Sunday, February 27, 2011

Last Sunday Before March

Today was a warm, beautiful day! How can that be? It is still February! Anyway, the usual chores, then onto some fun!

This morning Tom got together our tax stuff. I hate this process and it is worse this year because we moved and still have our old house, and I don't know where I put anything! Everything is on-line now, should be easier than ever, right? Sure.

We found time to play with all the kids, took the big boy's jackets off and I used the metal curry comb to scrape mud and loose hair off of everybody. Tom spread manure in front of the rain storm that is headed our way later tonight.

After lunch we walked down to the park with April and continued finding our way to the established trail network. Some one else has been in the woods since we were there last, putting up two barriers with a short line of aircraft cable and honey suckle vines. Weird, right?

The weather forecast is favorable, if you enjoy high winds, thunderstorms, heavy rain and temps in the 60s! Spring is on it's way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Weekend Is Here!

Got up early, as usual, bright sunny morning. The plan for the day was to go to the dump with the car and recycle everything that was languishing on the patio. Metal, glass, paper and cardboard, stuff like that.

The 'dump' is very sophisticated in our county. Big recycling process here. The site is set up like a buffet: you go to bin to bin, paint and florescent bulbs, metal and appliances, paper/cardboard, oil and fuel. It keeps our 'trash' to a minimum and costs us nothing. It is cheaper to sort and recycle than to dump on real estate. We enjoy high compliance here, too.

After that we went to Petsmart for Irene and April, Home Depot for mulch, two grocery stores and home again, finally.

Once home, we tackled the lawn issues. Tom started doing 'pick up sticks,' which morphed into getting the truck, the tree-trimmer saw and the chain saw. The Blue Spruces look great now, and the Maple that will soon be cut down had a couple large limbs cut off. These limbs were light as Styrofoam, you can see right through most of it, like Swiss cheese.

With the patio cleared off and the trees trimmed, it feels like a lost a hundred pounds!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tale of Two Horses

Some time ago we purchased two hay nets. These hay nets were highly rated by one of my horsey magazines. We had entertained the notion of putting them in the run-in shed, but instead they languished on the dining room table. For months.

As part of the new and improved horse-keeping strategy, Tom hung the hay nets in the boy's stalls. They clip on with mountaineer hooks and allegedly hold an entire bale of hay.

KC is neat, business-like, when it comes to eating hay. You put a flake under his nose and he stands there until it is gone. Skip, not so much. Skip will throw hay from one end of his stall to the other. He'll paw at it, step all over it. Cleaning up after him is a chore in itself, and takes me considerable time in the morning.

All that has been changed. The paperwork that came with these nets said there would be a 'learning curve' while the horse figured out how to eat hay out of the net. We do have hay nets for the trailers, but these are special.

Tom put hay in the nets, hung them in the stalls, Skip proceeded to pull hay strands out of it like a professional. KC, not so much. He wasted several hours sulking about having this change to his hay delivery. I had to leave the barn, the 'stink-eye' was so severe.

When I returned, KC had not eaten any hay, and was furious with me. Really. Skip had eaten lots of his own hay out of the net. I had to show KC how to pull the dried grass strands out of the net, pulling, pulling clumps. Then I left for the night.

The next morning he had eaten lots of hay! And he was happy, I told him what a good, smart boy he was, and now all is better with him and me. And the stall floors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last Wednesday In February

Last Wednesday In February, and good riddance, too. This winter has been relentless. We just got rid of the ugly, rotten snow on Sunday and it snows Monday night. We got about 5 inches, but first we got about a quarter inch of sleet! The snow was powdery, but after the bright, sunny day on Tuesday the snow is hard, frozen.

This morning while putting hay out for the boys, I found two 'snow balls' and I'm assuming they came from KC because of the shoe impression being bent in at the heal. He has small feet and the snow ball was so big, he must have been walking around on high-heels for quite a while.

I also found little snow balls in the 'tack room' so I know the minis were spending their fair share of time inside the barn yesterday. Supposed to get up to almost 40 today - o boy, a heat wave!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day

Got up at 6:45 a.m. today and hit the ground running. Overcast, but temperature was mild. Fed, watered, and hayed the gang then joined Tom on the road frontage, picking up TWO TRASH BAGS of trash on the side of the road. Also found in the field was a tire, complete with rim (bent) and brake caliper. The guard rail was hit (again) and other assorted car parts from a Jeep were strewn about, too.

Beer cans (mostly Bud Light), cigarette detritus and fast-food debris were in abundance. Miscellaneous other crap that had been thrown or blew in Saturday's wind storm, too. People are pigs, eh?

After that we started our bonfire, which we kept going all day, until I left around 4:00 to see a friend and hit the Safeway before dinner and feeding the gang out back.

In the meantime it rained or sleeted on us. Tom weed whacked the trees in the pasture, clearing out the Honeysuckle, Multi-Flora Rose and Blackberry. I raked and carried this stuff to the bonfire. Also burned up bank statements, old checks and other stuff that we usually shred, but I broke the shredder. I'm pooped, looking forward to going to work tomorrow to get some rest!

On Sunday we rode from noonish to about 4:30, so I'm a little bit stiff right now. Old age is hell, right? Had a great weekend, just tired right about now. Have to go out to the barn to put heavy coats on the boys. It is snowing, calling for 4 - 8 inches by tomorrow morning - o joy....

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The wind started in the evening, between me lighting the grill and carrying the tuna steaks to it. That fast, really. The forecast had said the wind would pick up after midnight. What time zone? More like 7:00 p.m.

I had thought we might have another bonfire, but glad we procrastinated long enough to nix that bright idea. The temp continues to be mild, almost warm, but that even has a wind chill. And it can knock you down. Luckily, I'm heavy enough to keep my feet on the ground. I was mindful with the feed this morning having experienced the wind's help with dumping Lil Fred's feed before.

Tom had off on Friday and he had a long list of items to address. He's extremely productive, always, but didn't know if he would get to the list, create a whole new list or do something completely different.

He cleaned up the garage/shed, dumping all the old hay into the manure spreader. He claimed he made 6 trips. He cleaned up all the hay in the barn, too. He went to Southern States Cooperative in Mt Airy, purchasing corner feeders (yea) for the boys and little, tiny feeders for the minis. He installed all of them. The boys really like them, the mice are going to complain! And the minis mouths fit right in. So cute.

He now has a different management for the minis during the day. They really like it! The big double doors are kept open, the hay is locked in the vacant stall. Earlier this week the minis got into the barn and the hay bale looked like it had been involved in a pillow fight. Hay was everywhere! Now they have access to the barn all day and can't get into the hay.

The snow blower is in the tack room, and everything has been neatened-up. Makes the barn look big, too, because it is!

Today I had to close one end because the wind is so strong, calling for 60-mile an hour gusts. I believe it! Unfortunately the shingles are also coming off the roof. I really didn't want to have to replace the roof until we at least had some income from the old house. Let's hope the roof doesn't start leaking, again. This place just keeps on giving.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Irene, the Barn Cat's Daughter

I got a call back from the vet this morning; she's fully booked on Friday. Irene will not be getting spayed as I had wished. the vet has time, maybe, next Friday. I don't know if Tom will be able to take the day off. I was really hoping we could have the long weekend to hang out with her while she gets over her surgery, but, nothing doing. Darn it!

Monday, February 14, 2011


The weekend wrap-up:

Saturday morning was spent trying to confirm hay availability, north of the border. Even though people 'use' to post an ad doesn't necessarily mean they check their e-mails or even their answering machines. About mid-morning the wind picked up, substantially. Neither of us wanted to haul hay in 40 mile an hour wind.

We hadn't heard back from anybody anyway. It was so windy and cold that I literally stayed mostly in bed all day. My two girls, April and Irene, also sacked out with me while I read a book.

Tom was out in the barn later in the afternoon striping stalls. I was still in bed with April when she launched herself off the bed, barking ferociously. I thought maybe Tom had locked himself out of the house. The lock can be weird like that sometimes. But she didn't stop, so I got up to see a woman in a plaid overshirt standing on the stoop.

I let her in, the wind so stiff I had trouble opening the storm door far enough. It was really whipping through our alley between the garage/shed and the house. She said that she drives by regularly and noticed the barn, knew it hadn't been there before and was interested in where it came from. I invited her in while I put on my barn boots, two coats and we went outside to see it. I asked her if she belonged to TROT or the League and she said she didn't.

Her husband, Gary, was out in the car in the driveway by the mail box. I told her to have him come around back and park in the lot. When he got out of the car he had on dusty, filthy pants (just like me!) and I assumed they were horse people.

The minis met us at the gate, naturally, as I ushered them into the dry paddock and into the barn. Tom was out there, having cleaned the stalls to the stone dust and dumped the manure spreader, again. The barn looked fantastic and smelled good, too, like horses and wood.

I introduced Tom to the strangers, stating that they wanted to see the barn, admiring it from the road for the past months. Gary said he was a car guy, they didn't have horses, but wanted a barn like this for his projects. They'd looked at metal barns and didn't like them. I hear that!

We gave them the grand tour, Gary climbed into the hayloft, which had three bales of hay up there because we need hay! I gave them a card from Penn Dutch, the vendor that made the barn and told of its virtues.

They soon left and I stayed in the barn. I was dressed and out of the bed, so might as well get some work done. It was still windy so inside barn work was a good thing. I filled water buckets and put hay in the stalls, Tom finished his project and we went back in the house.

We weren't in there maybe less than 15 minutes when I heard traffic slowing down out front. I asked Tom, who was standing by the window, what was going on and he said, "a silver Dodge truck, oh, it's Richard Mills!" Wow! It's rare to get visitors, but this place was busy today! Tom grabbed his coat and went outside. I put on my two coats, again, and joined him in the parking lot.

Richard Mills has the boarding facility that our boys stayed in for years. They truly thrived there, with all of their different issues. Skip settled in and relaxed, came into his own, while not changing him in the least. And KC grew up there, learning not to freak out, mostly. No matter where we went with them, or for how long, they always came back to Millhaven. And they liked coming back there with stories to tell their horse buddies!

Richard and Diana, his fiancee and barn manager, were in the truck, surveying our vast domain (ha!). We invited them to have a look-see. They met the minis, who were their usual charming, cute selves! and Skip let Diana pet his nose, but KC stayed hiding behind Skip's butt. Of course they both remember her, but KC is never on his best behavior when we have company. Call me weird; he thinks there might be changes so he doesn't want to cooperate.

This is also the first time in 18 years or more that most all of our 'stuff' is at our place. The tractor, flat bed trailer, the two horse trailers, hay elevator, and like that. It is all there on view. And Richard was surveying it all.

I've said before that we have been planning this move for at least three decades, if not now, when? So we have just about everything you would need for this farming life and it is here on display in our parking lot.

On Sunday, as usual, started my horse-keeping chores early - got them all turned out, the day dawned beautiful but cold. Tom finally got a call back about hay so we'd promised to be in Hanover by 10:30.

The farm was at the end of a dead-end suburban-type street. Split levels and ranchers, two-story colonials, then the gravel driveway to an antebellum farmstead. I just love the old brick, the sleeping porch on the second level, bank barn, very charming.

I wasn't thrilled with the hay. There's nothing 'wrong' with it, but it is not the grade that our boys have become used to. There are no weeds, no Muli-Flora Rose, no dust or mold, but is not the fine-stemmed tender orchard grass that they like. It is stemmy, like dry straw, and doesn't break up into flakes easily. O well, we need hay and this is $3.00 a bale, so we got eighty loaded onto the flat bed and twenty in the truck.

The ride home was uneventful, but we drove through downtown Westminster, yes, past George Street! with a full load of hay. What a spectacle we are! We made it home by 12:30, just in time for lunch!

After a quick bite, Tom pulled the hay elevator to the hayloft doors and started throwing bales into it. I was stacking in the loft and had 18 bales in a pyramid scheme when he said the impeller just broke. Darn! The weather was just getting 'nice' for February, I had on only one coat and was getting into a rhythm of moving bales across the floor.

A trip to Tractor Supply! I took this 'spare time' to resume my laundry duties while he was gone. He also picked up another bag of the boy's favorite kind of hay-stretcher.

He was back within an hour, removed the old motor, installed and wired the new one and we got back to bucking hay. Now it was 4:30, bright and sunny, but the sun was started its quick decent.

We emptied the trailer, then took a short break before moving on to the truck-load. I took this time to move the boys into the barn. The gate was open because of the hay elevator, so I had to be careful to bring them in one at a time. I brought Skip in first, uneventful, sort of. He was dismayed that there was no grain in his stall and tried to move back out of it. I did have him in a halter and rope, but the bottom half of the Dutch door was being stubborn, and I could only use one arm to do it because I still had my death-grip on Skip, who repeatedly tried to walk out the door. Eventually I got enough leverage on the door and got it closed.

Next was getting KC into his stall. He is usually easy to move around. He was pointed in the right direction when he abruptly spooked (is there any other kind?) and launched himself into his stall. His hoof banged into my ankle and I literally had to 'walk it off,' limping like an old woman. I assume he got an eyeful of the hay elevator's tarp and heard birds in the hayloft at the same time, which wigged him out. I don't have time to be crippled, honestly!

We got the rest of the hay up without further delay. A flurry of activity, which I had hoped to get done on Saturday instead, but it is done. We have hay until May, and they better eat it! I put an entire bale out in the pasture this morning - just picking through it should keep them busy.

The temps are supposed to climb to 60 today, but 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts will keep the 'real feel' down to 45 instead. I heard that it is going to be maybe 70 on Friday! I am encouraging Tom to take the day off and maybe arrange for Irene to be spayed? Is that a good plan?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's Always About the Weather, Right?

Yesterday it was positively balmy! And we had the boys in their light sheets. Last night a new front blew in; raining by 7:00 p.m., windy by 9:00. We went out after dinner to swap blankets, putting the heavier ones on the boys.

I also took this time to comb out KC and Lil Fred’s manes. They both have long hair and I want to keep it that way. Both don’t like their hair in their eyes. Both appreciate having the forelocks braided up. Look like fancy-pants!

Today dawned clear and bright and windy! So windy, I got more hay in my hair than in the field for the boys. The door was hard to open, the wind was so stiff! The temp wasn’t so high, but the wind chill made a big difference.

Knowing we are going to get more hay this weekend, I was more generous with the hay. Hay keeps them warm, grain does not. The big boys are ‘fat’ enough, I just don’t want them getting a chill or having too much spare time on their hooves – they get into trouble when that happens!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hay! - Road Trip

We have a good friend that lives in North Carolina. A couple weeks ago she was up, with her truck and horse trailer but no horse. She was on her way to buy hay, in PENNSYLVANIA. Huh?

We have a picky eater, Skip, that turns his nose up at some of the best clover, best orchard grass hay, best water. He also is a hard-keeper. He's long-waisted, which I've been told is an indicator of difficulty keeping weight on. True enough. We try to get him as fat as possible by September/October so he has a good, running start on the cold months ahead.

Anyway, hay around here, good or bad orchard grass mix goes for about $5 or $6 a bale - those are small bales, not the BIG ones (which I can't lift) or the round bales. We don't have enough mouths to eat a round bale. And that is not a delivered price, that is a pick-it-up-yourself price.

Our friend also has a hard-keeper and wouldn't eat the local hay in North Carolina. On craigslist! she found good orchard grass mix for $2.50 a bale! in Hanover. Her horse loves it. We found, on the internet, a hay supplier in New Oxford and we'll be going up there this weekend - hope the weather is good! We have new straps for the trailer, specifically lengthened for hay bales, and a couple tarps that would fit over the bales if we have to.

Road Trip!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beautiful Sunday!

Friday night the freezing rain started around midnight, continued until at least daybreak. April slid down the stairs and splatted on the bricks. Everything was iced over. Darn it!

Everybody stayed in, but the temps did rise. Continued to rain most of the day, I made several trips out to the barn to make sure they had adequate water and hay. It got so foggy during the day that we couldn't see the grain elevator across the road. And that place is as big as the Emerald City of Oz. We were really socked in.

Knowing the impending weather forecast, Tom dumped the manure spreader Friday night. YEA!

As the evening deepened, the breeze picked up and the fog lifted, stars came out and the bricks dried out, so did some of the gravel. Still have an ice flow in the parking lot, in the Dry Paddock, too.

Sunday dawned clear and beautiful. I won't say it's 'warm,' but it is really nice outside. Still treacherously icy in lots of areas. No riding today. It would be dangerous and irresponsible. But, everybody is outside today, where they want to be. KC, Sprite and Lil Fred immediately, and at the same time, rolled as soon as they got outside.

The groundhog in Pennsylvania said Spring was right around the corner. Bring it on!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday Rant

I have observed something, maybe for years, but it really hit me last week. The conversation brought to mind many that I've had in the past; I wanted to share them.

Last week a small group was talking and one of them knew I had horses, the rest not aware of it. I don't wear it on my sleeve and try to keep the hay out of my hair. I don't wear cowboy boots or other horse-related do-dads. The person that knew I had them asked about their welfare in this chronic cold weather cycle we're stuck in. The fact that I have horses was a surprise to the others.

All of them reared back, like looking at me for the first time, in a different light! The first said, 'oh, the hard work!, filling buckets with hoses...," and another quickly followed with, "oh, they are so expensive...," "cleaning stalls...," "they are so big...." Naturally, I felt barraged by all these lamentations of horse-keeping. They made it all seem icky.

The other side of this is when someone announces that they are expecting a baby. This is always (usually) greeted with congratulations, blah, blah, blah. NO ONE ever says, "oh the diapers," "oh, kids are so expensive," "babies are noisy and messy," "they'll grow up to kick your ass, wreck your car," "college is so expensive," etc.

I won't lie, horses are expensive. So are dogs and parrots, golfing, shoes, wine-tasting and movies. Pick your poison. Horses need only a few things, but they need a large quantity of that short list of items. They need water, hay, maybe grain, shelter from the sun and inclement weather, grassland to be in. They need about 10 gallons of fresh water a day, about 20 or 30 pounds of hay, three, four or six cups of cereal each day. About 2 or 5 acres of safe, debris-free, grassland to stand around in. You won't find all those things in a townhouse community.

One of the myths is that the Veterinarian will be expensive. Honestly, this is not true. The boy's rabies shots (yes, they get them) are cheaper than for the dog or cat. Just because they are bigger does not mean everything is that much more money. It doesn't work that way. A horse Vet is never as rich as a dog/cat doctor.

There are primitive ways of taking care of horses and there are modern, refined ways of horse care. Barns can be built or installed close to the house because manure management is so much easier now. That translates into low-odor, low-insect issues. Improved manure rakes are easy to use and very effective with picking stalls. Manure spreaders come in sizes and styles and even a small child can maneuver them around the aisle. There are even hand-operated choices.

There are automatic watering systems available, eliminating the chore of hauling water or dealing with hoses. Buried water lines prevent freeze-ups.

It is easy to remotely monitor your horses, too. Closed-circuit cameras will send images to your P/C, at your job or on your phone! You can see that they are lazy sacks, hanging out, waiting for you to come home.

Another thing is the size factor. Size DOES NOT MATTER to a horse. They don't think they are as big as they are, and a clear-cut, definite pecking-order is what they thrive on, depend on. I am the biggest horse in the field, and they know it.

I could go on, but I think you get it. Children are always testing the boundaries of your love but horses figure it out right away and then rely on that. Children try to find the chink in your armor. Horses are the better bet, if you want my opinion!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog's Day!

According to the weather guru, Punxsutawney Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, there will not be six more weeks of Winter. His prognosticating prowess indicates that Spring is just around the corner. Which reminds me, we'll be eradicating more groundhogs this Spring in and around the pastures. Ka-Boom!

The massive storm system that has crippled cities and closed airports in the mid-west showed up last night at 10:00 p.m. It was rain. Continued raining all night. A slushy, slippery mess on the patio and our parking lot. The forecast for today is high of 50! and sunny.

That being said, everybody is in today. I don't want them out in the slush and wet, tearing up the pasture. They can all stay in today, eat hay and listen to 98Rock.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February is Here! And it Better be Quick!

Misty morning, a mizzle really. The car did have just a skim of ice on it and the treacherous spot was the patio. The rest is just crunch, crunch, crunch or bare, hard dirt.

Everybody is out today, we'll revisit that tomorrow, but for now they are all out. I put the little guys hay under the overhang and some I put in the run-in shed for the big boys. I also put some out in the snow banks. Hay keeps horses warm, not grain. The hay on-hand will last a couple more weeks, then we have to get another 40 bales. That then will get us to the end of March.

Tomorrow is Groundhog's Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This is a serious big deal, and ironically, they are on to something! This is also, traditionally, the day that KC starts to shed, in earnest. Skip starts much later, but KC starts shedding and continues until May.

I am counting the days until Spring.