Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Honey, It's C-C-C-OLD Outside!

I've been whining all over blogdom about the cold, so I figured I might as well do a post here.
We've had an unseasonably pleasant fall this year, but that all ended last weekend, when the temperatures plummeted to the single digits during the day, and as low as -14 two nights. Sunday and Monday the wind was blowing 30-40 mph, and snow was blowing sideways!Right in to my barn aisle!
The sun came out today and it's warmed up to the mid 20's, so I hope that's the end of winter! [NOT!]

This is an old sequence (note the short haircut), but it gives you an idea what I have to do to keep warm in the wintertime.
Layer #1
Layer #2
I have newer Muck Boots these days, and they really help keep the feet dry. But they only work down to about 15F. Below that, I steal Al's Sorrels pack boots.

I can't say enough about these snowmobile mittens! They're lined with Thinsolite, and fit over either the cheap brown jersey gloves you can get at the hardware store (for simple chores) or over my leather work gloves (for projects). I just slip the mittens off when I need fingers, then slide them back on to keep my digits cozy.
The full-face fleece balaclava is a necessity, due to neurological issues I have when my face gets cold.
Sometimes I sneak an insulated vest in there, too, and I'm surprised I only had on one pair of socks, though that may have been because this older pair of Muck Boots was a little tight, and if one's toes don't have room to wiggle, they get colder.

While I didn't get much done over the long Veterans' Day weekend because I went over to Spokane to babysit my grandkids, I did get several projects done this weekend, and I'm just about ready for winter. But I will wait for a later post to show you what I've been up to.
Align Center

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Black Gold" ...or..."Piles o' Poop"

Funder, over at It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, was asking about composting and horse manure the other day. The last couple of weeks have been crazy at school (even before Halloween kicked in), so I promised to get back to her. Last night I left such a long comment that Blogger didn't even want to accept it. (I tried three times, and then when I looked, it had posted three times! Oh well, that's what the trash can is for.)
Then I got to thinking that the whole saga needed illustration, so here is a slightly expanded version, with photos.

Although I've looked into some very high-falutin' technological systems for composting my manure, I actually take a very simple approach.
I bed on pellets, so it is really easy to keep the majority of the bedding out of my compost pile (I would say less than 10%). Pellets are also known to decompose the fastest of any bedding material (except maybe shredded paper, though that has other issues). During the winter I pick my stalls nightly, if the horses have been in (I only give them access in the really bleak weather--wet and cold--except for my old retired boarder, who has 24/7 access to his stall). Each stall has it's own muck bucket and fork, so this goes quickly.

My pile is out from the end of the barn about 40-50 feet. I spread the compost on my 12 acres or so of pastures in the spring, and leave just a small "starter" pile for the coming winter--mostly from the little manure collected over the summer from the grooming stall and horse trailer, and from a fall "stripping" of the stalls. By spring I'd say my pile is probably 30' by 30' and 8-10 feet high (as high as my little tractor bucket can reach).
Each weekend, the muck buckets get emptied into the tractor bucket (I know, I'm WAY spoiled! but after all, I'm dealing with five horses--at one time ten) and dropped on one side of the manure pile. I do a more intense job on the stalls, especially any wet spots (here's where bedding gets in to the pile); again, into the tractor bucket and out to the pile.
I either pick the paddocks, or use the tractor to scrape the really popular spots; all then goes to the main pile. In some of these older photos, where you see quite a bit of hay and/or straw, it would be either foaling stall straw or wasted hay from around the tire-feeders I used to use (my new-last-year slow feeders have really cut down on that!)Once all that "fresh" manure is deposited, I use the tractor bucket to turn the opposite side of the pile towards/over the new material. Just like kneading bread, each week I choose a different spot to add my new material and fold from the opposite side. I lift the bucket high to better mix, shred and aerate the material.
We are on the back side of the mountains, as Funder is, so it is a dryer, high desert climate in summer. I will occasionally let the irrigation sprinklers hit the pile, if I think it is getting too dry. At that point I'm not adding much, if any, new manure, as the horses are on pasture 24/7 and I just drag the pastures with a blanket harrow to work the manure in every so often. In the winter it's not usually sopping wet, so I haven't ever had to tarp my pile--though once or twice it has gotten a bit soggy, it always recovers. I don't add any additional "dry" material (other than the occasional bad hay bale).
At various times this pile (or two, when there were more horses) might have actually been in one of the paddocks. The older horses pretty much left it alone, but sometimes the babies [Jackson!] would decide it was a great place to play and romp! So now that I'm down on numbers I can leave it out of reach in my "extra" paddock.

When I go to turn the pile it is always steaming hot. I suppose I could worry about the "optimal" temperature, but I know that it's definitely hot enough to kill any weed seeds, parasite eggs, or other unwanted contaminants.
It also might be interesting to note that I don't have much of a problem with flies in the summer. I think if I went to the trouble of adding the fly predators to the pile in the summer, I probably wouldn't have any!
I still turn the pile from time to time over the spring and summer, after the horses go out on pasture and I've stopped adding new material. It will continue to "cook" most of the way to fall.
It usually takes me two half days to spread the compost on the pastures. I got the New Holland 50 bushel spreader for my 2007-2008 birthday/anniversary/Christmas presents. I got the PTO version (instead of ground-driven) because it gives me more options for unloading--including just piling it up in one spot (this came in handy on another composting project that I will save for a future post). (These three photos are from the first year I had the spreader--it was actually a little late to be putting the compost on the fields, as the ground was starting to freeze. But I had to play with my new toy! Not to mention getting the previous year's piles out of the way for the coming winter.) I'll use a little for a few planters--it's rich and dark and works just as it is for most plants. Evergreens especially like the slightly acidic nature of horse manure, but I think that composting eliminates any danger to other plants. This is also one advantage of having some bedding material or old/moldy hay incorporated in with the manure--it reduces the nitrogen levels a bit, which is where horse manure gets the reputation of "burning" plants--I've never had a problem with this, however. I think I've mentioned that I'm death to plants, so I don't garden in any formal sense--no veggies and only flowers that can take care of themselves. This planter was just old cedar split posts and rocks, filled with compost straight out of the pile. (I did let it age there for one more winter before I finally got around to adding seeds.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...Choices,Choices!

So yesterday, while I was in the house for a lunch break (I'm in the midst of getting-ready-for-winter chores and projects), I decided to check out what was happening in the blogosphere.
The newest post on my blog-roll was from KC at allhorsestuff, sharing a lovely ride she and her sister had recently had in the woodlands of Oregon, on their two sweet mares, Washashe and Pantz. But KC challenged her readers to see if they could spot a BIG difference in the photos. She offered a prize for the first to discern that the two of them had switched horses mid-ride, most obviously because KC is usually the one taking pictures, and there was Wa-mare in the photos!
I stated my observation, and since, just by happenstance, I was the first to comment, I won!
I got the choice of a beautiful equine charm or a custom vintage-look poster (from my own photograph). Well, since I'm not a big one for jewelry, that choice was easy.
But now I have to choose a photo. Here's what I've narrowed it down to. Please identify your favorite in the comments. Thanks for your help!

1. One of my favorite shots of Kate and Maddie, at three months old.
2. Kate and Maddie this last summer.

3. Maddie free longeing.
4. Maddie under saddle at three.
5. Kate hill-climbing at three.
6. Kate head shot--I really like the contrasting light here--I'm pretty sure the gal can take out the distracting background/ladder.
7. Kate in the river this summer.
8. Kate atop the ridge.

9. I could have one done of RT for his owner for Christmas...
10. I could see if she could do something neat with my logo.
Whatd'ya think?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Autumnal Blast From the Past

Guess who?
Guess When??
George Morris would note that the rider is a little bit behind the motion here, settling onto the horse's back a bit too soon and gripping with the back of her calves (toe turned too far out), rather than the inside of her whole leg. But I love the soft contact, overall posture, and the super-skinny bod!
This old guy was a trooper! He would jump most anything you would point him at, in the 3-4 foot range (this coop is probably about 2'6"/2'9"? without a top rail). I was braver in those days. I think this was our first show together (of only a few, he wasn't mine).

Heather Phillips on Holy Smoke
[aka, yours truly with "Smokey"]
Doylestown, PA, c. 1974