farming, Uncategorized

Spring Planting

I bought some dormant rose bushes today – Sadie loves knockout roses, but a full-size rose bush is about $20.00 a pop. I went straight back to the clearance wrack, they had these little root balls wrapped in paper and plastic, with trimmed rose bush stalks peeking out of the top. The branches were covered in a think layer of wax, which helps keep the plant from blossoming too soon. I have been wanting a few roses to plant next to the shop since around Christmas, but Lowe’s didn’t start stocking them until a few weeks ago.

So I brought home 5 little baby dormant rose bushes, get this, they were only $5.00 a piece! Sadie likes to watch plants grow any way. I dug 5 little holes by the shop and spent way too long looking for small rocks to make a bed, and voila. A successfully executed project in less than half a day. I have not gotten mulch yet for them, that may have to wait until next month.

Unfortunately, Sadie and I do not spend a lot of time or resources on these type of ‘beautification’ projects. What I mean is, typically what we do from day-to-day is either playing catch up, making sure everyone is fed and watered, the firewood is dry, or the bills are paid, before we fall into bed and call it. It’s not a bad thing, I think we have come quite a long way since I have moved here. But it’s just where we are right now – so it’s nice to be able to spend a little time investing in something that will be really beautiful next year.

A few weeks ago, we prettied up the barn lot entrance, which Sadie had been wanting to do for a long time. We have a big, red gate leading to the barn and the pasture, so we framed it with lumber and it spruced it right up. Almost like something out of Kentucky. We were pleased as punch. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d have roses at the entrance of that too, although the horses might be tempted to reach through and have a taste-test.

Spring is coming to the farm, slowly but surely. The grass is poking through the clay, buds are appearing on all the ends of the trees, and just yesterday, I saw a few iris stalks coming up from outside my bedroom window. Tonight and tomorrow will be cold though, but at least the days are getting longer. I only have one big brush pile left to burn, the other two sites have been raked and combed over for nails. It’s amazing how many nails that old barn left behind. We still have several large logs up there from the post-Christmas work day, but I’ll borrow a tractor to push them all together so they can smolder down.

On Friday, Sadie and I went up to White’s Hardware and got 25 pounds of potatoes, our onion sets, bush beans and a few ounces of beets. Once we get the garden spot re-tilled, we will start those on the lower end. I walked over it today, all the dark, soft dirt is just waiting to be dug up.

Several months ago we raked bags and bags of leaves over it, which are mostly mulch by now. Pretty soon it will be time to turn the earth, and till, and plant, and pull weeds, then pull more. Before I know it there will be fresh veggies on every available table and counter space in the house, and mason jars taking up the rest. But not quite yet. For now, it’s nice to watch the world wake up from winter as it does best – nice and slow, with a new surprise to look forward to every morning.

farming, Uncategorized

Quad Boss

When you look out across the road, to our pasture cut by the creek, you see a beautiful field of bright green and yellow WEEDS. As far as your eyes can see, weeds everywhere. I mowed them down and they came back. The horses won’t eat them. The donkey doesn’t eat them. They are taking over and the neighbors think they are beautiful.
They say the grass is greener on the other side, we have no grass. We have weeds.
There was grass, once upon a time. So I hear. Over grazing and under fertilizing took there of that pretty quick. The best time to sow grass seed is September, so I have a summer of weeds ahead of me. The pastures need to be disced, fertilized, sowed and watered. And rested.
Having 5 horses, a yearling colt and a possibly pregnant donkey is much better than 16 hungry mouths, but horses are grazing machines. They are eating, surviving machines. But not for weeds!
I mowed the high pasture yesterday, it really wasn’t that bad, I think I started early enough in the year. The pasture across the road is another story. It’s a jungle out there.
Sadie and I went to the dump today – finally. The old grill, a leaky toilet, three broken chairs, an old TV, a rusted feed trough, a roll of chain-link and a cabinet from at least the 70’s. Mom had at least 9 bags of trash ready for us, that went too.
We watched the toilet smash in the bottom of the dumpster, threw the chairs in after, and the glass on the cabinet broke into a million pieces like diamonds. The grill went last, it hung on for dear life but we conquered it.
We stopped to get gas, I began filling a 5 gallon jug for the 4-wheeler, and sprayed the stuff everywhere. Apparently Sadie had a hold of the hose, I missed the opening by a mile and wore the fumes all the way home.
As soon as I got the groceries in, we went off again to pay a visit to Rex Montgomery, who owns some of the most beautiful rolling green hills in the neighborhood. I backed the trailer up and we loaded 17 square bales of hay. It smelled like fresh grass, Spring air, dry hay and sunshine. I would have drank it from a cup if I could have.
Sadie and I got the hay unloaded in the barn and I hooked up the Quad Boss, our 4×4 bush-hog. I finished the front pasture in record time, Mom rode with me some of the way, then I went off to the next. We have 11 acres across the road, after the front pasture and the barn lot, the rest of the pasture is a large rectangle intersected by the creek.
I started on the section closest to the road, stirring up the horses to another grazing spot, before running over a big lump of hay string. It was almost 8:30 so I decided to call it quits.
After disengaging the blades, I drove over a step in the sidewalk to get a closer look.
Definitely hay string – and I was surprised at how badly the blades need sharpening. I think in the 10 months we’ve had it, we’ve sharpened them once. That thing gets a lot of wear, I probably should have done it before the weeds arrived.
Before I got the string off, Sadie shouted ‘fox!’
I jumped up and ran up to the chicken coop. Yesterday, in broad daylight, she saw a fox carry off one of my red hens. In broad daylight!
The ducks were standing at attention, the rooster was on guard and the hens were clucking to one another. I made a lap around the barn but didn’t see anything. I didn’t think I would – foxes are notoriously crafty. I set the live trap yesterday and caught Mama Cat. A fox wouldn’t be silly enough to end up in a live trap. All I can think to do is keep the flock up for a few days.
I got the string all cut off and threw it away. The mower, my boots and most of the 4-wheeler were covered in yellow dusty pollen I came inside to homemade tortilla soup, Sadie, my mom and happy Zoe.
You never know what can happen in a day on the farm, but I guarantee it will leave you with one big appetite.

farming, Uncategorized

Barn Talk

We didn’t have a particularly hard winter, but I’m still can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that the sun doesn’t really set until around 8pm. I get off at five, let the dogs out, check the chickens, then mentally I’m ready to be done. But Spring is in full swing (hah) and Summer is on it’s way! There’s a lot to be done after winter finally disappears. If you have plenty of time and a few dozen extra able-d bodies, you can clear the fence rows and the creek beds before they explode in dense thickets of tangled, neon green growth.

Unfortunately, I have neither at the moment. Although since we have stopped feeding hay to the horses, I don’t have to break ice on water buckets or fumble with gates through gloved fingers, chores go much more smoothly. In general. There is always the exception where the horses won’t come up to eat, the chickens have knocked over their hanging water container or the dogs get out.


Now when I get home from work, I hardly know what to do with myself. Should I mow, catch my horse, take Zoe for a walk? Fix fence? Let the chickens out? I usually try and do all of the above, then find myself halfway through a project and the sun is gone, I’m hungry, and Sadie get’s home.

It’s like a game show: How much can I attempt to do before the sun sets? Who knows! Today I played fetch with Zoe, then headed up the road to help Uncle Rick clean stalls. He has three of the most beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses I have ever seen: Threat, PW and Reba. His barn is low with gravel in the hallway, two wash-racks, a closed tack room and three raised stalls.

He’s been helping Sadie and I cut and stack logs, he fixed the door that the wind got a hold of, and he and Joe Romine changed the oil on the mower and repaired the ATV. The least I can do is shovel some poop for him, plus his barn is always immaculate. He could charge admission to let people visit.

Threat is his stud, he is massive and a big baby. We cleaned his stall and spread some more shavings out. Rick measured his feed and I poured it in his bucket. PW is a jet black mare that Uncle raised from a filly. Cross my heart she hates everyone but him. As soon as I stepped in her stall she pinned her ears back. Rick told me she was bluffing, but I only halfway believe him. He walked over and rubbed her face, her neck and patted her side. She perked right up for him, looking as innocent as ever.

He walked out and told me to try. I took one step and she was back to wide eyed and angry. I’ve been around angry horses, but PW is big – she’s built like a locomotive and I was on her turf. Since Rick was standing behind me, I figured he could drive me to the hospital. “Step right up there,” he said. I swallowed and walked right up to her face. “Let ‘er smell you’re hand.” I raised my arm and she blew warm breath on the back of my hand. “Now pet ‘er neck.” I reached out and stroked her silky neck. She tilted her head at me, then went back to munching her hay. I started breathing again and I heard Rick chuckle. “Told’ya she was bluffin.”

We finished with her and I began cleaning Reba’s stall. Reba is the exact opposite of PW. She pushed her face right against my chest and sighed, letting my stroke her neck and scratch her ears. She is also my favorite because she has a designated corner in the stall for her toilet.

I dumped the shavings and we sat in the hall, listening to them munching away. Rick will tell you a good story if you don’t pressure him. You kind of have to act like you’re not expecting it. He sat on the step stool outside of PW’s stall and removed his ball-cap, scratching his hairline. I waited. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and took a drag, squinting out the hallway to the 60 acres across the road, the old barn and the river bending away to disappear between the rolling hills.

After a while, he pointed a thumb over his shoulder to PW’s stall and said “That mare right there, she’s all heart.” I nodded, I was afraid to say anything. “I’ve worked her before until she was as white as she is black. When I’d stop fer a break, she’d wanna keep goin.” He told me about when she was a filly, when he first broke her to ride and how she would body block anyone else coming around him. The shows they have been to, and that during the training months, he would ride her 6 days a week until she was 900 pounds of muscle.

We watched the sun reach the far horizon, listening to the birds quiet down and let the frogs and crickets sing. The horses finished munching their hay and settled down for the night. With mud on my boots, shavings on my pants and dirt under my nails, I couldn’t  be happier. Barns are the best places to end the day, to swap stories, and to enjoy the company of horses.