Monday, November 29, 2010

Cold, Cold, Cold

Second morning in a row that the watering troughs were frozen over - not solid, but about an eighth of an inch of ice over the top. Had a nice ride with friends on Sunday, with the wind knocked down it actually felt warm, for the end of November. But later in the evening the jackets went back on the boys and the tops of the Dutch doors were closed for the night.

We have to finish pulling wire to the barn through the trenched conduit. Maybe we'll get that done this week?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Spent Friday and Saturday at the old place, painting, repairing the ceiling issues from the previously leaking roof and like that. Still have the kitchen and the front bedroom to paint, plus the ceiling in the kitchen. We also mowed grass and I cut and trimmed some trees, bushes and dead flowers in the yard. We need more time, but it is looking good! We got a lot accomplished during our holiday time off.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

It is cold! The coldest night of the season, I even closed the top of the Dutch doors, then worried they would be too warm because they have their jackets on! It was cold in the barn this morning. The water buckets weren't frozen, but it was pretty darn cold! Really love my flannel-lined jeans from Rod's!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for, this year has had heartbreaking lows and manic highs.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Before Thanksgiving

We had filled the manure spreader up and it was needing to be spread. It is what they do! I asked Tom to dump this load and he said, "It is 8:30!" and I said, "we live in the country, no noise ordinance and no limits on agriculture." So the spreader is empty and the tractor and spreader parked in the barn. It is 'fixin' to rain.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday, Monday

Foggy morning, light drizzle turning into sunny day. Too bad I'm at work! The lighting in the barn is perfect and making my farm life so simple! I left all of them in to eat hay, Tom let them out for the day.

The drizzling rain wasn't enough to make anything muddy, and the patchy fog burned off quickly. So much more to do, can't do it while I'm at work! Can only think and plan, not do.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up

Saturday morning I saw a pileated woodpecker down the bottom of the hill, picking at one of the trees that was damaged during our storm in August. The wildlife here in the country is really remarkable.

Went to the Big Box stores on Saturday morning to procure the rest of the lighting fixtures and wiring, with assorted plugs and connectors for the electrical project. We also bought paint for our old house - FIVE GALLONS!! I guess we will be busy during our Thanksgiving holiday.

Tom continued working on the electrical installation on Sunday. The PVC conduit is installed and clamped to the walls, the aisle lighting is done. It is beautiful! Nothing is tied into the electrical panel yet, still using extension cords, but it is fine for me!

Had a short ride Sunday late in the day, riding out from the house and across the road. Lots of deer skeletons and fur on the power lines. Also saw a large scaffold set up as a deer stand. I hate seeing bones, littered like rocks, on the trail. Fluffs doesn't mind walking on them.

The weekends are much too short, even getting up at 6:15 is not early enough to get everything done that needs doing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Pair of Bald Eagles!

On the way into work this morning there were TWO Bald Eagles sitting in a tree top! There are few leaves left on the trees at this point. The wind and rain tore most down. I saw them sitting at the top and at first glance thought they were Red-tailed Hawks. As we traveled closer, I realized they were too big and tall for Hawks and then noticed both had white heads! Wow! I hope they have no issues with traffic as they clean up the deer carcasses that litter the roadside.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My American Dream

This place is my American dream, not someone else's, although I'm sure there are others out there that share this same dream. It is not for everybody. For years we drove past farms or a potential farm and said, 'No, not that one, the pond is too close to the house - mosquitoes,' or, 'not that one, the barn is too close to the road,' or 'barn is too far from the house,' etc. We looked at places that were too expensive, we could not get a loan without hitting the lottery. We were like Goldilocks; nothing was ever really just right.

We thought that our particular dream would happen when we retired, selling our house and moving out of the area. We would then have to buy a ready-made farm because we'd be too old and weak to put in our own fences and buildings. We would have to settle on someone else's idea of a perfect farm. And this was ok with us for many years, just waiting to live our dream later. Waiting.

We had made plans, planned out when we would retire. Then reality hit. The economy tanked, lost money in the 401(k), our house was worth half of what it was only a short time ago, fuel and utilities were at an all-time high, business was more than just 'off.' Our target retire date was getting pushed back nearly 10 years! He said it looked like he was going to have to work until he was 69. I told him he wouldn't live that long, because I was going to kill him! I certainly didn't want to be in my seventies, waiting for him to get home from the job!

We originally started looking in Arkansas, land and farms were cheap, but changed our minds because of the weird weather events and the New Madrid Fault. We looked in Kentucky and Tennessee, but eliminated those places because of politics, weather and usable Park land. North and South Carolina was next, and that had the same issues as the others. Pennsylvania is too far north, but with climate change it might not be too cold in another 10 years, but real estate prices were creeping up.

I talked to lots of folks that were already living the dream, some not enjoying it. Maybe I should rethink my dream? Some were living so far from their job, it took trains, buses and more trains to get there. Four hours or more daily spent getting to their employment. Others had a place but didn't like it because the barn was so far from the house that getting to it was inconvenient, or their neighbors didn't like living next to horses. After the 30 inches of snow we got last winter I heard even more complaints that made an impression on me. Hearing about a collapsed barn roof or two, or knocking snow drifts off the barn was not my kind of thrill.

We thought we would stay right where we were, continue boarding our boys and living an urban life-style, using public transportation and walking to the store and the movies. Our house was paid for, we still had the place in West Virginia to visit if we wanted to enjoy the country life with bright stars and clean air, we didn't have to drive to it each day like others do. The boys were well taken care of at the boarding barn within 15 minutes of our house.

A couple three, five things changed within a short stretch of time and Tom found on the internet this wreck of a foreclosure sitting on 10 acres, with access to the Patuxent River State Park and a big swath of the utility's right-of-way available for our farm use, bringing our acreage to 17+, and the rest is a crazy, whirl-wind life-changing event, plus in the county where we already lived. I sometimes have to pinch myself!

Because we've had the place in West Virginia for almost twenty years, we had the Ford 1320 4x4 tractor with lots of attachments that come with it, and the flatbed trailer, plus tools, chain saws, air compressor, welder, and everything else you can imagine needing on a working farm. If we had to buy that stuff now none of this would have been possible. We already had a big honking truck and TWO horse trailers. That living quarters trailer really made the transition possible when we discovered we didn't have hot water and no working bathing facilities. This is a place that just keeps on giving! We also used it to move all of our stuff, no need to rent a U-Haul!

The pieces fell into place. We seemed to have all the right things that could make this change possible, if not perfect. There is nothing so sweet as hearing the boys nicker in the morning when they know I'm coming through the gate. They know the sound of my car, too. I'm the biggest horse in the field now.

If not now, when? Wait long enough and we'll all be too old and weak to lift a water bucket, climb the hayloft ladder, or throw a bale of hay down the chute. Why are we postponing our dreams, our life? Is this going to be a life lived unfulfilled, working all our lives, never realizing a dream? If not now, when?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunny Today!

Rainy, gusting wind, warm and mild (for November), the leaves are goners. The warm, strong breeze and the sustained misting rain really brought them down. The trees are getting ready for winter, dropping dried-out, dirty summer clothes, storing provisions in their cellars for the long, cold sleep.

Better to dry this muddy place out with this windy day. Brought them in to feed, didn't let them back out all night. Too muddy, don't want them tearing things up anymore than they already will.

The little ones always stay in from when we feed until morning. Both of them were soaking wet AND had rolled, many times, in the stone dust. It made them smell like gun powder. I tried scrapping the dust off of them, but they took their time drying out. The rake I used had wet dust scum on it - yuck! No white was showing on either of them. They looked awful, like they had rolled in a coal chute. Note to self: get some Ezall total body wash.

Tom worked on the lighting project - coming along, looks great! Pulling wire, installing fixtures. The boys were dozing in their stalls. We can't be there to entertain them all the time!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Foggy Morning

Socked in this morning, dense fog all around. Couldn't see the grain elevator across the road. Supposed to rain off and on all day, but they are all going out. It is not cold, for November, and the boys have the run-in shed. Hope Skip lets Fluffs in! And the little guys have the overhang.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Day Sunshine!

Got several things done today: 105 bales of hay into the hayloft, the cornfield cleaned up of piled up manure. AND went for a ride at the AgPark! I also did Lil Fred's hair! He was a little apprehensive, but I didn't kill him (haha) and didn't make him look too feminine with the ribbons and braids. He does like his forelock out of his eyes, so it's all good!

This morning while I was in the bathroom I could see Lil Fred and Sprite racing around the dry paddock, doing laps around the barn. In one direction then the other. If she pulled ahead of him, Lil Fred would kick and buck! She's getting in better shape, too. I was surprised that they kept it up for so long.

Had a nice ride, kind of spontaneous. I had hoped we would get a chance to ride, such a gorgeous day in mid-November - high in the mid-60s. Bright, blue sky, just perfect. We had the flatbed loaded with 105 bales of orchard grass hay. We didn't do anything with it yesterday, so it had to be done in one day - today. Might rain on Tuesday, and we never get home before it is dark during the week.

Last night Tom worked on the hay elevator - two trips to Tractor Supply to get the proper sized belts. The belts that were on the elevator where not only failing, cracked and deteriorated but were on the machine the wrong way. He corrected that, oiled the chains with cooking oil, and it is running like a champ!

It took us about an hour and a half to load the hay onto the elevator in the morning and into the hayloft. It was my job to stack the bales in the barn. Tom pulled them off the flatbed trailer, onto the elevator. It was not easy, this farm life is not for sissies or weaklings. We only took a short break, kept steadily at it until the trailer was empty.

When the trailer was empty, he unhitched the flatbed and connected to the little trailer. Are we going for a ride? YES!! But where? We sat at the end of the driveway, deciding eventually to go to the AgPark. It was already 1:30pm.

Saw an owl, several deer, song birds, a couple riders and two riders from our old boarding barn. We passed them, exchanged pleasantries, one asked us if we had ridden in from our new place. No, we trailered in.

Hurry home to catch up on other things planned. Tom used the tractor to move the run-in shed 180 degrees. Tom used the tow strap, wrapping it around the bar that holds the front-end loader. He looped the strap into the corner brace. We were warned about getting a cheap run-in shed. A friend has a run-in that she bought over 10 years ago, five years later she moved to a new farm, taking the run-in with her. She cautioned that a cheaper model would not handle a move, whether across the pasture or across the county.

We bought last year’s model from Penn Dutch in Glen Rock. It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Superficially it had a red metal roof. I wanted green. I didn’t want one as large but it was discounted from last year’s stock and we needed it right away, so we had it delivered.

I wanted the opening of the run-in to face East and it was set facing South. With the tractor facing the corner, Tom proceeded to pull, in reverse, pivoting the run-in shed towards him 180 degrees. I wanted to stress this procedure to anyone using a tractor with Agriculture tires while pulling any item out of ditch, doing demolition on a building or anything – always FACE what you are pulling and drag in REVERSE. A lot of times you can get away with not following these simple directions. But one time it won’t work out, the tractor will actually rear up and fall backwards. This is a rare event, but don’t tempt physics. I don’t want to read about you in the media.

It looks great, and Skip walked in while it was being moved! Now I'll be able to see them from the house or barn.

I went to the grocer, hurried back to feed the kids, make dinner, and muck stalls. After that I braided Lil Fred's mane and forelock. He looks like he's ready for battle!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hey Hay!

Saturday morning chores included getting 105 bales of second-cut orchard grass hay from Tahill Farm in Lisbon. We were all throwing bales onto our flatbed, this is hard work and my elbow still hurts, worse now, darn it!

We also went to ACE Hardware and Tractor Supply. Needing parts and pieces for the barn's electrical project and new V-belts for the hay elevator.

Another beautiful day, hard to believe that it is mid-November.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday - mid-November

This week flew by! Tom was home yesterday and installed three of the new stall lights with conduit. The lighting looks fantastic! He is utilizing the hay loft for these lights and it minimizes the shadows and cuts down on the glare.

This morning the hose was frozen!! Glad that water line is trenched so deep, or we would have serious issues with water. Everything was frosted over, looked like a dusting of snow.

Speaking of snow, yesterday - Veteran's Day - a D.J. was reminiscing about the Veteran's Day blizzard twenty-three years ago. We got 8 1/2 inches of snow that day, so early in the season for here, and it was not forecasted by any weatherman or Meteorologist. It's been mild, for November, this whole week. Highs in the 60s, clear skies, can't beat that!

We have two weekends before the Thanksgiving holiday. This weekend the weather will be just as nice as it has been. I wonder if we'll get a chance to ride. I hope I can remember how!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stinkbugs, Millipedes and Spiders! Oh My!

One thing about country life is the bugs. Insects and arachnids. We don't just have flies and bees, we have everything crawling, flying and stinging. Our basement is full of millipedes and big, beautiful spiders, plus the new scourge of America: Stinkbugs from China! Also, assorted beetles, moths and caterpillars.

I have friends that say "fill in bug's name here" and I'm out of there!" but in actuality what are you really going to do? Not live there? My mother-in-law suggests we get the place fumigated. First off, we don't have the money, secondly we don't want to live within a chemical bath. The bugs are not as dangerous as insecticides. We need insects to survive on our Earth, I just don't want them in my bed.

Irene does what she can about the spiders and millipedes, and we've discovered that wet-vaccing them up has diminished their numbers. A glue board under the washing machine is as clean as the day I put it there.

In the long run, I'm not sure if we really can eliminate their presence in our house. We do need to replace the doors - they just don't fit. The back door especially, since the porch top was taken off. When Irene was smaller, she could slip under the door. That should tell you just how big that gap is!

This place is not for sissies, for sure. Bring your insect book so you can find out if you should kill it or ignore it. You need to know this because it is such a waste of time to smack everything that crawls or flies your way. If it doesn't bite or sting, ignore it.

In this picture is the pan that Tom was using to catch the water from the trenching work and the assorted insects fell into it. I didn't try to save them, I did not interfere with their drowning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday Evening Shenanigans

In the evening I was cleaning KC's stall and heard the window in the wash stall rattling. The windows will rock a little when it is breezy, but it was not that windy at the time. Looking up I can see KC's silhouette in the light from the house. His nose was rubbing the window panes! I walked over, slid the window open and he put his nose in for me to kiss. He's such a lover!

Skip sees KC's head in the window and butts him out, sticking his big head in. I scratched his neck and cheek, and both of them continued to stick their heads in, Skip bullying his turn whenever he wanted. The window is smaller than the others and there are no horse-proof bars on it. His head filled the entire window. What a goofball!

I went out to get the little ones, they were way down the field past the trees. I was looking for Lil Fred because he has grain in his stall. Sprite is on the supermodel diet - air and water!

Lil Fred didn't want to be caught, but he did want in, so we raced up the hill to the gate and Sprite came along with us, at high speed (for her). He went through the gate and into the barn, into his stall. Sprite went into the barn, but missed her stall door. I had the 'handi-stick' at my fingertips, so I grabbed it and pointed with my hand to her doorway. She'd have none of it!

Sprite raced past me, out of the barn and I didn't see if she went right or left and it was dark, I did have my headlight lit. Her eyes were glowing under the awning. She did a lovely roll-back, running around the barn with me in quick pursuit. She is pretty fast but has no stamina. She ducked back into the barn, deja vu' all over again, but this time I got her into the stall after a little two-step in the aisle, around the cart with the manure buckets in it.

The boys were just milling around, not eating grass, not going out into the pasture, pausing by Sprite's stall window and returning to the open window in the wash stall or looking in the Dutch doors while I mucked the stalls.

When I was getting the cart through the gate, KC and Skip wanted to follow me out. This would not have been a good idea, and I had to persuade them to get away from me, the cart and the gate. I dumped the buckets into the empty manure spreader, when I returned to the gate they had moved on.

When I left the barn, they were still milling around, loitering. When I came back about an hour later, they were way down the hill where they like to lie down out of the breeze. Both hurried up to meet me at the gate. They really wanted in even though it was a mild night, for November.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday - Weekend Look-back

From a dream and a plan, through really, really hard work, we now are substantially completed! At least the dry paddock holds horses, right? That counts more than anything. Next is the electric, but we haven't bought the wire yet, it is really expensive ;-( this farm life is not for sissies or poor people.

This morning I fed the 'kids' in my pj's and house slippers BECAUSE I CAN! No more going through mud or manure, just across the parking lot, into the gate, through the 'man door' and into the aisle - so clean! I saved myself 10 minutes this morning with 'chores.' Yea!

Monday, November 8, 2010


We are now done the dry paddock! It is HUGE, really, to have this on-going project completed.

TA DA! Presto! Voila' (or for some: Walla, which reminds me of Walla Walla, Washington. A nice town, unless you are looking for work, then maybe not a good fit). My friend Gene complains that the written word will eventually go out of fashion with the demise of newspapers and the invention of Twitter, texting and the like. Maybe he's right, but don't let him know that!

We also have water to the barn and pasture, the electric is run, but not installed. We still have to buy the wire, and that is expensive because it is made of copper.

Late in the day Tom used the manure spreader, which I had filled over the weekend. This is a great invention and glad we have it on-hand. He also mowed the corn field into 'trails' so that we can go riding 'in the dark' after work.

This is really a major milestone in the farm's evolution. Horse-keeping just got simplified! We have some minor adjustments and additions to make, and through the cold months we will continue to address these plans. We might also change our minds about things, too. We can do that, wouldn't be the first time.

The next thing on the 'to-do list' is get our old house rent-able. Also minor, but will take some hours to complete. We have the long Thanksgiving holiday coming up, so we should use those extra days to work on the list and get the house empty and presentable.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Deja Vu' All Over Again

Fence posts, fence boards, just like our summer vacation, except not so hot. Rained on Thursday, a little wet in spots still, but the plastic that was placed on the drilled holes kept them dry!

During a break in our hard work, Tom mowed the yard and some of the corn field. He also mowed down onto the PEPCO right-of-way and later we went for a walk in the 'woods' that is also part of our farm. We have about and acre and a half on the other side of the right-of-way and we explored that for the first time. The leaves are falling and it was easy to get the lay of the land. I think we should build a bridge over the creek and cut a couple trails into the woods in a loop to augment our trail system on our own property.

Early this morning got the hay elevator off the flatbed, parked it next to the manure spreader - this place is starting to look like a real farm! Finished putting in the rest of the fence posts, except the ONE that needs serious work - it resembles a trench, not a post hole. Later in the day we started hanging fence boards !!! and then the battery for the nail gun died.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Already?

The week is flying by - got four posts in the holes last night and the remaining three were covered up with plastic wrap, rocks and fence posts. It was raining before I brought the horses in for the night.

Sprite was so frantic to go in that she stepped into, but didn't knock over, her water bucket, banging into the gate, too. It doesn't take horses but a couple times before they learn something - right or wrong. She literally drug me into the barn, instead of me dragging her.

This weekend, for sure, we will finish the dry paddock installation. It will make life so much better for me and the horses. I think the first week or less we need to have the big boys out in the dry paddock during the day to knock down the grass that is still there. Tom has not mowed any of it and it does look good, for being mostly weeds. We'll reconfigure the electric fence to enclose the run-in shed and make it possible for Lil Fred and Sprite to share that and get out a little, too.

Earlier in the week, Tom was concerned about the noise of shooting the nails into the fence boards would make, and disturb our only neighbor. Last night, he comes out to blow leaves off his drive way and yard! I guess that answers that question! Blam away! Blam, blam, blam.

The dry paddock is as big as some suburban back yards, ample room for minis. They are so small, they don't even bend the grass and their little mouths couldn't possibly consume all that greenery. I feed Lil Fred a cup - measuring cup, not coffee cup - of 'Lite' grain and it takes him FOREVER to munch that down. Fluffs could stuff that in his mouth in one bite!

Rain today, continuing on until around midnight - ugh. The little ones are in the barn for the day, the big boys are out, with access to the run-in. I hope that Skip allows KC to at least stick his head in. Not terribly cold, but not a day any of us would want to be out in.

Speaking of that: This weekend is the BIG EVENT at the League, the Fall Round-up officially starts tomorrow at noon, but lots of folks, with their horses, are there already. We have attended this event in the past and it is truly a sight to behold. Awesome. The amount of truck and trailers and horses is astounding, really. If you aren't familiar with it, you would think I was a liar. Some couldn't/wouldn't be convinced that such a place exists so close to suburbia and a big city, but it does. A true gem in a sea of development. But its raining today, and that is not fun for campers or for horses tied to a high-line, standing in the rain. I know KC HATES it.