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We Are Flying Solo

November 26, 2013

How To Dig A Hole

You have a tractor and a big auger that has been dying to eat some dirt, so no problem, right?  Perfect timing, because you have a mailbox to install!

But it looked really cool!!
(1) 811, call before you dig!!  No one wants to be that person dodging the neighbours' bullets because you severed their phone lines.

(2) Carefully select perfect spot for mailbox placement next to driveway and flag your point.

(3) Place tractor so your auger point is over your point.  Lower until the tip touches the ground (PTO off!), then maneuver/tug/finangle until it is reasonably straight.

(4)  Drill!!  Drill more!!  Yeah...

(5) Realize that all you have done, despite shoveling out a pilot hole, is made a very shiny, very shallow divot.  The ground is too hard and your auger is going nowhere.

(6) Pout in disappointment and dejected gloom that your auger so cruelly failed you.

(7) Dig hole with pointy metal stick (which was surprisingly effective, worlds better than cursed posthole diggers!) and shovel.  At least it only had to be 18".

(8) You still have to put auger away.  Knowledgeable-type people have recommended drilling a hole before you disconnect it from the 3-point hitch so it can stand on its own and you can hitch by yourself next time.  Skepticism abounds.

(9)  Return to attachment storage pen and back tractor into place.  Turn on PTO and begin drilling with substantially lowered expectations.

(10)  Use your quick reflexes to hit the clutch and stop the auger before it pulls the tractor into the new well it has just dug, sinking at least 3 feet in about 15 seconds like a mole on Ecstasy.

(11) Try not to let the whole street hear your cursing.

Moral of this important lesson:  when you want to auger a hole with cool equipment, make sure it is somewhere where you don't really need a hole.  If you require a useful hole to actually place mailboxes, fenceposts, and other such useful items, abandon hope, all ye who attempt.

November 22, 2013

I Hate Darkness

What my horses are doing right now.  Why the mud pillow?
The time change:  it's what every working horseperson dreads.  You come home from work, it's dark already and feels like the day is already gone and it takes all your willpower to layer up, saddle up, and mount up.

And I'm wishing that was the only thing I had to worry about!

I apologize for being an absentee blogger so much this fall.  It feels like someone flipped a switch in my life:  I was hanging out all summer, my horse was lame so I didn't have much to do outside of work and I had all this free time.

Now I would give my arms for a little boredom -- is there a happy medium??  It will take me considerably longer to put together the horse trial story, so will some photos of an awesome OTTB trying his heart out do?

Let's see, what else have I got:

This happened:

Yes, that is a Shed-In-A-Box full of my boys' winter supply of hay.  I ran about in a panic once we finally had time to assemble the shed on the farm (it is just a simple ShelterLogic thingy from HomeDepot, since I am poor and in a hurry) because I wanted to buy decent hay before the price rocketed to winter levels.  So if their shelter ever arrives, the boys will have a selection of either a slightly sun-faded but still quite good orchard/rye mix or a leafy green timothy/orchard mix.

We crammed my horse trailer and another small truck with as much hay as they would hold (which turns out to be 75 bales) and sprinted back to finish the shed and fill it before that evening's forecasted rain.  I already had my moisture barrier and pallets from my house construction site, so after we got the shed walls on, we started stacking.

Watching skeptics swore I would never fit it all in, but I had done very careful math (even geometry, for cod's sake) with volumes of hay bales and sheds so I held the faith.  DANGIT, IT FIT!!  Vindication feels good.  Although now I am annoyed that I forgot to turn the bottom bales on their sides, but I'm not taking it all out to fix them.  So far it's nice and cozy and dry and I'll add a few pieces later to critter proof it.

OH!  And this happened:
I am fostering BFF's tractor because she is awesome and we had a chat (she previously owned a farm, but the tractor has been mostly sitting in the woods since they sold the farm).  It took me approximately...42 seconds to become obsessed with it.

It's had a lot of time off, but still runs beautifully and it brought its good friends, Bush-hog, Harrow, Augur, and best of all, Bitey Bucket (yeah, yeah, 4-in-1, but that sounds boring).  So I am hoping I will able to beautify it again over time and will certainly be able to keep it from being bored.  I completely confess to squealing with glee when I picked up an 8' telephone pole with said bitey bucket and moved to a different location.  Bonus:  bucket can also open up and be used a box blade or light-duty dozer or backgrader.  Theoretically.  I need to practice more before I am any good at that!

What can I grab next?
Because of work and house and farm duties, I haven't been able to see the horses much, aside from quick visits.  I purposefully did not touch Encore for a week after his horse trial; he had gotten a bit work sour and cranky and was looking a tad ulcer-y.  He's getting a few weeks of ranitidine (already gets U-Guard and alfalfa pellets), but when I visited yesterday, he was already looking happier!

So the young'un gets some time off for now, then he will spend the winter getting strong on the trails and fine-tuning some skills.  He showed me he had the scope and was ready to attack Training Level, so a-schooling we shall go!

Next week, I hope to hop on Solo and play around.  He needs something to do too this winter, so once I get tractor and fence put together, hopefully I will have earned some more weekend time to myself!

November 14, 2013

It's A Gusher!

So this happened on Tuesday:

No, not that kind of well!!!
Yes, Flying Solo Farm has a well!

And not just a well, a 30 GALLON PER MINUTE (gpm) well!  For the uninitiated, on average, 5-10 gpm is doable to decent, up to 20 gpm is really good, over 20 gpm is spectacular.  Since this baby can tehcnically fill a 100-gallon trough in just over 3 minutes, yeah, I'm excited.  And it is only 175 ft deep (pretty shallow for this area), which means if the pump goes out (it happens), I have a relatively small amount of pipe to pull out of the ground to fix it!

Josh and his crew from Triad Drillers were fantastic to work with and yeah, I have mega truck envy.  On the front bumper were mounted about 25 different bits, each the diameter of my fist with nickle-sized carbide beads (power tool geek-out).  They also had a huge bladed one to drill through rock (which they hit 50 feet down, I was surprised they got that far rock-free in this county!). 

A Flying Solo Drilling Rig...literally!

Josh and co. clearing the way for the drill.
For those of you scratching your heads, wells are the most common source of drinking water in this part of the country if you live outside of city limits and the reach of municipal water infrastructure.  I grew up with a cistern and septic tank, so it has driven me NUTS paying a bunch of money for city water (complete with chlorine, ever looked into the long-term effects of that nasty stuff--here is an article I wrote for my older blog about why you should!) and sewer.  We always caught our water from the roof (although could buy trucked in water during droughts) and let the septic tank do its thing.  It only costs you a miniscule amount of power to run the pumps on each.

It was huge!  And those round rust-colour things on top of the front bumper are the bits.
There can be downsides.  Too many people tapped into one underground vein can use the water faster than it can refill, which means you run out temporarily and you have to wait for the well to "refill" via subsurface flow.  If you are in an area where the groundwater is contaminated by bacteria, industrial waste (this is the biggest threat from fracking for natural gas), you will have to add some sort of filter or treatment to your well (my boss, for example, has a UV system on his, read the above linked article on chlorine about that).  But most wells in the close vicinity of the farm have good, sweet-tasting water and a plentiful supply of it.

Dowsing rods
We also did a fun experiment; my new neighbour was taught dowsing by his grandmother.  So before the drillers got there (I figured they would have some fancy technological thingy), we went up there with his two coat hanger rods and he found two or three spots where they indicated water.  The driller showed up out of his truck with two coat hanger rods and ended up drilling in one of the same spots!!

There is much skepticism and debate about whether it is valid or not and little to no science to back it up.  But I've watched it multiple times and even tried it and even me, Queen of the Skeptics, can't write it off as bunk.  Hey, it found my water which my farm will be dependent on and the amazing flow rate raises the value of the land considerably.  Good enough for me!

November 11, 2013

That Other Long Event Story Before Yesterday's Long Event Story

Oh no, you don't get yesterday's story before you get the lead-in story!  I will tell you that for those of you who don't check our FB page (you don't have to be a FB member) that Sunday at CHP, nothing bad happened, I was proud of my pony, and I retired on XC simply for safety, because I knew he was tired.

Awesome, fit Solo through the trademark FenRidge lattice in 2010.
In mid-October, as you know, I took Encore over to our much beloved FenRidge Farm for what I later learned is the last horse trial that will be hosted there!  While that makes me very sad, I can only express an enormous thanks for all that Patricia has done there, as I certainly know all too well how much work and time and stress and money and people it takes to pull these things off, even at a schooling level.  I competed Solo in their first horse trial ever and those events have been unbeatable for bringing a horse along the lower levels.  I do hope that we will continue to be able to school there and I believe she will still be doing her dressage and CT shows.

I entered Encore in the T/N division, which means that you ride Training Level dressage and stadium and finish with a Novice XC course.  It makes a nice stairstep so the horses don't get everything thrown at them at once.  I also know that Patricia loves to make a tough, twisty stadium course (which I love and is always at the perfect level of challenge!), so Encore would have plenty to take in.

I may have bought the CD just for this portrait.  Now everyone knows he's #1. 
In addition, we had the challenge of about an hour between dressage and stadium in which I'd have to change tack, walk my XC course, put in studs, and warm up.  Uh huh.  There is no measure for the amount of gratitude I have that Awesome Crewer, B was there to help!!!!  All Encore photos thanks to High Time Photography!  Early morning light is tough.

His dressage warmup was lovely.  When ARE they going to start doing that judged warmup, LOL?  But I was overambitious for our 8:28 am ride time (we were #1, literally, I kept that bridle tag, hee) and he was ready to go twenty minutes early.   No problem, I'll just walk him around and stretch.  The steward informed me in a while that the judge was about ready, so I figured one more lap and then we'd trot around the outside of the arena.  Then the whistle blew.

First mistake:  I panicked, gathered up my horse, did one quick trot circle outside of A with Encore saying, "Wait, what??  Are we doing the trotty thing again?  Weren't we done?  Which part am I supposed to do now?" and I entered.  Should have trotted around the outside anyway...

Note:  on all our videos, they are shot in HD.  You can force YouTube to play them that way by clicking the little gear icon on the bottom right of the video and picking your resolution of choice.  If you use Firefox, they also have an awesome little add-on which pushes all YouTube videos to HD automatically when they open.

Yes, that is someone apparently clicker training in the background.  I always see something new!  Despite the "pop quiz," Encore was obedient and tried hard.  I was not so good at that!  I never did get him in front of my leg and there was this argument between my brain and my body:

I tried, mom.  I had my moments.
Brain: MORON, let go of his face and GO!

Body:  meh.

Brain:  LET GO!!

Body:  Nah, I'll just stay all tense in my arms, it's what I do, man.

Argh!!  Despite all of that nonsense, Encore walked out with a 36.6 on his first Training test ever that, erm, we may never have practiced in full.  The judge did not penalize him for tripping at the end of his "lengthened" right lead canter in the corner, gave him an 8 on his medium walk (WOOT!), and a 7 on his second trot lengthening (yeah, we don't really have lengthenings yet, but I don't worry about it, dressage is always a project) with a "good effort!"  I even (thank you, ever-so-generous and helpful COTH critique crew!) managed to bump my rider score up a point from our CT a month earlier!

Stretchy circle efforts!
This, my friends, is a lateral canter.  He is very good at stepping under himself without truly engaging!
No probs, mom, blue matches my outfit anyway.
B was able to hand walk Encore while I walked XC and then retacked and studded my horse for both jumping phases.  I am glad that I know that land well -- it had rained most of the week and there is a fair amount of clay out there, so it gets slick in a hurry.  We had a beautiful day to ride on and Patricia works hard to make the footing the best it can be, but mud is mud.  So Encore got to wear his big mud studs (I'm not taking any chances with Sir Slips-A-Lot-When-Excited-About-Jumps) for the first time ever, which takes some getting used to.  Which left us with about 60 seconds of jump warmup time.  Awesome.

Second mistake:  I should have put my foot down and refused to go in the ring until we were a bit readier.  Not that it would have been very long since there were only three people in our division, but still.  We were able to do two warm up jumps while Encore got used to the soccer cleats.  The rest is all OTTB heart and try.  And yes, this silly rider needs to get her leg strength back -- we both lost muscle during the Hoof Bruise Debacle.

Both rails were my fault.  I did not have my leg on yet at the first jump.  The second was a result of my not getting a big enough half halt and rebalance coming down off the mound.  I also circled purposefully before the third jump, a big oxer on a sharp bending line of about 3-4 strides, because Encore was unbalanced and rushy on landing and it was going to be a bad approach with a potential crash.  I want good experiences!!!!
A big, focused effort over that third oxer. 
I am particularly proud of the mound jump.  It's a really great rider question that is used there often.  She sets a narrower vertical on top of that mound and for Training, the standards are moved apart so the pole is barrreely resting on the edge of the cup.  If you touch it, it will fall.  The question asks if you can keep your horse's hind end impulsion engaged while the uphill tries to suck it away.  I have learned a lot from that mound and we did it!!
Don't touch my hoofies, weird flower thing!
Another important focus, especially on this tight, twisty course, was making sure my horse's poll was UP (with leg on, yeah, sometimes I forget I have legs) in front of the jump, so he had the correct balance and didn't hurl his shoulders at it.  David is always reminding us of this and I wish I'd had the helmet cam turned on for this course, as you'd hear me before every jump saying, "Poll up, poll UP!"
Video cap (JJ Abrams style) of POLL UP as we prepare for the flower jump above.
Then it was a Novice XC course, that had some fun new elements added.  Typically, I forgot to turn my helmet cam on until after jump 6 (but hey, I remembered it yesterday before the start box!!) and somehow the lens alignment got knocked out of whack so just tilt your head left.  And I swear, I do not stare down at jumps, I just had the camera angled too far down.  Sigh.  Doug Payne, how do you do it????

I apologize if you have quality issues here.  I have some software that has communication issues with other software that has issues with YouTube, they need to work that crap out.  The clicky clack is just the plastic safety clip on the camera hitting my helmet.

I'm sad I missed 4-5-6.  You galloped down a little trail in the woods, hopped over a deeeep square ditch with water running through, took four to five strides to a big pile of branches, then three to four to a fallen tree which had propped itself way up in the air.  FUN!
5...4...3...2...1...Have a great ride!
I did take it very slow (you hear "whoa" a lot, heh).  There were some squishy spots and my goal was to school and prep to go full-on Training at CHP in November.  I never understood when pros said, oh, I'm not going for time, we're just going to jump and whatever...until now.  So we had plenty of time faults, but excellent jumping despite some rider baboon moments (throwing self at horse's ears = no).

Apple stand table second from last.
Last jump on course and oh so fitting...
Encore was a wonderful pony, stepped up to the plate even with 10 seconds of warning and, clever little brain spinning like mad, got it all done and then some.  He definitely has learned his job, the only thing I have to do is make sure he locks on to the RIGHT fences (How about this one, mom?  No?  That one!  No?  Oooo, this one?  Ohhhh, that one, ok!!) but this is a good problem.

We had a beautiful (albeit with its stressfull time crunch moments) day, a great, safe learning school, and both Encore and I felt confident and ready to tackle what Training had in store for us.  A huuuuge thanks to B, we couldn't have done it without you, and of course THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to Patricia and all the crew and volunteers not only for this event, but for each one.  I have a lot of wonderful memories (ok, and some crazy ones!) and large parts of both my horses' careers that are captioned "FenRidge Farm."  I hope we will get to make more!

A great finish for any day.

November 7, 2013

Buy It! Sell It! Ride It! Show It! Oh Yeah...SHOW UP AT WORK!

That's the TL;DR version of my life right now!

I want to tell our FenRidge T/N (Training dressage and stadium/Novice XC) horse trial story, but have not yet had time to type it out.  There are a few sneak preview videos on our Facebook and YouTube pages but it was a crazy day so I have more fun pictures and stories.  Hey, maybe I will post them sometime...

The farmhouse is...almost a house!

Well, almost....
It still needs the front porch.  And the rest of the shutters.  And the foundation finish (will match roof).  And gutters.  But you know, it has a roof and you can walk inside!  And I have to say, I am REALLY impressed by the quality of foundation and structural work (hey, I'm a science geek and an engineer's kid, I notice).  One of, if not the, top priorities of this whole building is for it to be structurally sound and stay there a long time without me having to do anything or think about it.  So thank you so far, Carolina Custom Homes (especially for the hurricane straps!) for going the extra mile on the things that matter (I don't give a crap what colour the ceiling is), with an extra shout-out to Susan for being the most awesome, patient, kind rep of all time.

Ummm, yes, porch definitely needed!  I am 5'9" (and as you can see, always the fashionista, don't be jelly) and standing on my tippy-toes in that picture.  Access denied...

But it's coming together.  I ordered a run-in shed (ok, fine, it's a carport, but that's what the horses live in now, I think it's a Carolina thing) once I found a company who met my high bar -- it had to be engineer-certified with 12-gauge heavy duty galvanized steel and wind-rated over 100 mph.  Hey, I am serious about things staying put and only buying them once!  The super-helpful folks at HorseGuard are sending me some bipolar fencing tape to line the previously-existing wire.

Oh, did I mention that I will never be able to compete or travel or eat ever again?

Working on selling my current house in town, but we have had showings in the first week, so please send us good karma (I scrubbed the baseboard behind the toilet, dammit, people, what more do you want?).

And to top it all off, because I was bored, you know, and had soooo much free time, Encore and I will be competing at the Carolina Horse Park's schooling trials.  I had already paid for the entry so we have to go now!  Our dressage time is at 9:30 am on Sunday, so I am very glad we are able to go down Saturday afternoon and stay with an awesome friend.  We should be done jumping both in the ring and XC by 10:45 (choked laughter of time panic), so at least we can come home and pass out?

Ride times here.  A big thanks to organizer and SJ course designer Marc Donovan, XC course designer Andrea St. Hilaire-Glenn, and secretary Suda McNeill for the hard work putting it all together.

Look, you can even stalk us real-time! Live scoring to make sure your friends (and me) stay in proper vertical order!  Thanks, EventEntries!

Oh and by the way, we are entered at Training Level...