Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in the Construction Zone

Last Friday we celebrated the day after Thanksgiving by finding ourselves back in a construction zone. I'm here to tell you it seems like it will never end. A couple of weeks ago we had some a day of heavy rain. It was the first heavy rainfall since the warm season grasses went dormant (and hence were not soaking up much water) and we found that we had some issues with drainage and standing water in a couple of areas which needed to be addressed. In addition to our drainage issues we needed to relocate a couple of our water hydrants and we also upgraded some of our existing water "infrastructure." We added lines for waterers, put in some more shutoff valves, etc.

Looking at these pictures that I took on Friday it is hard to to believe that through Saturday we were all working in t-shirts in gorgeous 70 degree weather. That changed on Sunday and the last few days have been anything but gorgeous with cool temperature and lots of rain. I've been sporting an unhappy face and several layers of clothes and the horses have had their rainsheets on. Thankfully we should return to more pleasant weather in a couple more days.

Getting back on topic the horses found it very interesting to watch the big excavator digging away in their paddocks. We would chase them away only to have them come back and resume their positions. The only problem with this is they tended to park themselves right in the way and then when the operator needed to move around to work on different areas they wouldn't move, and instead would stand there and have a stand-off with the excavator. Another one of those scenarios where if someone had been riding them it would have been 1001 excuses to spook.

Faune acting as supervisor while the poor guy operating the excavator played dodge the horses(s). Faune was one of the ones that would. not. move. when the excavator came towards him, and I finally had to run him off with a leadrope!
Romeo doing some supervising

While the contractor was working away on the water lines Jason was working away on our drainage issues. Jason was running what we were calling the "mini me" excavator. Of course he wants one of his very own for Christmas but I'm pretty sure Santa isn't planning to leave one under the tree.

Jason figuring out the controls

Jason dug trenches and then we placed tile drains in them. I am happy to report that our drainage problems seem to be solved, his work has been well tested from all of the rain the last few days. Jason was at the back barn trenching away and we realized it was almost two in the afternoon, we hadn't eaten anything all day and we were hungry.

We decided we were going to take a break so we could go somewhere to get a quick bite to eat since we were starving. Then we realized that we had dug a trench from one side of the barn yard fence to the other - and the truck was parked behind the trench. In what can only be described as a stroke of genius (not) we had trenched ourselves in! This led to some testy moments when we realized we were going to stay hungry for awhile. We wasted some time and both displayed what could best be described as a crabby attitude as we tried to decide who was responsible for our predicament.

the trenched in truck

After a few minutes of ill-tempered squabbling we re-engaged our brains and began dragging a couple hundred feet of tile drain around as fast as we could and positioning it in the trench. Jason then backfilled in a few feet so we could drive our genius selves out of the barn yard and go eat. We now are the proud owners of some new tile drainage and even more water lines. Who could ask for more?

Fonzi napped in the hay while Silver, Chimano and Romeo were eating

Hemi and Trigger


Toledo, Kennedy and Rampal



B-Rad and Sebastian with their faces buried in hay

the mares and ponies had their heads in the hay as well

George, Asterik, Winston and Faune

Sunday, November 27, 2011

As the World Turns

(post by Jason) Maybe it would be a more accurate title if it said As the Seasons Turn because the upcoming forecast suggests several cool, wet days so this marked the first general blanketing of fall 2011. We measure the passage and entrance of seasons a little differently than most people do, and the first general blanketing is a big turning point in our world because it means our blanketing season has arrived. For the next three months, blankets will be put on and taken off MANY times.

Usually we feed our first hay a few days after the first real good frost. As is usual in this part of the world, the first good frost happened a few days into November, and we put our first round bales out on November 12th. Up until now, November has been a very pleasant month (at least for me) temperature wise, featuring lots of warm, sunny days in the 60's and 70's and cool nights in the 40's.

We are far enough south that taking seasonal cues from plants is kind of hit or miss. While most of the trees are bare here in the winter, we do have some large broad leaf evergreens and the understory is FULL of broad leaf evergreens. There is something in bloom every month of the year and it's no exaggeration to say that it's only a little harder to find flowers in the middle of winter here than it is in mid-summer.

I'm looking forward to some cooler weather to get me in the Christmas spirit and this week upcoming should provide that remedy for this Canadian-American !

Lighty and Alex getting their sheets nice and dirty

Sam and Wiz (in their matching sheets) thought Alex and Lighty had a fine idea

Wiz, Dutch, Sam and Murphy

Lily and Cuffie

Darby and Alex

Tony, Hemi, Moe and Thomas

Homer and Baby

Apollo and Ivan

George and Asterik (I wish they could all be this clean)

Lucky, Slinky and O'Reilly

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! As usual on the holidays we worked today. It was a beautiful day in middle Tennessee and I was appreciative to be out enjoying the day and working with the horses. As I walked around the farm this morning feeding and doing chores I took some time to really admire the views which are much easier to see these days with the trees missing their leaves. I am blessed to own and work in such a beautiful place (although I will admit to complaining about it on rainy days).

I have so much in my life and much to be thankful for. I have far too many people in my life who deserve to be thanked individually, but if you are reading this thank you for all the support, either virtually or in "real life." I have many blessings, and today was a beautiful day to appreciate all of them.


As I walked along the driveway from the back of the farm towards the front I was very thankful for this view

Maisie, Cinnamon, Norman, MyLight and Calimba coming on the run for Thanksgiving breakfast

Tony was pretty fascinated with our visitor yesterday

Lucky and O'Reilly having a nice Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving breakfast: Chili, Murphy, B-Rad, Sam, Lighty, Clay, Renny

another Thanksgiving meal; Hoffy, Sparky the donkey, Bonnie, Sky and Miracle

B-Rad says he his thankful to be back

Fabrizzio, Walden, Thor and Noble

Romeo, Chimano, Faune and Winston


Fuzzy and Sebastian

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deer in the Headlights....or in the Fence

Anyone who uses electric fence knows that the most critical detail regarding fence management is to always keep the fence hot. However, users of electric fence will tell you that keeping an their fence hot all the time is often considerably more challenging than it would first appear to be. We try to keep 5000 volts on everything at an absolute minimum, and I try pretty hard for twice that much though I don't always succeed.

Some of the problems and challenges you run into while trying to keep electric fence hot sure are interesting. After a lifetime of installing and dealing with multiple miles of fence plus various types of solar and electric chargers I've gotten pretty good at diagnosing problems just by reading and interpreting what the volt meter is telling me. For instance, a reading of zero volts means the fence is completely grounded out; most often a complete ground is only achieved when a piece of metal manages to touch the electric fence and the ground at the same time. More often, one gets a reading that is very low everywhere, or that's very low and fluctuates. Most of the time that means a good sized piece of wood is lying across one or more sections of fence and either the contact with the wood is causing a partial ground or sometimes the fence is actually lying directly on the ground. But as today's story will show, that is not always the case.

Of course I think it is important to be pretty thorough about testing our fences, and as such we check every bit of fence along the road one or more times a day. We're a little less thorough with internal fences and boundary fences that don't abut a road but we still check all of it several times a week. I last checked the rear-most section of fence that borders our hay fields a couple of days ago so it was time to recheck them today. That's easy to do because we have a strand of electric wire that runs all the way around the back of the farm on top of a four board wood fence. So the first thing I did was hook up the voltmeter to check the charge. I found the charge to be low and fluctuating (800-1300 V), which as I mentioned earlier usually means a branch lying across one or more sections of fence. Only one thing to do and that's walk around and check it out.

Much to my surprise the short wasn't caused from a piece of wood, but instead from a very dead deer ! I've seen a lot of things in my time but I never have seen a deer caught up in a single strand of electric fence atop a four board wood fence. How in the world it managed to get caught up the way it did I will never know, but it somehow managed to snare it's right rear hoof in such a way that it couldn't free itself and there it lay until I found it. It did such a good job of entangling itself in my fence that I couldn't free it's leg with the tools I had on hand either, so I guess tomorrow's job will be to take the tractor and some additional tools to the back and see if I can fix my fence and extract the deer from it at the same time. Strangest thing I've seen in quite a while. (Melissa here - I have opted not to see the deer in person although I fear I may to have to help extract it from the fence. Not sure if I'm up for that. Not sure at all.)

Happy grazers Johnny, Rampal, Tiny, Rocky, Largo and Kennedy



Calimba and Maisie

George and Fonzi

Johnny and Kennedy hanging out, Toledo napping hard and Tiny grazing




Sunday, November 20, 2011


Silky is a 28 year old Appaloosa mare who was born in Flagstaff, Arizona. She was bred to race and her sire is Deep South who is in the Appaloosa Hall of Fame and out of Go Yummer. Silky’s early career was at an Appaloosa race track and she raced under the name Strumming Yummer. After just a handful of races Silky injured her back, and somehow she made her way to Oklahoma where she was a barrel racer for a couple of years.


After her barrel racing stint Silky was labeled as “psycho” and “untrainable” and wound up at an auction. A trainer from Florida, Lynn, happened to be attending the auction. She purchased Silky and took her to Florida with plans of retraining her for a career as a hunter or a jumper. It was in Florida, 23 years ago, that Silky and her mom met.

Deep South, Silky's sire

Silky’s mom was attending summer camp at the barn where Silky was living. It was her first time being around horses and she was assigned a 30 year old mare named Star. Star was slow and bombproof and gentle, but Silky’s mom found herself drawn to another stall. The stall that everyone was warned to stay away from. This horse would kick the stall walls, charge the stall door, and snort and grind her teeth so loudly that you could hear it on the other side of the barn. This horse was, of course, Silky.

Silky napping with Missy and MyLight hanging out

Silky’s mom began hanging out around her stall. Silky didn’t trust this new person at all but she was curious. They began to bond over their shared love of apples and carrots. Once Silky got used to her eating in front of her stall she started paying her some attention, and eventually Silky’s mom was able to feed her and pet her. Eventually the summer was over and Silky’s mom had to go back to school.

During this time Silky’s mom had recently been adopted, but she felt more alone than ever. After summer was over and she went back to school she acted out, badly and often. One day her father finally dropped to his knees in front of her and tearfully asked what he had to do to get her to accept him and her mom and her new life. She said she wanted Silky. Her dad called Lynn and said they wanted to purchase Silky. Lynn was opposed to it as she didn’t feel it was a good idea to match a beginner child with a difficult horse. However her father told Lynn they would pay whatever it cost in order for Silky to be properly trained and that week Silky’s mom officially became Silky’s mom.

Silky on the run

A few weeks after that, Silky promptly tossed her mom into a puddle -- her first fall. As soon as she fell, Silky stopped, craned her neck to look at her, tossed her head and walked back toward the barn. She never fell off of Silky again. Silky learned (somehow) how to shift herself under her weight when she felt that her young rider was off balance. Countless times her trainer yelled, “she just saved your ass kid.” They learned together and soon found themselves ranked number two in Florida for the 13 and under division on the hunter circuit.

At this point, with the riding going so well, the family decided to move to Tryon, NC to immerse themselves in the horse scene. They bought 20 acres and built a house, a couple of barns, and put in an arena. Additional horses were purchased to maximize showing and training, but Silky remained the “go to” horse.

A couple of pictures from Tryon, NC

Silky’s riding career almost ended shortly after the family moved to North Carolina, she had a severe tying up episode. Silky was paralyzed from the top of her neck to her rump. She would not, or maybe could not eat, drink or do anything. Her mom found her that way during the morning feeding before school. When she got home from school her mother and the vet pulled her aside to explain that Silky was going to have to be put down. They were telling her to say her goodbyes.

Silky grazing with Traveller

That night she did not leave Silky’s side. She cried and begged Silky to move, to do anything. Her mom brought her some food and a soda at some point. When she popped the top on the coke, Silky’s ears moved to the sound, showing interest. Silky’s mom poured the coke into a bucket and held it up to Silky’s lips. Though she wouldn’t drink water, she drank the entire coke. By the end of the hour, Silky had drunk three cokes and was trying to move around her stall. Her parents called the vet back out. By the time, the vet arrived, an hour or so later, Silky was moving stiffly around her stall. The vet warned them that they were not out of the woods, but she was happily shocked by this development.

Happily Silky continued to improve. The vet said that she would need a minimum of six months of easy work and no showing, and they decided to breed Silky during her time off. Silky had a filly and her mom named her Goddess. Goddess would be 16 now and is an Appaloosa/Hanoverian cross. The goal in choosing a sire was to keep Silky’s speed, personality and love of jumping while hopefully adding to the mix a love of dressage. Goddess was a beautiful chestnut filly who inherited Silky’s personality. As soon as the little chestnut filly hit the ground she was independent, just like her mother. From the moment Goddess started walking, she walked away. Other than when she rudely demanded to be fed, Goddess had little to do with Silky.

Silky's filly Goddess (with Silky's mom)

After having her foal Silky returned to riding and showing. She was a Pony Club rally champion and they immersed themselves in eventing. Dressage was Silky’s weaker phase. Silky did not (or as her mom said WE did not) have the patience for dressage, but they were stars in the other two phases of cross country and stadium jumping.

In her entire career Silky never refused a jump, no matter how scary looking. She thought about it once during a cross country round. One of the jumps was a gazebo that you had to jump into, take two strides and jump down out of. The roof was unnerving to both of them and the pounding of her hooves while inside the gazebo was horrendous. In her mom’s words “as we came up to it, I felt her withdraw. She slowed, shortening her strides and lifted her head as if to say, “seriously?!” We were thinking the same thing. I closed my legs around her and leaned forward, urging her for more speed. She trusted me. I’ll say it again, she has NEVER refused a jump.”

Silky and her mom continued their winning ways together through college, and after graduating from college Silky’s mom retired her to light riding. She was 19 years old at that point. Her mom continued to enjoy trail riding Silky until she was 25. During this time they remained constants in each other’s lives and moved together to several states.

Maisie and Silky

Silky joined us this past spring. Her mom knew that she was going to be moving overseas, and a few months before we met Silky her mom contacted us. She was in the middle of a thorough search of potential farms where she would be comfortable leaving Silky. Somehow we managed to pass the screening and the background checks and Silky joined us in the spring. She remains as opinionated as ever, but we are happy to report that her opinions and feedback have all been positive so far - with the exception of having her teeth floated. We hope you have enjoyed getting to know Silky!