Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘paddocks

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

Fifth Nest

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Cyndie finally found it. The location where our hens have been laying eggs beyond our coop. Eighteen eggs, to be exact.

We’d had our suspicions about the general direction for some time, but were mistakenly searching between the trees around the area when all the while they have been sneaking behind some rolled up fencing stored right beside the outside of the shop.

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Based on the variety in colors of eggs, we suspect between three and four hens have been taking turns laying there. They aren’t all laying there every time, as we have usually found six eggs per day in the coop nest boxes from the eight hens.

Yesterday, Cyndie spotted the Domestique running from the shop area which clued her in about refining her search location.

The chickens have been taking advantage of the horses being out in the back pasture, returning to their old stomping grounds under the barn overhang to scrounge for goodies. Since the horses tend to make swift sprints back into the paddocks at random intervals, the chickens occasionally find themselves alarmed.

Cyndie captured this image of Rocky standing tall over them as they closed ranks during one such incident yesterday.

When the horses aren’t racing back into the paddocks, they were thoroughly enjoying the comfort and open space available in the back pasture.

It was another glorious day in paradise.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

Settling In

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Despite innumerable projects that deserve our attention this time of year, we preserved much of the day yesterday for just being with the horses. We continue to gain insight into the significant difference between these horses who have been rescued from a variety of situations and histories, and the four pampered Arabians who lived with us previously.

As we were sitting in chairs beside a gate to the large paddock mid-morning, the four mares were finding themselves inclined toward taking a nap. A real lying down nap. All four at the same time.

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A short while later, since naps on the ground tend to only last about 5-minutes, they remained spread out and took to calmly grazing where they stood.

Slowly, but surely, Light made her way toward my feet at the gate, closing the distance by halves, then inch by inch as she munched. I purposely left my boot where it was, protruding beneath the gate in the direct path of grass she was working.

 

When she got to my boot, she pressed it gently, as if to make a connection with me. Then she just kept on munching grass just beyond it.

There has been very little drama between the mares, but as they crowd around the overhang when we are about to set out feed, we’ve seen Mix get a little testy with those around her. We’ve also noticed Swings having some bouts of anxiety that cause her to pace back and forth in one specific spot near the first gate they entered.

We watched as Light appeared to intervene one time to help interrupt the routine, getting Swings to break the pacing and walk calmly away with her. 

Cyndie reported this morning there is already a worn path along that fence that is beginning to get muddy.

We have been a little concerned about how much newly greening grass was available to them in the paddocks, but their digestive systems appear to be handling it thus far. Yesterday we dumped the inaugural wheelbarrow load of manure into the compost area. Cyndie and I embarrassingly held a small celebratory moment over the occasion.

Rocky showed up soon after to start scratching into it, knocking down the nice shape I had created.

Elysa and Ande stopped by to greet the horses and then I successfully installed the pump in our landscape pond to restart the soothing sounds of the falling water.

With that chore completed, I feel justified to now spend even more time helping our horses get comfortable with us and their new surroundings. The grass in the paddocks is already grazed to such an extent we are considering opening the gate to the back pasture for them this afternoon.

They’ve already demonstrated interest several times by standing at that very gate and ogling the greenery spread out before them.

I am happy to be able to say we are all settling in nicely to our new, mutually beneficial relationships.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2021 at 9:36 am

Complicated Water

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We have water in the paddocks again, but it took far more than simply opening a valve. Friday morning brought constant drizzle with few, if any, breaks. Only periods where it leaned toward actual rain that succeeded in changing the state of our clothes from merely damp to becoming downright wet.

Our guy, Mike, from the excavation company that originally installed our paddock water fixture showed up prepared to do battle, but the circumstances of the cracked valve and seized fittings forced a suspension of work to visit the hardware store in River Falls for an altered solution.

Multiple times, the buried column beneath the waterer needed to be bailed out to allow Mike to see what he was doing. The complication of our setup involves the freeze/thaw cycles that our having turned off the water for two winters fouled up.

Unlike the spigot inside the barn, where the water shutoff is down below the frost level, the line to the waterer is a different situation. There is insulation wrapped around the line and a length of heat tape along the top section of hardware to because there is water in the line all the time.

When temperatures drop, I turn on the electricity and the fixture doesn’t freeze. When we shut the valve two years ago, I flipped the circuit breaker off and forgot about it. We’ve now learned that in the ensuing winters, the water in the line froze and cracked the shutoff valve.

Turns out, the easiest solution is to just leave it on. We’ve got it running now and ready for the return of horses. If we don’t keep horses over winter (still an unknown at this point) we’ll need to make a decision about what we’ll do with the waterer next fall.

I had no idea it could be so complicated to have an automatic water source in the paddocks. Obviously, the fact we experience severe cold temperatures adds one level of complexity, but the fact our location is so wet seems to be a compounding factor.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I finished cleaning up the barn to a degree I didn’t think possible. It looks fabulous and reminds me of the impression we got when we first walked in to see it nine years ago. The four stalls still look almost new.

The final exercise I want to finish today involves pounding down a few more fence posts and tightening up all the wires before turning on the electricity to see where there might be arcing. With that complete, we will feel entirely prepared to host a visit tomorrow from a representative of This Old Horse who will confirm our facility as suitable.

More important for us, this will allow them to know where they are headed and how to position a trailer for offloading horses and smoothly introducing our new guests to their summer accommodations.

I look forward to the horses discovering where they will be able to get a cool drink of water.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2021 at 10:05 am

Thirteen Eggs

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We now know that all thirteen of our hens are producing eggs. Friday we collected one egg for each hen in our brood. Our little chicks are all grown up.

 

They are thriving in their first exposure to spring and full access to free ranging our fields and forest. Crawling insects are under an all out assault.

When I was primping the paddock in preparation of our anticipated new equine tenants, the chickens showed up to join the fun; happy to help.

 

Now I’m going to go outside and clear out the last remnants of moldy hay from the hay shed and de-clutter the barn and I couldn’t be more excited about the reason so to do.

New horse companions are slated to arrive in less than a month.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2021 at 9:39 am

Paddocks Reclaimed

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Mission accomplished on Sunday in my effort to reclaim the paddocks from the unchecked growth of grasses and weeds, some of which had risen to over a meter tall since the beginning of this year’s growing season.

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I got in there with the big diesel tractor pulling the brush cutter and successfully avoided destroying any fences while maneuvering in the confined spaces.

Before the cutting started in earnest, Cyndie and I made a pass through, digging up “sour dock” weeds (that’s the local name for Rumex Crispus or some variation thereof) in hope of reducing their propagation.

We used to get sour dock mixed in bales of hay we bought for our horses and they were not fond of it. Ever since, we’ve framed it as an undesirable weed, despite evidence there are some medicinal and edible features to it.

Then it was off to the mowing races.

It’s always a little unnerving to be mowing blindly over such thick and tall growth, not knowing if I might run over a misplaced tool or any variety of wild critters that may have made themselves a home there. As it was, while walking through the higher-than-my-waist jungle of growth I figured I was wandering in a snake pit, much to my discomfort.

Luckily, no snakes were encountered over the entire duration of this project. A lot of toads and a couple of field mice were about the extent of sightings.

At one point in my hunt for stalks of sour dock hiding among the tall grasses, I came upon a bird’s nest with a lone egg in it. With a total absence of any upset flyers winging their way overhead, I concluded this poor egg had been abandoned.

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Now there is a blanket of cuttings covering the ground in the paddocks. That’s enough for hundreds of nests.

I noticed the three hens wandering around in there right after I finished mowing, picking at the wealth of opportunity, but I don’t think they will make a dent in cleaning up all the deadfall.

We’ll simply leave it to dry up and break down where it lays.

Maybe that covering will slow new growth so I won’t have to mow it more than one more time by the end of the summer. I don’t enjoy operating the diesel tractor so close to fences, especially inside the corners.

The paddocks almost look like we have horses again!

That’s so much better an impression than the neglect all that wild growth has been emanating.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Alternative Location

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I mowed the paddocks on Sunday. Knowing the kids were coming mid-morning, I headed out to the shop garage to move equipment around for access to the brush mower and watch for their arrival. I didn’t see Elysa’s car drive past, but looked up and noticed it parked by the house all of a sudden. A second later, I looked up to find Julian’s Jeep parked there, too. How they both got past me without my seeing them drive by is a complete mystery.

So much for that plan.

After chasing Julian around on his Onewheel, I left him to do more practice laps and hopped on the tractor. Elysa opened gates for me and stood on the lookout for wandering chickens.

I didn’t realize that Cyndie had reported a headcount of only seven hens located and I sent Elysa off to can pickles after I’d made a few passes around the perimeter. It seemed to me that I would be able to spot chickens if they showed up.

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When I got closer to the middle of the paddock, the grass was so tall and thick that it was impossible to see what I was mowing over. I looked up after navigating a tight circle around one of the high spots and I caught sight of one Golden Laced Wyandotte slowly and calmly walking away from the grass toward the paddock fence.

Had she been hiding in the tall grass, just as I feared possible? I wasn’t entirely sure, but the thought was unsettling.

The paddocks looked pretty good when I was finished. After six years of successful close maneuvering, I finally broke my first fence board when I miscalculated while backing up to turn around. Curses!

Cyndie took Delilah for a walk through the newly mowed grass and the dog sniffed out where the Wyandotte had been.

It looked like my tractor tire rolled over about ten eggs in the hen’s alternative to our nest boxes.

We are hoping the loss of cover will help convince the vagabond bird to return her laying habit to the coop.

Is it possible to teach old hens new tricks?

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Written by johnwhays

August 27, 2019 at 6:00 am

Still Missing

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Not a day goes by that we aren’t still missing our horses. Yesterday, I spent a little time tending to residual piles of manure. The urgency to deal with it every single day is gone since there is no longer a need to make space for more. I also find myself avoiding dealing with it because it so obviously reminds me of the absence of our equine partners.

There was quite a large accumulation inside the paddock left over from winter that I was planning to convert into a high spot over a drain tile that I didn’t want the horses to collapse from walking over it when the ground was soft. The chickens are doing their darndest to spread it flat, so I have given up on maintaining a pile that will “cook” to compost and am just spreading it out to dry.

There were some huge grub worms in there that the chickens gladly feasted on while I was raking it out. They only last so long out in the bright sunshine before suddenly sprinting off to the wooded shade for a break. After they cool off a bit, they come out for another round of ugly looking grubs, then run off again.

Eventually, I took the hint and moved to reshape some of the leftover composting manure under the shade for them. They appreciated the wealth of smaller worms and centipedes to be found in the piles I moved there.

Standing out in the vacant paddocks now is disconcerting. The encroachment of weeds and tall grass gives an impression of neglect that seems so very out of place. I suppose I will mow it down eventually.

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We are still really, really missing our horses.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2019 at 9:09 am

Cold Lonesome

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It’s not feeling very springlike this morning. It dropped well below freezing last night and today dawned frozen like a rock. Cyndie is gone to visit her parents in Florida, so Delilah and I are in charge of caring for the chickens and Pequenita. Since Delilah is no help with either, I am pretty much on my own there.

The paddocks have become a lonesome place to pass. There are still a few piles of horse “apples” yet to be collected out in the farther reaches, but that will wait for some magical moment when it isn’t frozen solid, or so wet and muddy it’s impossible to navigate.

A neighbor posted a request for used T-post fence posts on our local online site, and we have some to spare, so Delilah and I spent time in the barn yesterday sorting out the ones missing anchor plates from those that have them, as well as culling a few that lack the quality of straightness.

Now they are laid out all over the floor in piles of five, something that we would not do if the horses were still here. It is freeing, but weird.

I also took advantage of having my music playing while I worked. We chose to avoid exposing our horses to the sounds of recorded music, so it was a novelty to be working in the barn with tunes on.

While we were tending to fence posts, I decided to begin dismantling the border that defined our arena space in a corner of the hay-field. Most of the posts are still frozen in the ground, but the webbing could come down.

It was beautifully sunny, but also cold and windy. Much of the work had me pulling my hands out of my gloves and soon my fingers grew so cold I started to lose dexterity.

Also, the plastic insulators weren’t very agreeable to being flexed open, so that didn’t help my cold hands any.

This morning, Delilah and I walked through the back pasture and reached the round pen, with its sloppy sand currently frozen, preserving the footprints of chickens. Only chickens.

It served to prod my lonesomeness for our horses.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2019 at 10:17 am

Snow Wrecker

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The worst thing to happen during snow season is a rainstorm. Dry snow is so much better than wet snow. Wet snow becomes slush after a time, and after the day-long rainfall we experienced yesterday, we ended up with nothing but a soupy slush.

The ground is frozen enough below the snow that water won’t soak in. Instead, it pools until the water reaches an outlet to the next lowest spot.

The drainage from the paddocks that flows across the back pasture was running like a river when Delilah and I braved the rain for her mid-day walk.

She made it across without much effort, but my big feet were going to make a definite splash. I stopped to gather my courage and plan my maneuver. Delilah busied herself with a face wash while waiting for me to take some pictures.

Everything I tried to do was made significantly more complicated by the umbrella I was fumbling to keep over my head.

As we neared the road on this typical trek around the property, I spotted the stump where our mailbox is usually mounted. That meant a snowplow must have roared past and tossed up a blade-full of the slush; a mass that packs more punch than my plastic mailbox can survive.

We found the box portion unceremoniously discarded upside down in the ditch, soaking up rain. Luckily, the plow had blown by before the mail delivery arrived, so there were no drenched bills inside.

Delilah growled at the odd scene as we approached.

I guess I kind of growled, too. Expletives.

The paddocks are a disaster of packed down slush, transformed into a dangerously hard and slippery wet surface against which the horses struggle to maneuver their hefty weight. We didn’t bring them inside overnight Wednesday, despite it ending up being the smarter thing to have done.

I brought them inside last night, with hope they might appreciate it even more, after their previous misery.

Even Pequenita was able to express her opinion about the nasty conditions outside yesterday, even though she is supposed to be an exclusively indoor cat.

Before the rain had totally destroyed the several inches of new snow that had fallen on the deck at the beginning of this weather event, I was preparing to light a fire in the fireplace. I opened the door to grab some kindling from the box out there, without noticing the cat had positioned herself right in front of me.

‘Nita walked outside before I had a chance to corral her.

Two steps into the sloppy snow, she just stopped. It was not a good day for an escape.

Maybe not good for her. Escape is pretty much all I want to do from this weather fiasco.

Rain has no place in our northern snow belt during winter. Bah, humbug!

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2018 at 7:00 am