Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Pecking Order

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Oh, yes, there is a pecking order among the chickens. The horses, too, for that matter, although there isn’t so much pecking involved with those three. It’s more like a big bite.

Lately, Cyndie has noticed that Hunter is taking issue with Dezirea. The other day he kicked in her direction with both legs to make his point.

I got frustrated with the horses’ antics a few days ago while doing the regular “housekeeping” under the overhang, so I established a horse-free zone until I was finished. I pinned my ears back, figuratively, and ushered them all out with big energy.

There is no question about their understanding. After a few tries to return, which were met with my same high energy message, they resorted to pacing along the imaginary boundary I had established. Several times, when I turned to deposit a scoopful into the wheelbarrow, Hunter checked to see if the order was still in effect, by trying to step in behind me.

I simply turned back from my task to assure him I wasn’t done yet and the area was still closed to them.

After Cayenne’s little nip on my shoulder last week, they have been receiving fresh messages from me that I am above them in the pecking order around here, and demanding the respect that a herd leader deserves.

Yesterday afternoon, I puttered in the compost area with the chickens, moving piles around to create new space. Two chickens, in particular, a yellow Buff Orpington and black Australorp, appeared to be in some sort of contest to outdo each other to see who could eat the most of whatever the disturbed piles revealed.

It’s fascinating to watch the chickens work, actually. They have a very keen eye for the movement of crawling and wiggling creatures. When I slide the pitchfork into a pile and lift out a scoop, there can be quite a few worms or centipedes uncovered and the chickens pursue them with gusto.

At first, the birds are jumpy about my activity and they flinch and startle over my movements, but with each successive rotation of my coming in with the fork or scoop, and then pulling out to turn and dump it in a different spot, they show more confidence.

This allows them to remain close –I would even call it, in the way– so that they are in prime position to make the most of the easy pickings when my fork suddenly uncovers many different delicacies all at once.

I actually adjusted my task to accommodate them, splitting my attention between two piles to give the chickens full access to one whenever so many birds showed up at once to feast that I couldn’t dig around them.

I saw that same Buff Orpington and an Australorp pair get into a wrestling match over one morsel. Eventually, I noticed the Wyandottes get picked on and chased away by both other breeds. They seem to be the lowest in the pecking order.

This adds intrigue to the fact that one Wyandotte often chooses to perch on the tiny space of a cross stud against the wall above the window in the coop at night.

That spot is well above all the rest of the hens on the roost. Maybe she is making a statement to all the others by  spending the night alone up there.

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It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Still Learning

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It’s been five years of horse ownership for us now, and we are still coming upon situations that baffle us. Yesterday, it was a fresh wound on Dezirea’s flank near the point of her hip. There was a dramatic vertical incision, and then a broad area on either side where the hair looks cleanly shaved.

I can’t imagine what it must have looked like when she got cut. Best guess is that she was rubbing up against something with a long, sharp edge. It’s possible that it was even something in the ground and she was rolling around and came in contact with the sharp edge.

We have yet to identify anything that looks like it might be the cause.

I would guess it probably gave her a bit of a jolt when she got cut. It seems likely to me that she would have recoiled or startled in some manner. Must have been a scene in the moment, but by the time we discovered it, she was as calm as if nothing was amiss.

Except for that gaping wound on her side.

We spent most of the day inside, out of the non-stop wetness around here. Dew point and air temperature have been hovering close together and the moisture doesn’t so much fall as rain as it just hovers in the air in a perfect mist.

The ground is thoroughly soaked. Our neighbor and part-time mail carrier told Cyndie that he was still planning to do a second cut and baling of our hay-field, but that was before this very persistent wet weather pattern settled over us. Next week is looking like repeating days of more rain, so I don’t expect there’ll be any activity in the fields for quite some time.

Since we chose to remain indoors, the opportunity to continue our momentum on decluttering was well served. Cyndie had already been through her closet, so I dug in on mine to catch up with her, and then we both went through dresser drawers.

Time to release some perfectly useable clothing back out into the world for the purpose it was designed to fulfill. I’m done storing these shirts and pants for years on end.

It is truly an exercise that rewards doubly. Our drawers and shelves change from over-stuffed to a much more functional order, and we give others an opportunity to actually wear this clothing again.

So, not only are we continuing to learn what is involved with owning horses, we are also still learning how rewarding it is to live intentionally aware of our surroundings and how rewarding it is to practice the art of reducing clutter.

You could call it the very definition of a continuing education.

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Crazy Things

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I have finally seen the first egg laid without a shell. On Monday, Cyndie came from collecting eggs at the coop and showed me the crazy thing. The shell-less membrane was sturdy enough to be gently handled without rupturing, and as visible in the image, looked full-sized and held the shape of a regular egg.

We had read about this happening, but I could never picture what it would be like. Now I know. Very interesting.

I experienced another first yesterday, and it was a crazy thing, too.

Cayenne bit me on the shoulder while I was scooping poop under the overhang. That is a very uncharacteristic behavior from the sweetest of our three horses. My startled response and yelp made all the horses jump, but my amped up angry energy directed unmistakably toward her chased her out from under the overhang and pushed her trotting down the slope toward the waterer.

We all quickly went back to grazing, but I was much less generous about sharing space with them while I worked. None of the three were subsequently allowed the usual close quarters they are normally granted while I do the housekeeping chore.

I’m not sure what message she meant to send with that nip of my shoulder, but I get the impression that all three of the horses are feeling a little out of sorts lately. Don’t know if it might be the changing weather, or their continued uncertainty about a herd leader, or accumulated frustration over their restricted diet.

A diet which, by the way, has produced noticeable results in their weight this summer. Maybe they are feeling ornery because of the cooler temperatures and shorter days, and as a result they want to bulk up a little before it starts to get really cold. Cayenne may have been trying to urge me to stop with the clean up already and get on with serving some dinner.

I finished the evening with one last crazy thing just before bedtime. I went out in the dark and worked with Cyndie to load the foosball table top into the back of my car to deliver to a buyer who found it on Craigslist.

I’d actually forgotten about the listing that I put up the same time as the lawn tractor that sold in a few days. The one and only call of interest in the foosball table came around dinner time yesterday, and the proximity of my workplace in Plymouth turned out to be a convenient meeting place.

Pretty lucky for an ad that reported River Falls, WI as the location.

You might even call it, crazy.

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No Idea

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It’s a complete mystery to us, and an entirely unexpected circumstance for the demise of another chicken. I fully expected it would be a predator killing and running off with our next victim.

Jackie found an ominous scattering of black chicken feathers inside the barn yesterday afternoon when she arrived to tend to the horses.

We leave the bottom half of the split doors closed all day to dissuade the chickens from getting inside and leaving their calling cards all over the barn. They are certainly capable of hoisting themselves high enough to get up and over the half doors, but we have yet to catch them doing so.

Our first question is, then how did she get inside? Did she come in of her own accord?

The scattering of feathers were generally confined to two separate spots. What caused the loss of feathers?

Eventually, the trail of feathers led to the discovery of a body, curled up like a little napping kitty, back behind a stack of rakes and shovels leaning against the wall. The deceased hen was completely intact, with no visible wounds.

What was the cause of death?

We have no idea.

Did it get inside on its own and then have a panic attack? Did a predator chase it inside? Carry it inside?

Would a potential predator leap over the door? A cat would.

Did the chicken come inside and then surprise a predator inside? Most likely guess would be a neighbor cat that was trespassing in our barn.

This would have happened sometime in the middle of the warm sunny day yesterday. Cyndie and Jackie said it was really windy around here during the day. Did that have anything to do with how or why the chicken ended up in the barn?

No idea.

We are now down to 9 chickens, three each of the three breeds we purchased. In fact, we only paid for nine. We received 1 extra chick for each breed back in March. This marks the end of the spares provided to cover for possible loss due to any hardships for day-old chicks traveling through the US Postal service.

We received other news from Jackie last night. After a couple of weeks back in classes at UW River Falls, she has decided she needs to move back on campus. Our live-in helping hand will no longer be available to provide the coverage for us like she did through the summer. Jackie has allowed us a good number more weekends away than we’ve been able to achieve previous years.

Our basement “apartment” may be back on the market for someone who knows and loves horses. Also being able to handle a diva of a Belgian Shepherd would be an added plus.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Hail No!

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We got pounded yesterday! It seemed to just come out of nowhere. I was out in the shop when Cyndie stopped by to mention she could hear thunder in the distance. I didn’t even realize precipitation was expected in the middle of the day. It was sunny when I had left the house a short time earlier.

That changed pretty quick. There was a moment when I became aware of a roar that turned out to be rain on the metal roof of the shop. Then came a single “CRACK!” that I recognized right away.

I stepped to the door to watch for more.

Sure enough, there was a slow and steady increase in sharp bangs on the roof. Pieces of white ice started to bounce on the pavement of the driveway. I began to realize that I couldn’t tell how big they were because the hail stones were shattering when they hit the hard surface, but the intensity was increasing enough that I wasn’t about to step out from the protection of the roof to collect them from the yard.

As the duration extended and the intensity increased, it occurred to me to record video of the spectacle. Now you can see and hear what we experienced for yourself:

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After it had calmed to only occasional rare strikes of hail, I rushed out to check on Cyndie and the house, pausing to collect some of the larger stones along the way.

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I was worried about the two skylight windows on the roof of our house. No cracks evident, much to my surprise. I haven’t looked closely, but even the shingles seemed fine, viewed at an angle from the ground.

There were a fair number of leaves pummeled from the trees, but no other obvious damage.

Then I thought about the animals. I have no idea how they reacted to the calamity while the worst of it was underway. I know the noise of it on the metal barn roof must have been pretty disturbing.

I found the horses standing together out in the paddock, looking a little shocked, but otherwise unharmed. They have a pretty thick hide, but strikes from those stones must really sting! How can they not?

Just as I emerged from the trail to check on the horses, the ten chickens trotted out of the trees to greet me, looking as if nothing spectacular had happened for them. I expect the thicket where they can hide was under enough tree cover that falling balls of rocketing ice slowed to relatively harmless speeds.

So, all in all, it was mostly noise that disturbed an otherwise beautiful Friday morning. I suppose the tree leaves would offer a harsher view of the event. Our truck is already so beat and battered that damage from hail strikes is difficult to discern.

We lucked out, beyond a bit of a scare.

Hail makes a really wicked sound as it smashes into everything around.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2018 at 9:14 am