New Arena Footing

Guys. GUYS! I am so excited because I got new arena footing! This is the best day ever! I didn’t even have to pay for it! D’Arcy traveled to an exotic beach, and since she didn’t ask me what she should bring me back, I offered to her that she should bring back some sand for me… and she DID! Two varieties! 

Variety 1 is so smooth!
Variety 2 is slightly coarser.

I put it in my arena so my horses could benefit from the wondrous beach sand. 

This sand is going to change our lives. It will be amazing to ride on!

Yup, this is definitely going to make a big difference in my riding.
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New Trainer, New Adventures

This last weekend was as action packed as any horse-obsessed person could want. It had all the excitement of a lesson, baby horses, moving hay, and a horse show! I need an extra day off to recover from this madness. 

Today’s topics – Lesson and hay

I was half-heartedly looking at new trainers. I say half-heartedly because I really like my trainer, both in personality, character, and overall horse knowledge. But, something just seemed off. I was looking for something next level. I was wondering if I was to throw my all into lessons and training, how fast could I improve? Having a good trainer is essential to improvement, and I want one that really pushes me and takes me to the next level.

I happened to see an ad for a trainer just outside of Middleburg, and I did some research. He had a student compete in the Upperville Internation Hunter Derby, and that is literally exactly the level I want to get to. I want to do hunter derbies, and handy hunter, and perhaps International Hunter Derby is a bit far-fetched and expensive to contemplate, but seriously, shoot for the maximum possible. TO THE EXTREME! Why just settle for, “eh, maybe something fun?” Why do I have a job, a farm, several horses, putting my blood sweat and tears into horses if I’m not shooting for the best I can be?

I jazzed myself up just writing that. Kind of makes me feel absurd for when I recap my TEENY TINY jumper show in a few days, but gotta start somewhere!

So, back to the trainer – He was offering a free day of lessons so people could try him out. That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard, and I was very interested. Risk free* trial!

*Did end up with physical ailment, but wouldn’t say that was anyone’s fault. 

horse field
I forgot to take pictures, so here I am leading Pony back to his field after he made an unsuccessful, half-hearted attempt for freedom. He made it down the street, and then was too cowardly to actually leave, and he came back.

It was for trailer-ins only, but luckily that’s all I do anyway, so that was fine. I also figured, I have a pony, D’Arcy is a person, she can take a free lesson, too. So we both met there early Saturday morning, full of anticipation for our free lesson.

The farm is gorgeous! It has all the charm of the style of Middleburg farms, and it’s a huge plot of land, perfect for conditioning. They have a big outdoor, and a graded grass Grand Prix field. Unfortunately no indoor, but they do have an agreement to use someone else’s indoor, so that’s almost the same thing to me (actually, literally the same thing, trailering to one place is as easy as trailering to another.)

I pulled up to a nice easy turnaround for trailers (the little things are important to me!) and noticed a pretty little appaloosa in the barn. Everyone who appreciates the wonders of appaloosas is good in my book, so that was a definitely plus. 

We met with the trainer, talked for a bit, and then headed up to the ring. He made us do lots of flatwork, and made me concentrate on getting Berry to use her hindquarters. Berry is built downhill so she doesn’t like to use herself naturally, it’s definitely a struggle. He used analogies that made sense to me (Your horse is like an accordion, and right now, she’s at full extension. You push the ends together more) and I found that this kind of visualization really works for me. 

We did flatwork for half the lesson, which I appreciate. Flat work is the basis of everything, after all. Then, we began the jumping. 

He emphasized pace and footfalls over counting strides. He told us not to count strides, and to instead feel the rhythm of the canter, and let the horse figure out the distance. No searching for distances for us! This suits me perfectly, because I have never counted strides, and just “ride out of hand” so to speak. And I don’t mean that in a classy, top end rider way, I mean that in a I’m too distacted and forget to count way. I have made half-hearted attempts to count my strides, but I guess in the end, I don’t really care enough. I guess I see a distance, and I know when to hold back and ask for another stride at this point, but I basically just go with the flow. So, this is quite interesting to me. 

We did a few simple verticals, and then he had me jump one of the verticals from the opposite direction. This of course greatly upset Berry because there was a coop laying in the grass outside the ring, and she could see it from that angle. She refused the jump! I can’t remember the last time she refused. I was pretty shocked, but I turned around and did it again. Another refusal! He ended up dropping the top rail, which was fine with me, because I want a trainer that’s not afraid to take a step back and make sure everything is great at a lower level before raising it. 

This photo has no relevance to this post, but is a great example of what we look like when I’m talking to someone.

He added in a 2’9″ panel oxer. This would have been the biggest jump Berry and I have jumped. We’ve done 2’9″ verticals, but never an oxer, and never a panel, and it looked HUGE. So yeah, would have been. She refused that. She did it in a new way too… when she usually refuses, I can feel it before the jump. She gets squirrelly, and I know she’s not feeling confident. With this one, she made it all the way to the base, solid distance, and then realized she didn’t feel confident and slammed on the breaks. I guess my legs must be getting stronger because I didn’t come off, I just slid forward and took the entire impact in my chin.

This has never happened to me, and immediately aftward, I wondered why riders don’t have helmets that protect their chins. It hurt so bad, I thought I broke my jaw, and I was sure I got a concussion. I was in a daze for a few moments while I felt my jaw line, but the pain faded pretty quickly, and I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of two people, so it was time to go at it again. (My jaw now has moments where it hurts, and other times when it feels fine. I think it might have dislocated, but I pushed it around a bit and my teeth mostly line up now. It’ll probably be fine!)

Trainer dropped the back rail of the oxer, and I went at it again. One small thing I am proud of is that I have finally learned to not hold a grudge against things like this. I think a year or two ago I would have been scared to do the jump again. But now I’m either numb to it, or I’m managing to control my mind enough not to let it be an issue. I went at the now just a panel, and it was great. No issues, no hesitation at all. It really felt like a lovely jump.

The trainer kept adding more pieces until it ended up as a tiny course of jumps. I focused on my pace, and he noticed that I softened way too much right before the jump, and I need to stop doing that. I think it was really productive, and it felt like such a good ride.

This is Berry right before she started pawing in this tiny puddle.

Pony was a good boy as well. It seemed like he and D’Arcy were having a good ride, and she jumped him as well. Towards the end, he started getting tired, and he reverted to “little kid pony mode.” He was literally acting like a stubborn little pony deciding he’d had enough of his small child rider, and he could just ignore her. Unfortunately for him, D’Arcy is a full sized adult, so she spanked his behind. This made him quite indignant, which is something I haven’t seen before. 

She was asking for him to go down the line one more time, and he was refusing to walk another step. She whapped him with the crop, and his little temper flared, and apparently decided the best thing to do was hand gallop down the line, flicking his tail in indignation the entire time. 

Since he is just a pony, the effect was comical instead of intimidating. It was essentially what D’Arcy wanted, so perfectly fine. He was allowed to end after that, being a perfect little pony. 

We cleaned up the horses, and with promises of another lesson once the two big shows in my area are over, we headed out. 

We went to visit baby horses after that, but when we returned, I had 6 round bales in my front yard that needed to be moved to the barn.

The delivered hay had been dropped in my front yard due to the uneven hill that goes down to my barn. It just wouldn’t be safe for a giant flatbed to make it’s way down there. That meant we had to push the hay down the hill manually. It sounded way easier than it was.

First, we used the tractor to push the bales. This resulted in the binding of the bales ripping, and we ended up with a lovely snail trail all the way down the hills.

The horses like it though. It’s perfect for eating and sleeping in!

This happened with two of the bales. One exploded near the top of the hill, and the other exploded right by the barn. But to stay positive, four bales did survive the entire journey! Hurray! 

It took an hour and a half to move these six bales, and all of us were sweaty and covered with hay, and scratches from hay. But at least… my horses have hay for the next six months…? Hurray….?….! 

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Baby Chicks Update

A while back, I had baby chicks born. They were adorable, fuzzy little black things. But now they have grown up. The ones Dave picked up from the store have been given to my neighbor, and the fuzzy little black ones were put outside. Unfortunately, one of them did wander away and disappear forever. Rest in peace little guy. But the rest of them are now thriving. Their fuzz fell out and was replaced by colorful feathers. Only one of them stayed black, but now she has stylish white trim on her wings. 

It took a while for them to adjust. At first, they cried a lot and kept to themselves. When we’d come visit, they would run to us, and we would pick them up and give them a cuddle. But sadly, they are chickens, and we are not, and they must live with their own kind.

But then, in a shocking turn of events, one of the adult hens literally adopted these little babies. At first, we thought it was a weird fluke. We went out to close the coop at night, and one of the silkie hens had these half grown, half chicks, half adult chickens nesting under her wings. 

Mother Hen watching over her baby.

When we began letting them into the yard more, it was obvious. They moved together as a little group, the hen and her three little babies. She called to them to stay close to her. They followed her obediently around the yard.

Mother Hen with two of her babies.

It is both one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, and also shocking. I had no idea hen would adopt little half grown adolescent chicks. I knew you could sneak in babies into their nest and they might adopt it, but she met these chickens when they were much older (8 weeks, maybe?). That seems pretty old to adopt babies – they are self-sufficient chickens at that point. 

All I can imagine is that this little silkie hen heard these poor chicks crying for love, and she took them literally under her wing. Chickens have compassion for other chickens… who would have guessed?

As to why the chicks were still crying at such an old age…well… I guess I raised spoiled little millennial chicks kept in my house, who were cuddled every night and could do no wrong. I failed as a parent to give them the skills needed to succeed in the world. I’m sorry little chicks – at least there was some other parent out there to pick up the slack for me!

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So Many Foals

If anything could inspire me to have a breeding farm, it would definitely be going to a breeding farm. They are so incredibly cute, I want to be surrounded by foals all the time. I want to lay in the middle of the field and have lots of foals leaning up against me, like a foal pile. 

When I was a teenager, my family raised sheep, and it was generally agreed upon by the sheep community that the primary reason to raise sheep is for lamb season. Watching them bounce around, call to their mother, stand on their mothers, play with each other, and just lounge around so cutely was the highlight of the sheep year. I imagine that is how some horse breeders feel, too. I mean, sure, the foals will become magnificent horses, but in the meantime, SQUEEE, look at the babies!!

I found this breeder a year ago. It was actually recommended on Chronicle of the Horse forums, and I checked it out, and thought, I’ll keep an eye on that one. I followed it on Facebook, and left it at that. As I researched more and more about what I wanted, this breeder just really caught my eye, and one day I realized that the farm is not too far from me. I truly do not know how I missed this detail, but for some reason, I thought they were out west somewhere. Once I realized I could easily visit in person, they became a viable option. 

I made my way southward and found this landmark right near the farm.

This is Commonwealth Park, aka, the home of HITS Culpeper. It’s also super depressing when there’s no show going on, and it literally looked abandoned/haunted. They could at least mow the grass!

The farm was huge! 150 acres and there were so many horses! I live in horse country, but I have never seen so many horses on one farm. It was the kind of place where they aren’t totally sure how many horses they have because there are so freaking many. But the farm was beautiful. All the horses were out on well-maintained grass, and it was clear they take very good care of all their horses. It truly is a great place for foals to grow up.

The first mare we saw was a thoroughbred mare named Berry. She definitely deserves a shout-out for having the same name as my horse, and also for being a thoroughbred. Both excellent qualities.

Similarities – They are bay thoroughbreds named Berry. Differences – Basically everything else. Also, this one has a uniquely colored foal, my Berry definitely does not.

Berry’s baby was only about 3 days old. So tiny and cute! He was too young even to be out with the other mares and foals, so they were hanging out in the arena. After checking them out for a few minutes, they were relocated so we could see one of the big men on the farm, their stallion. (One of their stallions, I think they have four total).

He is in training at a dressage barn, but he’s back at home to bred to the mares that have already given birth. As soon as they brought him in, I was in awe. He is a very impressive guy!

He stood for us for a few minutes while we checked him out, and then he was released to strut his stuff. He determined that the immediate course of action was to sniff poop, so he did that for several minutes first.

I’m planning to edit the video I got of him, but for now, pictures will have to do.

After viewing him, it was time to look at the foals. It was a field full of foals. Sadly, my picture of them en mass came out really blurry, but there were 10 foals out there, looking so adorable.

“Yes, I am adorable foal.”

The ones we looked at were all daughters of the stallion above. They were all so adorable, and their moms were lovely – I wish I could take them all home!

Although suspicious at first, this one was the only one that let me pet it, while laying down no less. I was tempted to get this one for that reason alone.
This won’t be the last time you see this gorgeous filly…

After viewing our favorite foals, they showed us some of the yearlings to get a sense of how the foals will develop. Keep in mind – these are yearlings, and yearlings are awkward. No one wants to be judged by their awkward adolescence! 

My original interest was in a foal that would have the same breeding at this dark bay filly. 

They were such puppy dogs! They just love people! (which was actually true of every horse on this farm. I asked them about it, and they said they only keep/breed horses with personalities that they like.)

All about the itches here!
ITCHES!!

We moved on from the yearlings to the older mares’ field. It was a mix of 3 year olds and older mares, I assume to babysit and put those young whippersnappers in their place. Once again, super, super friendly.

Half horse, half puppy dog.

We were introduced to the stallion’s full sister. It’s interesting how they are related, yet they look so different. As the breeder put it, same frame, but very different finish. (granted, not super easy to tell when in an uneven field and not square).

Her foal was the one I was originally interested in – The dark yearling above is her daughter. She’s not pregnant, they did embryo transfer with her.

Our final stop was the field of mares who were giving birth soon. It was a field of adorably chubby mares. They got a bit excited when we showed up, and galloped as fast as their fat pregnant bodies could carry them.

So much weight to carry…the one in the back looks like she’s trying to hard to keep up.
This appaloosa was definitely an instigator!

That’s when I met my unicorn mare, and fell in love.

D’Arcy examines, and mare contemplates life.

I do want to point out that while I was very impressed by this mare in person, I didn’t make the final decision until much later. I purposely didn’t want to rush into any choice. I went home and researched her and her lines before coming to my final decision. 

I was really happy with my experience so far at this farm. The owners were very knowledgeable and informative and didn’t try to sway the decision one way or another. They answered everything we asked and admitted they weren’t sure for things they couldn’t remember (mainly relating to a specific horse’s lines…they told us they’d have to look them up to be sure, there’s a lot of horses to keep track of.) They were up front with how the registrations they could assist with, and which horses are only eligible for half registration. They spent three and a half hours with us, showing us horses. 

Fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan! 

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Property Tour

It’s finally that time. I’ve had at least one request (really, probably just the one) over the years to present a tour of my property. I never did it before because there’s really not much to my property. The mystery of not knowing what it looks like is way more intriguing than what it actually looks like. 

But now it is time. I will present to you my property, but only because I have some big plans for it, and I want to showcase those. So this is really more of a “before” post. Then there will be a “Plans” post. Then there will be a silence of several months. Then a “Why is life so hard” post. And then finally, a post where I give up and move on with my life. And then, out of no where, I will announce that I did complete my plans! 

I can only hope that I move through these stages quickly, because I’d really like to put my plan in action.

Let’s get started!

horse farm
If my property could be summed up in one picture, it would be this picture, because this is basically it. Ok, post over, thanks for checking it out.

My property is about 6 and a half acres. About 2 and a half acres are fenced for horses. My backyard, which technically is fenced for horses because I let them in there all the time and they don’t escape, is about another third of an acre. My front yard could be another third. Frankly, it’s wasted space and hopefully I will fence it in soon. 

My riding arena, that I carved out of the earth itself.

I decided my arena isn’t big enough, so I will be performing more carving eventually. Not sure when yet, but one day. This is lower on my priority list. It will also be fenced in completely.

The barn, which has seen better days. It is a two stall barn with an aisle, and the area on the right that I use for my storage was intended to be a run in shed.

My barn needs some cosmetic work. The horses have been tearing it up, vines have been growing on it, and it’s just a terrible color to began with. I’m thinking a nice barn red with white trim would suit it much better. 

The aisle and stalls. Vintage’s stall on the left, Berry’s stall on the right. There’s a window in between them for Berry to stare at Vintage. Vintage never stares at Berry.
The hay and tractor storage.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time mowing down some of the uncleared area behind the barn. We have another two acres or so that are completely woods. It’s a waste of good pasture!

I think it’s kind of difficult to tell what was cleared in pictures, especially when there’s nothing in frame to add context. I’m going to try though! :

Using the first photo as a reference, these two are looking from the paddock behind the barn towards the right side.

It was wild back here before, full of bushes, shrubs, and trees.

Here is the barn from the back. You can see it’s never been painted and looks pretty dingy.

This is facing the opposite direction from above, but standing by the window in the barn, seen above.

You can see that I have unearthed a pile of junk/building supplies. The old owners were apparently planning to extend the barn, but it did not happen.

Front the previous photo, if you were to walk straight ahead towards the woods, you’d go down a small hill, and to your right, you’d see a path I cleared through the woods.

If you followed this path, it would end suddenly at a giant fallen tree. But on the other side of the fallen tree, it connects to the area where the first two cleared pictures are. I just need to get rid of the fallen tree!

At this point, all the additional photos I have look pretty similar to the ones above, so I don’t think I need to share them. But you can see that my main enemy is the tall scrubby tree. They are pretty tough, I managed to destroy both of my turn signal lights by bashing into them. 

Whoopsie daisy!

I did knock down one with my tractor. It made me feel powerful. You may be a tree, but I have a piece of equipment to destroy you. (This was after the trees had proved they had the strength to take out my lights.)

It will be a battle of wills. I will keep at it until I have more pasture. I’m not at all comfortable using a chainsaw, but if it must be done, it must be done. A lot of this can be taken out with my tractor and bush hog though. I’ve taken out many small trees, lots of bushes, and all the weeds. 

I have already thrown down some grass seed, so it’s going to look more pasture-like as time goes on. There is a steep hill though, so I’m not sure exactly how much I can clear without sliding down the hill. It might not be worth it. But, we shall see. The battle will rage!

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The Haunted Barn

I don’t believe in ghosts. I feel like that’s an important point on this entire ghost story. Sure, Paranormal Activity had me jumping at every noise in the night, but that wore off. If I watched it now, I bet I’d have no reaction to it. Especially now that they’ve made those god-awful sequels. If it had been a single movie, then yeah, maybe I would have figured it could possibly happen. But now I know it’s a cash grab, so thanks a lot, movie producer, you’ve made me immune to “ghost activity”.

Sure, there was a moment when I first moved into my house and figured out that a dying person had lived here, and possibly died here. What if he stayed and haunted the house!? That thought lasted about two weeks, and then I removed the handicapped features of the house, so I wouldn’t have to be reminded. And also, I figured I’ll never need such things, because clearly I will be a fit, healthy person for the rest of my life until I suddenly drop dead for no apparent reason when I’m 90 years old. 

I’m not even scared of things that go bump in the night. I go out to my barn in the dark every morning, and during the winter months, in the dark every evening. In the beginning, I carried a gun, because HOLY CRAP, WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN. Then I carried a wooden rod because that could probably fend off something. Then I dropped down to nothing but a lantern, and on nights I smell skunk, I shriek like a banshee to scare it off so I don’t get sprayed. It’s also a good excuse to shriek, because how often is that accepted in everyday life? Certainly not in my everyday life.

The point of all this is that I don’t believe in ghosts, or vampires, or zombies, or gargoyles. I do believe in bears because I saw a bear here once, but that was in the daylight, so it’s probably okay. Although I do remember that story of the guy who had a personal zoo of big cats, and one day he let all the big cats out, so I guess that could happen. But, I am not aware of anyone with a personal zoo, so it’s probably okay…. at least I hope it is.

“The hounds are calling Emily! Let’s rent something at Blockbuster!”

Going back to the point, trainer Sarah has been telling me ghost stories about her barn for as long as I’ve known her.

Factual things she’s told me:

  • There was a confederate campsite on her property. The property has been metal detected to death, and lots of buttons, coins and random artifacts have been found.
  • There was an old house on the property, but it was falling apart, so it was torn down many years ago.

Ghostly things she’s told me:

  • There’s a confederate soldier who hangs out at one end of her barn and scares the horses. One time, late at night, she was cleaning a stall, and he appeared leaning against the stall wall. She swears he was as clear as day, as clear as I was, which at the time, I happened to be standing right in front of her. She said she yelled at him to stop spooking her horses and go away, and he vanished.
  • She and her brother have had ghost hunts before. Her brother has some kind of visual dectecting device, and it saw a thrashing figure in her arena, right in an area where the horses spook a lot. 
  • She has had very vivid dreams of being at a confederate camp, and having to run away to hide in the woods.
  • She woke up suddenly in the middle of the night to find a native american head in front of her. She reached out her hand to touch it, and it vanished.
  •  There’s a vortex where the old house used to be. I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion.
  • She and her boarders all have sightings of ghosts. She said that she hasn’t even said anything to her boarders, and they will come to her and tell her about ghostly sightings. There’s at least three distinct ghosts that haunt the barn.

On the evening of Saturday’s horse show, Sarah had invited ghost hunters to her barn. D’Arcy and I were politely invited, so naturally we took Sarah up on this. It’s time to hunt some ghosts!!! 

Having never been to a ghost hunt, I was not sure what to expect. It started with me being told to shut my yapper, because I was being too loud and they couldn’t hear the ghosts. Fair enough. 

They set up three cameras to watch the aisles. We walked around with one man who had some kind of device that reads different radio waves. I really have no idea how it works, but supposedly it’s supposed to facilitate ghost communication.

As we walked around, it was apparent the ghosts weren’t in a talkative mode. I think they were asking the wrong questions though. If you’re a ghost, and you’re hanging out in a barn, do you want to relive the way you died over and over again? I mean, why is that the only thing people are interested in? Maybe the ghost wants to discuss other things, like how their Saturday went, or if they’re following any sports teams.

We weren’t having much luck getting the ghosts to talk, and eventually, we made our way to the confederate soldier side of the barn. (Sarah has a seriously huge barn, it’s like 36 stalls or something crazy). They were asking the ghost about what his secret was. D’Arcy and I went with another line of questioning.

“So, do you like the horses?”

And then, IT RESPONDED. OMG, the voice thing said, “I do.”

 We all exchanged a glance. Like, whaaaaaaaaat.

Unfortunately, there were no other responses. So we still don’t know why the soldier likes to spook the horses. Maybe it’s on accident?

“Why don’t you get in the back of my van and I’ll drive you home.”

We continued onward. They had another device that somehow deciphered words from thin air, and then it would say the words. So, when the ghost was talkative (maybe) the device would random spout words. It named Sarah’s brother, by name. Maybe it’s a coincidence? It told us to go outside by a tree. We all went. The tree was super creepy looking like definitely a tree people would get hanged on. But, logically, the tree probably wasn’t that big 150 years ago, it wouldn’t have been strong enough to hang people. It would have been just a tree back then.

We were all standing around like idiots by this tree, and Sarah wandered into the adjacent field with one of the devices because that’s where the old house/vortex had been. D’Arcy acquired a cat out somewhere and was holding it and loving on it. The cat was appreciating the attention, when it suddenly went on alert, staring at the ground, following the movement of something up the tree, watching something in the tree, and then following something back down the tree. Ghost? Or stupid cat?  I guess we will never know. Although being out in the dark by a creepy looking tree definitely made it feel like a ghost.

After standing by the tree for way too long, we headed back to the barn. That’s when we were intercepted by the other half of the ghost hunting team, which consisted of “official” ghosthunters, and also, one of Sarah’s working students.

They breathlessly explained how they have been watching the cameras in one of the breezeways when they suddenly heard footsteps in the loft above. It wasn’t just one person’s footsteps, it was multiple, and they heard a chain rattling, as though it was worn around the ankles. 

I wouldn’t have believed just the ghost hunters because they seek these kinds of things, but the student, who previously had been very skeptical, was adamant that she had heard it, too. Naturally, this made everyone want to go to into the loft. But, naturally, since there you had to climb a ladder to get to the loft, the number of people who actually went up dropped down to just three: Sarah, D’Arcy, and random ghost hunter man.

I determined that the best use of my time would be setting up a chair in the breezeway, watching the camera, and listening for ghosts. Naturally, perhaps due to my non-belief, absolutely nothing happened. But, I did get to hear the activity in the loft as they tried to get the ghosts to communicate with them.

The ghost hunter asked the ghost to talk to them. He asked them to touch them. At one point, there were loud gunshots, which startled everyone. But it turned out he had just bumped the device. As far as I can tell, the ghost did not indicate its presence. 

“Hi, Billie Mays here for Super Scrub!”

After a while, they came back down. The next place to check out was the arena, where the thrashing stick figure had been. We went out with them, but at this point, it was getting really, really cold. We only had sweaters on, and it was dropping down to 45 degrees. It was very uncomfortable, so we went back up to the barn, which had a very warm tack room.

After hanging out with completely normal german shepherds, who are only looking for love, Sarah eventually returned and told us we had to come back down to witness t he activity. She was really excited, so we agreed.

The official ghost hunters had disappeared to get more equipment, so Sarah just took us down with a device that would light up for activity. Its default was green, and it would light up through yellow, orange, and red, which somehow indicated a ghost’s presence. 

We stood by the entrance to the arena, and asked questions to the open air.

“Are you a woman?”

Nothing.

“Are you a man?”

Nothing.

“Are you a pirate?”

It lit up all the way to red.

“How can you be a pirate so far inland?

Nothing.

“Do you like pirates?”

It lit up to red.

“Are you being funny?”

It lit up to red.

“Can you stop spooking the horses?”

Nothing.

We asked a few more questions, and everytime pirates came up, it was a red. Our line of questioning determined that it was a little boy who likes pirates. We went back to the barn, and Sarah said that he could not come in the barn, so it did not follow us.

Back in the barn, she told everyone what had happened. When she started talking about pirates again, the device lit up to orange. Apparently the ghosts in the barn like pirates, too. 

We headed out at that point. That was enough ghost hunting for one night. 

Everyone agreed that the ghosts were being very quiet that night, but still – I have absolutely no belief in ghosts. I don’t know what those devices were picking up, but I can only assume they are programmed to pick up random things to make it seem like there are ghosts.

Although – have you had ghostly experiences? Perhaps your barn is haunted? Let’s discuss! 

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An Explosion of Chicks

In the span of a week, my flock of chickens has doubled. 

It started one warm afternoon when I walked up to my chicken coop. I peeked in to take a look, and I heard little cheeps. My first thought was, that better not be what I think it is. I crawled into the coop, and found a little nesting hen. I lifted her up, and two little chicks tumbled out. 

My first reaction was annoyance. I don’t want more chickens. I’m content with the few that I have. But, I brought them inside, set up the brooder, and placed them in it. The next day, two more chicks hatched. They grew on me pretty fast.

Awwww, who’s a cute little chicken!?

A week later, Dave was at Tractor Supply. He’s checking out the chicks are selling, and he sees some standard chicks with bloody backs that are apparently being abused by the bantam chicks that are in with them. Dave brings it to the attention of employees, and is told that they can’t sell the damaged chicks, so they will be sent back to be destroyed…unless Dave buys them. Dave informs them he is not interested in purchasing the chicks. They ask if he will just take them free. He agrees, and now we have 5 more chicks.

This one has feathery legs!

And also…I agreed to go in on a chick order with my neighbor. I have four more chicks arriving in June. 

I have a chick problem.

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My Non-existant Life Balance

Above is the closest I’ve been to riding a horse recently. And that’s not even me playing it! That’s Dave playing an online horse jumping game. He would miss the jumps, but magically, the jumps would become transparent for him to just canter through. This was only a safeguard to avoid injury though, the rider was still very disappointed in Dave’s performance.

"You need to work on your spacebar skills!"
“You need to work on your spacebar skills!”

I wish I could work on my real life spacebar skills. I haven’t ridden since my guest lesson, and I am feeling an itch that a powder won’t fix. It’s been unseasonably warm, but it’s been very wet. So wet, I would not be able to get my tractor to my arena to drag it. I can’t even remember the last time it was dragged.

Now, keep in mind I can still only do this on the weekends. Most of my week looks like this:

PSX_20170118_095825
Don’t worry, traffic was at a standstill, therefore allowing the picture to be taken safely.

My opportunities for riding during the week are slim to none. Occasionally, we have a holiday. But then it’s cold and it rains, or snows. It’s been a mostly mild January, but usually it’s mild during the week – those times when I need to be at work. I like my job and my company, so I’m not complaining about that aspect. I just need some telework, or it needs to get sunny again, and stay sunny until like 7pm.

Recently, we had a company event, and due to the hours, I decided to stay in the city. I stayed with my friend and got a reminder of apartment living. I can see why people would live in a stacked column of housing, especially when work is mere minutes away, as well as an entire mall an elevator ride away. Although we are a bit older than the last time I was living in an apartment, so we weren’t exactly snacking on ramen.

Salmon!? I distinctly asked for lobster frittala!
A free salmon dinner?! Ugh! I distinctly asked for lobster!

I also did some fine arts and crafts. Who knew I was so talented at the pipe cleaners?

Only $1600 on my etsy store!
Only $160 on my etsy store! Act now, and I’ll throw in used play doh I’ve collected in my travels. 

I’m basically waiting for to get more free time. Eventually, I’ll be able to ride during the week again… I’ll start taking a lesson every week again… and keep advancing. It’s just another period of life where I have to accept that not riding now will benefit me in the future, career-wise. The waiting isn’t so fun though.

I’m brainstorming some ideas to get Berry working again while I’m at work, none of which sound appealing, financially. But, it could end up extremely beneficial to send Berry to a trainer for a few months until I get more time.

Or I could install some arena lights. I kind of like that idea. What I don’t like is the thought of doing anything on my mud slick of a pasture.

On the positive side, since I’ve been stuck inside on the weekends, I decided to seriously tackle redecorating my house. Before and after pictures to come!

Good job to all of you that make the riding/work/life balance work. One day, I will be among you.

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Around the Farm

One of the most exciting things that could happen, happened at my little farm. I got a delivery of stone dust.

It's...the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.
It’s…the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Stone dust means possibilities. It meant I could finally fill in the lost footing in my arena. It means I can level out the horse stalls, level my driveway, and fill in the area around the barn. Also, it’s just so beautiful – all powdery, like newly fallen snow. Except if you try to play in it, you discover it’s actually coarse, hard and will tear up your skin. Just like the graceful, but aggressive swan, it is best admired from on top of a tractor.

The smoke of old stone dust, soon to be covered by new, not yet dusty stone dust.
The smoke of old stone dust, soon to be covered by new, not yet dusty stone dust.

It took some rain to loosen up the old stone dust, but afterward, it became my zen garden again.

ridingarena

Although, I didn’t add any stone dust until I had fixed the drains. I rerouted the drain, starting on the hill above the arena, and continuing all the way around. So far, the drains are working out perfectly. My neighbor even noticed, as she asked me why her field was suddenly getting new rain paths. Success!

It might look like a muddy mess, but this is actually a successful drain.
It might look like a muddy mess, but this is actually a successful drain.

For the longest time, I had thought my tractor mower was broken because it would not engage. I hadn’t mowed since last fall, and everything was starting to look messy. But, I got the tractor guy out and it turned out that I just didn’t have the right gear engaged. Whoops. He didn’t charge me, as he understands these things happen. After all, he fixed my tractor for me before by putting it in gear. Yes, this happened more than once. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson this time.

With my mower working, I was able to get some serious mowing done. Behind my pasture, I have another acre or so of overgrown messy plants, just begging to be cleared out and fenced in. I aggressively took the bushhog to it, mowing down entire trees while laughing hysterically at the power I yield. We like to have fun around here.

clearing

Considering it looked like a jungle before, I’m feeling pretty good about this. Now I just need to figure out how to get to the other side of the jungle to mow.

The entrance has sealed itself off.
The entrance has sealed itself off.

A lot of bunnies live in this area. More bunnies than I have ever seen around the property. We are theorizing that the foxes are so full of chicken, they don’t need to chase down bunnies. But the abundance of bunnies has triggered Dave.

"Come here little bunny..."
“Come here little bunny…”

He is trying to catch a wild bunny. He decided he really wants a bunny as a pet, but he doesn’t want a pet store rabbit. He wants those beautiful wild rabbits. I’ve tried to talk him out of this. I even said he could get a pet rabbit, which I thought was pretty generous of me. But he insist upon a wild one, claiming he will tame it. This seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I’m sure my next update on this will be from the hospital.

On a sadder note, I’m finally down to my last bale of hay.

roundbale

Its lasted a long time, but I am looking forward to a new supplier, hopefully one that doesn’t include splinters in their hay. I’m getting just a little bit sick of pulling off hay, only to feel little stabs in my hands.

And on a final note, not really related to the farm, my computer is still not working. Dave “fixed it” and then it blue screened. Such is life.

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Chicken Drama

I thought my chicken keeping experience couldn’t get any worse after my beloved Fluffers died. But, it turns out that chickens continue to be expendable, and a few weeks ago, some predator came in and killed over half my flock. Killed, and then left their bodies scattered around my property, and my neighbor’s property. So many of the chickens that I loved, and doted on are gone.

There was one survivor that was under attack, Smog, our big white cochin. I guess I came out at the right time, and stopped the attack in progress. Even though she had only lost feathers on the outside, there must have been internal damage, and a few days later, she to succumbed to her injuries.

We were left with five hens, the fewest we’ve had since we started keeping chickens. It was eerily quiet with no rooster crowing. We were paranoid about losing our remaining hens, so they weren’t allowed out of the run anymore. Sometimes, they stayed locked in the coop with their food and water. Since there were so few of them now, being locked in the giant mansion of a coop was no hardship, and sometimes they just stayed in there even when door to the run was open.

Survivors Y'grette and Twank.
Survivors Y’grette and Twank.

There seems to be a common quality over half the survivors had. They are all little bantam chickens with the ability to fly. Y’grette had run over to my neighbor’s house when the attack happened (I got a call from her), and when we came out, she heard me and decided it was safe again and came back to my property. We thought we had lost Twank, but she showed up at dusk to go back in the coop. I have no idea where she hid for several hours.

Teeny, birdlike mini Dora.
Teeny, birdlike mini Dora.

Mini Dora showed up immediately as I was bringing Smog back to the coop. She must have have just flown up in a tree. She’s the best flier of the bunch.

The other two survivors, big, hefty full sized hens, survived because they had decided their life’s ambition was to hatch some eggs. While the slaughter went out outside, mere feet away, the predator did not go into the coop to get these two, and these two were either blissfully unaware, or just way too intent on hatching some eggs.

hens
Buffalo G. Orphington in the back, and Salmon, who is bald because of the now deceased roosters. Hopefully it will grow back, because she is just scary looking.

But, wait a moment – What’s the little poof of cream next to Salmon?

Egads! It's a chick!
Egads! It’s a chick!

We decided to let them keep the eggs they had been sitting on. Normally, we take them away immediately, and do not have any chicks hatch, but we were feeling very strongly that we loved our flock so much, this was the only way for all our little pets to live on. So we let them keep the eggs, in the hopes of getting the children of our lost flock.

So far, we have three chicks. This silkie cross is the oldest, born about two days ago, and is the most out going and seems to constantly be getting into things. There’s also a little chipmunk looking one, born about a day ago who I only spot occasionally, and then there was another one hatched this morning, who I only saw because I lifted Buffalo G. for a moment. It was all damp and shriveled looking, so I decided it was best not to interfere. The hens get upset when they are messed with, and I’d rather them just concentrate on those babies, and not how to get me away from the nest.

They always look pretty angry to be disturbed.
They always look pretty angry to be disturbed.

Hopefully everyone will survive, and we’ll be able to replenish our flock a bit! Although it’s a bit sad since they will always be locked up now. Part of the fun of having them was having them wander around in the yard, and come up to visit the house. But, they are better alive, so maybe I’ll make a playground for them in their run so they have some amusement.

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