Monday, December 28, 2015

Thoroughbred cutting horse???

Today the girls might have been playing. My husband and I were taking a short break from moving the old t-posts from where I have been tossing them to the ground after finally getting them free, along with the bottom 10 inches of old fence that they were attached to underground, to a little pile by the workshop. We were talking close to the fence around the small field, and at first, Litta was keeping Sierra away from me. Every time Sierra tried to head towards where I was, Litta would chase her off, and some of her moves made me think she should have been a cutting horse. Once she would get Sierra over by the shelter, she would either come over to the fence by me and sniff me, then walk off or she would stand and pretend to ignore Sierra- much like a cat does when playing with a mouse. Sierra would wait til either Litta had moved away from me or until Litta looked away from her, then she would make a quick "sprint" past Litta and run up to the fence, with Litta hot on her tail. So by the time Sierra reached the vicinity of me, she was half bucking and snorting and sliding to a stop to turn and run back towards the shelter, again with Litta right behind her, almost biting distance. Litta would hang back once Sierra cleared the corner post, and watch to see what she was going to do, then cut her off again and again.
Old photos, didn't have my phone on me today.

 Then it sort of changed. Sierra would snort at Litta, and start her half bucking and running , but she was watching Litta, and nodding at her while she was doing it. Litta let out this great big snort and started mimicking Sierra, doing the little half bucks and running with her instead of chasing! Its was awesome to watch.
 They kept getting (in my opinion) way to close to the fence before stopping, and I told Sierra that there was a much longer field right over there that she could run much further in- and they did it! They trotted to the very back, slowing to look at me often- it reminded me of a couple kids making sure their mom was watching. Once they reached the back fence line they looked at me again, snorted, bucked, and flew back up to the little field- barley skidding to a stop in time to not wipe out the fence. Crazy Crazy Mares :)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lasagna Anyone?

Sense we have been here at the new place, I've been eyeballing prospective garden sites. The previous owners have planted a lot of trees- most appear to be between 2 to 4 years, and about half the 2 year looking ones might be dead. They also have an existing garden spot, but it is in what is going to be the second pasture, and they use roundup, etc. My garden is going to be organic, with heirloom seeds. I've been making a list of seed I'm going to buy from Baker Creek - I picked up their "The Whole Seed Catalog" from tractor supply last time I was in the store.
Other than being organic and non-gmo, the final thing important to me as far as the garden goes is soil. This property has a thin layer of soil, then about 3-4 inches of sand, then clay. By thin layer, I mean that if you scuff it with your toe, you see sand.
 I've looked into several different ways to get a new garden bed going, and I've settled on the "Lasagna Method" for several reasons. I don't have a tiller, I don't have the money to go buy a tiller. I have a shovel, but I'm not young anymore and have very recently started looking for less manual labor intensive ways to do things. I already have a compost pile going, and we still have boxes and packing paper everywhere. I am surrounded by trees. I like the idea of not killing the microbes by turning the soil.
 This morning after feeding the horses, I went over to where the partial shade garden beds will be, and measured out a 4 x 8 section. I dug through the pile of junk we pulled out of the current pasture and shelter areas and found some old pvc pieces to mark my corners. Then I went over to the workshop where my husband was building his workbench and pulled all the tape off several empty boxes, filled my wagon up with packing paper, flattened the boxes and set them on top.
 Pulled all this over to the staked out bed, and put the boxes in place. Grabbed the hose and soaked it. Layer one complete.
 Off to the compost pile. I added three wheelbarrows of composting manure and leaves and spread it all out. watered it down, added a bunch of packing paper, watered that down, three more wheelbarrows of manure, and a layer of heavier paper, watering everything.
Bed one done. No digging, no tilling, no picking out rocks... :)
 I refilled the wagon with more paper and boxes, then moved the stakes to the next bed- left 4' between beds, I figure that is more than enough room to pull the wagon between, and mow if I need to.
 My plan is to have 3 or 4 beds in that spot, 1 or 2 up a little ways from it in a bit more sun, then 4 more out front in full sun. Unless the little trees I think are dead are still alive, in which case the 4 out front might have a wee bit of shade early in the morning. I get about 1 1/2 wheelbarrows of fresh manure per day from the horses, and have gotten in the habit of scooping in a picker full of leaves for every pile I scoop. Based on the heat coming from the compost pile when I dug into it, I think that's a pretty good ratio.
 I don't want to use up the entire compost pile, Id like it to finish composting, plus that gives me somewhere to throw the hay when the girls poop on it instead of eating it. So I figure I can build 1 new bed a week and still be able to add to the compost pile a little.

Sources I read about Lasagna-style no till gardening:
Oregon State University Extension Service
HomeGuides SFgate
Mother Earth News
 There were some others I read last night, these are the ones I read this morning.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day After

It's the day after Christmas and I feel like I've been hit by a truck. We have been so busy trying to unpack, find hay for the mares this late in the season, everything else, that I didn't actually decorate for Christmas until the 2 days before. The tree got done the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
 I wasn't procrastinating- I did try to get it done earlier in the month but I had to stop. I found a lot of broken Christmas decorations from the packers/movers- including my tree. Being upset like that isn't the right time to put up decorations, so I sorted and found allllllll the broken stuff, and set it to the side. 2 weeks later, well, still pretty upset, but I HAD to decorate at least the inside before the 25th- so I did!
 And now, I am going to leave it up til sometime in January. Today I am going to work on the area that is going to be the second pasture. The horses have been in the first field just over 3 weeks, and it will take me at least 2 more weeks to get the second pasture done. That was a lie. It will take me at least 3 weeks to get the second pasture done....maybe longer.

Blue = original fence lines, Red = planned fence lines, Green = actual new fence lines so far

As you see, we haven't really stuck to the plan for the pastures. That plan was made when we had no idea what the reality of the place was. Now we know. But it looks really nice. Straight lines, perfect corners, 2 even pastures with the little field up front..
  See how the little front field went from a planned pretty nice rectangle to a sort of funky shaped deformed rectangleish like shape? The small notch around the carport happened because initially we were just going to move the carport- its one of those aluminum framed/roofed things that are supposed to be portable... Well. the old owners set each and every leg of that frame in concrete. So we decided to notch the pasture around it, and store the lawn "tractor" and other equipment in it. Not a big deal.
  So my husband is out there digging post holes with an auger, he gets all the corners on the notched side done, fence posts and supports done, and has the corner by the storage bin to finish.. Drilled it down, and as the auger is pulled out, the hole instantly fills with water. From the surrounding soil- no waterline, just really really wet soil.
 There is an arched line of bushes that isn't in this google map view of the property, and the decision was made to "arch" the fence line to follow the bush line. which would put the corner post in drier soil. It looks OK in person, just a bit odd shaped to see the outline drawn with the bushes not visible. We ended up using the back side of the shelter-that-will-be-a-barn as pasture boarder due to the massive root system for the three very big trees that surround it. And when we are done, both the pastures will extend all the way back to where the plan was- we just didn't have the time to create the new fence line for the first pasture.

What will be the second pasture
   It LOOKS like putting in the second pasture should be easy, right? I hope it will be easier than the first one, and easier than the little field around the shelter-that-will-be-a-barn was. The gate, the front fence line, and most of the center line are in place. We just have to finish ripping out the last of the old fencing, the old T-posts, the old small field gate, all the rotted posts, fill in the holes those posts were in, dig new post holes, set them, create the braces, set T-posts, caps, run new fence, and while we do that we are going to get the posts/t-posts in place to run the back of the first pasture where we wanted it to be. Oh, and we are really hoping that all the winter oats we planted come continue to come up and develop a good enough root system that 2 hungry horses don't destroy it all in a week. Oh yeah, and we are going to try fencing off an orange and a lime tree that are planted in this area, they are both fairly small...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Litta and The Chicken Hawk

  I've noticed that over the past couple days the mares have not been using the larger pasture, and have been in the front far corner of the little field a lot. Today is very rainy, and they are still in the front little corner. During a slight break in the weather I went out to see what, if anything, was going on. Checked on them, loved on them, spritzed more fly spray on them, asked them why they were out here in the rain instead of under the shelter, to which they had no answer I could hear or see. While I was spraying Litta I noticed one of the stray cats crossing the field. Sierra hunkered down a little, then charged after him, and chased the poor cat all the way to the fence and looked like she was having a blast doing it. Silly girl!smile emoticon
 So, everything being OK looking with them, I went on out to the still-in-progress pasture to see where the water was staying, draining, softening the ground, and if the oat seed we put in was growing yet (It is). I'm at the back of what was originally fenced in, heading on out to the rest that we will be fencing in, when it starts raining again, the big fat drops. At the same instant, motion catches my eye, I turn to look- Sierra is trying desperately to get to the shelter, and Litta is blocking her with fierce determination.
 As I head back to them the rain lessens a little. By the time I am closing the gate to their little field, it has gone from the big fat drops to more of a normal pattern. Litta is right there, looking like she is saying "Its about time, we want to go be dry but cant, do something". So. I go into the shelter, talking about how dry it is, and safe it is, and notice they didn't finish their hay from this morning. Which is immediately worrying because Sierra will eat everything every time. Im still chattering to them about being dry and safe, and encouraging them to come in. Litta finally does, snatches a mouthful of hay and goes to where she can warily watch the pasture. High alert mode. I'm still trying to get Sierra to come in, teasing her with the hay, coaxing her. She almost came in, but then Litta glanced at her and said "NO" then snapped her head back to high alert stare into the pasture.
 I went into the pasture, talking about how safe and nice it was, arms open, all that. I went around a tree, and as I circle towards the front, I saw that Litta was watching me, then looking right back at something just off to my side, back and forth. I frowned, and turned to see what she was looking at. On this post that we had left in the pasture there was this huge chicken hawk, had to be at least 8 inches tall. Just sitting there, watching me, then looking back at Litta, back and forth like Litta was doing. I wish I had my phone on me, would have taken a picture. So then Im telling Litta "oh, look at the little bird, its just a bird Litta, everything is safe" and telling the hawk to stop scaring my horses, and still wandering around like nothing unusual was going on. Litta finally relaxed a bit, no longer high alert stance, instead just standing. I kind of wanted to scare the chicken hawk away, but I also kind of wanted to go grab my phone to get a picture. I headed back out of the pasture to go inside for my phone, and just as I cleared the shelter, Litta bolted again, towards me- so I made her stop/stand, then spun to glare at the bird- which had flown off. Which is why Litta spooked. I really hope that she figures out that the chicken hawk is not interested in her, and I hope she figures this out before we have cold wet weather. Silly mare!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The New Place

We decided to buy a home with this move. We have moved a lot sense we were married- or rather, we have moved a lot for a normal person sense we have been married, this was the 4th... For me sense birth this was the 25th time I've moved. And we are pretty sure we will have at least one more.

 But, now we have horses. And board is expensive, and generally a mortgage is cheaper than rent. So we bought.

 Being in 2 different states while we were looking for a place in a 3rd state made things a bit difficult, but we managed to find a place with a house and 4 acres. I didn't get to see it until about 1 1/2 weeks before close, and let me tell ya, it wasn't what I was expecting.
Closing happened mid Nov, and the horses were coming down Dec 1st.... which didn't leave much time to prepare. First I went through and rolled up allllll the barbed wire (evil stuff!), pulled out all the old fencing, T-posts that were to short, and random posts that had no purpose, and in my extra time cleared out all the stuff that could potentially hurt 2 insane mares from what we were turning into the first pasture. Including a lot of chicken coops. And 2 deep freezers. And really old rusted tractor parts.

Then we had to dig post holes, set posts and braces, new T-posts, and finally run the fence. 

We got done with the first pasture the night before I had to leave to trailer the girls down. 

Phase 2 started the day after the horses arrived- clearing out and fencing off the "shed" which is the shelter for this winter, and will be turned into a barn sometime this spring.