28 February 2015

Bucket-O-Hens

Bucket-o-hens.
We were so excited to find chicks a few weeks ago not only because they're adorable and fun, but because it means they'll be ready to lay very soon (we love our fresh eggs!). However, the absence of warm weather has put a bit of a damper on their transition to the outside.
So nobody tries to escape...
They're definitely feathered enough and have put on a few pounds of weight (which is a lot, considering they only weighed ounces when we got them) but I don't have the heart to throw them out into the freezing temperatures--even with a heat lamp--when they've been enjoying a carefree existence, living near the toasty wood burning stove.
The problem is that chickens stink. No, they reek. They aren't particularly clean animals and when they're confined to a small space inside, they inevitably make a smelly mess. Which leads to regular cleaning. Which means they have to sit in a bucket while I do it.
Claire and Kate helped yesterday while I tidied up their little home by watching the growing hens and crooning at them as they sat quietly in their close quarters. Then, when it was time to return to their makeshift cage (thank goodness for extra horse troughs), carefully put them back.

Thanks for the help, girls! 

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24 February 2015

Stay on the Path

Stay on the path.
Having to push a wheelbarrow back and forth to bring hay to the horses, it's so much easier to follow the same path everyday.


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22 February 2015

Love Is...

We had a wonderful Valentine's Day, not because it was perfect or grandiose, but because it was filled with love in its many forms. But really, Valentine's Day is nothing special because I can see this kind of love daily. Instead of declaring what love isn't, here's what love is...
Stuffed, but going back for more.
Love is being asked on a date by Jack to go to a fancy buffet once a year just because he likes to spoil me on occasion.
Let's just say, Evelyn wasn't feeling well.
Love is voluntarily taking turns caring for the children when they're not feeling well. Not exactly fun but very necessary.
Raven playing with her buddy, Jack.
Love is having a friend to play with.
Love is buying your daughters flowers.
Love is chopping wood to keep your family warm, even when you're sick yourself.
Love is staying up all night with an ill child...
Feeling loads better.
...and the relief you feel when they are better...
...and trying to make your sister feel better after you get her sick.
Love is being generous with your hugs...
...and your chocolate.
Love is doing last minute repairs, like fixing the garage door, before you're gone for a long work trip so no one has to park outside.
She packed Skittles, a book and some clothes to go with Jack.
Love is packing up and trying to go with dad on his work trip.

Love is many things. Bottom line is, love is abundant here.

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19 February 2015

Snowy Backs

Wanting breakfast, pronto.
I always keep a close eye on the horses, especially during the winter when their thick coat can hide weight loss and rain and snow make even the toughest animals shiver. Thankfully, there is one good indicator that they're doing well: snowy backs.
Nothing bothers Dancer when sweet feed is within her grasp.
If there's snowfall and the snow settles on their backs without melting, it's a good chance that their body heat is being kept in by their fluffy hair and they are healthy. If it melts, something's amiss.

Always a relief to see snowy backs.

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16 February 2015

14 February 2015

Bargain Hay

Kate helping with the chores.
It's always a little tricky judging how much hay the horses will consume over the winter. It depends on the weather, how long they can graze the pasture before the grass goes dormant and how hungry they are. This year, after a bit of a disastrous experience trying to keep square bales dry, we decided to use predominantly round bales. They're easier to keep and are more cost effective than small squares.
Loaded up and ready to drive home!
For months, Jack and I pushed the round bales over to the fence and every morning and night I'd unroll it, scrape up the right amount of hay and feed it to the waiting horses. Now we're down to our last two round bales and I got a bit nervous. Each lasts about two weeks if I divvy it up right but that would only take us into mid-March. If I remember right, it's about April that the grass starts growing.
So, I hunted on Craigslist and found some bargain hay that not only was awesomely priced, the seller lives less than a mile down the road. And best of all, the hay was high quality, unlike most bargain hay, which usually only means moldy hay. Turns out she'd sold her herd of miniature horses and donkey's in the fall (we'd been wondering where they went!) and no longer needed the hay. We went on a sunny, warm Saturday loaded up. As predicted, our poor truck got stuck on the slick Indiana clay and the people kindly pulled us out. As a bonus, they sold us several bales of straight alfalfa. It's more of a treat for the horses but Stoney likes it enough that he'll pick a good flake of alfalfa over sweet feed any day.
Earning some spending money by cleaning up the loose hay.
I didn't want to risk driving around to the back to unload the hay so, in true white trash fashion, we stacked the hay on our front patio. It has confused several people trying to reach our front door, as it's now blocked by a wall of dried grass.
Fun!
It's slowly being used up and the horses are enjoying the extra protein in the alfalfa along with their sweet-smelling hay. The girls too, think of it as another jungle gym, which is just fine. I'd have done the same thing at their age. Hopefully that's the last of it we'll need to buy for the season and green grass will be just around the corner!
Evelyn'll be happy to be done with unrolling round bales.

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11 February 2015

Jungle Gym

I got Jack a chainsaw for Christmas and he's already put it to good use. Just about every weekend he's out sawing away, trimming up trees and cutting firewood. This past Saturday, he tackled his biggest project yet...
I was making dinner when one of the monstrous ash trees fell in the back yard. With cool confidence, Jack managed to make it fall in just the right spot and without smashing the fence or himself. Thank goodness he's watched his share of mountain men shows lately and gleaned some important tricks for successful tree felling.
Since Jack cut the tree down late in the evening, we didn't have time to chop it up much, so it's become more of a jungle gym for everyone. The girls are forever trying to climb trees and now, Jack's made it easy for them. And nothing against the beautiful tree other than it was casting a large shadow over part of our garden. It'd been targeted for removal since moving in.
Claire sticking her tongue out for the camera.
Eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later, but that all depends on the weather), it'll be cut and split for next year's firewood. Before that though, I foresee hours of entertainment.

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08 February 2015

Lunge and a Haircut

Finally behaving herself.
Yesterday was a beautiful reprieve from the gloomy, chilly winter weather so naturally, we took the chance to escape the house and get some fresh air.  Since I have a goal of working the horses more frequently this year, I pulled Dancer out of the paddock after doing some chores. First order of business: a haircut.
I know a lot of horse people love for their animals to have long, flowing manes but around here, I like to be more practical and appear that I at least tried to groom them. Otherwise, hair gets tangled and snarled and mud globs get stuck. It's not particularly attractive. Luckily Dancer doesn't suffer from male pattern baldness like Stoney so a little trim suited her nicely.
A little rough but good enough.
After a quick grooming session where Dancer stood quiet and perfect, I got out the lunge line and whip and got right to work. Unfortunately, Raven took our leaving as an invitation to play and ran up behind Dancer, who spooked, yanking me halfway across the pasture and whipping my left ring finger with the loathsome chain some nincompoop decided would be a wonderful accessory to their design of lunge lines. After wrangling in the now wild-eyed Dancer, I examined my finger and first wondered if it was broken and secondly, wondered if people tortured each other by whipping fingers with chains, because it was very effectively painful.
Dancer: a half ton ball of energy.
Fortunately, there was little time to focus on my throbbing finger and without asking, Dancer was off again, kicking up her heels and yanking me all over out property as she tried to remember the purpose of being lunged. She grew more and more bold, sped up and then she did something I knew she would: she slipped on the mud and fell onto her side.
Remember what a tail held like that means? She's feeling frisky, playful and naughty. But look at that trot!
One of the important, principle lessons of dressage is balance. You can't very effectively go racing around in circles if you're leaning too tightly and going too fast--a fall is inevitable. With her heavy stumbled (lucky for her onto very squishy, soft mud and lucky for me, without being on her back), she knocked some sense into herself. She stood up, looking horribly embarrassed and politely waited for me to ask her to do something. She moved without pulling and figured out how to keep her body in line with her legs while navigating the slick terrain.
Ow. Ow. Ow. My finger feels a lot worse than it looks and is practically useless today.
By the time we finished, she was well out of breath and frothy with sweat, a good reminder that I need to work her more often to build muscle, get rid of her lingering chub and help her remember her manners. And, sooner than I like to think, she's going to have to replace Stoney as the go-to horse for kiddie rides. She will have to be a good girl for them, no exceptions.
A quick ride on a very muddy Stoney.
Stoney wanted to come out too and the girls got a quick ride on his muddy hide as the sun went down. Though my finger is black and blue and swollen like a sausage and I'm a bit tired from wrestling a full-grown mare, I'm looking forward to our next session. I just think maybe I'll put up a round pen first and leave the lunge line in the tack room for a while.
Worn out and ready for some affection from the girls.

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07 February 2015

All the Fun

What a workout pushing them all the way back to the horses! Of course, they giggled the whole way...
Kids get to have all the fun!

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05 February 2015

Winter Surprise

A fresh start of beautiful blue eggs!
A few days ago, I was out in the morning, checking and feeding the animals and was delighted to find an egg (even if it was already frozen and cracked). One of the hens has already begun casually laying an egg every other day without any prompting.

What a nice winter surprise.

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