Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Normal Returns

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Yesterday afternoon’s visit to the barn provided a return to normalcy. Apparently, Cayenne learned whatever it was the other two were trying to convey earlier in the morning, and she was again back in front of the line-up for pans of nutrition pellets.

With the endless mosquito-like buzzing of snowmobilers annoyingly goosing their engines in short staccato bursts (do they understand how engines work?) as they motor past our property on the marked trail, the horses have figured out how to act as if everything is fine and this is the way life should be.

Personally, I prefer the calm and quiet of the months when there was nothing but ice covering the ground, despite the scary challenge it presented for trying to walk anywhere. The snow machines remained parked in storage until about three weeks ago.

The chickens responded to the moderated afternoon temperatures with a (lately) rare excursion out of the coop. At this point, I think all of them are showing signs of some frostbite on their wattles and combs, but we have yet to witness any problems arising as a result. Time will tell.

They were happy to help clean up after Hunter beneath the hay bag where he was dining.

The 7-Day weather forecast for our region tosses in a likelihood of more snow, but at least the temperatures don’t look scary for frostbite. After days of the biting harshness from 35°F below zero temps, normal days seem like a cinch.

It’s refreshing to have the chickens voluntarily out-and-about on a reasonable winter day.

It helped provide a welcome bit of normalcy to our Sunday.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

New Behavior

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We never know what we will find when heading down to the barn each morning. In the last few days, in a new twist, the horses have taken to hanging out beneath the willow tree located in the smaller paddock. As a result, we weren’t all that surprised to find Hunter and Cayenne parked there this morning as we approached, walking Delilah.

By the time we returned from a loop around the north pasture through the deep snow, Hunter had moved up under the overhang with Dezirea, but Cayenne remained under the tree.

While Cyndie was busy in the barn, preparing their servings of breakfast, I rolled a wheelbarrow out to clean up the frozen manure. The horses know this routine, and tend to step up in anticipation of pending food service. As I was raking, I sensed movement and looked up to find Dezirea energetically driving Cayenne down the slope, back toward that willow tree.

Not just once. Over, and over. I counted at least six times that Cayenne moved up and Dezirea pushed her back down, sometimes, way down, taking extra strides to ensure Cayenne got the message.

I have no idea what led to this very clear message. What could have gone on last night that led to this repeated “beat down” of Cayenne? Was it something she did? Something she didn’t do?

It’s a new behavior, in distinct contrast to previous activity among the three.

We will be watching with interest to see what the days ahead may reveal.

 

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Written by johnwhays

February 17, 2019 at 10:33 am

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All Day

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Two all day things: It snowed all day yesterday and we shoveled all day. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

On Wednesday night, we noticed all the school districts in our vicinity were announcing they would be closed on Thursday, so I decided that was a pretty good clue that I shouldn’t try driving to the day-job. As a result, I am going in today, in a swap of days for my 4-day work week.

Sitting at my desk today will be a welcome relief from the strenuous exercise of shoveling for hours on end.

I took a little break to see what the horses thought of all these flying flakes. Cyndie caught a picture of Dezirea and me giving each other the eye. I think the horses were growing weary of the long duration of snowfall.

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Cayenne was sporting some cute curls in her long wet winter growth.

I got out the snowshoes to walk Delilah on our trails through the woods. She was so fired up to be out in the deep snow that she wanted to run, but I couldn’t keep up with her at that pace. I felt bad slowing her down.

The chickens showed no interest in leaving the coop. I snowshoed all around the coop to pack down the snow for whenever they decide to come out again. It’s probably going to be too cold for them today, but eventually, they will get tired of being cooped up (literally!) and venture out into the world again.

We have one Buff Orpington that doesn’t seem to be her normal self. We think she may have scrapped with that possum and be suffering some ill effects as a result. Cyndie couldn’t see any obvious physical wounds, so we have decided to just keep her comfortable and see if time heals whatever might be bothering her.

Today, I’m hoping to not do any shoveling all day. I’m expecting to be confused by this disruption of my normal routine, commuting and being at work on a Friday.

I expect it’s going to make my weekend seem unusually short, but my body will appreciate today’s break in the manual labor of property management chores.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

No Mercy

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Graphic Content Warning of Life and Death on a Farm…

It was a gloomy and foggy morning. I offered to build a fire in the fireplace while Cyndie went out to do morning chores, tending to our animals. When I stepped out on the slippery deck in my house slippers to gather kindling, I picked up the unnerving sobs of pain and sorrow wafting within the soup of grayness that covered our land.

I called out to the fog, not having any idea which way the sound was coming from.

“Cyndie?!”

No reply.

I moved around on the deck, trying to get a sense of which direction her cries were coming from. It changed from right to left. I called again and again, but she didn’t reply. I grew angry because I wanted to know if she was injured and what I needed to do in response, standing now on the icy driveway in my slippers.

She was walking upright, and carrying something, so I guessed she was alright. The most likely problem was a dead chicken.

Finally, I demanded a response and she angrily growled that she had killed a possum that had gotten in the chicken coop and killed one of our Australorps.

How did it get in? Cyndie didn’t know. There was no indication of disruption around any of the doorways or windows.

The logical deduction: the critter had already snuck inside when the chicken door was closed last night.

Never underestimate the wrath of a mother reacting to harm of her precious brood. With lethal vengeance, Cyndie unleashed her grievance with a shovel, destroying my custom ramp in the process.

She admitted that any neighbors outside at the time probably heard an earful of expletives howled along with swings of the shovel.

There are now eight surviving hens and they seem very happy to be out of the coop, soaking up the above-freezing temperatures that are the source of all this fog.

The temperature climbed 75 degrees from Thursday morning’s -36°F to yesterday afternoon’s +39°F. Our thermometer reveals it didn’t drop back down below freezing overnight here, so the melting and thawing is in full swing.

The horses seem pretty pleased with the change, too. Free of their blankets, they were romping all over the paddock yesterday, running and kicking with gleeful energy.

This morning, Cyndie and I aren’t really feeling as much glee.

We are left wondering if recent events mean we will need to institute a full nook & cranny search of the coop every night from now on when we close the chicken access door at dusk.

I guess it beats the alternative we faced this morning.

 

Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

Definitely Cold

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This polar vortex is one heck of a weather event, but we are enduring the harshness with general acceptance. I am always amazed that anything still functions at extremely cold temperatures like -31°(F), but at oh-dark-thirty yesterday morning my garage door opener jumped to life at the push of the button, and my car started without complaint, to roll out into the frigid darkness on its rock-hard tires.

As dramatic as the media are being about the danger of this cold wave, many implying that people shouldn’t spend extended time outside or they will die, I hearken back to stories from the 1986 Steger International Polar Expedition. They spent day and night out in temperatures that reached -70°F at times.

We should be able to handle a couple of days of 30-below.

When I got home from work yesterday, the horses were peacefully standing out in the paddock, soaking up the sunshine through their blankets. They are spending nights inside during the super-chill. Cyndie said they now all walk in on their own, one after the other, making their way into their appropriate stalls.

The chickens showed no interest in coming out after the snow last Sunday, so, now that it’s also wicked cold, we don’t even open their door. Yesterday, Cyndie found one beautiful egg in the nest boxes, unfortunately, cracked and frozen.

Cyndie dug out booties for Delilah’s paws, which we haven’t tried since the first attempt was met with total rejection years ago. The results were no different this time. She didn’t like them, but allowed Cyndie to put them all on. A few steps out the door and black boots were kicked in every direction.

It appears the wild rabbits in our vicinity are using activity to keep warm, as their footprints are pounding well-worn paths in the snow. I found a not-so-subtle entrance to a den dug into the snow beside the shop.

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As fast as this vortex from the pole has settled upon us, it will also recede. In its place, the forecast for the coming weekend offers a difference of 70 degrees, with Sunday’s high reaching the mid 40s.

That will definitely feel warm.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

Equine Fascination

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For someone with little prior experience with horses, the last few years have been a big change for me. Cyndie was much more experienced with horses, but she had never owned one before, nor had she ever been so responsible for their care. We continue to grow increasingly fascinated with horses each passing year.

Our horses are an incredible gift.

We were reminded of this once again last night after watching the premier PBS broadcast of the Nature episode, “Equus: Story of the Horse.”

In the time since our horses arrived here, I’ve not felt a strong urge to saddle and ride them. That fact often surprises visitors who are just getting to know us. “Why else would someone have a horse?” many of them seem to think.

One of my favorite things is that we are able to allow our horses to spend almost all of their time not wearing a halter around their head.

Horses are amazing beings. I am soothed simply by standing in their presence. It is quite a luxurious experience to have them residing here with us, where I am able to reach out and touch them, to exchange breath with them, nose to nose.

Most days, our horses seem to know me better than I know myself.

Horse sense.

Some days, they are completely unflappable. Occasionally, they are jittery beyond our reason. They sense things which we fail to detect.

I envy how adept horses are at swiftly resolving differences and returning their unconcerned attention to simply grazing.

For all the size, power, and speed that horses embody, they are impressively gentle, by their very nature.

Put simply, I find them completely fascinating.

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2019 at 7:00 am

Looks Wrong

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This just looks wrong for a mid-January landscape in the Northland. When the sun came out for our afternoon walk, I was struck by how uncharacteristic the view was. I have only needed to plow the driveway once this season. It feels very strange.

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When Delilah and I were surveying the pasture for hazardous ice on Saturday, we instead found artistic ice formations.

I love these lines.

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One last thing that looks wrong this year, the white horse is missing from our herd.

In loving memory…

            LEGACY

7/18/1996 – 1/14/2018

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Written by johnwhays

January 14, 2019 at 7:00 am