It is no secret that I am an avid admirer of just how clean planking looks and how it has the power to transform a small misshapen nook of a dining room into a light and open space. Four years ago, we decided to embark upon our first DIY-Planking escapade and two years later, with a lot of breaks in between, we were finally able to enjoy our success. Was it perfect? Far from it but from the picture below, it’s hard to see the imperfections as they just added to the charm.
Despite the unexpected issues we came across, after thinking ourselves newfound experts thanks to endless blog tutorials and YouTube tutorials, I am happy to report that our love of planking entire rooms or mere accent features has not dulled in the slightest.
However, that being said…I did want to offer a bit of advice to anyone about to plunge into a wood plank/Shiplap project before you get started so you don’t make the same rookie mistakes we did on our first try.
A few in-progress photos…just a lil’ tasting!
Tips & Tricks of the Trade we SWEAR by:
Paint the walls you are intending to cover FIRST. If you don’t, removing planks and starting over is a major pain in the neck…not to mention that whatever current wall color is present will bleed through the gaps in the planks which will throw off the overall look. (We opted for a Flat Enamel finish on the walls in a Paint/Primer combo and then used a Satin finish for the planks themselves.)
When you do have all of your planks fastened securely to the walls, make certain to paint the planks horizontally. Apply only a thin coating over a foam roller to lessen the likelihood of any paint smudging in the gaps between each plank. (We used a 6″ foam roller for a smoother finish and due to the fact we elected for 6″ wide planks. Made it go by in a breeze! …once we got going that is. ^^)
If you are going to have your 8×4′ sheet cut down into individual planks at your local home improvement store, just be aware that they never guarantee precision cuts. There is always the likelihood that they may not remeasure before each new cut. Always just ask nicely / remind them to do so, otherwise by your last plank, you may find it 4 1/4″ vs 6″ wide.
Once cut, because the material is lightweight compressed plyboard, the edges will very likely have a good deal of splintering. Very carefully hand sand those edges before applying the planks to the walls or painting, it will save you a headache later on. Always move in one direction, following the wood grain, and in gentle motions so as not to splinter the edges further. If they aren’t perfectly even or straight after sanding, DON’T WORRY, once all is said and done I promise you, it only adds to the charm and yields more character.
The best advice for any home project, to be honest, #thewallisneverperfectlystraight. Ever. Seriously. Our former home that we did this dining nook in was a new construction home and each wall was off by at least 1/8″ and certain areas nearing the ceiling bowed out slightly. Measure, measure, and re-measure!
Remember to account for any electrical outlets and fixtures that you will need to cut out in advance before applying your planks to the walls.
Last but most importantly, once you finish painting a plank go back above and beneath the plank, in that little nickel wide spacing you’ve left, with a clean toothpick to smooth out any potential paint that’s gummed up inside the gap. If you don’t, you will lose the integrity of the “planked look” and it will appear far less pronounced.
But in the end, it’s always entirely worth all the sweat work. I’ve included a couple photos after we’d finished planking, painting, and applying caulking. What do you think? Not too bad for a couple of rookies, right?
April showers bring May flowers or at least that’s how the saying goes. Around here it’s been rain, rain, and more rain punctuated by a few sunny days. After a week straight, we have sun and I managed to slip out and get a few pictures of our now nice-looking garden beds.
with the latter looking like it belongs at a haunted mansion perhaps?
Last spring and summer we left the garden beds to their own devices. I simply did not have the mental energies to devote to the work. The interior demanded enough of our attention and energy and the thought of having all the work outside as well was exhausting. But this is going to be our year I can feel it in my gut. I donned my work clothes, rolled up my sleeves and away we went!
Weeding is my least favorite chore, and I’m positive most of you would say the same. Clearing the front beds was a relatively painless job, minus having to kneel on the concrete while I weeded. It took me several hours over the course of a couple days to get it weed free. I hauled away buckets of dirt, and then added in a few bags of good topsoil and then we were ready to plant. To keep it low maintenance and still pretty, I chose Hostas for the front. They’re hearty plants, fairly easy to care for, and I won’t have to worry about whether they blossom or not.
The final touch for the front: a wood chip mulch. Mulch is great for conserving moisture in the soil and helps discourage weed growth. Added bonus: it adds a visual appeal to your garden beds. With a limited budget and a desire to get this finished as quickly as possible, we decided to opt for bagged mulch vs having a garden center deliver it in bulk. I was hesitant to go with a pre-bagged mulch since you’re never 100% sure of what you will get until you open it. There’s a slight risk of getting bad or moldy mulch, or discoloration in the case of colored brands. We ended up choosing a non-dyed cedar mulch by Timberline and I am very pleased with the results!
The backyard, however, was an entirely different beast. I spent forty-something minutes digging up what I have now dubbed the ‘mystery root from hell’. It came up in pieces. (The other weeds were no picnic either.)
It required a spade (my hand trowel was not sufficient, and whatever that long pointy tool is? I believe it’s called a dandelion weeder. Kind of looks like a screwdriver with a notch in the end. I should have taken a before image so I could later identify the plant in case I ran into it again, but I was so caught up in wrestling it out of the ground I forgot.
Several hours over the course of a couple days and the ground was finally weed free and ready to plant.
We purchased a garden box kit from Home Depot to save us the hassle of building one from scratch. Since the soil around here is crap (read lots of clay), we purchased a few bags of garden soil so we could ‘start fresh’: a raised bed filled with only good topsoil. The rest we covered in black plastic to discourage weed growth in the hopes we will have a little less to deal with. Now our little herb garden is ready to go, minus the addition of a couple more plants.
Our next project will be reworking the fence I built 2 years ago to keep out the fat critters that took up residence underneath our shed. But that’s a post for another time. Until then, cheers!!
So… there’s no getting around it, I have been quite the absentee for months now. Things around the farm have been beyond a bit crazy and have left us working double-time in what free time we have to keep things moving smooth”ish”. While I may be a month behind in posting this I’m beyond excited to finally feel I’ve the time to blog again.
As of March 31st, we’d officially spent an entire year in our budding little farm. The amazing thing is how much has happened over the course of one lil’ ol’ year too! Looking back and considering what we’ve learned, experiencing the ups and downs, the painful realization of hindsight after heroically attempted projects, the joy of crossing something off the “to-do” list at long last… It’s been a process to say the least. And this wild ride seemed best to show rather than tell. After all, a photo says a thousand words, right?
It’s amazing to think that once upon a time we started out by digging over -200- holes, three feet deep and one foot across, to space out where the fence posts would sit…with the Bobcat that broke down every other hole.
Then there was the day we began setting the final row of posts on our first pasture. That blasted string would never stay taut and yet we prevailed. Seeing our horses content from my porch, morning coffee in hand, worth it.
Watching the evolution of a pile of brambles and clay dug out, filled with drainage gravel and sand before laying out our stall mats, and finally, setting up the floating stall panels. Finally, shade for our paints in the summer!
As the needs of the land became more apparent with fall approaching and our singular pasture suffering the wrath of one too many horses upon it. And just like that, the beginnings of our second pasture.
And then when life threw us another curveball – we needed a new roof, water was quite literally dripping down the INSIDE of the walls. With a prayer and a bit of elbow grease, the farmhouse was looking better than ever!
We’d thought we’d seen and experienced our fair share of surprises. So naturally we woke up to a winter wonderland…in the deep south. Despite the challenges this posed for our horses and lack of heaters on our water troughs we managed. Plus it was gorgeous!
The new year came and with it brought the lingering chill of winter, did anyone think it would actually end this year? For the first time ever, blankets were a necessity for the horses. As always, Gambit is always ready for an epic photobomb.
Eventually hints of spring began to poke past the chilly temperatures and before we knew it, spring was FINALLY here! It felt as though our little farm came back to life and the scenery was nothing shy of spectacular.
And now as summer is on the horizon, we look back and realize that while the farm is endless work, endless surprises (not always the YES! kind either), and tiring as all get out…the sheer enjoyment we get out of this little slice we call our own paradise is worth it all.
Here’s to our first year and many many more! Cheers!
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Spring is in full swing with summer close at its heels. Which means it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and dig in.
First stop: the lawn. The patchy, crabgrass-and-weed-ridden lawn that has been a sore spot the last few years. And if you’ve been following along thus far, you know all too well of my lawncare gripes and my lack of a green thumb. (I did not get that gene despite having several family members who are fantastic gardeners.) As far as the yard goes, we’ve done little lawn care this last year except spreading Scotts Weed and Feed when we remember to. The past two years, I have patch seeded a few of the bare spots which worked for a short while but the new grass was soon choked out by crabgrass and other weeds. At this point, I had all but laid my dreams to rest, of a lush, green lawn brought about by my own hands. The hubby and I began to discuss using a professional company to do the job since it seemed we had all but failed. Not that we had two extra pennies to rub together for such luxuries, but it was a thought nonetheless.
This year we – or rather I – decided to put forth one last ditch effort to have a lawn isn’t quite as cringeworthy. Since I’m home all day, most of the yard work falls to me and I’m determined to have some success this season. We put forth hours of research from various sites, came up with a plan and off we went. Home Depot – our home away from home – here we come!
Step one was dethatching the lawn.Scott’s describes thatch as “a layer of living and dead grass shoots, stems, and roots that forms between the grass blades and the soil surface”. A little bit is okay, a lot is problematic. Too much thatch can reduce the amount of oxygen and moisture that are able to reach the soil and grass roots. De-thatching removes the excess material so air, water, nutrients, and fertilizer can reach the soil better as well as allow your lawn to drain more effectively.
Now that you’ve had your vocabulary lesson for the day, it’s back to the work. Over the course of a few days, I cut the grass then worked to dethatch the lawn with the garden rake. (My back and shoulders were none too pleased about this.) It’s not the optimal tool but we tried to work with what we had, not wanting to put forth money for fancy tools we might only use once or twice. Again a rake wasn’t optimal and some areas were definitely harder than others, but after lots of sweat (and a few tears), it got the job done, leaving us with several piles of dead grass material.
Step two was to aerate the lawn. I’ve found the best time to do this is when the soil is damp, which makes it easier to puncture the ground. Now there are two types of aerators, the first being more machine than a tool (at least all the ones I’ve seen are). A core aerator has hollow tines and pulls 2-in. deep plugs or ‘cores’ of soil and thatch up from the ground. You push (or pull) it along depending on the type. Since we have a very small yard, it seemed unreasonable to buy one (read $50+) and there were none available for rent the day we stocked up, so Plan B it was. Instead, we purchased a spike aerator with four ‘spike’ tines which create a row of 2-in. holes in the ground. You move across the lawn, stopping about every 8 inches to push it into the ground. It’s not quite as effective as the core aerator but it was much more budget friendly. My spouse was kind enough to do this two weeks ago when we first purchased. Unfortunately, it took me awhile to get to the backyard and so I went over the lawn with the aerator once more to be safe.
The final step: spread a thin layer of topsoil over the lawn followed by a mixture of grass seed. We used a mix since neither of us was certain what type of grass was actually growing in our lawn. That and we keep the lawn well watered and wait. It will be a couple of weeks before we see any success or failure so … fingers crossed!
In April, we’ll have been in here for 4 years. It’s crazy how time passes us by. It feels like it was only last week we signed the papers and received our keys.
Saying that we’ve had our share of ups and downs would be an understatement. If you’ve been following our journey thus far you’ll understand why. But looking back on where we’ve been and where we’re going, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you.
In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have bought this particular house and instead waited for something that would have been less work. But with most of the houses in this area being too far out of our range of affordability, this seemed like a great opportunity. (Asking $250k for a shoebox of a 2-bedroom house with almost no kitchen is unrealistic. Also, when the short person has to duck to get down the stairs into the basement there’s a major problem.) As stated inmy first post here, we were so sure no major work was needed in the house, beyond taking down wallpaper and broken tiles, paint, and those ‘homey touches’. Boy, were we wrong.
In fact, we often joke about passing up on one of the houses we toured – a beautiful house with loads of potential but in need of serious repairs. With holes in the walls, the ceiling, and even missing plumbing, it would have required a 203(k) Rehabilitation or Title 1 loan. I’m almost certain neither of those would have provided enough money for all the work required.
As I’ve stated before, we really are learning a lot about remodeling. It’s a giant pain in the rear most of the time, but when your budget is limited, you do what you can. This house has forced us both to think outside the box and reach for our inner DIY-er. I never would have imagined in one hundred years that we’d own not only multiple hand held power tools but a miter saw and stand (which still terrifies me to use but someday I will conquer it!)
Yes, there are some days I regret this buy and other days where I’m thankful for it. I think part of that is the ups and downs of home ownership. But as with any major project, there are going to be a lot more ‘hate it’ days then ‘love it’ ones.
I find that the most difficult part of doing the work ourselves is when you hit the lull between inspiration. Those moments when your drive to work is lackluster or lacking altogether. Those are the moments when discouragement sets in. We’ve come so far, and yet it feels like there is still so much to do, simply at the cosmetic level. And being that this isn’t our forever house, sometimes it’s difficult to justify some of these major remodels.
In spite of all the work we’ve done, it feels as if we’ve barely put a dent in it all. Granted, a lot of what we did has been demolition and sometimes things move along slower than we anticipated. The first floor isn’t finished yet and there’s still so much left to be done on the rest of the house to even get it “resale worthy”.
But this is our home, and it may still be a few years before we can permanently remove the (invisible) ‘under construction’ sign from our doorway. All in all, though, I wouldn’t trade this experience away for, well…almost anything.
Moving into this next year of home ownership, we hope to be able to share more of our progess with you (assuming we make progress!) and I will do my best to keep you updated a bit more regularly.
Until the next time…careful where you swing that hammer!
–Love from the residents of Parkside Twin
“Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?” “I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.” -Groundhog Day – 1993
It’s always nice when things fall neatly into place, but quite often it seems that will not be the case because the house throws you a curveball or three and suddenly it’s as if you’re stuck in the Groundhog’s Day of home remodeling.
Since we started on this house 3 1/2 years ago, we’ve learned more than our fair share of lessons the difficult way. Not for lack of trying mind you, more so due to … what we will call a lack of information.
The way most projects go is as follows: make a plan and do any and all appropriate research, materials are purchased, project is started, and then, the “Oh S*** moment” happens where all the hard work and planning you’ve done starts to fall apart at the seams and you’re forced to take a step back and rethink everything.
Let me back up a bit here. We started painting our closet and quickly realized that the areas we had so painstakingly spackled and sanded smooth, stood out starkly against the rest of the rather textured wall.
With the walls already primed, we decided against trying to skim the closet walls, opting instead to complete painting and move on to the next area.
Now, most paint rollers will leave some sort of texture on even a completely smooth surface such as drywall. The thickness of the woven cover a.k.a. the “nap” of a roller will determine how much of a texture will be left on your walls and the type of surface you’re painting on will determine how thick of a nap you need. They can range in thickness from 1/4″ onwards to 1″ and are labeled with their thickness and best uses.
Back on point here, we chose 3/8″ nap rollers which are a fairly common choice for walls and ceilings and only leave a slight texture. The previous owners, however, must have used a much thicker nap roller as the rather obvious texture on our walls makes it look like they used an orange peel instead of a paint roller. And when you add sloppy brushwork (drips and all), with uneven and heavily textured walls, and well, you can start to see our predicament.
Obvious brush strokes
Orange peel wall!
Skimming walls would be the ideal answer but from our experiences thus far in wall skimming, it’s incredibly labor intensive and material intensive. We easily blew through more than one 5-gallon bucket off drywall mud on the two skim jobs we did earlier in the year. And working in a small 5’x5’ish “room”, the mere thought of trying to maneuver a bucket, ladder, paint tray, and all our other supplies in such a small space is cold sweat, panic-inducing kind of stuff nightmares are made of.
So now what? Well, they necessity is the mother of invention and while we didn’t actually invent this method of skimming, I doubt we would have tried this had our hand not been somewhat forced. Now many of the online DIYers prefer what I call the quick and dirty skim method which is just drywall mud, a trowel (or tray) and a putty knife, as opposed to using the roll-on method that we had previously used.
We simply laid on as thin a coat of non-watered down drywall mud as possible. It was just enough to fill in and smooth out the walls. It took a bit of doing to get the right rhythm and thickness down but once we got in the groove, it turned out quite nicely.
Once everything had dried, only a light sanding was in order to get it ready to paint. Will we continue to use this method on future walls? I don’t know. Working in a 5 x 5 space is a lot different than on a 12′ long wall. I guess we’ll just have to see. (Also, my apologies for so many boring pictures of plain walls. Perhaps the next post will feature slightly more dynamic photos.)
a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome
a commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture
Back on point, the Mr. and I had come to the realization that we would need to build a second pasture for our horses pronto. With limited time, the weather hinting at winter, and our endless ‘honey-do’ list of repairs on the farmhouse…we realized we didn’t have much time to do this one ourselves. Moving forward, we enlisted the aid of a fencing company. In fact, due to the professionalism and quality finish of our last pasture, we elected to go with the same company again.
Now as previously mentioned, this pasture was being put up a year sooner than planned and sadly… budgeted. If you are looking to save a few dollars or in our case close to $500, you can elect to do all of the measurements, research the necessary materials, and pick them up yourself. We simply stored ours in an empty stall in the barn, ready for the arrival of the fencing company.
It’s really sort of amazing what a company will charge you as a convenience/labor fee just to pick up supplies five minutes down the road…
Anyways… back to the checklist!
Fence outline drafted and measured – check!
Measurements delivered to fencing company and estimate provided – check!
Materials for project acquired and delivered – check!
Start date agreed upon for project – check! …er, stop, nope, stop right there, and so we meet…our first hiccup…
In case you find yourself debating what the best time of year to install a fence is, let me tell you this much, it isn’t late fall/early winter. Though we didn’t have much of a choice as to the when, we did assume that with the colder temperatures and higher likelihood of rain, that fencing companies would have less work coming in. Wrong! We learned that it is actually a prime time for these companies and couldn’t get placed on the schedule for nearly 4 weeks out from the date we signed on with the company.
After the debacle of our first pasture, we made certain to let our fencers know that we would need to be on-site anytime they were out to work on the property. I can’t manage the implementation of a project if I’m not here. Simple? Simple! And so three weeks went by before we received a message that they’d set the corner posts for our pasture but couldn’t finish them as we hadn’t provided enough posts.
Momentary eye twitch of frustration. They were a week early, had not contacted us beforehand, and when I arrived home to check the work done (and see how our post calculations were off) it was a disappointing sight to be certain.
We had written out specific instructions (that were notated on our estimate) for how to lay out the corner posts and gate posts which were the following:
5″ x 8′ round wood posts provided for all corner and gate posts
6′ metal T-Posts provided for all remaining posts
One 16′ galvanized steel gate provided for southeastern end of pasture
One 10′ galvanized steel gate provided for northwestern end of pasture
All wood posts should be set 3′ underground
All T-Posts should be set 1′ underground
All posts should be separated 10′ apart with the exception of “H” brace posts to both sides of each gate post
“H” brace posts should be only 4′ apart with a 4′ horizontal post going across the middle for additional stability
Despite our instructions, the wood posts had been set only 18″ underground versus the requested 36″, a depth that was chosen based off USDA recommendations due to the strain a tension-based fencing system places on corner/end posts. To greatly reduce the risk of a post upheaving, concrete involved or no, 36″ is simply the go-to standard.
Furthermore, we found our “H” brace posts 8′ wide instead of 4′, they had not cut the posts and thus had used four too many leaving them short-handed. We sought to contact the supervisor of the project immediately, sent photos of the work done incorrectly complete with a measuring tape included to show posts were not sunk deep enough. Hours later we received only a, ‘I’ll handle it.’
Once more, workers were sent to our farm without notice and seemed genuinely confused as to what was wrong with the way things had been set. When we re-went over the specifications with them, they informed us that they had not received any of that information or they would have dug the holes deeper. Furthermore, none seemed too savvy on digging up the concreted posts to re-set them so they instead offered to place bracing rods at an angle beneath the surface that would fasten on to the posts at ground level. While not my preferred option, it was the most time efficient and held merit, so we approved that accommodation.
As the posts were already set, there was little to be done about our now 8′ wide H brace posts. At 8′ wide versus 4′, it does not take away from the stability of the fence, it is more of a cosmetic issue and so once more, we approved leaving it as it was for the sake of progress continuing on the fence.
Sadly, it was at this point that we lost the last of the sunshine-filled fall weather and faced the off and on rain for days as well as uncommonly cool temperatures for the south. To their credit, if it wasn’t raining, the crew members were out and working to get the remaining T-posts set so they could begin fastening the wire in place.
Day after day I went out to tend to our horses and check in on the progress of our new pasture. What was originally quoted a five day project was already well past as we found ourselves well into week two as the crew’s days and time spent at the farm varied greatly, leaving us to believe they were working on multiple sites simultaneously.
Despite the mounting frustration, by the beginning of week three the Mr. received a message that they had completed the fence. I think this is a universal feeling felt by any that have undergone home renovations or attempted them DIY-style, to hear that something has been finished, that it’s completed, is a moment of sheer euphoria. I will admit I hummed the entire car ride home in my excitement to see it.
I am also sure that to those who have gone through the arduous process of home renovations and/or DIY projects, that you have felt that joy pulled out from under you as you arrive to look over the finished project and it’s…and it’s…a hot mess.
The number of brief video clips taken that afternoon go beyond my desire to count. Only a third of our wood posts had been cut down to 5′ tall, our southeastern gate had not been hung, wire spools were left sticking out around corner posts, staples had not been properly placed, and worst of all…nearly two thirds of the fence wobbled. As in, I could gently grasp the top of the fence, shake it gently, and watch nearly one foot in either direction of the T-posts wave from side to side nearly 100′ from where I stood.
To be blunt, it was not completed as no finishing touches had been done as of yet, and as for the fence itself, it is tension based and cannot be left so loose that it has that amount ‘of play’ to it. There was zero part of our fence that was capable of being a safe habitat to contain livestock, or in this case, horses within it.
After very crass messages, on the verge of harassment and bullying, for us to pay for the work in full…as it was “completed” remember? We put our foot down and challenged the supervisor to come and look for themselves. Apparently, my extensive video clips and photos were enough to bring about a very brief and disingenuous apology stating that they’d been misinformed, that the workers were simply meaning they were done for that particular work day..?
Now I’m a rather understanding person but when one considers the mishaps we’d been having since day 1, it seemed extremely far-fetched. And such was the moment when I was placed in the position I hate, forced by circumstance to contact the BBB if they did not prioritize our project and complete it. Don’t forget, we were over two weeks behind the schedule they quoted us.
Suddenly the crew was re-assigned back to our property and our fence was given three days of their full attention. The trash left on our acreage was picked up and cleared away, the spokes of wire sticking out were properly cut, capped, and stapled down wrapping around end posts. Our gate was hung, the fence tightened across the entirety of the four acres and at last, it seemed we could move our horses over.
Those final days either myself or the Mr. watched and oversaw the corrections made to the fence. While there is still some wobble to one particular side and curve of the fence, it is minor in comparison to its prior condition. Watching the efforts they went to to tighten it as much as they did, we agreed that without some rather heavy machinery, it was unlikely it could be made any tighter.
As for now, the horses have enjoyed the pasture for approximately a month’s time. While the fence already shows some wear and tear, our horses respect it far less than our heavy duty CenFlex, it is serving its purpose well and has given our original pasture much MUCH needed time to recuperate.
Though many headaches were involved in its completion, we are at least satisfied with the end result and the additional room for our animals. After all was said and done we did end up with a reasonably priced pasture as well. Materials were just under 1/2 of our cost, coming in around $1750 whereas labor was $3 per linear foot, coming in just over $3000. If our fence holds up even 5 years, it will have been worth the investment.
Here’s to unexpected “adventures” in the world of home renovation! Have a delightfully delicious story of your own? Comment below!
It seems like only yesterday we were walking the acreage as we mapped out the locations for future horse facilities on the farm. As our horses are only stalled in inclement weather, planning out the location and size of our pastures was our first priority.
I am delighted to report that we have been positively ecstatic about our CenFlex pasture that was completed mid-summer last year. It has proven itself a very reliable and horse-friendly material. But in retrospect I have found only one fault, its size.
Let us consider this from another viewpoint: Cause & Effect.
By permitting too many horses to be kept on a pasture that was not large enough to accommodate them (cause), I found myself facing off against overgrazing of the pasture whilst hemorrhaging funds to supply additional feed to balance out dietary needs of the horses (effect).
Now then, how did my Type-1 OCD self go from carefully planning out every conceivable detail from day one to now feeling the nagging pressure of having a secondary pasture installed as soon as possible …a year ahead of our budgeted schedule?
Such is an excellent question with an imperfect answer.
It began with taking on a fourth horse in which, given her physical condition, I simply couldn’t walk away without bringing her home. Eighteen hours later this seemingly emaciated mare, with ribs so prominent it was hard to look, foaled a beautiful little filly that was by some sort of miracle – perfect – .
Life is far more bizarre and fantastical than fiction at times.
So from three horses, in which our pasture was adequately sized, we had gone to four and suddenly five in the course of 24 hours give or take. And as life tends to trend towards the realm of unexpected, not soon after I found out a friend’s horse was in an unfavorable boarding situation where the “facilities” available were run-down and damaged. To make matters even better, he was bullied off of the communal round bale leaving him rather thin. Naturally, I offered to have her horse brought to our farm. (To that respect, I’ve not doubted the decision once. Watching him fill back out, his personality return, and him become relaxed once more has been worth it!) However, herein lies our problem because Houston, we’ve now reached six. Double the number I’d anticipated when planning everything out.
Now I have been asked why having six horses versus four on our pasture is an issue. I will happily elaborate on that question now:
The basic rule of thumb is that when pasturing a horse, you will need a minimum of 2 acres per horse in order to provide enough forage to meet their dietary needs. Now you can have a minimum of only 1 acre per horse IF you supplement hay and grain to their diet.
Now fair is fair. By that logic I should have ideally had no more than 2 horses on 4 acres however, though we had 3 initially on a 4 acres, I have been supplementing hay and grain twice a day to meet dietary needs. So while not perfect, it would be adequate until our next pasture was installed (originally scheduled fall of 2018).
So when one considers that 4 horses on a 4-acre pasture would be the maximum (with additional feed supplementation) and we have 6 horses on 4 acres, you can see where problems might arise.
Ironically, a pasture can become “stressed” due to overgrazing. Horses have a knack for avoiding weeds and nibbling just those precious stalks of grass, going so far as to tear the root from the soil at times. As I neither wanted to increase fructan levels nor have a 4-acre parcel of dirt, being able to rotate pastures moved to the top of our priority list.
As this was going to happen outside of our budgeted time frame, I was forced to consider alternative fencing options to my preferred CenFlex. I know that some folks will argue for days that barbed wire is perfectly suitable and I have heard the same for electric fences, to keep it simple, I’ve had issues with both in the past while boarding our horses and those are experiences I’d be just fine never repeating.
With that in mind and knowing CenFlex was leaps and bounds outside our current funds, we elected for a mesh-styled ‘no climb’ wire fence with a polymer coating along the top of each spool. I am entirely the person that said I’d never have wire anything on my property but necessity outweighed personal preference in this case.
We knew the location, size, shape, and materials we were going to use for the fence…the next step was getting set up with a fencing company and having it installed. To think the fun hadn’t even begun yet…
It’s been a busy few months for us at Parkside. Life just keeps rolling by (brakes anyone?) and we’ve been hard-pressed to keep up with everything going on. At least now that the holidays in full swing, I have a moment, albeit a very brief one, to stop and play a bit of catch up on all these projects.
Our biggest update to the house in recent weeks has been painting. It’s only taken 3 years to get to this point but it’s finally happening! That’s right – we PAINTED. I’ll let you have a moment to let that news sink in. (Technically we did paint a couple years ago but since that wall had to be skimmed over, I’m going to say it doesn’t really count so shhhh! Also, there’s the fact that the color we had previously used turned out much darker than I had originally thought and I ended up not really loving it.)
First coat of paint!
But back on track now – with the walls of our side (main) entryway painted a lovely soft gray, all that’s left to do in there is hang trim and our closet organizer. It’ll be our first fully completed room project since we started. There aren’t enough words to express how excited I am! Stay tuned for more excitement to come!My husband did a good bit of the painting with help from my stepson who was all gung-ho about it, jumping and practically chest bumping the walls to maximize his limited reach. It was quite entertaining to watch.
Apologies for the absence in posting but as we all know, life just keeps on happening. Darnedest thing, that. So…the short of it is that we’ve done quite a great many projects over the past months and I am at least three months behind in writing this.
Moving on! …or is it forward? Let’s settle for onward!
(See…I just -knew- there had to be a compromise there.)
For those of you that may have forgotten my rough canvas, and I use that word very very very …very literally, here it is once more, what I had to work with:
The to-do list: (does anyone else make like a zillion of these a year? #guilty)
Determine primary material for stall walls / front.
Determine stall size.
Reinforce existing wooden beam structures.
Determine preferential material for proper footing and drainage.
Level out area for new footing.
Man, …why is it to-do lists make it seem so bloody simple? I ALWAYS think it’ll be just that simple. I delude myself every time. #characterflaw And yet, …we press onward!
As you may recall, one gelding that absolutely requires being stalled during the day throughout the Spring and Summer seasons is Gambit. Gambit is also the same gelding that hates being stalled. Hate being an entirely appropriate word in this situation as he once thrashed about in a steel frame stall lined with oak beams until it broke. Case and point, he hates stalls.
SO THEN, how to keep him in one? And that was it, that was the moment when that glorious light bulb goes off in your head, when you know it may all go sideways but hey, it’s something, so you just go with it! That’s what I did.
For example, I’ve noticed that he’s never held any hesitation, discomfort, or issue of any kind with the round pen I use to ride him in whenever he needs a refresher under saddle. With that, I had my starting point. So I left him in the round pen all day / night and fed him there / moved a water trough inside. So far, so good, aside from him whinnying back and forth at our other paint, Finnegan, of which the pair are a touch inseparable. The following day I added Finnegan to the round pen with him. (It’s 60′ in diameter so plenty of room for the two chaps for one day.) The whinnying came to an abrupt halt and the two hung out leisurely for the remainder of the day.
Task one completed. Gambit was willing to respect the lightweight corral panels that comprise our round pen. My best guess is that due to how open they are, that he can still see everything around him, is still outdoors, and not cooped up inside he accepts that the shade is quite lovely.
Next up was figuring out how to fit stalls into our very unique space. Ideally I wanted to create three 12’x12′ stalls which would require an overall 12′ (D) x 36′ (L) space to work with. Instead, what I had was 12′ (D) x 38′ (L). You would be amazed at just what a pain those silly little two feet can be…
Corral panels come in three sizes at our local TSC store. Either 10′, 12′, or 16′ options. Already, my extra 2′ were becoming a nuisance. Better yet, corral panels are not produced as ‘stall fronts’ so in order to have corral ‘gates’ to use as mock stall fronts, I had the option of 4′ or 6′ wide gates. I cannot even begin to tell you how many different strange shapes and configurations we jotted down trying to be the most efficient with materials from both a cost standpoint and a means of making everything fit beneath that shabby little easement but at last we decided on the following:
I’ll be honest, the only stall that is a perfect square is the center stall measuring at 14’x14′. I had to waste a 4′ corral gate on the back row of stalls to accomplish this…but, while not as cosmetically appealing as I’d like I try to remember the bigger picture here: these are temporary stalls while I rebuild the inside of the barn and fix the ventilation issues next spring and I need to be able to reuse all of the materials I’ve purchased so far. So all in all, a 14’x12′ – 14’x14′ – 14’x12′ setup.
Next task on the agenda, repairing the existing wooden beam structures. Ironically enough, as they look pretty darn pitiful in that photo above. Structurally, they were sound, no wood rot, no insect damage, I literally only had to scrub away years of cobwebs, re-hammer in one nail, and knock down a few vacant wasp nests. HUZZAH! Sometimes it really is the little things…like not having to tear down the barn easement and rebuild a new one. Phew!
So where does that leave us? Right, footing. Here in the south we have this very pretty but essentially useless red clay soil. With our stalls being kept just alongside the barn we wanted to ensure we had solid footing to avoid any lameness issues as well as proper drainage for the all too common flash flood type rain we get here. To this end, it was quite easy as we pulled a few notes from one fencing post adventure.
The clay dug out from where our stalls were to go. Waste not, want not. I can’t tell you how many holes I’ve filled across the acreage from this pile.
Smoothing out the 80% sand / 20% fine gravel top layer.
One of our neighbors, who is an exceptionally kind and incredibly generous human being, found out about our predicament and offered his assistance. He drove over, in his Bobcat no less, and promptly began digging out the 12′ x 38′ rectangular space 1′ deep.
Once we’d evened out the freshly dug out pit, we spread out 6″ of large “drainage” gravel to help with heavy rain. This layer was then topped with a mixture of 80% sand and 20% finely broken up gravel which we then packed down tightly and smoothed out.
Once the ground was prepped and ready, we carefully laid out our rubber stall mats across the entirety of the space to help keep the sand from shifting as well as prevent sand from mixing in amongst cedar shavings. It should be noted, never ever…ever underestimate just how painfully awkward it is to carry a 4’x6′ rubber stall mat, let alone how HEAVY they are! We used 18 total, 6 per stall, and it was sheer agony trying to carry those suckers approximately 40′ from where we’d had the pallet stored to where the stalls were being built.
No one who has not laid rubber stall mats before can understand the struggle. The struggle is real folks.
Slow-feed hay bags hung and filled with Bermuda Grass hay.
Rubber water troughs scrubbed and filled.
Cedar shavings laid out in each of the three stalls.
First to test the stalls, Baby Ember. I think she’s loving it!
Finally the moment had come, assembly of the stalls. This truly was the unspoken champion of the material we selected for when I say lightweight, I mean it. We could easily lift and put each panel in place in a matter of minutes by ourselves. The flourishing touches were merely added after which included: slow-feed hay bags for each stall, cedar shavings to coat the mats, black rubber water troughs, and a fly trap hung amongst the rafters between each stall.
It should be noted, they worked like a charm too! I was able to go the remainder of summer without masks on any of the stalled horses.
Finnegan, our resident ‘big n’ tall’ enjoying the shade.
That’s right, GAMBIT is content in the shade and out of the sun. #success
Even Lilah enjoys a stall on a rainy day.
Sundance, our resident senior, appreciates being out of the sun and rain.
In conclusion, do they look beautiful, the way I envisioned the stalls would be when I got ’round to designing them? Sure don’t. Not even a lick. However, they function beautifully for what I needed. Our two sunburn prone paints had healthy unblemished skin in just a week’s time of being stalled during the day, we had no further issues with overheating, and while Gambit and Finnegan in particular tend to get overweight in the summer, their weight was maintained easily while kept stalled during the days.
Practical isn’t always the perfection we hope for or expect to see, but seeing how much more comfortable our boys were…how much happier they were? Worth it.