Monday, April 21, 2008

practical barnkeeping

This morning we had to rescue Muffine Eloise from the top of a stall divider. In her crazed efforts to get to the birds' nest full of babies, she got hung and couldn't get down. (well, perhaps she could have, but we couldn't bear to watch, so we got the ladder out and ended the agony)

Once I had the ladder out it seemed fitting to go ahead and start my spring cleaning ritual.

I use a few squirts of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap in a bucket of water and the old raggedy barn broom to swipe down cobwebs, layers of dust, and whatever else might be sitting on the stall walls and doors. It smells wonderful, is totally nontoxic, and has a repellent quality for insects. Perfect for the barn.

We have an extra long light bulb changer that is perfect for wrapping rags around (dipped in the peppermint mixture) and getting all the highest cobwebs.

Once I'm done with that I intend to get the fans down for a thorough cleaning so they can be hooked up for hot days.

The tack room will get emptied out, wiped down from floor to ceiling, bin lids dusted off, tack cleaned, DE sprinkled around the perimeter to keep insects out. Then everything will go back in. Somewhere in this process I need to wash the horse blankets so they can be packed away until next fall.

I have learned by my own mistakes when it comes to washing the blankets. The best way is to hang them over the fence and do a preliminary rinse/scrub to get as much of the dirt and hair off as possible. Once that's done, they go through one complete cycle each in the washing machine with Rambo Blanket Wash, and then one complete cycle with nothing to make sure they're rinsed thoroughly. Then they hang in the sun until mid-day (the washing has to be done early) and turned to the opposite sides for the afternoon. At the end of a sunny day, they're nice and clean and dry, and I pack them into big plastic bins with layers of lavender buds to keep them smelling nice and to keep insects out.

I *may* substitute a new organic lavender laundry detergent this year for the blanket wash. I haven't decided yet. But it smells heavenly and is very gentle.

We'll check stall doors and windows and replace hooks and hinges as needed.

I would like to clear out all the stalls, remove the stall mats, and fill any depressions before replacing the mats - but I may wait and do this in the fall.

Meanwhile I've discovered that the cedar mix sawdust we got last time is quite wonderful with just one wheelbarrow of pine shavings per stall mixed in. I'm not sure yet how I'll proceed - have two separate deliveries and piles? Use bagged shavings from the feed store? It's a work in progress, but I do like the mixture and how it feels and holds up day to day inside the stalls.

There is one more big project that has to do with the barn itself. I'd like to move the hay out of the spare stall, dissemble the middle wall, and reconstruct it so it can be used as two single stalls OR one double stall. We have that set-up on the other side of the barn, but I need it on Salina and Rafer's side, so that when Redford comes there will be one big stall for all of them, with two mangers.

Hay storage will then need to be addressed. Sigh. I want a hay barn but not sure that's in the cards right now. So I may put up one of the heavy duty "tents" that I've been researching. They have floors, air vents, and anchors that go a foot into the ground. With wooden pallets to keep the hay up off the floor, one of the dark green blend-in-to-the-forest ones should do nicely.

If while reading this you hear a very loud THUMP, don't panic. It's my husband, who just passed out at the next few weekends' to do list. :)

(oh, and in case you might be concerned, here is Muffine Eloise post-trauma. I think she'll be just fine)


Grey Horse Matters said...

That cat is adorable. Sounds like you've got it all under control. We've been cleaning out the barn too, but it's such a mess with the plumbers and electricians(installing automatic waterers)in the barn and paddocks. There is so much dirt everywhere. The blankets still need to be done too. When it's all done though it is such a feeling of accomplishment and it smells great too, I'm going to try your lavender and peppermint products. They sound great.
By the way I thought I did hear a thud, but it sounded more like a door slamming as someone was heading for the hills!

billie said...

He might very well be going back to the mtns.!

I'm not so sure about it all being under control, but I did get all the stalls done and the ceiling is mostly clear now.

I highly recommend the Dr. Bronner's peppermint. I keep a bottle right by our wash pump and barrel "sink" - which is where we wash our hands, bits, etc. until I get the sink in the tack room hooked up. (the tack room needs to have the sink connected, a wood plank floor put in, and I need to figure out a way to enclose it more from the barn dust)

Your automatic waterers sound like such a luxury!

Thank you for the compliment for Muffine Eloise. She is back out at the barn right this minute getting herself into more trouble.

Victoria Cummings said...

You go girl! Where do you get all that energy? I'm tired just reading this post. I love cedar shavings - can't get them anywhere around here in New England. In California, I used these bags of something called Cedar-Rest and they were fantastic. We've got a grove of cedar trees next to the barn. I've thought about just using a chipper/shredder on some of the branches, but I don't think I could get them fine enough.

billie said...

Thanks, Victoria - I need the cheerleading, especially for the tack room portion of this extravaganza, which is next up.

Once I get everything out, I can't stop until it's able to go back IN.

I was surprised that I liked the cedar mix so much. It seems to do an excellent job repelling insects. Alas, when we called today he is out of the cedar mix until next month, so I'll have to get the pine and add a side pile of cedar later on.

This afternoon, when I'd finished the peppermint washing, I got Cody groomed and tacked up for his ride, and just as I was ready to get on, a little thunderstorm started moving in. My daughter had the pony getting him groomed so we quickly switched gears and she hopped on Cody to ride circles in the barnyard so he'd at least get that much work.

I think we're half crazy! She rode in the rain, and then when it slowed down, I took Cody into the arena and went to work. It rained a little while longer but by the time she came out with the pony, the sun was coming through again!

We were determined not to lose our riding time to spring cleaning!

Keil Bay, Salina, and Rafer were safely beneath their shelter looking at Cody like "you poor thing - but glad it's you and not us."

Heidi the Hick said...

Magnetic cat! I want to rub her belly!

Your spring barn cleaning sounds wonderful. I'd rather do that than clean my house. I did get a few hours in the barn (dad's barn) with my trusty broom. I got a few cobwebs knocked down.

Man, I'd rather putter in the barn than the house any day. It's just so satisfying!

billie said...

Heidi, this cat (and her two siblings) are amazing. My daughter carried all 3 of them around in the sling I carried HER in, and held them, babied them, etc. And now they all love being carried, love having their bellies rubbed, etc. Muffine Eloise (note that the initials are ME) is the one who needs the most attention.

I'm with you on preferring barn cleaning to house cleaning. I could stay out there all day (and often do) just puttering around.