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We Are Flying Solo

December 31, 2014

The Home Of Solaris Is Now Officially Solar!

Well, his part is, at any rate.


And despite the rambling of my previous post, heinously simple & working like a charm.  It all comes prewired, so you just stick the velcro where you want your boxes, slip the ring connectors on your battery terminal, & stuff the panel wires in their labeled ports.

Srsly.  Even laziness-enabled so you don't actually have to mount the panel until you feel like it!

You already saw the photos, so I give you this wonderful gift:  system features in live action.  You might at first wonder, why the heck would I want to watch that?

Because, my dear readers, particularly those who have visited for a while, know that I often forget that camera microphones are not selective.  So the ridiculous commentary at the ends of my videos is my special present to you.

From the woman who has few qualms about online dorkiness (plus it is a pretty cool gadget!), I present for your viewing entertainment:

There is even a button to push!!!  A BUTTON!

December 27, 2014

How To Put Some Solar Power In Your Fenceline (Without Taking On The Solar Charger Headache)

No, you may not steal my horse.  Solo is brilliant, but his charge is non-transferrable.

Why Did You Build It?

So they would come.  Duh.  And by "they," I mean photons.  Because photons are badass, right, my fellow physics nerd homies?

My lovely little Blackside Dace, c. 2003
I'm a conservation biologist by day, so my motivation for using truly alternative energy is fairly obvious.  My graduate research was in the hollers of SE KY, studying this fairytale rainbow of a fish, the federally threatened Blackside Dace.

This project put me face-to-face with mountaintop coal extraction, the horrors of valley fill (scary stuff, check out these photos), acid mine drainage, & the third-world poverty of communities left to rot once Big Coal mechanized everything.

After 10+ years in freshwater species conservation, I've also learned about the havoc wrought by hydropower dams via drowned ecosystems, natural communities decimated by unnatural flow patterns, & rivers run dry by upstream withdrawals.  Add in collapsed bat lungs & migratory birds who look like they've gone through a blender in the vicinity of wind farms and, well, it seems like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I won't wander into the side topic of the many efforts to improve the latter few issues (nor my instense desire to hurl large rocks at "clean coal" billboards, *insert expletives here*).  Or the simple fact that there is no panacea.

Newly installed tape back in February 2014
I am also poor.  My farm on top of a Carolina hill has an abundance of sunshine & my Horseguard bipolar fence tape is amazing.  But it still needs electricity to convince Solo to stay on the desired side of the line.

Non-science geek translation:  I really wanted to use solar power because it's free (after setup) & is the only power generation source I'm aware of that, on my small scale, has no negative impacts (unless Iron Man is willing to share his arc reactor -- sorry, I can't even non-geek without geeking).  But all-in-one solar chargers with the durability & power to give the consistent charge you want over the years in varying weather are very, very expensive.

I'll save the technicalities to consider for another day, because the point (if I ever make it there) of this post is supposed to be "How To Make It So With Tools & Free Stuff & Hay String & Shit."

Well, it is a farm, we do have shit.

The previous set-up (& dumpster-diving validation!)
What You Need
  • One pre-existing battery-powered system:  mine = one Parmak Magnum 12 DC [battery]-powered fence charger connected to a heavy-duty deep cycle battery (hey, I still wasn't going to pay for power...).  
  • One quality solar panel & charge controller that is rated for more than 12V (see above reference to technicalities post) - guess what Awesome Mom got me for Xmas?!
  • Something to mount all this crap on, including a vertical or horizontal surface with good sun-exposure (preferably south-facing...unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere)
  • Best. BFF. Present. Ever.
  • TOOLZ!  If your charger is already in a good spot, just a drill & screwdriver to mount the panel (and that's only for eventual permament mounting, because they include options for temporary setup for indecisive people).  The panel kit I used even included screws & velcro.  Yes, velcro - they obviously get horse people.
  • Enough colour vision to distinguish red (positive) from black (negative) & enough literacy to match up the right wires with the little plus & minus signs.  Hee.  This is my third single panel installation; my first was at 22, so trust me, it's not rocket science!   
How To Do It
(My Way, Which Naturally Has Extra Steps; Easy Life Would Be Boring, Right?  RIGHT??)

A:  Know your sun/shadow patterns throughout the day.  Badass photons are powerless in shadow.

B:  Realize your current perfect battery/charger location & precision-engineered setup are conveniently close to...90% shadows after the morning.  And no way am I taking on mounting that panel 12' in the air on top of the run-in.
C:  Resign yourself to moving the charger to the opposite side of the run-in, within easy reach of 99% sunlight all day & a perfect mounting location on the back of the feed shed.  Of course.  You must only move...nearly everything you store there.

D:  Move the charger in just a few "simple steps:"

The new wall
(1) Install new custom Equi-Flooring material & rustic pre-assembled decorative Pallet Wall base unit .  For security, make sure your base unit is secured by AT LEAST four pieces of hay string.  This way, it will never, ever fall.  *snork*

(2)  Get creative!  That scrap of treated plywood Encore knocked down in an itching fit?  Provides perfect weather protection screwed on to the inside of the Pallet Wall.  In addition, you now have your surface ready to re-mount the charger, along with any additional parts.

It's aweeeesomeeee...
(3) Carry your specialized Battery Support System to its new location & you're set!

(4)  If you want to go wild, you can pull nails (& make sure you don't lose them thanks to your awesome new magnetic wrist wrap thingy) from some spare lumber & connect the Pallet Wall to, say, another solid object in case of hay string failure (even though we know this never happens).

Photon-ready, Captain! Yeah, there's a couple wires...
E:  Now that your original system is restored to "action-ready," stick (literally, I told you there was sticky velcro!) the solar charge controller & battery condition monitor in your desired arrangement.  Make sure the controller wires are within reach of your battery & the controller itself is within reach of the recommended wiring range for your solar panel (in this instance, 5 feet).

Controller (left) & monitor (below controller)
F:  Install your solar panel:  either in a temporary setup configuration if offered or mounted in its permanent location.  Remember that panels are designed for weather exposure, but NOT to be trod upon by humans or horses.  It's still glass!

G:  Wire the panel to the controller; this is as simple as connecting the positive & negative leads to the labelled holes.  Make sure the panel is covered at this time & NOT PRODUCING POWER WHILE YOU ARE FIDDLING WITH THE WIRING!  Safety is important, as is protecting your battery & charger.  (ok, I don't have a photo of this yet)

H:  Step back & dramatically spread your dust & sweat-smattered arms so you can loudly pronounce "TA-DAAAA!" to your horses, who couldn't care less.  But your fencing is now power-independent!!

Remind Me Of The Advantages Of Doing This?

The critical element, the controller, will prevent your panel from overcharging or draining your battery.  The condition monitor will let you test your battery whenever you like (for example, when you want to show your friends how you single-handedly harnessed badass photons to run your fence & keep your battery charged for free...just an example...).

No sun?  No problem:  my battery will run my charger on its own for over 30 days.  

That system will also keep your battery in better condition for a longer life, so you get to spend your valuable time & money -- playing with your horses, as you should be!!  

To be continued, so you shall be fully educated whether you like it or not, BWAHAHAHHAHA...

December 24, 2014

A Few Of My Favourite Things!

Sing it with me now!

*dons epic Julie Andrews voice, click if you need to tune yours...*

Haynets on doorknobs and blankets draped sideways,
Horseshoes in puddles and eagles that spy them,

Streams of clear water that drip from hay string;
These are a few of my favourite things.

Merry Xmas to me from Encore!
Poo-coated buckles and stick-tangled tails,
Fetlocks all muddy and rainfall-filled pails,

Notes to the shoer, who can’t wait for spring;
These are a few of my favourite things!

When the boot rips,
When the wind blows,
When I’m charging lamps,

I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feeeeeel
So daaamp.


December 22, 2014

The Air Of Heaven…A Horse’s Ears…You Know How It Goes

Uh, no, THIS is my sacred duty, mom...
Yesterday, I rode.  Three simple words, yet in the context of the past year, an extraordinary thing.

The time has been there, & I learned (& even mostly followed!) the #1 rule of farm ownership:  ALWAYS RIDE FIRST.  But there have been so many other energy-sapping things… 

With my favourite weather site promising “abundant sunshine,” yesterday I gathered two red geldings & called Amazing Neighbour Vanessa.  I may have magically draining soil, but Encore is still healing from his ass tear (yes, if you missed the brief mention, my talented horse actually strained his gluteus muscle) & even with studs, I worried about him slipping in our saturated fields. 

In addition, because he cannot have me getting complacent, he has knocked the inside of a front leg AGAIN; we’re keeping an eye (& the magic creme) on that one.  I am grateful a thousand times over for Vanessa’s continued generosity with things like all-weather footing.

Solo's first stud tapping...
Those Familiar Motions

Yesterday, I swept brushes over chestnut backs that were definitely missing some tone, picked mud out of under-used hooves, dripped iodine into soggy frogs (just in case).

Yesterday, I smoothed the velcro on ankle boots, cinched girths on saddles & surcingles, wrestled half-chap zippers over fluffy fleece breeches.

Yesterday, all three of us smiled as we made the brief hack down the fenceline in a bright, swinging walk (although only one of us knew that there was only sandbox torture in store).

Two Horses At The Same Time?  
(honk if you get it...)

Vanessa is all about versatility, keeping horses’ minds & bodies fresh & well-rounded, a philosophy that meshes perfectly with my own.  Hence the handy highline at one end of the arena, where I could tether one beast while I worked the other.  A two-for-one deal:  exercise AND great practice at standing tied while your buddy does things at the other end of the arena, which is possibly more fun than the spot under the line.

Duh, mom, TRAIL BIT!
So it was that yesterday, Solo watched as I suppled Encore under saddle with David’s words in my head: “Let the circles be the gymnastic exercise.” 

Encore responded with tongue-lolling annoyance, because “Mommmm, this is the trail bit, NOT the dressage bit.  How am I supposed to work under these conditions??!”  Like many abusers, I was asking him to work in the harshness of a Myler Comfort Snaffle instead of a HS Duo

*insert eyeroll here* 

Nonetheless, yesterday, my chunky Thoroughbred softened with each change in bend as we worked 10-m figure-eights.  As directed, the focus was “slow is ok, be round across his topline as he heals, we’ll bring forward back later.

Yesterday, his left lead canter was back to feeling like a canter, instead of a washing machine, & he stayed soft & quiet as he hopped over a 12” cavaletti in a steady rhythm.

But he can teach you all about vienna reins!
And Mr. Shiny??

Yesterday, after trading places, Solo managed to swallow his anxiety about the long lines (this is the horse who took four years to trust longeing enough to do it normally) & not  only accept the contact of the outside line, but CANTER on the lines.  It may seem tiny, but this is a huge achievement for him, as I trained him primarily in a round pen for that type of work.  The lines are new to him & he remains suspicious of long ropes around his legs.

Yesterday, I led home two horses after they stretched out tight backs, worked out bored energy, & rediscovered the spring in their step.

And you know what?  I was sore this morning, but I think there was a little something extra in my walk today too.
Can we head back towards this?

December 20, 2014

Our Blogger Secret Santa Revealed: Thank You!!!

Random wrench was the closest metal object, I had to demo!
A thousand gratitudes to Molly, McKenna, & Phoenix at One Bud Wiser (yeah for OTTB buddies!) for the perfect gift of a magnetic wrist wrap.  Even in a pretty box!  I can't help but wonder if it will stop me from losing my marbles...

Hey, A Girl Can Dream

Even if it can't achieve that magical feat, I'm sure I'm not the only person who manages to drop the screw/bolt/nail/wire/snap/anything-opposable-thumbs-can-grasp. Every. Single. Time. 

In the grass. 

When the fallen object is inevitably dark-coloured. 

Not that it would help if it were glitter silver; with a contact Rx of -8 & astigmatism (I know, it's a wonder I can find the horses), once my useless hands have released any object, all projects must come to an astonishingly long halt while I pick through ground layers I never even knew existed.

Like my man-hands (psh, like I'd work on a Honda)?

I can't even imagine the sweet luxury of life with no bolts clamped in my teeth, no studs tracked like gold bullion, & the end of strings of profanity I only hope my dear neighbours can't hear, as the 357th screw bounces off the end of the impact driver. 

Now I just have to figure out what to do with all that free time.  Oh, I know, maybe I can FINISH AN ACTUAL FARM PROJECT.  Or, I don't know, something really crazy, like RIDE MY HORSES.  How's that for going out on a limb??!  I think I used to do that...

Kudos To Awesome Organizer & Participants!

Thank you again, Molly, & thank you to Tracy at Fly On Over for putting it all together!  I know I had lots of fun wrapping up some goodies...  Only horse people really know the strange & wonderful gifts horse people get excited about.


December 18, 2014

Horze Enables My Inner Boot Addict & Safety Police All At Once?!

Um, not that kind of grail boot...WTF is that?

I know, I had to take a few deep breaths too...

The Boots & The Blue

A few months ago, I shared my inadvertent discovery of the holy grail of bell boots:  no-turn boots that actually did not turn!  They continue their awesome, although they do live in the "special occasions" pile.  Ok, because I am not motivated enough to yank off the pull-ons Encore lives in...but also because they are so pretty.

Bee-yoo-tee-ful dark blue
In what I believe must be a covert agreement with the NSA, Horze discovered that in my initial "horse equipment acquisition" years, my weak spot of addiction lay smack in the middle of horse boots of every shape & size (geez, 2010 doesn't sound like that long ago, but pardon a moment of silence as I consider how much had not happened yet...).

Speaking of those boots of years past, I still have (& USE), in perfect condition, those Moxie ankle boots, the 5-strap Woofs from the trash can at Waredaca & both the Roma & N.E.W. front boots!

Click = embiggen
It turns out, though, that the beautiful matching shades of the No-Turn Boots & the Lyon Synthetic Gloves existed in a threesome.  I introduce to you the Horze Tendon Boot:  I challenge you to find a colour (there are NINETEEN) that doesn't match your ensemble!!

Naturally, there was only ONE appropriate choice for TFS & I confess I was taken aback a little by how much I liked them.  Both the plastic shell & the neoprene liner were just the right amount softer (mea culpa for that horrific grammar) than the Romas, lending the boot a nicer ability to mold to Encore's legs.  But they still felt sturdy, had strong velcro & stitching, and, erm, did I mention the matching...?

*places reverently in Pretty Boot Storage Basket with matchy bell boots*

Those are totes the trash-can Woofs...
And Safety Too?!

Be still my heart.  Because one pair wasn't enough.

Encore is a bit base-narrow behind, so he sometimes wears a set of Nunn Finer pastern wraps (always when studded, as at left).  However, the outer layer of these started falling off within one week of purchase.  I've continued to use them for several years, as the neoprene is fine.  The velcro is beginning to fail, so I do tape them with every use, so one could say it's becoming a bit of a pain.

Combine my casual lookout for their replacement & my insatiable desire for anything that says, "I AM NOT A DEER NOR CAN YOU CLAIM MY CORPSE RESEMBLED ONE" in our lovely NC Decembers and you get this:

The Horze Reflective Leg Straps, which fit nicely on the big boy's pasterns & have a handy built-in "velcro failure backup system" in the nylon strap.  My only trouble was deciding what to do with the end of the strap once fastened.

Keepers are not included, so I'll likely just keep the tape handy.  Much easier to throw a thin strip around the end of the strap & still have insanely bright reflective power!

Alternatively, I may cut the end off entirely, although this does limit one's adjustability somewhat.  I don't have any plans to buy Clydesdales in the near future though...  The plastic buckle itself is a wee bit fiddly, but definitely clamps down tight & we had no rubs on a long, muddy ride through the woods.

Two hooves up!  Although if there is a passing car or a camera flash or a reflection off your sunglasses, you may see them so brightly that you'll walk into trees for the next five minutes.  That could just be me...

I swear upon Solo, pastern reflection from flash not enhanced!!

Not Everyone Is A Grinch

In the spirit of the season, the friendly folks at Horze added this festive helmet cover to the box.  Grinchy-me hesitated at first, but then realized a bright red helmet is yet another great way to stay very, very visible (particularly to folks who make their own seasons...or don't follow any at all)!

Solo's wonderful Minion Erica (thank you for being badass, Erica!) submitted the cover to a grueling ground test:  I think I can see it!

Thank you so much AGAIN to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want even more of their stuff try out their products & share the skeptic's perspective with you!

December 9, 2014

Tuesday Tack Tips: Revitalizing Tired Fleece

My fluff haz no protective force field??
Whether synthetic or manufactured by sheep, fleece-lined boots, saddle pads, even bedroom slippers suffer much the same trend as I do:


Over time, pressure & perspiration cause loss of fluffiness, burrs & sticks can get tangled in seams & fabric, and embedded dirt just gives an overall impression of dinginess.

While my own condition barely registers on the Give-A-Shit Meter, your fleece, assigned the important task of cushioning, cooling (if it's the real thing), & caressing your horse's sensitive skin, deserves far better!

Fortunately for both of us, the solution (for the fleece's condition, at any rate) is simple, quick, & nearly foolproof (I'm not going to say I have NEVER scraped myself with...any object that fits in my hand).

Top: Teh Fluff Lives Again!  Bottom:  Iz Next...
Observe -->

And you're done!  For those who particularly love grooming, now you even get to groom your horse's outfits!!

Simple Solution

In the photo, all I've done with these Dover Pro Sport boots I borrowed for Encore & his new game of "How Many Of My Own Legs Can I Kick During Playtime?"

*insert owner disapproval here* a short soak & pre-wash on 'gentle' in my garage-sale washing machine (Remember when you put the clothes in FROM THE TOP?  And they only came in white?  The horrors I somehow manage to navigate daily...).

After a brief air-dry, I dug out my wire dog-grooming brush that I'm fairly certain is old enough to vote (and I'm almost as certain you can find at your local Dollar Tree,if you don't have one lying around)...and I spent a whopping three minutes brushing the top boot's fleece & velcro.  You can see how much grit is gone, especially if you click to embiggen, compared to its as-yet-un-groomed mate below it.

In addition, the loft is restored & Encore's legs are now wrapped in the revived soft fluffiness of his own personal leg-clouds.  Or weird analogy of your choice.

Hey, I've just spent 10 hours in December hunting inch-long rare fish in swampy ditches full of sticks & 10 degree-C water.  You get what you get...

What are you waiting for??  GO FIND FLUFF IN NEED!

I believe these come pre-fluffed...