Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘paddocks

Happiness Abounds

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Yesterday afternoon I had the most spectacular time granting the horses a special treat by allowing them a token of grass beyond the confines of the dwindling blades available in the paddocks. Delilah and I showed up early and went immediately to work in the round pen while the horses were up near the barn wondering what we were up to. I rigged up some web fence to allow for an isolated alley limiting access to just the pen.

After that, I spent time scooping old remains of manure left from the time we allowed them to be in there over winter. By the time I was done, it was the normal hour for their feed pans to be served. While they finished that and then munched on some hay, I pushed the wheelbarrow across the paddock and scooped manure. When I was near the gate to the round pen, I undid the chain and opened it up to provide them clear access.

Not one of them paid me any attention down there, so I kept making my way around the paddock and scooping poop. Finally, I looked up to see that Mia had wandered away from the barn into the middle of the big paddock. I took a pause from my scooping and walked toward the gate to demonstrate it was open.

I would describe the look on her face as one of surprise as she cautiously approached at an angle to get a closer view. I walked inside the pen and she followed.

It didn’t take Mix long to notice.

She made her way toward the wheelbarrow to make it look like she was only partially interested and then joined Mia in the pen.

When Light figured out what was going on, she immediately ran down to join the other two.

So far, so good in terms of those three remaining agreeable in the confined space. It didn’t take long for Swings to realize where everybody went and show up for the fun.

I stepped away and watched for a while to see if they would continue to be friendly and freely share the new opportunity.

Satisfied, I wandered off to dump the wheelbarrow and rescue Delilah who was waiting patiently in the barn. It was time to take her up to the house for her dinner. As we came out of the barn to get one last look at the horses, they put on quite a show to demonstrate how happy they were.

They took turns at first, running out and back in… because they could. Then they all joined together to do some tight quarters racing from the round pen up to the barn, around the small paddock, and back through the large one into the pen again. Swings came out and stood up on her hind legs, looking about twenty years younger than her age, as the others romped.

I’m not sure who was having more fun at that moment, the horses over their good fortune, or me being able to witness their excitement.

Pure happiness, all around.

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2022 at 10:52 am

Getting Swampy

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We haven’t put out our rain gauges yet because the nighttime temperatures have continued to drop below freezing with annoying regularity. As a result, I don’t know how many inches of rain have fallen in the last few days but Friday some of our drainage ditches were flowing incredibly high so we’ve received a significant amount.

In deference to the conditions we are experiencing, I fixed the Wintervale logo.

We might as well call the place, Wintervale Swamp.

There is even a new lake that formed in the small paddock. I don’t know if it will show up in the satellite view, but if the DNR allows it, I think we should call it “Willow Lake” for the tree under which it formed.

For as much of a disaster the excess moisture is for the paddocks, the lawn above it is looking mighty happy and has greened up noticeably in the last few days.

For the time being, we are keeping the horses off the pasture grass to give it a chance to recover from winter before facing the heavy pressures of their hooves and voracious grazing. They can see and smell the greening and the growing and I think it is making them increasingly tired of flakes of baled hay.

I certainly don’t want to have things dry up to a crisp and turn into a drought, but it sure would be nice to move things closer to a happy medium. Any name changes to “swamp” are meant to be very temporary.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2022 at 8:30 am

Uncharacteristic Behavior

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Yesterday was a soaking wet rainy day. A good day to nap, which Cyndie did a lot and I did a little. As time passed, I witnessed the progress of Cyndie getting control of the pain that had the better of her the day before. In a prudent attempt to start with the lowest dose of pain medications after the initial anesthesia fully wore off, she ended up getting behind the level of pain the procedure caused.

Subsequently increasing the dosages takes time to ultimately catch up to a desired level of relief. However, once that point is reached, it is possible to move back to the lower dose at precise intervals to maintain the desired pain control. That relief allowed Cyndie more and longer periods of beneficial rest.

Meanwhile, the cold rain presented the horses with their own challenge. I had left the two paddocks open to each other which historically led to Mia and Light being pushed out from under their preferred overhang by Mix. When we separate pairs by closing gates, the two chestnuts have their own side to seek cover without being harassed.

As Delilah and I came upon the horses yesterday afternoon, we found all four horses squeezed under the overhang on one side. With the promise of food about to be served, I knew the congeniality under the one side wouldn’t last. What I didn’t expect was that an odd pairing of mares would happen while I was inside filling the feed pans.

Swings had uncharacteristically moved to the north side and had paired with Light. That left Mix paired with Mia on the south side; the two least expected to get along. I decided to do away with convention and set out feed pans in random order in the spots they had chosen.

For a while, as I cleaned up manure around them and refilled nets with hay, they all munched calmly in those positions. As I was pondering the novelty, it occurred to me that I should take a picture. Before I was able, they rearranged themselves back to the usual positions.

With the chestnuts back together on the north side, I closed all the gates for the duration of the rainy weather.

Just to finish off the oddities of the experience, as I was completing my tasks and preparing to head back up to the house with Delilah, I noticed Light was making things difficult for Mia and she kept retreating back out into the rain. I don’t know what leads to these periods of orneriness every so often but from what I’ve witnessed over time, the horses tend to get over whatever it is that’s bugging them a lot quicker than humans do.

Maybe they were just irritable because they didn’t like being cold and wet. I can’t blame them for that.

I’m choosing to cling to the memory of the brief moment in time when all four of them appeared to be getting along just fine squeezed together under one side of the overhang.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

Spring Cleaned

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It is with much pride I can report the paddocks are now cleaned of the winter’s-worth accumulation of manure. It only took two and a half wheelbarrow loads. Loads that I will point out were much heavier than usual due to the highly saturated wetness of the droppings.

On top of that, movement of the multiple heavy loads was made particularly more difficult by the soft, slippery, muddy paddock surface highly pockmarked by water-filled hoof divots.

Therefore, my pride over the ignoble accomplishment. It was no easy feat, but that contributes all the more reward to having this spring cleaning job done.

I started while the horses were eating and when Mia finished she came out to join me. For some reason, it is not uncommon for one or another of the horses to take an interest in the wheelbarrow when I am plying my collection skills. It was as if Mia was standing guard while I ventured off in every direction to pick up piles.

It wasn’t until I decided to pause and take a picture of her that I noticed the other three horses had gathered at the waterer in what looked like a meeting of their minds. None of the three showed any urge to drink. They just stood in place for the longest time, facing each other.

As I resumed my spring paddock cleaning, I could hear Mia making contact with the wheelbarrow with her legs. One might assume she was rubbing against the object to scratch an itch except that there was little in the way of rubbing. She would push up against it and then stand stationary until deciding to adjust her position a little and push against it again and just stand.

Eventually, since there was a lot of old, wet manure and I work rather slowly, Mia began to get sleepy.

The ambient outdoor sounds and my methodical plodding/squishing to and fro, frequently tapping the fork against the edge of the wheelbarrow to release the messes I picked up, became a white noise that seemed to lull the horses into drowsiness. The other three were still standing together at the waterer, looking equally sleepy.

My stopping to take another picture of Mia as her eyes drooped broke the spell. By not continuing to walk around and periodically tap the wheelbarrow, I changed the routine sound of their white noise. Mia noticed instantly.

It was as if she was looking at me to convey, “Why did you stop and become quiet?”

Maybe she didn’t want me taking a picture of her muddy appearance with her eyes half-closed.

Yesterday afternoon, when I was cleaning up the day’s new manure, I discovered the next challenge for the wet weeks ahead will be differentiating between new manure piles and mud pushed up by a heavy hoof.

Keeping paddocks pristine is definitely an imperfect science.

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Ground Visible

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The change of seasons is marching full ahead with great results. I appreciate that our snowpack’s meltdown has been happening at a perfectly gradual pace. It’s been cool enough during the overnights that melting pauses so the runoff has been controlled, for the most part.

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Delilah and I found the fields entirely bare when we emerged from the woods where there was still snow covering the ground on our morning stroll.

By afternoon, water was flowing as the melting of remaining snow picked up again. It is very rewarding to witness the unimpeded drainage flowing where Cyndie and I worked hard to correct the grade in front of her perennial garden last year.

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My “swale” in the paddock hadn’t maintained its shape nearly as well and the water was draining randomly across the main travel path of two gateways where hoof prints in the soft earth disrupt any coordinated drainage. While cleaning up manure yesterday afternoon, I did a rudimentary job of stemming the flow as best I could, using the flimsy plastic tines of my fork scoop tool.

I want the water to flow out of the paddock to the left of the gate opening to the hayfield, not across the primary travel pattern of the horses. Any attempts I make toward achieving this goal end up getting stomped on by horses who don’t seem to notice what my efforts are intended to accomplish for them.

It’s almost like they have no idea how much they weigh and the amount of disruption in soft, wet soil they create.

One other creature who has no idea how much of a disaster she creates is Delilah. She prances around everywhere she pleases in the snow and mud and then assumes a little toweling off when we come inside the house and she’s good to go.

Sweeping the floor is an adventure after practically every outing.

Yeah, the ground is visible alright.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2022 at 7:06 am

Well Kept

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Keeping most things neat and tidy is one area where I am happy that Cyndie and I tend to agree. Overall, we strive to avoid allowing items to pile up around the property unnecessarily. If something can fit in the shop-garage, barn, or hay shed, it should get put away regularly. Brush piles should not exist indefinitely. That’s why we have a chipper!

Now if we would just get around to using it one of these days.

It’s interesting that we both independently agreed about allowing the knocked-over tree to remain in the paddock for a while after it fell. Likewise, that we each came to the same conclusion when it came time to remove it.

The old scratching post is now just a pile of cut-but-unsplit firewood.

While I was making the afternoon pass through the paddocks to scoop poop after serving up the horses’ feed pans yesterday, I felt a sense of satisfaction for the pristine confines we provide them. Cyndie and I are in firm agreement about regularly cleaning up manure from within the paddock fences.

We leave it where it lands out in the fields, but under the barn overhang and throughout the rest of the paddocks, we pick it up daily. It’s a way to reduce the throngs of flies that manure attracts but it also offers a level of respect to the horses that they get to live in a cleaner environment.

It makes the space more inviting for us to spend time communing with the herd there.

You know the old saying… cleanliness is totally loveliness!

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Mental Break

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Last night, Cyndie and I watched the movie, “A Private War,” about journalist Marie Colvin who died in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. It was some heavy, intense subject matter of the awful horrors civilians suffer in war zones. As soon as it was over, Cyndie said she needed a mental palate cleanser.

She took Delilah for a little walk in the direction of the horses. I chose to catch up and meet her out in the hayfield.

On the way, something grabbed my attention at the gate from the paddock to the back pasture.

The horses have worn a very specific path they trod when wandering into the field. For some reason, instead of meandering randomly out of the paddock to graze in the pasture, they regularly walk a precise route quite a way out before dispersing.

Inside the small paddock, the snag we left standing for their use as a scratching post had been pushed askew. The bottom is rotting enough that stability is almost gone.

Both Cyndie and I walked out into the hayfield and the horses happily followed. Then they kept going past us, climbing the rise and continuing over it to the far side facing the road.

The sounds of their contented chewing and ripping bites of grass have a soothing quality to them. The evening air was cooling nicely and the endearing sounds of nature surrounding us, combined with the munching horses as daylight faded, provided everything we wished for in terms of clearing our minds.

It is such a truly divine privilege to have horses living with us again.

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Written by johnwhays

August 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Trouble Starting

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Despite the ongoing dry state of our soil, we’ve got areas of grass that well deserved to be mowed over the weekend, but I never got the chance. The ol’ Craftsman lawn tractor wouldn’t start. Actually, it tried to start several times until it stopped rotating the flywheel and just made a whiny sound. That set off days of trial and error troubleshooting. I thought it was the solenoid, but I was wrong. Then I wondered if it had something to do with the battery. That didn’t appear to be the case.

Next, I wondered if the Kohler engine might be seized, because I couldn’t move it. Then I removed the starter and discovered the engine wasn’t seized. The starter seemed okay, so I mounted it back in place, and lo and behold, the engine spun again. Twice, in fact, before it resumed doing nothing but whining.

Now I have a replacement starter on order.

Since I couldn’t mow with the tractor, I switched to the Stihl power trimmer and headed for the labyrinth.

Once again, we are finding that the earth is slowly swallowing the stones we placed to mark the pathway. Even with the ground hard and dry, the rocks seem to settle ever-deeper, and the grass gladly works its way to cover their edges, pushing them down even more.

The horses are doing their part to keep the paddock grass beautifully mowed.

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It crossed my mind that I could use their expertise on the runaway growth of grass between the barn and the chicken coop while the mower is waiting for its starter.

In the amount of time it would require to install temporary fencing around that area, I could take care of things using the power trimmer. If the ordered part doesn’t arrive on the day advertised, I just might do that.

The starter will be here about the same time the weather is predicted to possibly bring rain. It’s frustrating because we really need the rain, but, at the same time, I really want to get the grass cut.

I may not have trouble starting, at that point, but I just might run into trouble finishing.

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Guessing Game

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With our fields all freshly cut for hay, we have been inviting the horses out to graze in the pasture again. They have shown much less interest than I expected to see. I think they know how dry it all is and find it no better than what is available closer to the water and their preferred territory inside the paddocks.

Last night, Cyndie and I walked out into the back pasture to see if they would join us. Mia eventually made her way into the round pen.

Swings and Mix followed along after a bit, Swings stepping inside and Mix choosing to circle around outside.

Light chose to stay back under the overhang until much later. After we had exited the pasture and moved our focus to the chickens, Light showed up to graze just inside the pasture, parallel to the coop.

Can you tell the difference between the older Buffalo Gals and the younger Rockettes?

It’s difficult to tell unless we focus on the breed. Of course, with the mixed results of the chicks we hatched that Rocky the New Hampshire Red fertilized, the breeds are not entirely obvious. It’s still not obvious which of the Rockettes are roosters in hiding.

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Those two faces are looking much more rooster-like than the rest of the young ones, but they aren’t visibly bigger yet and their legs don’t stand out as distinctly thicker/longer.

With 25 birds constantly in motion, it’s hard to keep track of which one is which. I’m pretty sure I’ve counted the same one twice every time I’ve tried since we merged the two groups. Until the size becomes obvious or they grow rooster tails, it’s pretty much a guessing game about the ultimate outcome of our hatched chicks.

One thing is for sure, though. None of them look like chicks anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2021 at 6:00 am

Steaming Pile

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The new manure pile is already cooking! Given the near-freezing temperatures we have been enduring of late, the heat from the pile of composting manure was clearly visible in the form of steam wafting up out of it.

It’s not completely obvious in the image above, but there’s a little fogginess around the upper edges. The composting process is underway. We’ll have more fertile soil for Cyndie’s vegetable garden in about six weeks if I studiously work this pile. Not that we have a critical need.

Based on previous experience, I tend to miss a few key time intervals when it comes to composting, so I don’t think we ever achieved getting useable compost in the shortest possible time. Since we don’t have our compost area covered, I can’t protect the piles from getting too wet when weather is rainy. I am also prone to missing a day or two of checking the piles, so they can become too compacted or over-dry before I finally notice.

As a result, my composting has usually been more of a stuttering on-and-off process that ultimately falls short of locking in maximum nutrients and thoroughly killing weed seeds and fly larva. That is the promise when paying precise attention to detail, or so I’ve read.

The horses are doing a fabulous job of grazing the back pasture to make sure we will have no shortage of manure. They continue to look increasingly comfortable with their new surroundings. Cyndie and I reinstalled one gate yesterday afternoon that allows us to break the paddocks into two during the short period when we set out pans of feed. This served to prevent the horses from chasing each other off their pans.

With two horses on each side, they settled down and ate with no fuss.

On my way down to the barn from the house, I stopped off to check the unauthorized nest Cyndie found. No eggs for one day. We’ll keep an eye on it and see how long that lasts.

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2021 at 6:00 am