Sunday, September 26, 2010

This is not my beautiful horse

Where did this contemplative, calm, confident horse come from? Every other time I've moved her (5 times) she's been insecure and hyper and very worried. She picks fights or at the least makes nasty faces at other horses, and she paces and worries and frets. But not this time!

M and I walked Dixie and Billy over this morning. I led Dixie around the whole pasture, pointing out stuff, then unclipped the lead and let her wander off. She got silly and cantered back to me once, but mainly she looked at things and walked around and thought about stuff. The north side horses came running up to their fence, then one of them ran away snorting, and she just stood and watched them. She had a couple of really good rolls, and she thinks dried out dead cheatgrass is delish, and she seemed to have a perfectly good normal day. Ate, walked, stood with her head in the shade. She touched the top hot wire with her nose, got tingled, and never tested the fence again AFAIK.

Billy the goat was totally stressed out. Walking him over was awful, and he stayed glued to Dixie for a good four hours, but I think he's settled in too. He had a tough time with the fence, too - he kept trying to chew on it or stick his head through it and getting ZAPPED. I saw him touch hot and ground and get fried no less than five times, and I'm sure he tried it a few more times. It's like it's a personal insult that such a wussy looking fence keeps biting him!

Cersei ran through the fence once and got lucky, then ran through it again and got ZAPPED - she squalled and ran away, and she hasn't tried the fence again. She goes through the gate with me now!

I have a 100 gallon tank for horse water, an 18 gallon bucket for goat water, and a little bucket for dog water. The chickens love the dog water, Dixie likes the 18 gallon container, and Billy prefers to giraffe his head into the 100 gallon. Oh well, at least everybody's drinking, right?

I spent two hours sitting out in the pasture with them, then did a pretty good job organizing my tack and cleaning up the horrible junk between the barage and the fence. I turned a minefield of boards and crap into one fairly neat (huge) pile against the barn wall, then raked up four trash bags of stuff from the ground - dead sage, shingles, bits of wood, coke cans, shredded plastic, etc.

My theory is that if Waste Management will take one wheelie bin plus seven extra bags, and I give them seven extra bags a week, I can get this place cleaned up some time in my lifetime. And it's much less daunting to shove a bag full of sagebrush every night than to try to fill up a truck and Go To the Dump. Ugh, going to the dump is overrated.

This might be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen :D

She's home!

Please disregard her atrocity of a mane.

More tonight :)

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fence and horse both HOT

Bad news first: I had my first RO pull today. C and I went off to the NEDA (not AERC) ride at Red Rocks today, to merrily complete 25 miles each. Except Diego came off the trailer lame, and Dixie refused to drink at the 10 mile pulse and go and ran completely out of gas at 13 miles. We slogged up a big hill (of course the GPS is in the truck and I'm too tired to go get it tonight) and she kept walking slower and slower then just stopped. I got off at the false summit and slogged up on foot, pretty much dragging her up, but even when we got to the real summit she was done.

I did all the health checks I could - pulse not too high, not overly dehydrated, gums good, still peeing yellow and pooping normal poop, ok gut sounds, no cramps in any big muscles - then shrugged and started walking back. I definitely made the right call - she didn't perk up when we turned around, and she didn't even mind the other horses passing us in the other direction. I walked for about 2 miles, but then I was played out so I got back on and rode her on in.

It was really hot today, near 90 with no wind at all. Dixie has a thick coat even in July, and by mid-September she's started growing her winter coat. I think she just got too hot and too thirsty and couldn't go on without a buddy. I really hope she learns to DRINK when there's water. And perversely, I'm very glad she gave up. Horses that just never quit are so much harder to manage, so much more responsibility for me. I'm glad she trusts me enough to say "no more" (and keep saying it, because I did think she was faking at first.)

When we got back, she drank pretty good then started slowly but steadily munching on some alfalfa. C and I sponged her down well, then had lunch. I led her back to the trough and she tanked up again before we loaded up and headed home. I'll update tomorrow with pictures and GPS info.

Not sure what to do about Comstock. I think I will clip her neck and chest; it should be early enough for her to grow a good coat anyway. And I will probably wait til Wednesday to decide for sure, but I think if it's this hot next weekend I should try for the 25, and if it's cool I may possibly still go for the 50. Any input is welcome!

When I got home I got back to work on my Horse Knox fence. It is hot now! The guy at Green's lent me a fence tester, but the little LEDs aren't very bright. So I touched the tester to a hot wire and a ground wire and couldn't see anything. Yall know my motto is "well fuck it," so of course I touched the hot wire. Tingly, about like before. Then I grabbed the ground wire with my other hand and got zapped mightily. I leapt back, cussing and jumping up and down, then called G. I tried my best to explain to him just how hot the fence really is but of course he had to come test it himself. He walked to the furthest point from the ground rods, fiddled with the fence tester for a bit, said "well fuck it" and grabbed both wires. He got shocked so hard his leg spasmed and jacked his knee up. That fence is HOT.

I got the moldy straw shoveled out of Dixie's run-in and the rest of the junk removed from the paddock. The straw went into the manure shed - it's 2'x8'x4' of jank straw, which should make totally amazing compost with some poop and some water and a bit of mixing.

Chicken update, cause I know yall love my chickens: They think slightly slimy cilantro is delightful. They have realized that humans bring good stuff, and they mob us whenever we wander out of the patio door. G is not as thrilled by this as I am. He swears 30 chickens attacked him today. I can count 13 at any point during the day, but never find more than 11 in the coop at night. Two of them are hiding somewhere. Good luck, little idiots!

Edited for anonymity!

Friday, September 24, 2010

(Lack of) Update

Somebody asked when I'm going to bring Dixie home. The answer is "as soon as I get the damn fence hot." All I have done for the last week has been work and fighting with the fence. My husband has helped and handled all the other little disasters. I'm not out of ideas, but I'm getting pretty discouraged.

Today after work I'll dash to Green's feed and get two more grounding rods and more polywire and more insulators. I'll try adding ground rods, then if that doesn't work (and why should it, nothing else has, grumble grumble) I'll add three more strands as ground strands. At that point nothing, except maybe a hen, can climb through without touching at least two strands and getting jolted. I think.

Tech details: I'm getting about 4k volts near the ground rod but nothing 50' away.

Please pretend the following sections are neatly bullet point-ed.

Obstacles overcome: 1) only one outlet in the barrage works. 2) the fence is a LINE, not a circuit - the trench I dug to go under the gate was totally unnecessary. 3) there is no substitute for electric fence wire and you might as well just wait til it comes in 4) if you mail order some parts, open the damn box, preferably before the return period ends, and make sure you didn't order fiberglass rod insulators instead of t-post insulators. This is a good reason to shop locally, btw.

Questions: 1) I want to wire in a switch so I can switch off the bottom wire when it snows. Do I put the bottom wire line on the top of the switch and the hot line on the same-side bottom of the switch? 2) I have been pigtailing the wires together, screwing on a wire nut, and wrapping the whole thing in electrical tape. Is that right?

I am pretty grumpy but not appalled or ready to give up. I spent so many years doing construction and remodeling, and I can tell you that this really does happen to everyone, no matter how experienced they are. I just think I'm due some easy success for a change!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Storybook horse

When I was a horseless kid, I read anything with horses in it. I dreamed of having a brave steed who would carry me for miles without flagging, who would face down monsters with me, and who would bravely stick by my side.

In my late 20s I finally got a horse. Champ was a king among horses, but he wasn't a storybook horse. If you also grew up dreaming of a horse, you know what I mean when I say that the reality of horses is kind of a letdown. What do you mean, they spook and run from rabbits? And if you get off and let go of the reins, there is a decent chance your horse will give you the finger and head home without you? And horses have only three speeds - dawdling walk, Death Trot, and dead gallop from evil bunnies??

Of course, they're wonderful anyway - we all agree about that. But old dreams never die, and I'm delighted to tell y'all that I finally had a storybook ride this weekend.

I took Dixie and Cersei out on the short 5 mile loop on Saturday. Dixie was a dream to ride, even after 2 weeks of virtually no work. A little spooky, a little extra spring in her step. We meandered out and up the hill, a mile or two, then I asked her to pick up the pace and we flew for the rest of the loop.

It was effortless and perfect. I didn't have to urge her on or hold her back. All I had to do was stay balanced and steer and watch out for traffic. We followed three four wheelers and two pickups down the road out of HV, then veered off and passed within 100' of a guy warming up his dirt bike. She didn't flinch once.

She rolled through all her "gears", too, just like I've always wanted. She flowed from a trot to a rack to a canter to a pace and back. I have always thought that real strength of a gaited endurance horse is that different gaits work different muscles, so the horse can swap gaits to keep from fatiguing her muscles. That definitely seemed to happen Saturday.

Sometimes my pretty pony really is anything a girl could dream of.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010


Fence is up, too. Got to make one more trip to the feed store and I can test the electric.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday update

I busted it this week. A guy with an auger dug three enormous holes Monday, and we got the posts set in hundreds of pounds of concrete on Monday and Tuesday night. I've been watering the posts and leaving them alone - they should be cured enough tomorrow or Sunday I think. Then for the rest of the week I chopped more sagebrush and dragged more junk and banged more posts until tonight I got the last 6 in. They're all capped, and I just need to hang the middle insulators and put up the wire and brace the gate and hang the gate. Piece of cake!

Got some lovely pictures of the sunset tonight. Will put them up later.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What have I DONE?

Yesterday I got my first taste of the "oh god what have I done" horrors. I really want to move Dixie next weekend, so she'll have two weeks to settle in here before Comstock. I got pretty overwhelmed with all the stuff I have to accomplish to make that happen. G gave me the very serious "I'm really sorry but you will never make it" lecture, which of course spurred me to get 'er done even more. Surely by now that man knows how stubborn I am? Anyway, I am going for it.

Yesterday I took the evil yellow horse trailer and got a cord of firewood. I had to back in here and to the right behind the white house:

Then wedge myself in around the corner of the house:

I am competent at a lot of stuff, but there are a few things in life that I am really, really good at. Trailer backing is one of them. I had my back to a wall when I took that picture - it was TIGHT. I rule!

Anyway, a 2 horse straight holds exactly a cord of wood. How cool is that?

Then I built the Egg McMansion, but yall saw that. Should I put some fake eggs in there or something? None of my idiots has even jumped up to investigate it. Bunch of haters.

I started a second enormous junk pile. Got all the junk out of the pasture, except for one more pallet/door/thing I just found to the north line.

Then I despaired. We drank quite a bit and watched Office Space, which is still so painfully funny. This morning I relaxed til noon, then got back to work.

I used my adorable little hacksaw to just rip through the sagebrush at light speed - that thing cuts sage like it's butter. I loves it. Then I pounded a lot of posts and took some moderately flattering shots of my wonky fence.

Here is my Wedge-loc corner post. It looks like crap because my posts aren't precisely level or really well measured, and because I was under attack by devil fire ants while I was pounding, but you know what? It's really really sturdy!

I emptied half a can of Raid on the nest just to watch them squirm and die. I am a bad hippie. I almost took video of them squirming, but I had to keep an eye on my feet lest another ant climb up my pants and sting me on the thigh. Argh.

Here's the east side, which my awesome husband pounded for me:

And here's the northeast corner, looking west:

(I know my boundaries aren't exactly NESW, but it's way easier for me to say and think "north side" than "north-northeast side.")

I've had some food, and the 7' corner post is already in - I think I can pound two more and assemble the NE corner brace thing. Then I'll only have a few posts to do this week after work.

It's still beautiful here :)

Bok Bok

My phone is not food!

Neither is my hair!

My husband has named the black and white chickens. They're all named Speckled Jim - bonus points if you recognize that. :)

Real post tonight, I promise.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Egg McMansion

Thirteen cannibals

Well, not quite like you'd think, but it's such a good title, I have to use it!

Thursday when I did my nightly count I only had 13 hens. I walked the whole back pasture area, in the dusk, looking for an errant chicken or a pile of feathers, and NOTHING. My husband consulted with his co-workers and they all say a giant golden eagle probably snatched a hen and shared several "eagle ate my chicken" stories. I have seen the giant golden eagles over in Spanish Springs, but I haven't noticed one out here - but that's probably where the hen is. Oh well :(

Yesterday morning I called one of those "I will haul your scrap metal" ads from Craigslist. The guy and his son came last night and took the three empty 55-gallon drums and all the fencing I've ripped down over the last week, and they drained the old solar hot water heater. Woops, I didn't even think to check if it was empty! They will come back today or tomorrow and take the water heater. I know I could've taken all that to a scrap dealer myself, but right now my time is more precious than the little $$ I'd get. And I'm so happy that that part of my junk is gone, not just hiding out of sight!

My husband pounded t-posts while I was dragging fencing to the garage area. Lytha, I am more impressed than ever by your fence. Ours will not look as nice. We will leave it at that, ok? But we've got one side mostly up - waiting on the brace kits for the corner.

Then we had the other half of a roast chicken for dinner. (Now you see where the title is going!) And yes, I fed the carcass to the chicken this morning. It's cooked, so I can't feed it to the dog, and it's good protein, so.. yeah. Cannibals. My hens think it's tasty and I'm glad it's not going to waste!

I'm going to get a cord of firewood today. Hopefully it won't be cold enough to use it for a couple more months, but you never know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Experimental flock

I love my idiot dinosaurs so much already. I see why chicken people are all so nutty about their chickens. They are just as dumb as you'd think, but SO endearing!

I've spent all week playing "Will chickens eat this?" So far the answer is yes in every case. They eat watermelon, down to the rind. They eat cabbage. They eat cauliflower. They eat apple cores. They eat pizza crusts. And best of all, they eat ants.

There are one or two huge ant nests in the pasture, so I thought I'd see if the chickens liked ants. I brought a shovelful of ant nest to them. The chickens spent the next hour or so scratching that shovelful of sand apart and devouring every single ant in it, so I kept bringing them more ant sand. I am kind of hoping that the chickens range far enough to discover the ant nest - they're getting close.

Cabbage birds:

If you are a chicken owner, you are laughing at me. If you're not, you might think I'm mistreating them. I promise, they have scientifically balanced Purina Layer Mash available at all times, but ants and bits of sagebrush and cabbage are way more fun to eat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beautiful Nevada

The sky was on fire this morning:

And my commute home was breathtaking:

Then after I got home it was on fire again:

Hello, blog!

It's me again! Did you forget about me? I didn't forget about you. I am still Doing Stuff like mad. I actually made a "still to be done and requires no more $$$" list today - it's big, but not as big as I feared. It's easy to get distracted by shit like the bathroom vanity, which was made for midgets, but we're not spending $$$ on anything else. Just $$ stuff for now.

Inside stuff: I still need to finish the trim in the den. I've got most of it caulked and part of the walls repainted. I might re caulk the nail holes tonight. Should've gotten non-shrinking nail filler putty but I hate that stuff.

The window from the kitchen to the den needs trim, but that's a Big Project so I'm just not worrying about it. It's tiled on one side, so I'll need a table saw or at the very least a sander to thin down the trim to make it fit over the tile. I don't feel like spending the money on a table saw, so it'll wait. And the crown molding needs to go up, but I've got everything I need for that - it's just a matter of doing it on a weekend. Hopefully THIS weekend, but I won't beat myself up if it doesn't happen.

I'm going to replace the nappy trim in the bedroom too, but again, I need a weekend to get it done. I have a few pictures of the den, but I keep taking them at night and the inside lights don't agree with the camera. I will remember to open the drapes and take pictures while it's light out one day.

Outside stuff: I need to build a chicken nest box, which is about $30 in materials if I have to buy all the plywood, less if I can use some plywood from my barn. I need to build a slow feeder - I am shamelessly stealing DP's design. I have those L-shaped wire racks with 1.5" holes, and I think they'll work perfectly. About $20 in materials there.

I need a plug for the junk bathtub, which I'll use as a water trough til I find one on CL for cheap. I need a locking gate latch for the side gate to the backyard.* I need to finish filling in the borders of the run-in with sand (but my wheelbarrow tire died tonight!) And I need to finish pulling junk out of the pasture and put up the pasture fence.

I worked on the Wire Problem for a while tonight, then I pounded my first two t-posts. The Wire Problem is this strange area between the old chicken coop and the side of the run-in where the previous owners made a 3-d maze of rusted wire, wired VERY FIRMLY together into a malignant mass. Then the sagebrush grew through it.

See how the run-in is divided into three stalls? I'm calling the one on the left the goat pen, the middle one the horse area, and the one barely visible on the right is the chicken coop. Note the freakin' woven wire fence dividing the goat pen from the horse pen. What you can't really see is how the bottom of that fence is wired to some more 2x4" woven wire fence laid on the ground - it has to be some weird mud control system.


The stupid fence turns a corner at the white post and runs directly in front of the antique chicken coop.


There was a FENCE in front of the DOOR to the old coop. See? And there was a loose pile of rusted chicken wire to the right of the coop in this pic - wired to the perimeter fence and a fence post and nailed to a pile of junk boards that used to be a door.


What you can't see is that those huge mature sagebrush bushes were growing THROUGH the fence on the ground. I had to hack and break off four sagebushes, then cut enough of the wire to rip the wire from around the bushes. I tried digging one up, but sagebrush has roots like kuzdu. Unpleasant discovery, but not really a surprise from a hardy desert perennial. Anyway, all the fence is now piled where I was standing when I took those pictures. I will have to drag it out to my truck and do something with it - will scrap metal places buy fence? I guess if not, it goes to the dump.

It took two days to get the chain link down, then two more days to get most of the sagebrush whacked back and wire cut loose from the ground. I've got one more piece on the ground, but it's so covered in sagebrush that I didn't even know it was there so I kinda accidentally buried it with the wire I've been ripping out. Sigh.


Once I realized I had buried the last piece of wire under the other hundred pounds of wire, I got discouraged and switched projects. From the Wire Problem to Fence Hell!

I pounded a 6' t-post, just to see how hard it was, then realized I was doing it backwards. Got out my 100' tape and mason's string and sited the corner post - I'm going with 20' off the east side and 15' off the north side, because it works out with the well. Then I pounded a 7' t-post as the corner post, rrrrrgh that was hard, and tied off the mason's line. The 6 footer is like four feet off the line, so it really has to come out.

Lytha, if I remember correctly, you and Your Man pounded a LOT of t-posts for Baasha's pasture. Any technique tips? I have a t-post pounder, which takes the job from "completely insurmountable" to "a lot of work." I figure if I pound 3 a night I'll have it done in a week or so. I am using 6' posts for the lines and 7' for the corners. I don't think it matters for hotwire, but I'm putting the nubby bits on the insides anyway. Is that right?

I am using a t-post corner brace kit for the two back corners, and existing buildings for the two front corners. When I upgrade to welded wire one day, I'll upgrade the back two t-posts, but it's both cheaper and DIY-friendly to use braced t-posts for now. Half of yall are gonna think I'm just a masochist, but half of yall probably know how incredibly satisfying it is to look out there and say "I did that." Right now I'm on track to do it all except for the 4x6 gate post, but if I have to I can dig ONE posthole.

*Dude, this house has so many entrance/exits. There's the front door, the laundry room door which leads to the garage which has a people door and a car door, and two patio doors off the den. Once you stumble upon the backyard, there are FIVE gates leading out of the pool area - I have locks on four of them, and I need one more lockable gate latch and one more lock. Then the barage has a big car door and a little people door. It's absurd.

Life is super busy, but it's SO good.

Yall please let me know if you think I'm doing something wrong, or if you have suggestions!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I will probably talk about MY HOUSE in all caps for years to come.

We've been ridiculously busy and we've gotten so much done! I'm exhausted, so I can't do the usual picture-and-description post. I will just tell you what I've done and point you at my Flickr page if you want to see in-progress crappy iPhone pics.

We have new-to-us furniture, new appliances, Direct TV, propane, a woodstove, and internet. We have no idea how to work the pool or hot tub, but we think we've figured out swamp cooler maintenance - the internet gave us the user's manual.

The bedroom is painted and furnished. I'm going to try to hang the new trim in the bedroom tomorrow, but if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen. Took the enormous mirrored closet doors down today and the closet is pretty organized.

The den is painted, with more than 3/4 of the new trim up. Well, no crown molding yet, but the door casings and baseboard is almost completely up. It's mostly caulked. I can work on painting the trim after work this week. Just hung the drapes over the sliding doors.

The kitchen stuff is mostly in the kitchen, but it's kind of a disaster zone there.

I hauled four loads of junk out of the pasture. I wish I had a draft horse - there are a BUNCH of random half-rotted gates just laying out there. I think I will need to disassemble them out there and drag the boards out. I will be taking junk to the dump for MONTHS.

And I RODE MY HORSE today! She was totally glad to see me. I had the rope halter all jacked up and she kept dropping her nose in it while I was trying to untangle it. She does love me :D I rode her over to OUR HOUSE - she is less excited about it than me.

She's shedding - summer is officially over.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Last apartment post

All 14 survived the night. The brown one is Foghorn, of course, and the white ones are known collectively and individually as Dolly. The mottled ones might get individual names - they are actually distinctive.

They all free ranged today. Woops. There are apparently chicken sized holes in their home. They came back in for dinner, so hopefully they'll sleep there.

We are madly packing the rest of our stuff. How did we get so much junk? It is a mystery.

Tomorrow is probably the most over-scheduled day of my life. Movers, best buy appliances, best buy range, propane, and woodstove dude are all descending on the new casa. Saturday the direct tv guys and the cable Internet guys and the new (used) furniture guys are coming. My fence insulators and wire are showing up from amazon this weekend. The charger is coming next week.

For two people who don't actually consider ourselves to be grown ups, we really have our shit together.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bok bok bok!

Chickens! I have chickens!

I, err, have more chickens than I planned on.


See this girl posted on CL on Monday that she had 14 hens who just started laying but she was moving cross country so she had to get rid of them. I wrote and said I'd buy 5 at $10 each - that's a fair price. Emailed back and forth with her a couple times over the next few days, and when I showed up she was like "Thank god, you're the most normal person who asked about them. I'll give you all of them for the same price and all their stuff too." So I helped her catch them all and cram them in Cersei's dog crate and I dragged them home.

They're cute! Anybody know what breeds they are? And they make adorable chickeny noises.

Bok bok bok

G and I had to do emergency repairs on the chicken coop section of the big run-in. It's pretty rednecky but it should keep the coyotes out til the weekend when I can fix it better. Jammed some L-shaped steel grid shelves into the gaps under the walls, then nailed the vertical bits of the shelves to the walls. This is a terrible description but maybe you can figure out what I'm talking about - it should be dig-resistant at least.

Bok bok

They were pretty pissed off about the sudden upheaval of their world, but it was dusk by the time we finished the stopgap repairs, so they flapped on up to whatever high spots they could find and settled in for a nap.