Category: Trouble Shooting


Morning high jinks. I went out to survey the tunnels and decide the priority for projects on today’s agenda and I noticed something odd when I went down through the barn. And then something else that was odd – hoof prints… And they weren’t cloven.

So I look around and sure enough Gizmo’s where he should be, Melora, Rose and Flash are where they should be. Where’s Rocky? Oh, there’s Rocky. Not where I left you. Standing there next to the rope gate to the Arena Garden, which would have been OK except he was on the wrong side.
So, grab the halter and lead that were hanging on the gate post near by, put it on him, give him lots of scratches and tell him what a good boy he is. Undo the gate, and put him back in with the herd. And of course, Melora (who’s in heat right now) comes up and asks “Can I come out too?” I don’t think so…
I don’t know how long he was out, he probably got out sometime in the middle of the night judging by the 3 piles he left in various locations, one of which had frost on it.
So everyone’s back safe and sound. No mares got out to tease the stallion (which would have been a major disaster), and I’ve got a little fencing project to add to this morning’s agenda at the top of the list….

Just goes to show you that ya gotta be flexible and fast on your feet on the farm. You also need to keep a cool head when working with livestock. This could have been a very dangerous situation, especially since Rocky was standing right next to the existing tunnels with the crops that I depend on for my income. Fortunately, during the night when he was wandering about, he stayed on the foot paths between the tunnels and didn’t try to go through any of them. And he didn’t spook while he was out or when I caught him up and undid the rope gate.

And, even though I could have lost my cool and brained him, that wouldn’t have been productive (he wouldn’t know why I was mad at him). So instead I told him what a good boy he was and gave him lots of scratches, stayed nice and calm and just did what I needed to do to get everyone secured and safe.

I’ve been fighting this weather long enough, it’s time to quit spitting into the wind.

One of the things a person has to learn when working in a trade that is controled in large part by the weather is humility. Instead of railing about the weather, which I can not control, I need to be more flexible in how I work with the weather. I’ve known this all along, but I’ve held out hope that it would warm up and dry out eventually, and while I still hope that will happen eventually, I really need for it to happen right now, which means setting up tunnels.

Given that the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperative in the near future, it’s time I took matters into my own hands. I had really hoped to be able to raise a lot of crops over at the Canby location and I do indeed have potatoes, tomatoes, beans, chick peas, beets, radishes and carrots planted over there, but I think I’ll raise the rest of my crops over here at the homestead. Perhaps I can keep the Canby location in production for the crops I already have over there (the potatoes are doing exceptionally well!) and just work on growing more of those types of crops already doing well over there.

Here though, I’m going to go with another strategy. On Monday I decided to convert the arena, which is located directly behind the corn and garlic/onion gardens, into a new growing area which will add almost another full acre to the existing growing area, bringing me up to about 1 1/4 acres for crops.

There are several reasons I decided to do this. The horses have been using the existing arena for 4 years now, and between them, their manure and all the wood chips we’ve put in there, the ground is rich and black like the corn and allium gardens. I was really impressed when I rototilled out there on Monday. Also, I need a large area to set up low and high tunnels for the warm weather crops like the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash and herbs. And, because tunnels need more attention, they need to be home where I can keep an eye on them all day long.

Yesterday, one of my last projects before milking in the evening, was to prep the tent frames for removal. I use long, 10′ X 20′ tents for horse shelters in the winter, the current bank is 10′ X 60′ and sheltered 4 animals. They’re innexpensive to buy, easy to set up, are movable (I can break one down, move it, and set it up in a new location in less than a day), and have the added advantage of sacking out the horses as far as tarps go. Once they are used to them, the horses have no problem with sheltering in a tent, even in relatively high winds.*

Today I’ll be breaking the tent frames down into their components. This will allow me to make any minor repairs, replace bent parts, etc. The tents have been up for the past 3 years in that particular location, and they are looking in need of a bit of TLC. In a month or two I’ll set them back up in the new arena with a friend of mine and I will be laying out next week. It’s going to be nice to have a new area to prep for the horses’ winter quarters, and I’ll be able to prep them using the hind sight I’ve aquired from the performance of the old arena. For the time being, the horses can use the trees in the back of the pasture for shelter. Even when it rains fairly hard it stays pretty dry down there. And the weather is still fairly warm, even if it is raining a lot. When I set the frames back up, I’ll probably add another 10′ X 20′ section to accomadate the heifer, who will be joining the horses in the next couple of weeks.

After getting the tent frame down I’ll use the scythe to knock down the thisle, set up a composting station for that area, and then start rototilling. Kind of makes me want to get the big tiller for the tractor fixed and hooked up. I finally have an area big enough to turn the thing around in. I might do that tomorrow. Harold said the tiller needs some kind of small repair or adjustment.

After I get everything tilled up over the next few days, I’ll set up the low tunnels for the peppers and eggplants, and I’ll set up the big greenhouse for the high tunnels that the tomatoes will go in. I’ll set up the herb garden for the basils and other herbs as well.

*I just wanted to add a note of caution if you ever decide to use tents of this type as livestock shelters. While these tents are phenominal and I’ll probably always use them, there are some guidlines and tricks to keeping everyone safe around them.

I sink 7′ steel T-posts at every leg aboug 2′ into the ground and then use a hose clamp top and bottom to secure the tent leg to the post. 3 clamps is best, but two will do the job.

Also, never, absolutely never, and I’ll say this for a third time – NEVER – lock a horse or other animal in a tent. The primary reason why our horses out here are so comfortable in the tents, even if a gust of wind shakes the tar out of the thing while the horse is standing in the middle of it, is because they have 100% freedom of access. They can come in or leave as they see fit, which builds confidence and gives the horses control of their situation. Tents are not like a regular stick built runin shed. They flap, they shake, sometimes a line will snap. That all can be terrifying to a horse, even one who’s used to the tents if something really unusual happens. Horses need to be able to make the decission, on their own, whether to stay or go, otherwise you’ll just cause a wreck and maybe injure your horse(s) in the process.

Even when I’m handling a horse in the tents, if things get too dicey, and I can see the horse is probably going to ‘loose it’, I’ll take the horse out, walk him/her around a bit, and then when things calm down, we’ll go back in. This turns a potential wreck into a training session that will strengthen the horse’s comfidence in him/herself as well as you and your judgement as herd lead.

Lock the horse in the tent and something bad happens, the least you’ll probably do is traumatize the horse, which can cause more problems in the long run even than can a physical injury. Mentally sound and emotionally stable horses have far less potential to hurt themselves and especially their human handlers, capish?