Monday, September 13, 2010

Vehicle on the Ranch

I never really realized that the vehicles we have on the ranch are really required. I knew we needed them to knock down manure with the harrow or run the spreader, and I know the tractor has gotten us unstuck, cleared snow, and cut grass, but I didn't realize how important these things were until they were gone. My wife let me know multiple times that we needed them fixed for chores.

On consecutive weeks, the ATV and the riding mower died on us. The ATV went to the shop, since I wasn't sure what was wrong there. I've never worked with a belt, and when the belt light comes on, I take it in.

The mower was another story. Over the years I've fixed a variety of things on this mower and since it was running fine and then died, I figured I could fix this. First I checked fuel, and a steady stream out of the fuel filter onto my boot convinced me this wasn't the issue. Next was the spark plug, and when I held it in my hand and didn't see a spark while cranking, I decided to get a new one.

I did, and I held it up after plugging on the wife to check for a spark while I cranked it. I didn't see a spark, but I felt one. Just a hint, hold the rubber boot of the spark plug wire, not the metal of the spark plug itself when you check it. I think I grounded things out. Fortunately it didn't break when I dropped it as the cord held it off the floor, swinging back and forth.

It seemed to be working, so I screwed it in, and sure enough it was cranked up and back to chore duty that day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Know Your Horses

A text to my wife: Gemini is in the middle of the track, so I opened the gate for him.

Back from her: Hmmm, OK

She was confused, and should have been since she was away at a horse clinic for a couple days, and she had Gemini with her. He's the black horse we have, and the only black horse. Or so I thought.

My wife had agreed to be a middlewoman between someone selling a horse, and someone looking to get a horse for a friend. When the lady number two saw the horse, she felt it was "too much horse" for her friend. So Starlet, the horse for sale, stayed at our place. I had assumed that Starlet would be heading back to the original owner any day.

Apparently I forgot what an assumption really means.

Starlet was in our pasture for a few weeks when I mistook her for Gemini. I know one's a boy and one's a girl, but I didn't check that closely. I was heading out one day, saw a black horse in the middle of the pasture with no water, and opened the gate.

I wasn't thrilled with us going from three to four horses, but my wife pointed out that we'd been dealing with it, and the chores, for a few weeks and I hadn't noticed. At that point I didn't have much of an argument left.

It pays to be able to tell your horses apart.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nosy Neighbors

I’m sure you have had them, or still have them. Those neighbors that want to know what you’re doing, make a bit of a nuisance by injecting themselves into whatever activity you are a part of.

It might be curiosity or it might be a desire to participate, but in either case, I had some company while trying to cover up some barbed wire with welded wire yesterday.


I was working my way down the fence, and I had company from the next door neighbors. Close company, as you can see here. I don’t know these horses and donkeys well, so I was a little concerned as I reached around with pliers and clipped things together. Mostly it’s lip action, but these beasts do have teeth, so I was keeping a close eye on exactly how much participation they were trying for as I worked.

About 5 of them followed me along as I slowly moved along 100’ of fence. I guess I was more interesting than grazing for a few of them. Me scratching necks a bit probably added to that interest.

In the end, I finished, and we each went our separate ways.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fence Man

I went out to help my wife get some fencing up recently. We have 3 pastures that are fenced off with various materials, one of which has a natural horse track. This is a 12-15ft wide track circling the pasture that should help to get the horses moving more often. It seems to work since not much grows on the track, but that's a topic for another day.

We bought some posts and ribbon to build another track on the second pasture, but first we needed to cover the barbed wire along one side. Our plan was to take down the barbed wire and install a mesh fence instead (and electrical wire), but somewhere along the way my wife decided we didn't need to take the barned wire down and we could clip the new stuff over top. Made sense to me, so we headed out there one Saturday with that in mind.

My wife had done the calculations, 29 posts, estimating 8-10 ft apart, and had purchased 330' of mesh. That would have been fine if the posts were that far apart. I think some were 14ft, and some maybe 16', but in either case, it meant we were fairly short. Not a big deal, and I was tired when we ran out of wire.

You see me wife is also trying to train horses, and while she is happy to do chores, they seem to have a lower priority than playing with horses. In this case, they had a lower priority than her helping her sister play with horses, so when we were about half done with the roll, she went back to see if she could help her sister. Not a big deal as I could have stopped and waited, but it was getting later, the sun going down and insects likely waiting up. Plus I have a bit of OCD and hate to leave something undone. If I had lost the momentum that day, it might have been  a week or two for me to get it back up and go out there again.

So I wrestled the slightly smaller, but still large and heavy roll along, clipping mesh to the t-posts as I went.

330' of fencing up, excluding posts, makes a good day of work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summertime Hay

Once again my wife's on the road and guess who gets to feed horses?

Yep, me.

It's easier, though, in the summertime. We rotate horses among pastures, and there's a decent amount of grass. I don't have to rush out before I've had some coffee, listening to whinny's and calls wondering where I am. I don't have to fight through a herd of horses trying to eat out of the wheelbarrow as I'm moving hay around. And I don't have to bundle up against the cold. Today I even took a conference call as I was walking around dropping hay.

On the flip side, I still need to change clothes. Jeans, boots, and I should have taken out gloves. That hay rubbing on bare skin, at least my bare skin, itches and irritates me. Pollen in the air, and hay dust, has me sneezing.

I guess it's never easy with the horses, and it's a chore if you don't enjoy them. But I love my wife, so I go out there and deal with it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pasture Cutting Delayed - Rotary Cutter Parts Needed

I usually start cutting the pasture in April, and it goes through May and June. The 4 pastures I cut on our 35 acres take me a good 40 solid hours and since I actually have to do other work for a living, this gets spread over a couple months.

This year I haven’t started yet. To be fair, things weren’t bad for April and most of May as they were dry months for us. So I wasn’t too worried. However things have sprouted lately, so it’s time to get going.

rotarycutter2One problem. The rotary cutter doesn’t work. The blade assembly to the left here fell off the deck late last year. Not sure what happened, and honestly, I don’t know how it was connected to the rest of the cutter.

The company we bought it from went out of business, it’s a generic (we didn’t know better then) and I have had trouble with repairs before. Last year I managed to track down the guy at the old company and he had some old replacement blades lying around that he gave me, but he’s not there now. And there’s no one answering the number. Apparently he was closing out the bankrupt company when I called last year, luck I called that week), and now they’re gone gone.

So I took a picture of the bottom of the deck:


and I’ve sent these two images to a few people, hoping someone can help me get a nut or assembly to connect things up. If that works, then I’ll be in good shape for cutting.

If not, I’m out $1000-1200 for a new cutter.

These horses sure are trouble.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Shrinking Herd

Have you ever heard of such a thing? Having less horses?

Barring some accident, it’s not something I’ve experienced in the last six or seven horses. Ever since my wife got her first horse, she’s been finding ways to increase her herd. She either buys them, is given them, or boards them.

However this past week we ended up losing two boarders, going from eight to six horses.

Good to see, from my perspective since it’s less work. For either me or my wife. I was actually surprised to see her mention it a few times, but in a good way. She’s OK with it, and I’m glad.

At the rate she was going, I thought that we might end up with 50 by the time I retired.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Manure Movement

I came in the house the other day smelling of horse manure. It was on my clothes, in my hair, and a shower was the first thing on the agenda.

How did I end up in this state?

My wife has been feeding on the west side of the barn all winter. We set up three large tubs for the 8 horses and we would put hay in them. If you're familiar with horses you'll realize that they tend to poop where they're standing with the urge comes over them, and with them standing near the hay in cold weather, there's a lot of droppings nearby.

Not a hug big deal as we harrow it down to break it up, but across 3-4 months, mainly because I've done a lot of feeding, we have about 1-2" of manure dust on the ground. I didn't realize it until the last snow storm when there were clumps of old manure appearing.

I've been meaning to scrape it off with the rear blade, and putting it off, but this past weekend, with my wife hurt in bed, it seemed like this was the time for me to do it. I know, I should have done something else, but I needed to be close to home and she usually has other chores for me. So I hooked up the rear blade and started scraping.

It's a little challenge to get the manure and not dig into the dirt, and I seemed to hit and miss (too high or low) regularly. But the 1 ft high x 6ft x 3 ft pile of old manure grew to one that's 5-6ft high in places. I didn't get all the manure near the barn, but I got a lot of it and it's down to dirt in places.

Good for preventing thrush, which results in me spending more time near the horses' feet helping my wife soak them than I want.

Now I have a new chore. Get all that manure spread out on the pastures as fertilizer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Taking My Wife Away

My wife left yesterday for California. She’s going to be gone for eight days, which is a double whammy. I not only get to be alone, but I also get to manage hay, water, and shoveling duties by myself for that time.

She didn’t go for work, or for vacation, but for horse training.

I suppose it would be no different than if I went somewhere to learn how to better work with wood, or drive a car, or something like that. I haven’t done those things yet, but they are on my mind. That’s if I can get the time and money given this horsey habit my wife has.

I’m glad she gets to go, since she was excited to go out there. I know she’s excited because even though she likes traveling, she doesn’t like wasting time. And the drive from CO to CA is a pretty big waste of time. Can’t get much done on a horse when it’s in the trailer and you’re 25 ft ahead of them behind the wheel. She could have flown in a few hours and borrowed a horse, but that wasn’t in the plan. She has an Arab she’s working with and a young horse she’s training, both of which she wanted specific help on.

Me, I would have left my 911 at home and borrowed one at a track if I went to learn, but that’s me. I figure anything I learn can be applied at home. I started to argue that with her, but realized that it might no go over as logic. Likely I would have been called a few names and I’d have missed spending another day with my wife after an argument.

She did think about it, but in the end decided the 16 or so hours in the truck were worth it, so she left at 5am in the morning, me helping load hay in the trailer and waving good-bye as she pulled away.

I’m happy that my wife has something that she enjoys so much, but sad at the same time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

9 and 9

It’s 9pm on the clock. I glance over at the weather station on the wall and it shows 9F outside. Kids are in bed and it’s time for chores.

I pull in ski pants, my winter boots, don the ski jacket and grab a knit hat and gloves as I head out the back door. It’s not a bad night, calm, crisp, a dry night as I walk across to the barn.

It’s a peaceful time, and I move around, filling the wagon with hay and getting it out to the horses. The cats get food in the middle as they and the dogs scurry around the barn. It’s doesn’t take much time, but it’s quiet, relaxing time to myself. No thinking required, just a little hard work.

Fifteen minutes later my fingers are getting cold. The single digits are having an effect. I lock the cats in the tack room to stay warm and head back to the house. The dogs wander around, and I stop to look up at the sky, waiting for them at the door.

Not my choice of how to spend a cold winter night, but it’s one I enjoy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Man on a Horse

Funny how people work horses into ads. Check this one out on YouTube from Old Spice.

This isn’t necessarily for me, despite the fact I like Old Spice. I don’t want to “be on a horse” anytime soon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

They’re All Good Horses

My wife told me the other day that one of her boarders wants to sell her horse. It’s a nice horse, well bred and purchased for about $12k.

My heart skipped a beat or two thinking about spending $12k on a beast, especially when we have more than a couple already. I suspect that my question of whether or not I could spend $12k on another automobile might elicit a slightly different reaction.

Our boarder was offering the horse at cost, ignoring the board and training the horse has received in the last two years.  On the open market, the horse would likely go for $20k+. Now I might be open to an investment of sorts, but we don’t necessarily have the contacts to sell the horse. That, along with one other fact, makes me think this isn’t a good idea.

My wife doesn’t like selling horses.

She tells me this is a “good horse” and would be great to show. Having lived with my wife for many years, and seen her work with many horses, I’ve come to one conclusion: they’re all good horses.

That argument didn’t exactly win me any points, and started another argument. Women and horses are certainly hard to live with.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's the women in our lives

I don't really like horses. I never really had much of a desire to ride them, own them, care for them, or really much of anything else. My memories as a kid of trail rides were these hot, boring, dusty adventures that ended well with a bar-b-que meal. I could just have soon skipped the ride and gone straight to the BBQ. These days I feel the same, though I'd have a beer with my BBQ.

Why do I have horses?

It's a simple answer. My wife loves horses, trains them, and so I have horses. I love my wife, so I have horses. My daughter loves them as well, though I'm glad she has stopped pretending she's a horse on a daily basis.

I help take care of the, have learned a few things, but mostly seem to alternate with some funny and frustrating situations as a non-horse horse owner. I thought I'd start a blog and keep track of some of the more interesting adventures I've had and share some information with others that might be in a similar situation.