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We Are Flying Solo

February 28, 2015

You Know That Day You Were All Like “Imma Be A Hero!” Pt II

Here Come The Awesome Points!

After meticulously clearing spaces around all levers & pedals, I slip the tractor into 4x4, put the transmission in (s)low gear, & begin the crawl towards my road.
Snow, hay, it all drags, right???
Hold on to your panties, because…it’s working!  I keep the drag teeth adjusted at just the right height so they don’t reach the fragile, saturated soil beneath.  They break up the tire tracks so there is no risk of creating packed ice.  I move to the side of my path every few minutes to lift the drag, dropping accumulated snow so it doesn’t get too heavy.

Richard’s house is very close to the street, our driveways connect, so as I turn (about 20 mins later…I wasn’t kidding about slow) onto his section to make my entrance as Epic Rescue Neighbour, I see him with snow shovel in hand, having just cleared the edges of his carport.  He waves & walks down the hill, so I stop & switch off the tractor to chat.

Begin Subtraction Of Attempted Awesome Points

I excitedly point to my Ingenious Solution & proudly announce that I could finally repay him for…at least 1% of all he’s done.  Richard grins & replies.   

*insert trademark NC retiree accent here*

Great!  I was just about to start up the skidsteer.  I was just gonna plow a quick loop around our driveways up here by the pole barn & the street so it’ll get down to that black surface & melt faster.

Oh, yeah, he also owns an industrial skidsteer to which he added a 5’-wide bitey bucket of his own.  And a 10,000-lb excavator.  And pretty much anything else you can think of (except a drag!!).

Aww, Richard!”  You’d think I’d have learned my odds of success whenever I start to think I’m awesome.  “Dang it, now you ruined it!  How am I ever going to be helpful when you own every toy in the world??!”  I’m laughing at the same time, so it wasn’t as heartless as it sounds, hee.

As Richard is also the trademark, old-school southern farmer-type (of the best subspecies in that genus), with a heart of gold & an enormous Compulsive Helping complex, he, also laughing, insists that, no, no, my Ingenious Solution is still helpful.  ROFL.
Stubborn Woman Will Help You Whether You Like It Or Not

And once she has started, she’s not stopping just because you can swoop around 30 times faster on your all-terrain tracks & clear everything better than a snowplow because you have 80,000 hours of experience.  Nope, she’ll follow you around with the drag, breaking up & smoothing the skidsteer tracks.  Hey, it looks prettier & it will increase meltage even more.  Go team!!

Naturally, Richard’s Helping complex also kicked in, so when he finished his loop, he proceeded to polish off my entire driveway, including my tractor path back to the run-in.


Me = 100 points for good intentions, 10 points for actual usefulness

Richard = 1,000 more Awesome Points to add to his already uncountable total, all of which are also 100% actually useful

TL;DR:  My personal slogan may be something like, “Dang, I tried to help,” but I am possibly the luckiest farm owner ever when it comes to neighbours.

Just for pretty factor, our much more well-behaved snowfall from January, which melted in two hours, like proper NC winter should!
shadowfx01's Jan 2015 Snowfall album on Photobucket

February 26, 2015

You Know That Day You Were All Like “Imma Be A Hero!” -- Pt. I

Richard w/ hydraulic driver = epic
Where you could finally pay back Epically Awesome Neighbour for the ten million things he’s helped you with?

Just face it, you’re never going to be the hero.  But you get an A for effort.

Back Story

Ok, I am heinously lucky & have two Epically Awesome Neighbours. 
  1. Vanessa, professional horse trainer & former 1* long-format eventer, kind, generous, helpful, &, along with her husband, welcoming from the very start.
  2. Richard, professional fence-builder/bush-hogger/idea-generator/general-rescuer-in-chief.  Technically retired, although he still works at LEAST as many hours as his thoughtful & entertaining wife.
I owe you many stories (I am so very sorry, work…there is not even an adjective), but this story is about Richard.

I could not have built this farm without him.  Because this is Richard.
Teaching me PROPER hi-tensile wire repair
 And this is Richard.

Need a telephone pole driven?
 And this is Richard.
Need a log moved so you can build your own XC jump?

He feeds my horses in the mornings when I have to travel (often) for work (to be fair, all three of us have horses & he is the end of my driveway, since the land I bought was his back pasture).  He splits spring & fall farm call fees with me since we use the same vet.  He stands guard as watchdog of my person & property (as well as our entire mini-community back here).

Not. Cool.  Although quite chilly.
Ok, So He’s Captain America

When I woke up this morning to 8” of fresh powder, somehow off-course from its proper destination at Whistler or, oh, I don’t know, anywhere but here (fine, it’s better than 3” of ice), I first said a lot of very bad words fed the horses.  I’d filled their heated trough yesterday & they were content munching hay under cover, but I wanted to at least reduce the depth of the fluffy white devil between their mouths & the master hay shed so I could move some bales tomorrow.

Tractor w/ drag attached in nicer times
Problem:  Tractor is wonderful, indispensible, infinitely fussed-over treasure, but using bitey bucket (aka Front End Loader [FEL] aka 4-in-1 bucket) as plow/bulldozer is near the top of the list of Mortal Tractor Sins (unless you like fixing hydraulic systems).

I fire it up; it needs to run anyway, wake up the battery, circulate the fluids, & when that little workhorse Shibaura diesel warms up, I can at least grab a couple bales of hay.
Looking For A Hero?

You know by now that one thing I am never short on is crazy ingenious solutions.  As I broom snow off the tractor (see above BETTER THAN ICE), my eyes settle on the currently-attached drag.  My brain immediately flashes an image of drag links rolling & spreading clumps of old hay in the paddocks.

Safe from my "ideas"
*insert light bulb here - probably also a warning sign*

Not only can I drastically speed driveway melting (it’s 0.3 hilly miles to the road, not that the latter is ever plowed or treated either) with my mad drag skillz (my favourite feature:  it has a welded frame, so you can lift it with your 3-pt hitch & avoid shredding hoses or destroying packed gravel), but I can swoop in with my disintegrating snow gloves blue diesel cape & take care of Richard’s driveway too!!

For, just yesterday, on my way home from my exotic beach conference, he’d mentioned that his tractor starter was dead.  It also does not have 4x4.  Thanks to me, if emergency vehicles are needed, there shall be access for all!

To be continued...

February 7, 2015

Priceless Tips For Working Safely Outside

Still my favourite safety graphic...
All of us have reason to challenge The Great Outdoors.  Some of us even get paid (sort of) for it.  Although we in the latter group try to be certain we only hurt ourselves when NOT covered by Workman’s Comp.  Why lessen the burden on our already meagre salaries??

However, unless you are a cave troll (in which case, congratulations on mastering literacy & internet use!), if you are involved with horses, you will find yourself faced with Outside Tasks.  Whether it be opening a hay bale, removing a loose nail from a fence post, or something else, it is critical to always use all available safety gear & plan ahead to avoid needless injury (the last bit is our horses’ job, duh!).

Because Eventer79 Wants To Keep You Safe:  Things You May Not Have Considered
For example, you may have a few pine trees in your horse’s pasture, carrying a collection of small spears dead snags & branches on the lower portions of their trunks.  Should you decide to take care of this on a whim one morning, it is first important to choose an undersized tool.  The more ineffective it is, the more fun you will have!
My pines only LOOK innocent
When you engage your tool of choice, in this case, a very sharp hatchet (because borrowing an axe or chainsaw from neighbours within shouting distance will only hinder the insistence of your brain that you are going to do this NOW), try these techniques:
  1. Pine trees have brittle bark, which splinters into tiny shrapnel with every blow.  You should definitely not bother walking back inside to get sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Your prescription is already –8, there’s not much to lose anyway.
  2. Make sure & stare directly at the branch when you hit it, preferably with your mouth open, so that all of your mucous membranes can enjoy the shower of bitter, painful pine shards.
  3. To avoid this, you can adjust your position in relation to the branch.  I suggest standing precisely downwind, so now, the shrapnel can be blown right into your face with no effort whatsoever.

Another Easily Forgotten Phenomenon

If you are standing below say, a dead limb, & you whack at it with a sharp, metal object, the limb, being subject to a force called Gravity, will fall down when loosed from the tree trunk.

No worries!  By ducking & cursing, you may get lucky & only part of it will bounce off of your body (layers are your friend).

Returning To The Brittle Nature Of The Pine

Another special characteristic to enjoy goes something like this:

  1. After whacking at the base of a larger branch with your hatchet for a few minutes, you may decide this isn't fun anymore & your shoulder is tired the connection has been weakened enough that you can now use your body weight to snap off the whole thing at once.  
  2. Nooo...not like that!
  3. Remember your physics:  the farther away from the pivot/breaking point (where the branch joins the tree) you are, the greater force you can exert with the same amount of effort.  So you don’t want to try this right at the base.  Torque = Force x Moment Arm, people!  (No, I have no idea why that one stuck with me, but it's been endlessly useful since 1998.  If you know what a breaker bar is, you know what I mean.)
  4. Pull back hard a little ways out & if you do it correctly, the part you are holding will break off in your hands so you fall down immediately.  Success!  
  5. Even better, the large chunk between your hands & the tree trunk will also break off at both ends & become a completely unpredictable 12” projectile of 2” diameter wood.  Remember:  DUCK & CURSE.

Finally, If You Can Still See

And you have not managed to cut off your ear while scratching your nose with the hand holding the hatchet (sharp end right next to your face, of course):

  • Halfheartedly whack at poison ivy vines as thick as your arms.  
  • These are even better because instead of splinters, the vine disintegrates into a powdery dust.  Just like campfire smoke, no matter where you stand, this delightful cloud is guaranteed to blow directly into your face & eyes.  
  • In optimal conditions, you are also allergic to poison ivy.
Since you're probably now exhausted due to the completely impulsive nature of this effort, undertaken before you have eaten breakfast (but your horses have!), it is best to just give up after a handful of completely useless cuts.  You may have filled your eyes with poisonous oils for nothing, but you sure told that vine a thing or two!

Oh, sorry, too late...

February 4, 2015

How Much DOES It Cost To Own A Horse: Vaccination Time

I don't have enough digits to count my encounters with that innocent inquiry, "I want my own horse, how much does ownership actually cost?"

I try not to laugh out loud, honestly, I do.   It was once me.

I may have been known to answer along the lines of:  "Add up everything you can think of.  Quadruple it.  Then, if you still have anything left in your account, throw it in the nearest river just to get used to the idea.  At that point, you're getting closer.  Oh, that doesn't count competing!"

Hey, it's like any relationship:  better to know up front, for BOTH parties!

Wait, You Owe Us A Tale Of Blogger Encounters!

Yes, I do promise, I shall regale you with the tale of the Awesomeness of Archie & Beka from The Owls Approve.  Which means something, because my Awesome standard is pretty damn high.  Well, she may have won a couple extra points for calling me "photogenic," which I find chokingly hilarious & appreciate the shocking flattery.

Fine, Back To Boring, Depressing Bills

The details of the truth, as we all learn at Owned (By) Horse #1, are far more nuanced, regional, & owner-dependent, but that's why they invented spreadsheets.  And the COTH Forums (they are massively entertaining, but do actually contain a great deal of incredibly educated & useful discussions if you have a lot of time & a finely tuned sifter).

However, for whatever little assistance it may offer, I give you a baseline example (click to embiggen):

What I consider my non-negotiables, bare bones.  Sum:  $171. 
The most excellent Dr. Bob administering Solo his spring vaccinations, general (which in Dr. Bob terms means not a detail is missed) health exam, back/teeth check, and pulling a Coggins.  That last is cheaper if we haul to one of the weekend clinics he offers at local venues every spring, but it evens out by costing me $0 in diesel, hookup/load time, or...doing anything.

Unscrambling alphabet soup...
The Quest Gel is an anomaly, I usually buy in bulk from ValleyVet.  But it's included due to an educational/promotional campaign from the manufacturers; I get $7 back for each horse with the purchase of that & my normal EEE/WEE/Tet/WNV vaccine.

Epic Neighbour Richard also uses Dr. Bob, so we coordinate & split the farm call fee, woot!

Add In Hayburner #2

I won't post Encore's invoice, as it includes his annual back injection & may cause cardiac arrhythmia in any viewing humans.  I refuse to be liable, use your OWN vet bills for that!  But his basics are identical, which means, leaving out the wormer, a grand total of $314 for both horses.  If no one throws anything out of whack, gets hurt, or is subject to fecal analysis (translate: unicorn-land).  Twice a year, adding rabies ($18/horse) in the fall. 

In our area, Dr. Bob is a hidden gem, so his prices are significantly lower than others but his experience & sheer talent is off the chart.   

For my partners-in-poverty, where does that fall on your scale? 

She must have many horses; she couldn't even buy the rest of her pants, poor thing...