Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Short Ride and a Rat

I actually managed a few minutes on top tonight :)  We were bringing the horses down from the pasture, and with only one extra horse rather than the usual three, I couldn't resist.  Especially when my two - Sunny and Rufus - made me walk out to get them.  I hopped on Sunny to ride back to the gate, and my dad had it open when I got there, so we just kept on going.  Rufus has ponied a lot of miles, so he mosied along at my knee without any issues.

We "whoa"ed and I slid off just before the bridge in case there were any scary cows (the landowner on the east side of the road just put his cows out and they tend to run away whenever they see the horses coming) crashing up and away.   Sunny actually walks a lot faster with me on top than he does when I'm next to him.  Something to remember for those days when we're running late.  With just a halter, and I hadn't even bothered to tie the loose end off since I'd only planned to hitch a ride as far as the gate, I didn't stay on the whole way back, but it was still nice to get a rider's eye view instead of a walker's.

(Warning, dead content ahead)
Unfortunately (especially for the rats, which I wouldn't mind leaving alone if they'd just stay out of the barn, workshop, buildings in general), the electronic rodent deterrents didn't cut it.  After I walked into the workshop this weekend to hear banging coming from inside the back of the (running) refrigerator, I bought rat traps.

Actually, for a rat, it's not unattractive.  If it wasn't for the size (see the key?) it would look pretty much like a field mouse, and I think they're sort of cute as long as they're not eating holes in things and pooping all over stuff.

The rat trap is screwed to a chunk of 2x4' so the trap doesn't end up dragged away - no such danger with this one.  It was definitely dead.  Here's hoping a few more end up that way and the rest of them learn by example!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another week - where did it go?

It's been a crazy week.  More weird weather - from snow to 80's within four days - and I'm still adjusting to my new schedule.  Thank goodness for two extra pairs of hands!

And those hands have sure been busy.  We have a new front door, a new kitchen fan/light in place of the old florescent one with no fan, the bathroom trim is finished, and about half of the 100 trees from the KDA are in the ground.  Oh, and my dad's working on the wiring for two new lights & fans for the living room, too.

And with three of us, the ponies don't have to come down the hill four wide.  They're enjoying the extra hands, too - lots of extra scritches.  Pretty soon they'll have a new gate...

Now to squeeze some riding time in there!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Week in review


What a week.  Monday was decent but chilly, Tuesday was cold and windy.  Wednesday snowed and spit, Thursday blew all day, and Friday was mild by evening.  I think the only season we didn't have was Summer.

The ponies stayed home Wednesday and Thursday, ate hay and sheltered in and behind the barn.  Friday walking them up in the pre-work dimmness, I was very happy to have parental assistance - yay! company :)  They were eager to get to the green, but the road was frosty frozen at 24', and everybody was stepping very carefully.  Once we turned them loose, they wasted no time in heading for the far end of the pasture.

It was a tired bunch that walked we walked home yesterday evening, me among them.  The new job is really interesting, extremely complex (lots of little bitty details that could come back to bite me later) and I think I'll really like it once I have the day to day routine nailed down.

On the positive side of things, the sun is out this morning, it's supposed to be a nice weekend, Rufus's coat is coming back in, and Sunny seems to be moving more easily so I think the joint supplement is helping.  Now if it actually gets as warm as they say it might tomorrow, we'll see what they think about baths...

~Happy to be out~

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Things that make you go, hmmmm...

Spring is trying...

Okay. so this was weird.  Sometime between 6:30 and 7 PM I'm walking down the driveway on my way to get the horses.  It's blowing pretty hard, but less than earlier.  About halfway down the driveway I can hear a car coming from the south.  It goes by at 45-50 mph.  A little dark blue/black SUV - maybe a GEO Tracker?  - with swirly gray detailing on the side.  Not a vehicle I've ever seen before, or one that's typical of what usually goes by this far out.  As soon as it's past the driveway I can hear it starting to slow down.  When I get to the end of the driveway I can see brake lights and it's almost stopped about 1/4 mile down the road, and I hear BOOOM.   


Nobody gets out of the car.  The doors are all closed.  It sits for about 10 seconds and then speeds up again, goes up the next mile and heads east.  So my first thought is, "Oh goodie, idiots with a gun.  Good thing they left."  And then I thought, "Crap, the horses.  Didn't hear a shot before though"  And I set off up the hill in sort of a hurry.

Horses are fine, all the way back on the top of the pasture, not at all worried about the shot 'cause they've all lived through hunting season in SD, three of them next to a pheasant hunting place.  I holler, they come galloping.  I'm standing by the gate with an arm full of halters, happen to look down the road to the north, and here comes the little SUV again.  It gets to about the place where it stopped before, stops again, and people get out and mill around for a few minutes, then get back in.  Drive a bit further and repeat.  Turn around in the driveway, drive slowly up the road, U-turn again and come back my way.  Didn't look as if anybody went into the ditch at any point, so they either missed what they were shooting at or decided not to pick it up.

The horses and I are watching all this.  Not that they'd make good witnesses, but they were definitely interested in the vehicle that wasn't behaving normally.  And I'm thinking... hmmm, I have a camera in my pocket.  Should I take a picture of the car as it goes by?  See if I can get the plate?  Nobody has permission to hunt, and nothing's in season that I know of, but...  And: they have a gun.  Do I really want to take a picture?  Like that.

So they go by pretty fast, nobody in the car looking at me.  Big guy in the back with his shoulder turned to the window so all I can see is a grey sweatshirt back.  They didn't stop, slow down,  or even wave to say "Hi, how are you?", which is very unusual for out here.  And here's another thing:  I looked, but I didn't see a plate on the rear of the car.  KS doesn't have front plates.  Either it was just really, really dirty (very possible, as I'm not sure you can read the one on the truck right now), or - to be a tad paranoid - they'd taken it off one of the times they were stopped. 

I watched it out of sight up the hill.  Brake lights came on again at the stop sign, but I couldn't tell which way they turned.  I waited for a few minutes to see if they were going to come back.  Debated leaving the horses up there.  They were a bit snorty, probably because I was anxious, but decided that I didn't want to leave them there in case the people with the gun decided horses looked like good targets.

Despite the wind and my nerves, the trip down the hill went just fine.  No reappearance of the SUV.  I took the truck up to fill the water tubs so that I wouldn't have to do it in the morning and out of curiosity on the way back I drove on down to the mailbox past where they'd done all the backing and turning to see if I could spot what they'd been up to.  Nothing I could see.

Not sure what they were up to.  It's probably a mountain of a mole hill, but the whole thing struck me as off.  I'll mention it to the cow folks when I see them and keep an eye out, I guess. 

Hedge posts: the new bane of my fencing endeavors.
Probably should have known something was up
when I noticed that there wasn't a staple in one of them.
Just wire loops holding the barbwire.


Spent the day yesterday running electric fence around the south pasture. I might have been procrastinating just the tiniest amount to date, but in my defense I really didn't think it was going to be that bad.  Silly me.  But then I've never encountered a hedge post before.  Next time I'll know better.

Walked the horses up early, then went back and packed up the fencing pliers, the insulators, nails and clips, hammer, some staples, etc. in a bucket, collected a few wire posts, and headed up the hill.  Got my first insulator screwed in to the big cropped off telephone pole that serves as a corner post and thought, "Huh, this isn't going to be so bad."  That's what I get for thinking.  Ten minutes and four bent over nails later I decided to do things the smart way and went back after the drill so I could pre-drill the nail holes.  I really miss cedar posts!

Long story short, it took three more trips back to the house to collect a) more bits because I broke the first two off in the first post, and b) the hammer drill because the regular one wasn't doing the job.  On the third bit and the second drill I figured it out:  back the bit out frequently.  Otherwise it would just get stuck and either break off  (bit #1) or lose grip enough that I couldn't back it out at all and then break off (drill #1, bit #2).

Stopped at 1:30 and walked back up to the house for a quick lunch and to retrieve the jab saw to trim baby trees out of  the way.

I drove back - had to bring the horses more water anyway.  Finally got everything hooked up and tested, got back to the house and it was 6 pm.  What?!  Already time to go get the critters, and here I was ready to sit down.  So back I went up the hill.  Definitely got my exercise yesterday.

The horses were semi-convinced the fencing bucket might have good eats at the bottom so they'd circle around my way every now and then to see what I was doing.  But it was really windy, and they'd munched their way down into one of the far corners by the time I finally had the wire run and the fencer on.  They came up as I was loading things into the truck and of course once they discovered the yellow line, somebody had to test it.  I didn't see whose nose stretched out, but I heard the snap! and four sets of feet thudding off in the other direction, lol!  Should keep them from leaning across the fence to nibble the CRP, which I caught them at yesterday morning.

Only three sides are up, but the side that's left borders the cow pasture so if they manage to get out in that direction they'll just be in with the cows.  I have to pick up more wire anyway, and that's the side that will be getting a walk-through gate (soon, no more trips down the road - hooray!).  Not exactly sure where I want the gate yet....

I'm not completely thrilled with where I have the fencer, and I need to tweak the gate height, but that shouldn't take too long.  Today I really need to spend some time out housework.  I think I might actually be looking forward to vacuuming and laundry. 

Friday, April 12, 2013


That was what the road looked like yesterday. (It stormed all day Tuesday, but nothing melted Wednesday because the high was all of 30' with a gray ceiling and lots of wind.  Brrr!)  I didn't get out for a walk until mid-morning yesterday when the temp finally cracked the freezing mark.

See the hail stones? That's sort of the median-large end of the size range.  There were a few closer to golf ball size, but most of them were more like the marbles we used to call shooters in elementary school.  Or big ball bearings.  Glad we were on the edge of the storm - it was a lot nastier up north, from what I hear.  But it was finally melting by the time I got home from my walk.

Now for the exciting moment of my day:

No, Rattle has not started taking steroids and going to the beauty parlor.  Mr. Bobcat was sitting calmly in front of one of the outbuildings yesterday evening when I happened to look out the kitchen window.  After a mad scramble for my camera (Verbatim exchange with my mother-in-law - I was on the phone when I spotted him. Me, "Holy crap, there's a bobcat in the yard!"  ML, "Well you'd better go then.  Do you have a gun?"  Me, "No, but I've got a camera!")

I took a couple pictures through the window, then decided to push my luck and see if I could stand in the front doorway without scaring him.  Unfortunately that put him behind a vehicle from where I was standing, so I eased over until I could see better.  Opening the door made noise, and he'd moved and was sitting just beyond that pile of limbs you can see in the picture above.  Then he got up and trotted off out of sight behind the building.  Too cool!

Maybe if we already had chickens I'd be worried, but he didn't seem interested in Squeak and Silence - they were out by the old chicken house - and the cats are the only small critters around.  At a guess, he'd probably weigh in about 35-40 lbs, so too small to take on a whole horse.  But I wouldn't want to be a pack rat or a rabbit!  Sure hope I see keep seeing him now and then.

The ponies were thrilled to be back out on grass this morning.  We all walked briskly up the hill and they waited, albeit impatiently for me to get all their halters stripped off before making a beeline out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Good news, bad news

The good news:  I got the job!  Not sure exactly what my start date will be yet, but soon if they can get the paperwork pushed through.  Which is excellent, both in terms of income and on the challenge front.

The bad news:  I knew I shouldn't have unplugged and put away the tank heater.  Winter came back.  Apologies to those of you still suffering in the grip of it up north, and please excuse my whinging, but it's icky out there.  Yeah, yeah, I know - get some crackers and cheese to go with my whine, right? 

Honestly I shouldn't be complaining, since we needed the moisture and I suppose having 10 hours of falling ice pellets was better than 10 hours of freezing rain, right?  I kid you not, either - the ground is covered in a crispy crust that's not snow.  It's tiny little BB-sized ice balls.

We did have some freezing rain, which was miserable, but not enough to make things super slippery at least.  And the thunder just kept on rolling.

So I have the truck plugged back in, broke ice for the horses to drink this morning, and gave them the option of hay in the barn.  During the worst of the falling pellets (we had about half an hour of dime-size hail midday) they abandoned the barn to stand heads down by their ankles, butts to the 25mph (gusts to 35) north wind, along the fenceline.  Must have been too loud in the barn with the tin roof and all.

Except for Rufus they came through it unscathed - he must have gotten himself cornered at some point, because he has a new bite mark and a new scrape/strip of hide missing off his forehead.  He seems determined to be bald, one way or the other! I'd blame the bite mark on Sunny, but Amyra's cycling again, and she's crabby.  She even stood Sunny off her grain pan this morning, and not too much discourages him when there's food involved.  Most days she's willing to share the crumbs without fussing.

Earlier in the winter Rufus was the only one smart/brave enough to stand in the barn when it was nasty.  Unfortunately for him, the rest of them learned that it's much drier and more pleasant in there :(

After grain, they had to be satisfied with hay and the creekbed pasture again today, and Sunny is ticked.  They can hear the front door on the house open, and every time I go out he sticks his head around the corner of the barn and yells at me.

Pretty sure that by Saturday they'll be able to go back up on grass, but we'll see how quick things melt and soak in.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Itchy spots, tiny snakes, and winter returns

The horses are shedding, and three of them are doing it normally.  Rufus, however, has several spots where he's losing his winter coat but doesn't have new coat underneath???  The spots don't seem to be particularly itchy or swollen.  Aren't cracked, scaly, red, bumpy, weepy or otherwise irritated.  He's just sort of... bald here and there.  A couple hand-sized patches on his chest, smaller spots on his back legs, around his sheath, and over his cheek bones.  I don't remember him shedding out like this previously, so something's definitely weird.  

Checked the vet books with thoughts of mange, worms, allergies, etc., thinking he might have picked something up from the cows or eaten something, but it doesn't really look like anything in there.  The closest possibility is ringworm, but he doesn't have the red circle or the itchies.  So.... I wormed them yesterday on schedule which should take care of it if it's worms.  Smeared the patches with povidine ointment, which can't hurt, and once it warms up I'm thinking a bath with tea tree shampoo and some betadine solution on those spots...

Didn't think to take pictures until I'd already smeared him with goop, unfortunately.

Yesterday was also baby snake day.  This little guy was parked right in front of the front door.  I almost stepped on him, and might have had it not been for the bright orange ring catching my eye.

As you can see, not very big.  And he wasn't very healthy, either.  I'm pretty sure after looking him up that he's a baby ringneck snake of the southern variety.

Orange spotted belly, so go with his ring neck band....  I scooped him up carefully on a stick since I wasn't sure at that point if he was the venomous type or not, and deposited him off in the grass.  But given how lethargic and unresponsive he was, I'm guessing he didn't make it.

The second baby snake was way down at the end of the driveway when I walked out to get the mail. 

The same size as snake no. 1, only 5-6" long, but no ring neck on this one and not round like a garter snake, either.  I couldn't see a rattle button, the eyes were roundish, but the head was sort of shovel-shaped... Unlike the poor little guy by the front door, this one was very lively, and I wasn't getting my hands anywhere near him just in case he was actually a rattlesnake.  Since I'd already brought the horses home, wasn't going to be driving anywhere, and he wasn't close to the house I gave him the benefit of the the doubt and left him alone, and by the time I got back with the mail he was gone. 

So the spring babies have started arriving, but they could have picked a better time for it.  It's 41' and dropping fast.  We have grey heavy clouds and a stiff north wind, and it's damp.  The ponies are staying at home today, much to their chagrin.  But it's supposed to get colder and stormier the later the day gets, so... they'll have to make do with the creekbed pasture and hay until spring comes back, or at least until the wind stops trying to take the tops out of the trees.  Weather guy says tonight it snows.

In other news from yesterday, my interview went okay.  I'm pretty sure I can handle the duties as described and the learning curve, and the atmosphere was positive and friendly.  The position has some growing room and seems like it would be interesting and challenging.  I think I have a decent shot, but you never know.  I should find out one way or the other by the end of the week.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mostly weather

Had to fly spray the horses Saturday night.  The wind finally died, and they were shaking their heads, stamping and rubbing their faces on each other and anything handy.  Friday and the majority of Saturday, flies were not a problem.  Any flies not hiding out were heading straight for another state courtesy of the Mother Nature express.

Friday evening the wind was so bad I left the horses up in the big pasture overnight.  It was roaring so loudly in the trees that I couldn't hear to tell if there was any traffic coming, and they had the pre-storm spooks.  I walked up, watched them jitter around, and decided the better part of valor was not insisting on walking four kites on strings down a road when another semi might be coming (we met one Friday morning and had to make a quick detour into the ditch).

I had plans for Saturday afternoon - getting the electric up around the big pasture.  Got everything in the truck, got to my designated starting point and realized two things.  I'd forgotten nails which I needed for the insulators, and I didn't have the right kind of clips for the steel posts.  Grrrr!  And of course, everything was already closed for the weekend.

On the plus side of the column, the new hose I picked up earlier in the week was long enough to reach from the hydrant to the horse tank without being too long, but the stuff I got to patch the tank was not the right combination so I ended up shoving my glove/nail combo back in to stop the leak.  At least it's still holding water.   Then there was a dead possum in the cow tank Uck which once spotted I couldn't just leave there....  Have to wonder, was it the one I saw last week?  

Looks like storms on and off around here for the next couple days.  Which is okay, because we (still) need rain.  This morning we have 52' and a sort of foggy mist so everything's dripping some.  I finally unhooked the tank heater.  It's been unplugged for the last couple of weeks anyway, so probably time to get it packed up and stored until winter comes back.

 Any-hoo, not much going on around here - I have an interview this afternoon, my first nibble.  Not a lot of jobs around here unless you're in health care or over-the-road truck driving, or have mechanical skills in areas I'm lacking.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A little bit creepy...

Made my daily pilgrimage to the mailbox yesterday evening, and as I was reaching to open the box something moved.

Possums aren't usually out that early.  It wasn't at all interested in me, just continued trucking on across the pasture toward some bushes along the fence line.  But honestly?  The fact that it wasn't interested in me isn't that reassuring.  Not sure how good their daytime vision is, but it should have been able to smell me given that I was upwind, and at very least hear me since I wasn't trying to be silent crunching along the gravel.

I'm very thankful all the critters have had their rabies shots.  No sign of it anywhere today at least.  Not thrilled about having possums around anyway given the whole EPM carrying business...

Yesterday must have been wildlife day, because the turkeys were out and about, as well.  I've been hearing them almost daily and seeing tracks, but I haven't gotten close enough for a good shot. 

Turkey's in the middle back by the tree....
Tom, mom and four half grown youngsters were out in the road when I went up to water the horses.  Of course, I didn't have my camera along, so I missed a really lovely parade shot.  They weren't too concerned about getting out of my way - looked like they were collecting pea gravel, maybe?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Playing with Plastic

Wish I'd had the camera with me when I went out to feed this morning.  The horses were up on the other side of the creekbed grazing.  When they heard me open the granary door Sunny, Rufus and Thunder bailed over the lip and up this side and loped up to the fence to whinny at me.  Amyra doesn't do the downhill plunge.  I could see her trotting along creek bank heading to the north where there's a more gradual drop.  No excited crashing and smashing, just steady progress... until her head popped up over the edge into the orchard pasture, and then she took off like her tail was on fire.  Glad she has good brakes, 'cause she left skid marks stopping.

My sister and my going on 4-year-old niece are coming for a visit next month.  I'm very excited!  On the phone the other day she asked if I had any toys here.  Horses, cats, lots of space to run around, trees to climb... no toys.  I'd accumulated a big tub of them before last summer's visit, but with our impending move I packed them all up and took them to MI with me so she'd have them to play with at my folks' place.

No toys.  Hmmm.  I think I have a box of plastic horses of all sizes in the attic somewhere.  Not sure whether she'd be as enthralled as I was though.  Unfortunately, most of the larger ones are in less than pristine condition. (In fact, I'm pretty sure there's also a separate box of legs and ears floating around up there.  Couldn't quite bear to part with them, even in pitch-it mode while we packed.)  But surely a few of them survived me mostly intact.  I'll have to see what I can find. 

As for me, I've been playing with flat plastic today.  Fly Predators, anybody try those?  I'm going to see if they really will help cut down on some of the heel/face flies. Yes, the flies have started here.  It seems early but then it's been sort of warm the last couple days, although the nights are still cool enough to keep them down.  April is vaccination month around here, and the horses are due to be wormed, as well.   I added on a tub of joint/hoof supplement; Sunny's noticeably stiffer than the other three, and Amyra's two white hooves seem too prone to chipping, so dosing at least those two with some additional biotin/glucosamine can't hurt....  Valley Vet and SLT should love me this month!

Sunny, bringing up the rear, as usual

It was a chilly walk up the road this morning, even with the wind behind us.   The ponies were disposed to walk very slowly, and even meeting a truck didn't hurry them.  We've been practicing our "getting off the road and standing still" routine periodically.  Depending on which direction the vehicle's approaching from, we hit the ditch either in a shift sideways (on-coming) or by swinging to face it (rear).  This morning's encounter was coming toward us, and politely slowed way down until we were all eased off the road.  Which took longer than it should have, thank you, Sunny!  He was in foot-dragging mode for some reason.  But everybody listened to "whoa" and waited for the click that meant their feet had stayed still and they got a treat for standing nicely.  No worries about the truck, it was just a truck, after all - lol!