Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last Hay Run

I organized the last hay run of the season and this is how the day turned out. Ugh. But we had a big team of bale-throwers and got three hundred more bales in the barn without getting stuck even once. We're set for winter now!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Almost Finished Project

While my horses napped all summer in order of biggest to smallest...

I was busy mucking in the mud.

We had the wettest summer on record here, so these piles of forty-year-old manure that were scraped away from the barn sat amongst the rain ponds for weeks and weeks before it was dry enough to get the dump truck in to haul them away.

Eventually, it dried out, the piles were hauled out, the water lines were dug for three yard taps (only one burst a week later and had to be redug and repaired) and we built the fences.

Here are some of the new fences and the new manure bins (which will have walls on them in a few days). The outhouse has a new home next to the manure piles. I didn't look into a permit for that biffy...but as long as no one complains...

I have a round pen in the works. I plan to brace the top with white boards and string three strands of white poly-coated wire.

Here's another before and after from the back of the barn. Here the old manure has been scraped away and we're waiting for things to dry up before digging the water lines.

And here are two finished paddocks, with the new road and gravel path.

This is one of my boarders in his new paddock.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better...

Today's post is a series of before and after shots. This photo shows a shed attached to the barn on the right of the photo.

Shed gone. Imagine the little Tinkerbell ring they used to have with those Disney audio-assisted picture books. Yeah, the shed disappeared like turning the page on one of those books. That's right. No sweat or fiberglass slivers or convoys to the dump at all.

Here we have an array of graceful fencing. That fence in the middle distance is made of rusty old pipe. One chop saw and five blades later, it and the rest of the pipe fence from behind the barn were in manageable pieces that my helpers then loaded into a bin to go to the metal salvage place. I don't know how much it all weighed, but the bin was 18 feet by 7 feet by 4 feet, and it was full! I got cash for all that. It was kind of like logging my property.

Here's the same spot with most of the fence gone and the horses living in temporary electric fence set-ups, which they regularly escape from. There's a new ditch in the foreground. (I apologize for the poor photography. Most of these pictures are snapped with one hand while grasping muddy gloves, tools and lead ropes under an elbow at the same time as fending off two or three cats and a herd of contractors.)

This shows (sort of) the paddocks behind the barn. The ground here actually rises up above the floor level of the barn, so that all the spring melt ends up in the barn. The ground is higher than the barn on account of forty years of poo building up. The other phenomenon that occurs with that kind of poo accumulation is it acts like a sponge and water won't run off even if the ground is sloped. So the excavator guy spent a whole day scraping that layer of decomposed manure off until he got down to the actual ground level.

Here it is with the ground scraped. Uh, just ignore the scary-looking barn. We'll deal with that later. For now, the idea is to get the right ditching and the right slope on the ground to allow for proper drainage, and then when I actually do fix the barn, it'll stay fixed because the foundations will be dry. That's the theory.

Here's the excavator among its piles of forty-year-old manure. Most of the manure is being taken to a neighbour's place and I'll keep a small pile for future gardens or for putting into tiny bags and selling for $40/bag in downtown Vancouver.

Things are looking dreadful now after a week of rain, but at least the view from my little deck is relaxing, and will stay that way through all this destruction and rebuilding. Oh, except for a trench for the electrical upgrade from the house to the barn...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gate Inventory

As I'm getting my plans organized for the new fence layout, I'm taking stock of what materials I have on the property. A previous owner must have been a metal-worker. The gates are a full curious range of lengths:


How do I plan standard gate openings with those kinds of sizes!?

Okay, don't despair. The gates are quite lovely and light and will last a long time yet, but I still need to plan for the day the gates will have to be replaced with the standard 6,8,10,12 or 14 foot gates. I plan to put in the gate posts so that the standard gates will fit. Which means some of the gates I have will extend past the gate post, and some will have a wee gap between the gate posts that I may fill with a 2x4. It has taken some figuring but I've got it working on paper. We'll see how it all turns out...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Art as the Illusion of Function

Here are some pieces of fence art I've found around the property. Sadly, the exhibits you see here will be dismantled as soon as the frost is out of the ground, so view them while you can!

This is a particularly fine piece of sculpting done by a series of horses over about two years. A group effort, but a cohesive one. They all had the same vision, obviously.

I especially like this piece, done in wood and metal, tied together nicely with the bright orange twine.

A fine antiquing effect was used on this linear piece.

One of my favourites, this piece gives the illusion of solidity with thick vertical lines, offset by the falling diagonal.

Septimus and his half brother, the newest patrons to the gallery.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Born Yesterday

One down, one to go! Connie had her calf last night (on her own birthday!) with a breezy three hours of labour. The calf was raring to go and was up drinking within an hour. His name is Septimus. Don't ask me why.

Here he is this morning.

I gave him his vitamin shots this morning (ouch), a one-time thing for calves. Tomorrow I'll put in his ear tags. As Corb Lund says, "Welcome to the world, little buddy."

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Kasper thinks cameras are for nibbling on.

I finally got organized enough to get him into the arena. He was a little nervous.

Noises outside the barn worried him.

But he settled down really well and we worked through a few of the easier Stage Three exercises (see previous blog entries) and he remembered all kinds of stuff that he hasn't done all winter. In this picture he's trotting circles around me. He stayed focussed on me in the arena even though he was off the lead rope the whole time, and he didn't seem worried that he'd left his friends behind. All very encouraging. A good start to the season.

Barn Cat Moves Indoors

At first, living indoors was pretty spooky for Ginger.

And then he discovered beds.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Next Big Project

This is the next big project. It's not a horse. It's not a cow. It's an equestrian centre! I moved here in January, and am settling in. (And somewhat snowed in). The place has a barn with stalls and runs, several paddocks and some small pastures. Here are a few photos. These will be some of the "before" photos. I hope, by the end of the summer, to have "after" photos.

The first project in the spring will be new fencing. (The barn in the back is my neighbour's barn.)

This is my barn, which houses a riding arena, stalls, hay storage and tack rooms. It's thirty or forty years old. It's made of post and beam construction with huge pressure-treated posts. Which is great. But the posts have heaved with the frost and now the barn sides and roof swoop up and down like a sine wave. Apparently, post by post, this can be fixed. So, after fencing, the next project will be to change the foundation around each post to prevent heaving, level it all out, and put on siding. I'm thinking red tin.

This shows the swoop in the wall from in the arena.

Here's a shot of the central hallway.

This is the south side of the barn where the horses access their runs from their stalls. Snow is an issue! When the roof slides, the doors are plugged and have to be shovelled out. The roof slid just before I moved in so I didn't have to shovel that. (Phew!) But it's set to slide again...

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Refresher for CJ

Sleighing! The snow is piling up and the woods are gorgeous. Here's how I eased CJ back into the traces this fall. (Check out the posts from 2009 to see how I trained him the first time.)

Day One: ground driving with the full harness on. We weaved like drunkards.

Day Two: (which, as it happened, wasn't actually the day after Day One...) The following photos are from Day Two. I hitched CJ to the single tree and ground drove him. Steering was a little better than on Day One. He wasn't too happy with the traces coming tight against his back legs on the corners. He kicked at them at first, but he gradually kicked less as we continued. I added the tire. He had to pull the tire plus all the snow it dragged, but he didn't balk.
Here's a good photo of the harness.

CJ eyes the thing behind him.

Day Three: At the start of this refresher, CJ had been lazing around in the pasture for two months. So Day Three was a trail ride to see how he felt about being out in the bush without his buddies. We crossed several moose tracks, which made him flare his nostrils and look askance at the forest, but otherwise he was fine.

Day Four: With my dad's help, we hitched CJ to the stoneboat. (I'm a little short on photos here, but there are photos of all of these stages on last winter's posts...if I could figure out how to include a link, I'd link you...) We did two laps of the barn-to-house road with figure 8's in the parking lot. I halted him a lot and rubbed him and walked around him and fussed with the harness. He wasn't too happy to stand still so I gave him a lot of chance to practice.

Day Five: Three laps with the stoneboat and lots of halting and standing.

Day Six: Hitched to the sleigh! The sleigh trail I picked out this year is along old roads through thick woods. This way the trail won't get blown full of snow like it did last year when I had the trail going across the fields. The only problem with this is that you don't get any warning at all if a moose steps out of the trees. And as an experienced teamster told me recently with a sad shake of his head, "Moose are hard on horses".

CJ was completely unconcerned about the sleigh behind him. He seemed a little confused about how to get the darn thing going. He bounced against the breast collar a few times to get it going, but once he had it in motion, he was fine. I'm driving him with an open bridle (no blinders) and he seemed to totally remember from last year what that thing was behind him. He never even glanced at it.

We sleighed for an hour and CJ did not sweat. Not even under the harness. It's not that he's in great shape, I guess it's just that the sleigh is light and horses are really strong brutes!

Day Seven: This time I took CJ out with a non-horsey helper as a test to see how we would do without my dad's help. He had a little trouble making the turn (CJ not dad) off the driveway into the deeper snow of the trail, so I had to hop out and lead him around the corner, but otherwise we did fine.

Day Eight: This was a warmer day and the snow was sticky AND we loaded four people in the sleigh. Not so good. CJ couldn't figure out how to get the sleigh going. He would push forward into the breast collar, meet solid resistance, and give up just as the sleigh popped forward. So he would then pop forward, hit the pressure of the breast collar, again meet resistance, and give up the very moment the sleigh began to move. It's a kind of bouncing ball effect. I let him try a few times to see if he could sort it out. He popped up off his front feet and I was about to hollar whoa, but the next try he got it. The sleigh was moving, he kept a steady push into the breast collar and off we went. Phew. But the next time we stopped, we unloaded some passengers to make it easier for him.