Man Winter coming out of his freshly cleaned stall covered in savings from rolling. 

The only real con I have found is that cleaning the stalls takes twice as long even with the reduced trip to dump the wheel barrow. Sifting through the piles, trying to sift off the excess clean shavings, and trying to locate the pee piles takes way more time than just scooping it all up as before. I thought it would even out with the fewer trips to the pile and less bags needing dumped back in, but the time it takes to soak the stuff before dumping it wastes any time gained.

Not sure if you have to , but i like to stir it all up with my hand and make sure the majority is soft and fluffy. I always end up with some pellets remaining, but not so many that I care. I have read online that people just throw the dry pellets in when they top it off, but ick. 

In the end though, it is worth it. I like the bedding a lot more in general, the horses are happier and it is costing way less money. I’ve used it for three weeks now and will continue for now. I know there are fancier versions of the pellets out there, but so far this is working out just fine and has the convenience of me being able to pick up bags after work n my way home versus taking time off work to meet the delivery guy and spending half a day moving it inside.

Nice fine shavings that pass through the pitch fork easily

4 hooves up for our barn!