Saturday, March 30, 2013

Up a tree and underwater


Poor Rattle.  He's been spending quite a bit of his time in trees the last few days, no thanks to Squeak.

Inside the Granary when Squeak braces him, Rattle hides under the lawn tractor where Squeak is too big to fit.  Outside, he scoots for either of the two big trees that are close by.  Squeak chases him up as high as he'll go, then descends to one of the first big limbs and lounges there daring him to come back down.

Rattle's cat clock imitation
He was up there last night most of yesterday afternoon until I brought the horses back.  Finally came down once I walked over and Squeak retreated to the barn.  Squeak had him treed again this morning when I went down to feed them all  their breakfast.

The ponies, meanwhile, are very pleased with life.  

They've apparently decided that they can spare time during the day to nap instead of eating constantly.

When I went up to fill the water buckets they were hipshot in a semi-circle enjoying the breeze, but woke up long enough to investigate the possibility of lunch being delivered.

One of yesterday's projects was the barn stock tank - between the hay that's been dripped into it and the tank heater, it's developed some green scum.  I'd heard some good things about this non-chemical stock tank cleaner so I ordered some and let the horses drink the tank down for a few days.  The cleaner arrived yesterday, so I emptied the rest of the water out and rinsed the tank.  The directions said no scrubbing required, so once I had it pretty well sprayed out I refilled it and added the cleaner.

It takes a one capful per 50 gallons, added once a week or so depending on usage.  Pretty economical, considering a bottle is 32 oz.   More info at Aspire Premium Equine Products....

Got the tank full, only to discover that it had sprung a leak... right at the bottom, of course.  After some fiddling around with various ideas that didn't work, I finally got a latex glove out of the first-aid stuff, plastered it over the hole on the inside of the tank and then screwed a nail through it until the leak stopped.  It's temporary, but it'll work until the horses drink the tank down and I can JB weld it or I can locate a rubber washer & bolt combo that will work to seal it.

On the plus side, my make-shift patch held water overnight and the tank's clean.  We'll see if the remaining algae disappears and how quickly, and if it actually works long-term.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Small things

Sat here earlier this morning watching Mabel zip from one end of the living room to the other with her tail all puffy and her ears plastered back.  Cats, go figure. Drinking coffee and waiting for it to get light enough to go feed the outside critters.

The snow event turned out to be not much - drifted a few spots in, more than anything.  Most of it's already melted, but it brought back cold temps and wind. It was 10' this morning, although they're promising it's going to get into the 40's today.  The horses are very ready to go back up on grass.

The little birds, juncos, sparrows, nuthatches and whatnot were out swooping, hopping and pecking, trying to find anything at all they could eat.  I'd feed them, but don't want to provide that cats with a bird buffet. (I'd much rather they eat mice.)

I've been trying and trying to get a good picture of the woodpecker.  He's very audible, but so quick that I usually end up taking very clear pictures of branches.  Finally caught him, but not as close as I wanted.

Speaking of mousers...

Silence and Squeak

These two haven't forgotten or forgiven me yet.  I snapped these thru the kitchen window. (You can see, the snow is pretty much gone.)  They were out yesterday sunning in front of one of the outbuildings I've been cleaning out, but as soon as I opened the house door they both disappeared.  I'm supposed to take all three of them back in next month for booster shots.  Hopefully they'll be a bit less leery by then!

Talked to one of T's sisters over the weekend, and she's located a niece who wants her old upright piano which is currently tarped in the workshop.  No idea when they'll actually appear to haul it away, but hopefully soon.  And I don't envy them trying to get it tuned!  I've been plugging away at cleaning out there again for the last couple of days - it's a project out of the wind and best done while it's cold enough that layers are a blessing.  I peel all my outer layers off at the door and then dump them into the washer when I'm done.  Blech.
Mice.  Generations of them.  I won't use poison because of the cats, so T picked up some of those ultrasonic vermin deterers.  Which appear to be working on the pack rats, but I pulled open a drawer Sunday and a very fat, very surprised field mouse was staring back at me.  Eeep!  Pushed the drawer back in, banged on it, gave it a minute, pulled it back out.... Mouse was still there.

Pulled the drawer out, set it on the floor and gave it a tap with my foot.  Presto!  Disappearing mouse.  I've added "MOUSE TRAPS!" to my shopping list.  I really don't mind them outside, and I can't blame them for wanting to live somewhere people haven't been using for years, but we're back and they can move out or die.

But I hauled another load to the dump this morning - I ask you, who saves their old, broken toilet seats? - and I think I'm making progress. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Is it me, or are the trees getting a bit fuzzy?

We had a skiff of snow Thursday night.  Enough to put a light white layer on things until about 10 AM.  There were all sorts of dire warnings about sleet and freezing rain, which I was just as glad not to see materialize. 

It was pretty, but not enough to settle the dust on the road. 

It wasn't even that cold.  But it was supposed to be just a preview.

The weather service has been building up winter storm Virgil for the last week.  Severe winter weather alerts have had the cats going puffy and staring at the weather radio, radio announcers have been warning everyone to stock up and stay home, events and what-not have been canceled for the weekend, the county's had the roads chlorided (or whatever that spray stuff is they put down) since Thursday....  And what do I see when I look out this morning?  A few measly flakes.  

Well, okay - it was coming down pretty good when I went out to feed this morning, but not sticking much. and the temps were still in the low 30's.  The radio's still yelling about 6-10" and northwest winds gusting to 30 mph by evening, but the Weather Channel says 1-3"... well, "Today" says 1-3" - the Winter Weather Warning says 3-5", but the future cast radar thingy makes it look like it's going to miss us to the north.

Whatever.  I'm declaring an inside day and catching up on the vacuuming.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Meet Rattle, Fearless Protector of the Tack

Granary Guardian
It didn't seem right that a cat with such an important job would continue just being "Cat 1".  Not that he minded - cats very seldom have any doubt that they're No. 1.  I'd been putting off calling him anything but "cat" or occasionally goofy cat!  But with a clean bill of health from the vet, recuperated from his snipping, and in charge of keeping the meeces out of my tack, he really needed a name.

He has this he does with his tail.  He'll be perfectly still, but right at the end his tail will be puffy and flickering kind of like a rattlesnake, at least that's what it reminds me of.  Thus, Rattle. 

He assisted me in clearing out the trailer and cleaning and organizing the tack room today.  By getting under foot as much as a feline unconcerned about getting flattened possibly could.

I'm not done, but if I need to haul the horses I can now do so, I can get to the saddles I use, and I have the first aid stuff where I can get to it more quickly.

The help needed a break
Don't get me started on the 3-wheelers.  They belong to T's brother.  They run... sort of.  And they're taking up MY space.  Sigh. 

The Granary had power at one time, but the boxes are full of mud dauber deposits, and as best we can figure out the line runs back through the old stone chicken house but may have been cut when they repaired the water line to the house a couple years ago.  In any case, it's shut off there at the breaker in the chicken house (not that turning it on at the breaker does anything).  So I have to figure out lighting yet.  It's not too bad during the day, at least.

Checking out the new furniture

Rattle had a fine time racing back and forth from the trailer to the tack room, hopping up on top of everything, and alternately chasing and hiding from the broom.  By the time I decided I needed some lunch - and to get started on those cookies for the vet clinic - he was pooped.

Nap time


I picked up a different flavor of canned cat food today at the store, and this time I spooned a small amount into the cats' dish before I put the rest of the can into the live trap.  I figured if Cat 2 had a chance to sample, he might be more inclined to catch himself.

Sure enough.  I looked out about 8:30 last night and there he was.  And he was NOT a happy camper.  It was supposed to get pretty cold overnight, so I gathered up a couple old towels and parked the live trap on top of one in the garage with another two thrown over the top so he has some insulation from the floor and he's out of the wind.  Probably not as cozy as curling up with Cat 3, but....

Moving the live trap was interesting.  Unlike Cat 3, Cat 2 is not the suffer in silence type.  The picture does not do any kind of justice to the swearing he was doing.  Not to mention bouncing off the walls and both ends.

Called the vet clinic this morning and had a moment of panic when the vet assistant told me they were full.  Crap!  I don't want to turn him loose, and he can't stay in the live trap.  But when I explained about the trap and the feral business she said they'd get him in.  The recovery kennels were full, but since he's feral, I could bring a crate and they'd let him recover in there.  Whew!

Shocked the heck out of me that he was completely silent in the truck on the way to town.  I put the back seat up in the truck, laid a blanket down (didn't want to chance having to clean cat pee out of the seat) and left the towel over so that he couldn't see me.  Not a murmur.

They called about an hour ago to let me know he tested negative for everything and was out of surgery.  I can pick him up after 4:30 this afternoon.   I'm making them cookies!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring and a New Farrier

Sunny with a nice breeze.  Sure hope April actually comes with showers!

The farrier called approximately when he said he would, got directions from the closest town, and arrived with his wife just about the time I finished tying up the last horse.  I figured I'd have him start with Rufus and Sunny as they're apt to be either the best or the worst, depending.  

DT turned out to be a stout, solid, older gentleman with a slight limp - especially after Sunny stepped on him.  He talked as slow as he had on the phone - when he could get a word in edgewise.  His wife was a hoot, and rattled on with descriptions of her horses, relatives, etc. for most of the time.

Rufus went to sleep.  Sunny was tolerably good, although he did manage to step on the poor guy's foot.  I won't say he does the most careful trim I've ever seen, and he didn't appear to fuss around with angles, or leveling, and he didn't do a lot of rasping. He said he's been trimming for about 25 years give or take, and apparently he does mostly cow ponies and riding horses - no show barns. But he did a neat, workmanlike job, didn't mess with frogs, trim them short, or do anything drastic.  And he was quiet with the horses, which I liked.

I explained about Rufus's toe-jabbing problem and he did check out his shoes before he pulled them.  I didn't have Rufus reset - I figure he can go barefoot at least until his next trim and maybe I'll have shoes put back on. 

I deliberately left Thunder tied where he could see what was going on, and pulled him out third. He's pretty good about monkey-see, monkey-do, and I figured if the first two went smoothly he'd be calmer.  He's leery of strange men, but he's always been good about getting his feet trimmed.  DT was sitting down on his tool box when I walked Thunder over.  Thunder, of course, had to snort and blow a bit, but stood where I'd put him, although his eyes got big and he stretched up on his toes when DT stood up to say hello. 

DT scratched his neck and talked to him for a few minutes until Thunder stopped being quite so tall, then went to work on his feet.  Which tends to be the trick with Thunder - just don't pull out a needle, and you're all good.  Although he's still going to keep a darn close eye on you.  He's all checked out on stranger-danger.  He blew at J when she came over pet him, but didn't give her the big eyes and high head treatment which didn't surprise me in the slightest.  He's never minded strange women near as much.

Amyra, as usual, was cranky for exactly one foot.  It's never the first, it's never the last.  Generally it's the second front one, but it varies.  She's been exactly the same since the very first time she was trimmed, although this time the cranky was limited to cocked back ears, a set jaw and a couple of yank-aways with her foot.  The second time she pulled her foot away I popped her lead.  Her head came up, her ears came forward, and she decided minding her manners would be the proper thing to do.  Mares... or at least that one.

The trims were $25 apiece, which shocked the heck out of me considering.  I thought it'd be higher even given the fact that my Arabs did their bit for the breed and (mostly) behaved themselves.  He charges $65 for shoes, which is really reasonable, too.  He makes a loop this way about every 8 weeks, which is slightly longer than I'd like to wait, but he also said if something comes up it'd be no problem to work me in.

So...  We'll see how they wear and go from there, but I think he'll do. 

"A trapping we will go..."

With apologies to Thomas Ames...

Nothing in the live trap yesterday morning, and nothing this morning, either.  Phooey.  I bought a different brand of cat food - still fish flavored, but... it's proving not quite as tempting as the first batch.

Yesterday was gorgeous.  I ended up in town most of the day and got nothing productive done.  The ponies sure were soaking up the sun, though.

Waiting on the gate
They were all nicely in a line.  But Sunny just had to be different. 

In any case, that's our marching order, if you imagine Sunny back on the left: Sunny on my right outside, then Amyra, then Thunder and Rufus gets the far left.  Their butts are already getting rounder again - I may need to cut back on the pasture time, although they're enjoying it so much I really hate to. 

Farrier update I hope later.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring cleaning

Cat 1

Still working on catching Cat 2 for his vet trip.  Set the live trap last night with fingers crossed that I'd be able to take him in this morning, but when I peeked out around 11 pm, I had Cat 3 again.  Let her out and re-set, but it was unsprung this morning.  Guess I'll have to keep trying.

I got a very nice follow-up call this morning from the vet - wondering if the kitties were doing okay.  I was happy to tell her yes.  Nice of her to check.

In other exciting news, the farrier is coming on Wednesday.  After talking to a number of area horse people, the same name kept surfacing.  Hopefully he's as good/dependable as his reputation.  So far I only know he talks re-al-ly sl-o-w.  

Rufus needs his shoes pulled, and they all need to be trimmed.  They're not super long, since hooves grow slower in the winter and the ground's been hard enough to keep them worn off some, but it's definitely time.  If it works out - and please, let it work out! - it sounds like this guy has a regular loop down this way that I can schedule in on.

Too windy today to work on the loft.  They're saying 35mph winds for the next couple of days, which should dry things out.  Because we so need to be drier.  Not.  I did some post-winter clean-up around the barn and where the bales have been sitting.  Ended up covered in hay bits, even from the stuff that was still dampish.  Came in itching like crazy - I found my second tick yesterday, and now I keep thinking I feel the suckers crawling on me.  So far just chaff today, though.

Amyra is so in heat it's not funny.  She keeps trying to get the boys interested, and they're oblivious.  She gets to walk next to next to Sunny for the duration, because she knows better than to pin her ears at him, and when she makes faces at Rufus he takes her seriously.   She knows better than to snark at him while they're haltered, but if we're not moving sometimes the temptation's just too much. 

No traffic tonight, but we did pass some wild turkeys.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our first vehicle...

When I went out to feed this morning everything had the faintest coating of ice.  We had just enough rain/fog to create a glaze overnight, I guess.  At least the wind that was picking up was out of the south instead of more of that chilly northeast stuff.

I waited until things were damp instead of crunchy, and took the horses up.  They walked up politely enough, but the minute all of them were loose, took off for the backside of the field as if I'd lit their tails on fire.  A big sweeping circle and they were back, Sunny doing some odd jumps along the way - turned out he'd gotten a short round of barbwire hooked on his tail.  I walked the pasture before we put them out, but long grass... leave it to him to find something to catch himself in. No damage done, though.  I saw it spin off, and walked out to collect it, the four of them clustering around me snorting and showing every sign of tearing off again. 

I left them munching enthusiastically and headed back down the hill to tackle the barn loft.  In addition to a bunch of old windows that I'll need help getting down if I don't want to shatter glass everywhere, there are three dozen or so mouse-nibbled cane bales and some alfalfa stored who knows when up there.  It's no good trying to get anything done with the horses in there, they just want to eat whatever I throw out.  Unfortunately, I only managed to get about 10 or so of the cane bales and a some of the loose stuff pitched out the loft door before the wind picked up enough to start whirling the dust everywhere.

What I did manage made a substantial enough pile, though - I was impressed that the cane bales mostly stayed in bale form despite the drop and some of them only having one remaining string.  Given my track record with small squares, I expected them to explode on impact.  It took about 6 trips with the Bobcat, but I managed to get it all dumped in a bare spot beyond the fenced in area to the north of the driveway.  I collected a large audience of cows in the process.  Apparently, tractors - or anything that sounds like a tractor - mean food, and since the cane bales actually still smelled sort of like food, they figured I was feeding them.  They just couldn't figure out why the panels were in the way...

I'll have to wait for a day with no wind, or only a minimal one out of the south to do more.  On the plus side, I saw no signs of either snakes or live mice, so apparently time and the cats are taking care of one or both.

Since the sun finally decided to come out and warm things up slightly, and the time change means more daylight, I left the horses up a while longer today.  They were waiting for me near the gate, and it didn't take long to get them hooked up and heading down.  The wind was blowing pretty strongly, but just before we hit the one spot where the shoulder drops away, I thought I heard something behind us.  Just to be safe, I pushed Thunder and Rufus over and swung Sunny and Amyra around so that we were all on the verge with the exception of Rufus's hind end and facing back up the hill so they could see what was coming up behind them.  Good thing, too, as it turned out it wasn't a car.  It was a truck pulling a 20' bale hauler.  Empty, and very loud.

And once again, can I say how thankful I am that I have four farm-raised horses?  The sum total of movement was Rufus stepping sideways so that his hind end was in the ditch with the rest of us.  The truck slowed down some, the driver doing some gawking at the crazy lady with four critters attached, all staring back at him, and rattled on past.  I clicked and treated them for being so sensible, and, after a suitable period to let the truck get on down the road so I could hear if there was anything else about to come down the hill behind us, we got back on the road and clip-clopped our way on across the bridge and down the driveway with no further interruptions.  Whew!  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Four wide

Clip-clop-snort-clop clop clop...  It's about a 1/4 mile down the road from the end driveway to the pasture gate.  The five of us have been making the trip up and back every day for the last few days.  The ponies are thrilled to be out on pasture - especially since there's some green to it.  It's just shy of 10 acres that hasn't been grazed for the last two years, so there's considerable old stuff there, too - a nice prairie mix of buffalo grass and some longer stuff.

I didn't think we were ever going to get the fence finished, but the weather finally cooperated and it's up.

We've had rollercoaster weather here lately, but I had managed to get the small piece of grass north of the driveway sectioned off with temporary electric fence and they'd been getting an hour or so a day on that, so getting out on grass wasn't a complete shock to their systems, and I've been gradually increasing the amount of time they're out. They're up to six hours on the big pasture now.

I haven't gotten a water tank in yet, so for right now I fill two big plastic tubs for them.  Thursday and Friday we had 80's, and they drained them.  Today we had a high of 41' - the high was lower than yesterday's low.  They weren't nearly so dry.

Currently we have to walk all the way up the road to the southeast corner of the pasture to get to the gate.  On the plus side, there's a grass shoulder wide enough for all of us 90% of the way, and I can see clear to the stop sign in one direction and almost as far in the other, so we stop, look and listen before starting out and if I hear anything coming in any direction we wait until I see which way the driver's going to turn.  (So far there's been a sum total of 1 car to wait on.)

The plan is to put in a walk-through gate on the north side, and then I shouldn't have to take them down the road at all.  I'm looking forward to that.

Coming in for the evening trip down the hill

It took them all of one trip to figure out where they were going every morning, and now they meet me at the gate and stand in a row to have their halters put on.  I'm a little slower; I haven't quite gotten the perfect twosomes down yet.  The only one I'm sure of is Rufus.  He walks on my heels, and he has shoes on, therefore he's an outside horse.  Other than that, they walk along politely whoever they end up next to and they've even figured out the four-wide swing at the pasture gate so that I can hook the line behind us, and the swivel-to-me at the barn gate so that I can take their halters off and block the way back out at the same time.

Speaking of the line at the pasture gate...  The existing pasture gate is one of those multi-strand wire things.  And it was a miserable pain to start with.  I can't open it one handed.  (It's tight, heavy and awkward, and I have to literally hug the fence to open and close it.)  I didn't want to leave it wide open, but I couldn't get it open easily once I had them all caught without one of them - or me - stepping in it on the way out.  And I surely did NOT want to open the gate before I had them all caught.

I woke up in the middle of the night with the solution: I tied a strip of polywire decorated with a few strips of orange surveyor's tape to the gatepost on one side, tied a gate handle to the other end so I could hook it on the other gatepost, and viola, a gate I can get in and out with four horses attached.  They respect the polywire, because it generally comes with electricity running through it.  They can also see it much better than the brownish wire gate.  The best thing is, I can unhook it one-handed, walk in keeping it snug, swing them around, and then hook it again.  Once they're all in and turned loose, then I close the wire gate and they're secure.  It will work until the walk-through's in, and/or we get a regular steel gate up instead of the wire.

See the house & barn roofs behind them?
When I walk up to get them in the late afternoon, they've been great so far about heading my way.  They get a drink, I halter and flip leadropes across their backs, collecting them one by one once I have the last one haltered.  Then it's back down the hill.  Today it was chilly with a stiff northeast wind, and I was wondering if I'd have my hands full.  Thankfully they were only a little lookier than they've been on the warmer/calmer days. 

Other than that, Cat 1 and Cat 3 have been hauled to the vet, tested negative for feline leukemia and FIV, and had their respective reproductive bits removed. Cat 1 has forgiven me.  Cat 3... not so much.  Cat 2 will hopefully cooperate and catch himself in the livetrap Sunday night so that he can take his trip Monday morning.  And that's the news that is news from around here.  Now I'm off to catch up on what everyone else has been occupied with while I've been incommunicado.