Saturday, May 30, 2009

In which the fence still isn't quite done yet, and I drive the blue tractor

TOMORROW is the day to bring the horses home.

That's why *I* nearly cried when Jim called me on my cell phone this morning while I was at the old barn doing chores.
"I hurt my back again," he said. "It really hurts a lot. I can barely move...."
Poor guy!

We were planning to spend the afternoon stringing the remaining wire, and assembling the panels around the sacrifice area. With Jim only able to offer helpful advice, instead of his usual strong arms, Willy and I were daunted. How on earth could we get it done?

The answer will not surprise anybody who knows me well at all: we decided that we WILL get it done, but we just may have to re-engineer some stuff so that smaller and less hefty persons can do it.

First on the agenda: Learn to drive the tractor.

Prior to today, I'd scooted around the pasture a couple of times, and lifted and dropped the bucket a couple of times. Today I learned to start, engage, drive, reverse, lift and drag and place and push.

With Jim's very careful tutoring along the way, I did it all: removed a railroad tie from a hole and placed a new post in a different hole, knocked a post out of the ground (on purpose!) and dragged stuff all over the place.
Since we couldn't hear each other talk over the tractor engine, Willy and I communicated almost entirely in sign language to move the posts. He's really quite good at giving directions to a total beginner like me.

Jim couldn't lift or drag building materials, so he carried the camera and took a bunch of pictures.

Willy drilled holes for the mounting hardware, while I strung fences.
When it was time to hang the panels, we had to lift together. They aren't so heavy, but they're very awkward.
We got almost all the panels in place today.
Tomorrow we'll finish the last few panels and string a few more wires and plug in the fence charger to make it all HOT.
Then: go get the mares and bring them home home home home home home home.
I'm a little bit excited.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In which everyone works when they come to visit us here on the farm

Madeline brought some friends to visit us this afternoon, and in true Haiku Farm fashion, we immediately put tools in their hands and put them to work.

Nina and Patrick--both originally from Germany, currently on a road trip through the United States-- discovered the joy of moving hogsfuel with the McLeods.

Madeline kept working with the hand auger even though her phone kept ringing.

Even the bumbles who wandered into the blueberry garden
immediately got busy.

Because that's the way we do things here!

There is one member of the faculty here at the Farm who doesn't actually work.

But Puzzle is so cute, we keep him on staff anyhow.
Life is so good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In which we make more fence, and unearth something very unusual

Another day of fence-building. The perimeter fence posts are in, and all the t-posts are now capped for safety. We still need to attach the web mesh and then run electric fence tape...which sounds like a lot of work, and it is.

Fortunately, the electric part is very quick and easy to install, and I decided tonight that if necessary to make our "move out" deadline at the other barn, I'll run three strands of electric tape around the perimeter as a temporary measure, and we can mount the web mesh as soon as we can.

The mares won't be allowed to be in the entire field at first anyhow, because they have been living in a place where the grass is sparse, and our place is lush, which is a recipe for founder if we are not very careful to ration their exposure to grass at first.

I'm preparing them for the move by grazing them in the grassiest spot at the boarding barn for 2-3 hours each day. When they move home this weekend, we will keep them in the sacrifice area at night and during the middle part of the day, allowing them an hour or two of grazing in the "grazing strip", a small portion of the pasture, in the morning and evening, building that time up gradually so that in a few weeks they will spend all day in the pasture.

Today Willy and I built the first grazing strip. These step-in posts are MUCH quicker and easier to plant than T-posts and railroad posts, because they are designed to be temporary fencing. When the mares have eaten the grass down to 3-4" in this part of the pasture, we will uproot the step-in posts and enclose a different portion of the pasture.

Luna, OITF as always, watches Willy stringing the electric tape.

Mimsy admires the new fence. It took us about an hour to install this whole thing.

Then, Jim took down a big portion of it so he could get Tootles in-and-around the pile of hogsfuel to level out the sacrifice area. It took us about 3 minutes to put the fence back when he was done.

Geez that's easy.

I also moved most of our tack and stuff from the old barn to the new place today.

Our temporary "hay barn" is too small, and located in the wrong place...but it came with the property and it doesn't leak. So we've brought in some hay, and stacked up our stuff. We have all the blankets and extra tack--an inevitable accumulation of more than 15 years of horse-keeping--stashed elsewhere on the property, and we'll usually keep our saddles in the trailer as we've done for years at the boarding barn.

The stuff in the hay barn is:

* stuff we need immediately (fence-building gear, for example)

* stuff we'll need every day (the manure barrow, grooming kit, riding helmet), and

* stuff I hope never to use but don't want to hunt for it if I need it (the emergency kit).

It smells so nice in the hay barn now--an evocative blend of sweet hay, turpentine and coppertox.

I sold the 2 plastic ponds in about 2 hours, for $50 cash. (yay, Craigslist).

That left the remaining pond, which was constructed in a very curious way....

Can you tell what they used for a pond?

Do you know how difficult it was to excavate?

And yet, Willy and I perservered.

At last, we unearthed it: the Ugliest Water Tank in the Universe.

Undeniably ugly, but totally useful. It will be the mare's new water tank.

Perhaps somebody has suggestions for making it slightly less hideous? (Please, don't suggest burying it in sand again. It was REALLY hard to get out of the ground!)

I have an idea! We'll make it into an Objet d'Art. Now we just need ideas.

G'head everyone: PIMP MY WATER TANK!

Send me your suggestions (and sketches)? Nothing poisonous or dangerous, please--remember that a horses are endowed with an amazing talent for troublemaking. Glue-on rhinestones and strings of xmas lights just won't work.

I'll do my best to implement whatever y'all suggest.

'Cuz I'm just that kind of a person.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In which we attend the local music festival and still work some

We declared today a holiday, and dressed up in our fanciest sunscreen so we could spend the day at a local music festival.

There was sunshine. There were artists.

There was music.

There was dancing.
There was cool ethnic food from all over the world, and lots of friendly dogs hoping to help people eat the food.

And there was even more dancing. Oh, yes. Lots of dancing.

Arriving home, Jim and I discovered that, while sitting on the back deck with a bottle of beer and fat book is very pleasant, we are completely incapable of looking out at the farm chores that need to be done without doing some of them!
So, we loaded up a bunch of tools (and a couple of helpful dogs) and headed down into the pasture to finish off all the post-planting we did yesterday.

Jim's favorite tool is the McLeod, which can be used for scraping dirt, plants, or whatever....
...and also for tamping down loose material.

When we finished all this--well, just imagine! There was a half-finished beer sitting beside my chair, just waiting for me.

Life is good.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In which a tractor named "Tootles" makes moving heavy posts easier

Jim and Willy really smoothed out the process of planting heavy railroad ties as posts for our new pasture fence. Click on the photos to enlarge them and enjoy the amazing action in breathtaking full color.

The approach: Willy steps on the far end of the post to make it easy for Jim to lift his end with the loader.

The lift: Tootles the tractor hoists the post up so Willy can throw the sling under his end.

The choker setting: Willy attaches the sling and snugs it into position. In the old days of logging in the Swamplands, choker setters would do this task with a gigantic cable around the trunk of a tree. A good choker setter made really good money, because the cable set precisely made it quicker and easier for the booms to lift fallen trees up so they could be limbed and put on sledges to be dragged out of the forest. The choker setter also made good money because they were given "hazard pay"; if the choke slipped or broke under tension, it generally maimed or decapitated the setter.

We are using a nylon sling for this task, and there is not really much danger of mutilation, but I know a really cool spooky story about a ghostly choker setter, if you ever want to hear it.

The drag: Tootles drags the post to the hole.

The drop: Willy guides the post into position as Tootles lowers it into the hole.

In the last two days we have planted, leveled and cemented into place 46 railroad posts. Now we are tired, and we deserve a day off!

Tomorrow's forecast: sunshine and music, with a 75% chance of dancing.