Thursday, April 29, 2010

About Us Part I

About Us. Part 1 (in other words, who are you people anyway ?)

(This post written by Jason) Several people have asked for more information about us over the last several weeks and we are happy to oblige.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves individually and your history prior to your marriage.

A: Jason was born and raised near Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada on the north shore of Lake Ontario about 50 miles east of Toronto. I graduated from the University of Guelph. I worked in the livestock feed industry for several years after graduation from college. I also moved back home after buying a portion of our multi-generation family farm from my dad’s estate. We quickly grew the farm into a viable business and I (and my then wife) built a home just up the road from my mom. Unexpectedly, my wife left me a couple of years after this, and when I discovered why we were quickly divorced. A few days after she left, she handed me a settlement agreement (basically a bill for being married to her !) which I paid for with the sale of the farm.

Melissa was born in Tennessee and mostly raised in Brentwood which is a suburb of Nashville. She got her first pony when she was five years old and she has had one or more horses ever since. While she was in high school, her parents bought a tract of land near College Grove and they developed it into the beautiful estate you see in all of our pictures. (We have had a very high bar set for us when it comes to being picturesque with our new farm !) Melissa graduated from the University of Memphis with a B.S. in Biology. She originally intended to go to vet school and was accepted, but by then had realized she did not want to be a vet. She worked for a vet while in college and while she remains friends to this day with her former employer she realized she was not going to be able to handle certain emotional aspects of being a vet. After graduating she married and at the same time she also started a recruiting company in Nashville. Over time, she won a sheaf of awards including being named to Nashville’s Top Thirty Under Thirty and received a lot of press for turning this small business into a successful multi-million dollar company. In a situation eerily reminiscent of mine, she and her husband ended up divorcing. Apparently neither of us take well to finding out there are more than two people in a relationship !

Q. How did you and Melissa meet ?

A: Believe it or not, we originally met on a divorce support and recovery website. At the same time, I started brokering hay from Ontario into the mid-south, primarily selling to horse people. The LAST thing on either of our minds at the time was hooking up with someone with the thoughts that it would turn into marriage, but over time that is exactly what happened. Also, the vet/friend/employer of Melissa's mentioned above happened to move to Canada and buy a vet practice near me, and she did a lot of background checking of me for Melissa as well. It was an interesting combination of people and circumstances that brought us together.

Q: And then what happened ?

A: For a whole variety of reasons, we figured it would be easier and more prudent for me to immigrate to the US than for Melissa to move to Canada. As you’ll see, I’m very glad it worked out that way. Melissa was game to try living in the north, so I came to the U.S. on a Trade NAFTA Visa (I am now a U.S. citizen) and took a job as a large herd dairy specialist at Blue Seal Feeds, Brandon VT covering parts of the Champlain Valley and portions of upstate NY. We were married at Orwell, VT in the front yard of our house under the apple trees. To say that Melissa is not built to handle the cold would be a huge understatement. After one northern winter, which I honestly felt was pretty benign, it was evident that unless I wanted to be married to a sick ice-cube, we would be relocating south ! If I didn’t know what I was in for by being married to a horse woman, I quickly learned. We spent exactly twice as much relocating Melissa’s horses to and from central Vermont to Tennessee than we did relocating ourselves !

For anyone who cared to read it that concludes our brief history of Melissa and Jason !

Lily trotting through the pasture

Alex and B-Rad

Big Boys grazing

Levendi and Ivan in the pond

Thomas, Tony and Homer

Leo and Chance
Trigger and Levendi

Thomas, Homer, Elfin, Trigger

Asterik just hanging out

Apollo and Chance

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Turkey Encounters and New Farm Progress

This seems to be the year of the turkey for me, or maybe the spring of the turkey. As mentioned in a previous post I had a close encounter with a turkey a couple of weeks ago, way to close for my comfort. Every morning as I go about my morning chores I now hear turkeys making their gobbling noises. There appears to be a flock that have nested near the rear perimeter fence of the farm. Today I saw a couple of turkeys on the side of the road, about a mile from the farm, and they had their tail feathers all fanned out. If I thought they looked big before they look huge with their feathers fanned out! Jason teases me and says I should buy some turkey calls and start calling the turkeys. Ummm, no thanks, I didn't enjoy my first up close and personal encounter with a turkey and have no desire to have another one! I don't care that the turkey was supposedly more scared of me (blah, blah, blah).

In other news Jason and I met with a couple of fence contractors last week and are hopefully going to start phase one of fencing soon. We're going to have them put up about 6,000 feet of four board fence which will make a field of approximately 40 acres. Once that is done we will only have about 24,000 feet of fence to go (!) to have the farm completely perimeter fenced as well as cross fenced. We also hope to have a run-in shed or two built in the near future. We currently spend a lot of time fighting . . . er, I mean discussing . . . barn layouts.

It is nice to finally have real plans starting to shape up and come together for our new farm. I have to remind myself that this will be a work in progress and that even after we move it will be awhile before we have things exactly as we want them. If only money were absolutely no object! Or maybe I should start buying lottery tickets. I don't think I've ever in my life bought a lottery ticket.

Farrier day tomorrow, off to make up the list!

Levendi, Apollo and Ivan playing n the pond, followed by the mad dash around the pond by Levendi. Thank you Hemi's mom for taking this video while you were visiting. She got to see just how many amazing picture and video opportunities I miss every day!

IvanLucky, Lightening and Chili Clay and Teddy

Buffy and MyLight
Tony having a good scratch on the fence
Lucky and Chili

Snappy, Teddy and Lightening
Dustin, Trigger and Levendi

Apollo, Ivan, Leo, Homer, Chance, Elfin

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Historic Carnton Plantation

Melissa and I took advantage of a lovely late spring day this Sunday to do a tour of Carnton Plantation, one of 43 local Civil War/War Between the States hospitals from the bloody Battle of Franklin which took place Nov. 30, 1864 just a few miles up the road from our farm. The plantation itself along with it’s owners, John and Carrie McGavock have been popularized in the best selling novel “Widow of the South” written by Robert Hicks. Although I am not normally a fan of war novels, or war memorabilia of any type, I quite enjoyed this read; perhaps more so because of the insight it helped provide into some very prominent local history. After many years (!) of driving past this edifice several times a week enroute to downtown Franklin I’m glad we finally took the time to stop.

Front of the Carnton Plantation House; note the portion of the rear two-story porch you can see to the left. It is longer than the house and designed to catch the breeze.

The Carnton house became the largest field hospital during the Battle of Franklin which took place on November 30, 1864. The Battle of Franklin is called the bloodiest hours of the Civil War. In a battle that lasted approximately five hours (4pm - 9pm) the results were catastrophic and more than 10,000 soldiers in total were counted as dead, missing, or mortally wounded. Included among the body count were six Generals (5 Confederate Generals, 1 Union General).

The back of the house has the two story porch. The windows on the second floor actually open as doors onto the porch.

Since much of the fighting took place around the Carnton Plantation's grounds it was only natural that it become the sight of a field hospital. By the end of the fighting that day more than 700 soldiers were being worked on in and around the house. All of the furniture was removed or pushed back to the walls. The dining room table was used as an operating table, and the interior doors were removed from their hinges and also used as operating tables. To this day the deeply ingrained blood stains are still seen on the floors throughout the house. The walls were also covered in blood but paint and wallpaper are able to cover these stains. It was certainly an interesting afternoon learning about a dark period in our local history.

The McGavock family, which built and owned the Carnton Plantation, took it upon themselves to gather and bury the dead Confederate soldiers. In total they gathered and buried 1,496 soldiers on their property.

Jason standing between the cemetery rows. Most of the large markers are not for individuals. They are monuments for each state that reflect the total number of soldiers from that state buried in McGavock Confederate Cemetery. It is the nation's largest private military cemetery. Carrie McGavock kept a detailed cemetery journal with the the names and any information she had about the soldiers buried there. For approximately 30 years until their deaths, the McGavocks welcomed veterans who returned to Franklin as well as the families of soldiers who were buried in the cemetery. Carrie and John McGavock maintained the cemetery on their own until they died.
Yesterday we enjoyed our first real rain in over three weeks. Despite receiving nearly three inches of rain in less than twelve hours there was next to no mud at chore time this morning. I say next to no mud because I did notice that several of the horses were sporting another “coat” as we fed them. It would seem that just like people, some horses naturally stay clean in most any conditions while others attract dirt like water attracts ducks. Having belonged to the latter group my entire life, I can empathize.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend !

Levendi, Apollo, Thomas, Trigger and Dustin

As I said when I posted this picture on our Facebook page, apparently Harmony and Cuffie stayed out too late the night before!

Alex, B-Rad and Ogie grazing in the shade

Cuff Links and Lily

Clay, Lightening, Teddy and O'Reilly



Trigger and Baby behind the fence; Lucky, Clay, Lightening and Snappy in front

Lucky and O'Reilly


Thursday, April 22, 2010


We have been very busy this week. Yesterday was vaccination day. Administering the vaccines is the easy part (with one glaring exception), but the prep work takes awhile. We go around and put halters on all of the horses ahead of time to make it easier to catch everyone. We have a few "runners" here that hate to be caught so when they catch site of the halter odds are good that they might take flight! However once they have a halter on you can then walk up to them in the field and just clip the lead shank on. I've always found this somewhat silly on their part, all of the drama about a halter but then a couple of hours later you can just walk up and put the lead rope on. I guess they only look for the halter in your hand and not the lead rope.

When it is time for vaccinations we each take a grain bucket with us and usually one or two shakes of the bucket brings all of the horses in each pasture on the run. With multiple people catching horses, leading them up to the vet and then going back to get another horse we make the process run smoothly and efficiently. The vet also brings an assistant to label coggins tubes, dispose of needles and syringes and keep up with paperwork. I let them know the number of horses ahead of time so they come prepared with all of the vaccines already drawn up and ready to go.

The only resident who ever gives us trouble with vaccinations is Sparky the donkey. He objects to needles. He objects to needles in a very big way. Every year we end up with a donkey wrestling session on vaccination day and this year was no exception. It looked like he might go easy on us this year as he stood quietly for his first injection. But then Sparky said "enough!" and it went downhill quickly. At one point Jason and the vet were both attempting to hold on to Sparky and he was just dragging them around and around in circles as if they had skis on instead of shoes. Sparky hardly broke a sweat doing this (donkeys are strong!) but Jason and the vet looked like they had run a 5K. It took about 15 minutes but Sparky had his vaccinations and blood pulled for a new coggins. We always start with Sparky to get the wrestling session over with. All of the horses are quite mannerly.

In the past I've tried different desensitizing approaches with Sparky. My mare Bonnie was needle-phobic and clicker training solved that fear with her easily and she is fine for injections now. This was not the case with Sparky. Trying to simulate needles with toothpicks didn't work. I've tried all the usual stuff and Sparky, Jason and myself are all happier accepting 15 minutes of wrestling each year vs. making us both miserable repeatedly in our "desensitizing" sessions. They were more like "sensitizing" sessions.

Sparky has perfect manners for the farrier. When I gave him paste wormer I don't even have to put a halter on him, he just opens his mouth. However the second he suspects a needle might be involved he wants no part of it. We love Sparky and our vets are very patient with him so we just deal with his needle phobia a couple of times a year.

Tomorrow will be another busy day as it is a farrier day. I'm off to make my list and then tuck in the World's Cutest Fainting Goats. Have a great weekend!

Sparky dragging Jason and the vet around

Getting his IN strangles vaccine (last one thank goodness!). He also objects to things being shoved up his nostril, but you can't really blame him for that.

All done! Jason and Sparky are both smiling.

Chilling out after dragging everyone around for awhile

Sebastian and Asterik

Lucky and Snappy




Trigger, Thomas and Elfin


Lily and Cuff Links


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome Hemi

We had a new arrival over the weekend. Hemi joined us from Florida this weekend but we're going to have to try to not get too attached. Hemi's stay will only be temporary as he enjoys a few months of R&R to recover from an injury. Normally we only accept horses for retirement but we have made an exception before when Henry spent a few months with us. Henry had the same owner as Sebastian, and Hemi has the same owner as our resident Elfin.

Hemi is an Oldenburg gelding by Hall of Fame and he was supposed to be a pinto. As you can see from the pictures and video below he doesn't have a white hair anywhere on him. My comment when I first saw him was that Hemi is proof that a plain bay can be truly stunning. He has quite a presence as he is a big boy measuring in at 17.2 hands, and on top of that he is a beautiful mover. When I see him do a relaxed trot or canter he simply floats across the ground.

Hemi seems to be blissfully content after his first few days with us. His mom came with him over the weekend and I think she is worried that Hemi is not going to be happy at all when the time comes for him to leave and go back to work. Hemi seems to be especially fascinated by The Don (the rooster). He tries hard to be friends with him but The Don just leads him on for a bit before trying to get away from Hemi. He has also found the goats to be fascinating as well. I have no doubt Hemi will have a grand time while he is here. He hasn't even gotten to experience the "good" parts of life here yet, he doesn't realize that it is only going to get better! Welcome Hemi!

Hemi cantering in the paddock (video taken by his mom - thanks mom for doing our job for us!)

Hemi chasing The Don around in the pasture (video taken by his mom and not us - thank you again mom!)

Hemi streeeeeetching over his stall door watching The Don
Hemi has a beautiful head
Hemi says there are so many interesting critters to watch around here, goats, roosters, cats, dogs and horses!

Striking a pose in the paddock
Taking part in the favorite pastime around here - grazing.