Thursday, January 26, 2012

a correspondence course in subterfuge

Snow came, soft as a snow globe turned gently upside down and set on a child's night stand. I was out by the barn, taking deep breaths in as I worked. Flakes danced around my face, fat and happy as tummy-rubbing Buddhas. I wanted to enjoy it, I tried to enjoy it, but I was too busy yelling at my horse.

"DO. NOT. PLAY. WITH. KNOTS!" I yelled up at the pasture gate, raising a pitchfork in the air and shaking it at Jasper. He was in the pasture by the large metal gate with his lead rope in his mouth. He had been watching me load, haul, and dump18 wheelbarrow loads of hay and horseshit from the deep bedding of his 12x10ft indoor stall. When I walked the pony out to the pasture (he was raring to go, that was a challenge in itself on slippery ground) I used his orange lead rope and tied it around the gate to shut it tight. The previously frozen chain that usually held it shut was currently defrosting near the wood stove. I didn't think anything of it when I tied him in. I'd done the trick a hundred times. But as I looked up from barrow 12 at my little dappled asshole, he was pulling the lead rope knot out as discreetly as if he took a correspondence course in subterfuge while I was at the office. He had untied the knot with his teeth and was flinging the lead rope in the air like a cat plays with a mouse. I was about five minutes ahead of him pushing the gate open and leaving for a jaunt around the mountain. Maybe up the hill a little ways to greet one of the other three homes with horses.

I marched up and tied the gate shut to a horse with a twinkle in his eyes. I locked it up with some baling twine. That'll showed him, I thought. And if it didn't, the giant truck unloading a cord of dried, seasoned, split firewood certainly would prick those ears to attention. I rubbed his nose and told him his room service was almost done.

Today was Jasper's day. His stall was cleaned and laid out with fresh straw. He got a long recess in the pasture to run and scamp around, and a treat of carrots and an apple from me. I tied him up to an apple tree to give him a long curry combing in the field. He stood as it the plastic teeth were the best feeling he's had in days. He was then lead back to a stall of soft bedding, fresh water in a frost-proof bucket, a little grain and a cookie in his feeder. It was nice to spend an afternoon dedicated to the little guy. Tomorrow the farrier comes to trim his feet and meet, as he said in a bemused voice on the phone, "The only POA in America pulling logs..."

It was good doing that sort of work too. Winter is such a time of resting muscles and fattening bellies, so to spend a day heaving pitchforks and dumping the manure was nice. At one point I remember thinking as I pitched the acrid sheets of hay, urine, and feces into the small barrow this is making earth, and I swelled with a bit of pride for being a human animal that makes soil, adds to the fertility of a place. It is impossible not too when you live with livestock. Their care, feeding, life, death...all of it feeds the ground as much as it feeds us. And today I added a long trail of composting grass and rich dung to a piece of land screaming to come back to the small farm it once was, long before I was born. Sure, you need to pop some ibuprofen and get out the heating pad when you're done but it's worth it. It is always worth it.

Oh, and Jasper ran like a jackrabbit away from the wood truck! So HA!

24 Comments:

Blogger downeast becka said...

Need A Like Button...They are so smart...

January 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger downeast becka said...

Need A Like Button...They are so smart...

January 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger Raining Iguanas said...

Enjoyed reading you work. I'm now tired.

January 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Ahhh, the pleasures of ponies. Those aren't ears, they're horns! Don't ask me how I know!!!

January 26, 2012 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

that's a great quote, Darc!

January 26, 2012 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Ha! At one farm I worked on, there was a mare named Firecracker who would crawl under her stallguard webbing when no one was looking and go out and eat grass. I never would have believed it if I hadn't caught her in the act. And my horse Nick used to like to pick up any broom or rake he could reach, get the handle in his mouth and wave it at the other horses, causing pandemonium. Sounds like Jasper has the same sense of humor.

January 26, 2012 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

I'm curious why you didn't use your nice new stone boat instead of the wheel barrow?

January 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Sounds like Jasper's a tad bored, and needs some toys!

https://toysforhorses.com/Home_Page.html

http://www.drsfostersmith.com/horse-supplies/toys-treats/ps/c/15498/15511

http://www.naturalhorsetalk.com/horsetoys.html

LOL!!!!!!! Looks like they're having fun horsing around. ;-)

My first childhood horse was part Welsh and part POA. Ponies are smart and clever! They like to stay busy.

January 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

"little dappled asshole"....
priceless! (might make a good album name, too ;)

January 27, 2012 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

Backup chain for when one freezes?

I know you believe in deep litter, please read up on thrush. With all of the livestock how do you manage the manure?

I have to ask, between jasper, the rabbits, hay storage, and birds...how much square footage are the pigs allotted?

January 27, 2012 at 1:55 AM  
Blogger becky said...

another blog i read she boards horses and she say that ponies are tricky little devils and wonderful escape artists

January 27, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Unlike other livestock, horse stalls need to be cleaned daily, you could have a serious case of thrush or worse on your hands.

January 27, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Misty said...

My donkeys are the same way. They have ... and now I can't remember the word... but their noses have the same abilities as elephants in that they can use them as "tools" to open things and such. Any gate we have has to have a chain with a thumb latch that they can't open. I discovered that they also have the ability to turn on water faucets, open door knobs and the like (funny stories there). They also eat wood fence posts and parts of their shelter when they are bored or hungry (don't worry, these donkeys are not starving) -- they just know when their breakfast and dinner time is and won't let you forget it.

January 27, 2012 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Lilly said...

I in no way want to be officious or tell you how to run your farm, but I have over 20 years experience with horses and I would not recommend using a deep litter bedding method with them. It can create serious hoof issues and is not appropriate for horses - their stalls must be mucked daily.

January 27, 2012 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

i can't wrap my head around how you remove 18 dump wheelbarrow loads out of a 120 sq ft space?

please read up on proper equine management. stalling a horse or pony in a filthy stall full of over 100 cubic feet of soiled bedding is asking for thrush or respiratory issues stemming from the ammonia of saturated bedding. at the very least it cant be pleasant for your pony. horses and ponies confined to a stall should have soiled bedding removed at least once a day. have you ever heard of StallDry?

perhaps you could hire a local teen to groom and muck daily?

January 27, 2012 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

blogs are fun!

Jasper is in fine health, has a farrier seeing him regularly, a clean stall, and that 18 loads included his fenced in area outside.

Meredith, enough.

January 27, 2012 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Cait said...

Jenna, we use the deep litter method too with our sheep and llamas (and the occasional cow) and are perfectly happy with it so far and will be sticking with it. We haven't had any health issues, the barn is clean and fresh and air quality is perfect (even right at the level of the straw pack). We clean out the entire pen once in the spring and once in the fall, otherwise just daily cleaning of the manure and a fresh layer of straw on top of the pack seems to do the trick.

18 loads SOUNDS like a lot and IS a lot of work but can add up in a short amount of time even with daily cleaning of most of the manure from the straw pack. Good for you, that is an admirable amount of work for a day!

January 27, 2012 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Lilly is right, deep bedding isn't good for horses. hard ground is. it is horrid for hooves and why Jasper needs trimming more than most ponies. But the barn and setup I have, which is all I have, is a dirt floor. If I don't keep adding bedding it'll turn to poo and piss and sludge in a couple of days. SO I keep it fresh with deep bedding, and Jasper only uses one part of his stall to mess in and made a nest in the other. He seems to like being curled up in the hay at night.

A proper stable in the future with proper floor. Right now I make do.

January 27, 2012 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 27, 2012 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Lilly said...

Again, it's none of my business and I never want to lecture someone on how to do things considering we all do the best with what we've got (and I've certainly had my share of make-do horse arrangements), but you might want to consider putting down rubber matting over the dirt floor. They make solid mats or more open ones with drainage. It will help preserve your floor, provides a more cushiony footing for the horse, and will make it much easier to muck because it'll prevent pooling. For a 10x12 stall, it shouldn't cost too much either.

January 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

When you specifically write:
'dump18 wheelbarrow loads of hay and horseshit from the deep bedding of his 12x10ft indoor stall.'
It prevents one from thinking it includes an outdoor paddock.

The norm for horses is to 'pick' the stall daily and add fresh bedding as needed...with a biweekly or monthly strip of all material.

Enough? Don't see how my comments are nasty or offensive. They are out of concern for the wellbeing of your animals.

January 27, 2012 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Who knows what type of correspondence courses the animals take while we’re away—horses especially! And yeah, spending a day with a horse is priceless!

January 27, 2012 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks Lilly I will look into it!

January 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I'm getting ready to muck out my sheep's pack soon, but not looking forward to it. Before I re-bed it, I'm definitely doing to put down stall mats just for ease of cleaning next time. Around here they're 4'X6' and $40. I wish they were 4'X8', but I'll take what I can get!

January 28, 2012 at 9:58 AM  

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