Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘manure

Getting Orange

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Things are growing more orange around here. Yesterday at breakfast, Cyndie called me to come look at the difference in color of our eggs, compared to the ones purchased at the grocery store. Looks like the free-range diet of our three chickens is producing deep color in the yolks, seen on the right, below.

We spent the Labor Day holiday doing a lot of work, for a day off. Starting with a couple of hours cleaning out the compost area, using the loader bucket on the diesel tractor. There’s now plenty of room to store a winter’s worth of manure, just in case winter gets around to showing up.

Then we split up and Cyndie used the power trimmer in the labyrinth, while I entered a race against time to get the hayfield mowed before it rained.

Looking back toward the horses, I spotted another splash of orange color erupting from the green of our tree line.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like September.

At the end of a long day’s effort, we put our tools away and headed for the house under the drops of a perfect late-summer rain shower.

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Written by johnwhays

September 5, 2017 at 6:00 am

Fiery Sky

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The horses were heavily harassed by biting flies yesterday, which made my session of scooping manure a lively affair. The biggest hazard, beyond unpredictable flailing hooves as they fling a leg out in response to a bite, is the nasty snap of their tails. They could take an eye out with that whipping action. At the very least, it stings when they get you.

I’ve noticed they will frequently align themselves to purposely have their heads in the wash of someone else’s tail for added fly management. There is no doubt they are thicker skinned than we are. I wouldn’t be able to endure the beating.

I worked well past the dinner hour last night, after a full shift at the day-job, to create added open space in the compost area for my approaching week-long absence from home. The effort now should pay off when I return, so I won’t come home to a disaster of overflowing piles.

Manure management is one of those jobs that is made easy by frequent attention. Let it go for a day or two between scooping and it can become an exponentially more significant project.

Last night, I opened up a gate to a section of pasture that still has long grass, to allow the herd a brief session of grazing. The first thing three of them did was pee. The second thing they took turns doing was laying down and rolling around.

When I looked their direction to see they finally got around to seriously grazing, the setting sun was illuminating the clouds to create the impression of a great conflagration. Photo Op!

One last day at the day-job today before vacation. I hope to try mowing the yard tonight and maybe doing a little laundry so I can pack clean clothes for the bike trip.

If I pack warm clothes and rain gear, maybe I won’t need them. We all know that if I don’t pack those things, it would guarantee that the week would turn out cold and wet.

If we see fiery clouds in the evenings during the bike trip, I hope it will mean, “sailor’s delight.”

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Dashed Plans

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Our day’s plan went out the door at the crack of dawn yesterday.

Does this look like the face of a mare who doesn’t want her picture taken?

Yes, it does.

Poor Dezirea is fighting a bug, we think. We didn’t notice anything amiss until serving up the pans of morning feed. Dezi had no interest. It was at that point that plans for the day were scrapped and caring for our senior mare became the focus of our energies.

She was not a happy horse, but at least she didn’t appear to be in extreme pain. After running through our basic knowledge of diagnostic steps, Cyndie wanted to consult with the veterinarian. He felt it warranted a visit so he could do an in-person assessment.

I kept Dezirea walking, which she did so amicably enough for someone not really interested in doing anything.

Her temperature wasn’t alarmingly high, but her pulse was definitely elevated. We had immediately quarantined her to the small side of our paddocks and emptied that box of hay. As the day wore on, I noticed the other three horses had deposited two piles of poo each, but Dezirea had none.

Was it a digestive issue or some other affliction? Hard to tell.

The vet took a blood sample. He believed the problem might be a tick-born infection, anaplasmosis. We are treating it as if, and they administered an intravenous antimicrobial.

This morning, she is at the very least, no worse in appearance. She is rather lethargic, though much less depressed. She seems to be gaining interest in eating, although we are hesitant to provide full rations until we see proof her system is functioning more normally.

We found evidence she was able to expel a small amount of poop overnight, so that provides some reassurance that she doesn’t have a catastrophic twist or obstruction shutting down all function in the digestive system. That also matches with her lack of acute pain symptoms.

So, looking after Dezirea consumed most of our mental energies yesterday. I turned piles of manure while spending extended time with the horses. The other horses tolerated the altered accommodations with only minor complaint. The hours and minutes passed in a blink and accomplishments dropped to bare essentials.

The big milestone that became overshadowed by Dezirea’s illness was the delivery of much-needed hay to rescue us from a predicament. Jack and Joanie were gracious enough to make a long trip from Minnesota to bring us hay because our sources here had nothing left to offer. Their precious energy lifted our spirits and provided liveliness that was particularly helpful in the moment, and their hay will help us greatly for the weeks ahead.

Hunter thinks he has an easy solution to the hay shortage. He desperately wants us to open the gates and let him have at the sweet green grass growing everywhere in sight. It’s like, water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

If he only recognized the risks.

We could use a break from horse health issues. For now, I’m making no plan for the rest of today. Whatever comes up will get my attention. Hopefully, it won’t interfere with the guests and dinner Cyndie has planned for this evening.

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2017 at 10:21 am

Author Captured

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Before we moved the chicks out to the coop, we had dumped some of their droppings in the manure pile and noticed how hyper it made Delilah over the scent. Thinking it might do the same thing to natural predators, we decided to move the trail-cam to monitor the pile for a few days to survey for night prowlers attracted to the new chicken smells.

The only thing we captured was the author of this blog in his natural habitat.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2017 at 6:00 am

Tidying Up

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With temperatures climbing into the 40s yesterday, Cyndie and I saw an opportunity to do a little tidying up around the property. After the most recent bouts of quasi-winter rain-sleet-snow precipitation, an annoying icy, glazed mass of packed snow had become the surface of our driveway.dscn5785e

I took out an ice scraper and pushed away at the soft, wet edges of the ice pack in front of the house. The portion that will come up without resistance is visibly obvious. I focused on that, picking the low-hanging fruit. After working the edges and then pushing the crumble of snow and ice to the side with my shovel, I looked back to see there was already a whole new measure of visibly obvious portions that begged attention.

How could I not keep going? After three times around, I had the whole upper platform of our driveway clean to the pavement. The  melt was happening at an amazing rate.

Cyndie was down with the horses, planning to give each of them some individual attention and grooming. That was my next stop, thinking I could hang out with them and clean up manure while she brushed them out. Even though there was a cloud cover painting the day with a hue of gray, the air was absolutely calm, allowing the warm temperature to feel perfectly comfortable without getting hot.dscn5784e

Legacy’s tail has always grown long, but Cyndie noticed it had reached a point where he was stepping on it, so she decided to give it a trim.

After scooping fresh manure from under the overhang, I fanned out a little further around the paddock and picked up some of the newly exposed piles emerging from the melting snow. Like the last couple of winters, we have been dumping much of the season’s worth of manure right inside the paddock.

Since much of the manure is frozen by the time we get around to scooping it up, there isn’t much in the way of composting that goes on in the pile, so it just keeps getting bigger and bigger with every passing day.

dscn5782eContinuing with the theme of tidying up, I decided to try giving the giant mass a little more shape by cleaning up around the edges. I was surprised to discover over the last few winter seasons that despite the dark color of the pile, if it starts out frozen, if left alone, the center can stay frozen well into May or June.

We placed this pile at a spot that we would like to fill in effort to reduce the amount of slope, but it becomes a long slow process to move from an ugly pile of manure to an unnoticeable natural ground cover nicely filling a low spot.

All part of the ongoing process of running a neat and tidy ranch operation, regardless what the weather presents.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2017 at 11:18 am

I’m Thinking

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I’m thinking of changing my writing style. Making it great again. Really great. You already know —and people tell me this— that I write about what I know. I know a lot. I’m smart. Very smart. I’m the best friend blogging has ever had. They love me. I tell all the stories about our dog Delilah; the best dog. Best breed. Very, very smart.

dscn5704eWe have horses —Arabian horses— that I write about when I blog. Incredible horses. Our horses love me. When I go down to clean their manure —they create a lot of manure; 50 pounds per day from each horse, every day. You could power a small factory on the heat their composting manure creates every day. Daily— I can walk right between each of the horses, right between, and they know why I’m there. They will come right up to me, Hunter does this, they walk over to piles I am raking, while I’m still raking the piles, and deposit a fresh contribution for me to collect.

Their manure is so smart, it composts itself. I don’t do anything. Just make a pile. It cooks on its own. Hundreds of degrees. 160° right in the middle of the pile.

Okay, enough of that dung. Except maybe the narcissistic part where I bragged superlatively. That part was pretty great. Well, sort of great, anyway. I want to give some credit to the article I spotted on Vox while researching linguistic stylings, which inspired my little adventure in changing my writing style for a few paragraphs.

Back to my woe-be-gone tales of our paradise called Wintervale… where all the horses are strong, the dog is good-looking, and the cat is probably above average. We are wallowing in the purgatory of “between-snow.” That’s a phrase I use to categorize the amount of snow which is messy and should be cleared, but isn’t enough to deserve shoveling or plowing. It’s a common winter hassle, especially during periods between real snowstorms that dump so much snow at one time you have no choice but to plow if you want to get in and out of the driveway.

The best way to solve the conundrum is to simply plow as soon as it falls, even if it is barely enough to warrant the use of the machine. My problem in this case is a limited opportunity (or to be more precise, limited energy), after getting home from the day-job. An inch or two isn’t worth the push to get off my butt and plow after work, whereas three or more inches would inspire me to rise to the occasion.

Since I’m home today, I will do some plowing. It will give me an opportunity to test out that tire repair I did before leaving for Florida, and allow me to clean up the paths I want to have open for the tree trimmers, whom I hope will be here in a week or two.

That’s what I’m thinking, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Planning Again

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Sometimes, between the daily chores and ongoing projects that never seem to be finished here, we allow ourselves to imagine new things we could be doing to benefit our operation. One specific vision we have held from the very early stage of arriving on this property is to have chickens, but it just keeps not happening for us.

Initially, it was seen as a way to naturally control flies and break up piles of manure. That benefit alone was enough reason for me to look beyond the details involved in actually caring for and protecting a flock of birds. We could sure do with less flies.

One early delay in our acting on that vision was that we didn’t yet have horses, and we instead brought home a very carnivorous young dog that required a lot of time and attention. When the horses finally arrived, our attention was consumed by the combination of orienting ourselves with actually owning and caring for the 4 very large creatures, as well as the puppy dog and 2 cats.

Now, as we have become more acclimated with our animals and the surroundings, and have grown more familiar with our neighbors, the subject of owning chickens gets discussed as a natural given. We should have chickens. George has even offered to give us some of his.

When someone else we met reported that, in addition to having less flies, they haven’t seen any ticks since they got chickens, it was a lock. We need chickens.

ManyPlansAll we have to do is build a coop.

Do you know how you would build a chicken coop? There are as many versions as there are people in the world. As is usual for me, I would like to accomplish it using as much found material as possible. I searched for plans using pallets. There are as many versions of plans for chicken coops built out of pallets as there are flies in a barnyard.

I am now at the point where I have a real good general idea of what I would like to do. That just leaves an unending number of actual details that need to be figured out and executed.

Yesterday, Cyndie helped me prepare 5 more pallets that I brought home from work. They have 4 extra blocks nailed on top that I remove to get a flat platform. We experimented with several orientations to see if there was a natural fit that would work easily. She then disappeared to the back of the shop garage for a minute and returned with 3 perfect clear vinyl panels that could be used for windows.

I had forgotten about those. The previous owners had screwed them on the sliding screen doors for protection from their small dog. I had completely forgotten of their existence.

A few more baby steps toward building a coop so we can get chickens.

One of these days, it might happen. It will be just like we have been envisioning throughout the last 4 years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2016 at 9:33 am