Where perfection has to settle for practical: Ready, Set, …no??

Evening all,

       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:

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The easement along the side of our barn. Please note: My glorious throne still remained at this point in time. Let us have a moment of silence for its relocation.

The to-do list: (does anyone else make like a zillion of these a year? #guilty)

  1. Determine primary material for stall walls / front.
  2. Determine stall size.
  3. Reinforce existing wooden beam structures.
  4. Determine preferential material for proper footing and drainage.
  5. Level out area for new footing.
  6. Assemble!

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.

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Exhibit A. Meet Gambit, he looks so deceptively calm and yet he is the “contain me if you can” gelding of nightmares.

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.

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The round pen.
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Ironically it originally served as a temporary enclosure for Lilah and her foal until Ember was old enough to be weaned.

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:

(Psst, here’s where perfect meets practical)

Back row of stalls: 12′ panel – 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 12′ panel
Sides / Dividers of stalls: 12′ panel – 12′ panel – 12′ panel – 12′ panel
Front row of stalls: 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 4′ gate & 10′ panel

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.

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.

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Final layer completed and half of the stall mats laid out.
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The one and only stall mat that refused to lay flat…though to be fair, this was due to the fact it is resting atop the edge of the concrete block the existing wooden beam was cemented into.
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All 18 stall mats finally laid out and ready for stalls to go up!

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.

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.

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.

Cheers!

~Christy

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When southern weather puts a damper in your plans: I smell revisions!

Afternoon everyone! For those that aren’t aware, here at our farm we have somewhat of a menagerie of horses.

When it comes to horses, I look for a sound mind, good legs, dependable track record, and seasoned under saddle. Unusual coloration (grullo, buckskin, palomino, oh my!) and coveted bloodlines (I’ve always been a sucker for Poco Bueno and Hancock bred horses personally) are always a nice bonus, but picking your companions on looks alone has…let’s face it, never really worked out for anyone, am I right or am I right?

As such, we’ve wound up with a Standardbred, AQHA (American Quarter Horse), as well as a couple paint crosses and the like. Now I will admit, while I am a bit partial, despite picking personality over appearance, we lucked out with some absolutely gorgeous horses. Now I say this now so that you will remember it because as I get into the nitty gritty of this post, you may question my love for paint horses…if only just a lil’ bit.

Enter our two overo paints, Gambit and Finnegan. Key word: OVERO.

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From left to right: Gambit & Finnegan

By APHA (American Paint Horse Association) standards, an overo is classified by the following:

  • The white usually will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail.
  • Generally, at least one and often all four legs are dark.
  • Generally, the white is irregular, and is rather scattered or splashy.
  • Head markings are distinctive, often bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced.
  • An overo may be either predominately dark or white.
  • The tail is usually one color.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Now then, what does it all really mean? It’s just one particular type of coat pattern found in paint horses right? Let me #realtalk you for a moment and re-phrase a few of those key points…

  • All white sections of your horse’s coat will be subject to easily sunburn, bordering from mild to severe.
  • White legs in overos are uncommon but when they occur they bring with them the increased likelihood of other skin ailments such as Mud Fever, Scratches, and the like. Thhhhhhat’s right, your horse is just that much more genetically pre-disposed to catching “all the things” as I’ve fondly (or not so fondly) nicknamed it.
  • Bald-faced with light eyes and a pale muzzle are 50% striking features and 50% endless headache. Why? The sad reality is that these features typically require fly masks with higher rated UV protection up to 9 months out of the year to prevent chronic conjunctivitis, blistering, and first to second degree sunburns to name a few. (Yes…there’s more, oh so much more…)

(Note: They do sell legitimate sunblock for horses. I purchase mine in a powdered form that you moisten and wipe on comprised of Zinc Oxide. It was created by an equine veterinarian in Arizona, you know, the state of endless heat and torment. So while I’m just speculating, I feel like she knows what she’s about, you know? SO! To any fellow sufferers, “My Pony Sunblock” changes lives! You can find it on Facebook.)

Now then, despite Kensington fly masks with high UV reduction ratings, that my Standardbred likes to pull off of his siblings …and then proceed to drown said fly masks in the pasture water trough, sunblock applied daily to their muzzles and around their faces, and having access to two large walnut trees to stand beneath for shade, I was still finding new blood blisters along their skin and even peeling about their necks and over their backs near daily.

You really start to hate yourself and feel the guilt just wash over you as you walk out to the pasture each morning and see that your horses are uncomfortable / suffering, knowing that you’re doing all you can, or at least, for what we had available, I certainly felt I was.

But that was it, that was my breaking point – that gut wrenching feeling morning after morning. I simply couldn’t stand it anymore. #thisiswherethebudgetgoesoutthewindow

After a month of fighting against the painstaking heat and relentless summer sun I decided to nix my current project of creating cross-ties beneath the easement of our barn to instead create three temporary 12×12 stalls.

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My original intention for the area under the barn easement, what was supposed to become my outdoor covered cross-ties. (Courtesy of Pinterest)

It seemed easy enough, I mean…I’ve built stalls at a previous ranch before and I’m not feint-hearted when it comes to a new vision on the fly but there were a few key factors that I realized immediately were going to make this a struggle and a half:

  1. Gambit absolutely, positively, HATES being stalled. He’s near broken down a stall front made of oak in the past, to say it “isn’t his thing” is the understatement of the year.
  2. The space available to build stalls beneath wasn’t going to produce 12×12′ stalls but more of an awkward 13×15′ stall size.
  3. The positioning of the barn on our property doesn’t allow for much air-flow to the extent that the easement on the eastern side gets little in the way of a passing breeze. In the south with 95+ degree days and 85%+ humidity daily…that’s a big problemo.
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My VERY rough canvas of what I have to work with…

The solution? Well…that’s an adventure in itself.

Stay tuned!

~Christy

From Jungle to Field: The beginnings of a second pasture.

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The future site of our next pasture. It lies adjacent to our new CenFlex 4 acre pasture.

Would you just look at that. When I tell you it’s a sight for sore eyes… Darlin’, I ain’t kiddin’!

With only an electric push mower at my disposal, it was simply inconceivable to attempt tackling this 3.5 acre parcel of grass/thistle/weeds that was nearing 4′ in height. Had the mulching kit on my mower even been capable of cutting it down…I would’ve likely bogged down the blades every 5-10′.

(I may know this because at one point earlier on in summer, I tried. I will summarize it briefly: It did not go well.)

On a happier note, by mere chance one day, I happened to be home and you guessed it, mowing the lawn…again…when a neighbor popped by to say hello. They had hired a crew with a few impressive looking dozers and tractors to clear out their acreage to the west of us in order to reclaim the trails that run across them.

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Impressive, right?

The only problem was that the job would take them several days and our neighbor felt uncomfortable leaving the rented equipment just randomly out amongst their acreage. So they proposed, seeing me dripping with sweat and my signature push mower in tow, to have their crew mow down our secondary pasture field for us if we’d allow them to park their vehicles near the barn each night.

I attempted to gracefully accept but I have a feeling my expression gave me away for the “YES YES YES YES YES YES” that was going through my head on repeat. The result was 4′ masterfully cut down and a lovely 6″ left in its place. It’s no longer a ‘jungle out there’ and I can actually stake out the location for our T-Posts we’ll be driving into the soil in preparation of hanging our next pasture fence.

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A properly kept field. So glorious!

Yes, yes, I know. It’s just a picture of a field. But let me remind you, it’s a field now, not a frightening jungle with anacondas, leopards, …and probably your handful of armadillos.

Cheers!

~Christy

From Shabby to well…Shabby Chic!

Though today is a might bit dreary outside, as the last lingering remnants of Hurricane Irma pass over our little farm, the past month has been anything but!

When we first happened upon our home, it had been greatly reclaimed by nature with shrubs and vines covering half of the exterior windows…even those near 10′ up from the ground. Now, while we’re still a constant work in progress when it comes to exterior maintenance of the lawn we have made some progress!

(‘Progress!’I always hear that in my head like Bill Nye the Science Guy when he yells out “SCIENCE!”, how about you?)

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The front entry and porch.

As you can see above on the right, the mudroom’s singular window is all but blocked by a ginormous shrub that may hold plans for world domination. I’ve zero factual basis to back that aside from the fact I said it and that we’ve hacked it down and rounded the surface to a reasonable 4′ and yet it sprouts up as though possessed.

Matter of fact, all of the shrubs are the exact same and yet some grow ridiculously faster than others. Be gentle in your judgement that not a one is of the same shape nor size but A HA! we can see out of nearly all of the front windows now. #takingthesuccesseswhenandwhereican

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The front side yard as you pull up to the house with barn in the distance.

Once more, what seems like a mere photo of grass is to me a STUNNING victory of non-enviable sweat equity as I fought down two feet of tangled weeds, thistle, and the occasional bit of Bermuda grass! Take that Home & Garden, my lawn is finally beginning to look like a photo you hocked before going to print but we’re still a runner up Gosh Daniel!

On the other hand, …perhaps that doesn’t seem all that impressive? BUT WHAT IF I told you that it was achieved with only an electric push mower that isn’t even self propelled? See, see! Now you’re likely cringing at the thought. And why you ask? Because that “small” front side yard is 1/2 an acre. That’s right! Two foot tall jungle of a beast, 1/2 an acre in size, mowed into submission with sheer will power and approximately 11 charges of our mower’s batteries. #endurancewinithout

One thing I both love and hate equally about our property – the near 500′ driveway. The scenic drive in from a long day at work: Priceless. The walk with the varied sounds of nature in the darkness as I walk our waste bins back up from the street: Terrifying.

It should be noted that the 5′ tall grass/weed fiasco bordering our new pasture fence and right side of our drive has been tamed. I’d like to thank the academy, and by that I mean Academy, for selling wonderful workout clothes for all the “hikes” I’ve gotten from this driveway.

 

Cheers to mastering the lawn…somewhat, heck, I’ll drink to that!

~Christy

P.S. No shrubs were harmed in the “taming” of this lawn.

Horse Fencing 101: Not Another Horse Fencing Post

Afternoon all!

I think the title pretty much sums this one just right on up. Yet another…horse -fencing- post. *dramatic music ensues*

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We opted for 5″ CenFlex horse fencing with CA (Copper Azole) treated lumber.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I am happy to report that our fence is FINALLY finished. Let me just get that out of my system one more time, I repeat, our fence…is FINALLY FINISHED!!! Where is a rooftop that I can shout this from? …that isn’t ours, as I am PRETTY confident that is the next thing on our ol’ farmhouse that’s going to kick the bucket.

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The northwestern corner of our pasture leading to the barn.

ANYWAYS… after two months, twenty-three days, sixteen hours, and give or take forty-five minutes or so…our pasture fence is done. How best to express the joy the Mr. and I felt in that moment? It was champagne toasting type worthy, if we were not scrounging pennies, and if I drank…but still! It was a glorious moment of realization, driving home that day to find the fence crew gone and our pasture in all of its splendor just waiting for horses to settle within its borders.

There is an old saying amongst folks that own horses and it goes as follows: “If you want to make a small fortune in the horse industry…start with a large one.”

My bleeding savings account endorses that belief wholeheartedly.

Why? Despite careful planning and placing a ridiculously high “in case of: X” fund aside, for all the little hiccups one -always- runs into whilst doing any sort of DIY / home renovation project, we went over budget (understatement of the year) …and then some, not to mention we were a month and a half behind schedule.

Regardless, the finished project was worth all of the headaches, sleepless nights, budget constraints, and overall stress (Is that a gray hair?). From the moment our horses were brought home, they settled in without any fuss, choosing to enjoy the Bermuda grass rather than explore or kick up their heels.

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From left to right, Gambit and Finnegan.

Our geldings have never felt more comfortable as we often find them laying on their side napping during the day. My rescued Standardbred, Remington, who suffers from anxiety and is extremely skittish, lounges about day after day and whinnies in excitement whenever anyone approaches the pasture.

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Lilah and our miracle foal, lil’ Ember.

Lilah, our rescued Quarter Horse mare, was pacing in place on the trailer in anticipation as we went to unfasten her lead rope. She forget her filly, Ember, as she tugged me along to their separate temporary pasture in our 60′ round pen. Lil’ Ember chasing after mom was a spectacle all in itself.

Like I said, for all of the heartache and hardship, having our horses home at last…worth every moment.

~Christy

When Two Worlds Collide: Lawn care Woes

Good morning all!

     I realized it has been a quick minute since our last update on the farm. To be blunt, this whirlwind never slows down long enough for my head to stop spinning. Still, no regrets!

Now then…as you can imagine, going from 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres is a bit of a leap. In our previous garden home, we actually considered our lawn to be quite sizable, yes…I know, looking back, I feel silly for ever complaining about mowing it.

Looking back, it was around a year to two years ago that our hand-me-down mower, a.k.a. the one that was left in the garage when we purchased the house, had finally had enough and simply called it quits. There was no fixing it, no helping it, it was done. D-o-n-e, done.

Not wishing to be the social pariah of our neighborhood, we were a part of an HoA community mind you, the Mr. did some research into finding a replacement and came to adore the idea of a battery powered electric mower. No more awful gasoline stench in our garage, quiet, and just as quick to mow. Did I mention it was surprisingly cheaper? Seemed a no-brainer, so we went for it.

Now for the final year in our garden home, it was a wonderful addition to our lawn care regime. Fast forward to purchasing our farmhouse fixer-upper and that we’ve moved from that 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres. Let me just express how terribly quickly one gets over mowing when you only have a 28″ wide blade and the average battery life is one hour before needing to be recharged.

The Mr. or I used to spend about an hour cutting the front and back yard at our previous home once a week and presto, done! Now it takes about four days, six hours each day, to get about 5 acres done. Does it help that we’ve been reclaiming our acreage from nature, seeing as it sat untended for 5 years? Nope, not really. So there I am, day after day, me and my electric push mower vs. the mighty Amazon jungle. I say that literally, I believe our grass gets to around 3-4′ tall after two weeks of not mowing.

Just call me Sisyphus as my stubbornness won’t let the acreage get the better of me…but I don’t even have the excuse of blaming Zeus, nope, all my own doing.

Now I will admit, while one sweats into a puddle out in the humid southern heat hour after hour, I’ve never been tanner AND my arms are beginning to really look great. On the flip side, I likely terrify local wildlife as they watch me charge at a run pushing that mower over the 3-4′ tall sections of weeds.

It’s a jungle out there.

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My throne.

Now I found that during my hourly breaks, due to the batteries recharging, I needed something to do. It was then that ‘the throne’ came to be. I spend a good deal of time cooling off in the shade with some water, staring with one eye twitching at the bane of my existence, I mean…looking at the lawn mower as the batteries charge inside.

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There she is, in all her eco-friendly glory…

 

But to be fair, I mean…the lawn does look pretty fantastic despite the fact I’m working with the poor man’s Mary of lawn mowers here. So to all of the folks with those lovely tractors, driving mowers, and zero turns…check out my ECO-FRIENDLY (it hurts inside…) and mad ELECTRIC PUSH MOWER skills (…make it stop)!

That being said, I’ve begun filling a mason jar with spare change. One day, I will have my zero turn. Just you wait acreage, your days are numbered!

Ciao!

~Christy

Horse Fencing 101: SCIENCE …errr PROGRESS!!!

Morning y’all, don’t mind me … between what feels like two-full time jobs and 5-7 hours a day in the harsh sticky heat of the South I find myself jiving my inner Bill Nye the Science Guy.

It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted photos of the project’s progression from gently rolling weed-filled acres to a proper horse pasture. Now I’ll be straight with you, since I’ve still only access to our battery operated …you heard that right… push mower, it is still very much weed-filled acres, even higher than when we started however. (Lookin’ at you, rain!) BUT…all four sides have every third post set and concreted in place, all the corners posts are concreted in as well as our pasture access gate posts.

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Posts going down to the edge of the southeastern side of the pasture.

Now before I get too excited, as pictures can be quite deceiving, for maximum strength and lowest strain placed upon each individual post, we elected to space our posts 10′ apart. So right now, every 30′ there is a post. So it looks like we’re ready to attach fasteners and start unrolling the CenFlex but alas… I’ve still a solid 60 posts to set and backfill with our gravel/sand mixture.

Now that…THAT in itself is the right bugger of this project. On average once loaded up with backfill our wheelbarrow weighs about 50-60lbs. Hauling this up and down a 4 acre hill is a terrifyingly spectacular thing to witness…at least when I’m the one doing it. A few trips ‘down’ and I start envisioning myself just tipping over or the wheelbarrow tire going flat. A dozen trips ‘down’ and I start to imagine sitting on top and magically riding it down and squealing to a stop just before the post hole. Like I said, I spend a lot of time in the sun doing a simple but very tedious task over and over and over. Your mind starts to wander.

…to be continued.