Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's a massacre

I am absolutely sick to my stomach. I hear the chain saws roaring outside and every tree I hear crash to the ground makes me physically ill.

We've known this was coming and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it. Nothing. Don't you love how the government can come in and give companies permission to wreak havoc on your life and destroy your property?

The TransCanadian Keystone Pipeline is coming through our property. Oh, sure, it's been touted as supposedly going to help keep oil prices down, yadda yadda yadda. It's supposed to be a "green project."

Someone please explain to me how removing all these trees on the back of my property is a "green project?" Sure seems a whole lot more like a "Scorched earth" project to me.

You can see where the monsters with the chainsaws have started. A row of downed trees lies at the far back edge.

There's a creek back there, too and the trees prevent a bad erosion problem from being even worse. What's going to happen when there is NOTHING back there to slow the flow of water? I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more flooded paddocks and end up losing a lot more land to a flooding creek. They are not planning to shore up the creek banks after they rip out my trees. It will just be mud. Naked, vulnerable, eroding mud. Yay us.

These trees too are on the chopping list. They provide shade and a windbreak for my horses during the summer. They will be gone. Hundreds of trees, big beautiful oaks, black walnut, elm and a variety of blooming trees will be gone.

Is somehow a "green project?" We will lose every last bit of windbreak we have. Guess which direction all the wind comes from? The horses are very well-protected from the wind by these trees. My riding area (behind Gabe's paddock) is protected from the wind so I can ride even when the wind is crazy and not be affected by the wind.

We won't be reimbursed for the lost trees. If we want to replant after the pipeline comes through it's on us. I can honestly say losing all these trees may seriously affect my desire to live here. The abundance of trees is one of the reasons I love this place so much. We are "cut off" from the rest of the world because of the trees. I can sit and watch the squirrels and the birds and other wildlife we have living there...where will they go?

And we have no choice in the matter. You can't fight the government. A city around here tried to fight the pipeline because it was planned to go through the lake the city uses as a water source. Guess who lost that fight? Guess where the pipeline will go? Straight through the lake. If the city lost, I know we'd have a snowflake's chance in hell.

Yay for government. I guess the boys with the big pockets always get what they want, don't they? And us little folks are left in the mud, literally.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Farty, snorty horses

Gabe was definitely feeling much better after his colic Friday. By Friday night he was back to his silly self and wanting to eat EVERYTHING in sight. I was so relieved! He only got half of his dinner so by Saturday morning he was FAMISHED. He yelled at me from the paddock as soon as he saw the feed room light go on and I thought he was going to knock me over and steal his breakfast as soon as I walked into his paddock! But he was good and remembered his manners as soon as I gave him my ugly boss mare look and told him to back his big rude butt off.

We turned every body out in the big fields Saturday. Finally! It was cold enough so the ground was still frozen so they couldn't tear up the grass but the frozen puddles are gone, at last! They all bucked and farted and ran like a bunch of crazy animals and Gabe ran and ran and ran with his short little tail straight up in the air and snorted loudly at everything. I love watching him go and one of these days I'll actually remember to bring my camera with me so I can video him in all his glory. He is so gorgeous when he trots and canters, he floats gracefully and the power behind each stride is amazing.

That pathetic little tail is getting longer but the hairs are pretty fragile and any kind of brushing results in much breakage and subsequent length loss. As soon as it's warm enough his tail is getting a deep cleaning and conditioning and after that, regular deep conditioning so I can try to get those fragile little hairs to toughen up. His tail gets a bit of conditioning now but whatever I do at this point is minimally effective until it's good and clean. I can't have a horse with a puny little hock-length tail! It will grow and I will make it grow! I've always been able to encourage my horses' tails to grow long and thick and healthy. Even Chief, an Appaloosa, has a thick, long tail, and Appaloosas have notoriously pathetic, scrawny tails. I had to cut a couple of inches off the end of his tail last summer because it grew so long it was dragging the ground. Same with Calypso. She came to use with a thin, wispy, short tail. It's now long and thick and I have to cut the ends off at least once a year to keep it from dragging.

My secret? Intentional neglect. Seriously. I don't brush their tails at all unless absolutely necessary, and when I do have to brush them I wash and heavily condition before I touch it. I use a stiff body brush (never, never a comb!) from the bottom up and work little bits of tail at a time. It can take me an hour or more to prep and brush a tail. Once it's washed, conditioned and brushed, I leave it alone until it needs it again. Between washing and conditioning I work a bit of olive oil hair conditioner into the dock to keep it well-conditioned and soft. A happy, healthy dock grows a strong, long tail. I do brush the TOP of the tail, near the tail head, just to keep the dock skin healthy, but I don't touch the length of tail. I pick out mud clods, knots and burrs by hand and don't panic over hay or straw. I've found the BEST products to use on horse tails are the products designed for African-American hair, they are better than ANY horse-specific product I've ever used.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not in a happy place

Second update: It's now noon and Gabe just passed a gigantic pile of manure! Yay! Only new moms and horse owners get excited about poop, but that was the MOST exciting bowel movement I've witnessed in a while. *grin* He's definitely feeling better. I've given him a couple of very, very small meals of hot, soaked beet pulp, he drank about half a bucket of the warm water I offered him and then hit the water tank for more water. I knew he was feeling more like his silly self when he started harassing me while I was cleaning out his run-in...trying to steal my pitchfork, knocking over the wheelbarrow, resting his chin on my shoulder and making sure he's standing RIGHT where I need to clean. Thank goodness! Thank you guys for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers, I really, really appreciate it.

As much as I complain about my job, it sure is nice having one where I can occasionally work from home if I need to. I helps even more when two of your bosses are horse people and have their own horses. I decided to go ahead and work from home today, just in case. I'd be worthless at the office anyway and worried all day. At least at home I can see him from my computer so all I have to do is glance up to check on him.

First update: It's now 9 a.m. The vet has been out, checked him, did a rectal exam and administered a drug that relaxes their smooth muscles. I don't remember what it's called. The rectal exam was good...she couldn't find an impaction, the rectal walls felt normal and the manure in his rectum was actually quite wet. He is VERY gassy though. She tried twice to pass the oil tube into his stomach and he wasn't cooperating and refused to swallow the tube, so he didn't get oiled. I'm going to wait a half hour for some of the sedative to wear off and bring him a couple of buckets of warm water and a few handfuls of well-soaked beet pulp. He's nosing around in his run-in for a few wisps of hay now. He can't have his ration of hay until later tonight and then he can only have about half of it.

I really should just learn to keep my mouth shut. But, of course, I can't. And it bites me in the butt. Here I was all "my horses are healthy and happy," and pretty darn proud of how healthy and happy my horses are.

And then I go out to feed this morning and Gabe is colicking. Colic scares the holy living crap out of me. I don't mess around with it. We have lost two horses in the past seven years to colic, so trust me when I say I don't believe there are any "minor" colics.

Of course I'm freaking out and bawling my eyes out. My wonderful hubby just hugs me and comforts me and tells me that he isn't colicking because of something I did or didn't do, it just happens sometimes. But I see my big, beautiful Gabe in pain and all I can think of is how horribly devastating it was to watch Heidi and Star die because I couldn't help them and the vet got there too late. Heidi died in Robert's arms as the vet was on his way. And that's all I can think about.

I called the poor vet at 6 a.m. this morning, I'm pretty sure I woke her up. Fortunately I had one 500 mg dose of banamine granules left so she told me to dose him and just keep an eye on him. I dosed him at 6:30 a.m. and it's now 7:30 a.m. He looks more comfortable but I know it's just the bananime. His capillary refill is a tad slow but his gums are pink. His temperature is 99.4, which is normal.

I just got off the phone with the vet and she should be here in about 20 minutes to give him a going over and oil him up.

He's out there walking around, and he looks more comfortable, but I'm not going to let myself feel any better about it because everything can go downhill in a very short time. At least he's not rolling, and it doesn't look like he was rolling, so maybe we will be okay, maybe.

Please cross your fingers for us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Staying warm's cold out there! Sunny, but danged cold and supposed to get colder tonight and tomorrow. It's supposed to get down to negative real temperatures tonight with significantly colder wind chill temperatures. Two years ago I would have been in panic mode wondering how many layers of blankets I should put on the horses tonight to keep them toasty. What's too many? What's too few? Who wears what? And then I would have been up and outside checking on them several times in the night to make sure they were warm. Worry-wart mode.

This year, I'm not worried about it so much. It's not going to sleet or rain, which is my big indicator about whether to put a blanket on or not. No moisture falling from the sky, no blanket. All three beasts are super fuzzy with thick, warm winter coats of their own, and truth be told, they are all a tad on the pudgy side. They are well-insulated naturally and don't need my interference to stay toasty. I'll throw them a couple extra flakes of hay and maybe add a touch more grain to their evening meals to offset the increase in calorie usage, but I'm not going to obsess over blankets. Their water is on the warm side because I got the good tank heaters this year, I can see steam rising from it in the morning and they are drinking well. And they will all get a quick grooming tonight to knock any remaining mud clods off 'em that might interfere in their ability to stand that hair up and create a pocket of warm air against their skin.

These are outside horses. Yes, they can escape from the weather if they want, but more often than not, they don't, so I'm done worrying about them. I've also noticed that for fully fuzzed horses the blankets don't really keep them any warmer (in dry conditions) than their own insulation. If wet stuff like sleet or ice is falling from the sky, they'll get waterproof sheets just to keep them dry. As long as they are dry, they are warm.

I'm just lucky all my beasts are fat, fuzzy, healthy and happy or I can guarantee I'd be in full worry-wart blanketing mode right now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Prison break

I'm a bad, bad horse mommy. What's one of the first rules we teach our kids and other folks about horses when they are on the farm or at the barn? Close the gate behind you!

Yeah, I seem to have forgotten that one.

I was out cleaning Gabe's run-in today and generally puttering around with the horses because, yet again, it is too muddy and frozen to do anything with them. I was really hoping the ground would be at least a little better this weekend, but, no dice. And Gabe needs to be worked, big time. He is getting rather bored and when he becomes bored, he kind of turns into an ass. He wants to play, but he hasn't figured out yet that running at me and skidding to a stop so he can rear, squeal and wheel away while kicking out with those hinds is NOT okay. I chucked a few big frozen mud clumps at him because he was getting rather pushy and moving up into my space. Not okay. I don't think he's trying to hurt me, I just think he wants to rough house like he does with Calypso. I did go after him with the pitchfork (handle side, not the poky side!) when he got too close and tried to nip me. I put on my ugly boss mare hat and backed that booger all the way across the pasture. He was quite contrite, and much better mannered, after that.

Anyway. The gate.

So it's feeding time and I headed inside to get feed to haul out to the horses. I left Gabe's gate unchained but swung closed because I figured I'd just run inside, grab the buckets and be back out in less than two minutes. And he was in his run-in munching on hay.

I got sidetracked when I realized the goats were still out and those little trouble makers like to steal the grain out of the buckets and generally make huge pains of themselves during feeding time. So, I diverted to feed the goats and lock them up before dishing out dinner for the horses.

And Gabe moseyed on over to the gate to hang his head over it and wait for his dinner as he always does. And he pushed. And the gate opened. Like magic! He's free! Yay! FREEDOM!

I didn't notice his prison break right away because I again got diverted by the chickens who wanted into the coop so I opened the door and checked for eggs. And put some fresh straw into their nest boxes and checked their food and water.

Imagine my shock when I head back to finish feeding the horses and Gabe is happily munching away on dead grass in my yard. Happy as a clam. If I hadn't known he wouldn't run away and leave his herd behind, I probably would have panicked. He had no halter on and was already in a foul mood because we are all in a bored, foul mood this time of year.

Then he noticed the turkeys wandering around. He sidetracked to the pool filter and sniffed it and licked it (yes, he's weird), then headed to the kid's plastic swimming pool that serves as a duck pond. He stuck his nose in and was startled when he hit ice and it moved. He snorted at the ice and sniffed a rubber snake that Kayleigh left in the yard. He moved on from the snake and the pond to follow the big tom turkey in an attempt to sniff his tail feathers. The turkey was having NONE of that, thank you very much!

I asked Robert to run inside and bring me Gabe's halter and a treat.

All I have to say is thank goodness that horse is a peppermint pig! Crinkle crinkle crinkle the wrapper and his ears pop forward. He nearly drools in anticipation every time he hears the peppermint wrapper crinkle. He walked right up, I slid the halter over his head and rewarded that great big goof with his peppermint. What a good boy!

Thank goodness I spent so much time with him when he came home working on that catching thing. He was kind of a pain to catch when I first got him. He had no intention of being caught and he'd stay just out of reach. Imagine how a minor incident like a horse loose in my yard could have quickly become a full-blown emergency with a horse galloping through the fields and towards the road if I hadn't spent that time to teach him that it's GOOD to be caught!

The escapee was ensconced back into his paddock and everyone got their dinner. And my husband picked and picked and picked on me: "Honey? What's the chain on the gate for? Isn't it to keep the horse IN the paddock?"

I deserved the ribbing I received because I broke the number one farm rule: Close the freakin' gate!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I can see the light!

Slowly but surely the days are getting longer. Yay! I eagerly wait for the days to get longer but somehow, the shorter days always manage to sneak up on me. One day I'm outside riding or working in the garden and it's 9 p.m. and still light...the next week it's 4:30 p.m. and dark outside.

Even just a few more seconds of light every day put me in a better mood. I get home from work and there is still some light...I can at least mess with the ponies a bit before the sun sets. Not enough time to ride, yet, but enough time to at least groom and hang out with them and love on 'em. My soul feels lighter when I can spend time with my beasties.

Kayleigh and I rode Calypso and Chief this weekend and I drove Gabe up and down the driveway again. He was EXCELLENT, turning better, stopping MUCH better. He's developing a nasty habit of wanting to stop to graze instead of paying attention. I really wanted to ride him but the paddock where I ride is a sheet of ice and a battleground of frozen hoofprints, not exactly the safest surface to ride on! One thing after another...sigh. I so cannot wait for warmer, dryer weather!

I'm already planning my spring garden and getting LOTS of input from the girls and Robert. I want to try carrots this year. I've never grown carrots before and I found a really neat mix that includes the traditional orange carrot, a purple variety, a white hybrid and a yellow hybrid. I don't know how well they will do in our clay-ey soil, but I'm going to try anyway. So far we are planning: tomatoes (a couple different varieties), sweet peppers, sugar snap peas, sweet corn, broccoli, spinach, a mesclun salad mix, cucumbers, green beans, beets, watermelon, canteloupe, eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes and strawberries. Eventually I'd like to have asparagus, too.

We are going to plant two apple trees, two peach trees and a couple of grape vines. I just have to decide what variety to get, there are SO many! The goats finished off my last pathetic grape vine this fall, so the new ones will be fenced so those little buggers can't get to 'em.

The strawberries will be planted in a raised bed that was built last year. My herb garden will be chock full again this year but this time around I MUST remember to freeze the basil! The rest can be dried successfully, but the basil should be frozen.