Friday, August 29, 2014

And now for the science!

The dogs, cats and horses are all settling in well.  My daughter's new little POA, Frosty and my elderly AQHA, Girlfriend are completely herd bound now.   I think they were herd bound the minute they met.  Girl hates to be alone and having had to be alone for about a month before we moved here she has been a bit needy with Frosty but he doesn't seem to mind at all.  Geir is settling in well too and lives in his own paddock across the driveway although today I opened up all the gates in the three connecting pastures and turned them all out together and they seem to be doing fine.  I'm only going to do that for a few hours a day because Geir and Frosty are very (ahem - let's use the polite term) "food motivated" and I don't want to tempt fate having them live together 24/7.  Plus at night I put Frosty and Girl in the front pasture where there are no low hanging branches or large broken branches on the ground, to avoid clumsy horse night time injuries.  And it's just not big enough for the three of them (or Geir and Frosty specifically). 

Other than cursing nature every time I have to pick poop in the grass in the pasture everything is perfectly set up right now.  I realize it's healthy to be able to munch a little fresh grass throughout the day but every time I pick I find myself wishing for a nice two acre gravel pasture which is soooooo much easier to pick poo out of.  That said, it's been nice and summer dry but in the next couple weeks I'm going to need to re-do the footing in the sacrifice areas before it starts to rain and my pastures turn into a mud bog.   I've noticed that you can ask five people about sacrifice and arena footing and get five completely contradictory opinions.  So, I've taken to reading everything I can on bases and footing.  What I've come up with is a plan - now whether or not I can afford this plan for our arena is another question.  But here is the plan so far:  Geir's sacrifice area still has some hogsfuel left in it (most of it has been broken down to dirt after lots of years of use but it's still not as bad as the front pasture) so I'm going to rake out the last of the dried grass tumbleweeds and clumps of dead weed roots, put down a geotextile fabric, then put two inches of 5/8 minus gravel covered with 2 inches of pea gravel.  After reading several different articles that seems like it will work best in this area.  I'm going to do the same in front of the shelter in the front pasture too although I may have to dig it out a little and put in 3 inches of 5/8 minus because it is pure dusty sand back there.  We'll see.  But at Girl's last pasture I boarded her at in Woodinville the ground was the same and they put down geotextile fabric and two inches of 5/8 minus and within a couple months the fabric was all torn up and the gravel had sunk into the mud.  I'm not wanting that to happen.  Sure, it's better than pure mud, but it also feels like a waste of gravel to watch it get squished into the mud.

The arena is a tougher proposition.  For one thing we have to take down some small trees which also involved pulling out their stumps and refilling those holes.   Then flattening it out.  Then I was thinking three inches of 5/8 minus for drainage then add on top of it this stuff - which adds both cushioning and drainage - then I'm wanting to do a sand/rubber combination but I may not be able to afford that.  So, if not then a couple inches of pea gravel.  But it has to be *real* pea gravel, not just small gravel - "hard" or "quartz" pea gravel, because the other can just be broken down to dirt and dust quickly.  

I'm ancy to get started on this project because I want an arena to ride in.  But honestly, at this rate it may be cheaper just to buy an old truck and trailer and haul a couple miles to the equestrian park and use their arena!

I've been slowly starting to put the word about my equine massage business but haven't done much marketing yet.  I've gotten some similiar feedback here as when I was in Woodinville  that the market is already saturated on the island, but then my massage instructor reminds me there are 1100 horses and there is plenty of business to go around for all of us so just keep looking for my niche.   I've donated a prize to this event so I'm hoping that whoever wins it will appreciate it and I'm also looking forward to meeting lots of other local horse folks.  And next year I think I will enter.  I'm also thinking of talking to Cafe Luna and asking if I can come in one afternoon for a couple hours and give some complimentary 5 minute on-site massages to promote my out-call massage business.

Eventually, I am going to make one of our outbuildings into a massage studio but at this rate that may not be for awhile because the mud-abatement strategy is far more important at this point.  But it's a great little building - just the perfect size, with a cute little loft for storage and everything.  At this point with all our projects it would behoove me to get a part-time job to save money to afford all of it but so far I haven't seen anything in my skill set.  For a moment I did consider applying as a school bus driver and my daughter said she thinks I'd make a great bus driver because I'm "so calm" (this is news to me!) but I'm not sure about that.  It would certainly be a fun new experience I suppose and completely outside of anything I've done before.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The New Farm Learning Curve!

We have officially been at our new farm for two weeks now!  I absolutely love it, although I have to admit I do not absolutely love unpacking.   Hanging curtains, putting together shelving and trying to figure out where everything will go after moving into a house that is 210 square feet smaller than our last house and has no garage at all, after the luxury of a three car garage (which is great for encouraging hanging on to stuff you don't actually need).   I am a little behind where I'd like to be in unpacking too because last week I subbed at pony camp for the last time (probably not the last time to be honest but I'm pretending) and that took up all my time.

The first three days of subbing my daughter (who was attending the volunteer camp for kids who had been volunteer workers during the summer) stayed at my parent's place on Mercer Island because it was much easier to commute to Redmond every day.  But Wednesday night we had to come back to the island because my folks had friends from Colorado coming into town.  So, Thursday morning we got up early to catch ferries and sit in rush hour traffic and Thursday night it took us almost three hours to get home, so Friday (since I didn't have to work) my daughter opted out of going into the last day of camp because the commute was too much.   Yesterday I told my new neighbor who has lived here for several years, "That commute was so brutal. I'm never leaving the island again,"  and she laughed and said, "I know that phase.  Yes, I know that phase well!"

To be honest, the ferry portion of the commute was the easiest.  Even though we waited almost an hour for the ferry, it is much different sitting in your car reading a book or closing your eyes for a few minutes that trying to negotiate a freeway full of cars so packed together you are parked for minutes at a time (but can't read or close your eyes cause any minute you might have to inch forward). Then the bonus is when you get to wait on the ferry dock and then you can just roll down your windows, shut your eyes and relax and smell the salt water and listen to the seagulls.  I think that is pleasant for everyone, but having grown up two blocks from Puget Sound for me it is the sounds and smells of the happiest part of my childhood.

Having the horses at home has been really nice.  My Fjord, Geir won't be home until tomorrow though because he stayed for the last week of camp at the school.  Girlfriend, my elderly horse, and Frosty, my daughter's little POA love each other though and spend most of their time standing close together while grazing and grooming each other.  Although Frosty has become quite a bully about stealing Girl's extra tasty senior grain, so I need to lock him in a stall while I feed them their dinner.  Chasing him away while she ate became an exercise in futility because besides spending over a half hour in the pasture standing between the two of them, even after I chased him away, Girl would walk away from her food as though to say, "But he really wants it ... I just feel too guilty to eat it ... I'm just going to go ..."

I also found out that Frosty's favorite hobby is trying to get into the grain room in their shed in the pasture.  We've got it all rigged up so he can't get in now but it's a pain in the butt so today I'm moving all the grain supplies to the small barn/storage shed outside the pastures.  Geir is going to have to be in a separate pasture anyway because he and Frosty don't get along very well.  They're both too food motivated.  Yes "food motivated" is the nice way to put it for my little Fattie McFattersons.

Picking poop in a pasture full of grass (some quite long) is a horrible, thankless and back-breaking task.  I already knew that but of course the allure of having my horses at home made me not really think about that.   Luckily for me, much of Geir's paddock space is going to be pea gravel because it's in a spot that has much more potential for mud,  but Frosty and Girl are in a small pasture so although I'll be putting pea gravel in front of the shed to avoid too much muddiness, the rest of the pasture will remain grass.  Urgh.   I did learn that if you try to scoop of the poop going the direction the grass is growing, you are more likely to get the pitchfork out with the poop still on it and not break the head off trying to pull it up from the tangle of grass.  And be less likely to jerk the pitchfork trying to get it out and fling horse poop everywhere in the process.  Still, it is not a pleasant type of exercise and I thank god for the last couple years of doing pilates.  Although my shoulder muscles are still sore from it.

I also discovered that you can have good solid fencing with electric fence running along the entire periphery of your just shy of five acres property, but leave an opening at the end of the driveway (which is quite a ways from our house) and your pitbull will still automatically gravitate toward that one small opening at the end of the driveway, instead of the rest of the fully fenced acreage as the place where she wants to go.  Especially if there is a mule across the street who will put his head down to the ground so my dog can stick her head through the fence and lick his face.  So, she's been taking herself for walks and coming home covered in cow manure she's found to roll in, and God knows what else.  Yesterday a black SUV roared down our driveway and who should be sitting in the very back but my pitbull, looking very excited.  My neighbor hopped out and said she had been meaning to come introduce herself anyway and saw my dog walking down the road and figured this was good a time as any.  Guess we'll be putting a gate across the driveway this weekend.  Especially as both my new neighbor and my friend who has lived here for several years have pointed out, people don't know my dog yet and if they see a pitbull roaming around their livestock they're likely to freak out and she runs the risk of getting shot.

We have some apple trees and a plum tree in the front yard that are going crazy with fruit.  I'm thinking I need to learn how to make applesauce and I may try drying some of the plums.  Yes, I know those are prunes but honestly, prunes taste really good and get a bad rap.  So, I'm just going to call them dried plums because they taste good enough to have a better name like that.  So far my attempts at drying fruit hasn't gone to well and it's ended up a weird, unpleasant texture without a lot of taste, so another learning curve.  But I'm going to conquer it - there is no way it is that hard to dry fruit.   I have a dehydrator, I just need to figure out exactly the right way to prep the fruit beforehand and make sure I'm doing it for the right amount of time.

As soon as we're settled I'm going to start trying to promote my massage business.  I've sent out one notice to an email group here on the island and I figure after my daughter starts school and we've gotten fully unpacked I can dive in a little more to promoting myself.  (yes, there is a little procrastination in that sentence - you did not imagine it!  As promoting myself is probably my least favorite thing to do!)

In all, I am over the moon happy with our little farm.  It took years before this property sold and my new neighbor yesterday said she was pleasantly surprised to see it had finally sold and I am amazed by that.  It really is such a wonderful place and the house itself is just so beautiful and comfortable.  And the property is just lovely, with so many trees and deer that come into the front yard and eat the plums and apples off the ground, and so many cool "fairy and gnome dwelling" type areas in the woods on the property.  I like the think the house never sold for years because it was meant to be ours, because I don't see how no one else fell in love with and had to have this place before us.  Regardless, I'm so glad it worked out as it did because we are amazingly lucky to live here.