Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Things did not get off to their usual start this morning.  As always during the summer we start very early.  As the sun is rising we are preparing feed.  We scoop it out, soak it, add supplements/meds, and go through all of the steps needed to prepare breakfast for a farm full of hungry horses.  

We usually go from pasture to pasture in the same order at feeding times.  Faune's group is typically up first. On a side note we have nicknames for all of the groups, and often we simply refer to them as "X's group," with X referring to whomever is the boss hoss of that group.  Faune is the boss of his group so we often refer to them as Faune's group. 

Faune usually has his charges ready and waiting in the mornings (dinner is another matter entirely) and they stand quietly while waiting for breakfast to be served.  Except this morning they were spooking, snorting, spinning and darting around.  They would be standing quietly and then suddenly one of them would spin around and bolt a few steps as if they had just seen a ghost, then the rest of them would follow suit.  They were all staring at the same area of the pasture.  I fed the #2 group while waiting for the sun to fully rise.  

Once I could see out in the pasture I quickly spotted the cause of so much concern.  It was a group of turkeys, with babies in tow, in the pasture.  Quite frankly it is a mystery to me why these turkeys were of such concern.  There are turkeys all over the farm everywhere.  There is nothing odd about turkeys being in their pasture and the horses usually never even flick an ear as a flock of turkeys meander past them.  My only guess is that in the dim light and the fog they were not sure of what they were seeing and they decided their pasture had been invaded not by turkeys but by aliens.  Aliens that clearly had sinister plans for them.

The turkeys finally completed their walk across the pasture, everyone calmed down and breakfast was eventually served.  

The aliens


Dutch, Fuzzy and Sam

Clayton having a stressful afternoon

Johnny and Lighty on the run

they were followed by Sam

with Murphy right behind him

Gus and George having a foggy, dawn grooming session

Winston, Asterik and Silver

Lightening and Lucky looking extremely relaxed waiting for breakfast

Griselle and Sky trying to decide if they will grace me with their presence at the gate to be fed or if they prefer to just stand and stare at me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Connection

We are pretty excited that we have a (very distant) connection to the Olympic Games right now.  The first equestrian sport at the London Olympics is Three Day Eventing.  After the first phase, dressage, Mark Todd of New Zealand and his horse Campino are in third place.  One of our residents, Snappy, is a former mount of Mark Todd.  Snappy was a big time eventer many years ago (he is 30 this year) and was ridden by none other than the FEI's Eventer of the Century, Mark Todd.

Mark Todd won back to back Individual Gold Medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.  Mark retired from eventing in 2000 and focused on breeding and training racehorses.  However he returned to the sport in 2008 with the purchase of Gandalf.  His goal was to make the New Zealand team for Beijing.  He not only managed to make the Olympic team the same year he returned to eventing, he finished 5th.  No wonder he was named the Eventer of the Century.

While he enjoys the good life with his friends Snappy will be cheering on Mark as they tackle the cross country course tomorrow.  Do I think Snappy longs for his days of galloping around the world's biggest cross country courses?  No.  He has a temper tantrum about coming in the barn every day to eat his hay cube mash.  These days Snappy is extremely concerned with what his horsey friends are up to and not much else.  I think he is quite happy to cheer from a distance!


Faune and Gus having a grooming session; Asterik, Romeo, Silver, Winston and Lotus are grazing



 Silver, George and Asterik


Renny, Johnny and Murphy

Thor, Lucky, Snappy and Slinky

this could have been a great picture if I hadn't been standing in the wrong pasture; that is Fabrizzio and Walden doing sychronized rolling (a new sport in the summer Olympics)

another early morning view of the fog on the hills

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Same Discussion, Different Day

After my day of wildlife encounters a couple of days ago Jason and I wound up re-hashing the same discussion we've had several times.  It is the "Melissa should be comfortable toting around a gun" discussion. There are so many ironic aspects of this discussion it is hard to point them all out.  However our favorite one, and the one Jason and I laugh about, is the fact that we have stereotype reversal going on.  I am supposed to be the gun crazy American (2nd Amendment or die!!) while Jason is supposed to be the pacifist, gun control favoring Canadian.  However in our discussions Jason is the gun toting advocate while I resist.  

Our discussion always goes something like this:

Me:  I was just chased in the pasture by a skunk

Jason:  WHAT??  You realize it was probably rabid right? (side note, all critters on our farm are vaccinated for rabies from horses to goats)

Me:  Of course I realize that.  What is your point?

Jason:  My point?? (asked in an incredulous tone)  My point is you needed to shoot it!

Me:  With what?

Jason:  With the rifle you should have

Me:  So you think I should just carry a rifle around with me all the time? (note this question is always asked in a heavily sarcastic tone)

Jason:  Yes. (note he always says this like in a serious manner while I give him a WTF look)

Me:  That would be very handy, carrying a rifle around in my hands. It wouldn't be in my way even a little bit.

Jason:  Put it in a holder.

Me:  Will you please be serious for a minute.  I'm not walking around with a rifle strapped to my back. (I'm usually sounding pretty irritated by this point)

Jason:  (in an innocent tone like he cannot fathom why I would ask this question) Why not?

And we go 'round and 'round with this discussion.  I usually point out that he doesn't walk around armed so therefore I don't understand why he thinks *I* should be doing so.  He usually just glosses over that comment and conveniently doesn't respond.  Apparently rabid skunks and such only bother females in his world.  

The bottom line is I don't want to shoot anything if I can pass that job off to someone else.  I fully admit this is a huge double standard on my part but nonetheless passing the buck is my preferred approach for these situations.  This time around Jason conspired with my dad (who agrees with Jason in this discussion?!) and apparently I am now the proud owner of a .410 shotgun that I am expected to use the next time I am chased by a skunk.  I have news for them, you can lead a horse to water . . . 


Wiz and Sebastian

Rampal on the move

Stormy was leading the way

Toledo was bringing up the rear

Silky on the move with Traveller following behind

Sam and Lighty grooming while waiting to see the farrier

Walden and Fabrizzio grazing in the morning fog

Thor, Noble and Lightening

MyLight and Calimba

Darby, Johnny, Alex and B-Rad

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Day of Wildlife

Yesterday started in the same manner as it always does with a large group of deer grazing along the driveway.  There is at least one set of twin fawns that I see on a regular basis as well as a couple of albino deer.  The deer pretty much ignore our presence and carry on with their usual activities as we mill about the barns doing chores.  Mixed in with the deer was a large flock of turkeys, a couple of them with groups of baby turkeys (chicks??) running along behind them.  

Later in the morning I was traipsing through a pasture when some movement in the grass caught my eye.  I stopped so I could watch more closely and realized it was a groundhog making his/her way through the field.  I have to admit the little suckers are awfully cute.  A couple of times he stopped, sat on his haunches, and looked at me for a moment before continuing on his way.  However my other thought as I watched him, which I am sure I will get thoroughly roasted for, was that if I had a rifle handy I would have shot him.  Whenever we find their holes we fill them in with a couple of bags of concrete, but they just make another hole.  

My final wildlife encounter was towards the end of the day.  I was walking through another pasture when I noticed some movement.  Again I stopped to assess the situation and realized it was a skunk that was making its way towards me.  It was an albino skunk, white with a black stripe. The skunk actually didn't concern me too much since they are typically skittish creatures.  I made a point of clapping my hands and talking very loudly so he would know I was there and change course.  

Except he did not change course and kept heading straight towards me.  He picked up speed.  I picked up speed.  I kept clapping my hands and making noise.  He kept coming.  I figured, no problem, I'll just jog to the fence and hop over and be out of his path.  The only problem with that plan was the hotwire on the top board of the fence which I momentarily forgot about.  After voluntarily testing the charge on the hotwire ( for anybody who is wondering I can report it is VERY hot;  I think I only jumped back about three feet and of course said some not very nice words) I sprinted for the gate and got out of dodge.  Any day is a good day when you avoid being skunked.  

That thankfully ended my wildlife encounters for the day, and I was glad.



Elfin and Grand

Norman, Traveller and Cuff Links - pony power

Lighty and Johnny (Sam behind them)

Trigger and Leo playing

Titan, Winston and Silver

Lotus and Romeo having play time

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Here and There

(post by Jason) They say that when you write or speak everything you say is biased based on your own previous assumptions and experiences. That's probably true, and it's certainly true when it comes to trying to write objectively about the temperature climatology here in southern Middle Tennessee. If you've lived your whole life in Miami and you enjoyed the experience then you will rightly think that our winters are cold.  But Miami is a long way from Central Ontario where I grew up.  At the end of this post I compare some climate data between middle Tennessee and Central Ontario.  The differences are striking.

Middle Tennessee definitely experiences all four seasons. Typically, winters are cool and wet with lots of rain and very little snow. Winters here are not long and they are not severe. By the calendar, winter here starts between Thanksgiving and Christmas and persists through some or most of February. Winter is by far our most variable season. One day it may be 40 degrees and pouring rain and the next it may just as easily be 65 and sunny. There are several days during each winter month where it is possible to work in shirtsleeves. For gardeners there is something growing and blooming in this part of Middle Tennessee in every winter month.

Spring in this part of the world is delightful and it is a long, pleasant season. Some time in February the cool season grasses begin to green up, the early flowers start to bloom and the sun gains a spring like warmth that persists through March, April and often well into May. Spring days here are usually warm and sunny but spring nights stay surprisingly cool. We often get some late radiational white frosts, often well up into April when daytime temperatures are usually in the middle 70's and sometimes on the cusp of April and May when typical day time temperatures flirt with 80 degrees. That said, it's rare to have a damaging freeze occur later than the last week in March.

Summers here are long, warm and humid. Typical summer conditions persist from mid May through mid to late September and once summer gets here it usually means to stay. Summer is by far our longest and most stable season in terms of temperature. With the exception of a few weeks in July and August it is typically quite pleasant and tolerable.

Fall, like spring, is a long, pleasant transitional season. Some time in late September the humidity will drop and nights will get considerably cooler, though days remain at or over 80 degrees into October. Pleasant weather typically persists through all of October and November. We might wake up to a light white frost in late October or early November but plant killing hard freezes usually wait until nearer Thanksgiving before making an appearance.

I'm kind of a weather statistics freak and thanks to  Environment Canada I was able to look up a hundred years worth of climate data for several climate stations near where I grew up and compare it to our nearest climate station with lengthy temperature records. Here is an extrapolation of the data:

Average hi/lo Temperature in Jan  25/6    
Average hi/lo Temperature in July 79/54  

Average Last frost May 18
Average First frost Sept 23

Days with Minima Below 32 degrees (true freeze) - 172 (Melissa here; basically half the year with days below freezing? I think I would just die.)
Days with Minima Below 36 degrees (ground frost)- 198

Average annual snowfall:  85 inches (Melissa again. 85 inches of snow?  It is official, I would die.)

Compare this with a hundred years worth of data from our nearest TN climate station:

Average hi/lo Temperature in Jan 50/28
Average hi/lo Temperature in July 89/68

Average Last Frost April 5
Average First Frost Oct 27

Days with Minima Below 32 degrees - 74
Days with Minima Below 36 degrees - 89

Average annual snowfall:  2 inches (Melissa one last time.  This is almost more than I can deal with!!)


Grand and Elfin doing their morning routine - staring us down waiting for breakfast

Lightening, Snappy, Thor and Fabrizzio

Hemi resting his head on Thomas

Maisie having some pony time with Cuff Links and Traveller

grey horse club; Gus, George and Asterik

Homer and Moe

Chance, Leo and Levendi

Kennedy, Clayton and Stormy

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Drought Impacts

(Post by Jason)

I've got one more post in me dealing with drought and then I promise we'll move forward onto other topics of interest. Just like 2007, this drought is of historic proportions; bigger and in some ways with much worse and farther reaching consequences than the once in a century drought we endured a few years ago. Most people think that when they finally get a good rain and things begin to green up again that the drought and it's many consequences are over. Unfortunately this is far from the truth.

Let's start with the pastures. The combined effects of extreme heat and unprecedented dry weather completely killed just about everything green in every pasture and hay field in this area regardless of when it was cut or how it was managed. I can honestly say that grazing pressure made no difference as to the outcome; it was so dry and so hot for so long even the weeds died; something I have never seen before in my life. Now that it's rained, those plants with adequate root reserves (both weeds and grasses) are beginning to actively grow again and the pastures look deceptively green. If it continues raining from now through the fall most of the grasses that come back will be able to store adequate root reserves to get through winter. If it stops raining for any length of time again, all bets as to the outcome of most of our pasture grasses are off. We'll get through it and some of it will grow back, of that I have no doubt. The big question is what will it be. We already know we'll be re-seeding everything but since late summer and fall are typically the drier seasons in this part of the world I see no point in spending thousands of dollars re-seeding anything before next spring.

We have been feeding hay continuously for a month and a half at this point and we have already fed a third of what we would feed during an average winter. Thanks to our recent rains this will ease up at least for awhile. I sure hope so because there is almost no local hay for sale in this part of the world right now at any price. I have been offered an insane amount of money for the stuff stored in my hay barns and it isn't for sale at any price because right now I can't replace it. As much as we could we tried to buy ahead but we will almost certainly have to buy additional hay this winter and I shudder to think what we'll be paying for it or where it will have to come from. If it gets dry again our hay fields may well not fully recover next spring either leading to lower hay yields next year as well. This will keep demand high as any extra will have long ago been fed up. I expect to see elevated hay prices for at least a couple of years in this part of Tennessee.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor 2/3 of the continental United States is currently experiencing some level of drought, and believe it or not the worst of this year's dry weather isn't here. Much of the corn belt is experiencing exceptional drought and unprecedented heat and the consequences on our nation's corn and soybean crop are becoming very evident. As of this week, December corn on the CBOT (Chicago Board of Trade) was trading as high as $7.80 per bushel which is mind-bogglingly high for those of us who remember selling corn at less than $2.00 per bushel a few years ago. It looks like corn and bean prices are continuing to trend up which means feed prices will also be trending upward soon.

Even if it started raining normally today this area needs an additional 12 inches of water to bring us back to average levels of precipitation. Barring a tropical storm the chances of that happening this year are slim. The consequences of the drought of 2007 were felt in this part of the world for three years afterward and I expect this drought will be the same.


Lucky and O'Reilly having a grooming session

Dutch, Murphy, Lighty and Johnny

Lily looking pretty

Grand, Baby and Elfin

Lightening, Noble and Fabrizzio

short ears, long ears; Sky and Sparky

 Apollo and Hemi

Largo trotting through the pasture

Rocky and Rampal using posts on the shed to address itchy spots with Kennedy hanging out