Pitching in to Get Apache His New House

After taking a few days off for other stuff, we’re back in the final stretches of finishing the new horse pens over at our covered shipping container at the Hermits’ Rest. While I haven’t done the heavy digging or lifting, I’ve contributed more than the dogs have.

Why work, when you can relax beside the new giant porch fan?

Humans have been quite busy, though. Yesterday the trench was dug (by hand!) and the water lines put in for the two horse troughs and a sink/horse washing station. Doesn’t that sound fancy? No, I will not wash the horse in a sink; those are two separate things.

Once the water lines were in, it was time to move some dirt. The idea is that the ground should slope away from the shipping container, so that no pools of water will form if it rains hard from the south, or an enthusiastic drinker splashes a lot. So, more dirt was needed. Where did it come from?

The dogs won’t have their hill to climb much longer.

There’s a reason for making that small pond up by our garage. We needed to move some dirt and add it to low spots, and this stuff does the job. It’s certainly pretty soil, but rather clay-filled. Maybe that way it will shed water.

Goldie helped, when not trying to make friends with cattle.

At one point there were three supervisors and one heavy equipment operator, though in my defense, I had done some piddly little helpful things. Nonetheless, it was fun to watch the attempts at smoothing out those clay clods. And it was cool to see nothing under that shelter for the first time in many years!

Smoothing.

While this was going on, and while I wasn’t off horsing around, I did things that I could do. For one, I picked up a bunch of horse and donkey poop out of the pen where the equines currently spent much of their day, and brought it over to mix with some chicken poop compost to make some fine fertilizer for plants Kathleen is going to plant.

The other stuff I did was small, but saved some time for our tractor operator. I picked up a lot of the little pieces left over from the fencing rails. Some of it can be recycled into pieces of gates and such, and I have a feeling even the little things will be useful someday, somewhere. This was the second time I picked up scrap, and I brilliantly noted it was easier to put them in a wheelbarrow than to carry pieces in my hands. Guess what? That stuff gets hot in the sun.

And I picked up the larger pieces of rock and concrete that were hanging around the area, causing us to trip, or potentially bruising a horse hoof. They will be used in the planters, as well.

I was impressed my arms still worked after picking up all the hay on Sunday, but I was only a little sore. I even made my back feel better by riding Apache a bit, which was stalled by an unfortunate encounter with a moving utility vehicle. Apache thought it was Evil Personified. Sigh, all my fault, too. I’d forgotten there was someone down the race moving cattle. At least I enjoyed finding nature stuff to enjoy over by the new pens.

BUT. Through everything, through the rain, the heavy lifting, the horse challenges, and even some work shit that’s about to go down, I’m doing remarkably well. I did just knock on a wood product after typing that, though it was a piece of petrified wood.

Have a fun day. I plan to.

Rainy Blurry Day

I’m sorta typing this without really looking, since I suddenly have a pretty bug ocular migraine deal going on. I’m sure not fond of those things, and still don’t know what is causing them. The good news is that I can type with my eyes closed, I guess.

What’s wrong with my eyes?

What I wanted to write about is the fact that it’s been rainy the last few days, which came as a surprise to all of us, but a welcome one! It usually stops raining by this time of the year, so we will enjoy every drop we get.

It’s not bad enough to stop things from happening, though. I’ve managed to move the horse and Fiona, and I’m still impressed about how easygoing they are with being taken to the dry area. They just follow me over there and act grateful for their treats.

As you can see, it’s still very green.

Since it’s a lot cooler today, I’m hoping the rain lets up long enough to ride Apache today. I’ll just take him down the race, so he doesn’t put any dents in Ralph’s perfect grass.

Isn’t this pretty? It’s in the mallow family.

The pens at the Hermits’ Rest are getting worked on again. The area under the roof is all cleaned out, and a ditch is getting done to hopefully drain runoff from the future water troughs. Once that’s all clean and graded, the rest of the fencing can go into the stall area, gates can go up, and we will be ready for occupants.

Only stuff that’s being used is in here now, like the chair, the fan, the tunes, and the Vlassic swimming pool.

Well, that’s about all I can write with my eyes closed, so I’ll just leave you with hopes that you are having a good end of June. I feel remarkably chipper and calm (other than my eyeballs), even though I know it’s going to be a doozy of a week!

Spic and Span Ranch

Hey, here’s a quick update on the things going on here at the Hermits’ Rest. For one thing, a lot of mowing has been going on and a lot of shredding. The appeal of using the shredder on really high grass is that it can be done in the air-conditioned tractor. It’s good to report that all along the sides of the road and the area on the other side of the arroyo is now shredded.

We should have baled it, huh!

Two benefits to that are 1) you can see if cars are coming from the left as you leave the driveway, and 2) the ragweed has been cut down, eliminating some distress for the resident humans.

Everything is very neat and smooth now that the wildflowers set seed and were mowed.

Well, there are still a few flowers to enjoy. Yay.

The front-end loader, who’d been grounded for a while due to a giant hole in her ancient battery, is back and huffing and puffing again, with shiny new batteries. That will make moving fencing supplies a lot easier. It was sort of rough with the little tractor.

This should keep the old guy chugging a little longer.

And, look! We have the beginnings of the horizontal rods in the pen fencing. That is really exciting! The end is near!

A finished section.

It’s cool to see how the tool to hold them evenly spaced works. How clever!

Gracie thinks the hanging spacer thing is cool, too.

I’ll be out killing more grass and supervising fencing later today after work. These long summer days are GREAT.

I’m happy it’s summer and I have a pond.

A much more exciting post should be out later today, I hope. Happy summer to all.

Compare and contrast! The smallest dog and the biggest dog.

Oh What a Beautiful Evening

Wow. It’s been the most pleasant evening I can remember. Once the sun went behind clouds, a breeze came up, and the stifling heat dissipated.

Awesome.

I took lots of pictures today, and when I went back to look at them, I realized it’s been a beautiful day!

The horizontal pipes are going up!

And yes, a lot of work got done on the horse pens. It’s really moving along! After work and my Friends of LLL meeting, I got to watch the process for making the tools to set the vertical bars that are next. These hooks were made from straight pieces of metal.

Hooks, tape measure, torch.

The hooks were shaped on this piece of pipe, which made cool smoke when the metal got hot.

This will ensure the hooks hang from the vertical pipe.

It’s fascinating to watch the tools being made. Such craftsmanship!

Meanwhile, I watered the chickens (Buttercup loves the hose spray), watched the dogs playing happily, and then saw what I thought was Vlassic chasing the cows. When I got up to yell at him, I realized it was a little too big of a fast, black animal to be him. It was our cute little calf, Baby Blue, who is just about the most playful calf I ever saw.

Racing back to the herd.

She ran around her mom and two others, then tore off like a racing cow, if there was such a thing, then ran all the way to the edge of the pasture. She then zoomed back up to her mama for a refreshing drink. I could NOT stop grinning.

I‘m tired now.

Really, who needs television? It’s darned entertaining around here. And I couldn’t even drag myself back into the house, because clouds beckoned.

It’s just beautiful.

I hadn’t seen a nice sunset in a long time. It was too rainy for a long time, then it’s been so blazingly hot I didn’t go out to look, though Lee reported at least one good one. Tonight? Glorious.

Dog, clouds, rain shower

You just don’t get many days this pleasant, that’s for sure. And even though I got a lot of work done, Goldie “made” me take a nap.

A nap for two.

Treasure your good days. Let them fill your heart with joy.

Make hay while the sun shines! Tyler V. did!

Angles, Poles, and Alignment

Wow, the fence posts/poles are all up for the horse stalls, and I have to say I am amazed at how straight and aligned they are. There are 5 poles behind the one in this picture, but so perfectly lined up that you can’t see them.

This is very perpendicular, too.

And they are all absolutely straight in the ground, too. I’ve seen the level as proof! It is hard to believe that one person was able to dig the holes, put in the poles, and fill them in with such accuracy.

It looks like one of those zig zag courses for dogs to run through.

The project of putting up the horizontal poles is next. Then rods will drop down from those poles. Those of you as fascinated by this project as me may wonder why some of the poles are taller than others. Well, looking closer, you can see they each have a line on them. Those are all 6 feet high, I think. They’re taller than me, in any case.

I think these will hold a horse or a cow.

There would be a lot more done, but the backhoe has decided it doesn’t want to start. That makes for more doggie playtime, or did until Harvey zapped his poor nose on the electric fence.

It smells good here in the dirt.

I am able to sit in the shade pretty comfortably, which bodes well for giving horses some relief in the summer. The way we are going to arrange the other shipping container will help keep winter bearable, too.

Ahh. Relief.

Today I’m very grateful for my family, who are helping make the ranch so much more fun (and profitable, eventually). And I’m grateful for coworkers who help keep me going and positive, even in weird times.

Now if only that backhoe would start.

The Gate to Adventure

Maybe it isn’t that, but it’s the gate to our livestock pens! This is so exciting to me!

The second gate support up.

The chickens weren’t the only new additions to the property. There are also lots more holes and poles than yesterday.

I love this picture of the dirt flying!

It’s so much fun to watch the progress. This area will be so darned sturdy when it’s done!

Holes ready for poles.

I lucked out and finished work in time to watch some of the process of erecting that second giant gate support. It is a delicate process using huge machines.

Unfortunately, I realized I was supposed to be feeding horses instead of being mesmerized by tractor ballet.

While I was gone, the giant H got in the holes, and the front-end loader was holding it up, ready for concrete. Lee arrived and helped out with the other tractor, and soon it was in!

Lee is helping.

We now have two big H braces. They would make great supports for an adult-size swing set. So, that won’t happen, because it would need mosquito netting. Holy cow, the recent rains have created swarms. Trying to find a sneaky calf this evening ended up being a buzzing, stinging nightmare.

Maybe this fascinating spider will eat mosquitoes. It’s a giant lichen orbweaver.

We’ve been having fun working and enjoying the animals. Carlton is out with us often. He’s gotten so well behaved that he’s a great outdoor companion.

I’m a good boy.

Who cares if work’s hard? After work is great on these long days!

We Have Fence Poles

This is happy stuff! There are now poles in our stall area! Thank you, Mother Nature for a dry day!

The area near the shipping container. The square pole is part of our roof support.

There are a lot of holes to dig and concrete to pour, but it’s coming along! The big auger makes short work of the digging, but the concrete has to be poured by hand.

Posts are leaning because they are just sitting in big ole holes.

When I’m not working and working and working, I can help with the fencing, too. Some of the fence poles just have dirt in them, so I got to fill the holes back up with a weird hoe. Quite the manual laborer I am.

In front is a sturdy concrete post, behind is one I helped with.

However, I truly wish I’d been outside to see the big gate support go up. It must have been quite a sight! And quite a feat. No wonder I’m impressed with the new horse fencing!

That’s one fine gate support. I feel like we have a real ranch.

I’m looking forward to gates, some of which will be hand made, too. Wow. Apache and the cattle will have fancy digs.

I’m a fancy dog. In a tractor.

In Bug News

And as a postscript I have two cool insect photos to share. First, I saw a spider wasp dragging a hapless wolf spider off for dinner.

The circle of life

Also, my friend Pamela saw baby preying mantises on her property and got a shot of one whose shadow looked exactly like a giraffe. Cute!

See the giraffe?

Fencing! Amazing!

I don’t even know where to start telling you how cool our new fencing is. The craftsmanship is incredible. My gratitude is immense. But look, here’s one completed run.

Harvey is trapped! Not really.

The fence may look like normal horse fencing (not all barbed wire like cattle fencing), but what you can’t see is that all the parts were fabricated by one person and the whole thing was installed by one person, not a team. Plus, many of the tools used to make this a one-man show were hand-made, as well.

The industrial-strength auger

All the heavy braces required deep holes filled with concrete. You can’t dig those with a shovel! Luckily, the nephew happened to own a big, yellow auger that attaches to a tractor. But, what to do with it in between uses? He fashioned a way to hang it from the rafters of the future stall roof, then dug a hole for stability. Cool!

Daisuke at work

But, how the heck will all those t-posts and the metal support poles get dug? Well, I wish you could have seen it in person! First, each post got spray painted to show how deep it needed to go. Then they all got started by hand, which involved climbing up the front-end loader forks and pounding them down with a huge mallet. One mallet made the supreme sacrifice and separated from its handle during the process. Always have a backup!

Doing a wheelie. Some posts didn’t go in as easily as others. I forgot to edit this one, so the world looks sideways.

Then, one by one, Daisuke, our “big helper” tractor did the work of sinking all the posts. It is really fun to watch, especially when a post hits a rock and won’t go any further. Daisuke’s front tires go off the ground. We may have to break out the bigger tractor for some fine tuning.

Just getting started, but a good photo of the fencing on its spindle.

So, how do you string all the fencing by yourself? First you make a spindle kind of thing. It’s like a record player, and goes round and round. You put a pole on it, then put the roll of fencing on that. You can then attach to one end, and just slowly drive Daisuke backwards and unspool the wire. Ta da!

The tensioner, right after it was finished.

Great, so after that, you have a length of fencing, but it’s pretty loose and wobbly. You need to tighten it, which is much easier with a helper. However, if you’re a master welder, you “just” (easier said than done) make yourself a tensioner to attach to the tractor. There are the same number of hooks on it as there are spaces in the fencing. You hook them on the end of the fencing, and gradually tighten it, then fasten. That’s really clever.

Getting ready to stretch. Pretty cool.

Before the afternoon was over, there was an entire length of fencing, which confused the heck out of the cattle.

Fencing row number one.

By the end of the day, two rows of posts were laid out, and the top strand of barbed wire was up on the second row. Once there are three rows (we are making two pens to rotate the horses between, for parasite management), the more detailed work of putting in the fencing around the stalls, adding gates, and setting things up will start. There’s plenty of work left for our one-man crew.

Two rows of posts, and fencing ready to be strung.

And the cattle aren’t being ignored. There’s a shiny new gate that holds their heads in place so they can have their shots and other things done to them. That should work with these fairly docile cattle. We’ll still have to borrow the fancier equipment over at the Wild Type area for palpitation and anything that requires no movement. (I say “we” but I mean “he.”)

A head gate, I think it’s called.

We are glad it didn’t rain yesterday, so all this stuff could get done! Since it’s a US holiday to honor people who died in wars, I’m off work today. That means I can do my own physical labor and help with cleaning the tack room. Sara did the floors yesterday, so I get to do everything above floor level today. I’m not complaining; it needs doing, very much!

All clean and shiny, and no longer limping. Hooray! Patchy may not be as pretty as some of those fancy horses, but he’s beautiful to me.

Plus, I’ll get to hang out with Apache and Fiona. Apache feels good enough to do ground work, and Fiona is finally shedding, so I’m working on her coat. She does love attention!

I hope you are having a fun time, whether it’s a holiday or a “real” Monday for you. Life feels so much more “normal” now, with everyone home and doing stuff (and I even had a traveling friend drop by yesterday!). I’m savoring every moment.

An Equitation Educational Event

Today Sara and I went and did something together! What? Yes! We ranch ladies went off and did a horse thing somewhere near Waco. We hadn’t done anything together since last year!

One of the horses and riders we met.

We went to a beautiful facility and audited a working equitation class. The clinician was really nice and let us stand close enough to hear her. It was tons of fun learning all the things horses and riders do in this relatively new sport in the US.

The hay thing simulates a cattle chute. the barrels and sticks you do a turning pattern through.

The idea is that working equitation includes aspects of cattle working from European, US, Mexican, and South American traditions. There are dressage elements (fancy horse steps), cattle working elements, finesse, and speed.

There were lots of different horse types and riders.

Another cool thing about it is that riders wear apparel from their own tradition. So you see all kinds of saddles, tack, and riding outfits. Some horses are big Andalusians, others are gaited horses with fancy walks and runs, while you also see quarter horses, too. Sara and I sure enjoyed all the beautiful animals and skilled riders!

This rider on a deep brown gaited horse is working the barrels.

My favorite of the things the students learned was picking up a pole in a barrel, snagging a ring on it and depositing it in another barrel. the gate opening task was fun, too.

That’s the pretend gate you have to open and close without “letting the cows out.”

I can see why Sara is interested in this sport! We learned all the patterns and figured out some of the skills we’d need to learn (me way more than Sara). Now we just need horses that are healthy and can learn with us. I still have faith in Apache.

Tomorrow we’re going to watch a show, which also will have dressage. This is all new to us cowgirls, but everyone was so nice to us, supportive of each other, and eager to learn. The horses all seemed to be having fun, and most of them were sweet animals, too.

I had to take this, because the flowers will get mowed soon.

In other news, there were more floods and rain today, but some fence work did get done. And I got to play with Vlassic much of the morning.

Vlassic enjoys his newly enlarged pond.

Another fun thing this morning was watching how curious the cows are about all the fence work. They are compelled to explore each new piece.

We’re fascinated.

And the little steer has been so cute and friendly. He kept coming up and licking my hand with his rough, black tongue. I can’t wait until Haggard joins the friendly cattle (hoping that will be tomorrow, since he is officially cleared).

I want to kiss you.

Anyway, despite the rain and more rain, it was a fun and educational day. Hope yours was, too.

I want to kiss you, too.

Gonna Have a Fence Soon

Two good things happened today, both thanks to drier weather. First, Jim was able to mow the “yard” (non-pasture land around the house). I sure feel more comfortable walking around now that I could see any snakes in the grass. He’s been wanting to do it, but this was the first dry day in a while.

It’s very green still.

The second good thing is it was dry enough to work on all the bracing for the new horse fencing. We need to get Apache and Fiona over to the Hermits’ Rest as soon as possible, but the rain didn’t cooperate. Now, though, things are coming together!

When you work alone, your tractor is your best helper

I got to watch work being done on a big h-brace. There is a lot of straightening and measuring involved. I can’t imagine how long it must take to learn to do all that cutting and welding!

There’s a plumb bob in there to help keep things straight. There was also a cool magnetic level.

I had to go to a meeting in town, and when I got back, these had appeared. They are things that go with gates. I’ll understand it better when it’s all set up.

A lot of welding occurred.

We have three new gates ready to install, plus some to re-use. By the time all the pens are constructed, there will be multiple uses, entrances, and exits. And then, finally, the cattle and dog fencing can start, along with the tack room and hay storage. It’s a LOT of work, and I am not much help besides watching and appreciating!

New gates.

I’ll also have a round pen set up, since I bought the portable round pen sections that have been temporarily creating cattle pens. It will be pretty nice!

Way in the distance are the braces for the two horse pens. They are long and narrow.

Apache will have two pens to rotate between. Right now the grass has been mowed down once, but it will be again before he moves. We have to keep him on very little grass thanks to his metabolism. my guess is we won’t have much more rain until the dry season starts, the grass turns crunchy, and it will be okay for him.

I know you love me.

But I’m happy to report that I was watching him this afternoon, and he was walking pretty well. Whew. I wonder what it’s like to have a normal horse? Well, Sara says there’s no such thing as a problem-free horse.