Posted in Farm life

Mowing the Pasture

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.

As I mow it creates a nice little race track for Wyatt and he always shows up on his quad to race around it

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.

Sometimes he gets his own tractor out to help. I love the afternoons spent outside riding around with my little man

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.

Obviously the horses are very bothered by my mowing activities. 

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.

There were a lot of roadblocks Sunday afternoon as I tried to mow the pasture before Irma hit

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.

Wyatt picked out a skeleton dog that barks and growls for his Halloween decoration this year. I didn’t realize he brought it into the pasture until I made the circuit and saw Pete on high alert. Poor horses. They are pretty little kid proof at this point. 

Any farm chores that speak to you more than others? I know plenty of people enjoy kicking stalls for similar reasons.

Posted in Farm life

Seeking Advice: Fly Protection

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp. 

Ugh. 

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. 

Posted in Farm life

Finding Stress Relief

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. 

Instead we settled for some sand. We bought 30 bags and covered the ground to help with drainage and hopefully keep there hooves and legs out of the worst of it. Poor Dusty hauled those bags and dumped them for me. This was halfway through.

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. 

First time on the riding mower

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. 

Look at how tall the grass has gotten! All the rain plus the two entire days they spent inside the shelter to avoid the rain really helped it grow

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. 

Watching the sun set behind one of the several ancient trees on the property

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. 

Gem and Pete grazing at the far end of the pasture while I mowed. They are equally grateful for some sun

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. 

Rhino keeping an eye on me

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. 

Posted in Farm life

Farm Life Update

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.

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Finally got the horses a mineral block. They both went to town on it.

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.

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The shelter barely moves on a day with 30 mph wind gusts. I was nervous and watched it anxiously, but all was good and stable.

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.

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I love these delicate white flowers with the green dots. Only one bunch has bloomed so far.

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.

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Pete always tips his bowl upside down when he has finished his dinner

I haven’t been home to catch them napping, which is sad. I’ve always wanted to catch them napping.

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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.

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Dusty returns from a 15 mile run Sunday morning to be tackled by Optimus Prime.

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.

 

Posted in Farm life, Uncategorized

Poop…Everywhere!

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.

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Pete grazing in the setting sun

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.

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Spring flowers are blooming

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.

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Poop everywhere

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.

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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.

Posted in Farm life

Building a Fence

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A dreary day on the farm beats the sunniest day in suburbia hands down

With the clock starting to run out, we checked the weather forecast a dozen times hoping it was wrong. Another weekend of rain and there was no way the horses would be coming home before another board check was due.

Thankfully Sunday saw a break in the deluge from 9-12 and we rushed out to work as fast as we could. Dusty and my dad had placed the T posts weeks ago, in fact that was done before our move in date, and the wooden posts for the gate were cemented in last weekend. The tensioners and fence clips were attached under the light of a headlamp at 8 pm during the work week.

Now all that was left was to string the tape.

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Wyatt helping to screw the tensioner to the wooden post

 

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Einstein enjoying and abusing his freedom. He came back with a  gouge on his head likely from the barbed wire that surrounds the entire property. He will learn some day.

My mum came over to help and we got busy stringing the line. We had ordered it from Horse Guard, a U.K. company, and the experience was great from start to finish. Since we only needed to create two sides of fencing, we were unsure what all to order. A quick call to the company had all our questions answered and the materials were shipped out the next day. The guy walked us through the entire process and even gave tips on how to cut a few costs.

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Wyatt was a big help on his tractor

 

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He lugged the heavy spool of tape around for us

The tape itself is very sturdy. It comes in three color options, but only the brown was in stock when we ordered. They also have a monopolar, requiring humid ground and a ground pole, and bipolar, which does not, units and we went with the bipolar.

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Much sturdier than the brand Tractor Supply sold and way better than my portable corral tape.

The system is nearly fooproof and comes with everything you could possibly need. The first go round we places the clips on backwards but thankfully figured it out half way through. Nothing is more annoying than working hard then having to redo it all.

The longer side was completed before lunch and nap time. Seriously, the system is really simple: tension the one end, string the tape and apply the clips that hold the tape to the t post, tension the far end, go back and tighten the line and screw down the clips on each post. Done.

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Tensioner
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Clip. Also used on t posts

During nap time, Dusty went out and hung the gate then it was back out for all three of us to finish the shorter end.

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Seeing the gate put on really made it all seem so real.

With the hay delivered, fence up, gate hung, water tank purchased and t post caps installed all we have left to do is build the shelter. The weather looks sunny and clear all week which means we can get out there and build it before the weekend.

 

Posted in Farm life

Moving to Greener Pastures

Six moves and seven houses later  I have finally landed in a place that feels like “home”. A place that I am not already planning on moving out of during the process of moving into. I feel like I can take a deep breath, spread my soul out and build a life in this house. Who knows how long we will actually stay here, our average is 2 years, but for however long it lasts, I am going to enjoy every second of it.

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The new house. Built in the mid 1970s full of charm and just big enough for 3 people. 

The actual moving process was uneventful. We picked up the 26 ft U Haul as soon as the place opened at 9:30 am Saturday. Dusty and I then proceeded to load it up as Wyatt ran around playing and making us laugh. We had learned the proper way to pack a truck when we lived in WI. Our friend Brian had worked for a moving company for several years and we quickly learned that our technique was pretty abysmal. Since then, we have packed like pros and it really makes a big difference.

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Wyatt was excited that we got a truck with a dinosaur on it

I felt bad because, while I could easily help with carrying out all the heavy wooden furniture and mattresses, the boxes that Dusty had jammed with books and DVDs were just too heavy for me to lift. By the time my parents came over to help around 1:30 pm, we were just down to two remaining mattresses, our 200 lb solid marble dining room table and the annoying garage stuff: tools, sporting goods, lawn mower and mismatched supplies that couldn’t easily be stacked or contained. After that was loaded up, we headed off to the farm house.

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Wyatt donned his cape and declared himself Captain Hook. From then on we were pirates looting the Princess’ house for treasure and loading it onto our ship. Love this kid!

One interesting side story here. Dusty and I spent 4 hours moving very heavy things out of the house and into the truck all by ourselves. Several neighbors drove by, stopped to chat and get our phone number. One guy pulled up and asked if he could look around the place as he was hoping to rent it. Right in the middle of us moving! We said sure and walked around with him. Ok…odd but fine. Then around 2 pm our neighbor across the way walks over. We were basically done at this point. He chats with Dusty for a while and then I see Dusty walk off with him.

Next thing I know poor Dusty is helping the guy move his large TV out of his house and into the back of his pick up! The nerve!!! To come over and ask a guy who has been moving heavy stuff all day without offering to help and then ask him to move your TV?! Dusty is way too nice.

We pulled up and I was bursting with excitement. We had been over several times to rake, put up some fencing and clean the gutters, but had only been inside it the very first time we looked at the place. My memory was vague and I was dying to get inside and figure out the place.

Once I established which room would be what, I sent my mom and Aunt inside to help organize everything. I’m not good at making decisions on furniture placement, but they are amazing at it. This took a lot of stress off my hands and I could focus on unloading and getting things settled.

It only took a few hours to unload the entire truck and settle the furniture in with all of us working our butts off.  Dusty had packed more than I had and he didn’t label any of the boxes, so those just got piled in the car port/garage (not sure what to call it: it is attached and big enough for 2 cars but doesn’t have a door) while my mom and Aunt worked hard at moving furniture around to the best places inside. By 5:30 pm we had everything unloaded and just enough time to make it to my niece’s 4th birthday party tired, dirty and a little smelly.

I slept like the dead Saturday night and woke up bright and early afraid to move. Everything was tight and sore, but there was still a lot to do. We had left some things behind that were too awkward to pack up in the truck and were too tired to get it after the party.  Dusty headed out to the old house Sunday morning while I got busy alternating between organizing boxes/unpacking and chasing down a very excited little boy and his dog who have suddenly found themselves with room to roam.

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Einstein exploring the driveway
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Wyatt driving around the quad he got for Xmas. 
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I don’t think he spent more than 20 minutes at a time inside and that was to eat or drink

At 12 pm I got a message from our hay guy: he had 50 bales ready and loaded, could he drop them off a week early? Ok…cue panic to get the garage ready. It didn’t take super long though to move all the boxes over, place pallets down and prepare the space. The hay came around 4 pm and then we were starving, tired, cranky and ready to be done. We headed off to O’Charleys for dinner, grabbed two more 60 lb bags of cement from Home Depot for the last remaining fence posts and headed home to fall back asleep at 8 pm.

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50 bales of fescue hay stacked and ready for the horses. They have a ton of grass available so I am hoping this lasts until spring’s first cutting comes along. 

So much still remains to be done: getting the fish tank over from the old house, cleaning it and emptying the fridge; unpacking all the boxes at the new place; finishing up the horse fence; building a horse shelter; and then moving the horses themselves. It will all get done in good time.

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X marks the spot on our way home
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The cats adore their new screened in porch out back. Neither wanted to come back inside that night.
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Where the horses will be eventually
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A boy and his dog