Sunday, August 1, 2010

What It's All About

It's shortly after 6 am on Thursday morning as Melissa and I open the door into the day's first light on what promises to be a bright, hot Tennessee summer day. The sun has just broken the treed hillside that makes up our eastern horizon and is beginning to make a stab at raising the fog that has gathered overnight in the low spots in the valley between two ridges where most of our farm lays. It is quiet and peaceful; the shadows still lie long across the fields and the air feels fresh and cool as we walk to the barn to begin preparing feed for the horses, all of whom are out in their pastures. I herd and cajole the fainters (World's Cutest Fainting Goats) from their stall to the goat pen behind the barn where Billy and Bubba have spent the night. Billy is calling mightily for his fainter friends to join him. While I herd goats Melissa makes rations for each horse in the two pastures nearest the barn.

A typical scene that Jason and I see as we walk out our door each morning; this is B-Rad, Alex and Ogie.

When the rations are nearing ready, we begin adding additional supplements and medications as necessary for each horse. I step out the front of the barn and call to the horses who make their way sedately to the gate. Melissa and I each take a pasture and begin feeding, checking each horse over thoroughly for signs of ill-thrift which may appear overnight. This morning we don't find anything amiss with anyone, and both pastures finish eating about twenty minutes after they began. We remove their feed bags as they finish their breakfast, stopping when we're done to fill up their water troughs. After re-hanging feed bags in the barn and stopping for a minute to play with the fainters, we walk through the pastures together and begin the cycle again for the pastures farther from the barn.

MyLight, Missy, Harmony and Cuff Links grazing as the sun comes up



As Melissa prepares feed, the cows come through their pasture for a morning drink and I take the opportunity to check them over as I top off their 300 gallon trough. By this time, Melissa is done preparing feed and we each choose a pasture. This morning, I choose to do the "big boys" field at the end of the alleyway, a few hundred feet from our feed prep area. I load their feedbags into a hand pulled wagon and start toward their gate. At this point, the sun is fully up and the dew is starting to burn off the grass. I call to them several times, but they choose to ignore my voice, preferring instead to lounge in the trees near their run-in shed. Long wise to their tricks, I leave the wagon at the gate and proceed up toward the shed and the treeline.

Across the alley Lightening and Spike were grooming each other while waiting for someone to feed them breakfast (sorry for the poor picture quality but the fog was still really hazy around them)


When I'm somewhere between the two the big boys spot me, and as if on cue they explode out of the trees in a massive gallop that is completely awesome to watch. They thunder by me, but they slow down as quickly as they became excited and they wait more or less patiently at the gate for me to show up and feed them. As I feed I again check over everyone carefully to ensure that no problems have developed overnight. This group of horses (and this pasture) is the largest one on the farm and it takes a fair while to finish feeding and checking them. As I pull feedbags off they amble toward the water trough for a drink and then make their way out into the pasture nearby where they begin to graze. When everyone is finished eating and the last horse leaves the water trough, they move off as a group. Again, I stop to refill water troughs and have another look at the horses. Some minutes later, I finish.


As I pull the empty wagon down the alley, I see Melissa is finishing up her second pasture which means morning feeding is nearing it's end. I double check the troughs in these two pastures and I find everything satisfactory. We put all the feedbags back in the shed and walk together toward the house for coffee and some breakfast before carrying on with our day. I look at the time; it's 8:00 am. As I listen to the birdsong breaking the quiet of the morning, I think to myself as I do every day that somewhere in the world horns are honking, phones are ringing, people are yelling at one another, traffic is jammed and nerves are frazzled. But not here.


Shortly before 7 pm we finish up our day as we started it, walking together toward the house after evening chores as the shadows grow long across the fields and the sun makes it's way toward the western horizon. I realize others may not enjoy it, but I couldn't imagine a better way to live.

Tony briefly lifted his head from grazing

Apollo and Homer

Lightening

Grand grazing while Chance and Hemi hang out; they make a nice group of bay horses!

Leo, Trigger and Ivan were all napping with their heads hanging over the fence

Lexi rolling while Bonnie looks on

Slinky, Lightening and Lucky

Tony, Chance, Elfin and Homer

6 comments:

Kate said...

Now that's a nice day - no equipment failures!

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

(from Jason)

Kate; Good one ! :)

I've found that if you start and end your day on the right foot, what comes in the middle will look after itself. There's always something to fix on a farm and this day was no different. Believe it or not, we had TWO equipment failures that day. Being here all the time allows me to tend after that stuff as it comes which makes ALL the difference.

RuckusButt said...

Well, if I wasn't envious enough already I sure am now! Maybe in my next life.

Beautifully described, I really felt the underlying calm that accompanies all that purposeful work.

amy324 said...

I'm way behind on my blog reading. Too much going on! But I was able to tune in today and it seems a good time to ask a question that's been bugging me for a while. After the horses are done eating, what keeps them from walking away with the feedbag on with you having to follow them all over the pasture to get it back? I realize that they can't graze with the feedbag on, but are they smart enough to know to stay there for you to take it off?

lytha said...

this is my favorite kind of post - a diary entry of a typical day on a horse farm.

i'm so impressed that you guys get feeding done by 8:30!

i'll say it again, your use of feedbags is brilliant - each horse gets his own food and meds and there's no dangerous scraping at feedtimes. it's probably more labor intensive. the barn owners i've had would just put the feed out and walk away, allowing the fittest youngest horses to eat all the joint meds the older ones were supposed to get.

we're drawing up a boarding contract today for a freeboard situation here for a retiree, and it feels weird for the first time to be on the other side of that contract.

~lytha

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Amy, usually even when they are done they will just stand there and lick and lick and lick the bottom of their feedbag hoping for one last crumb. So usually you can take them all off at pretty much the same time. Occasionally someone will walk away but as soon as they try to graze they either come back or stand there and look at you like "help, please??"