Friday, November 27, 2009

Even more uses for tarps...

Impressive! While I can imagine Conbrio embracing life with a tarp draped over her head, our other three horses would have a thousand fits if we even suggested such a crazy activity! I was actually looking for photos of interesting tarp and string constructions when I stumbled across this one posted by Shoshin Seishu on Flickr...

However, during my search I did find this very cool website about building gers with tarps and string and my other favourite building material, sticks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Good Friends: Tarps and Baling Twine

Just because the weather has been a tad uncooperative recently (rain, rain, rain – high winds – more rain) doesn't mean the To-Do list has shrunk. In fact, all that rain has revealed several leaks, all of which had to be fixed. Thank goodness for tarps and binder twine, two handy commodities of which we never seem to have too much.

Tack Room in the Unfinished Barn

Way back when Dad and I designed the barn, we decided on a 20X30' building with a tackroom, three stalls, each with a runout, and a wide covered alley-way so there would always be a dry place to tack up, trim feet, etc. There was nothing wrong with the design, but construction of the barn collided with some unfortunate life events (Dad breaking his hip, Mom falling critically ill) and the result was that Dad and I only finished half the barn. So we have a tack room, one stall, and a makeshift second stall where half the walkway should have been. This isn't actually a bad arrangement as we leave the stall doors open and just let the horses come and go. There's enough room to feed inside and they have access to a second shelter a little farther down the hill, but because the other half of the barn is missing, the roofline at what would have been the ridge running down the middle was never finished. Despite temporary patching, when it pours, water leaks in at the top, runs along the beams, and drips all over the tack room.

This week, wobbling on the tall ladder, fingers freezing as they clutched the chilly, wet aluminum rungs, we rigged up a huge tarp so the whole tack-room end of the barn is covered. Tied this way and that with binder twine, it looks like crazed spiders have been at work, but so far, things are much drier inside.

Tack Room in the New Old Trailer

We bought a bigger horse trailer this year, a used steel stock trailer from the interior of BC, which we've been tinkering with since its arrival at the farm earlier this summer. We installed a dividing wall forward of where the horses travel and have been keeping quite a bit of tack in there (due to leakage issues in the barn tackroom – see above). Alas, the gap just forward of the divider was big enough to allow the heavy rains to POUR into the tackroom, filling buckets and soaking everything in range. We fixed this issue by installing a clear plastic anti-rain panel in the gap, but we then discovered we had a slower leak, probably from the seam where the trailer roof meets the front wall (it's a bit hard to tell where the water is seeping in). More tarp and string to the rescue.

The trailer looks a bit silly with a bright blue 'cap' on the front, but things are much drier inside as a result. (I hasten to add that we don't leave the tarp on when we haul horses in the trailer!)

The Old Old Trailer

Before selling our old straight haul trailer, we wanted to re-paint it and reupholster the padded walls under the hay mangers (Ringo, in a fit of madness, or boredom, or petulance shredded them). This was a task we picked away at all summer until we had managed to paint ¾ of the trailer and take apart the padded walls. Then the rain started, leaving the back doors and one hay manger unfinished. Though I was able to take the wall panels up to the house and recover them (they look lovely now, I must say), there was no way to finish painting the back of the trailer until we built a temporary roof of – yes – tarp and binder twine. Actually, we had one of those handy dandy framing kits people use to build little shelters for lawn tractors and the like, so we whipped together a shorter (lengthwise) and taller (heightwise) version of the shelter frame, anchored it firmly to the trailer and several nearby trees and, voila, a primitive paint shop!

We now have no excuses (weather-related excuses, anyway) for not getting the painting finished and the old trailer sold.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Evidence - Muscovy Ducks Can Fly!

(#142) Feral, originally uploaded by tinyfishy.
They might seem heavy and ungainly, but trust me, these birds can fly! Just ask Audrey Hepburn...

Audrey - please, please come home!

Missing Duck!

Have you seen this duck?
If so, please call immediately as she is sadly missed by both her human and waterfowl friends.

Imagine my horror when, walking back from the neighbour's place the other morning (we're horse-sitting while they are off cruising in some warm, dry, lovely location...) I spotted Audrey Hepburn strolling down the road! Audrey has always had a mind of her own, apparent since the day we brought her home. She's always the first out of the duck gulag in the morning, and first back in at night. If the other ducks head for the orchard, she strolls off to the field. If the rest of the flock snuggles down to sleep inside the cozy dog crate duck hostel, she roosts in the rain on top. She eats when they bathe, bathes when they nap, and naps when they eat. She is a duck with a mind of her own. The fact that she was strolling along the road meant she had flown up and over the fence around the field and orchard  where she and the rest of the flock spend their days grazing and hunting for bugs and worms. Not good. What if some handsome mallard flew past, cocked his head, and quacked? Audrey Hepburn could sail off into the wild blue yonder, never to be seen again... (listen closely... do you hear that ominous music in the background?)

Unlike the other ducks, Audrey is also difficult to herd - she scoots and darts, dives between our legs and heads wherever it is we do not wish her to go. The other morning, our attempts to herd her back home took us into the immaculately groomed front yard of one neighbour and the private breakfast patio of another, Audrey always one step ahead and too clever to allow herself to be cornered. When we got too close, she flapped her trump card, lifted into the air and sailed away. She disappeard from sight into the farmlands of the Hunt Valley where, we feared, she would surely meet her end in the jaws of a hungry dog.

So began a day of searching, calling, fretting, hand-wringing, and self-beration - why, oh why had we not clipped her wings, as we had planned? In a flurry of feathers and indignant birds, we herded the rest of the flock back into the duck pen where we caught each one in turn and clipped their flight feathers. (Curious how to do this? Click here...) None of the other ducks were in the least impressed with our mud-wrestling, feather-snipping antics and, I confess, the whole exercise felt a bit like door-locking after the horse was long gone.

Several trips down the hill left us one beak short until dusk darkened the horizon and Audrey darkened the gate of the duck pen! Yes, our wandering waterfowl returned unscathed, strolling into the orchard as if it were the most normal thing in the world for a wander-lusting duck to meander back into town without explanation. Needless to say we hastily pruned her flight feathers and she remains safely grounded. 

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beehive Woodpile

Beehive Woodpile, originally uploaded by noslopics.

Further to that last post... this woodpile is rather inspiring!


Alas, this is not my stack of firewood! (The photo comes to us thanks to our friends at Wikipedia)

In my dreams, I have such a stack. But first, wood must be split. Ever tried to split un-splittable wood? As in, the kind of wood so hard that a big, sharp axe bounces off and leaves nary a dent? After one of our neighbour's trees crashed into our yard during a wind storm two years ago, we had it cut into rounds with a big chainsaw (bigger than ours, wielded by someone bigger than I am). I'm not kidding when I say this stuff is un-splittable (the chainsaw wielder speculated the tree was something called ironwood, but that doesn't seem to match up with my best efforts at online identification). For nearly two years the rounds sat there getting nice and dry while we waited for more a more powerful tool than our axe.

Christmas elves last year delivered a lovely log-splitter, but then we got busy and realized we first needed to build a woodshed to keep the split wood dry, and then it was summer and we weren't really thinking about wood fires and the next thing we knew - November! Finally, yesterday we hauled all the rounds up to the new woodshed and started splitting. Whatever kind of wood it is - wow. Even the powerful splitter had trouble dealing with some of it. The innards of each log are stringy and tough and we had to put most of the logs through the torture treatment several times before we could pull or chop them apart! The bark runs horizontally in tough bands, so each log literally screamed when we put it in the splitter and the bark stretched until it snapped.
The logs aren't screaming now. They're burning slowly and evenly and throwing off a great deal of heat in the fireplace. Of course, the big logs (even split, they are hefty things) need some smaller stuff to keep them going, so we've been making our way through various brush piles that we've been accumulating since starting to prune the orchard way back in the spring. Slowly but surely, all those sticks and twigs and smaller branches we've been collecting all summer are disappearing into the fire and the brush piles are shrinking. My back is killing me, but my feet are warm!

Looking for motivation? Here are a link:
How to Stack Firewood (what, not everyone has random piles of sticks all over the place?)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Did someone say 95% certain we are NOT pregnant?

For an optimist, last week's vet check left a healthy 5% chance of Bonny actually being pregnant. I must confess that given our mare's history over the past several months, my usually unsinkable sense of the possible was floundering just a bit.

You can well imagine my utter shock and delight when, at the the 'just to be certain' vet check this afternoon we saw an actual EMBRYO!!!! The ultrasound image is now hanging on the fridge so we can admire Dark Creek Junior every time we reach for milk or cheese. Turns out the embryo is snugged up right beside Bonny's uterine cyst, which may or may not be a bad thing - only time will tell. So, once again we wait.

Bonny's daily doses of hormones will continue and then, after thirty days, we'll re-scan to make sure that this pregnancy is proceeding normally. Right at the moment it feels a bit like we're holding a lottery ticket festooned with lucky numbers - for the next thirty days, anyway, we can play the 'will the foal take after mom or dad? game .... and make plans for future dressage lessons... and driving clinics... and... and... and... Oh, could it be that we will have an actual foal ten months hence? Stay tuned...