Sunday, August 30, 2009

A busy, but productive week!

It's been a busy week, since getting home from our little vacation (yeah!). [Travel post coming.] I've been scrambling to finish up all the projects I should have been working on all summer. Even managed to get a couple of rides in.

Finished (mostly) the 450 foot section of cross-fencing in the north pasture.
After the first of the month (ah, credit at the farm store!), I'll pick up the 16' gate for the middle of the run (where we bring in the big hay loads). I already have the 12 footer for the horse-and-little-tractor opening at the paddocks.My reward for [almost] reaching this goal came the next day.


Pat came and picked Kate and I up for a trail ride.
She came earlier than expected, because she had given misleading directions to another gal that was joining us at the last minute, and wanted to beat her to a particular intersection en route, to cut her off.
Consequently, I had to gulp down the last of my raisin nut bran while pulling on my boots, make a quick trip to the little girls' room, and grab my horse and gear in a rush! I therefore forgot my water bottle (Pat shared), a snack (again, thanks, Pat), and my camera--so no pictures. Pat got a couple, but has yet to download her camera from any of the rides so far this summer, so I'm not holding my breath!
[You can just pick out the trail head, just to the left of bottom center of this satellite photo, where two creeks come together in a Y. We took the western branch up to the tree line, under the "show labels" box.]

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But the ones she got should be breath-taking! Five of us wandered about five miles up Parke Creek canyon, northeast of E-burg, until we started hitting the trees. We came upon some privately owned cabins and decided we'd try to find the road back down the east branch of Parke Creek, so we climbed up to the top of the ridge. This is what we faced when we topped the ridge:We were as high as the newest and highest turbines at the Wild Horse Wind Farm! Our view included not only most of the Kittitas Valley, but Mount Rainier and Mount Adams! [If we had actually been on the same ridge as the turbines, we could have seen the Columbia River and beyond to Moses Lake!] Pat shot the rest of us against two backdrops: the wind turbines, and the valley/volcanoes. Looking at the topo map now, I see that we had climbed from about 2500 feet at the trailhead, to 3700 at the top of the ridge.)
We never did find a route down to the road on the south east branch of the creek, so we descended about halfway down the ridge-top, over nasty volcanic rock (glad I did remember Kate's Simple Boots!). Then what trail was there sort of petered out, so we side-hilled back down to our original path, dropping on self-made switchbacks close to 500 feet in about a quarter mile!
Kate was very well behaved for the whole trek, other than draggin' along at the slowest pace possible without letting the others get more than 50 feet or so ahead of her. I used Pat's wide tree synthetic trail saddle, which worked really nicely, except for sliding forward just a snitch on the descent from the ridge; nice even sweat pattern when we got back to the trailers. Her Simple Boots lost a bit of tread, but really helped eliminate the "my feet are killing me" excuse.

The little gal who watched the horses while we were gone last weekend decided she'd rather have some riding lessons that cash, so she came over before it got too hot. I had done this with C last summer, too--C had ridden Misty last year, and Hank had loaned her a somewhat sour little pony for the summer, as well. But C's parents aren't horse people (and Mom is a bit wary of the big creatures) so she didn't get much riding in then. This year, C has been riding some on Pat's dependable old mare, and her natural balance and confidence, as well as Kate's inherent laid-back nature, led me to believe they would do alright together.
Kate was like "Whaddya mean, work two days ina row?!?"
C's biggest problem was convincing Kate that she couldn't be buffaloed (like Kate had managed to do with my grandson). We started out with some walk-jog in the round pen, then moved out to the arena for some trail obstacles, then out in the pasture for some less confined work.
My friend Anita arrived part way through, and after seeing how mellow Kate was for C, I convinced her to get on board for a few minutes. Getting on a green horse (she's known Kate since she was foaled) is a bit of a milestone for Anita--she is still rebuilding her confidence from a wreck 8 or 9 years ago. Counting Kate, she has been on five different horses in the last three weeks! (She called me on Friday to say she had actually trotted! the mare she plans to bring home soon.)
I didn't even have to remind her to breathe!

I finally broke down and took baby Jackson in to have the vet check his butt--it didn't seem to be shrinking very much more than it had in the first few days.
Being without a trailer, Pat agreed to bring down hers--a step up! Misty has not been loaded in a step up in the 13 years we've had her, but she walked right in. After the fussing Jackson did when he was a week old, I was prepared for a fight. But he leads very well these days, and I only put the rope around his rear when we got to the trailer. He actually tried stepping in, but bumped his shins a few times and then just stood there. I lifted his left fore and put it up on the floor (he's learned that lesson well, too!). He weighted it just a little, then stepped back out. I lifted it in again and waited a moment. Then I tapped his other fore foot with my toe--he stood up....settled back on the ground for a sec....then stood up, stepped in with both fores....then hopped up behind and walked up to join mama!
At the clinic, he walked off as nice as could be--no mad leap into space.
Vet felt the swelling was a "seratoma" (fluid, rather than blood--I called it a "hematoma" last post). He said we could drain it, but that often such swellings would just fill back up, as the damaged tissues still need "protection". Plus this time of year, creating a wound (the needle puncture) would just be asking for infection. He kindly remarked that Jackson's training was very good (thank you, Dr. Ben), and he did not care to undo it with daily antibiotic injections. He suggested we just watch it a bit longer, and maybe do some hot packs to increase circulation to the area, to improve healing and internal absorption.
Back on the trailer Jackson hopped, like nobody's business, and we headed home, where he unloaded in just as mannerly a fashion.

Then back into town!
I had not planned being able to get a ride-on Ditch Witch until next week--when I would have had to do all my hoped for projects with it in one day. But the rental place called to say they unexpectedly had one available over the weekend; did I want it? Yes!
I still have only eight hours "credit" before I have to pay extra, but now I have two days to spread the work over. Which is good, 'cause I'm only half ready--I had hoped to get everything laid out and marked over the weekend.

C came again first thing to ride Kate again. While she warmed up in the arena, I took Maddie, who I am ashamed to say I haven't worked with in several weeks, into the round pen to gauge her frame of mind. I put the wider synthetic saddle on her, with a nice new 1 inch felt pad, and a nice new felt "Smart Cinch"--hoping to eliminate some of Miss Sensitive-Thin-Skin's grousing. She started out a little snotty, then seemed to settle down.
C and I headed out for a short "trial ride": down the driveway, around the east side of the property on the ditch road (Maddie led the way past the dump truck and noisy water at the weir!), out into Hank's cattle pasture, down the draw a ways, then up the hill to the road and home. All three girls (C, Kate and Maddie) did a good job.

Then it was time to do some serious ditch-digging!
I have 2700 feet of landscape fabric to install prior to planting tree seedlings. They recommend burying the edges in shallow ditches--the ditch-witch slid right through this project--it was probably over-kill for 4-6 inch trenches. But I need to install one additional sprinkler line, and that has to be 18-24 inches. Down at that level I hit some serious rocks--no Volkswagens like the summer we first installed the irrigation system, but plenty of basketball sized boulders. It took me almost as long to dig this 200 foot stretch as all of the other ditches combined! (I only stalled the machine a half dozen times!)

Today's projects included this trench for the water line to the final frost free hydrant in the paddock areas, along with electric for the tank heater. Then all six paddocks will have access to their own side of a water trough (no more hose and extension cord to that third tank in the winter!).I have found that, in our rocky soil and nasty caliche (hardpan), the Ditch Witch actually does a better job digging post holes than an auger. I just set the brakes on the trencher, and slowly work my way down to the desired depth. It leaves a long and narrow hole, so I try to aim the machine so that the solid, undisturbed sides of the hole are against any possible horse pressure.I put six post holes in two spots in the paddock area, where I have used panels or T-posts in the past, until I decided exactly where I wanted permanent fences.The gate and panel will still give plenty of access for manure management and loads of hay.
I also pulled out one wall section in the barn to add another post for a new stall door.And I dug some slightly shallower holes for some feeders along the south wall of the barn (that should get built sometime this fall-- I will set the posts soon, so I can let the horses back into these two paddocks).
Tomorrow, after I drop the trencher back off at the rental place, I'll go in to school (gaagh!!) and spend some time getting my office put together. Nothing happens in this town until after the Kittitas County Fair and Ellensburg Rodeo ("Greatest Show On Dirt!") on Labor Day weekend. So our first teacher work day, for planning/professional development (we used to get three, then two, now only one, due to economic conditions) is Wednesday the 9th. Then the kids start on the 10th.

So I'll have exactly eight days to set all the posts and get the paddock fencing up, set up the water and electric lines, install the new sprinklers, and lay all that landscape cloth. The latter could stretch into fall weekends, if need be, as it does not present any potential danger to the horses. But I'd like to get a start on planting the 300-400 seedlings this fall, if I can.
And besides, once school starts, weekends will be my only real time to ride!


  1. It is fascinating to see all the work that is involved "behind the scenes" of raising horses. I used to find fencing just 100 feet a huge challenge when I had my little five acres and a few potbellied piggies. Just reading about all you need to accomplish in eight days is exhausting! I hope the weather cooperatives - neither too hot nor too windy or wet!

    I remember the Kittitas Valley and the beautiful views well from my many summers exploring the area while my ex flew gliders at Ephrata. Is the Wild Horse Wind Farm the place near where those beautiful wild horse sculptures (metal, I think?) run the ridge overlooking the highway?

  2. Jean--the wind farm is on the ridge directly across the river, facing the ridge where the scupture is. I had never made the connection...
    I have always marveled at the green valley spread below you, as one drops into it from the Ryegrass (I-90) or Manastash (I-82) passes.

  3. Holy cow, you are BUSY!!!

    Those views from your trail ride are amazing. I bet you are looking forward to September's weather as much as I am. Perfect for riding.

    Thanks for the comment!