Thursday, August 30, 2018

And... on Corgis and little donkeys

The Corgis are going out on the full farm on a near-daily basis, with rainy/muddy days the only times I hold back letting them romp. They are doing a super job with recall, with me, wait, and this way commands, and Baloo has now mastered stay!

We’ve had close encounters with donkeys, pony, and the two big guys, with no issues.

But the real test has, I think, been passed.

In the mornings, this time of year, the herd comes into the barn for breakfast and stays in with hay and fans through the heat of the day. Usually the donkeys lie down in their stall after breakfast, and their door opens to our back yard gate, where the Corgis charge out like torpedos when I give the command.

For several weeks the donkeys always jumped up as the dogs burst out, with good reason, though the dogs never offered to go through the fence or even glance at them.

I think it says something that for the past full week the donkeys stay down and just glance as the Corgis pass by.

I’m so happy we’re to this point with my plan to gradually mix it up with canines and equines.

And on a how cute is this note, this morning Baloo, upon hearing the command quiet, lowered his woof to a tiny little dog whisper woof woof woof.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Monarda punctata, aka Eastern horse-mint and spotted bee balm

This is the plant I most fell in love with last spring when I took a pollinator plant workshop, the one I ran for at NC Botanical Garden’s plant sale last fall, and the one that has taken my breath away this summer as it has grown, bloomed, and thrived in my pollinator beds.

Recently I had to describe a flower botanically in my botany class and this is the flower I chose. In a nutshell, it’s so beautiful!

Friday, August 17, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 60

Rain, rain, a little more rain, and today help is coming in the form of a big load of mulch to top off the area behind the backyard fence, create a new “berm” along the new river route that seems to be forming every time it rains lately, replace the washed-away mulch in the new “river bed,” and finally get the inkberry hollies in back mulched. This along with some trenching should get us back to the usual water flow patterns.

Every time I see a dump truck for sale I think “I need that” - wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go get loads of mulch and stone whenever I need them?

I spent some time earlier this week propping up pollinator plants that have gotten so tall they are now tipping over. Next year I will follow the advice I was given to pinch the tall-growing ones back early in the season so they get bushier and not so beanstalk-y.

It’s been a nice few days at the barn, just following the routine of mucking, feeding, grooming, hanging out with the herd. Yesterday Keil Bay and I got a rare treat. Our massage therapist came and set up her traveling table and hot stones in the living room. Ninety minutes of bliss and then we shifted to the barn aisle for Keil Bay’s hour. He immediately went into his bodywork endorphin zone and yawned, licked, chewed, googled his eyeballs, and turned about 50 times to thank H for being such a good massage therapist!

I came inside happy and relaxed.

Sometimes good things come to an abrupt end. When I went back to feed dinner and turn out, Rafer was mildly lame on his right hind for no apparent reason. Hoof looks great, he just got trimmed Tuesday, no heat, no evidence of anything. Fetlock maybe a tiny bit puffy but he was using his leg and did put weight on that hoof so I turned him out hoping that the normal routine would be the best medicine. He’s about the same this morning. I’m keeping them all out until mid-morning so some cleaning can be done in the barn, and if he seems any worse when I bring them in I’ll call the vet.

(Really hoping this is not the “A” word)

After checking Rafer last night, Keil Bay coughed about five times and I went into a panic thinking he was choking. Nothing coming out of nostrils, nothing alarming. Sometimes a cough is just... a cough. But as I was assessing that, a huge horsefly landed on my back and I came inside with four big bites.

A little witch hazel and all was well again.

I’m hoping the work today prevents a big mess tomorrow when, you guessed it, more rain is predicted!

In the big picture, I slept really well, feel good this morning, and am grateful for my time on the table yesterday. All are healthy and happy with one sweet little exception, and we’ll get him back to normal soon. I’m focusing on the acorns falling, muscadines turning, and a few less biting insects than has been true, big horsefly notwithstanding. :)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 59

We’ve had 5+ inches of rain since August 1st and about that much the last two weeks in July, so it is a jungle here. The arena desperately needs harrowing, I’ve been too busy to do it, and now the pollinator beds need some work replacing mulch which has been displaced by all the water flowing.

On the plus side, I haven’t had to hand water anything in a month!

We’ve had a break from high heat until this week. Several days nearing the mid-90s have necessitated hosing the horses again. Yesterday evening I went out to the barn to find Keil Bay sweating and his nostrils were flaring a tiny bit. A good hosing and scraping cooled him down, and I got him set up in his double stall with hay and fresh water while the daily thunderstorm blew in.

A few signs of hope (ie autumn approaching): acorns starting to fall, horses shedding summer coat, muscadines still green but large enough to be visible.

Last weekend I had my first botany class and really enjoyed it. I brought home two new asters for the pollinator garden and three new books to read. I just realized I haven’t done my homework yet! The week has flown by, one of the busiest weeks of the summer. Tonight my son and his significant other arrive for a visit and we’ll be gathering with my family to send off a nephew to a brand new job in Denver. The young ones are growing up.

The pony is in daily work still, with a marked change in his weight and muscling. The (not that huge) fat pads at his shoulders are gone and his withers is now much more prominent. His muscling has developed again and he has that sleek barrel curve that indicates fitness. I need to get a photo of him and wish we had thought to do a before photo as well. The important thing is he is looking good and seems to be feeling good too. He loves the work and I suspect especially the attention from his girl.

Keil looks older to me this week. I won’t put him back into work until September but as fall nears I hope to get him into an easy work schedule and to get Cody back into work as well. I miss riding. My body misses riding! I’m back in massage therapy after a long summer without it, and have a chiro appointment next week.

In other news, which I don’t think I’ve shared here, we purchased back in April a small cottage in town for my mother-in-law. Honeysuckle Cottage is a cute home on a very large lot, and it has huge potential to be something really special. We’re renovating it bit by bit, starting with a few necessary updates/repairs, and then on to things that will make it beautiful. As if I need another list of things to do! But thankfully it’s being a good home already and will only get better as we go. The first improvement was repairing some soft sub-flooring in the laundry room and installing beautiful tile in the laundry room and kitchen. Now we’re working on furnace/AC repair. Seems it’s the summer for that here AND there.

The next project here on November Hill is not a fun one but has to be done. The drainage ditch that runs from the top of our lane on our strip of property needs to be cleared. With all this rain, much of it coming very quickly, we’ve had some road damage. Nothing too bad but it will help to clear the ditch, and that’s on the docket for next week.

A friend posted a photo of her barn aisle recently on Facebook, and that got me thinking about our own barn aisle. Anyone have thoughts about using pavers in sand instead of mortar? Hers looks so good and so elegantly classic, I am tempted to do it here. Once the horses can stay out some during the days without being savaged by biting insects, we can move on with some barn maintenance.

I’m resisting the urge here to list the next things on my list. Right now I just want to focus on this cooler morning, the sun shining, and the hummingbird outside the front porch. And these two keeping me company.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Notes on miniature donkey nutrition

Over the past few years I have had Rafer and Redford on the same balanced diet I feed the horses. They get a very small amount of Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance Cubes (these are totally balanced nutritionally and can be used as a complete feed if necessary) and I balance our hay to insure that copper and zinc are in correct proportion to iron. The diet has been really good for the horses, and the donkeys too look super healthy.

To this I have a custom formulated mix that adds in other things horses are known to need. My seniors get special supplements, as does the PSSM Quarter Horse.

All get loose salt, freshly ground flax, and vitamin E gelcaps added to their feed tubs.

Earlier this year I read a post on an equine nutrition group I’ve been part of since 2008. Someone’s very overweight miniature donkey had blood work done and they found that many of the levels of vitamins and minerals were too high. This donkey had been on a similarly balanced diet as my two.

The donkey’s human took him off all supplements with the intention of starting from a clean slate with blood work to guide her. The donkey lost weight and blood levels returned to normal.

This got me and a few other folks thinking. We know donkeys are extremely thrifty animals. They browse on more than just grass and hay, and sometimes it feels like they don’t need to be fed at all. Maybe we are overdoing it with them, treating them like horses, providing much more than what they really need.

So I put Rafer and Redford on a clean slate diet. Just their bit of soaked cubes AM and PM, and much less hay than what they were getting. We have decent pasture this time of year and they have 24/7 access to it. I decided to see what happened if they were in charge of foraging for almost all of their food.

Remarkably, Rafer (the heavier of the two, with some fat pads evident) lost weight quickly. He trimmed down to a very lovely shape. Redford is very muscular and not as prone to gaining weight as is Rafer, and he too trimmed down, just not as much. I felt awful that I’d been over-supplementing them. They just didn’t need it!

Meanwhile, midsummer, the outsides of their front legs got itchy and formed scabs. At first Redford, then Rafer, and we treated them daily for several weeks getting things under control. Then it occurred to me that the fresh ground flax, salt, and vitamin E were all things that might help the skin thing, so we put them back on those items, carefully measuring the small amount of flax they get each day. Legs cleared right up and we’re back on track.

I thought I was doing the very best for them, only to realize I was doing far too much. Lesson learned. I think it’s worthwhile to revisit what we’re doing diet-wise at least once a year. A friend in the nutrition group takes her horses off all supplements for a month each year in the fall and then carefully monitors to see which horse needs what before carefully adding only what they need back in to their diets. I think this is a good practice!