Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘muddy paddock

My Workplace

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I don’t mean to boast, but for those of you who are forced to work under harsh fluorescent lighting, walk on static-generating commercial-grade carpet, or stand on cold tile or hard concrete floors surrounded by dreary walls, my experience is worlds away from yours. My workplace is the great outdoors with all the sights, sounds, and smells that come with that.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2022 at 7:00 am

Not Deep

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If there is any consolation to be found in the mud we are currently enduring in the paddocks, it’s the fact that it isn’t very deep. Now, I’m not sure how much of that is a result of the underlying frost that has yet to thaw or the base of limestone screenings we’ve established over the years.

It is an entirely slippery, sloppy mess to move around on, but at least it doesn’t swallow my boots like deep mud does. I keep wanting to simply pack it down smooth but it doesn’t really pack. It just squishes out from under our boots or the horses’ hooves and leaves a new impression.

You can see my frequent back and forth path while returning to the wheelbarrow to dump scoops of what is now mud-poop. I’m collecting a mix that seems about 60% mud and 40% manure lately. It was actually easier to scrape the winter’s worth of mushy droppings off the mostly frozen ground than it is trying to scoop daily fresh poop this week.

Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie offered the horses a little grooming while they ate feed from the pans. Light accepted a little attention but didn’t last long before she decided she’d had enough.

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They seem to prefer their muddy coats for the time being.

Think about it. If Cyndie did succeed in brushing any of them head to toe, you know what they would do? Walk out, lay down, and roll around as soon as she finished.

It’s what they do.

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Written by johnwhays

March 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Shaping Up

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It has snowed and then melted again, so the ground here is well saturated, but not frozen. It was time to tend to the raised circle in the paddock before the earth becomes hard as rock. It’s been a year since I last shaped it and the definition was fading to the point it wasn’t really performing as a raised perch above the wet.

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Try as I might, I am not able to pack it firm enough to support the weight of the horses, but if I keep reshaping the circle as they stomp around on it, eventually it will become what I envision. It worked in another spot that we created when the excavator was here digging out our drainage swale.

That flat mound is visible in the corner of fence in the picture above on the left. Since it was made from slabs of turf scraped from the swale, there was a lot of grass in it that seems to have added a lot of stability. The circle I am creating in the middle has a lot of layers of hay which the horses’ hooves punch through with ease. It becomes a pock-marked uneven surface.

On the plus side, residue from the hay includes plenty of grass seed that wants to grow and will help firm up the surface over time. If I keep tending to it, I’ll get what I’m after. In the end, it’ll seem like it’s always been that way.dscn5514e

Good thing I’m a patient person.

Dezirea supervised my progress while Legacy grazed from the slow-feeder behind her. I get the feeling the horses recognize what I’m trying to create, and they approve.

When I came out from taking a lunch break halfway through the project, I found Cayenne standing beside the circle on the ground I had just raked flat.

It was as if she wanted to be close to what I was doing, but didn’t want to mess it up by stomping on it too soon. I appreciated her discretion, but in no time, the results of my reshaping will be hard to perceive amid the multitude of hoof prints.

Watching the horses all day long, you get the impression that they don’t really move very much. They don’t appear to cover much ground in a day. However, if you survey the ground over time, it becomes evident that there isn’t a spot where they haven’t been at one time or another.

In the long run, they are definitely shaping the ground of their confines.

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2016 at 11:03 am

Good Footing

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It’s the time of year again when the thawing ground turns to mud, especially in areas where the horses walk. The first couple of years after we moved here were extremely wet in the spring, so we got a thorough lesson in worst case scenarios. The best thing that came from that was a recommendation for using limestone screenings in our paddocks.

I was unsure, at first. The searches for information we conducted tended toward extensive projects involving removal of all topsoil to some significant depth, and then installing expensive plastic grids and laying down thick layers of sand or crushed stone.

We opted for the least complicated idea, as a first test. We simply spread a thick layer of limestone screenings over the existing soil. The first time it rained, I figured we had made a big mistake. The lime screenings took on the water and became like thick, wet concrete. The horses sank right down in it. If it got below freezing overnight, the endless craters of their hoof prints would create an almost unnavigable landscape until the next thaw.

All it took was added time for the screenings to cycle through being packed down by the horses and baked by the sun, to set into a firm base that could support the horse’s weight. Other than the setbacks of losing a lot of material when heavy downpours created deep rills and washed screenings away, the overall result was proving to be worthy.

We simply ordered more limestone screenings and filled in the voids. So far this year, the surface is holding. Look at the dramatic difference from the areas we haven’t covered yet:

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We definitely need to order more, as we have yet to cover the critical heavy traffic areas around, and through, gate openings. The big challenge with bringing in more loads of screenings is the damage caused by the trucks delivering the heavy weight. We need to determine the right compromise of cost per benefit. A smaller truck would do less damage, but having smaller loads delivered drives up the cost a huge amount.

I find it hard to decide how to calculate the cost of damage that the full-sized truck does. Mostly, it costs me peace of mind, as it bums me out to break up more of the asphalt or get deep compressed ruts on our land. We figure the driveway is already a lost cause, so it becomes a matter of tolerating the additional damage until we take on the project of resurfacing it. Getting rid of the deep ruts hasn’t been a piece of cake, either, and who knows what damage it is doing to roots or my buried drain tubes.

For the most part, we plan to confine dump trucks to our driveway, and we will just have to move the delivered loads to any final destinations using our tractor.

Here’s a shot of Hunter showing how nice and dry the footing is on the well-set limestone screenings up near the barn. Niiiiice.

IMG_iP1147eNo complex process of soil removal and inorganic sub-surface installation. Just limestone screenings dumped on top of the existing surface and spread out to a depth of 6-8 inches. Oh, and time. About a year of horse traffic, hot sun interspersed with soaking rain, more limestone screenings to replace what runs off, more sun, and more packing. Walaah. Good footing.

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2016 at 7:00 am

Nature’s Course

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If you live on a river, or have ever paid attention to flood stages, you are probably aware of the time it can take for a river to crest. That phenomena is playing out in our paddocks now, as the first day of sunshine after the dreadful week of soaking rains produced wetness and mud that is the worst we have seen. There will be a time-lag before we get the drying for which we so dearly yearn.

The horses are beginning to show some impatience with not only the enduring mud, but probably more so, the wait to get on the fresh green grass they can see all around their corral. I began work on installing temporary fencing to allow them limited access to some grazing just outside their paddock, and was able to push the posts in most of the way by hand because the ground is so saturated. Even if I get the fence up, we can’t put them out there until it firms up enough to support their weight without them churning it into a mud bath like the sacrifice area of their paddocks.

After the rain finally stopped, and the temperature rose out of the 40s, I took the blankets off the horses. They really wanted to be brushed after that, even though a couple of them played hard to get and made us wait out a few dance moves of avoidance before settling down so we could go to work. Yesterday, I got a hint that we didn’t give them as much brushing as they wanted. Cayenne and Hunter took it upon themselves to cooperatively work on removing each other’s shedding coats.

IMG_iP0565eWhen I first spotted them, I was amazed at the vigor with which each horse worked. It was so obviously a joint operation of sheer pleasure that I found myself mesmerized and wondering if I should maybe be embarrassed about peeping at their moment of shared passion. Hunter’s mouth was open, teeth bared, and he was grinding back and forth on Cayenne’s flank, bringing up vast tufts of hair that easily rivaled what our brushing produces. She was working with equal intensity on his back.

It was as vivid a presentation of “you scratch mine, I’ll scratch yours” as I have ever seen. It was such a classic scene that I figured I should take a picture, but I hesitated, figuring it would be over by the time I pulled out my phone. After staring at them with increasing fascination for a couple of minutes, it occurred to me that I could have long ago had my phone out for pictures. I snapped a few, but of course, none of them really do the scene adequate justice.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2014 at 9:04 am